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Addiction Adolescence Alcoholism Alumni Guest Posts Recovery

Alumni Voices: Alcoholics Anonymous Through the Lens of Adolescence

We are really honored to be able to share another alumni post, this one talking about community-latigo rocksAlcoholics Anonymous through the lens of a young person.  Having come to recovery as a young adult myself, her words resonate with me. It’s not easy walking in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous as a young person, but the beauty of young peoples’ meetings is the camaraderie and unspoken understanding amidst the community.  No one wants to hang out in a smokey room, drinking bad coffee on a Saturday night…unless you have to be there. And these young people get that. They get that they have to be there and they show up, week after week, day after day, learning ways in which to show up for themselves and their recovery:

 

Walking into a room of Alcoholics Anonymous may be the most defining moment in an alcoholic’s life. I know it was pretty life changing for me. Not necessarily in the sense that my life was being threatened by my drug use (although my behavior was), but in the sense that if I hadn’t made it to rehab and to these rooms, I would not be where I am or who I am today.

I sat in the pre-meeting the other night, waiting for it to begin, when it struck me. “Where would I be if I hadn’t gone to rehab and been introduced to these rooms? What would my life look like?” Many people in the Young People’s rooms go through Treatment, many don’t. What matters is that whoever they are, if they are alcoholic, they make it to the rooms of AA.

My beliefs vary when it comes down to an alcoholic’s diagnosis. Sometimes I believe that an alcoholic is born an alcoholic, sometimes I believe they become one. When it comes to myself, I don’t exactly know. I still struggle with identifying, even at meetings, and especially when a speaker has a gnarly story.

I believe this is a common thread in the rooms of AA. Comparing ourselves to others is pretty standard among alcoholics, particularly in the rooms with young people. I used to think that the young people’s meetings were fake and ridiculous. I thought it was like a talent show. Everyone gets all dressed up just to call attention to themselves. That’s not what the principles state and its not what the program is about.

I know now that I was just uncomfortable and insecure, and I was projecting my feelings of dislike for myself into the room. One of my favorite counselors in rehab, who was a young person in the program and who I was very close to and respected very much, challenged my dislike and asked “Where else are we going to get all dressed up to go on a Saturday night?”

When you walk into the rooms of a young peoples’ meeting, a thick smog of E-cig vapor coats the room. It’s so clouded that if the lighting is right and you are sitting far back enough, sometimes you can’t even see the speaker clearly. Everyone is uncomfortable and many people are new to the program. There are a handful of people that are “chronic relapsers,” but they keep coming back. That’s what’s so special about this program.

Altogether, there are many years of sobriety in the room. These meetings are popular; even a few from the older crowd shuffle in. We are all for having a good time, yet most people take the meeting very seriously; it’s life and death for many people. That’s what’s so special about these meetings.

Some of us are very judgmental, its honestly because we are insecure about ourselves. Many of us have been through the wringer, and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are the only people who truly get one another. That’s what’s so special about people in recovery.

 

 

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 Synthetic Drugs

Molly: A Dangerous, Synthetic Ride

Tablets sold as MDMA may contain other chemicals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Molly is the slang term for the man-made drug MDMA (ecstasy). It’s a well-known synthetic, psychoactive drug often used at all-night parties or raves and sold as the “pure form of MDMA,” something medical professionals and the DEA are finding far from the truth. What is being sold is an unpredictable variation of MDMA with various synthetic drugs being used as filler. Molly provides a fast, relatively long acting (3-6 hours) high with the following effects:

 

  • Increased energy
  • Euphoria,
  • Emotional warmth and empathy to others
  • Distortions in sensory or time perception

 

The physical effects of Molly are similar to other stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines and include:

 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Muscle tension
  • Clenching of jaw
  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint
  • Chills and/or sweating

The recent surge of young adults overdosing on Molly overdoses is alarming. Medical professionals have noted shifts in their pathology findings in these patients, illustrating the fact that underground chemists are manipulating the molecular compounds of Molly in the same way they are manipulating other synthetic drugs like K2, Spice, and bath salts. According to Rudy Payne, DEA spokesman, “DEA seizures of pure MDMA or ecstasy have dropped indicating that dealers are creating the capsules from other drugs and marketing them as Molly.” This statistic makes a profound statement: “In 2008, the DEA seized 5,377 pounds of Ecstasy. Last year, the DEA seized 954 pounds.”

