21 Jan 2014
A US government study on drugs in the workplace has caused some business owners and community activists to raise questions about medical marijuana policies.
Annie Short, the manager of a Wisconsin-based wellness program, recently gave a talk called “Drug Abuse and the Cost to Businesses” at a wellness council luncheon. She urged her community to rethink the state’s consideration of legalizing marijuana. Because over 70 percent of individuals using illegal drugs are employed, the manager’s discussion posed a thought-provoking question: Are employers willing to let those drug abusers perform public services, such as bus drivers, police officers and pilots?
Short shared some statistics from a U.S. Department of Labor, Small Business Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse survey.
Workplace Drug-Use Stats:
- Employees who are substance abusers cause 40 percent of accidents that happen on the job
- Due to lost time, health care cost, worker’s compensation and accidents, drug abusers cost employers an estimated $81 billion annually
- Drug users are more likely to ask for time off, have repeated absences and be late for work
- Drug users are five times more likely to make a worker’s compensation claim
Employees Using Drugs And Stealing At Work?
Statistics from a national cocaine helpline reported that 75 percent of callers admitted to using drugs while working. They also reported that drugs had a noticeably adverse effect on their ability to complete their jobs. Eighteen percent of callers reported stealing from co-workers and employers to support their drug habits.
Drug-Free Changes For The Workplace
Community leaders and advocates against the legalization of marijuana have a clear message: Employers and companies must make a drug-free workplace a top priority. Employers should implement policies that have clear and strict discipline, with termination for employees who are found to be using drugs while working.
In order to have a workplace that is drug-free, employers should implement employee education, a substance abuse support program, training and regular drug testing.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that most of us have felt at one time or another. We may worry about a health problem or be concerned about meeting a work deadline. For some, though, anxiety becomes so intense that it interferes with daily life. The tension, strain, and stress can be serious enough that they try to find relief through a potentially dangerous practice: self-medication with alcohol or drugs.
What Is “Self-Medication”?
Self-medication involves using a substance to cope with negative feelings or physical discomfort without the guidance or oversight of a trained medical professional. Individuals struggling with anxiety may start abusing alcohol or drugs in order to calm themselves down and feel more relaxed. For example, they may get into the habit of drinking one or two beers before bed so they don’t lay awake at night feeling overwhelmed by life. They may smoke pot during a lunch break because they believe it will help them cope with a stressful workplace.
Specific Disorders And Substance Abuse
While any anxiety symptoms have the potential to contribute to substance abuse, a review of research suggests that those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) are most likely to struggle with substance abuse. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – which also include significant anxiety although no longer categorized as anxiety disorders per se – have been closely linked to alcohol abuse .
Substances Used In Self-Medication
Someone experiencing anxiety can self-medicate with any substance. Some of the most commonly used substances include:
Alcohol is a popular substance of abuse among anxiety sufferers. Although it’s actually a depressant, drinking alcohol can initially numb feelings of stress, tension, nervousness, and fear. Alcohol also has a disinhibiting effect. This means that it helps people feel less inhibited or restrained; making them more likely to do things they would never do normally. This effect can make individuals feel freer and less afraid of the situation causing their anxiety.
For example, a disinhibited person may not be paralyzed by fear when he’s required to attend an office function or feel embarrassed or uncomfortable eating in public. Consuming alcohol makes many individuals feel friendlier and less anxious. In fact, studies show that some people with social anxiety are more motivated to drink specifically to reduce their social fears . However, despite its initial calming effects, alcohol can end up prolonging or worsening feelings of tension .
Marijuana is also quite popular with anxiety sufferers. This is primarily due to its ability to help them feel more “laid back” and relaxed. According to one survey, nearly 90% of marijuana users reported they’d used the drug in order to relax . When smoked, marijuana affects brain receptors linked to pleasure, producing a feeling of overall calmness.
