Increase in Baby Boomer Drug Use

The opioid addiction has definitely reached crisis status.  However, when you think of individuals that struggle with addiction to opioid drugs, most of us picture younger individuals — definitely not retired or elderly persons.  However, there is also an increase in baby boomer drug use— especially in relation to opioid use.  Baby boomers are defined as people born in the years following World War II, when there was an increase in the birth rate. Currently, there are upwards of 76 million baby boomers in America.

Interestingly, drug and alcohol abuse has most often been correlated with youthful teens, but now adults over age 50 are more prone than ever to addiction and substance abuse.  In fact, people of the baby boomer generation as as prone to addiction as their children and grandchildren according to recent statistics.

This growing baby boomer substance abuse epidemic may surprise some, but in reality the increase is really not that shocking.  For instance, when you think about the environment that the baby boomers grew up in with free love and Woodstock mentalities, it truly isn’t shocking that baby boomers are struggling with opioid addiction.  Many quit using drugs in their late 20’s and 30’s but as their children have left home, some of these individuals have picked up drug habits once again and have entered into addictions.  The most commonly abused drugs in this age group include marijuana, heroin, prescription opioids and alcohol.

Along with the fact that baby boomers grew up surrounded by drugs and more lax attitudes in relation to drugs, is the fact that these individuals are aging and in need of more and more painkillers.  Due to the fact that they are taking more painkillers due to problems related to age, the use and addiction rates are increasing.

In sun, the attitudes of baby boomers in relation to drug use, along with the increase in their age causing more health related problems required painkillers have led to an increase in opioid drug addiction in individuals of this generation.  Awareness of this increase is key to getting help for individuals struggling with opioid drug addiction from the baby boomer generation.

What are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines, known to many as “benzos,” are man-made medications that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves within the brain (central nervous system) and sedation (drowsiness).  Seizures, anxiety, and other diseases that require benzodiazepine treatment may be caused by excessive activity of nerves in the brain. These drugs may work by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. Gamma-aminobutyric acid reduces the activity of nerves in the brain and increasing the effect of GABA with a benzodiazepine, reduces brain activity.

According to medicine.net, benzos are used to treat: “anxiety, nervousness, panic disorders, muscle spasms, seizures, sleeplessness, alcohol withdrawal, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and PMS.”

Benz use, when not closely monitored, can lead to addiction and are most often abused to get “high: due toothier effects on the brain.  In fact, in 2017, benzos were ranked 8th in the top 10 drugs most abused in the United States.

The website drugabuse.org gives 5 shocking facts about benzo addiction:

  1. Becoming Addicted is Shockingly Easy
  2. Quitting is Devastatingly Difficult
  3. Using Often Creates Cognitive Impairment
  4. Developing Alzheimer’s Disease Is Far More Likely
  5. Dying Early Is a Tragic Possibility

medicine.net also lists the effects of benzos which include: lightheadedness, confusion, memory impairment, improper body balance, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, fatigue, respiratory depression, withdrawal symptoms, seizures, slow heart rate, sever low blood pressure, fainting, suicide, jaundice, dependence and abuse, reduced libido, weight gain, vomiting, increase or decrease in appetite, sedation, and/or drowsiness.

Overall, there is a defining need and place for benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, but their usage must be monitored for signs of addiction, dependence, and withdrawal to avoid some of the dangerous side effects of the drugs.  Being aware of the dangers can prevent addiction and help others through recovery from benzo abuse.

sources: medicine.net, drugabuse.org

What is Meth?

These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours. The first experience might involve some pleasure, but from the start, meth begins to destroy the user’s life. If you’ve ever seen before and after pictures of meth addicts you know that not only does meth destroy the inside of people’s bodies, it dramatically alters their outside appearance in negative ways.

Meth is an illegal drug in the same class as cocaine and other powerful street drugs. It has many nicknames—meth, ice, glass, crank, chalk or speed being the most common. “Meth is used by individuals of all ages, but is most commonly used as a “club drug,” taken while partying in night clubs or at rave parties. It is a dangerous and potent chemical and, as with all drugs, a poison that first acts as a stimulant but then begins to systematically destroy the body. Thus, meth is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior and potential heart and brain damage. Highly addictive, meth burns up the body’s resources, creating a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug. Meth’s effect is highly concentrated, and many users report getting hooked from the first time they use it. (drugfreeworld.org)” Sadly, meth addiction is one of the hardest drug addictions to treat and many die due to it’s strong effects.