 

The drug dealers target teens and young adults, promoting a cheap, safe high. What they are selling is the antithesis of safe. Teens and young adults are essentially guinea pigs, experimenting with their brains and cognitive development in the name of fun. On the street, in social circles, and even in some pop songs, Molly is being falsely lauded as harmless.

 

  • Overdose symptoms include:
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Overheating
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shivering
  • Involuntary twitching

 

To put things into perspective, these four Molly related deaths occurred this summer:

 

  • Two college students died at the Electric Zoo festival in New York, prompting a shutdown.
  • A University of Virginia student died at a rave in Washington, D.C.
  • A 19-year-old died in a club in Boston, and 3 others overdosed.

 

There are long-term effects from using these drugs. It negatively affects one’s brain chemistry, and can damage the brain for several years following heavy use. Researchers have found that MDMA affect the neurons that use serotonin to communicate with other neurons. Seratonin controls our mood, sleep, sensitivity to pain, and aggression. Long-term use of MDMA also affects memory loss.  Molly isn’t something to play with. These long-term effects aren’t worth 6 hours of distorted reality.

 

Articles used as reference:

Drug ‘Molly’ is taking a party toll in the United States

NIDA for Teens

Overdoses Attributed to Club Drug “Molly” Increase

Partnership at Drugfree.org

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)

 

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.

 

Categories
Addiction Smoking

E-Cigarettes: Harmless? We Think Not

It turns out those some of those fancy electronic cigarettes are being used to deliver something more sinister than nicotine. The “e-cigs” I’m referring to are called “Trippy Sticks” or “iVapor” by those who alter their purpose. This is the latest trend: taking hash oil (or any intoxicant that can be gelled or liquefied) and injecting it into electronic cigarettes or “portable herbal vaporizers.” These “vape pens” as they are called, have no smell, no smoke, and their true contents are virtually undetectable.  Based on e-cigarette technology, users have found a way to inject hash oil into these devices in order to evaporate high levels of THC without having to burn it.  Unless the e-cigarette is tested, no one would ever know it contains something other than nicotine.

E-Cigarettes were introduced in the US market in 2007. They were initially marketed as an innocuous solution to help smokers stop smoking tobacco. They don’t, however, curb the addiction to nicotine. Rather than getting one’s nicotine from the tobacco in cigarettes, e-cigarettes deliver it through a smoke-free nicotine vapor. And because e-cigs don’t necessarily contain tobacco, they are not subjected to the same tobacco laws—at least, not yet. There aren’t any age restrictions when it comes to purchasing the devices, particularly if you are buying online. Flavored and unflavored e-cigarettes are marketed in a fun, intriguing way, luring in the young and impressionable, and selling themselves to consumers as “harmless.” In fact, non-smoking teens will often smoke the flavored, nicotine-free e-cigarettes, which primes them to eventually smoke the real thing. Some parents may be fooled into thinking that their kids aren’t actually “smoking” and buy the e-cigarettes in an attempt to take preventative action.

 

As we wait for scientists to study the negative effects of e-cigarettes, I am afraid that the fast-paced drug culture has already opened the door for their misuse. It’s troubling that these “Trippy Sticks” are undetectable and that their use is spreading like wild fire. More disturbing is how little research has been done at this point. Warnings haven’t been released, no major upsets have taken place, and no one is in the hospital. Yet. As is often the case, our kids see using something they see as harmless and fun, without considering the possible consequences.

