Top 10 most abused drugs

Recent statistics show that there has been a slight shift in the top 10 most commonly abused drugs. The most noteworthy is marijuana, moving from 3rd place to 2nd place recently. Most speculate this is due on part to the legalization of recreational marijuana in many parts of the country.

1-Alcohol: The CDAC notes that, “with over half (51.8%) of U.S. population identified as drinkers, alcohol is the #1 most abused substance. Nearly a quarter of the population participates in binge drinking (58.6 million), and 6.7% of the population reported heavy drinking (16.9 million). As a depressant, alcohol produces impaired coordination and judgment, slurred speech, and blackouts.”

2- Marijuana: Marijuana is the #1 most abused illicit drug and the third most abused drug according to the CDAC. The CDAC reports that, “the dried parts of the Cannabis plant can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination and problems with learning and memory.”

3- Tobacco: At least one quarter of Americans (6.9 million) are users of a tobacco product making it the second most abused drug. Many individuals are drawn to smoking because it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain and turn on the body’s natural chemicals that produce euphoria. Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, causing long-term systemic effects. These risks include high blood pressure and smoking has been proven to increase the risk of cancer.

4-Prescription painkillers: The abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise and has moved up in ranking to be the fourth most abused type of drug. Painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are the most abused prescription drugs. These drugs can produce effects similar to heroin. Painkillers can have negative effects on the physical body causing heightened sensitivity to sound and light, hallucinations, blackouts and problems with the lungs, central nervous system, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, heart and death from overdose.

5-Cocaine: Although cocaine gained popularity back in the 1980’s, it still remains on the top 10 list of most abused drugs: listed as the fifth most abused. According to the CDAC, nearly 1.5 million people in America are current users of this white powder. Cocaine use results in severe psychological dependence and intense drug cravings. This is due to cocaine’s short-lived yet powerful effects of euphoria. With cocaine, tolerance builds quickly, making it more dangerous.

6- Prescription Sedatives: The most common sedatives are benzodiazepines and tranquilizers. Approximately 2.4 million people in the U.S. are using sedatives for non-medical purposes. These are highly addictive and can cause memory loss, poor motor coordination, paranoia, stupor, suicidal thoughts, aggression, respiratory depression and coma. Mixing sedatives with alcohol is very dangerous and can cause death.

7- Prescription Stimulants: Prescription stimulant drugs have a high addictive rate and about 1.2 million Americans are currently taking prescription stimulants for non-medical purposes. These stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, are usually prescribed for people who have narcolepsy or ADHD. These drugs increase the level of dopamine in the brain causing feelings of euphoria. Abuse of stimulants can cause heart attacks, strokes, depression, malnutrition, hostility and paranoia. Because stimulants increase energy and focus, teenagers are abusing the drug because they believe it will enhance their learning and test scores. The abuse of these drugs has increased significantly on college campuses across the country.

8- Hallucinogens (LSD, ecstasy): Approximately 1.1 million people are currently taking hallucinogens in the U.S. Hallucinogenic drugs are known as PCP, mescaline, Ecstasy, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. These drugs cause hallucinations and profoundly affect the perception of reality. Some negative effects of using hallucinogenic drugs are delusions, paranoia, panic, terror, despair, psychosis, and psychological illness. Flashbacks from some of these drugs may occur at anytime after using the drug. LSD is reported to be the most popular hallucinogen among users. LSD, also known as “acid,” is the most potent hallucinogen in the world. It is often sold on blotting paper, or “window panes.” The effects of LSD are unpredictable, altering the user’s mood, personality, and sensations of reality. (CDAC, 2012).

9- Heroin: Heroin is known as the most powerful and addictive drug in the world and its use is increasing in the U.S. Heroin induces euphoria by binding to the opioid receptors that control consciousness, breathing and blood pressure. Long-term effects of using heroin include collapsed veins, partial paralysis, memory loss, intellectual impairment, and disease of the heart, liver and kidneys. Heroin is often diluted with other substances creating a high risk of physical complications and death. It is made from poppy plants and is a highly addictive opiate. It can be injected, smoked, or sniffed and creates a feeling of a euphoric rush. Users feel an increased ability to communicate easily with others, and report heightened sexual performance.

