Misuse of prescription drugs is a serious health issue in the US. A 2017 report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 18 million people misused prescribed medications at least once in 2016. Most of these people assume that pain drugs are safer than illicit substances because they are prescribed medically. But they have become a "gateway drug" for many Americans.
When these drugs are taken in ways not intended by the doctor or taken by someone who’s not the patient, they can lead to severe health issues. Studies show that misuse of opioid pain relievers has opened the door to heroin use. Mental health is important, and mental illness can further drive drug use through something known as dual diagnosis.
Prescription opioids contain chemicals that relax the body and relieve pain. They are an essential component of treatment that, when used correctly, can enhance the quality of life and provide pain relief. But since opioids make people feel very relaxed and high, they’re sometimes used for non-medical reasons. This poses a serious risk of addiction. Opioids are highly addictive, and their misuse often leads to opioid use disorders, drug overdoses, and death. Common examples of prescription opioids include:
· Oxycodone (Percocet®, OxyContin®)
· Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
· Oxymorphone (Opana®)
· Morphine (Avinza®, Kadian®,)
Opioid medications are effective for pain management. They are generally safe when used for a short time and according to the doctor’s prescription. Opioid misuse happens when a person:
Humans have opiate receptors in the brain that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and pain. Opioids work by binding to these opiate receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and other locations in the body. They mimic the effect of pain-relieving chemicals that are produced naturally and block the pain perception.
Repeated use increases tolerance. So one may need to take higher doses to achieve the same pain-relieving effects or reduce withdrawal symptoms. At this stage, someone becomes opioid-dependent and may develop drug-seeking behaviors to sustain their need for use. Others may turn to non-prescription alternatives like heroin, because it’s cheap, easy to access, and has a similar chemical composition as synthetic opioids.
Most sober people won’t use hard drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine because of the perceived danger. They tend to keep away because they are aware of the drugs’ potency and danger. On the other hand, pain-relieving opioids create a different perception. Most people see them as safe because they are prescribed at the hospital.
On their own, prescription drugs might not pose a threat. But when combined with some risk factors like mental health or misuse problems, prescription drugs may indeed be dangerous. In fact, they may serve as a doorway to other more powerful and highly addictive substances – like cocaine and heroin. People who are struggling with addiction or mental health issues are less likely to have inhibitions about using cocaine or meth.
Heroin has a similar chemical composition as prescription opioids. It is also cheaper and highly accessible as compared to prescription opioids. This makes it an appealing alternative for people who are addicted to opioid drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 4 to 6 percent of those who misuse prescribed opioids switch to heroin.
The most current data shows 33% of those entering treatment for opioid use disorder reported heroin as the first opioid they used frequently to get high. A study in the Chicago metropolitan area identified prescription opioid abuse as a path to heroin addiction.
As with any other addiction, patients with opioid dependence will always try to find more drugs to stay high. Current state laws and regulations limit opioid prescription. This makes it hard for these addicted patients to access prescription drugs so most of them turn to the streets to buy opioids and other drugs.
When they reach this point, they become determined to At this point, high and/or reducing the withdrawal symptoms. They only focus on what’s available and what they can pay for. Unfortunely, they ignore the impurities in the pills or resulting side effects.
While opioid overdose deaths are prevalent these days, a new study analyzed the role people sharing their pain medications with others may play in driving this drug epidemic. Of the 1,200 Americans in the study, 75% said they believed selling or sharing unused prescriptions fueled the nation’s addiction epidemic. 10% admitted that they had given or offered their medications to friends or family members for recreational or medical use.
When people (other than the patient) misuse prescription drugs for recreation or other reasons, they may develop an addiction that pushes them to get more drugs. Unfortunately, many of these people end up abusing other drugs to get high or offset the withdrawal symptoms. This puts them at risk of drug overdose and even death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose from 3,442 to 17,029 between 1999 and 2017.
The short answer is yes. Drug abuse is a spectrum. It can start with prescription drug misuse or outright drug experimentation and end up in a full-blown addiction to the same or other drugs. People who knowingly or unknowingly misuse prescription drugs may feel the need to sustain their high.
When they can longer get a prescription from the hospital, they will branch out to find readily available drugs that will “quench their thirst.” The same applies to those who use prescription medication for recreational or experimentation reasons.
Substance abuse disorder is a complicated problem. But the good news is that programs exist to help people stop abusing prescription and illicit drugs and regain control of their lives. No matter how severe the situation is, health care experts in addiction treatment centers can offer the much-needed help.
People use drugs for a range of reasons. Some to fit in, rebel, or even just to escape their reality. Others use drugs to experiment, relax, or release boredom. Drugs excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good – but they also do so much more harm, as you'll notice in this article. Some very real dangers come into play when mixing drugs with other substances.
Drugs are anything but equal. Sedatives like heroin, alcohol, and benzodiazepines have a numbing effect and tend to slow down body and brain functions. Stimulants like cocaine, ecstasy, crack, and amphetamines can give users a rush of energy and make them more alert. Hallucinogens, like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, tend to alter the way users see, feel, smell, taste, or hear.
When taken in large quantities, sedatives can be fatal; stimulants can trigger panic attacks or anxiety; and hallucinogens can cause erratic or dangerous behaviors. But the question is what would happen when these drugs are mixed together?
Polydrug use is when users mix drugs or take one drug while still under another drug's influence. It can include the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs. People mix drugs for a range of reasons, with the most common ones being:
The problem with using more than one drug at any given time is that the effects become even more unpredictable. It is not always possible to tell the exact impact of a single drug or drug dose. Drug use affects each person differently. Sometimes, a person can use the same amount of a specific drug on separate occasions and have different effects each time. The difference happens due to reasons like:
It is hard to predict the effects of a single drug. But it is even harder to predict the effects of multiple drugs. In addition to the factors above, the effect of multiple drug use may vary based on the mixture's contents. Blending drugs with the same physical effects – like two or more sedatives or two or more hallucinogens) can be particularly dangerous. The blend is riskier because it amplifies pleasurable and adverse effects. Combining drugs like cocaine and ecstasy will elevate the ‘high’ and also increase the risk of a heart attack.
