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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Treating Depression and Anxiety With Marijuana

When looking for a silver lining in the American electorate's ever changing stance on marijuana, two things often come to mind. 1) Medical marijuana and legalized recreational use will keep countless Americans out of jail or prison. 2) The loosening of the legislative grip on marijuana allows for some long awaited (previously impossible) research to be conducted. The findings of which will hopefully lead to more informed decisions regarding the use of cannabis.

Marijuana, like alcohol, is often used as a stress reliever at the end of a long day of work. While the stereotypical “pot” smokers are teenagers and young adults with Bob Marley shirts and healthy appetites, your average pot smoker is often the farthest thing from that picture. In fact, with the lightening of policies related to marijuana, we can now see a more accurate picture of cannabis users, free from what is portrayed in Hollywood. And what is being seen is college freshmen to businessmen partaking in marijuana use.

More American adults than ever can now easily access marijuana, so it is vital that they know the risks. When people think about the risks associated with cannabis use, cognitive and memory problems often come to mind. But, past research has found connections between heavy cannabis use and mental illness, especially among teenagers and young adults. Users beware!

There are also many pot smokers who use marijuana to self-medicate anxiety and depression. However, it has long been uncertain how effective marijuana is for treating mental illness, and it is likely that the drug may actually worsen one’s symptoms. Researchers at Colorado State University conducted a questionnaire-based analysis of 178 college-aged, legal users of cannabis to shed some light on how the drug affects emotional processing, KDVR reports. The findings were published in PeerJ.

The researchers found that people who use cannabis to treat their depressive symptoms, had less anxiety but were more depressed, according to the article. Those who used the drug to lessen anxiety symptoms had fewer symptoms of depression, but were more anxious.

The findings are important, and hopefully will influence some people’s choice to use the drug for alleviating symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Celebrate Your Program Of Recovery On Christmas

addiction recovery
From Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine—Americans working a program of recovery have a difficult day ahead of them with Christmas on our doorstep. People in recovery often dread the holiday season, and for good reason. Emotions tend to run high during the holidays, often revealing the vulnerability and fragility of recovery. Letting up on one’s program, even in the slightest degree, can bring about serious consequences. Staying plugged into your program of recovery during on Christmas is the best way to ensure that you keep your sobriety.

Whether you are new to recovery, or an old timer, the stakes are equally high. It is not just newcomers who struggle with the holiday season, people with many years of sober time have a hard time, too. Christmas can bring back memories of a time before one's drinking or drugging became unmanageable. Nostalgia can be a slippery slope for people in recovery.

It is important to set such feelings aside and work hard to develop new holiday rituals and traditions with your peers in recovery. A number of people working program will have an urge to isolate tomorrow, thinking that it will make the day easier. But solitude usually has an opposite effect, causing people to get lost in their mind with unsafe thoughts. The head of an addict or alcoholic, as you are probably aware, can be a dangerous place.

The best way to get out of yourself is to channel your energy elsewhere. Attending 12-Step or SMART Recovery meetings on Christmas is great way to keep your sobriety intact this Christmas. If you are feeling shaky, you should share with the group about it. You are definitely not alone, and your words may help someone is even shakier. It is likely that someone will give you some feedback, imparting some wisdom for dealing with your feelings.

Tomorrow is a perfect opportunity to reach out to newcomers, as they are often the most likely to relapse. Having a conversation with a newcomer may help them stay the course, making it through Christmas without “using.” Helping others makes you feel better about yourself, which can actually keep you stay sober for one more day.

At Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea we would like to wish everyone working a program of recovery a safe and sober Christmas Eve and Day. And please remember, we don’t drink or drug—no matter what.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

War On Drugs In South America

war on drugs
The “war on drugs” in the United States has had a terrible impact on millions of Americans since President Nixon first made the declaration. The reactionary punitive approach to containing substance use and abuse in the U.S. disproportionately affects minorities and the millions of Americans living in poverty. The result, America has the largest prison population in the world, as many as half the people behind bars are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

Over the last eight years there have been several efforts to rein in the war on drugs. Such as ending or amending mandatory minimum sentencing laws and commuting hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders who are serving unjust, lengthy sentences. The significantly greater number of lawmakers are in favor of treatment over jail, seeing that what’s needed is compassion rather than punishment.

It can be easy to view the war on drugs as a campaign that only affected Americans. However, unlike typical armed conflicts, the war on drugs has had an impact on citizens of several countries—specifically in South America. Realizing that the bulk of illegal drugs coming into our country came from south of the border, our government pushed its agenda on countries like Colombia and funded campaigns to take out coca farmers and cocaine traffickers. The result, as you are probably aware—bloodshed.

