11 Reasons Why Pregnant Women Should Avoid Alcohol & Drugs

While it is common knowledge that drinking alcohol, using drugs, and smoking during pregnancy is always a very bad idea- many expecting mothers still do it despite the additional risk to the mother and the enormous health risks to the baby. All too often, people think of or hear of some anecdotal example of someone who drank, smoked, or did drugs during pregnancy and gave birth to a child who suffered no health related consequences. Sadly, these stories are often untrue, exaggerated, or not representative of the statistical reality. Even a child who appears to be born normal and healthy after being exposed to drugs in utero might have been more intelligent or more emotionally stable, and might suffer fewer health deficits later on in life.

According to WebMD, as many as 4.5% of pregnant women in the United States between the ages of 18 and 40 used drugs or alcohol during their first trimester of pregnancy. Of these, at least 20% gave birth to children with significant health deficits.

Then, of course, there is the problem of addiction. Because the harmful effects of using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy are so broadly known, any time a person even considers doing it- it is a sign of an addictive personality. Those who are predisposed to addictive behavior are far more likely to take risks with their own health and with the health of their unborn children.

So it is worth taking the time to go over all of the possible and probable harms that a pregnant woman may do to herself and to her unborn baby should she choose to use drugs or alcohol while pregnant.

11 Reasons Pregnant Women Should Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

1. Slow or Improper Infant Development

Your baby is just like a little sponge, soaking up everything you take in. He or she has a lot of growing to do over the course of 9 months, and despite the protections your body offers your child- the requirements of fetal growth make it very difficult for your system to filter out everything before it reaches your child.

While there is a certain amount of protection from the harmful things you consume, that protection is limited. Good judgment is your first defense, and your best defense. Depending on the genetic vulnerabilities you may or may not pass on to your baby, and the drug you choose- your baby could suffer any number of deformities or developmental retardations. Even a baby that appears to be totally healthy in every way can be born with reduced resistance to disease and toxins- leading to greater health problems down the road.

Nicotine, for example, is a well known vaso diuretic, which means it restricts blood vessels. In a fully formed adult, this is not as much of a problem. But for a growing fetus, it can restrict growth of new tissues and organs. Your unborn child cannot afford to lose any of the growth it is supposed to undergo during birth. In order for a child to be born safely, it must be strong enough to endure the birthing process. The same for the mother.

While modern medicine makes giving birth much less risky than it was just 100 years ago- the use of drugs or alcohol at any time before or during pregnancy can make giving birth more painful and dangerous.

There’s no telling which parts of an infant could be most effected from a developmental standpoint. In most cases, nicotine causes global low birth weight. But it could just as easily cause brain damage or some other terrible malformation.

2. Problems with Breastfeeding

Using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can hinder the production of breast milk, or make the milk you produce unhealthy- or even unsafe for your baby to drink.

Despite great efforts by pediatric nutritionists to develop a replacement for breast milk, there is yet no better food for a new baby than the mother’s own natural breast milk. Children who are not given mother’s milk have significantly reduced immune function. This makes them much more likely to suffer from diseases all throughout their lives. Children fed on formula also tend to have as much as 5 to 10 fewer IQ points than children who receive breast milk. This places them at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to other children their age- resulting in a lower chance of success and fulfillment for a lifetime.

This means that your baby is counting on you to offer real mother’s milk. Using drugs or alcohol before, during, or after pregnancy can reduce your ability to produce breast milk. In some cases milk production can be stopped entirely. And in some instances, depending on the nature of the substance taken, your breast milk can be made harmful to your baby.

3. Learning Difficulties and Emotional Instability

Research shows, and hundreds of years of documented observation tells us, that children whose mothers have indulged in drugs or alcohol during or around the time of pregnancy tend to produce children who struggle scholastically, emotionally, and socially.

While environmental factors should be accounted for, it is undeniable that lower intelligence, reduced emotional stability, and the inability to develop positive social skills are directly linked to smoking, drinking, and drug use before, during, and after pregnancy.

All too often we see women who believe that using substances during pregnancy did not harm their children. Yet in so many of these cases, the children are found to be under performing and were significantly more likely to drop out of school, go to prison, or to be chronically unemployed.

4. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

One of the worst case scenarios is also one of the most common results of a woman drinking while pregnant. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) involve a range of the emotional and intellectual difficulties that we mentioned above. Characteristic features of children born with FASD are reduced cranial size and a smooth ridge between the upper lip and the nose. Almond shaped eyes, round features, and mental limitations similar to other serious developmental disabilities are common in those with FASD. Low birth rates are another common feature of the disorder in addition to poor reasoning, learning deficits, poor judgment, and low IQ.

Many children will not survive early childhood when they are born on the fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum. Many of those who do live to adulthood will have to remain in the care of their family for the rest of their lives or be given to a state or private institution where they will remain indefinitely. Most FASD diagnosed children who go into care of a group outside the family are abandoned- destined to live among strangers for the rest of their lives.

Frequently, the parents of children born with with these conditions experience a lifetime of guilt, knowing that their irresponsible behavior led to the ill health and loss of possibility that comes with FASD.

5. Even Caffeine can be Dangerous to Your Baby

Line nicotine, caffeine is a vaso diuretic. That means it constricts the involuntary smooth muscles in the blood vessels, intestines, and other parts of the body. For an adult, this results in the mild stimulation of the adrenal glands which gives us the energetic feeling so many coffee drinkers enjoy. But for an undeveloped fetus, it can mean birth defects, low birth weight, and all manner of other complications. These are the reasons children are generally not allowed to consume caffeine, since it is believed to disrupt normal growth.

Caffeine is known to cause damage to the kidneys, and in adults is often a contributing factor in the development of heart disease. When an unborn child is exposed to caffeine, the heart rate is increased dramatically. In some cases, caffeine has been suspected of contributing to a miscarriage.

6. Most Drugs are Not Tested on Pregnant Women

Every drug that is approved by the FDA for use by the public is tested on a population of adult people who have been fully informed as to the known and possible risks of the drug to be tested. Children are rarely- if ever- subjected to drug trials except in retrospect and in rare cases where side effects are well known to not be harmful.

When it comes to pregnant women, meeting the ethical standard required to enter them into a clinical drug trial are almost impossible to meet. This is because there is no possibility of obtaining consent from an unborn fetus. Even if the substance to be tested is some combination of harmless food item, using pregnant women as test subjects would still be a difficult case to bring before an ethics board.

Every person is different- including mothers and their unborn children. Certainly, every mother-child diad is especially unique. This means that in addition to the problem of consent, it is impossible to account for all of the possible effects for everyone involved. It is for this reason that clinical drug trials on pregnant mothers are very rare.

This means that any over the counter drug that has been deemed safe for use by adults or is not a controlled substance may be dangerous to your unborn child- or to you while pregnent. There is simply no way of knowing what effects any over the counter drug might have on the mother-child diad.

It may be hard to believe, but a drug that is generally believed safe- might be dangerous to you and your growing baby. Motrin, for example, has been known to cause miscarriages. Few people are aware of this, and women are still being given it while pregnant by well meaning nurses and care givers. Many other drugs may pose similar harms- but without clinical trials, there’s no telling what drug is safe and what drug is not.

7. Increased Risk of Addiction

Being pregnant is hard work. It takes a lot out of a woman’s system, and some women take years to recover. Breastfeeding is very demanding on the mother’s body as well. This means any drug will be more dangerous to you, and more addictive when you are pregnant or nursing.

Numerous studies have shown and demonstrated over the years that a pregnant mother may be more susceptible to becoming addicted to a drug that she used while pregnant. While pregnant, your system is much more vulnerable to all manner of stress factors- including those imposed by drugs. This means that the intoxicating effects of a substance can be stronger, making a pregnant mother more likely to become addicted. It also increases the risk of chemical dependence.

More disturbing still, is the fact that unborn babies whose mothers use addictive substances can be born addicted to the drug- and are at least ten times as likely to abuse drugs later in life or to suffer from an addiction disorder.

8. Your Child Will be in Danger of Losing Her or His Parent

It may seem heavy handed, but the fact is that nicotine and alcohol kill more people than almost any other drug- certainly more than any legal drug. Alcohol and tobacco are leading causes of heart disease, which is in turn one of the most common killers of Americans. Heart disease is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, and those who smoke cigarettes are at least twice as likely to develop a cardiovascular condition.

This means you are increasing the risk that you will not live to see your child reach adulthood. The research has been very clear for many years that children who suffer the loss of a parent are far more likely to suffer severe emotional and social problems in adult life. They are much more likely to commit crimes, drop out of school, and abuse drugs and alcohol.

9. Increased Risk of Addiction as an Adult

Children who are exposed to a drug while in the womb are much more likely to become addicted or abuse that same drug later in life. It is not uncommon to find that a person’s drug of choice was something the mother exposed them to while she was pregnant. Those who find themselves hooked on a drug as adults report a stronger emotional connection to the drug compared to others who have used the same drug but were not exposed to it before birth.

