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Addiction Parenting Prevention Recovery Safety

Prevention: The Best Way to Store and Dispose of Prescription Drugs

We see a lot of adolescents who have been abusing prescription drugs, and prescription drug use is being hailed as the new gateway drugs. Parents are often concerned their teens Blossom©saritzrogerswill experiment with street drugs and/or alcohol, but many teens are dipping into a familiar medicine cabinet, looking for a free and easy way to get high. A sticker that says, “May cause drowsiness,” can be misinterpreted to mean one can get high from it. Unfortunately, this sticker can be found on all sorts of medications, including anti-depressants and blood pressure medications.

Sometimes, prescriptions are stolen by teens for their own use, and sometimes it’s for the purpose of trading from friend to friend or at parties. Pharmaceutical bartering amongst the teen set is far too common; two driving factors of adolescent prescription drug abuse are:

1: The misperception that prescription medication isn’t harmful

2: Ease of access to these drugs at home or a friend’s house

 

Some kids start experimenting with prescription drugs because they are trying to find ways to cope with their stress or anxiety; some use it to try to get an “in” with a certain crowd. There are those, too, who have been prescribed a medication for one thing, but notice a “benefit” for something else (like more focus on a test), and begin misusing it or sharing it with friends.

 

  • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than 71, 000 children ages 18 and under are seen in the ER for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription medications get them from friends, family, and acquaintances.
  • Among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug (behind marijuana)
  • Teens ages 12-17 have the second-highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse; young adults 18-25 have the highest rate.
  • Every day, 2700 teens try prescription drugs for the first time with the intent of getting high.
  • Nearly one in four teens have taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them.
  • One in three teens report being offered a prescription drug or OTC medication for the purpose of getting high.
  • One in three teens report having a close friend who abuses prescription pain medications.
  • One in four teens report having a close friend who abuses cough medicine to get high.
  • One in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.

 

Parents must take preventative action with their medication. It’s imperative that all medications are accounted for and kept locked up. Do you safely dispose of unused medications? Or do they reside in the dark corners of your medicine cabinet, collecting dust on their exhausted expiration dates?  Are they loosely out on a counter or tabletop for easy access?  Our kids watch us all the time; they learn from our actions and reactions, and they mimic us our behaviors. It’s important to mirror positive actions so our kids do the same. Kids will try anything on, and if taking a lot of medications is part of your habitual behavior, they may try that on too.

 

Here are some guidelines to support healthy means of communication around the use and misuse of prescription drugs, and the safe way to store and dispose of all prescription medications:

  • Communicate with your kids and educate them about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Be honest and age appropriate.
  • Don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you. (A recent study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showed that 27 percent of parents have taken a prescription medicine without having a prescription for it themselves.)
  • Store your medications in a secure place..
  • Keep a record of what medications you have and how much you have – have this information before you lock the meds up.
  • Keep note of your refills;
  • If your teen has been prescribed a medication, make sure YOU monitor it, not them;
  • Educate your friends and relatives about the danger of prescription drugs and encourage them to store them properly;
  • Discard drugs that are either expired or are no longer needed;

 

See HERE for the the list of medications you can flush; beyond this list, please ensure that medications are disposed of as follows, per FDA.gov:

 

1: Remove medication from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).

2: Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag. Then you can toss them in the trash.

 

Please stay on top of this. The public has access to many viable resources like SAMHSAPartnership for a DrugFree America, and the Medicine Abuse Project for more information and free pamphlets. If you suspect your child is abusing prescription drugs or any drugs at all, seek help.

Categories
Addiction Mental Health Recovery

The Challenge and Freedom of Letting Go

Are you faced with a big breakup and having trouble letting go?  We all know breaking up is hard to do. It’s tough whether you’re in a failing relationship, a waning friendship, a job that isn’t working out, a partnership that feels splintered, or any relationship that has simply stopped serving you. What if that relationship you so desperately need to end is your relationship with drugs and alcohol? What if the relationship that isn’t serving you is your relationship with your anger or greed? Being faced with a breakup of this caliber is tough.

