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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

PTSD Treated With MDMA

Ecstasy is a popular drug among young adults, especially within the club and festival scene. Historically, the drugs ingredients MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) would be mixed with other adulterants and pressed into pills for consumption. A person who takes an ecstasy pill can expect to experience intense euphoria and mild hallucinations, the desired effect of use. However, the drug is also accompanied by several other, even potentially dangerous side effects, such as:
  • Severe Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Addiction
Today, ecstasy pills are less desired with users desiring what is known as “Molly,” a version of the drug in powdered form that many users believe to be pure MDMA (adulterant-free). While there are occasions of people using pure MDMA, most of the Molly being consumed is far from pure. People attending raves, and electronic dance music festivals should be made aware of the fact that there is no way of knowing exactly what is mixed in with their MDMA, ingredients that could be deadly. Long-term MDMA use can lead to cognitive impairments, depression and anxiety even after discontinuing use of the drug.

Ecstasy is considered to be far from safe, just like other mind altering substances there is still a lot we do not know about MDMA’s effect on the brain. However, it is possible that the drug may prove useful for the treatment of certain mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The treatment of PTSD is extremely important, as it is a debilitating mental illness that affects millions of Americans.

In light of Veterans Day, which was observed earlier this month, PTSD treatment is on the minds of many people.  In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted permission for large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD, The New York Times reports. The decision came in the wake of some promising findings from earlier research, when MDMA showed to be an effective treatment for some combat veterans.

“It changed my life,” said C. J. Hardin, who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward.” 

Hardin had basically given up on life, being unable to function despite trying numerous forms of therapy and medication, according to the article. His PTSD led to the end of his marriage, alcoholism and suicidal ideations. The effective outcome of Hardin using MDMA to treat his PTSD, and others like him, led to the FDA’s approval for further clinical trials. However, researchers are somewhat skeptical about this course of action.

“I’m cautious but hopeful,” said leading PTSD researcher, Dr. Charles R. Marmar, head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine. “If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don’t help 30 to 40 percent of people. So we need more options.” 

It will be interesting to see which way further study will go, and we will be sure to continue following this important story.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How Marijuana Causes Memory Loss

With more states hopping on board the “marijuana legalization train” this month, including the California, it is more important than ever that researchers continue probing how the drug affects humans in the short and long-term. How marijuana impacts the brain is crucial for preventative methods going forward. For example, which age group, gender and ethnic backgrounds are at greatest risk of experiencing negative outcomes of cannabis use.

There are several people who contend that marijuana is significantly safer than other legal substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. And, that very well may be the case in the long run. However, research has long indicated that heavy marijuana use can take a serious toll on cognitive functions, such as memory, particularly wreaking havoc on developing brains. It is vital that that information be made readily available for preventative efforts, considering that marijuana is the most commonly used mind altering substance among young people, after alcohol.

What’s more, the changing sentiments regarding cannabis in various states could give young people the wrong impression. Leading them to think that because it is legal, it is safe. Scientists understand that the human brain is still developing into the mid to late twenties. Introducing mind altering substances of any kind into the mix can prove to be detrimental, potentially resulting in mental health problems. We also know that marijuana can take a toll on memory, which fits nicely into the stereotypical representation of a “stoner.”

While it is widely agreed upon that using cannabis impacts memory, researchers were not exactly sure how. New research suggests that cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), activate receptors in the mitochondria of the brain's memory center, causing amnesia, MNT reports. The research was published in the journal Nature.

The findings are not only important for giving a more concise picture of how marijuana affects the brain, they could also lead to the use of new therapeutic cannabinoids, according to the article. There are millions of Americans with legitimate health problems who rely on cannabis for relief, yet many of those people do not like the side effects that accompany use. The findings of the study are the next step in developing treatments that help people with their condition, without patients having to sacrifice cognitive function.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Addicts Utilize Involuntary Commitment Laws

addiction treatment
It is often in said that it is up to an addict or alcoholic to decide when they are ready to give recovery a shot. The program is not something that can be forced upon someone, and if recovery is to be successful one must do it for themselves. More times than not, people are admitted to a substance use disorder treatment facility or walk into a 12-step meeting because a loved one gave them an ultimatum. While some of the people who fall into that group do manage to sober up and work a program, accumulating significant recovery time, many will not succeed because they are not ready to be honest with themselves.

In recent years, there has been a call for offering treatment over jail for those who are arrested for possession of a narcotic. It is well understood that treatment is better than incarceration when it comes to helping people break the cycle of addiction.

