Cannabis Use: Mental Health Consequences

cannabisIn November, a number of states are likely to vote on legalizing adult cannabis use or medical marijuana programs. California is one of the states that many believe will vote in favor of legalization, two decades after it became the first state to pass medical marijuana legislation. With each year that passes, Americans seem to be more in favor of ending the 80 year prohibition that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders being sent to jail or prison. While it can be difficult to compare marijuana to the other illegal drugs, it is important that we have all the facts before decisions are made. Last week, Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), came out against legalization. The “drug czar’s” stance comes from concerns over heightened marijuana use rates among teenagers and young adults, and that cannabis can serve as a “gateway” to harder drugs. His views are in line with the President, who has arguably had the lightest stance on the drug, compared to former commander-in-chiefs. While Botticelli, who is in recovery for addiction himself, has a valid point, there are a number of people in the field of medicine who are in favor of ending the prohibition. This week, the formation of the organization Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) was announced, the group of physicians is calling on states and the federal government to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis in the interest of public health. The group includes a former surgeon general and faculty members from some of the nation's most prestigious medical schools. The DFCR argues that legalizing and regulating marijuana is most effective way to:
  • Ensure Public Safety
  • Combat the Illicit Drug Trade
  • Mitigate the Negative Consequences Affecting Disadvantaged Communities
Both the ONDCP and DFCR make good arguments that may impact how people vote this November. However, we can also look to science for guidance on the subject. Decades of prohibition prevented scientists and health experts from conducting cannabis research. There is a lot that is unknown about the drug, such as its effect on the brain. In recent years, medical marijuana and legalization efforts have given researchers the ability to conduct long overdue research. These findings can be an invaluable resource for those considering how they will vote in the 11th hour of 2016. A group of scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia raise awareness about the potential consequences of cannabis use, primarily with regard to mental health, The Guardian reports. They say that the evidence is clear, that marijuana can cause psychosis in the vulnerable. To be clear the scientists are not claiming that those who use the drug are at risk of psychosis, rather that those who are vulnerable to psychosis could jump start the illness by using marijuana. “Cannabis alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause psychosis.” Research published in Biological Psychiatry indicates that deterring heavy use could prevent 8-24% of psychosis cases.
It is important to educate the public about this now,” said Nora Volkow, director of National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Kids who start using drugs in their teen years may never know their full potential. This is also true in relation to the risk for psychosis. The risk is significantly higher for people who begin using marijuana during adolescence. And unfortunately at this point, most people don’t know their genetic risk for psychosis or addiction.”
The use of marijuana can become an addiction, negatively impacting one’s life. If you are addicted to marijuana, please contact PACE Recovery Center for help. Our drug abuse treatment program specializes in developing individualized treatment plans to meet the unique needs of all our clients.

Talking About Alcohol Use Disorder

alcohol use disorderWith all the talk about prescription opioid and heroin addiction devastating communities across the country, it is important that we do not lose sight of the other substances which have the power to negatively affect one’s life. We’ve written before how alcohol continues to be, and will probably always be, the most commonly used drug here in the United States and around the world. In America, alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death, and every year approximately 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Educating young adults about the dangers that can accompany alcohol use, especially regarding the dangerous practice of “binge drinking,” can save lives. Four out of five college students report drinking alcohol and half of those who drink - binge drink. The NIAAA considers binge drinking as having 5 alcoholic beverages for men and 4 for women within a two hour period. The dangerous practice is associated with a number of serious health problems, including:
  • Alcohol Poisoning
  • Unintentional Injuries
  • Liver Disease
  • Neurological Damage
It is probably fair to say that many young adults who binge drink, developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in high school. While heavy drinking is more commonly associated with college life, it occurs among high school age teens as well. Left unchecked it can result in an alcohol use disorder developing, an addiction that can dramatically affect the course of one’s life. It is ever vital that we have effective prevention and intervention efforts, and that health experts do everything in their power to provide teenagers and young adults with scientifically current information about the dangers of alcohol use. Naturally, parents can play a huge role in preventing their teens and young adult children from forming unhealthy relationships with alcohol. It cannot be overly stressed how paramount it is that parents talk with their children about alcohol, which is why the theme of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month is: “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.” Every year in April, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness month, with the aim of raising “public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.” The leading advocacy organization in the world addressing alcoholism and drug dependence cites research that found that adolescents who have regular discourse with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use. Young people who drink alcohol are at great risk of:
  • Addiction
  • Alcohol Poisoning
  • Traffic Fatalities
  • Violence
  • Suicide
  • Unsafe Sex
  • Educational Failure
“Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people,” says Andrew Pucher, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCADD, “and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.” Nevertheless, there are many young adults who are already struggling with an alcohol use disorder and it is vital that they receive help sooner, rather than later. If you or a loved one’s alcohol use has become problematic, please contact PACE Recovery Center. We specialize in treating young adults with chemical dependency and behavioral health issues.