Source: drugfreeworld.org

Heroin

Heroin (like opium and morphine) is made from the resin of poppy plants that predominantly grow in South America and, to a lesser extent, Southeast Asia. Milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower and then refined to make morphine. The morphine is refined further into different forms of heroin.

Heroin is most often sold as a white, pink, or brownish powder that has been “cut.” “Cut” means something was used to dilute the heroin, namely sugar, powdered milk, quinine caffeine or other substances. Street heroin is dangerously sometimes “cut” with strychnine or other poisons. The various additives that have been “cut” into the heroin often do not fully dissolve, and when the are injected into the body, can clog the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, kidneys or brain leading to infection or destruction of vital organs.

Heroin bought on the street carries an additional risk: the user never knows the actual strength of the heroin they are buying. Because of this, users are constantly at risk of an overdose.

Street names for heroin include:

Big H

Brown Sugar

H

Hell Dust

Horse

Junk

Nose Drops

Skag

Smack

Thunder

source: drugfreeworld.org

Top Ten Most Abused Drugs of 2017

As the year 2017 comes to an end, many studies show a clear list of the top ten drugs abused this year. Sadly, many individuals continue to struggle with addiction to these drugs. But, on a brighter note, several individuals have overcome their addictions this year or are on their way to doing so in recovery. Hopefully, 2018 will bring even more success for the many individuals who fight against addictions to these top ten powerful drugs.

The top ten list of most abused illegal drugs in 2017 is as follows:

1-Crack Cocaine

2-Heroin

3-Methamphetamine

4-Bath Salts

5-Cocaine

6-Amphetamines

7-Methadone

8-Benzodiazepines

9-Ecstasy

10-Marijuana

In the coming weeks, watch for more in-depth descriptions of these top ten most abused drugs of 2017 on this site.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse

https://medlineplus.gov/drugabuse.html

Recovery and Spouses

Marriage and relationships can be difficult even in the best of times. But when one spouse is battling addiction, the other may feel completely hopeless, angry, impatient, full of distrust, sad, and an array of other emotions. With the persistent threat of relapse lingering, the emotional roller coaster in marriage during recovery can continue for many years. Recovery is never easy but getting support and giving love and support are two ways to overcome difficulties and keep your marriage intact.

An important key to strengthening your spouse during recovery is to take care of yourself. This may seem crazy because you want so much to help your addicted spouse and then you think your life will improve afterward. But, 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 with 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 which support spouses of addicts.

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, patience, and love from their partner.

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 being codependent. Through therapy and counseling, you can also identify unhealthy patterns and learn more positive ways to get your needs met that will ultimately help your spouse in recovery as well.

You can be there for your spouse by 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. Allowing your spouse some freedom to explore who they are without their addiction while in recovery, can bring a positive shift in responsibilities and dynamics to your relationship. Standing by and supporting your spouse through recovery is difficult and draining, but the rewards and benefits are most often worth the effort.

Source: crchealth.com

Addiction Habits Similar to Individuals with Obesity

A recent Ted talk given by NIDA director Nora Volkow, M.D., about brains of people with obesity indicated some interesting findings. Volkow found that just as with addiction, similar changes happen in the brains of obese individuals when obesity sets in. This seems fairly straightforward: both addiction and obesity involve the way the brain responds to rewarding things, our pleasure centers.

The Ted talk discussed how over the years the world has evolved from a place where there were many dangers and few pleasurable rewards. Individuals would do anything to brave the dangers and receive the rare reward. Today’s society is very different for the most part. Most individuals have little danger in their lives and a lot of pleasurable rewards. Many of those pleasurable rewards come in the form of tasty treats, high calorie foods, and sodas. There are no roadblocks or obstacles to eating this rewarding pleasurable food and so obesity has become more and more common.

However, Volkow discusses that the brain hasn’t evolved to the point where it sees high calorie foods as a threat or a danger. Individuals, for the most part, still perceive treats as a reward and the results for our physical well being on society are harmful.

Quoting from the Ted talk, Volkow indicated that, “The sensory assault by very appealing-looking food triggers a fight within my brain, to just give in and eat the pleasurable food NOW, even though I know I will feel guilty LATER, versus resisting the urge NOW so I can have a healthy meal LATER. It’s like having a war within my brain that is pulling me in two opposite directions.”

Just like with drug addiction, the tasty foods that are so easily accessible to us trigger a dopamine reaction which becomes less sensitive over time. In other words, the reward center gets used to this trigger of dopamine and in turn requires more and more of the tasty food to produce the same effect over time. When Volkow performed brain scans on the individuals with obesity she found that their reward centers were similar to individuals addicted to cocaine.

