Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Why I Stay Drug-Free

Wednesday, Jun. 18th 2014

2014 Scholarship Winner   –   Monica M. / Oxnard, CA

Non 12 Scholarship WinnerI was raised in the underprivileged side of Oxnard, California. To my great fortune I was blessed to be born into a family of financially struggling immigrants who, through hardships, taught me right from wrong as well as the value of hard work and education. Although my parents could not offer me money or the latest trends, they gave me the gift of great values and morality. I grew up knowing two things: education is always first, and what the right thing to do was. Despite the endless liquor stores, smoke shops, and drug dealers on almost every corner of Oxnard, I do not abuse illegal or pharmaceutical drugs because of my dream of a great education, the effect drugs have had on my close friends, and the morals instilled on me by my parents.

I grew up watching my cousins and adults around me smoking marijuana and abusing prescription pills such as Vicodin. Soon after I noticed a pattern going on, those around me who abused drugs became unmotivated to do anything other than engage in using drugs. I watched as school, grades, and their future became irrelevant and the pipe became their most prominent friend. I did not want to end up in a downwards spiral and drop out of school as my cousins and family members had done before me. My goal has always been to be the first person in my family to receive a higher education. I know that if I were to cho0se the easy road and ever to get involved with drugs, I would lose track of what really matters: education. While some look to drugs for an escape, I look to books and education. I yearn for an escape from not only my poor living situation, but also from the fear of ending up as another person with “a dream deferred.”

One learns not only from their family, but also from their close friends. As a freshman in high school I had a best friend who used marijuana, LSD, and other hallucinogens in order to escape her life at home. I watched as she became paranoid, and was eventually admitted into a mental hospital for hearing voices and becoming suicidal. I watched a strong girl become another victim of illegal drugs. Even more saddening, she wasn’t the only one that had been affected by drugs. The bunch of kids she hung out with were headed down the same path. Despite my advice and support, I knew the addiction was stronger than her desire to quit. Even though since she began using drugs daily she has built up a tolerance, she has yet to learn to cope with the real world without the aid of drugs.

I am blessed to have had and to currently have a great mentor, my father. My number one priority is not only to receive an education for myself, but also to bring some sort of joy and pride to my father. Unfortunately I know not everyone has a stable support system as I have had, which could be a contributing factor as to why some spiral into the escape drugs offer. I was taught to listen to my conscious and not do something I would be ashamed of telling my parents about. Despite peer pressure and the desire to fit in, I never tried drugs for the fear of one day disappointing my family and myself.

I am proud to say that to this day I have never abused illegal nor pharmaceutical drugs. Despite growing up thinking illegal drugs were the norm, I knew they did not fit into my plan of being successful. Getting an education and getting ahead will always be one of my top priorities; I cannot see myself being where I need to be with drugs in my life. Although financial difficulties have made my dreams of an education seem distant, I would never make them impossible by adding a drug factor into the mix. I’ve watched as drugs have made the lives of my former best friend, as well as my close cousins and distant friends much more complicated. Illegal drugs have caused the people around me to lose sight of their goals and dreams. My parents taught me to never lose sight of not only my goals and dreams, but also my morals and good conscious. Despite the fact that they are illegal, drugs cause harm to the one who consumes it, and those who care about that person. I’d never want to let my parents down; I’d never want to let myself down. I have far too many responsibilities and aspirations to be involved with illegal drugs, which could put my future in jeopardy. I do not abuse illegal drugs because I one day believe I will receive the great education I crave, because I have seen the effect they have had on those around me, and because I stay true to my values.

