Mixing Alcohol And Drugs Is Deadlier Than You Might Think

Mixing Drugs Alcohol | Transcend Texas

The idea behind mixing alcohol and drugs is usually to “improve” on a user’s experience. Experimenting with drug combinations might lead to new highs, or ways to deal with a drug’s immediate negative “comedown” effects. However, in reality, mixing alcohol with other drugs only serves to create an extremely dangerous and very potent combination, landing you in the ER or worse.

Knowing how alcohol interacts with different drugs may help give you an idea of why you should never mix booze and pills.


How Alcohol And Xanax Mix

Perhaps the deadliest combination on the list, alcohol mixed with sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) like Xanax or Valium creates an extremely powerful sedation effect that not only potentially knocks you out, but also slows down your breathing and negates your coughing reflex, rendering you unable to breathe and unable to cough up vomit or any other blockage.

This is because alcohol and sedatives are extremely similar. Both are depressants, which means they have a calming and sedating effect on the body and the brain, lowering inhibition, slurring speech, and slowing down breathing.

Because they both require the same enzymes to be properly metabolized, the use of both sedatives and alcohol causes each substance to spend much more time in the user’s bloodstream, greatly amplifying the effects of each drug. In other words, a “normal” dose of alcohol mixed with a “normal” dose of Xanax is much more powerful than each drug individually.

Beyond using the same enzymes in the liver and causing the same sedative effects, using multiple drugs at once – also known as polydrug use – greatly amplifies your chances of struggling with multiple addictions.


How Booze And Opiates Kill

While alcohol and sedatives are extremely dangerous, they’re abused as often as opioids and booze are. Prescription painkillers (or opioids) are natural or synthetic derivatives of opium. Heroin, another commonly abused opioid, is also often taken alongside alcohol. When consumed together, these drugs also cause a “slowdown” of the body’s processes, often leading to death through oxygen deprivation.

Unlike Xanax, opioids are metabolized separately from alcohol. However, taking both at the same time can make the dangerous side effects of heroin and prescription painkillers – namely, the risk of passing out and choking to death – much more pronounced.

Beyond that, opioids are also known for being some of the most addictive drugs in the world. Up to 5% of all prescription drug users end up getting hooked on painkillers, with recovery taking months or years.

The biggest danger in this combination is how common it is. Throughout the years, the American healthcare system prioritized the sale of painkillers to aggressively fight the emergence of chronic pain in America, leading to a flooding of unused and resold prescription medication, as well as a dangerous misuse and eventual abuse of painkillers in hundreds of thousands of Americans. This arose from a combination of aggressive marketing tactics from pharmaceutical companies, as well as a growing concern among physicians that pain was undertreated in the US.

Before an official crackdown, the growth of the internet and the online prescription drug business further fueled the fire. Today, America is dealing with the biggest opioid crisis in history, with overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers higher than ever before.


Alcohol, Cocaine, And The Brain

Alcohol and cocaine is another common combination because of the widely opposing effects of cocaine and booze on the mind. While alcohol suppresses inhibition, causes slurred speech, and slows a person’s coordination and cognition, cocaine works in the opposite direction as a stimulant, introducing a powerful euphoric high alongside a sharp increase in motivation and energy levels.

However, the use of both at the same time are thought to cancel out each other’s negative effects. In reality, using alcohol and cocaine may dampen the effects of each, causing many to use excessive amounts of cocaine or alcohol to achieve the desired high. This poses a greater risk of overdose and death. In fact, the risk of death is up to 20 times higher when taking both cocaine and alcohol, rather than just cocaine.


The Risks Of Alcohol And Cannabis

On its own, the negative effects of cannabis may be milder than most other drugs. Yet when combined with alcohol, its potency expands greatly. Aside from being a depressant, alcohol is also a diuretic and a vasodilator, meaning it affects the rate at which your endocrine system works, and expands your blood vessels, accelerating the effects of drugs in the bloodstream.

With modern methods of cannabis use including smoking high concentrations through e-cigarettes or consuming THC oils, the effects of THC can be greatly amplified by combining with alcohol. Misjudging your cannabis use while drunk can lead to nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, and more.


Prescription Drugs Vs. Illegal Drugs: It’s All Still Drug Abuse

Illegal Drugs & Prescription Drugs | Transcend Texas

Over 60,000 Americans died from drug addiction in 2017, mostly from overdoses caused by illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamine. Yet while much of the spotlight is on the illegal drugs coursing the streets of America, there is a potentially more sinister villain at the center of all of this: misused medication.

Awareness on the dangers of prescription drug addiction has risen extensively, but so has the rate at which they cause deaths. A lot must be done to understand that addiction is addiction, and drug abuse is drug abuse – regardless of who is abusing what drug, in what neighborhood, with what capital.

There is an unbelievable amount of stigma around addiction, and all addicts must struggle with it. But stereotyping and misinformation has framed the issue of addiction around illegal drugs and criminal behavior. But that’s not what addiction is. It is not a consequence of character, or a moral weakness. It is a diagnosable brain disease with severe mental and physical consequences, and a long and difficult treatment process. But like many other diseases, it can be treated, and managed despite its chronic nature.

But nothing will change in the long term without a societal shift in perspective. To truly solve our addiction crisis, we must understand addiction as a disease, and mitigate the factors that develop it. In America, one such factor is the over-prescription and overconsumption of prescription drugs, and the near-ubiquitous American diagnosis and perception of pain.


Drugs Are Drugs: A History

Prescription drugs are prescription-only for the fact that they play a role in causing addiction, since they can be abused to do more than treat a medical condition. Our relationship to these drugs goes back as far as the 1800s, when pharmaceutics began utilizing and effectively marketing opium and opium-derivatives as painkillers and soothing medicine, causing addiction and overdose deaths.

On the scientific and developmentary front, new medicines hit the market and almost immediately became subject to stringent regulation, including tranquilizers as medication, amphetamines, and barbiturates. An unsettling trend sets in across households as housewives abuse the drugs for self-medication, and soldiers get addicted while in combat tours overseas. Synthetic opiates hit the market, more powerful and potent than their natural counterparts.

Since then, many changes have occurred in both the pharmaceutical industry and in law. Government agencies like the FDA have largely squashed the quackery and snake oil salesmanship that openly promoted dangerous and highly addictive drugs as child-friendly medicine, while many drugs that at the time were available over-the-counter are now considered illegal drugs even in personal possession without a medical license, including cocaine, heroin, and morphine.

