About Addiction: Alcohol, drugs, and bipolar disorder

Have any questions about different drugs or alcohol? We bet you do and we’re glad to see you back at All About Addiction ! You should browse our content and check out the information on alcohol, heroin, marijuana.  It is a great source for a quick 30 minute information session.

“Traditional” Drugs

BBC– A man in England was killed after consuming heroin that contained anthrax in it. This was the fifth case of a drug user in England who became ill due to anthrax. It appears that drug users are becoming increasingly vulnerable to having their contraband contaminated with anthrax.

Join Together– Do you think Marijuana should be legalized? That was the question on the minds of many individual’s as they went to the polls on Election Day, yet despite the concerted efforts of some people Proposition 19 was defeated. Some of the arguments for supporting the legalization of marijuana was so that it would be treated like alcohol and tobacco and would not be criminalized along with drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine. Apparently the majority of voters thought those benefits didn’t outweigh the possibility that legalizing marijuana would increase social problems. By the way, this is not the first time Californians have rejected the legalization of marijuana, it also occurred in 1972, which likely means that some of the people who voted against it this time supported it in the past.

Synthetic Drugs and new drug combinations

KTLA-How does a drink of prescription cough syrup, soda and jolly ranchers sound to you?  Although this may be unappealing to some it is actually a drink bar-goers are getting in to. The drink is also known as Sizzurp (I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Snoop Dog say that in song) and can produce quite a high thanks to the codeine that is found in it. Unfortunately, the combination of alcohol and codeine also increases the chance that the drink will be deadly deadly. Apparently this drink is often promoted by individuals in the music industry and the DEA is worried and wants to crack down on it.

Addiction Inbox– If you would like to learn about a new drug called Mephedrone then this article is for you ! Mephedrone is a new synthetic drug found mostly in England. For more on this topic check out Dirk’s article!

Alcohol: Working Mothers and Energy Drinks

Marin Institute- There has been a growing recognition of the risks of alcoholic energy drinks and officials across the country are starting to take action against them (who hasn’t had a RedBull and Vodka?). Often times these energy drinks are marketed to youth but those individuals do not know the stress that high amounts of alcohol and caffeine can have on the body. Since 2008 major companies such as MillerCoors, Anhueser-Busch, and InBev have removed caffeine from their brands, but smaller companies have begun marketing even more dangerous products that come in larger sizes with higher alcohol content. The news media is attempting to educate the public on the dangers of these products and legal action may even be taken. Check out this article for a great read!

CNN– Working mothers have a lot to balance in their daily lives from running kids to school to doing errands and keeping houses and lives in order – it’s a tough job (just ask my wife). The magazine Working Mother found that 40 percent of working mothers turn to alcohol to try to alleviate stress and 57 percent reported misuse of prescription drugs. Check out this article to find out more and to watch a video which discusses this fuller details and don’t forget to look at some of our content on moderate alcohol intake.

Mental Health and Addiction Treatment

Breaking the cycles– It has often been reported that individuals who have certain mental health problems such as bipolar disorder have a greater chance of developing substance abuse problems (to alcohol or drugs). This article is very helpful in providing the families of individuals with bipolar disorder information to understand the disorder better as well as the alcohol and or drug abuse than may come with. With this understanding the families of these individual can help reduce the stigma of both the bipolar disorder and their addiction.

Addiction Information– Do you remember a couple weeks ago when All About Addiction reported that Michael Lohan wanted to open up his own rehab center? Well the apple does not fall to far from the tree because Lindsay Lohan now wants to open up her own rehab center.  Lindsay has been in and out of rehab five times in the past two years – Is this too early for her to open up a rehab center? I think that’s probably true and that she should focus on getting herself healthy first.

Harm reduction – Why the bad press for addiction treatment that works?!

condoms can help protect again STDs

How many of you think that giving a crystal meth user condoms will increase their drug use? Probably not many. What if instead the question had to do with giving that same user clean needles rather than having them share a dirty one? Or having him reduce his drug use instead of stopping completely? I bet there would be a little more disagreement there.

