Summary Synthesis and PLN Portfolio

Summary Synthesis

The focus of my major is mental health. My program takes a biological and psychological approach to understanding mental health and everything that can affect it. I have always found mental health interesting and I wanted to focus on the things I’m passionate about while I studied here.

This passion for learning about mental illness helped drive my ideas for my applied project. I used black out poetry to show how stigmatizing our words can be. Over the blackout poetry I put a cage made of twine and hands pulling the cage apart to represent someone breaking out of the cage that stigmatizing words can place on an individual with a mental illness. It really helped me understand how even common words that we use daily can lead to stigmatizing attitudes.

My research article was based on drug policy in other countries and the strategies used to combat illicit drug use. This contributed to my education because it reiterated how serious drug use can be as well as how widespread the effects can be. It also showed me how serious of a problem drug use is all over the world and how there are so many different approaches to control it.

My research article, applied project, and my IDS program have created such a passion for understanding drugs and how they interact with mental illness. I want to work my way up to become an addiction medicine specialist so I believe that my program helped create a great foundation for this and any future schooling I will have.

PLN Portfolio

My PLN has helped me to share my thoughts and ideas, as well as hear ideas from other people who are interested in the same topic as me. I think that using twitter as a PLN has facilitated so much intellectual discussion and contact with people who I may never have gotten the opportunity to interact with before. I like twitter because you can share information, but make it personal to yourself. One of my favorite accounts to follow is a blog written by a woman who was diagnosed with Bipolar-Disorder and how her life has changed and been affected by this diagnosis. It is things like this that make me so much more passionate and proud to be learning about mental health. It shows that a mental illness doesn’t define you or limit you from functioning in society. Natasha Tracy was able to use twitter to spread awareness and shed light on a disorder than is very hard for people without it to understand. I think that has been the best part of using twitter as a PLN. Seeing how it can positively affect someone’s life and give them an outlet to show that they are not defined by their diagnosis.
Here is one of here posts:

I think that my PLN has also helped me to be so much more aware of my language and the words I use on a daily basis. My applied project was heavily based on this tweet that I saw on twitter:

 

I thought this was so important. Not many people understand that commonly used language that doesn’t seem negative, can have adverse effects on people. Words like crazy, nuts, and psycho are all words that people use to describe someone who isn’t acting appropriately in a situation. This is problematic because it results in an unintentional stigmatization of mental illness. It also makes light of a mental illness that causes a lot of distress in a person’s life. My PLN helped me realize that just because someone is acting silly or made a mistake, doesn’t mean they’re psycho, nuts, crazy, insane, or anything of that nature.

 

Another thing I really appreciated about using my PLN is that I was able to read a lot of scientific articles that I may not have come across otherwise. One of the best articles I read was this one:

 

Sometimes scholarly articles can be bogged down with lots of jargon from whatever discipline it came from. The account that tweeted most of the articles reported them in easy to understand summaries that explained the main findings and why they were important. It helped me expand my knowledge of narcotics, neuroscience, mental illness, and so many other interesting topics that I may not have learned about otherwise.

 

I think that overall, my PLN helped facilitate a greater amount of learning in areas that I am specifically interested in. I got to hand pick the accounts and people I followed so that I would be able to have a steady flow of information from topics that I am most interested in and passionate about. I really enjoyed using twitter and learning about the more academic side of it and I want to continue to use it to accrue more knowledge on these topics.

You Are Not Crazy

I wanted to write a post about this series of tweets because I find them so relevant to my program and projects I have been working on.

 

Mental illnesses are NOT something we used to describe ourselves when we are having a bad day, stressed out, or exhibiting “annoying” behaviors. Mental illnesses are something people CANNOT control. For us to use language like this when we describe undesirable behaviors not only are we insinuating that having a mental illness makes you undesirable, but it makes light of a situation that is anything but light. Mental illness is not something to joke about. People struggle more than we can understand by just looking at them. We need to be significantly more cognitive with the words we choose to use on a daily basis.

Being overly organized does NOT mean you have OCD and making mistakes does NOT mean you are crazy or insane. We need to stand together and actively fight the stigma that is placed intentionally and unintentionally on mental illness every single day.

Stand up for what is right!!

