The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as, “a compulsion that persists in spite of negative health and social consequences.” Many people use and abuse drugs, but only some – relatively few — become addicts. Many wonder why addictions form in some and not others. In some individuals, exposure to things that are habit forming actually causes structural changes in the brain. The exciting thing about exercise is that if individuals engage in exercise, they may prevent addictions from starting and certainly can weaken addictive behavior over time. Exercise sparks dopamine production, rebuilds toxic damage to the brain, battles anxiety and depression, and enhances self-esteem.
Endurance exercise can be used to effectively treat drug addiction, according to researchers from the University of Arizona (interventionservices.org). In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers measured the “neurobiological rewards” of treadmill running. Their study showed that the human brain experiences a chemical reward after long periods of exercise, and showed there is evidence that this reward can be used as a way that incentivizes those battling addiction.
Further, exercise provides a “high” that can be important for addicts battling cravings. In addition to decreasing anxiety and stress, physical activity helps increase levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of pleasure, is often diminished over time by substance abuse.
Also, interventionservices.org cites the results from an exercise and addiction study:, “Beyond recovery, exercise can help mitigate brain damage caused by drug dependency. In a 2012 study published in the neuroscience journal Synapse, rats were given high doses of methamphetamine until the drug burned out their dopamine and serotonin receptors. After the substance was taken away, half of the rats were left alone in their cages, while the others were made to run. The results showed that the running rats significantly reduced the meth-induced brain damage, and had begun to repair their dopamine and serotonin receptors. For the rats that stayed in their cages, the negative effects of the drug lingered.”
So, “exercise also boosts dopamine, exercise rebuilds the brain by increasing neurogenesis, exercise battles the anxiety and depression that can come with withdrawal, exercise increases elf-esteem, and exercise can be an antidote and inoculation against addiction,” according to Peter Provet, Director, Odyssey House, New York. Therefore, if an individual is struggling with addiction, it would definitely be worth a try!
Parent’s awareness of drug abuse
Everyone is talking to their pre-teen children and teenagers about the dangers of drug abuse….right?? Wrong. According to a new report by drugfree.org, many parents have yet to have an honest conversation with their kids regarding substance abuse. Drugfree.org is a nonprofit advocacy group committed to reducing young adult drug and alcohol addiction.
American parents need to be more proactive about their children’s involvement with drug and alcohol abuse, according to the report. The report indicates that many teenagers remain unaware of the dangers behind drug abuse – despite public education and awareness, especially those issues that relate to prescription pill abuse.
The study indicates some interesting results. They state that, “only 14 percent of adolescents have had a conversation with one or both of their parents about pill abuse. Interestingly, over 80 percent of the same group had a similar chat about the problems associated with marijuana.” This result shows that parents still believe that street drugs are more of a threat to their children and that parents discredit the dangers of prescription pills.
Steve Pasierb, president of the organization that runs Drugfree.org, said in a statement, “For parents, it really comes down to not using the power they have because they don’t think this is an immediate problem, meaning their own home, own neighborhood kind of thing. They believe that this is probably a safer way, not as bad as illegal street drugs.”
Further, Pasierb also indicates that part of the problem is that many parents struggle with merging their desire to give their kids space while also setting a good example with healthy boundaries. However, this leniency can lead to further drug abuse posing life-long problems.
Recently, a survey was conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that indicates that while teens are saying no to most drugs, their use of marijuana seems to be on the rise. Also, the survey found that the number of teens who think that marijuana is dangerous has continued to drop over the past decade. Further, the study also concluded that more teens are using marijuana than in the past several years. The study’s researchers say that relaxed attitudes about marijuana, combined with legalization in certain areas, have probably contributed to the increased use of marijuana.
“We should be extremely concerned that 12 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds are using marijuana,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The children whose experimentation leads to regular (marijuana) use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life.”
The survey’s poll included responses from over 41,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade teens from 389 public and private schools. When they asked about their marijuana usage over the last month, 23 percent of the high school seniors surveyed said that they had smoked marijuana at least once along Eighteen percent of 10th-graders and 12 percent of even the eighth-graders also indicated that they has smoked marijuana within the last month. According to the researchers, drug use among the youngest teen age group (8th graders) surveyed should be a wake up call and a warning for parents and public health officials alike.
