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


Hell Dust



Nose Drops




source: drugfreeworld.org

Cocaine Stats

However, they cite a study performed by the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that showed that although cocaine use declined until the early 1990s, cocaine use has been rising in the United States ever since.

Further, it is estimated that between 22 and 25 million people have used cocaine at least once, and about two million people struggle with cocaine addiction in the United States. Also, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States), among those 12 and older, about 0.7 percent of the population used cocaine – including crack cocaine – in the past month. This might not seem like a huge statistic but, shockingly, 0.7% of the population translates to over a million new users a year.

Also, studies by SAMHSA show that those who most commonly use cocaine are adults. In the 1980’s most users were at least 18 and now they are generally at least 21 years old. cocaineabuse.us further indicates that drug-statistics.com reports that college students use of cocaine is on the rise – up to 4.8 percent from 2 percent in 1994. Interestingly, men are more likely to use cocaine than are women. But recently, it has been shown that the gap between male and female users is narrowing. Tragically, more than 400,000 infants are born addicted to cocaine each year in the United States.

It is clear that although cocaine use declined after the 1980’s, it is once again on the rise and should not be ignored as an addiction problem that could very negatively impact our society.

Sources: drugabuse.gov, cocaineabuse.us


What are there signs of cocaine use? Have you wondered if someone you love is using cocaine? Cocaine is a very popular drug known for its quick rush and production of energy. Users may suddenly seem excited and act more confident or just have a better sense of well-being. Disappearing for a minute (even for just a quick bathroom break) and then returning in a very different mood can be a sign of someone using cocaine. They may be more talkative, sexually excited, and more energetic overall after using. If individuals are using cocaine, they generally won’t have an appetite for food and their sleep pattern will be irregular.

Another obvious sign of cocaine use is small traces of white powder around a person’s nose. However, while many people snort cocaine, thus leaving the powder, some will dissolve and inject or ingest it. Further, if an individual’s eyes are dilated and the pupils are overly sensitive to light or they have runny noses and/or nosebleeds (due to damage to the inside of the nose) cocaine use may be present. Some other things to look for if cocaine use is suspected are needle marks on arms, legs, hands, feet or neck and discarded syringes left around the place cocaine was consumed. Also, due to the short lasting nature of cocaine, users may leave periodically so they can use more cocaine.

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



4-Bath Salts







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





Veterans and Drug Abuse

Often with Veteran’s Day in November, our thoughts are turned to those valiant man and women who have served our country. These brave individuals have trained, sacrificed, endured and fought for us to maintain the freedoms we enjoy. In reflecting upon these great individuals, its tragic to note how many of them return from service and struggle with drug abuse. In fact, studies show that veterans who served between 2001 and later are struggling the most. Many of us might think that drug abuse is mostly associated with veterans who served in Vietnam due to the wide publication and hollywood enamor with that era. However, the percentage of veterans who have a drug abuse problem that served from 2001 to now is more than twice that of those serving in Vietnam.

A recent survey published by the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Health Service Association) provided the following useful chart below:



Serving in the military can be very demanding and perhaps this, combined with the trauma of combat, is why veterans struggle with drug abuse. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that a large number- 1.5 million- of veterans aged 17 and older has a drug abuse problem within the last year.

Clearly, more measures to help veterans with drug abuse problems need to be enacted. The website http://www.samhsa.gov/veterans-military-families has many resources available. Awareness of family members and friends of veterans who fight drug abuse can also help to get these brave individuals the help they need and deserve.


Many people with mental health disorders attempt to alleviate their symptoms by taking drugs. One of these disorders is paranoia. Paranoia can be defined as “intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy”. Paranoia occurs in many mental disorders, but is most often present in psychotic disorders. Paranoia can become delusions, when irrational thoughts and beliefs become so fixed that nothing (including contrary evidence) can convince a person that what they think or feel is not true. When a person has paranoia or delusions, but no other symptoms (like hearing or seeing things that aren’t there), they might have what is called a delusional disorder.  Because only thoughts are impacted, a person with delusional disorder can usually work and function in everyday life, however, their lives may be limited and isolated (mentalhealthamerica.net).”

Sometimes it’s hard to detect the signs of paranoia but they include intense mistrust or suspicion, fear, anger, and betrayal. Some paranoid individuals appear hypervigilent, can’t forgive others, and very defensive, worry excessively about hidden motives, can’t relax and argue more often than normal. Helping a loved one overcome or deal with paranoia effectively can be trying and very difficult. Reaching out for professional help with therapy and/or physician prescribed medications can lessen the chances of drug abuse in individuals struggling with paranoia.

Fentanyl potency

For instance, just between 2015 and 2016, overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled. In fact, in a recent New York Times publication indicated that fentanyl is killing people faster than the HIV epidemic did at its peak in the 1980s.

