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Does Exposure to Substance Use Promote Antisocial Behavior in Teenagers?

As parents know very well, most teenage children sometimes exhibit signs of antisocial behavior. Within limits, this type of behavior is an expected part of the normal process of growing up. However, if it appears frequently or in excessive amounts, antisocial behavior may point to the presence of dangerous changes in mental health. In some cases, highly antisocial children grow up to be dysfunctionally antisocial adults. Mental health specialists know that children who repeatedly witness excessive drug or alcohol use often have increased long-term chances of developing a broad range of behavioral problems. Current evidence now indicates that teenagers who see other people consuming drugs or alcohol also have highly increased chances of experiencing more-or-less immediate spikes in their antisocial tendencies.

Antisocial Behavior in Teens and Younger Children

The term antisocial behavior is used to describe a broad range of socially harmful actions, including such things as lying, stealing, cheating, physical aggression toward others and the destruction of property. During childhood and adolescence, most people occasionally engage in this type of behavior. Your child typically has increased chances of acting antisocially during moments of high stress, when he or she reaches the limits of the developing brain’s healthy coping mechanisms. While this “normal” antisocial behavior may cause serious problems in any given situation, it does not usually develop into a significant, ongoing pattern.

A child who develops a repeated pattern of clearly antisocial behavior has a substantially reduced chance of interacting well with others or experiencing a sense of personal well-being. At the extreme, a highly antisocial child may experience problems serious enough to merit an official mental health diagnosis. Under current guidelines, doctors can diagnose either of two antisocial conditions in a child: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. (A third condition, antisocial personality disorder, is only officially diagnosed in people age 18 or older.)

Long-Term Behavioral Effects of Witnessing Excessive Substance Use

If your child is repeatedly exposed to environments where excessive substance intake occurs, he or she has increased chances of eventually developing significant behavioral problems. Several factors help explain this link. For example, substance-heavy social and home environments commonly lack the stability and reliability that children need to feel mentally/emotionally secure. Children in substance-heavy environments also have increased chances of experiencing or witnessing some sort of physical or sexual assault. In addition, a child repeatedly exposed to other people involved in excessive drug or alcohol use may grow up thinking that dysfunctional substance intake is an acceptable social norm.

Short-Term Antisocial Effects of Witnessing Excessive Substance Use

In a study published in December 2015 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, researchers from two American universities looked at what happens to the short-term behavior of teenagers who witness other people consuming alcohol or taking drugs. In the past, scientists had no good way of obtaining such immediate behavioral feedback. However, in this particular project, the researchers used cell phone surveys of 151 teens to gain the information they sought. All of the participants were age 11 to age 15 and filled out surveys on their cell phones three times daily for just over a month. In each survey, the participating teens reported any exposure to other people consuming drugs or alcohol. Each teen was also asked to report same-day involvement in antisocial behaviors such as hitting another person, stealing from another person or destroying another person’s property.

The researchers found that teenagers of both sexes have significantly increased chances of committing an antisocial act on the same day that they witness someone taking drugs or consuming alcohol. This finding applies to all of the teens enrolled in the study. However, by far, the greatest chances of acting antisocially after witnessing substance use appear in teenagers with a specific genetic variation that makes people more prone to restlessness.

Compared to a teenager who doesn’t witness substance use, a teen without the genetic mutation that sees someone consuming drugs or alcohol is twice as likely to act antisocially that same day. In a teenager with the mutation, the odds of acting antisocially after witnessing substance use increase to four times as likely.

Offsetting the Risk

Fortunately, even if your teenager frequently witnesses other people in the act of using drugs or alcohol, several factors can potentially offset the risks for antisocial behavior and other types of behavioral problems. These factors include the development of good social skills, the ability to discuss problems openly with at least one parent, involvement in organizations that don’t tolerate members who act antisocially and an active social life with friends and family members who do not drink in excessive amounts or use drugs at all. Ongoing substance use in adolescence can itself be viewed as a form of antisocial behavior. For this reason, preventive measures typically work best when taken before your teenage son or daughter begins even experimental consumption of alcohol or drugs. It is important to note that if you have untreated substance abuse problems, your daily example may steeply increase the odds that your teen will exhibit antisocial tendencies.

What Is Meth and What Does It Do To the Body?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful and particularly nasty illegal drug. Meth is extremely addictive, and short or long term abuse can result in a large number of serious physical and mental health consequences.

In its illegal form, meth is a white, bitter-tasting crystalline powder. The drug can be snorted, smoked, taken orally or dissolved in liquid and injected. The effect on the user is a sudden feeling of euphoria and energy, which fades quickly and leaves them craving another dose. When a user becomes addicted to the drug, the need to experience that high overpowers all other needs and desires.

Addiction and Loss of Control

Methamphetamine gives an artificial but powerful feeling of well-being and a surge of energy. This feeling can lead people to push their bodies farther and harder than they are truly capable of going, bolstered by this false sense of strength and ability. As a result, some people put their lives at risk or suffer serious injury while under the influence of this drug. The subsequent crash that comes as the effects of the drug wear off can be devastating both physically and mentally.

