In the United States, more than 23 million people live with addiction. The greatest number of these people are trapped in the abuse of alcohol. And while a smaller number cite drugs as their primary problem, the truth is that with polydrug use (the use of multiple drugs at a time or close together) the norm rather than the exception, the lines are definitely blurred.
The biggest group of people going to rehab are going because of alcohol problems. But look closer. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports on the substances that drove 1.8 million people to treatment in 2012. Of these people, 701,147 people needed help for alcohol. But 45% of these people were struggling with the use of alcohol plus another drug. The remainder listed illicit or prescription drugs as their primary problems.
But of course, the vast majority of people who needed treatment never got it. More than 20 million people damaged their lives, trashed their health, lost their jobs, alienated their families or lost custody of their children due to drugs or alcohol. What’s more, in 2012, about 88,000 people died from alcohol-related causes. Every year, more than 100 people a day die from drug overdoses and more die from injuries or illnesses related to their drug use. These people will never have the chance to go to rehab. Continue reading
As long as he (or she) is not overdoing it, are you okay with a little drug use by your kids? Does it not worry you if your child drinks as long as they do it at home or the home of someone you know? And how about marijuana? Is this fairly harmless, as far as you’re concerned? And if they smoke, is it just not worth arguing about? Just as long as they don’t move on to “hard drugs” like heroin or cocaine.
Maybe these ideas horrify you. Maybe they don’t. For many parents, they are acceptable. Should they be?
Vital Information for All Parents on the Effects of these Drugs
There’s a number of reasons why it’s a very bad idea to condone use of these drugs. The primary one centers on the fact that tobacco, alcohol and marijuana act as gateway drugs to more serious drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and synthetics. It’s not us saying that, it’s the National Center on Addiction and Drug Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) that says it. Continue reading
On November fourth in Oregon, as in several other states, there is a vote about the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana.
As this takes place, Oregon struggles with a terrible problem with opiate use and addiction. As this opinion piece in the Portland Tribune points out:
• In the twelve years between 2000 and 2012, more than 4,000 people in the state died due to their abuse of drugs.
• Oregon’s death rate from opioid (synthetic drugs similar to morphine or heroin) has quadrupled
• Oregon’s death rate from heroin overdose has tripled
• In just medical costs, overdoses of all drugs cost Oregon hospitals more than $31 million in 2012
This is not a problem that is exclusive to Oregon. It’s a problem that extends across the country. In Essex County in Massachusetts, the comments of District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett were featured in an article about heroin overdoses: Continue reading
Research published recently by the University of Michigan revealed an alarming fact, that 1 out of every 5 men in the United States admit to having been violent towards his partner at some point. The study was conducted with a population sample intended to be representative of the nation as a whole, casting the spotlight on a disturbing aspect of domestic relations in American society. It was released in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, using data gathered from 2001 to 2003 and made available in the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication, which involved survey responses from around 10,000 people nationwide. Continue reading
From time to time, there are shocking and painful news articles that feature a person who was using methamphetamine heavily before the event reported in the news. For example, this story from Utah, June 2014. A woman apparently gave birth to seven infants over a period of time and killed six of them, hiding the babies’ bodies in the garage. (The last baby was stillborn.) She was a methamphetamine addict. In the news report, the police stated that she did not want to deal with the responsibility.
A heavy methamphetamine addict is nowhere near this coherent. This may be what she told the police, once she wasn’t high and was trying to answer their questions. But it’s probably not the real story.
When a person uses methamphetamine heavily, they often stay up for days. Meth is an extremely strong stimulant that makes a person abnormally energetic. If they have enough of the drug, they will stay up for several days. They don’t feel hunger so they don’t eat. The body will finally collapse and then they might sleep for 24 hours or longer. Continue reading
Electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity, first being offered as an alternative to smoking, a way for smokers to kick their habits. They provide nicotine and flavoring but not tar and other harmful chemicals.
An electronic cigarette uses a small battery to heat a canister of synthetic nicotine with or without other flavorings. Propylene glycol is also heated to make a puff of vapor that is inhaled along with the nicotine. So the smoker feels like they have had a puff off a cigarette.
