A Drug Addiction Profile of New York State
With many counties and a vast urban landscape, New York faces a diverse challenge of drug issues. Much like the rest of the nation, opioid addiction fuels heroin addiction. Cocaine continues to pose a threat. Meth is slowly becoming a growing epidemic. Alcohol, a mainstay of American culture, may now be a new addiction problem with binge drinking on college campuses.
Fighting Drugs with the Law
New York State works to fight drug addiction in the streets with law enforcement and in the courts with laws. Though addiction is clearly understood to be a disease, the state still seeks to discourage use with strict possession laws. To be officially charged with possession, a prosecuting attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance confiscated during the arrest was a controlled substance, that the defendant was in possession of the substance and that the defendant was knowledgeable of the possession of the substance. The controlled substance must also be unlawful and not prescribed legally by a licensed physician.
The possession of the drug can be a physical possession on the defendant, or in legal terms, it could be a constructive possession. This means that the defendant was in control of the place where the drugs were discovered. Constructive possession is often used by law enforcement for convicting defendants when they are not physically present at a location where drugs are found, like in a car or home. Constructive possession can be proved even if the defendant is not physically present at the time the drugs are found.
Key Statues in New York State Drug Law
Any prosecutor seeking conviction for drug possession will implement one of the following penal laws in their prosecution. As drugs become more diverse, so too must the laws to balance their severe impact on society and how severely the addict is punished for possession.
The New York Penal Law Section 220
This legal code establishes legal definition within drug terminology. The code defines the sale of drugs and defines the term “unlawful” as it relates to drugs. It clearly outlines the measurement of drugs including ounce and pound and defines controlled substance as it is used in law enforcement.
Classifications of illegal drugs are also defined including marijuana, which is classified as a narcotic drug, narcotic preparation, hallucinogen, hallucinogen substance, stimulant, and dangerous depressant. Even the terms “school grounds” are clearly defined legally, which can be used to increase the severity of a sentence when a drug sale occurs within the proximity of a school campus. Terminology such as precursors which includes chemical agents and solvents that are used for drug production along with the terms laboratory equipment are also legally defined to help law enforcement and prosecution to convict manufacturers of drugs. Presented in a court of law, these terms help define the offense with unquestionable language so that the sale, manufacture and possession of drugs is clearly understood.
The New York Penal Law 220.25
For those in the presence of drugs who may still be innocent of use or sale, this penal code may still lead to an arrest. All persons in a car or home or in the proximity of drugs can be considered a suspect and arrested by law enforcement. Only the confession by a single individual within a group that the drugs are solely theirs can prevent many from being taken into custody. Simply, anyone is subject to the presumption of possession by law enforcement by being nearby the drugs during the arrest.
New York Penal Law Section 220.60
Because of the growing epidemic of manufactured illegal drugs such as methamphetamine, the laws have expanded to include numerous chemical substances in a drug conviction. Possession of any of these substances, though not in themselves illegal, can lead to conviction based on their application to the manufacture of methamphetamines. This class of substances known as precursors carries a class E felony for anyone convicted. These substances that may seem like something found in a chemistry class have a profound impact on current society for their ability to produce potent, addictive and deadly stimulants.
1.carbamide (urea) and propanedioc and malonic acid or its derivatives
2 ergot or an ergot derivative and diethylamine or dimethylformamide or diethylamide
3. phenylacetone (1-phenyl-2 propanone) and hydroxylamine or ammonia or formamide or benzaldehyde or nitroethane or methylamine
4. pentazocine and methyliodide
5. phenylacetonitrile and dichlorodiethyl methylamine or dichlorodiethyl benzylamine
6. diephenylacetonitrile [FN1] and dimethylaminoisopropyl chloride
7. piperidine and cyclohexanone and bromobenzene and lithium or magnesium
8. 2, 5-dimethoxy benzaldehyde and nitroethane and a reducing agent
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The Penalties and Sentences for Drug Crimes
Anyone convicted of a class A-1 felony, which is possession of 8 or more ounces of controlled substances containing a narcotic drug, may be sentenced from 8 to 20 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.
Less serious class B or class E felonies can lead to sentences of a minimum of one year to up to 1.5 to 9 years and fines ranging from $15,000 to $30,000.
The penalties for marijuana possession have decreased over the years. Unlawful possession of marijuana is still subject to imprisonment but for no more than 15 days and a fine less than $250.
Legal Defenses for Drug Crimes
Defending attorneys may avoid conviction or a reduction in sentence by using one of several legal strategies.
Lack of knowledge-if the defendant was not aware of the presence of drugs in a car or home. In situations where roommates, friends or family had knowledge, but the defendant did not can help the case.
Temporary and lawful possession-in instances where drugs were legally possessed, the defendant may avoid conviction. If the drugs were legally prescribed by a physician, including medical marijuana.
Insufficient quantity- because the law clearly defines the amount of drugs that can lead to a conviction, a defense attorney may argue that the quantity obtained during the arrest is inadequate to justify conviction.
Age restrictions-anyone under the age of 16 may be too young to be convicted for drug possession. Though other outcomes may include probation or family counseling, criminal conviction is unlikely.
New York State Laws for Specific Drugs
Because of the different types of drugs and their severity, different possession laws have been drafted to give sentences based on the varied classes of controlled substances.
Heroin Possession. The law considers the addiction that an addict is managing and the charges for possession are much less than those of sale.
Over 500 mg.: Class D felony;
Over 1/8 oz.: Class C felony;
Over 1/2 oz.: Class B felony;
Over 4 oz.: Class A-II felony;
Over 8 oz.: Class A-I felony;
Any amount of a controlled substance with the intent to sell: Class D felony
Any amount of narcotic drug with intent to sell: Class B felony
Heroin Sale. Heroin sale is taken far more seriously by New York prosecutors. The sale of heroin creates addicts and, in many cases, leads addicts to commit crimes from prostitution to theft to armed robbery. For this reason, heroin sale convictions are seen as having a greater impact on the society and thus carry a stiffer penalty.
