There is an ongoing and growing problem on opioid use and abuse, becoming a pandemic on its own. Many people have fallen victim to opioid use because the drug is readily available and accessible.
The U.S. Department of Justice decided to take matters into action and enacted a program that can effectively monitor and lessen the opioid abuse. Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) is a state-run electronic database to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances. This program is designed to monitor drugs that are suspected to be addicting. Also, it also provides critical information regarding a patient’s controlled substances prescription history.
Opioid Abuse and Addiction
A brewing problem against drug addiction has been increasing with the use of over-the-counter medicine as a means for opioid abuse. Opioid analgesics intended to relieve pain are often used improperly, resulting to abuse and addiction. It has becoming a wide-scale problem that has resulted to opioid overdose.
From 2003 to 2009, the numbers of death caused by drug overdose has increased to 61 percent in Florida alone. Most of the fatalities are caused by the infamous opioid pain relievers oxycodone and benzodiazepine alprazolam.
Addiction to opioids such as prescription pain relievers, heroin and morphine affects the health and social welfare of most societies. There are roughly 26.4 million people who abuse opioid while there are approximately 2.1 million users in United States, 470,000 of which are already addicted and are suffering health issues because of their addiction.
Opioid is a respiratory depressant that can cause death when abused and used regularly. The reason why it has become the popular choice for addicts is because it is easily available and accessible. Prescription pain relievers can be easily bought in drug stores and is readily available in black markets.
Opioids are substances that acts like opioid receptors for a morphine-like effect. The drug is highly addictive and can illicit physical dependence when used and abused. These receptors can mediate the psychoactive and somatic effects, which produce the tendency for the user to have an altered state of mind.
Abuse of opioids can lead to side effects like itchiness, nausea, euphoria and respiratory depression.
What is Prescription Drug Monitoring Program?
The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSL) defined Prescription Drug Monitoring Program as the statewide electronic database that collects the data on a particular drug dispensed in the state. It is housed under specified regulations by administrative and law enforcement agencies.
NAMSL distributes the data from the individuals who are authorized to receive the information for the purpose of their profession. Since PDMP is used as a tool by states to address prescription drug abuse and addiction, it is served with several purposes such as to provide support access to effectively and properly use controlled substances as medication. This is to educate individuals about the use of PDMP and potential abuse and addiction to other prescription drugs that will help to identify, determine and prevent the drug abuse and diversion.
PDMP also serves the purpose of information dissemination in outlining use and abuse trends as a form of public health initiative. This is an important part of the program to facilitate and encourage the intervention and treatment of persons addicted to prescription drugs.
As of October 16, 2011 there are 37 states running operational PDMPs that have the capacity to receive and distribute controlled substances. Some of the states with fully operational PDMP include Ohio, Wyoming, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina. There are also eleven states that have enacted the use of PDMP to alleviate drug abuse even though it’s still not fully operational, and these include Alaska, Washington, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Maryland. Each of these states has a designated agency as to which will oversee the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and these comprises of health departments, state law enforcement or pharmacy boards.
The Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs maintains a list of the state contacts to ensure that each state agency will be given attention. The group helps state agencies monitor how the program is going, guarantee that each state control will have the access to PDMP information, and also receive short descriptions as to the purpose of the programs in alleviating drug abuse in the society.
It is also important to note that The National Alliance State Drug Laws are provided links as to each state’s statute, regulations and law pertaining to prescription drug monitoring. In order to effectively run the prescription drug monitoring program, federal funding should be readily available in implementing the grant needed to proceed with the program.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance together with the Office of Justice organized and administered the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (HRPDMP) to provide three types of grants for planning, implementation and enhancement. Since inception, 47 states and 1 U.S. state territory have been funded under the grant program.
In an effort to administer the grant program effectively, the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (NASPER) was enacted last 2005 to implement and enhance different programs for prescription drug monitoring. Since it has been created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NASPER has received $2 million in 2009 and 2010 to support grants in 13 states.
Although NASPER and HRPDMP are part of a working force duo in terms of prescription drug monitoring, they still have different purposes. HRPDMP’s responsibility is to enhance the capacity and scope of regulatory law enforcements and agencies to collect data from controlled substance and should be maintained through a centralized database administered by an authorized agency. On the other hand, NASPER aids in managing the grant program under the authority of HHS.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to Mitigate Opioid Use and Abuse
Since there is a steady growth and increase on the opioid use and abuse leading to addiction, some government agencies and health organizations are looking for a way to resolve this issue. The specific issue of opioid abuse and addiction can be solved by an effective information campaign. Letting the patients know the harmful benefits of the drug can be a useful way to lessen the abuse of opioids.
