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!

Surrender Your Drugs and Go To Treatment

surrender-drugsThe “war on drugs” has been quite effective with regard to getting addicts off the streets, but it has done little to address the problem of addiction – a disease which plagues millions of Americans. People who are arrested and imprisoned, simply for the crime of being an addict, often find themselves in a hamster wheel.

The rates of jail recidivism among drug addicts who are released is extremely high. Research tells us that jail does little when it comes to teaching people how to live a life free from drugs – something treatment does quite well.

Treatment Over Jail

In many states there exist drug courts, which give those charged with drug crimes the option of probation and addiction treatment counseling as opposed to being locked up. Such programs have been found to save taxpayers money, and help rather than harm a number of people who are already suffering. However, there are many who feel that treatment is more successful when it is not mandatory or forced.

In many states across the country, prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction have become the largest social welfare issue. The death toll related to the use of opioids is staggering and some cities have begun thinking outside the box.

Surrender Your Drugs and Go To Treatment

In the little New England city of Gloucester, Massachusetts, the local police chief launched a novel program which provides substance use disorder treatment for people who turn in their illegal drugs to the police, WBUR reports. Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said that 17 people have accepted the offer thus far.

While the number of people who have accepted treatment may seem small, Campanello points out that 17 people is more than three times the number of people who have died of drug overdoses in a town of 29,000, Needham, MA, this year alone. What’s more, the 17 who surrendered were using opioid drugs, such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone – drugs which all carry the potential for overdose.

“We need to get people into treatment,” Campanello said. “If they fail, we need to get them into treatment again. Just keep trying. Arresting them or coercing them into treatment just doesn’t work.”

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If you are struggling with prescription opioids or heroin abuse, please do not hesitate to contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help show you how to live a life free of opioid addiction.

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