Poverty is one of the most significant predictors of drug abuse and addiction. Individuals who live in poverty are more likely to turn to drugs to cope with the stress and challenges of their lives. At the same time, drug abuse can lead to further poverty, chronic illness, and mental health problems.

2019 study found that most opioid overdose cases across 17 states were concentrated in zip codes with lower education and median household income as well as higher rates of unemployment and poverty. Another UNODC study dubbed Socioeconomic Characteristics and Drug Use Disorders found that those who belong to disadvantaged groups had the highest relative level of risk of suffering from an addiction. This could be due to homelessness, social exclusion and inequality, and mental health problems that are also synonymous with poverty.

While poverty is not the only factor for substance abuse in the United States, it is certainly important. People living in poverty are more likely to be predisposed to risk factors linked to higher rates of substance abuse. They may also live in poverty-stricken areas often home to illegal drug activity, making drugs more accessible.

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The link between poverty and drug abuse

The link between poverty and drug abuse is complex and multi-layered. Poverty can both lead to drug abuse and be a consequence of it.

How Poverty Leads to Drug Abuse

There are several ways that poverty increases the likelihood of drug abuse. For example, people who grow up in poverty may be more likely to associate with others who use drugs, making them more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. Biological factors are also at play, as people who live in poverty are more likely to experience chronic stress, which can alter brain chemistry and make someone more vulnerable to addiction. Financial issues can be a leading source of stress for many younger adults.

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Here's a quick look at some of the ways poverty can contribute to drug abuse:

How Drug Abuse Can Lead to Poverty

Poverty and drug abuse often go hand-in-hand. Drug use can also lead to poverty in different ways.

  1. First, they can interfere with a person's ability to maintain steady employment. Many employers require drug tests as a condition of employment, and those who use drugs are more likely to lose their jobs or be less productive at work. This can lead to a downward spiral in which someone is unable to keep up with bills or support their family, eventually leading to poverty.
  2. Second, drugs can be expensive. Those who abuse drugs often spend large amounts of money on them, which can strain finances and lead to debt.
  3. Finally, drugs can lead to criminal activity. Those addicted to drugs may resort to stealing or selling drugs to get the money they need to support their habit. This can lead to a criminal record, making it difficult to find stable housing or employment, further exacerbating poverty.
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Promoting Recovery by Treating the Root Causes of Addiction

Individuals struggling with addiction often need help addressing the underlying causes of their drug abuse. This may include treatment for addiction and mental health problems. Treatment facilities should also address underlying issues causing the addiction. This includes things like providing:

Treating the root causes of addiction gives individuals a better chance of achieving long-term recovery. This, in turn, can help break the cycle of poverty and addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to those who need them.

If you have, at any point in your life, interacted with drug addicts, you are likely aware of just how far they would go to ensure they get their high any time they want. Even though they are addicts, they go out of their way to conceal their drugs from other people.

They may go to great lengths when hiding a stash, using creative and sometimes elaborate methods, like hiding them in body cavities, such as the rectum or vagina, stashing them in hollowed-out books or other objects, or wearing multiple layers of clothing to create hidden pockets. In some cases, addicts may even swallow condoms filled with drugs in an attempt to smuggle them into a treatment facility or detox center.

However, these methods are not foolproof, and addicts often eventually get caught. If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with addiction, look for signs of drug paraphernalia or hidden stash spots. You can also look for changes in behavior, such as secrecy, lying, or unexplained absences. Your loved one can be creative, but if you look close enough, you’ll uncover any addiction behaviors and help they get the help they need.

This article reveals the common ways addicts conceal their drugs. If you are worried that your loved one is abusing drugs, read on to see where they may be hiding their illicit drugs or drug paraphernalia.

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Common ways addicts conceal their drugs

The dangers of drug addiction are well-known, but the ways in which addicts hide their drugs might surprise you. One popular method is called "stash clothing." This involves hiding drugs in clothing that can be easily accessed, usually in a pocket , sleeve or sewn into clothing. The advantage of this method is that it allows addicts to keep their drugs close at hand without being obvious about it.

But sometimes, addicts may take it a notch higher. For example, some women hide their marijuana stash in altered tampons and hairbands. Those who work in transporting illegal drugs can sew the drugs in wigs and have the wigs glued to their heads to go past border and customs without being suspected. Unfortunately, doing so may cause complications and necessitate emergency room electrolysis.

Let us discuss a little more about how addicts hide contraband in clothing and footwear.

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Clothing and footwear

You would be surprised at how many different places addicts hide their stash, especially at music festivals. They know the consequences of drug possession, so they need to ensure they don’t get caught. No one wants to spend time in jail, not even them.

They roll the contraband into jeans, sew them into jacket linings, or hide them in coin pockets or socks. Unfortunately, addicts or smugglers that have children conceal the contraband in their kids’ clothing, hoping that the officers won’t search the children. Those with babies hide them in baby blankets.

Since police officers realized that coin pockets are a popular hiding place, young adults became more cunning. They either buy clothes with hidden pockets or opt to make the hidden pocket themselves.

Addicts’ demand for clothes with hidden compartments made entrepreneurs mass-produce clothes that can easily conceal drugs. These clothes are readily available on the internet, and they are relatively famous for cocaine storage and hiding weed.

Clothing made for drug stashing

It is rather unfortunate that some brands specialize in clothing for carrying drugs. These clothes are sold online and in stores. Some of the most popular garments for stashing drugs include

·     The Rolla Wear brand has a hoodie that features a hidden hood pocket and a suru board in its front pocket for rolling joints.

·     Eagle Creek mass-produces an undercover stash bra. The bra has a hidden pocket that can be used as a drug pocket.

·     Annabiss manufactures stylish bags and purses that are very popular during the festival season. However, the bags have hidden compartments that addicts use to conceal their lighters, vape pens, marijuana stash, and mints.