In the 50s, the Durham Humphrey Amendment set up a clear legal distinction between prescription and over-the-counter medicine, while the government began crackdowns on the smuggling and distribution of narcotics, and the manufacture of both natural and synthetic addictive medicines. Non-addictive medicines, including aspirin and acetaminophens, are exempt from this. Yet despite these efforts, advertisements for addictive medicines as being generally safe continued. Drug addiction created the industry of drug treatment, and rehab clinics started opening across the country starting in the 60s.

The 60s, 70s and 80s saw an explosion in the use of cocaine and marijuana, through South America. Yet while illegal drugs were on the rise and started the panic that sparked the War on Drugs and led to skyrocketing rates of mass incarceration, a rise in prescription drug advertising and a growth in both the perception of pain and pain-related lifestyle illnesses meant Americans started being prescribed more and more prescription medication – including opioids like Oxycontin and Percocet, and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium.

Doctors were incentivized to sell patients more drugs than they needed, and profit became an additional motive behind the primary driving factor in America’s lurking addiction to prescription medication – a war on pain. Yet what many doctors did not know was that their efforts to combat pain would later unfold in extremely dangerous ways.


How Medicine Can Kill

Opioids slow down breathing, to the point of respiratory failure, paralysis, and death. Adderall and other amphetamines cause heart issues and can lead to long-term brain damage and stroke. Benzodiazepines can kill through sedation.

Understanding the dangers of addictive substances – regardless of what purpose they serve – is important for solving the drug issue. We need alternatives to addictive medicine, especially in cases where said medicine may not be a good treatment tool to begin with.


America And Pain

It is no coincidence that the United States is going through an opioid crisis at the same rate that perceived pain is on the rise. Not only do Americans claim to feel more pain more often than people in less developed countries across the world, but the rate at which that trend has been growing is relative to the rate at which opioid consumption has increased.

Whether one caused the other, or whether they are both in a tangled relationship, is up to more research to decide. But the facts are that beyond a flawed perception of pain, the American healthcare system still has a flawed perception of pain management. Doctors are too quick to prescribe addictive medication or expensive surgery for injuries, while putting patients through a battery of unnecessary tests further driving up their medical bills. Despite the costs associated with American healthcare, it is often no better or even worse than the healthcare in other developed nations, where doctors are far less likely to prescribe painkillers of any kind, going so far as to teach patients instead to cope with the pain, and work through it as part of a healing process instead of putting them on a slippery slope towards illegal drugs.

Americans are not just reluctant to explore and live with their pain, but they are also at greater risk for chronic pain than others. The decades-old obesity issue does more than increase the American waistline, it also leads to more cases of chronic pain caused by joint stress, arthritis, diabetes, and inflammation.


More Than Just Opioids

Painkillers are not the only kind of addictive prescription drug on the rise. Anti-anxiety medication is in spot number two, as benzodiazepines like Xanax cause overdose deaths to grow, accompanied by an ever-increasing number of patients struggling with anxiety disorders. Amphetamines are also overprescribed – Americans consume more Adderall than any other nation on Earth.

This is not to say that medication and treatment are important in tackling anxiety disorders, chronic pain, and ADHD. Many Americans struggle with mental and physical health issues that are debilitating and rely on medication to get out of bed in the morning and function as human beings. Yet there must be safer alternatives in our healthcare than opiates and stimulants. Billions are spent producing and selling pharmaceutical answers, while therapeutic treatments and mental health facilities are understaffed and underappreciated.

If you’re struggling with an addiction due to a pre-existing medical condition, get help. Your diagnosis does not excuse addiction no matter if it’s to “legal” or illegal drugs, and the two can make each other worse. Addiction treatment today emphasizes the unique nature of each case, and how important it is to treat all underlying issues, rather than focusing on the superficial symptoms.


Synthetic Drugs Are the New Danger On The Market

Synthetic Drugs Abused | Transcend Texas

Synthetic drugs are an unfortunately confusing case of terminology, as most street drugs undergo a lengthy chemical process to make it to the consumer level. However, unlike drugs like alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and even heroin, which are all based on natural plant crops, synthetic drugs are produced in a lab through a mixture of chemicals and require no crop or major field to source their base ingredients.

Instead, synthetic drugs can be produced anywhere given the right equipment, without the need to source vast amounts of plant material from a tract of land. This makes them easy to produce, transport, smuggle in base form and distribute all over the globe, bypassing international law by getting sold online as research material. These dangerous new drugs have come to be described by public health officials as “new psychoactive substances”, or NPS.

Synthetic drugs come in many shapes and sizes, with different names and dangers. We will go over some of the more common examples, and exactly why they are so extremely dangerous – and why they have grown in popularity recently.


What Are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs typically count any drugs developed chemically as an alternate version of an existing psychotropic compound, in an attempt (usually) to bypass the law. Also known as designer drugs, these are man-made compounds often capable of a much more powerful high of a similar kind to its natural analog.

For example, cannabis affects the brain in a very specific way. The active compound in cannabis, THC, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and affects your motor function, memory, feelings, pain tolerance, cognition and more.

It has different effects based on how much of the drug is taken, and based on a person’s own individual brain structure, mood at the time, and reaction to the drug. Some people use medicinal marijuana as a prescribed treatment for certain mental health problems, while others smoke or ingest the drug and end up spending hours doing practically nothing.

Synthetic cannabis is far viler. While it is similar in that it binds to the same receptors as THC, it is a far more addictive and powerful drug, and unlike THC, it can be quite easy to suffer from an overdose of synthetic cannabinoids. More on that below.

Aside from being analogous to “natural” drugs in that synthetic drugs bind to the same receptors their effects can be drastically different – and far more dangerous – than those of their already addictive counterparts.

Not all synthetic drugs are designed for addiction and recreational use. Many are developed first as medicine, or studied for medical efficacy, before eventually ending up somewhere far outside a lab. Some synthetic drugs – such as synthetic opioids – are still in use for certain conditions.


Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids bind to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors but have little else to do with THC or cannabis. However, because of recent media around cannabis usage and its potential in certain industries, some people have mistakenly taken on the view that cannabis is completely safe – and that by extension, synthetic cannabis cannot be much worse.

Also known as K2, spice, fake weed and a series of other names, synthetic cannabinoids can be extremely toxic even in “normal” doses. They are typically produced by spraying the cannabinoid mixture onto dried plant material, which is then sold as “incense” or some other innocuous product. However, because of the uneven application of a spray bottle, one hit from the wrong bit of plant material can lead to dangerous side effects and even hospitalization.

