Substance Abuse

Heroin Overdose Deaths Tripled in Five Years, Says New CDC Study

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heroin overdose needle

In its latest report regarding drug overdose fatalities in the U.S., the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that the percentage of deaths due to heroin overdose tripled from 2010 to 2015.

The office — which forms part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services — discovered that drug overdose fatalities involving heroin use jumped from 8 percent in 2010 to 25 percent five years later. The study, led by Dr. Holly Hedegaard, based their findings on data available from the National Vital Statistics System, as reported in a data brief from CDC.

This finding on heroin overdose deaths mirrors the extent of the drug problem in general, as the study reports an increase in drug-related deaths for all types of substances from 2010 (6.1 percent) to 2015 (16.3 percent).

In terms of demographics, people between 45 and 54 years of age registered the highest drug overdose death rates at 30 in every 100,000.

Aside from data on heroin abuse, deaths due to natural opioid drug use dipped from 29 percent to 24 percent over the same five-year period. Unfortunately, fatalities due to synthetic opioid use shot up from 8 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2015.

Death rates due to drug overdose were highest in West Virginia at 41.5 for every 100,000 people, followed by New Hampshire and Kentucky.

[Image from richiec via Wikimedia Creative Commons]

Substance Abuse

Things You Need To Know About the Party Drug Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)

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GHB date rape drug

No matter how widespread the campaign is against drug abuse and its unfavorable effects, a lot of people still find themselves getting involved in it. What makes it alarming is how kids as young as 14 years old are getting hooked on it, and what make is even worse is that the drugs are getting more dangerous. Some of the emerging substances rounding public places include party drugs, and one of which is called Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB).

In this article, we will discuss what this drug is, what its dangers are, and how to handle cases of GHB use.

Quick Statistics on Drug Use

According to the Monitoring The Future Survey, close to 40 percent of 12th graders living in medical marijuana states have used marijuana at least once in the past year.

What has caused these anti-drug campaigns to fall? Fingers are pointing to several factors which include the following:

  • Underfunded law enforcement
  • Unsuccessful government programs
  • Irresponsible media content
  • Inefficiency of drug prevention programs

A Brief History of Drug Use

It was in the late 1960s when drug use started to gain popularity among young adults. They were unaware of what marijuana can truly do to their health. What people were told about marijuana was not about acquiring any psychological addiction but rather about the physical symptoms such as having acne, as well as causing sterility and blindness. This kind of information was not effective enough to provide the message that should be relayed to the general public with regards to marijuana use. Instead of staying away from the substance, people must have shrugged their shoulders and just continued using marijuana.

It was in the 1970s when people are slowly realizing that drugs particularly marijuana, has become a social problem. Along with this is the slowly increasing popularity of other drugs.

By 1980s, crack cocaine use became a terrifying problem as it was very cheap and in abundant supply. It allegedly gave a different kind of high compared to other drugs.

In the 1990s, $17.1 billion dollars was set for funding the anti-drug campaign. This financial support was based on the fact that 34 percent of Americans have admitted trying marijuana.

It was also during this period when an upswing in club drugs or party drugs was even more frightening, Ecstasy and crystal meth have become the most popular drugs among teenagers. Years later, several other drugs came into the scene such as synthetic drugs.

What is Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB)?

GHB molecular structure

Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid, also known as 4-hydroxybutanoic acid, is both a naturally occurring neurotransmitter and a psychoactive drug. It is commonly used as a general anesthetic and as a treatment for narcolepsy and alcoholism. It has also been used as a performance-enhancing drug and a date-rape drug.

This drug mimics the GABA neurotransmitter of the brain by regulating consciousness, activity, and sleep. It has a significant effect in improving mood, thereby promoting a feeling of relaxation.

It can be produced from fermentation that can be found in minute quantities found in wines and beers.

It is produced by illegal labs and comes out in the form of an odorless and colorless liquid. It is considered as a designer drug because it was intentionally made for the purpose of creating an unusual “high” effect on users.

Street names of GHB include the following:

  • Liquid Ecstasy
  • Cups
  • G
  • Georgia Home Boy
  • Liquid X
  • Juice
  • Mils
  • Fantasy

The U.S. Food and Drug Authority (FDA) issued an advisory in 1990 declaring that GHB is unsafe and illegal, except under FDA-approved physician-supervised protocol.