Marijuana, like alcohol, may not be the effective anxiety reliever that many perceive it to be. For example, some users report having panic attacks after smoking it. Researchers believe this side effect is due to THC – the active ingredient in marijuana. THC has a negative impact on brain chemicals like serotonin and noradrenalin. Furthermore, some experts believe marijuana’s ability to impair thinking can contribute to increased anxiety in some users .
Statistics don’t reveal the exact number of people who abuse heroin to reduce anxiety. However, the dangerous drug’s power to produce a relaxed state of mind may make it the drug of choice for some anxiety sufferers. When heroin is injected, the brain converts it to morphine. This causes a euphoric rush of warmth followed by drowsiness. Heroin is also said to blunt emotions, which may seem to take the edge off of stress, tension, and feelings of anxiousness. The feeling of relaxation is temporary, though, and users need to get high again in order to find relief. This cycle can lead to a serious addiction to the drug.
It seems counterintuitive that anyone struggling with anxiety would choose to use a highly stimulating drug like cocaine. Experts theorize that the drug activates the brain in a way that allows someone struggling with social anxiety to break through inhibitions and cope with stressful situations . Like heroin, cocaine offers only fleeting anxiety relief, causing the user to continually seek out a high. Addiction, overdose, and death are all potential risks.
The Drug Use/Anxiety Paradox
When a person lives with anxiety, it can seem as though substances do reduce the troubling symptoms – and they may in the short term. However, substance abuse, even in the form of self-medication, leads to long-term problems that generate additional stress. Some users get so high that they end up being late for work. They may be unable to attend to the needs of their children or aging parents because their too drunk or have passed out. Substance abuse also harms their physical well-being. Each substance takes its own toll on health, from the potential liver damage of alcohol abuse to the dangers of overdose with cocaine or heroin use.
In addition, finding, buying, and using illicit drugs can contribute to anxiety. Users may worry that family members will notice the scent of marijuana on their clothing or feel uneasy about buying street drugs from an acquaintance. Drug-related activities inevitably add to the stress and strain they’re so desperately trying to alleviate.
Healthier Treatments For Anxiety
Anxiety symptoms affect every aspect of your life, so it’s essential to find help. Self-medication is never an effective or healthy treatment for anxiety. A combination of therapy and lifestyle changes is often enough to reduce symptoms of anxiety without the dangers of alcohol or drug abuse.
A skilled therapist can tailor treatment to address your specific type of anxiety. For example, if you struggle with social phobia, you may receive exposure therapy. Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, exposes you to anxiety-provoking situations in a gradual way that allows you to become more comfortable with them. The goal is to become desensitized to the anxiety as the exposure increases and intensifies.
People with anxiety also frequently benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Strategies like deep breathing exercises can reduce anxiety on the spot by lowering your body’s physical response to stress. Regular exercise is also an effective way to lessen anxiety because it naturally increases the brain’s levels of endorphins, which help promote a sense of wellbeing.
If you’re already self-medicating, be honest with your therapist and other treatment providers about your substance abuse. This will give them the opportunity to accurately assess you and determine the best treatment approach for both issues. You may be a good candidate for “dual diagnosis” treatment, which simultaneously addresses and treats your anxiety and your substance abuse problem. Leaving the substance abuse untreated will likely undermine your anxiety therapy, and vice versa.
Don’t risk your health by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Reach out for help so you can find a better way to cope with anxiety and live the life you deserve.
Read More About How Anxiety And Mood Disorders Are Linked To Opioid Abuse
Substance use is common in a substantial minority of high school-age children across the U.S. Significant numbers of high school-age children also discontinue their education, or drop out, before receiving a diploma and never complete an alternative GED program. In 2013, officials from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a report that examined the connection between dropping out of high school and the risks for involvement in substance use. Information for this report came from nine years of data gathered from a project called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The U.S. Department of Education tracks high school dropout rates in a couple of ways. One method involves counting the percentage of people between the ages of 16 and 24 who do not attend high school and don’t possess a high school diploma, a GED certificate or any other certificate from a recognized, alternative educational program. In 2011, the last year for which full figures are available, 7 percent of individuals in the target age range who were not institutionalized or incarcerated fit this definition. High school dropout rates can also be roughly calculated by seeing how many incoming freshman go on to receive a diploma within a standard four-year timeframe. Three out of every four students successfully graduate on time, while the remaining 25 percent do not. Apart from any substance-related issues, common consequences of dropping out of high school include making less money, not receiving health insurance coverage and having increased risks for poverty and serious health issues.
