Substance Abuse

Kratom Ban in Oregon Proposed Through Senate Bill

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The Oregon Legislature is now in the process of passing over a dozen bills concerning marijuana. On top of this, the lawmakers are also considering a kratom ban in the state through a senate bill pending approval.

Those who oppose the use of kratom claim that there have been fifteen kratom-related deaths in the United States within two years. Through Senate Bill 518, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy will conduct a study to conclude whether the plant and its drug components should be labeled as a controlled substance. News of the kratom ban bill being proposed has kratom users worried, according to a news item.

Susan Ash, who works as director and founder of the American Kratom Association, said that taking kratom has benefited her health ever since she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a condition that was undiagnosed for eight years, leaving her to deal with lifelong pain and fatigue. According to Ash, kratom leaves can be taken in many forms either as a tea, chewed, smoked, or ingested in capsules. She formed the American Kratom Association in order to educate others about kratom use as well as protect and support kratom consumers.

Kratom has been listed by the DEA as a substance of concern for several years, although the kratom ban and initial plans to classify it as Schedule I have been put on hold. The American Association of Poison Control Centers have also received calls related to kratom use. The calls started at two in between 2000-2005 and then surged to 660 from 2014-2016.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Things You Need To Know About Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

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Drug trade and use continues to be one of the major problems in the U.S. The government’s initiative to scale down drug trade in the country has somehow lead to the legalization of cannabis, which is one of the most common illegal substances used. Despite initiatives to legalize the substance, lawmakers may have overlooked one point with marijuana use: the emergence of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.

What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a collection of symptoms that occur after prolonged and massive usage of cannabis. According to an Australian clinical study conducted by Dr. Hugh Allen in 2004, about 10 patients were exhibiting the same symptoms, with all of them found to be marijuana users.

Excessive use of marijuana is the result of such condition. This occurs when marijuana is used more than 3-5 times a day, which eventually leads to a chronic use of the substance for years on end.

Cannabis use creates a euphoric effect to the user. However, some individuals may experience this rare condition despite its usual antiemetic effect. What cannabis users would do is to take in more with the hope of being relieved with the unfavorable symptoms. However, increasing the dose will do more harm than good.

Signs and Symptoms of CHS

Individuals who suffer from CHS usually complain of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. They may frequent the emergency room for 3-5 times before doctors would conclude that the vomiting and nausea is related to marijuana use because there are other conditions that may exhibit the same symptoms.

CHS is a rare condition; it does not happen to all cannabis users. It usually takes years before the onset of symptoms occur. The shortest reported length of consumption of cannabis having the symptoms was 18 months.

Individuals who have CHS may experience the following:

  • Agitated state
  • Apprehension
  • Sweating
  • Postural hypotension
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypokalemia
  • Alkalosis
  • Hypochloremia
  • Elevated urea
  • Esophagitis
  • Gastric mucosal trauma

How is it different from Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) may also present the same symptoms as that of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.  It usually lasts from a few hours to several days. Repeated attacks happen with no apparent reason. The only difference of CVS from CHS is that with CVS, cannabis use is not present.

Each episode of CVS happens as the previous one, which means episodes may occur at the same time of the day, the same duration, or with the same symptoms and intensity.

Treatment for CHS

Cannabis users usually find relief when they take a hot shower.  According to a study from Philadelphia, “taking hot showers may be a way of correcting the cannabis-induced imbalance that affects the regulation of temperature of the hypothalamus”.

The symptoms usually go away after a few days of completely stopping from consuming cannabis.

Other forms of treatment for this condition include providing medications to relieve from abdominal pain and electrolyte replacement to maintain the balance of electrolytes in the body lost due to vomiting.

This condition, if left untreated, may lead to severe dehydration and kidney failure.

CHS in the News

It must have come as a surprise to some pro-cannabis legalization that such condition happens. Although CHS has been reported just over a decade ago, it is only now after the legalization of marijuana on several states that there has been an increase in individuals who are reported to be suffering from such condition.

One popular involves a certain Lance Crowder, who has been going in and out of the emergency room for abdominal pain and vomiting. However, doctors were not able to find out what was wrong with him. It was Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital who finally found out that Crowder was having CHS. When Dr. Heard asked Crowder if he feels relieved taking hot showers, he immediately knew what was wrong with Crowder.

