Washington has legalized Marijuana: How does law enforcement identify if someone is driving under the influence.
It is common knowledge in the treatment industry that marijuana can be detected in the human body for as long as 45 plus days, there have even been circumstances of up to 90 days. This is not an exact science and individuals will metabolize the substance at different rates. The question becomes how we as a society identify if an individual is impaired. At what point is it unsafe to be driving or operating machinery after smoking marijuana. An appropriate test which determines a number or level appropriate for operating a moving vehicle was developed and being used in Washington with as much controversy as the legalization itself.
When operating a moving vehicle, alcohol has a limit of .08 parts alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood. Alcohol is processed quickly by the human body and in general this guide is appropriate for most citizens. There will be a very small portion of the population whose bodies metabolizes alcohol differently (A greater number that will try to contest this in court). In no way will this population hinder the reliability of the parameters with alcohol testing in law enforcement. Alcohol is water soluble and quickly metabolized at a cellular level riding the body of the substance.
Marijuana is much different. It takes longer to rid the body of the residual chemicals. This is not to say that the individual is impaired longer (This is debated) but it can be detected in the body for a longer period. Marijuana is fat soluble which can take up to 100% more time for the body to expel all remnants of this substance. There are studies that suggest a driver who is a heavy marijuana smoker will be impaired as long as a month after their last use. Other studies identify 3 to 6 hours as being an appropriate break to operate machinery. As with any statistic the possibility of individual bias can be present. If one is in favor of marijuana, research can be identified showing the safety of shorter durations of impairment, where one against could find research identifying the exact opposite.
Washington has created a 5-nanograms-per-milliliter limit for active THC (THC stimulates cells in the brain to release dopamine, creating euphoria). The key word is active. This test measures the part that makes you high. The Non-Active is still in the system for the duration discussed earlier.
Here in lies the controversy. MOST people will fall below 5 nanograms after just a few hours of ingesting marijuana. Chronic users should be below the threshold within 24 hours but some might take three days. There have been cases of chronic users remaining above 5 nanograms after 15 days. There is also documented and published research that shows how the chronic user will remain impaired long after the visible 5 nanograms, up to three weeks of abstinence. It does not take long to identify the scientific, moral, societal and legal “can of worms”, opened by the legalization of marijuana for non medical use in Washington.
Safe to say that those who use marijuana in moderation will most likely never have an issue with the current standard and legal limit, those who dare I say abuse the privilege might think twice before driving.
Irony: A great number of people who are proponents for the legalization of marijuana for non-medical use are chronic users. Chronic for the purpose of this article could be 4 times a day (My guess would be much more), these people will most likely test above the legal limit if stopped and tested. All others will simply test below. So the very people who led the fight to legalize marijuana will (If stopped and tested) be arrested for DUI.
Mark R. Kisner, MSW, CADC-II
(Disclaimer- In no way does this author believe all proponents are chronic users. Others are probably politicians, doctors, lawyers and even therapists)
This article was written by Jennifer Fernández, PhD, who specializes in impulse control disorders and substance misuse, abuse, and dependence. She is currently completing her post-doctoral internship at Pathways Institute for Impulse Control where she provides comprehensive assessments, psychotherapy, and group therapy with dually diagnosed adults and adolescents, and their partners and families. This article was reprinted with her permission.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for movement, pleasure, motivation, andcognitive processes, such as learning. For the purposes of understanding its role in addiction, let’s concentrate on pleasure and motivation.
Whenever we do something that propagates the advancement of our species, dopamine is released in order to motivate repetition of the action. When we sleep, eat, and have sex dopamine is released in our brain and the message is, “That was great, do it again!” We also release dopamine whenever we find something pleasurable. Be it 18th century poetry, heroin, or Radiohead, our brain will release dopamine to encode the stimulus as something that brings us pleasure.
Dopamine not only serves to categorize the good things we encounter in life, it also programs our pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in judgement and decision making) to alert us when the pleasurable stimulus is available. If your brain cells could talk, it might sound something like, “OMG! There’s a flyer on that lamppost for a Radiohead concert. Go look at it!” In other words, we become hyperaware of opportunities for engaging in behaviors that bring us pleasure. In fact, a study on people with alcoholism found they were more likely to spot alcoholic beverages in a busy photograph than people who don’t have problems with alcohol.
