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Alcohol Dependence and Drug Addiction -Tolerance

by James Heller 18. May 2010 13:48
Tolerance, as it relates to alcohol dependence and drug addiction, is often misunderstood by many in the general public.  In the manner that drug and alcohol tolerance functions, it can be a safety mechanism to the body and, at the same time, deadly.  This makes awareness of the subject critical for anyone who engages in alcohol abuse or drug abuse, as well as those in recovery.

It can easily be assumed that tolerance means that an individual can drink more alcohol without getting drunk, or handle drug use in a seemingly controlled manner.  With this assumption comes the belief that these “abilities” are an example of the natural differences that exist from one individual to another.  While this is partially true, the nature of alcohol and drug tolerance is much more complicated.

Alcohol tolerance is the example with which most people can relate.  Consider the amount of alcohol you need to drink before you feel the effects, or “buzzed”.  Let’s say this is 2 beers.  If you drink 2 beers every day, over time you will feel less of an effect.  If you want to feel the same effect, you must drink more alcohol.  The amount of alcohol needed for the same feeling will continue to increase as you add more alcohol.  

The same concept works with drugs.  Alcohol abuse or drug abuse can result from tolerance since individuals will chase that feeling by drinking or using more on each occasion.  If the cycle continues with regular daily alcohol or drug intake, the body can become physically dependent and alcoholism or drug addiction is the result.  

On this road to addiction that we just followed, the brain has protected the body from overdose, with tolerance, by adjusting to the higher levels of substance use.  This benefit of drug tolerance can become a dangerous consequence, though, for recovering individuals who relapse.  The addicted brain still needs a large amount of drugs for an effect, but the body returns to a lower tolerance of what is essentially a poison.

At the time of first use on a relapse, the brain will dictate the most recent amount of drugs used to get a desired effect.  If the formerly recovering addict is not careful, this amount can easily cause a drug overdose or even be fatal.  Many drug addicts are not aware of this fact, and will even ignore warnings from fellow drug users because they don’t realize the consequences they face.

While alcoholics are less likely to overdose on alcohol during first use on a relapse, they may experience what is known as a lack of tolerance.  At this point, a drunken feeling may result from only 1 drink.  Lack of tolerance can actually occur with anyone who drinks alcohol, but it is typically coupled with alcohol dependence.  Of course, that 1 drink will still not be enough to satisfy alcoholics and they can become a danger to themselves through inebriation and alcohol’s effect on the body.

This information is good to share with teens, friends in recovery, or anyone you may know who engages in alcohol abuse or drug abuse.  Too many see tolerance as a benefit both early in substance use and in addiction.  Tolerance is explained in effective alcohol and drug treatment as part of addiction education groups to prevent accidental overdoses among those who may relapse.  Bringing this awareness to the general public may save even more lives.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides youth alcohol and drug treatment and addiction education.  We specialize in treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, and have two primary medical care clinics in the San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley.  If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence, drug addiction, or co-occurring mental health disorders, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

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LSD and Ecstasy on the Rise in Teen Drug Abuse

by James Heller 23. November 2009 15:03
They say history and trends repeat over time.  Drug abuse trends change as new generations reach adolescence, not only depending on availability of specific drugs.  The recent upward trend of hallucinogen and “club drug” use among adolescents harkens back to the 1960’s and those who “tune out and turn on”.  Parents and the drug and alcohol treatment community need to take note.

Teen drug abuse trends have increased with club drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) and, making a comeback, LSD (acid).  Ecstasy is not a true hallucinogen, but its use causes psychological sensory “enhancements”.  The physical effects mainly affect heart rate and blood pressure, which can be fatal to some.  Coupled together, risk of overdose is high for many seeking to prolong the euphoria.  And the psychological withdrawal can lead to suicidal ideations.

LSD is a strong hallucinogen that gained popularity in the 1960’s.  Many popular artists were experimenting with it, and even endorsed the drug.  To date, there are still those who believe that LSD offers more benefits than problems for its users.  But the fact remains that LSD alters sensory perception in a way that places the user in danger.  There is nothing positive for the LSD user who believes he can safely walk off the top of a building.

Parents must realize that teen drug abuse in today’s world does not differ much from the drug culture of the 1960’s.  When adolescents feel as part of a group or cause, they will often follow trends of the majority to fit in.  If a drug culture develops in that group they may at least try the drugs that are being used by their peers.  Teens look for acceptance among their peers in any generation.  

We can be happy that efforts to slow adolescent drug abuse are working with most illicit drugs.  But while the percentage of youths using marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs (non-medical use), and methamphetamines has dropped, the increased use of ecstasy and LSD are clear warning signs of trouble.  Parents need to be educated about signs that their teens or friends are using them.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has released the latest report on drug use trends.  The excerpt below is from an article introducing the findings, which includes a link to the report.  We need to continue our work with all illicit drugs, but it is especially important that we are aware of youth drug abuse trends.

-- Begin external content --

“The survey findings are important because they often point to emerging patterns of substance abuse,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.  “Although we see some success reversing trends in prescription drug abuse, there are indications that progress in other areas may be at a standstill, or even slipping back, particularly among youth. As we develop the Obama Administration’s first drug control strategy, we will emphasize a balanced approach that can respond to current and emerging drug abuse trends. Improving substance abuse prevention and treatment systems will be among our priorities.”

Despite many positive trends, the most recent NSDUH survey also reveals continuing problems and setbacks.  For example there were significant increases in the rates of Ecstasy and LSD use among youth over past few years.  The level of past year Ecstasy use in 2008 for youth was 1.4 percent – lower than the 2.2 percent in 2002, but higher than the lowest level of 1.0 percent reported in 2005.  Likewise, the 2008 level of past year LSD among youth of 0.7 percent, while lower than the 2002 level of 1.3 percent in 2002, is significantly higher than the lowest use rate of 0.4 percent reported in 2006.

-- Source: http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/090910NSDUH)5111.aspx

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides drug addiction education as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in youth alcohol and drug treatment.  If you or a loved one has a problem with drug addiction or alcohol dependence, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.