Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

All You Need To Know About Hydromorphone Addiction and Treatment

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Photo by Vaprotan via Wikimedia Commons

There are certain prescription medicines that have been found to be illegally used that lead to dependency and abuse. Most of the drugs being abused are for symptoms to relieve pain. One of the commonly abused drugs is hydromorphone, also known as dihydromorphinone and is commercially known with the brand name Dilaudid.

What is hydromorphone?

Hydromorphone is a narcotic analgesic listed under Schedule II Controlled Opioid Agonist along with morphine, fentanyl and methanyl. This highly potent narcotic analgesic is said to be six to nine times stronger than morphine.

This drug is manufactured in two different kinds: extended release formula, and the instant release formula used in the hospital for surgery. Hydromorphone may come in any of the following dosage forms:

  • Capsule
  • Liquid
  • Tablet
  • Solution

Its chemical name is 4,5α-epoxy-3-hydroxy-17- methylmorphinan-6-one hydrochloride.

Precautions in using hydromorphone

Prior to usage, patient and doctor should be able to assess if this drug is the right choice to treat the immediate complaint. Several factors need to be considered:

Test for allergy

Patients should inform the doctor for any kind of allergy that they may have (food, dye, or specific medication)

Age of the patient

The effect of hydromorphone may be good in treating pain, however prescribing it to children may not be a good choice because its side effects may be too much for children to handle or tolerate.  For the elderly, they may become more sensitive to the effects of hydromorphone than younger patients, and so there should be caution in the dosage of the said drug. Failure to check the correct dosage may lead to complications with the use of other medications for the lungs, liver, heart or kidney.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding women are not to be prescribed hydromorphone because it may affect milk production. If there is no alternative medication, there is a need to check on the infant for possible side effects.

Drug Usage

Hydromorphone comes in different forms, and the dosage varies in each form. This drug is prescribed to be used several times in a day. However, if one dose has been missed, patient should immediately take hydromorphone as soon as it is remembered. If, by the time you remember, it is almost time for the next dose, skip the last dose and continue with the second dose. Doubling the dose is not recommended.

Drug Interactions

There are certain medicines that need to be combined to give optimal effect in curing a condition. But on certain instances, there may be a need to use different drugs. With these, decreasing the dose may be needed to avoid dangerous drug interactions.

The doctor may lessen the dose of one or both of the medicines.The following medicines are just a few that can be prescribed along with hydromorphone but should still be taken with utmost care:

  • Anileridine
  • Baclofen
  • Brofaromine
  • Buspirone
  • Butalbita
  • Carisoprodol
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Codeine
  • Desflurane
  • Diazepam
  • Estazolam
  • Fentanyl
  • Flurazepam
  • Halazepam
  • Haloperidol
  • Iproniazid
  • Ketomine
  • Lorezapam
  • Loxapine
  • Meperidine
  • Metaxalone
  • Midazolam
  • Morphine
  • Nitrous Oxiede
  • Opium
  • Oxazepam
  • Oxycodone
  • Pentobarbital
  • Quazepam
  • Rasagiline
  • Secobarbital
  • Sodium Oxybate
  • Temazapam
  • Thiopental
  • Triazolam
  • Zolpidem

It should be noted that certain food or medicine may cause interaction. The use of alcohol and tobacco can also be a factor, because they may interact with the drug.

Extreme care should also be taken by people who are diagnosed with the following medical conditions:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • CNS depression
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Brain tumor
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Some individuals may not be satisfied using hydromorphone alone to have an intense “high” that they wanted. They would sometimes incorporate it with alcohol or benzodiazepines. The combination can increase the euphoric effect, but this poses greater risk like severe respiratory depression and even death.

Hydromorphone effects

Hydromorphone works on the central nervous system to block pain receptors.  This medication is prescribed for those who need round-the-clock pain relief and could not be treated with any other kind of drug.  It is taken every 3-6 hours (liquid form) or 4-6 hours (tablet form). It is advisable to take hydromorphone at the same time every day.

The following are signs and symptoms that a person may be using hydromorphone:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Slow breathing
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decreased libido
  • Cold skin
  • Mood swings

Prolonged use of hydromorphone can be habit-forming, which may cause mental dependence. It should not be feared, however, if certain individuals are prescribed to use the said drug for a longer time because doctors prescribe them according to the amount that is only needed. Dependency on the drug only occurs if the individual wants to be on the euphoric state all the time. That is why this drug can only be dispensed with a medical prescription to be used according to what it is intended to cure.

Individuals who use this drug usually develop a tolerance quickly. They feel the need to quickly take another dose before the earlier dose wears off.  When this happens, dependency steps in. The following are signs and symptoms of abuse in using hydromorphone:

  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Psychotic disorder
  • Body cramping
  • Cold sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Drug craving
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Causes of hydromorphone addiction

Drugs taken without any prescription, most especially narcotic analgesics may lead to more serious health risks.

It is to be understood that individuals who become drug dependents are caused by several factors. Most often than not, individuals who resort to drug addiction are trying to avoid certain issues in their lives, that instead of facing these problems, their means of escape is to take these drugs.

The following are risk factors that increase the probability of succumbing to hydromorphone addiction and abuse:

  • Individuals born to parents having the same drug dependency
  • Imbalance on certain chemical components
  • Influence from environment
  • Starting with illegal substance use at an early age
  • Under treatment for medical illness

Effects of hydromorphone addiction

When an individual has become addicted to hydromorphone – or to any drug for that matter – there is always a tendency of wanting to have more. The normal sensation for people engaged in drug abuse is experiencing the euphoric feeling.

Such behavioral changes may be evident in people who engage in hydromorphone addiction:

  • Stealing
  • Social isolation
  • Forged prescription
  • Reckless behavior
  • Hiding hydromorphone in different parts of the house
  • Lying on the amount of hydromorphone used
  • Choosing to wear long sleeved shirts and pants to hide needle marks

There have been studies about the relation of drug addiction to mental illness. An individual with mental condition is more likely to have a drug addiction.  Some disorders found with the use of hydromorphone are:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Alcoholism
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorders

Mental illness can be exacerbated with unusual doses of hydromorphone. It is highly recommended that individuals who may be suffering from mental conditions must be given these medications by a family member instead of the individual themselves.

Hydromorphone withdrawal

An individual may want to stop taking the drug because of the realization of the drug’s effects with prolonged and continued use. However, just like any individual who wants to discontinue the use of a drug after using it for a long time, withdrawal symptoms are likely to happen.

It may be difficult to abruptly stop because the body needs to adjust gradually. The only difference with regards to the withdrawal symptoms is that with hydromorphone, it can be a shorter process than other opiates.

Some withdrawal symptoms from hydromorphone addiction are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Drug craving
  • Dysphoria
  • Nausea
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sleeping disorder
  • No appetite
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Seizures

Treatment options

Treating individuals with hydromorphone addiction may be much easier to handle compared to other kinds of drug addiction because its withdrawal symptoms are much bearable. The medicines used to treat such addiction may be in the form of other opiate derivatives. The only difference is that the dose is prescribed accordingly and that it is given to the individual under the care of a clinic.