So, what is fentanyl? Most of us associate the opioid crisis with heroin or an oxycontin type prescription. Few really know what fentanyl is. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller which was originally used to help end stage cancer patients. And, although fentanyl has been a problem for our public health for quite some time, the extent to which it is a nationwide threat is just now coming to light.

Some frightening facts about fentanyl abound. First, fentanyl is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine- a fact most people do not realize. Further, fentanyl can be fatal just by touching it. In fact, even law enforcement officers are highly cautioned when handling the drug. Naloxone, a drug that is used to counteract heroin overdoses, is used in doses 4 to 5 times higher to counteract the negative effects of fentanyl and prevent overdose. Last, withdrawal from fentanyl can take up to 2 months.

Even more alarming, studies by the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that just three years ago deaths related to fentanyl were around 3,000 and are now estimated at 20,000. Most of these deaths are thought to be due to ignorance. That is to say, the users did not realize the dangers of fentanyl, the users did not know that the drug they were using was mixed with fentanyl, and users do not realizers that it takes a much smaller amount of fentanyl to cause an overdose.

Family Therapy is Important in Recovery

Recovery from addiction often begins on an individual level but is most often improved when families get involved in strengthening and supporting the person in recovery. Addiction is referred to as a “family disease” because it impacts every member of the family in some way. Further, addiction can be triggered or perpetuated by family issues or contention as well. Thus, successful addiction recovery often involves family therapy to strengthen the individual in recovery.

Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, in the article Family Therapy: A Vital Part of Addiction Treatment, indicates that “Family therapy refers to a group of treatment styles that target the group rather than the individual within the group. All of the styles are based on the notion that families share a connection, and by modifying one component of the system, you can affect the other components. This means the health of a family can play a major role in the success of recovery” (Eric Patterson, drugabuse.com).

Family therapy can be combined with other types of therapy. In other words, if an individual is in recovery and is participating in individual therapy, they need not stop that to join in family therapy sessions as well. Just as group therapy is often used in addiction recovery (where individuals who are in recovery go to therapy together), family therapy can be participated in simultaneously with individual therapy. Further, sometimes the issues that a family struggles with can be resolved or worked on in family therapy which can prevent further members from struggling with addiction and can strengthen the family into a more cohesive unit to support and lift. Often, it is also healing for family members to discuss how an addict’s behaviors have impacted them as well— even though they may not have struggled with addiction.

As far as the benefits of family therapy are concerned, Patterson offers the following key points about benefits of family therapy in recovery:

  • Assists the substance user to gain awareness of their needs and behaviors.
  • Improves the mental and physical state of the entire family unit.
  • Permits family members to gain self-care interventions to improve their own well-being.
  • Improves communication styles and relationship quality.
  • Helps families understand and avoid enabling behaviors.
  • Addresses codependent behavior that may be preventing recovery.
  • Helps to learn and understanding the systems in place that support and deter substance use.
  • Prevents the substance use from spreading throughout the family or down through future generations.

Overall, family therapy in recovery is often a vital part of an individual’s success in

overcoming addiction.

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

With prescription drug abuse on the rise in a huge way- especially opioid abuse — individuals are beginning to wonder if they should fill a prescription the doctor willingly gave them following surgery or of chronic pain. A recent article published by US News titled “5 Questions to ask your doctor before you fill that prescription” gives insight into questions that should be addressed and empowers patients to ensure that they need the medications prescribed to them. The questions from the article/slide show on the health.usnews.com website are:

  1. Why am I getting this drug?
  2. What are the risks versus the benefits?
  3. Is there an older drug or lifestyle alteration that works just as well?
  4. Will it interfere with other medications I am taking?
  5. Has this drug been shown to prevent real clinical events?

These questions may seem simple, but asking them may help prevent addiction down the line. Many individuals are aware of their predisposition to addictions and should be especially cautious about taking prescription drugs. Also, education about why a drug is prescribed is something that empowers us to know if we truly need it or want to take it. Knowing if the drug has more risks than benefits can also influence one’s decision to fill a prescription. If the risks outweigh the benefits then it may not be worth it and an alternative can be sought after. Sometimes, taking a prescription drug can be an easier fix for a problem. However, if the fix leads to addiction, and there is a way to recover from a problem simply by lifestyle alteration—whether with diet, exercise, sleep, relocation, etc.,— then many individuals will opt for that. Knowing if alternatives exist is key in staying educated about prescriptions as well. Lastly, if the drug has not been shown to have positive real lasting effects upon its users, then users may opt not to take the prescription as well.

Knowledge is power and becoming aware of the reasons why a physician is prescribing medicine is key in preventing addiction. Talking openly with the doctor about alternative options is smart and preventative. Further, more and more physicians are more thorough in their prescription practices due to the fact that prescription drug addiction is on the rise.

Source: www.health.usnews.com

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