28 Sep 2012
When you send your teen off to enjoy a concert with friends, there are probably some worries niggling in the back of your mind. What will they see, hear or do when they are largely free of adult supervision and surrounded by a large group of other young people? Young people who attended music festivals this past summer were definitely confronted with opportunities to use illicit substances. The most popular substance found among kids attending these events has been a substance commonly referred to as Molly.
Keeping a record of your substance abuse (or your cravings) is widely touted to be an effective method of taking control of your addiction. Cynics may assume that something as simple as keeping a record of your usage couldn’t possibly have any impact on your behavior, but many ex-addicts have pointed to the humble journal as one of the key factors in their recovery. If you’re still having trouble taking control of your addiction, writing your experiences and emotions down in black and white could be the turning point you’re waiting for.
Recording How Often and How Much You Use
The moment you decide to institute a change in your life is the true beginning of your recovery, but getting to that point isn’t easy. When you’re bogged down in the habitual and hazy world of substance abuse, the number of lines you snorted or drinks you kicked back isn’t always easy to settle on. It’s easy to forget the whisky chaser or the pill you popped at lunchtime because the actions become virtually automatic. Actively noting down when you take your drug of choice makes the truth irrefutable. You will have a clear record of just how often you rely on your substance, and this also makes it easier to translate into monetary value.
If you’ve made the decision to record your drug use, you probably do have a problem. Undoubtedly, your journal will reveal that your problem is actually much bigger than you imagined, and that you bleed cash into it for a series of extremely short-term highs. The harsh reality of the situation – written out in front of you in black and white – serves as a much-needed slap in the face. You begin to realize how much the substance does dominate your life, and it therefore helps you see the reasons you should make a change.
Recording When, Where and Why You Use
Most people who abuse substances have a unique set of internal (emotional) or external (situational) triggers that push them to use drugs. For example, a stressful day at work might always be followed by a stiff drink, or seeing a group of friends might always lead to heavy cannabis use. If you also make a note of the situation you are in at the different times you choose to take drugs, then you can more easily identify your triggers to use. The simplest things to write down are when you used, whom you were with, how you were feeling, and how much you used.
The important thing is to identify the most high-risk situations for you. Feelings of depression or even general melancholy might always precede an ecstasy binge, or it might be going to a nightclub where the drug is rife. There are probably a number of factors which make it more likely that you’re going to use, and when they occur simultaneously, you might notice that you take more. Identifying these situations helps immensely during recovery, because you will become acutely aware of the factors influencing you at any given time. It also helps to write down when you experienced a craving but didn’t use, for the same reasons.
The Emotional Side of Things
The last major benefit of keeping a journal is the ability to air your emotions to an impartial “listener.” Your journal is like a trusted confidant, showing unconditional love and understanding whilst still presenting you with the reality of your situation. Don’t be afraid to be brutally honest with yourself during your diary keeping. Do your best to document your reality, without undue embellishments or omissions. The process of writing events, emotions, and situations down on paper forces you to organize them into some form of narrative, which in turn helps you look at them from a different perspective. Looking at situations in new ways usually leads to a greater understanding and acceptance of what happened.
Research has shown that journal writing can help people recover from both physical and psychological conditions. It’s been found that people who write things down during their recovery (from various conditions) need less medication, feel less pain, are happier, and score much better on psychological tests. These marked benefits may not have been directly studied in substance abusers, but when coupled with the ample anecdotal evidence available online, they obviously still apply.
Starting Your Diary
The most difficult aspect of the entire process is getting started. In reality, it doesn’t matter when you start, and it doesn’t really matter if you manage to write in it every day. Aiming to find twenty minutes every day to write a short entry or keeping a record of your use throughout the day is ideal, but if you can’t always do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. If possible, keep it with you all day (along with a pen), or if not, try to find the time before you go to sleep each day. The more you use it, the more you’ll start to see the benefits and want to continue. Remember, your diary is completely confidential, and it’s yours, so you can fill it in however works for you. The key is to express yourself, talk about your drug use and the difficulties you face in your life, and above all to read it back and think about the patterns you start to see.
24 Sep 2012
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a common childhood disorder that features symptoms of hyperactive or impulsive behavior and/or symptoms of a lack of normal focus and attention. Although it may seem counterintuitive, medications commonly used to treat ADHD – including Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) – achieve their beneficial effects by stimulating the brain. Unfortunately, the stimulating effects of these medications make them a target for abuse by people who don’t have ADHD. Increasingly, students in both high school and college engage in this kind of abuse and use ADHD drugs as non-sanctioned “study aids.”