Over 1/2 oz.: Class A-II felony;
Over 2 oz.: Class A-I felony;
On school grounds or sale to someone under 21: Class B felony
Cocaine is still relevant to current drug culture. Laws reflect a consistent concern for the seriousness coke brings to the state. Penalties may include a class D felony to anyone knowingly possessing 500 milligrams or more of cocaine.
Much like heroin, the consequences of selling cocaine are stricter. A Class B felony is the charge for possessing with the intent to sell any amount of a narcotic drug and/or one gram or more of a stimulant.
Marijuana has lost its luster in the devastating cloud of heroin, opioid and meth addiction. For this reason, the penalties are less strict.
Up to 25 grams – civil violation that incurs fines but no jail time
25 grams to 2 ounces – up to three months in jail and/or $500 fine
2 to 8 ounces – up to one year in jail and/or $1,000 fine
8 to 16 ounces – 1-4 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 fine (mandatory prison time for second offenses)
16 ounces to 10 pounds – 1-7 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 fine (mandatory prison time for second offenses)
10 pounds or more – 1-15 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 fine (mandatory prison time for second offenses)
The Sale of Marijuana
Up to two ounces without payment – up to three months in jail and/or up to $500 fine
Cultivating or selling up to 24 grams – up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $1,000 fine
25 grams to four ounces – 1-4 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 fine
4 to 16 ounces – 1-7 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 fine
16 ounces or more – 1-15 years in prison and/or up $5,000 fine
Selling any amount to a minor – 1-7 years in jail and/or up to $5,000 fine
Possession of Crystal Meth
As crystal meth becomes an epidemic that cripples New York, laws to enforce possession and sale become as equally powerful.
Possession for one ounce or a mixture containing methamphetamine is a Class A misdemeanor and subject to up to one year on jail.
A half an ounce or more is 1-5 years in jail and if a second-time offender up to 8 years in prison
Arrests of two ounces or more carries a penalty of 3 to 10 years in prison
Sale of Crystal Meth
A 1.8-ounce sale can lead to a Class B felony punishable by 1 to 9 years in prison. Second time offenders face up to 12 years in jail.
Sale of a ½ ounce or more is punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison. Second time offenders may face up to 14 years in jail.
Drugs Plaguing New York State
In New York State, cocaine ranks second behind marijuana as a drug that shows up most often in drug testing. In was detected in 33 percent of all drug reports. Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant. Street dealers will mix cocaine with cornstarch and even talcum powder to increase profits. Cocaine produces immediate short-term effects including extreme happiness and high energy levels. Cocaine users become highly focused and alert as well as hypersensitive to sight, sound and touch. The stimulating effects also lead to increased irritability and often extreme paranoia. Large doses of cocaine can product erratic and often violent behavior. Long term continued use of cocaine can gradually diminish the sense of smell if snorted, as well as nosebleeds and difficulty swallowing. If ingested orally, severe bowel problems may result, and if injected, cocaine use can lead to HIV and other blood borne diseases. Studies have revealed that cocaine use speeds up HIV infection and weakens the immune system.
In New York State, more than one-quarter of all primary treatment admissions were for heroin in 2012. Use of heroin via injection also increased 44 percent. Law enforcement in New York noted that the purity of heroin from South America rose to 37.5 percent pure from 31.6 percent pure in 2010. Heroin enters the brain rapidly causing an immediate high. Short-term effects include a dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, and sometimes nausea and vomiting and severe itching. Long-term effects include an inability to sleep and damaged veins from regular use of needles. Damaged tissue in the nostrils has also been reported by those who habitually snort it.
Marijuana has become one of the most popular drugs of choice in New York State. Nationally it is still the most commonly used illicit drug, with over 11 million young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 using cannabis in the past year. As pushes for legalization have increased the reputation of cannabis as a hard drug have also decreased. Medical marijuana is quickly becoming the norm in many states. While medical use of marijuana is legal in New York, it is highly regulated with specific requirements for physicians regarding prescribing the drug. Marijuana is typically smoked, though with its increasing popularity, is also included in recipes and eaten to achieve the euphoric effects.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, opioid death rates increased by 65 percent in 2015, and these death rates increased by 261 percent on Staten Island. According to the New York State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data, opioid pain prescriptions in New York City increased by 31 percent between 2008 and 2011, and oxycodone prescriptions increased by 73 percent during this same time frame. Opioid abuse begins with legal prescriptions and when those prescription are no longer available, users often resort to heroin. Opioids for this reason, are being viewed by New York law enforcement as a gateway drug to heroin addiction.
Methamphetamine usage is up a year ago, even though in New York its use has been primarily limited to the gay community. But New York law enforcement now indicates that large-scale meth suppliers are targeting a new consumer in city nightclubs. NYPD has sized upward of 25 pounds of meth and arrested more than 30 people in the past six months. Crystal meth is a stimulant that is snorted or smoked. Unlike other plant based drugs, meth is cooked in a laboratory. Common cold remedies have become a useful ingredient for meth labs as well as drain cleaner, lantern fuel and antifreeze. Unlike other drugs that are imported into the country, meth can be made in the USA. Meth leads to increased attention and decreased fatigue. Meth addicts are very talkative and experience increased respiration and often a rapid and irregular heartbeat.
Alcohol and Binge Drinking
Though a completely legal drug, alcohol has a devastating impact on health and society. New York, like many states, continues to struggle against an addictive substance that can be easily purchased anywhere. Most disturbing is the trend of binge drinking, in which large quantities of alcohol are consumed at one time, oftentimes with dire consequences. Binge drinking has become popular on college campuses and has led to many deaths of college youth as well as other acts of violence including rape.