10-Methamphetamine: The tenth most abused drug is methamphetamine, also known as meth, crank, or speed. Although last on the list, it shouldn’t be ignored. Meth is popular among young adults. Meth produces feelings of well-being and energy which can last from 4 to 16 hours. Because of its lasting effects, it is a popular drug for both parties and nightclubs. Meth is highly addictive, and burns up the body’s resources and can cause permanent damage to the brain and body.


Trump Vows to Crack Down on Recreational Marijuana

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary under new President Trump, said this week, regarding federal drug laws, “I do believe you will see greater enforcement of (illegal marijuana).” This is an interesting statement due to the fact that President Obama’s administration indicated that they would not interfere in states where nonmedical use of marijuana is allowed. In other words, the new Trump administration says they will enforce federal marijuana laws when they come into conflict with states where the recreational use of marijuana is allowed.

Although the Obama administration felt that they had bigger issues than cracking down on marijuana use in states that have legalized its use, recent studies indicate that marijuana use is linked to the widespread use of painkillers. This new evidence points to the fact that allowing use of recreational marijuana can be, and most likely is being, interpreted as pardoning the facts of the dangers of drug use.

Spicer indicated, “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature.”

However, Spicer was quick to indicate that although the President does not approve of recreational marijuana use, he understands that medical marijuana can help ease suffering for patients with terminal illnesses. President Trump was quoted during his campaign as saying, “I know people that have serious problems — it really does help them.”

Rehab & Recovery Denial: I Can Do It On My Own

Convincing someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol to go to rehab or to detox is often a very difficult and touchy situation. Even harder sometimes, is convincing someone to stick with rehab, detox, or recovery in a structured setting. Although there are lots of reasons why an individual will refuse to go to detox or rehab, or attempt to leave before they are ready, all of the reason are just a means to an end – which includes not recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Commonly, many addicts think that they can accomplish detox or sobriety on their own—without the help of professionals or rehab. Most addicts believe that they’re smarter, stronger and different from other addicts. Because of this false belief, many addictions escalate and get worse, and addicts lose even more control over themselves and their lives.

In addiction, in recovery, rehab or detox, certain ideas or themes or topics often get repeated in the education and rehab process. Often, when addicts go through multiple relapses, rehab attempts, and/or detoxes, they feel like they are just hearing the same things they heard all of the other times and their desire to overcome their addiction is lessened and seems to diminish. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and many individuals attempt to quit rehab before they are ready and recovered. When addicts don’t feel they are gaining any new insight, they often want to give up.

On the other hand, addicts can develop quick confidence sometimes when they’ve been clean for just a couple of weeks. They truly believe themselves to be fully recovered and don’t see the point in finishing the recovery process; thinking it is too costly, time consuming, or just inconvenient. These individuals are anxious to get back out into the world because they think they won’t relapse, that they are past that stage, but the sad truth is often that extended treatment produces much more recovered individuals who have fewer relapses and are more prepared to enter the world once again. Staying in a rehab program for as long as it takes is crucial to a more complete recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Memory and Addiction

A recent study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Washington State University researchers. They indicated that found a mechanism in the brain that enables memory in the process of drug addiction. This is important because the discovery opens a new area of research geared at discovering a 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.

The NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) indicates that the amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system, which is critical for memory and responsible for evoking emotions, becomes active and a craving for drugs is triggered when an addicted individual thinks about, sees, or hears about drugs.

They indicate, “This craving demands the drug immediately. Rational thoughts are dismissed by the uncontrollable desire for drugs. At this point, a basic change has occurred in the brain. The person is no longer in control. This changed brain makes it almost impossible for drug addicts to stay drug-free without professional help. Because addiction is a brain disease.”

In the WSU study they found that their processes did not erase the drug memory completely, but perhaps diminished its emotional power. Hopefully, Learning how to hone in on emotional strength in memories and what allows for them will hopefully, ultimately, lead to information that can allow for control over these memories. This type of finding could help end the vicious cycles of drug abuse and addiction.



Take Care of Yourself when Helping Others in Recovery

Sometimes, when helping others in recovery, individuals forget about their own needs too much and suffer themselves. It is really important to take care of yourself when helping others in recovery. Supporting someone else takes vast amounts of time and emotional energy. Most of the time, financial pressure is involved as well. Often, those taking care of the individual in recovery let themselves fall to the bottom of the list of priorities.