Prescription drug monitoring programs should have basic patient information and must also have the following data:
- Prescription number
- Date the prescription was issued
- Date that the prescription was last filled
- Number of refills ordered
It is important to know how many times the patient has used the drug and how often they have their prescription filled. The database of PDMP is updated by a pharmacist, who enters prescription data into the database within three days after dispensing. This is to ensure that a person or a patient is taking the controlled substance or medication properly, thereby reducing the risk of opioid abuse.
Prescription drug monitoring programs are highly effective tools that run in each state for the government to utilize in order to lessen the abuse of prescription drugs.
The programs collect and analyze electronically transmitted data, which are administered and submitted by pharmacists and practitioners. The data collected are used to manage and support the state’s efforts in research, enforcement and abuse prevention.
Prescription drug monitoring program is an operative tool and method to mitigate the abuse of opioids. However, there are also underlying disadvantages and inconsistencies when utilizing the program. Some of these hindrances that pose problems on the effectiveness and success of prescription drug monitoring data systems include the following;
- Inconsistency of the prescribers of the program
- Inconsistency in sharing the information across states
- Access to data separate to the one being used to access the records
- No mandatory requirement for the prescriber to consult with the database before prescribing and distributing the controlled substances
Proposed Actions to Address the Opioid Epidemic
Opioid abuse is imminent and is quickly becoming a wide-scale problem due to easy access and availability of these drugs. One effort that has been taken into action is implementing programs like the PDMP to aid in monitoring and collecting data that can mitigate the use of opioids. However, the current programs being executed and applied today still contain loopholes that make them limited in terms of their success in combatting drug abuse and addiction.
An ideal prescribed drug monitoring program should be able to alert the administrators of signs that pertain to illegal and aberrant drug procurement behavior. Furthermore, it should also be able to monitor controlled substances that fall within Schedule III, Schedule IV and Schedule V. These types of drugs and substances are prone to addiction and can be highly addictive, and that is why it is important to take these drugs only when necessary.
Actions to address the opioid endemic and take action in combatting the addiction problem is improve on prescribed drug monitoring programs and also enhance information dissemination as to what the state and health providers need to know to make the program effective. To improve the use of the program, it is important that PDMP should have easy access and real-time updates to the database.
Interstate accessibility is also integral to make sure that the centralized database is always up to date, and it must be synced together as well. There should be mandatory reporting on the update with controlled substances.
To make the PDMP a useful tool to mitigate the diversion of opioids, research should be done to optimize the use of the program. Also, the goal of a research study should be able to differentiate users and non-users, and the schedule by which clinicians and pharmacists should respond to the data.
Another effort and action to be considered is to expand access to treatment. When treating opioid overdose, it is better that physicians are well-prepared in treating opioid use disorder. Also, increasing the availability of community treatment programs should also be prioritized.
Lastly, an inter-agency task force should be created and grouped for the advancement on the access to mental health and abuse use treatment. The goal of this group is to promote best practices and develop additional agency guideline.
These plans in improving the programs are to expand public health partnerships to invest more in community policies that will help in combatting the opioid abuse epidemic.
Drugs can start a lively discussion from different vantage points. Should drugs be legalized with due process? Are drugs dangerous or are they just misunderstood? Is it possible to create one super drug to trump other drugs?
The list goes on and on and while some people tend to gravitate towards scientific research, a majority of society’s curiosity towards drugs is due to media, especially through movies. Some people are at awe with how a small pill can enhance performance by a thousand-fold, or marvel at how a laced drink can melt your inhibitions away.
Drug-related films have the tendency to exaggerate and highlight drugs as a component that has the ability to completely change who we are and how we do things. While it may seem attractive, the drugs featured in these films, though fictional, may have dangerous counterparts that exist in real life.
Soma (Brave New World, 1931)
In Brave New World, author Aldous Huxley introduces “Soma,” an antidepressant capable of causing hallucinations when taken at high enough quantities. It was used for a number of purposes, some being “religious services to crowd control.“ Depending on the dosage and the context it is taken in, “soma” can both be innocent and fatal at the same time.
A real world “soma” would be ketamine, an experimental antidepressant. Much like soma, ketamine, when taken at extremely high doses, can cause “strong visual and auditory hallucinations, and severe disassociation or detachment.” Its effects would be fatal if the doses go even higher.
Milk Plus (A Clockwork Orange, 1962)
The ‘60s was the era of the drug movement, when LSD was what the eccentric youth used to transcend into peace and tranquility in order to gain a sense of understanding about the world and the status quo. Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange plays on this archetype by introducing Alex and Milk Plus. In the film adaptation of a published work by Stanley Kubrick, Alex and his friends drink Milk Plus, which is milk laced with drugs that bring on disturbingly violent behavior in order to restore a perceived sense of social order.
In real life, Milk Plus produces the same effects as alcohol. Intoxication of alcohol can reduce your self-consciousness and can bring forth aggressive behavior, which is intrinsic in some people.