Outside of Colorado, patients who were sent to the emergency room are often misdiagnosed partly because doctors are unaware of the symptoms presented by CHS and that these patients would not admit to using cannabis.

Impact of Marijuana Legalization on CHS Incidence

The main effect of taking marijuana is having that euphoric feeling, which has encouraged many people to try it and eventually get hooked on it. Incidentally, medical experts have found out that using cannabis may give benefits to people who are suffering from severe pain which is common to cancer patients. In other words, patients may have found an alternative source of relief in marijuana. This is the primary reason why marijuana legalization was pushed.

More and more states have legalized the use of marijuana, and several more states are expected to join the bandwagon. While it remains like an endless debate among others who do not agree to its legalization, still there are people who see it as their last recourse in helping them cope with the severe pain they are going through.

The New York Times stated the following reasons for legalizing marijuana, namely:

  • It will relieve the government from using additional funds. Individuals have been arrested and put behind bars because of possession of cannabis. Police authorities are spending so much time and money running after individuals when they can focus and use their time going after individuals involved in much severe crimes.
  • Despite the government’s initiatives of criminalizing marijuana offenders, it has failed in reducing the number of people involved in using marijuana.
  • Cannabis has known medical benefits. For many years, marijuana has been referred to something that has a negative effect on one’s health. However, further studies showed that it can also help certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and muscle spasm, just to name a few.
  • Legalization of cannabis may decrease usage. The government sees a possible decrease in usage once tax is implemented over cannabis trade.
  • It is believed that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco because “its effect is mostly euphoric and mild” compared to alcohol drinkers who turn themselves into maniacs and domestic abusers.

Conclusion

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome may probably affect the decision of other states in joining the rest of the country to legalize marijuana. While we see the benefits of this substance, lawmakers may be thinking of adding provisions to this law to protect medical cannabis users and to prevent them from further encouraging recreational marijuana use, for the sole purpose of avoiding the increase in risk of CHS.

Medical Marijuana

National Academy of Sciences Says Marijuana Has Medical Benefits

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A comprehensive review of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that marijuana does possess medical benefits.

The committee who conducted the review concluded that patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are likely to experience a huge decrease in pain symptoms. In adults suffering from multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms, temporary use of oral cannabinoids led to a marked improvement in their condition, according to a news release.

With medical cannabis gaining ground in the United States, the Institute of Medicine conducted a comprehensive review in 1999. This was not, however, the first attempt in trying to determine the potential benefits of marijuana. In 1982, it was concluded that cannabis and its variations have shown value in treating various disorders. Among the conditions where cannabis offers medicinal benefits include asthma, seizures, and other nervous system disorders.

The first attempt by the government to control the use of pot was commissioned by then New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia in response to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The LaGuardia report concluded that pot did not have any effect on a person’s sensibilities or decision-making ability.

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon also commissioned a scientific assessment of marijuana in the early 1970s. Commissioned by Nixon, the Schaefer Report came up with the conclusion that cannabis does not rank high in social problems in contemporary America.

There is a huge difference in the landscape of cannabis in 1999 and 2016. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 28 states (as of this writing), while 16 states have CBD laws. Last summer, the DEA did not reschedule marijuana, which means that it has no medical value.

Substance Abuse

DEA Acting Chief Rosenberg Discusses Synthetic Drugs Issue with Chinese Authorities

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Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chuck Rosenberg recently visited China to meet with Liu Yuejin, China’s Assistant Minister of Public Security. The two officials were reported in a news article to have discussed important issues about synthetic drugs.

Rosenberg also sat down with MPS Narcotics Control Bureau Director General Liang Yun and General Administration of China Customs Anti-Smuggling Bureau Director General Lia Xiaohui to discuss new psychoactive substances, fentanyl class substances, drug precursor chemicals and anti-money laundering.

The meeting is designed to enhance the current relationship between DEA and counter-narcotic law enforcement authorities. It emphasizes the increased cooperation between the DEA and the MPS in recognition with China’s actions toward combating the worldwide synthetic drug trafficking and illicit money laundering.

