Archive for July, 2009
In my earlier posting I spoke about the legalization of marijuana. But as a counselor it is my responsibility to sensitize people on the risks associated with its use. It is high time that people understand that smoking pot is not as harmless as it is thought to be.
This is specially for kids and their parents since contrary to the popular belief that marijuana is not popular among kids, the fact is the number of teens in treatment for marijuana dependency is more than that for all other illegal drugs. Teenage is the age of experimentation which might lead to addiction. Research shows that the potency of today’s marijuana is very high and is thus highly addictive. It also serves as a gateway drugs for teenagers who might gradually switch over to other extremely harmful substances like heroine, cocaine, etc.
Smoking pot has hazardous effects on the health of the smoker. Marijuana smoke destroys and leads to abnormal functioning of the lung tissue. The amount of carbon monoxide absorbed and tar inhaled is 3-5 times greater than cigarette use. Loss of motor co-ordination, increased heart rate, heightened anxiety and panic attacks are short term effects of the drug.
Marijuana also affects the brain activities. It impairs the attention, memory and learning capacities leading to poor academic performance. Pot smoking creates a trance like state which impairs judgment leading to risky decision making and involvement in unsafe behavior.
Longitudinal studies show that chronic use of the weed leads to deviant behavior patterns like aggression, delinquency, rebellious, poor relationship with parents.
Often we have found teens resorting to marijuana as a way to overcome depression. But pot can worsen the situation by increasing the level of depression and paving a path for other serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and even suicide.
Will you still believe that marijuana is not harmful?
Be on the guard. Spread the message, save children from using marijuana.
One of the most debated topics in the recent years is should marijuana be legalized?
I happened to go through some of the comments regarding the issue and was quite baffled to find that most of the comments were in favor of the issue. The points raised by them might seem to have some significance when compared with alcohol – a substance tagged as ‘legal’ but snatching away thousands of life every year.
According to them it is due to tough marijuana laws that exist in the country several people turn towards alcohol simply to avoid the consequences of being caught. According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism around 35,000 people die of alcohol related disease every year. Add to this the number of death cases resulting from drunken driving. Alcohol also triggers violence which is not evident in marijuana. It also seems to be less harmful to health.
Currently billions of money is being spent on chasing marijuana users, locking them in prison and treating them in rehabilitation centres. The burden falls on the tax payers. The money saved could be used for better purposes like adopting effective preventive measures.
They argue that prohibition does not work and it failed miserably with alcohol as well. Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs amongst American high school students. It is so easily available that around 100 million Americans have tried it at least once and there are nearly 15 million habitual users. The sellers aim at making money and a person need not be 21 years to get marijuana. But in case it is legalized there will be regulations to keep it away from kids.
Apart from these marijuana has medical, industrial, agricultural and religious uses as well.
But a word of caution for those who are propagating legalization of the drug – think about them who will end up with a dependency. Will it affect his health, wealth and relationship?
I have been dealing with substance abusers for more than fifteen years. I have seen bright young potentials getting lost and wasted under the influence of drugs.
The society has lost some of its human resources that it would have otherwise loved to treasure – doctors, engineers, academicians. Many a time I hear people saying that drug addiction is on the decline.
But I beg to differ from them. It is true that the trend has changed, but the menace of drug addiction still continues to maintain its overpowering nature grasping the young generation under its venomous claws.
“Why did you start taking drugs” – is one of the basic questions that are asked to people having problems with the substance. Interesting enough, a large majority say “Just for fun”. It is true that none of the drug users start using drugs to get hooked to it. Some can manage to stop after having the fun while others fail. They become drug dependents.
Some of the most common factors that lead to drug use are
Curiosity and the urge to experiment – teenagers are always trying to experiment with new things. They are curious to experience the feeling of “high” associated with the use of a drug. This could be the starting point of addiction.
Peer pressure – teenagers always strive to conform to their peer group. Drug abuse in the peer group is a risk factor.
Stress – resulting from problems at school / college, work pressure, strained relationship, financial difficulties.
Frustration and depression resulting from several factors like failed romance, bereavement, marital problems, academic failure.
Mental illness – to overcome depression, anxiety.
Physical conditions like severe pain, insomnia, etc. might lead to abusing prescription drugs.
Loneliness and boredom.
Family history of addiction.
A knowledge of these causative factors will help you in assessing the vulnerability of your child and helping him to stay away from drugs.
Looking forward to your suggestions, tips, and experience!
Drug addiction affects the addict as well as the family members who generally go through a trauma once they come to know about their addiction.
This is even more heart breaking for the parents of teenagers. But most of the times it gets too late before they are able to identify it. You might suspect that something is wrong but unable to understand the reason behind it. Look for the following changes –
Health – Lethargy, loss of appetite, change in sleeping pattern are common. They even lose interest in personal grooming, dressing style, etc. which is quite unusual since teenagers generally try to conform to the current fashion.
School – Check whether your child is doing his school work as he did previously. Is there a decline in his performance? Is he attending his school regularly or is he giving excuses to stay back at home? Did it ever happen that he bunked school without your knowledge? Keep in touch with the school and keep a track of his attendance and performance. Not completing school assignments, failing classes, a drop in performance are indicators that your child may be on drugs.
Behavior and Attitude – They lose interest in all those things in which they were once interested – “My son was a basket ball freak. But for the past few months he has stopped watching it”. There is a shift in personality – irritable, rebellious, prefers to stay alone and stops interacting with parents, relatives and even old friends, hangs out with new set of friends. Refuses to give any information about his whereabouts. Demand for money increases without any good reason and resorts to violence or emotional black mailing if not provided. Gradually starts losing his valuables which he actually sells to get the money.
Teenage is the age of experimenting and my experience of dealing with addicts shows that usually addicts start using drugs just for the sake of experimenting with something new. Hence they are the targets of the drug dealers. So please keep a track of your child’s activities. Save him and save your family.
The untimely death of pop star Michael Jackson has once again raised the question “Are prescription drugs beneficial or harmful for health?” I believe that a majority of people will speak for the motion. But a few, like me who have had the opportunity to know the reality, will speak against it. Yes, addiction to prescription drugs is scaling up.
Such drugs are definitely useful when used as directed by the physician. But often they are misused – taken in larger doses.
A survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2007 has shown that around 15% of the US high school students abuse prescription drugs. Addiction to such drugs is prevalent mostly among young adults between 18 – 25 years who are unaware of the inherent danger.
The causes are easy availability and a common belief that such drugs are not harmful since they have been prescribed by doctors. “A safe way to get the high” said a senior student.
3 groups of prescribed drugs are generally abused –
• Opioids prescribed for relieving pain e.g. Morphine like Kodian and Avinza, Oxycodone like OxyContin and Percocet.
• Central Nervous System depressants that are used for treating anxiety, sleeplessness, e.g., Barbiturates like Mebaral and Nembutal, Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax.
• Stimulants that are prescribed to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), obesity, narcolepsy e.g. Detroamphetamine like Dexedrine and Adderall, Methylphenidate like Ritalin and Concerta.
So please be aware of prescribed drugs. Keep in mind the fine line that differentiates between using and abusing such drugs. Remember they are as dangerous as illegal drugs like brown sugar since they are highly addictive and dangerous. Consult a doctor immediately if you feel that someone in your family is abusing prescription drugs.