One of the most significant risks of mixing drugs is "combined drug intoxication (CDI)." CDI happens when two or more substances are taken simultaneously and can lead to life-threatening conditions like seizures, heart problems, coma, brain damage, liver damage and failure, stomach bleeding, and even death. There were 67,367 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention report.
Although we like to think about these drugs in isolation, for example, "fentanyl overdose deaths," a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that most drug overdose deaths involve a mix of two or more drugs.
Many different types of lethal drug combinations exist and contribute to the raging drug overdose epidemic in the US. According to the Center for Disease and Control Prevention analysis, many opioid deaths also include other drugs.
A drug overdose doesn't necessarily happen because of taking too much of a single drug or alcohol. In fact, it mostly occurs when users overdose from a drug combination. Here are some examples of how mixing drugs can kill:
1. People mix two or more drugs – often the same class of depressants or stimulants – assuming that taking half of the usual dose of each of these drugs at a time will produce a similar effect, but it's not the case. Even a small amount of another depressant or stimulant can increase the impact - way beyond what would have been taken individually.
The effect is particularly fatal with depressants like synthetic opioids, alcohol, and tranquilizers like barbiturates and benzodiazepines. These drugs depress the central nervous system, which controls the respiratory system and heartbeat. Depressants slow down breathing and reduce heart rate. This, in turn lowers the blood pressure and the amount of oxygen that flows to the brain, leading to hypoxia. As a result, rapid cell death occurs in the brain and consequently causes brain damage or death.
2 Mixing stimulants and depressants – this sends contradicting messages to the body, impairing its function. The respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system are put into a frenzy with simultaneous conflicting messages to slow down and speed up. This causes severe consequences and can lead to coma, fatal overdose, cardiac arrest, slowed breathing and in some cases, death.
3. A single drug – like a prescription drug or a glass of wine – may not impair a person's ability to drive. However, a combination of a glass of wine and the prescription drug may exponentially increase the effects of both so that the user may show signs of severe impairment. Driving while under the influence of mixed drugs can lead to severe injury or death of self and/or others.
4. Mixing alcohol and cocaine can be dangerous, especially when both these drugs are broken down in the liver simultaneously. When both drugs are present, the liver produces cocaethylene, a harmful chemical that stays in the body for extended periods and may increase the chance of heart attack, seizures, and even sudden death. Cocaethylene can also cause cardiac arrhythmia, brain damage and aneurysm.
5. Benzodiazepines mixed with alcohol, severely increases the deadly risk. Both of these drugs affect the same neurotransmitters. Their combination amplifies the intoxicating effects of alcohol and benzos and causes memory loss, hallucinations, impaired coordination, intense dizziness, severe depression, and even suicidal thoughts. The combination also depresses breathing, slows down the heart rate, causes seizures, and results in loss of consciousness, coma and death.
Anyone willing to risk their lives for recreational or social reasons has a serious drug use problem. The same applies to those who use drugs to try to overcome their mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or stress. People with polydrug addictions need intense addiction treatment and therapies because of the augmented damage their brains have sustained from the use.
Stimulants like Adderall increase body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. When used for a prolonged period, especially in high doses, they can damage the heart and cardiovascular system.
The most common medical issues arising from Adderall use are high blood pressure and tachycardia, as published in the National Institute of Health. But a 2017 study reveals that those who abuse stimulant drugs, like Adderall, show signs of premature aging in their cardiovascular system.
It is natural for physiological processes to fail after years of working hard. However, stimulant abuse tends to compound and expedite this process. Experts believe that stimulant and drugs like Adderall disrupt the normal stem cell-functioning and cell division which can lead to serious heart problems.
When tachycardia – a heart rate over 100 beats per minute – develops, one may encounter a range of complications. They may have blood clots, heart failure and even sudden death. There are numerous types of tachycardia, but the most common one is atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a rapid heart rate that arises from irregular, chaotic electrical impulses in the atria. These signals cause quick, uncoordinated, weak contractions of the upper chambers of the heart.
When the heart beats too fast, it may not supply enough blood to other parts of the body. This may starve tissues and organs of nutrients and oxygen and lead to the following symptoms:
Adderall is a prescription drug that treats narcolepsy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It's a blend of two drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is the number one treatment option for ADHD. Adderall enhances focus and attention and reduces impulsive behaviors. Studies show that 75% to 80% of children with ADHD will notice a positive change in symptoms using stimulants like Adderall. In fact, Adderall is considered part of a complete treatment program.
In addition to ADHD and narcolepsy, Adderall can be used for Attention Deficit Disorder and bipolar disorder. Although the drug isn't approved by the FDA to treat bipolar disorder, it may be prescribed off-label during depressive episodes to increase energy and lift the mood.
Most ADHD stimulant medications, like Ritalin, Adderall, and Adderall XR, fall into the Schedule II category. They are legal but considered dangerous due to their high risk of dependence and abuse. Like with other stimulants, one can abuse and develop a dependence on Adderall. Research indicates that a growing number of people without ADHD are using Adderall illegally.
Experts believe that ADHD happens because of signal problems in the brain. So, the Adderall stimulates parts of the brains (mainly the prefrontal cortex) to receive more signals. The prefrontal cortex controls thoughts and behavior. When an average person (a person without ADHD) takes this medication, they get more activity in the prefrontal cortex. This increases their metabolism and concentration and makes them more alert.
People – especially those in college – abuse Adderall to perform better at work or school, or to feel more focused and alert. Students use it as a smart drug to combat the pressures of higher education. Others use it because it creates a feeling of euphoria. When Adderall is injected or snorted, it can cause a "high" that resembles cocaine. This may, in turn, result in physical and psychological dependence on these drugs.