 

It’s not ironic to me that we stay when we should go. Letting go is hard. It’s scary. It’s full of what-ifs and the unknown. Letting go of something that isn’t working can mean failure, but really what it most often shows us is great success. Our attachment to the familiar holds us back from investigating and cultivating change. In fact, change is something many of us fear. I once knew someone who was so afraid of change that he stayed in the same house, wore the same clothes, ate the same foods, spoke to the same people, and lived in the same town, all to his detriment. Every time an opportunity for change appeared, he recoiled, and became angry, volatile, even. The unknown was unbearable; change was his bogeyman. He ended up stuck in the sticky bitterness of his fear.

 

Addiction and the behaviors around addiction represent an unhealthy relationship. Addiction is that relationship we attach to while spinning out of control, creating external and internal harm, along with a cycle of shame. This relationship with addiction reminds me of the abuse cycle itself:

 

  • We are intimidated by it
  • We feel threatened by it
  • We feel bad about ourselves because of it
  • It isolates us and controls our relationships
  • We deny its existence
  • We lose our jobs or can’t get a job
  • It makes us financially unstable
  • It lies to us, making us feel good so we forget and start all over

 

These relationships with addiction and anger are the ones we need to end. Breaking up is hard to do. In letting go and moving toward freedom, we face the unknown, and often times, we have to face the thing we were hiding with our addiction. Things like untreated mental illness, poverty, sexual abuse, domestic violence, alcoholic parents or caregivers, and untended trauma are daunting. They are the beasts in the shadows. Still, the relationship to addiction has to end in order for any truths to come out. We have to lean toward our difficulties so we can eventually move through them. This is the breakup of your life: the one that will change your life for the better, and the one that will ultimately set you free.

 

Your relationship to addiction does not serve you. It never did. This breakup? It will serve you well. Recovery will set you on a path to heal. You will learn to set healthy boundaries; you will learn to love yourself; you will learn to be of service. You will learn to let go.

 

Remember this: Asking for help is a form of self-care, and accepting it is a form of self-love. You are worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Addiction Heroin Opiates Prescription Drugs Substance Abuse

The Suburban Rise of Heroin Use

Heroin use is on the rise.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the makers of Oxycontin changed their formula, presumably making it harder to abuse, something unforeseen happened: heroin use began to rise amongst white suburbanites. This is a significant shift from the historically urban prevalence of heroin use. It used to be that heroin was the drug of choice for city-dwelling, young, male minorities. However, the current path to heroin use is paved with prescription opioids. The reality is, addiction doesn’t have any real barriers; it has a broad reach and an even broader topography.

 

When 9,000 patients in treatment centers nationwide were surveyed, its findings showed “90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were relatively young — their average age was 23. And three-quarters said they first started not with heroin but with prescription opioids like OxyContin.”

 

While RX opioids are still one of the more popular drugs of choice, the shift toward heroin was a direct result of cost and availability. For example, OxyContin can go for $80 a pill on the street, while a bag of heroin might be $10. An addict doesn’t care whether or not the chemical compound is safe or consistent: they care about the high.

 

In 2007, over 2,000 people died of heroin overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 200,000 went to ERs after overdosing in 2008.

 

According to this NY Times article, “from 2007 to 2012, the number of people who reported using heroin in the previous year grew to 669,000 from 373,000,” presenting a substantial increase in heroin use.

 

Experts are saying that the aggressive prescribing of opioids like OxyContin and Percocet in the last decade is part and parcel to what has caused the increase in heroin use in wealthier areas. These areas have more access to medical care and doctors willing to write prescriptions. As patients become addicted and the prescriptions dry up, addicts are hitting the street. What seems cheaper at first ends up being financially debilitating as the addiction progresses. That $10 bag becomes two bags, then three, then 10, and before you know it, that heroin addiction has bankrupted your family and destroyed your life.