What’s more, since drug use causes the user to become more resistant to the intoxicating effects of a drug- exposure during pregnancy poses an additional dependence/addiction risk since an even greater time span of possible exposure is created. Research has shown for many years that the younger a person starts using any controlled substance, the more likely they are to use and abuse that same substance over the course of their life.

10. Reduced Liver & Kidney Function

Most people who drink alcohol know that the popular social drug damages the ability of the body’s protective organs such as the liver and the kidneys to do their important job of cleansing the blood and removing toxins from the body. Functioning drinkers understand that they need to space out their drinking over the course of their lives to avoid permanently damaging their livers at a young age. While this is a misguided rationalization many times, it does apply to children in utero.

By exposing an unborn child to alcohol, the mother is almost certain to damage the child’s developing liver and kidneys. This will cause all manner of illness later in life. Weak liver and kidney function make the body much more vulnerable to disease.

Other reading: Drug rehab centers what you need to know.

11. You Are Violating the Principle of Consent

There have been a few studies that show a woman may be able to take one drink a week without harming her baby. However, these studies do not use large populations and were not conducted under strict controlled conditions. But the question of “can I?” does not answer the more important question of “should I?”

The choice to use a drug should always be the free choice of the person taking the drug. When you consume drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, you are forcing your unborn baby to take the drug without the even the slightest possibility of consent.

We mentioned above that clinical trials are not done on pregnant mothers partly because it is impossible to obtain consent from the child. If clinical researchers who do not even know you have that much respect for your baby- certainly you can have the good sense not to expose your child to drugs or alcohol to which he or she cannot give consent.

We owe it to our children to do everything we can to give them the best chance of a long, happy, and healthy life.

The 12 Most Addictive Drugs in the World

Since the dawn of recorded history, human beings have sought and used substances that alter the subjective experience, performance, and other biological processes. Whether for spiritual reasons, for recreation, or as medicine, humankind has a long history of experience with drug use. As far back in time as the evidence goes, we also see evidence that humans have struggled with the perils of addiction.

Whatever a person’s drug of choice, that substance interacts with our dopaminergic reward system. This is a subdivision and function of the brain that evolved in order to help us to be emotionally motivated to do things that are good for us. Food, sex, shelter, companionship and other healthy human motivations activate the dopaminergic reward system and rewards us with a dose of dopamine which makes us more likely to repeat the behavior.

Unfortunately, many of the drugs humans have used throughout the millennia also have the ability to activate this reward system. The more powerful the release of dopamine, the more likely a person is to become addicted to a given drug. While it’s impossible to say whether a given person will become addicted to a given drug, we know that some of us are more prone to addiction than others. But we also know that some drugs are statistically more addictive than others.

Here, we will cover 12 of the most addictive and dangerous drugs in common use today. Most of these drugs are illegal, but some are not. However, all of them can be extremely dangerous- especially to those of us who are prone to addictive behavior. While some of these drugs do certainly have rates of addiction and a risk of death and injury that are higher than others, it is impossible to tell who among us will be at most risk from addiction to a given drug.

Factors for consideration are genetic predisposition, culture, personality, availability, education, income level, and more. It might be irresponsible to say that one drug on this list is less dangerous than another as this is the equivalent of saying it is “less dangerous.” For the record, there is no such thing as a “less dangerous” drug of abuse. For that reason, we have made no attempt to list the substances in order of addictiveness or danger, but rather in alphabetical order.

The 12 Most Addictive and Dangerous Drugs in the World

1. Alcohol

Possibly the most popular drug in the world, this legal substance acts as a depressant to the central nervous system (CNS). Alcohol has a long history as a social drug that sometimes has horrific effects. Alcohol’s effects are a feeling of relaxation, a lowering of the inhibitions, and the suppression of anxiety. When consumed, alcohol releases both dopamine and endorphins.

As with most drugs, the more a person consumes over time, the higher resistance becomes. This makes it necessary to consume greater and greater amounts to achieve the same effect. So, while the damage to the body remains the same, the intoxicating effect of alcohol decreases with use.

Prolonged and repeated alcohol abuse leads to a condition known as alcohol dependence. When dependence is reached, the cells of the body have prioritized alcohol as a metabolic fuel. For this to happen, the biology of the cell has to change. This makes the user literally physically dependent on alcohol. Coming off alcohol in the extremes of dependency can be dangerous, and must be done under strict medical supervision.

While this effect, sometimes referred to as the hedonic treadmill, is common for most substances of abuse- alcohol triggers addiction in a way that is well understood. An important difference early drinkers should watch for is the sensation of a surge of energy after imbibing a few drinks. For those who respond this way, it is believed that the risk of addiction is much greater.

2. Amphetamines

A CNS stimulant, amphetamines give the user a powerful burst of excitability, energy, and a sense of euphoria. Amphetamines trigger a potent release of dopamine, producing pleasure and enthusiasm that are very difficult to produce naturally. Amphetamines come in both legal and illegal forms. They are given as a prescription to those lacking in motivation or attention. In certain individuals, drugs of this kind can actually produce a sedative effect for reasons related to individual brain chemistry.

Amphetamines are highly addictive and tolerance levels tend to increase rapidly with use. Increasing dosage levels can trigger psychotic episodes, making the drug especially dangerous when abused.

3. Benzodiazepines

Common versions of benzodiazepine, such as Xanax and Valium, are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They are also used as an aid for those going through alcohol withdrawals. While these drugs can be very effective in their intended therapeutic uses, they can also lead to addiction when abused.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), benzodiazepines have a relatively short half-life. This means that those who abuse these drugs can develop high tolerances very quickly. In as little as six weeks, NIDA claims, dangerously high tolerances can develop- placing abusers at high risk for an overdose. Once a person is addicted to benzodiazepines, the original symptoms of the disorder that the drug was given to treat can often resurface. The process of weaning the user off of these drugs can be very long, intensive, and difficult often calling for extended inpatient treatment programs at drug rehab centers.

4. Cocaine

A CNS stimulant, cocaine was originally used by doctors and surgeons as a topical anesthetic. After it was first used in medicine, the numbing effect when taken orally and the stimulant effect when inhaled nasally was soon discovered. When used as a substance of abuse, it produces feelings of euphoria, a sense of energy, and in many cases a sense of enthusiasm that tends to be socially oriented.

Cocaine has a very short half-life and is highly addictive. While the user is under the effect of the drug, dopamine release is steady and strong- but dopamine production is halted. This leads to powerful withdrawal symptoms typified by an intense depression, lack of enthusiasm, and sometimes a powerful feeling of doom.

Because of the social-euphoric nature of the high and the stimulating nature of cocaine, the drug triggers addiction not only to the drug itself but to the social circumstances surrounding the first few use cases. This is a kind of interpersonal addiction that creates bonds of addiction between users. This socio-chemical reinforcement can make cocaine addiction especially difficult to overcome. Many times the recovering addict cannot escape the drug unless he or she leaves the area and associations wherein the addiction was acquired.

According to a study “Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)” the rate of addiction to cocaine was just over 1 in 5 people.

5. Crack-Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is made from baking soda and cocaine in a process that pairs down the active chemical in cocaine until it is highly concentrated. Another effect of the distillation process is to reduce the half-life of the drug dramatically. Rather than a few minutes to a few hours- such as with cocaine- the high achieved from crack lasts fifteen minutes to half an hour. This makes crack much more addictive and dangerous.

Another important difference between clack and powder cocaine is that crack is used by smoking it. While some cocaine users will occasionally smoke cocaine in small doses- crack is used primarily by smoking. This accelerates metabolization for a more intense and dangerous result.

The exceedingly short half-life makes the user crave exorbitant amounts of the drug. The frequent result of a crack binge is a total mental and physical exhaustion, depression, and psychosis. The brief high and intense effects frequently lead users to spend every last dime they possess in the course of a few nights- or a few hours. Needless to say, crack addiction is devastating- often reducing a fully functional person to complete dependence and destitution in a matter of days or weeks.

6. Crystal Meth

A scourge to communities all across the United States since at least the 1980s, methamphetamines are a potent and lasting CNS stimulant. The drug activates the dopaminergic system but it also mimics norepinephrine. The result is that the receptors for these chemicals become very numerous very fast, causing the user to develop an intense craving and resistance to the drug.

Like alcohol, crystal meth can result in hangover symptoms. But the hangover is so intense- both emotionally and physically- that the user feels a powerful motivation to use more.

Crystal meth is unusual in that its effects can last many hours. This makes it a popular drug for those who work long hours in lines of work that are especially physically oriented like construction work, mining, and the like. It is impractical for those who perform mental labor as the drug hinders the function of the higher reasoning centers of the brain.