Celebrities and Drug Overdose
The New York Times reports, “Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose — with a hypodermic needle still stuck in his arm and 70 baggies of the drug inside his Greenwich Village pad Sunday, authorities said. He was 46…. Hoffman — a versatile and prolific actor famed for his vivid portrayals of troubled souls — had repeatedly struggled with substance abuse. He spent 10 days in rehab last year for abusing prescription pills and heroin after 23 years of sobriety.” (nypost.com)
This tragic news came as a shock to many who loved the Academy Award winning Capote and recent Hunger Games Hollywood star, just as many have been shocked about previous celebrity drug overdose related deaths. The occurrence of celebrity drug overdose, which some feel is on the rise, begs the question, “Are celebrities more prone to addiction than non-celebrities?”
Perhaps they are. Celebrities are certainly surrounded by the rich and famous, and Hollywood/pop culture often includes drug users. Also, they often have a lot of money and cash is important and essential for an addict. However, most would argue that celebrities are not more prone to drug abuse, but we definitely hear about it when they succumb to drug use. Either way, drug overdose is always tragic, whether it involves a celebrity or not.
Sizzurp: A Dangerous Teen Drug
Doctors are warning of a cough syrup concoction called sizzurp that young people are abusing to get high. Teens are making the potentially deadly mix, using soda, candy and prescription cough syrup. To make matters worse, celebrities are glorifying the mix in music.
Known in some circles as “sizzurp,” “purple drank,” or “dirty sprite,” the mixture of prescription cough syrup with codeine, benzodiazepines and a soft drink has been used and sung about by rappers since the mid-1990s. Now, many law enforcement officials in states such as West Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina are finding that teens are abusing the substance and presumably being influenced by the music they listen to.
The sizzurp drink is highly addictive, and codeine and promethazine can be deadly when mixed with booze or consumed in high doses. Dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most over-the-counter cough syrups, can cause increased heart rate, fever and liver damage when taken at sizzurp levels, which can reach 25 times the recommended dose.
Hollywood reporter recently indicated that, “Rapper Pimp C died in 2008 of a cough-syrup overdose, according to the L.A. County coroner’s office. In May 2013, Lil Wayne was hospitalized for seizures relating to his abuse of the drug, leading to multiple media reports that the rapper came close to dying during the medical incident.”
Dr. Deni Carise (an addiction psychologist) told the New York Daily News, “We’ve seen patients who take enough of the medication (sizzurp) to have side effects similar to LSD trips with extreme mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia and very risky behavior. In extreme cases this has led to psychotic-like experiences that endanger the user and those around him or her.”
Sizzurp abuse among teens is becoming more prevalent. A 2012 survey found that 5.5 percent of 12th graders said they’d gotten high off sizzurp. So, although teens may think that there is no harm in taking medications because they are prescribed by doctors, they need to be educated that consuming any sort of drug in a way that it is not intended is always dangerous. Like any other opioid, sizzurp can cause death if taken in too high a quantity.
Discovering that a teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol can generate fear, confusion, and anger in parents. One of the greatest challenges that parents in this predicament struggle with – at least initially – is coming to terms with the scale of their teen’s addiction. After all, isn’t it common knowledge that teenagers and young adults will experiment from time to time? It’s all a part of growing up, right?
Well, it may be true that teens who smoke marijuana on occasion, or accept a can of beer at a party, don’t develop an addiction that will eventually come to dominate their lives. However, how can parents recognize when their teen has gone beyond the experimental phase and established an addiction?
Many parents try to reason that their teenagers are just “being kids” and that they are being offered irresistible temptations at every turn. But, many parents also find that after living in denial for a while, their struggling teen is soon fighting a fierce addiction. Generally, what starts as a harmless “one-time” thing can turn into serious addiction — especially for teenagers who have easy access to their drugs of choice. Most parents try to handle drug abuse problems on their own. They may confiscate items, ban certain friendships, etc. However, many parents eventually find that professional help is most often needed once their teenager becomes addicted.
Parents need to confront their teen about the severity of the problem and remain calm when doing so. It’s also important to confront the teenager when everyone is completely sober. If parents explain their concerns and make it clear that their concern comes from a place of love, it can help the teen feel safe and supported.
Most importantly, parents should not wait until they feel powerless to rescue their child from the clutches of addiction; they shouldn’t wait until their teenager’s life is on the line – seek help early on.