 

In order to gain control of the increase in heroin use, physicians need to prescribe more cautiously, lessoning the quantity and frequency of prescriptions. And those addicted, be they teens or adults, need to get help and get into treatment. There’s no hope for moderation for an addict – complete abstinence is the only way.

 

Categories
Addiction Parenting Prescription Drugs Prevention Substance Abuse

A New SAMHSA Report Brings Xanax Front and Center

According to a new report issued by SAMHSA  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

(Photo credit: Dean812)

Administration), there has been an increase in ER visits due to the recreational use of alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax.  Per the report, “The number of emergency department visits involving non-medical use of the sedative alprazolam (Xanax) doubled from 57, 419 to 124, 902 from 2005 to 2010, and then remained stable at 123, 744 in 2011.”

 

Xanax is part of a class of medications called benxodiazapenes and is indicated for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepenes work on the brain and the nerves – our central nervous system – producing a calming effect.  Benzodiazepenes enhance a chemical, which is naturally found in the body called GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), which plays a role in regulating the nervous system.

 

It’s noted that Xanax is often one of the first pharmaceutical interventions given to someone struggling with anxiety or panic attacks. In fact, “Alprazolam is the 13th most commonly sold medication in 2012, and is the psychiatric medication most commonly prescribed in 2011.”

 

While Xanax may be effective when used appropriately for anxiety and panic disorders, it is profoundly dangerous when used recreationally. It is highly addictive and often encourages drug-seeking behavior. SAMSHA reports, “The non-medical use of alprazolam can lead to physical dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and seizures.  If alprazolam is combined with alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system — such as narcotic pain relievers — the effects of these drugs on the body can be dangerously enhanced.”

 

The side effects of Xanax (alprazolam) include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Disinhibition.
  • Skin rash.
  • Constipation.
  • Hallucinations (very rare)

 

According to the SAMHSA study, “In 2011, there were over 1, 200, 000 emergency department visits” as a result of recreational prescription drug use. Often times, recreational users mix several types of prescription drugs or add alcohol, creating a chemical mash-up. How these drugs are acquired is also a problem. It’s not uncommon to procure them from the medicine cabinets of parents, or parents of friends. This fact alone is a reminder for parents to lock away medications that present a danger and get rid of unused medications they have lying around the house. Keep in mind, expiration dates are a non-factor to a teen looking to get high and the reality is, all drugs not currently being used need to be viewed as dangerous.

 

The SAMSHA study acts as a reminder to pay closer attention to our children, and to take responsibility for the medications we have on hand. Adolescence breeds curiosity and is fraught with risk-taking behavior. What’s normal can very quickly go rogue. A child’s curiosity coupled with a genetic propensity for addiction is dangerous; likewise, a child’s curiosity coupled with a lack of impulse control (normal) and a rapidly developing brain (normal) is also dangerous. There is no “safe” curiosity when it comes to drugs. And misusing prescription drugs is not an exception.

Categories
Addiction Alcoholism Mental Health Recovery Spirituality

What is Refuge Recovery?

Noah Levine’s Refuge Recovery provides another approach to recovery–one seeped in Buddhist practice. We were inspired by his talk at this year’s Innovations in Recovery conference. Since 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has been a foundational component of recovery for millions of alcoholics and addicts. It is free, it is available for all ages, it is simple in the way it’s shared and processed, and it also hasn’t really changed. When I take sponsees through the steps, they often comment on my old, tattered copies of the Twelve and Twelve and Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Over the years, however, my perception and process around the steps has shifted. It has evolved, if you will, to include another path, one that I share with those willing to begin the process of uncovering, discovering, and discarding old behaviors in a new, approachable way.

 

Several years ago, Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx, Against the Stream, Heart of the Revolution and founder of Against the Stream Meditation Society, started formulating the ideas behind his program called Refuge Recovery – a way of approaching recovery from addiction via the Buddhist path. This is a path fraught with self-inquiry, curiosity, dedication, and a call to put these actions into practice. Refuge Recovery views recovery as a process that heals the underlying causal factors that led to addiction in the first place.  His latest book, Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction, outlines his adaptation of the Buddhist 4 Noble Truths and Eightfold Path to use as an approach to recovery.