Applied Project: When Our Words Cut Deep

“Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a cage. A cage created by my own mind that cannot be penetrated by even the strongest forces. I am a prisoner. Lying in wait for a savior to rescue me from a barricaded fortress I created. Words pierce through my tower like arrows from archers on a hill. I am stuck in my cage. Being struck by every word. Crazy. Nuts. Psycho. Insane. Nothing can liberate me from my sentence. I am destined to stay in this cage. Longing to break free, but never getting the chance.”

 

People with mental illnesses are often placed into a “cage” by the people around them. The words we choose to use and things we say can stigmatize mental illness. It is imperative for us to be more mindful of the effects our words can have. Mental health is not a physically observable illness. We can’t see everything that mental illness affects. This does not make it any less real, important, or difficult than physical ailments. We will never be able to tell what a person is going through on the inside. Unless we take the time to build each other up. Stand with people who need support and have courage to admit when we need support ourselves. This is what can help us begin to break out of our cages and be free to live our lives.

The finished product!!

 

For my applied project, I chose to use black out poetry to depict stigma of mental illnesses. In this piece, I created various poems using pages from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Cut by Patricia McCormick, two books with a heavy emphasis on mental illness. I used twine to make a cage like structure over the poems and made hands pulling the cage open. I hoped to create a look of liberation from the negative words and stigma produced by society’s stigmatizing views of mental illness. On the outside of the cage are quotes that explain the importance of mental health and how stigma can reduce a person to a diagnosis. This project was so much fun and very enlightening on the fact that our language is so influential. Often, we have no idea that our words can promote stigma. That’s why I implore you to be more mindful with the words you choose to say!!! Even if you don’t mean to, our words can cut to the bone. Be kind and support the people around you!

Here is a video of the process! Please don’t mind my horrible videoing skills! The exhibit can be found in Lamson Library between room 109 and 110! Check it out if you get the chance!

Research Article Outline

IDS Research Article Outline:

The Politics of Drugs

  • Intro
    • Brief Substance Abuse History
    • Beginning Drug Policies
    • Drug Abuse and Control in the US
    • General Discussion of a Need for Policy
  • United Kingdom
    • Stats of Drug Use
    • Foundation of Current Strategy
    • Current Strategies
      • Reducing Demand for Illicit Substances
      • Restricting the Supply
      • Building recovery
      • Greater Global Action
    • Canada
      • Foundation of Current Strategy
      • Guiding Principles
        • Comprehensiveness
        • Collaboration
        • Compassion
        • Evidence Based
      • Prevention
      • Reducing Stigma
      • Harm Reduction
      • Treatment

 

  • United States
    • Opioid Crisis-Brief Summary
    • Foundations of Current Strategy
    • HHS Policy
      • Improve access to treatment and recovery services
      • Promoting Use of Overdose Reversing Drugs
      • Strengthening Understanding Through Better Public Health Surveillance
      • Increased Research on Drug Use, Treatment, and Prevention
    • Conclusion
      • Overarching Goals
      • Why Should We Care About Drug Use?

The Politics of Drugs: Research Article

The Politics of Drugs

Intro:

Drug and substance use has been around since the beginning of time. The beginning of substance use began primarily with alcohol. The first record of alcohol consumption was in 3500 B.C. with the finding of alcohol production being described on an Egyptian papyrus. However, arguably more interesting is the suggestion that Sumerians used opium as early as 5000 B.C. From there, drug use becomes more and more mainstream. Interestingly some of the earliest drug policies aren’t recorded until the 17thcentury in which people are being paid cash to turn in coffee drinkers and the use of tobacco is punishable by death. The evolution of drug use and mindsets towards drug use have evolved so much since the first records of usage and attempts at control.

 

With the development of the world came the emergence of new nations and countries, as well as the continual evolvement of drug use. As America became a new nation conceived in liberty, it also became a nation that had a need for early forms of substance use control. In 1791, the U.S. congress passed the Whiskey Excise Tax; its first policy concerning substance abuse. This act stated that all whiskey stills had to be registered through the government. Some other notable events that occurred were the Narcotic Drug Import and Export Act in 1922, which increased penalties and restrictions on importation and exportation of opium and coca derived products, President Nixon describing drug use as public enemy number one and calling a declaration of war on drug use in 1971, and President Ronald Reagan signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act into law in 1988. Since that time, drug use has only become a larger problem that our society is forced to deal with; unfortunately, not just our society at that.

