10 Best Ways to Stop Drinking Alcohol

The decision to stop drinking alcohol can be life-saving for individuals who feel they are falling into alcohol addiction. However, recovering from alcohol abuse, maintaining sobriety and managing alcohol cravings is a hard struggle. There are many ways to achieve sobriety. For a person wondering how they can stop drinking, here are the 10 best ways to stop drinking alcohol.

1. Make a Plan

Make a plan to stop drinking alcohol by setting a date. Post the date in a place where you can see it often. If you are a heavy drinker, you must first slowdown in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms which can be potentially deadly (in this case, involve your doctor in your plan in order to come up with a more appropriate date plan).

2. Identify the Triggers

The urge to drink alcohol is set off either by internal or external triggers. The key to quit drinking and maintaining sobriety is by identifying and avoiding the triggers. External triggers, such as places, people and things that are associated with alcohol drinking behaviors and opportunities can quickly lead to a relapse. High risk situations are more obvious, more predictable and are more avoidable compared to internal triggers.

Internal triggers are set off by thoughts, negative emotions such as frustrations, positive emotions like excitement, physical sensations like headache, anxiety and tension. Once you have identified the triggers, work on how to prevent them from leading you to drinking.

3. Avoid High Risk Situations

The best strategy to quit drinking is avoiding high risk situations. Avoid social settings where alcohol is served. Do not buy or keep alcohol at home as this will easily tempt you. Friends and family members can also assist by refraining from drinking alcohol in the presence of those in recovery.

4. Build a Strong Support Network

Ensure that you surround yourself with positive people. This will help you to build and improve your self-esteem and confidence. Without a positive support network, it is difficult to make changes that will completely lead to sobriety. An available social network support is particularly important during the early months of recovery.

5. Communicate Effectively

Having an effective communication with family, friends and workmates can help them to understand the different aspects and challenges involved in your road to recovery. Expressing yourself to them will help them to be much more supportive and assistive.

6. Incorporate a Nutritious Diet

A healthy diet and proper hydration are important to an alcoholic’s healing process. Proper nutrition, as well as hydration, helps to restore physical and mental health, improving the chances of recovering.

Macro and micro-nutrient deficiencies can cause low energy levels, depression & anxiety, which are triggers that can lead to a relapse. Your diet should incorporate food types that improve digestion, promote steady blood sugar throughout the body and improve brain chemistry. A healthy process of digestion optimizes the rate of absorption of vitamins, amino acids and minerals which help to reduce alcohol craving. An adequate intake of lean protein ensures that your brain produces optimal amounts of neurotransmitters which are associated with feelings of well-being.

Comprehensive nutrition education program and individualized nutrition counseling have been found to improve a 3-month sobriety success rate in people with substance abuse issues. If you wish to quit alcohol drinking on your own, here are a few nutrition tips you can follow.

  • Do not make major diet changes immediately. Gradual diet changes will lead to a better body compliance.
  • Eat foods that are low in fat and include adequate levels of lean protein.
  • Eat regular meals throughout the day
  • Water is the most important nutrient required for every body function. Adequate water intake helps to reduce alcohol craving.
  • Vitamins and mineral supplements such as vitamins A& B, zinc and B-Complex are helpful during and after the recovery phase.

7. Exercise

One way of replacing destructive behaviors is getting involved in physical activities. Exercise stimulates the same neurotransmitters and circuits in the brain as most addictive substances. Start out your exercise routine slowly and focus on strength training and cardiovascular exercises.

8. Engage in Healthy Activities

Alcoholics are known to give up on activities that they once found enjoyable. Part of the recovery process is rediscovering previous hobbies and developing new interests. This will help to alleviate boredom that can trigger a relapse and help you to pursue much healthier and fulfilling alternatives.

9. Evaluate Your Progress

Evaluate your sobriety progress by setting an evaluation date. A 30 day plan is more effective so that your new behavior can become a habit. Evaluate and review your reasons for quitting alcohol. Write down the benefits and, if you relapse, start again. An evaluation plan will help you to see how far you have come and motivate you to do better.