Nausea, vomiting, and a dangerously high heart rate are just a few of the possible complications arising from synthetic cannabinoid use.


Synthetic Cathinones

Known infamously as “bath salts”, synthetic cathinones can lead to psychotic episodes and dangerous hallucinations. Cathinones are usually derived from khat, a plant indigenous to Africa and the Middle East, chewed much like South America’s coca plant (cocaine). On its own, chewed khat acts as a mild stimulant. Synthetic cathenones, on the other hand, are sold as cheap yet powerful stimulants with very nasty side effects.

Dubbed Bliss, White Lightning, Vanilla Sky, and a series of other names, synthetic cathinones or “bath salts” can lead to bouts of extreme paranoia, hallucinations, delirium, panic attacks and more.


Synthetic Opioids

A common synthetic opioid still used in the treatment of certain types of pain, including end-of-life, is fentanyl. Fentanyl is an incredibly potent and powerful opiate, several times stronger than heroin and morphine, and thus several times more dangerous. More than a few specs in your bloodstream at once is enough to stop your breathing, which is why it is often administered to patients in the form of a fentanyl lollipop.

However, fentanyl and its ludicrously toxic cousin, carfentanil, have also become part and parcel in certain productions of heroin. Some drug dealers are getting into the habit of cutting their heroin to save on costs, while increasing potency by mixing fentanyl into it. However, the mix ends up being uneven, and in many cases the result is a much more powerful product with certain hits here and there than can – and often enough are – fatal.

Carfentanil should never be used, let alone mixed into heroin. Its potency is so high that officials have dubbed it a nerve gas at one point, citing instances in drug raids where clouds of synthetic opiates from the raid were enough to hospitalize officers for complications from an overdose.


Why Synthetic Drugs Are So Dangerous

Synthetic drugs have become more dangerous than ever due to an influx of materials for local production right in America, as well as a demand for cheaper alternatives to existing drugs for people with the desperate need to get high, and a very low budget for it.

Aside from a reduced cost of production and distribution worldwide, new synthetic drug production out of markets in China fueled by the online drug market and black-market websites has led to the development and sale of many chemicals and finished product right into the US – and into the hands of unsuspecting addicts, causing overdose deaths to rocket up even further.

Drugs are bad – but synthetic drugs are a special kind of evil, in most cases and professional treatment with a stint in a sober living community is often necessary to break the hold synthetic drugs have on people.


Why Is Drug Addiction So Prevalent In Cities Like Houston?

Drug Addiction In Houston | Transcend Texas

Like any big city, Houston has its fair share of problems – crime and drug addiction among them. As serious as drug addiction is, it only affects a very small fraction of the total adult population of the US, despite lax attitudes towards alcohol, and in some places, marijuana.

However, in Houston, Texas as well as other large cities in states across the country, the concentration for drug abuse grows and becomes more apparent. So, what it is about big cities like Houston that seems to make the phenomenon of addiction grow?


Drug Addiction In Houston

As is the case with many other big cities in the country, drug addiction is a substantial and growing problem. In Houston alone, heroin and meth are particularly troublesome, causing the most deaths and drug-related crimes in the city for decades. On the flip-side, to accompany high drug usage, Houston also has a prodigious selection of rehabs and treatment centers.

Many factors affect why Houston is struggling with drugs, the biggest being that it is a.) an incredibly populous city in a country with well over a quarter billion people, and b.) the most populous city in the state of Texas, a state that has established drug issues, and struggles to fight against the illegal trade of drugs out of Mexico.

Among other substances, gangs produce and smuggle marijuana, meth, and cocaine over the border into the United States, with meth being the biggest problem in the region, while street heroin and prescription opiates take a second spot.

Methamphetamine has grown to become an issue in Houston. The amount of meth seized from 2014 to 2015 grew by other 400 percent, while Houston reported over 780,000 cases of addiction in 2008 throughout the entire Houston area. In schools, about a third of students report having been sold/offered drugs on school property.

Aside from being the most populous city of Texas, Houston also struggles with growing poverty, a possible factor that contributes to the growth in addiction alongside an explosion in the local drug supply.


Drug Use And Big Cities

Cities grow organically through a continuous cycle of supply and demand in the workforce – opportunities are created by industries pioneering in a region, bringing jobs, and creating a need of real estate and residences around the industry. Decade after decade, the city grows because of its people, and its population grows because it is a city.

But with this growth comes the many downsides of living in an urban environment, especially in poverty. Large cities can become incredibly cramped, destitute, and unhealthy places to live in. For many, drug addiction provides a relief from that lifestyle that otherwise cannot be afforded.

Aside from there, where there are many people, there are many different people problems. Drug dealers specifically target urban neighborhoods to reach a large density of people and sell as much as possible, as quickly as possible, turning cities into the areas in the country with the largest drug problem.

Drug addiction is not only an issue in large cities. All of America is struggling with drugs, particularly opioids, methamphetamine, alcohol, and marijuana. But there are distinct differences in the way urban and rural addictions work.

Reports show that, among other key differences, ages between rural and urban addictions were very different with rural admissions to treatment being typically much younger. In addition, rural addictions primarily revolved around alcohol and non-opiates, while urban addictions had the countryside beat with its opiate abuse.

Why Texas Is Struggling With Drugs

Aside from the methamphetamine problem out of Mexico, another big issue hitting the streets is the recurrence and abundance of black tar heroin being sold, alongside an increase in opioid overdoses, and a decrease in the average age of both overdose victims and patients on opioid medication.

The overall demand for heroin in Texas has increased dramatically, alongside a larger number of reported calls to the Texas Poison Center Network regarding heroin. Although heroin usage has increased, opioid prescription abuse has decreased, suggesting perhaps that some addicts have moved on from getting their fix through street heroin rather than painkillers.

While these drugs picked up, others have dropped in usage. Both synthetic cathinones and cannabinoids have dropped in overall usage since their peak in 2011, and emergency calls due to ecstasy (MDMA) have dropped since 2009.

With its proximity to the border, large population, and its reputation as a major economy, it is no wonder that Texas is a common source of business for drug dealers and manufacturers.


What Can Be Done?

