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Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Prevention

The Dangers of DMT and Psychedelic Experimentation

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the Throughtryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT.  This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain.  Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.

 

Adolescents are naturally curious creatures. They want to know about the world that they live in and they want to understand why it is the way it is. Developmentally this leads to a natural curiosity about the nature of the world and spiritual matters. During the 1960s, well-respected researchers looked into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, including depression. The ’60s generation took this as a cue to experiment with their minds. What we have learned since then is such experimentation is potentially dangerous and harmful, especially for those with a latent tendency toward depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness.

 

Psychedelic drugs have a distinct effect on brain chemistry. Some of them have chemical structures similar to natural neurotransmitters and almost all of them are classified as alkaloid. Historically, psychedelic drugs have been used by ancient cultures for spiritual practice and ceremony. And science has used psychedelic drugs for research.

 

However, psychedelics are significantly abused.

 

One of the most dangerous components of psychedelic drugs is the potential negative effect on people already vulnerable to mental illness. The user is, in effect, playing with his or her brain chemistry without direct knowledge of any short- or long-term effects these drugs may have. And someone who has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness can adversely affect his or her mental health with the use of psychedelic drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Drugs like DMT, though old, are no different. DMT works fast, it has an intense effect that lasts for 15 minutes but purportedly feels like several hours. This can be an overwhelming experience, especially in cases of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness.

 

The bottom like is this: Experimenting with your mind is dangerous. Curious or not, this type of psychological misadventure is not worth the risk and the potential fallout.

 

Categories
Adolescence Parenting Recovery School

Teens Are Going Back to School

School is back in session! This means that the unstructured schedule of summer has ended and the wild teen energy requires a shift toward focus and effort.

 

It’s tough because you go from a veritable free-for-all (Summer) to a highly focused environment where there are higher expectations, firmer schedules, and of course, the dreaded homework. Kids who spent the summer in camp may have had some structure, but the truth is, it’s nowhere near as rigid as school. Bedtime has been later and waking up took on a leisurely state. School starting is a definite shift.

 

The positives about returning to school, according to one anonymous teen are, “You get to see your friends again and you get to learn.” In middle school and high school, friends hold a lot of power over each other. Often more important than classroom connection is the forming of social groups outside of class: in the halls, on the yard, et cetera. This is where the real influence, be it negative or positive occurs, and for kids more akin to following than leading, this can represent a shift toward bad decision making. Conversely, a child who is processing a lot of personal conflict (eg, family) may be drawn to kids who are acting out or whose behavior is outside of the norm. On the contrary, some kids are extremely skilled at creating the equivalent of work/life balance, both in maintaining good grades and in having a healthy social life.

 

Socialization can be tough, especially in adolescence. I often refer to teens as messy, and I say that because their emotional and physical terrain is rapidly changing and unpredictable. Even a kid with little to no conflict is still going to experience the messiness of adolescence. I find that one of the biggest things these kids need is validation: a confirmation that what they are going through is normal. I keenly remember how rough adolescence was. It was downright confusing and miserable at times. And at others, it was pure, unadulterated excitement! I remember thinking some kids “had it made” because they had all of the “stuff” I thought I needed, but later finding out they were suffering as much as I was.

 

Some teens can’t stop the summer fun, though. They want to carry on with late-night shenanigans far into September and October. It’s true: we do see an increase in clients during that time. Don’t wait until the first bad report card to do something; pay attention from day one to the way in which your teen is acclimating. Are they struggling? Is getting back to the “grind” harder than usual? Maintain an open, transparent place to have discussions with your teen.

 

  • Listen: Sometimes teens (and kids in general) just want to vent without receiving advice. “I hear how frustrating that is” or “That sounds difficult” can go a long way. Kids are actually skilled at coming to a healthy solution on their own if we allow them the opportunity.

 

  • Be present: Create a technology free period where you are together as a family and be willing to participate in each other’s lives.

 

  • Don’t take it personally:  Teens love to push buttons. If you can let the small stuff roll off your back, do. An eye roll can be ignored. Choose your battles.

 

 

Lastly, encourage your teen to avoid and/or ignore the kids whose choices are questionable, and to choose friends who are dedicated to their education and making positive choices.  Our teens look to us as parents to be their guide. We are their first teachers. If our attitudes about school and learning are positive and healthy, they will inadvertently adopt them (most of the time). If our attitudes about learning and school are mercurial, then guess what, our kids will adopt that same, fickle attitude toward learning.