Men and women who go to jail for drug offenses often stay clean during the length of their stay behind bars, but upon release many will turn back to drugs and ultimately end up back in jail. The reason for that is because they have not replaced their addiction with something else, like a program of recovery. Such people do not a have a support network in place who can help them when times are hard. By all accounts, treatment is more effective than jail when it comes to treating addiction.

The American opioid epidemic has created a huge demand for addiction treatment services across the country. But, as you might imagine, there simply are not enough facilities and beds to house the 2.5 million plus people struggling with an opioid use disorder—especially in rural America. While there has been an inter-agency governmental effort to provide greater access to addiction treatment, we are still falling short. Even if someone does manage to get into a program, it is often for too short a period of time for the treatment to be effective; which has led some people to take drastic measures to get help.

There are 38 states that allow civil commitment for substance abuse, NPR reports. Heroin addicts in Massachusetts have been utilizing the civil commitment law to get themselves admitted to a 90-day programs.

If someone is deemed to be “a danger to themselves or others" a family member can ask a judge to commit a loved one to treatment. Up until the opioid epidemic we face today, it was rare, if unheard of, for an addict to request to be committed. However, the deadly nature of opioid addiction has many addicts thinking that court ordered treatment is their only hope against not going to jail or overdosing.

"Basically, it's a good way to get clean," explained an opioid addict from Springfield, Mass. "Because, if you try getting into these five- or six-day [detoxification programs], it takes forever. It takes a month to get into the place, and if you don't have the right insurance, they don't want you." 

To be clear, involuntary commitment laws require that a family member or doctor request a judge to order treatment, according to the article. As long as the addict does not object, a judge should have little problem appeasing the request. Opioid addiction is a life or death situation; opioid addicts are asking family members to help them get committed.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Recovery: Planning Ahead For The Holidays

At Hope by The Sea, we try to make a point to discuss the holiday season. The reason for this is simple, holidays can be a serious trigger for people working a program of recovery. Veterans Day was last week, and Thanksgiving is a week from today—officially kicking off the 2016 holiday season. Normally, we write about a particular holiday the day of or the day before. Discussing tips and techniques for navigating the turbulent waters of the holidays, avoiding triggers and snares as much as possible to ensure one’s recovery is not jeopardized. This year, we decided to take a different approach, writing about recovery over a holiday the week before.

The hope is that we can reach people early on who may be new to the program. Explaining the recovery "do’s and don’ts" over the holiday far in advance could make all the difference for some people, and potentially help someone help themselves refrain from using a drink or drug next Thursday.

During the course of a holiday it can be easy for someone to forget that their recovery must always come first, despite the powerful urge to attend holiday festivities with friends and family who are likely not working a program. That is not to say that you can’t attend Thanksgiving dinner at your family’s home. But rather, if you have plans to attend something that is not organized or hosted by someone in recovery, there is a good chance that you'll exposed to alcohol. If you have a sponsor, they will probably advise you to bring a friend from the program with you. If the gathering becomes trying, you will be able to express how you are feeling with someone who understands.

With Thanksgiving just a week away, you have ample time to plan your day. Deciding which meeting(s) you will attend and practice setting boundaries so when your Uncle offers you a beer, you will know how to best respectfully decline. Most people who do not have a history of addiction, struggle to wrap their head around why someone can't just drink like a normal person. It is not their fault, but it can be a potentially harmful to your program. When enough people offer you a drink, you may find yourself saying, “What’s the big deal? I can have one beer without getting out of control.” It is a line of thinking that has cost many men and women their recovery.

On Thanksgiving Day, whether you are traveling or not, it is vital that you have an airtight plan. Have your cell phone charged at all times, so that you can reach out to your sponsor or support circle peers. You may also have to take calls from people who are struggling them self, and need guidance. Recovery is about reciprocation, if you are not able to be there for others who are in need, you end up sacrificing the solid foundation of your own recovery.

If you can, make sure you make it to your home-group on Thanksgiving. It cannot be over-stressed how important being present is to your recovery. We hope that everyone has a solid plan in place for next Thursday, to better ensure that you will be able to stay clean and sober. In closing, we would like everyone to remember that you can keep your recovery intact and have a good time over the holiday.