Teamocil (Arrested Development, “Best Man for the Gob”, 2004)
In Arrested Development, Tobias Fünke tries to get his wife Lindsay and his daughter Maeby back together for “Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution.” Lindsay attempts to sing the jingle from a commercial from the nineties that revolved around a non-FDA approved pharmaceutical drug called “Teamocil.”
According to the advertisement, Teamocil can “boost camaraderie among people while lowering sex drives.” Ironically, the forced amity between them only drove Tobias’s family further away.
Used as experimental therapy for PTSD, MMDA has been known to boost camaraderie and to make people friendlier. However, whereas Teamocil lowers sex drive, MMDA raises it.
NZT-48 (Limitless, 2011)
Eddie Morra is experiencing writer’s block while struggling to make a living in New York City. After his girlfriend leaves him, Eddie runs into his ex-wife’s brother who offers him an experimental performance enhancing drug known as NZT-48. Eddie then uses the drug to get over his writer’s block and, later on, acquires more NZT-48 to gain a fortune in the stock market. This then leads to addiction, which then transcends into time-slipping blackouts all of which Eddie has no memory of.
After this film was released, a lot of drugs have been marked to have the same effects. In addition, nootropics have become known as the secret weapon for the corporate climbers of today. Nootropics are “chemical supplements that claim to improve cognitive functions, increase alertness and strengthen memory and recall.” It can exist in stimulants such as amphetamine (Aderall) or caffeine.
CPH4 (Lucy, 2014)
Much like Limitless, this 2014 film revolves around Lucy, a young woman who accidentally takes high doses of CPH4, a drug known to unlock the full power of the human brain. She then experiences strengthened human abilities, which then transofrms to mental and physical powers and eventually leads her to acquiring telepathic abilities.
Though there are no known drugs that can unlock the full potential of the human brain to the point where we attain superhero-grade powers, an overdose of amphetamines may deliver the same feeling. When overdosed, amphetamines can increase body temperature, blood pressure, strange and repetitive behavior, realistic hallucinations and even premature death.
Dropper (Looper, 2012)
Joe is a hitman who is given victims from the future. Though this gives him an ample financial situation, his contract states that he will die in the line of duty. Distraught by this, he and his cohorts abuse a drug called “droppers” wherein it is ingested in the form of eye drops, which then leads to psychoactive properties. This is often taken in a social setting, like a club.
Though there are no known drugs that can get an individual high through the form of eye drops, it is quite synonymous to the social activity of vodka eyeballing. It is believed that the practice, which involves pouring an amount of neat vodka into the eye, causes people to get drunk faster. However, this practice is considered very dangerous because it can lead to people to be robbed of their sight.
Another real life counterpart to droppers is cocaine administered as eye drops for anesthetic purposes, though it is unlikely you can get high from it.
HFS and Wifi (21 Jumpstreet, 2012 and 22 Jumpstreet, 2014)
The Jumpstreet films were used as a commentary to focus on the growth of drug culture among the youth with synthetic or designer drugs as the main source of activity.
Designer drugs or synthetic drugs are drugs designed for medical uses. In short, they are the dupes to the authentic substances by changing the molecular make-up of an illegal drug and making it legal. According to BusinessInsider.com, designer drugs are cheap and easy to get and it can also occur in a myriad of names such as bath salts or flakka. However, a molecular tweak to the drug can create a new drug with an entirely different psychoactive effect.
Poster image sources:
Marijuana or cannabis is still the leading illicit drug abused by teenagers in the United States. In 2014, the Substance Abuse for Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that an estimated 22.2 million Americans ages 12 or older were current users of marijuana. Of this number, 7.4% represented adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17.
The results of the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey, a statistical study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed more detailed information. It showed that over the past month, marijuana use among 8th graders was at 6.5%, among 10th graders at 16.6%, and among 12th graders at 21.2%.
Both reports concluded that the trends show that marijuana use among teenage Americans remains stable. While recreational marijuana is federally illegal and banned in most states, its availability is widespread and it continues to be the primary drug for most adolescents.
Effects on Adolescents
In the recent years, a number of research studies have shown that early use of marijuana can lead to several issues that affect the user’s physical, mental, and psychological health in adult years. It is also associated with behavioral and social concerns. Here are some of the effects of marijuana use on teenagers:
Changes in the brain
Marijuana contains over a 400 hundred compounds that include at least 65 cannabinoids. The main active cannabinoid responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects which cause an elevated euphoria or “high” that is sought by abusers is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
When THC enters the brain, it activates certain receptors that are critical for normal brain function and healthy development. High levels of THC greatly affect those receptors that control pleasure, mood, sensory and time perception, coordination, communication, learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.