Forty percent of New York adults who enter a rehabilitation center or abuse program list alcohol as their primary substance, essentially their legal drug of choice. Thirty-seven percent of these are children of alcoholics making it an inherited disease through exposure to alcoholic parents. As a result, about $213 million in New York City is spent on emergency department and hospital costs related to alcohol abuse.
Last year in New York, 18 percent of adults said they drank more than four drinks at a time in the last 30 days. More than 50% of underage drinkers admitted to binge drinking. Alcohol is also the number one cause of car accidents in New York.
What causes addiction?
As New York and other states struggle with addiction, they work toward a better understanding of the disease. Recovery specialists identify addiction as a chronic illness characterized by a compulsive drive for a substance. Though the decision to take drugs is a voluntary choice made by an individual, the resulting repeated drug use leads to alterations in brain chemistry, undermining personal self-control. Even when an individual tries to get off a drug, the brain is already impacted by the addiction and relapses are common. The risks of relapse can occur even years after an individual has rid himself or herself of the harmful effects of the drug.
How is the brain altered by drugs?
Drugs tap into the dopamine rush that most people get from sex or exercise or something as simple as a roller coaster ride. The drug hits this reward circuit with a flood of the naturally produced dopamine creating an effect that multiplies the natural intensity of this body chemical. Once the reward system is opened it begins to demand that constant flood of dopamine, rerouting all other mental agendas to achieving this task. Once the brain is rewired, the compulsion to keep taking the drug becomes the most important aspect of a user’s life. Unfortunately, the tolerance for the drug also increases, requiring more and more of the substance to reach that epic high. As a result, the body may experience an overdose and even death. And if overdose does not kill, then constant use of the drug slowly wears away at the health of the user. Long-term use can disable the ability to learn, to make clear and rational judgements. Decision-making becomes deeply impaired and stress occurs more easily as the brain can no longer handle the world without drugs. Memory loss is common and behavior often becomes erratic.
What causes certain individuals to become addicted?
The risk for addiction is not easily understood. A combination of factors can contribute to dependency.
Biological Makeup. Genetically, some people are more redisposed to addiction than others. In fact, researchers have discovered that genetics actually accounts for almost half of all addicted people.
Environment. How and where a person grows up dramatically impacts the addictive personality. Someone exposed to addictive behavior in their parents will easily succumb to addiction later in life. If physical or sexual abuse are components of the household, that also can drive someone to drugs for relief. In general, social-economic factors that make drugs not only easily available but commonplace also contribute to allowing addiction into a personal life.
Personal Development. Among all the factors, the early age at which drugs are first introduced has always been a primary focus by researchers. It has been found that the earlier someone experiments with drugs, the more likely they will become dependent. The brain of someone young is still in development which makes it susceptible to drug addiction. In other words, the brain is subject to being more easily re-wired by drugs because it hasn’t quite been hard wired yet.
Treatment Options for Addiction
1. intervention in a Drug Addict’s Life
A professional interventionist or a group of family and friends may convince an addicted person to seek treatment as the first important step to recovery. Because factors such as depression and other social pressures may have been the launching pad of addiction, the family and any professional help that can be acquired must make an unwavering commitment to get the addicted person they help they need.
2. Getting Them into Detox
The next step in the recovery process is ridding the person of their physical dependence on the drug. To achieve this, an addict must be checked into a detox facility. Here recovery specialists can monitor their progress and ensure that no medical emergencies arise during the detox process. Eliminating drugs from the system of an addict is a dramatic experience. The withdrawal symptoms of any addiction can leave a person feeling “torn up.” Trembling and sweating, vomiting and nausea all accompany the detox episode. It is highly recommended that any addict conduct detox with the help of professionals. Detoxing on one’s own can lead to seizures and maybe even death. With medical experts on hand, their detox patients can be helped with medications that ease withdrawal symptoms. They can also get the moral support needed to get through the trauma of detox.
3. The First Seventy-Two Hours
The first seventy-two hours of admittance and detox are usually when the worst withdrawal symptoms occur as the body begins demanding the drug. Also, psychological and emotional tolls are felt as the patient risks abandoning detox to get the drugs they need. Deep depressions may also begin to drag the patient down, followed by a response the cravings that can show as irritability or even violent behavior. If the patient can overcome this period, there is much more hope for recovery. That it is a long and difficult process, making it through detox is an achievement that changes the arc of addiction.
4. The Thirty to Ninety Day Residential Recovery Process
Residential inpatient treatment usually extends to a thirty or ninety-day period depending on the severity of the addiction being treated. The objective of long-term recovery is to rewire the brain and help the addict rethink the world around them free of addiction. It is during this long treatment process that addicts may connect with other patients, also recovering. Like-minded souls in the struggle for sobriety has become proven to be a successful plan of treatment. Also, counselors will work hard using group therapy sessions to help an addict identity the early causes of addiction, which may be rooted in family life, mental illness or their social environment.
5. The Extended Work of Partial Hospitalization
PHP, or partial hospitalization programs, ease the addicted back into normal life. This program approach is flexible enough to allow some patients to attend group sessions during the day then return to their own homes at night. Hospitalization is available as needed and becomes a welcoming sanctuary if the experience of recovery becomes too demanding. For many addicts who have a less severe addiction or have many obligations in life that must be attended to, the unique and practical partial hospitalization method offers the best treatment. The option to continue the care of a residential facility are balanced with outpatient treatments in a customized plan that fits the patient. The partial hospitalization approach offers a strong support system of both professional counselors, members of the group session and if possible, family and friends at home.
6. Intensive Outpatient Offers More Options
With detox behind them, the next step for many recovering individuals is to maintain their relationship with sobriety. To achieve this intensive outpatient programs, sustain the support system addicts discovered in residential treatment, except now more responsibility is handed over to the recovering. They can begin rebuilding their life while relying on this strong support to always provide a backup in the event of a relapse episode. It is in these intense sessions that many recovering individuals will confront their demons that drove them to addiction. They will become insightful about their triggers and how they can easily be lulled into relapse by incidental aspects of life. Intensive outpatient becomes a long-term education on how to live a sober existence.
