Friday, July 20, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 7-20-12:Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids
The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 0.5% of 8th graders, 1.0% of 10th graders, and 1.5% of 12th graders had abused anabolic steroids at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. While the numbers are relatively small compared to other substances of abuse, it is important to know about these dangerous substances and the potential consequences of using them.
Steroids are prescription drugs that are legally prescribed to treat a variety of medical conditions that cause loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS.
Most anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. They are taken orally or are injected. Testosterone not only brings out male sexual traits, it also causes muscles to grow. ("Anabolic" means growing or building.) Some people, especially athletes, abuse anabolic steroids to build muscle and enhance performance. Abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some of which are irreversible. They can cause changes in the brain and body that increase risks for illness and they may affect moods.
Our body’s testosterone production is controlled by a group of nerve cells at the base of the brain, called the hypothalamus. It also helps control appetite, blood pressure, moods, and reproductive ability. Anabolic steroids can change the messages the hypothalamus sends to the body. This can disrupt normal hormone function.
Anabolic steroids are bad for the heart—they can increase fat deposits in blood vessels, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. They may also damage the liver. Major effects of steroid abuse can include jaundice, fluid retention and high blood pressure; Also, males risk shrinking of the testicles, lowered sperm count, baldness, breast development, and infertility. Females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens risk accelerated puberty changes and severe acne. Steroids can halt bone growth— which means that a teenage steroid user may not grow to his/her full adult height.  All users, but particularly those who inject the drug, risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Scientists are still learning about how anabolic steroids affect the brain, and in turn, behavior. Research has shown that anabolic steroids may trigger aggressive behavior in some people. Some outbursts can be so severe they have become known in the media as “roid rages.” And when a steroid abuser stops using the drugs, they can become depressed, even suicidal. Researchers think that some of the changes in behavior may be caused by hormonal changes that are caused by steroids, but there is still a lot that is not known.
Doctors never prescribe anabolic steroids for building muscle in young, healthy people. But doctors sometimes prescribe anabolic steroids to treat some types of anemia or disorders in men that prevent the normal production of testosterone.
Doctors sometimes prescribe steroids to reduce swelling. These aren’t anabolic steroids. They’re corticosteroids. Since corticosteroids don’t build muscles the way that anabolic steroids do, people don’t abuse them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 7/13/12:Preventing Substance Abuse Among Seniors

Today I’m again sharing information from www.nihseniorhealth,gov:
Drug abuse, whether prescription or illicit drugs, can have serious consequences, particularly for older adults. That is why prevention is key. However, there are many different reasons why people abuse drugs and become addicted to them. These reasons need to be taken into account when considering how to best prevent drug abuse. Family members, friends, pharmacists, and health care providers can all be involved in preventing drug abuse among older adults.
There are steps that can be taken to prevent abuse of prescription medications and its consequences.
  • When visiting the doctor or pharmacist, bring along all prescription and over-the-counter medicines taken -- or a list of the medicines and their dosages (how much taken and how often). The doctor can make sure that the medicines are right and make changes if necessary.
  • Always follow medication directions carefully.
  • Only use the medication for its prescribed purpose.
  • Do not crush or break pills.
  • If unsure how to take a medicine correctly, ask the doctor or pharmacist. He or she can tell how to take a medication properly and about side effects to watch out for and interactions with other medications.
  • Ask how the medication will affect driving and other daily activities.
  • Do not use other people's prescription medications, and do not share medications.
  • Talk with the doctor before increasing or decreasing the medication dosage.
  • Do not stop taking a medicine without consulting the doctor. Talk to the doctor about side effects or other problems.
  • Learn about the medicine’s possible interactions with alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Answer honestly if a doctor or other health care professional asks about other drug or alcohol use. Without that information, the doctor may not be able to provide the best care. Also, if you have a substance problem, he or she can help find the right treatment to prevent more serious problems from developing, including addiction.
Preventing illicit drug use in older adults requires first knowing what contributes to it. For people of all ages, an individual’s biology (including their genetics) and the environment, as well as how the two act together, determine a person’s vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction -- or can protect against it. For example, being exposed to drugs of abuse in youth, living in a community where drug use is prevalent, having untreated mental disorders, such as depression, or dealing with difficult transition periods such as retirement or loss of a spouse can all make an older adult more vulnerable to drug abuse.
Prevention efforts must focus on gaining a better understanding of the factors that promote illicit drug use in older adults. Prevention also includes finding ways to stop drug use before it worsens and leads to health problems, including addiction. Family members can play an important role by being aware of an older relative’s well-being and possible drug abuse, and stepping in to help at an early stage, if necessary. Doctors should ask their older patients about potential drug abuse and make referrals as needed.