Men, too, hide their stash in intimate pieces of clothing. Speakeasy Briefs is a brand that mass-produces briefs that feature a hidden compartment on the crotch. Addicts can easily use it to stash their drugs.

·      Vaprwear manufactures hoodies that connect to vape cartridges. Addicts vape through the hoodie’s drawstring.

·     Dailyshoes manufactures a range of boots with large front pockets. Most addicts use the compartments to hide their drugs of choice.

·      Zero grid sells belts that have hidden pockets. Some addicts use their hidden pockets to hide their drugs.

·      555 soul sells bomber jackets that have several hidden pockets. Those who abuse drugs may use the hidden pockets for their stash.

These are just a few examples of mass-produced clothing addicts use to stash their drugs. Although the clothes may not have been made explicitly for drug hiding, they are famous for their ability to hide contraband properly, and some articles promote them as such.

Other places addicts hide their drugs

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As discussed above, addicts can be very creative with hiding their drugs. Other than hiding them in their clothing and footwear, they may also hide them in:

Conclusion

Addicts are always secretive about where they hide their drugs. But by knowing the common hiding spots, you can uncover their behavior and help them get the care they need.

Every generation has its slang, and Gen Z is no exception. The use of emojis became quite popular with Gen Z. And now they’re using emoji to sell drugs and to generally talk about them with friends. They bank on the fact that most adults don't have a sense of how emojis work.

To any unsuspecting adult, the emojis look ordinary and harmless. However, they are often being used to buy and sell illicit drugs. 

Drug abuse is prevalent among teens and young adults. With the current technology, they can easily purchase any illegal drug from social media pages run by drug traffickers. With a simple direct message (mostly with an emoji or more), the drugs of choice, including crack cocaine, are delivered to them in just a few minutes. Often, they make payments in cash, so you are unlikely to notice something is off.

Every drug dealer targeting teens have perfected the use of emojis, now commonly known as the emoji drug code. By doing so, they easily advertise their products on social media. Drug-themed social media posts are often not flagged or taken down because it is difficult to differentiate them from regular posts. 

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently released an emoji drug decoder to help educators, parents, and caregivers decode the emojis their loved ones use and potentially save lives.

DEA public information officer Brian McNeal said that when there is a case of overdose and no way to trace the source, you can go through the phones and computers of your loved ones to see the emojis used in conversations with drug dealers. The emoji drug decoder can help you identify the drugs they overdosed on.

The emojis

According to the DEA, emojis are now commonly used as dealer advertising for high potency drugs. A select few are currently universal symbols for large batches of drugs. The DEA revealed that they started looking at social media risk factors after identifying several overdoses.

After going through the phones of the deceased, they noticed that specific emojis kept showing up in conversations. Later, they managed to decode the emojis. 

Shane Catone, a Deputy Special Agent in charge of the DEA's Chicago Division, said that traffickers started communicating with emojis because their target market is teenagers who spend most of their time on social media.

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The traffickers advertise their contraband on various social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Some of the emojis are straightforward to figure out. For example, the pill emoji represents fake prescription medications or pills.

Other emojis may be difficult to decode. For instance, a key emoji represents cocaine; a brown heart represents heroin and a blue heart meth. Another difficult emoji to decode is a chocolate candy bar that represents Xanax.

The banana emoji is commonly used as code for Oxycodone, whereas a Christmas tree, palm tree, clover, and cloud for marijuana. The maple leaf emoji is also code for marijuana.

Below is a summary of the emojis and what they mean for ease of reference.

The emojis are not a conclusive indication of illegal drug use. However, the emojis combined with behavioral change or a low performance at work or school may indicate that your loved one is struggling with drug addiction.

Prescription pills

While addressing the use of emojis to buy or sell drugs, DEA public information officer Brian McNeal said the pills drug dealers sell on social media are counterfeit prescription drugs laced with fatal amounts of fentanyl.

The pills range from normal-looking ones to colorful ones that resemble kids' vitamins. According to McNeal, the colorful pills often contain meth.

Drug dealers often transport the fake prescription pills in bags of candy. Often, the laced prescription pills result in overdoses.

Common drug slang terms

Other than emojis, teens and young adults struggling with substance abuse use slang terms to refer to drugs. Here are a few drug slang terms used in day-to-day conversations and their meaning.

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The emoji chart is not conclusive, and it has the potential to grow exponentially. For this reason, it is a good idea to monitor your children's activities on social media. Since drug dealers target teenagers on social media, the ads are likely to pop up on their phones. It would also be best to periodically check any updates on the chart from the DEA's website.

If you can't check their phones, monitor your children's behavior. You are likely to notice a behavior change when they use illegal drugs. You can also use the emoji drug chart to start a conversation about drug and substance abuse dangers.

Help Your Loved One Get Addiction Treatment

The emoji drug dealers are using may seem like a harmless way to communicate, but they could be putting your loved ones in danger. If you suspect your loved one is using drugs and communicating with dealers through emoji, or if you notice sign of addiction call for help.

There is no shame in seeking out assistance. Addiction is a difficult disease to overcome alone. With the right resources and types of treatment, your loved one can get the support they need to break free from the grip of addiction and start on the path to recovery.

Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that affects the central nervous system by antagonizing the n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. Like most dissociative anesthetics, ketamine has a high potential for abuse.

Ketamine has hallucinogenic effects. It changes your perception of sounds and sights, makes you feel detached, and makes you feel like you aren’t in control.

Ketamine is FDA-approved for use as a pain reliever for chronic pain and anesthetic. Unfortunately, it is often abused.

Although ketamine has a long-standing reputation as a recreational drug, its FDA-approved version has become popular in its role as an anti-depressant. Additionally, studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing drug and alcohol abuse.

