Breaking Bad, Race, and Meth Addiction

by Emma Haylett

As Breaking Bad ends a wildly successful season—don’t worry, you won’t find spoilers here—

the show is on many of our minds for many different reasons. While the idea certainly wasn’t

groundbreaking (there are so many that deal with drug and alcohol addictions and various forms

of recovery, to varying degrees of accuracy and success), it managed to capture the hearts

and minds of people across the United States. Likely it is because of the variety of emotions a

show like this evokes, often in the span of one episode. As humans, we crave a deep emotional

connection to the media we consume, and in an age of reality television, this may be lacking.

We want good guys and bad guys and carefully constructed (and filmed) plot.

Breaking Bad though doesn’t adhere to our ideas of good and evil, instead subverting them

over and over again. But we stay tuned because we’re interested in how far our own thinking

can go and transform, how like or unlike an addict we might feel in our journey with the show.

Strangely, or perhaps not, is the scenario put in place by writers and producers that even allows

for a man like Walter White to find himself in such predicaments.

For Walter White to make and deal methamphetamines, he had to get cancer, be unable to

treat it, be unwilling to accept money from friends, know a shady high school student, and be

later consumed by a world darker than he could have imagined. It’s an excellent premise e for a

show, certainly—but imagine the setup for a black man. Other shows have proven that we don’t

need to suspend our disbelief by establishing a crazy cancer scenario to believe that a minority

might make, sell, or do drugs.

And Breaking Bad has other issues with race—while Albuquerque, New Mexico is nearly half

Latino, Gus Fring is the only Latino character to reoccur enough to get a billing as regular cast.

In a Salon article titled “Breaking Bad’s Racial Politics Walter White, Angry White Man”, Todd

Van Derwerff suggests that it is the idea of the antihero that speaks most effectively to white

privilege. “His is the voice of white male privilege, the angry, unfiltered sense that one is owed

something and has had it taken away. Never mind that Walter built an empire worth $80 million.

He always wanted more—respect or fear or worship—and he never got it. He could never quite

get over the fact that other people weren’t placed on Earth to play supporting characters in his

own story, and even in the series’ pilot, he’s bogged down by an overbearing boss and a wife

who seems interested in anything but him,” writes Van Derwerff.

But Breaking Bad is good television, and, while ignoring some aspects of racial diversity, it

perhaps addresses the reality of methamphetamine in rural areas—states like Idaho and

Wyoming have documented problems with the use of meth. If we look at Idaho, 70% of drug

related offenses are meth related, which costs the state between $60 million and $102 million

for incarceration and arrest. 89% of women in Idaho jails are meth users, and 80% of children

placed by Health and Welfare are removed from their homes because of drug abuse—mostly

meth.

Meth is affecting areas that are not dirty or dangerous—teachers and factory workers, high

school students and high school dropouts are part of the growing meth problem and, if nothing

else, Breaking Bad has drawn attention to it. To the show’s credit, it doesn’t glamorize the

addiction or recovery from addiction in the way that some shows have—the characters who use

are decaying, they’re mean, they’re painfully addicted and involved in an extremely dangerous

world.

Ultimately, Breaking Bad presents a scenario in which the viewer is asked to examine the good

and evil within themselves. It is also (though perhaps not intentionally) raising a discussion

about race—who deals and uses, who produces, develops, and distributes meth. And that’s a

conversation worth having.

 

Emma Haylett is really good at thinking up nicknames, though she has few of her own. When she’s not

packing around a too-heavy backpack at graduate school or working as a Certified Prevention Specialist

Intern, you can find her advocating for healthy drug rehabilitation programs around the US.

About Addiction: Alcohol, Legalization, Internet-Addiction, the Drug war, and Teen Drug Use

a couple weeks away, A3 Link posts are back with a brand-new set of addiction article straight off the press! With election season gearing up we have some news regarding new laws on the ballot for legalization in some states, as well as internet-addiciton being deemed an official diagnosis in the new DSM, and everything in between. Check out all of the new articles in this week’s posts!