 

Refuge Recovery requires that practitioners practice renunciation: a formal rejection and abstinence from harmful behavior, including using drugs and alcohol. One is required to start with an in-depth personal inventory: a thorough, inquisitive investigation of one’s behavior, traumas, and resulting consequences and how they have manifested in one’s life. One is asked to take refuge in their community, and in the practices of meditation and renunciation. Here, taking refuge means we are taking shelter or finding safety and protection in recovery and community. In many ways, addicts and alcoholics have been attempting to take refuge via substances for years, only to find there is no real sanctuary there.

 

Refuge Recovery is based on Buddhist principles, which integrate scientific, non-theistic, and psychological insight.  Addictions are viewed as cravings in the body and mind; using meditation to create awareness can alleviate those cravings and ease one’s suffering.  It is done through this adaptation of the 4 Noble Truths:

 

1. Take inventory of our suffering: that which we have experienced and that which we have caused. (Uncover)

2. Investigate the cause and conditions of our suffering. (Discover) Begin the process of letting go. (Discard)

3.  Come to understand that recovery is possible, taking refuge in the path that leads to the end of addiction and suffering.

4. Engage in the Buddhist Eightfold Path that leads to recovery.

 

What follows is the Buddhist Eightfold Path.

 

The first two address the development of Wisdom.

 1. Wise understanding

2. Wise intentions

These three address Moral Conduct:

 3. Wise speech/community

 4. Wise actions

 5. Wise livelihood/service

These three address Mental Discipline

6. Wise effort

7. Mindfulness

8. Concentration

 

Another difference between Refuge Recovery and the 12 Steps is there is not a specific order: this is not a linear path. Through this process, one develops compassion and wisdom: two sides of the same coin, if you will. Compassion is equated with love, charity, kindness, and tolerance—qualities of the heart; Wisdom represents the quality of the mind: our ability to concentrate, make wise choices, and to critically think. However, compassion without wisdom, leads to foolishness, and wisdom without compassion leads to stoicism. The two must interweave.

 

I share this with you not to berate AA, but to provide a view outside of what we are familiar with and to open the doors of the mind and heart to see a way of broadening one’s path.  Bill W encouraged a broadening of the spiritual path: Refuge Recovery is that broadening. This is an opportunity to really look deeply into ingrained habits and patterns that prevent us from being truly free from our suffering. Visions began taking our teens that are on our mental health track to Refuge Recovery meetings with much success. Of late, our teens that usually go to AA meetings are also enjoying Refuge Recovery meetings.  It’s important to note that one is not better than the other: AA and Refuge Recovery can complement each other, leaving space for curiosity and introspection from a theistic or non-theistic path.

We leave no stone unturned in treatment: we provide what is necessary to recovery and we are grateful that the options for support are expanding.

Categories
Addiction Mental Health Recovery Wellness

Finding Hope in Recovery and Beyond

Hope is fleeting or nonexistent for someone locked in the downward spiral of mental illness and substance abuse. In many ways, the transient quality of hope in the mind of the sufferer creates a sense of dissonance; it always seems to be out of reach. Recovery makes space for a more tangible kind of hope to develop and take root.  The hope we do have when we are in our diseases is hope for an escape. However, the hope we have in recovery is revised to resemble its true meaning: a desire for something good to happen and the capability to see its fruition.

 

We need to integrate hope into our lives as part of our recovery, viewing it as an action rather than as a “thing” to grasp. If we are going to recover, we have to have a life worth living, and building a foundation for hope is one of the actions needed to create such a life. This provides us with something to reach for and hope becomes something actively fostered in our lives.

 

There are some basic things one can do to work toward bringing hope into their lives:

 

Connection: Connect with others and begin to develop healthy relationships with people. The fellowship in 12-step meetings is helpful in creating connection with others. Fellowship provides opportunities to build new relationships with people who are on the same path. Within that context, one can begin to heal old relationships and build new ones.