This article discusses ketamine therapy and its benefits under supervised care.

Ketamine therapy as addiction treatment

Clinical trials focusing on alcohol and cocaine addiction revealed that patients who were prescribed therapy and ketamine had better results than those who went for therapy minus ketamine treatment.

Patients addicted to cocaine received doses of IV ketamine for five days. Additionally, they went through a 5-week mindfulness relapse prevention therapy. On the other hand, patients struggling with alcohol addiction received a dose of ketamine on their second week of 5-week motivational enhancement therapy sessions.

At the end of the trial, researchers concluded that ketamine treatment played a role in preventing relapse. Researchers argued that ketamine treatment alters how patients’ brains deal with cravings. Additionally, they argued that ketamine motivates individuals to stop abusing drugs and control their behavioral interactions. Ketamine treatment may also improve the outcome of behavioral therapy.

The clinical trials discussed above are not conclusive. There is a need for extensive research on the role of ketamine in addiction treatment.

Note that the use of ketamine in addiction treatment should be under the strict supervision of medical practitioners in clinical settings. Patients should only receive doses of ketamine as and when prescribed by their doctors to avert ketamine abuse.

Ketamine for depression

Medical practitioners can use ketamine to treat depression. Additionally, it can be used as an antidote for suicidal thoughts.

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Most treatments for suicidal thoughts, including anti-depressants, talk therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), take several weeks to be effective. Sometimes, you may have to try multiple treatment options at once to gain relief.

Using ketamine for depression has proved effective. The doses that medical practitioners prescribe in treatment for depression are small.

How does it work?

It is still unclear how ketamine works. However, researchers suggest that it targets NMDA receptors in the brain, binds to the receptors, and consequently increases the amount of glutamate, a neurotransmitter, between the neurons.

The glutamate triggers connections in the AMPA receptors resulting in the release of molecules that allow neurons to communicate across new pathways. This process is called synaptogenesis. Synaptogenesis alters your cognition, mood, and thought patterns, making you less depressed.

Ketamine may also treat symptoms of depression by reducing the signals that take part in inflammation. These signals are often linked to mood disorders. Therefore, ketamine may prevent mood swings by reducing the signals.

How do you receive ketamine for depression treatment?

Ketamine comes in various forms, including white powder. The FDA-approved form for depression medication is a nasal spray known as esketamine/ Spravato.

Doctors prescribe esketamine to adults who have a major depressive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, or are suicidal.

Patients with treatment-resistant depression get the nasal spray twice weekly for the first four weeks, then once a week from the fifth to the ninth week. If they still need the nasal spray after the ninth week, they will get it once every two weeks.

The other forms of ketamine that are not approved by the FDA include; tablets, IV infusion, or a shot in the arm. IV infusions are done explicitly by doctors. Some doctors may prescribe pills for use at home. However, it is not recommended since ketamine has a high potential for abuse.

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The process of IV infusion takes place for approximately 30 minutes. Immediately after the drip ends, you will have the dissociative experience for about 20 minutes. Your doctor will be present during the entire process. The dissociative experience wears off after 20 minutes.

Research shows that most patients appear to be asleep during IV infusion. They neither talk, nor move. Most doctors prefer not to interfere unless the patient specifically asks for something or asks where they are.

After ketamine treatment, patients need to undergo talk therapy. Talk therapy is an essential part of depression treatment. During talk therapy, medical practitioners equip you with the relevant skills to handle your depression. It is practical and empowering for most patients. For those with mild depression, talk therapy may be sufficient.

Possible side effects

All drugs have side effects. However, the benefits you will get from using ketamine for depression outweigh the side effects you will experience.

Here are some side effects that you may experience after ketamine infusions:

Usually, dissociation and perception disturbances are noticeable when you get the first infusion but fade away afterward.

Long-term use of ketamine may have additional side effects. Scientists are still researching the issues surrounding ketamine abuse.

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Concerns on using ketamine therapy for depression and addiction treatment

The main problem regarding ketamine therapy is addiction. Ketamine shows a lot of promise in treating mental health conditions and addiction. However, ketamine is a highly addictive narcotic, and addicts can still get high off it.

There is a possibility that patients who undergo ketamine therapy may become dependent on it. Long-term use of ketamine may have long-term effects. Patients may develop tolerance or unidentified side effects.

Another concern is the risk of cross-addiction. Cross addiction refers to instances when an addict develops a second addiction, in this case, ketamine addiction.

There is a need for more studies on ketamine treatment to realize its benefits in addiction and depression treatment.

If you are struggling with an addiction, check out treatment addiction programs that you can enroll in. You can also check our blog for resources on addiction and mental health issues.

Drug addiction doesn’t only affect the drug user. Drug use also affects entire families, probably more than most people acknowledge.

In the United States alone, approximately 21 million people above 12 years suffer from substance use disorders, including alcohol and drug abuse. Most young people start abusing drugs in high school or earlier. To prevent drug abuse among young people, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is tasked with developing programs, services, and policies on drug abuse and misuse.

Drug addiction takes a toll on an individual’s psychological, emotional, and physiological well being. This is one way alcohol and drug abuse has a negative impact on families.

This article will discuss the various effects of drug use on families.

Drug use and the family

When a loved one is struggling with addiction, family members have to find ways to cope with it. More often than not, family members have conflicting and intense emotions regarding the situation at hand. As a result, family relationships become strained.

Addicts’ families are made to understand that their loved ones don’t intentionally want to hurt them. Therefore, they try to empathize by supporting, encouraging, and loving them regardless of the situation.

Unfortunately, the emotional abuse, deceit, and manipulation that addicts subject them to can be overwhelming. Consequently, there is a high probability that family relationships will suffer.

