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.

DARE – Drug Abuse Prevention that doesn’t work

  • DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is the largest school-based drug abuse prevention program in the United States.
  • 80% of school districts across the country teach the DARE curriculum, reaching an estimated 26 million children (1).
  • Every year, over $1 billion goes into keeping the program running. A billion dollars may be a small price to pay to keep America’s children drug-free, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that DARE isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.

What is DARE?

dareFounded in 1983, DARE began as a 17 week long course taught to 5th and 6th graders. The course is taught by a uniformed police officer who teaches the students about drug use and gang violence. The DARE curriculum includes role-playing, written assignments, presentations, and group discussions.

DARE uses a zero tolerance policy towards drug use. Students are told to adopt mottoes like “Drug free is the way to be” and “Just say no to drugs!” Pictures of blackened lungs and drunk driving accidents are methods used to discourage experimentation. The focus of the program is clearly flat out refusal. Students are not taught what to do if they are already experiencing problems with drugs.

Is DARE effective?

The effectiveness of DARE has been called into question since the early 90s. A meta-analysis of 11 studies conducted from 1991-2002 shows no significant effect of DARE in reducing drug use (1). Several studies have even reported an opposite effect, with DARE leading to higher rates of drug use later on in life. Reports from the California Department of Education, American Psychological Association, and U.S. Surgeon General all label DARE as ineffective.

The results seem clear, but statistics don’t seem to be enough to convince concerned parents and policy makers to shut down any drug abuse prevention program. With drug use on the rise, it seems that DARE is here to stay. But perhaps getting rid of DARE isn’t the best option. The framework and funding already exist for a potentially successful prevention program. Maybe all we need to do is apply some science and develop new techniques that will provide results.

*It should be noted that in 2001, DARE made substantial revisions to its program under the title “New DARE.” The effects of these revisions have yet to be measured, so we’ll wait and see.

 

Citation:

1. West, S.L., O’Neal, K.K. (2004) Project D.A.R.E. Outcome Effectiveness Revisited. American Journal of Public Health. 94(6)

ADHD and neurocognition – Knowing what to remember

Kate Humphreys

ADHD In children and adults – Symptoms and tests

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, formerly known also as ADD) are classically seen as the kids in class who have trouble staying in their seats and paying attention during long lessons. Underlying these problematic behaviors is a confluence of factors, with evidence pointing to genetics, neural function, and environmental factors (including parenting and lead exposure) that can all affect ADHD behavior. Many children diagnosed with ADHD seem to simply “grow out” of their symptoms. They may learn particularly effective strategies for managing inattention and disorganization (I myself am a notorious list maker), or learn to control some of the fidgeting and restlessness or channel that energy into sports or other activities. Continue reading “ADHD and neurocognition – Knowing what to remember”

About Addiction: Drug use, Addiction Recovery, and smoking

We’re back with our weekly post about addiction news and research. We’ve got harm reduction in Australia, heroin ads that don’t work, the impact of drug abuse on children, and more. Get your 30 seconds of education for the day.

Using Drugs – Heroin, HIV, the law, and recovery

The Australian– There is a state approved heroin injecting room in Australia. The center opened to create a safer place for drug users to shoot heroin. 3500 individuals have overdosed on the premises without a single fatality, making for a very interesting way of combating drug addiction that would definitely fall under that harm-reduction model American hate so much!

Star Advertiser– When it comes to scaring individuals into not using drugs, specifically heroin, fear appeals do not seem to work in preventing future drug users. Fear appeals ads show drug users as violent, and often have missing teeth or skin problems. Apparently, audiences are smart enough to see these as not really representative of heroin users in general and they’re not buying it, making the ads useless in combating drug addiction.

Global Development– Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the fastest growth rate of HIV infection in the world (Russia accounts for between 60% and 70% of the epidemic). This may be due to sharing dirty needles when using drugs and the biggest problem is likely lack of prevention efforts for high risk groups.

Guardian– A senior police officer from Britain thinks that individuals should not be criminally prosecuted for possessing marijuana. By focusing less on drugs found among youth the police can focus on things they see as more important like hard core criminals. I’m sure our legalization friends will love this, although again, this isn’t legalization but decriminalization and parents will hate it.

Addiction Inbox– Meditation and exercise play a role in drug addiction recovery. Both methods apparently help to eliminate the panic and anxiety that plays a role in detoxification. Although it may not be the most popular method of recovery, we at A3 have already written about this and think you should give it a try!

Breaking the cycles–  A program called Partnership for a Drug Free America has five new drug programs in order to eliminate drug use among teens. These programs educate teens as well as their parents with a variety to drug information.

Smoking, pregnancy, and attitude

Science Daily- Women who smoke during pregnancy can hinder their children’s coordination and physical control (likely affecting boys more). Smoking during pregnancy can damage development in the fetal stage, so if you are expecting try not to light up (as our other post on pregnancy and smoking recommends).

Decoder– You are in for a good read on the changing attitudes of smoking. This blog gives an inside perspective on smoking and how it has evolved from the time it was considered “cool”.

Addiction’s impact on others

Philly Daily News- Addiction impacts not only the drug addict but their children as well. 15% of all children live in a household with an alcoholic and one in four children is exposed to a family member’s alcohol abuse or dependence. These children are often neglected when their parents are under the influence and that neglect can lead to some pretty terrible outcomes for the children themselves down the line.