When we consume substances, it makes us feel good because our brains release dopamine, but drugs elicit a higher amount of dopamine release than is necessary. This is part of what causes experiences of euphoria and feeling high. Sometimes the amount of dopamine released is so great, the chemicals in our brain become unbalanced and we may experience hangover or withdrawal. In time, our brain regains chemical equilibrium. However, if one abuses substances, the brain may develop a tolerance (meaning the person needs to use greater amounts to get high) or dependence on the substance as a source of dopamine. If one becomes dependent on a drug, it may take some time for the brain to regain equilibrium and the person may experience extreme physical discomfort and emotional distress when they aren’t using. The period of re-calibration depends on the amount, type, and frequency of the drug used. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to be under medical supervision and receive support from friends, family, and a mental health professional if you’re dependent on a drug and want to stop or decrease your use.
The mechanism of tolerance is also evident in impulse control disorders, such as sex addiction, kleptomania, and compulsive gambling. Although it doesn’t appear that persons with an impulse control disorder undergo the same intensity of withdrawal that persons addicted to substances experience, there can certainly be a period of re-calibration of dopamine receptors during which a person feels irritable and agitated after stopping a behavior.
Based on the information presented here, we can conclude that we are all hard-wired to potentially become addicts and you may be asking yourself, “If this is true, why do some people become addicted and others don’t?” This is a really good question and the answer is “We don’t really know.” We can predict the likelihood of someone becoming an addict based on factors such as first age of substance use and family history of addiction, and we know that a lack of social support and coping strategies (especially when coupled with mental illness) can also lead to addiction, but there is no conclusive answer to date.
The best ways to prevent addiction are to educate yourself about the substances you use (or to abstain from substance use altogether) and to be mindful about the choices you make. If you have a mental illness, ensuring that you are getting appropriate treatment and maintaining social support are good preventative measures.
Bridging the Gap between Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Living in Recovery.
So you’re fresh out of rehab. How do you stay sober long enough to shoot that movie and fulfill your celebrity commitments? A live-in Certified Personal Recovery Assistant is exactly what you need. And now, this Hollywood “must have” is a certified profession available to everyone.
Bringing awareness of drug and alcohol addiction issues to the forefront with programs like Dr. Drew Pinsky’s Celebrity Rehab, A & E Television Network’s shows Intervention and The Cleaner, there have recently been several articles and a great deal of media attention on high profile celebrities struggling with the consequences of drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating disorders and various other addictions. Many of these celebrities are photographed and profiled hanging out with a “sober buddy,” “sober companion” or so-called “minder.” This awareness is sparking a lot of curiosity of, “who is this ‘stranger’ lurking in the shadows on the set, in a business meeting or hanging out at family functions?” These “strangers” are often being referred to as an associate, assistant, friend or family member but, before we give up the secret of what this person does, it is important to know why this person is there. To quote one client, “this person is here to help be a barrier between me and the dragon of my disease: addiction.”
The concept of peer-mentoring in addiction has been around for a long time with Alcoholics Anonymous’ sponsors; a recovering addict that volunteers to help fellow addicts get through tough times. The worldwide exposure and evolution of this concept has brought a lot of attention to “the stranger,” developing the need to create a professional supervised support service that is not sponsorship nor in-home therapy. Hired Power Transitional Recovery Services, a professional service located in both California and New York, identified that regardless of which mode of treatment is utilized to treat the addict, there is a transition period that takes place when addicts return home or on the road and attempt to maintain a sober lifestyle. It is a known fact that during the transition, addicts are most vulnerable to relapse and are relapsing at an alarming rate. There is a significant need to “bridge the gap,” extending treatment by means of intensive support into the homes and lives of addicts.
