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Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Author: Justin Mckibben

I came across an article the other day that asked a very interesting question- what if the media covered alcohol the way it does other drugs. To be clear, I’m not writing this to shame people who drink alcohol. This is all about perspective.

More recently the conversation about the drug epidemic in America has been focused on opioid abuse and addiction, of course with good reason. The rate at which opioid abuse, opioid overdoses and related deaths have risen immensely in the last few years. The alarming numbers prove that both prescription opioids and illicit opioid drugs are a very real threat. Thousands of people die every day, and experts see no sign that it will not get worse before it gets better.

And yet, similar statistics associated with alcohol are nothing short of staggering if you look at them the way we look at heroin or methamphetamine.

So, let us imagine for a moment a world where we treated alcohol like the drug it truly is. What if we treated drinkers like we do addicts?

Alcohol Drug Addiction

For decades a devastating and potentially fatal drug has wreaked havoc across the country, ending countless lives and altering countless others. This insidious substance can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in America. You can find it on almost every street corner, and the overwhelming majority of adults have consumed this substance at least once.

Alcohol has many aliases, include:

  • Beer
  • Liquor
  • Spirits
  • Booze
  • Drank
  • Giggle Water
  • Moonshine

The drug comes packaged in a long list of names, with a variety of mixes that can be more or less potent depending on the source. Some use massive labs to concoct their drinks, while others brew out of secret unregulated areas in their homes.

The Alcohol Epidemic

No matter where you go, there will be a prominent presence of alcohol users. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 86.4% of people 18 or older report to have drank this dangerous drug at some point in their life
  • 70.1% of people report to have consuming this substance in the last year
  • 56% of people admit to have taken the drug in the last month

Looking closer at the drug, we see that many users go from recreational consumption to excessive use. The NSDUH shows:

  • 7% report to heavy use in the past month
  • 26.9% of people 18 or older admit to binge drinking in the past month

As with most other drugs, this substance also leads to sometimes debilitating addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). NSDUH reports:

  • 1 million Adults age 18 or older suffered from AUD in 2015
  • 8 million of them were men
  • 3 million were women
  • 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years old had AUD

All 50 states in America have been hit hard by the alcohol epidemic at some point or another. One reason the outbreak of this drug has been so tragic is because in so many places it has become social acceptable for people to consume alcohol!

In fact, many have minimized the use of alcohol or even celebrated it! In several communities around the country there are all-out events where drug use is actually publicly promoted! Events like “Craft Beer Fest” or the infamous “Oktoberfest” have become hotbeds for excessive abuse of this incredibly hazardous substance. Young adults often talk about getting “wasted”, “tipsy” or “turnt” as slang for ingesting such high levels of the drug they are inebriated.

Alcohol Related Deaths

According to data collected by the federal government, alcohol is the second deadliest drug in America. If you combine:

  • Heroin- connected to almost 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015
  • Prescription opioids– 22,598 overdose deaths

You still have less than half of the deaths of alcohol. In fact, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes every single year!

Because of binge drinking and other risk behaviors, mild to moderate alcohol overdose has almost become far too common. Beyond that, there are numerous ways this deadly drug has contributed to an inordinate number of deaths over hundreds of years! On a global scale, the alcohol drug is the leading risk factor in premature death and disability.

  • In 2012, 3.3 million deaths in the whole world were alcohol related
  • 2013, 45.8% of liver disease deaths for individuals 12 and older were alcohol related
  • In 2013, 47.9% of all cirrhosis deaths were alcohol related

The health effects of the alcohol epidemic are very real.

Alcohol Epidemic Hurts Others

It isn’t just the people who use this lethal drug that suffer from the adverse effects of the alcohol epidemic. Even the people are the users are often put in serious danger. For example, driving while under the influence of the alcoholic drug has been a very severe problem for a long time.

  • In 2014, over 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related- 9,967 deaths

Also, public health officials from all over America have stood up to expose other terrible effects of alcohol use. Alcohol use also has a great deal of influence on:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual assault

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both.

