What is Mojo? The Growing Popularity Behind This Synthetic Drug

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A relatively new drug trend is skyrocketing among teenagers these days and its name is “mojo.” Mojo, as the kids call it, or more commonly heard as synthetic marijuana, is an artificial chemical drug structured similarly to THC, the active ingredient found in pot, that when sprayed on herbs can be smoked and mimics the effects of marijuana. The reason for its surge of popularity among adolescents is due to the fact that it’s easy to get ahold of and it avoids the complications of the law. Synthetic cannabis can be purchased in local head shops or obtained online and is often marketed as incense or under brand names like Spice or K2. In addition, it doesn’t yield a positive drug test result.

“So if it’s technically legal, what’s the big deal?” is a question that’s constantly asked among the adolescent population in drug rehabilitation. Well in recent years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has deemed it a, “drug of concern” (1) due to the fact that it’s causing a flood of emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers. “Adverse health affects associated with its use include seizures, hallucination, paranoid behavior, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, racing heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure (2). In essence, it’s far more dangerous than regular marijuana because it’s artificially created rather than coming from a natural plant source like it was originally thought to and therefore its side effects are far more severe. It can easily be compared to other legal synthetic drugs like bath salts that are also known to induce states of disturbing psychosis and are not FDA approved (3). As a recovery support specialist, examples of behavior observed firsthand from our adolescent clients going through withdrawal from mojo include violent shaking, ghostly white complexion, fever, nausea, psychotic episodes, rage, and or hallucinations believing that they were Jesus Christ resurrected. “Psychiatrists have suggested that the lack of an antipsychotic chemical, similar to cannabidiol found in natural cannabis, may make synthetic cannabis more likely to induce psychosis than natural cannabis” (4). This drug can yield especially dangerous results for individuals with a preexisting history of mental illness as these, “dramatic psychotic states induced by use have been reported to last for weeks” (5).

Various states have been working feverishly to ban the sale of the substance and there are national efforts at work to gain control of the matter because it’s becoming readily apparent that this mood-altering drug is quickly becoming a risk to our youth. The scariest part of the epidemic however, is the blind eye adolescents seem to be turning to the reality of its danger. They want what they can get their hands on easily, it makes them feel high, and it avoids the law. Most of them don’t even view it as a real drug but rather a “fake” drug so therefore they see no real risk. It’s gotten to the point where the vast majority of our admitted adolescent clients to our rehabilitation facility are there for synthetic cannabis use and due to the overwhelming numbers on our wait list for admittance, the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

References:

  1. Donna Leinwand (May 24, 2010).24, 2010-k2_N.htm “Places race to outlaw K2 ‘Spice’ drug”.USA Today. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  2. Meserve, Jeanne (February 28, 2011).“DEA imposes “emergency” ban to control synthetic marijuana”. CNN. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  3. “K2 Drug Facts”. K2drugfacts.com. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  4. Müller, H.; Sperling, W.; Köhrmann, M.; Huttner, H.; Kornhuber, J.; Maler, J. (2010). “The synthetic cannabinoid Spice as a trigger for an acute exacerbation of cannabis induced recurrent psychotic episodes”.Schizophrenia research118 (1″”3): 309″”310. doi:10.1016/j.schres.2009.12.001. PMID 20056392.
  5. Hurst, D; Loeffler, G; McLay, R (October 2011). “Psychosis associated with synthetic cannabinoid agonists: a case series.”.The American Journal of Psychiatry168 (10): 1119. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.11010176. PMID 21969050.

M. Lujan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Tulane University. She now works with adolescents in drug rehabilitation centers providing recovery support and teaching life skills.

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.

A Closer Look at Welfare and Substance Abuse

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In recent years there has been a large push from conservative state legislatures to implement drug testing for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Already 12 states have passed laws allowing for drug testing of TANF applicants, and 12 more have filed drug-testing proposals awaiting federal approval.

The effort undoubtedly centers upon the stereotypical notion that drug and alcohol abusers make up the most poverty-stricken demographics of the American population. Since it is largely assumed that they are already using drugs and alcohol, hence their current situations, citizens feel that they have the right to decide whom their tax dollars should be spent on.

In order to show the “supposed effectiveness” of this new push for drug and alcohol screening, Tennessee, which implemented their screening law in 2014, will be analyzed as a case study. Of the 16,017 total applicants, 37 applicants confirmed their own use of use of drugs and thus were ordered to take a drug test. All 37 were found to have drugs in their systems making them ineligible for benefits.

