Tag: marijuana

According to Scientists, the Heroin Epidemic May Soon Be Over!

Is Heroin on its Way Out?

the heroin epidemic may soon be over

The heroin epidemic is beginning to come to an end! You heard it first from Lighthouse Recovery Institute…well, actually, you heard it first from VICE News.

They recently published a wonderful and thought provoking article – one centered around the idea that the heroin epidemic currently ravaging America may soon run its course.

At least that’s what several scientists, researchers, and experts think. One of these experts is Dr. Brad Lander, the Clinical Director of Addiction Psychiatry at Wexner Medical Center. You may remember Wexner as the institution that created Squirrel Smart Recovery, a heroin addiction recovery app for smartphones.

When asked about heroin abuse across the country, Dr. Lander had the following to say,

“These things go in cycles…I really think it’s just going to run its course. I think as people see how dangerous this is, it will disappear over time — at least, that’s what I’ve seen in my experience” (Health Day).

In order to understand why the heroin epidemic may soon come to an end, we first need to look at how drug epidemics are spawned. Find information on that, and why heroin use may be the exception to this rule, below!

Understand How Drug Epidemics are Born

Drug epidemics – be they illicit or prescription – usually follow a similar pattern. They start, seemingly out of nowhere, gain momentum, reach a peak, plateau, and then begin to fade away.

History holds many examples of this cycle. Consider the following:

 

    • The diet pill and tranquilizer epidemic of the 50s

 

 

 

 

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What do these epidemics all have in common? They became popular, they stayed popular for a period of time, and they faded away.

So, how do drugs become popular in the first place? The same way most everything does – through word of mouth and shared experience.

Think about it like this – if someone you admire and trust tells you about an amazing drug that will take away all your problems, make you feel great, and really “isn’t as bad as everyone thinks,” you’re probably going to do that drug.

Well, that’s what’s been happened across the United States with heroin. Jonathan Caulkins, a researcher from Carnegie Mellon University, backs this idea up. When asked about how drug epidemics start, he said,

“This metaphor [drug use as a viral epidemic] is appropriate even though there is not literally a pathogen…because most initiation occurs through contact with current users, not at the urging of drug sellers” (VICE News)

Makes sense, right?

Okay, so that’s how drug epidemics begin and gain momentum. That’s how we’ve reached our current point – towns overrun and lives destroyed by opioids. How do we move to the next chapter? How do we start to phase heroin out of our collective conciseness?

Understanding How Drug Epidemics End

If a certain drug’s popularity is largely determined by word of mouth, then its death is determined by large scale negative feedback and education.

why is heroin addiction so popular

To return to our hypothetical situation – a trusted friend of yours recommends heroin, saying it isn’t nearly as dangerous as everyone thinks – what happens after you’re hooked?

Well, you begin to get a boatload of negative consequences. You spend a lot of money to maintain your habit. You lie and hurt people you care about. You may steal or do other illegal activities to get the drug. You have health complications. You may overdose. The list goes on and on.

As thousands, or even millions, of people begin to experience these consequences – the word gets out that the drug in question isn’t as good as people say.

Let’s again return to out hypothetical situation and say you have a younger cousin. You warn them about the dangers of heroin. When one of their friends comes to them and says “I just tried this great new drug. You need to try it too,” they’re going to say no based on your experience.

Jonathan Caulkins confirms this small-scale, personal backlash can have quite a large effect:

A drug’s popularity begins to diminish when negative feedback gains the upper hand, either through word of mouth reports, bad experiences, or public attention to overdoses and other dangers. He also found that policies aimed at preventing new users and treating current users both help lessen a drug’s appeal (VICE News).

So, just as using a particular drug becomes epidemic through word of mouth – that’s also how use of the same drug fades away.

What Makes Heroin Different?

Despite the predictable epidemic to obscurity cycle, some experts believe heroin may be different. They think it’s not going anywhere, even though it’s reached critical mass and should soon die out.

