Category Archives: Addiction

The Physical Effects of Long-term Alcohol Abuse  

surgeons performing surgery

The statistics on alcohol abuse in the United State are alarming. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million adults over the age of eighteen meet the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). In addition, roughly 88,000 people die each year form alcohol related causes, and alcohol-impaired driving incidents cause close to 10,000 deaths per year. More troubling than these raw numbers is the fact that only about 1.8 million of individuals who meet the criteria for an AUD receive appropriate treatment at a specialized facility – less than ten percent.

That’s not all. In 2010, Americans spent an estimated 249 billion dollars on health issues related to alcohol misuse.

Worldwide, the toll of alcohol shows similarly scary numbers:

  • In 2012, alcohol consumption contributed to 3.3 million deaths.
  • In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that alcohol misuse caused over two-hundred diseases and adverse health conditions.
  • Alcohol misuse is characterized as the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability in the 15-49 year-old age group, while close to 25% of total deaths in the 20-39 year-old age group can be attributed to alcohol.

If you’re a drinker and you’re worried about your risk of developing an AUD, the first thing to do is determine your level of drinking. Heavy drinkers are at far greater risk of developing an AUD than low-to-moderate drinkers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy drinking as the consumption of five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days over the period of one month. In plain language, that means if you’ve had more than five drinks – probably meaning you got pretty drunk – more than five times in the past thirty days, you’re at high risk of developing a potentially life-threatening AUD.

Check Yourself, Check Your Health

Maybe you know you have a problem with drinking. Maybe you drink heavily every day, but still manage to keep it all together. You show up for work, you manage your family obligations, and your health hasn’t started to suffer – yet. Maybe you know some form of treatment for your alcohol use is in your future, but you’re not quite ready for treatment yet. You’re not ready to take the plunge into rehab, therapy, or even weekly support group meetings, because, despite your heavy drinking, everything seems to be going fine.

The operative word in that last sentence is seems. In the case of chronic alcohol misuse – the kind that takes place over years – what you don’t know can, quite literally, kill you. That’s why it’s in your best interest to get checked out by a physician, even if you know you’re not going into treatment any time soon.

If the statistics haven’t convinced you to at least consider a visit to the doctor, perhaps this next set of facts will.

The Effects of Alcohol on Your Major Organs

You probably know alcohol wreaks havoc on your liver, but that’s not the only organ that suffers under chronic alcohol use. Let’s take a look at the other organs negatively impacted by alcohol use, starting at the top.

The Brain

Alcohol can damage the function and structure of your brain. Recent technology in brain imaging shows significant decrease in brain tissue. Chronic over-consumption of alcohol can also lead to Wernicke’s-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) a condition caused by vitamin B-1 deficiency. WKS is no picnic: effects may include alcoholic dementia, short-term memory loss, the inability to learn new information, cognitive impairment, eye problems, poor physical coordination, and difficulty walking.

The Heart 

Most people have read or heard that moderate alcohol consumption – say a glass or two of wine a day – is good for the cardiovascular system. What most people haven’t heard is that heavy alcohol consumption can damage your heart. Chronic, excessive drinking can to cardiomyopathy, which is a heart disease with symptoms like dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, swelling of the lower extremities, fatigue, abnormal pulse, and cough accompanied by a frothy, pink discharge. Unfortunately, the symptoms of cardiomyopathy can stay hidden until it’s too late, and heart failure is imminent.

The Liver

Alcohol-related liver disease comes in three primary forms:

  1. Alcoholic Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis means scarring. Therefore, alcoholic cirrhosis, simply put, means severe scarring and liver damage, with symptoms similar to severe alcoholic hepatitis. You cannot reverse cirrhosis, but if you catch it early enough you can prevent further damage. Left untreated, cirrhosis causes permanent damage which can only be improved by a liver transplant. In 2013, over 30,000 people died from alcohol related liver disease, and close to one-third of liver transplants were alcohol related.
  2. Alcoholic Hepatitis. This condition causes an increase in fat, inflammation, and mild cirrhosis. People suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis often experience nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, stomach pain, fever, and jaundice. Statistics show that close to 35% of heavy drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis. While mild cases can be reversed if you quit drinking, more extreme cases may develop quickly and can lead to severe complications, including death.
  3. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. This condition is characterized by a buildup of fat in liver tissue, which impedes optimal function. Occasionally there are no symptoms at all. Of the three liver diseases caused by excessive alcohol consumption, alcoholic fatty liver disease is the least damaging, and can be reversed – but only if you quit drinking.

Alcohol and Cancer

Liver disease is the most common and well-known health risk associated with heavy drinking, but it’s not the only serious, chronic illness related to excessive alcohol use. The American Cancer Society (ACS) links the following forms of cancer to alcohol:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Voice Box
  • Esophagus
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Breast

The message from the ACS is clear and simple: the more you drink, the higher your risk of getting cancer.

Our message to you is also clear and simple: if you know you have an alcohol problem, but you’re not ready to enter treatment, you need to go to a doctor and get a full health examination. You may not be showing symptoms yet, but beneath the surface, things may be headed in a very bad direction.

We understand not wanting to enter treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder. Detox is hard, sobriety is harder, and recovery is a lifelong process. We understand you might not want to improve your psychological and emotional well-being, because right now, you’re functioning just fine. However, that body you’re living in is the only one you’ve got. We want to make sure you know, in no uncertain terms, that chronic, excess drinking can cause many conditions that are permanent, irreversible, and in some cases, fatal.

For Therapists: Does My Client Need Residential Treatment?

therapist and client

As a therapist, sometimes you have to make a tough call and recommend your clients for residential treatment for their addiction or substance abuse disorder. You may be hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons:

  • Residential treatment involves a total disruption of life-as-usual
  • You believe your client will resist the idea
  • You may need to stage an intervention
  • The cost may be prohibitive, even if you client is fully insured
  • Finding the right program in the right location may be difficult

There’s another big reason you may not want to recommend a residential program: you suspect your client may need one, but you’re not entirely convinced you’re correct. If you specialize in treating addiction and substance abuse disorders, you typically know by the end of a session or two if your client is a good candidate for residential treatment. You’re trained to see the signs and symptoms right away, and your recommendation is based on both training and experience.

If addiction isn’t your specialty, however, there are specific things to watch for if your client is suffering from a substance abuse disorder. The following list contains the primary indicators your client needs more than weekly therapy, support group meetings, or outpatient therapy:

  1. Habitual Relapse: If you’ve worked with your client through several failed attempts at sobriety, then you may need to consider the residential option.
  2. Failed Attempts at Outpatient Programs: If you client has been unsuccessful in Outpatient, Intensive Outpatient, or short-duration Inpatient or Partial Hospitalization programs, you may need to consider the residential option.
  3. Lack of Support: Your client may live or work in an environment that’s not conducive to sobriety, or they may have tapped out their available support systems. Often families and peers do everything they can to help a loved one trying to get and stay clean and sober, but their support is finite – and they’re also not trained professionals. If your client’s family has reached the end of both their energy and abilities, then you may need to consider the residential option.
  4. Dual Diagnosis: If you’re treating your client for a mood disorder or other emotional/psychiatric issue and you discover they’re been covering up a substance abuse problem, then a period of detox followed by residential treatment will help both of you get to the root of their behavioral disturbances. Sometimes it’s impossible – even for a trained and experienced therapist – to understand what’s really going on with a client, emotionally and psychologically speaking, when their symptoms overlap with those associated with substance abuse disorders.
  5. Safety: If your client’s behavior is rapidly escalating in a way that creates a safety risk for them or their immediate family, then a residential program may be necessary – sooner rather than later.