Some of you may have heard of the harm-reduction approach to drug abuse counseling and treatment, but many of you likely haven’t because the term itself is essentially taboo in the United States. The idea is to approach the patient (or client) without the shaming or expectations of abstinence that normally come with drug treatment. Instead, the counselors hope to reduce as much of the negative things associated with the drug use.

For example, almost all drug injecting users end up with hepatitis C due to dirty-needle sharing. As in the above example, harm reduction practitioners would seek to provide users with clean needles, thereby reducing needle sharing and the transmission of disease. Risky sexual behavior is often associated with methamphetamine, and crack use; instead of targeting the use itself, often, interventions attempt to reduce unprotected sex, reducing HIV transmission in the process.

hypodermic-needleHarm reduction has many supporters, but unfortunately, there are at least as many people who are against it. The claim is that harm reduction doesn’t stop drug use, and that we shouldn’t be in the business of making drug use easier. In fact, though they have no data to support it, some people argue that giving users clean needles is likely to exacerbate their drug use. My argument is that life as a drug user is pretty difficult as is, and if we can provide a way to show drug addicts that people actually care about their well-being, we might help some of them see the light.

Even more to the point, my thinking is that HIV, Hepatitis C, and other conditions often helped by harm-reduction, have to be considered as additional societal costs of drug abuse. If harm reduction helps us tackle those collateral costs, I’m all for it as an additional tool.

The bottom line is this: If we can use multiple tools to solve a problem, why limit ourselves unnecessarily to only one? If harm reduction helps, why not use it in conjunction with abstinence treatment?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s time for us to stop resorting to ridiculous moral judgments and start focusing on solving the problem. If we can help an addict use less, use fewer drugs, or use more responsibly, I say we should go for it!!!

Simply Sober Won’t Do – From Crystal Meth Addict to Scholar

This is a “reprint” of an article I recently wrote for a NY publication called Spotlight On Recovery:

For an addict, the prospect of no longer using whatever it is that gets them through each day is daunting. There’s a comfort in knowing what life is going to look like even if all it entails is dragging yourself out of bed, taking a drink, smoke, or hit of crystal meth, and going on with a day focused only on managing the disaster. The dark cloud that surrounds us is obscured by our drug of choice; it’s what makes the days tolerable.

The first step of recovery – Addiction treatment sets the table

Some of us are sent into treatment by family members or jurists, while others recognize the problem themselves and decide to take the first step into addiction treatment on their own. However we get there, getting into addiction treatment is only the first step; often it’s not even the one that gets us clean. Whether you recover by yourself or with help, whether you got it done your first time or your twelfth, if you’ve managed to stop using, you’ve come up against the ultimate challenge: What now?!

For me, the most difficult aspect of steering my life in the right direction was simply learning how to live. True, I’d been doing it for 24 years by that day, but my life involved constant escape, discomfort, and boredom. When I stopped smoking crystal meth, getting over the fatigue, hunger, and even my non-existent libido (all part of my withdrawal) was easy when compared with the simple challenge of what to do every day.

You see, I smoked crystal meth for 5 years (and before that came alcohol, weed, cocaine, and a slew of other drugs). I smoked meth when I was in a good mood, when I was upset, when I was bored, sad, tired, or alert. With the one common denominator in my life now gone, I wasn’t even sure how to simply pass the time. True, rehab had groups, it had meetings, and it gave me an opportunity to discover myself. But, while all those were helpful, for me, it was the time in between all those that was a challenge.

Learning to live without drugs – Finding purpose in recovery

My inability to fill my time with anything other than thoughts of using got me tossed out of my first rehab. Going back to work in my studio, I couldn’t help but look for some left behind treasures; I found a bag of meth, filled a pipe, and threw out three months of sobriety without a second thought.

My second attempt at getting sober was more successful, not only because I’d learned from my mistake. I’d made mistakes before but never learned a thing. The difference was that this place made us all do chores. They made us work. They made us recognize, and then follow through, on what it meant to be a normal, functioning, member of society. As I got a better and better grasp on life as a non-user, I realized that for me, simply staying sober was never going to cut it.

I’m a doer. I need to get things accomplished in order to feel satisfied. When it came to my drug life, I got things done by becoming a pretty successful drug dealer as well as a less successful, but working, musician. Now, I needed to find another channel for my energy, one that didn’t center around filling a meth pipe.