Those who become addicted suffer fearful hallucinations, psychosis, memory loss, and depressions. Suicide rates are high for crystal meth addicts. Outward signs of abuse and addiction include large open sores on the face, head, and neck resulting from persistent itching sensations.

7. GHB

Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GBH) is a central nervous system depressant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug for use in treating narcolepsy in 2002. While the drug can initially cause pleasant sensations of euphoria and relaxation, abuse involving larger doses of the substance can cause loss of consciousness, coma, and death. Repeated use can lead to addiction. Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, tremors, anxiety, and profuse sweating.

Since GHB became a common drug of abuse, it has also seen a great deal of use as a “remedy” for the “come down” phase after using cocaine or meth. It is a drug that enables addicts and abusers to maintain the appearance of normal functioning over longer periods of time. This means that it can be more difficult to spot users who use both of these drugs in tandem. For that reason, and because of the compounding of symptoms, this drug and comparable “come down drugs” can be especially dangerous.

8. Heroin

The classic drug of abuse in fiction and rumor, heroin is certainly dangerous. But has been surpassed of late in both potency and toxicity by artificial opiates known as opioids. Because of high levels of dependence and abuse of opioids, many people with chronic pain turn to heroin when they can no longer afford their opioid prescriptions.

Some studies suggest that one large initial dose of heroin can send a person down the spiral of addiction. Experts estimate that as many as 25% of every person who has tried heroin even once became addicted. The drug acts as a pain killer, causing feelings of euphoria and an intense “aura” of well being. The drug works by shutting down pain signals in a deep structure of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens.

After repeated use, the neurons within the nucleus accumbens become exhausted and can no longer function normally. The result is an intense withdrawal experience where the body’s normal pain inhibition capabilities are shut down. This causes the user to experience a long-lasting withdrawal which has been described as intense full-body aching akin to arthritis- but with the throbbing persistence of a headache.

Recent research shows that addiction rates are higher for those who smoke the drug, rather than injecting it. Known as “freebasing,” smoking heroin is extremely dangerous with high rates of deadly overdose associated with this method of use.

Heroin, the largest segment of illegal opiates, has a market value of US$55 billion (as of 2009), so likly to be much higher today with the opioid epidemic. That increases to $65 billion when you count all opiates.

9. MDMA

Popularly known as “Molly,” MDMA is a synthetic drug that directly affects three neurotransmitter networks within the brain. While few studies focus on abuse and addiction to MDMA, the few on record make up a solid basis for the highly addictive nature of the drug.

Lab experiments on rats have shown that the neurological damage done by the drug happens rapidly and is long lasting. Users develop a high tolerance very rapidly and withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, depression, the inability to concentrate, and loss of appetite.

Heavily associated with youth party culture, MDMA is often one of the first drugs of abuse that people between the ages of 15 and 30 encounter. The physical brain damage that it has been shown to trigger destroys the ability of long term users to regulate behavior- often permanently, with tragic and debilitating effects.

10. Methadone

This potent synthetic opiate (opioid) was created and is commonly used, as a replacement therapy for those recovering from heroin and alcohol addiction. This controversial use of the drug has helped many people to overcome dependency to those and other drugs of abuse. But many others have become addicted to methadone in turn.

The drug works by blocking the ability of heroin to alter the mind- depriving the user of the heroin high. It also eases the symptoms of heroin and alcohol withdrawal. But methadone comes with a high of its own and has become a common drug of abuse.

When the methadone addict comes off the drug, similar withdrawals to those of heroin and alcohol ensue. With these symptoms also come a strong urge to use more despite the consequences. When addiction replacement therapy fails with methadone, often Suboxone is the next step.

11. Nicotine

Many years of heavily corroborated research shows that nicotine, when taken in the form of smoked tobacco, is a leading cause of cancer, disease, and disability in the United States. At any given time, an estimated 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by long term nicotine use. The most common of these diseases are lung cancer, throat cancer, and mouth cancer. Birth defects are also common among the children of smokers.

Nicotine works by mimicking the function of an acetylcholine receptor in the brain. At first, a cigarette produces a potent high and feelings of well being and calm. In time, however, the perceptible effects pass away and the user simply continues to smoke just to avoid feeling jittery. The ease of use and the legal nature of nicotine makes it easy to start and easy to maintain. As a social drug, it can be especially hard to quit for those who friends and family also smoke.

Nicotine is arguably the most addictive drug of abuse that we know of. It has the lowest rate of recovery (permanent cessation) and comes with some of the most dire consequences of any recreational drug. Like many other social drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine, nicotine is frequently used in tandem with other serious drugs of abuse.

In addition to the severe increase of cancer risk, other symptoms of long term nicotine use are shortness of breath, heart disease, poor circulation, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration.

12. OxyContin

America is in the throes of an Oxycontin crisis. Like methadone, Oxycontin is an artificial opiate, or opioid. It is a powerful pain killer and is more potent, more addictive, and more deadly than unadulterated heroin. OxyContin is frequently prescribed for pain- both chronic and temporary (such as after surgery).

The high that this drug produces is achieved by stimulating the reward center of the brain. In so doing, the drug delivers a powerful sense of well being, relaxation, and euphoria.

Abusers of the drug discovered years ago that crushing and snorting it produces a high similar to that of heroin. Crushing Oxycontin pills also defeats the time release barrier they are frequently manufactured with, allowing for a rapid release of the drug into the system.

Oxycontin is appealing to heroin addicts since a similar high can be achieved. However, because the drug is synthetic, it is much more damaging to the liver, kidneys and other filtering organs of the body. When taken in high doses, users can overwhelm the protective capacity of the filtering organs very quickly and suffer a deadly overdose.

As mentioned earlier, Oxycontin is a gateway drug for heroin. Many people who would have never used street drugs before become hooked. If their pain condition is not remedied or is chronic, they can remain powerfully dependent for decades- or until death. Those who can no longer afford their Oxycontin prescription, will all too often turn to cheaper heroin.

 

10 Best Drug Rehab Centers in the U.S. (JACO accredited)

The problem of substance abuse and addiction costs Americans and American institutions over $740 billion every year. More than 20% of the federal budget is dedicated to tackling the problem with both controversial methods and controversial results. Despite all of this effort, according to a National Survey on Drug and Health (NSDUH) estimate, approximately 22 million Americans age 12 and over are battling a substance abuse disorder at any given time.

A problem of this magnitude deserves serious attention, and a great many dedicated and talented people have dedicated their lives to helping those suffering from addiction to recover and regain their normal lives. Still, with all this money and effort going to the fight against addiction, there are a number of different approaches and schools of thought being brought to bear on the issue.

In recent years the science of addiction medicine has led to the rise of what we call evidence-based treatment. This has brought the addiction treatment community to large areas of consensus regarding what works and what does not. But despite all we have learned, recovering from addiction is a deeply personal and private process, and results can be extremely subjective. Therefore, we find it worthwhile to keep readers up to date with lists of the most effective and well-regarded addiction and substance abuse programs in the country.

Below are ten of the top-ranked drug rehab and addiction treatment facilities in the U.S. This list is based on the experience and the opinion of professionals in the field of addiction treatment and recovery. Results will vary by individual experience.

Considerations are based on the following criteria:

  • Accreditation by JCAHO or CARF
  • Evidence-Based Treatments
  • Clinical Staff Quality and Professionalism
  • State-of-the-Art Treatments
  • Individualized Treatment Plans
  • High Success Rates
  • Co-Occurring Programs
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Compassionate Approach
  • Years in service
  • Good Reviews

All facilities and programs listed are accredited by the Joint Commission.

#10 The Meadows

This premium drug rehab facility is located on a 14-acre campus in the sprawling Sonora desert of Arizona. The program employs both alternative and traditional therapies for an inclusive and far-reaching total approach. They offer all of their patients the latest, cutting-edge treatments in an intensive and personalized fashion that is optimized for success based on science and experience.

In their 40+ years of operation, The Meadows has maintained one of the highest success rates in the nation. They achieve this by focusing on the root causes of substance abuse and addiction. Their treatment model places a focus on considering the impact of abuse, trauma, mental illness, depression, and other underlying issues. Recognizing that no person is an isolated unit, the staff and program are oriented toward healing families and community re-integration.

The types of therapy offered include; the 12 step model, The Emotional Freedom Technique, Equine Therapy, EDMR, Expressive Arts Therapy, a Family Week program, Small Group Therapy Sessions, Nutrition Consultation, Spiritual Counseling, Neurobehavioral Therapy, and more.

The Meadows campus is a sprawling and open environment featuring sports and leisure facilities and acres of expansive space. They offer an engaging and ongoing calendar of events and many critical resources to help their clients on the road to recovery.

Their clinical and executive staff is composed of highly experienced medical professions specializing in behavioral treatment, cognitive therapy, and addiction medicine.