When taken as directed by a doctor, there's little risk of addiction. But when used recreationally for the "high," the risk of Adderall abuse increases. Like other drugs of abuse, stopping Adderall may cause withdrawal symptoms. Those who quit after using high doses for a while may experience depression, fatigue, and tiredness.
So, in the case of addiction and dependence issues, one should find help through an addiction treatment facility. Addiction centers have experts and processes in place to help patients gain control and live a clean, healthy life.
Adderall has a profound effect on the cardiovascular system since it serves as a central nervous system stimulant. It increases heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure and lessens appetite. Although it's effective at making one feel alert, energetic, cheerful, and confident, and less tired or bored, the drug is linked to a range of negative side effects.
Adderall use can cause changes relating to sexual performance and sex drive. Its use is often linked to feelings of irritability, restlessness, and anxiety.
Long term side effects of heavy Adderall use include dizziness, dry mouth, and weight loss, and abdominal pain. Users may also experience blood clots, breathing issues, heart muscle weakness, suicidal thoughts, heart palpitations, atrial fibrillation, and heart diseases. An allergic reaction to the drug may cause swelling of the face, throat, or tongue.
High doses of Adderall over a few days can trigger paranoia, hallucinations, and panic. But this subsides as soon as the drug is cleared from the system. According to Molecular Psychiatry, panic attacks and anxiety tend to occur after long-term use or withdrawal. The intense "upper" effect is especially dangerous to those who have blood pressure or heart problems.
Stimulant drugs wreak absolute havoc on the body, particularly the heart. According to the study, these drugs speed up a user's cardiovascular system's aging process compared to the rest of the population. A team of researchers at the University of Western Australia published their findings on February 9, 2017, in the online Journal of Asia.
The study sampled 713 participants in their 30s and 40s attending a clinic for drug abuse from 2006-2011. It measured the stiffness of the arteries of all participants using radial artery pulse tonometry. Arteries –blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart – tend to harden with age.
Each participant was asked about their drug use and categorized into one of four groups. There were 483 nonsmokers, 107 tobacco smokers, 68 methadone users, and 55 amphetamine users in the four groups. Many amphetamine users had used it within the past week and more than 50% just the previous day.
Of all the four groups, the heart system of amphetamine users was aging faster than that of methadone users and smokers. This was both about their real chronological age and over time. The results stayed the same, even after considering other cardiovascular risk factors like cholesterol levels and weight.
Patients with a history of severe anxiety, agitation, glaucoma, or a personal or family history of Tourette syndrome or tics should not use Adderall. Those with severe heart problems or congenital heart defects should also not use stimulants because it might cause sudden death. Such patients should notify their doctors about any history of heart rhythm disorder, heart disease, heart attacks, coronary artery disease, mental health disorder, high blood pressure, and seizure disorders.
It’s normal for minors to feel anxious or worried from time to time. It happens when they move to a new area or school or before a game and so on. But for some minors, anxiety affects their thoughts and behavior every day, interfering with their home, social, and school life. In this case, a professional may prescribe anxiety medication to help the minor overcome the problem.
Anti-anxiety medications influence the body and brain to lower the symptoms of anxiety, like fear, worry, and panic attacks. These drugs don’t cure anxiety disorders. They only help to manage the symptoms.
Different anti-anxiety medications exist. The doctor prescribes one depending on the type of anxiety disorder present – whether it’s PTSD, separation anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, or generalized anxiety. They may also consider other medications that the minor is taking and whether the minor has co-existing medical conditions.
Anti-anxiety drugs do a great job of relieving the symptoms. But there are concerns as people report feeling emotional inertness. Some say they feel a loss of motivation or less empathy for others. Others say they are less able to cry or laugh even when appropriate or being unable to respond with the same level of enjoyment as they normally would. But surprisingly, not everyone is concerned about this. In a study of 819 individuals, 38% termed the blunting as a positive outcome of treatment. 37% regarded it as a negative.
People who viewed the emotional blunting negatively are those with more severe symptoms. And as it turns out, the severity of anxiety before medication is directly proportional to the severity of the emotional blunting during treatment. But the good thing is that the blunting usually goes away when one stops using the anti-anxiety drugs.
Anxiety affects many aspects of a minor’s life. Irrespective of how hard they try, their minds wander into different places. One may experience more physical symptoms like digestive problems, upset stomach, constant uneasiness, sweaty palms, bouncing legs, or heart palpitations. Depending on the type of disorder, they may also experience shaking, a sense of unreality, avoidance of social situations, dizziness, specific fears, etc.
One of the most glaring effects of anxiety drugs is prescription drug abuse. Tolerance leads to more users, which leads to addiction. Studies show a close link between anxiety and substance abuse. Many young people who struggle with mental conditions like social anxiety disorder also end up with substance use disorder. Like any other alcohol or drug problem, the minor will need to go through a medical detox and comprehensive addiction treatment to regain control of their lives.
Sometimes, the anxiety drugs go beyond enhancing mood and make the minor feel too little emotion. Some report feeling as though they have lost the richness of day-to-day life. The drugs are designed to boost the brain’s hormones that are responsible for scaling down uncomfortable moods. But this reduction can be experienced as a “dulling” or “blunting” of emotions. So, one doesn’t smile at a happy ending in a movie or laugh with the same enthusiasm. They may feel apathetic and not have the same excitement when doing the things they enjoy, like swimming or singing.
Emotional blunting is where the emotions and feelings are dulled, so the person neither feels up nor down. They simply feel “blah.” And while this doesn’t happen to everyone, studies reveal that between 46% and 71% of people using anti-anxiety drugs have experienced emotional blunting at some point.
Unfortunately, when complacency happens in children, they may have a hard time:
Prescription medications do a great job at relieving symptoms of anxiety. However, they are not a miracle cure or a permanent fix. According to the American Academy of Family Physician, there’s little evidence that benzodiazepines retain their therapeutic effect after four to six months of regular use. So it might be a good idea to discontinue them once the desired effect is achieved.
