PCP – Not as Angelic as it Sounds

16 Jun

The reason I’ve decided to post about this lovely drug is because I think it’s hilarious. Here’s a clip from CNN of a guy in an emergency room on PCP to illustrate my amusement: (it’s title is -Me on PCP – but don’t worry this isn’t me or anyone I know.)

As you can see, this guy is insane. To better illustrate why his trip is a particularly bad one here’s a little background on PCP. It’s scientific name is phencyclidine, and on the streets it’s better known as ‘angel dust’ – and it is a one of a kind dissociative anesthetic hallucinogen. Yep – it makes your body numb, gives you an out-of-body experience, and makes you hallucinate. This drug is often laced with other drugs like LSD, meth, or marijuana – which is why some who take it may not even know that they are on it.

Effects of angel dust are ridiculous, and any cop will tell you it’s their least favorite drug in the world. Effects include: numbness of the extremities, poor muscle coordination, paranoia, delusions consistent with schizophrenia, detachment from surrounding environment, incoherent speech, and the ability to use extraordinary muscle capacity. I’ve heard cases of armed men on PCP where it took cops 9 shots to actually take the person down – hence why this is not a favorite among law enforcement. Not many who take PCP sit back and think, “Man, I’m really glad I did that!” This does not have a high potential for addiction, and hardly any experience ‘good trips’ on angel dust.

So, why is a drug as ridiculous as this one still finding itself a place among the drug-seeking community? Clearly, the U.S. has a problem.

Why are some drugs more addictive – (part II)

16 Jun

Here is the follow-up of which drugs are actually most addictive according to the previously mentioned 5 categories of addiction potential. Again according to Henningfield and Benowitz here are the ratings drugs and there potential for addiction:

Henningfield: (scale 1-6 / 1=high potential; 6=low potential)

Benowitz:

If you plug these figures into a matrix and order them by lowest to highest score – because low numbers according to the rating system are predictors of high addiction potential – you get the following order of the 6 most addicting drugs:

Henningfield:

Heroin – Alcohol – Nicotine and Cocaine – Caffeine and Marijuana

Benowitz:

Heroin – Cocaine – Alcohol – Nicotine – Caffeine – Marijuana

Why are some drugs more addictive than others?

16 Jun

This is a question that often gets asked and instead of giving it a column in FAQ, I think it best to give this topic it’s own post. Though most drugs have high potential for addiction, there are those that are more powerful and addictive than others.  Top researchers like “Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco, ranked six psychoactive substances, nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, caffeine and marijuana, on the five criteria they felt were most important in addiction.” The 5 categories that  they used  to determine addiction potential were:

Reinforcement – the motivation to continue the behavior repeatedly. The greater the high produced the more likely the user is to seek out the same high continuously.

Tolerance – everyone develops certain tolerance to drugs overtime. Essentially this principle is based on how much drug is needed in order to get the desired effect over a period of time. If the tolerance rate is very high, meaning very quickly are its effects no longer felt in the brain at the same dosage, the lower the addiction potential.

Dependence – the difficulty of quitting the drug. How high is the rate of relapse, and how intense are the cravings for the drug? This is usually determined by the percentage of people who abuse the drug and actually become addicted.

Intoxication – the actual level of produced intoxication by the drug or substance. Lower the intoxication level the less likely one is to become addicted.

Withdrawal – the symptoms felt by the user after cessation of drug use has occured. The more severe the symptoms the less likely someone is to quit the behavior. This, however, can also be used as a deterring factor from starting the behavior again after the withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Like in the case of Narcotics.

The ‘P’-word

16 Jun

I figured that a blog about addiction merits at least one post discussing sex addiction, or the ever more unpopular form of addiction: Pornography. Even though this addiction involves absolutely no foreign substances entering the body, its prevalence rates are higher than any known drug illicit, or licit in history. In 2003 73 million internet users visited pornographic websites, in December of 2005 alone 63.4 unique users visited porn-sites- and growing. A horrific 70% of men aged 18-24 visit porn-sites monthly, and rates are growing drastically among women as well- 1 in 3 visitors  to explicit webpages being women. Several lectures I’ve listened to say that they believe average age of first exposure is 11, and decreasing, and by the time teenagers graduate high school exposure is close to 100%.

So why is this happening?