Enacting major political and economic change to help shift the state of healthcare and poverty in the US is not something most people can hope to affect in their lifetime – but there are little differences we can make to create a drastic impact in our own little communities, and with a little luck, within entire towns and city districts. You do not have to look towards politics and policy for answers, nor do you need a lot of money.

All it takes is to spread awareness on recent facts around drug addiction, dispel old myths, build a better understanding of addiction among your friends and family, and most importantly, help those around you who struggle with addiction to this day.

Over 6% of all Americans over the age of 12 struggle with substance abuse and drug addiction. Many of them are our relatives, our friends, our colleagues, or neighbors. Just by reaching out and offering help, addressing the issue without judgment, or by promoting local causes that focus on outreach and change, you can make a little difference and help change lives. In a city of over 2 million people, there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to helping others – but everyone focuses on helping those in their immediate vicinity better take on their life’s challenges, we can all build stronger, better communities. Men and women’s sober living facilities can also provide a safe haven for those trying to stay sober.

Not every attempt will be a success, and not everyone will reach and maintain their sobriety. But anyone can. And no one deserves to be given up on.


How Does Someone Become Addicted?

How You Become Addicted | Transcend Texas

Addiction is multifaceted in both its appearance and ill effects. Some people become addicted quickly, while others go through months of drug use and quit at the drop of a hat. Some people exhibit terrifying and destructive behavior, while others can successfully go through great lengths to hide their addiction, suffering underneath the surface.

There is a misconception that only certain “types of people” become addicted. It is true that addiction is more likely in times of distress, or as a result of escalating self-medication – but it is also true that anyone can fall prey to addiction. Society’s poorest addicts are every bit as human and personable as upper and middle-class families struggling with alcoholism, across all ages.

Drugs affect the human brain in the same way every time, but what that effect has on individual people is an entirely different matter. Understanding how addiction works, how individuals deal with it, and how drugs affect the human body can go a long way towards learning the how’s and why’s of addicted behavior, and making progress in your own recovery.


Drugs And The Human Body

Have you ever had a craving for a certain food? A certain activity? Or even a certain person? A lot of our needs and wants are driven by a predisposed code most humans have – we’re pleasure seekers in one form or another, and the things that give us pleasure (sex, chocolate, fatty food) have become human favorites due to thousands of years spent selectively surviving the Earth’s harsh environments.

We’re more complex than just our base instincts – but they’re there nonetheless, and to satisfy them can feel really good. This is all due to a part of the brain known as the pleasure center. When we do certain things or ingest certain substances, our pleasure center releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Drugs overstimulate the pleasure center by manipulating our neurons and changing the way dopamine is released, either by releasing more of it than usual or by preventing our cells from properly disposing of it, thus keeping it in our synapses for longer.

As this happens, our body and brain begin to form an addiction to whatever is releasing this unnatural amount of euphoria. Too much of a good thing is no good –and in the case of substance abuse, addictive substances cause a physical reaction as a result of consistent and continuous usage.

Once addiction kicks in and the cravings start, your mind begins to interpret them as needs, more than just wants. Addictive behavior – even the destructive and risky kind – stems from a combination of a corrupted pleasure center, and a decline in cognition and reasoning. Essentially, it becomes harder to keep a cool head and be reasonable about your behavior, and continuous use often leads to impulsive behavior, and worsening decision making as you become addicted.

Tolerance is another aspect of addiction that makes quitting all the more difficult. As addiction continues, the body begins to form a resistance to the effectiveness of a drug, reducing its effects. For example, it may take more alcohol to get drunk, or it may take more cocaine to achieve the same high. This is the body’s cells defending itself from a barrage of unnatural brain functions – but the result simply spurs an addict on to use more drugs in order to achieve the same effect. While the body can protect itself against a high, it cannot protect itself against the lethal side effects of an overdose.

When trying to quit after tolerance kicks in, it is not unusual for a person to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can range from discomfort and irritability to violent sickness, and even death if approached too drastically, depending on the drug. These occur because the body has gotten used to the drug intake, and depends on it for certain brain functions. Cutting off your own supply requires readjustment, the kind that is best done under medical supervision.


When Does Someone Become Addicted?

Addiction begins in the brain, but it is difficult to feasibly track someone’s addiction through constant brain scans – so the most reliable source for when someone can become addicted is the person themselves. For someone to be an addict, they have to admit to themselves that they are one, or exhibit enough symptoms so that denying it would be completely illogical.

A total inability to stop oneself from using – that is what makes someone become addicted. If a person can’t stop themselves despite promises or plans to do so, and despite negative consequences that would typically discourage behavior, then they’re addicted. If a person loses their job, destroys a relationship, or even commits a crime to satisfy their addiction, then it is clear that they have a serious problem.


Addiction And Mental Health

Addiction and mental health are intertwined for several reasons, the most glaring one being the fact that addiction is a disease of the brain above all else. While different kinds of addiction can lead to organ failure and cancer, the brain is what is first affected and causes the addiction to begin with. The combination of addiction and the destructive behavior it can help cause often triggers mental health issues that may have been under control in the past, or were lingering underneath a stable surface.

On the other hand, existing mental health conditions can be made worse when you become addicted, while often playing a part in causing addiction (trauma, anxiety and depression are all wrought with stigma, and are conditions that are prone to self-medication gone awry).

The link between addiction and mental health issues must never be forgotten, especially because both are affected by a public perception of healthy vs. unhealthy.

Addiction, just like other conditions, does not reduce a person to the stereotype of their affliction, and it is important to treat every individual as an individual, and not “another junkie” or “another kook”. These generalizations often drive people to hide their problems, deny dangerous symptoms or lie in order to avoid unjust criticism and emotional harm.


Putting Addiction Behind You

It happens over time, and it takes time to heal and recover from. When you become addicted it can cause serious damage over the course of just a few months, but regardless of how long the disease has been ongoing, it can be put behind you with the right treatment and support.

Drug addiction treatment has gotten better than ever, with programs designed to accommodate any individual’s unique therapeutic needs and considerations. Treatment facilities have long recognized that there is no proper one-size-fits-all solution for addiction, and the result is a comprehensive, custom process.

As such, there’s also no telling how long it’ll take you to get over this period in your life – but as long as you think you can, you will.


How Do Drugs Affect You Mentally?

How Drugs Affect You | Transcend Texas

Hallucinogens, painkillers, depressants, stimulants. Illegal and legal drugs alike come in all shapes and sizes, in liquid, gas and solid forms, and can be found in a cabinet at a doctor’s office, the commercial refrigerators of a 7-Eleven, or in the jacket pocket of a shady businessman. In every person’s life, drugs affect you or play a part in some chapter, existing between the lines.

