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Cases of Severe Bleeding Linked with Synthetic Cannabinoid Use

Around the end of March of this year, 2018, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported that there were 50 cases of severe bleeding linked with the use of synthetic cannabinoids in that state, including two cases where patients died.

The synthetic drug which is referred to as fake weed, spice or K2 consists of a combination of hundreds of different chemicals. This makes it very difficult to determine what the user has smoked or consumed.

The drug is produced and sold as a cannabinoid product because it acts on the same receptors in the brain as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does which is the main active ingredient in cannabis. According to the IDPH, synthetic cannabinoids have unpredictable side effects and can even be life-threatening to the user.

The perception around synthetic cannabinoids is that they are a legal and safer alternative to cannabis but many of the products that are available are actually illegal and can cause severe health-related problems.

Adverse Effects of Fake Weed

The symptoms of synthetic cannabinoids, or fake weed, that was reported by the IDPH included:

  • Bleeding from the ears or eyes.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Blood present in the urine.
  • Bleeding from the nose.
  • Bleeding from the gums.
  • Increased menstrual flow in women.

In general, synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that are sprayed on plant material that is dried and these can then be smoked or converted into liquids that can be ‘vaped’ in electronic cigarette devices.

In the cases of the patients that suffered from episodes of bleeding, the blood samples taken from them showed that they had warfarin present in their bloodstream. Warfarin is an anticoagulant drug which is used in patients who have an increased propensity for developing blood clots or who are diagnosed with this problem. The medication is used to break up these clots by reducing the clotting factors in the bloodstream. Therefore, individuals who do not have any problems with increased clotting issues will develop a bleeding disorder if they consume or inhale warfarin.

Warfarin is also the main ingredient in older versions of rat poison.

The Problem with Synthetic Cannabinoids

The biggest problem concerning synthetic cannabinoids is the ease of availability of the product and that is can be purchased from virtually anywhere. The products can be found in:

  • Convenience stores.
  • Drug paraphernalia shops.
  • Gas stations.
  • Novelty stores.
  • Online stores.

Pacific Bay Recovery

Pacific Bay Recovery is a top drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that specializes in programs to help patients suffering from substance use disorders.

The services offered by the rehabilitation facility include:

  • Inpatient programs for withdrawing patients from the offending drugs as well as psychology, and occupational therapy sessions.
  • Psychiatry consultations for those who have any underlying mental health conditions.
  • Group therapy sessions for patients to help them relate to others with similar issues as them.
  • Outpatient programs for those who are assessed as being able to benefit from such a service.

The healthcare professionals at Pacific Bay Recovery help patients to discontinue using offending drugs in order to reduce health-related complications that may occur as a result of drug or alcohol use and to improve their social and occupational situations at home and work.

The Dangers of Abusing Bath Salts

Bath Salts is the colloquial name given to a synthetic drug which is used on a recreational basis and can be snorted, ingested, smoked, or injected. The latter though is ill-advised as this drug rarely has listed ingredients, let alone a dosage, and can, therefore, be immediately fatal to the user.

One of the main ingredients used in Bath Salts is 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and it has been found to be highly addictive and probably more so even than methamphetamine making it possibly the most addictive drug in the world currently.

The recreational use of Bath Salts has been linked to close to 23,000 emergency room visits in the United States alone in 2011. One clinical study found that over 15 percent of patients sent to an emergency room as a result of abusing Bath Salts were in critical conditions or died.

In the United States, the ingredients that are known to be most commonly used to develop Bath Salts have been banned from being used by humans.

Short-term Effects

The short-term neurological effects of Bath Salts include:

  • Severe agitation.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Getting a false high/euphoria which quickly develops into paranoia.
  • Psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations where they see and/or hear things that aren’t there, or even delusions where they may think that they are the president of the country or a prophet.
  • Uncontrollable cravings for the drug.
  • Having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide.
  • Self-harm.