Also similar is the actions of obese people that Volkow discusses. She indicates that people don’t choose to be addicted just like they don’t choose to be obese. No one wants to be addicted or to be obese. But it is so hard not to give in to the desire of having something to give you the dopamine pleasure release that individuals who struggle with this eventually cave and give in. And most often, these individuals resent themselves for it.

This informative Ted talk by Nora Volkow really connected the diseases of addiction and obesity and shows how they are so similar in how they affect our brains.

Sometimes people get frustrated and wonder why their loved ones can’t just stop using drugs? Why is addiction so powerful? Why would people not stop using substances that are hurting them physically and ruining so many aspects of their lives? It can be really difficult for friends and family to understand why these individuals continue to use drugs knowing the harmful effects.

The simple reason it is so difficult for individuals struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol to stop using is that drug addiction is an actual disease. When people are addicted to drugs and alcohol and take them for a long period of time changes in their brain circuits occur. These changes make it really hard for users to stop their addictions to drugs and alcohol. Recently, researchers have termed this the “brain disease model of addiction” that views drug and alcohol addiction. This view categorizes addiction not as a lack of willpower but as an actual illness that needs treatment.

Addiction can harm the brain in the following three ways:

1- the brains reward circuits become less sensitive. Drugs that are addicting can cause ether brain to release dopamine which creates feelings of pleasure. After time, the brain circuit becomes imbalanced and individuals need more and more of the drug to create the same pleasurable response. This can cause individuals to lose interest in things they use to enjoy like friends, or other natural rewarding situations.

2-The brain’s reaction to stress increases with addiction. In an addicted individual’s brain, the circuits become overactive and people feel stressed whether they are using drugs or not.

3-Decision making skills are compromised. Drug addiction affects the prefrontal cortex which is the center of the brain that controls decision making. Even when addicted individuals try to stop using drugs, they can’t make the decision and stick with it to do so.

Many factors impact the disease of drug addiction and research is constantly uncovering and learning more about how to help those individuals struggling.

source: www.teens.drugabuse.gov

National Recovery Month

The month of September is National Recovery Month. This is a time when individuals in recovery and individuals who haven’t experienced recovery are made more aware of the struggles, challenges, and successes of individuals who are in or have been through addiction recovery. The month encourages facilities to highlight the courage and strength of individuals who have worked through addiction recovery and encourages individuals to share their success stories about prevention, treatment, and recovery with those who may be struggling with addiction.

The National Recovery Month was started 28 years ago by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help to normalize the disease of addiction (samhsa.gov). Similar to the way success stories have been celebrated with health conditions like cancer, heart disease or diabetes, each September, tens of thousands of prevention, treatment and recovery programs and facilities from around the country celebrate the strides made in the recovery community. These celebrations may include walks, get-togethers, classes, movie screenings, entertainment, or sponsored runs.

SAMHSA chose the theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities” for 2017. They indicate that the theme was chosen to, “highlight the value of family and community support throughout recovery and invite individuals in recovery and their family members to share their personal stories and successes with their neighbors, friends and colleagues” (samhsa.gov).

Joining in this celebration and awareness month can strengthen those around you in their recovery or can help prevention of addiction in your life. The SAMHSA website, samhsa.gov, has lots of great information and ideas for being a part of National Recovery Month this year.

Opioid Treatment Not Being Utilized Enough

According to researchers from Blue Cross Blue Shield, individuals “with an opioid use disorder diagnosis spiked 493 percent” – however, the medication-assisted addiction treatment grew by only 65 percent. The last few years have brought alarmingly high numbers of diagnosis of opioid addiction cases—increasing by 500% but many individuals still aren’t seeking for or getting the treatment they need to recover.

Other alarming facts about opioid abuse in the US include (www.seabrook.org),

  • Women 45 and older have higher rates of opioid abuse than men.
  • Overdose deaths for women due to prescription painkillers have jumped more than 400% while for men it has increased by 265%.
  • 10% of the 20.5 million Americans who have a substance abuse disorder are addicted to either pain relievers or heroin, according to the ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine).
  • The use of medication-assisted treatment to combat opioid overdose (buprenorphine, naloxone and suboxone) was least common in the South and Midwest, where sadly, addiction rates were highest.
  • According to the CDC, at least 91 people die every single day in the U.S. from an opioid overdose.
  • The CDC also indicates that more people die from drug overdoses in the U.S. than guns or car accidents.
  • Most, (3 out of 4) heroin users start by abusing prescription drugs, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It is vital that individuals who have addictive tendencies or are concerned in any way about being prescribed opioids, talk with their physicians about the risks and dangers of treating pain with opioids.

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