TV Alcohol Ads and Its Impact on Teen Drinking

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In October 2013,a CDC (Center for Disease Control) studyrevealed that alcohol is the most common drug used by young people and it is responsible for over 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. Furthermore, data from theNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reportsthat by age 15, more than 50% of teens have had at least one drink and an estimated four out of five college students drink alcohol.

The resultsand consequences of underage drinking by minor children are absolutely horrifying, especially since these actions are largely preventable. Where are our youth viewing and how are they learning to emulate this destructive and deadly behavior?

Television’s Influence on Underage Drinking

In this media driven world, advertising is everywhere we look, every minute of every day. Alcoholic products are no exception. Television, pop up computer ads, advertisements on mobile devices, bill boards, sporting events”¦there is simply no way to avoid the onslaught of corporations trying to sell their intoxicating beverages.

The latest liquor ads are also intoxicating to our youth. These recent media vehicles associated with drinking alcohol focus on utilizing trendy music, enhancing romance, promoting the “coolness” factor and displaying fun entertainment occasions with liquor in the spotlight.

The celebrity actors featured in these branded commercials promote the message that drinking is for those individuals who are successful, confident and have a large social network.
Although beer commercials filmed around swimming pools or backyard barbeques are familiar, the latest entries to attract young drinkers spotlight superstars close to their age who are pushing hard liquor.

For example, the gorgeous Mila Kunis now stars multiple Jim Beam whiskey commercials. Justin Timberlake can be found in trendy and stylish clothes selling tequila. Even rapperLudacrisendorses his Conjure Cognac.

Although these popular celebrities cannot be shown to actually drink the beverage, it is clear that brands like “Hard Lemonade” and “Apple Orchard Hard Cider” are targeting a very young audience”¦not just with their ads, but with their labels, product names, promotions and packaging.

Make no mistake about it. These sexy and enticing new marketing programs are captivating the attention of our youth.

A portion of the adult population doubts the concept that television advertising can actually influence negative behavior. But now there can be no dispute.

The latest study, released in January 2015, found that television viewing habits have a powerful influence in kid’s behavior.

This recent study published inJAMA Pediatricsstudied over 2,500 adolescents. The authors found evidence that:

  • “seeing and liking alcohol advertising on television among underage youths was associated with the onset of drinking”
  • “familiarity with images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking”
  • “underage youths (who) are exposed to and engaged by alcohol marketing… prompts initiation of drinking”
  • even more disturbing, theauthors concludedfrom this data that “(not only does exposition to alcohol marketing initiate drinking, it also) transitions from trying tohazardous drinking.”

But there is hope. There is always hope.

TheSurgeon General’s reportsuggests that The greatest influence on young people’s decisions to begin drinking is the world they live in, which includes their families, friends, schools, the larger community, and society as a whole.

  • If you are a parent, do not, under any circumstances, purchase alcohol for your underage child
  • No one knows your child as well as you do. Although it is “easier said than done,” families must be involved and pay attention to the daily activities of their kids
  • Parents and guardians cannot be afraid to intervene or confront their child if something appears to be wrong or if there is a change in behavior. It is likely that if you suspect your kid is engaging in dangerous behavior, it is true
  • Schools must help educate students on the dangers, repercussions and risks of drug and alcohol use. Role playing assists teenagers on developing strategies when encountering negative peer pressure
  • After-school enrichment programs and extra-curricular activities are of critical importance in keeping teenagers busy, motivated and focused
  • If you discover your underage offspring is using alcohol, get help as quickly as possible before the behavior escalates. Alcoholism treatment programs can help adolescents transform their behaviors, rebuild their lives and give them the childhood they deserve

AudreyBeim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. Shehas over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

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There are many reasons why alcohol use and having a mental health issue do not mix.This article explores the top 10 reasons why alcohol and mental illness do not mix.

People who have a mental illness also have a higher risk of having a substance abuse problem [1]. Alcohol is one of the most commonly misused substances and high rates of alcoholuse disorders occur in people with diagnose mental illnesses. There are many reasons why individuals were diagnosed with a mental illness, even something as common as depression, should not drink alcohol.

  1. Alcohol interferes with the mechanism by which most medications used in treating mental illness work. Drinking alcohol typically nullifies the effects (if any) from psychotropic medications.
  2. Alcohol use interferes with the process of learning and memory. This relationship is such that the more alcohol one uses the more the process is disrupted. Someone in a treatment program for mental illness or substance abuse drinks heavily will not process, encode, and retain information as well as if they did not drink at all.
  3. Alcohol can be dangerous and even lethal when used in combination with certain medications such as anti-anxiety medications.
  4. Alcohol use contributes to increased impulsivity in people. People with mental illness are at risk for acting impulsively and irrationally. Drinking alcohol makes this all the worse.
  5. Heavy alcohol use leads to poor decision-making that can intensify guilt, shame, depression.
  6. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. What this means is that it dampens the firing of certain neurons in the brain. For people prone to depressive reactions alcohol use can actually intensify their depression and increase thoughts of self “” harm.
  7. Heavy alcohol use may initially reduce a person’s anxiety; however, it also leads to something known as rebound anxiety where the person will experience more anxious symptoms as they withdraw from alcohol use.
  8. Alcohol use is known to increase recall for negative events such as traumatic experiences that occurred when one was using alcohol. This can lead to increased shame, depression, etc.
  9. Regular alcohol use disrupts sleep patterns and REM sleep. Disrupting one’s sleep can lead to more issues with fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc.
  10. Alcohol use is associated with other substance abuse, especially in individuals diagnosed with some form of mental health issue or mental illness. This can lead to more distressed, increased legal issues, and issues in recovery and treatment.