Does trying alcohol in youth develop a distaste for it?-  How does tasting alcohol in childhood affect later alcohol use in adolescence? This question has long been debated by parents, with some feeling they should keep their children as far away from alcohol as possible and some believing they should let their children taste alcohol in order to take away the temptation of alcohol as a “forbidden fruit” and/or so they can develop a distaste for it early on. According to a recent study by RTI International and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill based on data collected from interviews with 1,050 mothers and their third-grade children, 25% of the mothers thought that allowing their kids to try alcohol would discourage them from drinking in their adolescence, and 40% believed that not allowing children to taste alcohol will only make it more appealing to them. Twenty-two percent of the mothers believed that children who taste alcohol at home with their parents would be better at resisting alcohol-related peer pressure, and 26% thought it would make them less likely to experiment with risky drinking in middle school. Amongst the children, 33% of those in the study admitted to having tasted some alcoholic beverage. While these findings may not be surprising to some, they are interesting and, to some extent, worrisome because, according to the researchers, early introduction to alcohol is a primary risk factor for problem drinking during adolescence.

Internet Addiction an Official Diagnosis?- The term addiction has historically been used primarily to indicate addiction to drugs and alcohol. Now, there are many different forms of “addiction”, some included in the worldwide psychiatric manual and others simply used by people in everyday conversation. Reportedly, if confirmed by further research, a new addiction included as ”internet-use disorder” will be included in the new psychiatric manual the DSM-V, and children addicted to using electronic devices 24/7, will be diagnosed with a serious mental illness. While this may seem a bit excessive to those who feel there are no ill effects of internet use, recent research has found that children get aggressive, irritable and hostile when their iPads or laptops are taken away from them. Some researchers even found that screen addictions have characteristics similar to other addictions, including emotional shutdown, lack of concentration and withdrawal symptoms if they are kept away from their gadgets and games. While it may soon become an official mental illness, for now overuse of technologies would be classified under internet-use disorder alongside other mental disorders.

Legalization on the Ballot in Multiple States- With election season quickly approaching, multiple states have initiatives on the ballot regarding the legalization of marijuana. According to pre-election polls, it seems likely that at least one of these bills will pass. While Oregon, Washington, and Colorado all have a proposition on their ballot, it looks like Washington or Colorado might be the first state to officially legalize recreational marijuana use, as both states showing at least 50 percent support in the polls. In Washington in particular, there is little organized opposition, with opponents raising only $6,000 compared to supporters, who have collected more than $4 million. Ironically, medical marijuana dispensaries have been the most publicly opposed to the bill. While some of them worry about marijuana dispensaries being put out of business, others fear new DUI laws that could make it illegal to be driving with even a trace of THC in one’s system, an intimidating fact due to the extended time period THC stays in one’s system. For now, those in other states will just have to wait and see what happens at election time. But pay close attention, because the results could have an enormous impact on the future of marijuana legalization across the country, and around the world.

Teen Drug Use Leads to Successful Lives? It has long been thought, and often commonly accepted, that drug use is “bad”, dangerous, and even deadly. However, in a surprising discovery, a recent study conducted at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development by Michelle M. Englund found that teens experimenting with drugs and alcohol are more likely to attain higher levels of education and be in stable romantic relationships early into adulthood than those who abstain. This is not to say that heavy drug use leads to more successful individuals, as those who were deemed to be drug abusers and even at-risk users did not reach the same levels of success as experimental users or even those who abstained. One explanation offered is that many of the successful users developed a strong foundation both academically and socially before they tried the drugs and/or alcohol. This seems logical when compared with studies that have shown drug and/or alcohol use earlier in adolescence to be harmful to brain development. While this particular study was conducted with a small sample size and researchers admits that similar studies of larger populations need to be done to verify their results, they do insist that these results show that experimental drug use in adolescence may not be as harmful as previously thought, and may actually be a normal part of adolescent development. Since approximately 80% of teens admit to using drugs, it makes sense that drug use of some sort would be normative and not problematic.

The Drug War- The “Drug War” has been going on for many years now, with the government seemingly spending more to fight the spread of drug use by the year. Using data from government agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Drug Control Surveys, Matt Groff created a graph showing the relationship between government spending on the Drug War and the drug users in America, per 100 citizens, over the last 35 years. You can see the graph for yourself via this link. While it seems there may have been a slight correlation in the ‘80’s as spending began to increase and drug use dipped , the impact has disappeared since then. While Drug War spending has increased to at least 3 times the amount being spent at the end of the 80s, drug use has not decreased and has even been on a slow but steady rise since then. With the effectiveness of the drug war being called into question, it seems prudent to look into more effective ways to be fight drug use nationwide.