 

Every country has or has had issues with substance abuse at some point or another. These issues create a larger need for policies, but policies that are tailored to the people of each country. Policies of one country are likely ineffective or impossible for another country to implement. This results in a multitude of policies that address the same issue through different methods. While some societies would need to adopt radically different policies to see effective results some societies could be similar enough to share best practices. The policies of drug control of the United Kingdom, Canada, and The United States are similar in some respects and different in others, but as a whole the main factors of combating widespread substance abuse are addressed in each one. However, it begs the question of which policy is the most effective or could each policy be combined to make one super policy that works in each of the countries? While there’s no easy way to answer these questions, it’s still important to understand how some of the World’s most dominant forces combat drug abuse.

 

United Kingdom:

While the United Kingdom has established itself as a forerunner for implementing innovative drug policy, it is still facing a widespread drug use epidemic. 2.7 million people in England and Wales, between the ages of 16 and 65, reported using drugs in 2015-20161. Even more striking is in 2015 the UK saw a 10% increase in deaths from misuse of drugs from the previous year; more than double from the rates recorded in 20121. These increases in death from drug use have lead policy makers in the UK to reevaluate current policies and put forth new and improved measures to combat the rise in deaths. The current policy of the Her Majesty’s Government is still largely based on the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) of 19711. The main priority of this act is to create more control over the use and distribution of drugs, to reduce levels of drug misuse14. The act established a three-tiered classification system for drugs; putting them into Class A, B, or C14. Drugs are classified based on the potential harm from misuse of the drug; with maximum penalties established for each of the three classes14. For example, heroin and cocaine, some of the most hazardous drugs are Class A drugs; misuse of these results in the most severe punishments being inflicted14. The current policies still use the classification system established in the MDA. However, policy makers have created a four-pillared plan for fighting drug misuse in the UK. The four pillars established by this strategy are reducing demand for illicit substances, restricting the supply, building recovery, and facilitating greater global action.

 

The first of these pillars focusses on reducing the demand for illicit substances1. To reduce demand, officials are focusing on building resilience and confidence in the youth of the UK in attempts to prevent risk1. At the heart of this strategy is PSHE- high quality Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education1. PSHE helps to prepare school aged children for modern life, in hopes that they will make positive contributions to society after school1.

 

Restricting supply of illicit substances is the next pillar in the policy. Her Majesty’s Government has expressed that decriminalizing drugs is not their priority, due to the data and research on drugs’ adverse effects on humans1. While domestic drug production rates are slowly rising, the majority of drugs are imported from foreign countries1. This has led to major concern from the government. Measures taking to reduce these rates are increased cooperation with national constituents and building the capacity of countries that import the most drugs into the UK, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, East Africa, the Caribbean, Peru, and Columbia1. Building the capacity of these countries is concerned with anti-corruption work, improving border checks, and establishing advanced investigation practices and aiding in implementing penalties1.

 

The third pillar of this policy is building recovery from the misuse of drugs. Over the past 10 years, people seeking treatment for opiate addiction has fallen substantially1. This policy aims to provide higher quality treatment options for people and to offer support to local agencies that can provide specific treatment based on the needs of the individual1. Support doesn’t just stop at treatment. Another aim is to provide support after treatment to help the person live a drug free life1. It is also a large concern of Her Majesty’s Government to prevent blood borne infections such as AIDS and Hepatitis C, through clean needle exchange programs1. It also calls for Naloxone to be available in local areas1. Naloxone is a drug that can combat the effects of opiate overdose almost instantly12, making it the forerunner for preventing death from opioid overdose. Treatment for drug users will also be made available at any point in their time in the criminal justice system; whether it be at the police station, in prison, or in the community1.

 

The fourth and final pillar of the UK’s policy on drug misuse is facilitating global action. This aim would incorporate more efficient data collection and work with international organizations such as WHO (World Health Organization) to understand global trends in drug use and establish international controls1. Cross-Border enforcement will be strengthened and engagement with countries that have high levels of importing drugs into the UK will be increased1. Another measure will be policy sharing with other countries and providing the best practices in UK policy to other countries1.

