TODAY: Support This Healthy Kickstarter Campaign!!!

kickstarterMedCrunch believes HereAfter Frames is a hot, healthy NEW product for people during a difficult time.

Losing a pet can be one of the most difficult experiences in life.  When something can ease that pain, and help a person transition through the natural  5 stages of grief to one of acceptance, it’s a healthy thing.

The response by people who have a HereAfter Frame created is heartfelt.  The process from finding a special photo to immortalize to seeing the final creation to finding a special place for it in a home is uplifting.

Tears are replaced by a smile.

That’s why we love HereAfter Frames, which displays a custom painting or photo, along with keepsakes and an urn.

It helps people fondly capture the essence of their loved one.  And yes, it can be created for people too. The frame can be made to match the interior of your home. The creator can also add audio to them, such as any recording you have of your pet or a special song.

To this day, my parents play a cassette recording (the old kind) of my Grandfather Giuseppe.  When I get in their car, I love hearing his voice singing in Italian. His laughter, which is contagious is on it too. It makes me smile to recall his wonderful, lively spirit.

So when the creator told me about this, it resonated as something people would love.

It’s a healthy way to maintain a positive connection with a loved pet or person after they’re gone, which is why I encourage you to support this artist with 3 easy steps:

LINK: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2033271920/1081740743?token=17db0ca6

(1) CLICK link to watch brief video
(2) GIVE as much as you can to help
(3) SHARE link with friends and family

In return for your support, you will receive a special gift created just for you by the artist.

Thank you,
Maria Dorfner
In Loving Memory

“Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death.” -Erik Erikson

7 Top Health Risks for Men Over 40

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By Guest Author, , Caring.com senior editor

During midlife and beyond, men’s leading causes of death include familiar standbys: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, suicide, and Alzheimer’s disease.  To lessen your odds of dying from these killers, curb the critical habits that lead to them:

1.  Risk: Being single

Numerous surveys have shown that married men, especially men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are healthier and have lower death rates than those who never married or who are divorced or widowed.

Never-married men are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, for example. After 50, divorced men’s health deteriorates rapidly compared to married men’s, found a RAND Center for the Study of Aging report.

What’s the magic in the ring? The social connectedness of marriage may lower stress levels and depression, which lead to chronic illness. (Women tend to have more social ties outside of marriage.)

Oops: Unmarried men generally have poorer health habits, too — they drink more, eat worse, get less medical care, and engage in more risky behaviors (think drugs and promiscuous sex).  Exception: It’s better to be single than in a strained relationship, probably because of the stress toll, say researchers in Student BMJ.

Silver lining: It’s never too late. Men who marry after 25 tend to live longer than those who wed young. And the longer a fellow stays married, the greater the boost to his well-being.

2.  Risk: Electronic overload

Psychologists are debating whether “Internet addiction disorder” is a legitimate diagnosis, and how much is too much, given how ubiquitous screens are in our lives. But one thing’s certain: The more time that’s spent looking at wide-screen TVs, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, laptops, and other electronics, the less time that’s spent on more healthful pursuits, like moving your body, communing with nature, and interacting with human beings.

Social isolation raises the risk of depression and dementia. And a sedentary lifestyle — a.k.a. “sitting disease” — has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premature death. A 2012 Australian study of more than 220,000 adults ages 45 and up linked sitting for 11 or more hours a day with a 40 percent increased risk of death over the next three years.

Oops: Americans spend five hours in front of the TV every day, according to a 2011 JAMA study that didn’t even take all those other screens into account. More than just three hours a day ups your odds of dying of any chronic disease.

Silver lining: The Australian researchers say that getting up and moving even five minutes per hour is a “feasible goal . . . and offers many health benefits.”

3. Risk: Sloppy sunscreen use

Men over age 40 have the highest exposure to damaging UV rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Men are twice as likely as women to develop skin cancer and die from it. And 6 in 10 cases of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, affect white men over age 50.

More men tend to work and play sports outdoors; having shorter hair and not wearing makeup adds to the gender’s exposure. Nor are their malignancies noticed and treated early: Middle-aged and older men are the least likely group to perform self-exams or see a dermatologist, according to a 2001 American Academy of Dermatology study.

Oops: Fewer than half of adult men report using sun protection methods (sunscreen, protective clothing, shade), in contrast to 65 percent of adult women.

Silver lining: Doctors tend to detect more early melanomas in men over 65, perhaps because the older you get, the more often you see a doctor for other (nondermatological) reasons.

4. Risk: Crummy diet

Poor nutrition is linked with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — leading causes of death in men over 40. Younger midlife men often over-rely on red meat, junk food, and fast food to fuel a busy lifestyle, which leads to excess weight, high cholesterol, hypertension, and other risk factors. Older men living alone and alcoholics are vulnerable to malnutrition, because they tend not to prepare healthy food for themselves.

Oops: Until around 2000, more women were obese than men — but guys are catching up. In 2010, 35.5 percent of men were obese, up from 27.5 percent in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Women’s fat rates have held steady at around 37 percent.)

Silver lining: The American Dietetic Association recommends a reasonable 2,000 calories a day for men over 50 who are sedentary, up to 2,400 for those who are active. What comprises those calories is up to you.

5. Risk: Careless driving

Men generally have more car accidents than women, and men in their 50s and 60s are twice as likely as women to die in car wrecks. Unintentional injuries (of all kinds) are the top cause of death among men ages 40 to 44, the third main cause in men ages 45 to 64, and cause #8 in men 65-plus.