Fortunately, rehabilitation centers are available to help individuals get over drug addiction. Confinement of certain number of months to a year may be necessary for completely getting treated from hydromorphone addiction. Some rehabilitation centers provide assistance to individuals that need medical intervention. Each facility may offer a program that can lead an individual to full recovery but this may be expensive.

Detoxification may be the first step in treating addiction. It would take 3-7 days to flush out the drug from the individual’s system.  This way, withdrawal symptoms can be controlled.  Stopping the intake of the drug abruptly is not recommended. In addition, relying solely on detoxification to fully recover from addiction may not be effective for every case.

There may also be a need for psychological treatment in the process to completely heal the patient. Some patients have turned into drug abuse because of some personal problems that they can’t face alone. Unless these issues are addressed properly, complete healing from hydromorphone addiction may not be achieved. Such counseling can be done inside a facility because the patient can be well taken care of without any distractions. This treatment includes peer counseling and individual therapy.

Discussions in a support group wherein fellow patients with the same condition are able to help themselves heal all together by way of sharing how they went through the ordeal.

Long term treatment on a patient decreases the chances of a relapse.Other forms of therapy include hypnotherapy, life skills development, and health and nutrition counseling. All of these can help an individual to fully recover. However, there should also be a support system in their individual homes after they have been discharged from the facility.

Patients who had been into hydromorphone addiction may need a lifetime of recovery.  An aftercare program will be helpful in aiding a patient to stay away from the addiction and be able to fully recover and may be able to live a normal life.

Conclusion

Not everyone may be able to handle their problems the same way. While others may seek expert advice or choose to involve themselves with other activities to help them with their own struggles, some resort to drugs because of fear of facing such challenges alone and feel defeated. Medicines were meant to help people to be cured from different sicknesses. However, potent drugs can have a tendency for abuse.

Be aware if a family member or a loved one starts to avoid people and completely isolates himself from the rest of the world. Any change in behavior should be a cause of alarm. Never let a loved one waste his life due to drug addiction.

Substance Abuse

How Fentanyl Is Used Aside From Its Prescribed Purpose

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Fentanyl, one of the strongest opiods and narcotic analgesics in the market today, is indicated for the management of chronic pain mostly prescribed for cancer patients or in treating patients after a major surgery. It is commonly known under the brand names Durogesic, Duragesic, Sublimaze, Abstral, Haldid and Lazanda, among others.

This substance is said to be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is usually used in combination with Demerol or morphine. Any misuse or abuse of this drug can lead to addiction that may eventually lead to death.

It was in the 1970’s when Fentanyl has begun circulating for non-therapeutic purposes.  Its biological effect was said to be similar as that of heroin, which is why sometimes street heroin is mixed with fentanyl or sold as fentanyl itself because of its euphoric effect.

There are several known fentanyl analogue, such as the following:

  • 3-Methylthiofentanyl
  • β-Hydroxyfentanyl
  • α-Methylthiofentanyl
  • Thiofentanyl
  • Butyrfentanyl

The prescription or administration of fentanyl should only be done by a health care professional who has full knowledge in using such potent opiod to manage chronic pain.

Different Forms of Fentanyl

Fentanyl Transdermal Patches

Known through the brand name Duragesic, this form of fentanyl is absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. Its effect can last up to 72 hours, which is very favorable in managing chronic pain. This is only prescribed to patients who are opiod-tolerant or those patients who are have been taking at least 60 mg of morphine in a day.

Intravenous fentanyl

Under the brand name Sublimaze, this is most commonly used as anesthesia accompanied with another substance like propolol for epidural or spinal administration. In combination with sedatives like benzodiazepine, it is used for medical procedures like surgery and endoscopy.

Used patches should be discarded properly because the gel of these patches can be swallowed or injected, which may cause some serious side effects on the person.

Fentanyl lozenge

This form, popular as Actiq, may pose danger when children accidentally ingest them. This should not be prescribed along with other narcotic medicines because it may lead to difficulty in breathing, which could be fatal. Although fentanyl is an analgesic, it is not recommended for short- term pain such as migraine or dental pain. Fentanyl lozenges should be taken with a 4-hour interval.

Intranasal Fentanyl

This form should be used with utmost care. It is not advised to convert or substitute it with other products that may contain fentanyl. The prescribed dosage may be different on each patient.

Adverse Effects

Like most prescribed drugs, there are certain side effects that the patient may feel after administration or ingestion of fentanyl. These are:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Vertigo
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Palpitations
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Itching
  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Slow heart rate
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Dyspnea
  • Hypoventilation

Dangers of fentanyl abuse

Drinking alcohol is prohibited while taking Fentanyl because it increases the risk of feeling sleepy or dizzy. The drug is not advisable over a long period of time because of it being highly addictive. However, there are individuals who have illicitly used this medicine.

Its efficacy in treating pain has been proven to be very high. However, there had been reports of abuse in the usage of the said drug. Fentanyl is highly addictive. Meanwhile, the slight difference between the prescribed medical dosage and dead dose can be very slim.

Fentanyl is sometimes sold combined with low-quality heroin to increase the heroin value. The combination of these substances can be more than a hundred times more potent than street heroin. Drug users take Fentanyl orally, injected, snorted or smoked. This causes severe respiratory depression, wherein there is inadequate ventilation to perform gas exchange. This is a very common side effect among those who use recreational drugs.

Since Fentanyl can only be purchased through prescription, the black market has found its way to sell and distribute fentanyl transdermal patches from which the gel inside the patches can be injected or ingested. This poses danger to children when these patches are not properly disposed.  According to some reports, children who have been exposed to these transdermal patches have died due to ingestion.

Actiq Fentanyl lollipop, sold as Oral Transmucosal Fentanyl Citrate (OTFC) and listed as a Schedule II Controlled Substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, is a sugar-coated fentanyl on a stick. This is absorbed through the buccal mucosa (inner cheek), where it is slowly dissolved in the mouth. Actiq lollipop contains 2 grams of sugar in raspberry flavor and is available in 6 different strengths. The strongest is 1600 mcg, which could be the equivalent of absorbing 160 mg of morphine.

Other than the common psychological effects of taking fentanyl is the increase of dental caries on long-time users of this drug. This may be due to the sugar that goes with the fentanyl lozenges since it does not dissolve quickly and sugar sticks into their teeth for a long time.

Individuals using Fentanyl can also quickly create tolerance to this substance. The usage of an individual may increase week after week until it comes to a point of endangering his own life.

There is an increase in the number of overdose cases with fentanyl-laced heroin. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety”.  Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit have been reported to have multiple cases of deaths due to fentanyl overdose. They have traced the source of the lab to be in Mexico.

Conclusion

Fentanyl users have common reasons why they resort to substance abuse when they are asked. They want to either get away from their problems, or have the sense of belongingness and have fun. What comes with this addiction is losing integrity and credibility. With that, drug addiction in general has been linked to so many crimes that even family members are not spared.

Unless we take a step in helping these individuals, more people will succumb to drug abuse, which can lead to the total destruction of the community.