12-Step meetings did the trick for a little while. Having a place to go where I didn’t have to be ashamed of my past made it easier for me to get adjusted to sober life. Still, within months, I was getting restless again, and for me, that’s a sign of trouble. I was looking for something to do that would pose a challenge, giving me something else to focus on than the gap left in my life.

My purpose – To learn about addiction and help others

I’d always been good at school. Even in the throws of my crystal-meth addiction, I managed to perform well enough in class. That was the reason for my looking into academics as my healthy way out. I mulled over the possibilities with my parents. I was a pre-med student in college and thought about medical school. My dad, a physician himself, wasn’t excited about the idea. Understandably, he wasn’t quite ready to believe that I could follow through on such a challenge. I hadn’t done anything to give him a reason to believe yet.

I decided to start more gradually, and applied for a Master’s program in psychology at a state school in California. Psychology was my undergraduate major, which made the application a little bit easier, but getting myself ready for a life I’d left so far behind was scary.

No matter how dark, there’s a charm in the aimless nature of drug addiction; the focus is simple, the goals, close at hand, and the reward, immediate. What I was embarking on now was some nebulous, long term contest that could end up any which way. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the uncertainty. Still, within minutes of sitting down in that first summer class, I knew I’d made the right decision.

Now that I was sober, I liked the daily routines I’d run away from so many years before. When class was finished every day, I was happy to dive into the work, proving to myself that I could do well here again, that I could reach my goal of getting a Master’s degree after more than 5 years as a daily crystal-meth user-dealer. I did well in that program and started looking into psychology research about addiction. I’d slowly moved away from the rooms of AA, and looking into the psychology of addiction allowed me to stay close to the reasons why I was taking this new path. It also allowed me to work with others who’d had similar experiences to my own without focusing on the past as much as AA meetings did.

I performed so well in the program that I started looking into further schooling, eying the outstanding program at UCLA, my alma mater. The UCLA psychology graduate program is the best in the country and one of the best in the world. Feeling a bit like a novice climber taking on Everest, I set my sights high and went for it. I gathered recommendations; I made phone calls, set up interviews, and worked my full court press. After working tirelessly for more than six months, the good news came in. I was ecstatic. Then I was scared. Quickly, I realized that for me, challenge is food. I need to feel like I’m working toward something to quiet the restlessness in my head.

I know now, having researched addiction for the past 9 years, that addicts have personalities that make them search out challenges, make them need a rush, that leave them unable to sit still. For some of us, it manifests as Attention Deficit problems, but even for the others, for whom the challenge doesn’t quite reach clinical levels, the underlying restlessness is still a constant factor.

In our past lives, that restlessness left us searching for a way to pass the time. Drugs did that reasonably well for me while filling my life with distractions that moved me away from everything that was important. In my new life, I made sure that the challenges were worthwhile; I got involved in sports, rechanneling my need for achievement not only into school, but into fitness as well.

It has taken me years to balance my life, and the struggle is ongoing. I still have classmates, as well as my wife, reminding me sometime that I need time off once in a while to smell the roses. They’re right, and I try, but for me, staying busy is the rose. Without my endless work, I’m afraid I’d lose my grip.

So no matter how long ago it was that you seemed to have lost your passion, if you want to make life without drugs worthwhile, it’s crucial that you find it again now. Simply being clean of drugs is not the end-all. In fact, being drug free merely offers us the means to rediscover the life we left behind.

About Addiction: Kombucha, Alcoholism, Drug Crime, mental health, and the Law

These are the newest links about alcohol, drug crime and mental health. Let us know what you think and leave us your feedback!

Kombucha, Alcohol content, and teens

The New York Times: Some Kombucha drinks may have elevated alcohol content, with specific varieties reaching as high as 3% alcohol by volume, as high as some beers, and much higher than the legal limit on non-alcoholic drinks of 0.5%.

preventionworksct: Hospital emergency room visits linked to underage drinking almost double during the July 4 holiday weekend. Daily underage drinking-related visits are 87 percent higher during the July 4 holiday weekend than on an average day in July.

Caron: Good intentions of parents may unintentionally contribute to teenage alcohol abuse when mixed messages are presented. An expert suggests that substance abuse should be discussed before a kid reaches his or her teens.