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5 Reasons Marijuana is NOT Safer than Alcohol

Monday, May. 26th 2014

Thinking Marijuana is Safe is a Major Misconception
President Obama recently decided to put in his two cents when it comes to the debate of marijuana legalization. President Obama suggested that the use of cannabis is nothing more than a bad habit, something that is not unlike smoking cigarettes. He also suggested that the substance is no more dangerous than drinking alcohol. However, alcohol is legal for those over the age of 21 while marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance according to its classification by the Drug Enforcement Agency. This puts it on the same level as XTC, LSD and heroin. While President Obama is certainly allowed to speak his mind and give his view on the matter, there are five reasons why we take exception to the suggestion that the drug is somehow just as safe as alcohol.

Problems with Dependence

There is no denying that we know that alcohol has addictive properties. According to the NIAAA, almost one in every 12 adults (17.6 million Americans) struggles with alcohol dependence or abuse. People who withdraw from drinking can have issues with fever, nausea, insomnia, headaches, depression, anxiety and may even experience seizures.

According to the latest estimates, almost ten percent of all cannabis users are going to develop some sort of dependency on it. This is about half of the number of people who become dependent on cocaine. We have clear scientific evidence that people struggle with withdrawal symptoms if they are heavy cannabis users and try to quit cold turkey. These withdrawal symptoms include nausea, anxiety and insomnia. However, it is certainly not as addictive as some other substances.

Driving Under the Influence

According to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board, 20 people are injured and one person is killed every hour in an accident that involves a drunk driver. Recent studies have shown that even those drivers that are technically under the limit are far more likely to be responsible for an accident than those drivers that are sober.

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest how marijuana use and driving are connected. While earlier studies did show that smoking beforehand reduced the psychomotor skills necessary to drive, most people suggested that these studies were rather limited. A recent study review published in the British Medical Journal found that people who use marijuana within three hours of driving are almost twice as likely to be responsible for an accident as those drivers who drive sober. While some may argue that one study review is not enough evidence, it should certainly cause hesitation when we are talking about legalization.

Obesity and Other Health Problems

According to the latest estimates on added medical costs because of obesity-related problems, the number currently stands at $190 billion. If we look at the total U.S. health care costs, that is almost 21 percent. Alcohol can cause weight gain. Beer has about 150 calories, while a shot of liquor has about 100 calories. Because alcohol lowers our inhibitions, most people end up eating greasy food with plenty of calories such as nachos or pizza late at night. If we consider that smoking cannabis can lead to the ‘munchies’ and makes people lethargic, it may mean more unhealthy food options and less exercise. These are not direct killers, but can certainly add up over time.

Long-Term Health Risks

Again, most people understand that consuming alcohol, especially to excess, may lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, certain psychiatric issues, neurological problems and liver disease. However, the majority of people who are advocating for legalization suggest that marijuana is some harmless substance that does not have any consequences. The truth is that experts are in agreement that the preferred method of ingesting the drug (smoking) is worse for our body and more dangerous than smoking regular cigarettes. The amount of tar that enters the lungs is also four times as much, which means that for every one joint, users’ lungs feel as though they smoked four cigarettes.

Several studies have shown that high doses of marijuana may lead to temporary psychotic reactions. These include paranoia and hallucinations. Young adults with a family history of schizophrenia are far more likely to develop the disorder themselves if they use marijuana.

The Fatal Consequences

Statistics place the number of deaths due to excessive alcohol use throughout America at about 88,000. About half of those deaths are because of chronic alcohol use (liver failure) while the rest are attributed to acute situations (a drunk driving accident or alcohol poisoning). We know that alcohol can be dangerous but it is still legal.

However, marijuana hinders our motor skills, affects our reflexes and slows down our overall perception. This may lead to marijuana-related car fatalities, which will only rise if the number of people that use the drug legally increases. Another study suggested that the risk of a heart attack after smoking marijuana increased by almost 500 percent. The substance does have a serious effect on the user’s heart rate.

The truth is that an overdose is not likely to happen. In fact, there are no recorded instances available that suggest anyone has ever had a fatal overdose. However, that does not make it safe, especially if we consider how long the effects of the drug will linger in the body.