The Aftercare Experience
Drug addiction recovery doesn’t end with the last treatment session. It is a lifelong battle against the temptation of drugs. Every day a recovering person must overcome the depression that drags them toward a high. They must battle the stress that teases them toward their drug of choice with the option of emotional escape. The care network that exists to maintain this grip on sobriety is part of a long history of addiction treatment. The support group has been the most effective tool in the treatment of addiction after detox. Through these group meetings, every individual struggling with recovery is constantly reminded of the power and importance of staying sober. When the rest of the world will not likely hep them in their fight, aftercare therapy always will.
Why Group Therapy Works
Group sessions offer the nurturing and healing of individuals working toward the same goal. No one knows addiction and the efforts it takes to remain sober like another addict. Their shared stories and experiences remind someone in the throes of recovery that they are not alone. Also, through support system with individual sponsors, one person becomes the caretake of another. Responsibility does not just become something for oneself, but an attribute that must be shared. It is through this reliance that a recovering person feels the need to helps others and in so doing help themselves.
The Importance of Family Therapy
The value of reconnecting with family is critical to recovery. Betrayals are often much a part of an addict’s life when dealing with family. When high on drugs or seeking the revenue to obtain drugs, an addicted person probably lied to family members, stole from them or maybe even abused them. Now recovering, those old wounds are still fresh on the minds of parents and siblings. They are recovering from the addict’s addiction too. Family therapy is a way to heal these wounds but helping the addict understand what is expect of them from family. They must accept the wrongs they committed and Moe forward with love. Without these family relationships being mended, it becomes easier for an addict to accept that they are worthless and that the feelings their family holds for them is accurate. They can easily slip back into drugs without the support of loved ones. Through family therapy sessions, a counselor will guide the addicted and family members to understand how addiction occurred and what changes can be made in family life. A counselor will seek to understand of addiction is related to family life. If other members of the family are also abusing drugs or alcohol and of some members of the family have constructed a codependent relationship which may aid relapse rather than recovery because of a willingness to help the addicted “feel better.” Only a path of sober living can be encouraged, and a family counselor can help make this happen.
Living Without Drugs
What makes sober living so difficult so the constant pull of drugs from all sides. Old friendships that were involved in drug use may still be present in a recovering person’s life. They must end these relationships as quickly as possible to get away from the temptation. But normal life has its impact as well. The normal stresses most people feel and more difficult for a recovering person. It is easy to transform the stress from work or school or family life into an excuse to get high. It takes exceptional commitment from the recovering person to stay the course of sobriety,
Some recovering individuals may rely on regular drug testing to help them maintain their personal responsibility to sobriety. Others may find the availability of a counselor or supportive group session partner as being only a phone call away. These supportive aspects will always keep a sober living person on track.
The Option of Sober Living Facilities
Some recovering individuals will turn to sober living facilities to cope. Here, much like a recovering facility, a recovering person can enjoy the company of others recovering, impromptu group sessions and a sober and healthy environment. They can still go to work and school and see family and just return to their sober living facility as an oasis against the temptations of addiction. If a recovering person remains sober and follows the house rules, sober living residences are an ideal option for many on the path to a sober life.
After Care Continues
The power of the twelve-step program is a cornerstone of treatment. Twelve step programs can create a process of sobriety with clear and reachable goals. Some of the most popular aftercare support programs that implement twelve step philosophies include:
• Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
• Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
• Pills Anonymous (PA)
• Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
• Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
Battling specific drugs becomes easier as individuals can turn to others who have experienced the same drug and its hardships can share company.
What It Takes to Stay Sober
The commitment to sobriety is a long road and filled with many obstacles. Temptation comes often in the form of triggers that can lure recovering addicts back down the path of relapse. With the right support system, anyone recovering from drug addiction can find sober living is a superior choice that can be maintained.
How to Handle Triggers
The first thing any recovering person will learn to do is becoming fully aware of the triggers in their life. Triggers can rise up from anywhere and cause a relapse. These bits and pieces of memory linger in the subconscious and are remnants of an addicted life. Outside influences can cause these memories to rise in the present and elicit a craving. The triggers can be:
A street corner where drugs used to be purchased, a park or parking lot. Even the name of the park or the street corner mentioned by anyone become an instant trigger.
Old buddies who used to use drugs can come by and cause relapse simply by going over old times when drugs were used together. An old friend who may still be using drugs can show up and become a direct line back to drug addiction.
Every day feelings that sober people feel can for a person recovering for addiction be sources of relapse. Those feelings of shame and isolation communicate to the drug addict that they deserve nothing better than to be back on drugs. The feelings of stress, depression or shame that lie at the foundation of a person’s addiction can be a source for relapse.
Any past trauma can become a trigger. Terrible memories that drove addiction in the first place can still rise up and may even be mentioned unintentionally by family or friends, not knowing the harm it is causing the recovering individual.
Group Session as a Weapon Against Temptation
Group sessions are the place where addicts can learn to indeitify and fight their triggers. They can use group to discuss how triggers happen, recount their own trigger episodes and help each other through the long and difficult struggle of recovery. Because there is no judgement in group therapy and talking through an episode that almost caused relapse or a trigger that keeps haunting the recovering person can held it become more of an annoyance and less of a monster.
Those normal life stresses are difficult for a recovering addict. It is important that he or she face this issues head on and understand how much stress they can take. They can use group to talk through these stress-based triggers.
Apporach Sobriety with a New Understanding
Because sobrietiy takes time every reovering person needs to understand the foundation of their illness, which is more than drugs. They must also embrace the idea that sobriety is always the answer. Only with this understanding can they avoid drugs and relapse as an option.
