One Year Later: 250 Synthetic Drugs Still on the Market After Ban

heroin addictionSynthetic drugs have become an increasing issue in the United States over the past few years, and law enforcement has struggled to keep up. Though 26 versions of synthetic substances have been legally banned, more than 250 different types of synthetic drugs are still being sold on the street, according to Roll Call. By simply varying the production process to create a differently composed chemical substance, underground chemists have managed to sidestep the laws and continue to create a sellable product that produces the effects desired by consumers.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa is the Co-Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. At a hearing, he said: “A change of a molecule or two to a banned drug is sometimes enough to make a new and legal alternative.”

There may be some good news, however: Since the 2012 ban, there has been a slight decrease in the number of emergency room visits and poison control center calls related to the use of synthetic drugs. Unfortunately, the use of these substances is continuing, and many suspect that the reduction in emergency room visits and poison control center calls has more to do with fear of encountering legal trouble than it does with a reduction in the overall use of these drugs.

Dangerous Chemical Compounds

Of the more than 250 versions of synthetic substances believed to currently be in circulation, Spice, salvia and bath salts are among the most common. Though the packages may remain the same or similar, the effects of the drugs are ever-changing as drug-makers change their production process. This means that users may be dealing with a different substance and different effects each time they purchase the drug. The dose they took without incident the week before may cause medical issues this week when the chemical makeup of the drug changes.

Another issue is that because synthetic drugs are so new, there has been little time to do extensive studies into the effects of these substances. As a result, no one can know for sure what the long-term effects of chronic abuse of these drugs will be or all the ways in which they may cause harm.

New but Treatable

Though synthetic drugs have not been in use for long, dependence upon and chronic abuse of these drugs are highly treatable. Here at Alta Mira, we can help your loved one break free from substance abuse and learn how to live a life based on health, wellness and balance. Call now for more information.

Will CA Legalize Marijuana?

While the use of medical marijuana has long been legal in the state of California, there is now talk of the state legalizing marijuana for recreational use and further decriminalizing the drug, following in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, California’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, is currently working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to create laws that would legalize marijuana if passed. If all works out according to Newsom’s plan, the bill could be voted on as early as November of 2016.

The issue at hand seems to be money. California’s financial status has been shaky at best for years, and the ACLU seems dedicated to the idea that marijuana can be successfully utilized as a steady source of income. In an ACLU press release, they said: “The panel’s work will be designed to help voters and policy makers evaluate proposals for a strict tax and regulation system that will enable California to benefit from billions of dollars of new revenue while ensuring safe communities and protecting against underage use.”

Though voters rejected a similar measure in 2010, recent polls suggest that about 60 percent of California voters are now pro-legalization and that residents may need to prepare for the changes that could come with the new law.

The Truth Behind the ‘High’

The marijuana myth that has been perpetuated since the 1970s when it became sweepingly popular across the country is that the drug is harmless and non-addictive. In fact, there are a number of harms associated with chronic use and abuse of the drug, not the least of which is the development of a physical and psychological dependence upon the substance that requires treatment to overcome.

Additionally, there are a number of acute physical effects that can be problematic for many users, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Hypertension
  • Changes in breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased hunger
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Changes in perception of time
  • Temporary memory loss

Chronic Marijuana Use

While occasional marijuana use is dangerous, long-term and chronic abuse of the drug is even riskier. Social issues related to addiction can be devastating and life-altering – loss of job or career, loss of relationships and family, etc. – but so too can chronic health problems that can be exacerbated or created by ongoing use of marijuana, including:

  • A suppressed immune system, which can lead to an increased risk of illness and medical complications
  • Changes in mental functioning, including one’s ability to learn, understand and retain information
  • Increased risk of certain types of cancer
  • Decreased fertility
  • Lung damage
  • Brain damage

Mental health can also be damaged by chronic abuse of marijuana. Patients in treatment often seek help to address issues with:

  • Decreased life satisfaction
  • Decreased motivation
  • Generalized apathy
  • Changes in mood, personality and behavior

Seeking Treatment When Necessary

Whether or not recreational marijuana use is legalized in California, families should never overlook the effects of marijuana abuse or addiction in their loved ones. If you believe that someone you care about is struggling due to substance abuse, we’re here to help.

Contact us at Alta Mira now and find out more about our unique California rehab experience and how it can help your family member embark on the road to recovery.

