When Coping Mechanisms Become Addictions

July 29, 2014 by  
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Exercising can help you fight addiction and cope with problems

Exercising can help you fight addiction and cope with problems

Life is stressful, and everyone needs something to help them decompress. While some people manage to find healthy ways of relaxing, everyone is tempted by vices: junk food, reality TV, video games, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana…you know, outlets which offer immediate gratification and don’t require any real physical or mental exertion. Everyone gives in to vices from time to time, but some indulgences are much riskier than others.

No One Starts with the Intention of Forming a Habit

People use drugs and alcohol to relax. They use them to diminish their inhibitions so they can socialize with people more easily. They use them to unwind after a stressful day at work. In other words, drugs and alcohol become a coping mechanism for many people. For most people, the inclination to use drugs and alcohol stems less from a desire to cause pain than a desire to reduce pain. The problem though, is that this form of “self-medication” commonly begets addiction–the coping mechanism becomes an even greater problem unto itself.

The True Cost of Addiction

Chronic use of any drug will deplete you financially, impair your ability to make decisions, damage your health, and color your perception of reality. Becoming addicted to something means that you no longer use to get high–you use to sustain a consistent low. What was once a source of joy and a vehicle for escape becomes part of a boring, expensive, and generally destructive pattern of abuse.

As you develop a higher tolerance, or a chemical dependency, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve the sort of buzz which got you hooked in the first place–which is the ultimate irony with drugs and alcohol. Certain substances will have you forever pursuing an idealized high which you may never truly experience again.

Finding Healthier Alternatives

There are other, more sustainable coping mechanisms and lifestyle choices that you might consider trying. What makes the healthier choices less desirable for some people, however, is that they won’t provide you with gratification without requiring you to put forth a little effort. Lighting up a joint and going for a jog are measurably different activities. But, just as drug and alcohol abuse commonly damages your self-perception, you might find that the activities which challenge you will likely enhance your feelings of self-worth. And, ideally speaking, you might find that building up your confidence and self-respect decreases your desire to consume drugs and alcohol.

Devising a consistent fitness regimen is one potential solution. Vigorous physical activity causes your body to release endorphins which provide you with their own unique–and completely natural–euphoria. What’s more, regular exercise lowers your blood pressure, increases your confidence, and has been found to generally decrease anxiety and depression over time.

Some people adapt a personal artistic practice. There are many creative activities which can bolster one’s sense of self-worth, and provide a constructive outlet for otherwise destructive emotional tendencies. There are many activities you might consider picking up: sewing, baking, drawing, creative writing, dance, or even playing a musical instrument.

You might also try bubble baths, reading classic literature, listening to records…there are many, many healthy ways of decreasing stress. One danger to be aware of, however, is when a healthy habit turns into an addiction itself.

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

The first and most crucial step towards overcoming your addiction is recognizing that you have a problem. Self-deception and inadequate excuses only further perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Take a good, long, honest look at your life. Determine what your sources of happiness are, and maximize them. Determine what your sources of unhappiness are, and minimize their presence in your life as best as you can.

Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based author who writes about a variety of topics — everything from vintage horror films to energy legislation to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them and partially also because he has experimented with them and has struggled with certain substances in the past–particularly with alcohol. Brandon is sober now and eager to help others overcome their addictions.

Drug Abuse among Artists: Why Is It So Prevalent?

July 28, 2014 by  
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The pressures of celebrity can be heavy for artists, leading to problems

The pressures of celebrity can be heavy for artists, leading to problems

With every high-profile celebrity who dies prematurely because of drugs, the world is reminded of the prevalence of addiction amongst celebrities and artists.

What propels someone toward creative self-expression (a yearning for acceptance, the need for an escape, or simply the compulsion to express potent emotions) are the very same things that can propel someone toward alcohol and substance abuse. We see the modern day manifestations of this all over the Internet. Think about the social media response to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent heroin overdose, or to the Twitter frenzy surrounding Justin Bieber’s recent incarceration after he was caught drag racing while intoxicated in Florida.

