Raising The Tobacco Use Age to 21

tobaccoWith election season upon us, most of the talk these days regarding drug use involves what is to be done about the nation’s opioid epidemic or which states will legalize recreational marijuana use next. These are two discussion points that are of the utmost importance when it comes to addiction in America. It turns out there are some other addictive substances that are being discussed as well.

The tobacco debate, despite national smoking rates long on the decline, continues as states consider upping the legal age of tobacco use. Until recently, tobacco products could be purchased in all 50 states at the age of 18. However, there are a number of politicians and health experts who would like to see that age raised to 21, put the cancerous products on the same level as alcohol and recreational marijuana use in the states where it is allowed.

Anti-Tobacco Efforts in the 21st Century

On January 1st, the legal age to purchase tobacco in Hawaii became 21. If you thought the age restriction change was an anomaly, you may be surprised to learn that the idea made it to the mainland. This week, California lawmakers approved a measure that will raise the tobacco use age to 21, the Associated Press reports. The state assembly passed the legislation, and now awaits a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. The bill would also restrict the use of the currently unregulated e-cigarettes.

California isn’t a minor player when it comes to influencing national politics. It would seem likely that other states will follow the lead of Hawaii and California in the years to come. The American Cancer Society has applauded California’s anti-tobacco efforts, according to the article.

“With California having such a huge population, it’s going to be very impactful nationwide,” said Cathy Callaway, associate director of state and local campaigns for the American Cancer Society.

The True Scope of Tobacco

It is widely accepted that tobacco use is extremely harmful to one’s health, and the younger a person starts smoking – the longer people are likely to smoke. Tobacco use has been tied to experimentation with other mind altering substances among teenagers and young adults. On top that, the brains of 18-year olds are still developing and there continues to be much researchers don’t know about the long term effects of teenage tobacco use.

If you are in addiction recovery and still use tobacco, it is advised that you seek assistance with smoking cessation. Research tells us, that people in recovery who use nicotine products are at a greater risk of relapse.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

addictionAddiction treatment and prevention are crucial if we are ever to get a handle on the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic in the United States. As presidential candidates criss-cross the country, addiction is a major talking point – especially in some of the most rural areas. Everyone is interested in learning how the potential leaders will tackle the problem, a crisis that is stealing 78 lives every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On top of an interagency effort to curb overprescribing, expand access to the life saving drug naloxone and create more substance use disorder treatment facilities Senators have been working to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

A Fighting Chance

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), if passed, the bill authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. After concerns that there would not be enough funding for the bill to be effective, an amendment to the bill was put forward for an additional $600 million in funding. On Wednesday, the amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed to approve the additional funds, The Washington Post reports. Despite the amendment being voted down, Senate Democrats said they will not block the legislation over funding.

“There certainly is no desire to take the bill down over that through the caucus at large,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an author of legislation. “If somebody’s so mad about that that they just can’t bring themselves to vote for it, that will be their personal decision.”

The Big Picture

The democratic Senators choice to not block the bill because of the vote on Wednesday is indicative of how much attention the crisis deserves. While the amendment had the support of Senators from both sides of the aisle, there are a number of republicans who feel that the bill had enough funding to adequately address the opioid epidemic, according to the article. One could argue that some lawmakers do not fully grasp the true scope of the problem.

“It just seems ill-advised, to say the least, to appropriate more money when in fact there’s already $571 million available to deal with this epidemic,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

This is a story we will continue to follow.

Marijuana Can Lead to Substance Use Disorders

substance use disorderLast month, a new study was published that debunked the often stated claim that marijuana was the “gateway” drug, meaning the use of cannabis would lead people to trying harder, more dangerous narcotics, possibly resulting with the development of a substance use disorder. The study painted a picture of the true gateway drug – alcohol. While the findings shined a new light on an old idea, it does not mean that the use of marijuana is completely safe and that those who use marijuana won’t go on to try harder drugs.