Finding the Right Program

In the 42nd edition of their “Treatment Improvement Protocol Series” published in 2005, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) established the following nine criteria for evaluating the quality of residential substance abuse treatment programs:

  1. Screening and Assessment: Any potential program must have adequate pre-intake screening and assessment programs in place.
  2. Mental/Physical Health Exams: All examinations must be performed by fully qualified physicians and/or psychiatrists
  3. Onsite Prescribing Psychiatrist: Residential programs should have an on-site or on-call board-certified prescribing psychiatrist on staff in order to meet your client’s medication needs.
  4. Medication and Monitoring: Residential programs should staff either licensed nurses or physicians with the training to monitor and adjust medications as needed.
  5. Psychoeducational Classes: All residential programs should include solid addiction education and rehab prevention classes.
  6. Onsite Double-Trouble Groups: Each potential program should include support groups for individuals with dual diagnosis/co-occurring disorders.
  7. Offsite Support Groups: Residential programs should have direct connections to peer support groups such as A.A., N.A., SMART Recovery, or others.
  8. Family Education: A residential program should have formal systems in place which include your client’s family in the recovery process.
  9. Discharge planning: Quality residential programs create exit strategies – or re-entry plans – for all clients. These plans should include follow-up medical and psychiatric visits, support group resources, and emergency steps to take in case of relapse.

After Rehab: How You Can Help

The work of easing your client through the step-down process from residential treatment back to day-to-day life starts before they enter the program. The first step for you, as their therapist, is to find out which individual, within the administrative hierarchy of the treatment center, should be your primary contact. Reach out to them by phone or email and have a frank and honest conversation about your client’s history and immediate needs. Make yourself available as a resource while your client is in treatment and stay abreast of which treatment modalities are working and which aren’t. This knowledge will be crucial for your client’s continued sobriety upon discharge. If possible, collaborate with the treatment center staff to design a realistic and sustainable post-residential sobriety plan. Be ready to support your client when they begin the step-down process.

There will be challenges, of course, but if your client feels supported by everyone involved, their chances of avoiding relapse increase dramatically. The most successful recovery is one in which everyone involved – client, families, and therapists – have all the information they need to make good decisions before, during, and after residential treatment.

Call us at 800-701-6997 to learn how we can help your client.

College Students Ask: Is My Drinking Really a Problem? Do I Need Addiction Treatment for Alcohol?

college students sitting on bench

Summertime means different things for different college students. Some travel abroad, some take classes to catch up or get ahead, some stay busy with internships or jobs, and some take a well-deserved break from the school grind to chill, relax, and recharge their internal batteries. It’s a natural time to look back on the year, decide how it went, and make plans for the upcoming semester.

If your year went well, then you’re probably loving summer, but you’re also looking forward to getting back on campus. If your year wasn’t great, then maybe you have a little more on your mind. Maybe your grades weren’t what you wanted. Maybe you partied more than you should have. Maybe you drank a little too much.

Maybe you think your drinking affected your grades.

Maybe it’s more than that: you know you went way overboard with the partying and drinking and you’re sure that’s why your grades weren’t up to par. Then you kept up the partying through the summer, and now you think you may have a problem. Worse, you know when you go back to school – where the excessive drinking started – it’s going to be really hard to keep yourself in check.

Now you’re worried: what should you do?

Do you see a professional? Go to support group meetings? Get addiction treatment? Do you do all that before you go back to school, so you set yourself up for success?

Those are all valid questions. If you’re asking them of yourself, you should take them seriously. The first thing you need to do is figure out if your drinking really is a problem. In the language of treatment and recovery, it’s time for you to decide – and be brutally honest with yourself – if your drinking is within typical limits, or if you have what’s called an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

The handbook used by mental health professionals to diagnose and classify mental health and substance abuse disorders is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V). If you think you have a problem with alcohol, then you can use the following questionnaire – as recommended by the DSM-V – to diagnose yourself.

In the past year, have you…

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking, or being sick and getting over the after-effects of drinking?
  4. Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  5. Found that drinking, or being sick from drinking, often interfered with taking care of your home or family, cause job-related troubles, or problems with school?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt?
  9. Continued to drink even after a memory blackout, and even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want, or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, sensing things that were not there, or seizures?

If you answer yes to two or more of the questions above, then the DSM-V indicates you have an AUD. AUDs can be mild, moderate, or sever:

  • Mild: positive answers to two or three of the diagnostic questions.
  • Moderate: positive answers to four or five of the diagnostic questions.
  • Severe: positive answers to six or more of the diagnostic questions.

Common Levels of Alcohol Use

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer simple definitions of alcohol consumption and how these levels affect general health and wellness. If you’re unsure where you fall on the continuum, use these guidelines to clarify your position:

  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
  • Binge Drinking: Five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a two-hour period on at least one day over the course of a month.
  • Heavy Alcohol Consumption: Binge drinking on five or more days over the course of a month.

These definitions align with what most people know through personal experience. Moderate consumption is what everyone would consider normal, social drinking. Binge drinking tends to happen in college or early adulthood. Heavy drinking is what happens when consumption gets out of hand and becomes an obvious problem.

However, these three categories beg the question: “What constitutes one drink?” Serving sizes and alcohol content can vary a great deal. Drinking at a bar or restaurant is not the same as drinking at a private party, and the amount of alcohol in a drink depends on what you’re drinking: beer, malt liquor, wine, and distilled spirits all contain different percentages of alcohol. Here’s how the NIAAA defines a standard drink:

  • 12 ounces of beer containing around 5% alcohol. Think of a regular can of beer.
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor containing around 7% alcohol. Think of a pint glass around half-full.
  • 5 ounces of wine containing around 12% alcohol. Think of a regular glass of wine you might get with dinner at a restaurant.
  • 5 ounces of distilled spirits (liquor like vodka, whiskey, gin, or tequila) containing around 40% alcohol (80 proof). Think of a regular-sized shot glass.

Are You at Risk of Developing an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Based on the figures above, the NIAA defines low-risk drinking as:

  • Less than three drinks a day and seven drinks a week for women.
  • Less than four drinks a day and fourteen drinks a week for men.

Only around 2% of people who drink within these limits – i.e. low-to-moderate drinkers – develop an AUD. Consumption above these levels increases the chance of developing an AUD. The NIAA College Fact Sheet reveals that the drinking habits of college students make them particularly vulnerable to developing an AUD. The facts speak for themselves:

  • Close to 67% of college students who reported drinking at least once a month also engage in binge drinking
  • Binge drinkers who consume alcohol at least three times a week are six times more likely to perform poorly on a test due to drinking, and five times more likely to miss a class due to drinking
  • Roughly 25% of college students report alcohol negatively impacts their academic performance
  • About 20% of college students meet the DSM-V established criteria for an AUD.

