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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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!

Free Online Substance Abuse Treatment Offered for Veterans

Overseas deployment is difficult for even the strongest soldier. Living in unfamiliar surroundings in a foreign culture, whether in combat conditions or not, challenges one’s physical and mental strength. Unfortunately, many soldiers turn to drugs or alcohol for relief. Over time, abuse and addiction can easily develop. Add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the mix and it becomes not just dangerous, but deadly.

Online Substance Abuse Treatment (OSAT) is an organization that is offering help for veterans longing to establish sobriety and maintain recovery from drug abuse. As a way to honor the men and women who have served our country through military service, OSAT offers zero-cost and substantially discounted online drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

One available option is the self-directed, reflective program which contains 30 sessions of proven treatment materials which have been used in both inpatient and outpatient programs. The materials are available online all the time, and subscribers can move through the materials at their own pace. This program is available cost-free to all veterans.

Also available is a live, online 10-week counseling program for those veterans who need a higher level of care. The program is completely confidential, just like professional counseling. Participants “meet” online with their counselors three times each week for 30 one-hour sessions ($400 instead of $1100 regular price), or for 30 three-hour sessions ($600 instead of $1600 regular price) depending on the level of care needed. Completion of the program is documented by the issuance of a certificate of completion which can be presented to employers or judges, if needed.

This is one of several options available to veterans, and ASC offers our sincerest thanks to a company who has made these treatment options available and affordable to veterans across the nation. Too often, this population is overlooked or forgotten- not out of disrespect, but from a lack of understanding. Soldiers have the image of being the strongest men and women in service to our country; it’s easy to forget that sometimes everyone needs a little help.

Marijuana-smoking Couch Potato: fact or stereotype?

The image of a person who smokes marijuana regularly often depicts someone who sits for hours watching television or listening to music while life goes on around them: a couch potato with the munchies. The typical pot-smoking stereotype, right? But as is true of most stereotypes, there is a grain of truth in the image. And in this case, science is finally proving it!

A study published in June 2013, in the journal, Biological Psychiatry, found that adults who smoke marijuana regularly over long periods of time produce less dopamine in their brains. Dopamine is the substance in the brain’s chemistry that is responsible for positive feelings, and it plays a major role in motivation and reward-driven behavior. Without elevation of dopamine, there is little motivation to seek rewards. The smokers with the lowest levels of dopamine in their brains were those who smoked marijuana regularly and those who began using the drug at a younger age- typically in their early teens.

Previous studies which examined marijuana’s effects on the brain indicated that chronic use of the drug could trigger inflammation of the brain, which impacts both learning and coordination. These side effects could also inhibit motivation and activity levels of smokers. After all, who wants to “do” something when movement is unstable and it’s difficult to even think?!

The good news from this study is that, from all indications, the changes in the brain’s chemistry caused by smoking marijuana are likely reversible. Researchers are basing this assumption on previous studies which did not find any measurable differences in dopamine production between former marijuana smokers and people who had never smoked marijuana. Just as the lung damage from smoking cigarettes is often reversible over time, the brain seems to heal itself and re-calibrate chemical production once the substance abuse has stopped.