What makes the heroin epidemic different than those before it? What may prevent it from fading away like ecstasy use did in the 90s? The overwhelming presence of prescription painkillers.

the painkiller epidemic led to heroin abuse

Kimberly Kirby is one of these experts who worries heroin may be here to stay. She’s an addiction psychologist at the Treatment Research Institute based in Philadelphia (one of the cities hit hardest by heroin abuse). When asked by VICE about whether she thought widespread heroin use would soon begin to decline, she responded with uncertainty,

“The one thing I think that’s disconcerting about [heroin] is that because of the increase in use that is coming from prescription opioids, they’ve become a lot more available than they used to be…I would guess if the availability of prescript [sic] of opioids does decrease you would see reduction in use…”

She raises a good point. As painkillers became demonized in the media, as they became increasingly expensive and difficult to get, many addicts turned to heroin. If heroin goes the same way – what’s to stop these addicts from returning to prescription pills or staying stuck in a pill/heroin cycle?

That question may be what differentiates our current heroin epidemic from past drug plagues. Still, at this point that’s the opinion of a minority of experts. Most believe that heroin use should begin to decline in the coming months and years.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is something we can all be thankful for.

The Physical Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Is Weed Really Harmless?

It’s a question people have been asking since time immemorial – how does marijuana affect the body? Well, today Lighthouse Recovery Institute has set out to explain the physical effects of marijuana once and for all!

When it comes to exploring the effects of marijuana, be they physical or mental, people generally fall into one of two camps. There are those who believe pot to be harmless, a natural herb that even possesses medicinal qualities. Then there are those who believe the mental and physical effects of marijuana are no different than, say, heroin or cocaine.

how does marijuana affect the body

The truth lies somewhere between the two. How does marijuana affect the body? Well, it’s neither harmless nor is it a sacred panacea of the gods. Like most things in this world, the truth is made up of both positives and negatives.

It’s important to remember that the physical effects of marijuana, like any chemical, are far-reaching and range from mild to severe. While this guide covers many aspects of how marijuana affects the body, it doesn’t cover them all. That being said, sit back, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and learn the physical effects of marijuana!

Is pot withdrawal real?

Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Lungs

We’ll start by examining the physical effects of marijuana on the lungs. Smoking pot is by far the most popular way to ingest the drug, although in recent years many smokers have switched to vaping. This is due, in no small part, to how harmful marijuana smoke is on the lungs.

Regular smoking of any substance will lead to an increase in coughing, wheezing, esophageal irritation, and production of phlegm. Smoking will also increase the chance of developing bronchitis, various other respiratory illnesses, and cancer.

Marijuana smoke differs from cigarette smoke in one key area. It contains much more benzopyrene, which is one of the most carcinogenic chemicals found in smoke. A single joint contains about 40% more benzopyrene than a comparable sized cigarette.

Due to marijuana smoke’s large concentration of benzopyrene, it’s commonly thought that smoking pot is more harmful than smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately this hasn’t been confirmed one way or the other.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana smoke causes lung cancer. More research is needed” (Healthline).

However, according to a UCLA study, “1 to 3 marijuana joints appears to produce approximately the same lung damage and potential cancer risk as smoking 5 times as many cigarettes” (PBS).

Regardless of which is true, when examining how marijuana affects the body, it’s clear that pot hits the lungs like a ton of bricks.

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Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Heart

After the lungs, the physical effects of marijuana can best be seen in the heart and circulatory system.

After smoking pot, THC moves throughout the body. As it hits the heart, it increases an individual’s heartbeat by between twenty to fifty beats per minute. This fast heartbeat can last as long as three hours and drastically increases the risk of heart attack.

Another physical effect of marijuana on the circulatory system, and perhaps the most famous, is how it dilates the pupils and causes bloodshot eyes. This is due to how THC causes blood vessels to expand.