Canada:

The Canadian government’s approach to combatting drug use in their nation takes on a different personality than many other governmental policies. At the center of their strategy lies compassion4. At every level of this strategy compassion and a just perspective can be seen. Clearly the Canadian government emphasizes the importance of a governing body’s support of its citizens regardless of the circumstances. This policy is called the Canadian Drugs and Substance Strategy (CDSS) and was developed in December of 20164. It came as a replacement for the National Anti-Drug Strategy (NADS)4. The NADS went through an evaluative period from 2007-2012, and was implemented until 2016 when the CDSS was developed8. The NADS was primarily focused on youth and their parents as well as those with higher risk of using illicit substances8. With the emergence of the CDSS four guiding principles were established to ensure the highest potential for success. Comprehensiveness, collaboration, compassion, and evidence based justifications are the guiding principles that are encompassed throughout the policy4. This multifaceted strategy covers every point of substance use from prevention, to treatment, to post-treatment support.

 

Prevention makes up a large portion of the CDSS4. Various methods of prevention are outlined, such as identifying and addressing the root causes of substance use4. One strategy of prevention is strengthening protective factors like strengthening relationships within families and providing affordable housing to people who grapple with homelessness, without mandating them to be clean beforehand4. Addressing these risk factors and taking steps to eliminate them are a large concern of the CDSS.

 

Reducing stigma is another main aim of prevention through the CDSS4. Research has found that stigma greatly affects a person’s likelihood to seek treatment and adhere to treatment plans implemented by mental health professionals6. It can also result in reducing access to health care if providers believe a person receiving the care is “drug seeking”4. The main strategy for reducing stigma is to change the way substance use is talked about i.e. the language use when discussing substance use4. It is also concerned with emphasizing person first language, in which the person does not become defined by a diagnosis4. For example, using person first language would be a person with a substance abuse disorder rather than referring to someone as a drug addict. If stigma can be effectively reduced the likelihood of people seeking, receiving, or adhering to treatment plans can increase.

 

Treatment is another important factor addressed in the CDSS4. Improving to comprehensive and evidence based treatment is greatly emphasized4. The main goal of treatment is that it can be tailored to every person’s needs4. It doesn’t just concern getting clean, but staying clean and leading a productive life thereafter. Treatment services include medication to combat substance addiction as well as non-medical treatments and supports that are imperative for successful treatment, such as housing and employment, among other things4. The treatment practices mentioned in the CDSS are all implemented by provincial and territorial governments4. Another interesting point made by the CDSS is that court appointed treatment programs can be offered to non-violent offenders in place of incarceration and should a person become incarcerated, take home naloxone kits are provided upon release to prevent death from overdose after their release4.

 

Harm reduction is one of the main perspectives used in the CDSS4. Harm reduction is mainly concerned with reducing the negative impacts that substance use can have on a person, their family, and the community4. The CDSS takes on a harm reduction approach through different programs that help limit the ramifications of drug use. Needle exchange programs and increased availability of naloxone are a couple examples of harm reduction approaches used4. Another harm reduction approach mentioned in the CDSS is Insite, which is a supervised injection sight for IV drug use. Insite was opened in 2003 and was able to prevent fatal overdoses from heroin2,9. Of 300 overdoses on site in the first year of operation no fatalities occurred2. These harm reduction approaches are focused on defusing adverse effects of drug use first and follow with treatment opportunities for people who need it.

 

The scope of the CDSS does not end with people who are using drugs. It also addresses plans to change perspectives in enforcement from a criminalizing lens to that of a health lens in order to facilitate more compassion when dealing with people who use drugs4. This shift in perspective involves more efficient and effective training for police officers to focus on harm reduction and destigmatizing drug use4. These practices are notably used by the Vancouver police department in which a specific overdose-response protocol has been established and officers only attend an overdose call if there is a death or a risk is posed to public health4.

 

Based on what the Canadian government outlined in the CDSS, it is clear that compassion and safety of the individual are the main concerns of the policy. The policy didn’t just address one factor of drug use, but touched on many importance aspects that are involved in drug use. Addressing these factors allows for an extremely comprehensive policy that covers every angle.