On a legl standpoint, GHB is also known as Xyrem or sodium oxybate, a prescription drug approved by the FDA in 2002 used for treatment of narcolepsy. As sodium oxybate, it is currently listed under Schedule III, and requires patient enrollment. In addition, only certain physicians who carry special licenses are allowed to prescribe this drug.

However, GHB in its pure form is categorized as Schedule I due to its potential for abuse.

How is GHB used?

GHB in liquid or powder form is mixed with water or is taken as a tablet. In the medical field, it is used as a treatment for narcolepsy and alcoholism. It also sometimes used for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Sodium oxybate is used for the treatment of cataplexy that is associated in narcolepsy.

GHB can be both a stimulant and a depressant, depending on the amount of GHB used. At lower doses, it can be a stimulant. However, higher doses may result to any of the following effects:

  • Enhanced libido
  • Euphoria
  • Disinhibition

GHB has become the drug of choice for those who have illegal intentions towards women.  In 1999, it was found out that among 1,178 urine samples from victims of suspected rape involving drugs, 4 percent were found to be positive for GHB. However, the number may be even higher because the samples were taken 72 hours after the incident. GHB disappears from the blood stream after 12 hours.

Statistics of GHB use

GHB has been listed under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act since 2000. All substances under this category are said to have no medical use and have high potential for abuse.

The following are some facts related to GHB use:

  • GHB is one of the most common date rape drugs. Among other date rape drugs are rohypnol and ketamine.
  • Since 1990, there have been about 15,600 recorded overdose cases in the US.
  • About 3 people die of GHB overdose annually.
  • About 80% of the victims of an unwanted GHB encounter are below 30 years old.
  • GHB is sold for as little as $5 per dose and packed in plastic bottles.
  • GHB use resulted to 4,962 emergency room visits in 2000.
  • GHB use among grades 8, 10, and 12 are at 0.6%, 0.6% and 1.4% respectively.
  • GHB with alcohol use accounted to more than 60 deaths from January 1992 to May 2001

Dangers of Using GHB

The favorable effects of taking GHB include euphoria, tranquility and an increased sex drive. However, its effect may depend on the amount of drugs used, the potency of the substance, use in combination with alcohol or other substances, and the frequency of using the drugs.

The effects of GHB may be felt within 15-20 minutes after ingestion and may remain in the system for hours. Symptoms that may occur on individuals using GHB include:

  • Sweating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Amnesia
  • Sluggishness
  • Confusion
  • Clumsiness
  • Agitation
  • Depressed breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Using GHB along with alcohol or other sedatives produces a high chance of overdose, and may result to respiratory depression and even death. When GHB is only taken alone but in high doses, it can still lead to similar dangers. GHB when taken with amphetamines can produce strain on the body and a higher risk of having seizures.

GHB has become popular along with other party drugs, and is made available in doses between 500mg and 3000 mg compared to its naturally occurring levels.

GHB has a high risk of abuse and dependence. Tolerance to such drugs will evoke the user to take higher doses until he is able to achieve the kind of high that he desires and potentially overdosing himself. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Irritation
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Irregular breathing
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness that can last up to 3-4 hours
  • Death

The effects of GHB in pregnant women are still undetermined.

GHB Screening Test for Urine

Detection of the substance within the system of an individual may be difficult to determine, as it usually disappears from a sample within 12 hours after exposure to the drug. As a result, it is recommended to immediately go to the nearest hospital to have samples taken if you suspect of being drugged with GHB.

You also have the option to purchase your own GHB testing kits. Some of the available test kits on the market include the following:

  • Date Rape Drug Hair Test: This is the only hair drug test in the market that can detect GHB and other date rape drugs. It can detect the presence of the drug as far back as 6 months from exposure.
  • GHB Reagent Presumptive Drug Test Kit: This kit detects the liquid form of the drug, and is particularly useful when you want to test a liquid substance that you suspect to be loaded with GHB.

woman bar date rape drug GHB

GHB Treatment

Party drug addiction offers little information on treatment options. Since some users are not physically dependent on it, it is usually treated on an outpatient basis. However, chronic use may result to severe withdrawal symptoms, and close medical supervision and supportive care is needed.

