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.

Recovery = Abstinence… Or not

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) just release a new definition of “recovery” from mental health and addiction:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

I’ll give you 10 seconds to find a key missing ingredient in this definition of recovery without peeking at our title. Hey! No Looking!!!

The definition calls recovery a process the provides improvements in well-being and that allows people to gain control of their life. It seems that abstinence is simply nowhere to be found in this new SAMHSA definition.

I have no doubt that some people will be upset about the decision not to include abstinence in the definition of recovery, but I won’t be one of them. I’ve been saying that we should be moving to a different definition, one that focuses on improvement in quality of life, as the basis for whether someone is in recovery or not. You see as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter whether a person is using any substances – all I care about is the impact of such use on their well being, their “quality of life.”

We’ve already written a few article on All About Addiction making this exact point (see here and here for some examples) and there have been some addiction researchers calling for the same when measuring success in addiction treatment research (see here and here).

Most addiction treatment research simply measures abstinence when individuals finish treatment (especially outpatient treatment) and then maybe 6 or 12 months later. But as the research I linked to earlier shows, there are a whole slew of people who are not abstinent a year after their release from addiction treatment but are without a doubt involved in recovery: Their substance use is either fully under control or is at least producing much less of a problem than it had before. As far as I’m concerned that is a success, and if the use begins being troublesome again, then it is possible that more treatment, and perhaps complete abstinence, is necessary.

This whole thought process can easily lead us right down the harm reduction, substitution therapy, and legalization argument rabbit hole, and I’m all for that discussion. I’m also sure that I will once again get some more hate-mail from readers who think I’m being irresponsible by suggesting that people who have at one point had trouble with substance abuse may be able to use anything (even substances that were not their drug of choice) ever again. They’ll accuse me of being responsible for those who decide to try such methods and fail while taking absolutely no responsibility for the countless who try their approach and relapse. Fortunately for me I’ve learned to ignore those emails.

Disclose or not? The catch 22 of mental illness stigma

I want to share a recent post of mine from psychinaction because I think it applies to addiction as much as it does to other mental health issues:

A report published by SAMHSA addresses the issue of self-disclosure regarding mental illness.

Research has already shown that the more familiar people are with others who have different form of mental illness, the more their attitudes regarding mental illness will improve.

The problem is that in the process, those who self-disclose fear being ostracized, losing their jobs, and suffering other similar consequences.

Still, the report found that those who do self-disclose often experience relief and find that it improves their relationships. I think this can be especially true for addicts, who often feel shame and therefore hide their drug issues.

Obviously, the process requires careful timing. Also, a progression of self-disclosure, from a small group of trusted friends on, is suggested.

For the full report, go here: “Self-disclosure and its impact on individuals who receive mental health services.”

Who is accountable for the treatment services addicts receive?

It’s not often that I let my opinions out freely rather than letting the data do the talking, but this issue’s been making me mad for a while and now it just has to come out. As part of our work on the A3 rehab-finder we’ve been trying to get some measure of standardization into the system so that when we match those looking for treatment with provides we get a good fit. The problem is that when SAMHSA collects this data there is essentially no oversight whatsoever regarding the services addiction treatment providers report and their actual capabilities for providing those services.

One of the most obvious examples of this has to do with providing services for clients who suffer from both mental health issues and drug and/or alcohol problems. This happens often and SAMHSA has a few specific fields that ask providers if they can handle these more difficult cases. Over 50% of addiction treatment providers claim they can, but since no one ever checks up on them, it’s just their word we’re supposed to count on. Well, as far as at least some of them are concerned, having a psychiatrist come by once a month for a few hours is enough, still other providers offer even less in terms of mental health provisions. Believe it or not, some who claim to offer mental health services do not allow the use of any psychiatric medication… I think that actually qualifies as negligence.

There is some research looking into this sort of stuff, including work from Dartmouth (and Dr. Mark McGovern) using an instrument called the DDCAT (Dual Diagnosis Capacity in Addiction Treatment). Unfortunately, as usual, the findings aren’t making it into the actual field. I think it’s due time that we hold providers accountable and set some sort of standard for each of these services that they claim to provide.

I mean seriously, could you imagine gynecologists being able to provide post-mortem examinations without training? Oh, I guess that’s happening too… Nevermind.

Addiction Treatment Admissions in the United States: Everyone, meet TEDS

Dirk Hanson

What a difference a decade makes.

Do you know what drug use trends are ongoing?Between 1998 and 2008, addiction treatment admissions in the U.S. increased markedly for methamphetamine (crystal meth), prescription opiates, and marijuana. Treatment admissions for alcohol and cocaine declined over the same period, while heroin admissions remained roughly the same.

The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), which the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) uses to compile its report, includes only those addiction treatment facilities that receive state alcohol or drug agency funds, and which are represented in state administrative data systems. Despite this caveat, the TEDS study matters, because states use reports of this kind to shift limited resources from one treatment focus to another, based on demand. Continue reading “Addiction Treatment Admissions in the United States: Everyone, meet TEDS”

About Addiction: Sex and Drugs, and Addiction’s impact on children and stress

Have questions about addiction? You should browse our content and check out the links in this article and all the others we’ve written. It’s a great quick stop for 30 minutes of information!

Sex and Drugs

Science Centric– What a great way to help others! A peer based outreach service have been developed to aid sex workers resolve their drug problems. The program is lead by current and former sex workers and is helping to increase entry to detox and residential drug treatment programs among women in sex work.

Take Part– A male porn star has tested positive to having HIV. This positive test has put a halt to production of new sex tapes. This article provides five things that individuals should know about the porn industry. It is a great read!

Addiction inbox- Spice has been marketed as a synthetic cannabis. It can get a person high but at the same time will allow individuals to pass a drug urinalysis. That fact is making spice very common in places like police stations, fire department, and army bases.

Breaking the Cycles– Everyone knows how hard it is to break a habit, it often takes time and it is a struggle to maintain the new behavior. This is the same when an addict or alcoholic successfully makes it through their rehab. The hard part however comes when individuals are trying to prevent relapse.  SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) suggests that to prevent relapse individuals should think about doing something as opposed to not doing something. This allows individuals to create an anti-drug and anti-drink. This article follows the pattern of our earlier writing on relapse prevention by replacement.

Addiction’s impact on children and stress

Sober teens online- This is not a typical article post that we love to provide you, however it is no doubt very moving. This site displays artwork which depicts the emotions of foster children who are victimized by addiction.

Stress and addiction– Does stress cause addiction? Does addiction cause stress? That’s a popular question when people are trying to figure out the causes of addiction. It is no surprise that stress and addiction have a reciprocal relationship with each other. Stress can cause an individual to start drinking or taking drugs, and stress often triggers addict to use drugs or alcohol. Stress such as early childhood trauma may cause an individual to become an addict when they are older. This article examines the interplay of stress and addiction and also offers a great video about stress and addiction.

Another award! Top addiction blog in 2009!!!

Hey everyone, All About Addiction got selected to  be in another “Top of 2009” list. This time the honor comes from AllTreatment, a site that I think is the most legitimate treatment referral resource out there aside from SAMHSA’s one (which is a bit outdated). My friend Mike’s blog, Addiction Tomorrow, is also listed, so congrats!

Here’s a link to our award post on that site 🙂  thanks Alltreatment for noticing us. Hopefully we can work together to help millions of addicts in need.