Substance Abuse

New Dangerous Drugs On The Rise

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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently revealed that new psychoactive substances are emerging in the market in terms of both quantity and diversity. However, the paucity of data on the harmfulness and prevalence of these substances offer a challenge in facilitating risk assessment at the international level.

Here are the seven new dangerous drugs that are gaining traction and notoriety:

Acetylfentanyl

Disguised as oxycodone, aceteylfentanyl is a potent painkiller that has five times more potency than heroin. Its symptoms include lethargy, disorientation, shallow breathing, slow heart rate, and low blood pressure.

MT-45

This drug is a piperazine derivative with potent analgesic activity similar to morphine.

Phenazepam

This substance is a benzodiazepine that has anxiolytic, euphoric, anti-convulsant, amnestic, muscle relaxant, and hypnotic effects.

Para-Methylaminorex

As a synthetic stimulant, this designer drug is related to 4-methyaminorex and pemoline. It is a new and potentially potent kind of synthetic drug.

Methoxetamine

This is a recreational drug, structural analog of ketamine with that can cause hallucinations.

Alpha-Pyrrolidinovalerophenone

This drug is a psychomotor stimulant that comes with cardiotoxicity, violent behavior, and show of psychotic behavior.

Para-Methoxymethylamphethamine (PPMA)

Used as a substitute for ecstasy, this stimulant and psychedelic recreational drug has a hallucinogenic effect and can lead to a fatal rise in temperature.

Government agencies and law enforcement groups must work hand in hand to make sure that these new dangerous drugs are controlled to keep them from getting into the hands of individuals. The drug menace has already claimed so many lives and the arrival of these new substances may once again put so many lives at risk.

Substance Abuse

What Is Purple Drank And Why Is It Dangerously Trending?

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purple drank cough syrup

Purple drank is a drug concoction made of codeine cough syrup mixed with carbonated drinks and hard candy. It is commonly known as “syrup”, “lean”, “Texas Tea”, “dirty Sprite” and the more popular term “sizzurp”.

Purple drank emerged as the drug of choice by celebrities and professional themes. The substance has figured in several music festivals, which have catapulted this dangerous mix into media frenzy.

This cold medication contains promethazine and codeine, which is combined to make a purple drink that induces euphoria and dissociation from the body. This recreational drug is a popular choice of drug in the Southern United State.

This illegal recreational drink is usually taken way beyond the medically approved dose. The amount of cough syrup may exceed up to 25 times than the usual recommended dosage. This addictive brew is known as a dissociative drug similar to ketamine and can be a health hazard when abused. Its active ingredient is codeine, known to be an opiate medication that can be extremely addicting.

Meanwhile, purple drank can also contain anti-histamine medication like promethazine that produces a mildly sedative effect. If mixed together and taken in large quantities, sedation and altered state of mind are some of its known effects.

As reported in The Daily Mail, Actavis announced last 2014 that they will cease production of the prescription cough syrup that has become a popular choice in mixing up Sizzurp. Actavis is a pharmaceutical company known to be the biggest distributor of cough syrup with promethazine and codeine in the mixture. Upon realizing this, Actavis decided to stop all production and sales of the said cough syrup.

Purple drank looks enticing and innocent, but it's a highly addictive substance.

Purple drank looks enticing and innocent, but it’s a highly addictive substance. [Source]

Purple Drank Abuse

Today reported that doctors are warning the public of the dangers of this substance. A statement made by Lenox Hill Hospital in New York declared that purple drank can be a very dangerous drug because it can lead to seizures and may even lead the patient to stop breathing.

The primary and active ingredients of the Texas Tea brew are promethazine and codeine, which can only be available upon prescription. The Sizzurp mixture is popular in the hip hop industry and has been the topic of countless songs that encourage others to use this recreational drink.

There are different signs that show up when a person has abused purple drank. The prevailing signs of Sizzurp abuse include slurred speech, lethargy, drowsiness, sedation, altered state of mind and impaired motor skills. The high that users get from taking this mixture is referred to as “swooning euphoria”, because it usually stimulates fainting, periods of blackout, and the tendency to lean on objects for support because it impairs and affects motor skills.

If purple drank is taken in high dosages, some of the unpleasant signs that users experience include vomiting, hives, chest pain, hallucinations, seizures and tremors.

One notable person who suffered from purple drank overdose is Lil Wayne. On October 2012, Lil Wayne was reported to suffer from seizures and tremors while flying his private jet. A few days after his hospitalization, his manager released a report that the seizure was brought about by fatigue and dehydration despite the fact that the award-winning musician is vocal about his addiction.

Purple drank users are often described to be going through sudden changes in behavior and experiencing mood swings and withdrawal symptoms.

purple drank advertisement

Scope of Purple Drank Abuse

Addiction Center concluded that there are roughly 33 million people who use codeine every year. Meanwhile, about 4.7 million are considered to be addicted to the dangerous mixture as reported in the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Between 2004 and 2008, about 152% of emergency visits involved pain killers, codeine and promethazine.

Purple drank is a breathing depressant and can be a deadly choice especially when mixed with alcohol and other illicit drugs like Ecstacy.

There are locations that tend to have higher population of purple drank users than other places. A report by Narconon.org concluded that Texas, Florida and Philadelphia are noted as locations with the highest level of Sizzurp abuse. The reason why this type of recreational drug is addictive is because the active ingredient codeine is an entry-level drug that induces and promulgates addiction.

Effects of Sizzurp Addiction

Purple drank – also known as Sizzurp and Texas Tea – is gradually becoming a popular choice in getting high. Some of the effects caused by purple drank abuse includes constricted pupil, raspy voice, uncontrolled eye movement, loss of coordination and drowsiness.

The physiological effect of purple drank on the user includes a dissociative feeling from the body. It may also produce motor-skill impairment and lethargy. The effects of purple drank usually last within three to six hours but frequent users can usually last longer. There are also instances wherein purple drank users get codeine overdose, resulting in opiate overdose and death.

Health hazards arise when the mixture of cough syrup and antihistamine is taken in high dosages. Promethazine is a depressant that directly affects the central nervous system, while codeine is a respiratory depressant. If taken in large amounts, it may cause the user to stop breathing because the entire central nervous and respiratory systems shuts down. The risk of this happening is usually when purple drank is taken alongside alcohol and Ecstacy.

When taking purple drank, codeine enters the brain to stimulate the receptors, which makes the users feel euphoric. If abused and frequently used, the brain gets used to the stimulant, leading users to feel the need to take higher doses of codeine.

Sizzup Withdrawal Symptoms

Since purple drank is highly addictive, users who abruptly stop the use of the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms that can last for a week or more depending on the frequent use.

Some of the symptoms experienced during withdrawal include insomnia, lower threshold for pain, depression, muscle ache, headache and nausea. Withdrawal symptoms usually last for a few days to a week, while depression may take months before it can be overcome.

Treatment of Purple Drank Addiction

The biggest challenge in the growing addiction of purple drank is that it can be easily mixed, with codeine or cough syrup being easily accessible in the black market. Fortunately, there are different options for the successful and efficient detox for codeine and promethazine. These three detoxification options include Cold Turkey, Tapering Off and Substitution.