Fighting Compulsive Behavior: The Ongoing Battle of Recovery

Addiction is not just a disorder suffered by those with a physical and psychological dependence upon alcohol or other drugs; it’s also a disorder defined by a compulsive behavior or set of behaviors that can extend beyond the act of using illicit substances. The term “process addictions” is used to categorize these behaviors and allows people who struggle with compulsive shopping, gambling, sex habits and other issues to get the help they need to learn how to manage these impulses healthfully.

Dr. Charles P. O’Brien is the co-founder of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania. He says that addiction is a “reflex” and that patients who struggle with the disorder act on their addictions without thinking and in response to certain stimuli. Dr. O’Brien says that that stimuli will vary from patient to patient and is highly personal – an unpleasant feeling, a memory, a smell – and that during treatment, learning to identify these triggers and manage them without indulging in the process addiction behavior is the key to a sustainable recovery.

Common Addictions

To what behaviors can someone develop an addiction? The scope of process addiction behaviors is continually being explored and redefined but currently can include a range of behaviors:

  • Work
  • Surfing the Internet
  • Playing videogames
  • Gambling
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Watching television or watching a specific type of show, like the news
  • Falling in love
  • Having sex
  • Shopping
  • Hoarding
  • Exercising
  • Eating 

The Qualities of Addiction

The issue for many who struggle with process addictions is the fact that the behavior is often something that most people can do “normally,” that is, without the development of problems or complications in other parts of their lives. It’s not as easy to identify as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

How do you know if someone’s ability to manage certain behaviors has become problematic? The following are signs to look for:

  • Repeated, uncontrolled engagement in the addictive behavior
  • Experiencing legal, financial, personal, family, health, romantic and/or other consequences as a result of the addictive behavior but still continuing to engage in that behavior
  • Impaired reasoning and self-control in relation to the addictive behavior
  • Craving the addictive behavior or the “high” associated with it
  • Inability to function normally when unable to engage in the addictive behavior

Treatment for Process Addictions

Often, process addictions occur in relation to substance abuse disorders or other mental health issues. In all cases, a thorough treatment program starts with an extensive diagnostic evaluation in order to determine the best course of care. Call us at Alta Mira today to learn more about how we can provide the intensive and personalized treatment your loved one needs to heal.


Underestimation of Alcohol Content May Increase Level of Intoxication

Do you know how much alcohol is in your favorite beer or other alcoholic beverage? Most people don’t, according to a report produced by the Public Health Institute’s Alcohol Research Group. In many cases, drinkers are drastically underestimating the amount of alcohol they ingest while drinking, starting with how much alcohol is in a single alcoholic beverage. For example, many people assume that all beers have a similar alcohol content, but the fact is that alcohol content can vary greatly across all alcoholic beverages, even ones in the same category (e.g., beer, wine, etc.).

An incorrect assumption of how much alcohol is contained in a drink can have disastrous effects. An unaware drinker can become more intoxicated than expected, which in turn can increase the risk of drunk driving, alcohol-related accidents, alcohol poisoning and other problems.

William Kerr was the lead scientist on the report published by the Public Health Institute’s Alcohol Research Group. He says: “A one or two percentage point difference in alcohol content between beer brands may not sound like much, but proportionally it’s pretty big and the difference adds up over a number of drinks.”

Another confusing issue is the size of a standard drink. The government has determined that no more than 0.6 ounces of alcohol is in a standard alcoholic beverage, according to The Partnership at However, in a number of popular beverages, there is far more than that.

How does this confusion affect the development of an alcohol use disorder?

The Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

While consuming too much alcohol can lead to temporary problems, regular consumption of large amounts of alcohol can lead to a number of long-term issues, whether or not that overconsumption is a deliberate choice. Some of the effects of regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol include:

  • Effects of injuries sustained while drinking
  • Broken relationships caused by drinking
  • Hypertension
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Brain damage
  • Gastritis
  • Increased risk of certain types of cancers

The most serious possible effect of excessive alcohol consumption, however, is the development of an alcohol abuse problem or alcohol addiction. People who regularly abuse alcohol are at high risk of becoming dependent upon the substance and being unable to control their drinking. 

When Drinking Turns to Substance Abuse

When drinking becomes excessive, when it causes the drinker problems, or when it becomes difficult to impossible for the drinker to stop drinking, it is considered substance abuse and no longer “normal” or social drinking. Without treatment, alcohol abuse can turn into a full-blown addiction, defined by a high tolerance for alcohol and a physical dependence on the substance. In either case, personalized and directed treatment is the most effective and appropriate response to stop the problem in its tracks.