Now, re-read the NIAA definition of low-risk drinking. If your drinking habits exceed those parameters and put you in the at-risk category, then it’s time to face the facts: you may well be on your way to an Alcohol Use Disorder. And if you know you have a problem, then it’s time to consider treatment options. It’s not time to freak out, but it is time to do something about it.

Back to that initial question: should you do something about it before you go back, to set yourself up for success?

The answer is simple: yes.

Take the time you have now to lay down the foundation for a successful year. Call us at 800-701-6997 and we’ll do everything we can to help you get control of your drinking and get your life on track. Also, keep an eye on this blog: upcoming posts will discuss the Sober Dorm movement happening on college campuses across the country, and provide an extensive list of helpful resources designed specifically for college students struggling to make it through school while in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse.

 

Drug Overdose Kills More Americans Than Car Accidents

Drug and opioid addiction recovery at Summit Estate Recovery CenterMore than 40,000 Americans die each year from drug overdoses and more than half of those overdose deaths involve opioids. Drug overdoses account for more deaths in the US than car accidents or gun violence.

In the most recent data available, 52,404 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015 as compared to 35,092 people died (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) from motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in the same period.

With all these deaths, what are opioids specifically and how to they work?

Opioids are compounds that bind to receptors in a person’s brain, which blocks pain and slows breathing. Opioid causes the brain to release the natural chemical dopamine and people typically feel a calm “happy” high. Addiction causes people to take opioids regularly, and as a result, they develop a tolerance to the drugs. This forces people to take more and more of the drugs to achieve the same effect. Therefore, if enough of the drug is taken it causes a person to stop breathing altogether, making overdoses often fatal.

Some opioids – heroin – are illegal. While others, hydrocodone or oxycodone are prescribed for pain relief – the two most common brand names are Vicodin and OxyContin. Prescriptions for the drugs have skyrocketed over the years, from 76 million in 1991 to over 260 million last year. To compound the issue the influx of fentanyl, a painkiller prescribed for acute pain that is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, is leading to higher rates of overdose nationwide.

Opioid usage is high across the United States with many of the states hit hardest by the epidemic — West Virginia, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Ohio. The epidemic affects both rural and urban areas equally.

Where Does Someone Get Their Drugs from?

Most often is it is believed that overprescribing is fueling the epidemic. A person gets injured and is prescribed painkillers, which quietly leads to addiction. However, according to federal data, most people start out by taking the painkillers of a friend or family member and become addicted quickly.

Experimentation typically starts during adolescence or young adulthood, but opioid addiction affects people of all ages equally and leads to devastating consequences. Those attempting to recovery by practicing abstinence alone when it comes to opioid addiction fail at a high rate, with roughly 90 percent of people relapsing.

That is why at Summit Estate, we understand that every addiction is unique. We are committed to helping our clients have a brighter future free from addiction. So, we have developed a personalized addiction treatment program to address our clients’ specific needs. Our exclusive rehab centers offer truly personalized care for total healing from poly-substance addiction and co-occuring disorders like depression and anxiety.

The luxurious facilities and beautiful grounds provide all of the important amenities individuals need to feel comfortable while undergoing drug and alcohol detox. Our innovative recovery programs are offered by highly credentialed treatment professionals who aim to provide each client with the highest level of care possible. With a small client population, each individual receives the one-on-one attention needed to overcome addiction and go on to live a happy, balanced life.

Gene’s Story

gene“I grew up in a household filled with alcoholism and co-dependency,” says Gene. When he was 13 years old his parents divorced and he moved to Northern California from Southern California. He began using alcohol and drugs in his early teens. “I was introduced to marijuana at 13 years old and from that point I did all type of drugs,” says Gene.  For the next decade he was abusing alcohol and drugs regularly.

In an attempt to quit, he entered military service in his early 20s. But, that proved ineffective as the urge to use drugs was more powerful than military life. “I was asked to leave because of cocaine use,” says Gene.

In the mid-1980s, Gene’s family and friends staged an intervention and he went into a treatment program.  “I was able to stay sober for 13 years and I got my life back on track,” says Gene.  But, Gene relapsed “while sober I didn’t take care of the underlying issues that caused my addiction and expand my spiritual life,” he says.

During an especially difficult life changes – divorce and job layoff – Gene slipped into taking prescription pain pills and illegal narcotics. For the next decade Gene went through the darkest moments of his life. “I dealt with alcohol blackouts, started using cocaine again, and overdosed,” says Gene.  “I was tired of living this way.”

A few friends of Gene found Summit Estate.  In summer of 2015, they encourage him to give it a try. “Summit Estate’s approach to recovery was different – a holistic view of overall health,” says Gene. Summit Estate introduced him to healthy ways to deal with his addiction and how to live differently – without drugs and alcohol. “Summit Estate thought me how to just sit with myself, how to breathe when confronted with difficult situation, how to mediate, and I even started practicing yoga – simple steps that helped a lot,” says Gene.

“Summit Estate introduced me to a holistic approach to recovery – it felt like recovery 2.0 – they taught me to take care all the aspects of life to gain true recovery,” says Gene.

Gene is continuing with his recovery and he is also helping others who are on their own journey of recovery. “At Summit Estate I learned to identify those triggers that would cause a relapse and how to deal with them without jeopardizing my recovery,” he says.

Now 55 years old, “I am in a good place spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically,” says Gene. His sense of humor also continues to be a source of strength by living life on life’s terms. “I am in the 3rd quarter of my life and looking forward to overtime,” jokes Gene.

Heroin And Opioids Continue To Be A Runaway Problem In Northern California

Heroin And Opioids Continue To Be A Runaway Problem In Northern CaliforniaHeroin and opioid addiction continues to be a growing problem around the globe. Prescription pain relievers are incredibly addictive, damaging lives and increasing overdose death tolls in nearly every state. Opiate and heroin abuse affects the welfare of all societies, including Northern California. The problem in California has reached an all-time high due to low drug prices, easy access to drugs, and lack of awareness. Exploring the drug problem in Northern California can help our community find a solution.

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal: Surprising Statistics

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal- Surprising StatisticsIn 2013, California hospitals treated over 11,500 people suffering an overdose of opiates or heroin – the equivalent of one overdose every 45 minutes. This statistic shows a shocking 63% increase in overdose cases since 2002. Researchers believe this rise is partially due to consistently low prices and plentiful amounts of black tar heroin in California pipelined from Mexico. Every office in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Francisco reports the dominance of black tar heroin and that it’s easy to obtain.