Facts: College Student Prescription Drug Abuse
- Most college students use prescription drugs properly. However, about one in every four people aged 19 to 20 report using prescription drugs in a non-medical way at least once in their lives (NSDUH, 2008).
- Most college students, by their sophomore year in college, will have been offered the opportunity to abuse a prescription drug (Arria, 2008).
- Many college students who abuse prescription drugs do so to study all night (a habit most begin while in college) or to get into a certain academic mental “zone.”
- Full time college students are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than part-time college students.
- Non-medical use of pain relievers is also on the rise among college-age students (SAMHSA, 2009). College students also have the highest prevalence of non-medical use of prescription opioids (morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone, for example) in the US (McCabe et al, 2007).
- Many college students begin binge drinking at college and combine prescription drugs with alcohol not realizing the potentially fatal effects
- College students aren’t always necessarily using prescription drugs like Xanax and Adderall to get high, but to help with concentration, improve academic performance, to cope with stress, or even for dieting purposes.
Teen Depression Treatment: Alternative Treatments for a Teen-Onset Illness
It has been said that mental illness is the illness of youth and for those trained in treating mental health issues, this statement will ring true. For others, it may seem counter-intuitive, particularly given that the prevailing images of persons with mental health issues are most often those of disheveled adults. Because these images may portend the future of bright eyed children, whose mental illness goes untreated, it is essential to know that the onset of many major mental illnesses– schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, etc.–occur in late adolescence and young adulthood, not in mid- to late-adult life as dominant cultural notions suggest.
From this menu of youth-onset, mental health disorders, one of the most prevalent is teen depression, which affects approximately 10% of teenaged youth and is a leading contributor to teen suicide. The ability to effectively identity risk for depressive disorders and to treat teens who develop depression will help us minimize the course and impact of depression in the lives of our children.
Like many other complex health conditions, depression is highly heritable. Though researchers do not fully understand the causes of depression, they do know that genes play a role, accounting for almost half the risk for a teen to develop depression. Given that a child may be “wired for” depression, it becomes essential for teens and adults to develop a sophisticated and empathetic understanding of the illness and of the range of treatment approaches that are available. If you know that depression runs in your family, you may consider exploring some of the following alternative teen depression treatment options that could build emotional resilience and potentially alter neural networking, optimizing the body’s ability to change, thus making the brain more resistant to depression risk factors, including your genes.
Nutritional evaluation and assessment is a good place to start as an ever increasing volume of contemporary research confirms the links between nutritional deficiencies and depressive symptoms. For example, both Vitamin B and Vitamin D deficiencies have been directly linked to depression. The old adage of “You are what you eat,” is less myth and more fact as science and technology allow us to understand the inner workings of the human brain and neuro-chemical systems.
The ancient traditions of Acupuncture, Yoga, and Meditation have found research-based support as effective alternative treatments for depression in teens and young adults. Many studies support the use of Acupuncture for the treatment of depression. Additionally, Integrative Yoga Therapy, a modern day application of traditional yoga practices and principles, can increase an adolescent’s self-awareness through an integrated mind-body practice. Yoga, including breathing exercises and meditational elements, has been studied as a treatment for depression and has been shown to curb the stress-response in study participants. Teens who are at risk for or who are experiencing depression are often easily triggered and have a heightened stress-response. Through the practice of Integrative Yoga Therapy, teens can learn to calm their nervous system response, and with practice decrease the frequency and intensity of the painful and debilitating emotions of depression.
About the author – Robert Hunt is a recovering addict of 20 years. He has devoted his life to helping others suffering from chemical addictions as well as mental health challenges. Robert maintains many blogs on drug addiction, eating disorders and depression. He is a sober coach and wellness advocate and a prominent figure in the recovery community.
Visit my blog | Follow me on Twitter @RecoveryRobert
Prescription drug abuse at colleges
While alcohol abuse and binge drinking still remain top on the list of substance abuse issues within college campuses, the abuse of prescription drugs—mostly stimulants, sedatives and pain relievers—remains a growing, yet often unaddressed problem (SAMHSA, 2009; NCASA, 2007) according to talkabouttrx.org. They indicate that about one in four college students has illegally used prescription drugs, and many more have been offered prescription drugs by friends or fellow students. Sadly, many students may not even realize that they, their roommate, teammate or friend are misusing or abusing prescription drugs, which are often controlled substances and illegal to use without a prescription. Taking these medications the wrong way or without a prescription puts young collegiate lives at risk.