#9 Alo House

Based in beautiful Malibu California, the Alo House bases its work in non-judgmental and loving support. With a focus on departing from what they consider to be the traditional “compliance model” of drug abuse and addiction treatment, Alo House focuses on providing clients and patients with a more personable and acceptance-based approach. They look on traditional programs as leveraging clients with ‘forced abstinence’ and coercive methods and techniques.

Alo House believes that, while coercive techniques can produce effective detoxification results, they do not address underlying issues. By creating an atmosphere of community and providing the people they serve with the social support they need- the professionals at Alo House offer a feeling of belonging that is critical to a successful long-term recovery.

Our philosophy has to be translated into principles. These principles are how we act with our clients on a daily basis. Staff and clients, alike — the entire community of Alo House — are on a healing journey together, and we hold ourselves to the same principles that we teach our clients to exemplify. -Alo House

The facility is a world-class, luxury installment immediately adjacent to the pristine central California coastline. Patients will enjoy equine therapy, group therapy sessions, as well as cognitive and behavioral therapy between an endless sprawling hillside and miles of white sand.

The clinical staff is composed of more than 20 of the industry’s top ranking professionals dedicated to providing the personable approach that Alo House is famous for.

#8 The Harmony Foundation

Founded in 1969, the Harmony Foundation was designed and created by a group of Colorado men who were struggling with alcoholism. The men pooled their resources and created what is now one of the finest and most highly regarded substance abuse and addiction treatment programs in the country.

In the early days of Harmony Ranch, the men had set aside a simple hideaway where people struggling with alcoholism could come to escape the pressure of their peers and “dry out.” In time they set up AA meetings and provided better accommodations for those who were serious about resisting the temptations of alcohol.

In 2008, the Harmony Foundation expanded its detox facilities and onboarded a number of medical treatment programs including Subutex detox for those struggling with opioid addiction. With its roots in treating severe alcohol dependency, the Foundation is well suited to treating opioid-related dependency.

With more than 50 years of intensive experience in treating alcohol and opioid addiction, The Harmony Foundation has developed a reputation as one of the finest addiction treatment facilities in the US.

Located among the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Estes Park Colorado, alumni speak of the almost magical affinity they have developed with the location. With a community of more than 5,000 alumni and recovery professionals, Harmony Ranch is much more than an addiction recovery center. It is a tight-knit extended family that is dedicated to supporting its members in their search for meaningful, and lasting recovery.

#7 Silver Hill Hospital

Silver Hill has the unusual distinction of dedicating all of its clinical resources to patient care. They place a special emphasis on treating each and every person they serve with dignity and respect. In an industry where too many patients fall through the cracks and are forgotten, these are far from meaningless platitudes.

The staff and team of Silver Hill take a multi-disciplinary approach to their work. This means delivering both evidence-based, scientific therapies and treatments as well as human-based support. One of the special aspects of Silver Hill’s approach is their focus on integrating the help of supportive family members. Because so much evidence indicating the importance of friends and family in addiction treatment has developed in recent years, this is not just an effort at humanizing the recovery experience- but it is also deeply scientific.

Silver Hill has been in the service of those suffering from substance abuse issues and addiction since 1931. As one of the longest running programs of its kind in America, Silver Hill has developed a reputation for excellence, as well as a longstanding culture of community and support.

The facility is a massive, pristine, multi-room house nestled in the warm and colorful woodlands of New Canaan Connecticut. The program offers specialized services for adults, teens, and support for those suffering from co-occurring disorders.

#6 The Ashley Addiction Treatment Center

As their motto, “Everything for recovery,” suggests- the people of Ashley adhere to the philosophy that addiction is not a choice- rather that it is a disease. They place a penchant on not blaming the addict for the disease of addiction. They place the emphasis on the need to choose to dedicate one’s self to a full, meaningful, and lasting recovery. In this way, they avoid depriving the patient of her or his personal agency, while absolving them of guilt. Theirs is a message of responsibility- not blame. It is a balance that is not only effective but has much support in the science of addiction medicine.

They offer comprehensive treatment for those suffering from addiction to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, opiates, and more. The program supports pain recovery treatment, a relapse program, family programs, services for young adults, and others- including a comprehensive outpatient program.

The Ashley Treatment Center is located on a scenic 147-acre campus nestled on the historic and beautiful shores of Northern Maryland. These tree-lined east-coast style shores and verdant woodlands overlook a bay dotted with intriguing little islands. The close proximity of the facility to Wilmington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and the Washington DC area offers many wonderful outing opportunities and places many of its patients with the reach of supportive family and friends.

#5 Ascension: Brighton Hospital

The Ascension Brighton Center for Recovery places its focus on treating all of their patients with dignity and compassion. During its 60+ years of operation, the staff and facility have developed a well-earned reputation for excellence. They achieve this by combining personal experience and professional expertise and bringing these assets to bear in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

As the first addiction treatment facility to be licensed in the state of Michigan, Brighton Hospital is the second oldest drug treatment center in the country.

As an advanced and forward-thinking treatment culture, the Ascension program staff remains ever mindful of the fact that simple abstinence from drug use is not enough. They place a special focus on replacing harmful behaviors and unhealthy habits that lead to substance abuse. Their holistic approach places a special emphasis on replacing bad habits with positive, life-affirming habits. In recent years, clinical researchers have found over and over that real meaningful, and natural, human social-reward systems can replace addiction-related behaviors when the patient is ready and willing to recover.

The staff pride themselves in their ability to establish a positive rapport with patients, and create a positive environment that stimulates recovery. The campus is centered around a white-steepled church, which serves as a meaningful centerpiece for those seeking spirituality oriented recovery.

#4 Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The name, Betty Ford, says it all. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the largest nonprofit provider of addiction and substance abuse treatment in the nation.

The foundation was created in 1949. In 1982, the Betty Ford center was created and the organization now has 17 facilities in eight different states across the country. This massive organization has resources that enable its people to effectively address addiction, substance abuse, and mental disorders from prevention to treatment and through recovery- with robust capabilities on offer for each phase of need.

Their many assets include;

  • The largest recovery publishing house in the country
  • A fully-accredited addiction studies graduate school
  • A dedicated addiction medicine research center
  • Intensive study programs for medical students and professionals
  • Community and early education-based prevention services and programs
  • One of a kind family and children’s programs
  • Enormous influence as an institute for recovery advocacy and drug policy policy
  • The Betty Ford Foundation offers every type of addiction, substance abuse, and mental health treatment model in existence. With their massive resources and a vast network of professionals, patients have virtually unlimited opportunities to overcome dependency issues.

The program gives patients access to a broad range of events, meetings, outings, and other learning experiences. In-patient and outpatient facilities and services are arguably the most robust available.

#3 The Caron Foundation

A unique substance abuse and addiction treatment center, The Caron Foundation takes a progressive view of the conditions it treats and the people it serves. But their focus does not end with the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction. They place a special emphasis on a condition known as Addiction Interaction Disorder.

Introduced in 2011 by Dr. Patrick Carnes, Addiction Interaction Disorder could be said to have its roots in the Intersectionality school of social psychology. A.I.D. is concerned with the results and patterns that develop in co-occurring addictions and patterns of abuse. The theory posits that a person rarely comes into contact with her or his drug of choice as an isolated event. People encounter gateway drugs, drugs that tend to lead to the use of other drugs, and social settings that promote a range of unique social and internal conditions.

The Caron Foundation is concerned with serving the unique needs of people whose conditions can be understood through an Addiction Interaction Disorder oriented lens. Further, they place a special emphasis on working with those suffering from substance abuse and addiction within the LGBTQ community. In addition, they are also concerned with the effects and treatment of trauma as it relates to addiction and recovery.

With nine locations along the east coast of the United States, the staff and facilities of Caron offer a wealth of community services and recovery opportunities to the people it serves and their families.

#2 Cumberland Heights

This family-oriented addiction and substance abuse treatment facility works with entire families with resources for adults, teens, and families. The people and program of Cumberland look at addiction as a chronic and potentially fatal disease. With this focus, treatment and prevention are seen as non-negotiable.

According to the founders of the program, Robert Crichton, Sr. and Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr., they created Cumberland Heights; “[…] to offer a location and a program which will enable a man to go back to the primary meanings of his life so he can start over again.”

They place special emphasis on their core values, which are;

  • Putting the patient first.
  • Providing high-quality care throughout the continuum of services.
  • Recognizing principles embodied of the 12-Steps as essential for lasting recovery.
  • Providing a therapeutic environment conducive to the transforming power of spiritual awakening.
  • Valuing the importance of family in the recovery process.
  • Being grateful for those who support our mission and share our passion.
  • Demonstrating the same care and respect to our employees that they offer to patients.