“This week’s meetings with China’s Ministry of Public Security reinforced the commitment between our agencies to address the synthetic drug crisis which affects our nation,” stated DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.  “These meetings underscore our improving relationship and cooperative efforts as we work to stem the flow of dangerous synthetic opioids and related chemicals.  I appreciate the good work they are doing in China to help us address our opioid epidemic.”

This is the third meeting between DEA and Chinese officials. Rosenberg first met with former NCB Director General Hu Minglang at the DEA Headquarters at the annual Bilateral Drug Intelligence Working Group (BDIWG) in September 2016. The meeting is designed to help both US and China enhance their joint drug investigations.

In August 2016, a senior level DEA delegation went to China to attend the “DEA Executive Leadership Forum.” The NCB, on the other hand, had a meeting with DEA investigators in Milwaukee, Boston, and the Special Operations Division to coordinate and advance bilateral fentanyl and new psychoactive substance investigations.

The DEA maintains an office in Beijing and plans to put up another office in Guangzhou. The agency will continue to work with China on counter-narcotic issues as well as the growing threat of synthetic drugs.

Substance Abuse

Florida Rep Jacobs Files Bill To Add Kratom To Controlled Substances List

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A new bill that would add kratom to the list of controlled substances has been filed in Congress.

Calling the bill a “fall on the sword issue,” Florida Rep. Kristin Jacobs filed House Bill 183 that would add mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine, compounds found in kratom, in the list of controlled substances.

Calling the plant a “scourge on society,” the Florida congresswoman expects the DEA to temporarily schedule the components as Schedule 1 substances after the period for public comment has already expired. Jacobs insisted that her filing of the bill was designed to “punish the industry not the unfortunate people who are addicted,” according to a news item.

The bill also proposes stiffer penalties for any individual or company that would be caught selling, manufacturing, delivering, or importing chemical constituents into Florida. When the law is implemented, such acts will be considered a first degree misdemeanor.

In Southeast Asia, kratom has been used as a herbal medicine serving as a palliative and an alternative to opiates. It is only starting to become popular in the United States.

Kratom comes as a chewable for a various ailments such as in pain reduction, treating diarrhea, and reducing opiates dependence. It is also known to provide energy, reduce symptoms of opiate withdrawal and prolong the duration of sexual intercourse.

[Image by ThorPorre via Wikimedia Creative Commons]

Substance Abuse

Survey Reveals Lower Public Trust Over Safety of E-Cigarettes

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Recent research has proven that people’s perception of e-cigarettes as the safer one to use compared to traditional cigarettes has declined over the years.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor Eric Ford, the team leader of the study, said that it is a good thing that people are now more informed of the adverse health impacts of electronic cigarettes despite the lack of action from the government or public health organizations. He also said that public  awareness goes a long way in keeping an eye on the things that could result to irreversible trends on public health, like the use of e-cigarettes.

Sponsored by the  U.S. National Cancer Institute, the study made use of surveys among 3,000 respondents who were smokers, former smokers, and non-smokers in the years 2012, 2013, and 2014. While the awareness on e-cigarettes rose from 77 to 94 percent (a difference of 17 percent) between the year 2012 and 2014, people’s perception that it is safer than traditional cigarettes fell from 50 percent to 43 percent between the same time periods, as reported in a news item.

In order to regulate and discourage the use of e-cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has started to lay out their plans on regulating and prohibiting the purchase and selling of e-cigarettes especially among the youth.

Addiction

Options For Drug Addiction Treatment

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Drug addiction is a condition that has plagued so many families and has reached a point where there is a need to put our best efforts in order to fight it. The war against drugs is a huge call to everyone to participate in preventing the spread of the “disease”, and may have somewhat affected the drug trade in several countries.  Coming up with stricter laws to prevent illicit substances from further harming individuals and families should be a continuous move.

The Real Score on Substance Abuse

In recent years, the U.S. has been confronted with so many drug-related incidents involving the youth. According to the latest Monitoring the Future Survey of drug use and attitude, there has been a decline in substance abuse among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. However, it is not enough reason to rejoice over the decline as there are other incidents that have affected several lives because of drug use.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) documented at least 35 incidents of school violence committed under the influence of psychiatric drugs.

