Marijuana Can Lead to Substance Use Disorders

substance use disorderLast month, a new study was published that debunked the often stated claim that marijuana was the “gateway” drug, meaning the use of cannabis would lead people to trying harder, more dangerous narcotics, possibly resulting with the development of a substance use disorder. The study painted a picture of the true gateway drug – alcohol. While the findings shined a new light on an old idea, it does not mean that the use of marijuana is completely safe and that those who use marijuana won’t go on to try harder drugs.

The changing views about cannabis in the United States, for better or worse, has resulted in long overdue research about the drug. A new study published recently found that people who smoke marijuana were at a much greater risk of developing an addiction to other drugs or alcohol, HealthDay reports. The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

All Roads Lead from Marijuana

The findings come from preliminary interviews of nearly 35,000 adults, who were interviewed again three years later. Almost 1,300 of the adults used marijuana, according to the article. The researchers found that two-thirds of cannabis users had some type of substance use disorder after the second interview. Of those who didn’t use marijuana, only 20 percent were found to have a substance use disorder. What’s more, the researchers observed that people who used marijuana once or more a month, had higher rates of substance use disorders.

“This new finding raises the possibility that the recent rise in marijuana use may be contributing to the coincident rise in serious harms related to narcotics and other drugs of abuse,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Recreational Disaster

With more states lightening their laws regarding marijuana, and four states where adults 21-years or older using marijuana legally, it is important that we acknowledge the fact that marijuana is not a benign substance just because it’s legal. Alcohol has been legal for a long time; every year thousands of people lose their life due to the use of the substance, from alcohol related illness and accidents.

“In the ongoing national debate concerning whether to legalize recreational marijuana, the public and legislators should take into consideration the potential for marijuana use to increase the risk of developing alcohol abuse and other serious drug problems,” said Olfson.

Substance Use Disorders

If you or a loved one’s use of marijuana, or another mind altering substance is out of control, reach out for help before the problem worsens. Please contact Next Step Intervention to get on the road to recovery.

Changing the Language of Addiction

addiction

When people think or talk about people living with addiction, words often are used that can be pejorative. Names like “crackhead,” “junkie,” “dope fiend” and “lush” are commonly used to label those with substance use disorders. The list goes on ad infinitum. While many of the names used to describe those living with life threatening mental health disorders have a history, and they are often spoken without offense being taken, the use of such monikers only serves to fuel the fiery stigma of addiction.

The Language of Addiction

Both researchers and advocates suggest that if we are to continue breaking down the stigma of addiction, it requires that we change how we talk about the illness, The Boston Globe reports. They are calling for the use of medically accepted terminology when talking about substance use disorders because pejorative words like “abuser” discourage people from reaching out for help.

“The biggest thing we trade in is hope,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, Massachusetts Chapter President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Our biggest enemy is hopelessness. That’s why I think language matters a lot.”

Standardized Communication About Addiction

For the first time in American history, we have a Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who is himself in recovery. Michael Botticelli would like to do away with words to describe addiction that have negative connotations, and standardize federal communication about addiction, according to the article.

“For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves,” said Botticelli. “Words have to change so attitudes change.”

He points out that saying someone is “clean” from drugs, implies that active drug use is dirty, the article reports. He adds that: “We don’t say for a diabetic whose blood sugar spikes that they have a ‘dirty blood sugar.”

Choose Your Words Wisely

Removing stigma can begin with an intervention. Substance abuse interventions are to be carefully planned and facilitated by an interventionist who might also be a licensed counselor or social worker. Typically the meeting is held in a private, neutral location where all family and friends who are participating can feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns. The interventionist coaches the group to choose their words wisely and to present a united front in the form of rehearsed, straightforward messages about the facts of the problem and its impact on others. An intervention is not about creating guilt trips or placing blame. It is about being firm and compassionate conveying the consequences that have resulted from addiction and share the group’s desire for the addicted individual to make positive changes.

Promoting positive changes can be the first step in removing stigma!

Holiday Season Ends – Dry January Begins

dry-januaryThe holiday season is finally over, and for many of those who consumed a lot of alcohol during that time period they may want to abstain from drinking for a while. A goal which coincides nicely with “Dry January,” a month for people committed to not drinking can take a break. The holidays may have also been a sign to some that their drinking has gotten out of hand, and drastic measures are required.

What is Dry January?

A lot of alcohol is consumed in the United Kingdom, especially during holidays. The goal of the Dry January campaign is to raise awareness of alcohol-related problems and teach people the health benefits of staying away from booze, The Independent reports. Last year more than 2 million people took part in Dry January.