“...But we aren't a glum lot. If newcomers could see no joy or fun in our existence, they wouldn't want it. We absolutely insist on enjoying life." (The Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 132)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Telephone-Based Interventions Reduce Alcohol Abuse

Last Friday was Veterans Day, an important holiday when we honor those who have served in our military, particularly in foreign wars. With that in mind we felt it important to discuss substance abuse disorders and assisting people, who are or who have served in the armed forces, in receiving the help they need. The military is very different sector of employment than others, people working a career in the military are held to different standards than, let say, people working for Home Depot.

If someone who is not in the military is struggling with drugs or alcohol, and they seek help, there is a small likelihood that it will affect their standing at work and their ability for upward movement in the company. However, the same cannot be said for those serving in the military who meet the criteria for addiction and need help.

In fact, people with alcohol use problems are far less likely to seek help for fear of it affecting their career, according to researchers who sought to find the best method of intervention for service men and women, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Despite the fact that 47 percent of active-duty military members were binge-drinkers in 2008, the fear of seeking treatment for an alcohol use disorder is quite common, according to the article. The researchers point out that only a small number of military members are referred for evaluation or treatment, and those who do seek help could be subject to disciplinary action or other repercussions.

"If you're in the military and you seek substance abuse treatment, your commanding officer is notified and it goes on your medical record and your military record. That's a huge barrier," said Denise Walker, director of the Innovative Programs Research Group at the University of Washington School of Social Work. 

The study showed that telephone-based interventions could be an effective method of reaching people in the military; the results indicated that participants actually:
  • Reduced their drinking over time.
  • Had lower rates of alcohol dependence.
  • Were more likely to seek treatment.
"The intervention really connects their behavior with their values and goals and wants for themselves," Walker said. "It's a safe place to talk confidentially and freely with someone on the other end who is compassionate and non-judgmental."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nearly 24 Synthetic Marijuana Overdoses

synthetic marijuana
It can’t be overemphasized enough, synthetic drugs are both dangerous and deadly. All across the country people continue to put their life at risk by experimenting with synthetic marijuana, “bath salts” and the like. And, strangely, at this point it seems hard to believe that people do not know the risks, considering the string of horrific news stories linked to the use of these types of drugs.

In fact, nearly two dozen people in downtown St. Louis were treated for synthetic drug overdoses earlier this week, KTVI reports. The majority of (18 of the 23) overdoses involved K2, one of the more common names branded on the packaging of synthetic marijuana.

“One of the challenges in treating these overdoses with the synthetic is first of all, the Narcan we use on regular heroin or opioid-based drugs does not work,” said St. Louis Fire Department, Capt. Garon Mosby. “One of the challenges for our medics upon arriving is determining that what they are treating is indeed a synthetic overdose. A lot of times the patient will have a seizure. We respond to seizures, but it could be induced by this synthetic drug. We’re treating higher body temperatures, hyperthermia is very common. And the patients seem to be very combative.” 

In many cases, people using synthetic marijuana believe that they will have a similar experience to traditional cannabis. But, the reality is far different. Sure they may feel an elevated mood or altered perception, like cannabis. Unfortunately, those feelings are often accompanied by:
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
People who have used, or are considering experimenting with synthetic drugs of any kind, should be aware that there is no way of predicting how the chemicals will affect you. Rarely is an experience the same as the time before, because chemists are constantly altering the chemicals that you are smoking or ingesting. Such drugs can also be habit forming, requiring addiction treatment. If you are struggling with synthetic drugs, please contact Hope by The Sea, as soon as possible.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

California Legalizes Marijuana

With November 8th in the rear-view mirror, we thought it worthwhile to discuss the outcome of the polls with regard both medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational use. In the shadows of one of the most disheartening elections in American history, it is easy to lose sight of legislation happening on the state level. In California, voters decided on a number of important topics, from trying minors as adults to the repeal of the death penalty; now judges, not prosecutors decide which minors are tried as adults and there will be a shorter appeal process for death penalty cases.

Yet, many Californian voters are most pleased to hear that adult marijuana use is now legal. Just, twenty years after California became the first state to approve the use of marijuana for medical problems, it is now one of eight states where it is legal for people over the age of 21 to use the controversial drug. Recreational cannabis use is now legal in:
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine (still counting, with "Yes" in the lead)
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
Before voters went to the polls earlier this week, there were 25 states and the District of Columbia that had medical marijuana programs. There are now 28 states with addition of Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas. More than half of the United States has adopted medical marijuana and almost ten states have legalized the drug; surely this is a trend that is not going to change.