The physical effects of the drug may include issues such as:

  • Smelling like mephedrone which is one of the drugs used in Bath Salts.
  • A skin rash.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Developing a high fever.
  • Having the sensation that there’s something crawling on the skin.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Involuntary movements of the eyes.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Nosebleeds or feeling that the nose burns.
  • A ringing or buzzing sound in the ears.
  • Pain experienced at the back of the mouth.
  • Excessive grinding of the teeth.
  • A numbness or tingling sensation throughout the body.
  • Chest pains or severe discomfort which may be a sign of a heart attack.
  • Convulsions or seizures.
  • Herniation of the brainstem as a result of increased pressure inside the head and this can be a fatal condition.

Long-term Effects

The long-term use of Bath Salts can result in permanent complications that may include:

  • An increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Liver damage and possible failure.
  • Kidney damage and failure.
  • Skeletal muscle breakdown.
  • Swelling of the brain which may lead to brain death.

Management

Due to its highly addictive nature, withdrawing patients from Bath Salts can be quite a challenging process. Specialist doctors trained in addiction medicine are then sought to help manage these individuals and their services are requested in order to monitor the user’s progress.

Once the withdrawal process is completed, the patients are then admitted to the inpatient substance rehabilitation program to undergo psychotherapy and group therapy sessions. Here, they will consult with occupation therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers.

Why Choose a Holistic Drug Rehab?

Since drug or alcohol addiction affects all areas of your life, and not just your body, it is natural that you need a treatment program that addresses all those areas. This approach is referred to as holistic rehab. Holistic rehab involves not only overcoming physical addiction, but also addressing factors that have contributed to the addiction.

Here are the most common reasons people prefer a holistic drug rehab.

Treating the Body

To overcome the physical addiction, the body needs to go through detox and withdrawal. Holistic rehabs facilitate weaning off the substance and manage withdrawal. In addition, they also help you repair the damage that the substance may have caused to your body. Your treatment will include learning about healthy eating and practices such as yoga to ease the physical pain and cultivate an overall healthy life.

Treating the Mind

An addiction is never just an addiction. There are several factors at play. Holistic rehab will identify and address those factors through individual and group therapy. This may include treating any psychological factors.

Individualized Treatment

Finally, it is important to treat the person as a whole. Holistic rehab involves formulating an individualized treatment plan for every patient. No two people are the same. This is why your rehab will design a customized program that works best for you.

The Dangers of Abusing Prescription Stimulant Drugs

 

The most commonly abused prescription stimulant medications include amphetamines (Dexedrine and Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).

The amphetamines and methylphenidate are used to manage medical conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and works by changing the amounts of specific neurotransmitters (hormones) in the brain. The medication’s function then is to:

  • Help increase an affected person’s ability to pay attention.
  • Control behavioral problems.
  • Allow the patient to stay focused for a longer period of time.
  • Reduce daytime fatigue and for this reason, is also indicated for those patients who struggle with narcolepsy.

Methylphenidate can also be prescribed off-label to help manage treatment-resistant cases of:

  • Major depression.
  • Bipolar mood disorder.

Use by Students

These prescription stimulants are sometimes used by students to help enhance their mental abilities in order to improve their concentration for purposes of studying. There are individuals who state that denying these students the medications, who are essentially not struggling with any conditions that the medications are indicated for, would be denying them the opportunity to better themselves academically.

However, if one is to prescribe individuals who do not exhibit any pathology medications that alter their brain chemistry, then one is bound to expose them to certain adverse effects.

Dependence and Addiction

Psychological dependence and addiction to amphetamines and methylphenidate are possible, especially if taken at high doses as a recreational drug. As with all addictive drugs, dependence on prescription stimulants causes changes in the brain’s neurotransmitter levels and this leads to addictive behavior.

Overdose

Addiction can lead to an overdose of prescription stimulants. This can result in central nervous system overstimulation which can cause issues such as:

  •        Agitation.
  •        Tremors.
  •        Vomiting.
  •        Muscle twitching.
  •        Euphoria.
  •        Increased reflexes.
  •        Confusion.
  •        Delirium.
  •        Hallucinations.
  •        Hyperthermia.
  •        Flushing.
  •        Sweating.
  •        Headaches.
  •        Heart palpitations.
  •        Rapid heart rate.
  •        Abnormal heart rhythm.
  •        Elevated blood pressure.
  •        Dry mucous membranes.

