Maybe Colorado Springs officers are right?
Although marijuana has been legal in Colorado Springs for a while, there are still those who are fighting against the legalization. Just recently, three sheriffs contested the legality and came under heavy fire from many Colorado residents. However, others are continuing to point out the harmful effects of marijuana on the brain and other areas of our bodies.
For example, a new study published last week in the journal Hippocampus finds that young adults who smoked cannabis frequently as teens performed 18 percent worse on memory tests than young adults who did not smoke. Further, the researchers discovered that the former smokers’ hippocampi were abnormally shaped.
The study looked at patients in their early 20s who smoked cannabis everyday for 2-3 years while they were ages 16 and 17. At the time of the hippocampus study, they had been off the drug for at least 2 years. All patients indicated previous to testing that had only used marijuana and did not abuse any other type of drugs.
Memory tests were performed on the subjects involving listening to a few stories for one minute. After a 20-30 minute period, the participants were asked to recall as much of the content of the stories as possible. Results showed that the participants who were habitual smokers scored lower than those who did not smoke marijuana.
Further, brain-mapping tools allowed the researchers to study the shape of each of the participant’s brains. Those individuals who smoked marijuana had abnormally shaped hippocampi, which interestingly, is the part of the brain that controls memory. Although the abnormality was sometimes small, it was still there when the participants had smoked marijuana.
The study indicates that the abnormality in the hippocampi could be linked to the poor memory in the administered tests. Research has been done on memory and the hippocampus separately, but this study by Hippocampus is one of the first studies that link the two.
Although more studies will need to be done to further confirm the link between marijuana, hippocampus shape, and memory, the three Colorado Springs sheriffs, along with many others, are relying upon evidence such as this to reverse the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Sources: gazette.com, Hippocampus
The Power of Music in Recovery
Often, during recovery, patients are taught to take up a new hobby to fill their time and keep them focused on a path of success. Recovering addicts may need to fill their previous habits with new ones, and hobbies can do that. Some begin to write in their journals, some exercise more, some people paint or draw, and others find numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors. Another such hobby, that is proving to be successful among many in recovery, is playing or listening to music. Some people in recovery also compose music or write words to music. Learning to play a new instrument, listening to new music, or writing songs, can be great hobbies for recovering addicts.
Individuals in recovery can be tense and are often dealing with a variety of emotions, and music can calm these people. Music can be very beneficial because it can lower stress levels and induce relaxation. Music can create a very peaceful state for the listener and can even help to focus and concentrate.
Music is remarkably beneficial in recovery because it can reduce boredom. Surprisingly, boredom is one of the top reasons for relapse. When a person in recovery is bored, they may listen to a good album or a few relaxing songs until the urge to use or drink passes. Loneliness is also common in recovery, and music can help the recovering addict feel less lonely by giving them lyrics from songs to connect with.
A word of caution, however, to those who use music in recovery. Uplifting, relaxing music is very helpful. But, music that glamorizes doing drugs or drinking alcohol should be avoided. Unfortunately, the topics of many songs in today’s culture include drinking and drugs, but these types of music can be avoided.
Memory and Addiction
An exciting new study has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Washington State University researchers. They indicate that they have found a mechanism in the brain that enables the powerful role of memory in the process of drug addiction. This is important and because their discovery opens a new area of research geared at discovering some type of therapy that could alter or stop this mechanism in addiction; making drug addiction less addictive.
Turning off the tool that creates these powerful memories will hopefully lessen the impact and content of the memory – thereby decreasing the motivation for relapse and addiction. Memories associated with drug use definitely drive the impulses behind drug addiction. The brain reinforces memories, and in so doing, gives them emotional weight. The result of the memories being reinforced is a perfect list of what guides and directs the basic decisions.
Science Daily reported on this study and indicates, “drug use creates memories so powerful they hijack the system, turning physiology into pathology.” They indicate that the researchers said that memories are intensified and heighted with drug use.