For Hired Power Transitional Recovery Services, “the stranger” is a Certified Personal Recovery Assistant whose role is to guide, support and mentor clients on utilizing newly learned skills to become self-sustaining in their own recovery process. Hired Power realized the potential criticism and discomfort associated with providing a Certified Personal Recovery Assistant. Criticism such as: “Why should someone pay for a mentor? How can we trust a stranger? Living with someone and maintaining a professional therapeutic relationship is not possible.” Hired Power Transitional Recovery Services answers these issues by providing a professional, supervised team approach. This team brings more than just a professional in the home, it creates a foundation of recovery in the daily living environment and in the individual’s community. “Creating a certification process requiring addiction recovery experience, education, extensive background checks, and daily supervision, staff must be carefully screened and prepared,” states Nanette Zumwalt president and CEO of Hired Power Transitional Recovery Services. Hired Power is the only professional service provider to establish this certification, creating the highest standards during the most vulnerable times in the recovery process.
With all the media attention and gossip-style headlines, this service can appear costly, lucrative and glamorous. Maintaining the highest degree of professionalism, confidentiality and reliability, Hired Power Transitional Recovery Services makes every effort to provide services not only to the high-profile and executive leadership teams but to all individuals transitioning into the early phases of recovery. Zumwalt says, “The majority of people with substance abuse issues are not celebrities. Most of our clients are businessmen and women or their family members, young adults, and occasionally adolescents who have developed chronic substance-abuse and addiction problems.”
Hired Power Certified Personal Recovery Assistants recognize the severity of the disease of alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders, and help bring a daily awareness that lives are at stake.
Below is an article I found interesting about a new form of drug testing. Check it out to learn more!
by Shannon Brys
Two retirees from the national Israeli police department, Yaacov Shoham and Baruch Glattstein, have developed a way around the confrontation aspect of drug testing.
Their product, which has been utilized across the world over the past five years by customs, military, and other law enforcement, is now sitting on retail shelves in the United States. Shoham, CEO of IDenta Corporation and founder of the Touch&Know drug testing kit, says that these kits are unique in that they test substances, and not people.
Traditional testing kits, known as ‘biologicals,’ require a hair, urine, or saliva sample, and then report whether the person has the questioned drugs in their system. Touch&Know allows a concerned person to test a powder, tablet, or plant he or she found in order to determine what the drug is.
“The chemicals/reagents are looking for specific types of chemical structures and certain atoms in certain positions of space. And if those atoms and those positions of space are there, the reagents in the kit will react with that substance and turn color,” says Shoham.
The paramount part in this, according to Shoham, is that this tool serves as a non-confrontational first-step in the sequence.
Confrontations can be intimidating for both parties and the denial and excuses come soon after. By testing a substance, the concerned person assumes the authority to tell the drug user that the substance has been tested and confirmed, and that the user needs to look into getting help.
“It’s not about telling someone you don’t trust them and asking them for a bodily fluid. You now have the evidence to move this process forward,” explains Shoham.
Of course, this approach can be applied only if someone actually finds a substance in another person’s possession.
As the Chief Scientist, Glattstein invented and continues to develop these various illicit drug detectors. The first detectors created were for cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Over the years, he has added to his repertoire which now includes many illicit drugs, explosives, and precursors.
Testing for precursors — the raw materials used by clandestine laboratories to create/manufacture the illicit drugs — is necessary for customs, police departments, and military because they are not only interested in finding the final products, but also the ingredients that are used in the process.
The test itself is held inside a patented hard plastic casing that the founder of the company says is extremely safe and easy to use.
“Whether the user is a parent, police officer, treatment center staff member — it is so simple to use it that there is no education or training required to use it,” explains Shoham.
The user does not have to access a laboratory, measure chemicals, or worry about the risk of the chemicals becoming explosive or breaking through the packaging to cut or burn the skin, he says.
The general screening kit by Touch&Know tests for up to 21 kinds of illicit drugs, including: heroin, cocaine/crack, Ecstasy, ketamine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine.
In addition to the general screening kit, the developers have created kits that test for specific drugs. The company’s research has led the team to be able to create applicators that can test on trace amounts by wiping down the surface.