Their mission, “To transform lives, giving hope and healing to those affected by alcohol or drug addiction,” is made a reality by a team of nine of the region’s top-ranking drug and alcohol addiction treatment professionals. Cumberland is staffed by a robust group of men and women working closely with clients every day to support and promote a successful long-term recovery.

The facility is located on a magnificent 177-acre campus along the banks of the beautiful Cumberland River. The program features state of the art facilities with a vast array of recreation resources and amenities.

#1 The Cirque Lodge

Among the picturesque mountains and verdant woodlands of Sundance and Provost Canyon, the people and program of The Cirque Lodge addiction treatment program deliver a community-centered approach to recovery.

Founder, Richard Losee says,

Treatment needs to be effective, attractive, active, and enlightened, but most importantly it needs to be connected and continued with the community at large, long after they leave our program.

With a focus on creating an atmosphere of compassion, safety, dignity, and respect- the lodge lays down the necessary foundation for a recovery based on commonality support.

The program is designed to serve a range of treatment needs and modalities, including;

  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Experimental Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Personalized Treatment
  • Recovery Oriented Systems

Between their Lodge and Studio facilities, The Cirque Lodge offers a host of naturalistic and clinical treatment services and resources.

Source

  • https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics
  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics
  • http://patient-safety.com/jcaho.html
  • https://www.themeadows.com/
  • https://alorecovery.com/
  • https://harmonyfoundationinc.com/
  • https://www.silverhillhospital.org/
  • https://www.ashleytreatment.org/
  • https://healthcare.ascension.org/Locations/Michigan/MIDET/BrightonAscension-Brighton-Center-for-Recovery
  • https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/locations/center-city
  • https://www.caron.org/
  • https://www.cumberlandheights.org/
  • https://www.cirquelodge.com/
  • http://www.gentlepath.com/product.php?productid=24

How Rehab Treatment Prices Translate to Success – By the Numbers

How effective is drug rehab really, and does the cost matter? Many of us are conditioned to believe that when a product or service is expensive, it is of a higher quality. Of course, this is true in many cases- but what about in the case of drug & alcohol rehab? There are a number of alternatives for addiction and drug abuse treatment. Different programs serve different individuals best under specific circumstances. But when it comes to drug rehab success rates, do you necessarily get what you pay for?

According to Drugabuse.gov, the problem of addiction and substance abuse in the United States costs patients and taxpayers more than $600 billion every year. The average cost for one full year of methadone replacement therapy is $4,700 per person. We also know that different programs offer similar treatments at different prices depending on a variety of factors such as location, state regulations, and availability. But we want to know how much does the cost of a program contribute to the quality of patient outcomes.

There are roughly four different models for addiction treatment. Some programs offer only one, while others offer a mixture of two or more. They are:

  • Detoxification – Detox programs range in price between $1,000 and $1,500. Most rehab facilities offer this form of treatment, and it requires strict medical supervision which contributes to the cost.
  • Inpatient Rehab – These drug treatment centers come in a wide price range and can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 per month. For a 60 or 90 day program, the costs can range between $12,000 and $60,000. Often times patients are paying for atmosphere, much in the same way one would pay more at a luxury hotel.
  • Outpatient Rehab – For graduates of an inpatient program and those whose addiction problem is considered mild, outpatient programs are an option. They tend to run 90-day programs and cost between $5,000 and $10,000. The price varies depending on the facility itself and on how frequently the patient visits.
  • Medication Treatments – As mentioned above, medication treatments cost an average of $4,700 for one year of methadone replacement. Other replacement drugs are available, such as Suboxone, but methadone is used most frequently. This type of treatment is most often given to those with severe alcohol or opiate addiction- both of which have very high rates of relapse.

All told, the total cost of addiction treatment for one year ranges roughly from $12,000 to $100,000 for one year of treatment. So, do you get more effective treatment when you pay more? Let’s consider the variables.

High-End Rehab

You’ve probably seen news stories about a celebrity going to rehab- often repeatedly and with poor outcomes. Invariably, these are expensive facilities that cater to the expectations of the famous and the well to do. Often they will feature world-class chefs, large campuses, AAA facilities and very low accountability for patients- and sometimes even for staff and medical personnel. When it comes to a mismatch of price and quality, this might be a worst-case scenario. Many of these facilities are extraordinarily insular and can be very difficult for the outside world to audit.

Of course, not all “celebrity rehabs” trade quality for luxury for. Some, offer very high-quality drug abuse and addiction treatment, for which you would expect around $9,000 a week. But as we will see, not all high-end treatment centers deserve the bad reputation attributed to celebrity rehab. In so many cases, it is the patients themselves- and celebrity culture- which contribute to high profile relapses.

While we know very little about some of these high-end, boutique facilities, it can be difficult to avoid the impression that they actually incentivize relapses. Suffice it to say, programs that focus on providing luxury for profit over quality addiction treatment do not meet high standards of addiction treatment.

Often times, the more expensive treatment centers are located in remote and beautiful locations. They will have newer, more architecturally appealing buildings, more activities, and more robust staffing. More expensive programs often feature better privacy as they are not located in the middle of busy metropolitan areas. It is a matter for debate as to whether or not luxury equates to better recovery outcomes- but it certainly makes spending time at such a place a more enjoyable experience.

What Makes Drug & Alcohol Rehab Expensive VS What Makes it Effective?

A study published in the International Journal of Psychological Rehabilitation cited a list of factors which the authors believe are key to success in addiction treatment. They write;

“[…] factors, which are most commonly employed by mental health professionals: Readiness (recognition, taking steps, ambivalence), Self-efficacy, Expectation about the therapy outcome, Satisfaction by the therapy treatment, Perceived Social Support, Depression/Anxiety/Stress levels of the client (clinical profile), Positive and Negative Emotions and the way in which clients realize the Meaning of Life.”

We have distilled their list as follows:

  • Readiness for treatment
  • Self-efficacy
  • Expectation about the therapy outcome
  • Satisfaction by the therapy treatment
  • Perceived Social Support
  • Emotional wellbeing
  • The way in which patients find meaning in life

Readiness for Treatment & Self-Efficacy

You’ve probably noticed that these are by and large perceptual aspects of the patient’s experience with rehabilitation. The patient must arrive ready and willing to succeed in recovering from addiction, and he or she must believe recovery is possible.

Expectation of a Positive Outcome

The patient must believe that a good outcome is possible. This requires both a sense of self-efficacy and confidence in the program. The perception that recovery is attainable can be aided by high-quality facilities and qualified, professional staff. These factors contribute to cost, but not so much so that one must necessarily attend a $100,000 a year clinic to benefit from them.

Perception of Social Support

It is key that patients believe that they have the support of friends, family, loved ones or other valued compatriots in their efforts to recover. Clinics with a robust group therapy component score well in this category. Those which employ social workers can also offer the patient access to additional social support programs and opportunities. Location also plays a factor in terms of what kinds of support are available- and whether or not such support is desirable.

Emotional Wellbeing

Those suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress or are experiencing high sensitivity to negative emotions will have worse outcomes. Clinics that offer counseling and psychiatric help can help, but for those without co-morbid conditions, social support is usually enough.

What we can learn from this is that all of these factors can be made more robust by seeking more expensive treatment. More luxurious surroundings and better-funded programs can help boost confidence in treatment outcomes, promote a sense of well-being, and offer more opportunities to find social support. However, it is clear that programs falling along the lower end of the price range can also offer these kinds of human-oriented assets.

Finding Meaning in Life After Recovery

We are all aware of the importance programs like AA and NA place on a belief in a higher power. This has become a tradition for the mere fact that finding meaning in life is an overwhelmingly positive factor in promoting good treatment outcomes.

Other factors that predict success rates include:

  • Variety of available treatments
  • Mental health care
  • Long-term treatment

The Value of Patient-Focused Drug Rehabilitation

What we find is that perception and motivation are key elements of a successful recovery. The real and meaningful support of professionals and peers is all but indispensable in most cases. Less luxurious rehab facilities might offend the sensibilities of those who are not used to living modestly. But being comfortable in rehab is not always a good thing.

Many clinicians will agree that rehab should feel like a challenge, not a soft place to land after a dramatic bout with substance abuse. Unfortunately, striking the right balance for every individual is not an exact science. What we can say for certain is that any rehabilitation program that is complete with a variety of available treatments, mental health care, and long-term treatment have a very high rate of success when paired with a patient who is both confident and determined.

The good news is the likelihood of a positive outcome does not depend on paying for the most expensive treatment. No matter how much you pay for qualified treatment, determination and confidence are your finest assets.

Financial Assistance

For many, even programs falling into lower price brackets can be difficult to pay for. Fortunately, Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance usually help to cover much of the cost of treatment. Those who cannot access insurance may find clinics which accept payment along a sliding scale. Non-profit treatment centers and government subsidized facilities are also able to fill in the gaps in many instances. Many faith-based organizations offer free or low-cost alcohol/drug rehabilitation services.