They further reported that Barbara Sorg, a professor of neuroscience at Washington State University, Vancouver and Megan Slaker, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience, “gave male rats cocaine in a specific setting, a drug cage, conditioning them to associate the experience with that place. With each new experience, the rats would draw memories of previous experiences there, reconsolidate them with new information and in effect reinforce the memory. With one group of rats, the researchers removed structures called perineuronal nets that surround a group of neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex, a high-order area of the brain important for attention, cognition and inhibitory behavior, as well as learning and memory. The nets are believed to regulate the ability to strengthen or weaken as memories are recalled and reconsolidated.
Indeed, the rats with their nets removed were less interested in being in the drug cage.”
“When we manipulated them and removed these nets from the prefrontal cortex, we saw that our animals had poorer memories,” said Slaker. “That was a very novel finding since no one else has ever looked at these structures within the prefrontal cortex in relation to a drug memory.”
Sorg notes that the procedure probably did not erase the drug memory but blunted its emotional power. The finding opens the possibility of developing a way to target, for example, a protein of the perineuronal nets, to counteract cocaine’s influence over memories.”
These findings from the Washington State University study indicate that the procedure that was undertaken most likely did not erase the drug memory completely, but perhaps diminished it emotional power. Hopefully, narrowing down what allows for emotional strength in memories or weakening memories in the brain can help to lessen addiction to harmful things, and the power these chemicals have over memories.
Sources: sciencedaily.com, wsu.edu
Alcohol Use Statistics in Arizona: Alcohol Rehab Arizona
A recent study, Adult Substance Use in Arizona, by the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center at Arizona State University, discusses alcohol use in Arizona. Some interesting findings were reported of those surveyed including:
- 59 % of 18-28 year olds, 63% of 29-39 year olds, 58% of 40-49 and 50-59 year olds respectively, 56% of those ages 60-69, and 33% of those 70 and older were current drinkers
- Among those who had ever consumed alcohol, the prevalence of current alcohol use increased as income increased
- As to current alcohol use, Hispanic/Latinos (53 percent), African Americans (49 percent) and Native Americans (46 percent) reported significantly lower rates of alcohol use than did non-Hispanic Whites (61 percent)
- Further, one-in-ten (10 percent) Native American or American Indian adults who had consumed alcohol did so before the age of 12, which was higher than for any other race/ethnicity.
- People with higher incomes were more likely to begin drinking before age 21 than those in lower income categories. Similarly, those with higher incomes were also more likely to be current alcohol users than adults in lower income categories
- Binge drinking (defined as consuming 4 or more drinks on the same occasion for women and five or more drinks on the same occasion for men) in Arizona is lower than the national average
Teens and legalized marijuana in Denver, Colorado: Drug Rehab in Denver Colorado
With recreational marijuana use being legal for about a year in Colorado, Denver parents are watching their teens deal with the pressures surrounding the drug more than ever before. If you ask teens, they say that most kids get marijuana from their parents or their friend’s parents. This is concerning as well. Many parents themselves don’t understand the dangers that marijuana poses to a developing teen brain. Addressing the dangers of marijuana use during the formative years is crucial to helping teens understand why they need to avoid marijuana use all together – and in Denver, these conversations should be happening more often.
Something that can be confusing to teens and young adults is the fact that a few years ago they were told everyone should stay away from marijuana because it was harmful. Now, they hear that it is legal and sometimes helpful for people. This mixed message is difficult for teens to understand and they may ask why they can’t use marijuana if adults are now allowed to.
Psychology Today author and social psychologist Susan Newman writes, “For years, the lesson parents tried to instill in their children about marijuana and other drugs was to ‘Just say no.’ Drugs were once universally bad. In recent times, the public conversation surrounding marijuana use has changed to debates over legalization and its medical benefits. The new discourse can be misleading and dangerous for impressionable teens. One study from the Partnership for Drug Free Kids reports that in the past the biggest deterrent for teens was a fear of getting in trouble with the law or with their parents. Now that legal punishment is being minimized or disappearing, it’s more important than ever for parents to step up and have that conversation with their teens and preteens. To young people, it may look like society is condoning marijuana use.” So, with all of the press about legal marijuana use, it is important to talk to teens about why marijuana use is not ok for them.
Recently, The Colorado Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee released a set of findings examining adolescents and young adults on the health effects of marijuana. Dr. Mike Van Dyke, chairman of the Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee indicated, “As a public health agency, we’re concerned with protecting our vulnerable populations, and that includes kids. We studied a lot of findings, and we came away with a clear message to underscore that marijuana shouldn’t be used by people who aren’t adults. It can affect how your brain develops.”