According to data gathered by the Sacramento Bee, hospitals in rural superior California have the highest rate of opioid overdose patients. The county averages for overdoses per 10,000 residents were the worst in Northern California. Here’s an overview of the greatest county averages in overdoses per 10k residents from 2006 to 2013:

  • Plumas County: 9.1
  • Lake County: 8.8
  • Humboldt County: 8.4
  • Shasta County: 8.1
  • Tuolumne County: 7.5

Local counties faired slightly better on the scale but still had high overdose numbers:

  • Nevada County: 5.1 (400 total overdoses)
  • Yuba County: 4.1 (234 total overdoses)
  • Sacramento County: 3.3 (3,723 total overdoses)
  • Placer County: 3.3 (918 total overdoses)

Overdose Deaths In California

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal- Surprising StatisticsShasta County hospitals helped more than 1,150 overdose patients between 2006 and 2013—more than triple the average for the entire state. The rates of overdoses were also higher than the statewide average in Sacramento County, Placer County, and El Dorado County.

In 2013, there were a total of 6,108 ER visits due to opioid overdoses—a rise from 3,517 in 2006. The number has steadily increased each year, as have the number of hospital stays. The number of overdose deaths has risen since 2006, but there was a slight drop in 2012. This may be due to people seeking help before their problem gets out of control or advances in how hospitals treat patients suffering opioid overdoses. Still, an average of 1,752 people die from opioid overdoses in California every year.

The Relationship Between Opioids And Heroin Abuse

Recently, there’s been a statewide switch from prescription opioids to heroin, with a particularly high increase among young people. Evidence suggests that as prescription drugs become less available and more difficult to obtain, drug users are shifting to heroin. For example, a downward trend in OxyContin abuse directly correlated with an increase in heroin use in a study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Additionally, drug users will build a tolerance for opiates and prescription painkillers, making them more likely to find heroin, which is easy and cheap to purchase in most major cities in California. In some communities, heroin costs less to purchase than prescription opioids. Between 2005 and 2012, the number of known heroin users in the United States almost doubled, from 380,000 to 670,000.

Unfortunately, the risk of overdosing is increased with heroin when compared to prescription opioids. Heroin addicts can’t control the purity of the drugs they purchase, leading to heroin that may be contaminated or mixed with other, unknown drugs. Previously, heroin use was a problem almost strictly in urban areas. Now, the DEA frequently encounters heroin in small towns and suburbs in California.

Sources Of The Heroin And Opioid Problem In Northern California

California officials attribute the ongoing problem to a number of different variables that have changed over the years. An increased patient awareness of the right to pain relief, various organizations that support the use of large doses of opioids, and aggressive marketing from the pharmaceutical industry have all contributed to the issue. Some doctors prescribe opioids loosely without properly educating patients on the addictive nature of such drugs.

Easy Access To Prescription Meds Through Family

Based on a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of people (54.2%) aged 12 and older who used pain relievers non-medically say that they obtained the drugs from a friend or relative for free—whether by consent or theft. Reducing the number of unused painkillers improperly disposed of may help prevent people, especially young people, from developing a drug addiction. Keeping prescribed pain medications hidden or counting them carefully can also help.

Methods Addicts Use To Obtain Drugs

While only 18.1% of respondents said that they obtained the drugs from one doctor, the 54.2% of people who got them from friends state that 81.6% of their sources got the drugs from one doctor. Patients with addictions can gain access to prescription pain medications relatively easily across the United States. In 2001, there was a movement toward prescribing more opioids, stating that doctors largely undertreated chronic pain. This led to the Pain Treatment Act and Bill of Rights. Since then, doctors have more openly prescribed pain medications for common health complaints without fear of retaliation.

One of the methods addicts use to get their hands on large amounts of opiates and painkillers is “doctor shopping.” Doctor shopping refers to the act of going to multiple doctors and complaining of the same symptoms. A patient may go to one doctor complaining of a health issue, either real or fake, and obtain a legitimate prescription for pain relievers. Then, the same patient will go to a different doctor and do the same thing. Doctor shopping allows addicts to consistently receive a high number of opioids with real prescriptions.

Opioids are available for purchase online, without the need for a prescription, through illegal online pharmacies. Law officials do their best to locate and shut down illegal Internet pharmacies, but they still exist. Online pharmacies may not sell customers prescription-grade opioids, posing an even greater threat to users.

Easy Heroin Availability And Low Prices

Los Angeles is a known collection and distribution point for black tar heroin from Mexico—the primary form of heroin the DEA encounters in Northern California. From there, tight-knit groups transport the drugs to locations in the Central Valley. San Francisco is a significant destination for this heroin, as are San Jose, Redwood City, and East Palo Alto.

Heroin availability has quickly spread throughout California, cropping up in counties such as Sacramento, Placer, Nevada, and Yuba that didn’t previously report heroin problems. The plentiful amount of heroin results in low prices. Prices vary across communities and depending on the purity of the drugs, but heroin typically is less expensive than other addictive drugs. The average cost of 0.1 gram (a single dose) of heroin on the street is only $15.

Effects Of Heroin And Opioid Addictions

Drug addictions can lead to a plethora of negative outcomes, and the price it costs the individual abuser, the community, and the nation as a whole is high. Many drug abusers don’t realize the extensive consequences of heroin and opioid addictions and each drug’s effect on daily life.

Not only do heroin and opioids have devastating mental and physical health effects, but they also cause damages to a person’s finances, employment, quality of life, and relationships. A drug addiction can take over literally every aspect of life until the user has nothing left except his or her addiction.

Effects On The Human Body

Doctors often prescribe hydrocodone and oxycodone in drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin to treat moderate to severe pain. These medications attach to proteins (opioid receptors) found on nerve cells within the body and brain. These receptors reduce the perception of pain, producing a sense of peace. Opioids can also lead to mental confusion, drowsiness, and nausea. When someone abuses opioids, that person is at risk for serious medical complications such as coma and fatal overdose.

Heroin is well known as a drug with a high risk of overdose. Since there’s no regulation for the drug, most users have no way to know exact dosages or purity levels. Chasing the rush, or the feeling of euphoria, that typically comes with heroin leads users to increase their dosages more and more. Heroin can cloud mental function, slow breathing and heart function, and sometimes result in coma, permanent brain damage, and death.

Costs Of Addiction For The Addict And The Community

Opioid and heroin addictions can severely damage a user’s personal life. Addicts no longer express interest in achieving goals, education, working, or cultivating personal relationships. Relations with spouses, children, parents, and friends suffer—sometimes leading to damages that addicts may never be able to repair. Drugs take over every aspect of life, making it impossible for an addict to see past his or her addiction. With intervention and treatment, addicts can take their lives back. Without treatment, they risk eventually dying from overdose.

The community cost of providing healthcare, emergency services, and treatment programs for heroin and opioid addicts is remarkably high. The Centers for Disease Control ranks California as the number one state in the country for total health care costs from opioid abuse, exceeding $4,263 million in 2013. This was $2,299 million more than the number two state, Texas, which totaled only $1,964 million by comparison. The estimated total cost of opioid abuse in America is $25 billion annually.