Just in case you’re wondering, 37 applicants testing positive for illegal substances out of 16,017 in total comes out to 0.23 percent. Not only do these numbers sufficiently prove the outrageousness of the laws premise, moreover it cost taxpayers nearly $6,000 to implement the program.

It is essential to understand that so far TANF has been the only program to be targeted for drug screening, since it is on the state level. Federally funded programs have yet to implement such laws, which would affect a vastly larger amount of citizens. Currently only 3.4 million American receive TANF on a yearly basis, compared to 46 million Americans who qualify for food stamp benefits.

While TANF is the first program to be hit, it will likely not be the last if conservative lawmakers are able to follow through with their aims. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has publically stated that he wants to expand drug tests to unemployment insurance and other state funded programs.

Texas is another state that has sought to broaden the scope of drug testing social welfare applicants. The Texas Legislative Budget Board estimates that the law expansion would cost the state around $30 million annually, due to a federal block of applicants being charged for their own drug tests. States are forced to pay for their own tests, which range from $25 to $75 per person.

When asked about the “successfulness” of Tennessee’s new testing policy Rep. Glen Casada told the Tennessean, “That’s 37 people who should not be receiving taxpayer subsidies, because they are not behaving as they are supposed to. If the taxpayers are going to support you there are certain criteria you need to adhere to. This is a good use of taxpayer money.”

It will be interesting to hear from Texas citizens if they too believe that a $30 million witch-hunt is a “good use of taxpayer money.”

CBS Denver recently published an article regarding El Paso County’s new law that will call for drug testing of TANF applicants. The article begins, “People who are on welfare in El Paso County and abuse alcohol or drugs need to be ready to get treatment.”

Although there is no cited author to the article, one might inquire where exactly the TANF applicant is going to get the money to pay for rehabilitation. Naturally, CBS Denver is unaware of the actual costs of admitting ones self into rehab. Additionally, one of the stipulations of receiving benefits is that the individual is required to participate in 30 hours per week of job training programs, which would be impossible if the individual is in rehab.

In short, the new legislative attempts to curve state tax dollars away from supposed drug abusers are straying off in the wrong direction. With little to no resources or options for rehabilitation, states are condemning drug abusers without offering any support or alternative measures.

While no one condones drug abuse, those who suffer from addiction should be offered help instead of condemnation by their elected officials. The new laws are completely backwards, focusing on punishment rather than recovery. If states want to require clean drug tests then also must offer affordable rehabilitation options for those who suffer from the disease.

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.

 

All About Mate

January 13, 2017 by  
Filed under People and Culture

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A number of drugs recovering addicts have to pry themselves away from are stimulants of one sort of another. A rushing energy boost that can also enhance concentration and speed is appealing to many people “” especially ambitious people who would prefer to get as much done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many of these drugs come with serious negative side effects. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and even prescription medication like Adderall all can carry serious consequences for people who become addicted to them “” and since these are highly addictive substances, the issue of addiction is real. When a recovered addict finally is free of these types of substances, he or she might sometimes crave an energy and concentration boost that is a little different than the caffeine buzz from coffee. That’s where Yerba Mate comes into the picture!

Yerba Mate is a part of the holly species. The plant is made into a tea that is commonly consumed in South America, but has become increasingly popular in other parts of the world. Although Mate contains less caffeine than coffee and many other teas, its energy boost is unique, memorable, and useful for anyone looking for a pick-me-up that doesn’t involve turning to hard drugs. With a buzz that is distinctly different from coffee, one of the best perks of Mate is the benefit of drinking the tea beyond the immediate boost.

The energizing tea “” which tastes a bit like green tea “” is said to be rich in antioxidants. The drink is also touted as a way to help maintain or even lose weight all while aiding digestion and lending a helping hand to cardiovascular health. The way that Mate helps to sustain energy is can particularly useful for those who might have addiction issues with stimulants. It’s not as jolting or dangerous as drugs like amphetamines and cocaine, but it raises alertness and, according to countless anecdotes, it does so in a longer-lasting and calmer way than most forms of caffeine.

However, it’s important to note that people who drink Mate should do so in moderation (isn’t that the key for so many things in life?). Mate is full of health benefits, but some research suggests that people who drink excessive levels of the tea might have an increased risk for specific types of cancer. A person would have to drink more than a liter of Mate a day before having reason to legitimately worry about this possibility, which, for many people, is not a likely amount to consume. In the USA, Mate is not consumed the way that it is in South America, where people are regularly seen walking the streets with Mate and hand and stations with boiling water to refill Mate gourds are present.