The first step towards recovery is detoxification by allowing the substance to be taken out from the body little by little. Some forms of detoxification may require giving high volume of fluids to eliminate the substance from the urine through frequent excretion. Anticonvulsant may also be given to users but under strict medical supervision.

Some addicts may attempt to self-medicate for their treatment by using benzodiazepines or alcohol. It doesn’t actually help to relieve one from addiction; instead, it just shifts to another substance. Use of these substances can actually worsen the withdrawal symptoms, which can lead to respiratory depression, coma and eventually death.

The following withdrawal symptoms usually start 12 hours after the last dose of GHB, and can continue for the next two weeks:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Restless sleep
  • Fast heartbeat

Hospitalization would usually range from 7 to 14 days. After this, a patient is required to undergo psychological therapy. This would help the user regain his self-esteem and be enlightened that there is a much better life without drugs. Apart from sending the patient to a psychiatrist for this kind of help, the love and support from family and friends are also needed.

It has been noted that Baclofen can be a possible treatment option for withdrawal. Although Baclofen is not a currently-FDA approved for treatment use, it was found to decrease seizure or delirium and has a significant improvement of tremors.

A relapse is likely to happen in dependence cases, which is why continuous patient education is essential to overcome its adverse effects.

Conclusion

The war on drugs is something that we don’t see ending soon. As more drugs are being developed, more people will be enticed to abuse them.

Unless the government finds a way to provide solutions, drug abuse will continue regardless of its unfavorable effects. Policies and penalties should be strictly imposed and a more comprehensive drug education program should be created to help save the lives of the depleting “un-doped” society.

Helpful Links and Sources

http://www.gallup.com/poll/6331/decades-drug-use-data-from-60s-70s.aspx

http://www.caminorecovery.com/7-drugs-for-7-decades

http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia

http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/rohypnol.html

https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2000/fr0313.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11322626

https://www.drugs.com/xyrem.html

http://www.rxlist.com/baclofen-drug.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257868

http://drugcheck.com/drugcheck-ghb-test

Substance Abuse

Teen Substance Abuse Potential May Be Determined By Brain Scan

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teen substance abuse brain scan

Scientists have discovered a new way to determine potential drug addicts at a young age. According to a recent study, by predicting the response of the brain to rewards at 14 years old, they can predict possible teen substance abuse.

A research conducted by students from Stanford University revealed that lower activity in the motivational regions of the brain while responding to a reward could help determine teenagers who are vulnerable to drug abuse.

The Stanford University research involved 144 novelty-seeking adolescents aged 14 to 16. According to the study, these kinds of behavior, which arise from impulsive and rash decisions, can be dangerous as it can lead to risky behavior. At the same time, it can also have benefits as it encourages adolescents to discover and explore new opportunities.

However, it is still unclear whether this behavior can help predict positive or negative behavior towards illegal drugs. According to the study, 14-year old teenagers who demonstrated reduced motivational activity in response to a financial reward are likely to become drug dependents by age 16.

By using brain scans, it will be much easier to target those who are prone to teen substance abuse and help them before they become addicted to illegal drugs. In a recent interview, Professor Brian Knutson revealed that although some kids may be vulnerable to substance abuse, there are exceptions. “If we had ways of predicting who was vulnerable, the hope is that we could better target resources and treatments,” Knutson said.

“It is possible that the brain scans could become a part of conventional medicine… But only if they do as good as or a better job of predicting and recommending treatment as other measures, and are cost effective.” Knutson added.

Home Health Hazards Substance Abuse

Is Kratom Safer Than Oxycodone For Pain Management?

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kratom vs. oxycodone

People who experience pain tend to look for an alternative that they think would provide them the relief that they need, while at the same causing fewer adverse effects with long term use. Oxycodone has risen as one of the default drugs used for pain treatment, but the controversial substance called kratom is slowly taking some of the glory. In fact, some people have become curious as to whether the plant-based substance is a lot safer than oxycodone.

Treating Chronic Pain Using Oxycodone

Chronic pain is a type of body sensation that lasts for months. Knowing which medicine to use for chronic pain depends on the following:

  • Duration
  • Severity
  • Cause

It has become common for oxycodone – listed under Schedule II – to be prescribed for people who experience moderate to severe pain. It is given for round-the-clock treatment to ensure that the patient is immediately relieved from pain and that there is little to no window of possible pain in between treatments.