I’ve posted about reward pathways in the brain already, and the role of dopamine in addiction- which should make the fact that the limbic system is heavily involved not surprising. Everyone has sex drive and experiences the power of this system on human behavior, but the real danger lies in the fact that it’s not just one system that’s involved in this addiction. When viewing pornography the viewer experiences high levels of dopamine, serotonin, and adrenalin.  Three completely different parts of the body all acting together to give a surprisingly powerful high. Dopamine is released because of sexual gratification, serotonin that calms the nerves after gratification, and adrenalin. Adrenalin is the fight or flight chemical that puts people on edge and heightens the senses so that the body can be ready for confrontation. The forbidden and controversial nature of pornography and fear of getting caught releases this chemical into the bloodstream at high doses. Other drugs usually target specific parts of the brain, and not multiple systems simultaneously; making pornography a particularly potent cocktail.

But why is it so prevalent now? This question can be boiled down into three simple principles: availability, affordability, and anonymity. All supplied through the same resource: the internet. So, with the growing prevalence rate, and systemic nature of this problem in our society and societies worldwide – is porn addiction a disgusting moral failing, or a societal disease?

DXM Tripping – Dangers of OTC Drugs

16 Jun

When people think of drug abuse seldom do they think of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. However, a growing number of people, especially youth, are using OTC drugs to get high. One of the most popular kinds: Dextromethorphan hydrobromide, or DXM – most commonly known to the consumer as cough syrup. At normal recommended doses DXM is a fairly effective cough suppressant, but multiply the dosage by 5 or 10 as recreational drug users do, and you have yourself a dissociative drug like PCP or Ketamine.

Rates of prevalence vary, but a study done in California found that 16% of Drug Court clients abused OTC drugs, but the most frightening part is the growing popularity of DXM and teenagers. Recent studies have shown that one out of ten teens have used DXM to get high, that is higher than the abuse rates for several drugs including meth and cocaine. DXM can be addictive, and cause several complications such as psychosis, liver damage, and withdrawal symptoms. It can also cause dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, and accelerated heart rate along with several other side-effects. So don’t be fooled just because it’s over-the-counter doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Marijuana- Medicinal Value?

16 Jun

I’d first like to begin by saying I am in no way stating an opinion on whether or not pot should be legalized, the truth is… I don’t care either way. However, this is a discussion of whether or not it does have medicinal value. Under the Controlled Substances Act the FDA is given power to regulate substances and their uses. Marijuana is considered a schedule I drug- illicit with no known medical use. Most people don’t understand the history behind this, but the main reason it’s listed as a schedule I drug is because popularity surrounding marijuana and its standing as a rebellious symbol led to a rather hilarious movie called “Reefer Madness.” This movie exaggerated the effects of marijuana, and scared a whole bunch of government people into classifying it as schedule I along with LSD, ecstasy,heroin, PCP, and several other drugs. Cocaine – a highly addictive, dangerous substance is schedule II- illicit with known medical use. You may recognize Novocain as a very common cocaine derivative.

In many countries like Canada, marijuana is used for the treatment of arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, HIV, and other diseases. Recent studies are being conducted in the U.S. as to whether or not marijuana is a viable treatment for epilepsy. Anyways, in order for marijuana to be moved from schedule I to II, the FDA has to receive proof that it is medically beneficial that overwhelms the negative effects of inhaling toxins into the lungs. So far 15 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, more than likely more will follow.

The reason I bring this up is because of how much media attention pot gets, and how controversial it is when it doesn’t have to be at all. Why? Because the active ingredient in marijuana- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)- can by synthesized in a lab, and its various pill forms-like Marinol- have been FDA approved for use in treating several conditions. Essentially the argument for medicinal marijuana has been nullified, but the argument continues to persist throughout the medical community and the news. So is there medicinal value? Yes. Does it have to be controversial? No.

Comorbidity- Drug Abuse and Mental Disorders

15 Jun

A topic that has always seemed intriguing to me is the concept predisposing factors in relation to substance abuse. Or more simply stated – are there things that make one person more likely than the next to adopt an addictive behavior. The answer to this question is a hazy one due to the fact that it remains unclear if mental illness causes drug abuse or if drug abuse causes mental illness. What is evident, however, is that these two problems seem to be co-occurring in the majority of addicts. According to a report published by NIDA approximately 60% of people suffering from an addiction also suffer from a mental disorder. In addition, individuals “with mood or anxiety disorders are about twice as likely to also suffer from a drug disorder.”

So, why does mental illness so commonly accompany drug abuse problems? and is it causal?

The reward system of the brain is also responsible for mood stability. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and seratonin are key players in feelings of joy, and calming in times of stress. If a brain is already having trouble feeling happy, and is experiencing too much anxiety it makes sense that the brain would seek out substances that solve the problem. It is very possible that a disorder that doesn’t get diagnosed and goes untreated would result in a person becoming an addict. Personally, I think that not only is addiction a disease, but in the majority of cases its merely a secondary complication associated with inadequate treatment of the underlying cause: mental illness.