How Dangerous Are Smart Drugs?

Smart drugs are stimulant prescription medications that people use to enhance their mental performance. Smart drugs can make you feel more awake, more motivated and improve aspects of memory and learning. Like all stimulants, however, they pose serious health risks, and abusing smart drugs can lead to heart problems, psychosis, paranoia, and addiction.

Why Do People Use Smart Drugs?

Smart drugs such as dextroamphetamine (Adderall®) and methylphenidate (Ritalin®) increase the signaling of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that produces feelings of euphoria and may enhance cognitive functions.

Doctors prescribe Adderall and Ritalin for certain psychiatric disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, there is a growing trend of the misuse of smart drugs by healthy people without any medical need. This includes:

  • Professionals to increase their productivity
  • Older people to slow declining cognition
  • High school and college students to improve academic performance.  Research suggests that in North America, up to 25% of students may have used smart drugs

What Are The Short-Term Dangers of Smart Drugs?

While smart drugs may cause short-term improvements in brain function, they can also have uncomfortable and dangerous side effects. 

Common adverse effects include headaches, dizziness, nervousness, and insomnia, though some people have more extreme reactions. Taking smart drugs can cause psychotic episodes, extreme paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

Taking high doses of smart drugs also puts you at risk of an overdose. Stimulant overdoses, while not normally fatal, can be extremely dangerous. You may develop a dangerously high body temperature, fast or irregular heartbeat, cardiovascular failure, and have seizures.

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Smart Drugs?

While it may be tempting to use smart drugs to help you do better in college or be more productive at work, repeatedly using smart drugs can lead to a range of severe health problems. 

Using smart drugs may lead to psychiatric disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. These conditions can have an immense impact on your mental well-being and decrease your productivity and performance in the long run. 

Repeated use of smart drugs can also lead to addiction. When you take smart drugs, it activates the reward pathway in your brain, producing urges to seek and reuse the substance. It also interferes with your ability to resist these urges. These effects may be stronger on a developing brain, putting young people at greater risk.

Addiction is a serious illness that can be devastating to your health, work, and social life. It is a chronic brain disease that causes physical changes in the brain, which can be long-lasting or even permanent. Recovering from addiction requires commitment and support, usually from a rehabilitation center or professional treatment program.

Do Smart Drugs Improve Mental Performance?

Most people misuse smart drugs to try and improve their mental performance. However, scientific research offers contradictory evidence on their effectiveness. Several studies suggest that for healthy individuals, smart drugs do little to improve most cognitive functions. 

A systematic review of studies found that Modafinil did increase wakefulness and attention, even in healthy individuals. However, it also made individuals feel more confident, making it difficult to assess its impact on other aspects of cognitive performance. 

Similarly, a study on the effects of Adderall on young people found that there was no improvement in cognitive functions such as working memory, control, creativity, and intelligence for most people. However, as with Modafinil, participants did perceive their mental skills to be enhanced. This overconfidence may hinder someone’s ability to complete tasks and work effectively, outweighing any benefits of the drug.

Smart drug abuse and addiction can cause serious damage to your health, social life, and work performance. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients tools to use as they move forward in a sober lifestyle. 

Our treatment program focuses on healing the whole person and not just addiction. Our individualized recovery plans are rooted in the 12-step philosophy and provide a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care, and equine-assisted therapy. 

Our treatment facilities are located near the southern shore of New Jersey, allowing us to provide optimal healing and relaxation throughout your stay. If you struggle with addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information.


How Problematic Is Marijuana Addiction?

Whether it’s called weed, pot, grass, bud, herb, or any of its numerous slang names, marijuana and its main psychoactive chemical, THC, is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States.

New Jersey has legalized marijuana for recreational use, but there are many persistent misunderstandings about this drug’s addictive potential. Because of this, marijuana addiction is systematically undertreated. In 2015, four million people were diagnosed with a use disorder for this drug, but only 138,000 sought treatment.

Use of Marijuana

Marijuana is the broken or ground dried flowers of the cannabis sativa plant that users usually smoke or mix into food. However, there has also been a sharp increase in the abuse of this plant’s resin, a substance with a higher THC concentration that produces more intense highs.

The short-term effects of marijuana intoxication include:

  • Feelings of happiness
  • Mild hallucinations
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Increased appetite
  • Reduced reflexes

Users generally experience significantly reduced response times and motor skills when under the effects of the drug. Nationwide, marijuana use is the cause of the second-highest number of hospital visits of any illicit substance - largely due to an increased risk of accidents. In 2011, 456,000 emergency room patient reports in the United States mentioned marijuana.

Marijuana Changes the Brain

Areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus, rely on an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter called anandamide for some of their dopamine production. However, with frequent use, the brain adapts and reduces the production of its anandamide - messengers we need for normal functioning.

At the same time, the continuous abuse of this drug seems to alter and harm this region of the brain. The hippocampus – which is responsible for memory formation and information processing - seems to shrink with prolonged heavy use. This can lead to very worrying changes in cognition, especially in young people.