  • Violent crime

To that point, in 2010 sources indicated that more than 4.6 million emergency room visits were alcohol related.

  • 40% of violent crime is alcohol related.
  • 37% of current convicted offenders in jails admit to being on alcohol during their arrest

The War on Alcohol?

So with such glaring instances of the impacts of alcohol use on Americans, and young people in particular, surely drug policy officials and politicians are aggressively pursuing legislation to engage in a full on War on Alcohol, like they have with the War on Drugs, right?

Well… not so much.

It may come as a shock, but U.S. federal and state officials seem to think banning alcohol is out of the question! Citing the past attempts at alcohol prohibition as a major failure that instigated higher crime rates, while also claiming the vital part alcohol production and sales play in the economy, lawmakers seem content with allowing the drug to remain in circulation.

Thankfully officials are still willing to provide emergency response services to individuals who have overdosed on alcohol or been injured in alcohol-related accidents. While city officials are fighting for the option to deny the overdose antidote Narcan to opioid users who overdose multiple times, none of these officials seem to believe alcohol related illness or drunk driving accidents should be ignored the same way.

Drunk driving in many areas on multiple occasions does constitute jail time, but it seems being in possession of one of the deadliest drugs in America still doesn’t come with a mandatory minimum sentence. The Alcohol epidemic seems to have avoided a lot of the stigma that other drugs are held to, yet experts insist more should be done to decrease the astonishing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Alcohol may be legal, and it may be more mainstream than most drugs, the alcohol epidemic in this nation is still a very real threat. The fact it is legal and easily accessible makes the problem so much more serious. This article isn’t meant to demonize alcohol, but it is meant to point out the severity of alcohol use and the damage that comes with it. Maybe this kind of perspective can also diminish the stigma attached to other illicit addictions, if we are willing to acknowledge the similarities.

Alcohol is more dangerous than people give it credit, and alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous.

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Drunk Wrist Band Vive Changes the Party Vibe

Drunk Wrist Band Vive Changes the Party Vibe

(Not Actual Image of Vive Wrist Band)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Sometimes there are innovations made that change things up quite a bit in the world of young people and drinking. This is one I wish that I had when I was younger! I mean seriously, it could have saved me and my friends a lot of embarrassing situations, not to mention hang-overs and other more severe consequences. But then it brings to question, in an invention like the Vive wrist band going to protect young people, or does it somehow rationalize destructive behavior? Either way, the details are pretty interesting, but it could be argued both ways.

Feeling the Vive

Vive is a wristband developed by students from the University of Washington that is designed to show you and your friends how drunk you are by monitoring alcohol and dehydration levels in your body. The designers of the Vive believe that this new technology could help reduce the likelihood of sexual assault and other potential harms most commonly attributed to heavy drinking.

The Vive works using a transdermal alcohol sensor which measures Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels through the skin. This is the same as the bracelets DUI offenders are sometimes forced to wear by the courts in order to monitor their alcohol consumption. The exciting difference is that the Vive one can also monitor unusual changes in motion. So if you were to pass out or get injured, it would notice.

This is a great help because it has the ability to alert your friends if you are either too intoxicated, or if you are physically effected in some cases. It does this by checking in with you periodically, and if you are unresponsive, it alerts your friends on their own wrist bands.

In their informational video the wristbands are shown, which could easily pass as any other sort of beaded bracelet or accessory, and do not seem uncomfortable to wear. It even uses GPS location to let people track you if they lose you at a party.

Connection to Social Media

Another very interesting aspect about the Vive that will probably add to its popularity is that it actually has its own social media-like capabilities! The Vive allows users to connect with each other and check in on their friend’s levels of drunkenness on a scale from “just a few drinks” to “completely wasted.” This is developed so that if you find yourself out with that friend who drinks too much and puts themselves in potentially dangerous situations, or if you have been that friend, it lets you keep track of each other

This part of the Vive can be a huge innovation, because it helps individuals who drink to try and monitor themselves, as well as helps friends keep track of how intoxicated the others are. This could not only keep people from drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning or other serious health issues, but it could also cause a drastic reduction in dangerous and devastating situations like drunken driving and sexual assault.