Think back just a few decades, to Hollywood’s golden age, when the public would have been reading stories about celebrity addicts like Judy Garland and her drug and alcohol problems. And later, Marilyn Monroe and her drug overdose. Or later still, when people were reading about Janis Joplin and her drug overdose. And then it was Jim Belushi. More recently, it was Whitney Houston. If you really think about it, the list of artist-drug-addict names extends on and on. So many creative celebrities struggle with their dependency on substances. Like everyone else who struggles with substance use, these celebrities also likely suffer from underlying causes such as anxiety or mental illness.

Where Creativity, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Converge

Author Kay Redfield Jamison wrote Touched With Fire, a book which examines the correlation between mental illness and the creative temperament. According to Jamison, many visual artists, writers, and musicians displayed symptoms characteristic of bi-polar disorder long before such a diagnosis existed. Jamison makes the case that writers like Lord Byron, Mark Twain, and William Faulkner all displayed symptoms characteristic of bi-polar disorder. And, incidentally, all three of them were known to drink heavily. Many experts now believe that Marilyn Monroe suffered from undiagnosed bi-polar disorder or borderline personality disorder. She also drank heavily (reportedly, champagne) and popped pills.

Drugs Are Perceived as Enhancing Creativity

One reason why artists gravitate toward drugs is likely because they feel that drugs diminish their inhibitions. They use substances to tap into their creativity. Many musicians, including Carlos Santana and Willie Nelson, have publicly expressed their fondness for marijuana. Comedian/writer George Carlin also advocated for it as a creative aid, if used “judiciously,” but also went on to concede that compulsive drug users inevitably reach a point of diminishing returns, and they either muster the strength to beat their addiction, or they succumb to it.

The Trappings of Fame

It can be difficult for the average person to understand why creative celebrities are prone to self-destruction. These are people who are revered for their artistic talents and have seemingly greater agency over their lives than most people. But the reality is that celebrities are as vulnerable to self-sabotage as anyone else.

For some celebrities, substances become a means of dealing with the anxieties caused by the lack of privacy that comes with fame. The onslaught of public attention is too much for some artists to deal with. A profession in the arts is also typically less stable then your conventional nine to five job, so that must create its own set of anxieties which might propel someone towards using substances. Conversely, many artists seem to panic when they reach the pinnacle of their success. It’s one thing to become famous for doing what you love — it’s another thing to sustain a fruitful career in the arts. For some, like former Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, the problem seemed to be that the profession itself didn’t yield the joy he had expected, and that the guilt he felt over his depression, compounded by drug abuse, might have propelled him towards suicide.

For some celebrities though, bad behavior seems to be largely the product of hedonism and a propensity to act upon impulses without fear of consequences. Many live by the sword, and many of them die by it.

The Silver Lining

People come to rely upon different substances for different reasons, and it stands to reason that people who experience pronounced shifts in mood frequently or endure stresses consistently, would be especially at risk. Artists are people easily tempted by a source of instant gratification, whether that is in the form of cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, or other substances. And, while the public is quick to pass judgement, let us remember that a famous person is still just a person. They have foibles. They have weaknesses. They make mistakes. Celebrities are idolized and revered — both celebrated and vilified by the public — but we should remember that they are fallible people with their own, unique set of problems. When one of them succumbs to addiction, that can be a wake-up call and lesson for us all.

 

Author Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based blogger who writes about a variety of topics — everything from vintage horror films, to energy legislation, to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, and partially because he has himself struggled with them in the past — alcohol and marijuana in particular. However, Brandon is sober and in good health today, mentally and physically, and eager to help those who are struggling with drug addiction.

 

 

Addiction and Teen Celebrities

July 16, 2014 by  
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The pressures of teen celebrity combined with privilege can lead to problems

The pressures of teen celebrity combined with privilege can lead to problems

When Justin Bieber was busted a few months ago for popping pills and drag racing in a residential community, some people seemed authentically shocked. Did young Mr. Bieber exercise sound judgement that night in Florida? He most assuredly did not. But consider the incident within the context of every destructive and expensive mistake that we’ve seen teen idols make in the past five years. Reckless and irresponsible, absolutely — but was it truly shocking?

