Tag Archives: Heroin

Marijuana Can’t Treat the Opiate, Heroin Epidemic

Any marijuana use leads to less intelligence potential, less empathy for life, less motivation and poorer decision making.  A war on drugs is a protection and defense of our brains.   Governor Susana Martinez probably recognizes how Colorado’s marijuana problem leads to the drug epidemic and filters into New Mexico’s substance abuse issues.   Read about her veto in Part 1.

One young man who gave us a testimony explained how his marijuana use led directly to heroin addiction.

In Colorado, Dr. Libby Stuyt, addictions psychiatrist, traces a direct line from marijuana legalization to the heroin epidemic.    Colorado’s recent report on heroin has shown that the number of deaths from heroin overdose have doubled between 2011 and 2015.

In fact, Pueblo County, has suffered from heroin use and addiction more than any other Colorado county.  Pueblo, Denver and Boulder have the highest rates of youth marijuana use.   Southern Colorado is suffering the most from the heroin epidemic. Counties that have banned marijuana dispensaries have been affected the least by the heroin.

Misunderstanding of the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

Since the government has clamped down on opiate prescriptions, more users have replaced the pain drugs with heroin.  Since the legalization of marijuana, Mexican cartels have replaced much of their marijuana with heroin.  Heroin is now cheaper and addicts find it easier to get heroin than prescription pills.

Politically there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the opioid epidemic. If it was initially caused by over prescribing of medications, that’s no longer primarily the case.   Seth Leibsohn wrote an insightful article on the subject last week. The abuse of opioid prescriptions acquired legitimately constitutes a small portion of the overdose problem, he said. *

A simple crackdown on prescriptions will not solve the problem, according to Maia Szalavitz.  Although Szalavitz misunderstands the  inherent danger in using marijuana,* she explains the underlying causes of substance abuse quite well.  Impulsive children are at high risk of becoming drug users, but so are some highly cautious and anxious young people.   Two thirds of people with opioid addictions have had severely traumatic childhoods, and the more exposure to trauma, the higher the risk.  We need to help abused, neglected, fragile and otherwise traumatized children before they turn to self-medication as teens.  On the other hand, we should also provide tools and teach coping skills to children who are impulsive, ADHD or anxious.   (Overmedicating children doesn’t allow them to develop the skills needed to transition into adulthood.)

Let’s Help People Get off ALL Drugs

Effective treatment for addictions is getting off all drugs, not going to other harmful, brain-altering substances.   “The goal in helping a loved one with a substance use problem is not to reduce their use. It is to stop drug use,” according to Sven-Olov Carlsson of Drug Policy Futures.  He gave the opening address at the World Federation of Drugs Conference in Vienna last year.  As Carlsson said, the current heroin epidemic proves that “harm reduction” is not saving lives.

No one sets out to become an addict.   Fortunately, more people and states are realizing the foolishness of allowing “medical” marijuana for intractable pain.  It opens up a Pandora’s Box of problems, as in California and elsewhere.

Addiction specialists estimate that one in five American adults is addicted to drugs or alcohol.  With such large numbers, there should be no “stigma” attached to addiction or treatment.  A new or revised health care act should maintain the provision to treat addiction.

Those who are addicted have a strong need to protect a secret.  Their brains have been hijacked and there isn’t a straight path back to previous functioning.

Optimum treatment requires a period of time when the person is not using any substance of addiction in order for the brain to heal.  During that time, the person needs to be able to learn new things. The lack of treatment resources which allows this to happen is a big barrier to recovery.   Marijuana cannot be used to treat this current drug epidemic.

___________________________________________________________________________*  Another recent article explains how doctors began to take pain seriously, treating it as a fifth vital sign.  Szalavitz based her 10% addiction rate for marijuana on the weaker pot of the ’70s and ’80s, not the pot of today.  She also disregarded teen users of pot.

 

What Child is This?

by Robert Charles, for Town Hall Magazine  

The Christmas carol is poignant – reminder of Christmas, and beyond.  “What child is this, who, laid to rest …” the carol begins.  “Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?” it continues.  The stanza ends, “Haste, haste ….”  Lovely, lilting, full of promise – like the birth of a child.  Here, a special child – but also every child.

In a season of joy, it is a message is joy.  But the mind wanders, also to our mortal world.  New numbers on drug addiction and drugged driving death, so many lost souls – mitigate the joy.   They caught me off guard this week. My brother, a high school teacher, shared with me the loss of another student, another fatal crash, as drugged driving numbers rise.  What is the season for heartbroken parents – but a season of loss?  Each year, upwards of 100,000 parents lose a child to drug abuse.