Addiction Recovery– This is an excellent read on the importance of patience when it comes to addiction recovery. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a drug addict’s wonderful new life. Recovery takes time so take a deep  breath and enjoy!

Trauma and Addiction – The often ignored reality about addiction

In previous post, I’ve talked about some of the links between addiction concepts like cravings and trauma disorders like PTSD (see here). The reality is that there is a closer link between addiction and trauma that is often overlooked.

I spend a lot of time on this site covering some of the neuroscience that explains why the repeated use of addictive substances can lead to the kind of behavior that is so common in addiction. Still, most of that neuroscience ignores the portions of a person’s life that come before the actual drug use. The one exception would have to be all my writing on impulsivity, and some work on the relationship between early life stress (or trauma) and depression, which is known to be associated with drug abuse.

The way I see it, there are at least 3 distinct stages to addiction :

  • What happens before drug use.
  • What happens once chronic drug use begins.
  • What happens once a person stops using.

Though we often like to pretend otherwise, trauma is a common part of the first stage.

How do we define trauma?

In this context, trauma is any event that affects a person in a way that can be seen to have caused a substantial, long term, psychological disturbance. The key to this way of looking at trauma is its subjective nature.

Things like divorce, bullying, rejection, or physical injury can all be considered traumatic if the subjective experience can be thought to conform to this definition. Anything counts as long as it leaves a painful emotional mark.

While we’re all pretty adapt at covering up such trauma, the emotional pain often needs to be soothed and a good way to soothe it is with drugs that make it temporarily go away. The first drink of alcohol, or hit of some other drug, will often take care of that.

The reality of early trauma and addiction

Some call the experience of covering up the pain of trauma with drugs “self-medication” (though the term also applies to other situations), some dislike the term, but I think the fact remains that often, emotional pain can begin a search that often leads to risky behaviors and drugs.

I’m nowhere near calling self-medication the only reason for drug abuse as some others do, but I think it’s an important factor and one that can’t be ignored. As the stigma of emotional pain, or emotional responding in general, is reduced, people’s ability to deal with such pain in a healthy way should lead to a reduction in seemingly helpful, but ultimately self-destructive behaviors.

One of the most useful roles of psychotherapy for addicts is in dealing with the trauma in a healthy, constructive manner. This way the shame, guilt, and other negative emotions associated with it stop guiding the person’s behavior. While this is rarely enough to stop the need for self-medication by itself, it can be a very useful part of a comprehensive treatment plan. It’s important to remember that once someone has entered the realm of chronic drug use, there are brain and body changes that can often trump whatever the reason for beginning drug use was.

The ignored reality about addiction is that it often has an origin in behavior and unfortunately, trauma is often that starting point.

About Addiction: Your brain, smoking, alcohol and drugs

Some new, different areas of addiction and some old favorites.  Read on to learn more!

Check out this USA Today story about President Obama’s public health fight and goals of reducing drug usage.  He said prevention and education are really what we need.

Your Brain and Addiction

Science Daily: A genetic variant of a receptor in the brain’s reward circuitry plays an important role in determining whether the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain following alcohol intake.

Health Day: Children who experience psychological disorders such as depression and substance abuse appear to be headed for a financially depressed adulthood.

Science Daily: This article investigates separate and joint effects of alcohol and tobacco on the nucleus accumbens. A new study has found that alcohol abuse elevated the expression of a distinct set of genes in the NAC and VTA while nicotine blunted this effect in the VTA.

Alcohol

APP: This article talks about a new study on alcohol use of teens. The Partnership for a Drug Free America found in a study released in March an 11 percent increase among students in grades 9-12 who reported drinking alcohol in the past month, up to 39 percent in 2009, or 6.5 million students.

Science Daily: This article suggests that frequent alcohol use is linked to faster HIV disease progression. According to the article, HIV disease tends to progress at a faster rate in infected individuals who consume two or more alcoholic drinks a day.

Associated Press: This is a link to a short text which states that the World Health Organization endorsed a global strategy to reduce alcohol abuse. This text calls alcohol use one of the leading causes of sickness and death.

Smoking

Physorg.com: In a new study was found that treatment for smoking dependence is as effective among people with severe mental illnesses as it is for the general population.

Cesar Fax: This  states that cigarette excise tax increased in fifteen states in 2009. Four states have not increased cigarette taxes in more than a decade.

Other Drugs

Reuters: Prescription drug use of US children has risen. Children were the leading growth demographic for the pharmaceutical industry in 2009, with the increase of prescription drug use among youngsters nearly four times higher than in the overall population.

Medical News Today: There are significant changes in substance use treatment admissions patterns that have occurred over the past decade. The co-abuse of alcohol and drugs has declined gradually yet significantly.

About addiction: Weed, early recovery, teens and alcohol, and robotripping

We started this thread last week and I’m going to do my best to keep it up. Here are some links you may find useful on other blogs:

The Addiction News Network – Brain damage in young adults who smoke weed

Spiritual River – The usefulness of social support in early recovery

Breaking the Cycles – A great post about talking to your children about alcohol

Recovery Basics – Robotripping (Or Roboing as we used to call it) is apprently coming back

I hope you enjoy those as much as I did.