Thinking that you will take care of yourself when your loved one is completely done with recovery seems like the right thing to do when they seem to be suffering so much and need so much support. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, it’s easier to be reactive, frustrated or unnecessarily anxious. Instead, if you are meeting your own needs, you can be positive, caring, and calm for your loved one in recovery.

Remember the safety announcement on airplanes about securing your own oxygen mask first before helping others? Doing things to enhance and uplift yourself and your life can benefit the individual in recovery too. Sometimes its ok to go to dinner with friends or go to a movie even though you feel like that seems selfish knowing what your loved one is dealing with. Knowing you are happy and secure and healthy can help your loved one want the same thing for themselves.

Keeping you energy up, your life intact, things running smoothly, and continuing to foster other important relationships in your life can help you navigate the bumpy road that may be ahead with your loved one. The road may be longer than you think and taking care of you sets an important example for your loved one while in recovery.

AvoidingHolidayRelapseDrug Rehab During the Holidays? 5 Reasons

There are many reasons why checking a loved one into a drug rehab facility is a good idea. However, research points to 5 reasons why admitting your loved one to a drug rehab facility during the holidays is the perfect time.

  1. Even though families often feel that being around loved ones for the holidays will help individuals struggling with addictions, in fact, the opposite is true. The holidays can be filled with financial and emotional weight, stress, and risks of overdose or even suicide due to hopelessness. This is the number one reason to get help for your loved one and place them in a safe drug rehab facility during the holidays where that stress can be lifted.
  2. Second, oddly enough, the cold weather often turns individuals to their addiction for comfort from the cold and bleak winter days. This can intensify addictions and cravings and make life seem more miserable when the sun isn’t shining!
  3. Third, with breaks from work and school, there is more free time on hand during the holidays. And, as many of us have experienced, too much free time often leads to destructive habits/behaviors. It can also lend time to more dwelling on negative thoughts as well.
  4. Most people are aware that holiday family gatherings can take a toll on individuals with addictions. Memories, stress, expectations, and other events and emotions are bound to arise and can hurt a struggling addict. So fourth, being in a facility where family can visit when the addict is up to a visit is a better solution during the holidays.
  5. Fifth, sometimes knowing that your loved one who is struggling with addiction is in a safe caring environment can give you and others affected by the addiction time to heal and recover yourself. That way, when the addict leaves the drug rehab facility you can be in a healthier place to aid in their recovery. Having time with friends and family during the holidays while your loved one is safe in drug rehab and without the stress of taking care of an addict can be healing for many families and individuals.


videogamesaddictionADHD and Video Game Addiction Connected

A recent study found that individuals with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are very likely to develop video game addiction due to using video games to escape from the effects of ADHD. The study, which was conducted at the University of Bergen in Norway, was published in the Journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, of the American Psychological Association.

Each of the 20,000 participants in the study answered questions about their video game behaviors and use.  In order to determine if video game addiction was present, 7 factors were evaluated. These measures included:

  1. You think about playing the game all day long
  2. You play games to forget about real life
  3. Others have unsuccessfully tried to reduce your game use
  4.  You feel bad when you are unable to play
  5. You have fights with others over your time spent on games
  6. You neglect other important activities to play games
  7. You spend increasing amounts of time on games

The researchers based their findings off the assumption that if an individual related to at east 4 of the 7 criteria, they were likely to have a video game connection.

Further, the study evaluated the participants for ADHD and found that those with ADHD and other psychiatric disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression were more likely to be addicted to video games. The researchers indicate that the video games function as an escape mechanism from the behavioral disorders and can develop into an addiction.

eatingdisordersubstanceabuseLinks between Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

A recent study published by CASA (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) has shown a strong link between substance abuse and eating disorders in women. Other studies show that at least half of women with eating disorders also abuse alcohol or drugs compared with only 9% of the general population (Columbia University, 2003). Further, both those with eating disorders and those struggling with substance abuse share risk factors and personality characteristics.