Those seeking treatment, whatever the price range, should research the facility they are considering fully. Be sure the clinic offers evidence-based treatments. There are poor addiction treatment programs at both ends of the price spectrum. To avoid them, read up about the clinic, find patient reviews (not on the clinic website), and trust your instincts when it comes to choosing the right place to take a stand against addiction.

France’s 3x Death Rate from Alcohol & 6 Other “Pro” Alcohol & Drug Myths Refuted

While there are numerous alcoholic myths are out there, like how to get sober quickly, it’s really worth discussing the few “pro alcohol” myths which encourage drinking. Consider the global risks of alcohol..:

  • Alcohol is the 5th most common killer in the world
  • Alcohol causes 3+ million deaths per year
  • Alcohol is the #1 killer for ages 15-49
  • Alcohol causes 1 in 4 deaths

With those sobering stats in mind, let’s look at the myths that contribute to alcohol consumption, because as long as there are any perceived benefits for drinking a few beers, the rate of use and abuse are likely to be higher than they are.

1. The French have lower alcoholism rates because their children are introduced to wine at an early age.

Verdict: False

Death rates are much higher in France (50k):  Since the US is around 80-90k alcohol deaths per year, but considering the relative population of each, the death rate is more than 3x higher in France than in the USA:

“The reputation of the French for drinking in moderation appears slightly misleading after a worrying report released on Monday revealed alcohol is responsible for around 49,000 deaths in France each year – around 134 each day.”

“The study, carried out by the Service for Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Institue Gustave Roussy, near Paris found that around 36,500 French men die each year from alcohol-related illnesses, around 13 percent of the overall male mortality rate.”  – TheLocal.fr

Comparing to the USA is just one angle, but what about the rest of the world? According to Global Information System on Alcohol and Health, and visualized by a news site, France leads the world in youth binge drinking rates:

french drinking rates

Go Africa!

Looking at another range, 15-16 year-olds show a similar trend, and many European countries have more than double the rate of binge drinking compared to the USA, thereby discrediting another myth that we (USA) should just copy Europe in all their programs.

2. Drinking red wine is healthy because of resveratrol:

If resveratrol is due to the grape skin, then would grape juice be just as effective? According to MayoClinic, the answer is “It’s possible” as several studies support it. But even the studies on mice would require an equivalent dosage of 750 – 1500 bottls of wine every day.

Besides, Harvard says other studies do not show any benefit to resveratrol but we should not be surprised as there are usually contradicting studies in all areas of medicine. E.g. Fiber may not be important after all.

If ingesting more “resveratrol” is really a concern, then you could either: eat healthier “You may already consume a fair amount of resveratrol […] found in foods such as peanuts, pistachios, grapes, red and white wine, blueberries, cranberries, and even cocoa and dark chocolate.” ; or, you could just buy some resveratrol supplements.

It is bizarre to think that somehow scientists got so excited to promote resveratrol that they failed to even consider the negative risks of promoting drinking, which has far worse consequences for many people.

There are other possible health benefits to consuming occasional glasses of wine, like minor improvements to blood-sugar, and dementia risk, but only for moderate drinkers–again, which studies are reliable? Besides, there are probably hundreds of ways to accomplish the same health goals, especially considering when one considers the asymmetrical risks associated with alcohol.

 

3. Drinking wine is safe:

“We have normalized drinking,” says journalist Ann Johnston. “We look at red wine like it’s dark chocolate.” It would appear that a normalizing view of alcohol is occurring.

While there may not be studies that show the switch between casual wine and alcoholics/binge drinking, women drinking patterns in general may be useful as women are typically the “wine drinkers” in today’s society.

A review of national surveys (2002) shows dramatic increases of alcohol use among women, regardless of race:

White: 47% up from 37%
Black: 30% up from 21%
Hispanic: 32% up from 24%.

More recent data suggests the same trend. “Heavy drinking is on the rise in many parts of the U.S. — up more than 17 percent since 2005, researchers reported Thursday. And rates are rising faster among women than among men.” and “Nationally, 18.3 percent of Americans were binge drinkers in 2012, an increase of nearly 9 percent since 2005. ”

The future trends are equally cloudy as the mortality rates of white women, ages 35 to 54, have more than doubled in the last two decades according to the Washington Post.

 

4.  Social drinking is not harmful:

The rate of non-drinkers that eventually became alcoholic is exactly 0%.

no one can predict if a person will become an alcoholic, predisposed or otherwise, therefore, any drinking always presents risks of dependence

So while social drinking may be true for some, no one can predict if a person will become an alcoholic, predisposed or otherwise, therefore, any drinking always presents risks of dependence. The message to kids, and people who have never drank, should be: Do not start drinking alcohol as it is the only guaranteed way to avoid abuse.

Not a popular message today, but binary (do vs. do not) approaches to potentially addictive behaviors is the only guaranteed way to prevent habits from being able to form. Likewise, for those already dependent on alcohol/drugs, complete abstinence is usually critical, and the only effective means to prevent relapse. So if it works for them, it can work for non-drinkers.

Also realize that the term “social drinking” does not necessarily mean drinking in low-volumes. Is it safe to assume that “peer-pressure,” acceptance, and conformity are among the top reasons people use drugs? If so, then we can infer that main cause of alcoholism is “social” drinking, or “social binge drinking.”

 

5. Legalizing more drugs = Freedom, and will reduce abuse:

Before looking specifically at alcohol, it’s worth a detour to consider other drugs in the same light.

No limits on drugs are a core doctrine of libertarianism and generally progressive society, and so there must be nothing that would free society more than to have a liquor store, a cigarette  vending machine, and a meth dispenser, on every street corner; and let’s not forget the children either. I am not against the idea that the entire population should be continually freer to enslave themselves at their own choice, but is there a point of diminishing returns, or unnecessary risk, especially when those that do not want such risks nearby are subjected to them?

While the idea of “freedom” has merit, the more access we have to drugs/alcohol via cost, convenience, communication/promotion (basically the 4 C’s of marketing), the higher the usage, and the higher the net enslavement. Much like expecting internet addiction to decline when it is becoming easier and easier to access (your pocket); or expecting sugar food addiction to decline when you have a shelf full of cookies in your pantry. There are few taboos against many of these lesser addictions, which has not helped to decrease addiction rates.

Should we be surprised that the places with the highest alcohol restrictions, limited access to alcohol, also have the lowest alcohol abuse rates? If you want help to stop drinking, your best bet might be central Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, where drinking rates are well under 1% and also illegal, making it difficult to access.

acohol use rates around world

Source: OurWorldInData

So let’s look at the “open market” approach. On one hand, the USA is in an opioid crisis, and on the other hand, the general population wants more drugs–recreational marijuana, which tends to follow medical marijuana, as Colorado has shown us. But it may be worth saving the time in copying the 40-year Dutch experiment, because marijuana is really a large export market for tourists (up to 80%), and are possibly a growing narco state; and Holland is now the new Mexico, as reported by the EU Drug Markets Report:

  • Over half of Europe’s $5.7 billion dollar cocaine supply travels through Rotterdam.
  • Europe’s leading producers of synthetics like ecstasy and amphetamines are Holland and Belgium.
  • Most ecstasy used in Europe and the US comes from labs in southern Holland.
  • The Netherlands and Spain are chief countries for cocaine trafficking.
  • A tripling of heroine addiction rates, and 2x that of England, along with a myriad of other possible negative outcomes too numerous to mention here.

Besides, with the impossibility of cross-comparing a single culture, economics, uselessly data sets, cherry-picking, continually changing and dynamic culture/demographics, the inability to test society in a vacuum, the jury will always be out on what effect certain policies have.

Christian Hoofer weighs a lot of these problems at a high level, which is definitely worth a read. So are the latest failures of Colorado legalization.

Besides, I am still not sure what “medical marijuana” is, as at least one analysis of 24 studies (A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Medical Cannabis for Psychiatric, Movement and Neurodegenerative Disorders) said a “definitive conclusion on its efficacy could not be drawn.” So medical marijuana may be a myth too. I doubt most people who are voting for it have done a systematic review of the research either, which brings me back to “medical marijuana” simply being a stepping stone, but I digress.

One final note: 20% of young adults are currently binge drinking in the USA, so legalizing more drugs may not lead to lowers rates of abuse.

 

6. Using alcohol/drug taxes to generate government revenue is better for society:

It is interesting to consider how many addictive and former black-markets shifted hands from private entrepreneurs (the growers and dealers) to govt programs, usually in the name of public safety.

Take for example lotteries, a form of gambling. It is considered beneficial when a govt does it, yet 2.2% of the population is hooked on gambling. If the government truly cared, they would at least use those proceeds entirely for helping addicted victims.