When the symptoms of anxiety improve after starting an anti-anxiety drug, doctors may still prescribe it to prevent symptoms from returning. In some cases, they may increase the dosage to maintain the cycle of tolerance and dependence.
Physical tolerance happens as the brain adapts to the way the anti-anxiety drug alters its chemical composition and how the neurotransmitters send and receive messages. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that tolerance occurs when regular doses of a drug seize to have the same effect as they once did. So the person will need to elevate their dosage to get a similar outcome.
When a minor begins to take anxiety medications, he or she’s likely to feel at ease from anxiety, panic, and stress. Their muscle tension will relax as the blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature goes down. But when they develop tolerance, they become prone to drug abuse, which in turn increases drug dependence and the chances of addiction. They may also experience a sort of “blah” general outlook on life.
Tolerance, dependence, and addiction can be resolved with a holistic drug treatment program. Some experts cite benzodiazepines as one of the hardest drugs to quit. Others in the list of hard-to-quit drugs include alcohol, cocaine, meth, heroin & opioid drugs, and nicotine. This explains why comprehensive treatment is critical in cases of abused prescriptions.
When a loved one goes through the tough recovery journey and comes out on the other side sober and clean, there’s a lot to feel good about. However, the joy almost always comes with the fear of relapsing. After winning the difficult battle against substance abuse, it can be heart-wrenching to imaging that the victory may not last forever. But the reality is that the recovery from addiction seldom goes as planned. Many patients slide back to their old habits of using, so much so that relapse (although dangerous) is considered a normal part of the recovery journey. If you or a loved one has relapsed recently, please understand, it is not a failure.
No matter how diligently one pursues their recovery or how committed they are to lifelong sobriety, there’s a chance that they will relapse at some point. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rates for addiction mimic those of other chronic diseases like asthma, hypertension, and diabetes.
According to the study, relapse rates for people treated for substance use disorders are 40-60%, which can be compared with those for people treated with asthma, 50-70%, and hypertension, 50-70%. Understanding how relapse happens is critical to preventing relapse because the patient learns to identify the signs (or triggers) and course-correct before they begin using again.
Relapse is a normal part of recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. It occurs when symptoms of a condition reappear after a time with no symptoms. According to the Marlatt and Gordon model, relapse starts with a high-risk situation that’s accompanied by a poor coping response. When this happens, the patient experiences decreased self-efficacy and becomes more prone to a lapse, or one-time use of the substance. For some patients, a lapse comes with a sense of failure or guilt about using again. They feel that they’ve broken some personal expectation or moral law, and assume that alcohol or drugs will lift the negative feelings.
Unfortunately, when relapse happens, many people – especially those around the patient – assume that treatment did not work, or that the patient lacks the willpower to stay sober. But a successful treatment for substance use disorder needs continual assessment and modification. Relapses along the way don’t indicate failure; they only signify that addiction treatment needs to be adjusted, changed, or reinstated.
When a person with substance use disorder slips back to their old habits, it doesn’t mean they failed. It means they have to try again and continue to practice healthy habits. In case the relapse was an isolated incident, and the patient is committed to adjusting or examining their recovery care plan, they may not need to go to an inpatient drug rehab. They may only need a supervised medical detox to overcome withdrawal. But if the patient has relapsed full swing, they’ll benefit more by going back into strict treatment programs.
Relapse comes with an increased risk of overdose. When patients abuse substances for a prolonged period, they develop tolerance, meaning they no longer respond to the substance in the way they did in the beginning. So, it takes a higher dose of the substance to get the same effect as when they first used it. Tolerance reduces with treatment.
If the recovering patient relapses and uses the same dose as they did before treatment, they are at a very high risk overdosing, which can be fatal.
Finding a safe living environment that removes access to substance and negative influences is the best way to address relapse. Long-term inpatient treatment facilities provide residential treatment options for relapsing patients who need intensive levels of substance use treatment. This extended care options are often provided outside of hospital settings and run anywhere from six months to 12 months or more. And while some treatment centers have structured length of stay, others only allow the patient to graduate when they are ready to do so.
A high-intensity rehab program may be the best option for patients experiencing severe addiction, chronic relapses, among other situations that can benefit from prolonged treatment. Most long-term inpatient rehabilitation programs focus on creating a safe and steady environment that encourages sober living. It helps patients to heal from social damage resulting from addiction. Some addiction treatment programs are better than others. Do some research on ethical drug rehab facilities before you make the final decision.
Structure is one of the biggest benefits of residential care. Relapse can consume a patient’s life, create instability in their family, job, or school, and deplete their self-worth. The robust structure of long-term treatment facilities can help a patient regain a sense of responsibility, confidence, and ability to plan and carry out vital goals that support sobriety.
Throughout the course of treatment, the patient’s day will include activities and care that are designed to help them achieve their goals. Patients have 24-hours access to support from fellow peers and trained addiction specialists. They have time to interact, meditate, and even join peer support meetings. Patients can also be part of self-help groups, which play a significant role in building accountability, confidence, inspiration, and a sense of acceptance.
Long-term centers approach treatment from the idea that no patient is similar to another, and will, therefore, have different paces of recovery and coping. Often, these facilities will adjust the length of treatment according to how well a patient is recovering. Those who have a hard time may have to spend more time in the facility – but the result is often worth it.
Most inpatient treatment centers provide incredible support for physical health, particularly when it intertwines with mental health. Patients can expect exercise, nutritional therapy, and information on these two influences the mood and overall health. Since the aim of in-house therapy is to arm patients with tools to manage their happiness and quality of life without alcohol or drugs, this information is critical in long-term recovery.
There’s also the aspect of easy access to transformative treatments and therapies while in long-term addiction facilities. These programs give patients enough time to learn and be able to cope with exposure to drugs, stress, and other triggers without a likely relapse.