Cold Turkey is a highly preferred detoxification process for purple drank abuse, but it can be extremely hard to fulfill. Over the course of several months of abstinence to sizzurp, recovering addicts may experience long-term withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, cravings and anxiety.

These detoxification processes can be an effective method to wean off and get off the addiction. However, self-detox can be highly dangerous especially if done without the supervision of the medical personnel. Self-detox may lead to heart failure, convulsions, anxiety, delirium tremens and hallucinations. The extent of the severity of the symptoms varies on the history of abuse and the user’s physical condition. It is still best to seek professional help to treat purple drank addiction, because constant monitoring of medical staff and proper intake of medication is the key to combat the addiction.

The most common medical treatment for codeine and purple drank addiction is clonidine. This medicine can greatly reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms brought about by purple drank addiction. The medication works directly on the body’s nervous system.

There are also some other treatment options such as the use of buprenorphine. The substance works to prevent codeine from accessing its opioid receptors, through the activation of the opioid blocker ingredient naltrexone.

Another form of treatment option in combating purple drank addiction is non-medication based treatment. This form of treatment is a support option for sizzurp users and usually includes psychotheraphy as its form or baseline of treatment.

One of the commonly used psychotherapy treatments is behavioral therapy. Behavioral approach as a treatment for addiction works because it helps engage users in drug abuse treatment. It also works as an encouragement for them to abstain from using this drug.

Another effective form of therapy that works in codeine abuse is contingency management interventions or motivational incentives. This type of intensive-based intervention therapy is highly effective in increasing the retention of treatment and promoting the abstinence from drugs.

Another helpful therapy that can promulgate the user to undergo treatment for addiction is group counseling and family counseling. An effectual intervention can only work if users feel supported by their loved ones. This form of therapy is highly effective because drug users need to undergo a set of tedious treatment and therapy sessions to combat addiction, and any form of support can mean a great deal for them.

purple drank cough medicine

Conclusion

Purple drank has become a popular form of addiction as it seems to be widely accepted by the hiphop industry. Some celebrities have been very vocal in advocating this as their form of addiction. Some people have even used social media to promote and even share instructions on how to create this dangerous mixture. Some musicians have also introduced the concept of purple drank use in their songs.

Addiction to this visually alluring purple drink can be considered as a disease that is slowly eating the society. It is hard to get off from addiction and even harder to overcome withdrawal symptoms. However, it can still be treated.

The treatment of this form of addiction can only be effective if recovering addicts are open in making the change within. The support of families and friends is also highly important in ensuring that they are getting all the help they need. Lastly, users should be able to access a treatment center that can cater to their personal needs to alleviate and get well from this toxic addiction.

Substance Abuse

Latest Study Aims To Catch Athletes Who Use Blood Doping

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Blood doping is an illegal transfusion of blood, and a type of autologous blood transfusion (ABT) that increases the levels of oxygen and red blood cells. In sports, specific standards of endurance, agility, and strength are given consideration, and that’s why some athletes go through blood doping procedures to ensure their slots in teams. While it is considered illegal, athletes resort to blood doping as it boosts performance in their respective fields.

Although Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) enables the detection of blood doping, Dr. Nicolas Leuenberger of the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, University Center of Legal Medicine at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland suggested that in order to increase the efficiency of ABP, it should also look into other biomarkers like hemoglobin mass to trace transfusion for as long as 15 days after procedure.

Further, the report published in Tranfusion Medicine Reviews recommended that biomarkers should also include expression of genes related to red blood cell metabolism to detect possible alteration, test on iron levels, storage lesions, and urine samples.

Athletes using ABT should be identified so as to maintain an efficient scheme of screening team players in various fields of sports. This can only be attained by being strict in testing methods, allowing for the inclusion of conventional biomarkers such as urine, white blood and plasma.

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Substance Abuse

A Comprehensive List of Fentanyl Abuse Risks and Dangers

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has previously issued public warnings regarding the use of the opioid drug fentanyl and its analogs. According to the agency, the incidents of drug overdoses and deaths relating to fentanyl have significantly increased in the last two years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) likewise reported that in 2013, about 92 fentanyl-related unintentional deaths were recorded in the state of Ohio alone. The following year, CDC data showed that the number of such incidents had increased by almost 500%. There were more than 500 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2014.

What is Fentanyl?

fentanyl abuse

Fentanyl, also known as its brand names Sublimaze, Actiq, Durogesic, Duragesic, and Fentora is a potent opioid analgesic. It is estimated to be 50 times more potent than pure heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is classified as a Schedule II prescription drug and is used in the treatment of chronic pain among patients who are non-responsive to other opioids. It is also prescribed for the management of pain associated with cancer treatments or post-surgical procedures.

At present, fentanyl is the strongest narcotic that is used in medical treatment. It has been described as potentially lethal even when administered at low doses. According to the DEA, ingestion of as low as 0.25 mg of the substance can be dangerous.

Prescription fentanyl comes in various forms. It may be administered intravenously, via injection, intranasal sprays, transdermal patches, and oral lozenges.

Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl, however, is sold on the streets where it is sold in common names such as Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, Tango, and Cash. Street fentanyl is produced illegally and it is often laced with other drugs including heroin and cocaine. It comes in several forms such as powder, spiked on blotter paper, and tablets that mimic other pharmaceutical products. It is abused by snorting, swallowing, or injecting. The use of recreational fentanyl has been associated with cases of drug overdose and deaths.

What are Fentanyl Analogs?

Clandestine laboratories produce variations of the drug sold in the black market. The effects can be more potent pure fentanyl itself. Some people may not even be aware that they are purchasing drugs that have been chemically adulterated. Ingesting these substances places them at a high risk of adverse effects such as respiratory depression, overdose, coma, and death.

Some of the fentanyl analogs include alfentanil (Alfenta), Brifentanil, Butyrfentanyl, 3-Allylfentanyl, 3-Methylfentanyl, 3-Methyl-thiofentanyl, 4-Phenylfentayl, Acetyl-α-methylfentanyl, Acetylfentanyl, α-Methylfentanyl, β-Hydroxy-3-methylfentanyl, β-Hydroxyfentanyl, ρ-Fluororofentanyl, Carfentanil (Wildnil), Diampromide, Lofentanil, Orcefentanil, Ohmefentanyl, Mirfentanil, Para-fluorofentanyl, Phenaridine, Remifentanil (Ultiva), Sufentanil (Sufenta, Sufentil), Thiofentanyl, and Trefentanil.

While most of these identified analogs have been banned or are currently listed among DEA’s controlled substances, some laboratories have found ways to tweak the chemical structures of the drug to come up with new versions. This makes it easy to import, market, and sell other adulterated versions of fentanyl without being detected.

In April, it was reported that a new analog called furanyl fentanyl was circulating in the U.S. In fact, it accounted for the fatal overdose of a 30-year-old man in Chicago, Illinois.