Several studies conducted among adolescent users of marijuana have found that the drug causes structural brain abnormalities and impairs some vital mental functions. THC has been shown to affect the shape, density, and volume of the brain. Heavy users are likely to damage the white matter and gray matter which are associated with cognition, communication, and memory. These effects have been found to be more pronounced in users who start smoking the substance before the age of 16 or between the ages of 16 and 18.
In addition, the brain alterations caused by early exposure and use of the drug inhibit brain development which leads to lower IQ levels and learning deficiencies among teens.
Mental and psychiatric health
The use of marijuana in the adolescent years increases the chances of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorders in adulthood. These psychiatric disorders are attributed to the drug’s psychoactive properties which are likely to bear long-term detrimental effects.
A study conducted in Sweden in 2002 established findings that those who smoke marijuana at the age of 18 increase their chances of developing schizophrenia sixfold. Subsequent investigations further concluded that those with pre-existing genetic conditions for psychosis such as schizophrenia may acquire the illness as a result of smoking marijuana.
Frequent or heavy use of the drug during the adolescence years has also been linked to depression and anxiety disorders during adulthood. While the substance may temporarily relieve depression, habitual use can put users at high risk of manifesting symptoms of both depression and anxiety in later years.
Marijuana use in teenage years can also lead to suicidal tendencies and behavioral disorders including aggression and violence in young adulthood. Statistics show that those who begin using marijuana before the age of 17 are three times more likely to attempt suicide.
The effects of the active ingredients in marijuana that affect mental processes begin soon after ingestion and can last for several days to weeks. As a result, adolescents who use the drug on a regular basis perform at lower intellectual levels due to the impairment of their learning and cognitive abilities.
Several studies have found that marijuana use is correlated with reduced chances of finishing high school or earning a college degree. Users are more likely to underperform in school compared to their non-smoking peers. For instance, the Healthy Youth Survey conducted in Washington State in 2012 revealed that high school students who were habitual users of marijuana got lower grades compared to those who did not engage in drug use.
Teenage marijuana use is also associated with socioeconomic issues in adult years. These include poor educational attainment, low income, unemployment, welfare dependence, problematic interpersonal relationships, disrupted family lives, criminal behavior, and life dissatisfaction.
Smoking marijuana can adversely affect the user’s health the same way that smoking tobacco does. It can cause respiratory illnesses and infections such as chronic cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, and even lung cancer. Because the drug contains more harmful compounds than tobacco products, habitual marijuana use can produce more dangerous health consequences than tobacco use.
Within a few minutes from smoking marijuana, a person experiences increased heart rate by about 20 to 50 beats. This increases the risk for incurring cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmia, hypertension, and similar conditions.
Studies have shown that marijuana use is linked to testicular cancer among men. One investigation conducted among men in the Seattle area showed that marijuana users are at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer compared to non-users. It further concluded that those initiated to marijuana use at an age younger than 18, face a higher probability of incurring the disease.
Addiction and withdrawal
The compounds of cannabis are highly addictive and users are most likely to develop a tolerance for and dependence on the substance. It has been reported that about 17 percent of those who begin using marijuana during their adolescent years become addicted to the drug.
Addiction can cause the users to experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they attempt to cease using the drug or abruptly lower the dose of the substance ingested. Such symptoms include increased cravings, mood changes, decreased appetite, sleep disturbances, irritability, and anxiety. A user will begin to experience these symptoms within the first 24 hours following cessation. The same can last up to three days.
The severity of the marijuana withdrawal symptoms varies according to the duration or gravity of the drug dependence. In most cases, quitting voluntarily can be very difficult as when pharmacological treatment is necessary to alleviate and manage the withdrawal symptoms brought about by the physiological dependence on the substance. Thus, it is strongly advised that professional help is sought for the treatment of marijuana abuse.
Gateway to other drugs
Marijuana addiction is also linked to abuse of other substances including tobacco, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs. It has been observed that those who engage in marijuana use in their teenage years are likely to progress to more severe forms of substance abuse in later years. This is known as the “gateway phenomenon.”
It has also been observed that chronic users usually use the drug in addition to alcohol or tobacco. This practice tremendously increases their risks for developing health complications.
Confronting teen marijuana abuse can be devastating for a parent. The problem disrupts family life and it promotes fear for the welfare and safety of both the child and the home. But marijuana use should not be dismissed as a passing phase or fad in your teenager’s life. The perils caused by substance abuse could be averted by timely intervention. Thus, it is best to address the issue as soon as possible.
If you have observed signs of marijuana abuse include changes in mood, poor academic performance, decreased appetite, emotional disturbances, and other signs indicative of drug abuse, then sit down with your child and discuss the issues. Afterward, make sure to have your teenager immediately evaluated by a physician.
Certain diagnostic tests such as urine testing are performed to determine recent marijuana use. A urine test result will show whether or not there has been drug use in the last two to four days. Other tests including saliva, sweat, and hair can also be performed.