 

E-cigarettes are NOT a safe solution to a bad habit. They are not harmless. They are not something to be encouraged or ignored. With technology everywhere, our teens have easy access to any information, good and bad, but so do we! As parents, it’s the sinister side we have to pay attention to. Technology is how our current and future generations communicate, share, create, and thrive. We have a responsibility to investigate the unknown, ask our own questions, and come out of the dark. Being a Luddite is no longer an excuse for “not knowing” or not understanding our kids; what we don’t know has the power to alienate us and make us disengaged parents. Investigate technology, be in the know, be transparent, ask questions, show real interest in your kids and their lives, and create and hold boundaries. Trippy Sticks are just another fish in the pond of designer drugs, and one way we can nip the new drugs in the bud is if we make them less interesting.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Parenting Synthetic Drugs

Smiles: The Dark Side of a Joyful Symbol

Smiles, yet another designer drug to hit the US seems to be just as deadly as the other synthetic drugs we are more familiar with. According to the DEA, this drug is “a synthetic drug abused for its hallucinogenic effects,” and has “been encountered in a number of states by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.”  Still, the findings regarding this substance are so preliminary, all we really have to refer to are user stories on YouTube, and that’s not an ideal source. The popularity of drugs like Smiles, K2, Spice, and Bath Salts is partly due to the ease of their availability and their inexpensive price tag. They are easily purchased online, in liquor stores, and particularly in states that haven’t elicited new, prohibitive laws regarding these synthetic drugs. What’s troublesome is these drugs are typically created and recreated faster than the FDA can process requests to ban them. Often times, it’s a sudden increase in ER visits by patients suffering similarly which alerts professionals of a new drug is on the scene.

What is Smiles? 

We don’t know much, but we do know that 2C-1 aka Smiles is an amphetamine/hallucinogen whose effects have been compared to a combination of LSD and MDMA. Some even say it’s similar to PCP.  2C-1 (Smiles) was initially popular in Europe, emerging onto their party scene in 2003. Smiles is classified as aphenethylamines—essentially amphetamines but with an additional chemical compound added which change its effects. Instead of the increased heart rate and feeling of speediness so commonly associated with amphetamine use, the effect of 2c-1 is more euphoric and psychedelic, again more in line with that found in psychedelics.  Like most of these synthetic drugs,  they are commonly manufactured in illegal labs, which make it terribly difficult to regulate.

What population is using Smiles?

The same population that uses this elicit drug is the same one that uses drugs like Ecstasy, Spice, Bath Salts, K2, and other club drugs: high-school and college students and other young adults that frequent party and club settings. Like the others, Smiles is easy to get, cheap, and not always easy to detect in drug tests. Because the evolution of these synthetic drugs is so fast, parents, teachers, mental health and law enforcement professionals may be caught off guard. Awareness is going to be your best defense.

So, what can you do?

  • Be aware of your young adults’ friends and sudden changes in those social circles.
  • Do you really know where your kids go when they “hang out”? Sudden secrecy (more than the usual we expect from adolescents) should raise a red flag. Instead of approaching your concern with anger, show concern with an open heart. Try and remember how YOU felt as a teen.
  • Look into your teens’ eyes: Are the pupils dilated (huge)?  Are they pinpoints?
  • Watch for sudden changes in grades or attendance.
  • Gather information from viable, legitimate sources (NIDA, DEA)
  • Get some support for yourself: therapy, support groups, et cetera.
  • Practice self-care. It’s harder to care for others when you are not taken care of.