A severe overdose which will require immediate medical attention may result in the following problems:

  •        Increased core body temperature.
  •        Paranoia.
  •         Convulsions.
  •         Repetitive movements.
  •         A severe drop in blood pressure.
  •         Rapid muscle breakdown.
  •         Sympathomimetic toxidrome or an adrenergic storm which is a rapid increase of epinephrine levels in the body which causes the heart rate to spike and possibly become abnormal.

Fortunately, a prescription stimulant drug overdose is rarely fatal if one receives the appropriate medical care.

Rehabilitation

Becoming addicted to prescription stimulant drugs can become problematic, especially when the medication is taken in higher than required dosages as this can lead to the above-mentioned problems.

There are rehabilitation centers available where inpatient rehabilitation is offered. This will be beneficial to patients who are addicted to prescription stimulant drugs as the following services will be made available to them:

  • Safe withdrawal from the stimulant drug.
  • Management of any underlying mental health issues or stressors.
  • Psychological counseling to aid in the development of coping skills.
  • Time and study management or any other advice regarding everyday tasks and functions so that one doesn’t have to rely on taking stimulant drugs on a recreational basis.

 

3 Common Substance Abuse Withdrawal Symptoms

A person suffering from addiction goes through withdrawal on stopping the use of alcohol and drugs. Chemical dependence will lead to discomfort if the use is stopped. The degree of discomfort will depend upon how the substance interacts with the brain and body. However, there are some withdrawal symptoms that universally affect all former users.

Since withdrawal may have severe side effects, it is advisable to wean off the substance, under medical supervision, at a medical detox center.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Substance withdrawal, especially alcohol and opiate withdrawal often causes flu-like symptoms. These may include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Vomiting and diarrhea can cause loss of electrolytes and fluids, leading to severe dehydration, if left untreated.

Shaking and Sweating

Shaking is a common symptom in alcohol and benzo withdrawal. It can manifest in response to extreme emotions, such as anxiety.

Changes in nerve cells can also cause shaking. These changes may be the result of reduced brain activity, caused by depressants. The brain gradually adjusts to lower activity. Stopping drug use can boost activity levels. This may result in trembling.

Sweating can accompany shaking and usually occurs during alcohol and opiate withdrawal.

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are also common during withdrawal. Anxiety and depression often occur together and need to be addressed simultaneously.

Severe anxiety involves constant worry and irrational fear. Depression is an all-encompassing feeling of sadness and despair. While most people may feel these from time to time, it becomes a problem when anxiety and despair starts disrupting people’s lives.

This is why, if you or a loved one wants to stop using drugs, rather than taking the risk of doing it at home, seek professional help at a rehab. Good rehabs, such as Pacific Bay recovery in San Diego, offer detox and de-addiction programs including –

  • Medical Detox
  • Inpatient Program
  • Outpatient Program
  • Individual therapy
  • Group and family therapy
  • Addiction counseling, and more

The Relationship Between Psychiatric Conditions and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse disorder is a condition associated with individuals becoming addicted to certain substances such as alcohol and/or drugs. Addiction is defined as individuals partaking in these mentioned substances, because they have become dependent on them, and results in the affected person becoming socially withdrawn, experiencing breakdowns in relationships with friends and family, as well as committing actions that can get them into trouble with the law.

When a substance abuse disorder occurs together with any underlying mental health conditions then this is referred to as dual diagnosis (also called dual pathology or co-occurring disorders). Mental health illnesses may include:

  • Major depression
  • Bipolar mood disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder

Confirming the diagnosis of dual pathology may be challenging since substance abuse disorders may initially induce signs and symptoms of psychiatric conditions. Affected patients may then be regarded as having a substance abuse issue until such time as a complete and adequate medical history is taken from them to determine if the condition presented on its own or together with an underlying psychiatric disorder.

Issues Faced by Patients with Dual Pathology

These patients, compared to those with mental or substance abuse disorders alone, are faced with complex challenges such as:

  • An increased relapse rate.
  • An increased risk of being hospitalized.
  • Being exposed to illnesses such as hepatitis C and HIV.