10. Treat Yourself

Once you have evaluated your progress and you have achieved a set duration of sobriety, treat yourself. The money which was used for alcohol can now be used to visit a spa, get a massage, join a yoga class, buy new clothing or furniture or even buy gifts for your family and friends. Maintaining sobriety is all about seeing its tangible benefits.

Note that there isn’t a universal best way to quit drinking alcohol. You may have to try out different combinations and find out what works best for you.

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How to Support Someone With Alcohol Addiction

How to Support Someone With Alcohol Addiction

The American Medical Association (AMA) defines alcoholism or alcohol dependence as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.

Research shows that while some people develop a dependence on alcohol due to family history, childhood abuse or poor self-esteem, a few others get into alcohol use because of peer pressure or to fit into a certain group of people. However, irrespective of the influences that persuade a person to use alcohol, the bittersweet truth is that the journey from “one drink” to “one last drink” is mostly not anticipated.

It is so because unlike the popular belief, once a person passes the threshold levels of alcohol abuse, dependence and tolerance, he/she tends to develop an addiction to alcohol. By this time, his/her brain chemistry gets altered due to substance use and it becomes extremely difficult for him/her to quit alcohol because of the discomforting withdrawal symptoms.

It is also important to know that alcohol addiction is different from alcohol abuse. Those who abuse alcohol usually drink heavily, but not regularly. Such people behave recklessly or have a tendency to mix substances of abuse, which can lead to alcohol poisoning. Further, abuse may lead to addiction, but not vice-versa. However, alcohol addiction involves all aspects-dependence, abuse and tolerance.

State of alcohol addiction in America

Alcoholism is soaring in the United States, the worst part being the fact that more than 80,000 people are losing their lives to alcohol every year.

Recent statistics by renowned research and analysis organizations like the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveal the current state of health of Americans.

Here are a few alarming statistics:

  • Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation. (Source: NCADD)
  • Six people lose their lives due to alcohol poisoning every day; three out of four such people are men. (NIAAA)
  • Every day in the U.S., another 29 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes. That’s one person every 50 minutes. (Source: MADD)
  • Around 4,700 teens are killed every year due to alcohol use, which is way more than the deaths caused by all illegal drugs combined. (NIAAA)
  • Men are twice as likely as women to overdo drinking, be intoxicated behind the wheel or be involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents. (NIAAA)
  • Approximately one in two women of childbearing age drink, and 18 percent of women in this group binge drink (five drinks per binge, on an average).
  • Less than 8 percent of the 15 million plus people who struggle with an alcohol use disorder receive treatment. (NIAAA)
  • Up to 40 percent of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption. (NCADD)

Knowing the warning signs of alcohol addiction

Alcohol consumes the body and the mind of the person using it. While the warning signs of drug and alcohol addiction are many, the disruption in normal life caused due to alcohol addiction has serious effects on the afflicted person’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

Hence, even if alcohol addiction may not seem like a real thing, it is a big menace. To stay away from being trapped, you should be watchful of these red flags:

  1. Resorting to alcohol for every celebration or sorrow
  2. Preferring to drink alone than in someone’s company
  3. Lying about the drinking habit and behavior
  4. Binge drinking whenever and wherever possible
  5. Negligent attitude toward own health and responsibilities
  6. Reckless behavior or no fear of law or rules after drinking
  7. Frequent blackouts, leading to impaired memory functioning
  8. Weight gain caused due to slow absorption of nutrients from food
  9. Development of tolerance to the substance
  10. Discomforting withdrawal symptoms, severe than a hangover

Understanding effects of alcohol use on your body

Alcohol is not the solution to any problem. In fact, its dependence, abuse or addiction is a problem in itself.