 

 

 

“If you want your children to improve, then let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” Dr. Haim Ginott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Addiction Dual Diagnosis Guest Blogs Mental Health

Dual Diagnosis and Teens: What to Know

Guest blog by Recovery Rob from the Pat Moore Foundation

The combination of substance abuse and forms of mental illness are common. In fact, it’s what most clinicians, therapist, and counselors often expect to find when one diagnosis is confirmed. According to the NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) more than

half of all adolescents with substance abuse issues also have a diagnosable mental illness. These diagnosable mental illnesses consist of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Depression, and Bipolar Disorder. Unfortunately, history has not shown treatment for both at the same time. Typically a teenager who is in treatment for substance abuse is not referred out to a qualified mental health professional to discover a source of their drug and alcohol abuse. Self-medicating with alcohol and illegal drugs is prevalent when there is a mental health issue.

Over the years, the psychiatric and drug counseling communities have begun working together, agreeing that both of these disorders must be treated at the same time. Often with one diagnosis you have the other. With a dual diagnosis it’s been found that suicide attempts and psychotic episodes decrease rather quickly. Treatments consist primarily, but not exclusively to 12-Step programs. However, special peer groups that focus on treating both the illness and substance abuse are found to strengthen social networks.

Adolescents often seek acceptance, and support each other as they learn the role alcohol and drugs have taken in their lives so far. Learning, and in some cases re-learning, social skills will help replace self-medication with patterns of healthful and helpful behaviors.

In order to discover the presence of a confirmable dual diagnosis, one must seek a professional assessment from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Once the dual diagnosis has been established confirmed, then family members and mental health professionals are urged to work together to seek a strategy that works best for the adolescent.

Here are five tips on what to do if your adolescent has a substance abuse disorder.

  • Your teen is NOT a disgrace to the family.
  • Establish consequences for behaviors, and don’t be afraid to call upon law enforcement if your child is drinking on your property.
  • Don’t threaten unless you plan to follow through. Typically a parent surrenders and their addicted child learns their parent doesn’t mean what they say.
  • Try not to nag or lecture.
  • And, if your teenager is seeking and working at his or her recovery you should offer support, love and encouragement.

BIO:

Recovery Rob is a 47-year-old man who has more than nineteen years of sobriety, whose drugs of choice at one time were alcohol and drugs, and he has worked in and around the field of addiction for more than 20 years. Recovery Rob is a professional writer who has published two novels and is currently working on his third. He has been writing and working as Pat Moore Foundation’s premiere blogger and content writer, which helps keeps Pat Moore Foundation’s addiction and recovery blog top-rated.

You can also follow Recovery Rob on Twitter!

Categories
Mental Health Recovery

Fight or Flight: When the Anxiety Wheel Spins

Image by jpmatth via Flickr
Why are our kids so stressed out? Is it the pressures of school and peer relations or is there something else going on? Sure, stress is a naturally occurring phenomena that can help and/or hinder someone, depending upon the situation. There are surely instances where the slight adrenaline rush of stress can actually prove beneficial, but when it’s constant and unyielding, stress can be overwhelming. The body’s natural fight or flight response occurs when stress is introduced, allowing us to ready ourselves for “battle,” so to speak. That “battle” can be an exam at school or even a mild confrontation on the school yard, but it’s usually temporary. “Fight or flight” is a term used to describe the body’s natural physiological response to stress. The Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah has a wonderful example (see it here) showing the physiological changes that occur!

The qualities of the fight or flight response include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Faster intakes of breath
  • Enlarged pupils
  • The digestive system slows
As I noted, these particular physical changes occur naturally when the fight or flight response is triggered. In small doses, it’s appropriate and helpful, but as with anything, remaining in the a state of fight or flight for a long period of time can create untenable stress as the body and mind begin to work against itself. You know unpleasant but often typically temporary feeling of having “butterflies in the belly”? Well, imagine it lingering for a long time: It would become more and more difficult to ignore.