Fentanyl and the Brain

Fentanyl affects opioid receptors in the same way that heroin, morphine, and other opioids do. Such receptors are found in the brain and are responsible for controlling the response to painful stimuli. Fentanyl binds opioid receptors and causes an upsurge in dopamine levels. This results in the alteration of the user’s perception of pain and pleasure.

brain functioning addiction

Taking the drug numbs the perception of pain but because of the increase in dopamine levels, it also induces feelings of euphoria and extended pleasure. Repeated exposure to the drug alters the brain’s circuits, making it dependent on the substance for the production of pleasure signals. Ingesting it over time may lead to addiction.

Fentanyl has been classified as a substance with a high potential for abuse. The addictive process is similar to that of other painkillers such as Tramadol, OxyContin, Vicodin, and morphine. Compared to the mentioned opioids, however, the addiction to fentanyl can occur very quickly given its potent properties.

Fentanyl and Respiration

Multiple opioid receptors are present in the regions of the brain that control respiration or breathing rate. When fentanyl is taken in high doses, the opioid can cause respiratory depression which can lead to death.

Some studies have shown that the administration of pharmaceutical fentanyl for the treatment of post-operative pain and cancer affects respiration. To date, while fentanyl and other opioid painkillers remain as mainstays in the management of chronic pain, the fear of the incidence of respiratory depression is still a major clinical concern. As such, the prescription of fentanyl is reserved for patients who have developed a tolerance to other opioids and whose pain conditions can no longer be managed with the use of other analgesics.

On the other hand, recreational users of fentanyl are at a high risk of experiencing this adverse side effect. Some statistics have shown that respiratory distress is a major cause of death in most fentanyl-related overdose cases.

Overdose

The potency of fentanyl increases the risk of overdose, especially among recreational users and those who may not be aware that the drugs they have purchased on the streets are laced with the substance. It is possible that low-grade heroin or cocaine have been mixed with versions of fentanyl to amplify the effects of the drugs.

Users who have been prescribed fentanyl should strictly follow the physician’s instructions to avoid fatal overdose. They should watch out for potential overdose symptoms that include difficulty in swallowing, extreme fatigue, fainting, dizziness, difficulty of breathing, altered consciousness, and severe confusion.

Fentanyl overdose may be reversed with the timely administration of the drug naloxone (Narcan). The drug acts as an opioid receptor antagonist and reverses the effects of the overdose. It also restores normal breathing rates.

It is imperative, however, that fentanyl overdose is treated immediately in order to effectively counter the effects and avoid fatality.

Naloxone is available in several states and is distributed to injection drug users and the general public for use in case of overdose. Some agencies and health facilities also provide information dissemination and training for the proper administration of naloxone.

Other Adverse Effects

Generally, fentanyl produces the same effects as heroin and morphine but because it is more potent, the adverse effects can occur within a shorter time and at more intense levels. Some of the adverse effects include the following:

  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion
  • Urinary retention
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tolerance
  • Addiction

Withdrawal Effects

Sudden cessation of fentanyl use can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These include the following:

  • Extreme restlessness
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tremors
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Intense drug cravings

Several treatment and rehabilitation centers offer structured detoxification programs that are intended to mitigate and manage the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. In most cases, in-house rehabilitation is strongly recommended because these facilities have addiction specialists, therapists, and medical professionals on duty who are trained to handle patients undergoing withdrawal symptoms.

Dangers of the Fentanyl Transdermal Patch

The use of the fentanyl patch has also shown to be habit-forming. The transdermal patch contains potent analgesic properties, which are highly addictive. As with other forms of fentanyl, it is reserved for patients who are regular users of opiates. Those with no prior exposure to other opioid drugs are at a great risk of respiratory depression and death.

Misuse and improper application of the skin patch can also result in fatal overdose. In July 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that there had been hundreds of fentanyl-related deaths arising from the use of skin patches. In Florida alone, the drug was accountable for 379 deaths in the years of 2003 to 2004.

In Aiken County, South Carolina, it was reported that between January 2006 and May 2008, about 11 residents died as a direct result of the misuse of fentanyl patches.

Those who intentionally misuse or abuse the fentanyl patch for the purpose of ingesting higher doses of the drug employ methods such as:  placing it in the mouth, chewing, swallowing, sucking, injecting, snorting, or applying multiple patches to the body. These methods increase the risk of overdose and death.

Accidental exposure to a used patch can likewise cause fatal side effects. This is because the drug is not completely eradicated from the patch even after a three-day period of use. As such, discarded patches are often sought by some abusers.

Children are also at a risk of experiencing adverse side effects due to accidental exposure to either new or unused patches. To avoid these risks, transdermal patches should be stored or disposed of properly.

Using the patch for a longer or shorter period than prescribed is potentially fatal for a patient. Since the patch provides sustained release of the drug, wearing it longer than 72 hours or withdrawing from it before the prescribed period may result to the user’s death.

The risk of fentanyl side effects is also increased when the drug is used in conjunction with other medications such as amiodarone, amprenavir, aprepitant, carbamazepine, clarithromycin, diltiazem, erythromycin, fluconazole, fosamprenavir, itraconazole, ketoconazole, nefazodone, nelfinavir, phenytoin, rifampin, ritonavir, troleandomycin, and verapamil.

Certain pharmaceutical preparations also interact with the fentanyl patch and can cause side effects, aggravate the symptoms of existing health conditions, or affect the effectivity of the drug in some way. Some of the medicines that have been found to interact with fentanyl include phenothiazines, sodium oxybate, anticholinergics, benzodiazepines, crizotinib, fosaprepitant, other narcotic pain medicines, macrolide antibiotics, mixed agonist/antagonist pain medicines, and rifamycins.

Patients who have been prescribed fentanyl should inform their physicians of any other medication that they may be currently taking to avoid possible contraindications. Also, the patch must be used strictly as directed by the medical professionals, and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions or medicine guide.

Conclusion

The potency of fentanyl makes it one of the most dangerous drugs to be ingested. While its use as a prescription drug has become increasingly common especially among regular opioid users, care should be taken to avoid the dangers that can be brought about by incorrect administration, misuse, or abuse.

The public should likewise be warned of the grave consequences of using fentanyl non-medically or of consuming drugs that have purchased from the streets which may be laced with the substance.

As the DEA intensifies its efforts to curb the proliferation and sale of clandestine drugs in the black market, everyone should be on guard against the harmful effects of illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse.

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Substance Abuse

FDA Issues Warning on Increasing Deliveries of Kratom in the U.S.

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kratom pills dietary supplements

The growing problem of kratom is bound to escalate, as the FDA recently reported a surge in the number of shipments in the U.S. carrying the substance.

Kratom is usually shipped in the form of dried leaves, capsules, processed leaves, powdered leaves and in liquid form from leaf extracts. The influx of shipments of this substance in the U.S. may have resulted from several websites that are now openly selling kratom. As a result, a lot of people are confused if kratom is safe to use.

The emergence of dietary supplements that contain kratom has become an alarming issue because of the numerous reported adverse effects once ingested. Those who regularly ingest Kratom may experience any of the following:

  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Respiratory depression
  • Delusions
  • Tremors
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea
  • Skin pigmentation

Some dietary supplements and bulk dietary supplements were found to contain this opiod-like substance, prompting FDA to come up with a Red List of companies and products that ship kratom.