About Addiction: marijuana, LGBT, national surveys, codependency and skittles?

This week we have an interesting mix of addiction news, from the new fad “Skittle parties” to the results from a national drug use survey and everything in between. If you want to stay current and up-to-date on everything about addiction, this week’s articles are must-reads!

Perception of MarijuanaThe perception of marijuana can be vastly different from person to person. With voters in Massachusetts considering a ballot question that would make it the 18th state to allow medical use of marijuana in November, it is important to know the facts about the effects of marijuana use. Recent studies have found that marijuana use may cause or worsen mental health problems in long-term and regular users. Two 2010 reviews of the medical literature related to schizophrenia and psychosis said the research suggests marijuana may bring on the disorders or worsen symptoms, particularly in young people already genetically predisposed to the conditions, however both admitted that further studies were needed to support their findings. A more definitive study was published last month, linking regular marijuana use to a decline in IQ. A team of researchers, led by Madeline Meier of Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy, found that people diagnosed with marijuana dependency as teenagers and who continued using it regularly into adulthood experienced cognitive decline, with the largest drop being about 8 IQ points. They noted that those who started using marijuana as adults did not experience a drop in IQ. That’s because teenage brains are different, making the negative effects of marijuana more harmful both immediately and in the long-term. Essentially, while marijuana use can be safe and medicinally helpful, it is most dangerous to the developing brains of teenagers.

Drug use in the LGBT community A recent study from England has revealed surprising links between homosexuality and drug use, as people who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual were seven times more likely to use illegal drugs than the general population, with one in five of those showing signs of dependency or addiction. Compared to the five percent of the general population who admitted to using within the last month, over a third of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who took the survey admitted to drug use in the last month. Specifically among the illegal drugs being used, homosexuals were 10 times more likely to have used cocaine in the last month than the wider population, and 13 times more likely to have used ketamine. The causality behind this phenomenon is unclear, although many reasons have been suggested from drug use as a coping mechanism against homophobia to being a part of the homosexual party scene and lifestyle. Many campaigners and researchers are calling these findings a “wake-up call” to the LGBT community.

Skittle Parties!With drug abuse becoming an increasing problem across the nation, teens have been finding more and more new ways to use numerous different drugs. They have been utilizing their creativity to experience these drugs in new, different, and sometimes dangerous ways.  One of the newest and most alarming trends amongst the drug-using youth is called “skittle parties”. At these types of parties, teens bring with them any type of pill they can get a hold of, from parents prescription pills, such as Ritalin or Tylenol with Codeine, to illicit drugs like ecstasy. Once arriving at the party they put their pills in a bag and proceed to pull out and take any number of random pills, without knowing what they are or their effects. While theses parties can be extremely dangerous, they are also very easily preventable. If parents and grandparents follow a few simple guidelines, such as locking up and keeping track of their prescriptions and keeping in contact with their children’s friends and their parents in order to monitor their children’s well-being, they can help prevent these dangerous activities.

Results from National Drug Use SurveyThe U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has recently released their annual survey covering drug use among teens and adults. For the survey, they polled 70,000 people ages 12 and older, asking them about drugs they have used within the past month. The survey, which looked at data from 2011, provides a nationally representative look at current substance abuse around the country. The survey found that about 8.7 percent of Americans 12 and older were identified as current drug users, for a total of 22.5 million American drug users. Among the positive findings was a 14 percent decline in prescription drug use for non-medical purposes among people aged 18 to 25, meaning that 300,000 fewer young adults were found to be abusing such drugs compared to the previous year. The number of heroin users also showed a slight drop, going from 621,000 in 2010 to 620,000 in 2011. Hallucinogen use fell as well, dropping 19 percent for this year’s survey, and cocaine and methamphetamine use has been on the decline since 2006, with 44 percent and 40 percent reductions respectively. Tobacco use among teens 12 to 17 has also declined 15% since 2002. On the other hand, marijuana use has been increasing, with 7 percent of Americans currently identifying as regular marijuana users, up from 6.9 percent in 2010 and 5.8 percent in 2007.