Oops: Among middle-aged men, fatalities are more likely to result from falling asleep at the wheel, exceeding the speed limit, getting into an accident at an intersection or on weekends after midnight — all factors that don’t have a significant effect on the injury levels of middle-aged women, according to a 2007 Purdue University study on how age and gender affect driving. Men over age 45 have more accidents on snow and ice, too.

Silver lining: Older men fare better than men under age 45 on dry roads, where younger drivers crash more (perhaps due to overconfidence, the Purdue researchers say).

6. Risk: Untreated depression

Although women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men, men are more successful at it, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In 2009, 79 percent of all suicides were men. Suicide rates for men spike after age 65; seven times more men over 65 commit suicide than their female peers.

More than 60 percent of all those who die by suicide have major depression. If you include alcoholics, that number rises to 75 percent. In older adults, social isolation is another key contributing factor — which is why older suicides are often widowers.

Oops: Men often equate depression with “sadness” or other emotions — and fail to realize that common warning signs of depression include fatigue or excessive sleep, agitation and restlessness, trouble concentrating, irritability, and changes in appetite or sleep.

Silver lining: Depression is treatable at any age, and most cases are responsive to treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

7.  Risk: Smoking

Sure, you’ve heard about the horrific effects of smoking before. But the older you get, the worse they become. Older smokers have sustained greater lung damage over time because they tend to have been smoking longer; they also tend to be heavier smokers.

Men over 65 who smoke are twice as likely to die of stroke. Smoking causes more than 90 percent of all cases of COPD – the fourth leading cause of death among men — and 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer. The risks of all kinds of lung disease rise with age. Smokers develop Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death, far more than nonsmokers.

Oops: Older smokers are less likely than younger smokers to believe there’s a real health risk attached to cigarettes, says the American Lung Association. That means they’re less likely to try to quit.

Silver lining: No matter at what age you quit, your risk of added heart damage is halved after one year. The risks of stroke, lung disease, and cancer also drop immediately.

For More Information, please visit: www.caring.com

RECAP:  7 TOP HEALTH RISKS FOR MEN OVER 40:

1.  BEING SINGLE

2.  ELECTRONIC OVERLOAD

3. SLOPPY SUNSCREEN

4. CRUMMY DIET

5. CARELESS DRIVING

6. UNTREATED DEPRESSION

7.  SMOKING

How Anger Makes You Physically Sick

 
 

Keep it in? Let it out? Both can be hazardous.

Anger is one of the 7 deadly emotions of caregiving. Get mad when you must — but don’t make a habit of it.   It affects  your body and brain.

On the one hand, an angry outburst can be a stress release, better for you than keeping seething feelings bottled up inside.

But chronic anger can make you physically sick, researchers say.

Frequent angry episodes can raise your risk of heart attacks and strokes and weaken your immune system.

Anger inside your body: The heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and blood flow to muscles is reduced; glucose levels and adrenaline rise to give the muscles a shot of energy for the “fight or flight” response.

But never expressing anger when that’s what you’re feeling can be downright deadly.

Swedish research shows that those who walked away from conflict without saying anything (though they had reason to be upset) had double the risk of a heart attack compared to men who challenged authority.

Unexpressed anger is also linked to a lowered immune system.

The common thread: hostility seething through the body, whether expressed often or withheld often.

Researchers in this article don’t advise how to manage anger healthfully. For caregivers, it helps to learn to deal with hotheads without blowing your own top and to learn ways to cope with the frustration that loved ones can trigger.

What helps you?

 

Exerpt reprinted with permission from caring.com

 Read the entire article here:  http://www.caring.com/blogs/fyi-daily/how-anger-makes-you-physically-sick

 

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Suggested tips on how to respond to anger situations

Step Back and Breathe

Count to ten before you say or do anything and be mindful of your breathing. If you still don’t feel calm, count to ten again…and breathe.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I angry about?
  • What is hurting me?
  • What is going on that is not ok for me?
  • Did this person intend to hurt me?

When possible, remove yourself from the source of the stress and anger

Go for a walk or exercise. Moderate physical activity can be a productive outlet for your emotions. Besides releasing pent-up energy, your general physical feeling will improve.

Avoid emotionally charged and strenuous workouts, they can feed into the anger.

Imagine a calm relaxing scene.

  • Remember a time when you felt at peace.
  • Close your eyes, and travel back there.
  • Allow yourself to be there for a while and feel yourself release.

Empathize with the other person.

  • Try to see the situation from his or her point of view.
  • Remember that there is always more than one way to see anything.

Write in a journal. Keep track of your anger:

  • What did “I” get angry about?
  • What did “I” do or say in response?
  • How did “I” feel, physically and emotionally?

By identifying your sources of anger, you can learn to anticipate and respond to anger situations.

Use “I” statements when talking about the problem or situation instead of criticizing or blaming the other person. “I” am upset that the kitchen didn’t get cleaned after dinner,” instead of “Why is the kitchen still a mess?”, or “You should have cleaned it!”

Stop Brooding or Stewing. “Mind talk” is a major anger signal and one of the most destructive things you can do to yourself.

  • Rage starts when you lose control of your own thoughts or feelings.
  • You can control what you say.
  • Talk to the person you have anger with.
  • Share your feelings with a close friend or family member.
  • Seek professional help

For immediate relief of stress and anger click here!

 

Read more:

 

Coping with Grief

Dealing With the Loss of a Loved One

Events like anniversaries or holidays can sometimes prolong or reintroduce grief.

Just after a death or loss, you may feel empty and numb, as if you are in shock. You may notice physical symptoms such as trembling, nausea, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping and eating. You may become angry at a situation, a particular person, or just angry in general. Almost everyone experiencing grief also feels guilt. Guilt is often expressed in statements that begin with “I could have,” “I should have,” and “I wish I would have.” People who are grieving may also have strange dreams or nightmares, be absentminded, withdraw socially, or lack the desire to return to work. While these feelings and behaviors are normal during grief, they will pass.