ADHD Drug Basics
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ritalin and Adderall achieve their effects by gradually boosting the brain’s levels of an important chemical called dopamine, which helps regulate attention span, body movements, and your ability to experience pleasure. When dopamine levels rise slowly and steadily, they make changes in the brain’s communications networks that can lead to a reduction in hyperactivity and help improve the ability to pay attention.
However, rapid increases in dopamine levels can lead to a chemical dependence inside the body. Dependence occurs when your body starts to rely on the presence of a medication in order to feel “normal,” and lack of the medication makes you feel ill or “off.” Potential withdrawal symptoms that can indicate the presence of stimulant dependence include depression, nightmares, unusual fatigue, irritability, panic attacks, and an abnormally high appetite. Typically, ADHD patients can avoid any rapid spikes in their dopamine levels – and therefore avoid any related dependence risks – by only using Ritalin, Adderall or similar medications in low, medically appropriate dosages. For this reason, these drugs are only legally available through a prescription from a licensed doctor.
ADHD as a Study Aid
In people who don’t have ADHD, Ritalin, Adderall and other stimulants used for ADHD treatment can potentially enhance the ability to focus and stay alert for extended periods of time. Students without ADHD sometimes take advantage of these effects in an attempt to improve their scholastic performance and gain an advantage in highly competitive classroom environments. By its very nature, this use of ADHD drugs qualifies as a form of drug abuse. Abuse can turn into dependence if a student repeatedly takes enough Ritalin or Adderall to rapidly increase dopamine levels inside the brain.
Abuse Among High School Students
In 2012, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released the results of a long-term study that examined drug use patterns among U.S. high school students from 1975 to 2011. The study organizers found that prescription stimulant use among high school students as a whole reached its peak in the early 1980s and has tapered off significantly since that time. In 2011, only roughly 12 percent of all high school seniors self-reported the abuse of a prescription stimulant at any point in their four years of school, and only 8 percent reported stimulant abuse in their senior year. However, students who attend academically prestigious or competitive high schools buck this trend and use stimulants with increasing frequency. Depending on the specific location, anywhere from 15 to 40 percent of kids in these scholastic environments report abusing ADHD stimulant medications
Abuse Among College Students
According to a recent survey conducted jointly by the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Duke University, roughly 9 percent of all college students use ADHD stimulants as study aids without any type of valid prescription. However, usage rates are significantly higher at some schools. For instance, in 2011, researchers at the University of Kentucky reported that roughly 30 percent of all students at the school abuse Ritalin, Adderall, or other stimulant medications. The abuse rate among juniors and seniors at the school – who typically have more challenging academic course loads- was 50 percent, while the abuse rate among fraternity and sorority members reached 80 percent. The usage rates for ADHD medications at the university were higher than the usage rates for marijuana.
Many high school and college students downplay the risks of ADHD medication abuse or are unaware that any real risks exist. For example, just like many adults, many students believe that all prescription medications pose fewer dangers than illegal drugs simply because they come from doctors. In fact, according to the 2011 study at the University of Kentucky, students who abuse ADHD medications commonly consider these medications only slightly more dangerous than a can of caffeinated soda and far less dangerous than smoking or drinking. In addition, many students don’t know that Ritalin and Adderall are categorized as Schedule 2 drugs by the U.S. government, which means that they present roughly the same potential for abuse or addiction as cocaine and opiates such as morphine and oxycodone.
The association between marijuana and other hard core drugs is nothing new. In fact, marijuana has been touted as a gateway drug for years. Now, however, researchers may have data to substantiate that claim.
21 Sep 2012
One of the most contentious areas for debate around the issue of drug addiction is whether people should stop suddenly (going “cold turkey”) or gradually reduce their usage. The main issue is that the withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping abruptly could drive the individual back to the substance. In the past, this was seen as a necessary evil (almost a punishment) for the past addictive behavior. However, many people have recognized that gradual reduction could reduce withdrawal symptoms and help people get clean in the long run. Others argue that addicts will struggle to stick to a pre-designated amount of their chosen substance and therefore relapse is likely. Weighing up the evidence will help you determine whether gradual reduction is effective for addiction or not.
How Does Gradual Reduction Work?
The general theory behind gradual reduction programs is that the process of detoxification is much easier if you’re weaned off the substance incrementally. Most treatment programs use pre-designated dosages over a set time period, but these can be adapted to suit heavier users. The amount of the substance offered is reduced according to a fixed schedule until the individual has stopped using altogether. Instead of putting the body through the shock of complete abstinence after heavy use, this slower approach staves off withdrawal symptoms while still moving in the right direction. It’s like eating less and less food each day to lose weight instead of crash dieting.