As you may have realized from this article, addiction treatment is not all about ending addiction. It involves helping the patient resolve the complex underlying issues (stress, mental health issues, peer pressure, unstable home) that caused the addiction in the first place. It’s about helping the patient uncover the true meaning and purpose in their life, and regain a sense of fun and joy devoid of drugs or alcohol.
Long-term residential drug treatment centers or therapeutic facilities, as they are commonly referred to, are ideal for relapsing patients. Unlike short-term rehab, long-term rehab continues treatment until the patient is ready to carry on – when they’re stable and able to fit back into society. These facilities help relapsing patients change negative patterns of behavior and thinking and develop strategies, skills, and techniques they require to combat cravings, reduce stress and cope with other powerful forces to enhance the chances of successful recovery. These centers also address disorders (depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety or conduct disorder, etc.), that often co-occur with addiction to treat the patient holistically.
The medical marijuana craze has ignited a multi-billion dollar industry. From oils to tinctures to lotions to lattes to e-cigarettes in all shapes and sizes, for pain, anxiety, depression, seizures, autism, soft skin, hangover, etc., marijuana is everywhere. In fact, those who invested in top marijuana companies in 2016 are potentially up more than 1000%. Yet another danger lurks under the guise of "synthetic marijuana", "K2", or "spice".
It is not a surprise that marijuana is gaining popularity globally, including on Wall Street. After all, cannabinoid (CBD) –the second most prevalent ingredient in marijuana – has been touted for different health issues. It’s also backed scientifically for its effectiveness in treating the worst childhood epilepsy syndromes like Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome which fail to respond to antiseizure drugs. Studies have also shown its effectiveness in addressing anxiety and chronic pain too.
But the main concern with CBD products is that they are mainly sold as a supplement as opposed to medication. At the moment, the FDA has only approved Epidiolex for a prescription, and does not control the purity and safety of dietary supplements. So it is hard to tell whether a product has active ingredients at the dose as indicated or other unknown elements.
One study tested 84 CBD products from 31 companies and revealed that 69% were mislabeled. Some had too much CBD; some had no CBD at all. Some contained too much THC – the active ingredient in marijuana that’s associated with the “high”. Other surveys indicated that a fraction of the products contained harmful synthetics that are health hazards.
Medical marijuana can be safe and beneficial to human health. The only reason marijuana is still federally illegal is because of THC, which affects one’s ability to concentrate, focus and even keep track of time. But with the rising popularity and demand of the legal natural marijuana, numerous companies have sought to simultaneously minimize production time and boost profits by creating synthetic cannabinoids.
Synthetic CBDs are a large family of chemically unrelated compounds that act on the same brain cell receptors as THC. Synthetic marijuana products are human-made, but mimic THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. They are misleadingly marketed as legal and safe alternatives to real marijuana. However, synthetic cannabis affects the brain more than natural marijuana, and their effect can be dangerous or even life-threatening. Unsuspecting users (mostly teens and young adults) assume that the fake weed is harmless – but that’s a grave mistake.
Synthetic marijuana is either sold as a liquid to be vaporized and inhaled or sprayed onto plant material to be smoked. It goes by several other names:
Synthetic cannabinoids are not one drug. Manufacturers produce and sell hundreds of different synthetic chemicals. Each year, new products with unknown health risks make entry into the market. As mentioned earlier, fake weeds are prevalent because consumers believe they are legal and relatively safe. This can be linked to the misconception that many users have, that marijuana is a naturally occurring weed and is, therefore, safe to use (but that’s not all there is to it). Depending on what’s available or personal preference, synthetic cannabinoids is either:
In 2010, over 11,000 individuals were admitted to the emergency room due to synthetic marijuana use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And in 2016, 2,695 calls were made to poison control centers about people who were harmed by using synthetic CBD. What’s disturbing is that 75% of these people were between 12 and 29 years old.
Most K2/Spices are illicit. So, manufacturers try to get around the laws by producing new drugs with different ingredients or by marking them as “not fit for human consumption.” They are labeled not for human to mask the intended purpose and avoid the FDA’s control of the manufacturing process.
Synthetic cannabis products are not safe. And since there are no standards for producing, packaging or distributing the chemicals, it might be hard to tell the contents of products and the potential reaction. Again, synthetic CBD can have varying levels of chemicals between batches, or even within the same batch. The products may also be contaminated with toxic chemicals or drugs.
Synthetic marijuana can have adverse effects on the brain and overall health. Common side effects of synthetic cannabinoids include:
Note that these effects may vary based on factors like the type of synthetic marijuana, the dose and duration of use. K2 can be addictive, meaning a person may experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit cold turkey.
The CDC issued a warning after receiving reports of multiple cases from the Department of Public Health, including deaths among those who used fake K2. Other states have also reported the same cases. The warning urged everyone who’s bought a product that goes by names (spice, K2 or synthetic marijuana) to throw it out. It also encouraged those who had already used to call for help or go to the closest healthcare facility in case they experience severe, unexplained bruising or bleeding.
In another report, synthetic marijuana –which is 85 times more potent than THC – led to a “Zombie Outbreak” in New York City in 2016. For several hours, users were staring blankly, moving slowly and occasionally groaning. 18 out of the 33 people who displayed signs were transported to the hospital. The incidence happened after using K2 that Reddit users describe as “out-of-this-world potent.”
In 2018, 71 people overdosed from synthetic CDB in Connecticut. A significant percentage of the cases occurred on the New Haven Green. And although no deaths were reported, six or more victims had near-death experiences. In the same year, the drug was linked to 22+ cases of severe bleeding from gums, nose and in urine in the Chicago area.
A lot has changed in the clubbing world. Years back, baggy cotton tees and trousers were the "in" thing. But today, ravers rock designer clothes and statement pieces. Well, maybe it’s because the crowd is getting younger, and selfies are at the center stage of it all. So are club drugs.