Van Dyke’s findings clearly suggest that marijuana and alcohol affects a teen differently than it affects an adult, and is scientifically supported. Having that conversation with your Denver teen is so important.
A pertinent section of the study, authored by Daniel Vigil, MD, Medical Resident, University of Colorado, produced six intriguing statements that are “plain language translations form the major findings in the systematic literature reviews. They are as follows:
- Regular marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is associated with impaired learning, memory, math and reading achievement, even 28 days after last use.
- These impairments increase with more frequent marijuana use.
- Regular marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is strongly associated with developing psychotic symptoms and disorders such as schizophrenia in adulthood.
- This risk is higher among those who start using marijuana at a younger age.
- This risk is higher with more frequent marijuana use.
- Marijuana use by adolescents and young adults – even occasional use – is associated with future high-risk use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, opioids and methamphetamine.
- Starting marijuana use during adolescence or young adulthood is associated with future marijuana addiction.
- Marijuana use by adolescents may be associated with low academic achievement, such as not graduating from high school or attaining a university degree, lower income, and more unemployment.
- There is conflicting research for whether or not marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is associated with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts.
These findings indicate that marijuana can indeed rewire an adolescent brain and can produce negative outcomes for brain development and impairment in the future. They also indicate that for many teens, marijuana use is the gateway to use of other, more dangerous drugs.
Having a conversation with your kids and teens about legalized marijuana use can be difficult. Schools need to find ways to inform kids but not encourage marijuana use. The availability in the Denver area makes this an especially significant issue when talking with your teen. The main message Dr. Van Dyke wants to get out to the Colorado public is clear: “the use of any substance that affects your brain has long term effects. Kids should think twice about it.”
Loving your Spouse through Recovery
One of the lowest points in a marriage may come when a spouse is battling an addiction of any kind. Challenges arise throughout the process of addiction recovery, from the feelings of hopelessness of a spouse while their partner is actively involved in their addiction, to the optimism (as well as anger) that can arise when a spouse begins recovery. With the persistent threat of relapse lingering, the emotional roller coaster in marriage during recovery can continue for many years.
Recovery is never easy for an addict or their spouse but getting support and giving love and support are two ways to overcome difficulties and keep your marriage intact.
An important key to loving your spouse through recovery is to first take care of yourself. Self-care, or meeting your own needs and wants, is key to being supportive to your spouse. Your spouse’s addiction most likely has had a devastating impact on you personally. Through self-care as well as educational workshops, family therapy sessions and family visits, spouses learn new skills right alongside their loved one and can practice those skills to strengthen themselves and the marriage. Recovery programs often recommend resources in the local community as well, including therapy and Al-Anon, S-Anon, or other meetings.
When you’re living with a spouse who is addicted to something harmful, you’ve likely grown accustomed to dysfunction in your marriage. You may have alternated between being the spouse who tries to fix all of the addict’s mistakes to the disengaged spouse who just wants some peace. Without intending to, you may have assumed some unhealthy roles, such as an enabler or codependency. Through therapy and counseling, you can identify unhealthy patterns and learn more positive ways to get your needs met that will ultimately help your spouse as well.
Loving and supporting your spouse during the first months – during early recovery – can prove to be the most challenging and difficult. Many significant life changes happen in the first year of sobriety. During that time, addicts in recovery need to be somewhat “selfish,” focusing on themselves in order to maintain sobriety and rebuild their lives. This can leave some spouses feeling neglected and resentful.
What a recovering spouse needs more than anything is the support and love from their partner.
You can be there for your spouse – and help preserve your marriage – by doing the following: educating yourself, taking care of yourself, keeping communication lines between you open, being patient, avoiding blame, working toward forgiveness, and preparing for setbacks. It’s also important to understand that your relationship may change; in fact, it may end all together. Your spouse’s progress may be slow, or it may be surprisingly quick. They may meet new friends, excel at work and perhaps even outshine you. Allowing your spouse some freedom to explore who they are without their addiction, can bring a positive shift in responsibilities and dynamics to your home.