Proper documentation is requested for detained products that appear to be similar to the dietary supplements but are not yet on the currently listed list. These will fall under the “Center Review Detention” cases.  After the screening process finds the suspected products worthy to be included in the list, it can now be added to the Red List based on the center’s evaluation. All results are submitted to the concerned district’s Compliance Branch.

The public is warned against purchasing dietary supplements that may contain Kratom or Kratom-like substances as there may be misbranding of these products to mislead the consumers. It is advised that any suspicion should be reported immediately.

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Substance Abuse

Ketamine Abuse: Addiction, Effects and Treatment

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ketamine powder

Ketamine is a potent dissociative anesthetic and is most commonly compared to PCP and dextromethorphan. Ketamine is generally used as an anesthetic for animals, but has turned into a recreational drug for addicts. Its popular street names include Special K or Vitamin K. This drug is readily available on party scenes, and is referred to as a date rape drug.

ketamine home anesthetic

Brief History

According to DrugAbuse.com, this drug provides a feeling of detachment from one’s body and is proven to be a hallucinogen. In 1963, Ketamine was created to promote a fast-acting general anesthesia and indirectly replaced PCP. It was during the 1970s that the federal government released and approved Ketamine for human use and is still being used as a veterinary medicine in most hospitals.

Basic Information about Ketamine

It is considered as a Schedule III controlled substance, which means it can lead to physical dependence among users. It is strictly restricted to use Ketamine without any prescription.

Ketamine is usually injected or snorted, and it gained popularity as a date rape drug because it is odorless and colorless. With that being said, it can easily be mixed unto a drink without detection because it is water soluble.

As enumerated by Addiction Hope, Ketamine causes various reactions when used, such as numbness, out-of-body experiences, hallucinations and depression. When ingested at high doses, it is potentially harmful and may even lead to death.

Those that have experienced ingesting high dosages of Ketamine experiences total disassociation with their identity. That is why precaution must be duly taken when dealing with Ketamine.

Ketamine Addiction and Tolerance

A study conducted by University of Maryland revealed that there is an estimated 2.3 million users of Ketamine, and the user’s age runs as early as 12. There is also a steady increase on the number of Ketamine users under the age of 21. Meanwhile, 74 percent of individuals aged 12 to 25 accounts for the number of emergency department visits in the United States with ketamine overdose as its reason.

Ketamine is a popular choice of drug for parties and night clubs in the U.S. It is a drug designed to be used as anesthetic in hospitals and veterinary clinics, but is mistakenly believed to be non-addictive. However, ketamine addiction is an ongoing and growing problem in the country and some parts of Asia.

Ketamine poses highly dangerous results and reactions. On a research done by a drug detox clinic, regularly consuming ketamine may lead to increased tolerance and independence for the drug. Ketamine addiction is described as the physical tolerance that a person develops when using the drug over and over again.

Addiction to the drug may lead to wide ranges of health problems such as withdrawal symptoms, permanent psychosis and severe depression. There are also cases noted wherein it caused death due to overdose.

K-Hole Phenomena is the effect of using Ketamine in large doses. In this case, the user experiences near-death toxicity and a body-detaching experience. The K-hole experience happens when users become totally unattached to their own bodies and identities.

ketamine powder

The most common signs when using ketamine is speech difficulty, anxiety, rapid eye movement and redness of skin. According to National Institute of Drug Abuse, Ketamine can alter the brain’s function in terms of cognitive and sensory perceptions. It triggers the release of serotonin and glutamate neurotransmitter that regulates the brain functions.

Once you are addicted to Ketamine, it may be difficult to overcome the disease without any professional help. To know if you or someone is addicted to ketamine, you need to find these signs:

  • The user increases the amount of use to get and achieve the particular “high” that the drug brings.
  • The user spends excessive sums of money to experience the next drug hit.
  • The user is getting used to the effects of the drug.
  • The user seemingly becomes more and more detached.

If you or someone you know experiences any of these, seek medical help immediately. Treatment can be done by balancing the brain’s chemical and going through a series psychological evaluation and treatment.

Ketamine Side Effects

Ketamine is a a type of hallucinogen and dissociative drug. It can alter and distort a person’s perception of their own identity and reality. Ketamine abuse can lead to potential life-threatening effects that affect both the physical and mental heart of a person.

Short-term mental effects of ketamine include delirium, hallucinations and anxiety. Meanwhile, it may also affect the physical effect of the user like sensory distortion, analgesia, and speech impairment. The user may also experience nausea, vomitting, increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure as short term side effects while using Ketamine.

In a published research study by PubMed, people who use this drug also experience long-term effects like apnea and respirator depression. Additional side effects can also include cardiovascular arrhythmias, increased salivation, tonic-clonic movement and intracranial pressure.

A regular drug user may also get exposed to a higher risk of liver or kidney damage, seizures and rapid heartbeat. Here are some of the biggest and most critical dangers of ketamine abuse:

1. Elevated Pain Threshold

Ketamine is an anesthetic used by both humans and animals. It has the medicinal ability to increase glutamate chemical in the brain that numbs a particular part on the brain. In high doses and ingestions, it shuts down certain areas of the brain. The potential danger to this is that when a person is using this as a recreational drug, it diminishes the person’s ability to feel pain, making it a health hazard for them.

2. Helplessness

Ketamine users develop psychological behaviors like severe anxiety and depression. A person who frequently uses this drug tends to feel that they are dissociated from the world and their identities. Furthermore, high dosage of Ketamine (i.e. 100 to 250 milligrams) can immobilize a person. It blocks off physical sensations altogether, making them feel vulnerable.

3. Death

Ketamine overdose can lead to death. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported numerous cases of death due to Ketamine overdose. When a person injects or ingests high amount of ketamine, it can shut down respiratory and circulatory system of the person. The glutamate and serotonin neurotransmitter impacts major systems of the body.

Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Ketamine is a Schedule III drug, which means it has the tendency or ability to keep a person psychologically dependent on their use.

A ketamine user may experience withdrawal symptoms the use of ketamine ceases for quite a while. As with any drugs, withdrawal symptoms often occur when a particular drug alters the opioid receptors in the brain. Addiction Center Rehabilitation Center concluded that psychological withdrawal symptoms can extremely be dangerous because it may lead to intense depression and increased suicidal tendencies.

Ketamine withdrawal symptoms are psychological in nature because the drug is an effective hallucinogen as it directly affects the brain’s cognitive functions. During the withdrawal process, the user will become emotionally unstable and must be isolated from others. It is highly recommended to place the user in a controlled environment where it is safe for both the user and the people around. The duration of withdrawal can last up to 72 hours or several weeks depending on the gravity of addiction.

Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms caused by ketamine abuse and addiction as researched by the Addiction Center:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Psychosis, including delusion and hallucination
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Rage
  • Nausea
  • Decrease in respiratory and cardiac functions
  • Insomnia
  • Shakes
  • Hearing loss
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment

ketamine in bottles

Ketamine Treatment and Rehabilitation

It is difficult to overcome any form of addiction, but it is even more difficult to overcome ketamine addiction. However, it can be done with help of experts and the support of loved ones. Professional detox and rehabilitation can lead to recovery and would help the user through different phases.

Here’s a guide that will lead you to full recovery from ketamine addiction:

  • Accept that you need help. One of the things that hinder addicts from seeking help is that they are in denial of their situation. Admitting your addiction is a hard pill to swallow, but it is through this that you take the first step in recovery. It will be a long and winding road but the journey to your recovery is worth it.
  • Be transparent to your loved ones. Tell your family what you are going through. By being transparent about your situation, chances are you get all the support and love you need to make it through the recovery period.
  • Look for rehabilitation centers. There are many rehabilitation centers that can help you in breaking down your addiction. Look for a rehabilitation center that fits your need. Read the reviews and get to know their therapists, nurses and doctors.
  • Find treatment that works. The first thing you need to know and understand is the different treatments and services that you need to undergo. Every treatment differs from one another. Find the type that you are comfortable with.

Fortunately, there are different therapies that can help recovering ketamine addicts. Here are some of the ketamine addiction treatment options that can help users get back on track:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This is a psychosocial intervention used to treat mental disorders. It combines both behavioral and cognitive psychology that makes it an efficient method in treating addiction. This type of treatment focuses on critical behaviors and determines the best way on how to effectively change it.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

As a cognitive behavioral treatment, DBT focuses in treating chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder. It is recognized as the gold standard in terms of psychological treatment, and has been scientifically proven in treating disorders such as addiction, severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Conclusion

Drug addiction is a growing problem worldwide. As the world grows increasingly smaller, you may find it even more possible to get drugs from anyone.

Remember that ketamine addiction poses grave danger to users and addicts. It may be hard to overcome this sickness especially if you do not have any support group. However, if treated properly, anyone can get back on track with their lives.

Drug addiction may be a disease, but to cure this sickness is all up to us. If we wanted to change and get better, we can find all the ways we can to achieve complete and fast recovery.

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Substance Abuse

Things You Need To Know About Mephedrone Abuse

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mephedrone abuse

These days, drugs of abuse are no longer plant-based but rather synthetically produced. According to Gary Henderson of the 1988 Journal of Forensic Science, these drugs will be very strong and can easily be distributed “in the future”. Fast forward to a few decades when the future is already “now”, and true enough, synthetic drugs have become the drug of choice for the new generation of users.

One of the rising trends in synthetic drug abuse is something called mephedrone. In this article, we will discuss the truths and facts about mephedrone and the abuse of this substance.

What is Mephedrone?

Mephedrone – also known as  4-methyl methcathinone (4-MMC) or 4-methyl ephedrine – is an illicit synthetic stimulant drug belonging to the amphetamine and cathinone classes, which are mood-altering drugs. It is also often incorporated with MDPV and butylone in the preparation of designer drugs, otherwise known as bath salts. Likewise, mephedrone is also used on its own as an intravenous drug.

mephedrone abuse

Other names for mephedrone are Drone, White Magic, M-CAT and Meow Meow. It comes in different forms such as capsules, tablets, cracks and powder, which can be swallowed, snorted, injected, smoked and used rectally.

When taken orally the effect can be felt within 15-45 minutes for 2-3 hours. If the user snorts mephedrone he can feel the effect immediately and still the effect will last for 2-3 hours. On the other hand, if injected, the effect can only last for half an hour.

This drug can be considered as a recreational drug based on reports from users that mephedrone produces pleasant experiences. It can cause stimulation and euphoria – a feeling of ecstasy and excitement – increased sexual desires, better mood management (which makes the person less hostile), improved mental aptitude, and better inclination to music.

The abovementioned effects are just part of the picture. Unfortunately, overdose and abuse of mephedrone has many ugly and dangerous side effects that can render permanent damage to the brain.

History of Mephedrone

Mephedrone is a man-made drug first synthesized by French pharmaceutical researchers in 1929 to safely substitute MDMA (i.e. Ecstasy or Molly) in psychotherapy to treat patients suffering from mental health concerns, psychiatric illness and emotional problems like depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem and schizophrenia.

It remained unnoticed until 2003 where its recreational aspects were rediscovered by a bored underground chemist named “Kinetic”. Around 2004, a drug similar to mephedrone called ‘hagigat’ was legally sold in Israel.

Through the years, street chemists have tried to modify the composition of cathinone either by making their own formula or by following Kinetic’s rediscovered formula.  The Israeli websites were the first to sell this substance online in capsule form, but in the end, the government banned it in 2008.

It was sometime between the summer of 2009 and March 2010 that the use of mephedrone as a recreational drug came full blast in the U.K. It was being marketed in powder form and given different labels like “fertilizers”, “bath salts”, “plant food” and “not for human consumption” all in the game of avoiding getting caught by the law.

About the same time, the secret chemical formula was exposed on an underground online forum leading to the widespread distribution of the drug. Other countries followed suit and got involved in distributing mephedrone together with Chinese entrepreneurs who imitated the manufacturing process of the drug, thereby dramatically lowering the price while increasing the availability of the supply in the dance clubs, head shops, and music festivals. Some surveys even showed that mephedrone is the fourth most popular drug in the U.K. In April 2010, mephedrone was eventually controlled by the region, and was classified as a Class B drug.The restriction on the use of mephedrone gave birth to underground dealers and entrepreneurs significantly doubling the price.

Around 2012, records indicated the evident side effects of mephedrone use especially on teenagers and young adults who manifested a lot of behavioral problems. There was also an increasing number of first time users who engaged in neurotic injecting of drugs in group sessions.

In 2013, the United Nations declared U.K. as Europe’s largest market for mephedrone, even increasing the percentage of usage to 300% after it was deemed illegal. Nonetheless, based on the latest survey of Mixmag and the Global Drug Survey in 2014, the popularity of mephedrone went to the bottom of the Top Twenty drug list due to adverse effects that it exhibited in users.

Despite the madness accompanying the emergence of new alternatives to mephedrone, they can never compare to the popularity mephedrone has achieved. As of 2015, this drug continues to hit the streets and no amount of banning by the government seems to be able to stop its use.

Mephedrone Abuse

mephedrone powder

Mephedrone has been considered a legal high in the past, until it started killing people and it was re-classified as Class B drug in the U.K. and Schedule I in the U.S.

Mephedrone shares the same effect with cocaine and ecstasy. It gives the user a sense of excitement and extreme euphoria. Still, little is known about this drug and its long-term effects since the use and abuse as a recreational substance is relatively new.

Like all stimulant drugs, taking mephedrone can make the person act in an irrational manner and there will always be a need to re-dose often. Users have self-reported that this drug is mentally addictive and that they take the drug in disproportionate amounts, which lead them to be hooked and suffer further negative side effects. Although it is not physically addictive and the user can easily get used to the high, one can feel extremely tired and withdrawn for days after using the drug, enabling them to re-dose to fight feeling tired, thus, doubling the addiction.