Teen Substance Use Rates
The National Institute on Drug Abuse regularly tracks trends for substance intake in U.S. 8th graders, 10th graders and 12th graders. With the exception of involvement with inhalants, older teenagers consistently engage in substance use more often than younger teens. For example, in 2012 over 40 percent of 12th graders drank alcohol in an average month, while only 27.6 percent of 10th graders drank as frequently. Similarly, while almost 23 percent of all 12th graders used marijuana on a monthly basis, only 17 percent of 10th graders used the drug as frequently. Percentages of monthly alcohol and marijuana use were even lower in 8th graders. Marijuana ranks as the most common drug choice among all high school students.
How Dropping Out Influences Substance Use Rates
In the report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, researchers used data gathered from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2010 to identify high school-age children who had dropped out by the 12th grade and determine how dropping out influences substance use rates. The survey’s results indicate that 13.2 percent of teens old enough to be in the 12th grade failed to graduate in this nine-year timespan. The dropout rate among boys was 14.7 percent, while the rate among girls was 11.6 percent. The ethnic groups most likely to drop out before or during the 12th grade were Native Americans/Alaskan Natives and Hispanics. Asian Americans and whites had the lowest dropout rates.
When compared to 12th graders who stayed in high school, dropouts of the same age had consistently higher monthly rates for all forms of substance use. For example, while only 22.4 percent of all enrolled 12th graders smoked cigarettes, 56.8 percent of all dropouts the same age smoked. While 35.3 percent of enrolled 12th graders drank alcohol, 41.6 percent of all dropouts the same age drank. Twelfth grade-age dropouts also had a higher rate of participation in a form of dangerous, short-term alcohol consumption called binge drinking. In addition, while 18.2 percent of all enrolled 12th graders used marijuana or some other illegal or illicit drug, 31.4 percent of all dropouts the same age used an illicit/illegal drug.
When compared to their gender, peers who remained in school, both 12th grade-age dropout boys and 12th grade-age dropout girls had significantly higher rates of intake for all commonly used substances. White 12th grade-age dropouts also had higher rates of intake for all substances than white 12th graders enrolled in school. The same pattern held true for African-American 12th grade-age dropouts and African-American 12th graders still attending school. Hispanics also largely followed the same pattern; however, the alcohol use rate was slightly higher among 12th grade Hispanics still enrolled in school than among Hispanic dropouts the same age. The two groups also had almost equal rates for participation in prescription drug abuse.
Importance Of Substance Abuse Prevention
The findings published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration clearly indicate that people who drop out of high school have substantially higher chances of becoming involved in substance use than their peers who remain in school. In the future, public health officials can use this information to place special emphasis on substance abuse prevention efforts aimed at teenagers and young adults who did not graduate from high school.
Read More About Teen Substance Abuse
03 Jan 2014
Making excuses for the habit is a cornerstone of being and addict. Until an addict can accept that he has a problem, you can expect to hear every excuse under the sun for why he abuses drugs or alcohol. If you suspect that someone you know and love has a problem, recognizing the common excuses can help you identify an addict and potentially stage a safe and healthy intervention. There are many creative excuses, but here are some of the most popular:
Popular Excuses Of Drug Addicts
- I’m not hurting anyone but myself – This is a classic excuse. Why can’t you leave him alone and let him live his life? He’s not hurting anyone else. If it were only that simple, maybe you would stop nagging him. Unfortunately your friend or family member does not live in a bubble and he needs to realize his habit is hurting others.