You may also recall reading about Selena Gomez’s recent public displays of drunkenness, Miley Cyrus’s various shenanigans, Lindsay Lohan’s various car accidents, or seeing the tabloid photographs of a freshly shorn Britney Spears assailing a car with a folded umbrella. There is a well-documented history of teen idols, and famous people or celebrities behaving recklessly or abusing drugs and alcohol into their early adulthood. It may confuse some because these are celebrities who have accomplished so much by such a young age, and who are beloved by millions of (mostly) young and impressionable fans. Shouldn’t more be expected of these young celebrities? That could be part of the problem itself: more is expected of them.

The Garish Glare of the Spotlight

Teen celebrities are under constant scrutiny. Everything they do and say is monitored, recorded, photographed, and tweeted about. They are simultaneously loved and ridiculed by the media and different sects of the general public. They are under constant pressure to meet the expectations of rabid fans, and the constant stream of jeering, taunting and ranting that takes place in the public sphere (and on a larger scale than ever, thanks to Twitter and other social media) at their expense.

How do teen celebrities reconcile their own personal needs and desires–especially at this early stage in their lives, developmentally–with the expectations put on them by their careers and the public to uphold some ultra-sweet, wholesome, milquetoast image?

And the only thing potentially more dangerous than the inordinate amount of pressure placed upon these kids is the inordinate level of privilege that they become entitled too.

Boundless Power Can Be Their Own Undoing

Famous people can presumably afford to buy whatever they want, including substances both legal and illegal. If they want to purchase a Porsche and drive it off of a cliff, they are in a position, financially, to do so. The world is their candy store, and they are forced to learn about the law of diminishing returns the hard way. And there are few things more dangerous than limitless funds in the hands of a young person with access to nearly everything. People who have not yet come fully into maturity and haven’t yet had to learn anything about the virtue of self-restraint, and are accustomed to getting whatever they want, might not stop until they’ve gone too far. This can certainly be the case with drugs and alcohol.

Reckless Behavior

Let’s not forget that, while teenage celebrities may seem particularly reckless and destructive, ordinary teenagers are also historically prone to bad behavior. This could be attributed to so many things, such as the fact that teenagers are still maturing and developing–even their brains are still developing. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, which governs organization, impulse and planning, is still developing into adulthood. When you pair poor impulse control with unlimited cash and entitlement, the end result can be lethal.

You may recall the rather heart-breaking story of 1970s teen heartthrob Leif Garrett’s car crash. An intoxicated Garrett, a mere five days before his 18th birthday, flipped his Porsche after hitting another car. Garrett suffered scrapes, bruises, and a concussion. His friend Rowland Winkler, 19 at the time of the accident, was left permanently disabled and bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

It’s rare that teens who go out and party do so with the conscious intent to do harm. It’s not that teenagers are inherently amoral. They can, however, be inherently reckless. It is still tragic, nevertheless, when a teenager’s “wake-up call” comes in the form of a catastrophe that causes harm to himself and others.

The Unspoken Truth

It may be our first instinct to sneer in disgust or roll our eyes at young celebrities’ antics or ridiculous behavior, but we should remember that these are not fully matured adults. They don’t yet have any worldly experience. If everything is handed to them, and they are enabled by “yes men” who always get them with what they want, and they have the power to purchase whatever they want, it is not surprising that they will have a meteoric rise and fall. And, instead of our glee and derision, perhaps we should look at them with empathy and glean wisdom from their mistakes. After all, there are teenagers or twenty-somethings engaging in reckless and destructive behaviors all the time — you just rarely hear about it in the news if it doesn’t involve someone famous.

 

Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based author who writes about a variety of topics — everything from vintage horror films to energy legislation to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them and partially also because he has experimented with them and has struggled with certain substances in the past–particularly with alcohol. Brandon is sober now and eager to help others overcome their addictions.

 

Marijuana Vape Pen: What You Should Know

May 23, 2014 by  
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pot-vape-penA new device allows marijuana users to discretely get high in public by not calling attention to the telltale scent of pot. It’s the vape pen—a small, portable vaporizer which delivers THC vapors without actual smoke. They look very similar to e-cigarettes. And while vape pens might offer some benefits to prescription marijuana users, they also present new risks.