However, prolonged used of oxycodone may be habit-forming. It can eventually turn into addiction that may lead to overdose or even death. Worse, immediately stopping oxycodone use may result to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

The Rising Trend of Kratom For Pain Management

Some people have resorted to using kratom to help with chronic pain. At present, kratom is not listed among the controlled substances.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently asked the public regarding their opinion on a proposed kratom ban with the hope that it can finally decide if kratom should be listed as a Schedule I drug. The verdict: Almost all of the respondents opposed the ban.

According to Dr. Anace Said, a board-certified internist at the Masonicare Health Center in Wallingford, Connecticut, the plant drug is much safer than some of the medically prescribed drugs. He has used it in treating patients with drug addiction and mentioned in a news article that a few of his patients have stopped using opioids and are now stable and use individualized dose that the patient decides on.

The only downfall of it is that using kratom may take the control away from the doctors, government agencies and drug companies. He added that there have been no recorded deaths among those who have used kratom.

Final Word

Kratom may be more favorable than using oxycodone because of its effects that are not as unfavorable as oxycodone. Despite this, further studies still need to be conducted to determine the safety and therapeutic benefits of kratom.

Substance Abuse

Everything You Need To Know About Meldonium

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Mildronate meldonium chemical structure

Information about the drug meldonium may be few and far between in the past, but everything changed after the failed drug test of Maria Sharapova which shocked the tennis world in 2016. The five-time Grand Slam Champion tested positive for the substance in a drug test conducted during the 2016 Australian Open.

Apparently, Sharapova has been taking the said drug in 2006 as she it was prescribed by her doctor due to irregular heart rate, deficiency in magnesium, and blood glucose level monitoring stemming from a family history of diabetes. According to Sharapova, she was unaware that meldonium was among the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) until she was given a letter regarding her failed drug test from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Sharapova was suspended from playing tennis for the next two years by the ITF.

In April 2016, her suspension has been decreased because her use of meldonium was not an intention to enhance her performance but rather was taken to help treat her medical condition.

What is Meldonium?

It is a substance that has been developed in 1970 by Ivars Kalvins which was manufactured by Grindeks of Latvia. It is mainly distributed as an anti-ischemic drug. Meldonium is widely used in both Latvia and Russia and has no FDA approval for consumption in the United States.

WADA’s list of banned substances released in January 2016 included meldonium. It does not belong to any of the scheduled drugs, and therefore its use as an athletic performance enhancer is yet to be determined. Prior to the inclusion of meldonium to the list, several athletes have already been using it.

Scientific Director of the Banned Control Substances Group Don Catlin has strongly announced that meldonium has zero percent evidence of being a performance enhancer drug. There is a continuing debate regarding its real effects on an individual.

WADA has included meldonium among other banned substances because it increases the blood flow of the individual, which subsequently provides more endurance. The drug falls under the category “metabolic modulator”.

Uses of Meldonium

Being an anti-ischemic drug, meldonium is used for the treatment of coronary artery diseases since this condition constricts the blood vessels thereby allowing little blood flow to the different organs of the body, most especially the heart. The main action of an anti-ischemic drug is to help dilate the arteries to help increase blood flow and at the same time increase the flow of oxygen throughout the body.

Meldonium has also been found to be effective in the treatment of seizures as well as having an anti-hypnotic effect. It may also be helpful in decreasing the withdrawal symptoms being experienced by an individual with chronic alcohol dependence.

Side Effects from Meldonium Use

The use of meldonium to treat ischemic heart conditions has been proven to be an advantage. However, just like most drugs, there may be unfavorable symptoms that are likely to happen such as:

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Allergic reactions
  • Irregular skin conditions
  • Indigestion

Prevalence Among Athletes

meldonium tennis drug testing

According to the laboratory findings at the Baku 2015 European Games, a large number of athletes were using meldonium. Among the athletes that competed, 13 competition winners were taking meldonium at the time of the competition and were competing in 15 to 20 events.

Most of the athletes taking the substance did not inform the anti-doping authorities about their use. There were only 32 athletes out of 662 athletes who declared their use of the said substance.