The Conclusion

We are not going suggest that people who advocate for decriminalization/reclassification do not have a point. For example, there is no denying that this drug should not be on the same list as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The reason that it should not is that the overall risk of addiction and the impact on society is far less with cannabis. However, just because something is ‘less dangerous’ does not necessarily mean it is a good idea to legalize it. It is important to review the information and make appropriate changes.

It seems that just a few decades ago people were demonizing the green plant, suggesting that it could make someone insane. Yet it appears that in the last decade, the discussion has shifted to the other side of the spectrum, with people (including the President) dismissing the harmful effects of the drug. It is important that people look at the facts objectively, something that is not currently being done.

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Why is Alcohol Abuse among Women Rising?

Saturday, Apr. 5th 2014

Alcoholism is Rising Amongst Women
More than ever before, female protagonists in movies and popular television shows are shown celebrating using alcohol. Whether this is Chelsea Handler and vodka (in fact, Belvedere Vodka sponsored her comedy tour), Bridget Jones with her glasses of wine and the female cast of Sex and the City drinking cosmopolitans as though they were drinking water, it is often represented as a ‘hilarious’ situation or at worst, as a regretful hangover. However, whether it is life imitating art or vice versa, more and more women throughout the country are drinking to excess than ever before.

What is Motivating Women to Drink?

According to Ann Dowsett Johnston, a woman who herself struggled with alcoholism before and has since written a book about her struggles, the increase in alcoholism and binge drinking amongst women is because women feel entitled to do so. According to Johnston, women believe that they have the ‘right to drink to excess’. She relates this to the feminist movement that has demonstrated that women are able to do everything as well as men can. She believes that this also leads to the ‘right to have a drink at the end of the day’.

However, she also believes that the issue is rooted deeper than that. She believes that professional mothers return home from work and are expecting to complete their ‘second shift’. This means that they are expected to have dinner on the table, help with homework, have the house presentable and still manage to remain sane. According to Johnston, the alcohol helped her unwind after a long day.

Different Reasons to Drink

According to Johnston’s research, the reason that men and women drink may also be different. While men drink to be social, women may do so to numb problems with depression, anxiety, to escape feelings of loneliness and numb other problems. While women do drink in social settings, Johnston believes that this is one of the major differences.

An Industry that Needs to Grow

Of course, the liquor industry is more than happy to offer women the option to drink. With highly feminized wine options such as ‘Happy Bitch’, ‘Girl’s Night Out’, and ‘MommyJuice,’ it should be clear that these are not aimed at a male demographic. Berry- and mango-flavored vodka options are clearly not targeting the male demographic either.

The Parallel with Virginia Slims

Johnson draws attention to the Virginia Slims tobacco parallel. The makers of Virginia Slims understood that it needed to expand its business, especially considering that they already reached near market saturation for their male demographic. Instead of trying to get non-male smokers to try tobacco, they instead focused on young professional women.

When the company introduced this brand of cigarettes in 1968, it used the slogan “You’ve come a long way baby”, directly targeting feelings of women’s empowerment, emancipation and freedom. It led to the creation of a niche market that directly targets women. These new cigarettes were much narrower than the traditional cigarettes, giving them a more “elegant” appearance and giving the optical illusion that the user is not smoking as much (despite the fact that these cigarettes were far longer).

That is the same thing that is happening today. Liquor companies understood that they were not engaging an entire gender, which led to the introduction of sweet, pre-packaged drinks that seemed less intimidating than Johnnie Walker and did not have anything to do with beer.

Why Gender Quality is not a Factor Here

One of the reasons that so many Western women are developing problems with alcohol at an alarming rate is because, while gender equality in terms of voting rights and equal pay is one thing, the biology of the body is something different. While researchers are not able to narrow down exactly what the deciding factors are, a woman’s body is unable to handle alcohol as well as a man’s body is. While there are many possible options for this, (some believe that estrogen interacts with alcohol differently, while others believe that our different stomach enzymes have something to do with it) researchers are unable to narrow down the exact problem.

