NIDA Director Nora Volkow Says Marijuana Can Be Addictive

heroin addiction
No more guesswork – the United States government has taken a laissez-faire approach to dealing with the issue of legalizing marijuana. Though it is illegal to use the drug for any purpose federally, state after state has legalized use of the drug for medicinal purposes and Washington State has decriminalized it while Colorado went so far as to legalize it recreationally. Many other states are filing the paperwork to do the same. While President Obama is focusing on other issues at the moment, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, didn’t mince words when writing for the New England Journal of Medicine.

Volkow pointed out that the evidence shows that 9 percent of people who try marijuana will ultimately develop an addiction to the drug. She noted too that that number rises to 17 percent when one looks only at the under-18 age group.

Said Dr. Volkow: “This is something that a lot of people who are pro-marijuana deny. The evidence shows otherwise.”

The Definition of Addiction

Whether or not someone begins taking a substance under a doctor’s order, there is a possibility of developing a dependence if it is a drug that creates a tolerance in the user. Marijuana is one of those substances, and the fact that it can be psychologically addictive as well due to its triggering of the pleasure/reward system in the brain adds up to the fact that it is an addictive drug by definition.

Says Dr. Volkow: “By making marijuana legal, you have more widespread use and many more health implications. We don’t need a third legal drug. We already have enough problems with the two we have.

Doesn’t Legality Bring More Safety and Regulation With It?

Not when it comes to marijuana. In the states where the drug is legalized for medicinal use,  there is little in the way of regulation of the growing process. Independent growers grow the plants and each of them has differing levels of THC content – the active ingredient in the drug that creates the “high.” Each plant is different, so there is no standardization of potency; every patient will experience something different when he or she uses the drug.

Also, when marijuana is “prescribed,” the patient is given a card that makes it legal for them to purchase and possess the drug in the amounts dictated by their state. There are no personal guidelines for dosage – how much, how often, how best to ingest the drug. The patient is left to experiment with smoking a wide range of types of marijuana or eating marijuana-laced edibles to determine what works for him and then forced to do it all over again as the inventory at his local “dispensary” changes.

When Marijuana Becomes the Problem

Even if marijuana is initially prescribed to treat symptoms of a troublesome disorder, it can quickly become the primary problem. Learn more about treating addiction as well as co-occurring disorders when you contact us at Alta Mira today.

Is Amazon Joining the Ranks of Illegal Online Drug Dealers?

prescription fentanyl
Illegal online pharmacies are the source of a wide range of illegal pharmaceuticals for those in the US who wish to abuse them. Google has been accused of connecting buyers with sellers by allowing these illegal pharmacies to place ads and letting their sites be found through their search engine. Now some are saying that is responsible for the sale of some prescription drugs through its marketplace too, contributing to the problem.

In a article, the writer details his wife’s search for acne medication on Upon finding one that was well-reviewed, she purchased the item. Her suspicions were aroused, however, when the package arrived – from Thailand and marked as a “gift.” Her husband, and the writer of the article, is a physician so she asked him about the main ingredient in the medication. Was it a prescription drug?

Yes, it was. A brief search revealed that also available on Amazon were a number of other prescription medications, including muscle relaxants that are addictive and anabolic steroids as well. The company, however, is not currently being investigated by the FDA.

Cutting Drug Abuse Off at the Source

There are a number of other sites where those drugs are exceedingly easy to get.  So how do you intercept illegal drugs in order to stop your addicted loved one from using them?

The fact is that that trying to stop the flow of illicit substances into your family member’s hands may not be the best way to address the problem. If your loved one is living with an active addiction, he will seek out his drug of choice by any means necessary.

The most effective way to tackle a drug problem in your family is to go directly to the addicted person. When they enroll in a comprehensive addiction treatment program, they will learn ways to:

  • Deal with cravings
  • Manage compulsive behavior
  • Replace old coping mechanisms with new positive ones
  • Build and rebuild positive relationships
  • Remain strong in the face of triggers to relapse

Find Out About Treatment Today

At Alta Mira, we offer a comprehensive experience in addiction treatment, helping your loved one to not only stop use of all illicit substances but also to learn how to create a life built on positivity and good health. Contact us today for more information.