Unlike decades ago when clubbing was all about music and alcohol, teens and young adults of the day now have easy access to club drugs. Most of them assume that these substances are harmless and good for fun. However, as you will notice in this article, club drugs are anything but “fun drugs.”
As the name suggests, club drugs are commonly found at parties, concerts, night dance clubs, and bars. They are used in these settings to improve the experience or influence other people’s behaviors. Most forms of these drugs are illegal and can produce a range of unwanted effects, including serious injury, illness, or even death. These effects can result from repeated use, one-time use, or use with other substances like alcohol.
Club drugs go by a range of slang names. Unless you have inside knowledge, you might easily mistake a name for another thing. As an example, what comes to your mind when you hear the words “Love Biscuit” or “rolldogs” or “Scooby Snacks?” All these names are aliases for ecstasy. Other common club drugs include; GHB, Rohypnol, MDMA, ecstasy, methamphetamine, ketamine, and LSD.
Hallucinogens: These are a class of drugs that distort one’s perception of reality. Hallucinogens cause a person to hear, see, or feel things that are not real.
Stimulants: Stimulants increase activity in the body by speeding up the messages between the body and brain. They make the user feel more alert, awake, energetic, and confident.
GHB (aka Georgia Home Boy, date rape drug, liquid ecstasy, or G) is a colorless and odorless drug that’s used for both date rape and recreational reasons. The central nervous system depressant is said to promote sex drive, tranquility, and euphoria, and is often added to alcohol to increase its effects. This is why perpetrators use GHB to drug victims before a sexual assault and why it is a good idea to never leave your drink unattended.
Rohypnol (aka Roche or roofies) is an odorless and tasteless drug that readily dissolves in carbonated drinks. It is available in an olive-green or white pill and is often sold in the manufacturer’s bubble. Users crush the pill into powder form and either smoke, snort, sprinkle on marijuana, inject or dissolve it in a drink. Rohypnol is one of the most heavily used rape drugs because they either make the victim susceptible to suggestion or put them in an unconscious state.
Ketamine (special K or K) is a central nervous system sedative and an anesthetic that causes loss of memory, learning ability and attention span when taken in small amounts. Higher doses can cause depression, amnesia, delirium, severe breathing problems, or high blood pressure.
3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA)
MDMA (aka Molly, ecstasy, Adam, or X) is a synthetic drug that alters perception and mood. It has similar chemical properties as stimulants and produces feelings of pleasure, increased energy, distorted sensory, emotional warmth, and time perception. People take it as a tablet or capsule form, though some snort the powder or swallow it in liquid form. Molly (short for molecular, or molecule) refers to the perceived “pure” crystal powder form of MDMA. However, vendors often disguise and sell bath salts (synthetic cathinones) as Molly.
Methamphetamine (aka meth, crystal, ice, fire, speed) is used to boost one’s energy levels by speeding the body’s processes. It’s a highly addictive stimulant that alters the central nervous system. People can take meth by snorting, swallowing, smoking, and injection. And since the ”high” from the drug spikes and fades quickly, people usually take repeated doses.
As discussed earlier, date-rape drugs make it easier for perpetrators to rape or sexually assault unsuspecting victims. The victim - after consuming the rape drugs - may feel confused. He or she may have trouble defending themselves and not be able to remember what transpired later on. “Date rape” does not necessarily happen on a date – and the perpetrator might be a stranger or even someone close to the victim.
It is not uncommon for one to wake up in a stranger’s bed with no memory of how they got there. In worst-case scenarios, they may wake up by the roadside or behind a building without the slightest idea of what happened. Keep in mind that both men and women are equally at risk of sexual assault, theft, and so on. That’s why anyone who plans to attend clubs, parties, or bars should understand ways to avoid falling prey.
A 2019 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that 3.6% and 5.6% of 12th graders in the US had used LSD in the past year or their lifetime, respectively. The study indicated that 2.2% of 12th graders had used MDMA in 2018, while 3.3% had in their lifetime.
NIDA’s national survey also accessed the trends in the prevalence of different drugs for ages 12 and older and established that 11% of young people aged 26 and older have used LSD in their lifetime. 7.5% and 6.5% in the same age bracket had used MDMA and methamphetamine in their lifetime.
Side effects can be short or long term, and vary from person to person. Types of drugs, amount used, mixing different drugs and personal medical conditions also influence the kind of effects that one experiences. Health problems may appear 10-20 minutes after use, and include:
Club drugs (depressants, stimulants, methamphetamines, and/or hallucinogens) affect the central nervous system and the brain. They can make someone do things that they would not do under normal circumstances and they are very popular in the music festival culture. They also pose potential health, legal, emotional and financial ramifications. That’s why it’s wise to refrain from using, and also protect yourself from possible spiking.
Does this sound familiar?
You call up all your friends and loved ones to inform them about your plans to quit using drugs or alcohol.
You are so sure about it and believe that nothing can get in the way.
So you quit cold turkey, with no help. And just as everything seems to be working out perfectly, the unexpected happens – you slip back in and start using again.
If this is familiar, you are not alone. 19.7 million American adults aged 12+ years struggled with substance use disorder in 2017. This is according to the National Survey on Drug Use Health (NSDUH). Of this number, 38% battled an illicit drug use disorder.
The reason you keep going back is that drug addiction is not just a habit. It is a brain disease. When you use drugs for a prolonged period of time, it can change the way nerve receptors work in your brain. Addiction changes the way critical parts of the brain function, so much that you have a hard time quitting drugs – even if you want to. According to brain science research, addiction:
Addictive drugs alter the way the brain regulates moods and processes emotions. Most of these changes flood the brain with serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters that create an artificial feeling of “high,” or pleasure. This is one of the reasons you find it hard to choose to do the right thing. The other reason is the issue of withdrawal symptoms.
Drug withdrawal is a group of symptoms that happen when you discontinue or reduce the intake of recreational or meditational drugs abruptly. To experience withdrawal syndrome, you must have first developed a form of drug dependence.