Some Sober Living Homes Lack Oversight

sober living homesRecovering from addiction is a process, the success of which often rests on the length of treatment - the longer the treatment stay the better chance of success. Most reputable treatment facilities recommend a 90 day stay; centers with 30 day lengths of stay will strongly encourage that clients check into an extended care facility afterwards. A number of treatment centers will recommend to clients with a long history of substance abuse, especially chronic relapsers, move into a “sober living” home after the completion of their treatment stay. Sober living homes can be an opportunity for people who are new to recovery to transition back into the swing of everyday life in the company of others working towards the same goal. Sober homes vary in size and cost, some simply require weekly drug testing with 12-Step meeting attendance, while others will add to that by holding weekly house processing groups. The houses are usually managed by someone in recovery, charged with overseeing the day-to-day routines of the clients. Early recovery can be a difficult time, chock full of triggers and cravings; staying at a sober living home after treatment can serve as an extra level of protection. With staggering opioid addiction rates across the United States, more people than ever are in need of addiction treatment services. Providing access to treatment has proved challenging in a number of areas of the country, which has resulted in a push from government officials to increase funding for addiction treatment. The opioid epidemic has also led to an increased demand for sober living homes, which has led to some questionable practices among people trying to exploit those in recovery. Unlike treatment centers, sober living homes are hardly ever managed by credentialed professionals and are subject to little regulation, the Associated Press reports. The lack of oversight has led to cases of insurance fraud. Some transitional living homes will even allow clients to use drugs or alcohol, as long as rent is still being paid. Allowing clients to “use” could have a fatal outcome; many sober living homes are housing opioid addicts, whose choice of drugs can lead to overdose.
"In most states, there is not a regulatory body because recovery residences aren't considered treatment," said Amy Mericle, a scientist at Alcohol Research Group, a California nonprofit that studies alcohol and drug addiction.
Growing concerns about lack of oversight has prompted some states to pass or consider passing legislation, according to the article. Such laws would require the inspection and certification of sober living homes, and subjecting them to consumer protections and ethical codes. It is important to point out that the sober homes guilty of exploiting addiction for profit are not the rule, there are a number of transitional living spaces that provide a healthy, structured environment - giving tenants a real shot at long-term recovery. “The ones that are good are fantastic,” said Pam Rodriguez, CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. At PACE Recovery Center’s Transitional Living Program we offer an exclusive gender-specific (all male), transitional living, alcohol addiction and drug rehab for men struggling with chemical dependency and behavioral health issues. Our transitional program focuses on assisting our clients in learning how to manage both vocational/school goals and addiction recovery commitments.

Recovery Support for the Parents of Addicts

recoveryWhen we talk about addiction recovery, we speak on what it takes for people living with a substance use disorder to change their life for the better. Everyday people turn to addiction treatment programs and/or 12-Step recovery meetings to learn how to live life clean and sober. It is often said that the easiest part of recovery is putting down mind altering substances, the hard part is not picking them up again. This is a fact that can be clearly supported by the rate of relapse in early recovery. That aside, if newcomers are willing to take certain steps and follow the guidance of those who have managed to maintain long term continuous sobriety, recovery is possible. Recovering alcoholics and addicts rely on one another to stay the course, without one’s peers life can quickly fall apart. The same can be said for the families of people living with addiction. Addiction affects entire families, watching a loved one slowly self-destruct takes its toll on others. Mothers and fathers find themselves brought to the brink of despair, a byproduct of the realization that their children's addiction is out of their control. There is a reason why many primary care addiction treatment facilities have family programs. Families often lack the tools to cope with their loved one’s addiction, they often do not understand how this could happen and why there are changes they need to make in their own lives. Families often struggle to find people they can talk to about their son or daughter's addiction, especially since there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the disease. Many people continue to view addiction as a moral failing or that somehow addiction is the result of bad parenting. The aforementioned idea, could not be further from the truth as is evident by the millions of Americans abusing prescription opioids and heroin, or the 70 plus overdose deaths every day. The opioid epidemic has brought addiction out into the light; more and more people are accepting that addiction is a mental illness that is out of the control of both the addict and their loved ones. There are a number of outlets that parents can turn to for support. Just as those in recovery lean on each other, parents can find support from other parents who are facing the same reality, i.e., Al-Anon. And now, even if you live in rural America, where prescription opioids and heroin have taken thousands of sons and daughters, you can find support - all one needs is an internet connection. In fact, thousands of mothers of opioid addicts connect with each other online, The Wall Street Journal reports. Online support groups have become beacons of hope across the country, ranging from as small as five individuals to tens of thousands. The Addict’s Mom (TAM), a place to “share without shame,” has more than 70,000 members on Facebook.
For probably 10 years I had no one to talk to about it. I had my head down like a guilty parent,” says Margaret Worthen, a member of a small support group called Soul Sisters, “All the sudden I had other women, other good moms all going through the same thing.”
Here at PACE Recovery Center our treatment team, many of whom are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, takes an active role in working with our clients and their families to define their goals and move towards these goals.

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