Grief lasts as long as it takes you to accept and learn to live with your loss. For some people, grief lasts a few months. For others, grieving may take years. Sometimes an anniversary or special holiday, such as Valentine’s Day, may trigger feelings of grief. The length of time spent grieving is different for each person. There are many reasons for the differences, including personality, health, coping style, culture, family background, and life experiences. The time spent grieving also depends on your relationship with the person lost and how prepared you were for the loss.

Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four-step grieving process:

  • Accept the loss
  • Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
  • Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
  • Move on with life

The grieving process is complete when a person completes these important steps.

Just after a death or loss, you may feel empty and numb, as if you are in shock. You may notice physical symptoms such as trembling, nausea, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping and eating. You may become angry at a situation, a particular person, or just angry in general. Almost everyone experiencing grief also feels guilt. Guilt is often expressed in statements that begin with “I could have,” “I should have,” and “I wish I would have.” People who are grieving may also have strange dreams or nightmares, be absentminded, withdraw socially, or lack the desire to return to work. While these feelings and behaviors are normal during grief, they will pass.

Grief lasts as long as it takes you to accept and learn to live with your loss. For some people, grief lasts a few months. For others, grieving may take years. Sometimes an anniversary or special holiday, such as Valentine’s Day, may trigger feelings of grief. The length of time spent grieving is different for each person. There are many reasons for the differences, including personality, health, coping style, culture, family background, and life experiences. The time spent grieving also depends on your relationship with the person lost and how prepared you were for the loss.

Every person who experiences a death or other loss must complete a four-step grieving process:

  • Accept the loss
  • Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
  • Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
  • Move on with life

The grieving process is complete when a person completes these important steps.

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Coping with Grief: How to Handle Your Emotions

Traumatic events are a shock to the mind and body, and lead to a variety of emotions. Coping with grief takes time, help from others, and the knowledge that grieving isn’t easy.

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Grief is an emotion that takes time to deal with, but you can get through it and eventually move on. Grieving is a healthy response to tragedy, loss, and sadness, and it’s important to allow yourself time to process your loss.

Coping With Grief: The Range of Emotions

Grief doesn’t just happen after someone dies. Any traumatic event, major life change, or significant loss — a rape, a divorce, even major financial losses — can cause grief. Throughout the grieving process, you may find yourself feeling:

Coping With Grief: Accepting It

“Don’t try to run away from it; rather, face it head on,” advises Sally R. Connolly, a social worker and therapist at the Couples Clinic of Louisville in Louisville, Ky. In more than 30 years of practice, Connolly has helped many individuals and couples deal with grief and various traumatic events.

“Acknowledge that something traumatic has happened and that it has had a profound effect on you,” Connolly advises. Give yourself time to grieve, but seek help when you need it.

Coping With Grief: Finding Help

You may want some time alone to process your thoughts and struggle with your grief, but it’s important to recognize when you need help from others.

“You might need more help if you find that, after some time, you are not able to get back to normal activities, you have trouble sleeping or eating, or have thoughts and feelings that interfere with everyday life,” says Connolly.

A grief counselor or other therapist may be able to help you cope with grief, and finally start to move past it. Getting your grief out in the open is an important first step.

“Talk about it with someone — a friend, family, a support group. Support groups can be wonderful,” Connolly says. There, you can relate to other people who understand your situation, and you can get advice on what helped them through their grief.

Of course, expressing your emotions doesn’t have to be done out loud. “Write about it,” suggests Connolly. Rather than allowing thoughts to swirl in your head, put them down on paper. This is a great way of getting out your feelings if you are shy or embarrassed about sharing them with another person.

Coping With Grief: Getting Closure

Closure is also an important part of coping with grief and may help you move through the grieving process.

“Depending on the event, developing a ritual to say farewell may be helpful. We have funerals when someone dies and they are a healthy step on the road to acceptance. Rituals can be helpful for other traumas as well,” Connolly says.

Coping With Grief: When Will I Feel Better?

There is no set timeline for grieving. And unfortunately, you may never completely get over your loss. But your loss shouldn’t keep you from enjoying life, even with occasional periods of sadness.

“Let yourself grieve as long as you need to. You do have to resume normal life, but know that it’s going to take a while,” says Connolly.

Look for small signs that you’re coping with grief and getting past it. “Happy times signal that you’re progressing,” she says. When you realize that you aren’t always dwelling on the sadness or don’t think about it as frequently as you once did, that means that you’re finally moving on — at your own pace.

Your mind and body need time to grieve after a traumatic event. If you deprive yourself of the grieving process, you may find that you have more difficulty accepting what has happened or that unresolved feelings and issues may flare up later on. Allow yourself to feel sad and even selfish; eventually you’ll find yourself feeling better a little bit at a time. Even though part of you may always feel sad about your loss, you’ll find yourself happy and laughing again one day.

[Source: http://www.everydayhealth.com

Related Articles

 
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According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), emotionally healthy individuals have a capacity to process and express their emotional experiences in a productive way that reduces stress. Many life transitions, both positive and negative, can produce a sense of loss, sadness and anger. Acknowledging sadness and seeking support through difficult times can be critical to stress management and physical health.

Emotional Health

Experts at the American Academy of Family Physicians note that emotional health is defined by how people handle difficult emotions. For example, many of life’s challenges, such as the loss of a job or death of a family member, can leave us with a marked sense of sadness and even anger. Doctors note that the expression of these feelings is critical to maintaining stability both physically and emotionally. When we feel sad it important to express those feelings to others in appropriate ways or use activities such as meditation or exercise to release the built-up stress.