 

United States:

The U.S. is currently immersed in an opioid crisis that also calls for a multi-faceted strategy to address the widespread drug abuse. In 2016, 42,000 deaths resulted from opioid overdose, which is 9,000 more deaths than those recorded in 201510. With the death toll on the rise, the U.S.’s opioid crisis has garnered great attention from its citizens and government. In response to the epidemic that is plaguing the American people, the Trump administration has developed a new strategy to combat this crisis. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released their course of action which encompassed five strategies to best address the U.S. opioid crisis. These strategies are being implemented in hopes to win the seemingly unwinnable battle with opioid usage in the U.S.

 

 

The first of these strategies is to improve access to treatment and recovery services7. 90% of U.S. citizens struggling with addiction are not receiving treatment7. This staggering amount of people without access to treatment lead HHS to give $485 million dollars in grants to the states to go towards each state’s evidence-based treatment and prevention programs7. HHS hopes these grants will go towards promoting the best practices of the prevention programs, but allowing the state to dominate what programs receive funding so that treatment or prevention can be tailored to the citizens of each state7. Based on how effectively these grants are used and what best practices can be shared, another $500 million is set to be allotted to state programs7,11. Another attempt at making treatment more accessible to people was made by a policy released by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)7,11. CMS released a policy that counters a long-standing policy which prevents Medicaid from paying for inpatient services at treatment centers that have a greater capacity than 16 patients (CDC)7,11. This policy allows states to have more expenditure authority to pay for services at specific treatment centers, while the state increases its own treatment capacity (CDC)7,11.

 

Promoting use of overdose reversing drugs is the second strategy outlined in the HHS course of action. The government is hoping to make access to drugs such as naloxone that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, more accessible to citizens, meaning more abundance and more affordable7. They also hope to explore the use of new drugs that could reverse the adverse effects of other classes of drugs7.

 

Exploring these drugs can be done using the third in the HHS plan; strengthening understanding of the opioid epidemic through better public health surveillance7. The HHS is committing itself to collecting data as to best understand the trends of opioid use7. Border surveillance and protection is also being increased so that if shipments of drugs to specific cities are intercepted, local authorities can be notified and be on call for any increases in overdoses7.

 

With large waves and increasing numbers of overdoses, the fourth strategy in HHS’s plan becomes even more important. The HHS wants to increase research around drug use, treatment, and prevention7. Research is important for this epidemic because it is a continually growing problem that previous techniques have not been able to staunch. With an increased emphasis on research, federal programs can find more drugs to combat overdose, find more effective treatment strategies, and maybe develop drugs that elicit the same analgesic effect as opioid without the high risk of developing an addiction7.

 

The worst side effect of opioid use is its extremely high risk for developing addiction. Unfortunately, opioids are the most common analgesic drugs used for managing pain. Finding better ways to manage pain without the use of opioids can stop the development of dependence in the first place. HHS has begun to rethink the current strategies for pain management and hope to find better and safer alternatives for managing pain7. Since not many alternatives have been found yet, the FDA released information for prescribers of opioids to educate them more thoroughly on how to identify if opioid use is necessary in a given context11. The FDA is also beginning to require opioid manufacturers to provide more educational material and training to providers11.

 

Among the strategies released by HHS, the Trump administration is launching multimedia campaigns to spread awareness and information on opioid use and its risks11. One such program is the RX Awareness Program5. The CDC launched this program that is helping states fight opioid use by sharing the real stories of people who are recovering from an opioid disorder or who have lost loved ones to opioid use5. The CDC also released a manual for first responders on dealing with fentanyl usage and overdose5.

Conclusion:

The strategies used by each of the countries discussed may have different emphases, practices, or plans, but their overarching goal remains the same. Substance abuse is a scourge to society and continues to threaten millions of people all over the world daily. As deaths from substance abuse continue to rise, we see a greater need for effective strategies that can end the destruction of widespread drug use. International collaboration will become more and more necessary to this cause and without such collaboration, many countries could be in serious trouble. Drug addiction takes no prisoners. It can affect anyone and everyone and will not discriminate. As people continue to be affected, the use of more innovative strategies and policies will need to be implemented. Addiction has declared war on innocent people who must stand in solidarity to take back our safety that is jeopardized by drug use.

 

 

Works Cited:

12017 Drug Strategy. (2017). HM Government.

2Boyd, N. (2013). Lessons from INSITE, Vancouvers supervised injection facility: 2003–

  1. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy,20(3), 234-240.

doi:10.3109/09687637.2012.755495

3Canada, H. (2018, April 23). Supplementary Information Tables 2018-19 Departmental Plan:

Health Canada. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-

canada/corporate/transparency/corporate-management-reporting/report-plans-

priorities/2018-2019-supplemental-information-tables.html#a4a

4Canada, H. (2018, September 10). Strengthening Canada’s Approach to Substance Use Issues.