Meldonium has been classified the same way as insulin because of its ability to modify how hormones alter the enzymatic reactions in the body, which can block the production of estrogen.

The allowable amount of meldonium should be less than 1 mcg/ml for tests done before March 1, 2016. Research have shown that traces of meldonium may be evident in blood samples for a long period of time. As a result, stopping the use of the substance a few days to a week before a competition would still yield a positive result.

WADA further states that the intention to cheat is not required to find an athlete to be in violation of the WADA Code. This means that whether intentional or not, for as long as athletes were tested positive for this banned substance, they will all be liable. The athlete’s participation with competitions may be affected, resulting to a standard ban of four years.

Other Athletes Suspended For Meldonium Use

Sharapova’s positive drug test result for meldonium may have been sensationalized because of her excellence in the sport. However, there were several other athletes that have been found positive with meldonium.

Alexander Povetkin

The Russian professional boxer with a two-time World Boxing Association Heavyweight Championship title was found positive with meldonium in May 2016. It was only a week prior to a match set with WBA Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder. Because of this discovery, the match has been postponed indefinitely by the WBC.

In August, WBC cleared Povetkin from the case saying that it was impossible to prove that Povetkin ingested meldonium after it was included among the list of banned substance released in January 1, 2016. According to Povetkin, he has stopped using meldonium. He was advised to take a second drug test after 12 months at his own expense.

In related news, Povetkin tested positive for enobosarm in his B sample taken in December 2016 forhis bout with Bermane Stiverne.

Abeba Aregawi

Abeba Aregawa is an Ethiopian-Swedish athlete who was found positive with meldonium, leading to his suspension on February 2016. According to her, she took the medication after the release of the list, thinking that it was a vitamin supplement.

Endershaw Negesse

This Tokyo Marathon Winner is among several athletes from Ethiopia who tested positive for meldonium. WADA suspects that a doctor may be involved in the transportation of the drug to Ethiopia.

Eduard Vorganov

The Russian professional road bicycle rider was suspended in February 2016 together with other athletes from Team Katusha. However, in August 2016, an amnesty were given to athletes found positive with meldonium as there was not enough evidence to prove that they were still taking the substance a few months after the release of the latest list of banned substances. It was announced that Vorganov has joined the Minsk Cycling Team in 2017.

Olga Abramova

This Ukranian athlete is banned for 1 year after testing positive for meldonium two weeks after the release of the list of banned substances. She was not given amnesty like the rest of the athletes who were found to be positive with meldonium because the level of meldonium found in her system was 7 times more than the permissible level.

More Information About WADA

WADA is an international independent agency funded by sports agencies and governments around the world that help in education, scientific research, development of anti-doping capacities and monitoring policies implemented related to sports in all countries.

The agency was established in 1999 to address the alarming number of athletes getting involved with drugs with the intention of misleading the public regarding with their strength and capabilities. Among the list of banned substances and techniques include the following:

  • Androgens
  • Blood doping
  • Peptide hormones
  • Diuretics
  • Stimulants
  • Narcotics
  • Cannabinoids

Blood doping is the injection of red blood cells or artificial oxygen containers. This technique is done by extracting the individual’s own blood prior to a competition to allow the body to replenish fresh red blood cells thereafter injecting back the stored blood before the competition.

Helpful Links and Resources

http://www.usada.org/substances/prohibited-list/athlete-guide-2017-prohibited-list/

https://www.wada-ama.org/en/prohibited-list

Substance Abuse

Weed Nails: New Fashion Trend Uses Crushed Marijuana For Manicure

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weed nails marijuana manicure

Manicure designs have never been as outrageous as the recent trend in the world of vanity where “cannabis manis” have captured quite a number of followers. Known as weed nails, this emerging fashion trend makes use of crushed cannabis leaves mixed with glue or varnish as nail paint. Some women have even resorted to gluing cannabis leaves onto their nails.

The trend began in 2016, leading to roughly 3,000 Instagram posts using the hashtag #weednails.

Deadly Nails Salon, a popular salon in Melbourne, became famous for using dead insects for nail art. These days, they’re now open to applying weed nails by embedding cannabis into acrylic nails to keep up with ever-increasing demand on such nail design.