How Vape Pens Work

Vape pens, like e-cigarettes, have a heating mechanism built into them which is powered by battery. In e-cigarettes, the mechanism heats up a liquid which contains nicotine. In the case of the vape pen, the mechanism is heating up and breaking down concentrated THC in marijuana oils. With both e-cigarettes and vape pens, the user inhales vapor, and not smoke. These devices can be purchased through smoke shops and online retailers.

Pot Vape Pen Dangers

Vape pens don’t use actual parts of the marijuana plant. They use hash oil, which is a sticky, sap-like substance which is rendered from the marijuana plant. The process of extracting this oil can be extremely dangerous. Hash oil can be purchase through dispensaries, but purchasing the oil is twice as expensive as making it at home. Many people are soaking marijuana plants in chemical solvents (commonly butane) at home. The chemicals extract the hash oil from the plan itself. The problem is that the solvents are highly flammable and cause explosions and house-fires.

One issue that has been noted in some areas is that the fires start with exploding refrigerators. The butane soaked plants will be left in a freezer, and the fan in the freezer can get the butane fumes circulating throughout the entire refrigerator. If the fumes reach the refrigerator’s compressor, a spark could easily lead to a fire. House fires connected to hash oil production were frequent enough last year to prompt the U.S. Fire Administration to issue a warning bulletin against the hazards of producing hash oil at home.

Beyond fire hazards though, many parents and school officials are concerned that vape pens will enable children to consume marijuana freely and without fear of consequence. Traditionally, marijuana smoking is easily detectable by its distinct odor. With pen vapes, there’s no incriminating odor.

Another concern though is that hash oil typically contains much higher levels of concentrated THC (as high as 90 percent THC) than are found naturally in marijuana plants (commonly 20 percent THC). The higher potency of the substance means that for vape pen users, the high is more intense and sets in more immediately. Some users have spoken about fainting or nearly fainting after the first time they used a vape pen. At this time, experts do not know for sure what the long-term health risks of higher THC levels in the vape pens.

Potential Benefits for Medical Users

Vape pens are an attractive alternative to some people who have medical prescriptions for marijuana. Owners of legal dispensaries also advocate for the pen, saying that they’ve helped them reach clients and customers who have long since been medically eligible for prescription marijuana but are turned off by the stigma surrounding conventional smoking apparatuses like bongs or pipes.

While the device might yield some social utility by offering patients a safer and less stigmatizing means of taking their prescribed drug, there are clearly many other issues that must be addressed as the device becomes increasingly popular.

Brandon Engel is a Chicago based blogger who writes about a variety of topics—everything from cult cinema to energy legislation to international drug policy. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, but also because he’s experimented with them liberally, and has struggled with substance issues in the past himself—especially alcoholism. Brandon is fighting to stay clean now, and is committed to helping others cope with their substance addictions.

What You Should Know about Powdered Alcohol

May 16, 2014 by  
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Soft drink mixPalcohol, a new brand of powdered alcohol which comes in packets (much like Kool-Aid or Emergen-C), has been generating a lot of hype recently. The new substance first made headlines last month when it was reported that regulators from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the product’s labels. The agency later rescinded those approvals, but it’s anticipated that Palcohol could hit the market as early as next year, nevertheless.

Regulators are insisting now that they pinpoint both the amount of powder and the precise volume of alcohol that’s contained within each packet. The labels will have to be resubmitted for approval, and the regulators insist that their concern is providing consumers with as much information as possible to help prevent overconsumption.

Palcohol will reportedly be available in flavors such as margarita and cosmopolitan. Each packet contains a powder which can be mixed with water. Some experts have voiced concern that the sweet flavors and packaging might attract children.

Reminiscent of Four Loko Scare

The issue calls to mind several other headlines from recent years, such as the crack-down on Four Loko, a brand of alcoholic energy drinks which raised the concern of many public health officials. Not only did Four Loko contain high alcoholic content, but it could also be easily concealed by because it looked like an energy drink. The name Four Loko was itself a reference to the beverage’s four main ingredients: alcohol, taurine, guarana, and caffeine. Four Loko was ultimately banned in several states, and Phusion Projects, the Chicago-based company which introduced the beverage, later reintroduced the drink without the caffeine, taurine, or guarana.

The concern was that young people could acquire the drink easily, consume it inconspicuously because it resembled energy drinks, and would consume too much because they didn’t recognize the potency of the drink until they had imbibed too much. Those same concerns apply to Palcohol.