The resultant alterations in brain chemistry caused due to alcohol addiction affect both physical and mental well-being of the afflicted person. When left untreated, existing issues aggravate and comorbid disorders develop. Getting an accurate diagnosis and undergoing proper treatment can often be a far-fetched dream if the consulting expert is unable to determine if the symptoms are present due to an addiction or a mental illness.

Here is a view of the short- and long-term effects of alcohol use on your body:

Short-term effects

Long-term effects

· Slurred speech, drowsiness, headaches

· Vomiting, diarrhea, anemia

· Difficulty in breathing

· Distorted vision and hearing, decreased coordination

· Coma, blackouts, unconsciousness

· Impaired judgment

· Hormonal changes

· Sleep problems

· Accidental injuries due to inebriation, violent behavior

· Fetal damage

· Loss of productivity, increased problems in relationships

· High blood pressure, alcohol poisoning, liver disease

· Nerve damage, stroke, heart-related diseases, permanent brain damage

· Ulcers, gastritis, cancer

· Sexual problems

· Depression, personality disorders, suicide

Supporting someone with alcohol addiction

If someone you know is experiencing the above mentioned signs and effects of an alcohol addiction, then your support can be a great aid.

It is with your support that attaining recovery can become a priority for them and everything they love does not have to come last. When that happens, the afflicted person learns to persevere and be remembered for his/her recovery and not his/her addiction.

Here are ways of helping someone with an alcohol addiction:

  1. Understand the nuances of alcohol addiction by seeking guidance from published resources and qualified experts.
  2. Encourage them to be open about the challenges faced so that you can help them find alternates or solutions to the same.
  3. Tell them about the effects their habits are having on you/others so that they do not take you/others for granted.
  4. Convey to them that you are by their side always irrespective of how bad or good the situation may be.
  5. Convince them to join a support group or attend community meetings to learn from people facing similar battles.
  6. Spare time to take them to detox or therapy sessions whenever possible so that they do not feel alone or demotivated.
  7. Lead by example by making a no-drinking pact and rewarding each other for a sober lifestyle from time to time.
  8. Be forgiving and avoid blaming them for anything wrong happening in their life, even when the same is true.
  9. Avoid confronting them or getting into an argument with them when they are not sober.
  10. Remember to keep a tab on your physical or mental health while trying to help them.
  11. Refrain from drinking yourself to escape the stress or find an easy solution.
  12. Convince them to seek a second opinion from another qualified expert when no favorable results are visible.

Ways to reduce alcohol addiction stigma

As alcohol addiction continues to claim more lives than ever, it is important to remember that the stigma surrounding alcohol addiction is a key contributor to the same.

Supporting someone with alcohol problem is possible. You can do your bit to reduce the deadly stigma by following the useful tips given below:

  • Remember that addiction is a disease and spread the word so that others too can change their outlook.
  • Practice the habit of not judging people with addiction and encourage others to do so too.
  • Talk statistics and proven facts instead of communicating personal opinions.
  • Offer help and support to people with addiction by convincing them to seek help.
  • Maintain your calm and composure when helping an afflicted person in denial.
  • Guide people who have little control over their situation to seek help.
  • Give your best efforts to help the afflicted person in identifying the root cause of his/her addiction.
  • Never allow anyone to treat a person with addiction in ways that can put him/her under undue pressure.
  • Lead by example and stay away from any form of addiction yourselves.
  • Be open about your shortcomings (read: addiction) if you have one and seek timely help.
  • Motivate people to share their own battles and recovery journey so that others can learn from them.
  • Join organizations and nonprofit agencies committed to such issues.

How to help a person with addiction who doesn’t want help

Living in denial or showing little or no willingness to talk about addiction is a characteristic many people with addiction have.

Should the same be a thing of worry? Not really! There are several ways of helping a person living in denial about addiction, including the following:

· Persuasion: The first step involves communicating how their habits are affecting the physical or mental health of the members of the family/neighborhood. To attain success, it is important to plan the conversation in advance, fix a mutually suitable time for the conversation and cite specific instances instead of personal opinions.