Taking Each Day Slowly
New to sober life, addicts look to quickly become an active person who works and attends school. They may even start planning a family. But all of these ambitions may be too much too soon. An addict needs to take each step in life carefully and understand if the overwhelming responsibilities that they take on will not push them back into relapse. By taking on less, they are able to achieve more.
Away With Old Druggie Relationships
Drug culture creates relationships. Those relationships die hard. Many of those old friends may still come around the front door with “samples” for a recovering person to try or an invite to a party. The recovering person must end these relationships once and for all. They are not only a trigger, but a haunting and tangible reminder of a past they don’t want to repeat. Unfortunately, friendship needs to cease if it based on drug use.
Sobriety Above All Else
The moment in most twelve-step program that is the zenith of any recovering person’s experience, is the moment they fully embrace sobriety. Often this is the twelfth step, the spiritual awakening that makes drug use seem incomprehensible and sober living the only possible reality.
Sober Living Tips Many Recovering Addicts Will Recommend
Any recovering addict will give the best advice for what makes sober living meaningful. If a group session were formed, regardless of the drug of choice, here is what recovering addicts would recommend to prevent relapse and make every day greater than the next.
Make Sober Friends
With the end of druggie pals, comes sober friendships. That void left when drug addicts are asked to no longer come around, leaves a deep loneliness. But that is not forever. Any recovering person can find meaningful and valuable friendships with sober individuals. Those friendships started at group sessions re especially helpful as those individuals have been through similar circumstances and sympathy and understand the struggle of the recovering. Taking on a new direction with sober friends is one of the many tips a recovering addict would suggest.
Fill Drug-Related Activities with Non-Drug Related Activities
This seems like a non-brainer, but in fact most recovering addicts become immediately bored. Drugs was their hobby and their lifestyle. Now that it is gone there is nothing to fill that emptiness. Being sober, however introduces lots of new options, activities that could never be accomplished while under the influence. Church is a common calling for many recovering addicts, as well as hobbies that were abandoned for drugs. New activities can fill that space that was clouded by drug addiction.
Finding solace in exercise and a healthy diet can change a recovering person’s perspective. Eliminating a junk lifestyle rids the body’s dependence on substances and a new and invigorating energy level can be achieved. Any recoverin person will also discover a new self-confidence and improved mood. Healthy living also makes you look better.
Getting Back on the Knowledge Track
Drugs keep you from learning anything. With the end of addiction, the mind is ready and alert and willing to be filled up with new ideas and insights. Reading is not a bore. Learning is not a drudgery. Without drugs knowledge becomes a potent and powerful tool to regain one’s life and pursue sobriety with passion.
What the World Looks Like to a Sober Person
A sober life opens up the open to endless possibilities. The new opportunity to care and dream and to enthusiastic is itself a rush. A recovering person with a new outlook can enjoy life and leave drugs behind for good.
New York Looks at Other Options in the Fight Against Drugs
While rehabilitation continues to be the primary solution for helping addicts overcome dependency, other options to manage the addicted population are being considered by New York government officials and law enforcement. Recently, New York considered allowing supervised “consumption spaces” for drug addicts.
This controversial approach is designed to help drug uses from engaging in unsafe behaviors. Within a controlled environment, this is a reduced risk of physical violence between users and the increased likelihood of using safe, clean needles, which would reduce the spread of HIV. Most importantly, a supervised location offers the ability for overdoses to be stopped.
End Overdose New York, proposed this approach to the state of New York. “New York’s continued leadership — and our ability to make an impact on the overdose epidemic — requires taking bold new steps to save lives,” the group said on its website. The overdose statistics are grim, with a seventy-one percent increase in opioid overdose deaths as confirmed in a study by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Advocates for the new program indicate that no one has died in a safe consumption zone.
The safe consumption locations would also be the ideal place for addicts to find the help they need. Advocates available on site could help individuals who wish to begin recovery to find residential or outpatient options.
Without such safe zones, drug users will continue taking drugs intravenously in public. In fact, the Injection Drug Users Alliance found that 60 percent of intravenous drug users nationally inject in public places. Health care providers are already on board with the proposal as they manage a crisis in their emergency rooms with up to 75,000 opioid-related patients admitted to New York hospitals in 2014.
Other states such as Maryland, Vermont, California, Maine and Massachusetts have already introduced legislation to approve safe consumption sites for intravenous drug users.
Why Opioids Worry New York Officials
For New Yorkers, the issue hits home, especially in New York rural counties where the opioid addiction crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Nearly 9 million opioid prescriptions, written by doctors, were legally handed out by pharmacists statewide from 2009 through 2015.
The predominately white rural New York counties suffer the most from this abuse of prescription drugs. Studies revealed that the higher opioid prescribing areas were far less populated, more rural and mostly white. The study found a 400 percent per capita difference between Sullivan County, which prescribed the most opioids, and Kings County (Brooklyn), which prescribed the least. Overall, the epidemic encompassed a population of at least 145,000 opioid drug abusers. In 2015, 2,771 people statewide died of drug-related causes, with two-thirds of those deaths attributed to opioids.
Doctor prescription pads became prized possession among drug dealers, who began writing their own prescriptions amounting to millions of dollars’ worth of opioids.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA is also trying to step up and face the opioid problem with their own solutions. PhRMA is partnering with Addiction Policy Forum, a nationwide nonprofit. Pharma will provide essential funds for state and local programs as well as begin their support of new public policies that help families and individuals struggling with drug addiction.
Meanwhile, more direct measures are being implemented to stop overdoses. Paramedics and law enforcement are being equipped with naloxone, a medication that rapidly prevents opioid overdoses. A $200 million state investment puts the powerful miracle drug in those who are on the front lines of overdoses. Though bringing an addict back from an overdose does not necessarily mean they will stop their addiction, it at offers one more chance for that individual to seek help.