The changing views about cannabis in the United States, for better or worse, has resulted in long overdue research about the drug. A new study published recently found that people who smoke marijuana were at a much greater risk of developing an addiction to other drugs or alcohol, HealthDay reports. The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

All Roads Lead from Marijuana

The findings come from preliminary interviews of nearly 35,000 adults, who were interviewed again three years later. Almost 1,300 of the adults used marijuana, according to the article. The researchers found that two-thirds of cannabis users had some type of substance use disorder after the second interview. Of those who didn’t use marijuana, only 20 percent were found to have a substance use disorder. What’s more, the researchers observed that people who used marijuana once or more a month, had higher rates of substance use disorders.

“This new finding raises the possibility that the recent rise in marijuana use may be contributing to the coincident rise in serious harms related to narcotics and other drugs of abuse,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Recreational Disaster

With more states lightening their laws regarding marijuana, and four states where adults 21-years or older using marijuana legally, it is important that we acknowledge the fact that marijuana is not a benign substance just because it’s legal. Alcohol has been legal for a long time; every year thousands of people lose their life due to the use of the substance, from alcohol related illness and accidents.

“In the ongoing national debate concerning whether to legalize recreational marijuana, the public and legislators should take into consideration the potential for marijuana use to increase the risk of developing alcohol abuse and other serious drug problems,” said Olfson.

Substance Use Disorders

If you or a loved one’s use of marijuana, or another mind altering substance is out of control, reach out for help before the problem worsens. Please contact N2 Treatment to get on the road to recovery.

Changing the Language of Addiction

addiction

When people think or talk about people living with addiction, words often are used that can be pejorative. Names like “crackhead,” “junkie,” “dope fiend” and “lush” are commonly used to label those with substance use disorders. The list goes on ad infinitum. While many of the names used to describe those living with life threatening mental health disorders have a history, and they are often spoken without offense being taken, the use of such monikers only serves to fuel the fiery stigma of addiction.

The Language of Addiction

Both researchers and advocates suggest that if we are to continue breaking down the stigma of addiction, it requires that we change how we talk about the illness, The Boston Globe reports. They are calling for the use of medically accepted terminology when talking about substance use disorders because pejorative words like “abuser” discourage people from reaching out for help.

“The biggest thing we trade in is hope,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, Massachusetts Chapter President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Our biggest enemy is hopelessness. That’s why I think language matters a lot.”

Standardized Communication About Addiction

For the first time in American history, we have a Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who is himself in recovery. Michael Botticelli would like to do away with words to describe addiction that have negative connotations, and standardize federal communication about addiction, according to the article.

“For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves,” said Botticelli. “Words have to change so attitudes change.”

He points out that saying someone is “clean” from drugs, implies that active drug use is dirty, the article reports. He adds that: “We don’t say for a diabetic whose blood sugar spikes that they have a ‘dirty blood sugar.”

Choose Your Words Wisely

Removing stigma can begin with an intervention. Substance abuse interventions are to be carefully planned and facilitated by an interventionist who might also be a licensed counselor or social worker. Typically the meeting is held in a private, neutral location where all family and friends who are participating can feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns. The interventionist coaches the group to choose their words wisely and to present a united front in the form of rehearsed, straightforward messages about the facts of the problem and its impact on others. An intervention is not about creating guilt trips or placing blame. It is about being firm and compassionate conveying the consequences that have resulted from addiction and share the group’s desire for the addicted individual to make positive changes.

Promoting positive changes can be the first step in removing stigma!

Treating Neuropathic Pain With Prescription Opioids

neuropathic-painWhile prescription opioids are highly addictive and have led to an epidemic in the United States, there is no question prescription opioids are great for treating pain. When people go to a hospital with a minor injury they might receive Tylenol 3 (codeine) or Vicodin (hydrocodone), if a patient is in need of surgery they are given something a lot stronger, such as morphine or fentanyl. People who are living with chronic pain are often prescribed monthly supplies of opioids and are at a heightened risk of developing a dependency to the drugs which can lead to addiction.