While few people would argue that women deserve the same rights as men do, from a biological standpoint, a woman’s body contains less water per pound of bodyweight. While women are certainly free to drink as much as they want, this means that after consuming three or four drinks, the blood alcohol level for women will be far higher than it is for men.

Drinking May Turn Problematic at Lower Levels

Combine the sense of equality with the social acceptance of alcohol consumption and the fact that women’s bodies do not process alcohol the same way that men’s bodies do, leads to a greater risk of problems related to drinking for women. For women this might mean specific problems related to alcoholic consumption such as liver disease, heart disease, alcoholism and breast cancer. Because of the lowered tolerance, women are likely to develop alcoholism at higher rates than men do.

It is Clear that Women are Catching Up

The truth is that while women have a right to drink, drinking to excess, even binge drink as much as they want, the statistics are already showing that this is going to be a serious problem in a few years. The United Kingdom recently rang the alarm when women in their early 20s were dying because of alcohol-related illnesses. Until recently, most experts had the idea that this might only influence men in their 60’s and 70’s. While equality is a noble cause, it is certainly not something to strive for when it comes to alcohol-related problems.

Unless state and local governments actively target women (just as the liquor industry is doing) to provide information on possible side effects to drinking in excess, chances are that these problems are only going to increase in the near future.

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Social Causes of Drug Addiction

Tuesday, Apr. 1st 2014

Causal Use Can Quickly Turn into an Actual Addiction
It is rare to see people use illicit substances for ‘no particular reason;’ oftentimes the user is looking for a reward or a benefit. Those same motivators that lead to the initial use may cause that person to use again; this behavior may eventually lead to drug addiction. There are a number of different social factors that may well increase the chance of someone having issues with drug dependency.

Peer Pressure / Social Pressure

Humans are wired to have social relationships, to crave acceptance from others. Sometimes those personal relationships make us do something in order to seek out social acceptance, something that we would not otherwise do. Peer pressure is a genuine concern for young adults who want to ‘fit in’. For many people, they start using because they want to be accepted, to be a part of the group. If someone begins to use repeatedly, the brain may even begin to associate certain places or faces with drug use, leading to a vicious cycle.

This is not a problem limited to teenagers either. Social etiquette also dictates adult behavior. Some people may drink at parties because they would otherwise feel ‘left out’. Studies have shown that the only way to counteract those feelings of peer pressure is by having adults disapprove of drug or alcohol abuse at a very young age.

Easy Access

Having easy access to drugs does not necessarily mean that someone is going to start using, but it certainly makes it easier for them to start. Despite the fact that illicit substances are available almost everywhere in the world, availability and easy access are two different matters. If someone close to that person uses illicit substances, it makes it far easier for that person to start using.

Poor Self-Esteem

People who lack a healthy sense of self-worth may develop issues with dependence much faster than those who do not. The reasoning behind this is straight-forward. The use of illicit substances provides a temporary way of feeling better, thus helping them avoid the discomfort and mental anguish that these people feel, at least temporarily. Those who deal with anxiety may also attempt to self-medicate in order to stop those feelings.

Risks Can Influence People in a Variety of Ways

While none of these social causes guarantee drug addiction, the more of these risk factors that are available in someone’s life, the greater the chance is that he or she may develop problems with dependence later on. These different factors may influence someone differently depending on their own unique experiences or what particular stage of their life they are in at that moment. For most people, the key to avoiding these social causes is to strike a healthy balance between these causes and protective factors. Protective factors may include a strong sense of self-worth, self-control, academic competence and strong parental supervision.

When it comes to the development of drug addiction, there are no set patterns or rules that people follow. Every person has their own experience and their own unique genetic make-up that will determine their development. However, by understanding these factors and learning how to influence them, it may be possible to help those people struggling with dependence.