- I need to use to be social – This is a common excuse used by introverts and the shy who have drug abuse problems. Drug or alcohol abuse should never be a crutch for socializing. In fact, it can make your friend look worse in social settings and can cause embarrassing situations.
- I need to drink/use drugs to keep up at work – Using certain drugs can make a person feel high, powerful and energetic. Facing work and other responsibilities without the drug can seem daunting. Eventually, though, the drug abuse will catch up to him and make all responsibilities, at work and at home, more difficult.
- I only drink to relieve stress – And isn’t that how addiction begins? Drinking or using drugs is never a healthy way to cope with stress. The problems the habit causes will eventually create even more stress.
- I only use on the weekends/socially – There is no such thing as casual drug use. If your friend is getting high or drinking to pass out on Friday and Saturday nights, she still has a problem, and one that will only get worse.
- Everyone else does it – It may be true that you can look around a party and see people getting drunk, or even getting high, but you have no idea what their histories are. Comparing yourself to others is not a valid excuse to abuse drugs and alcohol.
- I can stop whenever I want to – As soon as someone utters this line, you can almost guarantee he has a problem. You should never have to convince others that you can quit whenever you want to. If you do, it means people are worried, and probably with good reason.
What You Can Do Once You Know The Addict’s Excuses
Being around someone who abuses drugs and alcohol or who is already a full-fledged addict means you are going to hear excuses. Learn to recognize them for what they are: pitiable reasons to continue using. When you know what to look and listen for, you can see addiction more clearly. Confront your friend or family member who is making these excuses and offer a solution: treatment.
Addiction is a disease, and like any physical disease, it requires treatment. Help your friend first recognize his problem by challenging his excuses. Then, be prepared to help him and to offer to get him into a treatment program. Doing it on his own will be a major challenge, but if you can be there to help him select a rehab program and to support him in his sobriety, he can succeed.
Read More On How Do I Know If I Am Enabling The Addict In My Life?
Studies show that marijuana is being produced today is over 10 percent more potent than it was 30 years ago, and some producers have created the strongest strains ever recorded.
A lab at the University of Mississippi that tracks potency in marijuana seized by federal law enforcers reported finding strains with 37 percent potency. In 1972, the average potency was less than one percent. Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the Ole Miss studies, says the danger is not the marijuana itself, but that young users don’t know what they’re smoking is so potent.
Dangerous Side Effects Of Marijuana
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that high levels of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes psychoactive effects, could lead to a drop in IQ for those who smoke at a young age.
It is the altered state of mind which causes disorientation, anxiousness and poor decision making that’s the most dangerous side effect of smoking marijuana. When people smoke highly potent strains they may not be prepared for the side effects and consequences.
It’s not the age at which young adults start using, it’s the perception that marijuana isn’t dangerous.
Many Teens Are Smoking Marijuana And Are Not Properly Educated Of The Harm
According to the NIDA survey “Monitoring the Future,” over one-third of seniors admitted to smoking marijuana in the preceding 12 months. The number of middle school-aged children who admit to marijuana use has tripled from 1993. More astonishingly, 60 percent of high school seniors report not seeing regular marijuana use as harmful.
On top of being uneducated about the harmful consequences of smoking marijuana, users are also putting unknown chemicals into their bodies. Marijuana producers are always creating different strains and mixing the drug with other ingredients, causing unknown side effects. So there is no way for people who don’t know what they are smoking to anticipate the strong effects the drug will have on them. This takes even more control away from users and creates dangerous situations, like increased changes of intoxicated driving.
Read More: Is Marijuana Really Addictive?
A new report shows a rise in U.K. hospital emergency room visits by adults in their forties for drug or alcohol issues. The country’s health providers are determined to continue tackling the issue of drug and alcohol abuse as they strive to lower the rate of substance abuse.
The report came from data firm Dr Foster Intelligence. The group used ER admissions records as the basis for who is most often abusing drugs and alcohol and how often that abuse reaches the level of required hospitalization. According to their 2013 Hospital Guide:
Hospitalizations For Drug And Alcohol Abuse
- 19 percent of ER admissions of 40-44 year olds were directly related to alcohol or drug use. That figure was highest among all age groups.