Further, confrontations and blame game should be avoided. You must do this over a few days. Additionally, you can simultaneously do the following things to ensure that your efforts do not go in vain:

o Telling them on a regular basis that you/others understand how difficult it must be for them.

o Convincing them to join support groups where they can learn from people facing similar struggles.

o Discussing the importance of a healthy lifestyle and what they are missing out on due to their habits.

o Joining activities that you can do together, such as a sport, dancing classes or anything else of mutual interest.

o Accompanying them to the doctor at least during the first few visits and when they are low or demotivated.

o Attending family therapy sessions to strengthen the bond between the two of you and other members of the family/loved ones.

· Setting clear limits and boundaries: While allowing the afflicted person to take some time to mend his/her habits through the aforementioned ways, it is also necessary to let him/her know that he/she does not have an indefinite period of time to think and act.

You can do so by conveying the eventual consequences of his/her habits. Further, you should also refrain from enabling him/her. It is natural for family members/loved ones to fall prey to the tantrums or the lies of the afflicted person. This can give the false impression to the afflicted that he/she has control over everything.

Taking a stance and sticking to it helps the afflicted person know that he/she is in a tight spot. This has the potential to convince him/her to at least seek professional guidance for his/her habits, if not the treatment in the first go itself.

· Medical intervention: If nothing seems to be working well to help an afflicted person in denial, it becomes extremely important to reach out to a professional interventionist or a certified medical practitioner. Their experience and expertise can help them reason with the afflicted person. However, you should plan this in advance so that there are no last minute issues. Doing so is possible by involving concerned family members and friends who know the afflicted person well and are ready to stand by him/her.

Further, you should also be aware of the concerned person’s habits and behaviors. This can help the interventionist have a backup team ready, just in case a medical emergency arises. You should also practice self-care by joining a support group or consulting a therapist yourselves. This is necessary because sometimes, in our endeavor to help someone else, we end up putting our physical or mental health at stake.

Alcohol addiction is treatable

Regardless of whether a person is an occasional drinker, regular drinker or a heavy drinker, the truth is that alcohol does not discriminate when it comes to affecting the user’s body and mind. It slowly crawls upon to become an addiction and with time, instead of the person abusing alcohol, alcohol begins to abuse him/her back.

But the good news is that alcohol addiction is treatable. With the help of a comprehensive treatment program that involves therapy, detox, self-care and a relapse prevention strategy, seeking a full, healthy and lasting recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. The key to the same is consulting a qualified addiction expert who has experience in dealing with patients with addiction as well as comorbid disorders. He/she can also enable the family members/ loved ones of the afflicted person with ways to help someone with alcohol addiction.

You too can help someone overcome alcohol addiction. When you religiously follow the dos an don’ts of helping a person with addiction, it can be a blessing for the afflicted person and his/her loved ones.

Take the first step toward supporting someone with alcohol dependence today and witness the difference you can make to their lives! Every bit of your support for alcohol addiction and the people afflicted with it, will count, sooner or later.

Insurance Rules Restricting Access to Addiction Treatment Medication

Insurance Rules Restricting Access to Addiction Treatment Medication

The medical profession has of late started accepting the need for medications pertaining to prescription drug addiction help bringing a ray of hope to people suffering with opioid use disorder (OUD). However, a recently conducted study by clinician scientists at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, observed that insurance rules are restricting the usage of the prescription drug medicine, buprenorphine, among Medicare beneficiaries.

Buprenorphine is considered to be an effective and secure medication for treating heroin and other types of opioid addiction, thereby helping in decreasing deaths caused due to the same. According to the study co-author, Dr. Todd Korthuis, head of addiction medicine at OHSU, patients administered buprenorphine are seen to return to their pre-addiction healthy state.

Ironical move by Medicare insurance companies

In an OHSU news release, Dr. Korthuis said that ironically, while insurance companies offering Medicare policies are making it quite challenging for doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, they are making it relatively easier for them to prescribe opioid pain relievers which led to the current opioid epidemic.