Opiate Addiction and the Opiate Addict: 50 Years of Change

Fifty years ago, the typical opiate addict abused heroin. His initiation into opiate use began with his first dose of heroin, and the typical user was a minority, male, and lived in the inner city.

Today, these characteristics no longer define heroin addicts or their experience with addiction, according to a report published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. First use of opiate drugs are usually painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, with users transitioning to the use of heroin after they are no longer able to maintain a painkiller addiction. Also, the typical heroin addict is now white, middle class, and living in the suburbs. The drug is equally popular among men and women.

The evolution of heroin addiction in the United States is nothing compared to the evolution of a person’s life once they begin using the drug regularly. How has heroin impacted your loved one’s life?

Initiation to Heroin Abuse

Today’s heroin addict often begins using heroin when he is unable to continue the flow of opiate painkillers. Pills are expensive, and doctors and pharmacists are cracking down on patients who try to get higher doses or seek to get the same prescriptions from multiple legitimate sources. Heroin, on the other hand, is much cheaper and often easier to come by, even though it is illegal.

A Slippery Slope

The negative changes that began during painkiller abuse only intensify and increase in number when the addicted person turns to heroin. It doesn’t take long for the person to begin experiencing issues that include:

  • Acute health problems (e.g., withdrawal symptoms that often begin within a few hours of the last dose)
  • Problems at work or finding a job
  • Issues with family members and close friends
  • Inability to manage the details of his life

Some people also begin to have legal problems as well, especially if they are caught buying, selling, or under the influence of the drug.

Coming Back From Addiction

Heroin doesn’t have to be the end of the road for an opiate addict. There are a number of different comprehensive care measures that can help your loved one stop using and start living a life that is based on positive and healthy choices.

Contact us at Alta Mira now to learn more about our evidence-based treatment program and how we can help your addicted family member make opiate addiction a part of his history and not his future.

3 Problems With Medical Use of Marijuana

marijuana bong
A new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) explored a number of different problematic issues presented by the use of medical marijuana. From the political to the personal, they highlighted a number of reasons why medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense as a viable and realistic option for medical treatment.

Here are the top three problems that impact the user personally:

No Optimal Dose

One of the biggest issues with medical marijuana is that there is no optimal dose for the treatment of any of the disorders for which marijuana may be prescribed. Consider the many different ways that a dose of marijuana will vary:

  • Differing concentrations of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids in each marijuana plant
  • The availability of different strains of marijuana
  • The size of each marijuana cigarette or packed bowl
  • The amount of smoke inhaled after each puff

These issues make it difficult to even study the efficacy of the drug for different disorders. Tolerance, too, is an issue related to dosing since the drug is most often prescribed to patients who suffer from chronic disorders and use the drug for the long-term. Dependence becomes a possibility with increased dosing and regular use.

No Standardization of Production

Every other drug prescribed for any purpose is created to an exact standard to ensure that every patient gets the same dose and ingredients. Consistency, purity and safety are all guaranteed by this standardization.

With marijuana, there is no oversight in place. Regulatory standards for production are different in each of the states that have legalized the drug for medicinal use and that means that the concentration of THC, purity and chemical composition of each plant will vary widely.  There are more than 100 flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenoids in each marijuana plant, so these variations are significant. Some of these chemicals may counteract the benefits of using marijuana by decreasing the potency of THC or offsetting its effects.

Potential for Harm

Even if the patient happens upon a beneficial dose, it is important to remember that there are a number of inherent risks to using marijuana. Most will smoke the drug, which could lead to diseases of the lungs, mouth and throat, including cancer. Those who eat marijuana edibles risk overdose and even death if they overindulge.

Additionally, there are some studies that suggest that chronic use of marijuana can trigger mental health issues and, of course, ongoing use of the drug risks the development of addiction and the lost quality of life that comes with that disorder.