What are Some Examples of Gradual Reduction Treatments?
Although people may use this approach at home with illicit drugs, alternative medicines are offered by drug rehabilitation centers for gradual reduction. The most well-known of these is methadone, which is used to help heroin (or other opiate) addicts kick their habit. It has longer-lasting effects that aren’t as strong as heroin, so it provides relief from withdrawal symptoms without having the same potential for abuse. The longer “half life” (duration of effects) of methadone translates into a longer period of withdrawal, but the symptoms aren’t as intense as from heroin, and the gradual reduction also makes this easier.
The most widely used gradual reduction treatments are actually for a legal addiction-smoking. Several nicotine products have entered the market, offering a gum or a patch that provides a small amount of nicotine over a long period. This reduces the cravings for cigarettes and provides a safer method of administering the nicotine (without the tar and myriad chemicals in cigarette smoke). While the withdrawal symptoms of smoking aren’t very severe in comparison to illicit drugs or alcohol, many people still choose to use a reduction program when they quit.
Do They Work?
Reviews of multiple studies into the effectiveness of gradual reduction or maintenance programs can draw more weighty conclusions because of the increased sample size and the ability to choose methodologically sound research. One review looked at six studies that compared methadone maintenance therapy with placebo (sugar pill) maintenance therapy and other non-medical approaches. The randomized studies provide evidence that methadone maintenance helps to retain patients in treatment and reduces heroin use compared to other approaches. It didn’t reduce criminal activity, but it is much more effective for treatment.
A review published by the Cochrane Collaboration compared reduction programs for stopping smoking with the cold-turkey approach. The researchers found that the reduction approach (whether by limiting the amount of cigarettes or using nicotine alternatives) is as effective as stopping abruptly. It’s important to note that both groups always received additional support, whether through informative booklets or counseling. Despite the comparable success rate, reduction is not often advised to people looking to quit smoking.
What is the Best Option for Getting Clean?
Both of the literature reviews provide evidence of the effectiveness of gradual reduction programs in both legal and illicit substances. The reason for this is clearly the aforementioned benefit of reducing withdrawal symptoms, as well as the process of gradually defeating day-to-day triggers rather than tackling them all at once. A smoker might prioritize his after-meal cigarette over the one waiting for the bus when he can only smoke one more cigarette during the day. In the process, the habit of smoking while waiting for the bus is broken. As the amount of the substance gets lower and lower, the specific cues to use are taken apart one by one.
Although reduction programs are effective, some people still prefer the abstinence approach. For most drugs (aside from extreme cases), the cold-turkey approach doesn’t carry significant risks, so it is usually an option. If the individual would prefer to gradually reduce, however, the evidence presents no reason to dissuade them. In cases with severe withdrawal symptoms such as heroin addiction, it actually appears to be better to manage down than to try and stop altogether. This is seemingly because of the sheer level of discomfort presented by the withdrawal symptoms.
There are obvious advantages to managing down if the withdrawal symptoms will be very unpleasant, but the true deciding factor is clearly the individual’s motivation to change. Either method has the potential to be effective as long as you are dedicated to getting clean. You shouldn’t feel mentally “weak” if you choose the manage-down approach, nor should you feel stubborn for deciding to go cold turkey. It is important to remember that there is no honor in enduring withdrawal symptoms, and you aren’t required to suffer extensively because you’ve been addicted or done bad things in the past. Choose the approach which works best for you.
18 Sep 2012
If you are of a certain generation, enthusiasm for cell phones may have lost some of its initial luster. After embracing all the obvious conveniences they provide, you may still be adjusting to the constant communication lifestyles they have wrought.
16 Sep 2012
Proponents of legalizing marijuana claim that the drug is different from other street drugs. One difference claimed by users is that marijuana is not habit-forming in the same way as are alcohol, tobacco or cocaine. Studies do show, however, that marijuana use involves the very same regions of the brain as are stimulated by other addictions. Addictions to substances or behaviors (such as pornography or gambling) all involve habituated triggers to brain activity. It seems reasonable then to assume that if one can prove similar triggers within the brain relating to marijuana use that a case can be made for its addictive quality.
According to a Yahoo! Sports Blog, Tyrann Mathieu recently made the life-changing decision to enter drug rehab and come out better on the other side. The former LSU player decided to begin treatment in a drug rehab center to work on issues that caused him to be dismissed from his college football career at LSU.