Caribbean Islands Look at Decriminalisation of Marijuana

Chief Justice Ivor Archie, of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, has recently suggested that the use of marijuana is small quantities should be decriminalised. His suggestion has been met with both support and condemnation from island residents, responses similar to the same debate in the U.S. The suggestion was made in an attempt to minimize the negative effects of treating as criminals a great many people who would otherwise be considered solid citizens and who are guilty of harming no one but themselves. There is also a growing concern over the cost to taxpayers and society of the “war on drugs” against a substance that clearly does not create the serious health conditions and damage to society that many other illegal substances do. Many people consider marijuana to be classified in the same category as a controlled substance, such as alcohol or tobacco and question why it is still criminalised.

In terms of cost, decriminalisation makes the most sense. The Economist, an internationally published magazine, recognizes the production, distribution and sale of illicit substances as one of the world’s major industries, comparable to big oil and the automotive industry. Success of the “war on drugs” is measured by the rise and fall of street prices of New York City. Drug prices have held steady over the decades, in spite of millions of dollars spent in the “war” against them. Decriminalisation of marijuana would cut those costs dramatically, though it is only one of many ilicit substances in question. Regulation and taxation of the substance could also bring in some much needed revenue to counter the expense of continuing the war against other illicit substances.

One last point to be made: it is important to remember that decriminalisation is NOT the same as approval. Once can disapprove of the consumption of alcohol without supporting prohibition, and one can disapprove of the use of tobacco without supporting its criminalisation. Similarly, marijuana can be decriminalised while still educating citizens about the potentially damaging effects its usage can have on the human body.


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.

Recovery Requires Willingness

September is National Recovery Month. As this month draws to a close, it might be helpful to examine the number one characteristic that many professionals identify as being the most important to ongoing recovery: willingness. But exactly what kind of willingness does recovery require?

– Willingness to change.

– Willingness to work hard at recovery.

– Willingness to try new things instead of repeating the same self-destructive activities.

– Willingness to turn it over to God and let him work in your mind, your life, and your actions.

Self-help author, Robert Anthony sums it up best: “Courage is simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.” Facing all of the changes necessary to maintain sobriety and long-term recovery can be a very scary thing to do, but if you are willing to work your way through the fear and keep changing anyway, then you have mastered true courage. And courage will get you through the hard part to a successful and positive life beyond addiction.

Today’s post is based on p. 191 of Past Tense: 365 Daily Tools for Putting Stress Behind You – for Good!  To enjoy more daily tools for creating a stress-free life, order your copy of the book today!

National Recovery Month

September is National Recovery Month! In 1990, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) established Recovery Month in an effort to educate the public and to let people know that:

1. Prevention works.

2. Treatment is effective.

3. People can fully recover.

In many public arenas, such as law enforcement and criminal justice, addiction is treated as a crime instead of as the disorder or disease that it is. It is important to remember that although addicts’ behavior is often illegal and criminally prosecuted, the disorder itself should not be. It can be classified as an illness, just like diabetes or heart disease. In order to eliminate the criminal behaviors that can accompany addiction, the disorder must be treated as such. Many jurisdictions fail to provide intervention, treatment, or recovery programs of any kind. Just as diabetes can not be cured by incarceration, neither can addiction.

According to the website established for the annual event: “Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.” For more information, and to find out if there are any events taking place in your area, visit the website this week!

De-Stress Scientifically!

In these stressful times, it seems that everyone has suggestions for the best ways to handle stress. Sometimes we may assume that the suggestions are “old wives tales” or “new age feel-good strategies.” But many of the most recommended strategies for handling stress actually have a basis in science! Our body chemistry changes with stress; hormones like cortisol flood our systems, heart rate and blood pressure rises, and our breathing becomes faster and shallower. Our bodies physical response is the same whether we face a grizzly bear or a disgruntled boss- the difference lies in the severity of the response.

Just like our bodies respond to stress in scientifically measurable ways, our techniques for handling stress can result in scientifically measurable relief. Here are some strategies to use which will relieve stress at the physical level: 

– Breathe deeply: increased oxygen to the brain and bloodstream clears the mind and increases energy to handle stressors more efficiently.

– Treat yourself- eat ONE candy: a small amount of sugar can help stem the production of stress hormones in the body. The key here is eating only a small amount. Too much sugar can raise blood sugar levels and create a sugar “crash” following the initial sugar high. 

– Step away from the screen: taking frequent breaks from the computer relieves eyestrain and headaches, thus decreasing stress. 

– Take a short walk: walking helps regulate breathing and increases oxygen levels throughout the body. Endorphin (feel-good chemicals in the body) levels are also boosted by physical activities.

– Eat a banana or a potato: potassium, which is found in abundance in bananas and potatoes, help regulate blood pressure and improve energy. 

These are just a few ways that you can scientifically de-stress. What other strategies do you use? How or why do they help? 

Preventing Job Burnout

Remember your excitement when you first landed the job that you loved so much? You were motivated to show up early, stay late, do whatever was necessary to meet deadlines and turn out the best products. Leap forward a few years. Suddenly you find yourself hitting the snooze button four times each morning, struggling to get to work on time, watching the clock for the final hour of every day, and striving to turn out any product- just to get it out of your outbox and through the client’s door. What happened? You are still the same person; the dream job is still the same job. 

Chances are good that you are experiencing job burnout, a condition that many people experience when job stress builds over time. Sometimes bosses’ expectations change slightly, or the workload grows a bit. Sometimes a change in another area of your life creates stress that results in sleep deprivation or feelings of overwhelm that can affect job performance and satisfaction. And when we are overwhelmed or stressed out at work, it is all too easy to try to find relief in the wrong places- like too much alcohol, medications, or other drugs. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to get back on track and find the passion that you once had for your job. Some suggestions include: 

– Recognize the contribution that you make to the company and its mission. 

– Take back control of those factors that you have a choice about, like focusing on tasks that emphasize your strengths and delegating those that don’t, choosing to remain positive each day, expressing creativity in problem-solving situations. 

– Engage in good self-care and stress relieving activities, such as regular exercise and meditation. 

– Keep regular hours and set aside time away from work and all thoughts of work to rejuvenate your spirit and get some rest. 

If these strategies fail, then it may be time for a job change or a new career. Be honest with yourself and your boss about your feelings and brainstorm with them some possible solutions. They may be aware of opportunities within the company that will further challenge you or be a better match for your strengths, a job that you can grow into for many years to come. 

Whatever strategies you use, always evaluate them for both effectiveness AND good health. While a stiff drink after work may provide a temporary fix for too much stress, it could prove to be very costly in the long run! 


For a daily dose of encouragement and meditations for stress relief, check out our book Past Tense: 365 Daily Tools for Putting Stress Behind You – For Good! 


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…