Now, young people are picking up the habit of using e-cigarettes. As more teens start using these devices, they are coming under more scrutiny. Despite claims by manufacturers of their safety, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has clamped down on imports, following Canada’s example of not allowing importation of the devices. An outright ban has not yet been enacted by the FDA.
After an initial surge of popularity, some recent reports seem capable of taking the shine off this novel new toy. A new report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that e-cigarettes serve as “gateway drugs,” just as tobacco, alcohol and marijuana do. Studies indicate that use of nicotine can prepare smokers to graduate on to the use of harsher, more addictive drugs like cocaine. Continue reading
Benzodiazepines are a widely-prescribed class of anti-anxiety drug. You may not realize it, but most of these drugs are intended for short-duration use. After several weeks or months of use, most of them lose their therapeutic effect. All of these drugs are addictive and have a high potential for abuse which is another reason to only prescribe them for brief periods.
While a couple of more recent additions to this list have a longer therapeutic effect, they still have that risk of addiction. A person wanting or needing to come off benzodiazepines must work closely with a doctor because of the withdrawal symptoms that can be dangerous, including seizures and severe mental disturbances.
When a person is abusing these drugs, they are generally past the point of worrying about side effects or duration of treatment. It’s very common for opiate abusers to add benzodiazepines to the mix, as it makes the effects of the opiates stronger. Combinations like this are so popular, they have their own nicknames. Prescription opiates + a benzodiazepine like Xanax or Valium = Las Vegas Cocktail. Prescription opiates + benzodiazepine + muscle relaxant like Soma = Houston Cocktail. It is said that the combination provides an effect similar to a potent dose of heroin. Continue reading
One after another, police departments and emergency responders are being equipped with naloxone devices. If you haven’t heard of these yet, they are devices that provide a pre-set amount of the drug naloxone. This drug will quickly reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. It has the potential to save the lives of many people who would not make it to the hospital to be revived.
Opiates work by slowing down the breathing. When breathing slows down enough, a person dies. When naloxone is administered, it directly counteracts the effects of the opiate and a overdoser often perks up in just a minute or two. From almost-dead to sitting up and asking what happened – that’s a miraculous recovery.
But then what happens? There sits the drug abuser amid police, fire department or emergency medical technicians. That individual needs to get sober so he (or she) stops risking his life but there is no way to force that person to accept this idea. Continue reading
“It’s just literally being afraid. And you think, oh, [the alcohol] will ease the fear. And it doesn’t.” This is Robin Williams, four years ago, speaking with an interviewer from the British newspaper The Guardian. He is explaining what it was that drove him to relapse into drinking in 2003, after 20 years of sobriety. “For that first week you lie to yourself, and tell yourself you can stop, and then your body kicks back and says, no, stop later. And then it took about three years, and finally you do stop.” He stopped, getting into rehab and then settling into a routine of attending weekly AA meetings as much as he could, because “it’s good to go.” Williams managed to maintain his sobriety for several years, through to the date of the Guardian interview, and onward until 2014, when he checked into rehab at the Hazelden center in Minnesota. He claimed to be going back to rehab as a precautionary measure, but whether or not that is true we can infer that he felt like he was losing control and was at risk of relapsing. A month later, he was found dead in his home in a wealthy suburb north of San Francisco, an apparent suicide by hanging from a belt. Continue reading
It has not been that long since drug use was something that few people struggled with or talked about. Before the 1960s, marijuana was just used in isolated areas and heroin use was restricted to certain circles of the population, usually in urban areas. Heroin spread through the jazz and Beatnik subcultures in the 1950s, then when US soldiers went to Southeast Asia in the 1960s, some developed heroin abuse habits and brought those habits home with them.
Cocaine use spread across the country in 1985, creating tens of thousands of addicts and filling jails. In the late 1960s, marijuana and hashish use became far more popular, followed by psychedelics like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin or “magic mushrooms.”
Of course, alcohol has been destroying lives and families for hundreds of years. Alcohol has become readily available in nearly every city in the US, meaning that just about anyone who has an uncontrollable thirst for it has a source. Continue reading