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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.

Alcohol Use Disorder In America

alcohol use disorderOpioid use disorder should be great cause for concern among Americans. Current data shows that as many as 142 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose every day. However, America’s greatest foe has long come in the form of a liquid—alcohol. New research shows that drinking and alcohol use disorder rates in the United States are troubling and need to be addressed.

With the country fixated on opioids, it is hard to devote much energy to any other substance use related issue. But, while lawmakers and health experts fixate on prescription opioids and heroin, alcohol has continued stealing lives in relative darkness. Therefore, it is so important to remember that people misuse alcohol more than any other substance. It is not just the fact that millions of people drink regularly. It is that millions of Americans drink regularly in seriously harmful ways, such as binge drinking.

Great efforts and amounts of money have been spent to educate young people about the dangers of heavy imbibing. Accompanied by a long list of health conditions that can arise from high rates of consumption, including addiction. Left unchecked, people who binge drink regularly are at a far greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking is often defined as having four drinks for women and 5 for men, during a two-hour period.

21st Century Alcohol Use

As many as 30 million Americans binge drink at least once a week, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry reveals. Just for perspective, that’s more than the population of each state, but for California, SF GATE reports. About the same number of people report being dependent on the substance or abusing alcohol.

Opioid statistics show that somewhere between 2 and 3 million Americans have an opioid use disorder. That number is likely a low ball. But whatever the actual number is it’s still a far cry from alcohol use disorder rates in America. The study showed that adult alcohol use rose in every demographic, especially among:

  • Minorities
  • Older People
  • People With Lower Incomes
  • And Those With Less Education

“This should be a big wake-up call,” says David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved with the research. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.”

In 2001-02, 8.5 percent of survey respondents reported alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the article. That figure rose to around 12.7 percent in 2012-13, a 10.5 million person increase. With such high numbers, greater focus needs to be placed on the impact this will have on society. The cost of life is staggering.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Roughly one-fifth of people with an alcohol use disorder have ever been treated, according to Bridget Grant, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and lead author of the paper. Even though alcoholism is a mental illness, too, about 60 percent of people with depression get some kind of treatment. Without treatment, the outcome is never good.

If you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services for help. We can assist in breaking the cycle of addiction and impart the skills necessary for living a life in recovery.

Addiction: Changing Reward-Motivated Behavior

addictionAll of us make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions every day of the week. Most decisions are, for the most part, inconsequential. Such as which TV show you decide to watch tonight, or which route you will take on your daily jog. But there are some decisions that we make that can have grave outcomes, especially if you are in recovery for addiction.

Addiction is a mental health disorder that is typified by making decisions that result in actions that are damaging to one’s health. Even when one is aware that their decisions are in fact harmful, the reward or the expectation of some kind of reward (i.e. euphoria) is often enough to counter an alternative choice. Try as one might, breaking the cycle of addiction is extremely difficult and often times requires the assistance of detox and substance use disorder treatment centers. With the right tools and coping skills in place, one can avoid relapse down the road.

Reward-Motivated Behavior

In everyone’s brain there are several organic chemicals that act as neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and dopamine. When it comes to the latter, dopamine plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. And, it turns out that dopamine, and manipulating the level of dopamine in the brain could actually alter the decisions people make, Salk Institute reports. The findings from a study published in the journal Neuron, could have serious implications in treating people who have difficulty putting a stop to repetitive actions, like addicts and alcoholics.

The researchers say that by measuring the level of dopamine right before a decision, gives them [researcher] the ability to predict the outcome with accuracy, according to the report. In rodent models, the research team was able to alter the animals’ dopamine levels in the brain, using a process called optogenetics. The technique activates or inhibits neurons with light, thus increasing or decreasing dopamine levels, giving researchers the ability to dictate the choices the rodents made. Xin Jin, an assistant professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory and the paper’s senior author, said:

“We think that if we could restore the appropriate dopamine dynamics—in Parkinson’s disease, OCD and drug addiction—people might have better control of their behavior. This is an important step in understanding how to accomplish that.”

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

Addiction is a mental health disorder; one that is progressive in nature. Every bad habit starts with a decision to do something. Such options, overtime move away from the realm of a choice and into the realm of need. Mind altering substances in effect rewire how you process and decide to do things, which is why one can make decisions that you know could be fatal—without having ideations of suicide.

Treating addiction is a process involving both time and hard work in order regain one’s ability to make decisions in one’s best interest. Without making a serious commitment to alter the course of one’s life, utilizing the support of a recovery program, the ends are typically the same. At Synergy Group Services our holistic treatment program is designed to draw from many evidence based therapeutic processes giving each individual access to the modalities that will be most effective for them. Blending evidence-based practices addresses the entire person, including their mind, body, and spirit.

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.

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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