What is the Role of the Internet in Drug Addiction?

I’ve wondered for a while if the internet has impacted the age-old problem of substance abuse and addiction. Where else to find the answer but through an internet search? It’s clear that I’m not the only person who has questioned whether there is a connection. Addiction in any form follows a fairly distinct pattern of behavior, and people can be addicted to anything, really. With the advent of modern technology, psychiatrists are identifying a new addiction: online or internet addiction. While it is most common in teens and young adults, it can be seen in every culture that has computer technology, and across a broad age range and in many economic groups. Recent studies have shown that compulsive, or addictive, internet users experience similar physical damage and changes to their brains as that of cocaine addicts. Similarly, when prevented from online activity, internet addicts experience similar withdrawal symptoms, such as increased irritability and mood swings.

Also, there are a few other ways that the internet increases or encourages drug addiction, including:

– increased knowledge of drug usage and manufacturing. The increased knowledge gives teens and young adults more confidence when using drugs and makes it more likely that they will experiment.

-increased access to prescription medications from rogue, online pharmacies. With easy, anonymous access to the drugs, much of the fear of getting caught is removed, decreasing the perceived risk. And since the drugs in question are available by prescription, many teens perceive them as “safe.”

On the flip side, there are many organizations and resources available online to help someone who wishes to go into recovery from any addiction. Resources include information on free-standing clinics and treatment centers to help addicts find help in their local area, online support groups and forums where members can discuss issues and successes in their recovery, and articles or print material to provide structure, planning, or support throughout recovery. So, although the internet CAN contribute to the encouragement of drug addiction, there are many ways that it can also provide support through intervention and recovery.

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Fewer Teens in Cars Under the Influence of Alcohol

This is some good news coming from the American Journal of Public Health in the recent survey completed by over 17,000 high school seniors. According to the most recent survey, there are still more than 1 in 4 high school students driving after drinking alcohol or riding in vehicles driven by a teen who has been drinking. BUT this is down total of 4% from last year. The news was not so good for marijuana use. The number of teens who drove after smoking marijuana, or rode in a car with a driver who had been smoking actually increased 2% this year. Even with this increase, the overall number of drivers and teen passengers on the road while under the influence has dropped a measurable amount this year. Statistics from this study also confirm what had been proven in previous studies, that males are more likely to drive after drinking or using drugs, but there is no significant gender difference between those who rode in cars with drivers who had been using drugs or alcohol.

Parents and schools can help decrease these numbers further by talking to teens openly and often about the consequences of driving under the influence and available alternatives in their community. Parents can also request or require breathalyzer tests of their teens if they suspect that a teen has been drinking and driving. ASC has several varieties of home drug tests available to fit any budget and provide accurate, fast results. Let’s work together to reduce the number of teens under the influence even further!

 

Parents, Keeeeeep Talking. Teens Really ARE Listening!

Now that most college students across the country are settled into their new classes and new dorms, parents breathe a sigh of relief that the transition is over. But is it really over? Statistics cited at http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov indicate that:

– over 1800 students die from alcohol-related injuries annually

– nearly 700,000 students are assaulted annually by other students who have been drinking

– an estimated 3.3 million students between the ages of 18-24 drive while under the influence of alcohol each year. 

Binge drinking is a common problem among college students. For many students away from home for the first time, the freedom and the pressure of being on one’s own is enough to test their judgement and decision-making skills. Binge drinking is defined as 5 drinks for males, or 4 drinks for females, in a very short amount of time. Binge drinking often leads to alcohol poisoning and can require a visit to the ER. Common symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

– mental confusion

– stupor

– coma

– vomiting

– slow or irregular breathing

– low body temperature

– pale or bluish skin

Most colleges and universities have formal policies in place for underage drinking and substance abuse prevention. Many also have on-campus resources to help students maintain a healthy, drug=free lifestyle. But parents can do a lot to protect their teens from the pressure and excitement that can lead to underage drinking. Here are some suggestions:

– during campus visits, ask about the college’s or university’s drug-use and underage drinking policies. Discuss your findings with your teens.

– agree on a weekly check-in with your teen, whether by phone, Skype, or email, and stick to the schedule! Right before a weekend, or immediately following a weekend, are prime times.

– talk early and often with teens about the potential consequences of underage drinking and binge drinking

Parents who are concerned that their teens may be engaging in underage drinking and under the influence of alcohol can administer a test for alcohol abuse anyplace and anytime using an inexpensive, simple, at-home drug testing kit. Follow the directions carefully to get the most accurate results. For more information on alcohol testing options available through ASC, check out our webpage.

One Day at a Time

Anyone who is familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous has heard their slogan, “One day at a time…” It encourages a day-by-day approach to sobriety, letting people know that they don’t have to swear off their addiction forever, but to do so day by day until it becomes a habit and a permanent lifestyle change.

What might surprise people in modern times is that the idea is not a new one, but has been around since roughly 350 AD, as written by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, “Let us remember that the life we ought to be interested in is “daily” life. We can, each of us, only call the present time our own… Our Lord tells us to pray for today, and so he prevents us from tormenting ourselves about tomorrow.”