The bottom line is this: If you are diagnosed with a mental health issue DO NOT drink alcohol at all unless you are instructed to do so by your physician (this last situation would be VERY rare).

There are many reasons why alcohol use and having a mental health issue do not mix.This article explores the top 10 reasons why alcohol and mental illness do not mix.

People who have a mental illness also have a higher risk of having a substance abuse problem [1]. Alcohol is one of the most commonly misused substances and high rates of alcoholuse disorders occur in people with diagnose mental illnesses. There are many reasons why individuals were diagnosed with a mental illness, even something as common as depression, should not drink alcohol.

  1. Alcohol interferes with the mechanism by which most medications used in treating mental illness work. Drinking alcohol typically nullifies the effects (if any) from psychotropic medications.
  2. Alcohol use interferes with the process of learning and memory. This relationship is such that the more alcohol one uses the more the process is disrupted. Someone in a treatment program for mental illness or substance abuse drinks heavily will not process, encode, and retain information as well as if they did not drink at all.
  3. Alcohol can be dangerous and even lethal when used in combination with certain medications such as anti-anxiety medications.
  4. Alcohol use contributes to increased impulsivity in people. People with mental illness are at risk for acting impulsively and irrationally. Drinking alcohol makes this all the worse.
  5. Heavy alcohol use leads to poor decision-making that can intensify guilt, shame, depression.
  6. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. What this means is that it dampens the firing of certain neurons in the brain. For people prone to depressive reactions alcohol use can actually intensify their depression and increase thoughts of self “” harm.
  7. Heavy alcohol use may initially reduce a person’s anxiety; however, it also leads to something known as rebound anxiety where the person will experience more anxious symptoms as they withdraw from alcohol use.
  8. Alcohol use is known to increase recall for negative events such as traumatic experiences that occurred when one was using alcohol. This can lead to increased shame, depression, etc.
  9. Regular alcohol use disrupts sleep patterns and REM sleep. Disrupting one’s sleep can lead to more issues with fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc.
  10. Alcohol use is associated with other substance abuse, especially in individuals diagnosed with some form of mental health issue or mental illness. This can lead to more distressed, increased legal issues, and issues in recovery and treatment.

The bottom line is this: If you are diagnosed with a mental health issue DO NOT drink alcohol at all unless you are instructed to do so by your physician (this last situation would be VERY rare).

 

References:

[1] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington DC: Author.

[2] Hatfield, R. C. (2013). The everything guide to the human brain. Avon, MA: Adams.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

 

Are You Abusing Your Prescription Medication?

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News

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Prescription painkiller abuse has been increasing dramatically over the years. Overdoses of prescription painkillers are one of the most lethal and common drug-related accidents and unfortunately, many people who abuse these medications are obtaining them both illegally and legally. Because so many doctors and clinics are relatively quick to prescribe them (sometimes these places are referred to as “pill mills”), people who get them legally can go on to sell them to others. The problem with prescription painkillers has been called an epidemic and rightfully so.

One of the reasons a problem like this has been able to take such a strong hold on otherwise non-addict citizens is because prescription medication can provide the addict with the illusion that he or she is simply taking medicine rather than abusing a hard drug. This phenomenon is even more nuanced when the medication has been prescribed directly to the patient. Sometimes doctors prescribe pills that are stronger or at a higher frequency than necessary, which can lead to addiction. Even when this isn’t the case, many who are in pain up their dosage on their own because they view the increase as a harmless medical decision. But prescription painkillers are not harmless. And when they’re overdone, they can be life-threatening.

So how can you tell the difference between a person who is taking their medication for legitimate pain with healing and health in mind vs. a person who is abusing prescription painkillers? Most people who abuse prescription painkillers will tell others “” and themselves “” that they are taking them because of pain. Whether or not this pain is real is only one aspect to consider when trying to figure out if someone us abusing this kind of medication or using it properly.

If you think that someone you know might actually be abusing their prescription medication, here are some things to think about:

  • Is the medication prescribed? If not, where are they getting the medicine? Most people with serious pain should not have an issue getting prescription medication from a doctor who can oversee their pain treatment plan.
  • How frequently are they taking the medication and what is the dosage? Is the person taking the pills every few hours or are they actively trying to space them out as much as possible? Are they taking a low dosage or a high dosage?
  • How does the person act when they don’t have medicine? If they forget their medicine at home or can’t get a refill on their prescription in time, how do they act? Their behavior during this time is usually a telling sign as to whether or not they are an addict. Those who are addicted might also find that they need to continually increase their dosage.
  • Does the person try to go to different doctors because of an issue they are having with getting their prescription written from their original pain doctor? If this is the case, they might be “doctor shopping,” perhaps without even knowing it.
  • How long as the person been taking painkillers? Prescription pain killers are usually not an ideal way to manage chronic pain. They’re much more effective for acute pain, which should pass in a matter of weeks in most cases. If the person you know is still taking this medication many months or even years later, it’s possible that they’re addicted.

Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

Long-Term Effects of Anti-Depressants on Addicts

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News

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Since the 1980s, diagnosing and treatment for depression has come to be a big part of recovery for millions of addicts. The controversy surrounding medication for depression and when and how it is determined necessary has created an ongoing conversation that can, from time to time, be addressed with fresh information.

The cumulative, long-term effects

The dangers lie in belief that this is an open and shut situation for anyone, especially when it comes to the neurological damage caused by addiction, the fact that many addicts have self-medicated underlying mental health issues, and the difficulty of diagnosis for early recovery.

Of course there is a plethora of material touting the use of antidepressants. Anyone who suffers the crippling effects of depression, whether it is long-term, chronic depression or a shorter-term, situational depression can testify that medication can be a God-sent assistant in navigating daily life. For some, it allows functioning in a world that appeared sinister and overwhelming to accommodate.

However, the challenges for those who are in early stages of recovery from addiction to substances that alter their brain function for months or years are in appropriately being diagnosed for said mental health issues.

What are the Challenges of Diagnosing Addicts?

Alcohol, some benzo (Benzodiazepines), Opiates, and Central Nervous System (CNS)-Depressant medications may cause long-term damage to the synapse responses in the addict’s brain over long periods of abuse. How and when those functions are returned to homeostasis is questionable. Diagnosing these addicts as depressed may be tricky, if not impossible, during the early stages of recovery.

Many addicts have lied to their providers when asked about alcohol and drug use. An addict using these substances is going to present symptoms that are being created by the drug, not the addict’s natural mental state.

Addicts who have been abusing stimulant medications over a period of time may present with symptoms of depression when newly eliminating these drugs from their system. They feel depressed, because their continual state of hyper-alertness, caused by the drugs they were abusing, is missing. This may go on for up to a year after they stop drug use. Treating these symptoms with medication may not be the best way for them to stabilize and return to homeostasis.

For that purpose, it is important to question the use of medications during this period, as well as to determine a shorter period of use of medications, due to the changing brain chemistry of the addict overall.

What are the specific issues of use of antidepressants?

For anyone facing the question of whether or not use of antidepressants is their best bet, there are several pieces of information to consider. There are many articles and much information about the side effects of various antidepressant medications, which will not be addressed in this article. These should be weighed by the person who is considering medication.

They may need to try more than one medication before the appropriate fit is found for their personal use. It is highly recommended by doctors and pharmacists that the patient work closely with their physician to find the appropriate medication, dose and term of treatment. Staying on top of your use of medication requires a team effort. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP USE OF MEDICATION WITHOUT MEDICAL SUPERVISION.

Any and all use of medications during the taking of anti-depressant medication needs to be consulted with a physician to determine best course of action. MAKE SURE YOUR DOCTOR KNOWS ABOUT ALL MEDICINE, EVEN OVER-THE-COUNTER VITAMINS OR SUPPLEMENTS BEING TAKEN.

Why is this a personal decision?

In March, 2010, a report made by Dr. Charles Raison, a psychiatrist at Emory University Medical School for CNN spoke of cataracts being caused in long-term use of medications used for treatment of depression. In addressing this finding, Dr. Raison stated his opinion that few long-term studies had been conducted to find long-term effects of medications because there are so many variables in patients. Another reason is that there is no baseline for “normal” in the human brain or one established for all of the factors that may lead to the “causal” nature of depression, much less the lifestyle variables and conditions for each patient.

Given these factors, it is important to remember that not everyone:

(a) Is appropriately diagnosed,

(b) Is willing to make lifestyle changes that will enhance recovery options,

(c) Is suffering the same levels of depression,

(d) Has the same state of homeostasis in their brain chemistry,

(e) Understands what depression feels like,

(f) Recognizes the responsibility they have to work through their issues to recover.

These are all roadblocks that must be understood, recognized and navigated when treating depression. If the condition exists in co-occurrence with addiction, the challenges are multiplied.

What is known about side effects with long-term use?

Research has indicated several things that need to be recognized with side effects of anti-depressant medication.