Experts have raised concerns with regards to “glamorizing” the use of cannabis. Despite more U.S. states approving the substance for legal use, marijuana is still categorized as a Class B drug in the U.K. and Schedule I in the U.S.

The rise in the number of women posting their cannabis-inspired nail art has alarmed Dr. Henry Fisher, policy director for drug policy online advocate Volteface. In a news release, Fisher raised his concerns that posting photos of these cannabis-designed nails could encourage the youth to use marijuana irresponsibly.

Similar to how alcohol drinking is being glamorized on screen and in social media, Fisher warned that putting the spotlight on cannabis use might harm the younger generation, and this practice should not be sensationalized.

[Photo by thespoiled710babes via Instagram]

Substance Abuse

Carfentanil Emerging As Canada’s New Drug Problem

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carfentanil

British Columbia Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall has expressed his concern over the confirmation that among the 1,766 urine tests conducted over a two-week period last month at several drug treatment facilities in different areas in Canada such as in Vancouver, New Westminster, Surrey Richmond and Maple Ridge, 57 were positive with carfentanil.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is primarily used as a sedative for large animals. Just a few grains of this substance can be fatal to humans. Carfentanil is said to be 100 times more potent than fentanyl, 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 4,000 times more potent than heroin.

The drug has penetrated the street drug scene in Metro Vancouver. This is a clear sign that drug supply has tremendously increased. Weekly reports to the provincial health ministry and the B.C. Center for Disease Control were submitted by LifeLabs, as reported in a news article.

Authorities believe that it must have started its widespread trading in November 2016 when the number of overdose deaths began to increase although authorities were then unsure of the possible cause of the deaths. There were about 914 people reported who died of illicit drug in B.C. last year.

Substance Abuse

Kratom Alternatives for Pain Management

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kratom alternatives

The status of the proposed kratom ban remains unchanged as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has temporarily put on hold the banning of the said substance until the Food and Drug Administration is finally done with further testing of kratom to exactly determine its effect. As a result, some people turn to kratom alternatives to address their pain.

In this article, we will discuss some common kratom alternatives, what they can do, and if they are legal.

Status of Kratom in the U.S.

When DEA sought the help of the public by sharing their thoughts about banning kratom, 99 percent of the respondents opposed to the idea. Their primary reason was simple: kratom has helped manage their chronic pain without having to use pain medication. Users claim that kratom produces milder side effects compared to other opioid analgesics.

Amidst the debate between kratom users who continue to promote positive claims about the substance and government agencies who are unsure of its safety, kratom remains legal. However, once DEA decides on banning the kratom, it will be categorized as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Among the drugs under this category are heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, all of which have been proven to have no medical benefits and have a high potential for abuse.

The government is burdened enough with so many cases of drug addiction, and so completely eradicating the issue may not be an easy task. Despite this, precautionary measures are being taken to ensure the safety of everyone. This is the reason why kratom, which has opioid-like properties, is being monitored by world governments as the emerging drug to join the list of commonly abused substances.

Benefits of Kratom Use

Kratom, a tree that is common in Southeast Asia, may be associated with the plant family of coffee. Kratom leaves are crushed in order to extract its opioid properties.

The analgesic property of kratom is helpful in the following cases:

  • Management of chronic pain
  • Treatment of anxiety or depression
  • Energy booster
  • Management of symptoms from opiate withdrawal

A low dose of kratom can become a stimulant to make a person feel happy, strong and alert. On the other hand, if given in high doses, the user may feel lethargic. This may be helpful in treating insomnia.

Normally, a patient is given massive doses of opioid analgesics to relieve pain, but this can cost a lot of money. Worse, long-term use of opioid medication may lead to addiction, dependence, and tolerance.

Some cases of addiction start with legal use of prescription drugs. The effect of prolonged use may turn into physical and psychological dependence, which in turn is another situation that needs to be addressed. Advocates claim that kratom is a good alternative to otherwise addictive opioid drugs.

Kratom is used both for therapeutic and recreational purposes. As therapeutic aid, it is reported to provide an analgesic effect, thereby inducing euphoric effect that may lead to less inhibitions. Kratom can also act as a CNS stimulant.