The Mind/Body Connection

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, our bodies react to the way we feel. If we are sad or stressed about a situation, our bodies might respond with a variety of physical systems, such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, and weight loss or weight gain. When we monitor our emotions and identify how we feel, we can choose effective tools to care for our health. When people do not acknowledge and work through emotions such as sadness, they can often develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or substance abuse to avoid the difficult feelings or to find a sense of comfort.

Coping with Sadness

Dr. Edward T. Creagan of the Mayo Clinic suggests that people take particular care of their health in the aftermath of a sad or upsetting event. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and talking to trusted friends or a counselor are all helpful tools for coping with sadness. When people use these methods for self-care, they often find that the period of sadness passes within a reasonable amount of time.

Sadness and Depression

When sadness is not expressed or processed in healthy ways, it often can lead to depression. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that this is particularly common among people who use alcohol or drugs to cope with sad feelings. Many of these substances depress the central nervous system and leave the individual feeling increasingly more depressed. People having a particularly difficult time with persistent feelings of sadness should consider consulting a medical professional or therapist for additional support.

Treatment for Emotional Issues

People who struggle with healthy management of emotions often find that they benefit from counseling or support groups. Doctors at the American Academy of Family Physicians note that sadness, when not processed and communicated, can lead to destructive emotional patterns, such as anger management issues. By working with professional counselors or peer support groups, people can learn to identify how they feel and how to cope in healthy ways.

References

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/180006-how-is-sadness-healthy/#ixzz1rC1fjlcD

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Is Crying Healthy?

When emotions overtake you, crying can be a healthy emotional release. But not all environments are conducive to alleviating sadness or expressing relief.

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

The notion that big boys or big girls don’t cry is a persistent idea fed by popular sayings, but psychologists and researchers say that it’s just not so. Shedding tears can be a huge and very healthy emotional release, particularly if you are experiencing deep pain, sadness, anger, or stress.

One study analyzed 140 years of popular articles about crying and found that more than 9 in 10 found tears to be a good way to release pent-up feelings. An international sample of men and women from 30 countries found that most reported feeling relief after a good cry. And about 70 percent of therapists say they believe crying is good for their patients.

Crying as Catharsis

The main benefit of crying is catharsis, or a purging or purification of your feelings through emotional release. When you cry, you can let go of the tension and sadness and other emotions that have been causing you pain. In many ways, crying serves as a safety valve that allows you to blow off emotions that have built up too much pressure inside you.

It’s been difficult for researchers to figure out how this works. When tears are induced in a laboratory setting — for example, having subjects watch a sad movie — more often than not the participants report that they feel worse rather than better.

Despite this, people consistently report that a good cry makes them feel better. One recent study reviewing more than 3,000 detailed reports of recent crying episodes found that most people reported an improvement in their mood afterward. Another study of 196 Dutch women found that nearly 9 in 10 said they felt better after crying.

Another benefit of crying is that it can bring people closer. An Israeli researcher studying the evolutionary aspects of crying has speculated that shedding tears communicates vulnerability to others, since the tears blur your vision and leaves you defenseless. A person who cares for you while you are in this weakened state can grow closer to you, and the bond between the two of you may grow stronger.

Have a Healthy Cry

Research has found that for crying to improve emotional health, certain conditions need to be met:

  • You should have a shoulder to cry on. People who receive social support while crying report more cathartic release than people who cry alone. Find a friend or loved one you trust.
  • You should cry after you’ve solved the problem. People feel better when they cry about a problem that’s already been resolved. If you cry before you’ve dealt with the situation that’s making you feel like crying, you are likely to receive no benefit or actually make yourself feel worse rather than better.
  • You need to make sure you’re crying in an appropriate place. People who experience shame or embarrassment while they cry are less likely to report an improvement of their mood. If you’re going to feel bad about crying in a public place or in front of certain people, you need to hold back your tears and go somewhere else.
  • Crying likely won’t help you if you are living with a mood disorder. People who live with clinical depression or anxiety disorders are less likely to feel better after they have a good cry. If you find yourself feeling worse after crying, you should see a doctor or therapist to see if you have a mood disorder.

But if you can’t stop the tears from falling, go ahead and let it all out — the odds are you’ll feel better afterward.

Understanding Addiction

I Have Nothing

Image via Wikipedia

Last night, I was talking to a friend from CBS.  When I hung up the phone, I logged onto Facebook and his status update said, “RIP Whitney Houston.”

I commented, “What??!!”

I felt immediate disbelief.  It’s a joke.  It’s a mistake.  Seconds later, a filled news feed confirmed the sad news: Whitney Houston, the musical icon, one of the most successful female performers of all time, dead at 48.

At 3:55 p.m. yesterday, Whitney Houston was found dead at The Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel.  Unbelievable.  The voice of an Angel gone.  We can’t bring Whitney Houston back or anyone else who lost their gifts to substance abuse, but we can seek first to understand how it happens, recognize symptoms and think about better ways to either help prevent or treat it. You don’t have to be a celebrity to be familiar with downward spiral of addiction.

Ironically, Whitney Houston sang the song, “The Greatest Love of All,” but it may very well be that she never achieved this greatest love for herself. She is quoted as having said:

“The biggest devil is me.  I’m either my best friend or worst enemy.” ~Whitney Houston

This is common for people battling any type of addiction, albeit drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food or any other behavior which has negative consequences.  The reason Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works is because it gets to the bottom of why the individual lacks self-love, which can often be at the root of any addiction.

