Author: Justin Mckibben
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can understand the desire to find something that can help protect yourself from haunting feelings of dread that cripple your peace of mind. Anxiety is a complicated condition that can creep in from the most unexpected places, and people experience it in many different ways. While some may think it’s based in fear or weakness, the reality is far more complex. Those people may say all you need to overcome anxiety is a more grounded and positive outlook. But the truth for most people with an anxiety disorder is that battling anxiety goes a lot deeper than promoting optimism. Especially when your condition convinces you that all levity is just you lying to yourself. Sometimes, you need a little outside help, and anti-anxiety drugs can be very useful when a physician and an individual decide on the right route to take.
However, anti-anxiety medications can also be dangerous. These anti-anxiety drugs may not be in the spotlight the way opioids are, they are commonly abused, extremely addictive and can be just as lethal.
With recent reports showing a rise in deaths associated with anti-anxiety medications, some experts are saying there is a hidden epidemic being overshadowed by the opioid crisis.
Anti-Anxiety Drugs Underestimated
It is true that opioids are doing massive damage all across the country, but that doesn’t mean the death rates due to anti-anxiety drugs should be ignored. While focusing on prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids is important, we should also keep in mind the other dangerous medications out there.
The usual suspects are benzodiazepines, which include drugs like:
While these anti-anxiety drugs may be useful in helping some people, they still carry their risks, which can be devastating and even lethal.
According to the director of the Scripps Mercy Hospital emergency department Dr. Roneet Lev, benzodiazepines are responsible for more drug deaths in San Diego County than people may expect. She says,
“That comes from people who come into our trauma center from car accidents because they’re on benzodiazepines, people who come in because they’re falling down because that affects their balance and coordination on benzodiazepines,”
“We’ve seen terrible withdrawals, when they’re used to having it, with seizures, that end up in the ICU.”
And it isn’t just people who are buying these drugs off the street. Concerning drug-related deaths by legal prescriptions, benzodiazepines are not as far behind opioids as people may think. Dr. Lev adds that while oxycodone is the number one prescribed drug associated with death, hydrocodone is second, and benzodiazepine is in third place.
But San Diego County is definitely not the only area experiencing a surge in benzodiazepine-related deaths. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), deaths involving these anti-anxiety drugs have more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2015.
Something that does make these medications even more treacherous is when they are mixed with opioids.
Mixing Meds Causing More Deaths
As if opioids or anti-anxiety drugs weren’t hazardous enough on their own, the fact that many people mix these two medications makes them even more deadly. The San Diego County Medical Examiner has concluded that 83% of benzodiazepine-related deaths also involved opioids. Nathan Painter is an associate professor in pharmacy at UC San Diego. He explains how the chemicals interact with the body, and how mixing them only amplifies these effects.
“The benzodiazepines themselves can cause respiratory depression, or your breathing slow down, and so can opioids. So when you combine them, especially in the case of not using them on a regular basis, or being new to the benzo or the opioid, if you give too much, or combine it with other things like alcohol or other medications, then it can cause that breathing to slow down, or even stop.”
What could make this even worse? Well, many of the people mixing these medications may have just been following instructions as prescribed by their doctor. Painter notes that sometimes the prescribing physicians aren’t necessarily aware of all the drugs that someone is taking, and may not be as conservative or as slow in starting the medicines as they could be. So some people may be unknowingly consuming dangerous amounts of these drugs.
Sadly, there are areas of our current culture that put people at elevated risk of death by anti-anxiety drugs.
One of the more vulnerable populations is our veterans. In fact, the Veterans Association Healthcare System has to deal with the issue of mixing medications in particular, as many veterans end up using both benzodiazepines and opioids. Dr. James Michelsen is a physician at the VA. According to Michelsen,
“Anxiety related to their combat time, problems with sleep, post-traumatic stress disorder. And traditionally these conditions benzodiazepines have been used to treat. Additionally, many of our veterans came back with physical wounds, as well.”
This becomes a serious issue when there is a lack of communication between networks of doctors, which can happen if a veteran visits a non-VA doctor and receives a prescription.
It’s not just veterans and hospitals that have problems with benzodiazepines. In fact, benzodiazepines are some of the most prescribed medications in the United States. But it has gone beyond that and even made it into pop culture.