Here are some of the ways drug use affects the family

Effects on children

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare reported that in the United States, approximately 8.7 million children live in households where at least one parent has a substance use disorder. Most of these children experience abuse or parental neglect. 

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Children whose parents use drugs or that have an alcoholic parent suffer both physically and emotionally. Most times, the parents neglect the children. Parents who abuse drugs tend to stop focusing on their role as parents; thus, they become emotionally and physically unavailable for their children. Sometimes, the parents stop taking care of their children’s basic needs. They don’t provide meals or a clean environment, and neither do they go out of their way to be involved in their children’s health care, social life and education.

Growing up in an environment where neglect is the norm affects children’s mental health. Additionally, it affects their ability to have healthy relationships with other people. 

Children in such family settings are also more likely to experience emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The abuse may be from their parents or other people, including relatives and family friends.

Parents’ drug addiction can have long-term psychological effects on children. There is a high probability that the children of alcoholics and drug users will have behavioral problems like anxiety, detachment, angry outbursts, and depression. They can also develop mental health problems as they get older.

Research has also shown that children who suffer from neglect and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs in the future. 

Effects on finances

Drug addiction tends to take a toll on family finances. Drug users often lose their jobs since they can no longer perform or show up as expected. Consequently, they start using family savings to finance their drug addiction.

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Since illegal drugs are expensive, the family may run into financial problems quickly. Paying for basic needs like food, utilities, clothing, and rent may become a problem. There is also a need to pay for addiction treatment which can be expensive.

Other than that, drug users may get into trouble with the law. When this happens, it is up to the family to raise money to ensure their loved one doesn’t end up in jail.

Drug users may also feel entitled to family members’ money. Since they cannot finance their lifestyle, they rely on money from other family members, or eventually they could become homeless.

Stress

When a loved one is an addict, most, if not all, of their responsibilities become their partner’s responsibilities.

The partner has to juggle between paying bills, raising the children, cleaning up after the addict, and making important decisions regarding the family, among others. Consequently, they may become stressed. Stress is a risk factor for other conditions like depression and high blood pressure.

Loss of trust

Most addicts make promises they can’t keep. They also don’t live up to their agreements with family members, further straining their family relationships.

Family members become frustrated when the addict doesn’t live up to their promises and obligations. 

Children are also affected by this. When an addict promises his children something and does not follow through, the children have trust issues. They will find it hard to trust other people since their parents have already set a bad precedent.

Emotional and physical abuse

Drug use can lead to emotional and physical abuse. Since drug users are irrational and most family members are on edge due to their behavior, simple disagreements can lead to big fights, sometimes physical.

Substance abuse and mental health issues go hand in hand. Drug users tend to be emotionally abusive and manipulative. Their behavior negatively affects family members and other people they are close to.

Sometimes, children whose parents are drug addicts become abusers. In an attempt to mask their struggles, they misbehave and act out, hurting other people in the process. Eventually, some become drug users too. 

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Fear

Most drug addicts are unpredictable. As discussed above, drug abuse and mental health issues go hand in hand.

It is almost impossible to predict how a drug user will react to situations. Consequently, most family members resort to being extra careful with their words and actions to avoid confrontation.

Children that grow up in settings where one or both parents are addicts tend to be highly reserved. They are conditioned not to say or do anything that would rub their parents the wrong way from a young age. This tends to reflect in their day-to-day lives.

Generally, drug use breeds fear in the family.

Dealing with drug use in the family

When you realize your loved one is struggling with an addiction, you should encourage them to seek professional help. Try to make the addict see how their drug use affects them and other family members. Remember to be compassionate while doing this.

If they don’t seem to care, you can stage an intervention with the help of other family members. You can also involve an intervention specialist to increase its chances of success.

The entire family should also consider getting therapy or counselling. Therapy goes a long way in helping everyone deal with the effects of a loved one’s addiction. 

If the family member agrees to seek treatment and join support groups, the healing process will be much easier. The chances of successfully rebuilding strained family relationships are also much better.

Drug abuse or addiction is a huge problem in the United States. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, 164.8 million people aged 12 or older (60.2%) had used substances like illegal drugs, alcohol, or tobacco in the past month. Within that time, 47 million people smoked cigarettes, and 139.8 million drank alcohol. The survey adds that 19.4% of the population had used an illicit drug in the past year, with marijuana accounting for 15.9% of use. Prescription drugs misuse came second with 3.6%.  

Sadly, the drug problem causes addiction, physical and psychological problems, and in some cases, death. In 2019 alone, there were about 71,000 drug overdose deaths in the country, and the trend seems to be holding up. While the drug use problem is rampant in the country, it’s important to note that not all states are struggling with the same types of substances. Different states have different drug problems, each with varying severity. This article will look at how drug of choice differs across the United States.

Alcohol

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The legal drinking age in the US is 21 years old and is strictly enforced. However, statistics show that young adults in the country are also indulging in alcohol use. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism pointed out that most states had a 2.35 gallons per capita alcohol consumption in 2016, which exceeds the country’s goal of 2.1.

Currently, New Hampshire is the state with the highest alcohol consumption per capita of 4.67 gallons. This is over double the country’s set goal. But Statista notes that the state has lower rates of binge drinking than other states. States like Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota have the highest rates of binge drinking. Binge drinking is the consumption of 4 or more drinks within 2 hours for women and five or more drinks with 2 hours for men. It is the most common form of excessive drinking and is linked to severe risks.

Utah is on the other end of the spectrum, with the lowest alcohol consumption per capita of 1.34 gallons. This is mainly attributable to the strict alcohol regulations in the state. Utah is one of the nine states with per capita less than 2.1 gallons.  