Meth is an immensely addictive drug that has such a powerful impact on the brain that users can become addicted to the drug after a single use, and every subsequent use significantly increases the risk of addiction. People who become addicted to meth turn into compulsive drug seekers who are desperate for their next fix and will go to extremes in order to achieve it.

In the addicted brain, the need for meth outweighs all other concerns. Users may go for days without eating or sleeping as they binge on the drug every few hours. The constant need for another dose also means that people suffering from meth addiction develop a tolerance for the drug very quickly and need greater and greater amounts in order to achieve the same level of elation and satisfy their cravings.

Short-Term Physical Effects

Even short-term meth use will quickly begin to have a negative impact on health. Meth is an extremely dangerous drug to “experiment” with, because meth only needs a few doses to get someone hooked or to have a harmful impact on their body.

The jolt of energy that meth provides can cause sleep loss and disruptions of regular sleep patterns. As meth users become more and more sleep deprived, it becomes difficult for them to function normally in their everyday lives. The sleep disruptions that meth users experience may develop into insomnia, which can last for years even after a person has stopped using meth or other stimulant drugs.

Meth represses hunger signals and may trigger nausea, and users can suffer from rapid weight loss as a result. Other possible effects of meth use also include high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, increased body temperature and irregular heartbeat. All of these physical effects cause wear and tear on the body that can lead to more serious damage over time and increase the risk of major health complications.

Long-Term Physical Effects

The various long-term effects of meth use range from extremely unpleasant to genuinely life-threatening. The most well-known side effect of using meth for a long period of time is severe dental problems, “meth mouth.” The characteristics of meth mouth include severe tooth decay, tooth fracture, acid erosion and tooth loss. Experts believe that these problems come from a combination of the drug itself and the self-neglect that is associated with using meth.

The rapid weight loss that is often seen in short-term meth users can become extreme weight loss in chronic users. Users may lose so much weight and consume so few calories regularly that they become severely malnourished. This in turn causes deterioration of organs such as the heart and lungs and the body essentially begins to eat itself. The damage caused by this deterioration may not be reversible.

Meth users also frequently experience the delusion and sensation of insects crawling underneath their skin. This sensation makes them scratch and pick at their skin, leaving sores that can be very painful and may become infected.

Frequent users are at greater risk for contracting HIV/AIDS through shared needle use or risky behavior such as unprotected sex. Recent research also suggests that meth use may worsen the progress of HIV, damaging brain cells and causing greater cognitive impairment than in HIV-positive individuals who are not meth users.

In addition to the harm meth does to the body, this drug can also have a serious impact on mental health. Paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, repetitive behavior and delusions are all common symptoms of chronic meth use. Long-term use of this drug can even trigger psychosis, which frequently manifests as extremely aggressive and violent behavior.

Methamphetamine addiction is an extremely difficult addiction to treat. This drug has a disastrous effect on both the body and the mind, and many chronic users die before they are able to successfully escape from the drug. As a result, many experts consider meth to be the most dangerous drug in the world.

What to Do If You Think Your College-Age Child Is Drinking or Using Drugs

Most parents feel a sense of responsibility toward their children even when they are grown. It can be scary to send your child off to college without knowing what challenges he or she might face. Some college-age adults experiment with drinking and drugs, and some of those adults develop alcohol or drug dependency. It can be hard to know what to do if you think your adult child is misusing drugs or alcohol, especially since your parenting role has changed and you are not involved in your child’s everyday life.

Before You Speak With Your Child

Some parents are hesitant to ask their children if they are drinking or using drugs because they fear they may be overreacting or relying on false information. Since you will want to be prepared when you do have the discussion with your child, it can be helpful to get some information beforehand. You can read up on signs and symptoms of chemical dependency to see if your child is displaying any of the behaviors. You can also discuss your concerns with a professional, like a counselor, doctor or member of the clergy. Helpful information to relay to these professionals is the type and amount of alcohol or drugs you think your child has been using, how often and for how long you think your child has been using, and any negative consequences or reactions that have arisen from addressing the issue with your child already. Lastly, make sure you and the rest of your family are safe from any potential physical danger.

When to Speak to Your Child

Ideally, it is best to set up a time for you and your child to talk that will be devoid of distractions. Also, it is never a good idea to confront your child when he or she is currently under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When you discuss your concerns with your child, use caring language. Tell your son or daughter that your concerns come from a loving place. Avoid placing blame on yourself or directing blame toward your child. You are not responsible for someone else’s addiction, and pointing fingers generally makes the person suffering from addiction defensive, which can impede his or her willingness to seek treatment.

Some people think it best to wait until the loved one has reached “rock bottom” before addressing their concerns. This approach often has downfalls, though. The person may be so entrenched in his addiction that his life is in danger. Also, the earlier a person gets help, the better. While your child may react negatively, in the long run you can rest assured knowing that you are doing the loving thing by opening up communication about potential addiction. By speaking up early, you may also be able to help your child avoid crises, like dropping out of school or getting kicked out of housing.