Signs of Codependency Addiction has become a common term in our society, used to describe one’s dependency upon alcohol, drugs, sex, food, and many other substances. However, is it possible for one to become “addicted” to another person? According to many, the answer is yes. Even if this is not addiction in its usual clinical form, codependency is thought to be common among addicts and their spouses or partners, who end up enabling the addicts. Most people develop these kinds of behaviors after witnessing similar relationships between their role models growing up, especially if they were raised in an addicted or dysfunctional home. For example, children of alcoholics are up to four times more likely to become addicts themselves, and about half go on to marry an addict and duplicate the addict/codependent model they saw in their parents. Traumatic experiences early in one’s life can also contribute to this, by building up a low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, and many other psychological issues. Few people in these relationships realize they are codependent, instead referring to themselves as “too nice” or “selfless”. To help, here are 5 signs of a codependent relationship: 1) Taking (unnecessary) responsibility for others, 2) Putting someone else’s feelings above your own, 3) Going to extremes to hold onto a relationship, 4) Difficulty recognizing and communicating emotions, and 5) Inability to set and maintain personal boundaries. To see a more in-depth analysis of each sign, check out the link here.

About Addiction: non-addictive pills, internet addiction, marijuana and alcohol

You want to know more about addiction and we want to tell you, so here is this week’s wrap up of exciting news (well, some of it. ) A lot of news about addiction comes up every week and we want you to be informed!

The End of Opioid Addiction?According to a joint international study by the University of Adelaide and the University of Colorado, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists have discovered an essential receptor in the brain that can cause opioid addiction, and there is a drug that can block this receptor without interfering with pain relief! The drug is called (+)-naloxone and it works by binding to the specific receptors in the immune system that ordinarily trigger the drug’s addictive properties and preventing the opioids from interacting with them, thus reducing the body’s addictive response to the opioid drug. This new drug is a variant of the drug naloxone, which has been used for many years to treat overdoses. However, this study is the first clear link to its effect on preventing addiction. According to the leaders of the study, clinical trials may even begin within the next 18 months!

Scientists discover internet-addiction gene?Internet addiction is defined as someone who obsessively thinks about the internet and whose sense of well-being is negatively impacted if they can not get access to the internet. According to the findings of German scientists, published in the September issue of Journal of Addiction Medicine, problematic users more often carried a variation of the CHRNA4 gene, which is typically linked to nicotine addiction. While this receptor in the brain has been known to be essential in nicotine addiction, this is the first neurological link to internet addiction that has been discovered. The study’s lead author, Christian Montag, acknowledged that more large-scale studies need to be done to further examine this connection between internet addiction and the CHRNA4 gene, however he insists that there is enough clear evidence to support a genetic predisposition to internet addiction.

Your childhood’s effect on your adult life It has long been accepted that traumatic experiences in one’s childhood can have long-lasting effects on a person well into their adult life. According to new research at Cambridge University, suffering a traumatic experience in childhood may increase one’s risk of drug addiction. The compulsivity and impulsiveness linked to addicts are also found in people as a result of a traumatic childhood. While having a traumatic experience in one’s childhood does not mean they will automatically become an addict, just as not having a traumatic experience does not make one immune to addiction, coming from this kind of background does make one more at-risk of becoming an addict.

Is Marijuana Addictive?There has long been a debate on whether or not marijuana is an addictive drug. Recently, it has been ranked number one on a list of the top five most commonly abused prescription drugs used by post-50 year olds. According to a 2011 report from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 3 million adults older than 50 have illegally used the drug and “out of 4.8 million older adults who used illicit drugs, marijuana use was more common than non-medical use of prescription medicines among the 50-to-59 age range.” All of this evidence leads to a need to differentiate between addiction and dependency. In this article, Robert DuPont, M.D. and Laurel Dewey debate the addictiveness of marijuana by arguing their point of view. As evidence of its addictiveness, DuPont points out that, since 2000, admission for treatment of marijuana abuse ranks higher than that of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and prescription painkillers. Of 7.1 million people with dependence or abuse of drugs other than alcohol or tobacco in 2010, 4.5 million had marijuana dependence. That’s 63 percent of everyone with illicit drug dependence or abuse! Contrarily, Dewey uses many personal experiences to show her side of the argument. She points to a 1974 study, conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University, that proved that the cannabinoids in the marijuana plant shrunk cancerous tumors and killed cancer cells, leaving healthy cells alone. She adds that, in the thousand years of its use, no one has ever died of marijuana use. Both authors use much more evidence for their side, which you can read about by clicking the link above. Read both views and form your own opinion!