Theoretical Causes of Dual Pathology

The following are theories that can help explain the relationship between mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders:

  • Causality – it is suggested that certain types of substance abuse can lead to specific mental conditions. An example is the use of cannabis leading to mild psychotic experiences although it isn’t proven to cause psychotic disorders.
  • Exposure to multiple risk factors – exposure to certain risk factors can lead to both mental health and substance abuse conditions and these may include poverty, social isolation, associating with drug abusers, living in areas with high drug availability, and traumatic experiences like sexual abuse.
  • Self-medicating – abusing medications used to help alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions may lead to the development of a substance abuse problem. Also, certain medications may be used to counter the side effects of certain psychiatric drugs and this can also lead to substance abuse.
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – up to 25 percent of patients with a substance abuse disorder are known with ADHD. A reason for this is because ADHD is associated with an increased craving for drugs. Treating both these issues is difficult and unfortunately, these patients have poorer outcomes.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – as opposed to ADHD, ASD reduces the risk of an affected individual developing a substance abuse disorder. The reason for this is believed to be that ASD presents with a person lacking sensation-seeking personality traits and this helps to protect against abusing substances. It should be mentioned though that certain types of substance abuse, especially that of alcohol, can cause or worsen certain neuropsychological symptoms that are common in patients diagnosed with ASD.

How to Prevent Drug Overdose

Do you know what happens in a drug overdose? Do you have any idea how you can help if someone overdoses on a drug? Overdose is a common risk with people who suffer from drug abuse. Here is important information about a drug overdose and what you can do to help in case it happens to someone you know.

Drug Overdose

An overdose involves a person taking too much of a drug. Overdose amounts are levels of the drug that a person’s metabolism cannot detoxify the drug fast enough, causing serious medical symptoms, including death. The severity of a drug overdose depends on the type of drug, the amount taken and the individual.

What to Do if someone is experiencing a Drug Overdose

  • Call 911 if someone has stopped breathing, lost consciousness or is having seizures.
  • Don’t let the person fall asleep while you wait for help to arrive. Even if the person gets irritated, keep them awake by shaking them or talking to them.
  • Watch their breathing closely. Begin CPR if the breathing stops.

Prevent a Drug Overdose

If a loved one has become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, prevent overdose by overcoming the addiction with treatment at the best rehab center. Skilled and experienced addiction specialists at leading rehabs, such as Pacific Bay Recovery, help you choose the right treatment program.

 

4 Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Drug addiction doesn’t always begin with recreational drugs. Many people, especially chronic pain patients, become addicted to prescription drugs even when they’re taking according to a doctor’s prescription. The most abused prescription drugs are opioids, depressants, and stimulants.

Oxycodone

If you have heard of OxyContin, that is what Oxycodone is. Since it is a time-release tablet used to manage pain, experts assumed that the potential for abuse is low.

But many users snort or inject the medication to bypass the time-release. This increases the likelihood of addiction because some brain chemicals may rise and fall more rapidly.

Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is similar to oxycodone and available in direct-release form. This is the drug that is used to make lean, a drink with soda and hard candy. Since there is no control over dosage, it is dangerous to take the medication in this form. And increasing the intake can quickly cause a drug overdose.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines slow the nervous system down to reduce anxiety, so that you can calm down and/or sleep. Common benzodiazepines are Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.

Many people combine benzos with alcohol which can cause a dangerous drop in heart and respiration rates.

Stimulants

Ritalin and Adderall are stimulants that boost levels of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain. Some people may use prescription stimulants to help them concentrate or focus or pull an all-nighter. Since stimulants can also make you feel more social and confident, a large number of people are now using them recreationally.

Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse

Leading rehabs, such as Pacific Bay Recovery in San Diego, can help you get rid of your prescription drug dependence with non-drug pain management. You can select from the following programs:

  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Inpatient program
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

 

Why 12 Steps Programs Aren’t a Magic Bullet

Modern medicine has tricked us into thinking fixing the human body is easy. The advent of antibiotics has to lead us to believe that there is a one-stop shop for every ailment or disease process. You’ve probably had grandparents complaining of a chesty cough diagnosed with a chest infection. Antibiotics are given and it clears up. Or if you’re a woman – you might have felt a sting when passing urine that quickly passed when your family doctor prescribed a 3-day course of antibiotics. Perhaps you even know somebody who had an early stage cancer that was swiftly trolleyed off to an operating room only to make a full recovery. Regardless of who the patient is, where the patient has come from and what they have done in the past is irrelevant – everybody gets the same treatment. But this isn’t the case with mental health and addiction. If you yourself are reading this looking for a cure for an addiction take a moment to think to yourself why you are here. What happened along your own complex journey that led you or somebody you love to addiction. Each patient, each person, has an individual story that directly affects why they are there and how they can recover. Why then does the United States rely so heavily on one treatment, 12 step recovery programs, for addiction treatment?