The study reports that the common risk factors include:

• occurrence in times of transition or stress

• common brain chemistry

• common family history

• low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or impulsivity

• history of sexual or physical abuse

• unhealthy parental behaviors and low monitoring of children’s activities

• unhealthy peer norms and social pressures

• susceptibility to messages from advertising and entertainment media

The study reports that the common shared characteristics include:

• obsessive preoccupation, craving, compulsive behavior, secretiveness, and rituals

• experience mood-altering effects, social isolation

• linked to other psychiatric disorders or suicide

• difficult to treat, life threatening

• require intensive therapy

• chronic diseases with high relapse rates

Another overlap is that eating disorders and substance abuse often both begin with experimentation.  Often individuals engaged in these behaviors are attempting to distract or protect themselves from underlying problems by means of excessive drinking, drug use, eating, or dieting. While these behaviors are intended to shield, they become self-destructive by consequence. Struggling with both substance abuse and eating disorders is overwhelming and most often needs the help of a trained professional to overcome.

Sources:, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [CASA] at Columbia University, 2003.

chronicPainPrescriptionDrugsPrescription Drug Abuse and Chronic Pain

Many individuals have chronic pain issues and are abusing prescription drugs-whether prescribed to them or not-as a means to alleviate this pain.  A recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, confirms this is the case.  The study was conducted at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center where researchers screened 25,000 patients in primary care for abuse of prescription drugs and illegal drug use. Those participants who tested positive for having drugs in their system -589 individuals- were asked to answer questions about substance abuse and chronic pain. Interestingly, 87% who tested positive for having prescription drugs in their systems admitted to struggling with chronic pain that the majority rated as being severe pain. Half of those that tested positive for illegal drugs such as opioids or marijuana also claimed they were ingesting the drugs to lessen the physical chronic pain they were experiencing.

Further, many individuals participating in the study were shown to be abusing medications that were not prescribed to them. In fact, eighty percent of those using drugs without a prescription were actually misusing the prescription medications.  Abusing prescription medications, whether or not they were prescribed, can be very dangerous.

It is important that all individuals with chronic pain have their pain treated properly while recovering from their addictions.  The study suggested that current counseling focused only on informing patients about the negative outcomes of drug abuse may overlook an important aspect of why people are abusing these substances.  Co-author Daniel Alford, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and assistant dean of Continuing Medical Education and director of the Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE of Pain) program at BUSM, and director of BMC’s Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit indicated that, “Pain should be treated as part of the long-term strategy for recovery. If drugs are being used to self-medicate pain, patients may be reluctant to decrease, stop, or remain abstinent if their pain symptoms are not adequately managed with other treatments including non-medication-based treatments.”

gamingaddiction5 Signs of a Gaming Addiction

Although many people laugh about the term “gaming addiction” in relation to video game addiction, the behavior is actually quite serious and problematic.  Interestingly, South Korea is the world’s leader as far as identifying and treating gaming and Internet addiction. After inserting the world’s fastest broadband infrastructure into their nation, South Korea’s government now spends millions per year to pinpoint and treat gaming and Internet addicts.  And it’s necessary: according to a government study in South Korea, about 8% of the country’s population ages 9 to 39 suffer from Internet or gaming addiction.

In the U.S., Internet and gaming addiction are not yet listed in the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the American Psychiatric Association has proposed that “Internet Use Disorder” be listed as warranting further study in the next revision. In South Korea, action has been taken to treat gaming addicts in similar ways alcoholics are treated for their addiction. interviewed a South Korean expert on this kind of treatment, Dr. Han Doug-hyun, from Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea’s capital.  Han gave his list of the top five warning signs that a person should seek professional help for Internet or gaming addiction to and they are quoted below.

“Han’s top 5 warning signs of gaming or Internet addiction:

1. Disrupted regular life pattern. If a person plays games all night long and sleeps in the daytime, that can be a warning he or she should seek professional help.

2. If the potential gaming or Internet addict loses his or her job, or stops going to school in order to be online or to play a digital game.

3. Need for a bigger fix. Does the gamer have to play for longer and longer periods in order to get the same level of enjoyment from the game?

4. Withdrawal. Some Internet and gaming addicts become irritable or anxious when they disconnect, or when they are forced to do so.

5. Cravings. Some Internet and gaming addicts experience cravings, or the need to play the game or be online when they are away from the digital world.

Although this addiction many not seem as serious as other well known addictions, research indicates that if an individual struggles with an addiction it can carry over to other additions.  Further, as research shows, gaming addictions can be extremely harmful in and of themselves.

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