Is marijuana use worth the risk? Contact us at Alta Mira today to learn about how you can help your loved one stop using marijuana and find alternative methods of treatment for underlying disorders.

New Targeted Receptors in Alcoholism Treatment May Benefit Patients in Recovery


The kappa opioid receptor in the brain is the new target of some alcohol addiction treatment studies. It has been determined that this receptor is a key part of alcohol dependence in patients, and some believe that focusing on this receptor when a patient is in treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction is key to helping them avoid cravings, stick with treatment, and avoid relapse for the long-term.

Currently, there are a slew of medications on the market for patients who are trying to overcome an alcohol use disorder, but none of them focus specifically on the kappa opioid receptor. What could new medications bring to the table for alcoholics in recovery?

Pharmacological Assistance

For alcoholics, there is no medication-assisted treatment that works in the way that opiate addicts use Suboxone or methadone to essentially “replace” the addictive substance in the brain. Rather, there are a number of medications that have been shown to be successful in helping patients to crave alcohol less or experience fewer or less intense alcohol withdrawal symptoms during the first weeks of treatment.

Are so-called “detox meds” a viable option for your loved one? It depends. It’s important to remember that when it comes to alcohol addiction treatment – just like treatment for almost every chronic disorder – the following is true:

  • Not everyone will experience benefits using alcohol addiction treatment medications.
  • Even if benefits are experienced initially, their use is not a guarantee against relapse.
  • Certain underlying medical disorders may inhibit the efficacy of these meds or cause side effects that are uncomfortable.
  • Some programs offer alternative methods of treatment that do not include medications of any kind, even non-addictive drugs.

Well-Rounded Treatment

Even if medications are helpful for your loved one in the initial stages of recovery, they are no quick fix, and they aren’t useful for the long-term. Finding a treatment program that offers a comprehensive treatment regime is the best option for patients who are looking to not only stop drinking but also to create a positive life in recovery without alcohol use. A well-rounded alcohol rehab program will offer:

Find out more about what your loved one needs to recover from alcoholism. Contact us at Alta Mira today.

New Test May Help Fight Poly-Drug Abuse

poly drug abuse

A new urine test may be the answer to identifying drug abuse, according to the AARP. The typical urine drug test can identify up to 40 different substances depending on the type; the new test can confirm the use of as many as 500 different over-the-counter and prescription medications.

The drug was developed by CU Toxicology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine where Jeffrey Galinkin is Chief Medical Officer. Says Galinkin: “Polypharmacy, or the use of multiple drugs at once, is the newest American epidemic.”

It’s especially a problem among older adults who often see multiple doctors for different ailments and receive prescriptions from all of them. In many cases, the doctors are not aware of the other medications that the patient is taking which can lead to the use of a dangerous – even deadly – combination of drugs.

Synergistic Effects

Combining medications can lead to a number of issues. Even when either or both drugs are non-addictive, one drug can negate the effectiveness of the other, or they can void each other out. There can also be unintended negative reactions when the chemicals combine, causing even more problems.

Additionally, if the different substances are addictive – for example, if the patient is taking a stimulant medication like Adderall for ADHD but also taking OxyContin to manage chronic pain – the interaction of the two drugs can be overwhelming. Rather than simply adding the effect of one to the other, the two drugs together can amplify each other exponentially. This synergistic effect of addictive substances is one of the most common reasons for deadly overdose.

Treating Addiction to Multiple Drugs

Depending upon the reason for the use of multiple illicit substances, it may be necessary for your loved one to undergo treatment at a dual diagnosis treatment center. Here, your family member will have access to a wide range of medical, therapeutic and psychiatric interventions as appropriate to their needs.

For example, if your loved one is struggling with anxiety and prescribed Xanax for treatment but is also hooked on prescription painkillers, then dual diagnosis rehab will be able to provide her with treatment for the underlying anxiety as well as addiction. This double-barreled approach to treatment means that your family member is able to heal on both fronts at the same time, a practice that increases her chances of successfully avoiding relapse in recovery.

If you believe that your loved one would benefit from an intensive, evidence-based treatment program for drug dependence, contact us at Alta Mira today.