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Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Drug Information
Alcoholism, which is also known as "alcohol dependence syndrome," is a disease that is characterized by the following elements:
Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes. But it has a great deal to do with a person's uncontrollable need for alcohol.
At risk drinking levels:
A standard drink contains about 14 grams (about 0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol. Approximate standard drink equivalents are shown below:
Note: People buy many of these drinks in containers that hold multiple standard drinks. For example, malt liquor is often sold in 16-,22-, or 40 oz. containers that hold between two and five standard drinks, and table wine is typically sold in 25oz. (750 ml.) bottles that hold five standard drinks.
(Source: NIAAA - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
Cannabis is the general name given to a variety of preparations derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. Other names include marijuana, grass, dope, pot, weed, mull, hash, hash oil etc. The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol or THC. There are also 400 other chemicals in the cannabis plant.
Becoming popular in the 60’s, marijuana has been smoked and used as an herb in foods. When cannabis is smoked THC rapidly enters the bloodstream through the walls of the lungs and is taken to the brain. THC is stored in fatty tissues and can be detected in urine for days, weeks or sometimes months.
The effects of cannabis vary depending on the person, the environment and the potency of the drug, and on how long the person been using the drug. Contrary to some viewpoints, it is possible to become addicted to cannabis and to feel dependent on it to get through the day. Each year thousands of people seek help to stop using marijuana. People get to a point in their lives when they feel it is time to change.
Why do people smoke dope?
There are many reasons why people smoke cannabis and seek to get “stoned’. Some of these include helping them to relax, and to enhance social interactions. While this works for some people, generally over time the social interactions deteriorate as a result of the distorted reality created by the drug. Additional reasons are an avoidance of life’s problems and an increased sense of creativity and possibility thinking, usually short lived once the effects of the drug wear off. The ideas and intentions usually don’t carry over to the abstinent state.
Marijuana abuse is associated with frequent respiratory infections, impaired memory and learning, increased heart rate, anxiety and panic attacks. Marijuana meets the criteria for an addictive drug and animal studies suggest marijuana causes physical dependence and some people report withdrawal symptoms.
Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers do, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, a heightened risk of lung infections,and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs may also be promoted by marijuana smoke, because marijuana smoke contains 50 percent to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke.
Marijuana's damage to short-term memory seems to occur because THC alters the way in which information is processed by the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for memory formation.
In one study, researchers compared marijuana smoking and nonsmoking 12th-graders' scores on standardized tests of verbal and mathematical skills. Although all of the students had scored equally well in 4th grade, heavy marijuana smokers, i.e., those who used marijuana seven or more times per week, scored significantly lower in 12th grade than nonsmokers.
Another study of 129 college students found that among heavy users of marijuana critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning were significantly impaired, even after not using the drug for at least 24 hours.
(Source: NIDA – National Institute on Drug Abuse)
Prescription drugs that create physical dependence and psychological addiction belong in two classes of pills: opiates and benzodiazepines. Opiates include drugs such as codeine, vicodin, norco, oxycodone. Benzodiazepines/tranquillizers include Xanax, Valium, Ambian and others.
A prescription drug addict uses the medications differently than how they were originally prescribed. Exposure to the effects of the drugs as a result of a legitimate prescription can still create a physical dependency. The prescription drug use will begin to dominate the user’s attention through a series of negative consequences including difficulties in relationships, problems at school or on the job, risk of physical harm, and even overdose.
Causes of Dependency
Prescription medications are drugs and they work on the user's brain in the same way as illegal drugs. Medication changes the brain's chemistry, making it less effective at producing chemicals like dopamine or endorphins. Since the brain has stopped producing these chemicals itself, they must be introduced through another source. At this point, the prescription drug addict has become physically dependent on the medication.
A person who is addicted to prescription drugs may experience the following:
IMPORTANT: Consumption with or without alcohol can affect the central nervous system causing respiratory distress, failure or even death.
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Methamphetamine is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of methamphetamine are greater. Both drugs have some medical uses, primarily in the treatment of obesity, but their therapeutic use is limited.
Methamphetamine has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Street methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and isreferred to by many names, such as "speed," "meth," and "chalk." Methamphetamine hydrochloride, clear chunky crystals resembling ice, which can be inhaled by smoking, is referred to as “speed”, "ice," "crystal," and "glass."
The potent central nervous system stimulant methamphetamine, or meth, can have dramatic physical and psychological effects. is not physically addictive but it is psychologically addictive.
The drug appeals to the abuser because it increases the body's metabolism and produces euphoria, alertness, and gives the abuser a sense of increased energy. But high doses or chronic use of meth, increases nervousness, Irritability, and paranoia.
Patterns of Abuse
Methamphetamine abuse has three patterns, low intensity (does not involve psychological addiction) ,binge, and high intensity.
The binge and high-intensity abusers smoke or inject meth to achieve a faster and stronger high. The patterns of abuse differ in the frequency in which the drug is abused and the stages within their cycles.
The binge abuse cycle is made up of these stages: rush, high, binge, tweaking, crash, normal, and withdrawal.
High-intensity abusers experience extreme weight loss, very pale facial skin, sweating, body odor, discolored teeth and scars or open sores on their bodies. The scars are the result of the abusers' hallucinations of bugs on the skin, often referred to as "crank bugs," and attempts to scratch the bugs off.