- 18 percent of 45-49 year old admissions were for the same alcohol or drug reasons.
- In 2002-2003 the average age for a binge-drinking related hospitalization was 16 years. By 2004-2005 the typical age was 19. In 2012-13 the average age of those entering the hospital for binge drinking was 32 years.
- Despite the rise in average age for binge drinking ER visits, adolescents and young adults remain the most apt to need hospital care for binging.
Based on the Dr Foster report, young people are revealing more wisdom than their parents. Part of the problem is that an alarming number of patients don’t seem to be finding their way to recovery:
- The typical age of a person needing hospitalization for drugs or alcohol reasons in 2002-2003 was 41 years. In 2012-2013 the typical age was 43.
- Dr Foster found that over 500,000 individuals needed hospitalization for their alcohol or drug abuse at least one time during the past three years.
- At least 120,000 of those admitted to the hospital were 40-something years old. That is double the number of folks in their 20s or 60s who needed hospital care for drugs or alcohol.
Repeat ER Visits For Drugs Or Alcohol
Looking at all hospital admittances for alcohol or drugs in 2012-2013 a surprising 36 percent had already been admitted more than one time for the same problem in the past. And five percent had been in the hospital for drug or alcohol issues five times or more.
The problem appears to be most acute among the poor in Britain, with 36 percent of ER visits coming from the poorest regions of the country, and only nine percent of them coming from wealthy sections of the population.
A Dr Foster spokesman said that their figures were likely on the low end of actual numbers. The group only used hospital admittances where alcohol or drugs were 100 percent responsible. Left out were the high number of other admissions where substances played a key role.
Turning The Substance Abuse Hospital Visit Problem Around
Healthcare workers and National Health Services spokespeople say that there are ways to turn the problem around. For example, in 22 percent of the hospitalizations no general practitioner was listed on the health form. This could indicate that people are attempting to hide their problem from their primary care doctor rather than use them as a resource. If primary care doctors would use the NHS Healthcheck guide as a screening tool for substance abuse, more cases might be able to be treated before they reached a critical stage.
Hospitals also intend to implement more direct interventions by health professionals. Placing nurses who function as alcohol liaisons in the ER is one way to accomplish that goal.
Read More About Increased ER Visits For Surprising Drugs
Inattention and impulsivity are two mental/behavioral patterns that can substantially lower a person’s ability to function well in a range of social and interpersonal situations. While these patterns are commonly linked to the presence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they also occur in people unaffected by ADHD. In a study published in November 2013 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the University of Chicago looked at both inattention and impulsivity as potential risk factors for increasing individuals’ sensitivity to the effects of the stimulant amphetamine. Typically, such an increase in drug sensitivity significantly heightens the risks for subsequent stimulant abuse and stimulant addiction.
Inattention is the general term for an inability to stay focused on specific events taking place in your current surroundings, stay focused on specific details of your environment or stay focused during personal or group interactions with others. In the context of ADHD, these focusing problems contribute substantially to social and interpersonal dysfunction, characterized by such things as poor academic performance in school or college, difficulties making appropriate social adjustments to changing circumstances, underdevelopment of critical language and math skills, a reduced ability to get or keep a job, and difficulty maintaining personal or intimate relationships. Outside of the context of an ADHD diagnosis, inattention can increase a person’s risks for involvement in accidents or susceptibility to fraud or other deceitful behavior.
Impulsivity is a term used to describe a tendency to act without significant forethought, or to act while ignoring previously gained insights regarding the negative potential outcomes of one’s actions. In the context of ADHD, the tendency to act impulsively contributes to the same general forms of social and interpersonal dysfunction that appear in people affected by ADHD-related inattention. Outside of the context of ADHD, impulsivity is linked to increased risks for a group of mental health conditions called personality disorders, as well as increased risks for mania, a highly agitated or excitable state commonly associated with the presence of bipolar disorder.