Actions to Avoid

While your instinct is to protect your child no matter what, some types of protection can actually cause increased dependency. For example, if you consistently give your child money and have discovered that he or she is abusing drugs or alcohol, it is best not to continue to offer this type of support without knowing where your money is going. Instead, you can buy your child groceries or offer to pay for a treatment program. Even offering a spare room or a couch can help assuage any fears you have about not being there for your child, as long as doing so won’t put you or others in physical danger.

When Speaking With Your Child Doesn’t Help

While sometimes just bringing up the conversation with your child can lead to positive changes, often a child will continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. Some people try to quit and realize they cannot do so without formal treatment. Others are simply resistant to change. If your child tells you that he or she doesn’t have a problem but one does exist, you may want to host an intervention. Interventions can be tricky, so it is best to research information before the event. Have anyone positive be present and anyone who may aggravate the situation remain absent. The intervention should be kept positive and centered around getting your child the help he or she needs. Emphasize how you as a family would like to work toward healing and a positive future.

Some adult children may try to use threats to maintain their current lifestyle. They may insist that they will take their lives or end up homeless if you do not give them money, sign rental agreements or bail them out of jail, etc. Though you may be tempted to help them in these situations, trust your best judgment. If this would end up putting you in financial strife, or if you think your child would continue down a destructive path, employing tough love can be the best option for both you and your child in the long run.

The Heroin/Prescription Painkiller Connection

By the 1990s, heroin use in the United States had seemingly flatlined. The drug still occupied a niche on the illegal drug circuit, but compared to its heyday in the 1960s and 70s, heroin had become something of a paper tiger.

Flash forward to the present, however, and that paper tiger has suddenly changed to a roaring lion on the rampage. While heroin use has not reached epidemic levels, it has expanded dramatically since the year 2000, filling hospital beds and treatment facilities with its unfortunate victims.

At the present time more than 500,000 Americans are estimated to be addicted to heroin, and if recent trends hold, more than 8,000 of these men, women and adolescents will die of a heroin overdose in the coming year.

These statistics raise an obvious question. Why has heroin made such a strong comeback now, after its destructive effects had given it such a bad reputation?

The answer to that question can be found on your doctor’s prescription pad, and on the prescription pads of doctors from all across the country.

From Prescription Drugs to Heroin: An Unholy Journey

Oxycodone and hydrocodone, most commonly sold under the brand names OxyContin and Vicodin, are by far the most popular narcotic painkillers on the market among doctors and patients alike. If you currently have a prescription for OxyContin or Vicodin, you are not exactly part of an exclusive club—in 2012, the most recent year for which we have records, there were 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers given out by medical professionals in the United States. That is more than enough to supply every adult in the country with at least one bottle of pills.

These drugs are highly effective against chronic pain, which is the main reason they are prescribed so freely. Unfortunately they are also opioids—just like heroin—and they can be every bit as addictive as their more disreputable cousin.

Since opioid painkillers came into widespread use in the late 90s, the number of people addicted to them has skyrocketed. OxyContin in particular has proven effective at creating addicts out of innocent people who only wanted relief from their suffering. An OxyContin addiction progresses slowly, cravings for the drug gradually intensifying until they become impossible to ignore and difficult to resist.

While 500,000 heroin addicts in the United States sounds like a lot, there are four times as many people addicted to opioid painkillers. Approximately 17,000 people will die annually from prescription opioid misuse and abuse, which represents almost half the total number of prescription drug overdose victims. Thanks to the proliferation of legally prescribed opioids, drug overdose has now become the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, surpassing automobile accidents and homicide.

So what does this have to do with heroin addiction? A lot, as it turns out.  From the standpoint of the brain receptors that respond to these drugs, one type of opioid is indistinguishable from the other, meaning that if you have an addiction to OxyContin, heroin will do just fine as a substitute.

Despite their popularity as painkillers, prescription opioids are expensive and still relatively hard to obtain, while heroin is cheap and widely available through the black market. Insurance or Medicaid might help pay for OxyContin when it is originally prescribed, but once a habit develops, more and more pills are needed and the subsidized health care system is no longer accessible as a source. Consequently, many people who start out on prescription opioids eventually switch to heroin because it is all they can find and afford.

In an article published in the July 2014 edition of the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers discussed the results of a study that looked at the life histories of heroin addicts from two eras. While those who started taking drugs in the 1960s almost always began their opioid use with heroin, about three-fourths of modern-day heroin addicts said they had abused prescription opioids first.

Passing Through the Gateway to Danger

The “gateway” drug idea has always been controversial. The concept has been particularly abused with respect to marijuana, which was demonized for decades as a gateway drug that supposedly predisposed users to eventually try much harder substances.

But prescription painkillers like OxyContin are gateway drugs that can and do lead people to heroin. This is not undocumented opinion but rather cold, hard fact.