Retrieved fromhps://wwttw.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/canadian-drugs-substances-strategy/strengthening-canada-approach-substance-use-issue.html

5CDC Newsroom. (2017, September 25). Retrieved from

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0925-rx-awareness-campaigns.html

6Corrigan, P. (2004). How stigma interferes with mental health care. American

            Psychologist,59(7), 614-625. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.59.7.614

7Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, March 08). Secretary Price Announces HHS

Strategy for Fighting Opioid Crisis. Retrieved from

https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/secretary/speeches/2017-speeches/secretaryprice-announces-hhs-strategy-for-fighting-opioid-crisis/index.html

8Department of Justice. (2018, September 26). National Anti-Drug Strategy Evaluation.

Retrieved from https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cp-pm/eval/rep-rap/12/nas-sna/p1.html

9Fischer, B., Murphy, Y., Rudzinski, K., & Macpherson, D. (2016). Illicit drug use and harms,

and related interventions and policy in Canada: A narrative review of select key

indicators and developments since 2000. International Journal of Drug Policy,27, 23-35.

doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.08.007

10Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2016). Prescription Opioid Misuse, Heroin, and

Fentanyl. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/key-issues/prescription-

opioid-misuse/

11The Opioid Crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved fromhttps://www.whitehouse.gov/opioids/

12Prabhu, A., Abaid, B., Khaleel, M. S., Naik, S., Lippmann, M., & Lippmann, S. (May 2018).

The Naloxone Option. The Journal of Family Practice,67(25).

13Scheim, A., & Werb, D. (2018). Integrating supervised consumption into a continuum of care

for people who use drugs. Canadian Medical Association Journal,190(31).

doi:10.1503/cmaj.180824

14Teacher, Law. (November 2013). The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Summary. Retrieved from

https://www.lawteacher.net/acts/misuse-of-drugs-act-1971.php?vref=1

New Big Sister

Recently I have decided to enroll in the Big Brother Big Sister program with the New Hampshire chapter. I’ve heard about this program and I’ve seen it in different movies, but I’ve never considered about doing it myself. I think overall I am super excited because I love kids. They are so funny and actually have so much insight to offer.

I have found that kids today have so much access to technology; something I didn’t have as much access to as a kid. This is so cool, but I also feel like it has sucked kids into a virtual reality that can be very difficult to escape. Some of the most memorable moments I had as a kid was playing outside with my neighbors and making up games with our imaginations. That was the best part of growing up for me.

As I see more and more kids straying away from that and moving towards video games and virtual activities that require less and less imagination it makes me think. Overall, I don’t know if I think that is all bad or all good because like everything, each side has benefits. One thing I can attest to is that video games and computers cannot replace the intensity of our battles against foreign invaders we had in our front yard or the feeling of pounding ice cold Hi-Cs or Otter Pops after a long, hot day of foursquare.

By enrolling in this program, I hope to not only become a pal and mentor to whomever I get placed with; I also hope that my little sister can help me to relax and again begin to enjoy life like I did when I was a kid. You never know it then, but being a kid is one of the most fun times of your life and you never realize how much you take it for granted until you have 2 hours to complete 12 hours of homework and papers.

Don’t get me wrong, I have LOVED college, but sometimes I wish that life could be simplified back to the days when the only thing I needed to worry about was when the streetlight came on, which meant I had to go home for dinner.

I can’t wait to get this process started and I hope that I can make even a minute difference in my sister’s life.

Dopamine Drives Early Addiction to Heroin: A Review and Commentary

Dopamine Drives Early Addiction to Heroin: A Review and Commentary

This paper is discussing the driving force behind positive reinforcement in heroin addiction. Up until recently researchers haven’t nailed down the role that dopamine plays in addiction. The onset of addiction is caused by drug reinforcement which is essentially a reward in your brain when using drugs such as heroin. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of what centers of the brain have input on drug reinforcement. By doing this, researches would be able to better understand addiction and how to alleviate it as well as understand the mechanisms of opioids and their highly addictive personalities.