Inattention, Impulsivity Problems And Susceptibility To Stimulants
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the University of Chicago researchers gave fairly low 20 mg, 10 mg and 5 mg doses of amphetamine to 165 adults with no history of substance abuse issues or other major health problems. After receiving each dose, each of these adults took part in tests designed to measure problems with inattention and problems with impulsivity. Each adult also filled out two questionnaires that helped the researchers gauge their sensitivity to the effects of amphetamine. For the sake of comparison, all 165 participants also went through the same testing procedures after taking a placebo drug dose that didn’t actually contain amphetamine or any other mind-altering substance.
The purpose of the project was to determine whether a high degree of impulsivity or inattention can increase a person’s susceptibility to the effects of amphetamine, and therefore make that person more susceptible to the eventual development of amphetamine abuse, amphetamine dependence or amphetamine addiction. The project’s designers undertook their efforts because, while previous studies had raised the possibility of a link between impulsivity, inattention and increased sensitivity to stimulant drugs, the authors of these studies had not examined this issue in detail.
At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that people affected by unusual degrees of inattention actually experience a decrease in their sensitivity to the mind-altering effects of amphetamine, not an increase. In addition, when amphetamine doses grow larger, people affected by inattention become less and less sensitive to the drug’s effects. The story is different for unusually impulsive people. When these individuals receive amphetamine, they exhibit a strong sensitivity to the drug’s effects. In addition, this sensitivity rises as the administered dose of amphetamine increases.
Results Of Strong Inattention, Impulsivity On Stimulant Abuse
The results of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence indicate that the presence of unusually high levels of inattention may act as a hindrance to developing an abusive or addictive pattern of stimulant use. Conversely, the presence of unusually high levels of impulsivity may act as a factor in the development of these harmful patterns of stimulant intake. If this second point is true, then high impulsivity almost certainly adds to other known risks for developing stimulant abuse or addiction problems, rather than acting on its own as a primary factor.
Read More About Moms Abusing Stimulants
Illegal street drugs and prescription drug misuse can be tracked via emergency room visits. But what about “legal highs,” such as inhalants like glue and paint?
A study by Swedish researchers provides insight into the use of Methoxetamine, or MXE. The drug is classed as a “research chemical” and can be purchased online. The study was published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
MXE is made from ketamine, a drug popularly used at clubs for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects. Ketamine is also used for ketamine psychedelic psychotherapy, a tool used to treat depression and dependence disorders. MXE is similar in many ways to ketamine when used, but MXE tends to last longer and provide a more potent experience. The use of such substances can create a challenge for clinicians because they have little information about the contents of the drug, the interactions or side effects that are likely to occur with use.
The researchers used online public forums to examine postings about the use of MXE. This type of study, called a phenomenological review, is useful in collecting information about experiences and perceptions. The researchers were able to gather data from anonymous posters on the sites.
MXE users described dissociative properties similar to those associated with ketamine and altered states of consciousness. MXE was also reported as creating an elevated mood, an experience of euphoria, as well as long-lasting antidepressant effects, interests in new activities and personal growth.
The study’s design carries with it significant limitations. The use of anonymous reports to create a picture of the drug’s effects and risks is not the ideal way to measure the properties of a drug. However, the study provides important insight that could lead to more in-depth research. Next steps would include more systematic methods of research, including reliable measurements of effects, side effects and predictors for use.
Social Media’s Role In Mental Health Research And Drug Abuse Awareness
Social media is growing as a resource for mental health research. The use of public forums on drug use, combined with postings on other Internet sources, may not provide the same robust information as other types of study designs, but they may result in findings that provide a candid and unedited picture of users’ experiences.
The research may be helpful in raising awareness about the dangers of using chemicals to achieve a high similar to street drugs. Because they are legal and for sale on the Internet, users may misunderstand the level of danger attached to the use of these drugs. In addition to using the Internet to gather information about the use of MXE, social media may also be useful and play a role in raising awareness about the negative consequences of MXE use.