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 Marijuana– The 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 Survey– The 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.
It’s April 20th, or 4-20, and anyone who smokes marijuana knows what that means – It’s time to smoke weed- a lot of weed!
In honor of this “stoner” holiday, or perhaps in reverence of its implications, I wanted to put together a post that explored some recent findings having to do with the most commonly used illegal substance in the U.S.
These two studies deal specifically with smoking weed, teenagers, and drug problems.
Study 1 – Misconceptions of marijuana use prevalence
An article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has revealed that most young adults greatly overestimate how many of their peers smoke weed. Teens surveyed believed that 98% of their peers smoked marijuana at least once a year – In reality, only 51.5% off the teens reported actually ever smoking marijuana.
To make matters worse, even though only 15% of the teens reported using once a month or more, the estimate among peers was closer to 65%!!! Since we know that perception of peer behavior affects adolescents greatly, such misconceptions can easily lead to false peer-pressure towards marijuana use.
So next time instead of assuming everyone smokes weed, think again.It’s one of the most commonly used drugs but the notion that everyone smokes weed is simply wrong.
Reference: Kilmer, Walker, Lee, Palmer, Mallett, Fabiano, & Larrimer (2006). Misperceptions of College Students Marijuana use: Implications for Prevention. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67, pp. 277-281.
Study 2 – Teens reducing use can reduce marijuana dependence risk
This next study dealt with early patterns of weed smoking as possible predictors of later problems use. They followed more than 1500 respondents from adolescence (ages 15-17) into young adulthood (ages 21-24).
The article revealed some interesting overall patterns, but I’ll keep the results short and simple, it is 4-20 after all…
The good news? Teens who reduced their use during the first phase of the study (the teens years) were at a significantly lower risk for marijuana dependence and regular use in early adulthood. This suggests that successful interventions may be effective at reducing later problem use.
The bad news? All marijuana smokers who used at least weekly showed the highest risk for later problems even if they reduced their use… This is not that surprising of a finding though since dependence usually involves regular use.
The bottom line? Reducing marijuana use at any stage will lower your risk for later problem use, but those who find themselves smoking often are most likely to end up in some trouble even if they try to cut down. Knowledge is power, so if you think you might be at risk and are concerned, talking to someone can’t hurt. Knowing marijuana facts can’t hurt either.
Reference: Swift, Coffey, Carlin, Degenhardt, Calabria & Patton (2009). Are adolescents who moderate their cannabis use at lower risk of later regular and dependent cannabis use? Addiction, 104, pp 806-814.
I just can’t seem to stay away from the marijuana debate, even given the recent defeat of Proposition 19 that aimed to legalize marijuana in California. This article is a short one, but speaks to some of the cognitive issues associated with marijuana use.
A study (see here) conducted by a Wake Forest University team (Including Doctor Linda Porrino) found that habitual marijuana smokers (those who smoked an average of twice a day for seven years) may be bad at detecting negative outcomes.
The experiment used fMRI scanning technology to examine the brain activity of smokers and controls during the Iowa Gambling Task, which uses four decks of cards. Two of the decks yield large, infrequent, rewards as well as losses. The other two decks yield small, more frequent rewards, and less losses. The first two are considered the “bad” decks, and the latter two the “good” decks, because selecting from the small-gain, small-loss, decks will result in more gain overall. The task is considered a pretty good, if complex, measure of risk-taking, decision making, and loss-discounting.
The take-home result from the study: Not only did marijuana smokers take longer to learn how to maximize their rewards, but their decision-making brain regions seemed to show lower overall responding during the task, meaning they were less active while performing the decisions. And as you can see from the graph on the left, while the controls were able to achieve overall gains, the same was not true for the long-term marijuana users even after 100 repetitions. It seems that marijuana smokers’ brains were not as efficient at detecting losses and responding to them. Maybe that’s why marijuana users are the first to claim that marijuana use has no negative outcomes associated with it…
As usual, it is important to note that since the participants in the study were not randomly assigned to long-term marijuana smoking, it’s impossible to know if these deficits are specifically caused by marijuana use or if they were pre-existing. Nevertheless, these results strongly suggest that individuals who engage in long-term use of marijuana are cognitively distinct from those who don’t. I think that plays into the argument that marijuana legalization would not increase use, because if that’s actually true, then there’s something different about individuals who choose to smoke weed and it is not the legal status that matters. I suspect that in actuality, people who currently choose to smoke marijuana long-term are in fact distinct, in some ways, from some of the people who would take up smoking the stuff if it became legal.