What child is this?  It is America’s child, and America’s childhood.  How is it that we have, collectively, forgotten to keep watch over those entrusted to our watch – especially from high office?  Last year, 47,055 Americans, most of them young, were lost to drug abuse – just statistics now.  Why?

In part, because so many Americans have heard a mixed message from their leaders – with devastating effects. Led to believe drugs are “recreation,” something not different from beer or wine, kids try and soon die.  Synthetic opioids, heroin, cocaine, high potency marijuana – and then a trip to the ER, or not even, on the way to a mortuary.  Numbers do not lie.

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The Dark Side of Marijuana Photoshop image taken from art of Edvard Munch

Drugged driving is now another epidemic.  Drivers and helpless passengers are all at risk, along with everyone on the road.  Near home, not long ago, several kids died in a terrible car crash.  They missed a bend and hit a tree.  The sister of a child known to my son was almost in that car – but courageously declined the ride.  She knew the driver was compromised.  That decision saved her life.  Unfortunately, the searing truth caught others off guard.  Drugged driving is death on wheels, period.  Drug legalization is the unabashed promoter of that death.  So, where are the shepherds?  Where are the outspoken leaders, who know this – but are silent?

What child is this, who starts with marijuana, soon is addicted, ends overdosing on opiates or as a roadside cross?  What child is this, who needed knowledge from someone they trust – but get misinformation?  What child is this, who is force-fed popular lies, that drug abuse is “recreation?”

And what child is this, “greeted by angels,” who was forsaken here – by knowing leaders for political advantage?  “Laid to rest” by parents’ inconsolable hands?  Where were leaders, a thoughtful president, governor, congressman, legislator, mayor?  How could we, in a blink, give up 50,000 souls – this year, again?  Silence is not just holy – it can also be complicit.  Permitting legal expansion of drug abuse, legalized money laundering, an insidious tax grab and a Federal blind eye – comes at the expense of young lives.   That is the truth.

Needed in this season of change are new national and community leaders, who are unafraid to say:   Do not compromise the future.  Do not risk everything for nothing.  Do not break faith with yourself, or those counting on you.

The mind wanders … from a Christmas carol to those not here to celebrate.  To parents, siblings, friends and teachers sadly forced to ask “what if…”  And bigger questions:  What if the legalization pabulum and knowing disinformation were stopped?  What if drugs that addict and kill were less available?  What if policy indifference turned to saving young lives, not putting them at risk?

Said Henry David Thoreau, every child is an “empire.”  But today, these empires are falling fast.  The risk inherent in our indifference, disinformation, disregard for truth, and treating death as recreation.  Addiction’s darkness comes on fast.  Life soon narrows, ambitions die, dependence rises, users are boxed in, relationships and functions degraded, nightmares start and then the awful, big question – who cares?

deathinthesickroom
Edvard Munch’s Death in the Sickroom, 1895, is  still relevant today with the number of families watching their children hopelessly addicted or dying. Top image: Munch’s The Day After

These days, few seem to – not the president, Congress, many state “leaders.”  They just go along.  Meantime, more families are drained and left alone – victims of widening drug abuse, drugged driving, drug-related crime, and life-changing addictions.  The Trump team has a chance to say:  Enough, experiment over.  That would help American families stop grieving, and save kids from this unparalleled dance with false information and societal indifference.  That would be leadership – and long overdue.  So, pull the Drug Czar back to Cabinet rank, put Federal resources and smart people on enforcing the law, and educate the country.

“What child is this?”  It is America’s child.  With new hope and real leadership – may we have no more compromises with evil, but truth spoken to power, and power to people.  Let us stand watch, shepherds for young America.  “Haste, haste …” in this and all seasons.  There is a resolution for the new year.

Robert Charles is a columnist for Town Hall Magazine.  He also wrote Return the Drug Czar to Cabinet.  Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement under George W. Bush, former Naval Intelligence Officer and litigator, who served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.  He wrote the book “Narcotics and Terrorism,” and writes widely on national security and law.

The Addiction Paradigm Shift Away from Heroin to Marijuana

Drug Epidemic isn’t Because of Opiate Pills

“If you only know opiate addiction through the media or the political debates right now, or the political rhetoric, you’re going to be under the impression it’s because doctors are over-prescribing opiate medication.”    It’s not true at all, said Jon Daily LCSW, CADC II, on March 17, 2016, at Sierra Vista Hospital in Sacramento.  The topic of his talk was Heroin to Marijuana: A Paradigm Shift We Need Now.

