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Author: Justin Mckibben
While the nation seems to have recognized the looming threat of an opiate epidemic that has been claiming lives in record numbers in every state, others also believe there is another epidemic that exists in our country that sits insidiously in the shadows of other issues, getting worse and worse as time runs out for more and more people. This epidemic is one that isn’t as easy to see in action because its symptoms are much more personal and subliminal than the warning signs and effects of drug abuse, but it is an epidemic that is just as crippling and perhaps even scarier because it is so much harder to see it coming. However experts insist the United States is also in the grips of a suicide epidemic.
As a suicide survivor and someone with a history of prescription drug abuse, I can say this story was significantly disturbing considering all the elements involved. Don’t get me wrong, I see the positive impact some people experience with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. One might say I would be a likely candidate for either, but my suspicion was definitely spiked when I read some of the information in this report.
The assessment of a rising suicide epidemic comes in aggregation with various other intense and terrifying reports- including the underreporting of suicide rates related to antidepressant use by the Big Pharma companies responsible, and an increase in overdose of anti-anxiety medications.
Now an analysis of recent reviews on common antidepressants is leading us to ask- is Big Pharma hiding that anti-depressants are related to these rising suicide rates?
The Global Suicide Scale
The issue is not only confined to the United States. According to the World Health Organization in 2015 suicide is now the 3rd leading cause of death, representing a 60% increase worldwide over the past 45 years!
A recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2015 found that British males between the ages of 45 and 49 had a drastic increase of 40% in suicide rates in just 7 years. In retired males, or pensioners, the increase was 10%.
One report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in shows statistics that found an estimated 9.3 million adults in the United States (3.9% of the adult population) reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.
The Nordic Cochrane Center carried out a review later analyzed by University College London (UCL). Of most of the medications the primary statistics that were found to be most shocking were those for:
- Selective serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
These antidepressants, according to the review, actually double the rate of suicide and aggressive behavior for adolescents and young people under the age of 18. But more troubling than the fact these medications intended to treat depression actually increased risks of harmful side-effects was the fact that the review determined there was “serious underestimation of the harms” by the Big Pharma companies. This leads the authors of the study to infer that older adults are likely to also experience elevated risk of suicide than the makers will admit.
- The report states that more than half of the suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts had been misreported in case studies as “emotional instability” or “worsening of depression.”
- In a summary by Big Pharma company Eli Lilly suicidal attempts were missing in 90% of the cases
In the last two decades deaths by overdose of anti-anxiety drugs have quadrupled, which coincides with a tripling rate of these drugs being prescribes. So as the drugs were being distributed at magnified amounts, more people were simultaneously dying due to overdosing on them.
Conclusions on Corruption
Dr. Tarang Sharma of the Nordic Cochrane Center stated in the research that,
“The analysis suggests that clinical study reports, on which decisions about market authorization are based, are likely to underestimate the extent of drug-related harms.”
Many experts involved in this review and the proceeding analysis have said they find it troubling that one could conclude more and more patients are being prescribed these medications and taking them in increasingly hazardous doses over time, but no one in Big Pharma seems to see there is an issue with how they report their product studies.
So even if the Big Pharma companies behind the antidepressants aren’t aware if their drugs are responsible for suicide rates rising, shouldn’t they be paying closer attention to how they examine these products?
While it is true there is no clear cut reason for why suicide rates all over the world are rising at such a tragic and terrifying rate, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication don’t seem to be making it any better when you take a closer look at the records. Yet Big Pharma continues to turn a serious profit while avoiding any blame in the cause of these deaths and covering up any connection with catch-phrases like “emotional instability” instead of giving their potentially damaging drugs an honest appraisal.
Depression, thoughts of suicide, and anxiety are all medical conditions that need attention and treatment. Too often powerful prescription drugs are seen as the only solution, which can evolve into substance abuse and addiction. Depression also can come hand in hand with alcohol use disorder or drug addiction, and all these point to increased rates of suicide. There is a way out, even when we don’t see any hope. If you or someone you love is struggling please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help, you are not alone.
Author: Shernide Delva
Marijuana reform continues to be a major topic in the presidential campaign and this week, Bernie Sanders went farther than any presidential candidate in supporting marijuana and the fight to end the War on Drugs. Bernie Sanders became the first presidential candidate to propose a lift on the federal ban of marijuana. If passed, the bill would give states the right to legalize marijuana without having to go through the federal government.
The bill was introduced on Wednesday and is modeled after a previous bill proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in 2013. It was reintroduced this year as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. The bill would remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list as a Schedule 1 drug.