Monday, July 9, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog7/9/12: Seniors and Prescription Drug Abuse

Ulster Prevention Council Blog: Seniors and Prescription Drug Abuse

Last week I talked about seniors and illicit drug abuse. Today I’d like to talk about seniors and prescription drug abuse. I’m again using information from www.nihseniorhealth,gov:

The types of prescription medications most commonly abused by people of any age are painkillers (such as Vicodin, OxyContin), depressants (such as Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (such as Concerta and Adderall). Hospital admissions for older adults were mostly linked to overdoses from pain medication and withdrawal symptoms from other addictive drugs such as sleeping pills.

Some people accidentally take medicines incorrectly, often without knowing it or without intending to. They may forget to take their medicine, take it too often, or take the wrong amount.
As people get older, trouble with vision or memory can make it hard to use medications correctly. Taking lots of medications at different times of the day can be confusing. Another common problem is having more than one doctor who prescribes medicines, but no single doctor who monitors them and checks for any interactions.
Intentional abuse occurs when a person knowingly uses prescription medications the wrong way, takes medicines not prescribed for them, or combines them with alcohol or illicit drugs. People may do this to feel good, to feel better, or to calm down.
Sometimes a big change, such as retirement, the death of a loved one, or failing health, can lead to loneliness, boredom, anxiety, or depression. That can prompt a person to begin, continue, or increase the abuse of medications or other drugs.
A person may think that taking the medicine is safe, no matter what, because a doctor prescribed it. But taking too much of a medication, or taking it in ways other than how the doctor ordered, is not safe.
Older adults may suffer serious consequences from even moderate drug abuse because of several risk factors. As the body ages, it cannot absorb and break down medications and drugs as easily as it used to. As a result, even when an older adult takes a medication properly, it may remain in the body longer than it would in a younger person.
Aging brains are also different than young ones and may be at greater risk for harmful drug effects (on memory or coordination, for example). Having other medical conditions (such as heart disease) and taking medications to treat them while abusing prescription drugs at the same time also present unique risks for older adults.
Continued use of medications in the wrong way may also lead to physical dependence or addiction. Physical dependence and addiction are not the same thing.
  • Physical dependence is a normal process that can happen to anyone taking medications for a long time. It means that the body (including the brain) is adapting to the presence of the drug and the person may require a higher dosage or a different medication to get relief. This condition is known as tolerance.
  • Someone who is addicted to a drug may also be physically dependent on it, but rather than benefitting from the drug’s effects, an addicted person will continue to get worse with continued or increasing drug abuse. An addicted person compulsively seeks and abuses drugs, despite their negative consequences.
A person may also suffer from withdrawal or feel sick when the medication is abruptly stopped. However, the symptoms of withdrawal can usually be prevented or managed by a physician, which is why it is so important to talk to a doctor before stopping a medication.
Opioids (painkillers) can be addictive if taken incorrectly. They can also have serious side effects, including slowed breathing and death from overdose.
Depressants can also be addictive if taken incorrectly. Their side effects include confusion, drowsiness, and impaired coordination. Older adults are especially sensitive, which can increase their risk of accidents and falls. Combining a depressant with anything that can cause sleepiness, such as alcohol or pain medications, can be very dangerous. And taking too many sleeping pills can cause delirium and worsen the symptoms of dementia. Stopping a depressant without a doctor’s guidance can lead to life-threatening seizures.
Stimulants can be addictive, if not taken as prescribed. Repeated use or high doses of stimulants can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia. Also, taking high doses of a stimulant may cause an irregular heartbeat, a dangerous rise in body temperature, heart failure, or seizures.
Taking a stimulant at the same time as certain other medicines can be dangerous. For example, taking a stimulant and an over-the-counter cold medicine containing a decongestant can lead to dangerously high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms. A stimulant mixed with an antidepressant or other drugs can greatly increase these dangers.