If you become physically sick after quitting, it may be an indication that you are physically dependent on the drug. This is usually your body’s way of responding to the absence of the substance. You may also become dependent on drugs or alcohol to prevent withdrawal symptoms or pain.
Note that the severity and nature of the withdrawal symptoms that you experience will vary based on the level of substance dependency along with other factors like:
As an example, a person who takes large dosages of opiate for years through injection and has a family history and/or an underlying mental health problem will experience more extended withdrawal periods and more severe symptoms than one who has been using smaller doses for months. Although the effects and severity may differ, one thing is sure; withdrawal symptoms will be present as long as dependence is formed.
Drug withdrawal symptoms differ based on a range of aspects, as discussed above. Some drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription ADHD meds may have far-reaching emotional withdrawal symptoms. Others, like prescription drugs and heroin, cause extremely uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms that mirror flu-like symptoms.
We cannot talk about drug withdrawal symptoms without mentioning alcohol. After all, acute alcohol withdrawal is amongst the most dangerous withdrawal periods of all substances and drugs and can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms. For this reason alone, the process must be approached with care or be done under medical supervision.
Benzodiazepines (Ativan and Valium) can also have adverse withdrawal symptoms like alcohol. The only difference is that alcohol symptoms appear hours after the last drink and subside within a week. Benzodiazepines, on the other hand, take up to a month. Like alcohol, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include hallucination, elevated heart rate, and blood pressure, delirium, and seizures.
Opiate (heroin, OxyContin or hydrocodone) withdrawal symptoms aren’t as severe as those from alcohol and benzodiazepines but can cause muscle cramps, aches, runny nose, sleeplessness, nausea, and vomiting. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are often flu-like.
Don’t attempt to quit “cold turkey” after dependence has formed. Evidence shows that this is not the best way to stop. Only a small percentage of patients succeed this way. Besides, the physical aspect of withdrawal is too much to handle alone. Many people who have an opioid addiction end up resuming use to stop the resulting symptoms. So, you should quit gradually with the help of medical professionals. Your symptoms will be managed through a medical detox program as part of a holistic addiction treatment plan.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal upset and nausea to potentially life-threatening seizures. These symptoms often present opposite reactions than those associated with the drug or substance. They include:
The first symptom can appear within 12-24 hours of use and tend to be worse for the first 48-72 hours. However, the symptoms gradually start to decline as your body adapts to the new normal. The whole process can last up to 14 days.
Although you can detox privately at home, there are numerous reasons why doing so might not be the best choice. For starters, it may not be safe because you are unsupervised. Remember, issues like violence, injury, psychosis, medical illness, and even threat to self can arise a few hours after drug detox. Besides, at-home drug detox is usually ineffective. So, it is best to get care at a reputable treatment center.
Drug and alcohol detox is the first step in a holistic treatment program that provides all the necessary tools needed for recovery. Detoxification can prevent unpleasant or adverse side effects arising from sudden cessation of use and can help you become abstinent from alcohol or drugs.
Drug detox lasts as long as the withdrawal symptoms are present, and for as long as it takes you to stabilize both mentally and physically. Medical detox aims to stop the abuse of substances and also prepare you for the work that lies ahead on counseling and therapy.
Imagine creating the very addictive Oxycontin, an opioid product that people must have. I mean, they need your product so bad that they’re willing to sacrifice their own career, their loved ones, and even life itself to buy what you’re selling. Now distribute this product through a nationwide network of trusted salespeople who also make a great deal of money by selling your product.
Imagine how rich you would be.
That’s exactly what happened to one family in America with their invention of OxyContin.
Opioids have been on the market since 1911 and until the 90’s, the use of these narcotics was limited to very specific circumstances. These powerful pain killers would only be prescribed for end-of-life care or post-surgical pain relief. Everyone within the medical profession understood that these drugs were highly addictive. These drugs were ripe for abuse.
That all changed in 1996.
That was the year the Sackler family who owns Purdue Pharma released a new pain medication called OxyContin – a long-acting form of oxycodone. Purdue Pharma makes other pain killers, but this one was a blockbuster hit. Because of it, the Sacklers became one of the wealthiest families in the US. It was reported that their net worth reached $14 billion in 2015 (yes, that’s a “b” for billions). The wealth was created largely on the strength of profits from OxyContin.
How did they do it?
And better yet, Oxycontin was a long-acting painkiller, they said. This meant the drug was excellent for chronic pain, especially if patients used the twice-daily dosage recommendation.
This was simply not true (as history has shown us). In fact, it was a lie.
The first seeds of the opioid epidemic were planted. Doctors and hospitals began prescribing opioids for long term and chronic pain, and they did so with little or no clinical evidence to back these claims. To make matters worse, Purdue Pharma poured money into the joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. They even created a rating system for Doctors and Hospitals that punished or rewarded those for how well they reduced pain in their patients.
Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University says the pharmaceutical industry financed a “multi-faceted campaign” that “changed the way the medical community thought about opioids and changed the culture of opioid prescribing in the United States.”
You don’t have to look far to see that he is right. The opioid crisis in the U.S. is an “American thing”. It’s uniquely ours. We prescribe opioids to our citizens 40% more than any other developed country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) U.S. opioid prescriptions almost quadrupled over a 15-year period.
After the release of Oxycontin, potent narcotics began to flood the U.S. and sales for this highly addictive substance skyrocketed. They go on to report that the number of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors’ offices almost quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. An odd fact since they found no evidence of a change in Americans’ overall reported pain.
Enter the distributors. With such a demand for product, it’s easy to understand how the greedy and unscrupulous jumped into the action. Across the country, pain clinics began to pop-up. These clinics had no real desire to learn if the patient’s pain was real. They were created to simply dispense these pain killers to patients even when there was no legitimate medical reason. It was easy for a clinic to see 50 or 60 patients in a day, charging them anywhere from $200 to $400 for a quick exam and a prescription for their “pain”.