Another recent development is a test with the capability to detect synthetic drugs. Touch&Know’s chemicals test for many of the synthetics that exist, including bath salts, which are testing by the general screening kit.
“What’s happening is the scientists who work for these illegal labs, they keep changing the structure of the synthetics. Because when the government deems something as illegal, the scientists go in and put a couple extra carbon atoms, maybe an oxygen atom, and change the structure. So they are rapidly evolving, but the general screening kits on the shelves at retailers will detect many of them,” says Shoham.
Because of these trends, IDenta is constantly in R&D to capture the latest modifications.
The kits available today at retail stores in the United States include the general screening test and an additional test for marijuana/hashish. The marijuana testing kit was included because “there’s so much of that going around,” according to Shoham.
Aside from the retail market, the company packages the tests for professionals as well. These come in groups of 10 and include tests for LSD, marijuana/hashish, heroin, and cocaine/crack.
Expanding around the world
Touch&Know testing kits became available in Walgreens outlets across the country in early October 2012. Anticipating all going well in the US, the IDenta team is already in discussions with representatives to sell to retail markets in Australia, India, France and the UK.
Obesity is a huge problem in our country. Please read the following article I found in the Herald sun. It is on addiction and obesity as an addiction.-Ally
- Catherine Lambert
- Herald Sun
OBESITY should be seen as an eating disorder and not a lifestyle disease, according to a visiting psychiatrist.
Dr Isabella Melca, a psychiatrist at Rio de Janeiro State University, said people who do not understand when they have eaten enough have an eating disorder.
“Just as sufferers of anorexia nervosa have a distorted perception of their bodies and an emotional relationship with food, so do people with obesity,” Dr Melca said.
“To feel good, they eat. If they have a problem they eat and then they feel guilty which they can’t control so to feel better again, they eat.”
Dr Melca said while modern life is structured entirely around food and lifestyle plays a part in the increasing incidence of the disorder, people with obesity suffer dopamine addiction.
Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. Foods high in fat and sugar increase levels of dopamine.
Instead of food, Dr Melca encourages her patients to look to other sources of pleasure in their lives.
“I ask them what they can do for themselves, other than their job and their relationships, that makes them feel good,” she said.
“It can be anything other than food. This trains the brain to seek reward in other, more constructive, areas of the patient’s life.”
Drug addiction as a disease. Found this article and wanted to share about the new research. It is interesting how Researchers watch how regions of the brain react to drug-related photos and predict which addicts will succeed with certain treatments and which will relapse. Read below!
WILLIAM BENDER, Daily News Staff Writerbenderw@phillynews.com, 215-854-5255
MATTHEW ELLIS started popping painkillers as a teenager and switched to heroin a few years later. It was simple economics, and a common progression among today’s opiate addicts – the recreational drug dabbler turned full-time junkie.
That’s usually when the nightmare takes hold. You start living life one injection at a time. Everything else – career, family, self-respect – is prioritized behind the next little wax-paper bag of dope.
“I was hopelessly addicted to heroin,” said Ellis, 25, a carpenter’s assistant and father of two young boys.
Ellis, who lives in Deptford, N.J., repeatedly tried to get clean. He attempted to taper off his habit with Suboxone. He also did about seven rounds of treatment, both outpatient and inpatient. Some of his stints lasted months. But the drug seemed to stalk him from within.
“It would get in my head and stay in my head until I did it,” Ellis said.
Today, after enrolling in a clinical study at the University of Pennsylvania, Ellis has three months of heroin-free time under his belt. Neuroscientists at the university’s Center for Studies of Addiction are using MRI research to understand how opiates hijacked the reward system in Ellis’ brain.
By watching how regions of the brain react to drug-related photos, or cues, researchers believe they can predict which addicts will succeed with certain treatments and which will relapse – a hypothesis that shatters the stubborn misconception that conquering addiction is solely a matter of “willpower.”
“You can be a fortuneteller,” said Anna Rose Childress, a psychologist who directs the center’s cocaine-related MRI research. “But it’s not just knowledge. It’s not just pretty brain pictures. It’s hope.”