If you or anyone you know has been taking OxyContin or any other type of narcotic prescription painkiller, you need to be aware of how dangerous these substances can be. They should only be used as prescribed and you should never be hunting for extras when the original order runs out. Ideally they should only be taken as a last resort after other pain management strategies have failed.

You or your loved one may really believe you need prescription painkillers to help you manage your pain. Nevertheless, you should still talk to your doctor before you continue taking them (especially if you have been taking them beyond a single prescription) to see if he or she might have recommendations for alternative pain therapy.

Of course the fact that others have moved from prescription opioids to heroin does not mean the same thing will happen to you or to someone in your family. However, the risk is real and it is not one you can afford to take lightly. No one plans to become addicted to medication, but it does happen on occasion and you need to be aware of that reality and all the potential hazards that accompany it.

If you have any reason to suspect your prescription opioid use is becoming excessive, you should consult with a physician or addiction specialist for advice and guidance.  But if you have already moved on from prescription drugs to heroin, you are in extreme danger and should seek professional help immediately.

What Does Rock Bottom Mean?

In general, rock bottom refers to the lowest point of a bad situation. This term is used to describe a progressively worsening negative situation that causes a person to re-evaluate his or her life and make appropriate changes. People can hit this low point with their finances, with their weight gain and with their addiction, just to name a few. For addiction, a person may have lost his or her home, family or career. If you have hit rock bottom, you may have had to declare bankruptcy or experienced an intervention from concerned family members and friends. Some people think it is necessary to reach an all-time low before making changes, but this can be a dangerous gamble. For some, “rock bottom” is actually death, and there is no way to dig oneself out of that.

Recovering From Rock Bottom

If you have hit rock bottom, you may be feeling like a failure, like others would be better off without you or that you will never be able to get your life back on track. Many who reach their wits’ end find inner strength to persevere, and often find strength that they did not know they had. While finding yourself at a record low can be scary, ultimately it can signal the moment you choose to reclaim your life.

Some say you have reached rock bottom when there is nowhere to go but up. Fortunately, when a moment of clarity does signal a wake-up call, it is never too late to make positive changes. Some may find that they sink even further, but for many, they are able to use this experience to turn a positive corner. This is not to suggest that positive changes will be easy. You may have burned some bridges that you just cannot get back. You might have lost income, resources or valuable relationships. However, even if you have burned some bridges that cannot be repaired, there will be others out there from whom you can receive positive support and encouragement. You may even find that you make new connections and have access to new opportunities that are better than what you lost.

In addition to getting support from various friends and family, there are programs available that you can utilize in your journey. Most areas have addiction recovery programs, such as those that use the 12 Steps. You can check yourself into a recovery center for either inpatient or outpatient treatment. There are also online forums for recovery, where those suffering from addiction can offer each other support and encouragement. Most people will utilize a combination of these resources and make adjustments during the recovery process, depending on their needs at the moment.

Helping Someone Who Has Hit Rock Bottom

If a loved one has hit rock bottom, your support can be invaluable in helping him or her recover. While no one can recover without wanting to, offering positive support can help give the loved one strength to persevere. Build up your loved one’s confidence by reminding him or her of important strides made, either recently or the past. While blanket statements are not useful, such as “Everything will be fine” or “Change is easy,” offering tangible words of encouragement can help, like “I believe in you” or “You are incredibly strong.” You can also remind your loved one that you will be there throughout his or her journey.

Offering support during recovery looks different for everyone. You will not want to do anything to put yourself in physical danger. In these cases, it is better to protect yourself and call the police when needed. It may be helpful to offer monetary support, as long as you don’t sacrifice above what you can reasonably afford. Other ways you can help your loved one include babysitting while he or she is in treatment, sending cards during inpatient treatment and offering a listening ear.

Do Not Wait for Rock Bottom

If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, do not put off intervening until he or she has reached a lowest point. You might feel that bringing up the addiction could be risky to your relationship or friendship. You might not be sure how your friend or family member will respond to your conversation. While bringing up addiction can be scary, you are ultimately helping your friend or family member by opening up lines of communication. Often, when you wait for someone to hit a place of desperation before addressing the situation, it is unfortunately too late as there is often much more to the scenario that you are unaware of.

If you are suffering from addiction, it is equally important that you do not wait until you’ve reached a breaking point to make a change. It might be tempting to think you have a handle on the situation or that everything will be better tomorrow. But then tomorrow comes, and each day after, and you still find yourself unable to break free from addiction. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can get your life back. You deserve more than rock bottom.

Older Adults Are Increasingly Likely to Seek Opioid Treatment

Substance abuse and addiction are often viewed primarily as a young person’s problem. This makes some degree of sense, since drug and alcohol use typically reach their highest levels among younger adults in their early to mid-20s. However, in reality, you can develop significant substance problems even after you pass age 50. In fact, as America’s population grows older, drug and alcohol problems appear more and more frequently in people in the second half of their lives. Not coincidentally, increased exposure to substance-related issues comes with increased odds of requiring some form of substance treatment. In fact, current evidence indicates that adults in their 50s now seek treatment for opioid-related substance problems more often than members of any other age group.