It is more painful to see the deaths of so many innocent lives where users would randomly shoot at people or run them over because of being intoxicated with alcohol or illicit drugs. Apart from having law enforcement authorities on full alert with regards to drug trading and keeping a watchful eye on users, several government agencies and non-government institutions have put their best efforts in extending help in terms of dissemination of information about the effects of drug misuse on individuals and the society as a whole. Programs are also being conducted to help those who need to recover from drug addiction.

The Drug Rehabilitation Process

It is the goal of any rehabilitation institute to provide the utmost medical care needed by a recovering drug user. We know that there are specific medications given to individuals who have involved themselves with different kinds of drugs. While these can be helpful, it is still best that a rehabilitation program should be individualized to best suit the needs of the patient.

The whole process of recovery may be a daunting time for the patient, knowing that the initial stage of the process will also involve a series of painful withdrawal symptoms.

However, apart from completely helping to get rid of the illicit substances in the body, another part of the recovery program is aimed towards the psychological health of the patient. In this case, the mind is slowly programmed to get back to the old self and regain confidence and self-worth, with the help and support of family and friends.

The road to recovery means lifelong commitment and dedication. It may not be an easy path but it will be definitely rewarding to be able to achieve the goal of gaining back the life that was lost.

Key Elements Towards Drug Addiction Recovery

An effective treatment plan for drug users may vary depending on the kind of substance abused, as well as the degree and duration of misuse. However, the process towards any recovery plan contains the following basic components:

1. Finding the Right Rehabilitation Center

There are a lot of rehabilitation centers all over the country. Recovering addicts or their loved ones should be able to find the right treatment facility that can provide the support needed, based on the specific needs of the patient.

Initially, the rehabilitation center will provide some diagnostic screening to be able to determine the most optimal treatment plan for the patient. Every detail should be presented: the type of substance used, the amount of substance used, and the length of time that the patient has been using the substance.

The center should be informed about the family history to be able to establish the root cause of addiction. From this information, the treatment facility and the patient’s family should be able to discuss financial arrangements.

It is important that the patient, with the help of the family, will be able to find the right program that can best help him/her. Once he/she feels comfortable to whatever has been presented, then it is more likely that the patient can live a life good health and sobriety.

2. Detoxification

Detoxification is the process where the abused substance is taken away from the patient’s system. It is not an abrupt process since during this stage the patient may experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to unfavorable.

Medication is usually given to ease the withdrawal symptoms, and this may include opiate prescription drugs and heroin. These same drugs are commonly misused, but if given under direct supervision by a doctor, it should be able to help and not aggravate the patient’s condition.

Withdrawal is the stage wherein the patient may experience unfavorable symptoms due to insufficient amount of drugs that he used to take, in which case the body may no longer be accustomed to the decrease in substance intake.

Withdrawal symptoms appear within the first 24 hours after the last drug misuse. Symptoms may include:

  • Agitation
  • Cramping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Extreme depression
  • Loss of concentration
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Trembling
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Detox Medications

Medications are often given to drug users to help them overcome painful withdrawal symptoms. The drugs to be prescribed will depend on the type of substance used by the patient. The need for these drugs to complete the process is highly important because it is through these medications that the patient will be able to slowly keep up with the normal way on how the bodily systems should work.

  • Barbiturates: These are mild sedatives that help in relieving irritability, anxiety and discomfort. It may also prevent seizures during the detoxification process.
  • Benzodiazepines: These are anxiolytics that are commonly used during alcohol detoxification to help reduce seizures, relieve anxiety or depression, and decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Buprenorphine: This drug is used to treat heroin and opiate prescription medication. However, this was later on replaced by methadone due to the latter’s inability to produce a euphoric feeling.
  • Methadone: This type of drug is given to ease patients who have severe drug addiction problems. The dose is slowly lessened as the process progresses to prevent from being addicted to this drug.

3. Psychological Therapy

After undergoing the detoxification process, the patient is moved to therapy wherein the focus is towards behavior. It is a known fact that drug addiction does not only affect the patient’s body, but also largely alters brain functioning to cause impairment in decision-making and other brain activities.