People in every time and every place experience difficulties and challenges. It is easy to turn to drugs, alcohol, or food for comfort; but that solution only leads to further problems: addiction and its consequences. Instead, through AA and the wisdom passed down through time, there are a few steps we can take to help us through the hard times:

– pray for today, like Saint Gregory advised.

– let tomorrow take care of itself. If there is a problem brewing for tomorrow it will still be there when you get there. But you will be better rested and better equipped to take care of it if you have dealt with today in its proper place.

– refuse to get caught up in your own, or other people’s “what if?” thinking and torment.

– draw support from peers and people you trust who understand AA’s slogan, “One day at a time…” and will help you focus on it in your life from day to day.

– don’t become overwhelmed with fears or worries about the future. Focus your thoughts, your prayers, and your energy on dealing only with today and those challenges that are right in front of you.

Ask for guidance and help in dealing with one thing at a time… one day at a time…

 

Alcoholism and Eating Disorders Share Genes

New research conducted in Australia shows that alcoholism, anorexia, and bulimia may be related genetically. In the study conducted on both fraternal and identical twins, researchers found that common genetic factors seem to underlie the predisposition to alcohol abuse and eating disorders. This does not mean that genetics cause these disorders, but that people with certain genetic combinations may be more likely to develop them.

Although it is still unclear exactly which genes are involved, the discovery of common roots is still significant. Genetics appear to explain 38-53% of the risk of developing both eating disorders and alcohol addiction. Overeaters Anonymous (OA) members have long maintained the belief that food addiction is every bit as serious as alcohol addiction and develops in much the same way over time, resulting in many of the same symptoms and health problems. This study finally provides some basis for that idea. 

Researchers used data on both identical and fraternal twins in order to differentiate the effects of genetics from environmental effects, even effects of a “shared” environment twins had when growing up. 

PTSD and Alcoholism

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, has often been misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed for many years in many patients. When people hear about PTSD, they often associate it with returning war veterans because this is one of the main causes of PTSD. However, there are 2 other commonly recognized causes for PTSD:
– severe childhood abuse

– incarceration

While these are the most common causes of PTSD, therapists agree that any severe trauma can induce traumatic stress symptoms, including: sudden loss of a loved one, domestic abuse, personal violence such as rape or mugging, natural disasters such as devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. If left untreated, one of the most common consequences of PTSD is alcohol abuse, as it is an inexpensive and readily-available means to relieve stress and deaden traumatic feelings.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found in a recent study to determine the best recovery results, alcoholic patients should also be tested and treated for PTSD. Participants in the study were divided into 4 groups:

– participants received PTSD medication and PTSD-specific behavioral/cognitive therapy

– participants received PTST medication and general therapy

– participants received a placebo and PTSD-specific behavioral/cognitive therapy

– participants received a placebo and general therapy.

Patients who received both PTSD medication and PTSD-specific therapy had only a 5.4% alcohol relapse rate, while those who received the placebo and general therapy had a 13.3% alcohol relapse rate. All groups had fewer alcohol cravings and fewer drinking days, but only the group receiving specialized medication and treatment maintained the highest recovery rate.

The bottom line is that getting help for alcohol abuse is always beneficial. But if there are any other problems that can be identified and treated simultaneously, the chance for recovery is even better!

Substance Abuse at Work is Difficult to Stop

There is no argument that having employees who use drugs and alcohol at work, or who report for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, costs employers thousands of dollars every year. Some of these expenses include:
– Increases in absenteeism
– Lowered motivation
– Poor performance
– More frequent accidents and safety violations
It seems logical that the use of random drug testing could minimize the risk of drug and alcohol use in the workplace; however, the research doesn’t support that belief. At a paper manufacturing plant in Canada, a study completed by a workers’ union found that in the 22 months following the implementation of a random alcohol testing policy not one single employee had tested positive. Further, in the 15 years before the policy, there were only 8 alcohol-related incidents recorded. As a result, the union filed a grievance against the company, claiming that the testing policy was not justified, which was upheld by an arbitration board’s ruling.
The biggest problem with random drug or alcohol testing is that it is an imperfect means of measuring whether an employee is impaired- which is the real concern employers are trying to address. There are many reasons an employee’s performance can be impaired, such as sleep apnea or sleep deprivation, stress, physical illnesses, or other lifestyle factors. Any of these things can impair an employee’s performance and judgment as much, if not more, than a person who parties on the weekend and returns to work without any impairment in performance on Monday morning, in spite of what may still be measurable in the drug test panel.
Human resources educators are starting to recommend initial drug testing at the time of hiring, followed only by “reasonable cause testing” in industries that are not obviously safety-sensitive and regulated by state or federal requirements: industries such as truck driving, air traffic controllers, mining, among others. “Reasonable cause testing” refers to random testing that is based on a general problem of substance abuse in a team, group, or individual which has been identified through managers actually witnessing the problem or telltale symptoms of substance abuse. Also, good managers are adept at building a rapport with their teams and knowing what is going on in their lives that may be contributing to impaired performance such as a death or critical illness in the family, stress of a life-changing event, the temporary use of prescribed antibiotics or medications, and the like.
The bottom line is that random drug testing is an imperfect way of detecting or reducing substance abuse in the workplace. But when used in tandem with good hiring and management practices, and with “reasonable cause,” it can be a powerful tool for employers to keep both employees and customers safer and happier.