For the purpose of this study, the clinician scientists carried out an analysis of data pertaining to Medicare Part D prescription drug plan and noticed that due to the increasing usage of certain pre-authorization conditions, the prescription of buprenorphine was increasingly restricted among insurance beneficiaries who signed up for Medicare plans between 2007 and 2018. Insurers commonly use pre-authorization conditions in order to restrict or manage access to certain medications to restrict costs.

The study findings revealed that around 90 percent of the insurance plans offered buprenorphine without any restrictions in 2007. However, the percentage dropped to nearly 35 percent by 2018. On the other hand, during the aforementioned time period, the percentage of plans covering prescription opioids like OxyContin sans any limitations, increased from 93 to 100 percent.

The researchers stated that the factors influencing buprenorphine restrictions may reflect inaccurately perceived drug associated risks like financial considerations or societal norms associated with addiction. The findings of this study were recently published in a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Benefits of prescribing buprenorphine

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), buprenorphine is one of the three medications approved by the FDA for treating OUD and helps in easing withdrawal symptoms and the associated pain and discomfort. Daniel Hartung, an associate professor at the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, stated that as Medicare does not and never did cover methadone, the other anti-opioid medication prescribed for treating patients battling OUD, it is important that it provides access to buprenorphine.

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prescription medications such as buprenorphine are an effective means of treating opioid addiction. Unfortunately, said Dr. Korthuis, a lot of people still hold the opinion that treatment of addiction with medications is not really the road to recovery. But scientific evidence backs the fact that medicines such as buprenorphine present a higher success rate at recovery than merely resorting to approaches based only on abstinence.

Seeking prescription drug addiction help

Millions of people have lost their lives to the opioid crisis that is presently ravaging the United States, while millions of others are facing the same predicament. There is no doubt that it would take a mammoth effort to deal with the prescription drug crisis.

If you or a loved one is battling an opioid addiction and is scouting for a reliable prescription drug abuse center, feel free to get in touch with the Invictus Health Group by calling our 24/7 prescription abuse treatment helpline 866-548-0190. At Invictus Health Group, we offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment plans for substance abuse and mental health disorders. You can also chat online with our expert who can guide you with prescription drug addiction help and suggest rapid detox programs best suited to your requirements and medical history to set you on the path to lasting recovery.

Study Links Drug Use to High Rates of Syphilis

Study Links Drug Use to High Rates of Syphilis

A connection between drug use and high syphilis rates in the United States was established by a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sarah Kidd, lead author of the report, pointed out that two major health issues, namely addiction and syphilis, seemed to be colliding with each other.

The report displayed a connection between drug use and instances of syphilis in heterosexual men and women. As per the report, the usage of heroin, methamphetamine, and other injection drugs by the aforementioned group almost doubled from 2013 to 2017.

The report however, did not display a similar increase in drug abuse in gay men suffering from syphilis. According to the researchers, the results of the study indicated that risky sexual behaviors associated with drug abuse may be one of the key driving factors for this increase in syphilis among the heterosexual population.

People using drugs more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities

According to experts, people abusing drugs are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities, thereby making them more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Syphilis significantly increased among heterosexuals especially during the ‘crack cocaine epidemic’ prevalent during the 1980s and 1990s. It was observed that during this particular time period, the usage of drugs was connected with the higher transmission rates of syphilis.

According to Patricia Kissinger, professor epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, it is common tendency among people abusing drugs to indulge in unprotected sex, exchange sex in lieu of money or drugs, and have multiple sex partners. All these are considered as significant risk factors contributing to the spread of the disease.

Syphilis rates are setting new records

At the national level, the occurrences of syphilis jumped by around 73 percent at an overall level and 156 percent in case of women patients between 2013 and 2017. While syphilis had been almost eradicated, of late, the highest resurgence of the disease was reported in California, Louisiana, and Nevada. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can cause organ damage and even death in some cases. In women, congenital syphilis typically occurs when a mother transmits the disease to her unborn baby, leading to cases of premature birth and newborn fatalities.