Once that is established, the individual can be provided with healthy tools to begin achieving a greater self-image from the inside out.  This takes time and a willingness to release a lot of toxic inner garbage that may have accumulated over the years.   It’s the long-term and healthy approach.  My feeling is some people want a quick-fix and pay for prescription medication without ever taking the time to get to the cause or root of their problem. The drugs mask their pain and then they get addicted to the drugs, so the vicious circle begins.  Let’s take a closer look at addiction.

According to Psychology Today, addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, even health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect; this is known as tolerance. Because of tolerance, there is a biological reaction when the drug is withdrawn. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs). An alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these cues.

However, most addictive behavior is not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to cues. People compulsively use drugs, or gamble or shop, nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, whether or not they have a physical addiction. Since these psychologically based addictions are not based on drug or brain effects, they can account for why people frequently switch addictive actions from one drug to a completely different kind of drug, or even to a non-drug behavior. The focus of the addiction isn’t what matters; it’s the need to take action under certain kinds of stress. To treat this kind of addiction requires understanding of how it works psychologically.

No matter which kind of addiction is meant, it is important to recognize that its cause is not a search for pleasure, and addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon. But the lack of resolution does not preclude effective treatment.

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Legalizing these addictions isn’t the answer.

What happens when the drug is a prescribed one?  TMZ reported no drugs or alcohol were found in Whitney’s hotel room, but prescription bottles were found there.  The following are statistics on prescription drug abuse from Drug Free World.  It’s disturbing to see how young people are (12-17) when first becoming addicted.

When I think of someone being a drug addict, I think of them getting drugs in some seedy alleyway.  Today, it’s a fancy doctor’s office.  As a society, I believe we need to start taking a look at the source. We need to ask the right questions.  Who is prescribing the medications, why and to whom?  The answers are: Doctors, Money, People with Money.  It’s far easier to blame the victim.   But it’s the person prescribing the medication who is aware of the addicting nature of the medications. Parents need to be aware of what is being prescribed for their children.

Everyone needs to be aware that often there is a natural remedy when you are being prescribed a medication.  Celebrities are an easy target for prescriptions.  I have seen some status updates say that a drug addict (referring to Whitney Houston) isn’t getting any sympathy from them.  Sympathy isn’t required, but the ability to empathize is needed if we are to prevent others (celebrity or not) from the same fate.  Can we save a person once addiction has them in their grip?  When I use the word “save” –I’m talking about doing so BEFORE addiction has taken a hold of them.  I’ll talk about AFTER later.

I’ve never acquired a taste for alcohol and the only drug I’ve ever taken is  low dosage baby aspirin, but I’ve also never experienced physical pain, except for a few falls. Even then, my body went into shock and naturally protected me.  I recall the physician prescribing pain medication for me when I dislocated an elbow on a fall, but I only needed them the first few days, tossing the rest. Prescribed painkillers are the top drug addiction, more abused than so-called street drugs. I find this crazy, but it’s true.

Educating parents, patients and physicians is a start. Prevention is ideal, but for those already in the grip of addiction –it’s a daily challenge.  So far, the best known help for that is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy combined with low-dosage (non addicting) medication and healthy lifestyle changes.  There are known natural highs that release the same chemicals that these drugs release. The person also needs to surround themselves with healthy people.  Someone with a drinking problem doesn’t want to be hanging out with barflies.

The abuse of prescription drugs has skyrocketed across the nation, and especially in Texas where, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, accidental overdoses from 1999 to 2007 increased 150%.

Here are some more startling statistics, which aren’t new.

INTERNATIONAL STATISTICS

Every day in the US, 2,500 youth (12 to 17) abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time.Prescription drug abuse, while most prevalent in the US, is a problem in many areas around the world including Europe, Southern Africa and South Asia. In the US alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs, more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin.

In 2006 in the United States, 2.6 million people abused prescription drugs for the first time.

A 2007 survey in the US found that 3.3% of 12- to 17-year-olds and 6% of 17- to 25-year-olds had abused prescription drugs in the past month.

Prescription drug abuse causes the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdosing. Of the 22,400 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2005, opioid painkillers were the most commonly found drug, accounting for 38.2% of these deaths.

In 2005, 4.4 million teenagers (aged 12 to 17) in the US admitted to taking prescription painkillers, and 2.3 million took a prescription stimulant such as Ritalin. 2.2 million abused over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup. The average age for first-time users is now 13 to 14.

CAUSE OF DEATHS

Prescription
Drugs
Street Drugs
Combined:
39%
45% (Amphetamine
+ Heroin
+ Methamphetamine
+ Cocaine)

Depressants, opioids and antidepressants are responsible for more overdose deaths (45%) than cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and amphetamines (39%) combined. In the United States, the most deaths used to take place in inner cities in African-American neighborhoods, but they have now been overtaken by white rural communities. The same trend can be seen in the rates of hospitalization for substance abuse and emergency hospitalization for overdoses. Of the 1.4 million drug-related emergency room admissions in 2005, 598,542 were associated with abuse of pharmaceuticals alone or with other drugs.

By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs—60% to 70% say that home medicine cabinets are their source of drugs.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teens who abuse prescription drugs are twice as likely to use alcohol, five times more likely to use marijuana, and twelve to twenty times more likely to use illegal street drugs such as heroin, Ecstasy and cocaine than teens who do not abuse prescription drugs.

In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people that year in the US. It is thirty to fifty times more powerful than heroin.