The goal is to use the research to develop more effective treatments and, perhaps eventually, personalized medicine tailored to each addict’s mental strengths and vulnerabilities, which are shaped by genetics, life experiences and drug use.
They are trying, in other words, to find a cure for addiction.
“We’re interested in seeing if, among the people that do better, their brains are different now,” said Teresa Franklin, a neuroscientist who directs the nicotine and marijuana MRI studies at Penn.
It’s crucial research in the U.S., where nearly 22 million people need treatment for drug or alcohol dependency, and where policymakers have been slow to respond to the emerging science about addiction. In America’s so-called “war on drugs,” think of these neuroscientists as the CIA. They’re gathering intelligence about the enemy that could be invaluable down the road.
“This is not something that gets better in 12 weeks of treatment. This is a lifelong process where the brain has to be retrained,” said Franklin, who lost her brother to drugs in the 1990s. “Just as if you have diabetes or high blood pressure or a heart condition, you have to change your lifestyle and you may need medication.”
Free will vs. biology
“Addiction is a disease.”
You may have heard the phrase, but what does it mean? Maybe you think it’s an excuse. Maybe you or a relative has managed to quit drugs or alcohol without treatment, and you figure anyone can do it just as easily.
Penn’s addiction experts would beg to differ. Yes, a substance abuser must actively resist the urge to keep using. And, of course, he or she must want to stop. But willpower and desire are usually two of several parts of the equation.
“It’s very much, at the root, biological,” Childress said.
For one drug or alcohol user, changing behavior could be as easy as stopping a new car on a flat road. For others, it could be as difficult as stopping an 18-wheeler with failing breaks from barreling down a steep hill. The level of addiction can vary widely, as can the mental tools a person has to combat it, Childress said.
“Some people may have different equipment. In the lab, we call it ‘frontal endowment,’ ” Childress said of participants whose brains are best equipped to control impulses.
Childress said the struggle can be traced to the interplay between two regions of the brain – the ancient “go” system deep within the brain that drives the motivation for rewards and survival, and the “stop” system toward the front of the brain that deals in consequences.
“The ‘stop’ system is always playing catch-up,” Childress said.
At Penn, neuroscientists are studying how addicts’ brains respond to cues, like a heroin needle or crushed pill, to see if they can predict how addicts will fare with a particular course of treatment.
“Our hypothesis is if their frontal ‘stop’ regions are not working very well and aren’t communicating very well with regions of the brain that say, ‘Go, go, go’ – for whatever: sex, food, drugs – that those are the people who are going to do poorly in treatment,” Franklin said.
Brain scans show that an addict’s reward system will light up even in response to subliminal drug cues. One such cue used in the study is an image of crack rocks that flashes on-screen for a few milliseconds while the addict is viewing a photo of a neutral object, such as a stapler. The addicts cannot consciously see the drugs because they flashed before them far too quickly – all they report seeing is the stapler – but parts of the brain were already reacting as if they’d consciously seen the crack rocks, Franklin said.
“If we can manipulate that response with medication or behavioral therapy, that’s our goal,” Franklin said.
Overcoming withdrawal symptoms is also a hurdle for addicts, but Penn’s research has shown that the brain can tell a person to pursue a substance even when it’s not “needed.” Some cigarette smokers’ brains responded strongly to smoking-related cues even immediately after they had smoked a cigarette and their body was not craving nicotine.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people think after withdrawal you’re home free, but that’s not the case,” Franklin said. “The brain has other mechanisms.”
Robert Lindsey, president and chief executive officer of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said the Penn research is “incredibly important” in correcting the public’s understanding of addiction and reforming failed criminal-justice policies.
“It’s a chronic, progressive, fatal if untreated, and genetically predisposed illness,” Lindsey said of addiction. “It’s biochemical, plain and simple. But, just like diabetes and heart disease and other illnesses, there is personal responsibility for recovery.”
Ellis, the recovering heroin addict participating in the Penn study, was put on Vivitrol, which blocks the effects of heroin by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. Daniel Langleben, the psychiatrist directing the prescription painkiller- and heroin-related MRI research, said Vivitrol appears to reduce cravings, as well.