Analyzing the syphilis cases that occurred between 2013 and 2017, the researchers discovered that methamphetamine abuse was the biggest contributor. The report revealed that more than one-third of women and a quarter of heterosexual men suffering from syphilis were reported to be abusing methamphetamine within the last year. The California Department of Public Health reported that methamphetamine use by people suffering from syphilis, doubled in case of heterosexual men and women between 2013 and 2017.

Why is it difficult to treat sexually transmitted infections?

Owing to the overlapping instances of substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it becomes challenging to identify and treat people suffering from syphilis. That is because, typically, people using drugs are less likely to visit a doctor or report their sexual activities or partners.

Likewise, pregnant women may refrain from seeking prenatal care and get themselves tested for syphilis owing to concerns such as their gynecologists reporting their drug abuse. To combat this issue, the CDC urges to bring about more collaboration between programs treating substance abuse and programs addressing STIs.

Fresno County reported highest rate of congenital syphilis

According to the report, the highest rate of congenital syphilis was reported in Fresno County in California. The county’s community health division manager, Joe Prado, said that the California Health Department analyzed around 25 congenital syphilis cases in 2017 and more than two-thirds of these women were abusing drugs.

To address this issue, the country took proactive measures such as offering STD testing for patients getting admitted into inpatient drug treatment centers. Patients coming back for reports were provided incentives including gift cards. Apart from this, for patients undergoing drug treatment, the county offered a care package comprising of contraceptives and education materials about STIs.

Challenges faced

While it is significant to have an increased collaboration between STD clinics and drug treatment providers, it is not always that simple, since these two entities have not worked together previously. Usually both these units tend to focus only on their relevant specialties and often fail to screen people for associated ailments like syphilis or other forms of STIs or for drug abuse.

According to Jeffrey Kalusner, professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in order to fight the rising rates of syphilis more resources are needed. He added that though policies can be implemented towards syphilis testing, these policies need to be accompanied with appropriate resources.

Seeking treatment for drug abuse

Drug abuse is often associated with the development of physical ailments like hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis and other STDs. These infections can be severe and result in rapid deterioration of overall health. The best way to avoid the contraction of these diseases is to avoid taking drugs or if addicted, to seek addiction treatment help at the earliest.

The drug rehab centers of Hillside Mission offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment plans for substance abuse. Whether selecting an inpatient, outpatient, or a residential plan, the detox process at Hillside Mission is designed to minimize the patient’s discomfort and result in a shorter treatment cycle.

If you or a loved one is battling drug addiction and is looking for reliable drug rehabilitation centers, feel free to reach out to Hillside Mission by directly calling our 24/7 detox treatment helpline 866-225-6101. You can also chat online with a member from our Admissions Team to gain access to a personalized detox experience.

The Real Truth About Marijuana

The Real Truth About Marijuana

“So, what’s the big deal. It’s legal for God sakes!” It’s even used as medicine for all kinds of things. Why should I stop smoking? It’s fine. Stay out of my stuff; you just don’t know what’s real. Besides, why do we have a dedicated piece of furniture in this house called “the liquor cabinet?” Pretty hypocritical to me, don’t you think? You do yours, I’ll do mine. Yours is legal too, but it’s never used as medicine is it? I’m sure it does more harm than my pot. Everybody I know does it. It’s fine like I’ve said a million times. Get informed. I feel good, relaxed, creative and comfortable, so what’s wrong with that? There is no need to overreact and try to control everything. As a matter of fact, pushing me not to just makes me want to do it more. I don’t know why you don’t get it.”