Drugs like heroin, Ecstasy and LSD are considered schedule 1 drugs and are considered to be the “most dangerous drugs.” Bernie Sanders said during his speech at George Mason University in Virginia that he believed considering a drug like marijuana to be as dangerous as heroin is “absurd.” Bernie Sanders believes that states should be allowed to regulate the sale of marijuana the same way drugs like tobacco and alcohol are regulated and should be able to do so “without the fear of prosecution.”
Legal Marijuana: A Cash-Only Industry
As of right now, states that profit from the legal marijuana industry are not able to use the nation’s banks to do business. Nearly all the banks refuse to take money from marijuana sales or refuse to offer basic checking or credit card services in fear that they’ll be shut down by the federal government. National banks will not do business with marijuana growers, retail shops, medical dispensaries, processors and even employees out of fear of prosecution. If this bill is passed, then this will no longer be a concern.
Until then, the legal marijuana industry is forced to deal with the risks of being a cash only business. Because marijuana remains a federal Schedule I drug, it makes it illegal for financial institutions that depend on the Federal Reserve System’s money transfer to take any proceeds from marijuana sales.
If Bernie Sander’s bill passes, retailers will have less fears about being robbed and businesses will no longer have to show up at the Washington State Department of Revenue with “boxes and suitcases” stuffed with bills to pay their taxes.
Bernie Sanders believes the bill will be a huge step forward in the movement to grow the economy and restore fairness to the justice system. The bill comes a week after Sanders first proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous substance. He argued that marijuana reform is essential to reform America’s criminal justice system
“In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws,” Sanders said “Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”
A Gallup poll released last month revealed that 58 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalizing marijuana use. Four states have legalized recreational marijuana: Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Under the Sanders plan, people in these four states would no longer be subject to federal prosecution for using marijuana if the bill is passed.
Marijuana Reform: The Overall Consensus
Changes to states laws regarding marijuana reform have garnered a controversial reaction. It remains a heavily debated topic of discussion. Presidential candidates have varied opinions on the matter and some are unable to make solid choices in regards to their plan of action. Just last week, Donald Trump changed his view on marijuana reform again after going back and forth on his views several times. Hilary Clinton has stated that she is only in support of marijuana for medical purposes.
Marijuana has been shown to have a variety of health benefits. For example, a recent study showed that marijuana can help treat addiction to stimulants. In addition, many health studies have shown that marijuana is effective in helping patients suffering from cancer and other illnesses.
Still, marijuana is not proven to be 100 percent safe. It can have detrimental effects on developing brains of adolescents and some studies show it can negatively impacts memory. Additionally, just like any other drug, marijuana can be abused and some people even develop a psychological addiction to the substance.
Ultimately, it is up to voters in states that are considering reform to make the final decision. States like Florida and Ohio have come close. Now, Nevada is in midst of voting marijuana reform. Knowing the reasons for reform can make the choice much easier.
Marijuana reform has positive and negative outcomes, but it is ultimately up to voters in states that are considering reform to make the final decision. It is important to know both sides to the argument before deciding how you personally feel. Remember, any substance, legal or not, can be addictive and if you find yourself abusing a substance like marijuana, it is very important that you seek treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
The thing about drug addiction is that it affects all people, across gender, socio-economic, age, and ethnic lines. And that’s becoming more and more apparent as a heroin scourge spreads the nation. First, we wrote about how heroin has become the drug of choice among white, middle-class, suburbia.
But, you might be shocked to find out that the next population being most affected by the heroin epidemic is the Baby Boomers generation, who are now around 45 – 64 years of age.
After all, these are our parents and grandparents. It’s kind of hard to picture ol’ grandma shooting up in the bathroom, don’t you agree?
U.S. Heroin Epidemic Now Rampant Among Baby Boomers
However, this is the reality. In fact, the cases of heroin-related deaths among Baby Boomers have nearly quintupled from 516 in 2000 to 2,459 in 2013, the Times Union reports.
Bottom line: Older Americans are a growing sector in the heroin-addicted population in the U.S.
There are a few theories behind the “emerging epidemic,” or the trend among Baby Boomers who have turned to heroin.
First off, it’s important to know that seniors are prescribed more drugs than any other segment of the total population, and of these prescribed drugs, we’re not just talking heart and cholesterol pills. Of these prescription drugs, the majority are opioid pain relievers and anti-anxiety drugs – mostly benzos, like Xanax and Valium.
And, in this pill-popping society where everyone’s just looking for that magic bullet to solve their problems, the medical community reflects this in their overall mentality of ‘medicate-first,’ which only serves to make matters worse.