New York City Take Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors to Court Over the State-Wide Epidemic
In an effort to hold drug manufacturers accountable for the addictive drugs they have produced, New York City is taking manufacturers and distributors of prescription painkillers to court for a half-billion dollars. The city determined this figure based on the cost New York City has spent battling opioid addiction and death.
Well known drug producers such as Purdue, Teva, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen are named in the suit. Many are comparing the filing to the 1990s litigations against tobacco manufacturers. In a similar fashion, cigarette makers introduced a highly addictive and dangerous substance to the population. Prescription drugs are no different.
Looking Deeper into the Drug Overdose Death Impact on the State of New York
A recent study recorded mortality rates across New York. These are just a few of the many counties reporting opioid related death tolls in the hundreds:
Suffolk County – 823
Queens County – 464
New York County – 534
Nassau County – 501
Kings County – 521
Bronx County – 461
Erie County – 377
Richmond County – 248
The Harsh Numbers of Addiction
As government seeks numerous solutions and pathways to fighting addiction, the studies continue to estimate the continuing damage drugs are having on the state. With over 323 million people in New York, it is estimated that around 12 percent of New Yorkers above the age of 11 are addicted to drugs.
Prescription drug abuse became so severe that at one point in 2013, the state passed legislation requiring physicians to refer to an internet registry system to learn more about patient prescription drug history before handing out strong medications like Oxycontin and Fentanyl In 2013, U.S. healthcare costs relating to the use of prescription opioid drugs exceeded $26 billion. Alarmingly from 2008 to 2009, 1.4 percent of New York City residents above the age of 11 reported using benzodiazepines, like Valium, Ativan or Xanax, without a legal prescription.
Law enforcement officials state that York City is the nation’s largest market for illegal drugs. In one year in 2015, 96,883 New Yorkers entered chemical dependency treatment programs. In 2014, statewide auto accidents involving drugs other than alcohol exceeded 1,200 incidents. Supportive housing in New York is considered especially high risk with 14 percent of residents in these housing units reporting drug use, and another 28 percent reported binge drinking.
The Impact of Drugs on Youth
Teens across the US make up the majority of those addicted to drugs. In fact, most adults who suffer through addiction may have begun with alcohol and drug use in high school. As drugs become more easily accessible and the variety of drugs available constantly changes, youth become more susceptible to the many easy options for getting high.
Opioids in the Medicine Chest
Opioids are one of the highest risk drugs for youth as the easy access to medicine cabinets at home allows kids to experiment with painkillers meant for legitimate ailments. The abuse can quickly escalate to addiction. Pharm parties become social media viral content where kids snatch pill bottles from home and have a party without alcohol or illegal drugs, getting high on the very legal drugs prescribed by family doctors. In other instances, opioid medications are mixed with other drugs and alcohol to produce unique highs. This commingling of harmful substances puts most teens at risk for overdose. 1 out of 8 high school seniors reported having used prescription opioids nonmedically. And 7 out of 10 nonmedical users reported combing prescription drugs with at least one other drug such as marijuana and alcohol.
Parents need to keep an eye on prescription medications they have been given. Not leaving them accessible in bathroom medicine cabinets is critical and disposing of the medicines once they have expired is also important. Most towns now offer drop off centers where expired or no longer used prescriptions can be safely disposed so they stay out of the hands of kids.
Marijuana Has Become Normalized
Though marijuana has always been considered a gateway drug to harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine, its continued use is still prevalent among teens and even pre-teens in junior high. The drug has lost much of its threat over the years as medical marijuana becomes a legitimate treatment for many illnesses and laws punishing marijuana possession and sale have become less severe. But the drug still has consequences for youth.
Among all grades, perceptions of harm and disapproval around marijuana use continue to decrease, with a smaller percentage 8th and 10th graders thinking that regular marijuana use is harmful, and fewer 10th and 12th graders disapproving of regular marijuana use. While only 29.0 percent of 12th graders report that regular marijuana use poses a great risk (half of what it was 20 years ago), disapproval among 12th graders remains somewhat high, with 64.7 percent reporting they disapprove of adults smoking marijuana regularly. In fact, daily marihuana use exceeds daily cigarette use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Another trend among teens is the use of electronic cigarettes to smoke marijuana. Vaping is rising among teens as the ideal delivery system for pot. researchers at the University of Michigan, found that more than a third of senior students surveyed have used marijuana and nearly one in three have used a vaporizer, or “vape” device, in the past year. But as cannabis becomes less sinister, but also has a greater impact on the minds and bodies of youth.
The developing mind of a teen is negatively impacted by regular cannabis use. Pot dumbs down the ability to think clearly and to solve simple problems. Teens may experience memory and learning difficulties as pot slows down the thought process. Teens may also experience poor coordination as pot impairs movement, slowing it down. Teens become inattentive under the effects of cannabis, which impacts their ability to perform well in school.
The social impact for youth use marijuana includes a declining performance academically. School becomes less important. If mental health issues exist, pot can aggravate them, intensifying depression or attention deficit disorder. And as kids are just learning to drive, pot makes them poor drivers, impairing their ability to make good driving decisions as well as making their coordination and reaction time sluggish and dangerous.
Most importantly, counter to popular belief, marijuana can become addictive. Research shows that about 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted, which means that they may make unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana or may give up important activities with friends and family in favor of smoking pot.
Alcohol Use and Youth
Alcohol continues to be one of the most popular substances and one of the most abused by teens. Binge drinking that was limited to college campuses is cropping up in high school weekend parties.
By age 15, about 33 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink.
In 2015, 7.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month.
5.1 million young people reported binge drinking (for males 5 or more drinks and for females 4 or more drinks on the same occasion within a few hours) at least once in the past month.2
1.3 million young people reported binge drinking on 5 or more days over the past month
How Does Binge Drinking Result in Death?