You can even sync the Vive with new friends and use the social media technology to stay connected with them afterwards.

The Bad Side of the Vive

There are plenty of pros, as far as health and safety are concerned. But what about the cons? Well for one some people might say that this new device simply promotes alcohol consumption, and even rationalizes over-indulging in alcohol based on the idea that someone may think they have a fool proof safe-guard from the dangers of excessive drinking.

People may justify drinking more because they feel if they were at risk, their wrist would let them know. But what if that device is not as reliable for everyone? Or what if people ignore it all together? What if people even went as far as misusing the technology to know when people are drunk enough to exploit them? Or for the recovery community, will this add a new element to people who attempt controlled drinking?

At the end of the day, I think that Vive is an awesome idea. Although there may be some questions as far as how sure can it be that it works, or how effective will it be on alerting friends and staying connected, or how can we be sure this power won’t be manipulated, it is certain that this is a step in the direction of making technology that will help friends keep an eye on their drinking, and on themselves, and deter some risky behaviors. It may even do some good to prevent social drinkers from developing serious drinking habits, physical dependence, or all out alcoholism.

Every once in a while technology starts to show signs of making vast changes in the way we can raise awareness and promote prevention of addiction and substance abuse. While things like the Vive bring new hope for some, alcoholism and addiction require more action than wearing a wristband. There is help and hope for those who suffer. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135  

Deadly Drug Combo: Alcohol and Energy Drinks

Deadly Drug Combo: Alcohol and Energy Drinks

Author: Justin Mckibben

First off, the title of this article probably catches a few people’s attention simply for the fact that it refers to alcohol as a drug, and even more so because it implies energy drinks are a drug. Well anyone out there mixing cherry-bombs with vodka and red-bull has a rude awakening coming. First let us clear up the opinions and misconceptions with exact definitions. From there, let us look at information from recent studies and surveys, and see why it is that energy drinks and alcohol are such a deadly drug combination.

Drug- in the broadest terms a drug is a chemical substance that has known biological effects on humans or other animals.

Recreational drugs- chemical substances that affect the central nervous system, such as opioids or hallucinogens. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine are the most widely consumed psychotropic drugs worldwide.

So right away by definition we are able to determine that alcohol is a drug because of the way it affects the biology and the central nervous system of the consumer. The same definition can also be applied to caffeine, which is the most commonly active ingredient in energy drinks. So while this article is not intended to argue that drinking energy drinks constitutes substance abuse, it is necessary to at least take into consideration the reality of what an energy drink is to the body.

Variables of the Survey

In a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan concluded that when mixing alcohol and energy drinks together, there are serious public health risks that can result from ingesting this mix. This research has proven to be relevant especially among college students.

This study was done using information from the University Life Study that took place at Penn State University. Starting with the first semester of college, 744 students completed surveys for each of seven semesters, plus daily surveys. Data on alcohol and energy drink use was available from spring of the students’ sophomore year in 2009 to fall of their senior year of 2010. Through this extensive period there was a lot of information to determine particular patterns.

Students were asked about energy drink consumption both with and without alcohol. This also included the number of alcoholic drinks they drank the day before, what time they started drinking, when they stopped and if they got drunk.

The researchers also used gender, body weight and length of drinking time to calculate blood alcohol levels. The other negative consequences of alcohol use with energy drinks were determined by yes or no responses to each of 10 negative consequences, including such things as having a hangover or getting into other kinds of trouble.

Recent Study Conclusions

Megan Patrick, who is the co-author of the study and a research assistant professor, had a detailed contribution to the study’s conclusion and stated,

“We found that college students tended to drink more heavily, become more intoxicated, and have more negative drinking consequences on days they used both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol.”