These drugs are serious. They are unknown in many ways, and that fact alone makes them deadly. Stay tuned; I’m sure there will be more information to follow. In the meantime, be as transparent as you can be with your kids. Chances are, if they feel emotionally safe enough to confide in you and talk to you in general, they are less likely to hide the important things and travel along a path of self-destruction.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Prevention

Latest Study: Teens and RX Drugs–Provokes Call for Early Prevention

According to a recent study by Michigan State Researchers, the “Peak risk for misusing prescription pain relievers occurs in mid-adolescence, specifically about 16 years old and earlier than many experts thought.” (Science Daily)

It’s always been assumed that drug and alcohol use starts in the latter years of adolescence, and while that may be the average, by the time some of these kids hit high school, preventative measures may be too late. This study is suggesting that preventative programs be introduced much earlier than in current practice. I echo this sentiment and am a huge proponent of early preventative measures. How early? As soon as the questions start coming up. You can make a difference at home too:

  • Tell your child in a general way what drugs are and how they can negatively impact their life.
  • Teach the value and power  of saying “No” and walking away from people or situations where drugs are involved.
  • Store your medications responsibly: Behind lock and key if necessary.
  • Model good behavior: if you are stressed, take a deep breath instead of a drink or a pill. Your kids learn from you first.
  • Transparency: If you are in recovery, and your kids ask you a question about your history, answer them within reason.
  • Know who your kids’ friends are and who their parents are.
  • Stay in tune with current events and trends.
  • Be social media savvy so you can understand the temperature of this generation.
  • If you discover drugs or alcohol on your child, use it as a doorway to create dialogue.  If you find that the drug use is more of a pattern, please get some help.

There are definitely organizations that teach preparedness and prevention, but the first teachers our kids ever have is us. Showing our kids we’re there for them may be the best preventative measure of all.

You can also check out:

NIDA for Teens

SAMHSA

Prevention Plus

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Mental Health

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

Image by WhatDaveSees via Flickr

Is your teen playing doctor? Surely, this is an appropriate question for parents of adolescents who are concerned about teens entering a sexually intimate relationship before he or she is ready.

Unfortunately, this is not what I’m addressing. John Lieberman, our Director of Operations sees quite a bit of this and is concerned that “adolescents are literally playing doctor in the worst way, taking both prescribed and over-the-counter medications to treat perceived illnesses and issues.” They are reading information on the Internet, getting advice from peers as to what medications they should take, and they’re often mixing and matching drugs while they’re at it. While some of these Internet sites have some valuable information regarding symptom checks and corresponding information about illnesses, they also present a danger. Any time we look at something from the perception of a layperson, we risk finding and relating to symptoms within the descriptions of many illnesses. That’s what real doctors are for: differentiating reality from the natural misinterpretation from those of us lacking the vital MD title. Pharmaceutical-related overdoses have increased, proving the increasing danger in this behavior, and spurning an all out war against the pharmaceutical industries.

Drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, and Demoral are all opium derivative drugs. This particular class of drug is highly addictive and can easily lead to an overdose. Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Soma, Lunesta and others are benzodiazepines. These, too, can create a physical addiction in a short period of time and in worse cases, cause death. Adderal, Ritalin, and Vyvance are amphetamines primarily used to treat ADHD and are subsequently very powerful drugs that can cause heart attack and stroke, particularly when used inappropriately. The latter are often traded amongst kids in an effort to get high, or even as an attempt to increase their focus at school.

Our kids are playing doctor with quite a varied array of drugs, and this does not take into account the rampant abuse of illicit drugs or alcohol. According to John Lieberman, “Our teens are using very powerful psychoactive drugs during a time in their lives when they are emotionally vulnerable and when their brains are in a major stage of development.” According a 2010 statement by the APA:

“The brain’s frontal lobes, essential for functions such as emotional regulation, planning and organization, continue to develop through adolescence and young adulthood. At this stage, the brain is more vulnerable to the toxic and addictive actions of alcohol and other drugs.”

This isn’t just about playing doctor, kids are also doing chemistry experiments…with their own brains.

This blog was co-written by John Lieberman, our Director of Operations.

Additional links:

Causes of Increase in Opioid Deaths Probed

Be the Wall

Partnership for a Drug Free America