Drugs have always been part of the music industry. History shows us how hallucinogens like LSD influenced rock like the Beetles, and how cocaine coexisted with disco, or how heroin lingered along with jazz and blues over the years. It’s still hard to find a country song that doesn’t glorify good ol’ boys with whiskey and beer. Now, pill-popping in hip-hop and pop music is so mainstream it can be unsettling.
Along with that spotlight came greater influence. Some musicians try to paint that pretty picture with abusing anti-anxiety medications, but these drugs have taken the lives of some of the great artists of a generation. In the last several years alone we lost:
There are even others like Chris Cornell, who’s wife believed that the anti-anxiety medication he was taking is partly to blame for his suicide. Even with all the death caused by these drugs, some still glamourize prescription drug abuse in our culture. Not to mention the issue of mental health and substance use disorders already growing across the country.
Fighting Anxiety and Addiction
Personally, the risks involved with anti-anxiety drugs is troubling because a lot of my anxiety is rooted in health. It manifests at times in the side-effects of even the most mundane of medicines. Some days I can’t take an Aspirin without a secret part of me wondering if my kidneys will shut-down (which is ironic considering the years I spent polluting my body with hard drugs and excessive drinking). So while everything is going fine on the outside, my inner dialog is trying to measure and analyze every muscle movement or twitch as an indication of a terminal illness.
In reality, anti-anxiety drugs can be the difference between an everyday struggle to endure the rush of nameless terror and a window into serenity and stability. For people who can take advantage of the opportunity, it can be life-changing.
However, these drugs are nothing to take lightly, and plenty of people develop severe addictions to these drugs. Anti-anxiety medications can be fatal. Some might think they are an easy way to get a rush, they can be just as lethal as opioids. Just because they are not painkillers doesn’t mean we should underestimate their capacity to do harm.
Fighting anxiety is extremely important for people with anxiety disorder. But we have to remember the risks that come with these drugs and find a way to stay safe. This is especially true for those of us in recovery from addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment is a way to create comprehensive and holistic recovery that addresses both anxiety and addiction simultaneously in order to help people overcome their anxiety in the healthiest way possible.
If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, or any mental health disorder, please seek help. If you struggle with substance use disorder, drugs or alcohol is not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Once upon a time, cosmetic surgery was a little more taboo. With exception to correcting physical deformities, surgery of fashion instead of function was a little less mainstream. Today, it is widely accepted and the doctors highly trained and respected in their field. Over time, as more people have sought cosmetic surgery, another trend has come to the surface- cosmetic surgery addiction.
Often when we talk about addiction, most people instinctively think of the opioid crisis in America. It has become just a prominent issue that it has dominated the conversation when it comes to substance use disorder, treatment programs, and mental health. Yet, there are still other forms of addiction that are affecting a lot of people. Smartphones and tablets have ushered in a discussion on social media addiction, and a handful of scandals have highlighted sex addiction.
So what do we know about cosmetic surgery addiction?
Body dysmorphic disorder
While you may not be likely to become physically addicted to plastic surgery, it is still possible to develop a cosmetic surgery addiction. According to Canice E. Crerand, PhD, psychologist in the division of plastic surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,
“It is more of a psychological issue than a physical addiction.”
The underlying psychological issue is attributed to body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):
- BDD affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population
- That comes out to about 1 in every 50 people
ADAA also states that people with body dysmorphic disorder think about their real or perceived physical flaws for hours each day. Their obsessive thoughts may lead to severe emotional distress and can even interfere with everyday life.
An individual suffering from BDD can dislike any part of their body, but most often they find fault with:
One study actually suggests that 1/3 of patients who receive nose-jobs show symptoms of BDD. Other reports show:
- BDD most often develops in adolescents and teens
- Research shows that it affects men and women almost equally
- BDD occurs in about 2.5%of males in America
- It occurs in about 2.2 % of females in America
- According to the American Psychiatric Association, BDD often begins to occur in adolescents 12-13 years of age
Someone with body dysmorphic disorder can see their flaws as significant and prominent, even if they are barely minor imperfections. Still, body dysmorphic disorder is a condition that can drive people to go under the knife again and again. The desire to fix the perceived ‘defect’ can ultimately create a cosmetic surgery addiction.
Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgery Addiction
Experts suggest that while plastic surgeons are trained to perform these cosmetic procedures, they should also have the ability to identify cosmetic surgery patients who may develop a cosmetic surgery addiction. So what are some warning signs doctors could be watching for? Crerand said a few examples may be:
- Patients are often unhappy with the results of their cosmetic surgeries and take their frustrations out on surgeons in extreme cases.
- The individual may have very unrealistic expectations about surgery, thinking it will gain them a better job or a better relationship.
- May be satisfied with the requested surgery, but then “suddenly realize” another feature is unacceptable and desire even more procedures.
Crerand also says there are many challenges in trying to determine if someone is suffering from BDD. But many also believe that a cosmetic surgeon has an ethical responsibility to weigh the risks and potential benefits of a surgery. If a plastic surgeon suspects that a patient may have a cosmetic surgery addiction or body dysmorphic disorder, they should refer the patient to a consulting psychologist or psychiatrist.
Another important aspect is that people who have body dysmorphic disorder are likely to have another psychiatric disorder such as:
So someone showing signs of cosmetic surgery addiction may also be suffering from another issue that is causing them to abuse drugs and alcohol as well as put themselves through repeated surgery.
Combination of Addictions
Cosmetic surgery is not the only way that people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder try to ‘fix’ their flaws. Some will turn to very dangerous drugs in hopes of improving their bodies. This self-medicating can also lead to substance use disorder.
According to the Harvard Medical School, men who develop BDD often focus on weight and muscle size. Unfortunately, the disorder prevents them from feeling as though they’ve developed an adequate amount of muscle so they may turn to steroids. Sadly, anabolic steroids are commonly associated with intense addictions that form in an incredibly short amount of time.
Women can also develop body dysmorphic disorder symptoms relating to their muscles. They may also develop preoccupations with their weight and with the size of specific parts of their bodies. This obsession can lead to the use and abuse of stimulant drugs. These substances are known as side effects that reduce the appetite and allow people to skip meals without feeling either hungry or deprived. Stimulants can also leave chemical damage behind, even when the person feels sober. All this chemical damage can cause compulsive use and abuse of drugs.
These are just a few examples of how the same issues that lead to cosmetic surgery addiction can also create serious substance use disorder. This is why dual diagnosis treatment is so important. For people who struggle with co-occurring disorders, the recovery process can be extremely difficult if both issues are not addressed. Having a comprehensive and holistic recovery program with dual diagnosis resources can make all the difference.
For people who may be dealing with cosmetic surgery addiction, there may be a much more serious disorder just beneath the surface. The best option for healthy recovery is a treatment for both. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
This may seem like a big leap, but some people still manage to make it. So we thought maybe we should take a look at both sides of this argument to understand the issue.
The Attorney General for the Trump Administration, Jeff Sessions, consistently comes into conflict with advocates for cannabis in America. His stance has been about the same for as far back as his career in politics, and recent actions by Jeff Sessions have caused a stir with those in support of legalization, whether medical or recreational.
Now, it seems Sessions believes that cannabis use is actually why we have an opioid crisis.
Looking at Opioid Stats
Recently, Jeff Sessions was speaking at the Heritage Foundation to the Reagan Alumni Association this week. As part of the conversation, Sessions did put a lot of focus on cutting prescriptions for opioid painkillers as a critical element to fighting the crisis. So many people who use illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl start with prescription drug abuse. This much has been shown in several studies, such as one from 2017 published in Addictive Behaviors which found:
- 9% of people getting opioid use disorder treatment in 2015 started with prescription drugs
- This is an improvement from 84.7% in 2005
Some would argue that better regulations put into practice over the last several years have helped to curb that trend.
However, Sessions went on to say,
“The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number; they had it as high as 80 percent. We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”
It was that last comment that caught a lot of attention. It wasn’t all that shocking, considering Sessions never been a supporter of cannabis use. Still, some people found this commitment to the gateway drug mentality to be a little out of touch.
So, we should look into the argument from both sides.
Can You Connect Cannabis and Opioids?
A recent paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows Mark Olfson and a research team delves into data concerning the gateway drug concept.
The team uses data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to examine the association between:
- Cannabis use reported in the 2001-2002 survey
- Non-medical use of prescription opioids 3 years later
In relation to the survey the term ‘non-medical use of a prescription opioid’ is defined as using the drug “without a prescription, in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed, or for a reason other than a doctor said you should use them” during the previous 12 months.