Some kids, and perhaps these are the one’s enduring sustained periods of stress, the fight or flight phenomenon happens without warning, and without a clearly identified trigger fueling the body’s response. For these kids, the sense of deep worry and impending doom are a prevalent and may often seem unwarranted. This is anxiety, and with it comes:
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Dread
  • Worry
Anxiety can have a genetic component, for example, mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, et cetera, may suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can also occur after an extremely stressful event: childhood trauma, divorce, loss, a car accident. Some kids are clearly more sensitive than others and may very well react intensely to something another child can walk away from. Rather than shaming them about their reactivity, we need to offer them solace. These kids need as much support as possible, not only from parents, but from clinicians trained to help sufferers manage their anxiety. It takes time, dedication and hard work, but in time, one will have many healthy tools to choose from, hopefully avoiding the dead-end path to addiction. 
Articles used as reference and for more information:
Categories
Mental Health

Adolescent Treatment: Mind and Body As One

Image via Wikipedia

Since 2002, Visions has been in the forefront of providing adolescent treatment. Being well-versed in the characteristics of adolescent behaviors and cognitive development, it was only natural for us to refine our Mental Health Track in order to provide an optimal treatment model for teens. As we’ve seen time and time again, drugs and alcohol aren’t always the sole, causative factor in behavioral issues. Often times, there’s a mental-health component which needs to be addressed with the same skill and finesse used in the treatment of substance abuse.

It’s not easy being a teenager: for one, there’s the physical awkwardness, there’s the social constructs of trying to fit in and be liked, and there’s the desire to do well in school and meet the expectations of your parents. It’s tough. There’s no denying that. For some, it’s harder than others, and the pressure of “doing it all” is simply too much, which can present as the self-deprecating feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression, et cetera. Unfortunately, the environment of adolescence isn’t always conducive to one talking to their friends about these experiences without the fear of being stigmatized. Most of the time, one’s left trying to figure things out for themselves, and that never really works out well.

This October, Visions will light the path to a refined treatment model, addressing the complex issues relating to adolescent mental health. By thoroughly addressing and updating the mental-health component to our existing modalities, we will ultimately provide an environment which will allow teens struggling with mental-health issues to truly achieve physical and psychological health. The goal is to do so while also removing the stigma typically associated with mental-health issues.

We all come with the physiological footprints of our families. On occasion, we need help navigating those seas so we may begin to create new, emotionally sound paradigms in which to live our lives. Between successfully providing mental health, substance abuse, and family treatment, I believe we are well on our way to helping families achieve this goal.

Categories
Addiction

Social Media: Helpful or Harmful?


The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University’s (CASA Columbia) recently published
their 16th annual back-to-school survey which takes a look at adolescent behaviors regarding substance abuse in relation to social media. CASA Columbia took a look at American teens ages 12-17, their social media use and how it might ultimately affect their alcohol and drug abuse behaviors, and parent involvement or lack thereof. The findings, though not terribly surprising, were substantial: “70% of teens report spending time on social networking sites on a typical day,” which come out to approximately 17 million 12-17 year olds doing participating in some sort of social media activity on a typical day.
With the naturally uncensored dynamics of teen behavior, the typical day-to-day posts can range anywhere from being tagged in a drunken photo from the previous weekend’s house party to the false braggadocio of one’s sexual prowess. From the outside looking in, sites like Facebook and MySpace certainly show implications of promoting an environment of peer pressure. After looking at the results from this study, that impression is pretty spot on:

“Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:
• Three times likelier to use alcohol;
• Four times likelier to use marijuana;
• Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and
• Much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.”

Where parents tend to fall flat is in relation to their ignorance and denial of the powerful effects of suggestion, a key factor associated with the subversive allure of social media sites. Parents must be careful not to adopt the “Not my child” attitude and get informed instead. According to the CASA study, “Eighty-seven percent of parents said they think spending time on social networking sites does not make it more likely their child will drink alcohol; 89 percent of parents felt it would not make their child more likely to use drugs.” That’s not a particularly positive result, and frankly, it confirms the high level of denial that aids and abets the social media petri dish of reckless behavior.
This isn’t hopeless, though. The results of the CASA study present an opportunity for change. It’s a chance for us fuddy-duddy adults to learn to look at the world from the lenses of our kids. We were teens once, too, and though memories are often clouded, it behooves us to remember that we were once reckless and secretive and convinced that our parents were the enemy. Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare suggests the need for parents to “give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate.” While I agree that our kids need the skills and strength of character to manage social media, I think we need to be careful not to incite a sense of imminent fear, but instead look at the results of this study as something from which we can nurture an opportunity for behavioral metamorphosis. Growing up is scary enough.
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