It is crucial that these interventions are done promptly in order to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Should your child test positive for drug use, consult the appropriate health specialists and enroll him a treatment program.
Both outpatient and inpatient programs are available for the treatment of marijuana addiction. These programs implement various approaches to help the patient cope with withdrawal symptoms and develop strategies to avoid a relapse.
Some of the behavioral therapies that have been found to be effective include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivational enhancement therapy, and family counseling sessions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy intends to teach patients methods to identify problematic behaviors and to develop techniques for handling such issues to help them prevent a recurrence of drug addiction.
Contingency management is a treatment approach that aims to promote a “reward system” by providing patients with incentives for each time they test negative for drugs. These are in the form of vouchers which may be exchanged for goods or services. This method encourages users to intentionally abstain from marijuana use.
As the name implies, the goal of motivational enhancement therapy is to assist patients to develop internal motivation to turn away from drugs and to stay on the path towards recovery.
Family therapies such as multidimensional therapy and family support therapy are designed to help establish a support base for the adolescent. The approach emphasizes the importance of discouraging marijuana use.
Some studies have shown that teens whose parents attend some form of family counseling and support sessions are more likely to reduce and eliminate drug dependence compared to those whose families do not undergo similar therapies.
There is yet no pharmacologic preparation that has been approved to effectively treat marijuana use disorder. However, several medications are available to manage and relieve withdrawal symptoms. These include antidepressants such as Nefazodone and Fluoxetine.
However, several research studies are being undertaken to find more efficient medications. The majority of the clinical trials that have been conducted focus on finding remedies to address the sleep disorders associated with marijuana withdrawal. Among the medications that have shown some potential include Zolpidem, Buspirone, and Gabapentin.
Other studies are geared towards finding nutritional supplements that would aid the inhibition of cannabinoids in the body to successfully reduce and eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
In conclusion, marijuana use puts adolescents and children at a high risk for developing several long-term problems. Teens often underestimate the potential harm to which they expose themselves by initiating the use of the substance. The addictive quality of marijuana that is currently available has been found to be three to five times stronger those in the 60s. Thus, using it a few times even for experimental purposes can pave the way towards dependence and abuse.
The importance of parental guidance and monitoring cannot be underscored. The dangers of marijuana use should be openly discussed in the home and the kids should be strongly advised against its use. When parents state their firm disapproval of any recreational drug or substance use, adolescents are less likely to engage in the same.
Shaping the future of American teenagers is a responsibility that should be first undertaken in the home. Parents are given both the privilege and the obligation to ensure these teenagers evade the path that leads to drug abuse and its dismal effects. It is a crucial role that cannot be taken for granted.
According to the 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Report on Trends in Prevalence of Tobacco Smoking, tobacco use is accountable for the death of approximately 6 million people across the world each year. This figure includes the estimated 600,000 people who are also likely to die from the ill effects caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.
Cigarette smoking poses serious health risks, as attested by several studies. Among these risks are certain cancers like mouth, throat, larynx, lungs; coronary heart disease; and respiratory ailments.
The onset of medical conditions related to tobacco use is affected by the duration of exposure to its dangers. The earlier in age the smoking begun, the sooner the health complications develop. Medical research shows that those who started tobacco use in their teens are more likely to develop nicotine addiction and become heavy users upon reaching adulthood. The longer the use, the more challenging it is to quit.
This is why teen smoking is a grave public health threat. However, adolescents continue to stubbornly ignore the statistics and the health warnings. For instance, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collated data show that more than 3,200 teens ages 18 and below have been initiated to cigarette smoking.
These figures show that despite pervasive health education, prevention propaganda, and government bans, smoking remains tremendously popular among young people.
It is worth noting that the term “tobacco use” is not limited to cigarettes but includes other tobacco-related products such as e-cigarettes, hookahs, cigars and low-tar products. Use of multiple tobacco products is also common among teens. According to the information gathered from the CDC surveys on Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School from 2011 to 2015, an average of 3.3% of middle school children and 13% of high school students admitted to use two or more tobacco products in the past 30 days.
Why Teenagers Smoke
There are several factors that affect a teenager’s decision to begin smoking. Among the major contributing elements are the following:
Media and advertising campaigns
Because surveys show that heavy smokers begin the habit between their pre-teen to teenage years, tobacco manufacturers have devised strategies to redesign their advertising to target this particular age group. A popular example is the marketing strategy of Camel cigarettes in the late 80’s which utilized the cartoon character Joe Camel. The marketing strategy was so effective that it significantly increased the sales of Camel cigarettes in the United States to about $466 million in 1992.
Similar promotional tactics – which include hiring famous celebrities to endorse cigarette smoking – are being used by other leading tobacco companies to portray smoking as “cool,” “hip,” “romantic,” and “pleasurable.” Some of these ads also associate smoking with independence, rebellion, glamor and popularity.
