Category Archives: Addiction

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.

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.

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.