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The Long-Term Effects of Percocet Use

Saturday, Mar. 29th 2014

Effects of Percocets Can Have Long-Term Consequences
Percocet is the trade name for a fixed-dose combination of oxycodone and pain medications such as Tylenol or acetaminophen. Because oxycodone is an opioid, there is already a high potential for abuse and dependence. When it comes to prescription medications for moderate pain, Percocet is a very popular option. Many abusers take Percocet in extremely high doses, making Percocet abuse a common problem. In order to understand why this substance can be problematic, we are going to look at the effects that long-term use of the medication has.

The Short-Term versus Long-Term Effects

Like all opioids on the market, there are some dangerous short-term effects linked to the use of oxycodone. Perhaps the most dangerous is respiratory depression, which means that it decreases the body’s natural drive to breathe. In many narcotic overdoses, respiratory depression ends up being the actual cause of death.

However, as with many of the short-term effects of the substance, a tolerance to the danger of respiratory depression develops rather quickly. This means long-term users do not have the same respiratory depression risks unless they combine the medication with other substances that can affect our breathing (such as alcohol) or the user drastically increases his or her intake. It does remain extremely dangerous for those users who cease use temporarily and then relapse – because their body no longer has the built up tolerance.

Liver Damage

The most dangerous effect of long-term Percocet use does not come from oxycodone, but from the included acetaminophen. Studies have shown that in large doses, acetaminophen may cause liver damage or even complete liver failure. A paper published in the journal “Hepatology” in December 2005 demonstrated that a majority of patients (63 percent) that developed acute liver failure because of a single large dose of acetaminophen did so because of painkilling combinations such as Percocet. Patients may receive more of the substance than they are acutely aware of.

Studies have shown that chronic liver diseases (such as cirrhosis) are a real risk with consistent, long-term acetaminophen use of more than four grams daily. The chance of developing issues increase if the user also ingests things such as alcohol or other substances that may lead to potential liver toxicity. Those who abuse the medication may end up taking more than the prescribed dosage in order to receive the same pleasurable effects of the oxycodone.

It Can Lead to Dependence

Percocet may lead to psychological and physical dependence. This may occur if the user receives negative or positive reinforcement to continue using. Because of the progressive tolerance of Percocet, the body quickly becomes accustomed to having the medication available. Because the body is becoming used to having the drug, an increased dosage is needed to achieve the desired pleasurable effects.

Psychologically the long-term use of the substance may cause drug-seeking behavior and lead to an overreliance on the substance. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms, an obsessive preoccupation with the drug, or the inability to cease use despite knowing the negative consequences.

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Understanding the Side Effects of Opiates

Wednesday, Mar. 26th 2014

The Use of Opiate-Based Narcotics Have Dangerous Risks
The opiate epidemic engulfing the country is showing no signs of slowing down. Opiates are some of the most commonly abused and most addictive substances available today. These include legal therapeutics for pain such as fentanyl and morphine in addition to illegal derivatives such as opium and heroin. The body may react to opiate abuse in a number of different ways.

 

Developing a Tolerance

Those who frequently abuse these opioids will develop a tolerance. This means that the user needs to ingest the substance in increasing doses just to produce the same desired effect. Both the induction of a euphoric state and the reduction of pain are prone to tolerance. The development of a tolerance is one of the primary factors of an overdose occurring, because the desired effects lessen but the toxic ones persist.

Developing Addiction

It is possible to develop both mental and physical addiction to opiates. The physical addiction refers to the effects of the body once the user stops taking the substance altogether, they go through withdrawal symptoms which may include a host of problems (including anxiety, diarrhea and vomiting).

Mental addiction refers to what the user perceives as the constant need to use the substance again. This may cause mental anguish and lead to the person undertaking actions that are uncharacteristic of them in order to continue using (lying, theft, etc.).

The Pupil Size

The parasympathetic nerves provide input to the eye and opiates have a direct influence on these nerves. It is not possible to develop a tolerance to this reaction. This is why the pupils are one of the often-used indicators of an altered mental state.