Overall alcohol consumption has risen in the UK over the last 60 years, according to the article. In the wake of the increase of consumption, the rate of alcohol-related health problems has risen as well. There has been a 44 percent increase in the number of people over 50 requiring alcohol use disorder treatment since 2009.

The more people drink, and the more frequently they drink, greatly increase the chance of people developing alcohol addiction. Many of the people who meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder will require assistance in quitting, and learning how to not pick up again.

Treatment

For many alcoholics, simply quitting alcohol is not an option and can even be dangerous to one’s health. Withdrawing from alcohol after years of consumption often requires medical assistance and long term inpatient treatment. If you or a loved one is battling with alcoholism, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can help you begin the journey of recovery. Our expert addiction specialist can assess the problem and determine the best plan to get you the help you need.

Staying Sober On New Year’s Eve

New Year's EveTomorrow is New Year’s Eve, which for most people means bringing in 2016 with a bang. Typically, when the sun sets people put on festive clothing and venture out to parties where people will be drinking alcohol to excess. For those who are working a program of recovery, and are planning on attending such gatherings, it is vital that you remain focused – reminding yourself that you cannot drink or use no matter what. Whenever one is in the presence of people who appear to be having fun while drinking, it can become easy for those in recovery to romance alcohol – feelings may arise that can be difficult to resist.

Forgetting How Bad It Was

People in recovery who plan to spend time around people drinking alcohol tomorrow night need to remind themselves of the dark places that alcohol brought them. Addicts and alcoholics excel at remembering the joy that drugs and alcohol made them feel, and easily forget that drugs and alcohol brought them to their knees.

If you are finding yourself having cravings for alcohol, it is vital that you play back a tape of your addictive past. Failing to do so may result in thinking that you can drink like everyone else, and not experience any consequences. While it may be possible that you can drink tomorrow night without problems arising immediately, it will start you down a path that can be hard to reverse. You know all too well the hard work that was required to get you to the point you are at, having just one drink will through it all out the window.

There Are Better Alternatives On New Year’s Eve

If you actively attend 12-Step meetings, then you are likely aware that recovery events will be going on throughout New Year’s Eve, and round-the-clock meetings as well. Whether you are new to recovery or have accumulated a significant amount of time, the best thing you can do tomorrow is stay close to your recovery peers. Filling your day with 12-Step meetings, followed by a recovery event at night will help you make it through the day sober and will be a lot of fun.

It is likely that your recovery friends will have the same plan for tomorrow. It is also fair to say that being around people who are intoxicated is not much fun for those in recovery and is hardly worth the risk. At N2 treatment, we would like to wish everyone a safe and sober start to 2016.

Christmas, and the Shield of Gratitude

addiction, gratitudeWith Christmas around the corner, it is crucial that those who are actively working a program of recovery remain grounded and calm during the big day. While the holidays are cause for celebration, recovering addicts and alcoholics need to celebrate in a different way and it may require that one celebrate different things. Celebrating one’s recovery often means living in a place of gratitude, and sobriety is definitely something for which to be grateful. On Christmas, it is important that those in recovery for addiction remember where they came from and how far they have come – even if they have only been clean and sober for a short period of time.

The Shield of Gratitude

Most people who are in recovery were once in a very bad way, when they get sober it opens up all kinds of possibilities that are only possible because of their recovery. Remembering the people and things that you are grateful for can be your greatest protection, if you are finding yourself feeling blue on Christmas Day.

The holidays can be trying, and it can be difficult to attend events where alcohol is in abundance without encountering strong feelings, which, left unchecked can lead people in recovery to think it is OK to have a drink. It is at times like those that you remind yourself where that drink will take you, playback the tape of your past, and be grateful that you don’t have to go there ever again. Recovering addicts and alcoholics have so much for which to be grateful, failing to acknowledge the miracle of one’s recovery can be dangerous.

Christmas Meetings

Just as on Thanksgiving, meetings will be held all day long on Christmas. It is always wise to attend a meeting, or more, after you finish with family obligations. Being around one’s family can be stressful; therefore, it is crucial that you join your recovery peers so you can discuss how you are feeling. Surrounding yourself with like minded people, working towards the same goal is sure way to decompress from the pressure of a family gathering.

If you are estranged from your family it can be painful, but it does not mean that you have to pick up to manage those feelings. Drinking or using will not bring your family back into your life any sooner, it will surely prolong such an eventuality. Instead, put your faith in the power of the program, and channel your energy into those who are actively part of your life. You may find yourself as a source of strength to the newcomer who is struggling more than you.

The Hand of Recovery

We at Next Step Intervention would like to wish everyone in Recovery a Merry Christmas, free from alcohol and drugs. Please remember that the hand of recovery is always there, never hesitate to reach out for help if you find yourself in need.

