research

Cannabis Use Linked to Anxiety

cannabis useAddiction is a mental health condition that often occurs with another disorder, such as depression or anxiety. When two conditions coincide, a patient is said to have a co-occurring disorder. It’s crucial that the addiction and co-occurring disorder (otherwise known as a dual diagnosis) receive treatment at the same time; concurrent therapy improves a patient’s ability to achieve long-term recovery.

Although treatable, there is much still unknown about mental health conditions; why they occur in specific people at certain times in their life. Substance use disorder is a disease that develops over time, whereas anxiety or depression can seem like it sprung out of nowhere. There are times when one’s addiction predates their co-occurring disorder and other instances when the reverse is the case.

Untreated anxiety can lead individuals down a path of desperate measures to find relief. Common symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, poor concentration, or trembling. A desire to calm such symptoms is only natural, and mind-altering substances sometimes help accomplish that task, at first. Interestingly, people who meet the criteria for anxiety disorder often use marijuana. The link persists despite the fact that cannabis use has been known to cause paranoia. Nevertheless, a large contingent of people with anxiety disorders uses cannabis regularly.

Problematic Marijuana Use and Childhood Anxiety

A team of researchers from Duke Health studied the link between childhood anxiety and problematic cannabis use, according to a press release. Using data from 1,229 participants in the Great Smoky Mountains Study, the research team tracked participants’ patterns of cannabis use from the college years (ages 19-21) into adulthood (ages 26-30). The findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Of the participants, 7 percent were persistent users, limited users (13 percent), and delayed users (4 percent). Persistent users could have started using “pot” at the age of 9, using the drug significantly into their early 30’s, the article reports. The researchers found that 27 percent of persistent users had anxiety disorders when they were children.

“This suggests that a focus on mental health and well-being could go a long way to prevent the most problematic use,” said lead author Sherika Hill, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty associate at the Duke University School of Medicine.

Aiming Prevention Efforts

Substance use prevention efforts have long focused on adolescents, but the research indicates that adults deserve attention, too. It’s unclear why somebody with an anxiety disorder would begin using marijuana problematically for the first time in adulthood, but a small group of people does. As cannabis laws ease, adults without any history of marijuana use may turn to the drug. Substance use is not a treatment for mental illness; marijuana can be habit-forming and lead to addiction—often requiring help. Hill said:

“A lot of current interventions and policies in the U.S. are aimed at early adolescent users. We have to start thinking about how we are going to address problematic use that may arise in a growing population of older users.”

If you suffer from anxiety and are using marijuana problematically, please contact Synergy Group Services.

Marijuana Use Prevention Efforts

marijuanaMarijuana is a popular drug in the United States, indicative by the fact that it is the most used illicit narcotic in this country. As of late, discussions about drugs have been geared towards prescription opioids and heroin—in light of the ongoing epidemic. Yet, it is worth keeping in mind that while marijuana is a far cry from opioids, it is still a drug that can have negative effects on one’s health and lead to addiction. The demographic of greatest concern is young people, especially adolescents.

In the science community, it is widely held that teenage cannabis use can have a serious impact on the brain. This is due to the fact that the brain of adolescents is still developing. While preventing teens from using cannabis is a top concern, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that in the last year, marijuana was used by:

  • Roughly 6.5 Percent of Eighth-Graders
  • 14.8 percent of 10th-Graders
  • 21.3 Percent of 12th-Graders

NIDA’s findings indicate that cannabis prevention measures need to start much earlier. But when? A team of researchers from the University of Florida (UF) took it upon themselves to pinpoint when teens are most like to begin using cannabis, MNT reports. Their findings could increase the success of preventative measures in the future. The research was published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

The findings of the study, led by Dr. Xinguang Chen, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UF, showed that adolescents are at risk of initiating cannabis use by the age of 11, according to the article. The risk of using cannabis peaks at the age of 16. The researchers determined those ages by looking at data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey involved 26,659 adolescents and young adults—ages 12 to 21.

“Our findings demonstrate the need to start drug education much earlier, in the fourth or fifth grade,” said Dr. Xinguang Chen. “This gives us an opportunity to make a preemptive strike before they actually start using marijuana.”

At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in treating addiction, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and give you the tools necessary for sustaining long term abstinence from all mind altering substances.

Alcohol Treatment Drug Ineffective

alcoholismThere are a number of drugs prescribed to people with alcohol use disorders. In the United States, the use of Vivitrol (naltrexone) has become quite common for the treatment of both opioid use disorder and alcoholism. With some patients, Vivitrol has been found to reduce their craving for alcohol. Used in conjunction with antabuse, which makes someone ill if they consume alcohol—those recovering from alcohol dependence and/or addiction can have a better chance of abstaining from booze in early recovery.

Addiction recovery is no easy task, and if there is something that can help reduce the risk of relapse, it is often advised to utilize such a resource. Researchers continue to develop new drugs to help mitigate the urges to drink, something that is particularly useful when it comes to alcohol. Unlike many other commonly abused drugs, alcohol can be found in grocery stores or the corner market. Magazines, television and the Internet bombards people with advertisements portraying only the good side of alcohol, they fail to express the slippery slope that can accompany continued alcohol use.