 

Have fun: How often does someone come into recovery and assume that because they aren’t drinking and using that “fun” is off the list? Guess what—it’s not. When you realize you can laugh, and I mean, a stomach-clutching-falling-over kind of laugh all without the use of drugs or alcohol, it is liberating.

 

Get an education: This is a positive step to building hope for a fuller, better future.  Feeding your mind with knowledge and realizing your potential is a powerful thing. An education provides fertile soil for hope to take root and blossom.  It puts our foot on the path toward building a future that we want to be a part of.

 

We recognize that many of our teens and their families have lost hope. We support families in developing courage to change, and we foster the desire to heal. Every week, Visions facilitates Recovery Fun outings where we encourage teens to have fun, to laugh, and to find joy in their recovery.  We host yearly alumni and client events such as: the Big Bear ski trip, our staff vs. alumni softball game, our Catalina Adventure, and Halloween Fright Night. Fostering joy and laughter breeds healing and it leads to hope. Having fun reminds us that we are alive!  Just because we are dealing with heavy issues doesn’t mean that joy doesn’t exist.  We won’t let kids give up on themselves—we want them to start to recognize their potential. We give them skills that provide them with the knowledge that they are capable, and with that, they build an environment of hope.

 

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Addiction and Mental Health: Inspired by David Sheff

We recently had the opportunity to hear David Sheff, author of “Beautiful Boy” and “Clean“, speak about addiction and mental health at UCLA’s Friends of the Semel Institute’s Open Mind series.  Sheff is a journalist, and New York Times best-selling author who writes and speaks about addiction and recovery though the lens of a parent and as a well-researched journalist. Our family program is dedicated to approaching recovery from the eyes of the addict and those within the family system. David Sheff reminded me of the parental side of addiction and mental health that we don’t always hear.

 

Our kids are our babies: we see them as our innocent, silly, curious, innocent offspring. When it comes to addiction and mental health issues, parents often hang on to this ideology, telling themselves, “Not OUR kids. Addiction and mental health issues happen to other families.”  There is a natural contradiction that occurs, marking the innocence parents seek to hold on to and the utter despair and devastation that is actually taking place.  Addiction and mental health could care less about your financial status, race, religion, or gender, or age.  What David Sheff does is talk about it. He names the elephant in the room. He invites parents to face the shadow side of addiction and mental health and bring it into the fore. He challenges us as a culture to unabashedly squash the stigma associated with addiction and mental health.

 

This stigma I’m talking about increases the suffering families experience around addiction and mental health. It inhibits one’s ability to move through the processes required to heal. If worry and concern about what people migt say hangs over the head of a family, how willing will they be to do the work? How frequently will they suffer in silence? How long will they go before asking for help? Shame is the muzzle of addiction.

 

Sheff pointed out some staggering facts:

 

  • 80% of children will try drugs or alcohol before age 18.
  • Addiction is the #3 killer
  • The #1 reason teens use drugs: Stress
  • 90% of addictions begin before 21
  • Only 6% of pediatricians are able to recognize drug use
  • There are 3000 addiction informed physicians and over 3 million addicts

 

But he also reminds us of this: these kids who are suffering from addiction and mental health issues aren’t bad kids; they are our kids. The focus needs to be on what is causing the use of drugs and alcohol, not the drugs and alcohol themselves.  Kids are using because of stress, anxiety, social situations, trauma, et cetera. Our kids live in an environment that resembles a pressure cooker. I teach yoga to teens and tweens and I can tell you from my experiences with my students, the main reason they are there is because of stress and anxiety. And part of my work with them is teaching them tools for self-regulation.

These kids, our kids, need a reprieve from their overwhelm. Sure, drugs might offer a quick fix, but they don’t offer a solution. The solution has to come in the form of recovery, stress management and developing healthier means of self-regulation that allow for a better approach to being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out.  If there are addiction or issues of mental health, it becomes imperative to give them a voice. Shame keeps us silent. Shame keeps us sick. Shame increases our suffering.