Most fatal incidents and drug-deaths related to mephedrone use also involve other drugs and alcohol. Taking mephedrone with other stimulants, drugs and alcohol reinforces the harmful side effects.

Drug Effects

One side effect is that it will narrow the veins resulting to a reduced blood flow. In some instances, the user may suffer tightness in the chest and difficulty of breathing. Continuous use can further cause heart damage and eventually cardiac arrest. In addition, pain may also be felt in the arm and leg areas due to the decreased blood flow.

Mephedrone is also recognized as a neurotoxin, in that it can damage the nervous system, raising the risk of poor memory recollection and concentration.

Some short-term side effects of mephedrone use include headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, fluctuating heartbeat, palpitations, difficulty to breathe, grinding of teeth, hallucinations, delusions, uncontrolled muscular movements, erratic behavior, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, nose bleeding, blurred vision, dilated pupils, chest pain and tightness, hyponatremia and inflammation of the heart.

Meanwhile, prolonged use can decrease the production of serotonin, leading to higher risk of depression and damage to memory. It wasn’t concluded yet if the impairments are reversible.

Substance Abuse

The Real Danger of Scopolamine Abuse

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Chemical structure of scopolamine.

Another lethal drug that is being used recreationally and in connection with the commission of certain crimes is a substance called scopolamine. While it is an approved prescriptive medication, it is now being used as a party and date-rape drug.

Scopolamine has been found to produce side effects that are potentially dangerous, and its properties have been found to have the potential for abuse.

What is Scopolamine?

Hyoscine hydrobromide, also known as scopolamine hydrobromide, is a prescription medication used in the treatment of conditions including motion sickness, postoperative nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal spasms, renal spasms, Parkinson’s disease, muscle spasms, involuntary movement in the lungs or urinary tract, bowel cholic, irritable bowel syndrome, hypersalivation, and eye inflammation. It has also been used to treat asthma, depression, and chemotherapy-associated nausea.

Scopolamine belongs to a class of drugs called anticholinergics, which act to block the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that triggers nausea and vomiting.

The medication may be administered orally, subcutaneously, ophthalmically, intravenously, and via transdermal patch (e.g. Transderm-Scop, Transderm-V).

Scopolamine Abuse

The main ingredient of scopolamine is burundanga, which is derived from comes from a datura plant called “Borrachero tree.” The drug is also known as “devil’s breath” and has been used as a mind control agent.

Burundanga plant, from which scopolamine is extracted.

Burundanga plant, from which scopolamine is extracted.

The practice of using scopolamine to reduce a person’s free will and force him into submission is common in Columbia, where the tree naturally flourishes. It is associated with crimes such as rape, abduction, theft, and robbery. It is estimated that the number of annual scopolamine incidents in the country amounts to about 50,000.

These occurrences are common in night clubs and bars which are frequented by male predators who target attractive and unsuspecting women. The tablets are usually crushed and slipped into drinks or food. The effects produced are similar to the date-rape drug Rohypnol and has been reported to render the victim unconscious for more than 24 hours. The victim may not remember the incident the following day.

Other than being used illicitly by criminals to render their victims helpless and submissive, it is also used recreationally by abusers who seek the feelings of euphoria that the drug elicits. It is commonly abused as a party drug by users who prefer it for its hallucinogenic properties.

Signs and Symptoms

Abuse of scopolamine causes a person to appear extremely “relaxed.” Users have the tendency to be more truthful and submissive. They are unable to resist following suggestions and may be coerced to do some against that are normally against their will.

The high produced by the drug can be addicting. Heavy or frequent users are likely to encounter several health effects as well as troubles with work, school, or finances.

Dangers of Scopolamine Abuse

Even when taken at regular doses, Scopolamine can cause confusion, agitation, rambling speech, hallucinations, and paranoia. It can trigger allergic reactions that are manifested by difficulty of breathing, constriction of the throat, and swelling of the lips and tongue.

Other side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, blurred vision, dilated pupils, dry or itchy eyes, flushing, rashes, seizures, constipation, decreased sweating, restlessness, agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and poor coordination.

Children and elderly are more susceptible to these side effects compared to other patients.

Drug Warnings

Those who are diagnosed of conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, coronary artery disease, tachyarrhythmia, cardiac conduction disorder, brain damage, enlarged prostate, stomach obstruction, bladder problems, ulcerative colitis, open-angle glaucoma, psychosis, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, and toxin-medicated diarrhea should discuss these health concerns with their doctor before taking scopolamine. It is usually not recommended that people with these conditions be prescribed scopolamine. However, when the medication becomes necessary, its administration and dosage should be closely monitored by a medical professional.

In patients with Parkinson’s disease, abrupt discontinuation of the use of transdermal patch may result in adverse effects such as headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. These withdrawal effects may appear more than 24 hours from the removal of the patch.

Pregnant women should likewise consult their physicians before taking the drug as it is not yet known whether scopolamine may be harmful to the fetus.

Scopolamine interacts with the metabolism of other drugs such as other anticholinergics, tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, analgesics, diuretics, and muscle relaxants. The drug is known to intensify the effects of such medications.

Since the side effects of Scopolamine include drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision, driving and operating machinery while under the influence of the drug can be potentially hazardous. As much as possible, performing these activities should be avoided by those who are taking the medication. Excessive exercise and underwater activities should likewise be avoided.

Chemical structure of scopolamine.

Chemical structure of scopolamine. [Photo by Edgar181 via Wikimedia Creative Commons]

Treatment for Scopolamine Abuse

The psychoactive properties of the drug can get people addicted. Some users have reported developing withdrawal symptoms after the cessation of drug use. These include feelings of depression, confusion, and psychotic episodes.

The treatment of scopolamine addiction often involves individualized treatment and regular therapy sessions. Various counseling approaches may be utilized to help the patient recover from the addiction.

Recommended Dosage

Scopolamine tablets usually come in 0.4 milligrams and should be taken every 8 hours or as directed by the doctor.

The transdermal patch is for external use only and is applied behind the ear. It delivers 1 mg of scopolamine which is enough to last for 3 days. It should be applied 4 hours ahead of time to prevent motion sickness. Only one patch should be worn at a time.

Scopolamine Overdose

Scopolamine overdose is dangerous, and medical attention should be sought immediately. Some of the overdose symptoms are tachycardia, arrhythmia, hyperventilation, blurred vision, double vision, night blindness, disturbed color perception, pounding in the ears, dry mouth, skin flushing, gastrointestinal motility, decreased urination, painful urination, painful urination, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, seizures, irritability agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, fatigue, sluggishness, and loss of consciousness.

Drug overdose is usually treated with medications such as physostigmine and supportive therapy.

Scopolamine is intended to be used for medical purposes only and should be used according to the instructions of a physician. It is not safe to be taken as a recreational drug. Those who know do so may develop a physical and psychological dependence on the substance which is dangerous in the long run. If so, treatment centers should be contacted as soon as possible for the appropriate intervention and therapy.

[Burundanga image by Jorge Lascar via Flickr Creative Commons]