“It looks like the brain response of the addicted person is changing during this treatment,” Langleben said. “After about a month and a half, many of our research subjects begin to become indifferent to the drug cues. They start reporting a lack of craving when they see the images.”
For Ellis, that has made all the difference. Instead of being consumed by thoughts of finding heroin, he said he’ll occasionally think of it, but finds it much easier to get out of his mind.
“It works,” he said of Vivitrol. “I’m really surprised. I think they should open a bunch of Vivitrol clinics instead of methadone clinics.”
Franklin is also experimenting with the use of the muscle relaxer Baclofen to reduce the cravings among cigarette and marijuana smokers. The results have been promising.
“It’s amazing,” Franklin said. “I can give somebody a dose of Baclofen and watch their reward systems just calm right down.”
Franklin said the team’s research could potentially be applicable to controlling other compulsive behaviors, such as gambling and overeating. If medication is needed to fight addiction, then so be it, she said.
“Some people, so far, we haven’t been able to help. They don’t even come to our center – They end up dead. My brother was one of those. He would never go for treatment,” Franklin said. “One of the reasons people don’t go for treatment is they don’t believe it works. We need to get stuff out there that does work.
“But people have to want it,” she added. “They really have to want treatment.”
Anorexia symptoms fall into five main categories. Understanding the symptoms of Anorexia is essential for sufferers and families. What’s really important is that you understand that these are symptoms of the disorder and not defects of you as a person.
- People with anorexia are often obsessed with food. They may wander the aisles of the supermarket, or spend hours Googling recipes or watching Top Chef.
- Another cognitive symptom of Anorexia is rigid rules, such as the weight of a serving of oatmeal the person allows themselves to eat, or the number of ab crunches they must do per day. The person may feel extremely upset if there is a possibility of not being able to act in accordance with their rules.
- Obsessionality caused by anorexia often extends beyond eating topics. For example, increased perfectionism around work or study.
- Difficulties with concentrating and decision making.
- Denial of having a problem. People with anorexia often don’t recognize the seriousness of their problem.
- Shame about having a problem. Anorexia often strikes previously sensible and level-headed people who were not expecting to develop a “mental disorder.”
- Low mood.
- Anxiety about gaining weight or about eating or exercise routines being disrupted.
- The person may not be anxious about their health, or they may be anxious about symptoms such as hair loss but not about the possibility of dying from low weight (due to denial of the seriousness of the problem, as mentioned previously).
- The majority of people with with Anorexia start binge eating at some point. These binges may be “subjective binges” (where the person feels out of control but doesn’t eat an excessive amount, such as eats two slices of pizza), or “objective binges” (such as eating a whole pizza).
- Eating rituals, such as always eating in the same place with the same utensils.
- Avoiding social eating.
- Wearing baggy clothes.
- Lying about eating (e.g., person saying they’ve eaten lunch when they haven’t. Includes lying to therapists).
- Checking rituals such as checking thighs do not touch.
- Spending more time studying or working because difficulty concentrating reduces efficiency.
- Avoiding certain “forbidden foods”
People with anorexia often withdraw socially and sexually. Social withdrawal is often related to wanting to avoid public eating situations, but it can also be related to low mood, feelings of shame, or rigid food or exercise routines. For example, if the person does 2-3 hours of exercise per day they may even avoid going on an amazing vacation if they wouldn’t be able to do their exercise ritual.
Conflict can occur in family and romantic relationships due to the symptoms.
An individual’s physical symptoms of Anorexia need to be assessed by their physician. However, common physical symptoms include:
- hair loss
- lanugo (fine hair growing on the body such as on the face)
- slow heart rate and other heart damage
- bone density loss
- poor circulation and feeling cold all the time
- Experts disagree about how skinny someone needs to be to qualify for a diagnosis of Anorexia. Most often Body Mass Index of 17.5 is used, but other experts have proposed using BMI<19 provided all other criteria for the disorder are met. (Strict vs. lenient criteria for Anorexia)
- periods stopping or becoming irregular
Note that a single individual with Anorexia probably won’t have ALL of the above symptoms, but I’ve listed most of the common symptoms.