To help patients slowly get back to their normal selves, therapy (which can be individual or with a group) is suggested to the patient.

Psychological therapy focuses on letting the patient realize and confront any existing problems that may have led him/her towards drug addiction. From there, the individual should be able to overcome addiction and have a better perspective about life.

The therapy is not for the patient alone; some programs may include the family as part of the process. It is also important that the family participates in the “healing process” as they have also suffered with their family member’s drug addiction. This can be a great way to speed up the recovery of the patient.

4. Recovery and After Care Program

Therapy may sound like the end of the rehabilitation program, but some people may have to deal with a lifelong journey of trying to keep sober. There is always a possibility for a relapse most especially if the patient does not stay away from people who may have influenced him to take drugs.

For those who are willing to go on a straight path towards recovery, after care programs may help. These programs involve having weekly visits at the rehabilitation centers, conducting regular drug testing, or even allowing recovering individuals to stay at a sobriety clinic for them to participate in group sessions. These programs may also include doing chores until they feel that they can start living normally outside the facility.

Drug Addiction Treatment Options

There are various treatment options available for drug users who opt to recovery from their addiction.

Inpatient Recovery Programs

This may be the most effective kind of treatment program as patients with co-occurring disorders may be treated. Treatment facilities offer a 24-hour intensive medical care under strict medical supervision where health professionals provide simultaneous care for any co-occurring medical and or mental health conditions.

The inpatient treatment includes:

  • A structured program where patients remain in the facility from 6 to 12 months with the entire community and highly-skilled professionals who will positively influence patients towards having a drug-free kind of life.
  • Short-term residential treatment is the detoxification and initial counseling provided to a drug user, and is offered in preparation for community-based treatment.
  • Recovery housing or sober living homes are offered to patients who have completed the program and are being prepared to face the outside world. This is made possible by providing short-term housing for patients to aid them in making the transition.

Inpatient facilities may be in the form of a hospital or a residential facility. Some residential facilities may offer more than what one can expect like living in a luxurious home (resort-like facility) or an executive set-up (where businessmen are allowed to continue with their involvement with their work while being treated inside the facility).

Outpatient Behavioral Treatment

Some individuals may not require full-time recovery process to be placed in an inpatient treatment setup. They are given schedules on when to check in with their facilitators to check on their progress.

Initial treatment may require frequent visits weekly. After completing the initial stages, the treatment may require fewer meetings per week with shorter hours per session.

This type of program is also given to patients after the detoxification process wherein psychological assessment and rehabilitation is given. This may involve individual or group counseling which may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: According to the Psychiatric Clinics of North America, this is a very effective means of helping individuals with substance abuse.
  • Motivational interviewing: This encourages the patient to fully surrender the addiction and to start rebuilding his life.
  • Motivational incentives: These encourage the patient to focus on what motivates him to become better and to completely stay away from drugs.
  • Multidimensional family therapy: This is a great way of involving the whole family for the recovery process.

A 12-step program may be suggested to help patients to fully recover by being with the same individuals who have gone through the same predicament and be able to help one another overcome their addiction completely.

Some of the well-known support groups include the following:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): A support group for people who are recovering from alcohol addiction.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA): This is similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous support group, but focuses on people who are recovering from drug addiction.

Meanwhile, specialized drug recovery support groups that have adapted the 12-step program include Cocaine Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous.

Treatment for Drug Abusers and Addicted Individuals Involved in Crimes

Individuals who have been out behind bars and are simultaneously given help to recover from addiction have less likelihood for a relapse because the individual is able to consistently go on with the program and become more focused on aiming for a renewed life than those who are not under any legal conditions.

It has been reported that those individuals who took the program while completing the required jail term are more likely to continue the program and have better chances of complete recovery.

Conclusion

It should be emphasized that drug addiction is a treatable and recoverable condition. Individuals should just be willing to give up on the addiction and start facing life again.

In order to have a successful treatment program, a person should look for the best drug treatment facility that can best suit his needs, and follow the program that has been tailor-made to fit with his drug addiction problem. Recovering addicts must also undergo a continuous aftercare program that will help them in seeking solutions to problems that have lead to addiction, in realizing what they can do to make life worthwhile, in rebuilding their lives and broken relationships, and in avoiding a relapse.