In addition, the proliferation of film, television, music videos and magazines that feature teenage characters who smoke sends out the message that this is a good trend to engage in. These entice the young generation to light up and smoke their first cigarette.
Children who are exposed to parents, family members or guardians who smoke are also likely to take up the deadly habit. Kids look up to their parents and elders as primary role models and mimic their behaviour. Failure by the parents to emphasize the harmful effects of smoking creates the perception that it is “normal” or “acceptable” and lessens the impact of health advisories.
Peer pressure is also a major contributing factor. During their adolescent years, children feel a compelling need to belong and to be accepted by social circles. Smoking may provide as avenues for developing friendships or strengthening bonds among peers.
It is during these formative years that teenagers struggle for a sense of self-identify and independence apart from their parents. It is a crucial phase and their coping mechanisms will determine whether or not they will succumb to the societal pressure to light and smoke their first cigarette. Parental absence or neglect coupled with lack effective school regulations of cigarette use on school campuses will negatively impact their decisions.
Rebellion or social image
Teenagers also go through the transition period from being a child to an adult and during this stage, they experiment with their choices. This is also the time when several differences between the parents and the teenagers arise. This can spark defiance and rebellion, which are also motivating factors for teens to pick up smoking as a habit, either to deliberately challenge their parents or to seek much-wanted attention.
They may also be driven by the desire to build an image of being independent, cool, gothic or bad as when they identify with a character from a movie or an anime cartoon and they start practicing the bad habits portrayed in the film.
Sense of invincibility
In a certain way, most adolescents feel immortal and invincible. In their teenage years, they view life ahead as a series of never-ending adventures that would somehow stretch on through eternity. For them, the concepts of aging, sickness and health are so far off in the future. Thus, public health warnings on the perilous effects of smoking are easily ignored. Besides, they always tell themselves the biggest lie that most smokers believe – that they can quit anytime.
Dangers of Teen Smoking
The younger a person is initiated to tobacco use, the more likely he is to develop nicotine addiction in his adult years. Nicotine poisons the body over time and dependence on the substance places a smoker at a greater risk for developing serious health problems at an earlier age. Among these are: coronary heart diseases; stroke; emphysema; several cancers; lung diseases; respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia; osteoporosis; decreased fertility and impotence.
Smoking in teenage years causes reduced lung growth. As a result, the lungs are undeveloped and become incapable of functioning properly. Thus, teenage smokers are most likely to have respiratory illnesses throughout their lives.
Nicotine addiction occurs hastily in adolescents, making cessation and withdrawal more challenging.
Tobacco use doesn’t only impact the health of the smoker. It is equally dangerous to those who are exposed to second-hand smoke which contains several chemicals proven to be carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure can trigger conditions such as asthma, allergies, heart disease. In worse cases, it may even cause lung cancer.
It is important to know the warning signs of teen smoking. Spotting them early on allows for an opportunity for timely intervention that can delay the occurrence of nicotine dependence. Here are some warning signs that parents should watch out for:
This is one of the most telling signs that a teenager is smoking. It is also easy to detect because the strong smell of cigarette smoke attaches to clothing items and even to the skin.
Use of cologne sprays or air fresheners
Sudden or increased use of cologne sprays or body mists could indicate that the teenager is attempting to conceal or obscure the scent of cigarette smoke on his clothing. The same goes for sudden use of air fresheners or incense in his bedroom especially if he has not used these items in the past.
Lighters and matches
Parents should watch out for unnecessary acquisition of lighters and matches by their teenage children. There may be several lighters or matchboxes hidden in their desk drawers, backpacks, purses or clothing pockets and these are strong indicators that they are smoking.
Breath mints or breath fresheners
Another sign of teen smoking is the sudden or increased use of breath fresheners, mints, chewing gums, candies or mouthwash. The teenager could be using these products in attempts to camouflage the smell of tobacco on his breath.
Disappearances from the house
If the teenager is frequently leaving the house on short notice or suddenly goes out without seeking prior permission, for no valid reasons, it could be that he is sneaking off somewhere to smoke a cigarette. These instances of his disappearances, especially when under questionable circumstances as when they occur at night, should be investigated and addressed promptly.
If these signs or behavioral changes are noticed, it may be time to for the parents or other family members to intervene. It is imperative that tobacco use is stopped immediately in order to diminish its chances of progressing to nicotine addiction.
How Parents Can Intervene
Be a positive role model
The best way for parents to keep children away from smoking is for them to set good examples. They are the most influential people in their children’s lives. Their employed parenting techniques will reflect on their kids’ choices.
There should be open discussion in the home as to the negative impacts of smoking followed by a firm stand against it. It should be discouraged. If parents are themselves, struggling with tobacco use, they should seek professional help and cessation programs.