California’s Lost Work Productivity

In 2010, illicit drugs cost California more than $15 billion in tangible costs, and though this statistic has yet to be updated, other stats suggest this number is much higher now. This includes $5.321 billion in wage work costs alone. Addicts lose productivity while using and abusing heroin and opioids, losing the desire to go into work, and eventually failing to show up at all. Illegal drug abuse also leads to incarceration, resulting in lost time at work and being terminated from jobs. Business costs also include increased employee turnover and higher insurance costs. The citizens and state economy bear 76% of all tangible costs of substance abuse in California.

Violent Crime Increases Across Counties

Violent crime and property damages are often related to street gangs in California who distribute heroin, among other drugs. Street gangs are involved in crimes such as burglary, assault, auto theft, carjacking, mugging, and home invasion. The U.S. Department of Justice states that much of the violent and property crime is in the Northern California region. This is due to trafficking, group rivalry, and drug abuse. Often, illicit drug abusers commit crimes like robberies to pay for their addictions.

The Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program strives to reduce drug trafficking, lowering the impact of illicit drugs like heroin in the ten Northern California counties within its region. Part of the Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s goals is to reduce drug-related crime and violence throughout the area. This program locates major drug threats in each region and implements initiatives to put an end to drug trafficking.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome In California

One of the most tragic effects of opioid and heroin abuse in Northern California is the rising number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), or a dependency on drugs from birth. In 2015, doctors diagnosed about 1,190 California newborns with NAS—up more than 50% from 2014. NAS leads to withdrawal symptoms as the drugs leave the baby’s system, including tremors, vomiting, fever, and restlessness. Neonatal withdrawal is painful for babies, although it doesn’t typically have a long-term effect on their health.

NAS causes lengthy hospital stays compared with normal births, resulting in increased healthcare costs. The average length of stay for a baby without NAS is about 2.1 days, costing around $3,500. In contrast, a baby with NAS has to stay 17 days or longer, costing $66,700. This resulted in an estimated total of $1.5 billion for hospitals in 2012—8% of which state Medicaid programs pay. As the rate of babies born with NAS increases, so does the total cost to California.

Finding A Solution For Opioid And Heroin Addiction

Opioid and heroin have become runaway drugs in California in part due to lack of community awareness and initiative to stop drug abuse. Currently, there are a number of anti-drug campaigns and programs running throughout Northern California, including the Northern District of California Project Safe Neighborhood, a state agency that focuses on areas of high violent crime and drug activity.

Staying on top of the growing trend toward heroin in NorCal and learning what you can do to prevent drug addiction and help current addicts are important steps to take during this time of high drug activity.

Reduce Future Drug Abuse

Addictions can start at an early age, with kids snatching prescription opioids from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Early intervention programs can help put young adults back on the correct path before a drug problem gets out of control and leads to tragedy. Research intervention centers in your area, and learn how to discuss a drug problem with your teenager. Preventing drug-related death, crime, and other tolls starts with spreading awareness to the next generation.

Many Northern California counties have launched community coalitions against drugs. They bring together leaders from the medical sphere, public health department, clinics, law enforcement, and addiction treatment providers to collectively work to decrease drug use and the overprescribing of pain medications within the community. The California HealthCare Foundation recently began an initiative to support new opioid safety coalitions throughout the state. Joining your local coalition can be a fantastic way to support local efforts against addictive drugs.

Support Sufferers And Addiction Research

Research on how best to treat opioid and heroin addictions continues throughout America, leading national recovery center leaders to discover new, more effective ways to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help abusers recover for good. Donate to your local recovery or research center to help further the knowledge industry leaders have about this growing epidemic. Northern California is just one region out of thousands across the country that can benefit from more advanced treatment research.

If you know someone who has a problem with opioids or heroin, learn how you can help them on the road to recovery. Getting past a drug problem is 100% possible with the right mindset and resources. In many cases, your friend or loved one will need an intervention to recognize that he or she has a problem and that treatment is the only solution. Once the addict agrees to seek help, support his or her efforts to embrace treatment and continue on the path to a drug-free life.

Get Professional Help

Drug addictions are complex—especially since there’s a medical component to the problem. Addicts need therapists, recovery programs, support groups, and treatment centers with the right tools and resources to facilitate healing. Thousands of people who have struggled with substance abuse have successfully overcome addiction and led normal, happy lives. Recovery isn’t possible without support from friends and family. Be there for your loved one, and know when to call in a professional for help.

If you feel you’re at risk of becoming addicted to prescription medications, heroin, or any other substance yourself, seek help from a treatment center such as Northern California’s Summit Estate Recovery Center immediately. Treatment centers are no-judgment zones where you can obtain the help you need to prevent or end a drug dependency.

If you would like to learn more news about addiction and drug, read more Summit Estate blogs.

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Trends in Opioid Use, Strength, and Addiction

Trends in Opioid Use, Strength, and AddictionOpioid addiction continues to rise in the United States. Americans struggle with the consequences every day. Opiates come in many different forms and strengths. Increasing tolerance and downplaying the amount of pills taken often marks addiction.

Identifying the Problem

An estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2001, The Joint Commission labeled pain as thefifth vital sign” in pain management. It required physicians to obtain a subjective measurement of a patient’s pain on a scale of 1-10. Feeling pressure to adhere to new quality standards, physicians overprescribed opioids for pain management.

The result is an epidemic in opioid abuse. Opioid overdose-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Opioid addiction affects the health and well-being of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and classes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids. The Obama administration recently allocated $1.1 billion for drug abuse initiatives and treatment options.

Types of Pain Management

Opioids take different forms and strengths. Each type has a unique half-life (the amount of time it takes for half of a drug to metabolize). Below are some commonly prescribed opioids.

Morphine – is known as the “gold standard” of opioids—the yardstick by which all other opioid analgesics are measured. Morphine has a half-life of 1.5-7 hours. Morphine is prescribed only in a clinical setting. It’s typically administered intravenously though it may be taken orally. Like other opioids, morphine may cause nausea, dizziness, constipation, respiratory distress, and certain cardiac problems. Unlike other opioids, morphine may also cause a histamine reaction.

Tramadol –  is a synthetic opioid. It’s a relatively weak opioid with a half-life of 5-7 hours. Tramadol’s efficacy is about 10-20% of morphine. Tramadol is a centrally-acting pain reliever. It treats post-surgical, obstetric, and chronic pain of neurogenic or mechanical origin. Tramadol is the opioid of choice for those with poor cardiopulmonary function (such as the elderly, the obese, and smokers) or patients with impaired renal and/or hepatic function. Tramadol can be an effective treatment option for those who can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or for whom these drugs ineffectively manage pain.

Codeine – is another fairly weak opioid with a half-life of 9-11 hours. It’s often prescribed to combat chronic back pain. When combined to paracetamol (e.g., acetaminophen and Tylenol), it provides effective management for moderate-to-severe chronic pain and acute pain after dentistry. Codeine is more easily tolerated than tramadol and has fewer common side effects. However, tramadol is more potent than codeine and has fewer cardiopulmonary effects.

Pethidine – also known as Demerol, is a synthetic opioid that works on mu and kappa receptors to relieve pain. Pain relief occurs quickly, making pethidine the logical option for relief of labor pains—particularly during the second stage. However, pethidine has a relatively short half-life of 2-3 hours. Pethidine is associated with a high risk of suicide. It has a high side-effect profile compared to other opioids.