America’s Aging Population

America’s population is steadily getting older, and experts expect this trend to pick up pace over the next several decades. According to federal census figures issued in 2014, there were roughly 44.7 million people in the country age 65 or older in 2013. This number equals just over 14 percent of the total population. By the year 2060, the 65-plus population will more than double to approximately 98 million individuals. Just 25 years from now, the segment of the population age 65 or older will jump from today’s 14 percent to just under 22 percent. Changes in the average age of Baby Boomers, born in the wake of World War 2, mostly account for this ongoing shift in the number of older Americans.

Substance Use Among Baby Boomers

People in the Baby Boom generation were born between 1946 and 1964. In the present day, the members of this generation now range in age from roughly 51 to 69. For many baby boomers, the transition into adulthood occurred during the peak years of the 1960s counterculture movement, when drug experimentation became more socially acceptable and drug intake rates among the young began to rise. Even when counterculture influences started to drop off in the 1970s and 80s, substance use remained a social norm for large numbers of Baby Boomers.

Unlike older adults from previous generations, Baby Boomers have largely maintained their drug and alcohol intake while passing through middle age and entering their senior years. Compared to people from earlier eras, if you are currently in your 50s or 60s, you have a higher chance of consuming a broad range of drugs—including marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine and illegal opioids like heroin—at some point during your lifetime. You also have elevated odds of currently having problems stemming from the misuse of prescription opioid painkillers or some other type of prescription medication.

Increased Odds of Seeking Opioid Treatment

In November 2015, researchers from New York University published a study that looked at the rate of opioid treatment in American adults age 50 or older. The study focused on residents of New York City, but its findings likely also apply to older Americans in general. Data for the project came from the records of tens of thousands of people who received opioid treatment in the city between 1996 and 2012.

After reviewing these records, the researchers found that adults between 50 and 59 now have higher chances of being enrolled in opioid-related treatment than the members of any other age group. In 1996, just 7.8 percent of all opioid treatment went to people in their 50s. By 2012, that number had more than quadrupled to 35.9 percent. In sheer percentage terms, people in their 60s have experienced an even greater increase in their participation in opioid treatment. In 1996, just 1.5 percent of all people in treatment were age 60 to 69. By 2012, people in this age range accounted for 12 percent of all individuals treated for opioid-related problems.

Willingness to Participate in Opioid Treatment

In large part, the increase in the number of older adults seeking opioid treatment is a predictable necessity. Simply put, since Baby Boomers use drugs at a higher rate than previous generations, they have greater chances of needing substance abuse treatment. Since opioid addiction commonly produces recurring or chronic health issues, they will likely continue to need some form of help for years or decades to come if affected.

There is also a bright side to this situation. Compared to younger people with substance abuse problems, older people typically have a much better chance of recognizing the seriousness of their situation and actively seeking help. An adult over the age of 50 will probably have more motivation to address their misuse of opioids and establish a substance-free lifestyle. They therefore also have a good chance of successfully completing a treatment program that focuses on opioid-related issues.

How Common Is Prescription Opioid Abuse in Teens Who Start Using Heroin?

Heroin consumption is on the rise in America, and that rise has been accompanied by an increased rate of heroin addiction and overdose. Current evidence shows that a substantial portion of heroin consumers actually start out as abusers of prescription opioid medications. While many experts focus on the link between the two forms of substance intake in adults, the same connection also affects significant numbers of teenagers. In fact, the results of a recently published study indicate that the clear majority of U.S. teens who consume heroin in their senior year of high school first abused an opioid medication.

Prescription Opioids versus Opioid Street Drugs

Prescription opioids are a large family of medications that come directly or indirectly from mind-altering substances found in a plant called the opium poppy. In addition to producing an intense feeling called euphoria inside your brain’s pleasure center, these medications help block or reduce your brain’s ability to sense pain. It is this second property that makes prescription opioids a common treatment option for people with certain types of moderate to severe pain symptoms.

Heroin and other opioid street drugs also come from mind-altering substances found in the opium poppy. They also have the same euphoria-producing, painkilling effects as opioid medications. However, opioid street drugs are not produced under the same types of monitored conditions as prescription opioids. This means that no user can accurately predict the potency of any given batch of these drugs, or predict whether or not a batch contains dangerous additives or contaminants. In addition, while opioid medications are only legitimately prescribed by a licensed doctor, opioid street drug consumption by its very nature occurs without medical supervision.

Prescription opioid medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin share two other unfortunate traits with heroin and other illegal opioid street drugs. First, inside the pleasure center, repeated exposure to both groups of substances can lead to long-lasting chemical changes that set the stage for physical dependence and full-blown opioid addiction. This means that, regardless of which specific substance you consume, any habitual abuse or misuse of an opioid medication or street drug comes with clear addiction risks. In addition, if you consume too much of any of these substances, you can develop the potentially lethal toxic reaction known as an overdose.