Alcohol consumption per capita in the US ranked

Highest alcohol use per state

Lowest alcohol use per state

Marijuana

The federal government classified marijuana as a schedule I drug, along with others like cocaine and heroin. However, 18 states and the country’s capital have legalized marijuana use for adults, while 36 states, including the US Virgin Islands, Guam, District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico, allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana programs. Consequently, the states with fewer marijuana restrictions tend to have higher use rates. In fact, states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska are among the top 12 states with the highest use rates.

Currently, cannabis use among US adults in 2018-19 was highest in the District of Columbia, with about 27% of adults using the drug. South Dakota has the least marijuana use, with about 11.13%, according to Statista:

Marijuana use across the US states ranked

States with the highest marijuana use

States with the lowest marijuana use

Prescription opioids and heroin

After pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that pain relievers wouldn’t cause addiction, healthcare providers started prescribing these drugs at greater rates in the late 1990s. This led to vast misuse of both opioid drugs before it became apparent that they could indeed be highly addictive. According to NSDUH’s 2020 survey, 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids in the past.

Studies show that prescription drugs are gateway drugs, leading people to use street drugs like heroin, fentanyl and cocaine. Prescription drugs have low opioid levels and are often used as pain-relievers. But chronic pain patients may need to take these drugs for a longer time, exposing themselves to the risks of drug addiction, and tolerance. So many chronic patients end up taking more pills each day, which can be expensive or inaccessible. As a result, they turn to alternatives like fentanyl and heroin to achieve the desired effect and avoid withdrawal symptoms.

The escalating use of prescription opioids for pain management has contributed significantly to the opioid epidemic. Opioid is widely used across the US, but it disproportionately affects the states of West Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Ohio. According to the National Institute of Health, these states had the highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses, with 42.4, 33.7, 33.1, and 29.6 per 100,000 people, respectively. Hawaii, Iowa, Texas, and California had the least overdoses, accounting for 4.1, 4.8, 4.8 ad 5.8 per 100,000, respectively.

Aside from the overdose cases, opioids, alongside other drugs like heroin, are primarily used in populous states and those that serve as entry points. A survey based on HHS and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s ranked states by opioid misuse rates, and these were the findings:

Opioid use across the US states ranked

States with the highest opioid use

States with the lowest opioids use

Other substances

While some states use specific substances more than others, the reality is that Americans are using alcohol or drugs and, sometimes, a combination of both. Alcohol and nicotine are legal and loosely regulated. The fact that they are affordable and easily accessible makes them a drug of choice for many people. Despite these, alcohol and nicotine carry a risk for addiction and even death.

Prescription medications are also technically legal. And since the doctors issue them, some Americans abuse them assuming it’s safe. But prescription drugs are highly addictive and can serve as a gateway to other drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Besides, these drugs account for 30% of emergency room admissions.

And with the growing cases of mental illness across the country, many are self-medicating with cocaine, marijuana, or alcohol. Unfortunately, these mind-altering substances offer temporary relief but may lead to addiction and other health-related issues.

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Americans use drugs and alcohol for various reasons. Some do so as a social activity, like after work or during holidays, while others use it to fit in. Availability, experimenting, self-medicating, feeling good, etc., are common reasons people use drugs across the country. But there are other risk factors like having family members who abuse substances that predispose one to use.

Drug of choice may differ from state to state due to availability, state laws, and influence. But all in all, the drug is still a problem irrespective of the type of drug. If you or someone close to you is addicted to drugs, it is best to seek substance abuse treatment. Many treatment approaches exist to help you lead a drug-free life.

People who abuse drugs use a range of items to make, abuse, or conceal drugs. Most of these items are either hard to access or pretty expensive to buy. So users may opt for everyday household essentials. For example, they will use plastic storage containers to store the drugs or create a pipe out of a pen.

For a loved one, knowing how to recognize these items can help you act quickly. When it comes to drug use, the sooner someone can get substance abuse treatment, the faster they can recover. Becoming drug free is one of the main goal of our health care system.

This is particularly true for highly addictive substances such as heroin and cocaine. Others like fentanyl are very potent and could lead to overdose deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But recognizing drug items can be harder than it sounds. Generally, these items refer to any material or equipment that drug users use to make, administer, or transport drugs. The items are not always obvious as the methods of drug use or concealing drugs have become quite clever.

A 2018 survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that about 20.3 million people in the United States aged 12+ had a substance use disorder related to alcohol or drugs in the past year. So, if you suspect that your loved one is abusing drugs, it’s best to get to the bottom of it before the situation worsens.

This article will highlight the common household items that people use to abuse, transport, or conceal drugs to give you an idea of what to watch out for. We’ll also recommend steps that you can take once you confirm that a loved one is indeed abusing illegal drugs.

Toothpicks

Toothpicks are perhaps the last household items that you'd expect to find on this list. However, they are common paraphernalia, especially among people who smoke illegal drugs like opioids, marijuana, cocaine, and meth. These drugs are smoked in a glass pipe or bong, and from time to time, the bong gets clogged up and stops functioning as it should.

When it does, drug users will need a series of supplies to clean it up, including toothpicks (or paper clips). People also use toothpicks for drugs like meth - where they soak the toothpicks in liquid meth and chew on them throughout the day.

Finger Nail clippers

Cocaine users tend to have coke nails. Coke nails refer to the long fingernails; usually, the pinkie nails used to scoop and snort powder cocaine. This act is referred to as doing a bump. The nail acts as the vessel instead of needing an item, like a dollar bill, ATM card, or straw, to snort coke.

But sometimes, one may choose to use finger nail clippers in the place of their nails. Clippers facilitate a quick and easy snorting of a small amount of coke by dipping it into the small containers used to hold drugs.

Nail polish remover

Teens and young adults who are not old enough to buy alcoholic beverages go for alternatives like nail polish remover that contain alcohol. And since there are no age restrictions surrounding nail polish removers, they buy and drink it for the intoxicating effects.