Christopher T. Whitlowa, Anthony Liguoria, L. Brooke Livengooda, Stephanie L. Harta, Becky J. Mussat-Whitlowb, Corey M. Lamborna, Paul J. Laurientic and Linda J. Porrino (2004). Long-term heavy marijuana users make costly decisions on a gambling task. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 76, 107-111.
Long-term heavy marijuana users make costly decisions on a gambling task
One of the interesting notions brought up during this recent debate had to do with the fact that young voters were overwhelmingly supporting the passage of proposition 19. Some writers on the topic were making the assertion that this means the likely legalization of marijuana use in the very near future regardless of the fate of prop 19. I disagree. In fact, many of those who opposed the passage of a legalization law are baby boomers – individuals who themselves smoked quite a bit of weed and were supporting its integration into society along with a host of other libertarian ideas in their youth. But the passage of time changes more than the number of wrinkles on people’s faces, and political opinions and wills are certainly among those things who shift with age. That’s why I personally think we’re a long way from passing any law that, like Prop 19, tries to legalize all aspects of the marijuana trade. I’m all for medical marijuana where it helps, and reducing the drug’s scheduling will go a long way towards that, but I don’t think we’re going to see marijuana getting full legal status anytime soon.
People on different sides of this debate will call these older voters hypocrites, but I say that since around 80% of youths engage generally in deviant behavior (if you define illegal as deviant), I think we should leave the bigger decisions to people with a little more complete brain development and a lot more experience. Besides, could we translate the fact that young voters, who supposedly supported the passage of proposition 19, stayed at home as evidence that marijuana use does reduce motivation even when it comes to passing laws affecting its own consumption? The notion doesn’t bode well for ever passing a law having anything to do with weed. I jest of course… sort of.
In looking up some numbers for a recent post I put up on TakePart, I uncovered some amazing addiction and drug abuse statistics (most from 2007, so they’re probably higher by now).
Addiction statistics highlights:
Slightly more than half of Americans surveyed indicated that they are current drinkers (I thought it’d be higher) – Meaning there were about 126 million drinkers in the country. About 57.8 million had consumed more than 5 drinks in one sitting in the month prior to the survey.
It is estimated that more than 30 million people in the US meet criteria for some addictive disorder including drug addiction, sex addiction, gambling addiction, and food addiction (added from SAMHSA statistics about individual addictions)!!
More than 15 million of those are only dependent on alcohol!!
The next drug on the list is, you guessed it, marijuana with 3.9 million dependent individuals!!!
Of the more than 23 million individuals who needed drug treatment, only 10% sought help (2.4 million).
The most staggering of all numbers – The cumulative estimated cost of addictive behavior (including overeating) in the United States = $500 Billion!!! Almost half of our current budget deficit!!!
I don’t know about you, but these numbers leave me a little in awe of just how big this problem really is. Given some of the other treatment-cost posts I’ve written (see here), I once again reiterate the notion that if we shifted our focus to drug-treatment, we’d save lives and money all at the same time.
Today, I’ll give a short summary of a few interesting talks I saw at the conference:
Teenage smoking – Children of mothers who used drugs during pregnancy had abnormal stress hormone levels. When assessed over time, their abnormal stress response was associated with an earlier onset (age of first use) of cigarettes smoking and an increased amount and frequency of smoking cigarettes.
Childhood trauma and drug use – Children who experienced excessive childhood trauma had altered brain activity (in the Nucleus Accumbens specifically) and showed increased anxiety. This area, which is important for essentially all learning, was differentially activated in a way that correlated with the amount of childhood trauma.
Marijuana withdrawal and relapse to marijuana use – Marijuana withdrawal, which might soon be added to the APA‘s DSM (in version 5) was characterized as: Increased irritability, restlessness, and misery, reduced sleep quality, sleep duration, and food intake. When tested, restlessness, sleep disturbance, and early wakening were found to be predictors of relapse among participating marijuana users.