Hydrocodone – is a schedule II opioid with a half-life of 2-4 hours. Hydrocodone is reportedly equal to the gold standard morphine. In fact, some doctors have suggested that hydrocodone may be even more potent in analgesic quality than morphine. Hydrocodone is also more powerful than codeine or tramadol. It’s more efficacious in providing pain relief for acute musculoskeletal pain. Even though it has a fairly low bioavailability, hydrocodone isn’t available in pure formulations. It’s typically combined with acetaminophen for pain relief (e.g., Vicodin).

Oxycodone – more commonly known as Oxycontin, oxycodone is a strong synthetic opioid with a half-life of 3-4.5 hours. It’s approximately twice as strong as morphine. Because of its high potency, oxycodone is only used to treat acute pain. Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to be prescribed tramadol or codeine.

Mechanisms of Action: How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids are known as mu antagonists because they work on the mu receptors of the brain. While opioids may have other differences—for example, some are also kappa antagonists—all opioids have mu antagonist qualities in common. Mu receptors are one of the brain’s endorphin receptors. Opioids work by triggering the rush of endorphins, which are the body’s natural opioids, to dull the sensation of pain. Endorphins also generate a sense of well-being.

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive Qualities?

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive QualitiesAny opioid can be abused, but some have a higher likelihood than others. The distinction lies in both tolerance and potency.

Opioids work by triggering natural opioid receptors, but over time, synthetic opioids can actually inhibit the body’s endogenous endorphins. When the body can’t produce enough endogenous opioids on its own, patients experience the following feelings of withdrawal:

  • Discomfort
  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms, coupled with the return of moderate to severe pain, results in addiction-seeking behavior. Patients build a tolerance to the drug and seek more to experience the same effect.

Other Forms of Abuse

Abuse may begin when patients seek alternate delivery routes to achieve the “high” associated with a rush of endorphins. Patients may take their oral medications and crush them into a fine powder and snort them. For example, oxycodone is known for both its high potency and long half-life. Yet when an oxycodone pill is crushed and snorted, it not only produces a strong high, but it also increases the risk of negative side effects—such as respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, coma, or death.

Extended release formulations are particularly dangerous. Abusers have access to all of the medicine at one time if they crush, snort, or smoke them. This increases the strength of the opioid and thus the high.

Addicts may also find other ways to increase the relative strength of an opioid. A patient may take a relative’s Vicodin when a codeine prescription runs out. Since Vicodin has a stronger potency and a longer half-life relative to codeine, the patient’s body will inhibit his or her own endogenous opioid systems more quickly.

Spotting Addictive Behaviors in Opioid Abusers

Those who abuse opioids may display behaviors similar to alcoholics or other addicts. Much like an alcoholic may downplay how much he or she drinks in a day, an opioid abuser may downplay his or her habit. While admitting to taking a much weaker Tylenol with codeine recreationally, he or she may actually be taking hydromorphone or oxycodone, which are extremely potent and dangerous opioids. Addicts can become incredibly good at lying (even to themselves) about the extent of their problems.

It’s important to realize that many opioid prescription problems have roots in real moderate to severe pain. When prescriptions run out, addicts may turn to other drugs of abuse, like heroin, to dull the pain and trigger a euphoric feeling. Indeed, heroin use is on the rise: according to NIDA, the number of heroin users doubled from 380,000 in 2005 to 670,000 in 2012.

Prescription drug addicts are at risk for more than just an overdose, especially if they turn to heroin. Intravenous drug abuse can lead to other complications, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne disease transmission from dirty needles.

The Dangers of Opioids and The Solution

The addictive qualities of an opioid depend on its potency and half-life. The stronger the drug, the quicker the path to addiction. As tolerance develops, abusers may turn to alternate avenues to experience the “high”, from crushing and snorting pills to switching to a stronger opioid to using heroin. Addicts are creative with the way they administer prescription pills, leading to an increased risk of overdose because opioids continue to build in their systems. High amounts of opioids can lead to organ damage, tissue death, respiratory depression, and cardiac arrest.

As the full extent of the opioid epidemic comes to light, opioid abuse is becoming less stigmatized. Loved ones should be on the lookout for potentially abusive behaviors, such as downplaying the number of pills taken. Early intervention produces the best chance of opioid abuse recovery. Our staff here at Summit Estate specializes in Opioid addiction, let us help you or your loved one recover from this dangerous addiction. Click the button below to see more about our services offered on opioid addiction.

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America’s Surprising History With (What Are Now) Illegal Drugs

Heroin Cocaine Marijuana Illegal Drugs In US - Summit EstateMind-altering drugs have played a role in recorded history for thousands of years. Pain relief, treatment of illnesses, spiritual experiences and expanding one’s consciousness have all been cited as reasons for experimentation with well-known potent substances. Medical necessity has driven such experimentation, as has simple curiosity, for millennia.

The United States has been embroiled in debates over the dangers and possible benefits of drug use since our nation’s founding, and some of the history behind American drug use may surprise you. For example, many of the most well-known hard drugs today started as over-the-counter remedies for common ailments, while others were once acceptable in medical settings.

Opiates

Opiates In The US Since The Pilgrims - Summit EstateThe opium poppy has been considered a medicinal herb for as far back as 5,000 years ago in ancient Sumer. Opium and its derivatives are some of the most powerful and useful medicines on the planet.

Some of the earliest Pilgrims to arrive in North America brought opium tinctures, especially laudanum, a potent pain and cough suppressant, as treatments for various illnesses and infirmities, such as:

  • Smallpox
  • Dysentery
  • Cholera
  • Pain
  • Trouble sleeping

Opium-based tonics were especially popular with women at the time, as they were commonly used to alleviate menstrual cramping.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the U.S.’s most well-known and influential founders, resorted to using laudanum to treat his various afflictions, despite his marked history of skepticism toward medicine. Eventually, he began growing his own poppies at his Monticello estate in Virginia.

Recreational Use

While laudanum was an oft-used medical treatment for various ailments, many people were beginning to experiment with opium use for recreational purposes. Opiate use was prevalent during that era, and by the mid-19th century, opium dens were a common sight in the Americas. This was one of the first times that widespread public drug use was acknowledged as a societal concern, and “Yellow Peril” became a term used to describe Chinese immigrants who were accused of luring Americans into depravity and addiction with their popular opium dens.

The Arrival Of Morphine

The next major breakthrough regarding opium development came in 1803, when Friedrich Sertuerner of Germany synthesized the first batch of morphine, an injectable and highly potent opiate painkiller. Morphine was widely used and available, and wounded veterans heavily relied upon it during the American Civil War. This led to a widespread wave of addiction in the United States during the late 1800s.

Heroin: From Accepted Treatment To Epidemic

In 1895, chemist Heinrich Dreser developed heroin while working for the Bayer company in Germany, and the substance quickly gained traction as a treatment for morphine addiction. However, the drug’s immediate success did not adequately show that physicians were simply trading one addiction for another. Heroin addiction became the new epidemic.