Science Daily: Teens tend to increase their alcohol consumption in summer. Experts suggest parents monitor their children.

Drug Crime & Law

UPI: In Mexican drug smuggle, increasingly more teenagers are used to smuggle drugs across the U.S. border into Arizona. In 2009, 130 minors were arrested while allegedly trying to smuggle drugs across the border through entry ports from Sonora, Mexico, into Arizona.

Politica AP: Since the 2006 passage of an anti-methamphetamine law, the number of crystal meth lab cleanups nationwide has decrease. Investigators link the decline to the law that made it harder to buy chemicals used in this drug production.

About addiction and mental health

Reuters: There is an association between marijuana use and increased risks of depression and anxiety disorders. It is though unclear whether marijuana use itself, or some other factor, accounts for this connection.

Health Day: What works to treat adult addicts may not work for the younger population. According to experts, illnesses that start earlier in life are harder to treat than illnesses developed during adult life.

Drug use cravings, obsessions, and trying to get clean…

When I first got sober, everything I thought about had something to do with drugs. It wasn’t just that I always thought of getting high, but everything in my life was tied to drugs, especially crystal meth.

Adi Jaffe playing music now sober

My drug use centered life

I used to make music in my studio, but I was always smoking crystal meth while doing it; I had a few girls I was “seeing,” but I got high with almost all of them (if they weren’t into it, I’d sneak a smoke in the bathroom alone). Every one of my friends was on drugs. I paid my rent with cocaine, made my money from selling anything you could think of, and overall, was simply surrounded by the stuff.

The drug use to craving connection

If you haven’t heard about this yet, memories are reconstructions of the past. When you remember something, your brain doesn’t just pull it out of some secret drawer like you were told when you were a kid. Instead, the different areas of your brain involved in making the memory (like your visual cortex, your olfactory bulb, and your language areas) light up all over again, re-exposing you to those same old thoughts, feelings, and senses.

Knowing that, it’s not surprising that cravings are so difficult to handle. Who wants to re-experience getting high with their best friend, their girlfriend, or in their favorite place over and over while trying to get sober? It’s literally maddening, sometime to the point where you just say “screw it” and run out to do it all over again (as in relapse).

I told my sister the other day that when I think about smoking glass (another name for crystal meth), the thing I miss the most is the white puff of smoke that fills the room. We used to call it “Dragon’s Breath” and I was pretty talented at producing the biggest clouds. It freaked her out a little to know that I could possibly still miss something about meth after everything that happened.

Even though I felt that it was necessary to calm her, I know that the addicts reading these pages know what I’m talking about. Of course I still miss smoking  crystal meth sometimes; Given everything I now know about drugs, which is a lot given the fact that I’ve spent 8 years studying nothing but drugs, I’m surprised I don’t miss the stuff more.

Drug use, reward, and what’s next

Almost every drug I know of eventually gets down to activating your reward center. Meth does so in a way that’s so extreme (like I said in an old post, it literally floods your brain with DA), that I’m surprised I ever managed to come out of it. I definitely know why it felt like such hard work.

So when a craving comes, don’t think of it as a sign that your failing. If that were true, there would be no survivors of addiction. Instead, recognize what your brain is doing, allow it, then think about the changes you’re trying to make. As the memory gets reconstructed, those new aspects you’re thinking about, those that have to do with your recovery and the positive changes you are making, will incorporate themselves into those old memories.

This, along with everything else you’re doing, will make the cravings less and less threatening, allowing you to stay sober even when they come through.

Time to get high- Circadian rhythms and drug use

Contributing Co-Author: Andrew Chen

Like most living creatures, humans have internal biological clocks known as circadian rhythms. These internal cycles synchronize our bodies with the Earth’s 24-hour day/night cycle and prepare us for predictable daily events (1). Circadian rhythms regulate a number of bodily functions including temperature, hormone secretion, bowel movements, and sleep (2). Recent research suggests that drug use may disturb our circadian rhythms, possibly influencing our decisions to take drugs.