On a more positive note, there’s anecdotal evidence that this expansion of blood vessels may decrease the flow of blood to tumors. This is one of the many reasons that medical marijuana is often touted as a wonder drug.

Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Digestive System

Inhaling burning smoke isn’t good in any sense of the word. This is true of marijuana smoke, cigarette smoke, or any other type. Smoke can irritate the mouth, gums, and throat.

The rest of marijuana’s effects on the digestive system are positive. Marijuana helps ease vomiting, nausea, and other gastric distress. It also increases the appetite (commonly referred to as “having the munchies”).

What’s the real gateway drug?

Physical Effects of Marijuana on the Brain

physical effects of marijuana

Although the physical effects of marijuana on the brain are more of a mental effect than physical, it’s still important to talk about them when considering how marijuana affects the body. It may be easier to list the ways that THC doesn’t impact cognition!

When smoked, one of the areas of the brain that THC acts on is the hippocampus. This is the area that processes information and memories. THC alters how sensory information is perceived and stored. If used as an adolescent or young adult, THC can actually alter the brain to the point of cognitive impairment in adulthood. THC is also thought to expedite brain cell loss.

Another way that marijuana affects the brain is through impacting the cerebellum and basal ganglia. These are parts of the brain that control balance, coordination, and reaction time. Despite the widespread idea that it’s okay to smoke and drive, THC significantly impacts the ability of users to drive.

So What?

That’s a good question! What does all of the above mean in practical terms? What, if any, are the repercussions of smoking marijuana? Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the physical effects of marijuana are numerous and, more often than not, negative. While pot offers some medical benefits, these areas are far out-shadowed by its harmful impact on the lungs, circulatory system, and brain.

The good news is that compared to many other substances marijuana is actually fairly safe. Smoking pot doesn’t increase anger or lower inhibitions like alcohol. It doesn’t lead to respiratory failure like opioids or benzo’s. It doesn’t directly introduce the risk of contracting HIV, HCV, or other blood borne illnesses like injecting heroin or cocaine does.

To put it another way, smoking pot isn’t the worst thing an individual could do but it certainly won’t your improve health in any way. It’s better to just say no.

Want to quit smoking marijuana but can’t? Find out how to stop for good today!

Marijuana Containing High THC Levels Linked to Psychosis

Strong Marijuana Causes Psychosis

Marijuana with large concentrations of the psychoactive chemical THC has been linked to a drastically increased chance of psychosis.

The link between potent cannabis and psychosis was made clear by researchers from King’s College in London. Marta Di Forti and Sir Robin Murray led the study, which examined how THC impacted an individual’s chance of developing drug-induced psychosis.

strong marijuana and psychosis
image via Tumblr

Their findings were recently published in the English journal Lancet Psychiatry. The specific findings, detailed below, shed new light on the dangerous connection between certain strains of marijuana and psychiatric distress.

Before examining Di Forti and Sir Murray’s research, we need to define what exactly “potent marijuana” means. For the purposes of this study, it refers to any weed that has greater than a 15% concentration of THC.

Sir Murray has stated that, “the results of the study point at the fact that almost one-quarter of cases of psychosis could be prevented if nobody smoked high-potency marijuana” (Utah People’s Post).

Learn facts and statistics about how many people smoke weed

New Info on Pot & Psychosis

The researchers from King’s College studied and analyzed data from 780 south London residents. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 65 years old and both male and female. Of the 780 individuals studied, 410 had previously experienced an episode of psychosis.

So, what did their research yield? Well, it showed that:

  • 24% of new cases of psychosis result from using strong marijuana.

 

  • Those who causally smoked strong marijuana are three times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.

 

  • Those who smoke every day are five times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.

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  • The psychosis that strong marijuana produces is purely drug induced. It isn’t indicative of a lasting psychiatric disorder.

 

  • Using marijuana with lower than a 5% concentration of THC doesn’t lead to an increased risk of psychosis.