“I realized I was using more Xanax on a regular basis. I took time off work to get off it. Without the knowledge I was addicted, I went ‘cold turkey.’ For four days and nights I was bedridden. I didn’t sleep or eat. I vomited. I had hallucinations. On about the third day without Xanax I started to become uncoordinated and unbalanced and bumped into things. On about the fourth day I became really worried when I started having twitching sensations.” —Patricia

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Latest Key findings from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)

  • Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% to 48%. The use of two or more drugs increased from 25% to 31%. The use of five or more drugs increased from 6% to 11%.
  • In 2007-2008, 1 out of every 5 children and 9 out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month.
  • Those who were without a regular place for health care, health insurance, or prescription drug benefit had less prescription drug use compared with those who had these benefits.
  • The most commonly used types of drugs included: asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol lowering drugs for older Americans.

In the United States, spending for prescription drugs was $234.1 billion in 2008, which was more than double what was spent in 1999 (1). As new drugs are introduced and new uses for old drugs are found, more patients can have improved health and quality of life with the appropriate use of prescription drugs. Current prescription drug use patterns need to be better understood. This report provides an overview of current prescription drug use in the United States, how many and what kinds of drugs are currently being prescribed, and who receives them.


What are the trends in prescription drug use in the United States over the past 10 years?

Prescription drug use in the United States increased from 1999-2000 through 2007-2008 (Figure 1).

Figure 1 is a line graph showing the trends in prescription drug use in the United States from 1999 through 2008.

  • The percentage of Americans who used at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% in 1999-2000 to 48% in 2007-2008.
  • The percentage of persons who used two or more prescription drugs increased from 25% in 1999-2000 to 31% in 2007-2008.
  • The percentage of persons who used five or more prescription drugs increased from 6% in 1999-2000 to 11% in 2007-2008.

What percentage of Americans used multiple prescription drugs in the past month and how did this vary by age?

The use of multiple prescription drugs in the past month varied by age (Figure 2).

Figure 2 is a bar chart showing the number of prescription drugs used in the United States from 2007 through 2008.

  • Among children (under age 12), less than 10% used two or more prescription drugs in the past month and only 1% used five or more.
  • Among older Americans (aged 60 and over), more than 76% used two or more prescription drugs and 37% used five or more.

Did prescription drug use vary among demographic subgroups?

There were differences in prescription drug use by age, sex, and race and ethnicity (Figure 3).

Figure 3 is a bar chart showing the prevalence of prescription drug use by age, gender, and race and ethnicity from 2007 through 2008.

  • Prescription drug use increased with age.
  • Women were more likely to use prescription drugs than men.
  • The non-Hispanic white population had the highest prescription drug use and the Mexican-American population had the lowest.

What is the relationship between access to health care services and prescription drug use?

Having a regular source of health care, health insurance, and health insurance with prescription drug benefits were all associated with increased use of prescribed medicines (Figure 4).

Figure 4 is a bar chart showing the prevalence of prescription drug use by health care, health insurance, and prescription drug benefit status from 2007 through 2008.

  • Persons with a regular place for health care were 2.7 times as likely to have used prescription drugs in the past month as those without a regular place for health care.
  • Those with health insurance were almost twice as likely to have used at least one prescription drug in the past month as those without health insurance coverage.
  • Among people with health insurance, those having a prescription drug benefit were 22% more likely to use prescription drugs than those who did not have this benefit.

What were the most frequently used types of prescription drugs?

The types of prescription drugs used by Americans varied by age (Figure 5).

Figure 5 is a bar chart showing the type of prescription drugs used most often by age from 2007 through 2008

The most commonly used types of prescription drugs in the United States by age were:

  • Bronchodilators for children aged 0-11.
  • Central nervous system stimulants for adolescents aged 12-19.
  • Antidepressants for adults aged 20-59.
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs for adults aged 60 and over.

Among children under age 6, penicillin antibiotics were the most frequently used prescription drugs.

Diuretics and β-blockers were also very commonly used drugs in adults and older Americans. These are usually used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems.

Summary

Over the last decade the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased by 10%. The use of multiple prescription drugs increased by 20% and the use of five or more drugs increased by 70%. By 2007-2008, one-half of Americans used at least one or more prescription drugs; and 1 out of 10 used five or more. One out of every five children used at least one or more prescription drugs compared with 9 of every 10 adults aged 60 and over. Women were more likely to use prescription drugs than were men. Those who were without a regular place for health care, health insurance, or prescription drug benefit were less likely to have used prescription medication compared with their counterparts.

The types of prescription drugs that were most commonly used were asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol lowering and high blood pressure drugs for older Americans. These patterns reflect the main chronic diseases common at these ages, but may also likely reflect more aggressive treatments for chronic medical conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure as recommended in the updated clinical guidelines (2,3).

Those without a regular place for health care, health insurance, or prescription drug benefits had lower prescription drug use rates. Lack of access to medicines may impact health and quality of life, as prescription drugs are essential to treat acute and chronic diseases.

Finally, almost 40% of older Americans used five or more prescription drugs in the past month. This likely reflects the need to treat the many diseases that commonly occur in this age group; however, excessive prescribing or polypharmacy is also an acknowledged safety risk for older Americans, and a continuing challenge that may contribute to adverse drug events, medication compliance issues, and increased health care costs (4-6).

Definitions

Prescription drug use: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) participants were asked if they had taken a prescription drug in the past month. Those who answered “yes” were asked to show the interviewer the medication containers of all prescription drugs. For each drug reported, the interviewer recorded the product’s complete name from the container (7).

Therapeutic drug class (type of drugs): Prescription drugs were classified based on the three-level nested therapeutic classification scheme of Cerner Multum’s Lexicon. Up to four classes were assigned to each drug. The most commonly cited second level of drug categorical codes were used in this analysis (7).