Kratom is also gaining popularity as a legal mind-altering substance throughout Europe and the United States.

kratom leaf

How Kratom is Consumed

Fresh kratom leaves can be chewed, although veins must be removed first. Dry kratom leaves can also be crushed to produce a powder which can be mixed with food or beverages.

Kratom has a bitter taste, and so some individuals add sugar or honey to mask out its unfavorable taste.  It can also be smoked by rolling the leaves.

A pure form of kratom can be achieved by completely evaporating the water from kratom leaves. This pure extract may be swallowed or dissolved in water. This form is more expensive than plain leaves.

Effects of Kratom Use

It may no longer be a surprise if kratom takes the place of traditional opioids prescribed to patients suffering from chronic pain, especially for the following conditions:

  • Scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Chest pain
  • Migraine
  • Broken bones
  • Damaged muscles

Best Kratom Alternatives

Considering the legal seesaw surrounding kratom, people should be aware that the effect of this substance is still questionable. In line with efforts to provide the best care possible with regards to pain management, the general public needs to know other ways on how to control pain using already existing and much safer substances.

Here are some of the common kratom alternatives that are either safer or more recommended by medical practitioners:

L-Theanine

The first on the list of kratom alternatives is a natural component of teas from Camelia sinensis. This substance is said to promote relaxation without sedation, making it effective in relieving stress. Its effect is noticeable 30 minutes after ingestion.

It is said to improve mood and concentration and can help decrease anxiety and stress. Apart from this, it is also helpful in reducing muscle fatigue and pain.

Marijuana

For so many years, the question on the status of marijuana has finally been put to an end. Most states in the U.S. have already come up with their own marijuana laws involving the use, manufacture and trade of the substance. However, its use, possession, sale, cultivation and transportation remain to be illegal under U.S. federal law.

By following each of the state’s conditions with regards to the usage of cannabis, the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes remains as an option for managing chronic pain, most especially for people diagnosed with cancer.

The effect of marijuana upon ingestion may be evident in as little as 5 minutes. Imagine how a person suffering from Parkinson’s disease would be relieved from uncontrollable tremors. Upon ingestion of a single dose, the patient’s whole body relaxes a few minutes after, and there seems to be no trace of trembling, not even on one hand.

Kava

Kava is a root found in the South Pacific Island that is used for both medicinal and religious purposes.

Kava produces a calming effect by introducing changes in the brain similar to the effect of medication like diazepam. It is also good as an alternative in the prevention of convulsions and can be used as a muscle relaxant. It is considered to be a non-addictive substance, and using the substance is considered to be a lot safer than using opioid-like substances.

Kava roots are traditionally prepared as tea and are also available as dietary supplements that come in either tincture or powder form.

The use of kava roots relieves the following conditions:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Spasm
  • Muscle tension
  • Pain

It can also be helpful in treating people suffering from insomnia to promote deep sleep. However, special precautions should be noted when taking kava roots:

  • Alcohol should not be consumed together with kava.
  • Since it has a sedating effect, driving or using heavy machinery may compromise thinking or decision-making.
  • It can affect the color of the skin and nails.
  • It can cause some allergic reactions.

Long term use of kava may lead to liver problems, facial swelling, shortness of breath and scaly rashes.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm comes from the mint family. Its leaves are used for medicinal purposes either alone or in combination with other herbs.

It is also useful in treating digestive disorders like flatulence, vomiting, stomach bloating and upset stomach. It can also help control pain such as headache, toothache and menstrual cramps and can also be effective in treating hysteria.

Others have used lemon balm to help with their sleep problems, and it is found to be helpful to treat anxiety as well. Lemon balm is also reported to be effective for the treatment of Alzheimer’s diseases and ADHD. It is also found to reduce the growth of certain viruses.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort comes from a plant called Hypericum perforatum. It has been used as treatment for depression. It comes in tablet or capsule form but may also be sold in tea bags and tinctures.

There is solid scientific evidence to back up the efficacy of using St. John’s Wort to treat the following conditions:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Depression
  • Nerve pain
  • OCD
  • Post-operative pain
  • Somatoform disorders

There is, however, a small percentage among St. John’s Wort users who experience unfavorable symptoms like:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sedation
  • Stomach upset
  • Fatigue
  • Sexual dysfunction

The effectiveness of St. John’s Wort may be reduced when taken with the following:

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Theophylline
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Digoxin
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Some anti-HIV drugs

Phenibut

The chemical found in phenibut is similar to the brain chemical GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid.