Some intentionally inhale its vapors (huffing) or apply it directly to their skin for the effects. Young adults use nail polish remover because it’s a cheap and common household item. No one will suspect anything if they see a nail polish remover in their bags or belongings.

Spoons

Spoons are often used as cocaine or heroin paraphernalia. But drug spoons aren’t the same size as the regular spoon - they are often smaller and might be discolored depending on how the person uses them.

Laundry detergents

This may come as a surprise, but some people snort, huff, or sniff washing powder as an alternative to crystal meth. Laundry detergents have alcohol and ethanol as ingredients. But they are also packed with chemicals that can harm the body, making them very dangerous.

In addition to using detergents as drugs, some steal the detergents and trade them for drugs. According to one post in the New York Magazine, a 150-ounce bottle of Tide detergent is $5 or $10 worth of crack cocaine or weed. Other similar products abused by teens include deodorants, bath salts, cleaning products, and aerosol sprays.

Paper towel

Foil and toilet paper are often used to smoke heroin. Teens and young adults who abuse drugs may have toilet paper or paper towels sitting around in their rooms. Usually, these serve as some sort of huffing device. You may also notice air canisters, Freon, glue, and other household items.

Homemade items

Teens and young adults use household essentials like compact mirrors, razor blades, straws, tin foil, and hollowed-out writing instruments for drug preparation and use. They also use masks to store or hide drugs.

Signs your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol

Finding your loved one with one of these items shouldn’t sound an alarm. After all, they are household items. However, it’s important to pay attention to warning signs that might indicate drug use, such as:

●       Changes in behavior and mood

●       Paraphernalia in their bags

●       Withdrawal symptoms when not using

●       Poor hygiene

●       Sudden shift in weight

●       Missed appointments and other responsibilities

●       Changes in sleep patterns

●       New friends or acquaintances

●       Obvious intoxication

●       Hacking cough

●       Bloody or runny noses

●       Dental decay or scabs on the body

●       Talkativeness

●       Needle or track marks

You might also want to watch out for risk factors like mental health problems. Stress, anxiety, depression, etc., often tend to co-occur with substance abuse. The risks of drug use are higher in people with mental disorders.

Short- and long-term effects of drug misuse

Drug use can have a range of direct and indirect effects on the body. Usually, the effects depend on the type of drug, the person’s health, how much is taken, and how they’re taken. According to NIDA, short-term effects include changes in blood pressure, wakefulness, heart rate, appetite, mood, and stroke, heart attack, overdose, stroke, or death. Long-term effects include cancer, lung disease, heart disease, mental illness, hepatitis, HIV/AIDs, and addiction.

 

What to do if your loved one has any of these items

If you suspect your loved one is abusing drugs, it’s best to approach the topic with a well-meaning plan. The aim is not to make the person feel attacked. Find constructive ways to talk to your loved ones, and consider getting them into a treatment program. The best facilities offer individual and family programs to help families and their loved ones.

The concept of ground score is simple. Someone leaves behind or improperly disposes of drugs or paraphernalia. Then, whoever finds the drug or item claims it, and it becomes theirs. Lighters, syringes, needles, pre-and post-injection swabs, masks, patches, pipes, filters and even the drugs themselves are common examples of a ground score.

Ground score is a pretty common occurrence around the country. But this doesn't make it any less of a nuisance. When left on the ground, drug paraphernalia pose a risk not just to the environment but also to humans. We'll look at these risks later on in this article. But first, let's make sure we are on the same page.

What is a Ground Score?

A ground score is any desirable substance that's left on the ground. In this case, it can be any drug paraphernalia that drug users leave on the ground after use, such as:

People who abuse substances - including street drugs, alcohol, and prescription drugs - are at an increased risk for dependence, addiction, or worse, overdose deaths. Drug use also has side effects that make it hard for one to act responsibly. As a result, many users either leave drug litter around or dispose of it carelessly, exposing the environment and people to wide-ranging risks.

Why Drug Litter is Dangerous

Drug litter can cause serious health problems for those who come into contact with it. It can cause:

  1. Accidental poisoning and exposure: Improper disposal of drugs can be dangerous to children and adults alike. Kids are curious by nature and tend to be drawn to anything colorful or noisy.

    When they see a green or red tablet or capsule lying around the house, they will likely get to it - and taste it. According to research, about 50,000 toddlers aged below five years unintentionally consume medicine. And this can be dangerous depending on the abused drug.

Adults, too, might swallow prescription pills and end up overdosing without knowing. Proper storage or disposal of drugs is the best way to avoid such predicaments.

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  1.  Environmental contamination: Drug litter can contain other chemicals that are toxic and dangerous to humans and the environment. If many of these chemicals get washed into lakes and waterways, they can contaminate the water that people use for drinking. Meth is particularly dangerous. Since this street drug is entirely artificial, its components throw off the nutrient balance in the nearby soil to the extent that plants can't grow there anymore. And when it finds its way to water, fish and other aquatic animals can die, potentially harming the ecosystem for years.

  2. Infections: People who abuse drugs or engage in high-risk behaviors associated with drug use expose themselves to infections like HIV/AIDs and hepatitis. Viruses spread through body fluids. So, drug users are likely to contract or transmit the virus when they share needles and other paraphernalia or have unprotected sex because of impaired judgment.

    When these people leave sharp paraphernalia lying around, and someone ends up being hurt, the injured person can end up with HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis, Herpes virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, etc. Besides, sharp objects can cause tetanus and other infections - on top of pain.

  3. It enables drug abuse: Drug litter can make it easy for wannabe abusers to access drugs. Today, teenagers abuse prescription pills more than illicit drugs believing the former is safe. It is a wrong belief. In 2019 alone, there were over 36,000 deaths related to the abuse of synthetic opioids. So, proper disposal should be done to lower the likelihood of abuse, whether it's a prescription or illicit drug.