Health care access: Based on the question, “Is there a place you usually go when you are sick or you need advice about your health?”

Health insurance coverage: Based on the question, “Are you covered by health insurance or some other kind of health care plan?”

Prescription drug benefit: Based on the question, “Do any of these plans cover any part of cost of prescriptions?”

Data source and methods

NHANES data were used for these analyses (7). NHANES is designed to monitor the health and nutritional status of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. NHANES is nationally representative. Sample weights, accounting for the differential probabilities of selection, nonresponse, and noncoverage were used for analyses. Variance estimates accounted for the complex survey design using Taylor series linearization. Apart from age-specific estimates, all estimates were age adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population using four age groups: under age 12, 12-19, 20-59, and 60 and over (8). Trends were tested to evaluate changes in estimates across survey periods and age groups. Differences among groups were evaluated using a univariate t statistic. All significance tests were two-sided using p < 0.05 as the level of statistical significance. For comparison of estimates by race and ethnic groups, adjustments for multiple comparisons were made using the Bonferroni method (9). Reported differences are statistically significant unless otherwise indicated. Statistical analyses were conducted using SAS version 9.2 (SAS Institute, Cary, N.C.) and SUDAAN version 10.0 (Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, N.C.).

About the authors

Qiuping Gu, Charles F. Dillon, and Vicki L. Burt are with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

References

  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. National Health Expenditure Accounts, Historical.External Web Site Icon
  2. National Cholesterol Education Program expert panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) expert panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) final report. Circulation 106(25):3143-421. 2002.
  3. Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, Cushman WC, Green LA, Izzo JL Jr, et al. Seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Hypertension 42(6):1206-52. 2003.
  4. Qato DM, Alexander GC, Conti RM, Johnson M, Schumm P, Lindau ST. Use of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements among older adults in the United States. JAMA 300(24):2867-78. 2008.
  5. O’Mahony D, Gallagher PF. Inappropriate prescribing in the older population: Need for new criteria. Age Ageing 37(2):138-41. 2008.
  6. Trygstad TK, Christensen DB, Wegner SE, Sullivan R, Garmise JM. Analysis of the North Carolina long-term care polypharmacy initiative: A multiple-cohort approach using propensity-score matching for both evaluation and targeting. Clin Ther 31(9):2018-37. 2009.
  7. CDC. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 1999-2008.
  8. Klein RJ, Schoenborn CA. Age adjustment using the 2000 projected U.S. population. Healthy People Statistical Notes, no 20. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2001.
  9. Miller RG Jr. Developments in multiple comparisons 1966-1976. J Am Stat Assoc 72(360):779-88. 1977.

Suggested citation

Gu Q, Dillon CF, Burt VL. Prescription drug use continues to increase: U.S. prescription drug data for 2007-2008. NCHS data brief, no 42. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.

Copyright information

All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated.

National Center for Health Statistics

Edward J. Sondik, Ph.D., Director
Jennifer H. Madans, Ph.D., Associate Director for Science

Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys

Cliff L. Johnson, M.S.P.H., Director

SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, AND HELP FOR DRUG PROBLEMS AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Drug Abuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Testing

Some people are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without ever experiencing negative consequences or addiction. For many others, substance use can cause problems at work, home, school, and in relationships, leaving you feeling isolated, helpless, or ashamed.

If you’re worried about your own or a friend or family member’s drug use, it’s important to know that help is available. Learning about the nature of drug abuse and addiction—how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold—will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it.

Understanding drug use, drug abuse, and addiction

People experiment with drugs for many different reasons. Many first try drugs out of curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, or in an effort to improve athletic performance or ease another problem, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Use doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific level at which drug use moves from casual to problematic. It varies by individual. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the amount of substance consumed or the frequency, and more to do with theconsequences of drug use. No matter how often or how little you’re consuming, if your drug use is causing problems in your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.

Why do some drug users become addicted, while others don’t?

As with many other conditions and diseases, vulnerability to addiction differs from person to person. Your genes, mental health, family and social environment all play a role in addiction. Risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood
  • Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Early use of drugs
  • Method of administration—smoking or injecting a drug may increase its addictive potential

Drug addiction and the brain

Learn more about how addiction hijacks the brain.

Read Article by Harvard Health Publications

Addiction is a complex disorder characterized by compulsive drug use. While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain looks and functions.

  • Taking a recreational drug causes a surge in levels of dopamine in your brain, which trigger feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.
  • If you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking.
  • Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without drugs.
  • Whether you’re addicted to inhalants, heroin, Xanax, speed, or Vicodin, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness.
  • The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs you’re taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your drug use.

How drug abuse and addiction can develop

Learn how drugs block emotions

Watch a 3 -min. video: Roadblocks to awareness

People who experiment with drugs continue to use them because the substance either makes them feel good, or stops them from feeling bad. In many cases, however, there is a fine line between regular use and drug abuse and addiction. Very few addicts are able to recognize when they have crossed that line. While frequency or the amount of drugs consumed don’t in themselves constitute drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems.