The consequences of death from binge drinking are various. The statistics show that:
1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes- teens are more likely to get behind the wheel after too many drinks
1,269 from homicides-excessive alcohol in the system increases emotions like anger and many deaths have resulted from anger and alcohol fueled killings usually starting with a minor dispute
245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning- alcohol poisoning kills and when drinking as much alcohol as possible in a short span is turned into a game at weekend parties, death may result. Also, drunken behavior easily leads to slips and falls and in instances where a drunken teen was near a pond or lake, a fatal drowning.
492 from suicides-under the emotional influence of alcohol, teens may become depressed and without clear judgement take their own life.
For parents whose child seems to be slipping toward alcohol addiction, there are many options. Environmental interventions such as eliminating alcohol in the household, even for adults.
Schools can take the matter of alcohol use among teens seriously and offer programs to educate and warn youth. Counselors can help with any teen that feels the addiction is becoming a problem where rehabilitation may be necessary.
Families can also step in to help, having talks with their kids and enforcing zero tolerance at home.
Inhalants and Youth
Inhalants can be any substance found in the house. Most are in aerosol form but can also be in other forms such as adhesives which is then inhaled to produce a high. Inhalants may be:
Aerosol Sprays like spray paints, electronic contact cleaners, hair or deodorant sprays, vegetable oil sprays
Cleaning Fluids, case found in propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols (known as whippets) and butane lighter fluids.
How Do Teens Use Inhalants?
Typically known as huffing, teens take in the fumes from various household chemical substances through the mouth or nose. They can sniff or snort fumes for a glue bottle. They can spray aerosols directly into the nose like computer dusting sprays. There is also bagging, in which teens fill a plastic bag with the fumes and then breath those trapped fumes in quickly from the bag. Inhaling a chemical soaked rag can also produce an immediate high.
The effects are slurred speech, a lack of coordination an extreme sense of euphoria and dizziness. Though the high only lasts for a few minutes, teens may try to reproduce it again and again for several hours. The health impacts though can be extremely dangerous
Long term effects if inhalants can include:
Liver and kidney damage
Bone marrow damage
Brain disorders and brain damage
The Stats on Inhalants and Youth
1.1 million kids in the 12-17 age demographic in the United States have used inhalants at least once in the past 12 months.
By the time students in the US reach the eighth grade, one in five will have used inhalants. In 2007, inhalants were the substance most frequently abused by youth aged 12 or 13.
22% of inhalant abusers who died of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome had no history of previous inhalant abuse—they were first-time users.
Inhalants are the fourth most-abused substance after alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana
Parents who suspect their child of using inhalants must confront the issue with education. Many kids feel that inhalants, because they are easily found around the house, are harmless. Check for sudden decreases in the availability of household products that could be inhaled.
The Rising Dangers of Synthetic “Designer” Drugs
Synthetic drugs are created in a lab. Because of their uncertain nature, they get around laws which tend to enforce drugs that are well known by government and law enforcement. Synthetic drugs are legal because they are so new making them popular among youth.
Some examples the street names for synthetic drugs include:
Spice (synthetic canniboid)
K2 (synthetic canniboid)
U47700, also known as Pink (synthetic opioid)
White Lightning (synthetic cathinone)
Bloom (synthetic cathinone)
Often these drugs are presented as something safer or more natural than already well-known illicit drugs. However, most synthetic drugs are highly dangerous. Many are more potent. For example, the synthetic drug K2 contains a higher concentration of THC than marijuana. The highly popular rave drug Pink is several times more powerful than any opioid including heroin.
Synthetic drugs started to hit the youth market in 2008. By continually changing the formulations of designer drugs, federal prosecution is always a step beyond. However, with this ever-changing chemical composition, noting can be really know about the long-term impact these drugs have on the human body.
The Popularity of Synthetic Drugs
Over 75% of kids who abused designer drugs were between 12 and 25 years of age
Roughly 11.408 emergency room visits were attributed to synthetic marijuana
In 2013, the number of ER visits related to toxic reactions to designer drugs increased by two and half times the number reported in 2012.
Calls to poison control centers resulting from synthetic marijuana use increased by almost 80 percent between 2010 and 2012, and by 50 percent, between 2012 and 2014.
The Rise of Raves and Club Drugs
The cultural phenomena know was rave has become synonymous with certain types of synthetic drugs. Club drugs and the rave scene create an atmosphere that enhances the effects of the drugs and encourages their use.
Most Common Club Drugs
Commonly called ecstasy, MDMA that effects mood and perception, which is enhanced by light shows and psychedelic music at rave events.
Teens Using MDMA will experience:
Increased activity, energy
Increased sensations of arousal
Increased likelihood to trust
Over time, the consistent use of ecstasy can have adverse effects on the body., especially the developing body of a teen. A teenager may exhibit irritability and impulsive and aggressive behavior for no apparent reason. Heavy use of the drug causes depression to set in and a continual loss of sleep. Teens may become anxious and experience a loss of memory as well as a loss of appetite. Long-term use also diminishes sex drive and negatively impacts focus. The greatest danger of ecstasy is that is causes are rapid and alarming increase in body temperature. At the peak of an ecstasy high, this heightened temperature may result in kidney failure, liver failure and possibly death.
If a teen is exhibiting any symptoms of consistent use of club drugs or synthetic drugs, intervention is key to getting them help. Convincing them that the drugs they are taking are just as bad as the stories they have heard about heroin is the hardest part of turning a teen away from these substances. Helping them get away from rave culture if possible can help protect them from the serious influences that club drugs can have through environment and friends.
The Short-Term and Long-Term Impact of Teen Drug Addiction
No teen thinks of the long-term consequences of drug use. To most it is just a temporary party. But addiction can quickly overcome a teen, especially one vulnerable to depression. What starts as short-term consequences become a long-term penalty.
When a teen takes drugs for a period of time physical and emotional changes go unnoticed because they are so gradual.