In many ways, the last several decades in Colombia have been shaped by our country's goal of eradicating illegal drugs. It is a trend that may be coming to an end, with Colombia’s peace treaty with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC—a 52-year old Marxist insurgency. The peace treaty earned Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, a Nobel Peace Prize, Civilized. reports. Acknowledging his role in ending a conflict that killed 220,000 people and displaced 8 million.

During Santos acceptance speech, he used the opportunity to criticize America's war on drugs, according to the article. He pointed out that the campaign in Colombia and other South American nations produced both violence and environmental damage. Santos believes that laws prohibiting consumption of drugs should be eased.

"It makes no sense to imprison a peasant who grows marijuana, when nowadays, for example, its cultivation and use are legal in eight states of the United States," said Santos.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Reversing Overdose Has A Heavy Price

In a perfect world, opioid addicts would have free-access to the lifesaving drug naloxone. The drug can reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, and one could argue that doctors should co-prescribe naloxone when they write an opioid prescription and community outreach programs should handout naloxone free to heroin addicts who cannot afford to buy it from a pharmacy. Sadly, that is not the world we live in, but some lawmakers in the United States have been fighting to expand access to the miracle drug, which has proved difficult because of price.

If one were looking to buy naloxone, they can expect to pay upwards of $150 for two doses. Certainly, you cannot put a price tag on life, but if you can’t afford the naloxone kit you may lose yours. Lawmakers have received a lot of pressure from addiction experts to reign in the ever-increasing price of the lifesaving drug. This week, experts called on the government to act in The New England Journal of Medicine, according to HealthDay. The experts write:

“Naloxone’s price increase is part of an overall trend of increasing prescription-drug prices for both new brand-name drugs and old, off-patent generics. Public frustration with rising drug prices has led to a number of recent policy proposals, including Vermont’s new legislation requiring companies to justify price increases, California’s attempt to constrain drug payments, and the recently proposed and bipartisan-supported Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act. None of the federal or state initiatives expanding naloxone’s availability, however, address the drug’s rising cost.” 

Part of the issue is that there are limited options. An increase in demand for the drug has the expected effect of drug makers seeing an opportunity to increase profit, regardless of the deadly consequence of people being unable to afford the drug. Here are the numbers:
  • Hospira (a Pfizer Inc. company) charges $142 for a 10-pack of naloxone —a 129 percent increase since 2012.
  • Amphastar's 1 milligram version of naloxone costs around $40—a 95 percent increase since September 2014.
  • A two-dose package of Evzio (naloxone) costs $4,500, a more than 500 percent increase over two years.
“The challenge is as the price goes up for naloxone, it becomes less accessible for patients,” said study lead author, Ravi Gupta, a fourth-year Yale medical student. "Taking action now is essential to ensuring that this lifesaving drug is available to patients and communities."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Naloxone Yo-Yo Effect

It could easily be argued that naloxone, the lifesaving overdose reversal drug sold under the brand name Narcan, is one of the most important drugs ever produced. If it's administered in a timely manner, the life of an opioid addict can be spared from what would have otherwise resulted in an overdose death.

In the United States, practically every first-responder has been trained to administer the drug, in response to the staggering overdose death rates linked to the epidemic plaguing America. Additionally, a number of states have taken certain actions, making it much easier for addicts and their families to acquire the ever important drug—in many cases a prescription is not required for obtaining the miracle drug.

While the United States has the highest overdose death rates in the world, after decades of over prescribing painkillers and a burgeoning heroin market, our neighbors from the North have hardly been spared. In fact, between November 17-23, there were nearly 500 overdoses that required paramedics in the greater British Columbia (B.C.) area, CTV reports. Situations that would usually be considered routine, involving naloxone treatment. However, it turns out that addicts have begun mixing naloxone with their heroin in an attempt to protect oneself from an overdose.

Obviously, the method is far from the right course of action. The act of using an opioid, followed by naloxone, is being called “yo-yoing” or the “yo-yo” effect, according to the article. Heroin causes feelings of euphoria; naloxone reverses those effects by essentially starting a process of drug withdrawal—a real up and down experience. One that is far from pain-free.

In B.C. paramedics are arriving at the scene of overdoses and seeing empty vials of the overdose reversal drug, the article reports. Addicts are getting a false sense of safety from yo-yoing, but Paramedic Sophia Parkinson says that a person who uses naloxone needs to be followed up with by medical personnel, as the effects of the antidote can be fleeting.

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the Yo-Yo Effect:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.
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