Dr. Sack has written a great article using examples we can really related to in an effort to describe how some can fly under the radar with addiction issues. He also does a great job detailing how to end the addictive cycle. Read the article below for more…
There’s a popular misconception that people choose one drug, one compulsion, one vice and stick with it for life, or at least until they find their way into recovery. More commonly, people find what works at the time and then move onto the next thing. I call this lesser-known but equally troubled breed the “below-the-radar addict.”
Similar to the high-functioning addict, the below-the-radar addict has a problem that’s often overlooked by their friends, family and coworkers, but is a serious problem nonetheless. This is the person who jumps from compulsion to compulsion, getting one mildly under control only to act out in another way.
Take Ann, for example. She drank too much in her 20s but “outgrew” that habit, and then went on to binge-eat her way to a 40-pound weight gain. After trying a few fad diets, she decided the only way to lose weight quickly was to get a doctor to write a prescription for ADHD medication.
Now, Ann has lost the weight, but because the stimulants interfere with her sleep she’s also taking sleeping pills regularly. Also, since losing weight, she’s obsessed with buying clothes and has gotten herself into quite a bit of debt outfitting her new figure. Just a few days without surfing the Web for a cute new this or that makes her feel antsy so she finds herself searching for something new to help her cope with the anxiety and emptiness she always seems to feel.
One compulsive behavior morphs into the next – a phenomenon sometimes called cross-addiction or addiction transfer – and the cycle continues because Ann isn’t addressing the underlying issues. She just moves from one coping mechanism to another, never realizing the true extent of her problem.
Addiction: The Ultimate Shapeshifter
In recent years, we’ve moved toward a view of addiction that encompasses not only drugs and alcohol but also compulsive behaviors such as gambling, eating, sex, work and spending. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction broadly to include “process addictions,” a view that is backed by research showing that certain pleasurable behaviors affect the same reward centers of the brain as drugs of abuse.
If your brain is wired for addiction, vigilance is required with every potentially addictive substance or behavior. Even if you’ve only struggled with alcohol in the past, other mood-altering substances (even certain over-the-counter medications or those prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate medical condition) could awaken the “sleeping tiger” of addiction. This is why, even years into recovery, alcoholics who “only” usemarijuana or try to drink in moderation end up relapsing. It also helps to explain why you can spot a 12-Step meeting by the number of people chain smoking outside or downing pots of coffee.
Similarly, recovering addicts may find themselves in a chronic relapse cycle with no obvious trigger, only to discover later that sex andrelationships are fueling their return to drugs. Or, like Ann, perhaps they turn to shopping or food or some other behavior that gives them a “high,” all the while celebrating their usually short-lived sobriety.
Ending the Addictive Cycle
Once you’ve struggled with one addiction, you are at greater risk of developing another. So is it ever possible to be free from addiction? Addiction can’t be cured, but like other chronic diseases, it can be successfully managed.
Those who understand the chronic nature of the disease are in the best position to recognize when addictive patterns resurface in cleverly disguised ways. Even if you’re in recovery, in good times and bad you’ll crave a familiar and dependable high, you’ll want to escape, but you have to make a conscious effort to manage loneliness, boredom and stress by drawing on the skills that helped you into recovery.
Addiction is more than a disease, it’s a lifestyle. Lasting change only happens when you address the core issues driving you to seek comfort or pleasure from a destructive source outside yourself. In some cases, the core issue may be an underlying mental health issue such as depression or anxiety that must be managed alongside the addiction (rather than treating each issue separately).
Whatever the cause, figuring out your triggers, monitoring your emotions and taking action at the first signs of addictive thinking or behavior are necessary to prevent cross-addiction and relapse. A social network of (sober) supporters, often in the form of friends, family, a therapist or a support group, can help you recognize budding problems and intervene if necessary.
Life “below the radar” can be fraught with difficulties. Others may think you have it all together. You may have even convinced yourself. But even if you think you’re not an addict, or you’ve found your way into recovery from one addiction, you’re not truly free if any mood-altering substance or compulsive behavior is impeding your life.