  • Problems can sometimes sneak up on you, as your drug use gradually increases over time. Smoking a joint with friends at the weekend, or taking ecstasy at a rave, or cocaine at an occasional party, for example, can change to using drugs a couple of days a week, then every day. Gradually, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important to you.
  • If the drug fulfills a valuable need, you may find yourself increasingly relying on it. For example, you may take drugs to calm you if you feel anxious or stressed, energize you if you feel depressed, or make you more confident in social situations if you normally feel shy. Or you may have started using prescription drugs to cope with panic attacks or relieve chronic pain, for example. Until you find alternative, healthier methods for overcoming these problems, your drug use will likely continue.
  • Similarly, if you use drugs to fill a void in your life, you’re more at risk of crossing the line from casual use to drug abuse and addiction. To maintain healthy balance in your life, you need to have other positive experiences, to feel good in your life aside from any drug use.
  • As drug abuse takes hold, you may miss or frequently be late for work or school, your job performance may progressively deteriorate, and you start to neglect social or family obligations. Your ability to stop using is eventually compromised. What began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need.

The good news is that with the right treatment and support, you can counteract the disruptive effects of drug use and regain control of your life. The first obstacle is to recognize and admit you have a problem, or listen to loved ones who are often better able to see the negative effects drug use is having on your life.

5 Myths about Drug Abuse and Addiction

MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.

MYTH 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn’t mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

MYTH 3: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.

MYTH 4: You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.

MYTH 5: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again. Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.

Signs and symptoms of drug abuse and drug addiction

Although different drugs have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are similar. See if you recognize yourself in the following signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. If so, consider talking to someone about your drug use.

Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse

  • You’re neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your drug use.
  • You’re using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
  • Your drug use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit.
  • Your drug use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.

Common signs and symptoms of drug addiction

  • You’ve built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You take drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
  • You’ve lost control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
  • Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the drug’s effects.
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.
  • You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.

Warning signs that a friend or family member is abusing drugs

Drug abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. If you’re worried that a friend or family member might be abusing drugs, look for the following warning signs:

Physical warning signs of drug abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.

Warning Signs of Commonly Abused Drugs

  • Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.
  • Depressants (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness.
  • Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
  • Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors):  Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
  • Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

Warning signs of teen drug abuse

While experimenting with drugs doesn’t automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:

  • Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs.
  • Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school.
  • Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions.
  • Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed.
  • Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group.
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities.
  • Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around.

Getting help for drug abuse and drug addiction

Finding help and support for drug addiction

  • Visit a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in your area. See below.
  • Call 1-800-662-HELP in the U.S. to reach a free referral helpline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, one that takes tremendous courage and strength. Facing your addiction without minimizing the problem or making excuses can feel frightening and overwhelming, but recovery is within reach. If you’re ready to make a change and willing to seek help, you can overcome your addiction and build a satisfying, drug-free life for yourself.

Support is essential to addiction recovery

Don’t try to go it alone; it’s all too easy to get discouraged and rationalize “just one more” hit or pill. Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential. Recovering from drug addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance.
Support can come from:

  • family members
  • close friends
  • therapists or counselors
  • other recovering addicts
  • healthcare providers
  • people from your faith community

When a loved one has a drug problem

If you suspect that a friend or family member has a drug problem, here are a few things you can do:

  • Speak up. Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support, without being judgmental. The earlier addiction is treated, the better. Don’t wait for your loved one to hit bottom! Be prepared for excuses and denial by listing specific examples of your loved one’s behavior that has you worried.
  • Take care of yourself. Don’t get so caught up in someone else’s drug problem that you neglect your own needs. Make sure you have people you can talk to and lean on for support. And stay safe. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.
  • Avoid self-blame. You can support a person with a substance abuse problem and encourage treatment, but you can’t force an addict to change. You can’t control your loved one’s decisions. Let the person accept responsibility for his or her actions, an essential step along the way to recovery for drug addiction.

But Don’t

  • Attempt to punish, threaten, bribe, or preach.
  • Try to be a martyr. Avoid emotional appeals that may only increase feelings of guilt and the compulsion to use drugs.
  • Cover up or make excuses for the drug abuser, or shield them from the negative consequences of their behavior.
  • Take over their responsibilities, leaving them with no sense of importance or dignity.
  • Hide or throw out drugs.
  • Argue with the person when they are high.
  • Take drugs with the drug abuser.
  • Feel guilty or responsible for another’s behavior.

Adapted from: National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information

When your teen has a drug problem

Discovering your child uses drugs can generate fear, confusion, and anger in parents. It’s important to remain calm when confronting your teen, and only do so when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love. It’s important that your teen feels you are supportive.

Five steps parents can take:

  • Lay down rules and consequences. Your teen should understand that using drugs comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. Make sure your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them.
  • Monitor your teen’s activity. Know where your teen goes and who he or she hangs out with. It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases or make-up cases, for example. Explain to your teen that this lack of privacy is a consequence of him or her having been caught using drugs.
  • Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports and afterschool clubs.
  • Talk to your child about underlying issues. Drug use can be the result of other problems. Is your child having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress?
  • Get Help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or drug counselor.

Next steps…

Recovering from drug addiction. Addiction is a complex problem that affects every aspect of your life. Overcoming it requires making major changes to the way you live, deal with problems, and relate to others. Learn about the tools that can help you on your journey to sobriety. Read Article.

Related articles for drug abuse and drug addiction

Overcoming Drug AddictionOvercoming Drug Addiction Change is possible with treatment and support, and by making lifestyle changes that address the root cause of your addiction.
Substance Abuse & Mental HealthSubstance Abuse & Mental Health Dealing with addiction is even harder when you also have a mental health problem. But there are treatments that can help.
Alcoholism & Alcohol AbuseAlcoholism & Alcohol Abuse Your drinking may be a problem if you consume alcohol simply to feel good or to avoid feeling bad.
Alcohol Treatment & Self–HelpAlcohol Treatment & Self–Help Explore your alcohol treatment options and steps you can take to help yourself and achieve lasting recovery.

Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Joanna Saisan, M.S.W. Last updated: January 2012.