Here at Alta Mira, we offer a range of traditional and holistic resources to patients who are ready to embark on their personal road to recovery. You can help your loved one begin the process of alcohol treatment now by contacting us to learn more about the specifics of how our program can help your loved one heal. Call today.

Middleclass America Hit Hard by Heroin Abuse, Addiction and Overdose

Heroin abuse is often thought of as a problem that doesn’t affect the middleclass. Stereotypes perpetrated by Hollywood and music videos portray heroin addicts as down-and-out people in the inner city who are often homeless, jobless and without a family.

However, CBS Denver reports that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that heroin use rose in America by 75 percent between 2007 to 2011 and that a number of those users are classified as middleclass according to their household income and their neighborhood. No more is it plausible to brush off the problem as relegated to a handful of people on the fringes of society. It is now clear that heroin abuse is an issue on cul-de-sacs, in suburban family homes and bedroom communities across the country.

Heroin: A Substitute for Prescription Drugs?

While it’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause to blame for the increase in heroin abuse among middleclass Americans, one of the suspected causes is the increase in addictive opiate painkiller prescriptions in this group over the past decade. As more and more patients lost their lives due to overdose while taking a legitimate prescription drug prescribed to them, doctors and government agencies cracked down on prescription practices. This made pills harder to come by but didn’t directly address the issue of patients who were already living with an active dependence upon opiate drugs.

With no pills to feed their habit, many turned to heroin – the cheaper substitute that is far easier to find and that provides similar effects in users because it is also an opiate. In just a brief period of time, those middleclass people who were addicted to painkillers were now addicted to a lethal street drug that is just as deadly.

The Effects of Heroin Abuse

No matter how someone comes to heroin addiction, continued use of the drug is life-threatening and just as significant a cause of overdose as prescription painkillers. Using needles adds yet another layer of danger to use of the drug, and many report that their first time “experimenting” with the substance was enough to propel them into a full-blown addiction.

Some of the issues experienced by those who use the drug – once or regularly – can include:

  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Infection of the heart lining
  • Infection of the heart valves
  • Chronic pneumonia
  • Pulmonary diseases
  • Blood clots
  • Tissue death
  • Bacterial infections
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis
  • Increased risk of hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS in users who inject the drug

Are you concerned that your loved one is dependent upon heroin? Because there is no cure, the optimum solution for the issue is an integrated, evidence-based drug addiction treatment program that can provide them with the intensive medical detox and psychotherapeutic care necessary to achieve stability in sobriety. Here at Alta Mira, we can help. Call now for more information.

Should the DEA Buy Back Unused Prescriptions?

Prescription drugs of all kinds are often prohibitively expensive, and painkillers are no different. When a doctor overprescribes a pain management medication like Percocet or Vicodin, many would jump at the chance to recoup some of their funds by selling back the medication at a DEA-sponsored buy-back event. The removal of addictive drugs from one’s household, thus limiting the chances of later overdose and abuse of the medications, is an added bonus.

If Senator Charles Schumer of New York has anything to say about it, there will soon be a way for patients to return unused prescription medications for a refund. The Post-Standard reports that Schumer has asked the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to institute a prescription drug buy-back program.

In a news release, Senator Schumer said: “The DEA needs to be working with local pharmacies, governments and law enforcement agencies to get prescription drugs off the street, and take-back and buyback programs are the way to do that. The DEA must change the regulations so that certified pharmacies can hold take-back events and provide this vital service, and should put more funding behind buybacks to incentivize people to turn over their prescription drugs.”

Managing Prescriptions Safely

While a prescription drug buy-back program may be instituted in the future and intermittent “drug take-back” days are held around the country, there is currently no way to dispose of medications for a refund. Unless and until this changes, it is recommended that patients take precaution in the management of their medications and take advantage of drug take-back events in their communities. 

Be Aware

Because overdose often occurs in those who take leftover prescriptions drugs without a prescription, it is recommended that those who find themselves with extra pills or an ongoing prescription for painkillers take the following steps:

  • Keep medications away from children, teens, pets, and others who may abuse or be injured by the medications.
  • Discuss the dangers of the specific prescription medications in the home with family members and others who live in the home.
  • Properly dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications.
  • Keep track of how much medication is being used and of how much medication should be in the bottle at a given time.
  • Seek help for family members or friends who have fallen victim to prescription drug abuse.
  • Never give your prescription medication to anyone else.

If you find that your loved one has developed a dependence upon their prescription, is abusing your prescription, or is addicted to any illicit substance, get them the help they need today. Contact us here at Alta Mira at the phone number listed above and learn more about our intensive, evidence-based treatment program.