Research on drug use goes down the toilet

Analysis Of Waste Water May Be The Key To
Determining Community Drug Use

Sewers don’t lie. People may be less than forthright about what they put into their bodies, especially if that includes illicit drugs, but a chemical analysis of what comes out of their bodies removes all mystery. According to drug and addiction researchers, analysing wastewater for remnants of illicit substances provides the only truly objective indicator of drug use patterns in a community.

“Whatever you think about drugs, people need to have objective data so they can at least have an informed discussion,” says Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute in Seattle.

(Sorry… the rest of the article was removed from the internet. Sigh.)

Tellin’ It Like It Is

From a reader on another site (used with permission).  No comment required.

I was addicted to Crystal Meth for a solid six months – That may not sound like much, but it only takes a little to hurt you. At the time it seemed like fun and just something to do but it was so much more then that. It consumed my entire life and turned me into someone/something I didn't want to be. I would look at myself in the mirror and just hate the person looking back at me with every fiber of my being. I knew I needed to quit but I just couldn't deal with the withdrawals.

I reached my peak of use on October 27th of this year. I was celebrating my birthday with a few buddies and what went from a round of use turned into a 13 hour binge. It ended with me lying on the couch for the next 48 hours writhing in pain. I felt like my body was contorted; my heart was racing, everything looked off-balance, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, and I literally felt like I was dying. And that was the last time I used.

I've been clean ever since and it has been rough. A couple weeks after that PAWS [Post-acute Withdrawal Syndrome] started setting in and it has been hellish to say the least. I have my good days and my miserable ones, but I just keep looking at the future and remembering it will get better. And to top this all off… I'm only 19.

Injection Drug Users Need Targeted Help — Study

A study published in the July Journal of Addictive Diseases indicates what those of us in the treatment field have long known: that injection drug users, regardless of what kind of drugs they use, are at the greatest risk for associated medical problems, psychological problems and death, and most in need of effective intervention and treatment.  This is true despite the fact that injection users represent a relatively small percentage of alcohol and drug addicts as a whole.

Image - DEA

Because of the circumstances surrounding injection, which include overdose, infection, transmission of blood-borne diseases by dirty “works,” accompanying higher rates of abuse and addiction (as opposed to occasional use), and diverse psychological problems, the authors of the study believe that their findings can help spur targeting of these individuals.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, which is conducted annually on roughly 70,000 children and adults in order to gain a statistically accurate overview of the current state of drug use and abuse in the United States.  The study showed that injection drug users were likely to be older than other abusers and addicts, more likely to live in rural areas, be unemployed, and not have achieved graduation from high school or its equivalent in education.  Unemployment was one of the major issues defining the group.

Lead author Scott Novak, senior behavioral health epidemiologist at RTI International, stated “Our findings indicate that injection drug use is associated with substantially more substance abuse-related problems than non-injection drug use, including a higher prevalence of dependence, unemployment, and co-occurring mental and physical disorders.  “These problems appear to characterize a treatment-resistant population in need of specialized treatments.”

RTI International provides research and technical services to governments and businesses in the areas of health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, energy and the environment, and laboratory testing and chemical analysis.

How Do Drugs Lead To Diseases Like AIDS And Hepatitis?

Drugs (including alcohol) lead to physical problems in three ways. First of all, the drugs themselves can damage bodily systems. Cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, alcoholic dementia, neurological damage due to heavy drug use, premature aging and diseases of the circulatory system are examples of direct harm to the body. The association of drug use with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other pathogenic diseases (diseases caused by bacteria or virus) is less obvious, until we look at it closely.

Why do people abuse drugs? In every case, it is because we want to change the way we feel. Non-addicts want to feel differently from their “normal” state of mind and body. Addicts, on the other hand, want to feel better — because they hurt emotionally, and often physically, when they don’t use.

Photo: Don Hankins – Flickr

If there is one thing we can say about all drugs of abuse, it is that they change our view of the world. They may make us more cheerful, give us more energy, make us sleepy, cause euphoria, enable us to concentrate or perform at a higher level physically, make us feel “peaced out,” or combinations of these things. Frequently they make us stupid, as well.

A sober person might not pick up a stranger and have unprotected sex but, as we know, everyone becomes a prince or a princess as the evening wears on and intoxication increases. So we do things like having sex with strangers, sometimes prostitutes, and sometimes in ways that we might not consider if we were not impaired.

The same is true of intravenous drug users. A sober person might never consider sharing needles or “works” with someone else, taking the risk of injecting blood-borne pathogens like the hepatitis and HIV viruses. However, the rituals of sharing are a part of the drug subculture for many people, from drinking with a buddy to sharing a joint to sharing needles and syringes. Furthermore, when an addict is in the throes of withdrawal, his or her interest is decidedly not on hygiene. Hepatitis and HIV are not uncommon problems among addicts, along with a variety of other blood-borne diseases.

The third effect of alcohol and other drugs on health comes from self-neglect. People who are drunk or high, or busy seeking the means to become so, are less likely to pay attention to things like nutrition, medical and dental care, personal hygiene, exercise and the other things that make up a healthy lifestyle. Alcoholics, in particular, are likely to be heavy users of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Years of that sort of neglect take their toll, and also increase the damage from other potential health hazards.

That is why virtually all addicts and alcoholics who do not recover are eventually killed by their disease. An alcoholic who burns to death from smoking in bed is killed by addiction as surely as the victim who dies with a needle in his arm.  Finally, however, the greatest hazard is not from overdose or accidents, but simply from the body’s inability to deal with the abuses that it suffers due to the addictive lifestyle.