Effects on the Respiratory System

Some of the harsher side effects of opiate abuse are on our respiratory system. Opiates are able to suppress the brainstem that regulates breathing drive and rhythm. The effect on our respiratory system depends on the dose taken and is often the primary factor in a fatal opiate overdose.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

The abuse of these substances can decrease the overall heart rate, otherwise known as bradycardia. It is also possible that the cells in the body release histamine. This may lead to hypotension (lower blood pressure) and causes a dilation of the blood vessels.

Effects on the Gastrointestinal System

There is a reason that physicians may prescribe opiates as anti-diarrhea medications (think Imodium for example), it is because they are able to decrease the motility of the gastrointestinal tract. They may also lead to extraneous release of bile from the gall bladder by causing a spasm of the gallbladder duct. Both vomiting and nausea are common problems, resulting from direct actions on the brain vomiting centers and delayed emptying of the stomach contents. One of the most common effects of opiate abuse is constipation and there is no tolerance to this issue.

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Why is Heroin So Popular?

Sunday, Mar. 23rd 2014

Why has Heroin Become the Drug of Choice
The use of heroin throughout the country is increasing at an alarming rate. This despite the fact that we have seen countless anti-heroin PSAs and use had been decreasing for several decades. However, in just the last decade alone, the number of people who abuse this dangerous substance has increased.

In fact, the alarming rise in heroin use even led to Vermont’s governor Peter Shumlin to not only mention it in his State of the State address, but to devote the entire address to it. Shumlin emphasized that since 2000, the number of heroin abusers throughout Vermont has increased by 770 percent. Those are epidemic levels of heroin abuse.

A Problem Not Limited to Vermont

Unfortunately, Vermont is not the only affected state. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of first-time users who abuse heroin has increased almost 60 percent in the last ten years. Whereas there are now 156,000 new users yearly; a decade ago that number stood at 90,000.

Interestingly enough is that during this surge of heroin abuse, the number of people who abuse non-medical prescription opiates is slowly decreasing. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health released by SAMHSA in 2012 revealed that the number of non-medical users for these prescription opioid pain relievers had dropped from 2.2 million in 2002 to 1.9 million in 2012. The survey also showed that crack, cocaine and methamphetamine decreased during that same timeframe. Meanwhile, both ecstasy and marijuana use slightly increased or held steady.

What this Information Tells Us

Interesting enough, the drugs that are showing a decrease in use may tell us the story of what illicit substances are becoming widespread. The increase in heroin abuse combined with the drop in non-medical prescription opiate abuse could lead us to the logical conclusion that a majority of these users are not seeking help or stopping use altogether – they are making an economic decision.

Because of the increased legal action against ‘pill mills,’ it has become more difficult and more expensive for users to receive illegally obtained prescription painkillers. Meanwhile, heroin is readily available and costs a fraction of what the other painkillers cost on the black market. Whereas a user can buy a bag of heroin for less than $10, a single dose of OxyContin may cost them as much as $100. Anyone familiar with the dangers of addiction understands that these users are tempted enough to overcome any potential reservations about trying heroin for a first time if it means that they are able to fund their addiction.

A Warning Sign for the Nation

The truth is that Vermont is not just a sad example – it is a warning sign of a shift that we are already seeing throughout the country. While cracking down on prescription opioid abuse is a good start, we should not assume that those users who are financially incapable of nursing their dependence would just decide to quit. For those people, it is important that they find a drug rehabilitation center so they are able to make a lasting decision to help them get rid of their dependence.

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Can Cocaine Rewire Your Brain?

Thursday, Mar. 20th 2014

The Adverse Effects from Cocaine Use
We already knew that using cocaine could lead to dependence and a variety of other issues, but a new study is suggesting that it may drastically impact decision-making by rewiring the brain – and the scariest thing is that it could happen after only a single use.