Eventually, the use of marijuana produces cross-sensitivity. This means that the brain has adapted to the drug, and the groundwork has been laid for dependence and addiction to other psychoactive substances. In addition, there has been a growing body of evidence that corroborates marijuana’s status as a gateway drug, especially in long-term studies of teenage users.

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana use disorder is a clinically diagnosed condition that describes the compulsive use of the drug even when people want to stop or when it harms a user’s life. Experts estimate that about 30% of people who use marijuana in some form have a degree of diagnosable substance use disorder.

Heavy users of the drug can go into withdrawal when they can’t access or cease using the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal from marijuana include:

  • Mood and sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Physical discomfort
  • Restlessness

Why Seek Marijuana Addiction Treatment?

Studies have begun to illuminate exactly how harmful long-term marijuana use can be for mental health. Eventually, THC exposure may even speed up the aging of the brain through the loss of neurons.

Studies looking at marijuana abuse disorder in adolescents found that continued use alters the connectivity and shrinks the size of areas in the brain involved in executive functioning (memory, learning, problem-solving, and impulse control).

Others have found that abuse, particularly in teenage years, is associated with significantly lower scores on IQ tests by mid-adulthood.

Two longitudinal studies have found that marijuana abuse causes cognitive impairment or loss of verbal memory functions in adults as well.

The loss of mental functioning means that people who use marijuana recreationally are likely to be functioning at a lower level even when they are not under its influence. These changes are continuous and incremental, making them harder to detect in oneself. Still, the evidence points to marijuana abuse drastically affecting our ability to achieve our potential in work, school, and relationships.

If you are worried marijuana use may be turning into an addiction, there are treatment programs that can help.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment in New Jersey

Enlightened Solutions is a licensed dual diagnosis treatment center that offers each client the tools they need to begin a sober life. We offer an effective individualized recovery program with a long-term focus rooted in the 12-step philosophy. Our treatment modalities include both talk therapy and holistic treatment practices, with the potential to continue in support groups long after you leave our center. If you would like help with marijuana addiction, reach out to us at (833) 801-5483.


How To Know if You Have a Problem With Alcohol

If you tend to spend a lot of time drinking, you might be worried about the possibility of alcohol addiction. There are a few tools you can use to gain insight into whether or not it is time to fix your relationship with drinking. In this post, we’ll talk about definitions, symptoms, and the AUDIT self-test.

Alcoholism, like any addiction, refers to a type of abuse that is happening compulsively. However, this definition is difficult to apply to oneself alone. With the cultural acceptance of social drinking, it’s often hard to draw the line between a free decision and a compulsion.

The definitions we choose need to include this nuance. For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) describes alcohol use disorder (AUD) as “problem drinking that becomes severe.” In other words, if the effects of alcohol in your life are bringing some serious consequences, it’s a clear warning sign that alcohol use has become compulsive and could be grounded in physical dependence.

There are some symptoms that can indicate that your drinking has gotten severe, including:

  • Drinking alone or secretively
  • Drinking more on occasions than you plan
  • Blacking out
  • Drinking ritualistically, (e.g. always after meals or work, or at set times of the day)
  • Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • Suffering withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)

AUDIT is the name of a questionnaire developed by the WHO to test for AUD and problem drinking. At the end of the day, although a health professional should oversee screening for alcoholism, you can still run through the questions at home to give yourself a better understanding of what is going on.

Before we start, we need to define what constitutes a single drink by the test’s parameters. AUDIT’s definitions are broadly similar to alcoholic units:

  • One twelve-ounce bottle or can of beer (maximum 5% alcohol)
  • One five-ounce glass of wine (approx. 12% alcohol)
  • One shot of liquor (1.5 ounces of approx. 40% alcohol)

 

1. How often do you drink alcohol?

  • a) Never (0)
  • b) Monthly or less (1)
  • c) 2-4 times per month (2)
  • d) 2-3 times per week (3)
  • e) 4 or more times a week (4)

2. How many standard drinks do you have when you typically drink?

  • a) 1-2 (0)
  • b) 3-4 (1)
  • c) 5-6 (2)
  • d) 7-9 (3)
  • e) 10+ (4)

3. How frequently do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?

  • a) Never (0)
  • b) Less than monthly (1)
  • c) Monthly (2)
  • d) Weekly (3)
  • e) Daily/almost daily (4)

4. How often during the past year have you struggled to stop drinking or found that you’re drinking more than you planned?

  • a) Never (0)
  • b) Less than monthly (1)
  • c) Monthly (2)
  • d) Weekly (3)
  • e) Daily/almost daily (4)

5. How often during the past year have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of your drinking?

  • a) Never (0)
  • b) Less than monthly (1)
  • c) Monthly (2)
  • d) Weekly (3)
  • e) Daily/almost daily (4)

6. How often during the past year have you had a drink in the morning after a heavy drinking session?

  • a) Never (0)
  • b) Less than monthly (1)
  • c) Monthly (2)
  • d) Weekly (3)
  • e) Daily/almost daily (4)

7. How often during the past year have you felt remorseful after drinking?

  • a) Never (0)
  • b) Less than monthly (1)
  • c) Monthly (2)
  • d) Weekly (3)
  • e) Daily/almost daily (4)

8. Has drinking ever left you unable to remember last night’s events?

  • a) No (0)
  • b) Yes, not in the past year (2)
  • c) Yes, in the past year (4)

9. Has drinking ever led to either you or someone else being injured?

  • a) No (0)
  • b) Yes, not in the past year (2)
  • c) Yes, in the past year (4)

10. Has a relative, friend, doctor, or health care worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested that you cut down?