Effects on the cardiovascular system
Other long-term effects
(Source: California Alcohol and Drug Programs)
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. Cocaine has been labeled the drug of the 1980s and '90s, because of its extensive popularity and use during this period. However, cocaine is not a new drug. In fact, it is one of the oldest known drugs. The pure chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, has been an abused substance for more than 100 years, and coca leaves, the source of cocaine, have been ingested for thousands of years.
Crack is the street name given to the freebase form of cocaine that has been processed from the powdered cocaine hydrochloride form to a smokable substance. The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked. Crack cocaine is processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, and heated to remove the hydrochloride.
Because crack is smoked, the user experiences a high in less than 10 seconds. This immediate and euphoric effect is one of the reasons that crack became enormously popular in the mid 1980s. Another reason is that crack is inexpensive both to produce and to buy.
Short-Term Physiological Effects
Effects of Long-Term Use
Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug.
Cocaine's stimulant and addictive effects are thought to be primarily a result of its ability to inhibit the re-absorption of dopamine by nerve cells. Dopamine is released as part of the brain's reward system, and is either directly or indirectly involved in the addictive properties of every major drug of abuse.
An appreciable tolerance to cocaine's high may develop, with many addicts reporting that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first experience. Some users will frequently increase their doses to intensify and prolong the euphoric effects. While tolerance to the high can occur, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine's anesthetic and convulsant effects, without increasing the dose taken. This increased sensitivity may explain some deaths occurring after apparently low doses of cocaine.
Use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly and at increasingly high doses, leads to a state of increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This may result in a full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations.
People experiencing alcohol and other drug problems often feel they hurt only themselves. That isn't true. They also hurt their families, friends, coworkers, employers, and others.
There are millions of people with alcohol and other drug problems in this country. A recent study reported that 28 million people age 12 and older used illicit drugs during the past year. By current estimates, more than 76 million people have been exposed to alcoholism in the family.
Experience shows that for every person with an alcohol or other drug problem, at least four others are affected by their behavior.
However, looking at it another way -- as we should -- millions of Americans have a personal stake in helping "someone close" find the way to overcome alcohol and other drug problems.
The person who sets out to help someone with an alcohol or other drug problem may at first feel quite alone, possibly embarrassed, not knowing where to turn for help. We have preserved so many wrong ideas and attitudes about problem drinking and other drug abuse, too often thinking of them as moral weakness or lack of willpower.
You may have learned to better understand alcohol and other drug problems and already made contact with nearby sources of services. This does not mean that "someone close" will cooperate at once by going for treatment. Those with alcohol and other drug problems may deny they have a problem. They may find it difficult to ask for or accept help.
If there is one thing true about alcohol and other drug abusers, it is that, as with all people, each one is different -- different in human needs and responses, as well as in their reasons for drinking and taking other drugs, their reactions to these drugs, and their readiness for treatment.
You are in a good position to help your relative or friend, because you know a good deal about their unique qualities and their way of life. And having made the effort to gain some understanding of the signs and effects of problem drinking or other drug abuse, you should be in a better position to consider a strategy for helping.
Identify the Effects
Be active, get involved. Don't be afraid to talk about the problem honestly and openly. It is easy to be too polite, or to duck the issue by saying, "After all, it's their private affair." But it isn't polite or considerate to let someone destroy their family and life. You may need to be persistent o break through any denial they have.
"How do I know for sure that it's addiction or alcoholism?"
“It's affecting our whole family!”
It will. Family members of a substance abuser often experience:
You also may need to let them know how much courage it takes to ask for help, or to accept it.
You will find that most people with drinking or other drug-related troubles really want to talk it out if they find out you are concerned about them.
What To Do
(Source: State of California Alcohol and Drug Programs)
(Source: NIAAA - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
Spice is a synthetic drug, most often containing large amounts of Cannabicyclohexanol, JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47, 497, or HU-210, which have all been labeled controlled substances in the United States by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Plant materials are saturated with these chemicals and inhaled by consumers. In March 2011, it became illegal to possess or sell products containing any of these chemicals. Paraphanalia vendors, often known as “head shops”, and gas stations continue to sell the drug Spice, and products, which contain chemicals used to manufacture the synthetic drug.
What does Spice do?
This drug mimics the effects of marijuana, thus earning the secondary title, synthetic marijuana. It is usually masked as herbal incense and may be named “K2”, “Blaze”, or “Red Dawn”. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, Spice is reported to be four to five times more potent that tetrahydrocannabinol, the main ingredient in marijuana. Researchers and providers at both Naval Medical Center San Diego and the United States Air Force 23rd Wing report side effects to include a very fast heart rate, panic attack symptoms, paranoia, hallucinations, headaches, anxiety, nausea, and suicidal thoughts.
Is it legal in the military, and can it be detected?
Synthetic drugs continue to be a problem in the United States military. The Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, and Navy have deemed the use of Spice a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and may be punishable by Non-Judicial Punishment or Court Marshal. Urinalysis tests are currently being developed to detect the use of Spice in servicemembers.
If you think you or someone you know would benefit from professional help, please give us a call 800-808-6373 for more information on our San Diego Outpatient Treatment Center and Partial Hospitalization Programs.
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