Common places to find drug litter

Drug litter can be found anywhere, including the streets, neighborhoods, schools, and so on. However, you are likely to find drugs at music festivals, nightclubs, parties, and so on. That's because party-goers indulge in illegal drugs and throw the remains all over the place. But you can also find drugs at home when a friend or loved one disposes of their prescription medicines inappropriately.

How to avoid drug littering

Whether intentional or unintentional, improper disposal of drugs and paraphernalia is dangerous to humans and the environment. Littering happens due to:

But since ground score poses so much danger, it might help to avoid it altogether. There are safe disposal practices that you should follow whenever you want to discard drugs and any material associated with the drugs. One of the safest ways to dump unwanted drugs is to take them to a drug take-back program. It will help if you do this as soon as you realize that you no longer need the drugs. The Food and Drug Administration recommends the following was to avoid drug littering:

Effects of drug use and abuse

Drug litter can be a gateway to drug abuse. Synthetic opioids, mostly manufactured in South America, are highly addictive and often lead to substance use disorders - both long-term and  short-term. People, especially teenagers, might experiment with these drugs and end up using them more.

Drug use and misuse can cause side effects like increased heart rate and blood pressure, body temperature, paranoia, and hallucinations. Besides, drug dealers often cut drugs with a series of other substances, exposing one to the risk of overdose and overdose deaths.

Conclusion

Whether prescription or illegal drugs, drug litter is a dangerous problem for society and the environment. To keep your neighborhood clean and healthy, ensure you dispose of anything related to drugs responsibly. 

I can bet that you have at least once in your life interacted with drug sniffing dogs, be it at the airport, while crossing national borders, traffic stops, public events, or even in public schools. These dogs diligently sniff for any illegal drugs. Some are even trained to detect other substances, including invasive insects and parts of wildlife like ivory and rhino horns. Recently, dogs have shown us their incredible power of smell can detect diseases and viruses, such as the COVID-19 virus and even cancer.

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Most dog owners I have interacted with usually question how drug-sniffing dogs are trained. The onus of training a drug-sniffing dog falls on dog handlers. The handlers are typically trained, and they also do practical testing before being accredited and registered. This includes different methods than you would use to teach your dog.

Drug sniffing dogs have been used as the preferred method of searching for illegal drugs since time immemorial for various reasons. For starters, it is a fast and effective method of searching for illegal substances. Sniffer dogs are also reliable and accurate.

Another advantage is that sniffer dogs can screen a large number of people or even large areas simultaneously. Therefore, they are ideal for public events, borders and boundaries, educational establishments, multi-occupancy premises, and open-plan event spaces.

Drug sniffing dog training

The typical way of training a sniffing dog is teaching it to associate the smell of its favorite toy or favorite treat with an illegal substance(s). By doing so, the dogs automatically link the scent of their favorite toy or treat to sourcing for drugs.

It is important to note that drug-sniffing dogs do not have an interest in the drugs. Their training program simply makes them associate the smell of drugs with a toy. All of the "urban legends" of police dogs being addicted to drugs, simply isn't true.

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Dogs have a strong sense of smell. Scientists say that their sense of smell is about 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute that of humans.

That’s because they have 50 times more receptors than humans do. They also have a strong hunting desire that drives them to look for what their trainers have trained them to find. To get a reward, the dogs make sure that they don’t give false signals.

During the early stages or training, trainers reward the dogs whenever they recognize the target scent and alert their handler. With time, the dog undergoes basic obedience training and only gets a reward when it responds to basic commands like stand, stay, sit, bark, etc.

It’s pretty much the same technique you use when training a puppy. I like to think that if you can teach your dog to obey basic commands in house training when still a puppy, you can try your luck in training drug-sniffing dogs or police dogs.

Dog trainers train drug-sniffing dogs to alert their handlers when drugs are present. There are two main ways the dogs alert their handlers, depending on the type of training they underwent.

The first way is the passive indication. When drug-sniffing dogs indicate drugs, they either stand or sit. The other way is the aggressive indication. This is where drug-sniffing dog alerts their handler by barking, pawing, or digging at the location where they have detected drugs.

Dog handlers and sniffer dogs undergo intensive training. The training lasts for several months. Once the training is complete, and the handler and dog can work as a team, they are certified. However, they still undergo retraining and testing throughout their careers.

Retraining and testing ensure that the dogs’ and handlers’ skills are up to standard and reliable. Usually, detection dogs remain attached to their handler throughout their career. They are tested and retrained together. Most dog handlers have a military or police background.

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Drug sniffing dogs come in handy in various operations, including; marine applications, airports, hospitals, media stations, mental health facilities, prisons, colleges, universities, businesses, events, and schools. Individuals that want tighter security measures in their homes can also use drug-sniffing dogs. I’ve heard of instances where parents hire drug-sniffing dogs for their private use.

These detection dogs can detect drugs within buildings, individuals, open areas, and vehicles stopped for a traffic violation. I have seen several law enforcement officers walking around with drug-sniffing dogs.

The Fourth Amendment

You probably already know that the Fourth Amendment right protects people from unreasonable searches. So what are your rights when it comes to drug-sniffing dogs?

It is notable that in law enforcement, one of the tools that can potentially violate the Fourth Amendment right is drug-sniffing dogs. Like I mentioned earlier in the article, American police officers commonly use dogs to sniff out illegal substances.

In emergencies, law enforcement officers can only use drug-sniffing dogs when they have probable cause to search someone’s belongings, including their house and vehicle. Suppose you are convinced that an officer violated your Fourth Amendment right with a drug-sniffing dog, you can file a motion to suppress any evidence that they discovered during the violation.