Phenibut is used for the treatment of sleeping disorders, stress, anxiety, fatigue, fear, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, irregular heartbeat and alcoholism. It is also useful in improving memory and thinking.

It provides mild to moderate sedation and stimulation, which allows an individual to be relaxed and focused at the same time. With that being said, it decreases inhibition, lowers stress without impairing judgment or decision-making capabilities, and provides pain relief.

The over-all effect of phenibut may be similar to a small dose of MDMA. However, despite providing that “good feel” effect that can be effective to treat anxiety and depression, phenibut may produce side effects that are easily surpassed by its health benefits. Therefore, there should be no cause for alarm when using this substance.

The effect of phenibut can be felt 15 to 20 minutes after ingestion.

Salvia Divinorum

Some people consider salvia divinorum as a good kratom alternative. However, this substance produces an analgesic effect but is not as potent as kratom. In fact, this may not be considered as a true alternative to kratom because of its lower efficacy.

One of the downfalls of using salvia divinorum is its hallucinogenic properties, which makes it prone to abuse.

Final Word

A lot of people have learned to love kratom, as they see it as the miracle cure to end pain. However, as the FDA has not submitted its recommendation with regards to its safety, users should find legal kratom alternatives to help manage their physical conditions.

The kratom alternatives mentioned above may be of help to a certain extent. Like any other substance, taking the right amount or dose necessary to relieve pain should be exercised, rather than become irresponsible in taking huge amounts of pain meds. Bottom line, don’t exchange pain relief with drug addiction or dependence by abusing these kratom alternatives.

Substance Abuse

Federal Agency to Reassess Sentencing for Synthetic Drug Use Cases

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Cases concerning synthetic drug use are causing confusion among court justices. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, producers of synthetic drugs create their products based on their stronger counterparts such as marijuana and cocaine. However, while synthetic drugs mimic the effects of other drugs, manufacturers can alter the chemical make-up to avoid prosecution.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is in the process of conducting a two-year study on synthetic drugs in order to update the drug quantity table that judges use in when dealing with sentences involving synthetic drug use. In drug cases, judges consult the table in order to have a starting point as a basis for the sentence depending on the amount of drugs that are involved in the case. Afterwards, they factor in other aspects like such as criminal history, level of responsibility, and the like, according to a news item.

While this method may be easier for cases involving heroin, cocaine, and marijuana – all of which are permanent substances listed on the table – synthetic drugs pose a greater challenge, as they are not listed on the table. In cases where synthetic drugs are involved, judges consult the table and try to match the synthetic drug to the most similar drug on the table based on components such as chemical make-up and pharmacological effects. They then use the information to calculate a quantity that is equivalent to marijuana, cocaine, or heroin in order to have a basis for offense.

However, the calculations can cause confusion and delay the process. Judges struggle with the formulas and sometimes see no basis with the ratios given to them by chemistry experts. There is a move to reassess the table in order to properly deal with synthetic drug cases in the future.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

West Virginia Starts Talking About Marijuana Legalization

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west virginia marijuana legalization

Marijuana legalization continues to be a hot-button topic this year. In 2016 alone, Four states approved the use of recreational marijuana while four states approved medical marijuana. Along with that, twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia now have marijuana laws and eight states plus District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use by adults.

This provided the stage for police authorities and cannabis advocates to hold a debate on marijuana legalization and talk about the steps to be taken in drafting a medical marijuana law in West Virginia. National coordinator of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s National Marijuana Initiative John Shemelya and Charleston Police Department investigative services bureau chief Lt. Eric Johnson expressed concern on how marijuana legalization could have an effect on children. Surveys revealed that youth who reside in medical or recreational marijuana-legalized states were likely to engage in marijuana use in the past month, as reported in a news release.

A 2014 study was also mentioned wherein medical cannabis laws were linked to a lowered rate of overdose mortality. It was reported that West Virginia experienced a rise in overdose rates in 2015.

Mike Pushkin, sponsor of the cannabis decriminalization bill, has received phone calls from individuals who have benefited from using medical marijuana after the legislation. According to Pushkin, the marijuana industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that the state sees no revenue from.