  • a) No (0)
  • b) Yes, not in the past year (2)
  • c) Yes, in the past year (4)

Once you finish the test, add up your scores for each question. If you reach a total of 8 to 14, the AUDIT has flagged some risky or hazardous drinking behavior. A score that hits 15 and above indicates that you are probably suffering from AUD.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at ES

If you think you may be struggling with alcoholism, we are here to help. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed treatment center located near the southern New Jersey shore. We offer each client an individualized treatment plan, equipping them with the skills they need to overcome this disease.

Our treatment program is founded in the 12-step philosophy, and we provide a range of services to our clients. Our treatment modalities include traditional psychotherapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, and family constellation therapy. If you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, call us today at (833) 801-5483.


The Pitfalls of Painkiller Addiction

The Pitfalls of Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addiction and abuse are serious public health problems in the United States. Over eleven million people abused these drugs in 2017. Painkiller addiction can lead to long-term health problems such as kidney and liver failure and be devastating to your work and social life.

Addiction is a chronic disease with complex causes. However, it is possible to recover, and most people benefit from some form of treatment. With commitment and support, you can live a fulfilling life of sobriety.

What Are Painkillers and Why Do People Use Them?

Painkillers are powerful prescription drugs. Doctors usually prescribe them following an accident or post-surgery and occasionally for chronic pain. Most addictive painkillers contain opioids, and according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, New Jersey doctors wrote 38.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2018.

While opioid painkillers are incredibly useful in treating short-term pain, many people misuse them. Misuse is defined as using pain medication more often or in higher doses than your prescription requires or to experience its pleasurable effects. It is possible to develop a painkiller addiction using them exactly as your doctor prescribes, but abuse makes it much more likely.

Why Are Painkillers Addictive?

Using opiates repeatedly over time can lead to chemical changes in the brain and produce strong urges to seek or use painkillers that can be very difficult to resist. These changes may be long-lasting and persist even after years of sobriety.

Repeatedly using painkillers may also lead you to develop a physical dependence on the drug. Your brain becomes used to the increased levels of opiates in the body and adapts by decreasing its natural production of opioids. You begin to need higher and higher doses to experience the same effects, and eventually, you can become dependent on the drugs just to feel normal.

While everyone’s experience of addiction is different, certain factors make developing an addiction more likely. These include:

What Are Some Types of Addictive Painkillers?

Opiate Painkillers

Opiates are natural sedative drugs derived from the seeds of the opium poppy, such as morphine and codeine. Opiates can produce experiences of euphoria in the user and relieve physical and emotional pain.

Opioid Painkillers

Opioids are natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic drugs that have similar effects to opiates. Some common opioid painkiller brands are:

  • Lortab
  • Vicodin
  • Zohydro
  • Percocet
  • Hycodan
  • Roxicet
  • Percodan
  • OxyContin

What Are the Dangers of Painkiller Addiction?

If untreated, painkiller addiction can be devastating to your health, relationships, and work-life. Effective treatment, however, can be life-changing and can put you on the path to a life free from addiction.

How Does Painkiller Addiction Affect Your Health?

Painkiller addiction can cause long-term and short-term health problems, including

How Does Painkiller Addiction Affect Your Social and Work-Life?

Painkiller addiction and abuse can take over your life. You eventually spend most of your time acquiring and taking painkillers, losing interest in activities you used to enjoy, and neglecting work and social responsibilities. Some users are driven to commit crime to fund their habit.

Addiction can also strain relationships with family members and other loved ones. You may lie to hide your addiction from those around you or prioritize your drug use over your relationships.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Painkiller Addiction?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has a painkiller addiction. However, there are certain signs and symptoms you can look out for. These signs can be behavioral, mental, and physical.

Behavioral signs of painkiller addiction include:

  • Using painkillers even when the pain has gone away
  • Lying about pain to get medication
  • ‘Doctor shopping’ - getting multiple prescriptions for the same medication
  • Slurred speech
  • Thinking and talking about painkillers frequently
  • Spending less time with friends and loved ones
  • Prioritizing painkillers over work and family life
  • Taking high doses of the drug

Mental and physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Sweating profusely
  • Coordination problems
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Itchiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Painkiller addiction is a serious illness that can take over your life. At Enlightened Solutions, we provide clients with the tools you need to overcome your addiction and move forward in your sober life. Our individualized programs are rooted in the 12-step philosophy, and we focus on healing the entire person. Our treatment modalities include talk therapy and group support, as well as holistic healing methods such as equine therapy and meditation. As a co-occurring treatment center, we treat any underlying mental health issues alongside your addiction. Our treatment center is on the southern shore of New Jersey, the perfect place for healing and relaxation.

If you struggle with addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.