Problems After a Single Use

While other studies have shown rewiring in long-term cocaine use, the research completed at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco is unique. Researchers from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco studied the frontal lobe of live mice. The frontal lobe is the area of the brain that is responsible for our memory and decision-making. After a single use of cocaine, the researchers found that there was significant growth of new dendritic spines within these mice.

The spines form the nodes of the circuit wiring of the brain and also help connect neurons. According to the researchers from both schools, these new spines were essentially rerouting the brain to find more cocaine. This may explain why human users will forgo other priorities in their search for the drug.

It also Affects Behavior

We knew that the search for more illicit substances can take over someone’s life and dominate their decision-making process and attention, but the lead author of the study – an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley – explained that these neurological changes are rather ‘shocking,’ especially after a single use.

The changes that the cocaine made were apparent in the animals’ behavior as well, not just the mice’s brain scans. Before the mice were exposed to the drug, they would be allowed to explore two different chambers. These two chambers were differentiated by design and scent. Once the mice selected a chamber preference, the study would begin. The researchers placed the mice in the non-preferred room and administered cocaine. The mice would overwhelmingly return to the non-preferred chamber, apparently seeking more of the illicit substance. According to the researchers, those mice that saw the biggest change in preference also demonstrated the largest growth in dendritic spines.

Change is Still Possible

Because the brain only has limited space available, it is easy to see how an introduced drug such as cocaine could overtake what someone thinks about. This may come at the expense of other priorities. However, the researchers are confident that a positive change is promising. Because our brain regularly loses and grows new dendritic spines, we may be able to ‘rewire’ our brain in a positive manner. The lead researcher suggests that there are many experiences that rewire our brain. According to that logic, it would suggest that recovery is possible.

You Can Still Recover

While it is positive that we are able to make changes to our brain in order to recover from dependence, it is interesting to note that it would require consistent and constant reinforcement to make these changes. This only further emphasizes the importance of drug avoidance altogether and why long-term rehabilitation is the best possible option when someone does struggle with dependence.

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Signs of Over-Sedation from Benzos

Monday, Mar. 17th 2014

Effects from Benzo Abuse
The majority of sedatives on the market today fall into the benzodiazepine or barbiturates category. Benzodiazepines are going to affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, thus slowing down the nerve impulses that our brain sends throughout the body, while barbiturates depress the central nervous system. While benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for stress relief, tension and anxiety, the most common use of barbiturates is in anesthesia.

What is Over-Sedation?

Over-sedation means an extension of the hypnotic/sedative effects of benzodiazepines directly related to the dosage. Symptoms may include mental confusion, dizziness, muscle weakness, incoordination, poor concentration and drowsiness.

A Low Dose

Every dosage may affect a user differently, primarily because every person reacts to drugs in a different way. In some people, even a lower dosage may lead to over-sedation. This may lead to unusual behavior in the patient. Some of the included symptoms include depression, altered vision, slurred speech, confusion, impaired memory and motor skills, as well as drowsiness. The person may also experience some uncomfortable symptoms if he or she has a low tolerance for the medication; these may include diarrhea, vomiting, constipation or nausea.

A High Dose

High doses may lead to drowsiness or extreme fatigue. However, it may lead to additional symptoms to what we see in a lower dose. Someone with a higher dosage may display erratic or hostile behavior, euphoria, slowed reflexes or mood swings. These symptoms are often comparable to someone who has ingested too much alcohol.

Taking Too Much

While the signs depend on the individual, the signs of over-sedation are often similar to the aforementioned issues. The symptoms may not appear for several days because over-sedation will continually build up in the body tissue. After a prolonged period of over-sedation, the patient may demonstrate a lack of coordination, muscle weakness, slurred speech, confusion, disorientation and impaired thinking, memory and judgment.