Monitoring the Future 2015

monitoring-the-futureEvery year, researchers at the University of Michigan conduct the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, funded by research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The MTF is a long term epidemiological study that that looks at legal and illicit drug use and perceived risk of use among American adolescents and adults. The research has been ongoing since 1975. The MTF, among other things, provides experts with a window into people’s beliefs regarding drugs and alcohol use, allowing them to make informed decisions in the development of intervention techniques.

Monitoring the Future 2015

As the year comes to a close, we have a chance to see the progress we have made and the setbacks we have experienced as a nation. This year’s survey shows that overall; teens are reducing their use of:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol (including binge drinking)
  • Prescription Opioids
  • Synthetic Marijuana

“These are some of the lowest numbers we have ever seen,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow told CBS News. “Notable is cigarette smoking — it is lower than we’ve ever seen it. Heroin is at the lowest it’s ever been. For prescription opiates, it’s the lowest we have ever seen. Overall this is very good news.”

Less Fire, More Smoke

While the aforementioned findings are promising, there is still work to be done – especially when it comes to marijuana. The researchers found that marijuana use has not declined among teenagers, CBS News reports. In fact, for the first time more high school seniors smoke marijuana than regular cigarettes on a daily basis.

In recent years, the nation has seen a growing tolerance for marijuana. Currently, there are 23 states and DC with medical marijuana programs, and four of the states have passed recreational use legalization for adults. The perceived dangers of marijuana use are fairly low among teenagers and young adults.

The researchers found that teens view marijuana as less risky this year, compared to last year, according to the report. Last year, 36.1 percent of 12th graders said that regular marijuana use could be harmful, compared to 31.9 percent this year.

Developing Brains

While marijuana use may not be as bad for the mind and body as, let’s say alcohol or heroin, marijuana use has been found to have negative effects on the brain – especially the developing brains of teenagers and young adults.

“Among teens, several studies provide evidence showing marijuana’s effects are deleterious,” said Volkow.

Exercise and Craving Alcohol

exerciseWhen people get sober and begin working a program of recovery, many find themselves with a lot of energy and an urge to live healthy which beg for an outlet. Recovering alcoholics and addicts will often turn to recreational sports or aerobic exercise, joining softball leagues or getting memberships to a gym.

Living with addiction is often a sedentary existence, addicts and alcoholics have a single goal worth putting their energy into, that of finding their next buzz or high. Once accomplished, there is typically a lot of down time. When those in recovery find that the cloud of addiction has lifted from their mind, the desire to be active is strong. Most addiction counselors encourage people in recovery to engage in activities that will release endorphin’s, as long as such activities do not morph into new addictions.

Exercising Into A Glass

It turns out that people in recovery may want to be careful when it comes to exercise, as new research indicates that the activity may result in cravings for alcohol. New research has found that the people who exercise more may drink more alcohol or want to drink, Medical Daily reports. The findings indicate that the trend has to do with the brains search for reward.

When a person exercises, adrenaline is released which results in a feeling of euphoria. After the workout, many people are driven to prolong the high they have been experiencing. The findings should be particularly alarming for those in recovery who work out, lest exercise lead to a relapse.

The Last “Rep” Happens in The Bar

At Pennsylvania State University, researchers examined the health of 150 men and women between the ages of 18 and 75, according to the article. With the goal of determining the link between alcohol use following exercise, those who took part in the study filled out a questionnaire and then used a smartphone app to record daily drinking and exercise habits over three 21 day periods. The study’s authors wrote, “People drank more than usual on the same days that they engaged in more physical activity than usual.” The findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.

“In contrast to proposals that physical activity (PA) can be a substitute for alcohol use, people who engage in greater overall PA generally consume more alcohol on average than less-active peers,” wrote the study’s authors.

Recovery and Exercise

If you are working a program of recovery, it is important that you remain physically active, but it is even more important that your program stays strong. If you are working out and you are finding a heightened urge to consume alcohol afterward, it is probably best to call your sponsor and/or get to a meeting. You never want to be idle when experiencing cravings that if acted upon would jeopardize your recovery.

Working A Recovery Program While Traveling

recoveryThis time of year, for some, often involves a lot of traveling due to the national holidays. Whether you are visiting friends and family, or just looking for a respite from the cold, traveling can be stressful. Bad weather can result in unexpected delays or layovers, which can last for uncomfortable lengths of time. For most people, such occurrences are merely an inconvenience resulting in a headache; but for those in recovery from chemical dependency, traveling can be dangerous environment. People in recovery need to do everything in their power to remain strong, lest their program becomes disrupted. Sadly, many people in recovery have relapsed while on the road, but do not be discouraged, relapse does not have to be a part of your travel story.