 

  • Using marijuana and hash with high concentrations of cannabidiol (also known as CBD) doesn’t lead to an increased risk of psychosis.

 

These findings led Di Forti to pronounce,

“When a [general practitioner] or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis, it’s not helpful; it’s like asking whether someone drinks. As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen” (Utah People’s Post).

Do you think a loved one is smoking pot? Learn how to be sure today!

Will Weed Soon be Legal in Vermont?

Vermont May Legalize Marijuana Use

Vermont may soon join the growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana. They could also become the first state ever to legalize weed via legislation rather than through voter choice.

legal marijuana in vermont
image via Wikimedia Commons

Senate Bill 95 was introduced to the Vermont state legislator on Tuesday. This bill, if passed, would legalize the personal possession, use, and sale of marijuana for Vermont residents and even nonresidents.

This isn’t revolutionary news or even a revolutionary bill. Medical marijuana has been legal in Vermont for over a decade. Over twenty other states have legal medical marijuana. Four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) have legalized pot for personal use. Washington DC legalized it, though sale still remains banned under District law.

What makes Vermont’s situation unique is that they’re considering legalization through direct legislation, not voter referendum. This is an unprecedented move in American politics. It’s also one that, according to State Senator David Zuckerman, could make the legalization process longer.

News outlets report, “…that while a vote to legalize could take place as early as this year, he [Zuckerman] expects discussion of the bill could push the vote to 2016” (Huffington Post).

Learn more about legal marijuana in other states

What Legal Weed in Vermont Would Look Like

If Vermont does indeed make recreational marijuana legal, what would that look like? How would it compare to, say, Colorado? Would the “pot infrastructure” be a mess like in Washington?

Well, it doesn’t appear so. If Vermont passes SB95, it would legalize the sale, use, and possession of weed for adults over the age of twenty-one. It would allow state residents to possess no more than an ounce.

It would also allow residents to grow up to nine plants, with only two plants being mature at any given time. Residents would only be able to grow marijuana indoors in secure facilities. So no outdoors pot gardens. Also off limits would be smoking in public.

Even people who aren’t residents of Vermont could enjoy the, ahem, fruits of residents’ labor. Nonresidents would be allowed to buy up to seven grams of marijuana from a licensed store. They would not be able to leave the state carrying any items containing marijuana.

The potential law would also benefit Vermont itself. There would be a tax of $40 per ounce on “traditional” marijuana (flowers and buds). There would be a tax of $15 per ounce on other products (edibles, hash, etc.) and there would be a $25 tax on all immature plants sold.

Of the millions these taxes would generate, 40% would be used for public services. These include, though are not limited to, services like addiction treatment, medical marijuana research, educational programs, and police. This could be a Godsend to a city that’s in the grip of the continued heroin and painkiller epidemic.

Finally, something called the “Marijuana Control Board” would oversee the above regulations to make sure everyone is abiding by state law.

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Vermont’s History of Marijuana Use

Despite the uniqueness of SB95, Vermont has a pretty long history of marijuana use. This is true of illegal consumption and medical use.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2003. In those twelve years, there’s been a wealth of information gathered about the various effects, medical or otherwise, of pot.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has the following to say about recreational pot use in his state,

Let’s remember, we have this conversation and we pretend that you can’t get marijuana now. In the real world, folks, if you want to get marijuana in Vermont, we’re in Lala Land if we’re pretending you can’t. The question is how do we move to a smarter approach that doesn’t promote addiction, that doesn’t promote abuse and really accepts the reality” (Huffington Post).

recreational marijuana Vermont
Vermont capital building

Gov. Shumlin’s sentiment is backed up by a report from the RAND Corporation, a legal policy research group. RAND released a report that estimated Vermont residents consumed between fifteen and twenty five tons of marijuana in 2014 alone. That’s a lot of smoking!