Olfson and his group claim that according to the data:
Cannabis users more often ended up using opioids
People who used cannabis in the 12-month period prior to the initial interview were at increased risk of non-medical use of prescription opiates 3 years later.
They even checked the variables, and found this was true even when the data were adjusted to control for:
- Family history variables
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Other substance use disorders
- Mood or anxiety disorders
Those studied who used marijuana were still at higher risk of opioid use.
Increased cannabis use correlated with increased opioid use disorder
According to the researchers, the percentage of people with Incident Prescription Opioid Use Disorder at the second interview increased as the level of cannabis use reported at the first interview increased.
To clarify, Incident Prescription Opioid Use Disorder was defined as use that occurred after the first interview that qualified to be considered opioid use disorder, restricted to people who had no prior lifetime history of opioid use disorder.
So essentially, the people who reported to using more cannabis at the beginning of the study were more likely to show signs of opioid use disorder 3 years later.
But Does Connection Equal Causality?
One thing the authors do acknowledge outright is that the majority of adults who use cannabis do NOT start using or increase use of prescription opioids.
Another thing the researchers acknowledge is that their study isn’t proof that cannabis use causes opioid use. The association of marijuana use with non-medical prescription opioids after 3 years in no way means that marijuana use is proven to actually cause opioid use.
The researchers do have a few ideas though.
Some animal studies seem to have shown that it is possible for cannabis to lead to changes in the brain that make individuals more susceptible to opioid misuse.
Another argument is that there are several non-biological factors that can elevate the risk of opioid use. Those who regularly use marijuana may be more likely to interact with people who have access to opioids.
Correlating Drug Use
Many researchers have actually cautioned that there’s no solid evidence that marijuana use causes harder drug use.
In fact, a lot of experts and advocates argue that while marijuana use can easily correlate with harder drug use, so can alcohol and tobacco.
The first drugs many people ever use are alcohol or tobacco, which are both legal for adults and fairly easy to get. Yet, no one automatically assumes drinking or smoking cigarettes will lead to heroin use. However, if the same data and logic used by Olfson and his group were applied to alcohol and tobacco, we would probably see a huge correlation. So many advocates argue why should cannabis use be treated any different?
A 2002 report by RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center (DPRC) suggests that it is not marijuana use, but individuals’ opportunities and unique propensities to use drugs that determine their risk of initiating hard drugs. The Institute of Medicine came to a similar conclusion to the ‘gateway drug’ concept back in 1999.
So, no evidence thus far has been conclusive, only correlational.
The Anti-Gateway Affect?
There are also those out there that believe marijuana legalization would actually have the anti-gateway affect, meaning studies have suggested there is evidence that access to marijuana actually reduces some opioid use.
This growing body of investigation indicates that medical marijuana legalization, in particular, can lower the number of people misusing opioids. Some insist it is because cannabis can help to treat chronic pain instead of opioids. Others even think access to marijuana would cause people to substitute their alcohol use. However, research in this area is still finite. Now it’s far too early to tell if this would actually be an effective strategy.
There is even a new study from David Powell and Rosalie Pacula of the RAND Corporation and Mireille Jacobson of the University of California Irvine that examines how medical marijuana legalization- particularly in states with the most access- impacts opioid-related deaths. These researchers concluded,
“These findings suggest that broader access to medical marijuana facilitates substitution of marijuana for powerful and addictive opioids.”
So while there are those who would put the data behind marijuana being a big part of the problem, there are those who avidly believe it is actually a huge part of a different strategy to overcome the opioid crisis.
What Can We Do?
Whichever side of this argument you’re on, there needs to be more time and energy put into exploring both perspectives. If the correlation between cannabis and opioids were ever proven to be more than meets the eye, then more needs to be done to make sure that legalization or decriminalization efforts co-exist with addiction treatment and support options.
If medical cannabis is found to be useful to help treat some who otherwise would be at elevated risk of chronic pain issues, opioid use disorder or even opioid-related death, then more should be done to make sure this method of treatment is safely studied and developed.
Either way, we must continue to work toward helping every individual suffering from substance use disorder of any kind. Whether it is marijuana use disorder or opioid use disorder, there should be safe and effective treatment options available.