The Study

Part 1:

To begin their study, the team used a fluorescent sensor to measure the levels of dopamine in a center of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, in mice. The nucleus accumbens is known to be a primary site of reward behavior. Researchers found that after a minute of giving the mice heroin, there was a significant spike in dopamine levels, as shown by the fluorescent sensor.

Part 2:

The activity of the dopamine neurons was measures by the activity of calcium, which is a very important factor in action potentials of neurons. Action potentials are how neurons communicate with other neurons and different parts of the body. The dopamine neurons were activated after repeated administration of heroin, which was synonymous with the findings of the previous test.

Part 3:

To further prove their findings, the researchers silenced dopamine neurons in rats that had already developed addictions to heroin. The mice with already establish addictions had access to a lever that allowed them to self-administer heroin. When researchers silenced the dopamine neurons in the mice, they found that the mice were less likely to self-administer the drug. When they used this same technique earlier in the addiction phase the mice were much less likely to develop the self-administering habit.

Part 4:

A final test that researchers did used mice that had been genetically changed so that their dopamine neurons were activated by light, which rats were able to self-stimulate, again by using a lever. Their purpose was to see if heroin would replace the reinforcing behavior effect from the light. Like the other tests researchers did, the results of this were similar. Mice that were given heroin were much less likely to use the lever to self-administer light than the mice that only had access to light. The results of this support the claim that the reinforcing effects of heroin are concerned with dopamine.

My Commentary:

This paper was especially interesting to me because there’s so much relevance to it. There is an opioid epidemic in our country; often the addictions start with opioid prescriptions from doctors when a person suffers physical trauma. These findings could help researchers find ways to create new pharmaceuticals that elicit the same effects that opioids do, but maybe act on different neurotransmitters or receptors to reduce the addictive qualities that opioids have. It also gives more insight to addiction treatments and therapies because we have more knowledge on what parts of the brain are being targeted by repeated drug use.

I love learning about this kind of stuff and I hope that more and more literature comes out so that we can further our knowledge on how to combat drug addiction and hopefully drug use as well.

Click HERE to read the original article I read and HERE to read the published literature from this experiement

Can(nabis) I Be Blunt? Weed and HealTHCare

I just read this very interesting article discussing medical marijuana and its connection with reduced opioid use. There is some great information in the full article so if you have the time please check it out! Otherwise, if you’re like me and have 30 seconds of free time to breath and blink then hopefully my post can help you understand this topic a little better.

Medical Marijuana: What is it and why should I care?

Thomas Hawk CC BY-NC 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/pTqRUp

Medical Marijuana is a relatively new industry which explains why most of the dispensaries are in sketchy looking buildings. Nevertheless, there are some great benefits to using medical marijuana. In short, medical marijuana is just marijuana that is used to treat different illnesses or their symptoms. The important components in marijuana are the cannabinoids. The two main cannabinoids we find in marijuana are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). Our endocannabinoid system affects things like pain modulation, appetite, and memory. It also affects various immune system responses and elicits anti-inflammatory effects.

 

Effects:

Anyway, of the two cannabinoids in marijuana, THC is the only one that elicits the psychedelic effects or gets you “high.” It also can decrease pain and inflammation and help with muscle control problems. CBD can be used for all the same things that THC can but it can also help with epileptic seizures and could even help treat mental illness and addiction.

Connection to Opioids?

Torben Hansen CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/4v9zbC

Another interesting thing in this article was the correlation between legalizing marijuana and decreasing prescription opioid problems. The research shows that in states where there are medical marijuana laws and adult-use marijuana laws also had lower rates of prescribing opioids, opioid misuse, and treatment admissions for opioid addiction. We also know there are pain relieving effects from marijuana so that could potentially be influencing opioid prescriptions.

 

What now?

Considering this, if we know that medical marijuana can help with things like epilepsy and tremors associated with Parkinson’s why should we start accepting It? There is a stigma that surrounds marijuana. My older sister was given the suggestion to start using medical marijuana to help with her pain and seizures. However, she refused to even consider it because of the reputation that marijuana gives people. Whatever the case is, I think that the discussion for legalizing marijuana is such a relevant one. Looking at it from a health related standpoint, I think therapeutic use of marijuana is something to explore and could prove to have major benefits.