That much marijuana is valued at between $125 and $225 million. Remember, that’s illegal sales. If weed were legalized, that would amount to between twenty and seventy-five million dollars in tax revenue.

It’s clear to see there may be some benefits to legalizing recreational marijuana in Vermont. That’s true whether it’s legalized through state legislation or voter referendum. Still, what about the voters? What do the people of Vermont want?

Well, according to a 2014 poll, 57% of voters were in favor of legal pot. It seems the people have spoken. Let’s see if Vermont lawmakers agree.

 

Is marijuana really “the new heroin?”

Is Weed the New Heroin?

Study Says Weed is as Addictive as Heroin

is weed addictive

“If cannabis is not addictive then neither is heroin or alcohol,” uttered Professor Wayne Hall recently. Hall, a senior drug adviser to the World Health Organization, has set out to answer, once and for all, the question of “is weed addictive?”

Professor Hall published a paper earlier this month, in the journal Addiction, which distills over twenty years of marijuana research into a few key points.

Is weed addictive? It absolutely is, especially for someone suffering from the diseases of addiction and alcoholism. Is pot addicting to the average smoker, though? Let’s find out.

Find a detailed breakdown of Professor Hall’s findings below.

Is Weed Addictive? The New Facts

  • One in six, or 16%, of adolescents who smoke weed end up addicted to it
  • One in ten, or 10%, of adults who engage in marijuana abuse become addicted. Also, those who smoke weed heavily are much more likely to use hard drugs (defined as heroin, meth, etc.)
  • Smoking pot can double the risk of developing serious psychotic disorders
  • Heavy weed addiction is thought to impair adolescent brain development
  • Driving while under the influence of marijuana doubles the likelihood of an accident
  • In the U.K., it’s thought that as many adolescents smoke weed as smoke cigarettes

Is weed addictive? It certainly appears so.

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The Hidden Consequences of Marijuana Addiction

If pot is this addictive then what are the consequences of sustained use? Well, some are outlined above, like the link between major psychotic disorders and heavy marijuana use. Other effects, though, are subtler.

Consider those seeking substance abuse treatment. According to new numbers, 17% of those seeking treatment in the U.S. list marijuana as their drug of choice.

According to Lissi Seneway, an addiction professional, marijuana addiction is quite real. “It’s amazing the number of patients I’ve encountered who are addicted to marijuana,” Seneway said. “They come into treatment and are made fun of by other patients. What those other patients don’t get is that marijuana dependence is serious.”

Wayne Hall also believes the recent trend of U.S. marijuana legalization hasn’t affected the rise of pot addiction. He’s quoted as saying,

“The number of cannabis users seeking help to quit or control their cannabis use has increased during the past two decades in the United States, Europe and Australia. The same increase has occurred in the Netherlands, where cannabis use was decriminalised [sic] more than 40 years ago” (The Daily Mail).

Learn about the man who sued a rehab for $2 million

The Final Verdict: Is Weed as Addictive as Heroin?

is pot addictive
So, is weed addictive? Is it as dangerous as heroin?

Well, yes and no. Weed is absolutely addicting, but it’s not as dangerous as heroin. Now, while pot happens to be a bit safer than shooting heroin, it’s still a good idea to abstain from smoking it.

Lissi Seneway had the following to say about whether pot is addicting,

“More people need to realize the dangers of marijuana abuse and addiction. Just because a drug is thought to be harmless, doesn’t mean it is. For people who are addicted to marijuana, it’s a very real danger. They smoke all day. They’re addicted.”

It looks like the attitude that weed’s harmless, that it’s safer than other drugs, has actually contributed to its danger. If everyone has a relaxed attitude about marijuana, they’re more likely to ignore potentially dangerous effects – like its link to mental illness.

Let’s stop bickering about whether weed is addictive. Let’s stop downplaying weed addiction. Let’s open our eyes and face the truth. Marijuana is a drug and drugs are addictive. End of story.

Find out if you’re addicted to weed

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