Moon

Environmental drivers of drug use

Our biological clocks are set by external cues from the environment, called zeitgebers (3). The most familiar to us are light and food. However, research on rats has shown that opiates, nicotine, stimulants, and alcohol also have the ability to alter the phase of circadian rhythms independent of light or food (1). Drug use has long been associated with major disruptions in the human sleep cycle. Cocaine, crystal meth, and MDMA users often go without sleep for days, and these sleep disruptions can continue long after people stop using drugs. In fact, sleep disturbance outlasts most withdrawal symptoms and places recovering addicts at greater risk for relapse (3).

The rhythm of drug use

Circadian rhythms could also be the reason why people show 24-hour patterns of drug use. A study of urban hospitals found that overdose victims are admitted to hospitals more around 6:30PM than any other time of the day (2). Fluctuations in drug sensitivity, effect, and reward value are believed to be regulated by genes that control circadian rhythms. In other words, our biological clocks are telling us when to get high.

Researchers are just beginning to explore the relationship between circadian rhythms and drug use. Future understanding of this relationship will help us explain how drug addiction develops and develop better ways to treat it. It’s possible that offering specific aspects of treatment as certain point in the circadian rhythm can improve the probability of success.

Citations:

1. Kosobud, A. E. K., Gillman, A. G., Leffel, J. K., Pecoraro, N.C., Rebec, G.V., Timberlake, W. (2007) Drugs of abuse can entrain circadian rhythms, The Scientific World Journal, 7(S2), 203-212

2. McClung, C.A. (2007) Circadian rhythms, the mesolimbic dopaminergic circuit, and drug addiction, The Scientific World Journal, 7(S2), 194-202

3. Gordon, H.W. (2007) Sleep, circadian rhythm, and drug abuse, The Scientific World Journal, 7(S2), 191-193

ADD and ADHD medications: Lessons from a crystal meth experiment

I’ve recently completed a study that I presented at the Society For Neuroscience (SFN) meeting in DC. The study was actually aimed at looking at the usefulness of two medications in interfering with the rewarding qualities of methamphetamine. The thinking was the if we could figure out a way to interfere with crystal meth being perceived as rewarding by the brain, we may be able to help addicts from continued use after a relapse.

Two prescription stones but only one hits crystal meth

The two medications are atomoxetine and bupropion, though you may know them as Strattera and Wellbutrin or Zyban. Their mechanisms of action are similar, but distinct enough that we wanted to test them both. The results of the study, in one sentence, were that atomoxetine (or Strattera), but not bupropion (or Zyban) succeeded in eliminating animals’ preference for meth if given along with it. The implication is that in the future, these, or other, similar, medications, may be given to newly recovering addicts. The hope would be that by taking the drug, they may be somewhat protected in the case of a relapse. If they don’t enjoy the drug during the relapse, they may have a better chance of staying in treatment.

More to these medications than meets the eye

I learned some other interesting things while preparing, and then carrying out, the study. While Zyban could, by itself, be liked by the animals, Strattera did not seem to produce any sort of preference. Given the common use of these drugs in the treatment of ADHD, the difference may be very important. As you may recall, I’ve talked before about the connection between impulse control problems and being predisposed to developing addiction. Given this relationship, it would seem that we’d want to be especially careful about using drugs that can cause abuse with this population. Many of the stimulants used to treat ADD and ADHD can indeed lead to abuse, as their effects are very similar to speed, or crystal meth (Adderall and Ritalin come to mind). Zyban’s abuse liability is definitely lower, given the greatly reduced preference animals develop for it. Still, it seems that Strattera’s abuse potential is almost zero. In trial after trial, animals given atomoxetine fail to show a preference for the drug.

To my mind, this means that as long as it’s successful in treating the attention problems, atomoxetine is the better candidate. All in all, I’d think the first choice should be the one that helps the symptoms of ADHD while having a reduced likelihood of dependence. Obviously, if the drug is not able to treat the problem, other options should be selected, but it seems to me that given the known relationship between attention deficit problems and addiction, the question of abuse liability should play a significant role in the selection of medication.

Once again, this doesn’t mean that all users of Adderall, Ritalin, or the other stimulant ADHD medications will develop an addiction to their prescription. In fact, we know that rates of addiction to prescriptions are generally relatively low. Nevertheless, I’d consider ADHD patients a vulnerable population when it comes to substance abuse so I say better safe than sorry.