Potential Abuses of Powdered Alcohol

What makes Palcohol even more concerning, however, is that it’s even easier to conceal and even easier to transport, with each packet reportedly weighing about an ounce.

Increased portability could also mean more reckless behavior in public, especially drunk driving incidents. No more sneaking flasks into night clubs—you’d have a potent alcohol powder ready to go in your pocket. It’s also not clear at this point how dilution and the amount of water mixed with the powder, will affect the overall potency of the drink. Unpredictable potency, and users not knowing the proper amount of water to mix, presents its own set of potential problems. Judging from the patents, the powdered alcohol can contain anywhere from 30 to 60 percent ethanol, which is virtually double the ethanol found in a single can of beer.

Another concern is that because the substance is a powder, it can be easily snorted like cocaine. Snorting alcohol would deliver it directly to the brain via the sinuses and would induce an immediate high.

Inventor Defends His Product

Mark Phillips, the creator of Palcohol, reported to CBS that he believes that Palcohol is every bit as safe as standard alcohol. Phillips said that the substance was ideal for outdoors enthusiasts—hikers specifically—because of its lightweight and portability.

Will the advantages and conveniences of weekend warriors outweigh the potential health risk this new substance poses? That remains to be seen. What can be inferred, however, is that individuals should exercise restraint and caution when experimenting with this new substance, provided that it hits the market soon as planned. Hopefully, regulators will be able to at least ensure that consumers can make informed decisions about how they consume powdered alcohol by knowing what the risks are.

Brandon Engel is a Chicago based blogger who writes about a variety of topics—everything from cult cinema to energy legislation to international drug policy. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, but also because he’s experimented with them liberally, and has struggled with substance issues in the past himself—especially alcoholism. Brandon is fighting to stay clean now, and is committed to helping others cope with their substance addictions.

Special K for Depression?

May 2, 2014 by  
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Question Mark Written in Flour on Black BackgroundA recent study from Oxford University suggests that ketamine, also known by its street name “Special K,” might be effective at treating depression. This news might seem alarming to many people. Even though ketamine is a government certified anesthetic, used to treat both people and animals, there has been a lot of press in recent years about the potential health risks associated with the drug as more and more people abuse it.

Dangers of Recreational Ketamine

The side effects of ketamine can be quite severe: hallucinations, accelerate blood pressure, and even be fatal overdosing. Nevertheless, some researchers believe that, if used in controlled doses and under proper supervision, the drug might be useful as a psychotherapeutic drug. What’s more, it works faster than many other antidepressants currently on the market. For example, scientists believe that Prozac and other prescription antidepressants which regulate serotonin production in the brain help patients by improving communication between brain cells. This could help to improve a patient’s mood over time, but the relief is rarely immediate—it takes time for antidepressants to work.

Ketamine, however, fuses neurons in the brain much more quickly than drugs like Prozac, strengthening the circuits in the brain at such a fast rate that the patient’s mood improves quickly. The study did concede, however, that while patients responded immediately to treatment, ketamine doesn’t seem to work effectively over time for all patients. The trick for researchers now is to determine whether or not the substance can be used sustainably—particularly when the potential health risks are factored in.

Oxford Study on Special K

Dr. Rupert McShane of Oxford his team spent six month studying a group of 28 patients who suffered from severe depression and hadn’t previously responded to other treatments. The results were interesting:

  • One third of the test subjects showed improvement within three days of their last time taking ketamine, and the positive effects lasted anywhere from around four weeks to thirty-two weeks
  • Four of the patients have continued to take ketamine medicinally
  • One of the patients who stopped using ketamine has continued to enjoy improved mental health

What Lies Ahead

Other universities are already working to develop medications with ketamine. A recent study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that ketamine, when administered in low doses through a nasal spray, was also highly effective at immediately boosting a patient’s mood.

It’s entirely possible that medical professionals will find a practical use for ketamine as an antidepressant, but don’t expect any of these medications to hit the market soon. McShane was adamant that while ketamine might ultimately prove useful at treating depression, researchers should take all the time necessary to ensure that the drug can be used safely. He also advises against self medication and that experiments with the drug “should not be done outside a medical setting.”