If someone takes benzodiazepines in order to sleep at night, he or she may suffer from persistent sedation as a ‘hangover effect’. This may be especially problematic with those substances that are eliminated from the body at a very slow rate. The tolerance to the substance is going to develop very quickly (a week or two). Despite the fact that users would rarely complain about sleepiness, their memory functions and fine judgment might still be impaired.

The Serious Risks Associated with Use

Amongst elderly patients, over-sedation may prove to be a serious problem and can contribute to an increased number of falls and fractures. Even small doses of benzodiazepines have led to confused states in elderly patients. There is also a correlation between the risk of serious traffic accidents and the use of benzodiazepines. The use of these substances has contributed to accidents in the home and at work.

Because these drugs are habit-forming, it is especially important that users be aware of the signs and issues often related to over-sedation. Especially important is that long-term users may not even realize that the effects of the substance have not worn off yet before they ingest another dose.

 

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The Six Stages of Alcohol Intoxication

Friday, Mar. 14th 2014

Effects from Alcohol Intoxication
Alcohol can be one of the most dangerous substances for people to become addicted to. The primary reason is that unlike heroin or cocaine, alcohol use is socially accepted and even promoted. When a person drinks enough to reach alcohol intoxication, it may have a number of different effects on that person, especially on the brain. The effects on the body are almost immediate. The reason for this is that alcohol does not require digestion. The higher the blood alcohol content, the greater the effects.

What is Blood Alcohol Content?

Blood alcohol content (BAC) indicates how much alcohol is present in the blood stream. For example, if you hear that someone has .10 BAC, approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of the blood in the body is alcohol. The more alcohol someone drinks, the more impaired and intoxicated they become. With frequent use, it is possible to develop a dependency.

BAC is influenced by body weight, what type of alcohol the person drank and how much he or she drank. Eating before or during drinking may also influence BAC (temporarily). Men need more of the same substance to reach the same BAC levels as women, primarily because men have a higher percentage of water per pound in their bodies and are traditionally heavier.

The Effects of Alcohol Consumption

These are the varying degrees of intoxication:

  • Stage 1 – Euphoria – Fine motor skills are lacking, brighter color in the face, lowered inhibitions, talkative, difficulty concentrating
  • Stage 2 – Excitement – Impaired judgment, slow reaction time, beginnings of erratic behavior, drowsy, poor coordination, senses are dulled
  • Stage 3 – Confusion – Pain is dulled, slurred speech, blurred vision, difficulty walking, exaggerated emotions
  • Stage 4 – Stupor – Apathetic, decreased response to stimuli, unconsciousness is possible, vomiting, cannot stand or walk
  • Stage 5 – Coma – Slow pulse, shallow breathing, possible death, low body temperature, unconscious
  • Stage 6 – Death – Death because of respiratory arrest

Tolerance Affects these Stages

Tolerance means that alcohol is less effective after a period of heavy or prolonged use. When it comes to alcohol, there are two types of tolerance at work. The first is the metabolic tolerance, meaning that we metabolize alcohol at a faster rate (upwards of twice as fast) with chronic users. Because these long-term users process alcohol at a higher metabolic rate, they can consume more while their BAC remains lower. This means that someone who previously reached stage four after two bottles of wine may now only reach stage three or even stage two.

The second is functional tolerance. This changes the system or organ’s sensitivity to alcohol. Studies have shown that people who undergo prolonged alcohol abuse have twice the tolerance for alcohol as someone who does not consume to excess.

Because people develop a tolerance, they may no longer reach the same stages that they once did. This means that they have to consume more in an attempt to reach those same euphoric sensations. However, the toxic effect on the body from alcohol remains. For people struggling with dependence, this process of increasing tolerance and pushing boundaries is going to continue to develop until they undergo alcohol rehabilitation. During this process, people are able to overcome their psychological and physical addiction to alcohol. They go through three basic treatment stages, alcohol detox, counseling, and aftercare. If you feel that you or someone close to you has problems with alcohol addiction, make sure that you find a treatment center.

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Posted by Drug Rehab Counselor | in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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