Prescription Opioid Abuse

Since opioid medications can trigger addiction or overdose if consumed in excessive amounts, you must have a prescription to use them legally. Technically speaking, you become a prescription opioid abuser whenever you start consuming an opioid medication in larger amounts than your doctor intends. However, for clarity’s sake, many experts refer to this behavior as opioid misuse, not opioid abuse. That is because opioid abuse also has a separate, official definition as part of a diagnosable medical condition called opioid use disorder. It is important to note that, no matter how much medication you consume, any use of a prescription opioid without a doctor’s written approval also qualifies as opioid misuse.

Teenagers and Prescription Opioids

Misuse of prescription opioids occurs in a small but substantial number of American teenagers. The federal government tracks this misuse with information gathered from an annual, nationwide survey called Monitoring the Future. According to the most recent results from this survey, reported in late 2015, roughly 4.4 percent of all high school seniors misuse the medication Vicodin (which contains the opioid hydrocodone) at least once a year. Roughly 3.7 percent of seniors misuse the medication OxyContin (which contains the opioid oxycodone) at least once yearly. Younger teens misuse these two medications at a lower, but still significant, rate. On any given day of the year, roughly 2,500 American teens misuse an opioid medication for the first time. Altogether, about 12 percent of all teens throughout the country have a lifetime history of prescription opioid misuse.

Teenagers, Opioid Medication Misuse and Heroin

Addiction experts know that improper use of opioid medications is sometimes a gateway for heroin consumption. Several factors help explain this connection. For example, some prescription opioid misusers switch to heroin because the street drug is often much cheaper and easier to obtain than an opioid medication. Some OxyContin misusers switch over to heroin consumption because changes in that medication’s formula now discourage tampering and easy illicit use.

About 1.2 percent of all American teenagers have used heroin at least once. In a study published in November 2015 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of American researchers used five years of data from Monitoring the Future (2009-2013) to determine how many high school seniors who consume heroin started out as prescription opioid misusers. After analyzing information gathered from a total of 67,822 seniors, these researchers found that fully three-quarters of the students involved in heroin use had a previous history of improper opioid medication intake. Among those students who misused a prescription opioid 41 times or more, the rate of lifetime heroin intake jumped from the baseline of 1.2 percent to a shocking 25 percent.

The chances of transitioning from prescription opioid misuse to heroin consumption are not equally distributed among all high school seniors. The researchers found that one particular group, seniors with European-American ancestry, has substantially higher odds of making this dangerous switch. However, whatever their racial/ethnic background, teenagers who start misusing prescription opioids often do so because they consider these medications to be safer than street drugs. This mistaken perception has potentially tragic consequences.

Prevention and Help

Fortunately, prevention campaigns targeted at teenagers can significantly lower the rate of medication misuse and help halt the gradual slide into heroin consumption. If your teen misuses a prescription opioid, you can seek help from a professional addiction treatment resource. You can also seek professional advice from an addiction specialist if you suspect that your teenager has any degree of involvement in heroin use.

The Increase of ADHD Drug Use in the Workplace

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a common childhood condition that can continue to produce its destabilizing effects in adulthood. People affected by the disorder have a range of symptoms centered on unusually hyperactive/impulsive behavior, an unusual inability to maintain attention, or a combination of hyperactivity/impulsivity and an inability to pay attention. Doctors frequently prescribe stimulant medications to combat the effects of ADHD. Unfortunately, significant numbers of people misuse these medications and subsequently develop health problems that can include diagnosable symptoms of stimulant addiction. Current evidence indicates that misuse of ADHD drugs in the workplace is becoming an increasingly frequent phenomenon.

What Are ADHD Stimulants?

ADHD stimulants are a group of medications that, among other things, speed up the normal rate of activity inside the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). While it may seem paradoxical, this increased activity helps a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder by easing the impact of hyperactivity/impulsivity and improving the ability to maintain attention. There are two basic types of ADHD stimulants: amphetamine-based stimulants and non-amphetamine-based stimulants. The most well-known amphetamine-based stimulant, Adderall, contains a combination of amphetamine and a related substance called dextroamphetamine. The most well-known non-amphetamine-based ADHD medication, Ritalin, contains a stimulant called methylphenidate.

What Are the Dangers of ADHD Stimulant Misuse?

Stimulants are a class of drugs and medications known for their ability to produce a powerful sensation called euphoria inside the brain’s pleasure center. If you repeatedly misuse an ADHD stimulant (by taking it without a prescription or consuming more than your prescription dictates), euphoria-related changes in your brain’s function can ultimately lead to the onset of physical dependence. A physically dependent person has a compelling need to keep taking a given substance in order to feel “normal.” In the case of stimulant drugs and medications, a dependent person can also easily transition into full-blown addiction, a condition characterized by uncontrolled substance intake and a range of other damaging symptoms. Officially, this form of addiction is classified as a stimulant use disorder.