Over the next 50 years, heroin would remain a prevalent force in American culture. The infamous “French Connection” led to an enormous supply of heroin being brought into the U.S., fueling the rebellious subcultures of the beatnik and hipster scenes. During the Vietnam War, American servicemen commonly fell victim to heroin abuse, and the addiction rate among this group was an ominous 10 to 15 percent.

Synthetic Opiates Gain Prominence

Over the years, opioids (synthetic opiates) have collectively evolved into one of the most commonly used prescription medications in the United States. Unfortunately, while opioids possess real pain management capabilities, the potential for addiction and abuse goes hand-in-hand with the drugs’ possible benefits. The CDC reports that nearly 3 million Americans are facing some kind of opioid abuse problem in 2016, and this class of meds has helped make drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In fact, more than half of all drug-overdose deaths are attributed to either prescription opioids or heroin.

Cocaine

Cocaine Reached Peak In Usage In 1982 With 10.4 Million - Summit EstateCocaine, a stimulant taken from the leaves of the coca plant, is powerful and highly addictive. It was first discovered by Spanish explorers who reached South America, where the indigenous people commonly chewed coca leaves for their stimulating effects. The Spanish saw an opportunity to bring this plant home to Europe, but shipments rarely survived the journey across the Atlantic.

It would not be until the late 1800s that the potential of the coca leaf would be unlocked. Although illegal today in the U.S., cocaine became known for its medical applications after its successful synthesis in 1855. The drug was a common ingredient in tonics and medicines meant to treat impotence, depression and a host of other common ailments.

Cocaine-Infused Beverages

In 1863, Angela Mariani, a Corsican chemist, developed a mixture of cocaine and wine that was sold to cure stomach ailments and suppress appetite. It was wildly popular among the European elite and led to countless copycat products.

One such facsimile was a new soft drink made by John Pemberton in 1886, who was hoping to replicate Mariani’s successful formula in America. Contention over alcohol in the South led to Pemberton’s being forced to reformulate his invention with soda water. Cocaine lent its name to this concoction, and it became one of the most well-known commercial products in world history: Coca-Cola.

Evolution Of Cocaine Use

In the 19th century, cocaine was also known as a reliable local anesthetic for dentistry and oral care. Cocaine lozenges and cough syrups were very common, and syringes for injecting cocaine were later given to soldiers during the First World War.

The beginning of the 20th century saw a huge spike in recreational drug use, and cocaine was among the most ubiquitous and easily accessible. One of the major contributing factors to the increase in drug use in the U.S. was alcohol prohibition, which inadvertently steered many citizens toward other methods of inebriation.

The first half of the 1900s saw an explosion in the popularity of cocaine among the stars of Hollywood. Strangely enough, despite its popularity, cocaine’s addictive properties and potential for overdose went largely unreported. This only helped the drug’s popularity to soar, cementing its spot as a prime recreational drug over the next several decades. Several publications included depictions of cocaine use as a luxurious habit reserved for the upper strata of the social elite.

Glamorization Of Cocaine And The Emergence Of ‘Crack’

Unapologetic reports that showcased cocaine use as harmless, classy and opulent led to a dramatic spike in public consumption. This uptick peaked in 1982 with an estimated 10.4 million cocaine users in the U.S. Demand was widespread at the time, and urban areas began to see derivatives of this upper-class sensation in the form of crack cocaine, or simply “crack.” Crack was cheap to produce in large quantities, and it helped fuel in huge spikes in violent crime, as competing drug syndicates fought over territory.

One of the major incidents that helped change the public’s perceptions about the apparent safety of cocaine use was the death of basketball player Len Bias in 1986. Bias was a star rookie drafted by the Boston Celtics. While celebrating his addition to the team, he died of a cocaine overdose and heart issues the drug caused. This high-profile death coupled with a dramatic rise in violent crime led to harsher sentencing for drug-related offenses – especially those involving crack.

Marijuana

How Did Marijuana Reach Schedule I Status In US - Summit EstatePublic opinion of marijuana has swayed greatly in recent years. Many American states have decriminalized its use, legalized it for medicinal applications and/or fully legalized it for adult for recreational use. Marijuana’s history in the United States dates back to the Jamestown settlers around 1600.

Being that hemp and cannabis sativa plants contain one of the strongest natural fibers in the world, early American settlers used hemp for ropes, clothing, sails and many other products until the end of the Civil War. During this time, marijuana was prized for its usefulness in manufacturing, rather than its effects on the human body. Hashish was made from the resin of the marijuana plant and was only mildly popular for smoking in the U.S.

Recreational Use

Marijuana’s popularity as a recreational drug did not gain much traction until the early 1900s. Between 1850 and 1937, anyone could purchase marijuana over the counter at pharmacies for medicinal purposes. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 led to a drastic increase in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to America, and marijuana was widely used for recreational purposes in Mexico at the time. Marijuana’s popularity jumped again following the Volstead Act, which sharply increased in price in 1920 due to the nationwide prohibition of alcohol.

Outlawed

Eventually, marijuana use became synonymous with violent crimes, and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized its consumption. Despite these changes, marijuana’s popularity as a recreational alternative to alcohol grew and reached new social spheres over the next several decades.

In the 1970s, Congress repealed mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges, and President Jimmy Carter’s administration pushed to decriminalize marijuana. However, public opinion swayed in the opposite direction, which led to President Ronald Reagan signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which reinstated mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related charges.

Evolution Of Public Opinion

In the 2010s, marijuana has become much more widely accepted for its medical applications and relative lack of dangerous side effects. It is impossible to overdose from using it, has never been linked to any fatal bodily harm, and is not physically habit-forming, like cocaine and heroin.

However, despite a great deal of public support for marijuana decriminalization, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I narcotic – on par with heroin in terms of danger.

How Did Marijuana Land On The Schedule I List?

Marijuana was assigned its Schedule I status as part of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Many members of the scientific and medical communities argue against the DEA’s stance on marijuana, citing their sources as incomplete, archaic or outright erroneous.

Recordings of President Richard Nixon from 1971 showed that he intended to uphold the country’s prohibition of marijuana in an effort to combat detractors of the Vietnam War. The Shafer Commission was created with the sole purpose of engineering damning scientific evidence meant to maintain marijuana’s Schedule I status.

Unfortunately for Nixon, the Shafer Commission’s results proved exactly the opposite of the intended results:

  • Marijuana was as safe (if not safer) than alcohol.
  • It had no addictive qualities.
  • Public health would benefit from ending marijuana prohibition.

Ulterior Motives

An interview with John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon’s aides, revealed that the War on Drugs was largely spurred by the perceived need to discredit minority communities and anti-war, leftist opposition to Nixon’s re-election and the war in Vietnam.

Ehrlichman said in the interview:

“By getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and the blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meeting, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The DEA has repeatedly stonewalled any and all attempts to reclassify marijuana and take it off of the Schedule I narcotics list. The DEA even denied a petition to reschedule marijuana that came from its own administrative law judge, Francis Young, in 1988. In 2011, the DEA again denied a petition due to an apparent lack of available research dedicated to analyzing the effects of smoking marijuana.