Drugs have an impact not only on individuals and society, but on the economy, amounting to billions of dollars lost in productivity, absenteeism, and death. Drugs affect men, women, and children from all walks of life. And there is no clear answer on how to deal with the problem.

However, on an individual level, there’s a lot that can be done about how drugs affect you. Treatments and therapies exist to help people turn their lives around and start fighting addiction. The physical and mental effects of drug use can be mitigated, and even partially reversed. Over years, diligence and support can turn a tragedy into a story of personal triumph – and all it takes to begin with is the will to take a brave first step into a different kind of living.

But to really fight drugs on an even playing field, you have to understand what they do and how drugs affect you. It’s no secret that drugs affect the mind, but understanding how can give you the comfort and power you need to do something about it, and motivate you to keep moving forward even when times are tough.


Substance Use And The Brain

In essence, all drugs have a distinct negative impact on the brain, and achieve this in much the same way. While drugs can be ingested, inhaled, injected, and otherwise consumed, they all eventually make their way into the bloodstream through one method or another. It’s there that drugs cross the blood-brain barrier – an incredibly selective membrane that usually protects the fluid in the brain and CNS from most things in the bloodstream – and begin to affect the brain.

When drugs affect you they must cross the blood-brain barrier to actually do anything. And that is what makes them dangerous. Drugs mimic the body’s own pre-existing neurotransmitters, and attach themselves to neurons, sending certain signals throughout the brain. For example: cocaine is an incredibly popular drug because it causes an elevated state of happiness, excitement, and motivation.

It does this by binding to transporters in the neurons that are responsible for transmitting dopamine from one cell to the next. Dopamine accumulates in your synapses, prolonging its effects in the pleasure center of the brain.

This interaction with the brain is not what makes cocaine physically dangerous – however, it is what makes cocaine so addictive. This same principle goes for all other cases where drugs affect you, but in different ways. Alcohol and benzodiazepines, for example, are depressants. They are opposite to a stimulant like cocaine, but still addictive.

Alcohol works on three levels, or three separate neurotransmitters, throughout different parts of the brain. It increases the effects of GABA (causing slurred speech and lack of coordination), inhibits glutamate (causing a slowdown in movement and thinking), and increases dopamine release (causing pleasure). By spreading throughout the brain, alcohol will affect your balance, your breathing, your senses, and even your sexual performance.

Yet only one of these effects contributes to the addictive properties of the drug: its effects on the pleasure center of the brain.

Stimulants can excite your body and heighten your senses, depressants can slow you down and make you sluggish, and painkillers like morphine can greatly reduce or eliminate pain signals – but all of these drugs affect your pleasure center in the same way, increasing the release or retention of dopamine in your cells, and causing feelings of pleasure, joy, and euphoria.

These positive emotions mask the darker side effects of each and every drug – namely, their deleterious effects on both mental and physical health, and the nature of addiction as self-destructive behavior.

Stimulants can stop your heart and damage your brain when the drugs affect you. Alcohol greatly damages the liver and kidneys, and leads to cancer. Opioids like morphine and heroin cause respiratory depression, and death through oxygen deprivation. And because of the interaction between these drugs and the pleasure center of the brain, all drug use eventually leads to addiction, unless it stops beforehand.


How Drugs Affect You & Your Thinking

Drug use not only causes feelings of joy, but can damage your mental health and put you on the path of an addictive loop. For example: excessive use of drugs affect you and will corrupt the pleasure center and make most other activities meaningless or unenjoyable. Old habits fall away, and even the most basic wants can slip away in favor of drugs. The biggest difficulty for many who choose to give up addiction is finding something else to make them happy, because continuous drug use makes the brain forget what normal pleasures feel like.

Most drugs affect you and your thinking in other ways, namely dampening your cognitive abilities and cutting into your memory. Frequent black-outs from excessive drug use will also affect your ability to recall even the most basic and recent memories, and prolonged usage leads to both long-term brain damage and higher chances of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders like paranoia. If a person has a genetic predisposition towards certain mental health issues, addiction may drive these disorders into the forefront.


Addiction Needs To Be Fought

Addiction exercises a powerful hold over a person’s mind, because of how drugs affect you and the strain on the brain. The pleasure center is highly involved with concepts like will, motivation, and reason – we work hard to satisfy our emotional and physical needs, and addiction overwrites many of those needs with a new protocol.

Driving that out, denying it and building a whole new life around sobriety does not happen overnight, or even just in a matter of a few weeks. It takes months and years, and the journey is harder for some than it is for others. However, while addiction never fully goes away – and resisting any urge to use again is something former addicts have to live with – it does get easier with time. And in time, even the worst days of the addiction can become just another detail in a long life lived well.


Why Are More People Than Ever Getting Addicted To Prescription Drugs?

Addicted To Prescription Drugs | Transcend Texas

America’s war on opioids has a long history, tracing back to the beginnings of addiction as a medical definition, and our first instance of fighting a “war on drugs”. To understand where things might have gone wrong, and what factors play into why people getting addicted to prescription drugs grew so prevalent, it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

The Roots Of America’s Opioid Problem

Cutting back to a day and age when chronic pain became the main focus for pharmaceutical companies and modern Western medicine, drug companies began developing new pain medication that was less addictive and less powerful than morphine, but could help patients deal with their pain and reduce their complaints.

Research has since shown that opioids are either slightly or not effective at all for combating pain in the long-term, but at the time, it seemed like the best thing to promote. Production of prescription opioids and subsequent prescription of opioids shot through the roof, creating two issues. On one hand, it led to a large number of chronic pain patients getting addicted to prescription drugs. This is by far a minority, but the over prescription also led to an influx of unused prescription painkillers in households everywhere. Some people sold their medication – other pills landed in the hands of friends and family, creating new addicts here and there.

We are still facing the issues brought about by those addicted to prescription drugs today – and as both prescription drugs and heroin continue to be a problem, the overdose statistics rise.


How Strict Regulations Led To Heroin

Prescription drug use has actually dropped in recent years, contrary to popular belief – while it is true that a lack of understanding and easy profits has led to an excessive sale and use of prescription medication in the past few decades, the government has done a lot to curb this. But on the other hand, all this did was create a large population of those addicted to prescription drugs, and then tear away their only somewhat reputable source of opioids.