The study also concluded that students who either drank alcohol and energy drinks on the same day, or students who combined the two at the same time, wound up spending more time drinking. With this prolong period of drinking, the individuals were consuming more alcohol than they would have without the caffeinated drinks. This extended time spent drinking resulted in the users’ blood alcohol levels to be raised to much higher peaks. But even more concerning is the fact that because of the stimulant effects of the energy drinks, the users reported that they felt less drunk than they actually were.

“This can have serious potential health impacts, for example if people don’t realize how intoxicated they actually are and decide to drive home,” Patrick said.

So it appears through this information that the consumption of caffeinated energy drinks or even caffeinated alcoholic beverages, such as the FDA banned Four Loko, can have a direct effect on increasing risks to an individual by masking their intoxication and making it easier for them to consume more alcohol or partake in risky behavior.

Part of what makes mixing alcohol and energy drinks such a deadly drug combo is that the energy drink makes it so the individual can continue to consume alcohol at deadly rates without feeling the full effect because of its ability to counter-act the depressant nature of alcohol by stimulating the user with caffeine. So the risk for alcohol poisoning is only increased as the individual consumes more and more alcohol while keeping themselves going. This also leads into the other hazardous behaviors by making a person more mobile while still more intoxicated.

Someone drinking energy drinks and alcohol together can take more unsafe actions with or without realizing it, and ultimately put even more people in harm’s way. This deadly drug combo can create so many negative consequences, and in the end it can all be avoided if people are aware of the truth of what they do to their bodies, and of the possibility of recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 

Overdose Profile: Alcohol

Overdose Profile Alcohol

What Is Alcohol Overdose?

An alcohol overdose occurs when someone has a blood alcohol content (or BAC) sufficient to cause impairments that can increase the risk of certain harm to them. Overdoses can range in severity, from problems with balance and slurred speech to coma or even death.

How Much Can You Drink Without Overdosing?

First off, there is no set limit as to how much alcohol you can drink before reaching overdose levels. In fact, there are many factors that can lead to an alcohol overdose such as age, weight and height, drinking experience, gender, the amount of food eaten, and even ethnicity. Also, your ability to tolerate certain of levels of alcohol can fluctuate from drinking session to drinking session, That is, the next time you drink, it may take less alcohol to get drunk than the last time you drank.

So, when you begin to feel tipsy, you are actually already experiencing alcohol overdose; just small increases in your BAC can affect coordination, make you sick, and cloud your judgment. These impairments can lead to falls, car crashes, make you vulnerable to sexual assault or other acts of violence, and increase the risk for unprotected sex. When BACs increase even more, amnesia, also called alcohol blackouts, can occur.

Signs of Alcohol Overdose

Continuing to drink despite clear signs of significant impairments can result in a potentially deadly type of overdose called alcohol poisoning. It is important to know that BAC can continue to rise even when you are unconscious. This is because undigested alcohol that is still in your stomach and intestine continues to be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulate throughout your body.

Alcohol overdose and poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that the areas of the brain that control your basic life support functions—like breathing, heart rate, and body temperature —begin to shut down. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion; difficulty remaining conscious; vomiting; seizures; trouble with breathing; slow heart rate; clammy skin; dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking); and extremely low body temperature.

Know the Critical Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Overdose and Poisoning:

  • Mental confusion, stupor
  • Coma, inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature): bluish skin color, paleness

What To Do/What Not To Do

All too often, we hear of tragic and avoidable deaths due to alcohol overdose and poisoning, especially among youth such as high school and college students. In these cases, others have assumed that the unconscious person just needs to “sleep it off.”

A person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of dying by asphyxiation, or suffocation. When someone is drunk enough to pass out, their brain is not functioning properly – automatic responses such as gag reflex are no longer working and this, combined with the tendency of vomiting from alcohol, can lead to the unconscious person literally choking on their own vomit.

Other “remedies” for alcohol overdose do not work either and are just as dangerous if the overdose goes ignored and untreated. Cold showers, hot coffee, or walking will not reverse the effects of an alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse.

If you suspect someone is suffering an alcohol overdose and poisoning, it is imperative to get medical help immediately.