Some would argue, if the government did not allow gambling then citizens would resort to gambling black markets, which may be true to some degree, however this chart shows the strong relationship between the most addicted states along-side their “gambling friendly” rank: The more gambling friendly a state is, the higher the addiction rates. Surprised? See point #4 above again.

(Data)

Maybe a second,  deeper reason to regulate vice industries is that it helps keep more revenue at home, instead of in poorer areas of the world where much of it is currently sourced. Just looking at Mexico, the Wachovia wire fraud scandal alone imported the equivalent of 1/3 of Mexico’s GDP over a few years, basically drug money (1, 2), while other estimates say “The amount of money pouring into Mexico […] estimated to be about $35 billion to $40 billion each year”.  Finding new revenue sources is increasingly important in a country where the economy and especially its government are increasingly having financial challenges.

 

7. Lies, Bigger Lies, and Advertising

All advertising uses some sort of message to communicate its benefits. According to the Center for Media Literacy, these include:

1. Risk does not exist, as commercials fail to portray signs of addiction, nor destroyed lives.

2. Alcohol is necessary for survival.

3. Some messages even subtlety promote alcoholic behavior, such as suggesting that daily trips to the bar are part of life

4. Alcohol can improve your life: “happiness, wealth, prestige, sophistication, success, maturity, athletic ability, virility and attraction”

5. Alcohol is not dangerous: Legal drugs (alcohol, cigarettes) may kill far more people than illegal drugs, so maybe the war on drugs should also include a war against alcohol and its advertising. Who could imagine seeing ads for meth, cocaine, and heroin, so why allow alcohol ads?

6. Alcoholic beverage companies innocuously promote alcoholism with such phrases as “drink responsibly,” giving people the false sense of control. No one sets out to become an alcoholic, yet 1 in 10 drinkers do.
While much advertising uses the direct, or central route of persuasion, the largest budgets in advertising are often devoted to a far less understood approach: the periphery route. In a well-established piece published in 1983, “Central and Peripheral Routes to Advertising Effectiveness: The Moderating Role of Involvement”, it outlines:

“Attitude changes that occur via the second or peripheral route do not occur because the person has diligently considered the pros and cons of the issue; they occur because the person associates the attitude issue or object with positive or negative cues or makes a simple inference about the merits of the advocated position based on various simple cues in the persuasion context. For example, rather than carefully evaluating the issue-relevant arguments, a person may accept an advocacy simply because it is presented during a pleasant lunch or because the message source is an expert.”

Just think, Super Bowl commercials, and any commercial that is just designed to make you laugh or love. Have you ever wondered what talking frogs, “Whazzup” ads, and Clydesdale horses have to do with the benefits of drinking beer? and what do talking lizards and cavemen have to do with saving money? Nothing,, but you love the commercials, therefore you are more likely to associated positive feelings about the brand.

Of all the problems out there, perhaps the largest is the legalized drug dealing promoted through media, destroying countless lives in the name of profit.

So, the next time someone says “alcohol is good for you,” you might want to reconsider, before you end up in a drug rehab center, which is a growing issue. And if society takes an increasingly negative viewpoint of alcohol, maybe that will lower rates too, like the campaign against tobacco in recent years.

Panic Attacks – What They Are and How to Overcome Them

When we find ourselves in an anxiety provoking situation or facing a threat to our safety, it’s normal to experience sensations of panic. When we panic we have a fight or flight response, meaning our body gears up to defend itself or to flee. This involves a release of adrenaline, increased heart rate, rapid breathing and a number of other physiological changes designed to provide us with a boost in energy so that we can survive in a life-threatening situation. However, many people (around 11% annually in the US) experience episodes of panic in the absence of any tangible threat. This is known as a panic attack and can often occur completely out of the blue. Whilst it’s very helpful for the body to go into fight or flight mode when faced with a would-be assailant, when standing in line at the grocery store it can be extremely distressing!

Due to the physiological changes that occur when we panic, attacks are often experienced by the sufferer as indicative of a heart attack or other serious physical health problem. It is common for sufferers to feel that they may be dying – indeed, a sense of impending doom is one of the symptoms of an attack – resulting in trips to the emergency room. If the psychological cause of the episode is not identified, it can leave a sufferer searching for a physiological answer for their experiences and convinced that they are seriously ill.

Whilst panic disorder refers to regular and recurrent experiences of panic attacks, attacks can also be present within other emotional and mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, phobias and depression. As such, panic attacks are not a diagnostic category in themselves, but rather a feature of other diagnostic categories depending upon the particular contexts in which they manifest. It is often the case that a panic attack can be an isolated or rare event associated with a period of stress or a particularly anxiety provoking situation and not necessarily indicative of a mental health disorder.

The diagnostic criteria for a panic attack (see The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition) includes a period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms develop abruptly:

  • Palpitations, and/or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or being smothered
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • De-realization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or going insane
  • Sense of impending death
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Chills or hot flashes

Panic attacks can also be a feature of, or mimic, some physical health conditions and therefore it is also worth investigating if there is a medical issue causing or contributing to your symptoms. Assuming you’re assured it’s a panic attack you’re having, here are some ways to help yourself:

Educate yourself:

Simply knowing that you are experiencing a symptom of anxiety rather than suffering a medical emergency can itself offer significant comfort. Learning about panic attacks, their causes and effects and in particular, the fact that they are not causing harm to you can help prevent escalation of panic and reduce anxiety between episodes.

Avoid avoidance:

It’s easy after a panic attack to avoid situations that are associated with the trigger for an episode or evoke similar physiological responses (such as avoiding exercise due to breathlessness). Although understandable, avoidance as a strategy is flawed in that it prevents us from learning that such situations are not in fact dangerous and that experiences of anxiety, whilst unpleasant, do not harm us. Whilst avoidance may minimize the regularity of panics, it doesn’t do anything to support us to learn to manage them. Instead, move towards the discomfort, and expose yourself slowly to the thing which you are afraid of.

Step back:

Another helpful way of managing panic is by recognizing that it is just a feeling and a collection of sensations. Panic escalates when we ascribe meaning to these responses, such as by moving from the experiences of physical sensations to the interpretation that we are dying or having a heart attack. Learn instead to observe the feeling, without judging it, fighting it or interpreting it. Mindfulness exercises help with developing this capacity to observe and accept feelings.

Breathe:

Deep breathing has the effect of calming the parasympathetic nervous system. The simplest way of achieving this is through abdominal breathing. This means breathing into the abdomen, rather than high in your chest. To check you’re doing it correctly put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. The one on your belly should move up and down and the one on your chest stay still.

Be curious:

If you are experiencing panic attacks it’s likely there is something else going on that you need to pay attention to. While you are flooded with anxiety during the panic moment, it may be that you are disconnected at other times. It may be that you are under stress and not taking steps to address it, or you have developed a habit of excessive worrying. Ask yourself, what is this experience trying to tell me?

De-stress:

Even if you don’t know the exact cause of your panic attacks, undertaking stress reducing activities can help to minimize your overall anxiety levels and enhance your capacity for relaxation. Simple strategies such as exercising, getting plenty of sleep, avoiding excess alcohol and caffeine can all make a difference.

Seek help:

If you’re struggling to understand why you feel like you do, or find your anxiety attacks are impacting on your ability to feel comfortable and enjoy life, then it might be wise to seek help. This could be by talking to a trusted friend or family member or by seeking out a licensed professional who can work with you to help you understand why you feel like you do and teach you techniques to manage your anxiety more effectively. Most of all, don’t suffer in silence, panic attacks can be overcome and treated successfully, as there are many treatment centers to help. They can even be a useful opportunity to learn more about yourself and how to use your emotions to guide you rather than overwhelm you!

 

References

Medina, J. (2016). Panic Attack Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 22, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/panic-attack-symptoms/

American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 214–217, 938, ISBN 0890425558

Nonmedical Use of Stimulant Medication Among College Students

Over the last decade the popularity of using prescription stimulant medication, officially used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to help keep up with the academic responsibilities of college students has grown exponentially. We all know that college comes with challenges, as there are academic demands that can be overwhelming to college students as they teeter between their teenage years and adulthood. College comes with many new experiences, some empowering, and others misguided, but all life changing. Being considered “smart drugs” or “smart dope”, the social and medial influences have given stimulant medication the reputation of being “performance enhancers”, thought to improve concentration on schoolwork, help the user stay awake for prolonged periods of time and even achieve the feeling of euphoria or enhance the experience of other drugs. (Arria & DuPont, 2010). Currently, nonmedical stimulant medication is the one of the most misused and abused drug among college students, following only alcohol and marijuana, and continues to grow in popularity as it becomes more normalized by social, societal, and medial influence (Lakhan & Kirchgessner, 2012).

What is ADHD medication?