Precís

Research Article Precís

Working Title: Drug Use Control and Policy: An International Effort

Source 1:

Paoli, Letizia, et al. The World Heroin Market: Can Supply Be Cut?Oxford University Press, 2009.

The authors describe research that analyzes the world’s heroin market and studies it’s structure, development, participants and its socioeconomic impacts; arguing that there is little opportunity to weaken the market and back up that claim with empirical data.

The authors develop their claim by describing the development, composition, and behavior of the current world opiate market, continue to describe specific country studies, and finish off with an analysis of drug policies and their implications.

The purpose of the authors is to dissect the world heroin market and identify ways to change it so that widespread opiate use can be alleviated.

The intended audience for this work is professionals and scholars in the criminology field. The work adopts a formal tone.

Source 2:

Roman, Caterina Gouvis, et al. Illicit Drug Policies, Trafficking, and Use the World Over. Lexington Books, a Division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007.

The authors analyze past and current policies concerning illicit drugs and suggest that drug is a growing international health threat.

They develop their claim by discussing and analyzing policies and drug use trends in the major countries of the world.

The authors aim to study different policies throughout the world to explain the severity of the far-reaching epidemic and identify the most effective policies in controlling drug use.

This article was written for a scholarly audience and carries a formal tone.

Source 3:

Ferguson, Robert W. Drug Abuse Control. Holbrook Press, 1975.

Ferguson analyzes drug abuse in its entirety and suggests that principles of drug abuse should be a catalyst for continued efforts and better understanding of drug problems by professionals.

The author develops his claim by analyzing drug abuse, how different drugs are controlled, how professionals handle it, and what prevention and control look like in foreign systems in order to reiterate the importance of alleviating widespread drug abuse.

The author aims to create a better understanding of drug abuse to analyze policies that have been put into place to control it.

Ferguson writes to reach everyone who is interested in drug abuse control, professionals and non-professionals alike.

Source 4:

Strang, John, et al. “Drug Policy and the Public Good: Evidence for Effective Interventions.” The Lancet, vol. 379, no. 9810, 2012, pp. 71–83., doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(11)61674-7.

The authors suggest that some policies can prevent or reduce the negative impacts of drug abuse on the public good and dissect some that aren’t empirically supported.

The claim is developed by outlining the policies and their targeted effects in comparison to their actual effects.

The authors’ apparent purpose is to identify which policies are effective and which aren’t.

The intended audience for this paper is a scholarly audience.

Source 5:

Marlatt, G. Alan. “Harm Reduction: Come as You Are.” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 21, no. 6, 1996, pp. 779–788., doi:10.1016/0306-4603(96)00042-1.

The author describes what a harm reduction policy is, how it develops, works, and why it is beginning to become a major approach in the addictive behaviors field.

The author develops his claims by offering a set of strategies that are designed to reduce the repercussions of addictive behavior for both drug users and their surrounding environment.

Marlatt’s purpose is to show how harm reduction has been applied to prevention and treatment of addiction problems.

The intended audience for this paper is professionals that are concerned with drug addiction and drug policy; the tone is formal and scholarly.

 

Smile

While scrolling through my PLN I came across this tweet:

 

I remember this time I was in 7th grade, my small group leader taught about happiness. She told us when she was in high school, she and her friend would leave heads up pennies around school for people to pick up. Just to make someone smile.

It’s been almost 10 years since I was first told this story. Yet it’s stuck with me through all this time. I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” Building people up is so important. If we take a little time out of our day to do something small for someone else, that could potentially make their day, why don’t we?

Why is it so hard to just bring joy to someone once in a while? I can always find excuses. “I won’t have enough money for MY lunch if I pay for theirs.” “I don’t have TIME to stop and tell that person I like their jacket.” Whatever it may be, there always seems to be a never-ending cistern filled with dumb excuses that convince us that we will be at a disadvantage somehow. What we often fail to understand is that sometimes, our small, even tiny, gestures of kindness can make a difference for someone.

In the ‘70s a man jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge after no one smiled at him or acknowledged him. While in most cases this may not be the outcome, how would you feel if your smile saved his life. That one thing that doesn’t require anything at all from you made a person feel something.

With all that being said, next time you get the chance to help someone or brighten their day even a little bit, I IMPLORE you to do so. You might even feel better yourself!