  • Weight gain: Over any period of time, health issues surrounding body weight gain are many. These must be addressed with use of anti-depressants, because new health risks may occur.
  • Some types may cause heart problems such as arrhythmia and palpitations.
  • Drug interactions that can be fatal, especially when combined long-term.
  • Most medications are designed to be used only by those who maintain abstinence from other drugs. Addicts in relapse create additional risks for adverse effects of these medications.
  • Loss of effectiveness. After months or years, the brain becomes less responsive to the medication, a condition known as tolerance. This can cause a return of depressed symptoms, as well as the need for an increased dose or change to another type of medication for treatment.
  • Nausea and other digestive problems seen with use of anti-depressants can become chronic and cause additional digestive conditions when medication is used over years.
  • Recognized sexual difficulties seen with anti-depressant medication can lead to relationship difficulties, and may require the use of other medications; thereby increasing risk of harmful drug interactions. In a long-term sense, these may also create permanent breaches in relationships between sexual partners.
  • Sluggishness and lack of energy caused by medication may create trouble for those with depression, because they are using medication to offset some of these symptoms, which may persist or worsen with use of anti-depressant medication.
  • Sleep pattern disruptions are another source of trouble. Many depressed patients report trouble with sleep on anti-depressant medication. This causes further sluggishness and lack of energy, thus exacerbating the problem.
  • Medications may have some opposite effects, such as agitation, nervousness, twitching and involuntary muscle movement. Long-term use may worsen or create greater frequency of these problems.
  • Headaches have been reported after initial use of anti-depressant medication, and may continue or develop into chronic, episodic events in long-term use of medications.

Specific conditions recognized by long-term use

One of the things seen to be occurring over long-term use of anti-depressants is seen through a group of published papers in Minnesota. They were specifically looking for an answer to the question of whether medications worsen the condition of depression over the course of long-term use. This was a concern first addressed in the late 1960s and early 70s.

A term called “chronification” of depression was coined to address the condition being recognized by an Italian psychiatrist by the name of Giovanni Fava. In a description of how anti-depressants work on the brain, he spoke to the mechanism that was created when the brain developed what he called “oppositional tolerance”.

As the brain seeks stability when being medicated and brain function is altered, it may begin to overcompensate for the medication’s interference, thus creating a worsening of the brain malfunction that creates the condition to begin with.

The human body and brain will always seek to maintain homeostasis. In battling the introduction of medication, the brain may create a counter-balance effect in response. Numerous scientists have explored this theory over the course of the ensuing 40-50 years.

Treating depression that was NOT labeled major depressive illness, or those who had symptoms that were other than a chronic type of depression actually created brain responses to medication-intervention that simulated depression. This is caused by the oppositional forces of medication, even after it is discontinued in those persons who had initial success with the medication. After an initial stabilizing effect, continuing the use of the medication may create what one doctor termed “pro-depressant effect”. This doctor is El-Mallakh, a physician who began his research shortly after reading about “oppositional tolerance”. The effect takes place often in those who relapse and stop use of their medication, those who suffer from anxiety, panic disorder or those with no symptoms who take the medication after being misdiagnosed or who have acted as “controls” during trial drug tests. While they may not have presented with symptoms of acute depression of a major type, they develop these symptoms after use of an anti-depressant medication. Some of these symptoms may last for long periods after discontinuing medication and may not be completely reversible.

How is this important to addicts?

Recognizing serious depressive disorders is challenging for those in early recovery, due to the many factors involved in their brain and body conditions during that time. For that purpose, it is imperative to determine appropriate treatment and to alter the treatment to fit the newfound stability of the patient.

Because symptoms may mimic depression and other mental illness diagnoses, it is important to monitor how medications are affecting these patients. For that reason, most doctors continue to recommend counseling or therapy, along with medication in order to shorten the time of use of medication if possible.

Working closely with mental and physical health providers will ensure that appropriate care is provided for those who suffer from depression. Medications for treatment of depression are most effective when used for short periods of time. They may become ineffective when not needed by the person taking them.

Another danger of long-term use of anti-depressant medications is seen when tolerance is created. Patients are then much more likely to relapse into depressed states. This danger escalates with potency of the prescribed dose, along with the length of use. Also important to note are the side effects when withdrawing from the medication; which also increase incrementally, depending on dosage and length of time the patient has used the drug.

Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist educated at Harvard, summarizes Dr. El-Mallakh’s body of research in an article whose main focus is finding the balance each patient must come to when considering treatment for depression. His pivotal message is: that when viewing the preponderance of evidence showing the side effects that, for many patients outweigh any benefits; it becomes increasingly important to understand and explore all possible options before prescribing or taking medication of this type.

 

References:

1-CNN.com. Ask the Expert: What are antidepressants’ long-term effects? Retrieved online from: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/expert.q.a/03/16/antidepressants.long.term.effects/index.html

2-Web MD.com. How Long Should You Take Antidepressants? Retrieved online from: http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/antidepressants

3-Psychology Today. Now Antidepressant-Induced Chronic Depression Has a Name: Tardive Dysphoria

New research on why antidepressants may worsen long-term outcomes. Retrieved online from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mad-in-america/201106/now-antidepressant-induced-chronic-depression-has-name-tardive-dysphoria

4-Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School. What are the real risks of antidepressants? Retrieved online from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what_are_the_real_risks_of_antidepressants

5-Huffington Post: Healthy Living. New Research: Antidepressants Can Cause Long-Term Depression. Retrieved online from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-peter-breggin/antidepressants-long-term-depression_b_1077185.html


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

 

The Dangers of Bath Salts

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, People and Culture

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In 2011, the mainstream media picked up on a chilling story of cannibalism in Miami, where a certain “new drug” was said to have played a pivotal role in the egregious assault. Although it was later determined that this “new drug” was not to blame for the incident, the cat had already been let of the bag and thousands of curious drugs users learned about a new species of chemical substances, referred too as “bath salts.”