Some of the more common forms of medication used to treat patients with ADHD are Adderall and Dexedrine(dextro- amphetamine), and Ritalin and Concerta (methylphenidate). These medications are used to reduce hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsive or sporadic behavior in those who suffer from ADHD (Lakhan & Kirchgessner, 2012). Despite its potential for misuse and abuse, there is evidence that supports that those who are prescribed stimulant medication as a means to treat ADHD do see significant improvement in their ability to focus and feel more grounded in their day-to-day tasks (Lakhan & Kirchgessner, 2012).

All stimulant medications are considered Schedule II drugs because of their potential for abuse despite their effectiveness for the treatment of ADHD. These medications work by targeting the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. These two neurotransmitters have critical roles in brain functions, as dopamine is used for reward-motivated behavior and feel-good responses, and norepinephrine is responsible for attention, alertness, and concentration. The stimulant medication blocks the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, which causes the effects and feelings to last longer and prolongs the ability of the user to stay focused (NIDA, 2014).

Is it addictive?

Well, the short answer is yes, people who abuse stimulant medication have the potential to become addicted, often times reqiring treatment from drug rehab centers. The reason is that when we take reuptake blockers to prolong the effects of dopamine and norepinephrine we develop a tolerance for higher levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. When one uses a stimulant drug consistently or frequently the cellular functions need to change to accommodate the drug use. Therefore less of the neurotransmitters are produced, and when less is produced there is less to supply, leaving the user deprived of these sensations that the neurotransmitters are responsible for, triggering the need to take more and more to find the same effect, resulting in a dependence.

With something that has such a potential for misuse and dependence, why is it available to those who suffer from ADHD? Well, the answer is simple: They have doctors and therapists to help manage their medication and treatment. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA, stated, “Studies to date suggest that prescribed use of methylphenidate in patients with ADHD does not increase their risk for subsequent addiction. However nonmedical use of methylphenidate and other stimulant medications can lead to addiction as well as a variety of other health consequences” (Older, 2009). Without the constant monitoring of the intake and effects of the medication by medical staff, nonmedical users put themselves at risk for not only addiction, but also side effects including psychosis, seizures, hypertension, tachycardia and other cardiovascular problems, and even sudden death. (Arria & DuPont, 2010)

Does it work?

So far we’ve reviewed what stimulant medication is, why it exists, why it is misused and its potential for addiction and other consequences of misuse, but does it work? Does it help people who do not have ADHD focus and perform better academically? Research has found little evidence in support of its effectiveness in improving academic performance. There has been minimal evidence to support that it may improve the performance of rote-learning tasks, which consist of repetitive recall by means of memorization, but has no effect on complex memory, which is the ability to understand complex concepts, correlate pieces of information, draw conclusions, and reason (Lakhan & Kirchgessner, 2012). Furthermore, to date there has been no evidence to support the effectiveness of improving cognitive function on the sleep-deprived (Lakhan & Kirchgessner, 2012)

Not only does evidence support the ineffectiveness in improving academic performance, but it also supports that users with lower GPAs are more likely to use than those with higher GPAs. (Arria & DuPont, 2010). Evidence supports an inverse relationship between nonmedical stimulant medication use and GPA, meaning that students with lower GPAs have a stronger history of stimulant use than higher GPAs. This study also supports a positive correlation between high alcohol and illicit drug users and their likelihood to use nonmedical stimulant medication, meaning those who heavily use drugs and alcohol recreationally are more likely to use nonmedical stimulant medication than those who do not.

It is without question that misuse and abuse of any drug has the potential to have devastating effects on the life of the user. However, the popular belief of nonmedical stimulant medication is that you will not get addicted, it will help you perform academically, and there are minimal risks. Despite the evidence to the contrary, nonmedical users continue to justify their own using and the use of other nonmedical users, but realistically, is that the right attitude to have? Stimulant medication is a Schedule II drug that not only contains amphetamines, which have a high potential for dependence, but also have qualities that are very closely related to cocaine. Many who misuse stimulant medication use it on an as-needed basis which does lower the risk of physical addiction, but dependence is still a high possibility: they will begin to rely on the nonmedical drug use to perform. At this point in our society there is little information of the consequences of nonmedical stimulant medication use, so it is imperative that people begin to look at the facts when considering following this trend that has misguided so many college students. Are the risks worth the reward? As evidence shows, it is unlikely that the nonmedical use will help improve performance, so consider the consequences carefully if ever confronted with this challenge.

References

Arria, A. M., & Dupont, R. L. (2010). Nonmedical Prescription Stimulant Use Among College Students: Why We Need to Do Something and What We Need to Do.Journal of Addictive Diseases,29(4), 417-426. doi:10.1080/10550887.2010.509273

Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.Brain and Behavior,2(5), 661-677. doi:10.1002/brb3.78

NIDA (2014). Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines. (2014).National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2, 2017.

Older, S. (2009). NIDA study shows that methylphenidate (Ritalin) causes neuronal changes in brain reward areas: Similarities and differences compared to cocaine were found. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e512222009-001

Postpartum Depression: When It Is More Than Just the “Baby Blues”

It is estimated that postpartum depression (PPD)  affects as many as one out of every even women according to the American Psychological Association.  The vast majority of women never report symptoms and it is a huge public health problem. Unfortunately, its causes are complex and not fully understood.

Postpartum depression can be defined as symptoms of major depression developing within the first month after delivery, but the risk can persist for much longer. It is differentiated from the “baby blues” by duration and severity of symptoms.  It is thought that a complex web of physical, emotional and identity changes in a new mother contribute to postpartum depression at least in some part. Fluctuating hormonal levels, an absence of sleep, feelings of anxiety about motherhood, and feelings that you are less attractive and have lost control of your life may predominate.

New research is shedding light on the role of emotional fluctuations  that may increase a woman’s likelihood of developing PPD post delivery.  Emotional fluctuations, swinging from anxiety, tearfulness, joy and back again are one of the hallmarks of PPD.  What is often less clear, is that for many women, these mood swings begin during the pregnancy itself.

For many women, pregnancy itself can be a time of great changes physically, emotionally and in terms of self esteem, especially during the second and third trimesters. Research shows that fluctuations in self esteem during these critical periods, puts a woman at  higher risk for becoming depressed postpartum.

Because it is estimated that the vast majority of women do not receive the help they need for PPD, there is important for doctors and nurses to conduct early perinatal screenings for the disorder. It is advised to conduct screenings during pregnancy, and for several months post-delivery.

And while society portrays birth as a joyous event, it is also a highly stressful transition over a protracted period of time.  Prolonged stress can make it easy for pregnant women and new mothers to develop negative thoughts and beliefs about how they are doing as new mothers. This in turn eats away at self-esteem, leading to depression.

So what should a mother or mother-to-be do in light of these new findings?

  • Be candid with your doctors and nurses. If they have screening tools, use them. If not, ask for them. Seek help early.
  • Know that postpartum depression varies from woman to woman. Some women tend to feel more anxiety, others feel more symptoms of depression.
  • Psychotherapy may be the answer for those who are unable to take medications during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy tend to work well for postpartum depression.
  • Remember that those women who have suffered from a major depression or from bipolar disorder are more at risk for postpartum depression. Seek help early to help manage your symptoms.
  • Many women who suffer from postpartum depression have thoughts of self-harm. If you have a therapist, talk about these feelings with your therapist. Keep your local suicide hotline number handy.
  • Seek peer and partner support. Support can decrease the likelihood of depressive symptoms.

Screening and affordable early therapeutic intervention are key in the diagnosis and treatment of postpartum depression Avoiding treatment early on can lead some to use drugs and subsequently a higher level of treatment from a drug rehab center.  Watch for changes in yourself and in your loved ones. And remember, that you are not alone.

 

 

https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2013/03/surprising-rate-of-women-have-depression-after-childbirth

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/causes/con-20029130

Erin K. Smith, Priya Gopalan, Jody B. Glance, Pierre N. Azzam. Postpartum Depression ScreeningHarvard Review of Psychiatry, 2016; 24 (3): 173 DOI: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000103

 

Identifying And Treating Maternal Depression: Strategies & Considerations for Health Plans, National Institute for Healthcare Management Foundation Issue Brief, 2010

Int J Womens Health. 2011; 3: 1–14.; Published online 2010 Dec 30. doi:  10.2147/IJWH.S6938; PMCID: PMC3039003; Treatment of postpartum depression: clinical, psychological and pharmacological options;  Elizabeth FitelsonSarah KimAllison Scott Baker, and Kristin Leight

 

Marijuana Use Soars Among Twelve and Older

(St. Petersburg, FL) The National Survey on Drug Use and Health was released today and indicated that 1 in 10 Americans aged 12 or older have used an illicit drug in the past month. Of the 27 million past month illicit drug users, 22.2 million were using marijuana. Past month marijuana use in this group jumped from 6.2 percent in 2002 to 8.4 percent in 2014.

“Frequent marijuana use is at an all-time high, with limited prevention dollars available, to read more, click here.