Misuse of an ADHD stimulant can also lead to other potentially serious or severe physical problems, including sleep loss, high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate and dietary changes that ultimately result in clinical malnutrition. If you consume these medications in especially large amounts, you can also set the stage for a stroke or other, possibly fatal, changes in normal heart or blood vessel health. Emotional/psychological problems associated with the misuse of ADHD stimulant medications include paranoid states of mind and unusually aggressive behavior.

Why Misuse ADHD Stimulants in the Workplace?

In addition to improving symptoms related to hyperactivity/impulsivity and poor focus, ADHD stimulant medications produce a general increase in wakefulness. In combination, these effects have made ADHD stimulants a fairly widespread target of misuse as “study drugs” that supposedly enhance academic performance in high school and college students. The effects of the medications also make them a potential target for adults in the workplace who wish to do such things as increase their alertness, boost their motivation for routine tasks and boost their overall job productivity.

ADHD Medication Misuse on the Rise in the Workplace

Most studies on the subject of ADHD stimulant misuse have centered on teenagers and college-age young adults, not older adults participating in the fulltime workforce. For this reason, there is relatively little statistically verified information on trends in the workplace misuse of ADHD medications. Still, anecdotal reports from a broad range of professions indicate that improper consumption of the medications is increasingly common among workers who feel pressured to improve their performance in order to keep their jobs or advance to better-paying positions.

While studies that focus directly on workplace ADHD drug misuse are lacking, another statistic strongly points to an increased rate of this dangerous practice: the number of adult emergency room visits related to the improper intake of ADHD medications. Periodically, a federal agency called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) releases figures that indicate how many American adults visit ERs across the nation as a result of ADHD stimulant misuse. The latest available SAMHSA figures (released in 2013) cover the years 2005 to 2010.

In 2010, the number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 seeking emergency room treatment after misusing an ADHD stimulant was almost four times higher than the number of adults in this age range who sought treatment in the same circumstances in 2005. Among adults between the ages of 26 and 34, the rate of ER visits linked to ADHD stimulant misuse increased by more than 200 percent over the same span of time. Among adults age 35 or older, the rate of ER visits also increased by more than 200 percent. Taken together, these figures clearly point to a rise in improper ADHD medication consumption among American workers.

The SAMHSA figures also indicate that adults who misuse ADHD stimulants frequently misuse other substances at the same time. In 2010, almost two-thirds of all adults seeking ER treatment after improper ADHD medication consumption had at least one additional substance in their systems. More than a third (38 percent) of those seeking treatment had at least two additional substances in their systems. If the trends reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2013 have continued up to the present day (as seems quite likely), the misuse of ADHD stimulants in the workplace is having an increasingly damaging effect on the well-being of the American workforce.

Binge Drinking and Functional Alcoholism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Often, when people think of drinking excessively, they picture binge drinking. This type of drinking is often portrayed in movies and television, for example, because it has a larger immediate impact. Maybe you have found yourself binge drinking at a party, doing things you might not normally do and then waking up the next morning feeling low.

While binge drinking is a real problem for many people, functional alcoholism can be just as damaging. Functional alcoholism often goes undetected because it is not as easily recognizable. However, if you are a functional alcoholic and get the necessary treatment for it, your life can become even better than you could ever imagine.

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is incredibly common in the U.S., with one in six adults binge drinking four times a month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Binge drinkers bring their blood alcohol concentration level up to at least 0.08 grams or consume at least five alcoholic beverages in one occasion at least one day per month.

If you have had issues with binge drinking, you may have experienced a number of health problems, like injuries and liver disease. Binge drinkers are also more prone to contract a sexually transmitted disease and have unplanned pregnancies because of not being able to think as clearly, which can impede decision-making skills.

Maybe you use alcohol as a way to escape unpleasant thoughts, to feel connected to your peers or to elevate your mood. Binge drinking can provide short-term pleasure, but often with unpleasant results. At best, you may feel hung over and sluggish the next day, and at its worst you may suffer alcohol poisoning, which can be really serious for your health.

While binge drinking can have real and lasting consequences, with the right treatment and support, it’s possible to change your life for the better. Reaching out for help is the first step toward a healthy future.

Am I A Functional Alcoholic?

While binge drinking can prevent someone from functioning until the hangover goes away, this isn’t true with functional alcoholism. Functional alcoholics usually drink throughout the day but can still participate in daily activities and routines. Women with functional alcoholism consume more than three drinks a day or seven drinks a week, and men consume four drinks a day or fourteen drinks a week.

Many functional alcoholics go to school, go to work and maintain relationships. These alcoholics may not appear to have a problem to an outsider looking in. If you are a functional alcoholic, you may experience some denial, as your alcoholism does not fit with what people normally think of when they picture someone who drinks too much. You might even feel like your successes wouldn’t be possible if you were an alcoholic and that you have a handle on things.

Many functional alcoholics are able to compartmentalize their drinking to the point where they think it’s under control. You might even work harder than your coworkers and find yourself up for raises and promotions. You might excel in your college environment at a level above that of your friends and classmates.