Alcohol and Drug Use in SchoolsWith kids going back to school across the country, there have been many different studies on alcohol and drug use amongst the youth. In a survey led by SAFE Inc. (Substance Abuse Free Environment), there were mixed results. While the number of students who have tried alcohol has actually decreased, marijuana and amphetamine use have both increased. The survey targeted eight-, tenth-, and twelfth-graders, and showed that those tenth-graders who reported using alcohol in the last month dropped from 31 percent in 2010 to just 22.7 percent this year. It also decreased slightly in the eight- and twelfth-graders. Of the troubling findings, the most troubling may have been the increase in prescription stimulant abuse, such as Adderall and Ritalin. The most dramatic increase was among twelfth-graders, more than doubling from 3.8 to 8.5 percent. Marijuana use also showed increase both in the last month and in lifetime use amongst eighth- and twelfth-graders, although there was a slight drop by tenth-graders. 

About Addiction: babies, bath salts, and prescriptions

Another week has come and so has another group of research and addiction news stories! This week we’re covering a multitude of subjects from prescription drug abuse to bath salts to ecstasy. It is important to stay current on news regarding addiction and recovery and A3 is here to help you do just that!

Increase in addicted babies- Recently, a statewide Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns Task Force in Florida discovered that the number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs such as opiates has increased six-fold since 2004. This increase is representative of the nation as a whole, with addicted newborns quickly becoming a major problem. In 2011 in Florida alone, over 2000 babies were born with drug withdrawal syndrome, narcotic exposure or both. At St. Joseph’s hospital in the Tampa area, almost fourteen percent of the newborns were born with withdrawal symptoms.

Kentucky cracks down on prescription drug abuse- This past week Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear passed emergency regulations to fight drug abuse in the state. While the regulations are a bit controversial, they are only temporary until the state’s medical community can agree on and finalize permanent regulations. Besides increasing the regulations on clinics for administering prescription drugs, the legislation also requires doctors to use the statewide prescription drug-tracking database known as KASPER to prevent “doctor-shopping” by addicts trying to get ahold of more drugs than prescribed to them. This is similar to the New York version known as I-STOP, which was passed in the past couple of weeks in that state’s attempt to crack down on drug abuse.

“Zombie” Bath Salts as addictive as cocaine? Bath salts have become a hot topic in the media following so-called “zombie attacks” by users of the relatively new and unknown drugs. However, a recent study by Dr. C.J. Malanga has discovered the addictive side of the drugs. The study used mice to focus on the strength of pleasure seeking under the influence of certain drugs. They first learned to receive brief stimulation as a reward for spinning a wheel and had their desire to spin the wheel for this reward compared to when the reward was each drug. The study revealed that bath salts, which are different variations of the compound called cathinone, an alkaloid that comes from the khat plant, have addictive properties similar to that of cocaine.

Simple label change the key to stopping opioid addiction? With opiod addiction on the rise across the nation, many different ways of counteracting it are being discussed. One way involves changing the labels on prescription opioids, such as OxyContin, morphine or Vicodin, as part of an effort to curb prescription drug abuse. Wednesday, thirty-seven health care workers signed and submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration to do just this. However, this is becoming a discussion point for addiction specialists. While many agree with the motivation behind the petition, it is questionable whether it goes too far. Some specialists are worried that by removing “moderate” pain from the label and limiting the maximum dosage and  time period on the medication can be harmful to those who are in pain and truly need the medication.

Ecstasy and your brain- A recent study led by Daniel Wagner, a psychologist at the University of Cologne in Germany, has shown that use of the popular club drug Ecstasy may lead to memory problems. It is the first study to use people who hadn’t used the drug regularly before the beginning of the study. The debate over the effects of Ecstasy, or MDMA, has been heated over the years, fueled by the difficulty in pinpointing its effects on the brain. The study led by Wagner only shows impairments in memory, but it is significant in just a one-year period. The leaders of the study also plan a two-year follow up to determine more long-term effects.