While pharmaceutical companies ultimately care mostly about their bottom line, they produced a clean product. After regulations were implemented without a proper protocol in place to help all the addicts seek treatment and get better, they turned to more dangerous alternatives – including heroin, wherever it could be found, in whatever form.

Today, the explosion in heroin usage has led to the creation of an influx of heroin from abroad and an increase in local production, leading to a new generation of heroin users who never had to transition into the drug from being addicted to prescription drugs.


Stronger Threats From Abroad

With a growth in demand, the vacuum left by tighter prescription drug regulations and a lack of local heroin production to keep up has led to the rising popularity of certain synthetic opioids – including massively dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

Synthetic drug production is nothing new, especially today. Homegrown designer drugs are hitting the market faster than the law can keep up with them, and the threat is one that is still in the process of being tackled by policymakers.

Meanwhile, those formerly addicted to prescription drugs who turned to heroin, and people who started out as heroin addicts are increasingly going to run into the risk of a fatal overdose from a bad batch, or an excess of fentanyl. Many suppliers cut their heroin with fillers to reduce the cost, then mix in fentanyl to increase potency, often proving fatal to customers.


How Opioids Kill

Opioids trigger an analgesic effect, while releasing neurotransmitters that cause an enormous swell of pleasure and happiness. However, this also makes them incredibly addictive. The major side effect to this is that, if taken excessively, opioids will slow a person’s breathing to the point that they completely cease to breathe, and choke.

Aside from the fatal nature of an overdose, constant misuse of opioids can drastically alter the body and leave lasting effects, including liver damage, brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, and in the case of a survived overdose, partial or full paralysis. When left without oxygen for an extended period of time, the body begins to shut down certain functions in order to preserve vital organs – including cutting off major muscles and nerves.

Most prescription pills abused today are opioids, but thousands of Americans are also struggling with stimulants such as amphetamine (Adderall) and anti-anxiety drugs (Valium, Xanax, etc.).


Tackling The Problem At Home: Addicted To Prescription Drugs

It has rather succinctly been explained that the key behind America’s issue with being addicted to prescription drugs – and drugs in general – is that “it’s much easier to get high than it is to get help”. That’s not an attack on the moral character of anyone who has ever used drugs, but a condemnation of the state of our current healthcare, and inability for most Americans to seek help when it’s needed, both out of stigma and out of a lack of finances.

On one hand, getting treated for addiction isn’t cheap, especially when the first option that comes to mind for some is either rehab or attending a twelve-step program. On the other hand, many who can seek treatment do not, either because they do not recognize their problem, or because they’re convinced that they can solve the issue before it becomes apparent, thus saving them the trouble and stigma that comes with admitting to being addicted to prescription drugs.

When someone is addicted, everything they do is second-guessed. For a misguided few, they go from being a human being, to a caricature. Many others simply struggle to reconcile the person they once knew with the disease. All of this is due to a flawed understanding of addiction – and that flawed understanding contributed to the rise of prescription drug addiction in America, alongside a failing healthcare system, and the consequences of a post-recession economy at a time rife with optimization, digitalization, and the economic crisis.

That does not mean all hope is somehow lost. There are things we can all do, as long as we stand united in doing the best we can for our loved ones. By protecting our friends and family, we can all make a difference throughout the nation – and it starts with proper education.

Read up on addiction, and all the latest material on the subject. Reach out to the people you know who are struggling with addiction, and speak to them from a place of compassion, rather than judgment.

Find out what behavior you might have been engaging in that could be enabling someone. See what you can do locally to raise awareness on the issue of opioid abuse, and encourage families to put aside their beliefs or misconceptions, and embrace their sons and daughters and help them fight addiction. It’s a long road for every single person struggling with addiction, but through treatment, support and time, everyone can heal.


Why It’s So Easy To Transition From “Recreational Use” To Addiction

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It’s hard to draw the line between drug use, and drug addiction. There is no such thing as a one-hit addiction – addiction happens over repeated usage. And while using a drug can prime your brain for more of its usage, the cycle of addiction does not begin until a behavior has already been established, which takes time. However, that time may be over faster than you might think, and so called “recreational use” can quickly turn into addiction. It’s important to make a distinction between the two, and understand that no one is immune from addiction just because they feel like they’re in control over their usage. A drug is a drug, and it’s always dangerous.


The Difference Between Recreational Use And Addiction

Addiction and recreational use are differentiated by the ability to stop at any time. Someone who is addicted can’t stop without a great amount of effort and, often, some help. Someone who attempting to practice recreational use, on the other hand, could be asked to stop and probably would be able to without much of an issue.

There would be signs of withdrawal, but they would be minor, and the difficulty of stopping wouldn’t be that of addiction, which involves intense cravings and irritability.

Drug addiction and recreational use can also be differentiated by the effect they have on a person’s lifestyle and personality. For example: someone who uses a drug recreationally at first may not have a problem with incorporating it into their life. However, addiction often implies that the damage being caused by a person’s drug use is becoming increasingly unavoidable, and more troubling. Someone struggling with addiction might burn through their relationships, lose their job and even end up in the emergency room more than once because of their habit.

Someone practicing recreational use might have the ability to see when their usage is beginning to be a problem, and curb it to avoid getting caught, or to lessen the effect it has on their life, though that is never guaranteed to be the case.


The Key to Preventing Addiction

Substance addiction can only be prevented in one way: by not using drugs. Recreational use is only one step on the path to addiction, and the only way to keep that from happening is to stop using altogether. And if you find that you can’t, then you may already be on the path to a long and tough addiction.

We have all heard about how alcohol can be used “in moderation”. While alcohol is a drug, it is different from other more dangerous and potent substances, such as prescription medication, illicit substances like heroin, or even potentially deadly drugs like fentanyl.

Alcohol can be addictive, and thousands of Americans struggle with alcoholism every day. To them, the only answer towards long-term sobriety is to never have a drop, ever again. But for the millions of other Americans who do drink responsibly, the idea that addiction can only be prevented through abstinence seems contradictory.

Coffee is a drug. Caffeine is psychoactive, and going from heavy caffeine use to a caffeine intake of zero can lead to intense drowsiness, headaches and other withdrawal issues for several days. However, you can “recreationally” drink coffee.