These successes may seem incongruent with the lifestyle of an alcoholic, and you could even begin to think that your success is tied into your drinking. This is a common belief and one that may be the biggest barrier to trying to get help.

Over time, functional alcoholics are not able to thrive in their daily activities, either because of being “found out” or because of a fear of being found out. You may find yourself on edge trying to keep up an appearance of control, all the while unable to stop focusing on when you can have your next drink.

For any alcoholic, the major sign of the disease is a dependency on alcohol. If you find yourself using alcohol as a coping mechanism, even if you’re able to function, alcoholism probably has a hold on you that you can’t shake.

Getting Help

Binge drinking and functional alcoholism are not always mutually exclusive. For example, someone can drink and function regularly during the week and then binge drink on weekends. While the two types of drinking look different, the dependency and the reasons for drinking are often the same.

Luckily, professionals are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about treatment and support programs for both binge drinkers and functional alcoholics. You can take steps toward reclaiming your life by reaching out to people in recovery. Recovery can be a lifelong process, but it is often able to help you lead a more quality and purposeful life.

Teens: Text Language and Code Words Teens Use to Mask Drug Use

If you think you are familiar with the slang terms that teens use to talk about drug use, think again. Code words like grass or Mary Jane (marijuana) and rock or snow (cocaine) may have once been used to hide drug use from parents and authority figures, but they are now so well known that they have very little chance of fooling anyone.

Code language has grown and evolved as teens try to stay one step ahead, and modern technology has made it possible for this language to evolve even more quickly. Thanks to the Internet, new slang terms can spread like wildfire and become widely popularized among teenagers in almost no time at all. For parents who want to keep up, it is not simply a matter of learning today’s drug slang, but also tomorrow’s and the day after’s.

Text language has also become ever more complex, to the point where text conversations can seem like gibberish to the uninitiated. While such language is often used simply for convenience, it can be used to hide conversations about drugs, sex or other things that teens would prefer to keep hidden.

The More You Know

Familiarizing yourself with the appearance, effects, origins and chemical components of various drugs can help you to detect new code words for drugs. These code words frequently reflect the properties of the drugs to which they refer; for example, the terms snow, dust, rock, flake, powder and white all refer to the physical properties of cocaine. Speed is a type of amphetamine, so called because of the rush of energy it provides. After September 11, 2001, heroin (which often originates in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan) came to be known as Bin Laden. Even knowing a drug’s history may provide you with clues—methamphetamine supposedly acquired the nickname crank because it used to be smuggled in vehicle crankcases.

Drug slang also frequently plays on the most common names for drugs. Just like Mary Jane became a nickname for cannabis because it sounds like an Anglicized version of marijuana, Stacy has become a nickname for ecstasy because, well, it sounds like ecstasy. Slang terms for GHB, which stands for gamma hydroxybutyrate, often use alternative words for these initials, such as Georgia Home Boy and Grievous Bodily Harm.

Find the Theme

Just because older slang terms for drugs become outdated does not mean that they can’t be useful. New terms are often thematically similar to older ones, hence the vast number of names that all reflect the fact that cocaine is a white powder or that cannabis comes from a flowering herb plant. If you know that snow, dust, flake and powder all refer to cocaine, you may be able to guess that sugar does also.

Code words can also evolve, often to the point where the current slang barely resembles the original term. However, knowing a few of these terms may help you to identify new terms that fit into the same evolutionary sequence. Quite a few code words for cocaine have arisen from the Spanish slang term llello, which evolved into yeyo, then to yay and eventually to yale, yank, yahoo and more.

Translating Texting

Teen text speak has moved so far beyond LOL that even those people who consider themselves pretty Internet savvy are likely to find themselves stumped by more than a few terms and abbreviations. If you are concerned about your teen’s possible drug use, there are a few of these terms to watch out for. Not surprisingly, the digits 420 are often used to refer to marijuana. CID may refer to acid (LSD), while XTC is a common initialism for ecstasy. You might also watch out for messages such as PIR (parent in room) or the number 9 (which also warns that a parent is near), since both may suggest that teens have something to discuss that they don’t want you to know about.

All About Context

You don’t always have to know exactly what a word or phrase means to suspect that it may refer to illicit drug use. For example, if it seems strange that teens are talking with enthusiasm about a bland breakfast cereal, they may not mean the Special K made by Kellogg’s. Words seemingly used out of context or phrases that seems like non sequiturs are good clues that teens are trying to disguise the true meaning of a conversation.

In the end, your own instincts and the ability to spot words and phrases that sound a bit strange are going to be your best resources. There is simply too much drug-related slang to memorize it all, even if it weren’t evolving on a regular basis. However, if you do notice terms that set the alarm bells ringing, sites like and are good places to seek a translation and see if your suspicions are correct. has an extensive section specifically for drug slang, and while it isn’t comprehensive (which would be practically impossible); it has a very extensive number of entries.