The drug classification of “bath salts” does not pertain to one specific substance. Instead the term is used to categorize a slew of substances all containing one or more manmade chemicals that act similar to cathinone. Cathinone is naturally found in the khat plant, and when ingested it acts as amphetamine-like substance, similar to methamphetamine and MDMA.

Bath salts should not be confused with Epsom salts, which are made for the sole purpose of creating a more relaxing bath. Epsom salts do not carry the same psychoactive properties that are found in bath salts, due to the missing ingredient of cathinone. These relatively new drugs are labeled by distributors as “bath salts” for their similar appearance and also as a way to stay under the federal radar.

Federal Regulation

The original problem and overall foothold that bath salts were able to achieve was skating by under the guise of a “legal high.” In a sense they can be liked to Dust-Off or Freon, drugs that could be legally purchased and used for ulterior purposes. It wasn’t until 2011 that the Drug Enforcement Agency placed an emergency ban on three of the chemicals commonly used in bath salts: methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone. After a year of further research, a permanent ban was placed on two of the manmade cathinones as well as other manmade chemicals used for synthetic-marijuana.

“Legal highs” are always one of the most dangerous forms of substance abuse because the purpose of the substance is usually not intended for human consumption. The screening processes for products intended for human consumption differ greatly from the tests done on inedible items. This can easily lead to the user being poisoned, since a wider assortment of chemicals are allowed to be used.

Drug Description

Generally speaking bath salts come in small packages with contents that resemble white or brownish crystals. The substances can be swallowed, snorted, inhaled or injected with a needle. In most cases, the worst drug reactions have been seen in users who have snorted or injected the substance.

Harmful Effects

In 2011, there were 23,000 reported emergency room visits stemming from bath salt usage. Most users reported having severe chest pains related to high blood pressure and other symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations. Researchers have also classified some users as being in a state of “excited delirium,” which lead to dehydration, break down in muscle tissue and kidney failure. In severe cases, users have died from ingesting a great enough amount or a bad mixture of the manmade cathinone substances.

As far as the specific effects that each user feels while under the influence of the substance, each case is different due to the different cathinones found inside. Largely the effects of the drug can be likened to methamphetamines in the way that users can feel immense outbursts of joy, social interaction and sex drive. However, as is true with methamphetamines, the drug also produces effects such as paranoia, hallucinations, agitation and sometimes violent acts. MDVP alone acts in the same way as cocaine, raising dopamine levels in the brain, except that researchers have estimated that it is 10 times more potent. The hallucinogenic symptoms of the drug can be compared with the visuals of LSD or MDMA.

Although the Federal ban on bath salt related chemicals has been largely effective at cutting down the amount of emergency room visits, the takeaway message should be that “legal highs” are a dangerous game to play with. Most of these new substances are unregulated and with little to no trust in the distributors who purposely mislabel the packaging, there is no way to be able to tell what harmful chemicals make up the substance. In a sense it is blindfolding yourself and ingesting whatever substance is put into your mouth.

While using harmful substances should never be encouraged, it must be noted that there are safer ways of getting “a buzz” then purchasing deviant substances online.

Uncovering the Secrets Behind Palcohol

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Health

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You might think you’ve seen it all when it comes to the varieties of alcohol, but a new product may be hitting the shelves in the near future that has some people concerned: Palcohol.

Palcohol is a powdered alcohol that will make it very convenient for drinkers to have alcohol handy no matter where they are. Don’t want to carry a six pack in your backpack while hiking? No problem. Simply take some Palcohol packets and add them to your water. As a matter of fact, Mark Phillips, developer of the product, states that he created the product mainly to make it easier to enjoy some alcohol while camping, fishing, hiking, or enjoying other activities where you don’t want to lug heavy bottles or cans around.

Palcohol is set to be released sometime in the fall, as it is awaiting label approval by The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Parents of teenagers are not thrilled to hear of the product, fearing that their adolescents will jump at the opportunity to get their hands on the new product. In fact, many fear that they will be smuggling it into schools because it will be so easy to get in via purses and backpacks.

The Varieties

Thus far, Palcohol will come in a few varieties such as vodka, rum, and four different cocktails: the Cosmopolitan, Powderita, Mojito, and Lemon Drop. Drinkers will be thrilled with the product, but others are outraged. Health and substance abuse professionals are concerned that the product will be yet another bad influence on society and especially those that struggle with alcoholism. Parents are concerned that their teens will be able to easily get the powdered alcohol at school and on the streets. They are also concerned that their teens will pour the substance into their food in order to catch a buzz or get drunk. Their worries are legit.

Alcohol addiction

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states that alcohol is the most abused substance in America, with over 17 million men, women, and teens dependent upon the drug. This being said, the majority of the health community does not believe that America needs another form of alcohol to hit the shelves. In fact, most believe that the only thing that is needed is more preventative care and outreach for those who are caught in the grips of alcoholism.

Palcohol snorting?

Not only are some alarmed at the powdered product hitting the shelves, but others are concerned that users will snort the drug in order to try to get an immediate effect from the alcohol. Regarding Palcohol snorting, the official Palcohol website has this to say:

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room”¦.snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.”