The treatment of chronic pain over the last 15 years played a large part in creating the opioid epidemic that we face today. This is a fact which suggests that physicians need to adopt different prescribing practices, and look to alternative forms of pain management treatment. Opioids have long been the go-to treatment for all forms of pain, but it turns out that treating certain types of pain with opioids may counter health improvements.

The Nerve of Prescribing Opioids

The American Chronic Pain Association states that neuropathic pain often involves nerve fiber damage which sends the wrong signals to other pain centers. Neuropathic pain can be difficult to live with, diminishing one’s quality of life. So it is not all that surprising those doctors will prescribe opioids for neuropathic pain. However, new research suggests that patients prescribed opioids for neuropathic pain experienced no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients treated with alternative therapies, Medical Daily reports. The research was published in the journal Pain Medicine.

“Opioids can help people with severe pain be more comfortable, but if they are not also facilitating improved function, the impact of these medications on quality of life should be questioned,” said Geoff Bostick, lead author of the study.

Researchers analyzed data from 789 patients, some of the participants were using opioids to treat the neuropathic pain. The participants provided self-reported baseline measures of function before the study, and then again after six and twelve months of treatment, according to the article. The patients using opioids for neuropathic pain saw no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients using other therapies.

Hindering Improvement

If using prescription opioids during the healing process does not improve physical function, it begs the question of whether or not they should always be used. Bostick points out that improving movement and function may be more important than pain relief. If we consider all the risks of using opioids, it is hard not to agree with him.

CBD and The Future of Treating Epilepsy

CBDWhile marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I narcotic, which means the drug has no accepted medical use, there is growing evidence that particular strains of marijuana and the extracts derived from them can significantly help people suffering from life threatening disorders, such as epilepsy.

You may have seen a series of 60 Minute specials on marijuana that were hosted by CNN medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Historically, Gupta was against medical marijuana, but then he changed his position after learning that children with severe epilepsy who did not respond to current medically accepted forms treatment, greatly benefitted from marijuana that was low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, but was high cannabidiol (CBD). The children who were given extracts of CBD rich marijuana went from having hundreds of seizures per week, to two to three times per month.

CBD and The Future of Treating Epilepsy

The first child epileptic case to be treated with CBD products was in Colorado, a state with a medical marijuana program that stems back to 2000 and was one of two of the first states to legalize adult recreational use. So it is of little surprise that such revolutionary, and an extreme experiment would take place in Colorado.

Now, the use of CBD is occurring in the most unlikely of states. In Idaho, where all forms of marijuana use remain illegal, there are now four children with severe epilepsy that have been approved and are being treated with a drug called Epidiolex, The Spokeman-Review reports. The drug is a purified oil made from the marijuana plant, but it is free of THC. Despite the approval for use in limited cases, the Idaho Legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution banning the legalization of marijuana for any purpose in 2013.

Idaho is not alone in approving cannabidiol drugs for treating intractable epilepsy, according to the article. In 2014, Utah approved the use of CBD oil, despite all forms of marijuana use being illegal, as did Wyoming. In Idaho, there are 25 trial spots available for Epidiolex trials, which has one lawmaker concerned.

“It’s frustrating for me that as a state, we have narrowed the options down for the kids and the parents,” said Sen. Shawn Keough. He adds, “whether we are denying a treatment that could give kids and parents some relief, and helping a pharmaceutical company along the way.”

CBD Is Euphoria Free

While CBD products have shown a lot of promise, it is important to remember that the ingredient is not psychoactive – it does not produce the high that THC elicits. The findings do not speak for marijuana, but for CBD alone, and people should still be wary about the long term effects of marijuana use. Smoking marijuana or eating edibles can have a serious impact on the developing brain, and can also lead to addiction.

Prescription Opioids: Who Should Be Held Accountable?

prescription opioidsWhen considering who is responsible for the prescription drug epidemic in America, it becomes difficult to determine where to point your finger. Some people blame doctors for rampant over prescribing, others would like to hold as accountable the pharmaceutical industry or the FDA for approving highly addictive prescription opioids for home use. The truth it seems is that there are a number of different entities which had a hand in creating the crisis we face today.