Brandon Engel is a Chicago based blogger who writes about a variety of topics—everything from cult cinema to energy legislation to international drug policy. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, but also because he’s experimented with them liberally, and has struggled with substance issues in the past himself—especially alcoholism. Brandon is fighting to stay clean now, and is committed to helping others cope with their substance addictions.

Heroin OD Antidote?

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EvzioThe FDA has approved an auto-injection device which could save the life of opiate users. The treatment, called Evzio, is similar to the EpiPen injectors used to treat severe allergic reactions. Both devices inject directly into muscle, which means that they allow nonmedical personnel to administer life-saving drugs in emergency situations. Evzio comes with thorough written instructions and is also capable of providing instructions via pre-recorded audio.

How It Works

The simple-to-use injector allows care providers and family members to inject a single dose of the drug naloxone, which is used to counteract the effects of opiates such as heroin. The drug has been used for a long time in ambulances and other medical facilities, but now the substance will be made available to consumers in $60 dollar kits. Each kit contains two syringes pre-filled with naloxone, and is good for up to two years.

The kits are being manufactured by the company Kaleo Inc., which predicts that Evzio could be available to patients with a doctor’s prescription as early as this summer. However, it should noted that there is a degree of risk involved with using Evzio. It can potentially lead to immediate heroin withdrawal symptoms in patients, such as hyperventilation and convulsions. Experts caution that Evzio should only be used in response to dire emergencies.

Startling Statistics

Around 100 people die in the United States from drug overdoses every day, and 75 percent of deaths relating to prescription drug overdoses in the U.S. are the result of opiates. More than 16,000 people die in the United States every year from overdosing on prescription opiates. Slightly less than ten percent of people living in the United States abuse opiates sometime throughout the course of their life, whether they use substances like heroin or prescription drugs like Vicodin. Deaths relating to drug overdoses have tripled since 1990. Globally, over thirteen million people use opioids, with as many as nine million people all over the world using heroin.

NY Local Government Takes Action

Eric Schneidman, the New York Attorney General, has recently stated that all New York state law officials will be given naloxone, and they will also be trained to use it in emergency situations. Five million dollars has reportedly been put towards funding the state’s new Community Overdose Prevention program—the first statewide program of its kind in the United States. This is also a commendable extension of New York’s naxolene pilot program for law enforcement officials, which reportedly helped save as many as 500 lives in Suffolk County last year.

While security measures like Evzio don’t fully address the full spectrum of issues which propels people towards opiate abuse, and other preventative measures are still needed, we can hope that other states and countries might take cues from New York. If more local governments adopt similar measures, the annual death tolls associated with opiate use could be decreased considerably.


Brandon Engel writes about everything from science fiction tropes, to classic cinema, to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, and partially because he has experimented with them somewhat liberally. Although he has struggled with substance abuse in the past—alcoholism especially—Brandon is making an effort every day to stay clean and is eager to help others find peace within sobriety.

Can Prescription Meds Cause Obesity in Kids?

April 11, 2014 by  
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ScalesA recent study from John Hopkins University suggests a possible connection between childhood stimulant prescriptions and obesity later in life. Studies have been published in the past about possible correlations between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and drug abuse and smoking later in life. But obesity?

Scientists were initially confused–why were ADHD kids also often times obese when they reached maturity? It didn’t stand to reason that children who are hyperactive would be gaining weight since hyperactivity, in theory, should lead to weight loss. Also, most drugs that are prescribed for ADHD are stimulants, which accelerate metabolism and should also, therefore, lead to weight loss.

The Study

A group of researchers from John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of public health monitored the same group of 163,000 children between the ages of 3 and 18, for 13 years. There results were fascinating:

  • Children who had taken ADHD medication had a body mass index (BMI) slightly below children who either hadn’t been diagnosed with ADHD or hadn’t been prescribed drugs.
  • At around the age of 13, the children who had been taking the stimulants began putting on weight.
  • John Hopkins professor Brian Schwartz said that this was, to his knowledge, the first time that a “BMI rebound after discontinuation of stimulants has been reported.”

Interestingly, the BMI of children who had ADHD, but had not been prescribed stimulants, was the same as the children who had not been diagnosed with ADHD.