Interventionservices.org similarly indicates that, “going to college is a major transition for many teenagers – one that poses new and often overwhelming challenges. And, while there is no denying that underage drinking is a widespread issue on college campuses, not all parents may be aware of another common form of college-age substance abuse: prescription drugs.”
They report that according to a 2010 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrations, 22 percent of college students had experimented with illicit drugs in that year. However, they indicate that despite this substantial figure, not all university administrators seem willing to monitor this form of substance abuse as strictly as on-campus alcohol consumption. In many instances, professors and administrators feel that prescription drug abuse goes under the radar because it is more subtle. In lieu of a boisterous party at an off-campus fraternity house, prescription drug abuse can easily take place in the campus library as an attempt to fuel an all-night study session they say. They found that it’s not the kids who are “partying” who are abusing prescription drugs on college campuses. It’s more often the academics who are abusing prescription drugs in attempt to achieve higher levels of academic success.
However, there are more reasons for prescription drug abuse on college campuses, as found in a study conducted at Oregon State University. In this study, it was found that prescription drug abuse at some college campuses was close to 25% and that prescription drugs are commonly abused because of how easily they are accessed. The study at Oregon State also revealed several additional reasons for abusing prescription drugs. These included:
- Academic pressures
- Maintaining focus with late-night study sessions
- Dieting purposes
- Feeling of euphoria
- Coping with stress
- Parties and social scenes
Studenthealth.oregonstate.edu indicates that prescription drugs, “can be obtained through friends and family, direct prescriptions from a physician, a prescription ‘drug dealer.’ However, the most common source of these drugs is the medicine cabinets of the individual’s friends and family.”
Drunk driving and New Years
When most people are asked what they fear most about other drivers on the road, the answer is clear: drunk driving. It has been found that more people fear this than people speeding near them or tailgating them while driving. Most report this to be the biggest safety problem. However, according to a recent gallop poll, 60 percent of those same people surveyed admitted they had driven a vehicle while drunk or near-drunk.
“The poll clearly shows this is a major concern, especially during the holidays because of increased drinking and increased driving,” said Glynn Birch, national president of Mothers Against Drunk driving.
Further, M.A.D.D. reported that on average, about 1,500 people in the United States are killed in alcohol-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Also, they found that during the last half of December 2010, 415 people were killed in drunk-driving accidents. Throughout an average year, almost 17,000 people are killed by drunk or impaired driving, an average of one every 30 minutes. Interestingly, in 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report stating that alcohol-related fatal crashes rise significantly in the two week period encompassing Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The average number of fatalities on U.S. roadways on New Year’s Eve is 54, up from the non-holiday average of 36 fatalities a day.
However, Birch pointed out that there was one positive thing about the gallop poll. That was that almost one in every five drivers, 17 percent, said they had encouraged someone not to drive in the past week because it looked like they had too much to drink.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), many New Year’s revelers get into trouble because they don’t recognize that their driving skills and decision-making abilities are impaired long before they begin to show physical signs of intoxication and it’s easy to misjudge alcohol’s lasting effects. Alcohol can continue to affect the brain and body long after the individual’s last drink has been consumed. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestines can continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body. So, according to the NIAAA, judgment and coordination can be impaired for hours after drinking.
It’s always good to offer to give someone a ride if you can tell they are questionably intoxicated. It’s best to make a plan with a responsible designated driver before the party begins. Decide on a designated driver at the beginning of the night. Don’t wait until the end of the night and let “the most sober” person in your group get behind the wheel. A couple of drinks are still enough to impair reaction time and put yourself and others at risk on the road. Planning is key to being a safe driver on New Year’s Eve.
There are precautions to be taken against New Years Eve drunk driving. People can and should arrange to stay the night, take a cab, or decide early in the evening which person will stay sober and drive. And that designated person needs to stay responsibly sober– not try to sober up at the end of the evening. Also important, everyone driving should also be sure to use seat belts. Seat belts are the best defense against a drunk driver not just on New Years, but all throughout the year.
Sources: healingwell.com, madd.org