Naturally, some states have taken a harder hit than others, the byproduct of state laws which made it possible for people to gain greater access to powerful opioids, such as OxyContin (oxycodone). Data shows which states have had the highest opioid overdose rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of fatal drug overdoses. In the year 1999, which is often considered the time when the opioid problem began, the fatal overdose rate was 4.1 per 100,000 people. By 2010, West Virginia’s rate was 28.9 overdose deaths per 100,000, which was mainly attributed to prescription opioids. The staggering surge in opioid overdose deaths in the state has some lawmakers demanding accountability.

Wholesale Prescription Opioids?

The attorney general of West Virginia has filed a lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest prescription drug wholesalers, the Insurance Journal reports. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has accused San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation of violating state consumer protection laws and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The lawsuit claims that one of the major factors that contributed to West Virginia’s prescription drug abuse problem was McKesson Corp., which failed to detect, report and stop suspicious drug orders, according to the article. Between 2007 and 2012, McKesson distributed 99.5 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia.

“This failure is one cause of many for the state’s prescription drug overdose rate, decreased worker productivity and the wasteful expenditure of precious state resources,” Morrisey said.

Collective Responsibility/Collective Solutions

While, if the allegations are true, McKesson Corp. should share some of the costs of the problem the company had a hand in creating throughout the state, prescription drug distribution companies did not act alone. The industry itself needs to be held accountable and changes need to be made regarding the handling of pain management and how pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market.

“The flooding of prescription pills into our state is a very serious problem that involves all parts of the pharmaceutical supply channel,” said Morrisey. “No one group or industry sector is solely responsible for this problem; a solution must involve many actors, including doctors, pharmacies, wholesalers, manufacturers and government bodies.”

Staying Sober On New Year’s Eve

New Year's EveTomorrow is New Year’s Eve, which for most people means bringing in 2016 with a bang. Typically, when the sun sets people put on festive clothing and venture out to parties where people will be drinking alcohol to excess. For those who are working a program of recovery, and are planning on attending such gatherings, it is vital that you remain focused – reminding yourself that you cannot drink or use no matter what. Whenever one is in the presence of people who appear to be having fun while drinking, it can become easy for those in recovery to romance alcohol – feelings may arise that can be difficult to resist.

Forgetting How Bad It Was

People in recovery who plan to spend time around people drinking alcohol tomorrow night need to remind themselves of the dark places that alcohol brought them. Addicts and alcoholics excel at remembering the joy that drugs and alcohol made them feel, and easily forget that drugs and alcohol brought them to their knees.

If you are finding yourself having cravings for alcohol, it is vital that you play back a tape of your addictive past. Failing to do so may result in thinking that you can drink like everyone else, and not experience any consequences. While it may be possible that you can drink tomorrow night without problems arising immediately, it will start you down a path that can be hard to reverse. You know all too well the hard work that was required to get you to the point you are at, having just one drink will through it all out the window.

There Are Better Alternatives On New Year’s Eve

If you actively attend 12-Step meetings, then you are likely aware that recovery events will be going on throughout New Year’s Eve, and round-the-clock meetings as well. Whether you are new to recovery or have accumulated a significant amount of time, the best thing you can do tomorrow is stay close to your recovery peers. Filling your day with 12-Step meetings, followed by a recovery event at night will help you make it through the day sober and will be a lot of fun.

It is likely that your recovery friends will have the same plan for tomorrow. It is also fair to say that being around people who are intoxicated is not much fun for those in recovery and is hardly worth the risk. At N2 treatment, we would like to wish everyone a safe and sober start to 2016.

Christmas, and the Shield of Gratitude

addiction, gratitudeWith Christmas around the corner, it is crucial that those who are actively working a program of recovery remain grounded and calm during the big day. While the holidays are cause for celebration, recovering addicts and alcoholics need to celebrate in a different way and it may require that one celebrate different things. Celebrating one’s recovery often means living in a place of gratitude, and sobriety is definitely something for which to be grateful. On Christmas, it is important that those in recovery for addiction remember where they came from and how far they have come – even if they have only been clean and sober for a short period of time.