There Are Meetings Everywhere

No matter where you are in the United States, and in many countries overseas, you can easily find 12-step recovery meetings. You can look online to find a list of local meetings to attend. If you are staying in a hotel, the concierge may be able to provide you a directory of the meetings in the area.

While 12-step meetings are relatively uniform with regard to the principles and traditions of a recovery program, how meeting houses go about things is always a little different from state to state and from city to city. You may find a new experience by attending meetings in an area foreign to you. On top of that, you will have an opportunity to meet different people who share the common bond of recovery with you. Do not shy away from attending meetings while you are traveling, especially if you find yourself struggling – sometimes your program requires you to do more than call your sponsor.

Plan, Plan, Plan…

It is important to plan your trip out ahead of time, especially if you are vacationing in early recovery. There are a number of getaway destinations that revolve around alcohol, such as Las Vegas or New Orleans. Places where you are likely to have a lot of exposure to alcohol may not be the safest place to visit.

If visiting risky places cannot be avoided, have a plan that revolves around your recovery is paramount. It is advised that you know ahead of time which meetings you plan to attend, so that upon your arrival you have safe place you can turn. It is also wise to have set time scheduled for you and your sponsor to have a conversation over the phone, it is important to be accountable to someone else while traveling in recovery.

The Hand of Recovery

Always remember that you are not alone, your support network and sponsor are always just a phone call away. If you find yourself in a situation that you feel may compromise your recovery, do not hesitate to pick up the phone. It is always easier to call your sponsor before a relapse, than it is after the fact.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Celebrates 80th Anniversary

AANow in its 80th year, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has come a long way since the programs humble beginnings in Akron, Ohio in 1935. Through the AA community, millions of people have found a new way of life through recovery – a life free from alcohol and drugs.

Active members of AA and those who have yet to experience recovery, can find support at any one of the 115,326 groups in 180 countries around the globe. It is hard to believe that it all began with just two men with a desire to stay sober. Today, there are millions of people actively working a program of recovery in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, striving to practice the principles of the program in all their affairs.

Come Together

While the Middle East is not known for heavy alcohol consumption, it may please you to learn that people are experiencing the miracle of recovery in the rooms of AA there as well. In Fact, 100 AA delegates from 15 Asian nations met in Dubai last week for the Alcoholics Anonymous’ regional biannual meeting, Gulf News reports. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss public communications strategies for the next two years.

“The purpose of the regional meetings is to see how we can, at a country-to-country level, carry the message,” said John L_, Asia Oceania AA regional chairman. He adds that one reason AA has been so successful is “one alcoholic carries the message to another alcoholic.”

Spreading The Message

Active members of AA often say ‘you cannot keep it [recovery], if you do not give it away.’ Spreading a message of hope to people who are facing seemingly insurmountable odds is what keeps the program moving forward. People struggling with addiction are guided by people in recovery who have come before them, and in turn they too will hopefully pay what they have learned forward.

One thing is certain, recovery is a shared experience.

We would like to thank everyone who has made an effort to work a program of recovery and spread the message that “we can, and do recover.”

___________________________________________________________________

Please contact Next Step Intervention if you are struggling with alcohol. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

Childhood Head Injuries Could Lead to Alcohol Abuse

alcohol-abuseConcussions, head traumas, or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), are something that can severely impact one’s life and can be fatal. We see it all the time with football players who take major hits, they walk off the field and go home. Sometimes people with TBIs go to bed and never wake up.

It turns out, that even minor concussions can lead to changes in the brain that can impact people later on in life, possibly resulting in addiction. New research suggests that females who experience a head injury during childhood may be at an increased risk of alcohol abuse later in life, ScienceDaily reports. The study was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

A Bump On The Head

Working with mice, researchers found that females who experienced “mild closed-head brain injury” were at a greater risk of misusing alcohol later in life, according to the article. The females were also more likely to associate drinking with reward and pleasure.

Fortunately, the adverse effects may be reversible with enriched environments. The mice that were raised in environments that provided activities were less likely to exhibit increased drinking behavior, when compared to the mice raised in standard housing. The researchers found that enriched environments reduced degeneration of nerve axons.

It’s Not Set In Stone

“We wanted to demonstrate that this effect is not set in stone at the time of injury,” said Zachary Weil, assistant professor of neuroscience at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “There are ways to intervene, but they’re expensive in terms of effort and money. It requires sustained treatment and rehabilitation and educational support.”

“The best therapy for a childhood brain injury is everybody getting great medical care and rehabilitation, regardless of socioeconomic status,” he said. “People with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better.”

___________________________________________________________________

Please contact Next Step Intervention if you are struggling with alcohol. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

Help Can't Wait

Get Help Now