More Research Is Needed

Scientists believe that this study indicates that children who take prescription drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall, continue to feel the effects of the drugs for years after they stop taking them. Schwartz said that whatever effect it has within a short period of use, prescription stimulants can “alter your BMI trajectory for a long period of time.”

No one seems to know, conclusively, the reason why. Scientists believe that the children’s brains are still developing, and the drugs could be interfering with normal appetite signals transmitted by the brain. More data is needed to confirm whether or not this is true. If so, this can be a cause for concern as more and more pediatricians are prescribing psychotherapeutic drugs to preschoolers.

Unintended Consequences

The obesity epidemic in the U.S. has been called “astronomical,” according to Dr. Marion Nestle, the chair of New York University’s department of nutrition and food studies. Data from the Center for Disease Control says that 15 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 in the United States are overweight, while 31 percent of adults are obese. Schwartz warns that by prescribing these drugs, we could be contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States.

As with any medication, one should always consult with a doctor to discuss the the medical benefits as well as possible side effects.


Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based blogger who writes about everything from film, to energy legislation, to drugs. Brandon is particularly interested in drugs, partially because of the politics surrounding them, but also because he has experimented with them liberally, and has struggled with substance abuse in the past–particularly alcoholism. Today, Brandon is fighting to stay sober, and is committed to helping others who struggle with addiction.

U.N. Conference Examines International Drug Policy

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blue flag of the UN United Nations OrganisationThe United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs recently ended its 57th session. The UN member states met in Vienna, Austria, where they engaged in a week of heated discussion where, ultimately, eleven resolutions were adapted. Many of the these address issues such as addiction, recently created psychoactive substances, and the need for infrastructure to provide adequate treatment for drug addicts.

Prison Is Not the Answer

Yury Fedotov, who serves as Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, advocated for humanitarian treatment of drug addicts calling or alternatives to prison sentencing.

William R. Brownfield, who serves as Assistant Secretary of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, also advocated for preventive measures over penalization, saying “Historic neuroscience advances prove addiction is a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. We must look at what drives individuals to use drugs before it begins, and expand access to treatment.”

Adhering to the Plan of Action

In 2009, The Commission adopted the Political Declaration and Plan of Action, which had three primary goals:

  • the wholesale reduction of the demand for illicit substances
  • the wholesale reduction of the supply of illicit substances
  • curbing money-laundering

Fedotov discussed the global communities successes and failures in terms of realizing those three goals and said that, globally, the cocaine market has diminished in size, the delivery of treatment is now more efficient, and in general terms, state-to-state cooperation is stronger.

Fedotov went on to acknowledge that there have been setbacks: Opium poppy farming has increased, particularly in Afghanistan, where it is said to have reached unprecedented levels last year; there are several new psychoactive substances that have been created, and there is an ever expanding market for synthetic stimulants.

What Lies Ahead…

A recurring theme over the course of the week long conference was finding sustainable, compassionate solutions to the many societal problems which stem from drug abuse. These ideas look marvelous on paper—but how will the UN set about actually realizing any of this? It behooves society to produce the infrastructure to minimize drug problems, and filling jails with non-violent criminals has, historically, done little to solve the underlying problems which lead to substance abuse patterns in the first place—never mind the injustice of any system which penalizes nonviolent criminals so severely.

Hopefully, the UN finds ways of effectively counteracting these issues. Making addiction treatment more universally accessible, especially to people with lower income, is imperative. There could be a case made for criminalizing softer drugs like marijuana, in the interest of minimizing the crime that results from the illegal drug trade. Whatever the long term solutions might be, it is encouraging is that the the U.N. is taking the position that society mustn’t shun addicts, but should instead strive to help them.


Brandon Engel writes about everything from science fiction tropes, to classic cinema, to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, and partially because he has experimented with them somewhat liberally. Although he has struggled with substance abuse in the past—alcoholism especially—Brandon is making an effort every day to stay clean and is eager to help others find peace within sobriety.

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Opiate and Prescription Abuse Recovery Top Crystal Meth Rehabs Cocaine Addiction Treatment Alcohol And Marijuana Treatment Kick Club Drugs for Good
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