The key is understanding the difference in addictiveness across the spectrum of psychoactive substances, so you know what to stay away from at all costs, and what to be aware of. Caffeine isn’t inherently dangerous in coffee and tea, but drinking copious amounts of coffee with milk and sugar can lead to unnecessary calories in your day, and interfere with your sleeping cycle. Processed caffeine sources, like energy drinks, can even affect your heart and worsen existing cardiac conditions – and in very rare cases, contribute to your death.

A drug like fentanyl requires little more than a few specks inhaled through the air to cause serious damage, and send you to the medical room. Crack cocaine and methamphetamine are incredibly addictive, and can cause brain damage. Also prescription drugs like anti-depressants can kill you. There is no such thing as “recreational use” when it comes to these kinds of substances.


Why Teens Use Drugs More Often

There is a reasonable explanation as to why teenagers are more susceptible to recreational use of drugs than adults, and why they tend to struggle with addiction for years. On one hand, teenagers are going through tough times. They’re learning to deal with their emotions, their bodies, their peers. It’s frustrating, and difficult.

While children generally seek approval, and nurturing from their parents, teenagers often revolt from their parents influence to gain independence. Sometimes, their behavior can be downright nonsensical, outside of the point of view of “rebellion”.

Beyond that, teenagers struggle to understand long-term risk. They are more likely to engage in risky behavior to impress their peers, often ignoring the potential dangers involved in that behavior. Sometimes, impressing your friends might mean taking something. Many teenagers aren’t secure enough to pass up on a challenge that might solidify their standing among peers.

Of course, teenagers are not the only people using drugs, or getting addicted. But they are more susceptible to it, for these factors and others.


Why Addiction Is So Hard To Break

The defining difference between addiction and recreational use is the inability to stop. But why is addiction so hard to break? That’s a question many people have, and it does not have an easy answer.

There are several reasons, some tied to a person’s brain, others tied to their emotions and psychological state. Sometimes, people have a tough time breaking from an addiction because of the protection afforded by being high. In other cases, their brain has rewired itself to crave the substance, and they must deal with thinking about it day and night.

Breaking an addiction always takes a lot of time. And it’s always up to you to ultimately dedicate yourself to your own recovery long enough to avoid a relapse. But it’s much easier to fight this fight with others helping you along the way, keeping you motivated during the worst of times, and encouraging you to keep improving and working on yourself during the best of times. Recovery can last a life time – but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend it well, enjoying yourself and making beautiful memories along the way.


What Makes Opioids Addictive?

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There are few drugs that are as devastating or addictive as heroin – and that’s truer today than ever before. As our country is facing a massive opioid problem, we must understand what opioids are, which opioids are most dangerous, what makes opioids addictive, and why they’re central to the problem that’s taken so many lives in the past few decades.

Opioids have innocent beginnings. All opioids can chemically be traced to the poppy flower, either as part of their production or as a chemical analog to opium.

Opium comes from the sap of the poppy plant. Opiates are opium derivates, including codeine, morphine and heroin. Opioids include all drugs that act on opioid receptors in the brain, including synthetic opioids which are commonly used in pharmaceutical drugs.

The poppy and its milky latex juice have been a potent painkiller for humans since the dawn of civilization. The Sumerians, the world’s oldest and earliest complex civilization, first cultivated and used opium over five thousand years ago.

Since then, science has helped us refine and further narrow down the chemical compound that gives opium its addictive and pleasurable properties that makes opioids addictive. Even as a natural plant product, opium was a dangerous force for addiction. Its history is equal parts good and bad, as a revolutionary tool in medicine and a catalyst in wars, conflicts and cultural crises like the Opium Wars.

The Silk Road expanded the distribution of opium to the rest of the world’s empires, kingdoms and civilizations – as it has done even recently. And ever since, opium and its derivatives have been used to kill pain, and dull the senses. How exactly the drug achieves this is part of how all addictions begin – by entering the bloodstream, and interacting with special receptors in the cells of your central nervous system that makes opioids addictive.


How Addiction Works

Addiction has several mechanisms, and it’s hard to pinpoint one mechanism as being the sole reason for a person’s condition. While neurological changes are always present, they’re not only the result of foreign substances. Behaviors, such as gambling and gaming, can illicit an addictive response. Emotions play a part in how addiction develops as well. But for the most part, addiction is related to the brain, and how we perceive pleasure.

So, in a way, addiction is a flaw in how we think and feel, one that can be exploited through our reward system. Drugs like opioids are especially effective at exploiting this system. The chemicals in opium products enter the bloodstream and make their way to the brain, where they bind with proteins called opioid receptors. The receptors induce a feeling of euphoria. While doing so, they severely dull pain. The appeal is obvious – but beyond that appeal, the brain can very quickly develop a reaction to opioids.

Opioids’ painkilling effects aren’t solely to blame for their addictiveness. Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol, isn’t addictive – but it blocks pain. The same goes for ibuprofen (Advil). There’s more to it in an opioid.


The Science Of What Makes Opioids Addictive

Opioids are addictive because they exploit the brain’s reward system. We’re complex creatures, but in many ways, we’re also quite simple. We seek pleasure, through things like sex, food, and even attention. These things trigger the release of dopamine in our brain, and make us happy. This creates a cycle that incentivizes us to keep looking for ways to pursue the things that make us happy. Though part of what makes opioids addictive, that’s not quite enough to create an addiction. Most people like sex, and donuts, and hugs from their loved ones. But most people aren’t addicted to these things.

Drugs like opioids also create a system of tolerance and withdrawal. Because the euphoria triggered by opioids is not part of the brain’s natural reward response, your cells develop a tolerance to the drug. However, the memory of the pleasure of those first few hits remains, and it drives you to take a higher dosage. Stopping, on the other hand, triggers withdrawal, which is an adverse reaction to a lack of opioids in the system caused by your body “normalizing” your usage of opioids.

Withdrawal can be painful, and both physiologically and psychologically difficult to deal with. But tolerance also puts your addiction on a timer, increasing the dangers you might go through to find more opioids, and increasing the risk of an overdose death.

What makes opioids addictive is because they’re extremely potent. Drugs like heroin and fentanyl are very, very addictive, and very, very deadly. They’re also a natural step in progression for someone addicted to prescription opioids, like oxycodone, which is less potent than heroin.


America’s Opioid Problem

The growth of opioids as a problem in America originated in a combined effort from many healthcare organizations to combat chronic pain through an increased prescription and sale of powerful controlled painkillers. This over-prescription led to America being the world’s biggest consumers of opioids – and it led to an excess of nonmedical use, and the beginning of a new wave of opioid addiction cases and overdoses.