 

Dr. Tim Fong, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA also had some salient things to say that evening, but one that really strikes home is this.  Families need the following 4 things for recovery:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

I encourage parents to seek help if they recognize that their child is in trouble. You are not alone in your fear, your suffering, or your need to be heard. Your child needs to be seen and heard as well, and the sooner you can get them the help they need, the sooner the recovery process can begin. Remember this: if your child has some hiccups in their recovery, YOUR recovery doesn’t have to hiccup as well.

 

I will leave you with this, a quote from Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides.”

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcoholism Mental Health Parenting Prevention

Affluenza: A Disguise for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

The news is rife with the term “Affluenza,” which was recently used as a defense for a 16-year-old Texas teen* accused of killing 4 people in a drunk driving case. Instead of jail time, he was sentenced to 10 years of probation, presenting an interesting perspective on what can happen when parents don’t set boundaries, create limits, or teach accountability. For those who don’t know, the term “Affluenza” is a term coined by John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann and economist Thomas H. Naylor, authors of the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.

 

When speaking to John Lieberman, Director of Operations about this case, he said:

“This is a sad and horrible situation. No amount of jail time or punishment will heal the wounds or bring back the dead. The simple fact here is this: Every parent can learn from this situation. This young man was showing signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse prior to the accident. Early intervention is the most important and effective way to deal with addiction, drug abuse and “affluenza.” Parents, please take actions to stand between your children and the actions that may destroy their lives and the lives of others.

One of the most important standards of responsible treatment is accountability. Adolescents who act out may have been abused, neglected or spoiled. The issue at hand is not weather this young man should get treatment. The issue is if this recent light sentence fits the crime. I believe it is a mistake for any licensed mental health professional to make up a diagnosis; Affluenza is not a recognized diagnosis. The sad thing is that the symptoms this teen was exhibiting do relate to a defined diagnosis.”

 

The 16-year-old’s blood alcohol levels were three times the legal adult limit and the alcohol he’d consumed that fateful day had been purloined illegally. The public outrage stems from his lack of accountability and lack of his family’s accountability. According to Mary Greshem, an Atlanta psychologist, “The diagnosis for youths in such situations would be impulse control problems, and impulse control problems are seen across all socioeconomic levels in families where limits aren’t set.”

 

Soniya Luther, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University says, “There are ways in a society that we collectively shape the behavior of our kids.” For example, if parents aren’t setting boundaries for themselves and regulating their own behavior, their kids won’t either. If a parent persistently fights consequences of their negative actions, they are sending negative messages to their children about taking responsibility. The reality is, a child who never faces consequences for their actions will have increasingly larger and larger problems to deal with. A therapist once said to me, “Little people, little problems; big people, big problems,” an apropos sentiment for this situation. Ignoring negative early childhood behaviors frames the perception of a consequence-free future, where the issues will be far greater than, “No, you can’t have an extra cookie.”  Soniya Luther says, “It really speaks to the importance of attending to our children’s behavior early on. In all cases, it is our duty (sic) to step in and do the right thing. It’s not just loving our kids but putting the appropriate limits on their behavior.”

 

*We’ve chosen to eliminate the teen’s proper name due to his age, despite its release in the media.

 

Categories
Addiction Prevention Substance Abuse Synthetic Drugs

Taking a Look at Krokodil–The Flesh-Eating Street Drug

We’ve done several blogs on the street drugs Molly, K2 and Spice, and now it’s time to take a look at Krokodil. Krokodil is a homemade heroin substitute birthed in a rural part of Russia. Its primary ingredient is desomorphine – a morphine derivative once used in Switzerland in the 30s under the brand name Permonid because of its effectiveness and reputation for being short-acting with a quick onset–it’s around 8-10 times more potent than morphine. The street use is far different and much more sinister.