Daily says that “drug bias” is enabling the epidemic of heroin addiction among youth today. Like others who work in treatment and recovery, Daily knows that addiction to substances of abuse are interconnected.  Frequent marijuana users are more likely to become alcohol or heroin addicts.   A study by researchers from Columbia and Yeshiva University — released in April — showed the likelihood of alcohol use disorder to be 5x more likely for people who were marijuana users at an earlier time period.

Daily challenged the counselors, therapists and physicians in the room to think differently about the connection between the choice of drug and addiction. “I want you to close your eyes and imagine your child. And then imagine that you got a call that that your child was caught using alcohol. Now imagine that you got a call that your child was using marijuana,” he said. Daily paused a few seconds to let those thoughts settle in. “And now imagine that you got a call that your child was using heroin. It feels different, doesn’t it?” he said.

“Drug bias” gets in the way of intervening sooner and more effectively when parents and professionals discover that a young person is using.  Daily explained: “Addiction doesn’t really matter which drug is involved.”

NIDApercentages
The chart was published by NIDA in November 2015

Now that the big concern of today is heroin, the bigger concern should be that the addiction was there long before the heroin was there.   His remarks were consistent with Sven-Olov Carlsson’s statement about the ineffectual drug policies that have led to the heroin problem.

It Starts with Weed, not Opiates or Heroin

“So if you’ve been using drugs for a long time, say weed, or alcohol, then you might try a lot of pills, then try another drug,”  Daily explained.  He emphasized that addiction is not so much about the specific drug but about the development of reward systems.   (The most recent surveys of drug use by American teens shows that  6% of high school seniors are daily marijuana users, 3x the rate of the next biggest drug of abuse, alcohol.  With this rate of abuse, it’s logical to predict that heroin problems will continue, or get worse.)

Before his talk, Daily surveyed the doctors with whom he associates. He asked them, “Of the opiate addicts you treated, how did it start?”  He found that 98% percent of the clients his associates work with were already addicted to another drug when they started to get pain pills.  (He acknowledges there are those who get addicted to pain pills after a car accident and multiple surgeries, but he emphasizes that this group is in a tiny minority.)  Daily doesn’t explain addiction as simply being about genetics, or about addictive personality.  One’s first reaction to opiates is affected by trauma experiences earlier in life, shame experiences in childhood. It’s affect disregulation, but not clearly understood.

AddictionThere needs to be greater understanding of the nature of addiction with medical practitioners.  Prescriptions for opiate painkillers can lead to a dependency that evolves into heroin use which is cheaper and easy to access via the internet.

However, the low perception of harm with youth using marijuana contributes to the heroin epidemic because most people do not understand a) that addiction to heroin and marijuana are essentially the same disease, and b) the THC levels of marijuana (the chemical component that gives the intoxication) are much higher today than in previous time periods.

The ways in which kids are using pot in high concentrations, known as wax/dabs and oils consumed as edibles (cookies, candies, etc.), makes it very addictive and can also cause psychotic breaks.

Daily urges medical and healing professionals to advocate for education and intervention when the first known instance of use of alcohol and drugs by a minor child. “It is much easier and more cost-effective to do prevention and early intervention than to reverse the harm from long-term addiction,” he said. Daily supports the CARA Act which will provide Naloxone or Suboxone to addicts. “And yet our system is set up to reverse the harm too long after onset of addiction.”

Daily’s comments are consistent with a position we have advocated to advance drug prevention.  Jon Daily is the founder and clinical director for Recovery Happens Counseling Services in Fair Oaks, Davis and Rosedale.  He specializes in the outpatient treatment of adolescents, young adults and their families with addictive disorders and dual diagnosis issues. He is the co-author of (2006) “How to Help Your Child Become Drug Free,” and (2012) “Adolescent and Young Adult Addiction: The Pathological Relationship to Intoxication and the Interpersonal Neurobiology Underpinnings.” Jon has been an instructor to nurses, medical residents and has taught post-doctoral students for UC Davis. Currently he instructs graduate students for University of San Francisco.

Please watch the complete Video.

SAM Joins Forces with NAADAC

Kevin Sabet,Smart Approaches to Marijuana Hold Key to Solving Addiction Crisis

Most of the young people who overdose from drugs began their illicit drug usage with marijuana, according to government statistics which have quoted it at 71%.  Parents Opposed to Pot receives anecdotal evidence suggesting this pattern over and over.  Some teens develop marijuana addiction, but marijuana is also a gateway drug for many other people who become addicted to cocaine, heroin, opiates and other drugs.

Facing our nation’s growth in drug addiction, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, announced a new strategic partnership on August 25.   SAM, an alliance of organizations and individuals Continue reading