Drug sniffing dogs and cars

If a traffic cop stops you over a traffic violation, they need probable cause that you have committed a crime other than the traffic violation for them to search your car. If the officer does not have probable cause, he needs your permission to search your vehicle or let a drug-sniffing dog sniff the outside of your vehicle.

It is unconstitutional for police officers to conduct a drug sniff at traffic stops unless there is reasonable suspicion of a crime. Drug sniffs are categorized as searches in the Fourth Amendment.

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Drug sniffing dogs and houses

With the Fourth Amendment, courts have enhanced the protection of an individual’s home against unnecessary searches. For an officer to bring a drug-sniffing dog to your front porch, he or she needs to have probable cause since every person has a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home. This right extends to the area around the house, including side gardens and porches. However, it is essential to note that once you permit the officers to search your home, you have waived your Fourth Amendment right.

Conclusion

Drug-sniffing dogs undergo extensive training before their handlers use them in day to day operations. They rarely give false alarm, thanks to the training and tests that they undergo throughout their career.

Let me know how your experience with sniffer dogs was in the comments below.

No, drugs are not legal but they have been decriminalized. Some illicit drugs are now decriminalized in Oregon. On February 1, 2021, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in small quantities. The list of decriminalized drugs includes cocaine, heroin, LSD, meth, as well as other personal-use drugs.

Oregon voters made history by passing a ballot measure legalizing recreational drugs. On the federal level, these drugs are still against the law but in Oregon, possession has been downgraded to a civil violation. Instead of jail, a civil violation reduces penalties and may lead to a fine or court-ordered therapy.  

The new drug decriminalization law

The ballot measure turns possession of small amounts of street drugs into a violation, like a traffic ticket. “Small amount” is defined to be the following:

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Oregon is drastically shifting its focus on drug crime. Measure 110 allows the government to approach drug use as a public health issue, rather than a criminal one.

The measure addresses these possessions as a citation and expands access to treatment and recovery. So, instead of facing jail time, individuals found with small amounts of drugs face a $100 fine and would have to talk to an addiction treatment professional. 

According to Proposed Amendments to Senate Bill 755, addiction recovery centers will be able to expand the services they currently provide. “Recovery centers will also assess and address any on-going needs through intensive case management and linkage to care services.”

The epiphany

Measure 110 wouldn’t have seen the light of day were it not for individuals like Hubert Matthews. Hubert Mathews is a veteran, a father, and a productive member of society. But this wasn’t always the case. For twenty years, he abused substances and committed crimes to get more drugs. Inevitably, he brushed shoulders with law enforcement, which resulted in jail or prison time, only to end up back on the streets. It was like a vicious cycle.  

“I would break the law to feed my addiction, which made me an easy target for police. The judge told me one time. “Mr. Matthews, you are a drug abuser.” He wasn’t offering me any help. He just said he was going to send me to the Oregon State Penitentiary,” Matthew explained.

According to Matthew, this did nothing to help his situation. If anything, incarceration added even more trauma to his already troubled life. There was no end in sight. He would get arrested for possession of illicit drugs over and over again. And his criminal record was not helping either. No one would hire him or give him a place to live.

“I needed someone who understood that treatment would help me more than being incarcerated. Luckily, I was able to get treatment later on. That’s what saved my life,” he added.

Since his treatment began, Matthew has been clean for over 10 years. He’s now out in the community every day, trying to get people to treatment. He believes that others struggling with addiction will have an easier path now that some illicit drugs have been decriminalized.

From criminal justice to addiction treatment

The United States has been criminalizing drug users for decades. But today, people are starting to treat addiction as a public health problem as opposed to a criminal one. Different states now have systems in place to help treat those who are struggling with addiction. Institutions are also sensitizing everyone about addiction being a medical condition and not moral failure.

Oregon is leading the way. The state has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as hard drugs. It has also joined the District of Columbia to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

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Fields of marijuana now grow around the state, since Oregon legalized cannabis in 2014.

“Measure 110 eliminates criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs,” Lindsay LaSalle told Arnold Ventures. “It also increases access to harm reduction and health services, including drug use treatment and housing. At its core, the measure is tearing down the current system of punishment for drug use and creating a supportive, compassionate and non-coercive system of care to address drug use in Oregon,” she added. Lindsay is the Managing Director of Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, which spent over $4 million supporting the measure.

The goal behind legalizing recreational drugs

Opponents of Measure 110 claim that decriminalization removes a strong deterrent to using or trying drugs, potentially driving more substance use and abuse. They argue that criminal penalties linked to drug possession can be leveraged to divert people into addiction programs they otherwise wouldn’t accept.

However, studies show decriminalization doesn’t fuel the widespread use of drugs. Countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Portugal have applied drug decriminalization and seen positive changes. In fact, Portugal’s decriminalization saw a drop in the number of deaths. There was also a 20% rise in those getting addiction treatments between 2001 and 2008.

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 Decriminalization proponents explain that substance abuse is a public health problem. They argue that the criminal prohibition causes thousands of unnecessary, racially-biased arrests every year in the country. These arrests, according to proponents, are costly and burden the criminal justice system but do nothing to help those struggling with addiction. They say that Measure 110 prevents individuals in recovery from being stigmatized by landlords, lenders, and employers. The measure also helps them avoid drug-related offenses.

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession in 1973. In 2014, voters approved a ballot measure legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. After decriminalizing illicit drugs, less than 3,700 Oregonians will be or have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony possession of controlled substances. That’s roughly a 91% reduction in drug possession and arrests in the state. The law will also likely reduce ethnic and racial disparities in arrests. This is according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

Many people do not understand how criminalization builds barriers to treatment. People need more options to make different choices. Ending criminalization will prevent shame and open people up for other opportunities.

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