Medical Professionals’ Current Stance

A 2014 Medscape survey showed that 56 percent of reporting physicians supported national legalization of medical cannabis, and 82 percent of reporting oncologists said the same. Perhaps one of the most critical examples of the DEA’s intransigence was Administrator Michele Leonhart’s inability to explain how marijuana was just as dangerous as heroin at her appearance before Congress. Marijuana has no lethal overdose threshold, whereas prescription opioids caused 19,000 American deaths in 2014 alone.

Changing Public Perception On Illegal Drugs

Alternatives To Punishing Drug Addicts - Summit EstatePublic perception is one of the biggest issues surrounding drugs in modern America. Many people believe that decriminalization of drug use will lead to improved public health for several reasons, including the chance that it might quell the stigmatization that commonly accompanies Americans who have faced drug-related charges.

In terms of prescription opioids, despite the number of deaths they cause every year, they are still widely available and frequently prescribed. Opioid addiction is seriously debilitating and remarkably difficult to overcome. Rather than looking for alternatives to these dangerous medications, legislators seem to expect those who are prescribed these medicines to use them diligently, lest they suffer the consequences or become addicted. And when they become addicted to these prescription drugs, many resort to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative once the prescription runs out.

The War on Drugs has essentially become a war on public health. Addicts are ostracized and criminalized rather than afforded the treatment they need to become functional members of society again. Hopefully, as public opinion shifts toward compassion and logical legislation, the stigma surrounding drug use will not have such deleterious effects on public well-being. Addicts would then be able to safely pursue treatment and rehabilitation for their afflictions.

How To Help A Family Member Who Is An Alcoholic

Helping A Family Member Who Is An AlcoholicThere’s an old adage that family is where life begins and love never ends. The bond established between a newborn infant and a doting parent may be the most powerful connection on Earth. The love that parents feel for their children can move mountains. The profound connection between siblings lasts a lifetime. There’s simply no denying that family emotions run deep.

Helping A Family Member Who Is An Alcoholic

Yet, what happens when alcohol causes a family member to go from being your best friend to someone you don’t recognize. What if your mother, father, sister or brother crosses over from being a social drinker into a problem drinker? It doesn’t happen overnight, and families often socialize and drink together. In fact, it seems that the unconditional love and support that families provide can also serve as obstacles that prevent alcoholics from getting effective treatment.

Break Through Denial

One of the trickiest parts of dealing with an alcoholic is being able to communicate about the problem. Denial is a core element of alcoholism which means most alcoholics are reluctant to openly admit that anything is wrong. In fact, they will often go to great lengths to hide their problem – especially from family members and other loved ones. Keeping open communication and avoiding judgmental dialog can be particularly beneficial during the early efforts in getting a family member into treatment.

Avoid Enabling

The desire to help a family member is natural. However, certain types of help can be detrimental to an alcoholic. Enabling in the form of providing monetary support, shelter, or legal assistance often worsens the problem. Help should be squarely focused on getting the alcoholic the treatment they need.

Focus On The Family

Often, the alcoholic demands an excessive amount of attention which can leave family members feeling neglected and resentful. While there needs to be a goal of getting the individual the treatment required, the focus must remain on the health of the family. Balancing life and managing a relationship with an alcoholic is never easy. For many, a support group can help alleviate some of the negative emotions associated with dealing with an alcoholic family member.

Do You Have An Alcoholic Family Member Who Needs Help?

While alcoholism is a family disease, this doesn’t mean that it should be solely contained within the family. Professional treatment can provide the foundation for a lifetime of recovery. To learn more about treatment for alcoholism, call now to speak with an addiction specialist at Summit Estate.

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When Prescription Drug And Heroin Addiction Hits Close To Home In The Bay Area

Prescription Drug, Heroin Addiction Hits Close To Home Bay AreaWith the recent news that Prince’s death was due to the prescription painkiller Fentanyl, increasing light is being shed on America’s growing epidemic of prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. Individuals from all walks of life are becoming addicted to these powerful drugs and even suffering from lethal overdoses.

Just how widespread is the problem with heroin and prescription painkillers?

In 2014, there were over 47,000 fatal overdoses related to these drugs.

And, the number of those becoming addicted continues to skyrocket, despite increasing efforts to address the problem.

Addiction Hits Close To Home In The Bay Area

Recently, one family’s story of addiction was shared in the San Jose Mercury News. D’Anne and Bruce Burwell never thought they would have to deal with the scourge of prescription drug abuse while raising their family in Silicon Valley. Their two children were getting good grades and were both on the fast track to college and successful careers. Yet, a problem was lurking just beneath the surface.

The Slippery Slope Of Drug Addiction

Something began to change for their son Jake who had always been a good student. Jake’s efforts in high school began to decline, and D’Anne caught him using marijuana. After suspending his driving privileges and sending him to a psychologist, she thought that the problem was solved. However, it was actually only the beginning.

Jake started college and proceeded to flunk two classes his freshman year. In his second year of college, a friend of Jake warned D’Anne that he was engaging in “risky behavior.” Jake was smoking OxyContin, a drug that is in the same family as heroin. Over the next two years, Jake had three unsuccessful stints in rehab. Finally, Jake finally realized that his addiction could kill him, and he agreed to enter detox and start a six-month program.

To read the rest of Jake’s story, click on the button below.

Jake’s Addiction And Recovery Story

Jake’s Story Is Not Unusual

Many parents have the same perspective that D’Anne once did – addiction is something that happens to others. However, many parents, especially in the success-driven Bay Area are finding themselves struggling with addicted children and wondering what went wrong.

Without a doubt, there is a tremendous amount of shame and stigma associated with addiction in the Bay Area and beyond. Many teens start using drugs because they feel insecure, anxious or depressed.

Identifying The Signs Of Prescription Painkiller Addiction

Often, an addiction problem is happening in a family for a significant length of time before it is addressed. It can be easier to overlook common symptoms such as:

  • Problems in school
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Moodiness
  • Missing or stolen money or valuables
  • Questionable friends
  • Anger
  • Depression

What Should You Do?

Because prescription drug and heroin addiction is progressive and can lead to a fatal overdose, taking a “wait and see” approach to the problem is a serious mistake. First, it’s important to discuss the problem and work towards a solution. In most cases, the best option is professional addiction treatment. Many treatment programs can be tailored to the individual and address underlying or root causes that helped perpetuate the addiction.

It’s also important for parents to focus on their child’s recovery as opposed to blaming themselves for the problem. A group like Al-Anon can be beneficial in understanding the challenges of being a parent of an addict.

Does Your Adult Child Need Addiction Treatment In The Bay Area?

You’re not alone. The number of young adults addicted to prescription pain killers and heroin is growing at a shockingly fast rate throughout Northern California. Don’t try to weather through this problem alone. Help is available at Summit Estate Recovery Center. Call now to speak with an addiction specialist or click the button below to learn more about our prescription drug addiction treatment program.

Prescription Drug Treatment