It is never an easy journey for these drug users to completely get back to their usual lives. However, with the support, love and care of family members and friends, the bumpy road may just be worth the trip.

Real Drug Stories

Drug Policy Alliance Campaigns Against Jeff Sessions For Attorney General

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The Drug Policy Alliance is spearheading a drive to stop the nomination of Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. The campaign, which comes with a new video, was launched January 4, 2017.

The initiative exposes Jeff Sessions’ appalling record on drug policy, civil and human rights, and criminal justice reform. The accompanying video was created by award-winning filmmaker Dream Hampton, and features a call to action requesting people to ask their Senators to reject the nomination of Session for Attorney General.

The Drug Policy Alliance is collaborating with a wide coalition of organizations across the political spectrum who are against Sessions. Last December, it organized a teleconference for reporters focusing on the senator’s civil and human rights record, criminal justice reform, and drug policy. Aside from Drug Policy Alliance, expressing their concerns about Sessions are representatives from Latino Justice, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Cato Institute, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, as reported in a news article.

This is not the first time that Sessions’ atrocious civil rights record has been a major concern. In 1986, his confirmation was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee due to his extensive record of racist comments and actions. One of his black colleagues made a testimony that Sessions called him a “boy.” He was also accused of using his authority as an attorney to file cases against civil rights activists who were helping African-Americans to register so they could vote.

According to Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance, they will do everything to stop Sessions from being confirmed.

Health & Wellness

Obese Parents May Cause Poor Development in Kids

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A new study by the National Institutes of Health revealed a link between obesity in children of obese parents and developmental delays.

Findings of the research revealed that children of obese mothers were likely to fail tests of fine motor skill such as controlling small muscle movement particularly in the fingers and hands. In the case of children of obese fathers, they are more likely to fail tests involving social competence. Meanwhile, those who were born to extremely obese parents are likely to fail in problem solving ability tests.

Compared to children of normal weight mothers, children of obese mothers are 70 percent at risk of failing the test indicators of fine motor skill by age 3. Children of obese fathers, on the other hand, are 75 percent more likely of failing personal and social domain indicators upon reaching the age of 3. Children of both obese parents are three times at risk of failing problem solving indicators by the age of 3.

The study, which appeared in Pediatrics, was conducted by a team of scientists from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. According to Dr. Edwina Yeung, Ph.D, previous studies centered on the pre- and post-pregnancy weight of the mother.

“Our study is one of the few that includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that the weight of the father also has a significant influence on the development of the child” said Dr. Yeung via a news item. She was also an investigator in the NICHD’s Division of Intramural Population Health Research.

Dr. Yeung and her coauthors cited research which showed that 1 in 5 pregnant American women suffer from overweight or obesity.

Substance Abuse

Kinds of Designer Drugs

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The increasing number of designer drugs has put Americans at risk. The 2013 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) revealed that the abuse of illicit substances continues to grow and more synthetic drugs find their way in the market. In this article, we will discuss the different kinds of designer drugs.

What Are Designer Drugs?

Designer drugs are substances that are manufactured in a laboratory. The manufacturers change the properties of a drug using the tools of chemistry. These substances may not be subjected to quality control standards or governmental oversight.

Designer drugs are manufactured in a different way other drugs are normally created. Should the government regulate an ingredient or element, the manufacturers would change things again so as not to be arrested. But just like other drugs, designer drugs are capable of altering the functions of the human brain.

Where Did Designer Drugs Originate?

Designer drugs are actually not new. Back in the 19th century, a lot of these kinds of drugs were being designed. In 1803, German pharmacist F.W. Serturner separated morphine from opium. In 1855, a chemist named Edeleano isolated cocaine from the coca bush. The isolation and combination of drugs have resulted to the production of new uppers, downers, tranquilizers, and painkillers.

Today, these substances are very common and popular. However, they were once unknown substances that no one dared to study about.

The most popular example of designer drugs is ecstasy. This substance was the result of the synthesis of MDA and MMDA, both illegal drugs. Derived from the oil of nutmeg, these two substances can have various adverse effects such as headache, dizziness, and abnormally fast heart rate, to name just a few.