Besides these pill mills, many doctors bear responsibility for failing to do their own research and failing to dig into the bogus claims made by the pharmaceutical industry.
Back to the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma.
The Sacklers appear to be good people. They have a long history of doing good. They donate to civic programs and symphonies so why did the state of Massachusetts sue the Sacklers? Money. It’s that simple. This epidemic has become extremely expensive (link to our cost blog) for all levels of government. In fact, the costs are staggering. Not only does the epidemic come with medical and law enforcement costs, but it has an enormous impact on productivity with 10.3 million Americans abusing the substance.
They need some of this money, too.
Addicts make lousy taxpayers and these costs are becoming a huge burden on our society. Massachusetts was the first to sue the family behind the company, but many states, counties, and cities from all corners of America are lining up to sue Purdue Pharma.
And it’s not just the Sacklers.
The 76-year-old founder of Insys Therapeutics, John Kapoor has recently been sentenced to more than 5 years in prison. The former billionaire aggressively marketed the powerful opioid Subsys and was the first successful prosecution of a pharmaceutical executive tied to the opioid epidemic.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs who sentenced Kapoor said, “This was an offense of greed.”
We are still in the grip of this crisis with the recent wave of overdose deaths from fentanyl, a dangerously powerful and synthetic opioid.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from this epidemic. An epidemic that has put billions of dollars into the pockets of pharmaceutical manufacturers like Purdue Pharma. Their role in this crisis is coming into focus now as more litigations and investigations are directed toward these profiteers. As insurance companies get charged exorbitant amounts of money for shady drug rehab programs, perhaps the true culprits will finally be held accountable.
Emanuel, Gabrielle. Opioid Executive John Kapoor Found Guilty In Landmark Bribery Case May 2, 2019
Center for Disease Control } Opioid Overdose https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html
Affairs (ASPA), Assistant Secretary of Public (December 4, 2017). "What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic?". HHS.gov. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
Scholl L, Seth P, Kariisa M, Wilson N, Baldwin G. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths – United States, 2013-2017. WR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.
Kolodny et al. 2015. The prescription opioid and heroin crisis: A public health approach to an epidemic of addictionexternal icon. Annual Review of Public Health 2015 (36); 559-74.
The price of heroin in California is more than you can afford. In fact, it’s more than you should afford. Although a 2018 study by the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) found that heroin use in the Los Angeles area was lower than the national rate, heroin treatment admissions were still at a dangerously high level.
The US National Library of Medicine used literature based estimates to create a model for the actual monetary cost for the abuse of heroin. They estimate that it costs US taxpayers $51 billion dollars a year – or $50,799 per heroin user.
That’s a lot of money.
And it’s getting worse:
Widespread availability and the contributing use of opioids has doubled the number of heroin users every decade. While the epidemic is obliterating communities and towns throughout the US in astonishing numbers, we forget to remember how devastating the use of heroin can be to just one person.
Heroin’s effects on the brain and nervous are notorious. Its ability to erase any other source of reward or gratification can cause addiction quickly. Sometimes in as little time as two weeks. Combined with heroin’s brutal withdrawal symptoms, the user’s life can quickly spiral out of control. On average you will spend $150 a day or more to support your habit, but there are even greater costs. The price you will pay for an addiction to heroin will impact your work, your life, your relationships, and your health.
Heroin erodes your ability to sustain any honest or responsible behavior with your loved ones. Your marriage, your friendship, even your relationship with your family will break down as the desire to get high from heroin begins to supersede anything else in your life. Heroin will corrupt the way you perceive happiness and joy, at the expense of everyone around you.
Your heroin use will even result in the loss of your child custody rights if children are involved. No court in the country will allow your heroin use to come before the health of your child and they will be taken away from you.
If your company drug tests its employees, you will lose your job. If you’re seeking employment, you will have to pass a drug test during the hiring process. Your use of heroin will most certainly jeopardize your ability to secure employment. If you begin to use while you’re employed, the heroin or other opiate use will lead to mood swings, reduced motor skills and an overall reduction in productivity. Soon, your absences will begin to pile up. Habitual tardiness becomes the norm and discipline problems hit your record. The next thing you know, you’re fired.
It’s almost cliché how drug habits will drain your bank account. When you can only think about getting your next high, saving money for rent, food, bills, child care, or anything else quickly becomes irrelevant. Your habit becomes more expensive and eventually unstainable.
Ask an addict to describe the lowest point of their addiction and I will guarantee you that they tell you the story about the first time they were incarcerated for stealing to sustain their habit. It’s inevitable that you will need to find money to sustain your heroin addiction as you constantly try to achieve that narcotic bliss of your first exposure. Chasing the dragon, as they say. This will lead to lying, stealing, and eventually the loss of your freedoms with eventual jail time.
It may be easy to point to the devastating effects of heroin addiction on an individual, but we can’t ignore the cost to our society as a whole. Where does that $51 billion dollars come from? The University of Chicago studied the financial impact of heroin and found the following repercussions
Whenever a crime is committed, our society is forced to pick up the tab. These costs include:
When your habit begins to affect your work, your ability to provide for yourself and your family becomes diminished, as well as your ability to contribute to society in a positive manner. These costs include:
Heroin destroys your body and its ability to function properly. You will soon find yourself seeking medical attention and paying for things like:
In addition, you can’t pay for healthcare because you lost your job and spend all your savings on your habit, then society must pick up the tab for:
It’s impossible to calculate the cost to a child growing up in an addictive household. Engaging in risky and illegal behavior puts your children at risk and creates an environment that increases the chances that they will follow in your footsteps.
It may be obvious to most that heroin and other opioids are truly devastating for an individual as well as a community. When you add up the above costs, as well as what the typical users spend on his or her habit, the number is staggering.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
No one can tell you that getting clean is easy, but they should tell you that it is imperative – for you and everyone around. If you are starting to feel your life beginning to spiral downward for heroin use, or any drug for that matter, reach out for help.
Ask for help.