With all medications, extensive research is supposed to be conducted—followed by clinical trials to determine the drug’s efficacy. This is to insure that the drug works and figure out which side effects patients may expect. Unfortunately, the aforementioned steps are not always taken, leading to patients being given ineffective drugs. Such may be the case with a medication prescribed in Europe to reduce cravings for alcohol.

In 2013, nalmefene, sold under the brand name Selincro, was approved in Europe to reduce drinking. However, a group of researchers identified some issues with the clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

After analyzing the clinical trials conducted on nalmefene, the researchers from the University of Stirling found that it was impossible to determine how effective that drug was for those with heavy drinking disorders, according to the article. At best, the drug would reduce a patient’s average alcohol consumption by one beverage.

Faulty Recommendation

“It’s vitally important that we know that prescribed drugs are effective in treating the intended problem,” said Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, a pharmacist and Lecturer in Alcohol Studies at the University’s Institute for Social Marketing. “In this case, we found problems with the registration, design, analysis and reporting of these clinical trials which did not prevent the drug being licensed or recommended for use.”

It is worth noting that after the drug Selincro was approved it was recommended by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It would seem that they may need to evaluate such a recommendation with these new findings.

Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery

Those who have unhealthy relationships with alcohol put their life at serious risk. Heavy use can lead to an alcohol use disorder which, if left untreated, inhibits one’s ability to function and can lead to a number of serious health conditions—some of which can be fatal.

At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in treating alcoholism, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and give you the tools necessary for sustaining long term abstinence from all mind altering substances.

Smokers Struggle On The Job Market

smokersWe have known for a long time the dangers associated with tobacco use, including a number of forms of cancer and heart disease. As a result, it is much harder to be a smoker today than it once was; cigarettes are much more expensive and there are far fewer places that allow smoking. Efforts to reduce smoking rates in the United States have been successful; smoking rates have dropped dramatically over the course of the last few decades. Nevertheless, there are still an estimated 40 million adults in the United States who currently smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While smoking cigarettes comes at a great cost to one’s health and pocketbook, it turns out that those who smoke cigarettes experience another expense as well. New research indicates that smokers struggle on the job market, and remain unemployed longer than nonsmokers, CBS News reports. The study was conducted by researchers from Stanford University and the findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“There’s been good knowledge of the harms of smoking in terms of health, but it’s also important to appreciate the fiscal harms of tobacco use,” said lead study author Judith Prochaska, PhD, MPH.

What’s more, the researchers found that even when smokers manage to find employment – they earn much less than their nonsmoking peers, according to the article. The research involved 131 unemployed smokers and 120 unemployed nonsmokers. Only 27 percent of smokers found a job after a year’s time, compared with 56 percent of nonsmokers; of those smokers who found a job, they averaged $5 less per hour, compared to their nonsmoking peers.

“The health harms of smoking have been established for decades,” said Prochaska in a news release, “and our study here provides insight into the financial harms of smoking both in terms of lower re-employment success and lower wages.”

There are plenty of incentives to quit smoking, as is clear by the mountains of research that has been conducted over the years. However, it is often said that nicotine is one of the most difficult addictive substances to quit, the reason for which are varied but it is possible to quit. The best shot of quitting usually comes by way of behavioral therapy in conjunction with smoking cessation products, such as nicotine gum or patches.

It is worth pointing out that research conducted recently has found that those in addiction recovery who smoke cigarettes are at greater risk of relapse than those who do not smoke. If you are in recovery and still smoke, a serious consideration of quitting may be in order.

Cocaine Destroys Brain Cells

cocaineWhile we don’t hear much these days about cocaine because opioid abuse has taken the spotlight for over a decade, many people still use and abuse the drug. In the 1980s cocaine was all the rage, and for a time Florida was ground zero for all the cocaine that came into this country from Colombian cartels. Today, the majority of the cocaine used in the United States is brought into the country by the Mexican cartels, and while people may use less cocaine now than in decades past – the drug remains as one of the most popular drugs among young adults.

The drug elicits short-term euphoric feelings, increased energy and talkativeness. People high on the drug have heightened heart rates and blood pressure. The drug loses its effect relatively quickly, which causes users to do more and more to keep the desired feeling. Just because the euphoria diminishes does not mean the drug is out of one’s system, continued use can lead to emergencies.

In recent years there have been a number of studies conducted regarding the effects of the drug on the brain, some of which focused on finding new drugs for treating cocaine addiction. A new study has found that heavy cocaine use can have a serious impact on the brain, actually causing brain cells to destroy themselves – through a process called autophagy, Medical News Today reports. The research will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Brain cells have built-in mechanism for self-destruction, which are necessary if cells have problems and stop working properly, according to the article. When cells digest and recycle waste matter, it is known as autophagy; heavy use of cocaine can cause autophagy to kick into overdrive. On top of disposing of cell waste, the substance can cause autophagy to eat essential cell components.

“Autophagy is the housekeeper that takes out the trash – it’s usually a good thing,” says Dr. Prasun Guha, a postdoctoral student at Johns Hopkins University. But cocaine makes the housekeeper throw away really important things, like mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell.”

The researchers at Johns Hopkins hope that further research will result in the development of treatments that protect not only adults, but babies as well. If you are struggling with addiction, please contact Synergy Group Services.

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