After ecstasy was outlawed, a new alteration of MMDA called “eve” was born.

How Lethal Are Designer Drugs?

As new drugs are discovered, drug manufacturers will continue to change the form of the drug and the health of the public will continue to be at risk.

Take the case of fentanyl, which is also known as “China White.” This substance has around 1,400 possible chemical alterations. While some of them are used for medicinal purposes in the operating room, fentanyl used in the streets as a synthetic heroin has been linked to more than a hundred deaths on a yearly basis due to its strength. This substance is so lethal that it can be placed on the head of a pin to kill 50 people.

Another highly lethal designer drug is MPTP. This heroin-like drug has resulted to more than 400 cases of Parkinson’s disease, which can permanently disable those that are affected.

These efforts to alter the composition of a drug can produce the same effects and dangers of illegal drugs. Drug manufacturers are doing this to prevent prosecution.

The Growing Designer Drugs Menace

In July 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law banning designer drugs to cover 26 chemicals commonly used in manufacturing synthetic drugs. Even then, designer drugs continued to become popular. In the last four years, more than 300 different designer drugs have entered the market and wreaked havoc in communities.

Most suppliers have the ability to change the chemical formula of a drug so that it will not contain illegal chemicals, thereby allowing them to sell drugs legally. Most drugs of this kind are constantly changing form and remain unregulated in the online market. It would take government initiatives in countries that manufacture drugs to stop the manufacture and distribution of these synthetic drugs.

If not regulated online, the public can easily access these synthetic drugs. Local government leaders must take the necessary steps to counter the spread of synthetic drugs. One effective measure is by educating their constituents about the dangers of synthetic drugs. They can also provide proper addiction and rehabilitation treatment, and making individuals and establishments that sell illegal substances liable.

According to recent statistics, a total of 200 search and arrest warrants related to synthetic drugs have been issued by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and from that number, 150 were arrested. Aside from that, roughly $200 million in cash and assets were seized. These figures were derived from the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey of the Drug Abuse Network.

Who Are Prone To Abusing Synthetic Drugs?

The following people are likely to abuse synthetic drugs:

Young Teens

Teenagers aged 12 to 17 years old are susceptible to synthetic drug abuse. They are likely to try out these drugs due to their gullibility and curiosity.

Recovering Addicts

People who are recovering from drug abuse will look at synthetic versions as an alternative to illegal drugs. Given the volatile potency of designer drugs, they could be trying something more potent than what they are recovering from.

Convicted Felons

Synthetic drugs are very accessible in prison and the temptation to try them out can be very strong among convicted individuals.

Kinds of Designer Drugs

Here are some of the most common kinds of designer drugs, and how each substance can affect human health:

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are falsely marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana. Popularly known as Spice or K2, these substances are sold together with other tobacco products. These designer drugs also goes by popular names such as Yucatan Fire, Skunk, and Moon Rocks.

Synthetic cannabinoids are sold in huge amounts online to dealers in the United States who in turn repackage them for individual selling. This is considered the second most abused drug among high school students next to marijuana. They contain harmful chemical additives that may lead to rapid heart rate, paranoia, vomiting, hallucinations, and heart attack due to limited supply of blood to the heart.

Since they have a “not for human consumption” label, they are not covered by any legal regulations that govern drugs, even though they are more potent than illegal drugs.

All cannabinoids, which include the synthetic compounds in Spice, are classified together with marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. However, manufacturers of the drug have managed to stay legal by slightly altering the chemical structure in order to create a new compound, which has not yet been classified as illegal.

Because the chemical composition of synthetic marijuana is constantly changing, there is very little data on its effects on the human body. However, those who have abused the synthetic drug have reported various symptoms such as rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.

Aside from that, synthetic cannabinoids have also been known to increase blood pressure. In a few instances, it has also been linked to heart attacks.

Psychedelics

Chemical structure of AMT

Alpha-Methytryptamine (AMT) was first developed in the 1960s as an anti-depressant. As a psychedelic and stimulant drug, the drug is known for creating a feeling of euphoria and hallucinations just like MDMA or LSD even though the chemicals are structurally unrelated. Although still legal in Canada and the UK, aMT was permanently classified as a Schedule 1 drug. It is easily accessible online where it is being sold as a “health supplement.”

