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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 Heroin Prevention

The Skinny on Heroin: Cheap, Accessible and Deadly

The media is calling Heroin the “silent assassin,”

Heroin syringe (Photo credit: Thomas Marthinsen)

and many are  saying there’s a Heroin epidemic, mostly because of the recent celebrity overdoses and increase in heroin deaths across the country.  The latest celebrity death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman seemed to really strike a nerve. Is it because he was clean for a long period of time, openly talking about his troubles with addiction? Or is it because he’s someone we as an audience want or need to respect because of his wide range of talent? It’s a loss, a great one, but it is more a reminder of the devastation drug use can cause.

 

The use of heroin is prime for a death sentence and its inexpensive procurement makes it an easier and more desirable go-to than drugs like Oxycontin, particularly if you are young, desperate, and broke. At the same time, for celebrities like Hoffman or Cory Monteith, familiarity may be the calling card.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.”

 

And according to a 2012 Monitoring the Future study (a NIDA funded survey of teens in grades 8, 10, and 12, only 0.05% of 8th graders, 0.6% of 10th graders and 12th graders reported using heroin at least once in the past year. The number of teens using heroin is down significantly to what it was in the 1990s. The main concern now is that teens addicted to prescription opiods like Oxycontin will eventually turn to heroin because of its low cost.

 

Concerned about your teen or young adult? Here are some signs to look for:

 

  • Extreme drowsiness: nodding off, acting sleepy, moving really slowly
  • Itching, scratching at face and arms
  • Nausea
  • Pupils very small, like pinpoints, even in dim light
  • Marks on the skin (if heroin is injected vs sniffed)

 

Talking to someone who has a drug problem isn’t always easy, in fact, it can be down right difficult. You may encounter denial, anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and you may face a litany of excuses. Regardless, encourage your friend or loved one to talk to a counselor or a teacher, or trusted adult. Be kind and encouraging and make sure you are also getting the support you need. Reaching out to a friend or loved one lost in the throes of their addiction can be overwhelming and deeply upsetting. Make sure you also have resources you need to decompress and ground yourself: a therapist, AlAnon, CoDA, or a space or practice that you can lean into to take care of yourself.

 

Check out NIDA for more information on heroin.

Help is just a phone call or email away. Contact us with any questions or concerns.

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 Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic Drugs: Elusive and Troubling

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing’s for sure: teens are curious. And we’d be remiss in forgetting their quintessential stubbornness and hints of recklessness, which, of course, feeds their curiosity. Now with the surge of synthetic drugs on the market, coupled with the fact that most parents don’t know much about them, the curiosity factor is heightened. Sure, parents can wax poetic about the drugs of their time: marijuana, methamphetamines, psychedelics, cocaine, and pills. But when it comes to synthetic drugs like K2 or Spice or the mythos of Bath Salts, parents and teachers alike are as baffled as the authorities.

We’ve been writing about synthetic drugs over the past two years, understanding the heat has been on to place bans on these drugs across the country. The difficulty has been the FDA is up against fluctuating drug formulas and irregular chemical components in the drugs themselves, making regulation difficult and elusive. Finally, on July 9, 2012, President Obama signed legislation banning synthetic drugs. The law bans any known chemicals used to make K2, Spice, and bath salts. The trick will be for the FDA to stay one or two steps ahead of the synthetic chemists, because as one formula is banned, a new one is cooking in someone’s garage.

However, it’s not just the FDA that to needs to stay a step ahead of synthetic drugs; it’s parents as well. Synthetic drugs are easily concealed and available everywhere from online sources to the local convenient store. The reality is, some of these chemicals are so new, they’re off the radar entirely and which increases user vulnerability. What may seem like a fun party idea to an adolescent,  synthetic drug use can easily ricochet into a psychotic episode and a visit to the ER. This is serious. Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released information which indicated one in nine high-school kids had used synthetic drugs.  Talk to your kids, and stay informed–not only regarding their lives, but the social minefields they have to navigate on a regular basis.