The Shield of Gratitude

Most people who are in recovery were once in a very bad way, when they get sober it opens up all kinds of possibilities that are only possible because of their recovery. Remembering the people and things that you are grateful for can be your greatest protection, if you are finding yourself feeling blue on Christmas Day.

The holidays can be trying, and it can be difficult to attend events where alcohol is in abundance without encountering strong feelings, which, left unchecked can lead people in recovery to think it is OK to have a drink. It is at times like those that you remind yourself where that drink will take you, playback the tape of your past, and be grateful that you don’t have to go there ever again. Recovering addicts and alcoholics have so much for which to be grateful, failing to acknowledge the miracle of one’s recovery can be dangerous.

Christmas Meetings

Just as on Thanksgiving, meetings will be held all day long on Christmas. It is always wise to attend a meeting, or more, after you finish with family obligations. Being around one’s family can be stressful; therefore, it is crucial that you join your recovery peers so you can discuss how you are feeling. Surrounding yourself with like minded people, working towards the same goal is sure way to decompress from the pressure of a family gathering.

If you are estranged from your family it can be painful, but it does not mean that you have to pick up to manage those feelings. Drinking or using will not bring your family back into your life any sooner, it will surely prolong such an eventuality. Instead, put your faith in the power of the program, and channel your energy into those who are actively part of your life. You may find yourself as a source of strength to the newcomer who is struggling more than you.

The Hand of Recovery

We at N2 Treatment would like to wish everyone in Recovery a Merry Christmas, free from alcohol and drugs. Please remember that the hand of recovery is always there, never hesitate to reach out for help if you find yourself in need.

Exercise and Craving Alcohol

exerciseWhen people get sober and begin working a program of recovery, many find themselves with a lot of energy and an urge to live healthy which beg for an outlet. Recovering alcoholics and addicts will often turn to recreational sports or aerobic exercise, joining softball leagues or getting memberships to a gym.

Living with addiction is often a sedentary existence, addicts and alcoholics have a single goal worth putting their energy into, that of finding their next buzz or high. Once accomplished, there is typically a lot of down time. When those in recovery find that the cloud of addiction has lifted from their mind, the desire to be active is strong. Most addiction counselors encourage people in recovery to engage in activities that will release endorphin’s, as long as such activities do not morph into new addictions.

Exercising Into A Glass

It turns out that people in recovery may want to be careful when it comes to exercise, as new research indicates that the activity may result in cravings for alcohol. New research has found that the people who exercise more may drink more alcohol or want to drink, Medical Daily reports. The findings indicate that the trend has to do with the brains search for reward.

When a person exercises, adrenaline is released which results in a feeling of euphoria. After the workout, many people are driven to prolong the high they have been experiencing. The findings should be particularly alarming for those in recovery who work out, lest exercise lead to a relapse.

The Last “Rep” Happens in The Bar

At Pennsylvania State University, researchers examined the health of 150 men and women between the ages of 18 and 75, according to the article. With the goal of determining the link between alcohol use following exercise, those who took part in the study filled out a questionnaire and then used a smartphone app to record daily drinking and exercise habits over three 21 day periods. The study’s authors wrote, “People drank more than usual on the same days that they engaged in more physical activity than usual.” The findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.

“In contrast to proposals that physical activity (PA) can be a substitute for alcohol use, people who engage in greater overall PA generally consume more alcohol on average than less-active peers,” wrote the study’s authors.

Recovery and Exercise

If you are working a program of recovery, it is important that you remain physically active, but it is even more important that your program stays strong. If you are working out and you are finding a heightened urge to consume alcohol afterward, it is probably best to call your sponsor and/or get to a meeting. You never want to be idle when experiencing cravings that if acted upon would jeopardize your recovery.

Help Can't Wait

Get Help Now