This comment has since been removed as many people complained about the way they handled the concern. Essentially, it gave those who didn’t think they could snort Palcohol the idea that they certainly could. After some consideration, Palcohol developers mentioned that they would consider making the formula in such a way that it would cause a great deal of pain to snort it, making it less attractive.

Palcohol is not yet for sale in the United States, but founder Mark Phillips believes that it will go on the shelves sometime in late fall 2014. We can only hope that if it does, users will use the product responsibly just as they would any type of alcohol.


Dominica Applegate has a BS in Psychology, an MA in Counseling and has worked in the mental health field for 12 years before launching her own business as a writer. Specializing in addictions, relationships, codependency, fitness and health, Dominica’s work is ultimately about helping people remove blocks that keep them stuck, because everyone can really create a life that they love.

Increasing Use of ADHD Medication on College Campuses

November 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, People and Culture

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The pressure to get good grades in college often leads college students to take excessive steps or to find shortcuts to success. There had been several studies performed on different college campuses that suggest that the misuse of stimulant drugs, especially drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, is becoming more common by college students looking to get an edge. Ritalin and Adderall are Schedule II controlled substances which places them in the same legal category as methamphetamine, cocaine, etc. Moreover, these drugs are designed specifically for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A recent study has indicated that the practice of using these stimulant medications by college students is increasing at an alarming rate [1].

The researchers of the study used a statistical technique known as meta-analysis which allows researchers to pool together the results from many different studies. The researchers looked at 30 different studies that met fairly stringent criteria to determine the rates of use of these stimulant medications for ADHD on college campuses. The results of the studies indicated that about 17% of college students misuse stimulant medication for ADHD by either taking the medication without a prescription or taking a much larger amount than prescribed. Students who are able to get the medication without a prescription often purchase it from individuals who have a prescription for the medication or from other sources that sell it at increased prices. The primary reason given by students for taking the medication was to improve academic performance; however, there actually is no empirical evidence that taking stimulant medications improves memory or learning ability. What the stimulant medications do is allow students to stay awake longer and to cram or study longer. The medication does not increase their ability to learn material.

Other Complications from Stimulant Abuse

The researchers found that there were several variables that identified stimulant medication misusers from nonusers. These included having issues with alcohol use disorder and marijuana use disorder, belonging to a fraternity or sorority, poorer than average academic performance, and a past history of substance abuse. There are many adverse health effects that can result from misuse of these drugs such as serious cardiovascular complications (e.g. heart attack or stroke), the development of paranoia or extreme hostility, and of course an increased risk for addiction. In addition, a recent study also found that even casual users of stimulant medications designed to treat ADHD demonstrate significant changes in their brain function compared to nonusers [2]. Moreover, because these medications are actually classified as Schedule II drugs individuals who do not have a prescription for them and are caught with them risk some serious legal problems.

Alternatives to Using Stimulant Medication

Interestingly, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of these medications improves academic performance. As mentioned above students that use this medication often use it during finals when they feel the need to study around the clock. There are a few simple principles of learning and memory that would be much more effective:

(A). There is plenty of research that indicates that studying material bit by bit or for short periods of time at a consistent level is much more efficient than cramming or what learning researchers call “mass practice” [3]. Instead of waiting until the night before test or a final to study volumes of material students would be much more efficient in learning by reviewing and studying specific material for an hour or so a day on a consistent schedule.

(B). For reasons this writer could never understand many students study in areas with lots of distractions such as radios playing music, TVs on, other people talking, at sporting events, etc. This practice is highly inefficient. Learning academic material and reading textbooks becomes much more efficient when done in areas that are distraction free.

(C). Students should only take what they absolutely need with them when they are studying. Typically this is means textbooks, notes, and other class materials or study materials such as flashcards. Taking a computer, leaving your cell phone on, etc. only produce more distractions.

(D). Writing and rewriting notes is an efficient way to help learn. Using outlines, flashcards, etc. helps to organize material. Instead of highlighting text in the textbook is more efficient to rewrite it and summarize it then use the summary notes as flashcards or memorization aids.

(E). It is extremely important to make a schedule that you can stick to and then stick to that schedule. Again, regular practice at regular intervals always is more efficient than cramming or mass practice. It is important to set goals for each study session and keep tabs on where you are in relation to what it is you need to know for the upcoming exam. It is also extremely important to understand the expectations for each class and chart your progress towards these.

(F). It is also extremely important to allow schedule breaks during studying. However, during the break it would be counterproductive to engage in an activity that will affect your studying goals in a negative manner such as going out a getting a beer or other activities that lead to distraction from the goal of learning.

(G). Some people work better in groups and some people work better alone. It is important to know where you stand on this issue. If you study with a group it is also important to study with a group that is focused in learning the material as opposed to socializing and engaging in activities that will distract you from your goal of learning the material.

 

References:

[1] Benson, K., Flory, K., Humphreys, K. L., & Lee, S. S. (2015). Misuse of Stimulant Medication Among College Students: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-analysis. Clinical child and family psychology review, 18(1), 1-27.