It’s considered to be perfectly safe to enjoy a glass or two of Mate a day, so go ahead and give this tea a whirl if you’re looking for a way to increase your energy and focus without all of the jitters amid your recovery from stimulants.


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.

Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse on the Downswing

January 5, 2017 by  
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Alcohol is now being used at its lowest frequency in teens according to study conducted by the University of Michigan. Although the problem still exists, there is hope on the horizon.

Research has shown that most effective means of preventing substance abuse stems from early drug prevention programs implemented in the K-12 education system. In order to track the effectiveness of such methods, the University of Michigan started the Monitoring the Future study in 1975. Every year 50,000 students from 8th, 10th and 12th grade are surveyed to get a better understanding of national trends in youth substance abuse.

The 2014 totals for the youth demographic using illicit substances as well as alcohol came back with some promising results, although the problem is far from being solved. The study found that alcohol usage is at its lowest point since the study was started 40 years ago. This is largely attributed to anti-alcohol and drug campaigns started in schools from an early age.

To put alcohol abuse in relative perspective the totals in 1997 showed that 61 percent of students surveyed had drunken alcohol in the previous 12 months. The 2014 totals show that that figure has dropped 20 percent coming in at 41 percent.

It must be noted that 41 percent of students drinking alcohol in middle and high school are still alarming numbers, but the downslide does give a glimmer of hope for the future. Since 12 months is a large period time, the survey also asked more specific questions such as if the students had engaged in binge drinking within the past two weeks. Of the three grades combined only 12 percent said that they had consumed more than five alcoholic drinks in one sitting.

Surprisingly enough marijuana is also on the downswing dropping from 23 percent of students smoking weed in 2013 to 21 percent in 2014. Students also said that marijuana was not as easily available as it had been previously.

“Even though the indicators are very good news, at the same time we cannot become complacent. This is a stage where their (teens) brains are most vulnerable. We need to continue our prevention efforts,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Naturally the substance abuse problem in the youth demographic will not be solved over night. However, trends can be established and policy makers can continue on with the programs that have been shown to be the most effective.

Government-backed Messages to Kids Regarding Drinking

December 29, 2016 by  
Filed under People and Culture

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Unless you have been living in a cave you have probably noticed the many government and state sponsored advertisements and messages designed to curb alcohol, tobacco, and drug use in young people. Do they work?

Large campaigns often target younger people because it is believed that if drug abuse and addiction can be addressed at an early age the problem with abuse and addiction will be rectified. What does the research say about the effectiveness of these large campaigns? Read on.

1. D.A.R.E.

The conclusion of the U.S. General Accounting Office was that D.A.R.E. was ineffective despite spending millions. A new allegedly more effective program was launched in 2014.

In the United Kingdom there are over 1.2 million hospital admissions annually related to alcohol use, over 15,500 deaths related alcohol abuse, and the cost of alcohol abuse in Britain runs into the billions of British pounds. Binge drinking among younger people is a big issue in the UK and a recent study in Great Britain investigated governmental attempts to tackle and reduce excessive binge drinking by British youth [1].

2. Say NO!

A saying popularized by Nancy Reagan was found to have no effect on drug use in US youth

Researchers from four UK universities looked at the effects of government-sponsored anti-binge drinking messages directed at younger individuals. The researchers looked at data from over 200 alcohol advertisements and their effects on young people between the years 2004 through 2007. They found that the government-sponsored advertisements were generally ineffective because these advertising campaigns actually increased the notion that sensible drinking is boring and conformist in nature, whereas binge drinking is reactionary, nonconformist, and even fun.

The researchers concluded that government officials and government employees who design these campaigns actually ignore the reasons that many of the British youth enjoy drinking. The researchers also concluded that the funding for these campaigns, which runs into the millions of British pounds, is simply being misused because the messages invoke a reactionary response by young binge drinkers or are considered irrelevant to them [1].

3. This is your brain on drugs.

This was a large-scale US anti-narcotics campaign by Partnership for a Drug-Free America that used two televised public service announcements. While amusing they were generally ineffective.

The United States has a long history of government-sponsored anti-drinking and anti-drug campaigns.Of course the most infamous government intervention against alcohol use is Prohibition which outlawed alcohol possession nearly all together and ran from 1920 to 1933. The program failed miserably. Government sponsored programs designed to reduce use of other drugs came to fruition with the Harrison Narcotics Act, passed in 1914, as the first federal drug policy.  This act restricted the manufacture and sale of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and morphine.  It too was highly unsuccessful in curbing drug use and simply fostered the development of large criminal organizations that specialized in manufacturing and delivering these drugs to users [2].  

