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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Good News, Bad News: Drug Abuse Now

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 15th 2007

Do you want to hear the good news first or the bad news first?

Well, the good news is that teenagers are smoking less and using illicit drugs less. That's the good news.

The bad news is that more adults are abusing drugs. These adults range between the ages of twenty five and fifty years of age.

Want more bad news?

Teenagers are increasingly abusing prescription drugs, particularly those for the treatment of pain. In addition, they are abusing stimulants, especially those used to treat ADHD.

Whether it’s among adults or teenagers, the drugs that are increasingly being abused are particularly villainous: Vicodin and Oxycontin, both opiate drugs, are being used among teenagers and are extremely addictive. Among adults, Methamphetamines are being abused at an alarming rate, are also extremely addictive. The misuse of any of these substances is dangerous and can result in death. None of these substances have anything good to recommend them as drugs of abuse.

The Drugs and What They Do:

The opioid drugs were created to treat extreme pain caused either by cancer, various types of surgery or severe accidents. Opioids are agonists, which means that they are absorbed by the brain's neurons. These neurons or brain cells produce their own natural opiates that create feelings of pleasure or reduce pain. However, because these brain cells cannot distinguish between its own natural opioids and those ingested from pills or powders, they are all absorbed. Continued use of these opioid drugs results in dependence and addiction. The individual who abuses drugs such as Vicodin, Codeine, Oxycontin and others begins to experience severe withdrawal symptoms if the drug is no longer available. The cravings for the drug create such severe withdrawal symptoms that the individual becomes desperate for the next "fix."

Those who use these drugs report experiencing feelings of euphoria followed by the need to sleep. However, increasingly larger doses are needed to create the initial feelings of euphoria. As dependence and addiction sets in the individual comes to need the drug just to feel normal. Because these drugs suppress the central nervous system the user can suffer death due to suppression of breathing and heart function. Use of alcohol with these drugs further increases the danger of death due to over dose.

Methamphetamines are stimulant drugs. Initially, amphetamines were used as diet pills during the sixties and seventies. However, the Food and Drug Administration discovered how dangerous these drugs are. Because amphetamines are stimulants they increase heart rate and blood pressure both of which can result in death if there is an overdose.

Today, the combination of drugs called methamphetamines greatly enhance feeling of being "high" created by the amphetamines along. Methamphetamines are extremely addictive. The average user purchases these drugs from sellers who get them from "home made laboratories." The result is that this substance is often made with chemicals and substances that are poisonous, thereby increasing the danger of its use.

One reason why the use of methamphetamines are growing so rapidly is that they increase the feelings of pleasure that were associated with cocaine abuse. While the effects of cocaine wear off rapidly, often resulting in feelings of depression, methamphetamines last for a much longer period of time. However, continued use leads to chronic paranoid thoughts, brain damage and death due to stroke or heart attack. The street names given to these drugs are "crank and "ice" among others.

How Do These Drugs Become Attainable?

The opioid drugs are available from a number of sources that make it incredibly easy for adolescents to obtain and distribute them in school:

1. First among these sources are the family medicine cabinet. When Medical Doctors or Dentists prescribe these drugs, too many people save what they have not used in the medicine cabinet. In this way, opioid as well as other drugs become available for misuse by teenagers in the house hold.

2. Second among the sources of opioid drugs is the Internet. Unfortunately, there are all types of "off shore" illicit pharmacies that sell and even deliver any drug that addicts want to have available to them. It is not difficult for young or older people to use credit cards to order any type of prescription drug they wish to use. Although the government has attempted to stop this process, it is difficult to completely halt them because they operate outside the borders of the United States.

3. Third among the sources of these drugs to teenagers are other youngsters at school who obtain them either from their home cabinets, the Internet or other distributors and sell them.

Methamphetamines are manufactured and distributed in local neighborhoods. It is always amazing and shocking when the local drug enforcement agencies raid the houses and apartment where the drugs are made and arrest the criminals involved in the process. The reason for the shock is that all of this goes on next door to people who are completely law abiding and ignorant of what is happening. In addition, the manufacture of methamphetamines are dangerous and these local neighborhood labs pose a threat to neighbors.

Users always seem to know how to identify and connect with those who distribute these drugs.

Suggestions:

It is really important that families lock their medicine cabinets. In addition, after a prescription is no longer necessary, extras should be tossed into the garbage so that they are no longer available. Too many good and honest people save their medicines with the thought that they will be available the next time there is a need. However, this is never a good idea and it is safer to just dispose of them.

Parents need to carefully monitor their children’s' use of the Internet. There are many good reasons for this including making them safe from predators on some of the chat rooms and from Internet pornography. In this case, it is important to be certain that the Internet is not being used to order drugs of any kind or from anywhere.

Whether it is opioid drugs, methamphetamines or any other drugs, it is important to educate children about the dangers of drug abuse and the importance to keep far away from them and the people who distribute them.

In terms of adult usage of drugs it is vital that everyone know and understand that these substances are not benign or harmless. I have seen too many people in my private practice who underestimate the dangers posed by drug abuse.

What are your experiences with the problems of drug abuse among young and old?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

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