There should always be resources available to help people who suffer from abuse. Supporting addiction recovery means breaking the stigma and offering holistic and effective solutions. Palm Healthcare Company is here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resigned last week, only a day after a POLITICO report was released stating that she had purchased stock in the tobacco industry after taking the position. The move has garnered a lot of public attention recently, as many view it as a glaring conflict of interest for someone in such an important position.
Conflicting with CDC Mission
When Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald took the position as Director of the CDC, she should have known that tobacco is one of the very drugs she is supposed to be fighting against. The slogan of the CDC is:
“24/7: Saving Lives, Protecting People.”
To many, this is in direct opposition to the tobacco industry, with cigarette smoking being the leading cause of preventable death in America. This year alone cigarettes will result in the deaths of approximately half a million Americans. So how could someone in charge of an organization that is supposed to save people invest in something that kills so many?
Before taking office, Fitzgerald owned stock in tobacco companies:
According to the initial report that was released last Tuesday, Fitzgerald purchased “tens of thousands of dollars in new stock holdings in at least a dozen companies,” including one of the largest tobacco companies in the entire world, Japan Tobacco. So before getting rid of a lot of these assets in October, she had her hand in 4 out of the “Big Five” tobacco companies in the world.
As if that were not suspicious enough, the very next day after purchasing these stocks, Fitzgerald reportedly took a tour of the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory. This is the entity that researches the harms of tobacco’s chemicals on human health. Then, almost as if to add insult to injury, news outlets have looked back to Fitzgerald’s statement in November when she said,
“Too many Americans are harmed by cigarette smoking, which is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death and disease.”
She then vowed to “continue to use proven strategies to help smokers quit and to prevent children from using any tobacco products.”
For someone with such substantial monetary involvement in tobacco companies’ interests, it wouldn’t be very beneficial for her to follow through on her promise to fight the use of tobacco products, would it?
According to the Wall Street Journal, Fitzgerald claims that she did not make the investments herself. She says the stocks were purchased by someone working for her investment manager, and that she directed them to sell the stocks when she did find out about the purchase.
Stocks and Scandals
Dr. Fitzgerald is definitely not the only official to be facing backlash for investments that seem to be in conflict with their official responsibilities. While executive branch employees are forbidden to work on issues in which they have a financial interest, members of Congress don’t play by the same rules.
Lawmakers are allowed to write and vote on bills that would impact themselves financially. They are required to disclose their financial positions and report when the assets are bought and sold. This includes holdings of their spouse and dependent children. But when you take a close look at some of these instances, it is kind of rattling.
Last month, Democratic Senator Patty Murray had claimed Fitzgerald’s ability to perform her role was hindered by conflicts of interest. And yet, when Murray was the top Democrat on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) her husband owned an account with a manager who bought and sold stock in Reynolds American, another tobacco company.
Aides to Senator Murray state,
“The disclosure form shows the liquidation of an account managed by a broker without guidance.”
Even the most senior Republican in the Senate, Orrin Hatch from Utah, who is also a member of the HELP committee, owned stock in Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris International. In late 2012 Hatch was a joint owner with between $15,001 and $50,000 of stock in Philip Morris.
Fitzgerald had also recently procured stocks in two Big Pharma giants, Merck and Bayer. While the CDC does not regulate the pharmaceutical industry, their recommendations and policies do have an impact on drug manufacturers.
To be fair, there is no evidence thus far that Fitzgerald has committed any wrongdoing; there is no indication her financial ties influenced her leadership, and she has denied she was aware of the purchases being made in her name. The same goes for Murray and Hatch.
However, the fact that this shake-up is making headlines for all the wrong reasons has some people wondering how many politicians involved in public health are using stocks to bet against healthcare getting better.
How could private investments indirectly impact other areas of healthcare, like pharmaceutical drugs or mental health and addiction treatment resources? How could the issues currently surrounding the CDC end up impacting the fight against addiction and the opioid crisis?
The CDC and other health agencies play a big part in helping fight the opioid epidemic and other serious issues pertaining to drug addiction. The more resources we have, the more chances we have of turning things around. The same goes for people trying to recover from drugs or alcohol. The more resources you have, the more chances to get better. Palm Partners Recovery Center offers personalized holistic treatment options to help you transform your life. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135