4. Potheads

Advertisements have recently attempted to target specific groups of young people. Ads targeting marijuana use are notoriously ineffective.

More recent government that sponsored programs such as the “Just say no!” slogan, D.A.R.E. and others have been equally ineffective and many researchers have suggested that these programs often produce what is known as a “boomerang effect” with drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana where the more young people are exposed to these campaigns the less effective they are.

Independent research on the US Government’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has also found it to be generally ineffective [4].Moreover, there is research that suggests in response to these large campaigns many at-risk younger people tend to romanticize the use of these drugs and see their use as rebellious and as a means to develop a personal identity [3]. These findings are consistent with the recent findings from the UK [1].

5. Controversy

Many of the government advertisements targeting youth have stirred controversy after shifting the blame to the victim.

The British researchers suggested that smaller, targeted, and practical interventions at specific groups might be more effective than mass campaigns promoted by the government and the media [1]. Many individuals in the United States have suggested legalization for illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine or more specific practical and interventions/messages as opposed to the overall negative messages directed at younger audiences, much in line with the suggestions of the researchers in the UK [2, 3].

References

[1] Hackley, C., Bengry-Howell, A., Griffin, C., Szmigin, I., Mistral, W., & Hackley, R. A. (2015). Transgressive drinking practices and the subversion of proscriptive alcohol policy messages. Journal of Business Research.

[2] Lise, W. (2012). War on Drugs. Publications Oboulo. com.

[3] van Wormer, K., & Thyer, B. A. (Eds.). (2009). Evidence-based practice in the field of substance abuse: A book of readings. Sage.

[4] Hornik, R., & Jacobsohn, L. (2007). The best laid plans: Disappointments of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. LDI issue brief, 14(2), 1-4.


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.

The Dangers of Bath Salts

December 8, 2016 by  
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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.

7 US Cities That Drink the Least

November 24, 2016 by  
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Young girl holding martini glass with red drink in the bar

Birds of the feather flock together, or so they say! If you’re living a clean and sober life, you likely find great reprieve being among others who have made the same lifestyle choices. There’s a lot of power in having some sober camaraderie, and that’s an important thing to consider if you’re thinking about moving or visiting a place. That’s why we’ve put together this slideshow of US cities that drink the lease. If you’d like to get away to a place where you can unwind without so much pressure to drink or use drugs, consider one of these US cities.

1. Delray Beach, Florida

The New York Times called Delray Beach, Florida “the country’s largest and most vibrant recovery community” in 2008. The city itself is just over 60,000 people in population, but it is home to over 300 weekly recovery meetings boasting more than 5,000 members. There’s even a local recovery motorcycle club.

2. Minneapolis, Minnesota

This Midwestern town is known for its wholesomeness and, apparently, its numerous rehab centers. There are 35 high schools in the US dubbed “sober” high schools and Minneapolis is home to 11 of them.

3. Nashville, Tennessee

According to data from The Daily Beast, Nashville is the most sober city in the USA with the fewest number of drinks per citizen each week (8.92). The city is also home to almost 300 weekly recovery meetings and the active music scene and mild climate can keep idle hands and wandering minds busy in their sobriety throughout the year.

4. Prescott, Arizona

This budding southwestern town is home to many facilities that are devoted to sober living as well as rehab and detox centers as well as halfway houses. The city’s population is only 40,000, but the sobriety scene is strong.

5. New York, NY

The next few cities “” starting with New York “” will likely surprise you for being on this list. But sometimes the greatest haven for a sober person is in a place where booze and drugs abound. The temptations are real in these cities, but the sober communities are also undeniably thriving and strong. There are more than 4,000 recovery meetings each week in NYC.

6. Boston, MA

Just as is the case with NYC, citizens of Boston aren’t strangers to drinking culture, but for every place where excessive drinking takes place, healing among those who need it also takes place. With more than 2,000 recovery meetings each week in Boston, a recovering addict can easily find his or her place among likeminded individuals on a similar journey.

7. Los Angeles, CA

Recovery is so common in the city of angels that there are over 3,000 recovery meetings each week in the area. With a warm climate and laid-back culture, LA residents purportedly take a leisurely approach to their recovery meetings “” arriving early to chat and leaving with friends from the group for a post-meeting activity. Celebrities are often cited at these meetings, too. It makes sense: the pressures that come with the entertainment industry and fame put a lot of people into a difficult situation with alcohol and/or drugs.


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.

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.

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