Another good example of a psychedelic drug is N-bomb, found in the drug LSD. These are lethal hallucinogens that come in either liquid or powdered form.

Synthetic psychedelics can also be inhaled, injected, or used as a suppository. Small quantities of the drug can last for more than 12 hours.

Synthetic Cocaine

Synthetic cocaine is readily available and legal in most countries. It is being sold on the Internet as a “research chemical” or as a “plant food.” It is known by several names such as Mind Melt, Amplified, or Mint Mania.

Synthetic Cathinones

Commonly known as bath salts, synthetic cathinones go by different names such as Arctic Blast, Blue Silk, and Monkey Dust. Bath salts have emerged as a serious and growing public health and safety concern.

When in crystalline form, it is similar to amphetamines and may lead to elevated blood pressure, agitation, hallucinations, and excited delirium.

Synthetic Opioids

Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and ketamine are easily accessible. They are usually injected but ketamine comes in smoke or sniff varieties. They are associated with unpredictable and more severe side effects than the opioids where they came from.

Ketamine is popularly called Vitamin K on the street.

Synthetic Sedatives

Synthetic sedatives are known by different street names such as barbies, blue devils, pink ladies, sleepers, and barbiturates. They are classified as a depressant-type drugs. They are used to alleviate symptoms of tensions and anxiety by bringing the user into a calm and relaxed state.

Synthetic sedatives are classified as Class B narcotics.

Synthetic Piperazines

Originally developed for the treatment of parasitic infections, synthetic piperazines have allegedly caused the euphoric feeling to the users just like amphetamine and MDMA. They are usually marketed as herbal ecstasy.

Synthetic Dissociatives

Dissociatives goes by many street names: acid, blotter, doses, hits, microdots, among others. LSD is a good example of this drug. It is a clear, white, odorless, and water soluble material derived from lysergic acid.

Dissociative drugs may be used as a medical anesthetic. It has euphoric properties that can make the user addicted to it. This type of drugs can be gaseous, liquid, or as a powder, and is designed for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Synthetic Androgens

Anabolic steroids may be administered through injection.

Synthetic androgens have become infamous as performance-enhancing drugs. The most common example is anabolic androgenic steroids. To veer away from prosecution, these substances are marketed as nutritional supplements.

In the absence of clinical studies, there is little information about the pharmacological effects and metabolism of unapproved steroids. Strict regulations and improved education is needed.

Synthetic Empathogens

From the name itself, synthetic empathogens produce experiences of empathy or sympathy such as oneness, relatedness, or emotional openness. They are psychoactive drugs that are different from hallucinogens, amphetamine, or stimulants.

Synthetic Nootropics

Also called smart drugs, nootropics are designed for enhancing cognitive functions, particularly executive, memory, creativity, or motivation of healthy individuals. Coined in 1972 by Corneliu Giurgea, a psychologist and chemist, nootropics came from the Greek words νους nous meaning “mind” and τρέπειν trepein which means “to bend or turn”.

In 2015, sales of cognition-enhancing supplements breached the US$1 billion mark.

Conclusion

With synthetic drug use continuing to grow, there is a need for world governments and individuals to be more vigilant. Proper education needs to be strictly enforced, and regulations needs to be put in place.

Helpful Links and Resources

http://www.houstonbehavioralhealth.com/node/1386#ixzz4UlFaXEyl

http://americanaddictioncenters.org/designer-drugs-addiction/

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/real-teens-ask-what-are-designer-drugs

http://ncpc.typepad.com/prevention_works_blog/2015/07/synthetic-designer-drugs-affecting-our-communities.html

http://www.houstonbehavioralhealth.com/node/1386

https://www.futuresofpalmbeach.com/history/

http://www.narconon.org/history/1986/designer-drugs.html

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/techknow/blog/2014/3/12/need-to-know-designerdrugs.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/un-designer-drug-abuse-a-growing-global-problem/

https://www.futuresofpalmbeach.com/addiction-treatment/addictions/synthetic-drug-abuse/sedatives/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/what-are-dissociative-drugs

http://www.eurekaselect.com/126868

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nootropic