Take active roles in their lives
Smoking is only one of the many vices teenagers may take up as a result of parental neglect. Parents should keep open channels of communication with their children and be take active roles in their lives. For instance, show genuine interest in their hobbies, encourage family activities, and get to know their friends. Children who feel emotionally secure in the home and who know they can turn to their parents for advice and guidance are less likely to cave into peer pressure.
Be patient, not judgmental
Should parents find that despite all their efforts, their kids have started smoking anyway, they should sit down to dialogue and to listen. It is important that teenagers don’t feel attacked or cornered. Rather, they need to be assured that their parents are coming from a place of concern and affection. Parents should avoid issuing threats or imposing punishment outright. On the contrary, they should strive to listen and to understand the reasons why their children started smoking.
The addictive nature of nicotine will make quitting very difficult and confusing for teenagers. They will need their parents’ support, motivation and encouragement especially during the rough periods of withdrawal.
Encourage sports and physical activities
According to several studies in the past, there is evidence that physical activities can delay smoking initiation among the youth. Team sports and aerobic activities are also recommended as part of smoking cessation programs, to help distract both the mind and body from the cravings for tobacco use.
It will definitely help to seek professional medical advice and enroll the teenage smoker in individual counselling or support group therapy. A report by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) supports the position that counselling is especially effective for adolescent smokers as it doubles long-term abstinence rates compared to other approaches that do not involve behavioural treatment.
Parents may also encourage their children to register for smoking cessation programs whether at school clinics, treatment facilities, or community health centers.
The harmful and life-threatening effects of teen smoking, as well as the adverse implications of the relevant statistical data, are widely known. While prevention of cigarette initiation appears to be the best solution to this public health issue, timely intervention methods are likewise effective alternatives. The importance of intervening early and swiftly as soon as the issue is discovered cannot be sufficiently underscored.
Whatever factors compel teenagers to begin this addictive pattern, all hopes to salvage their future are not entirely lost. They must have the resolve to begin the journey towards recovery, through the guidance and support of family and friends. Clearly, overcoming tobacco use or dependence is a battle that no ordinary adolescent can win alone.
Recovery from addiction can be a difficult process. It would need a lot of support, encouragement and even technology to help the recovering individual become successful with drug addiction recovery. In this article, we will look at some mobile apps that help in drug addiction recovery.
Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of health-related apps. Nowadays, you can find apps for breaking habits, for tracking goals, and drug addiction recovery. Technology has given recovering addicts convenient and practical tools to help them walk away from addiction. From tracking sober time, managing triggers and emotions, and finding and sharing meetings, apps for addiction recovery are aplenty whether you are using an iPhone or an Android.
Today’s youth just cannot live by without their smartphones. They post and check their Facebook timelines, play games, catch up on the latest news, and send messages to friends using their smartphones. For this reason, an app that can help them recover from drug addiction can make sense.
Here are some smartphone apps that can help with addiction recovery:
SoberGrid uses geo-location features to help users connect with other people who are close by. The aim of the app is to help recovering addicts strengthen their recovery networks. It also serves as a platform for users to get support when they have a feeling that they might relapse.
SoberGrid also allows users to post their pictures on their Facebook newsfeed as well as block someone from using the app. Android phone users can download the app here.
For people who have just left a rehabilitation or recovery center, a relapse is still possible. They would need a tool that can help tell if such relapse is likely. To address this, software developers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created an app for achieving such goal.
iHeal comes with a device that is worn on the user’s arm. This gadget is designed to monitor bodily indicators such as body movement, skin temperature, and heart rate. The device also warns users if they are in the “danger zone” and adjusts itself accordingly depending on the situation.
Twelve Steps – The Companion
There are many 12-step based apps to choose from but Twelve Steps – The Companion is unlike the rest. It is both comprehensive and fun to use. It is also one of the first recovery apps that became available and has undergone several updates already.
The app’s home screen provides the user with their sobriety stats which are displayed in years, months, and years. It also has a “one day at a time” world that counts down the days of recovery until 1,000, which makes the recovery process fun and uplifting.
The app also includes the entire “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous. This feature comes in handy for traveling alcoholics who cannot carry the book all the time wherever they go. The app can be downloaded in the Apple Store as well as in Google Play.
For Android users, you can download here.
Field Guide To Life Pro
Field Guide to Life Pro is an award winning app from Betty Ford Foundation. It comes with a year’s worth of addiction recovery support. Among its main features include daily guidance, reminders and inspirations. It also includes a sober counter, a personal progress monitor, community support, and relapse prevention tools.
The app provides access to several video clips of recovery experts and people saying positive and encouraging messages to the recovering addict. App developer Hazelden was the recipient of The White House Behavioral Health Patient Empowerment Challenge Award for offering crucial first year support to recovering addicts.
For Android users, download the Field Guide to Life app here.