Nicotine addiction in the brain: Teens vs. heavy smokers- A new study by UCSF’s Mark Rubinstein, MD includes findings pointing towards a lower threshold for nicotine addiction in teenagers than is currently commonly believed. Most programs that are meant to help smokers quit require that the patient smokes at least ten cigarettes per day, and anything below five brings into question if the person is even truly an addict. However, this study uses fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, to map out how the brain reacts to different images either related or neutral to smoking. It is known that when a person is addicted to a drug, their brain “lights up” in a way that resembles the drug use itself. When comparing how the brain of teenagers who smoke less than five cigarettes a day reacts to these images with that of adults who are heavy smokers, the data revealed that there is an immense amount of similarity. It seems that some early smoking can lead to addiction the same way heavy smoking does later in life. As a result, Rubinstein is already suggesting that we should try to get teenagers to postpone their initiation and experimentation with smoking.

 

 

 

About Addiction: ADHD, diet, prescriptions, treatment

It’s a new week and you know what that means, another set of relevant addiction research and addiction news! If you care about addiction and addiction recovery, it is important to stay current on the relevant news and A3 is here to help you do just that! Read on and check out the links to see what has been happening over the last week.

The Long-term Impact of ADHD-treating drugsADHD is a behavioral disorder, characterized by inattentiveness and hyper-activity, which affects five to seven percent of children nationwide. Much is known about how to treat it and how the psychostimulant drugs used work, but until now relatively little was known about their long-term effects on the brain. A new animal research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, suggests that there may be no serious negative long-term effects on brain development of those individuals taking Ritalin (methylphenidate), one of the psychostimulant drugs used to treat ADHD. These results, which show that it is unlikely these drugs have any impact on drug use or addiction later on in life, are promising since a “sister” study conducted simultaneously at John Hopkins revealed similar results with slightly older primates.

Fighting addiction with a simple diet changeTo start the battle against one’s addiction, look no further than the food on your plate! From his research, Drew Ramsey, M.D. reveals that patients are much more likely to relapse and not get clean when they have a poor nutritional diet. He explains how the processed “junk” food people so often consume has been striped of their nutritional values and instead target the same reward systems in the brain activated by addictive drugs. In the end, the simplest changes may be the necessary ones to breaking one’s addiction.

I-STOP: Stopping prescription drug abuseNew legislation passed in the state of New York has created a new system designed to stop the over-prescribing of medications that are being abused at a rate high enough to kill one American every nineteen minutes. I-STOP, the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, is a real-time database that shows pharmacists patients prescription history in order to prevent “doctor shopping” for extra narcotics. Lawmakers are optimistic that this system will help save lives and can become a national model.

The Largest Health Problem often overlooked Addiction is the largest disease that often goes untreated. Approximately 16% of Americans over the age of twelve fight addiction; that’s 40 million Americans! More than twice as many Americans struggle with addiction than those who have cancer, and almost twice as many than those who have a heart disease or diabetes. And those figures leave out the 80 million Americans who smoke, drink and use drugs in “risky ways that threaten health and safety”! It is a large-scale problem affecting almost everyone either directly or indirectly. This article summarizes a 586-page report by the University of Columbia’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) addressing addiction, one of America’s most ignored health problems, with possible solutions.

The Effects of Decriminalization a Decade LaterEleven years ago Portugal, despite much resistance, decriminalized all personal drug use. This does not mean that they made it legal, but rather those found in possession of drugs would not simply be thrown in jail. Instead they would face a board of experts comprised of a doctor, a lawyer, and a social worker who would determine if the defendant is a casual user or an addict in need of treatment. This approach has seemed to have a positive effect on the drug abuse problem in Portugal. According to a European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction report, the statistics show that the drug use rates in Portugal are well below the European average and half that of neighboring Spain. Over the eleven years since decriminalization, Portugal has gone from having 100,000 criminal drug users to just 40,000 now receiving treatment for their formerly criminal drug addiction. Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction recently announced,  “There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” based on his review of the statistics.

NAC: A new, natural treatment for addiction When it comes to treating addiction, there are many different methods, all of which work better for some than others. Recently, scientists in the United States and Australia have been working to utilize natural ingredients to treat addiction. They came up with the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine, abbreviated NAC. NAC affects the production of glutamate, which plays a critical role in the brain’s reward system that feeds addiction. Clinical, placebo-controlled trials of many different types of addicts, both substance abusers and behavioral addicts, have showed significant reduction or complete stoppage of drug use while taking NAC. Addictions including tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, gambling, and hair-pulling were all included in the study and had positive results.

