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 - - - - Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are constantly in the news -- but unfortunately, most of what is reported on drug use, mis-use  and addiction is badly flawed.  There are numerous agendas: drug warriors want to support their policies; their opponents want to push theirs; our  government  officials want tokeep their jobs and their funding; treatment providers  want to ensure their programs look good; self-help group members want their message heard; and the media itself doesn't look too deeply beyond what it is given in press releases from these various factions.

In the last decade or so, research has provided you greater insight into addictions and other drug problems than was ever available before.  But the media hasn't caught up.  This section will revisit this issue from time to time, looking at how particular coverage concords wuth the data and at what the researchh consensus on various issues is. 

Here are some myths to watch for while critically examining drugs coverage: 

How often have you heard addicts described as selfish liars who care only for their own pleasure or heard people discuss their "addictive personailities?"  Both ideas are simply
not supported by research.  Says Reid Hester, Ph.D., co-author of definitive overview of the alcohol treatment literature,"Handbook of Alcohol Treatment Approaches," (Allyn and Bacon, 1995, 2003)  

     "Research has tried to figure out what that personaility is for about fifty
 and has never come up with a consistent picture.  - - A lot of the
 severely dependent addicts are pretty savvy and they can be very
     manipulative but so can Wall Street traders and politicians.

Some characteristics are more common in people with addictive disorders than others (a propensity for risk-taking, for example), but there is no trait, aside from the habit itself, which all addicts share.  Even denial,  - supposedly the hallmark of addictiive behavior - is no more common on addicts than others.

Also false is the idea that someone who is addicted to one drug will automatically not be able to handle any psychoactive substance --  or will become compulsive about eating or
sex if she kicks drugs.In some cases, people do shift their compulsive behavior from one arena to another, but many don't.

Many people believe what the media constantly repeat - particlarly in coverage of
celebrity addicts like Rush Limbaugh and Darryl Strawberry -- namely that the only way to recover from an alcohol or drug problem is with total abstinence from all
psychoactive substances and 12 Step Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.There
is no evidence that Alcoholics Anonymous,or Narcotics Anonymous for drugs are
more effective than any other treatments.

Most people with drug problems actually recover without any treatment or self-help group attendance.  More people end alcohol problems by moderating their
drinking than by quitting entirely - though the more severe the alcohol problem is,
the less likely it is that moderation will be achieved.

Cognitive - behavioral therapies are effective, but unfortunately, research-based   treatment is rare in the community, with most providers pushing the idea that  the
twelve steps are the only, or at least the best,way.

This is one of the most pernicious myths about dealing with drug problems. 
Confrontational and humiliating "attack therapy" -- often used in rehabs - actually

increases the chances of relapse and treatment drop-out. 

 People threatened with prison if they
 don't quit drugs are no more likely
 to succeed in treatment than those
 who seek out help on their own,
 according to a summary of the
 research published by the National
 Institute on Drug Abuse.

Boot camps for teens are no more effective than juvenile prison, according to the
Department of Justice.  Tough interventions  -  which threaten loss of employment
or relationships if the person doesn't shape up immediately ----  have resulted in
suicides as well as recovery.

"There is no doubt that agressive, hostilely confrontational treatment protocols do more harm than good,"says Hester.

Addiction refers to compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences.
The condition used to be defined as developing a physical need for a drug in order to function normally and suffering withdrawal  when that substance was withheld.

But this didn't account for why heroin addicts repeatedly relapse after long withdrawal
symptoms have ended;nor did it explain cocaine addiction,which doesn't involve physical

Many medications - from some antidepressants to certain high blood pressure drugs --
produce physical dependence, but no craving.  Anyone who takes drugs that produce
physical dependence for long enough will become dependent; but that person is not
addicted unless the drug produces craving despite negative life consequences.

The vast majority of people who try any drug - even heroin or strong opiates like
Oxycontin® - do not become addicts .  Addiction rates among drug takers typi-
cally vary from 1-20%, depending on factors that increase risk such as young age, male gender, drug taking for recreational rather than medical reasons, current
severe stress, genetics and past traumatic stress.

Research funded by the government, which was frightened that Viet Nam veterans
returning from that war would bring massive rates of heroin addiction home with them
found the opposite - even though the veterans were at high risk because of their age,
gender, and stressful experience.  Although 45% of United States soldiers in Viet Nam
reported trying heroin, only 20% spent some time addicted and just 12% returned to
heroin addiction once they got home.  And this occurred despite the fact that 60% of those who had been addicted in Viet Nam used heroin at least once after returning

The media is claiming that methamphetamine is the most addictive and dangerous drug -  and that recovery from it is much more difficult than from
other drugs.  The research shows, however, that
methamphetamine addicts have about the same
recovery rates as those trying to kick other drugs.

Previously, crack was the most addictive, before that it was heroin.  Next year it will be something else. 

If you want to know the relative dangers of various drugs, look at the death rates  amongst long term users, typical lehgth of addiction, overdose risk, and treatment statistics.  Search for this information in medical journals or on governement web-sites like that of the National Institute of  Drug Abuse. Rely more on what academic researchers say than on anecdotes from "experts" like treatment center owners or
police officers. You'll rarely ever find accurate information in the  popular press,
particularly about a new hot drug.

Reference:  Maia Szalavitz  is a STATS Senior Fellow  http://www.stats.org

More Americans began using narcotic pain medications for recreational use last year than any other drug besides alcohol, including marijuana and cocaine, federal researchers say.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a new analysis of the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showing that 2.4 million Americans ages 12 and older began nonmedical use of narcotic pain drugs in the year prior to the survey. That compares to 2.1 new users of marijuana and 1 million new cocaine users.

Researchers found that of the new users of narcotic pain medications:

* 48.0 percent used Vicodin, Lortab or Lorcet,
* 34.4 percent used Darvocet, Darvon, or Tylenol with codeine
* 20.0 percent used Percocet, Percodan or Tylox
* 18.4 percent used generic hydrocodone
*   8.4 percent used Oxycontin
*   4.3 percent used morphine

Most new recreational users of narcotic pain medications had previously used other illicit drugs; more than half of new nonmedical users were women.

The report is titled "Nonmedical Users of Pain Relievers: Characteristics of Recent Initiates." 

Reference:  Join Together  Released:  June 22, 2006

Compiled by:  Deborah Shrira RPH, CMA              July 17, 2006

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Compiled by:  Deborah Shrira RPH, CMA                Date:  July 17, 2006