E-Cigarette Use – Harmless or Another Gateway to Drug Abuse?

e-cigarette useElectronic 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

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Australian Study Shows Severe Damage Possible from Smoking Pot

kid smoking a jointMany people have said that the marijuana smoked by today’s teens and young adults is a far cry from the pot their parents smoked. A new study of teens in Australia shows just how damaging the pot smoked by today’s teens and young adults can be.

Just like America, Australia has a serious problem with marijuana use by young people. Researchers at the University of New South Wales carried out a study of the effects of drug use on 3,765 young Australians. Researchers monitored their marijuana use habits from before the age of 17 until they were 30 and then analyzed the information to learn about suicide attempts, success in school and use of other illicit drugs.

Those people who used marijuana daily suffered some serious impacts from this drug abuse. When compared to those who did not use the drug, they were:

• Seven times more likely to attempt suicide
• Sixty percent less likely to complete school
• Eight times more likely to use another illicit drug.

Continue reading

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Officials Confronted with High level of Heroin Abuse in New England

heroin abuseOn the Boston Globe website recently, there were three articles that, taken together, illustrated the difficult situation we’re in with regard to this addictive, destructive drug.

Two of the articles dealt with the increasing number of babies born in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who were exposed to the mother’s heroin or other opiate use before being born. After birth, they go through a series of symptoms called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The name refers to the fact that these newborns are abstinent from the drugs they were being exposed to because the supply via the mother has been withdrawn. Continue reading

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Benzodiazepines and Cognitive Loss

confused depressed personBenzodiazepines 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

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As Americans Consume More Drugs, Number of American Pilots Who Died After Using Drugs Climbs

pilot drug useThe National Transportation Safety Board has just finished a review of the drug use of pilots who were killed in airplane crashes to determine how many had used over-the-counter, prescription or illicit drugs. (They didn’t include alcohol in this particular review.)

Their results shows that the percentage of US pilots who died after using one or more drugs has climbed from less than 10% in 1990 to 39% in 2012. More pilots are found to have multiple drugs in their bodies as well.

The most common drug was an antihistamine that is used as a sedative or sleep aid and in cold medications. The number of pilots using illicit drugs was small, but the number using marijuana (which of course, is an illicit drug in most states) has increased, mostly in the last ten years. Four percent of the pilots killed in crashed had been using illicit drugs.

This review does not necessarily reflect greatly on the state of illicit drug use in the US, but it does reflect on the inclination of Americans to use drugs and then try to operate equipment that their and other people’s lives depend on.

One factor in this increase may be the presence of drug advertisements on television. After television lost the ability to run tobacco ads, it took a while for them to find another big source of revenue. In 1997, it became legal for pharmaceutical companies to advertise their products on TV. And the number of prescriptions per American began to climb.

As a side note, 90% of the pilots tested were what’s referred to as “general aviation” pilots, meaning that they were not operating commercial flights.

The NTSB is not currently stating that this drug use contributed to the deaths of these pilots (and perhaps other people as well). However, it does state that this increase in drug use is “significant.” Furthermore, their publication of this information is very preliminary. They are going to continue to analyze these numbers and make further recommendations. Thus far, they are just saying that “the overall risk of drug-related pilot impairment is increasing due to the growing use of potentially impairing drugs.”

In our daily activities, the greatest safety is being drug-free. From raising children to driving a car to piloting a plane, sobriety is the best guarantee of an enjoyable life.

www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2014/ss_drug_use_aviation/2014 — Abstract – Drug Use Trends in Aviation Assessing the Risk of Pilot Impairment (3).pdf

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Marijuana Potency Soars While Youth’s Perception of Harm Drops

Graph perceived harm vs potency of marijuanaThis chart compares two statistics: How many twelfth grade students feel that the regular use of marijuana is a “great risk,” and the average potency of marijuana seized by law enforcement and sent for testing. You’ll notice that in 1991, the perception of risk by our high school seniors began to drop. In other words, fewer 17- or 18-year-olds felt that regular use of marijuana was dangerous. It’s declined almost every year since. Now, fewer than 40% of these students see a threat in regular marijuana use. Continue reading

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Teen Marijuana Use Shown to Cause Disabilities Later in Life

upset teenSmoking pot while you’re young is no big deal, as long as you quit it when you grow up, right? If you used marijuana when you were a teen, why should you stop your own child from doing the same? A recent study has demonstrated that simply is not the case. The study was conducted by researchers in Sweden, and it examined factors relating to men who had smoked pot when they were 18 years old, with particular focus on those who had been heavy users. Continue reading

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After Naloxone – What’s Next for Opiate Addicts?

getting help after drug overdoseOne 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

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More on Peer Pressure and Drug Abuse

teens taking pillsI recently wrote a post about the way many people first start using drugs. I noted in that post that sometimes peer pressure consists of someone telling you, “Everyone’s doing it,” and sometimes it’s far more subtle than that.

I gathered this impression from interviews with graduates of our drug rehab program. And now it looks like this impression is spot on.

According to a new study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, peer pressure can really just take these subtle forms:
• Peer drug associations
• Peers as points of drug access
• The motivation to misuse prescription drugs to have pleasant times with friends.

Although the last statement might better read: the motivation to misuse prescription drugs to have “pleasant” times with friends. When you find yourself desperately craving the drug after your body has gotten used to its presence, or when you find yourself in trouble because of the risky choices you made while intoxicated, those times might not look so pleasant. Continue reading

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Helping Others After Recovery from Drug Addiction

It’s certainly true that different people have different reactions to completing a drug rehab program and going back home sober. Some graduates want to focus on going back to work and taking better care of themselves and their families. This is, for nearly everyone, a dramatic improvement over the situation that existed while they were addicted.

helping an addictOthers want to be more active, to reach out to people who are struggling with drug or alcohol use and have not yet been helped. There are more than 20 million people who need drug or alcohol rehabilitation services in the United States at the moment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only about one person in ten gets the help they need.

Those other nine? Some look for rehab but the vast majority don’t even try. This is where those who have completed rehab and are now sober can help so much. First, they completely understand the phenomenon of addiction because they have been through it themselves. Second, they probably have a very good idea what the addicted person is feeling and thinking and why he may not be seeking rehabilitation. This empathy between the person who is now addicted and the person who has recovered from addiction can provide the means to start turning that addict’s life around. Continue reading

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