Alcohol overdose is a sign of alcohol abuse and possibly alcohol addiction. If someone you know needs alcohol addiction treatment, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/

 

International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day is a day that hopes to reduce the shame and guilt that is so often associated with drug use and drinking. International Overdose Awareness Day themes include prevention and remembrance. International Overdose Awareness Day wants to provide an opportunity for people to publicly mourn for loved ones, some for the first time, without feeling guilt or shame as well as:

  • To include the greatest number of people in Overdose Awareness Day events and encourage non-denominational involvement
  • To give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdoses
  • To send a strong message to current and former drug users that they are valued
  • To provide basic information about support services in local communities
  • To start a discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy
  • To prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice
  • To remind us all the risks of overdose

What to wear on International Overdose Awareness Day

On International Overdose Awareness Day which is on August 31st, you can wear silver.  A silver badge is the universal symbol of awareness of overdose and its effects. Wearing silver can signify the loss of someone close to you or demonstrate support to those who have lost someone. Wearing silver is meant to send a message and that message is that the every human being is of infinite value. And this infinite value removes prejudice and stigma towards those who use drugs. Wearing silver is the celebration of life.

You can also go to www.overdoseday.com to post a tribute to a loved one or friend on their tribute page.

So what is an overdose exactly?

An overdose is simply what it sounds like. Going over the normal dose and taking more than is necessary. An overdose means taking too much of a drug or combination of drugs for a body to tolerate. There are many drugs that can cause overdose and if they are less likely to cause overdose alone, they are probably more likely to cause overdose when mixed with another substance.

What drugs cause overdose?

Opiates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol can all cause overdoses. This is because all three are central nervous system depressants. This means that they all slow down the central nervous system and that includes breathing and heart rate. Too much of any mixture of these substance or any one of the substance can kill or cause permanent brain damage to the user.

Signs of depressant drug overdose on opiates (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, valium, Xanax, and methadone) include:

•shallow breathing or not breathing at all

•snoring or gurgling sounds (this can mean that a person’s airway is partly blocked)

•blue lips or fingertips

•floppy arms and legs

•no response to stimulus

•disorientation

•unrousable (can’t be woken up) unconsciousness.

If you can’t get a response from someone, don’t assume they are asleep. Not all overdoses happen quickly and sometimes it can take hours for someone to die. Action taken in those hours could save a life. This is a medical emergency: call the ambulance immediately if you can’t rouse them.

Don’t ignore gurgling and snoring. Snoring and gurgling can mean a person is having trouble breathing. With substance use, especially substances that slow down the systems of the body (benzodiazepines, opioids, GHB), snoring may indicate a serious and potentially life threatening obstruction of the airway.

Signs of alcohol intoxication to the point of overdose include:

•disorientation

•loss of coordination

•vomiting

•seizures

•irregular or slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)

•blue-tinged or pale skin

•low body temperature (hypothermia)

•stupor (being conscious but unresponsive)

•unconsciousness (passing out).

It is also possible to overdose on stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Amphetamine overdoses increase the chance of heart attack, stroke, seizure or drug-induced psychotic episodes.

Amphetamine overdose signs and symptoms include:

•chest pain

•disorientation/confusion

•severe headache

•seizures

•high temperature (overheating, but not sweating)

•difficulty breathing

•agitation and paranoia

•hallucinations

•unconsciousness

What to do if someone is overdosing

•stay with them and assure them everything will be okay

•if they appear unconscious, try to get a response from them (call their name).

•If you can’t get a response put them in the recovery position and call an ambulance.

•Commence first-aid. Emergency operators can give CPR instructions.

•Keep an eye on them. People can go in and out of consciousness.

•If stimulants such as amphetamines are thought to be involved, a person may feel hot, anxious or agitated. Try to move them somewhere cooler and quieter. Or try to make the place quieter.

If you know someone who has overdosed show your support on international overdose awareness day day. It is time that more light was shed on the impact addiction has not only on the drugs users but also those closest to them.

If your loved one is in need of alcohol or drug addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.

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