 

Krokodil is manufactured from what is purported to be a simple synthesis of codeine combined with ingredients such as paint thinner, iodine, and red phosphorus (among other things).  Toxic city! And it’s aptly named Krokodil because its use can turn your skin black, green and/or scaly—like a crocodile. David DiSalvo at Forbes wrote that it is “Essentially a corrosive acid with opiate effects, it (sic) destroys body tissue the way battery acid eats through plastic, opening large sores that can go all the way to the bone.”  Russia is the largest consumer of heroin in the world, and Krokodil is its street-ready replacement since  heroin has become harder and harder to obtain. The extreme poverty in rural Russia and desperation for escape is fueling a dangerous addiction.

 

So far, krokodil isn’t a real threat to the US, where heroin and other street drugs are easy to come by. However, when two patients in Ohio claimed to be using the drug, and were showing signs they were suffering from the consequences of krokodil use, Dany Thekkemuriyil and Unnikrishnan Pillai, both physicians at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights, Mo, reported their findings to the American Journal of Medicine. Right now, the main issue with this particular synthetic drug relies on its prevalence in other countries.  Purportedly, the cases in the US that were initially believed to be krokodil have not been confirmed and none tested positively for desomorphane. What we are especially seeing is the International effects of a dangerous street drug borne out of poverty and hosted by severe addiction and despair. It is cause for concern from a global standpoint. This is also a great reminder to remain knowledgeable about what drugs are out there, not to encourage panic, but to arm ourselves with clearer understanding and awareness. The truth is, we need to be more aware of drug use, carry out proper disposal of medications after they are no longer needed, and begin using healthier resources to manage our stress and discomfort. There’s no need to start playing scientist to get away from our feelings.

 

Categories
Addiction Prevention Synthetic Drugs

In the News: Synthetic Marijuana aka Crazy Clown

Crazy Clown (Photo credit: yewenyi)

Synthetic Marijuana is back in the news, this time under the names “Crazy Clown” or “Herbal Madness Incense.” Eight teens and young adults were sent to the hospital in Georgia this weekend because of the effects of this drug. The CDC is investigating this latest designer drug incarnation and has issued a warning. The use of synthetic marijuana is incredibly dangerous and presents a growing public health concern. According to the CDC:

Sixteen cases of synthetic cannabinoid-related acute kidney injury occurred in six states in 2012. Synthetic cannabinoids, which are sold in smoke shops and convenience stores under names like ‘synthetic marijuana,’ ‘Spice,’ ‘K2,’ or ‘herbal incense,’ are designer drugs dissolved in solvent, applied to plant material, and smoked. These psychoactive drugs can have a significant effect on mood or behavior, but also carry the risk of unpredictable toxicity. The growing use of synthetic cannabinoid products is an emerging public health concern. The sixteen cases reported in this study developed kidney damage after smoking synthetic cannabinoid products. In seven of the cases, analyses of the products or blood or urine samples found a unique cannabinoid called XLR-11. These products are often sold as incense and labeled “Not for Human Consumption.” Despite the labeling, individuals use the products as an alternative to marijuana use.  There is a risk that some cannabinoid compounds may be toxic and the health effects may not be easily predictable because of what is still unknown about the products. However, it is important that clinicians, scientists, public health officials, and law enforcement are alerted about the emerging adverse health effects from synthetic drug use.”

Symptoms from the use of this latest version of synthetic marijuana include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry Mouth
  • Weakness
  • Cardiac Problems
  • Paralysis

We’ve written about Spice, K2, Cloud Nine, bath salts, and all other incarnations of these designer drugs before. They are enticing, especially to teens and young adults looking for a cheap, quick high.  Because these drugs are easily obtained at liquor stores and convenience marts, their often innocuous packaging makes them seem harmless or just “fun.”

 

For now, the active ingredient is unknown, but we know that it is highly dangerous. One of the most troublesome issues regarding synthetic marijuana is the ever-changing ingredients: As soon as one ingredient is banned, it morphs into something new, creating a maelstrom of issues for law enforcement, medical professionals, and the CDC. Usually new synthetic marijuana is discovered because of an increase in ER visits. This stuff is lethal. What looks like a cheap, easy high is more often a fast-track ride to the hospital. It’s not worth it.