Today, the problem has evolved beyond prescription drugs. Due to stricter regulations, these are harder to find than heroin, which has recently become more popular throughout our 50 states.

Fighting a heroin addiction is famously difficult – but not impossible. There are several misconceptions around heroin, including the idea that it’s so potently addictive that a single hit is enough to hook someone for life.

Not only is that impossible, but it doesn’t make sense given the medical use of powerful opioids like morphine during surgery or after major physical trauma. However, drugs like heroin are still very potent and there is plenty that makes opioids addictive. That said, there is abundant treatment for heroin addiction, and many people are living proof that treatment works.


Seeking Opioid Treatment

There are medical treatments for opioid addiction, including weaning people off heroin with methadone, or through opioid antagonists. But that’s only part of the solution. Opioid treatment also requires the development of a new lifestyle without the drug – and that means living a better, sober life and with new friends.

Men’s and women’s sober living facilities in Houston are perfect for people who struggle to stay clean initially, making them ideal for former heroin addicts, because of the drug’s relapse levels. However, medical rehab is a better first step due to what makes opioids addictive beyond most other drugs, especially to transition through a painful withdrawal phase.

For those who first got hooked to opioids through a medical need for painkillers, the biggest factor in effective treatment is finding an alternative against the pain. This isn’t easy – but alternatives do exist.


What Are the Issues with Synthetic Drugs?

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Synthetic drugs can be frightening. They take lives, alter reality, ruin families. And many of them have no use other than to corrupt and hurt, for profit. It’s no wonder that when something like that enters society, it’s treated as a malicious entity, a problem we need to fight with all our might.

But drugs aren’t easy to fight. There is no way to go to war against them and win. Winning against drugs means creating a world where people never need them, and before we can do that, we have a lot work to do within our households, communities and governments.

So, for now, we all seek to do our best to help those affected by drugs, and help our families stay whole and survive. To help with that, drugs are made illegal, and we teach our children what they look like and how to avoid them.

But that’s becoming harder and harder. Synthetic drugs have been hitting the streets for years, and not just through clubs or street corners, but through gas stations, boutique stores, and dubiously-legal brand names.

With innocent-sounding names for products like bath salts, potpourri and spice, it’s easy to mistake what could be one of the most dangerous drugs in the world for nothing more than herbal incense. And it’s behind labels like these that the world of synthetic drugs flourishes, and grows.


What Are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs are, for the most part, self-explanatory. They’re man-made chemical compounds that largely mimic the chemical composition of natural drugs (or, to be more precise, drugs that are extracted from plant material). Where pure cocaine is a product of the coca plant and heroin is a product of opium poppy, drugs like fentanyl and synthetic cannabinoids are made in laboratories, designed and formulated to give a much more potent, much more powerful, and much more dangerous high.

Unlike drugs that require entire plantations to produce en masse, synthetic drugs can be made with a much smaller footprint, as part of a much smaller operation. They’re sold online as chemical components or research material, and sold under a semi-legal status because labs keep coming up with new chemical combinations, making it harder and harder for law enforcement to keep track and figure out what’s just hit the market.

Very prominent and unfortunately common examples include synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids, and synthetic cathinones. These drugs are also commonly known as spice, K2, Mr. Smiley, bath salts, Joker, Black Mamba, and hundreds of other names. Synthetic cannabis is sold as plant material sprayed unevenly with a coating of cannabinoids. Synthetic opioids are commonly sold as prescription drugs, but are also coming out of laboratories in China and Mexico, as fentanyl and carfentanil, the latter of which has recently been described to be so deadly that it classifies as a chemical weapon.


Explaining the Explosion in Synthetic Drugs Today

Synthetic drugs have existed for decades, and are part and parcel of chemistry. The discovery of early synthetic psychedelics like LSD, and the popularity of MDMA (ecstasy) paved the way for other drugs to be created in labs rather than fields.

Fentanyl in the 80s, the re-emergence of meth in the 90s. While prescription drugs and methamphetamine are seen separate from the more recently troubling synthetic drugs, they’re the same basic thing.


Synthetic Drugs vs. Designer Drugs

Technically, synthetic drugs and designer drugs are two sides of the same coin – a distinction between the two wouldn’t be much more than pure semantics. But in common terms, synthetic drugs refer to the wave of drugs that in recent years have been causing accidental overdoses and poisoning. Designer drugs are analogous to controlled substances, or simply designed to get the user high, and they include all synthetic drugs including ecstasy, LSD and methamphetamine.

Nowadays, the materials for many designer drugs make it throughout the world under the guise of research material, freely sold and illegally used to manufacture drug analogues to existing controlled substances. Although laws exist to prohibit the sale of these drug analogues, it’s not illegal to sell research chemicals.

This isn’t just a problem with cannabinoids and cathinones. Stimulants, anabolic steroids, psychedelics, benzodiazepines and nootropics are all being synthetically manufactured and sold online, or through small stores locally. These drugs are often untested, incredibly potent, and potentially toxic or ridden with side-effects.

Measures have been taken in some countries to stem the issue, such as introducing new laws to regulate any psychoactive compounds or create a new class for unidentified or poorly studied controlled substances, to more quickly institute legal means with which to prohibit their sale and use.


Why Synthetic Drugs Are Even Worse

Fighting against these drugs isn’t just a tough job – it’s getting harder in a world that’s growing ever smaller with modern-day technology. That’s why it’s even more important, now than ever, to get clean and stay clean. Drug overdoses from heroin are growing in number not only because of an increased number of heroin addicts, but because what’s hitting the street is stronger and deadlier than before, and too often, someone takes a hit of something they couldn’t handle.

Synthetic cannabis, which is sold as a fake or legal weed, is several times more potent and far deadlier than the real thing, inducing vomiting, hallucinations and sometimes death. And bath salts have made headlines several times over the past few years for inducing psychosis.

Beyond their capacity to do much more damage to the human body than their counterparts, synthetic drugs are also troubling to fight on a legal basis since new drugs are hitting the streets at a rapid pace. Law enforcement has had trouble playing catch-up to the point that several dollar store businesses have tried suing over damages from synthetic drug raids, due to their dubious legal status.

The first step to getting ahead of the game is education and elucidation. Parents and kids need to understand what these drugs are, what they often look like, and how they’re marketed. They need to check ingredients and be informed of chemical analogues to dangerous drugs. And active drug users need to understand that these drugs can be life-ending, and extremely dangerous to them.