For most couples with a spouse in addiction recovery, life won’t miraculously fall into place without a lot of hard work by both partners. Recovery can deepen and strengthen the bonds of marriage, but taking care of yourself and each other is key. Loving your spouse through recovery is difficult and draining, but the rewards and benefits are often worth the effort.
Drug abuse in the military
How serious is the problem of drug abuse in the military? For a couple of decades, drug use in the military seemed to be on the decline. But, recently, new research shows that the problem is climbing again. In fact, some research shows that while some individuals are entering the military to “shape up” and turn their lives around and “get clean”, many of these young people are bringing their drug habits with them into military service.
Recent reports cite statistics such as:
- over 17,000 people have been discharged from the U.S. military due to drug abuse since 1999
- The Navy has discharged more individuals (3,400) because of drug use during the time since 1999 than any of the other branches of the armed services
- Since 1999, failed drug tests in the U.S. Air Force have increased by 82%, and in the U.S. Army by 37% as well
Drug abuse in the U.S. military can threaten our national security simply because being under the influence of drugs will lower the readiness of our troops. Drugs undermine military authority and the strict order that prevails in military society. And, most importantly, drugs damage human lives – in this case, the lives of the brave military men and women who risk their lives to fight for our freedoms.
As far as identifying which drugs are used most prevalently in the U.S. military, there are some drugs to which soldiers seem to drift toward more than others: marijuana, cocaine, and opiates. Marijuana is undoubtedly the most used drug in the military mostly because it is relatively easy for soldiers to obtain. Marijuana is often used to escape the stressors provided by the wartime environment temporarily. Cocaine and other stimulants are used by soldiers to stay alert throughout the course of long stretches of duty. However, the subsequent “crash” after using cocaine or other stimulants can be very dangerous since it leaves soldiers in a weakened state during what could be times of emergency. Further, opiates, such as Vicodin and OxyContin are becoming more widespread in the military because of the euphoric effects they have on individuals. Many soldiers will, in fact, have opiates shipped in from home, or brought over with incoming military personnel. Opiates can provide escape and self-medication against the horrors of war that soldiers regularly encounter.
The reasons for the increase use of drugs in the military are many. Because soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are constantly under fire from the enemy insurgents, coping with this strain on a day-to-day basis in the military field has forced many to turn to drugs as a means of self-medication and a coping mechanism. Also, although the “zero tolerance” policy has been in place in the military for several years, soldiers have greater access to drugs than ever before. Sadly, family members and friends sometimes ship the drugs overseas via courier, or soldiers returning to duty may bring them back from the U.S. as well. Another reason for drug abuse is the long periods of inactivity, which occur after the intense action. Long stretches of time where there is little to do can allow for experimentation with and or escape from the boredom by using drugs. Lastly, many soldier use the drugs to become more alert or aware during patrols or late night/nighttime duties.
Drug abuse in the military has several negative effects. Soldiers are risking their own personal safety with slowed reaction times and confusion, they are putting the lives of other soldiers in jeopardy by impairing their own judgment, and they are creating an environment which is not stable and controlled – completely opposite from the structured regimented atmosphere the military thrives on.
Tough Love and Recovery
Usually when people love each other it means that they show affection and are really nice to each other – but there are times when this is not the case. Sometimes loving someone can mean treating that person in a harsh or stern manner to help that person change in a positive way. This version of love is often referred to as “tough love.”
When it comes to recovery from drug or alcohol addictions, tough love may be necessary to help those loved ones out of cycles of abuse and addiction. This tough love may be might be perceived as somewhat cruel – especially initially — but people may actually feel the need to act this way toward an addicted loved one in order to be kind.
Tough love is simply love or affection that is shown in a stern or unsentimental manner. Usually, motivation to engage in tough love comes to promote favorable behavior in another. For instance, parents use tough love when they enforce rules or withhold things from their children in order to teach them life lessons. When it comes to tough love, one individual is treating the other harshly because they love the individual enough to help them change. They are not acting out of anger or hatred toward the other individual.