[2] Harlé, K. M., Shenoy, P., Stewart, J. L., Tapert, S. F., Angela, J. Y., & Paulus, M. P. (2014). Altered neural processing of the need to stop in young adults at risk for stimulant dependence. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(13), 4567-4580

[3] Hatfield, R. C. (2013). The everything guide to the human brain. Avon, MA: Adams.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

People Who Drink Heavily May Have Lower I.Q.

October 13, 2016 by  
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There has been quite a bit of research that has attempted to link people’s drinking habits with their intelligence. For the most part, the research has been inconclusive such that there is no clear, consistent, relationship found between a level of the person’s intelligence and their drinking habits. Research performed in Sweden looked at the drinking habits of over 49,000 men who had been in the Swedish military from 1969 to 1971. These subjects at all had brief IQ tests and had provided information on their alcohol usage, tobacco usage, psychiatric symptoms, their upbringing, and any medical conditions [1]. The researchers were interested in finding if there was an association between intelligence and total alcohol intake in adolescence, intelligence and patterns of drinking in adolescents, and if so does this association persist into adulthood.

The overall findings indicated that lower scores on the IQ tests were associated with a higher consumption of alcohol and risky drinking behaviors such as binge drinking. Moreover, lower social economic status, history of emotional problems, and issues with upbringing were also associated with more risky alcohol consumption. This story was picked up by many of the major news providers. Cruising many of the Internet science reporting sites one can see headlines based on the study that appeared to indicate that heavy drinkers are less intelligent than light or nondrinkers, that drinking alcohol makes you less intelligent, etc. One must remember that these headlines are designed to draw traffic to the sites and are not designed to be objective, accurate, and realistic. The type of research applied in this study is useful in understanding general principles as well as trends/associations in data sets, but it also has a number of inherent problems that limit the types of generalizations that can be made. A few of these issues are discussed next.

Correlational Research

First, this study is a type of study that is known as correlational research, which is the most common form of research done in social sciences. Correlational research basically looks at how things are associated with one another. This type of research is unable to make any type of cause and effect inference based on the associations found in the research (the old “correlation does not equal causation” saying that you’ve heard many times in school). In fact, it would be unethical and impossible to perform a true experiment on people that could determine if drinking alcohol causes them to score more poorly on IQ tests (see [2] and [3] for a discussion on this). So any research study performed on people that looks at intelligence and alcohol usage cannot make the claim that drinking alcohol makes a person less intelligent. In the case of specific deficits associated with long-term chronic alcohol usage there are some studies indicate that chronic heavy alcohol usage over a period of years is associated with specific cognitive deficits; however, in normal populations studies such as this one the researchers are able to make a “drinking more alcohol causes you to be less intelligent” claim.

Second, the types of intelligence tests used in this study are not the standardized intelligence tests that would be used in a clinical study or to provide a clinically useful IQ score. Moreover, the method of data reporting and the measures of drinking behaviors use of this study are not reliable and valid and would be problematic if used in a more controlled study.

Third, there is a complex relationship between social economic status, health “” related behaviors, and how groups of individuals perform on various cognitive tests. The researchers themselves note that there are a number of different explanations that could explain their findings including heavier drinkers having more emotional and social issues, heavier drinkers often belong to more socially/economically disadvantaged groups, and people who score low on IQ test are just less health-conscious than people who tend to score higher on IQ “” type tests.

The researchers state quite unequivocally that for most of us our level of intelligence is actually fairly well established before they begin to drink and that it is a person’s level of intelligence that probably moderates their health-related habits including such things as drinking and smoking. As stated above it is well-established that people who score higher on IQ tests or intelligence tests are as a group more health-conscious than people that score lower on these tests. So, despite the claims of many of the news services that covered this particular study, the study did not produce evidence that drinking “causes” people to be less intelligent, but instead reaffirms older notions that social background, emotional distress, and intelligence interact with people’s behavior such as their alcohol usage.

One last thing to keep in mind about correlational research and research studies in general is that correlational research describes general associations and general trends among groups of people. These trends and relationships are never reported to be prefect relationships in the data. One can find obvious exemptions to the associations described in these types of studies, even in the data from which the research findings are drawn. So, even though this study found a general association between a lower score on an IQ test and higher alcohol consumption or more risky drinking habits, there were also small numbers of subjects in this study that demonstrated the opposite type of association (higher IQ scores and heavy drinking habits) as well as subjects in the study who demonstrated no such association. The overall finding and results are based on the overall trend in the data. We can all search our own experience and find exceptions to the findings; however, if we consider large groups of people instead of single cases these types of trends will be more evident.

References

[1] Sjölund, S., Hemmingsson, T., & Allebeck, P. (2015). IQ and Level of Alcohol Consumption””Findings from a National Survey of Swedish Conscripts. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 39(3), 548-555.

[2] Hatfield, R. C. (2013). The everything guide to the human brain. Avon, MA: Adams.