With California legalizing cannabis, many believe that it is the tipping point that will lead to the end of the federal prohibition. While most would agree that prohibition has done little good, lawmakers need to work hard in the states where the drug is legal to ensure that teens do not have misconceptions about the drug. Adolescents need to be made aware that:
  • Legal, does not mean safe.
  • Marijuana can be addictive.
  • The drug has been linked to the development of psychiatric problems.
Naturally, not everyone is thrilled about legalization. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy tells The Washington Post:

“It’s disappointing that big marijuana and their millions of out-of-state dollars were able to influence the outcome of these elections. We will continue to hold this industry accountable, and raise the serious public health and safety issues that will certainly come in the wake of legalization.”

Friday, November 4, 2016

"Kids Kick Opioids" in West Virginia

opioid overdose
Opioid addiction continues to plague millions of Americans. Every day, nearly one hundred people lose their life in the United States to an opioid overdose. Families are losing loved ones, parents having to bury their children and children having to bury their parents. Sadly, love for one’s own family is often not enough to push an addict into addiction treatment. Even when people would like to seek help, it can be difficult to find it in rural America, such as West Virginia—a state hit particularly hard by the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.

West Virginia is not alone, the entire Appalachian region and much of the Northeast has been devastated by elevated overdose death rates in the wake of heightened opioid use and abuse. A number of states have struggled to provide adequate addiction treatment services, but even when they are available many opioid addicts lose their life before they have a chance at recovery.

Unfortunately, making the decision to seek help is personal. Efforts to guilt and shame people into treatment usually end in failure. Such pressures typically come from close friends and adult family members privy to the situation. Addiction is a complex disease that will fight tooth and nail to counter any thoughts of accepting help. The disease may lack a conscious, but it will play tricks inside the minds of addicts, in order to keep its flames fanned.

However, there have been times when addicts and alcoholics have made the choice to seek help and have managed to maintain a program of recovery. But, not for the sake of themselves, rather for the sake of their children. In an attempt to piggyback of such instances, the Attorney General of West Virginia launched a contest called “Kids Kick Opioids,” Your 4 State reports. Children who have been affected by their parent's opioid addiction and overdose death were asked to share their story, with the hope that it would convince other parents battling addiction to seek treatment.

The winner of the contest was third-grader Jacey Chalmers whose father died from a heroin overdose when Jacey was just six years old, according to the article. Chalmers’ story was selected out more than 2,000 entries that were submitted by students in West Virginia.

"The reason why we did it, and it was so important [is] because we want to save more than one life,” said Jacey. “We want to have my daddy help somebody not take one drug or do anything like that."

Jacey’s story will appear throughout the state in newspapers as a public service announcement.

Office of the West Virginia Attorney General

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Perceived Risk of Electronic Cigarette Use

There are a significant number of people working a program of recovery who have made the switch from traditional, combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes. While there is still a lot that is not understood about the long term effects of electronic cigarette use, it is widely agreed upon by experts that e-cigs are less harmful than traditional methods of tobacco use. However, if you use e-cigarettes, it is important to keep in mind that safer does not necessarily mean harmless.

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for the regulation of e-cigarettes; manufacturing and sales which occurred virtually unchecked for a long time. Finally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that e-cigarettes would be subject to the same laws as any other tobacco product. Meaning, that the devices can only be used legally by adults over the age of 18. The push for legislation was largely spearheaded by those with concerns about adolescent use.

Teenagers have been lured by e-cigarette manufacturers due to the fruity e-juice flavors which is vaporized and then inhaled. In fact, more teens are using e-cigarettes now than regular cigarettes. Age restrictions will hopefully make it more difficult for teens to acquire e-cigs. While the devices may be safer than tobacco, nicotine is still addictive and may lead to the use of other, more dangerous mind altering substances.

Moving forward, public perception of e-cigarettes should be driven by science rather than speculation. There has been a push to better understand the devices and the dangers associated with them, which has served to better inform the public. In fact, the perceived risk of electronic cigarette use has risen dramatically in relatively short period of time.

In 2012, nearly 12 percent of adult smokers reported perceiving e-cigs to be equally or more harmful than combustible cigarettes. However, data from the Tobacco Products and Risk Perception surveys indicate that 35 percent of adult smokers perceived e-cigarettes to be equally or more harmful than traditional cigarettes in 2015, according to a press release from Georgia State University. The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Although the impact of long-term use of e-cigarettes on health is still unknown," the researchers at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, write, "the available scientific evidence indicates that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes, and that smokers switching to e-cigarettes could benefit from a decrease in health risks related to smoking combustible cigarettes."

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