See us again next week for more of the latest information about addiction, addiction research, and addiction treatment!

About Addiction: School, prescriptions, heroin and morality

It’s Monday and you get another great summary of news and research about addiction that have been making noise this week. If you care about addiction and about recovery, you know you want to stay abreast of what’s important and A3 wants to give you just that! So read on..

Recovery High: A new kind of high school: Across the country, new kinds of high schools are popping up called “recovery high schools”. At these schools kids and teachers aren’t just focused on grades, they are helping the students recover from their drug addiction and alcohol addiction. For teens entering addiction treatment, 75 percent relapse within the first year, often due to the return to the environment that facilitated the use in the first place. While the long-term effectiveness of these schools is still being evaluated, they are showing promise; and with the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act allowing for increased options for recovery, don’t be surprised to see these kind of high schools becoming more and more common. To see the video check out this link.

Prescription Painkillers leading teens to Heroin: According to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from prescription drug overdose tripled between 2000 and 2008. Experts point to the ease of access teens have to prescription pills, such as Percocet’s and Vicodin, from emergency rooms, dentist offices, and especially unfinished prescriptions in household medicine cabinets as one of the main reasons for the increase. These drugs have been found to at times lead teens to heroin, which provides a more intense version of the same high for a fraction of the price. As a result, in the decade from 1999 through 2009, the yearly deaths of people aged 15 to 24 from heroin overdose shot up from 198 to 510.

Heroin abuse becoming a national epidemic: Heroin use and death is still on the rise, exploding in use over the last couple years, fueled by the Baby Boomers. The Boomers increased use of prescription drugs can quickly lead down a road to heroin; once the prescription runs out or the cost gets too high, the more available, cheaper heroin becomes an attractive option. While its use has been increasing nationwide, the statistics from Oregon this past year give an example of the entire nation’s problem. Last year alone, there were 143 heroin-related deaths in Oregon, a 59 percent increase from the year before and almost the entire nation’s total from a decade ago! Marion County, in particular, has already seen more deaths so far this year than in all of 2011. Heroin is on the rebound, no longer a “dormant drug”, and, with its drastic increases recently, should be addressed sooner rather than later.

Addiction: Disease or moral failing? One of the most common questions regarding addiction is the debate on whether it is a disease or a moral failing.  A recent article by Dr. Marc Lewis addresses the question from both sides. He starts by pointing out the common critiques that “you don’t ‘catch’ addiction”, “you don’t treat addiction with medications or expect a cure”, and “you don’t ‘have’ addiction” like you would “have” a cold or other disease, in order to show why addiction should not be considered a disease. However, he then counters with the comparison to type II diabetes, which fits the mold of the earlier critiques, yet is never questioned as being a disease. In fact, having type II diabetes is not seen as a “moral failing” and it seems addiction is following this path and becoming more frequently seen as a disease rather than a moral failing. Truth is, addiction is likely going to continue being seen as straddling these two domains.

A cautionary tale of Fentanyl addiction: Fentanyl, a new painkiller, is becoming the next in a line of destructive and deadly prescription drugs. According to Dr. Michelle Arnot, Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 750 more potent than codeine. The article tells the tale of a man who lost his “perfect wife” to Fentanyl addiction. Prescribed as patches to be sucked on, addicts soon learn to smoke them in order to get a greater effect. Shortly after her abuse began, the “perfect wife” was going through a month’s supply in under a week. This led to pawning her children’s and family’s belongings, turning her into someone no one recognized. One day, her husband came home from work to find her dead. Now, her husband wants her story to serve as a warning to anyone else becoming entangled with Fentanyl.

Helping siblings of addicts: When addiction leads to a fatality, almost everyone who knew the victim is affected. However, they are affected and handle it in different ways. Most people know about the grief parents feel when losing a child, and they are given support and programs to help deal with it. Siblings, on the other hand, have often gone overlooked in the coping process, largely because they do not grieve in the same way as parents. The emotional needs, and even physical needs, of addicts’ siblings can often be neglected in favor of the addict while they’re still alive and in favor of the parents needs after an addict’s passing. Now, programs such as GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) are popping up with the goal of helping these siblings cope.