Dual Diagnoses

A significant proportion of people who have a substance abuse issue also have a mental health diagnosis. Called a dual diagnosis, this is just one example of the ways in which the status quo is hindered addiction recovery in the United States. Whilst a 12 step programme can be useful for these patients – a whole host of other mental health treatments are also needed.

Treatment Options for Addiction

Whilst 12 step programs do provide an excellent option for addiction recovery – they aren’t for everyone. They also aren’t the be all and end all of the addiction treatment. Take the PacificBayRecoverycentre for instance which offers the following list of treatments:

● Inpatient recovery
● Intensive outpatient recovery
● Cognitive Behavioural therapy
● Medical detox

These different types of treatment programmes are tailored to the individual – providing a far more holistic care for the patient. What we mean by holistic is that the programmes are built around the patient’s own personal journeys and stories. They are tailored and personalized to that patient.

There Will Never Be A Magic Bullet

For incredibly complex diseases like an addiction – there will never be a magic bullet, an antibiotic or drug that can be given quickly and easily and give the patient immediate and lifetime relief. A multitude of treatments and need to be tailored to that individual patient to aid in their recovery. An interesting blog post (that I recommend you read) on DopeMagazine.com explored this very issue this week. In the article a clinician notes:

“Without guidance to other methods, a person with an addiction can stay stuck in the belief that nothing will work for them,” says CT, a Seattle-based CDP who wished to remain anonymous. “12 Steps does not encourage getting help for mental health issues, nor convey how common dual disorders are.”

And therein lies the issue. Not that 12 step programs don’t work. For many they do. It is just the word is not getting out about the different options available that specialist centers like the Pacific Bay Recovery Centre can provide.

Signs to Look for in an Alcoholic

People across the western world are certainly fond of a drink. In fact almost 27% of the American population over 18 binge drink every single month according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Almost 70% of American adults had a drink in the past year and almost 56% in the past month. This will come as no surprise to many – and it’s no secret that lots of us need to cut down in one form or another. But the majority of Americans aren’t alcoholics. How can you differentiate between somebody that likes a drink and a problem drinker that potentially needs professional help? The simple steps below should help.

Doctors across the world use a tool developed by the World Health Organization called the AUDIT. It helps doctors identify people that might be at risk of alcohol abuse. Whilst it isn’t 100%, and scoring highly on it is not a diagnosis of alcoholism (you should always visit a licensed doctor for a diagnosis), it can give a good indicator to problem drinking. It acts as a good tool to have in mind if you suspect you or somebody you know may suffer from alcoholism.

The questionnaire includes 10 questions each with an answer scoring between 0 and 4. The maximum score is therefore 40, and any score over 20 indicates potential dependence. You can download the questionnaire for yourself at the following link but the questions include things such as:

● How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?
● How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of your drinking?
● How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session? (This is often known as an “eye opener” and it a big sign of alcoholism).
● How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
● Has a relative, friend, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested that you cut down?

Getting Help For a drinking problem

If you or somebody you love scored highly on the World Health Organization’s AUDIT score, it may indicate they have a dependence to alcohol. There are lots of treatment options available for those who do, and there are a number of specialist services available across the United States that can provide tailor made plans to help an individual overcome their drinking problem. Their treatment options include:

● Inpatient recovery facilities (where a patient will stay on site to break their habit).
● Intensive outpatient treatment (where the patient come sin for regular meetings to discuss and get help).
● Pharmacotherapy – sometimes drugs may be prescribed to overcome withdrawal.
● CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful for people that have a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and a mental health condition).