With tough love and addiction, there are definite times when tough love needs to be employed. When one feels helpless to stop the downfall of their loved one through addiction, they may turn to measures of tough love to help their loved one see clearly how much love is truly felt for them. After watching a loved one destroy their life with addiction, most will have tried to be patient and reasonable. But, the time may come when the addict continues to be in denial about the scope of their problem and people realize that kindly and gently helping the addict is actually enabling addictive behaviors. In this case, and many others, tough love can be very useful. Many addicts learn to be manipulative in order to get their way and so once they learn they can no longer manipulate and that tough love will be enforced, they may begin the steps back to sobriety through recovery.
Tough love in recovery can include: withdrawing or withholding money from individuals, telling them to move out of one’s home, strictly enforced curfews, and other things that occur when addicts violate trust or go back on their word as far as their recovery plan. Tough love is tough. Especially when one is dealing with those they love dearly. However, it is often through tough love, that addicts turn around and begin anew on the road to recovery.
Loving someone enough to get them into rehab
Many people feel like they are doing everything they can for a loved one by supporting them and helping them outside of rehab. However, when their loved one turns violent, or suicidal, or depressed, or even asks for help, how do you help that individual take the next step and enter rehab? Sometimes, treatment is the only option to save a loved one, even if they adamantly refuse to go. People often worry about the consequences to a relationship if they help force a loved one into treatment. However, the consequences of waiting for the individual to go to treatment on their own may be dangerous, and may include hurting others or themselves in the process.
A common misconception about addiction rehab is that a person must willingly enter treatment for it to be effective. However, many addicts choose the path to recovery because loving family and friends recognized the problem they were having and took the necessary steps to get them into rehab.
However, it can be very challenging to convince someone you love that they need addiction treatment. Remember though, this is about your loved one’s life. Helping them get the treatment they deserve may be the only chance they have to overcome their addiction and will show more love from you than waiting until they are “ready” to do it for themselves.
So good ideas about how to get your loved one into addiction rehab and helping the “talk”, the transition, and the enrollment go easier, include:
Educating yourself. This means that you need to learn more about addiction, specifically the addiction your loved one is facing. Some ways to do this are: attending meetings for local addiction support groups, like Al-Anon (for loved ones of alcoholics). Members of these support groups may be able to provide guidance for finding nearby addiction resources. Also, people from these groups will be able to share experiences they’ve had with you and you can establish connections with those who have dealt with similar issues.
Get ready to do an intervention. An intervention is a meeting in which family members and/or friends of the loved one show the addict how the problem has affected his or her life-and the lives of those around them. It isn’t meant to be negative or condemning, but can help your loved one realize the toll their addiction is taking on those around them, let alone themselves. An intervention won’t physically force them into rehab, but it does give the addict a real-world view of what happens to those they love each time they abuse drugs.
Have a plan. A plan can include discovering which rehab facility you feel will be best for your loved one, inviting concerned family and friends to participate in providing transportation directly to the rehab facility, and being prepared if your loved one refuses help. If your loved one refuses to get help for their addiction, you may have to be firm and hold strong to consequences such as: moving out, not receiving any more money from you, etc. Holding the intervention when everything is ready and the plan is in place will give you a much better chance of getting your loved one into rehab treatment. If your loved one chooses recovery, have transportation ready to take them directly to treatment. No “one last drink/hit” stops allowed. The most important thing is to get the addict to the facility as soon as possible.
Be loving, not judgmental. In the process of getting your loved one into rehab, find ways to allow them to realize they need alcohol or drug rehab treatment-not beat them up over every bad decision they’ve ever made. Remain focused on how the addiction hurts the addict and everyone they love and avoid condemning statements like “You should never have started abusing prescription drugs…” or “You’d be fine if you hadn’t hooked up with that guy…”
Be supportive of your loved one’s treatment. Help them by following the advice of the treatment center’s addiction specialists. If the recovery center has a “no contact with family” rule for a specified time period, don’t try to contact your loved one. Also refuse to pick them up or give them travel money if they decide to leave the program early. As a friend or family member, your role is to provide the healthy encouragement and support your loved one needs so he or she can focus on overcoming and recovering from their addiction.
Getting your loved one to go to rehab treatment may not be easy-but their life is definitely worth the effort. Begin to make plans now to help guide your loved one onto the road to recovery.