Monday, July 2, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 7/2/12: Seniors and Illicit Drug Abuse

Ulster Prevention Council Blog: Seniors and Illicit Drug Abuse

Last week I talked about seniors and alcohol. Today I’d like to talk about seniors and illicit drug abuse. I’m again using information from www.nihseniorhealth,gov:
Although use of illicit (illegal) drugs is relatively uncommon among adults over age 65, there has recently been an increase in the percentage of people 50 and older abusing illicit drugs. In fact, the number of current illicit drug users aged 50-59 nearly tripled between 2002 and 2009, from 900,000 to more than 2.5 million. More older adults are also seeking treatment for substance abuse and having increased hospitalizations and visits to emergency rooms (up 60 percent in 55-64 year-olds from 2004 to 2009) because of illicit drug use.
These patterns and trends partially reflect the aging of the baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964). This could be for two reasons: (1) there were more people born in that generation and therefore there are now more people in that age group than before; and (2) baby boomers were more likely than previous generations to use illicit drugs in their youth, which is a risk factor for later use.
While it is relatively rare for adults over 65 to have ever used illicit drugs, baby boomers (adults in their 50s and early 60s) are more likely to have tried them. Greater lifetime exposure could lead to higher rates of abuse as baby boomers age. The most common drugs of abuse include the following
  1. marijuana
  2. illegal opioids, such as heroin
  3. illegal stimulants, such as cocaine
  4. hallucinogens, such as LSD
Marijuana, made from the cannabis plant, is the most abused illicit drug among people 50 and older. It is used for its relaxing properties but can have several negative effects, including slowed thinking and reaction time, impaired memory and balance. It can also lead to paranoia and anxiety.
Although under federal law, marijuana is illegal to use under any circumstance, in some states doctors are allowed to prescribe it for medical use. However, most health experts do not recommend smoking marijuana to treat disease, particularly given potential negative effects on the lungs and respiratory system. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two medications chemically similar to marijuana to treat wasting disease (extreme weight loss) in people with AIDS and to lessen symptoms associated with cancer treatment, such as nausea and vomiting.
Opioids are powerful drugs that at first cause feelings of euphoria, then periods of drowsiness. They can also slow breathing. Some opioids are legal and prescribed by a doctor. Others, like heroin, are illegal. All types of opioids can be addictive and can lead to death if too much is taken (overdose).
Stimulants like cocaine make people feel more alert and energetic. But they can also cause elevated heart rate and blood pressure, paranoia, panic attacks, aggression, and other problems. They are very addictive and can lead to death if too much is taken (overdose). Some stimulants are legally prescribed by a doctor to treat health conditions. Other kinds -- including cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), and methamphetamines -- are illegal.
Hallucinogens and dissociative drugs can greatly distort perceptions of reality, including making a person see, hear, and feel things that are not really there. Physical effects may include increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, sleeplessness, sweating, dizziness, and loss of appetite. Flashbacks and mood disturbances can also occur. This group of drugs includes LSD, peyote, psilocybin ("magic mushrooms"), and phencyclidine (PCP).
Age-related changes to our brains and bodies as well as typical diseases of aging could result in greater health consequences for older adults, even with lower levels of drug use. Illicit drugs affect older people differently than younger people because aging changes how the body and brain handle these substances. As people get older, the body goes through a number of changes and cannot break down and eliminate a drug as easily as it once did. As a result, the drug may remain in the body longer than it would in a younger person. Even a small amount can have a strong effect.
Abuse of illicit drugs can make an older person’s overall health worse. For example, cocaine can cause heart problems even in young abusers. The effects on older people, who may already have heart disease, could be even more severe. In addition, people who abuse illicit drugs may be exposed to diseases they otherwise wouldn’t risk (such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, a liver disease). This is because drugs compromise judgment and can lead to harmful behaviors. Older adults who take illicit drugs also have a higher risk of accidents, falls, and injuries.