“What initially becomes a way of managing that pain can, over time, lead them to needing more of the painkiller,” Nicole MacFarland, executive director of Senior Hope, a nonprofit outpatient clinic in Albany for people 50 years and older, told the Times Union. “Their body develops a tolerance and, lo and behold, they wind up becoming very addicted.”
The rise in heroin use can also be attributed to the pill mill crackdowns and other strategies governments have been enacting in order to address the painkiller abuse sweeping the land. In an unfortunate twist (although foreseeable in this writer’s eyes), the tighter regulation on narcotic painkillers led to a revival of heroin use. We’ve seen it among the affluent, suburbia, and now the elderly.
The problem is that there was this nationwide crackdown on painkillers yet there was no plan in place as to how to deal with all the people who had become dependent on and even addicted to painkillers.
And just as we have seen with other “surprising populations” that have turned to heroin, older adults are also turning to heroin when the painkillers they are getting just aren’t enough to treat their pain. For example, the number of patients at Senior Hope whose main addiction was heroin increased from six patients in 2012 to 17 in 2014, out of 155 patients.
An issue specific to the Baby Boomer population when it comes to drug abuse is that weaning older adults from an opiate addiction can be complicated, since they need often need pain medication for other ailments such as chronic pain.
Again, substance abuse, misuse, and addiction are non-discriminating medical situations, meaning that anyone can be affected at any time. So, although it might be hard to picture certain people using heroin or other drugs, it’s just as likely as for anybody else to be using. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
Benzodiazepines, or more commonly “benzos” are part of a class of drugs known as anxiolytics (also antipanic or antianxiety agent), which are medications that inhibit or ease anxiety. You know them as Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, and Klonopin.
Benzos have been around for quite a while but, it wasn’t until the 1970s when vast numbers of people began taking them for stress and anxiety, leading to concerns about the adverse effects of this group of drugs.
Benzos continue to be popular. For example, between 2002 and 2007, the number of U.S. prescriptions for them grew from 69 million to 83 million. Their popularity waned in the 1980s and ’90s, when SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and others outsold them. But benzo use and popularity is back on the rise, mainly due to Big Pharma practices and tactics such as the highly successful marketing strategy used to boost Xanax sales, which was done by marketing it for more than just Panic Disorder.
This is Your Brain on Drugs: Benzos
As with most other drugs, benzos can lead to dependence, both physical and psychological, as well as to addiction for some. There are significant risks to physical and mental health associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepines.
The cognitive effects of long-term benzodiazepine use include impaired concentration and memory, and disinhibition, which is the inability to restrain yourself and shows up as a disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment. Users may also experience a generalized impairment of cognition, meaning difficulty with paying attention, struggles with verbal learning and memory. Benzos are the most common cause of drug induced dementia, which affects over 10% of patients who are often misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease.
A benzo user’s mood is also deeply affected by long-term use, even undergoing noticeable personality changes and showing signs of aggression. Users experience what’s called emotional clouding, which can best be described as being overly sensitive and not being able to think rationally because their emotions cloud their judgment. Also, continued use of benzos can cause depression as well as the other mental health conditions, and benzo use can actually make those conditions worse. This includes anxiety, which is what this class of drugs is supposed to treat.
When someone uses benzos for an extended period of time, they develop benzodiazepine dependence. This condition is associated with possible adverse effects on sleep, including the causing and/or worsening of sleep disordered breathing.
People who become benzo dependent also experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, irritability, lethargy, and sexual dysfunction.
Studies have shown that chronic use of benzodiazepines appears to cause significant immunological disorders, as seen in a sample of outpatient clients. Diazepam and clonazepam have been found to have long-lasting, but not permanent, immunotoxic effects in the fetus of pregnant rats.
Suicide and Self-Harm
Teenagers who already displayed signs of depression who were taking benzodiazepines were found to have a drastically increased risk of self-harm or suicide.
Sadly, suicide is common among chronic benzodiazepine users. Misuse or abuse of benzos, like with other medications that suppress the Central Nervous System (CNS depressants) increase the risk of suicide with 11% of males and 23% of females who abuse a sedative hypnotic, like Xanax or Valium, committing suicide.
Benzodiazepine dependence often leads to an increasingly worsening quality of life for the user, which includes social deterioration leading to co-occurring issues such as alcoholism and other drug abuse. Benzo addiction goes beyond physical dependence; when someone who has been taking benzos over a long period of time starts to experience issues such as the deterioration of relationships, employment problems, and financial issues, then it is pretty safe to say that they have crossed over into addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association Task Force devised a table that lists the withdrawal symptoms associated with benzos and categorizes them as such: “Very Frequent, Common but Less Frequent, and Uncommon.”