Indifference to physical or emotional pain-drug addiction makes individuals feel less, both emotionally in terms of caring to what happens to others and even to physical pain as their bodies become numb from drug abuse.
Constipation-teens using drugs may actually start to experience difficulties with bowel movement as the drugs they take changes their biological functions.
Breathing problems- a teen may not notice how winded they are with the slightest physical exertion. They also may remember how fast and hard they could run when they weren’t on drugs.
Slower brain function than normal- teens will have trouble with basic cognitive functions. Thinking and reasoning become harder and many will give up on a problem when it becomes too hard.
Memory problems-memory loss will become so common they will make mistakes of forgetfulness.
Increased blood pressure-a young person should never have high blood pressure, but a visit to a doctor will show teens on drugs with alarmingly high blood pressure numbers.
Increased heart rate-palpitations will become common as teens experience biological fluctuations from drug use
Body temperature fluctuations-they will feel colder and hotter, and those body temperatures will fluctuate rapidly from moment to moment as the body’s chemistry goes haywire on drugs.
Loss of appetite-food loses its appeal. Drugs become the center of attention.
Weight loss- because of reduced appetite, weight loss quickly follows.
The long-term consequences of addiction are what can risk life for a troubled teen following the path of drugs.
Problems in school-school becomes less important and failure of classes, skipping classes and eventually dropping out become the path they choose.
Problems in family relationships-pressures brought on by drugs and failure at school ruins family relationships. The domino effect never seems to the addicted to be their fault, rather everything seems to be happening to them.
Social issues with friends- sober friends drift away from a drug addicted life and only druggie friends are left. However, with their own personal focus on drugs they cease to be friends of any value.
Withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit-when there is a concerted effort to quit, withdrawal symptom are intensely felt. This causes fear in the addict, who quickly resumes using drugs not only to get high, but simply not to get sicker.
Potential overdoses-when drugs become extreme, overdose may occur. If the addict is lucky they will survive and see the incident as a wakeup call for recovery.
Respiratory failure-overdoses can slow breathing to such a slow rate that death can be possible.
The risk of seizures-sudden seizures from drug use are not uncommon and are even more common among those trying to quit drugs cold turkey.
Paranoia and psychosis- feelings of irrational fear can become normal as the drugs begin affecting the psychology of the individual.
Extreme weight change-has drugs whittle away the body, extreme weight loss results. What has often been called heroin chic in the fashion industry is this diminished appearance as drugs eat away at the body.
Knowing the Warning Signs of Teen Drug Addiction
The hardest part for any parent is accepting that a teen son or daughter is going through a drug problem. Most parents refuse to accept the possibility that this is happening. They may put their own personal concerns about shame for the family or the community before the health and well-being of their child. Only acceptance of a problem can help save the child. This rescue begins by knowing the red flags that a child is suffering with addiction.
When a teen exhibits sudden and extreme mood swings it is often a sign of something deeply troubling. Even though teens are often moody, there is always the possibility that drugs may be playing a role.
A change in friendships. Sober friends disappear and new friends who share their interest in drugs start to hang around.
A lack of interest in what they used to love. Kids experiencing a shift toward drug addiction lose interest in hobbies, relationships with the opposite sex and anything else that once held their interest. Drugs becomes the central focus.
An excessive need for privacy. Teens need privacy, but when the privacy reaches a point of excessive secrecy, they are clearly hiding something that could be drug-related. This secrecy also includes extreme withdrawal from family. They become more isolated.
Poor performance in school. As drugs take over their life school becomes meaningless. Academic performance drops and they may start skipping class.
Money goes missing. The need for money to pay for drugs means they may start to steal. When money goes missing around the house, they may be taking what they need to feed addiction.
Sleep patterns change. As they use drugs they appear to sleep long hours or stay up for long hours, depending on their drug of choice.
Changes in appetite. They may eat a lot all at once or appear to have no appetite at all.
A change in their appearance. Because drugs take front and center to their lives, their appearance is left to the wayside. They may not care about the clothes they wear or how their hair looks. Later, they may even stop bathing or brushing their teeth.
Taking Steps to Help a Teen on Drugs
Taking the courage to confront. Approaching a teen with the news that they are suspected of taking drugs will probably be met with anger and denial. The key to this moment is not to become angry but to wait for them to consider getting help. Do not force the issue. Simply let them know they are loved and everything will be done to get them the help they need.
Expressing concern. Letting them know that there is worry about their well-being and safety. Suggesting that drugs are making them sick. Letting them know about their school performance is getting worse or their appearance is getting worse are ways to let them know that things are falling apart because of drugs. After all this is said, again reminding them of how much they are loved is critical.
Bringing in other friends and loved ones. Sisters, brothers and any other members of the family need to get involved. When one parent is the only way making the confrontation that can easily be interpreted by addicted teen as an attack. But when several members of the family step up to offer love and help it becomes harder for an addicted teen to lash out.
Making specific offers of assistance. Lastly, specific treatment options can be presented. Suggesting they be put in a residential treatment center might scare them and make it sound like they are being locked away. Offer other options, including psychiatrists will specialize in addicted teens. Explain to them the value outpatient treatment centers have and how they can continue with school and only use the outpatient sessions to get help.
Introduce an interventionist. For the very worst cases, a professional interventionist can help persuade a teen that they are risking their lives by continuing to take drugs. A professional can also organize the family in a manner so that it creates a helpful and nurturing situation and not an angry and confrontational one.
An interventionist will also have the right treatment options ready. Whether it be thirty or ninety day residential centers to an intensive outpatient program, the interventionist can give the best advice for both the addicted teen and the family.
Making arrangements. Taking the necessary steps to make the transition into residential treatment may require several changes to occur. The child may be taken out of school and explanations must be given to friends who may suddenly wonder what happened to them. In the end, the best outcome will be a positive and loving safety net that brings a teen back from the long spiral of addiction.