Sound familiar? This debate/dialogue has been going on for several generations, but not like the last 10 to 15 years since legalization and medical uses have become more the norm and growing. Legalization alone hasn’t markedly increased cannabis use, but in general, there are seemingly more permissive attitudes towards cannabis where it’s legal. The perception of marijuana’s risks drops off sharply in these states and the use of the drug rises very quickly. The perceived risks have been steadily declining for more than a decade. In 2014, less than half of high school seniors thought that regular marijuana use was very risky; the lowest number in over 40 years.

Families and parents by and large are also not as well-informed about the risks of regular cannabis use or even what is legal and what is not. Their teens know much more, and many choose to ignore, refute or deny the serious risks and the large body of science warning of harm.

The advertisers in states where cannabis is legal are directly marketing to their youthful constituents in free print ads and via playful images. Of course, where there is a profit to be made, manufacturers, even state legislators will be swayed and have incentives to entice young users.

The potency of the current marijuana supply is markedly stronger than in prior decades. Thirty years ago, the THC concentration in marijuana ranged somewhere between 5 and 10%. Now, the potency is greater than 30%. This complicates and compounds the risk, harm and concerns associated with its use. Highly concentrated cannabis resins containing even higher levels of THC are now dangerously available as well

One very vexing issue is that some scientific studies have demonstrated the serious risk and harm of regular marijuana use while others have not. The anatomical and functional harm reportedly done to young brains includes impaired memory, attention, decision-making and learning. This leads to significant increases in poor school performance, increased drop out rates, dependence on public assistance, increased unemployment and much lower life satisfaction. Persistent use in teens has been linked to an 8 point decline in IQ which is comparable to what’s seen in lead poisoning.

During the brain’s neurodevelopmental years, it has greater sensitivity and vulnerability to marijuana’s toxic effects. The negative effects in gray matter density and the nucleus accumbens, an area in the brain central to “reward” and includes dopamine that effects desire and serotonin that effects satiety and inhibition. These areas are essential to motivation, reward, emotion, memory and pleasure for instance. In addition, repeated exposure has been shown to cause damage in the frontal cortex of the brain. This region of the brain is important for planning, personality, judgment, and decision-making. In addition, the brain’s own endo-cannabinoid system is altered and diminished by repetitive exposure. This internal system comprises the physiological mechanisms that respond to THC (tetra-hydrocannabinoid)- the psychosomatic component of marijuana that creates its signature high.

Adolescents in particular are therefore much more sensitive to these serious negative effects of repeated marijuana use. One study also found that “most of a small group of children treated for bronchiolitis,” had marijuana metabolites in their urine and therefore suffered from unintended harm. In this study parents who smoked told the researcher that they no longer smoked cigarettes, but now smoke marijuana. As a corollary, tobacco smoke at “very low levels is detectable in children… ” (MD magazine: Field Report: Colorado Marijuana Laws Hurting Kids; Karen N. Wilson; December 2016).

Some studies have not found neurological changes, but the risks are far too serious and damaging to just dismiss the potential. Longitudinal studies, which is when data is gathered on the same subjects over a long period of time, are being launched soon. The National Institute on Drug Abuse will conduct the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) that will follow 10,000 young people across the country for a decade. This study will try to determine the effects pre and post reported use on brain function. It’s not yet clear if there might be a safe level of use, if the brain can recover over time or not and does the brain have alternative compensatory methods to sustain adequate function.

No matter what is revealed in the future, the current neuroscience strongly points to marijuana as an addictive substance with particular damage likely to adolescent brains and function. Parents need to be well-informed and conversant with their children often. The medical uses for a variety of disorders are very beneficial to many. However legalization, which will likely include more states and medical uses, should not be construed and confused with safety and harmlessness.

Don’t Suffer Alone…

Charles E Meusburger, MD is a licensed, board certified diplomat of Psychiatry & Neurology and board certified in Addiction Medicine- specializing in Adult and Adolescent Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, Effective Talking Therapies, and Medication Evaluation Management, practicing for over 25 Years with experience helping people to make their lives better and happier. To schedule an appointment contact us 609-484-0770 so we can help you with life’s demands.