[3] Hatfield, R. C. (2014). The everything guide to coping with panic disorder. Avon, MA: Adams.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

What You Need to Know About Flakka

September 15, 2016 by  
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Alpha-PVP or flakka, as it is known by its street name, is a chemical relative to MDPV or “bath salts,” which has been illegal in the United States since 2011. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has put a temporary ban on flakka since 2014 and it is believed that this ban will become permanent [1]. However, flakka is so potent and is extremely inexpensive (as low as five dollars per dose) that its use has grown in certain parts of the country. Recent research using established animal models of addiction have been performed to determine the addiction potential of flakka.

These animal models typically use rodents who are trained to press a lever to intravenously infuse small doses of the drug. Initially, a small number of lever presses are required for the rodent to get the drug and then the number of lever presses to receive another dose is gradually increased [2]. The research found that this particular drug was so addictive that the animals would press the lever hundreds of times to receive a single dose of this drug. Its addiction potential was almost identical to MDPV [1], another highly addictive drug recently banned by the DEA.

In addition, flakka administration boosted the physical activity of the rodents and drastically disrupted their body temperature, which are classic physical signs of stimulant use. The research indicates that flakka is one of the worst ever drugs on the market in terms of its physical addiction potential and rodents in laboratory conditions demonstrated much higher drug-seeking lever pressing to obtain flakka in rodents than other addiction trials did for crystal meth [1].

Like most abused stimulant drugs, individuals who initially use the drug and binge on it are at a much higher risk to develop addiction than do individuals who initially use the drug and are able to use just occasionally. However, as these designer drugs increase in their potency, it’s believed that their addiction potential also increases [1]. For instance, rodents in the laboratory trials that did not gradually increase their intake of the drug instead binged on as much as they could get during the initial sessions and demonstrated higher levels of addictive behavior (the tendency to press the lever for longer periods of time in order to get a single dose) than rodents that increase their usage gradually [1].

The issue with drugs like bath salts and flakka is that these drugs are not made in garages any longer but instead come from sophisticated chemistry labs that produce a particular drug and several different analogues of the drug. Once one particular drug gets banned, the manufacturers are able to release another one that is slightly chemically different, but just as potentially dangerous. Recent actions of individuals taking flakka and having hallucinations indicate that the drug is not only dangerous for the user, but potentially dangerous for individuals that interact with heavy users of the drug [3].

Sources:

[1] Aarde, S. M., Creehan, K. M., Vandewater, S. A., Dickerson, T. J., & Taffe, M. A. (2015). In vivo potency and efficacy of the novel cathinone α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone and 3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone: self-administration and locomotor stimulation in male rats. Psychopharmacology, 1-11.

[2] Hatfield, R. C. (2013). The everything guide to the human brain. Avon, MA: Adams.

[3]. Palm Beach County’s newest drug flakka being called “one of the worst roads ever.” http://palmbeachhealthbeat.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2015/05/18/palm-beach-countys-newest-drug-flakka-being-called-one-of-the-worst-drugs-ever/


 Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

New Fingerprint Test Can Determine Cocaine Use

July 22, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News

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Mass spectrometry analysis is a method of analysis that can measure specific types of chemicals in a sample. Researchers in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom used different types of mass spectrometry analyses to analyze the fingerprints of people who attended drug treatment programs [1]. They compared the fingerprints of the individuals to saliva tests in order to determine how the saliva tests and the mass spectrometry analysis tests were related.

When a person uses cocaine, they excrete traces of the chemicals benzoylecgonine and methylegonine as they metabolize the drug. Both of these chemicals show up in saliva tests and in other bodily fluid tests and, if present, indicate that a person has used cocaine because excreting these metabolites is impossible for someone who hasn’t used. However, previous tests that use fingerprint analysis and employ similar methods could only determine whether the person had touched cocaine””they’re unable to determine if the person had actually taken the drug internally. In this study the researchers were able to use an additional technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionization to determine if these two particular chemicals that are metabolites of cocaine, benzoylecgonine and methylegonine were present in the fingerprint residue of individuals. If these chemicals are present, it would be certain that the person providing the fingerprint has used cocaine because they can only be present when the body metabolizes cocaine. The findings indicated that for people who had used cocaine these two chemicals are present in their fingerprint residue.

This type of test has some pretty interesting implications. For example, drug testing is used mainly by the courts, probation departments, prisons, law-enforcement, etc. Traditional drug testing methods that use a person’s urine, saliva or other bodily fluids are often limited by the need for special training, specific storage and disposal methods, off-site analysis of samples, can be vulnerable to tampering, and can be potentially hazardous to individuals doing the testing. This particular technique circumvents all of these issues. In addition, fingerprint analysis is much more difficult, if impossible, to fake.

At the current time this technology is not available for practical use; however, the researchers believe that in the future law-enforcement agencies and other interested in agencies could have a number of portable fingerprint drug tests available to them. These fingerprint analysis techniques would be able to specifically determine if an individual had used cocaine and also are infallible in their ability to identify that the sample comes from that particular person because everyone has a unique fingerprint.

References

[1] Bailey, M. J., Bradshaw, R., Francese, S., Salter, T. L., Costa, C., Ismail, M., … & de Puit, M. (2015). Rapid detection of cocaine, benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine in fingerprints using surface mass spectrometry. Analyst.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

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