A-Chess is an acronym for Addiction – Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support system. The app comes with inputs from treatment providers, clients, family members, primary care providers, and technology experts. It comes with a bevy of features for predicting, detecting, and preventing relapse. With the app, users can connect with other members for support. It also provides the recovering addict with a platform to engage in discussion groups, and have video chat sessions with counselors.
The GPS technology that comes with the app alerts the user when they are near a high-risk location such as a liquor store. One of its most outstanding features is the panic button, which sends a text message to support prompting a response for assistance. While waiting for a response, the app will send helpful features such as relaxation guides, discussion boards, and even a recording of their own motivational recovery story. When they are in a high-risk location, the app will cause the phone to ring, and several recommended coping strategies will be displayed.
A-Chess works on smartphones running on Google Android 2.3 or higher. You can download the app here.
Friend of Bill
A simple sobriety counter can already do wonders to any recovering addict, but this easy-to-use app presents the duration of staying sober from years to as detailed as minutes. You have the option to change how this app displays the time of your sobriety. In addition, each significant statistic related to sobriety comes with a slogan to motivate you to go on.
Friend of Bill is available in iOS.
One Day At A Time
Carry the famous Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous on your mobile device. One Day At A Time contains everything that you will enjoy from the book. It contains built-in features such as keyword search, access to Daily Meditations, integration of sobriety dates of your fellow recovering addicts, and easy connection to emergency contacts.
One effective method of avoiding relapse is by connecting with peer-recovery experts who can guide people towards full recovery. This is where the Ascent app can provide assistance, by giving users round-the-clock access to coaches who can help them get back on track in case of a potential relapse.
Unlike other downloadable apps, Ascent comes with a package that includes a connection to a coach and a support team. Users of the app can add notes for personal motivation, play videos about recovery, and track progress. It also provides opportunities to learn more about addiction recovery through the community messaging system.
Check this download page for Ascent.
No Replacement For Actual Intervention
It is worth noting that these apps can never replace face-to-face interaction or counseling. According to Nancy Bartnett, an Associate Professor at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, one of the drawbacks of these technological developments is if they could really treat a serious alcoholic. “It’s not the same as going into treatment or meeting with a counselor or getting medication,” Barnett said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Mary Andres, Associate Professor of Clinical Education at the USC Rossier School of Education, explained that these apps can never replace the real thing. “You can’t replace the value of face-to-face identification and the phenomena that happens in group.” Andres said.
Nevertheless, Bartnett believes that mobile apps can serve as bridges or as an adjunctive kind of help. “They can help people to get to treatment, help people to stay in treatment, and get them thinking about treatment,” Barnett explained.
Whether you are already in recovery or thinking about walking away from your addiction, these mobile apps may help you get to the right path and become successful with your goal of becoming finally free from drugs.
Kratom is on the spotlight these days when it comes to alternative medicine. This plant has been touted to possess many health benefits, but some studies say that it’s harmful to human health.
Kratom (scientific name Mitragyna speciosa) is a large tree grown in South East Asian countries. Its popularity rose when it was discovered that its leaves can be chewed or made into a tea and utilized for healing purposes. Some variants of Kratom are available in concentrated extract with synthetic chemicals incorporated to it.
Advocates of Kratom claim that it cures stress, anxiety, pain, and depression. The alkanoids contained in Kratom give stimulating, depressing and intoxicating effects. Here are some of the reported benefits of using Kratom in moderate amounts:
- When taken in moderation, users of Kratom become more talkative, alert and energetic.
- In tropical forest areas where they are grown, Kratom has been attested by locals to restore vigor.
- Its leaves can alleviate diarrhea and stabilize hypertension.
- The drug is also found to be effective in losing weight as it suppresses appetite.
- People who are exposed to the sun can derive good protection from Kratom as it enhances production of melanin.
- When consumed more, it creates a euphoric feeling, giving a sense of relaxation and inner calmness.
Some books mention that Kratom is less destructive than morphine and cocaine. However, claims like these on alternative medicine have not yet been proven because no extensive studies have been conducted, despite having many people attesting to its health advantages.
Below are some unwelcome consequences when a person uses Kratom. Some of these effects manifest right away and may last up to seven hours (longer if taken in high doses).
- Nausea (can be severe and prolonged)
- Dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Muscle tremors and jerking
- Episodes of panic
- Sudden swings of mood
Kratom may be helpful physically and psychologically. However, quitting the use of Kratom may lead a person to experience typical withdrawal symptoms such as muscle pains, jerky limbs, runny nose, and even as far as being violent.
There are a number of new age alternative medicines popping up as of late. Many people want to stay away from synthetic medication and shift towards herbal and natural alternatives. With all that has been said about Kratom, studying about the plant can significantly contribute to the world of wellness. In fact, experts in the field of health and drug industry are spending time and money to conduct extensive studies for such a potential breakthrough in the medical arena.
[Image from ThorPorre via Wikimedia Creative Commons]