Very Frequent withdrawal symptoms included anxiety, agitation, and irritability.
Common but Less Frequent withdrawal symptoms include depression.
Uncommon withdrawal reactions included psychosis, confusion, paranoid delusions, and hallucinations. The APA task force also found that these withdrawal symptoms “may persist up to several weeks (occasionally for months).”
But withdrawal from benzos doesn’t end there. Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is very similar to alcohol withdrawal syndrome in that it requires medical treatment because it isn’t safe to quit cold turkey. In some cases, benzo withdrawal (like alcohol withdrawal) results in death.
The good news is that anywhere from 3 to 6 months of abstaining from taking benzos (with proper detox and tapering), there are noticeable improvements in the mental and physical wellbeing of the user. Although long-term use of benzos can actually create or exacerbate physical and mental health conditions, these issues usually improve after 6 or more months of abstinence. So, if you or someone you love is dependent on or addicted to benzos, recovery is possible. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
In case you didn’t know, the legalization of certain drugs and the prohibition of others rarely has to do with actual science. So, for example alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs are all legal. They are also the deadliest drugs in America, contributing to more health risks and deaths than illicit drugs are associated with.
One major contributing factor of total tobacco and alcohol deaths is that both substances are legal and easily available. As a result, they are also socially-acceptable to use.
What about marijuana? Up until recently, it was illegal.
Marijuana: A Brief History Lesson
The country is polarized when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, whether it be for medical purposes only or for recreational use. Marijuana has long been vilified in the media by newspaper men such as William Randolph Hearst, whose wild and sensational ‘old wives tales’ of the “Devil’s Weed” were spread via main news sources of the time (newspapers) in a large-scale smear campaign.
You see, Hearst was ‘in bed’ – as it were – with the Dupont Brothers who had recently patented the wood-pulping machine. This meant that paper was to become the go-to for printing newspapers. At that time, though, hemp was being considered – by the American government’s Agriculture Department – as the “Billion Dollar Crop of the Future.” If hemp, instead of trees, was to be grown and cultivated, that would make the Duponts’ invention obsolete.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
If you didn’t know, marijuana and hemp go hand-in-hand. Hemp and marijuana both come from the same plant, Cannabis Sativa L. Hemp is the cannabis stalk and seeds that are used for textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials; it doesn’t contain the psychoactive drug THC that marijuana does. Thus, ‘marijuana’ refers to the cannabis flowers, or buds, that are used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
The Three Deadliest Drugs Just So Happen to Be Legal
As the US debates drug policy and marijuana legalization, there’s one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are perfectly legal.
If you don’t believe me, just take a gander at this chart, compiled with available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Alcohol: One of the three deadliest – and legal – drugs
The rates of direct death and overdose leave out other factors such as health and socioeconomic issues. Alcohol, in particular, is widely associated with several issues, such as a higher rate of crime and traffic accidents that cause harm both to users and to society as a whole. What makes alcohol so dangerous is most obvious when looking at health effects and drunk driving. But there are other major issues when it comes to alcohol, like aggression, erratic behavior, injuries, drop in economic productivity, family problems, and even crime. Alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
- Alcohol increases the risk of a traffic accident 13 times over, whereas other drugs double to triple the risk.
- It takes less relative doses to die from alcohol than it does to die from marijuana and even cocaine
- Alcohol causes more fatal traffic accidents than other drugs – in 2010 alcohol caused more than 10,000 traffic fatalities
Tobacco is a known killer
Smoking cigarettes used to be chic and very commonplace. I mean, you could smoke on airplanes and even hospitals! Just watch an older movie, like The Exorcist (the original) in which a doctor is seen smoking in a hospital, and you can see remnants of a by-gone era.
Once the evidence of just how detrimental cigarette smoking and tobacco was uncovered, all hell broke loose. Do you remember all the lawsuits Big Tobacco was fighting? Yet, tobacco remains a legal substance – a heavily-taxed substance, but legal nonetheless.
Prescription drugs like narcotic painkillers and benzos (Xanax and Valium) are super popular in a pill-popping society like ours. Back pain? Take a pill. Headache? There’s a pill for that. Social anxiety? Here, swallow this. With all these meds floating around, doctors, parents, and even grandparents have become unwitting drug dealers.
Although there are conditions for which medication might be a necessary intervention, there are non-narcotic alternatives as well as lifestyle changes that can improve quality of life. If you are struggling with alcohol, prescription pills, or any other substance, help is available. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. Addiction Specialists are available around the clock to answer your questions. You are not alone.