Medical Minute 5-3: Addiction Laws: Dangerous and Legal

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

You can snort them, smoke them, even shoot them into your veins. There are about as many ways to take a drug as there are drugs out there. Chasity Stacy has tried them all.

"I started doing crack cocaine with my mother when I was 13," said Chasity Stacy.

She also used marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, and LSD -- sometimes spending more than 250-dollars a day to get her fix. She stole to buy her drugs -- and ended up serving 13 months in prison.

"I didn't want to use, but I didn't know how not to use."

Chasity was one of more than 21-million Americans addicted to illegal drugs. But drug expert Mike Gimbel says it's not the illegal drugs that are the biggest problem.

"The misuse of pain medication is probably one of our greatest drug addictions in America right now, said Mike Gimbel, drug expert at St. Joseph Medical Center.

Prescription drugs are now the leading cause of fatal overdoses -- causing more than 26,000 deaths a year. Sound dangerous? Consider this: The deadliest drug of all is one that's been around for decades.

"Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in our country. I mean, we have over half a million people a year that die as a result of smoking," said Scott Strayer, M.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine University of Virginia Health System.

Cigarette smoking causes about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. It's also one of the most common drugs. In one survey, nearly 70 million Americans reported using a tobacco product at least once in the last month -- compared to just 4.8 million who used cocaine at least once in the last year.

But perhaps the worst drug of all is one that you drink. British researchers recently conducted a study that analyzed 20 different drugs. They found alcohol was the most harmful drug of all -- followed by heroin and then crack.

Alcohol is also harder to quit. Just 24 hours after stopping, alcoholics can suffer from hallucinations and seizures. Within 72 hours -- it's delirium tremens -- bouts of delirium that are fatal in up to five percent of cases.

Alcohol stole Lewis Blanche's law career…little by little.

"It took more and more, and the more you had, the more it took."

He began recovery after a felony arrest last year.

"It's when that gavel hit that bench up there, the judge was just swinging it, I knew that that was it. That was the end of that part of my life," said Lewis Blanche.

Now -- Lewis and Chasity are sober and clean -- and helping other addicts do the same.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.

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BACKGROUND: America’s war on drugs began over four decades ago when President Nixon identified drugs as being “public enemy no. 1”. Efforts to end the illegal use and smuggling of marijuana, cocaine and other narcotics became among top priority. Fast forward to the present and the war on drugs has worsened due to the wide availability of legal drugs, and as the addiction to them by adults and adolescents intensify. The uses of hard drugs are lessening among teenagers, and increases in alcohol and prescription pill abuse are steadily on the rise.

LEGAL DRUGS: WORSE THAN CRACK? Don’t be fooled, alcohol is a drug, and a dangerous one. When consumed in moderation, alcohol can be safely used in a number of situations. However; the long-term effects of alcohol abuse will become a major health concern, ranking as deadly as cancer and heart disease. Alcohol has been shown to be more addictive and more harmful than hard drugs such as crack cocaine, crystal meth and heroin.
Some other legal highs come from prescription medication. Many times prescribed medicine contains addictive substances like hydrocodone and oxycodone (opioids), stimulants, depressants, and other substances that produce the same effects as illegal drugs. A 2009 national survey on drug use and health revealed that 16 million Americans age 12 and older had used prescribed drugs to get high. Another problem is the misconception that taking pills are okay as opposed to shooting up heroin, rolling a joint or doing other hard drugs, simply because pills are medication, and therefore less stigmatized.
The main contributing factors to legal drug addictions are due to the wide availability of accessing it. Kids can go peruse their parents’ medicine cabinet, adults can manipulate their doctors into getting more refills on their prescriptions, and anyone 21 or older, with valid identification can easily buy alcohol. (SOURCE: www.ap.org; National Institute on Drug Abuse)

LONG-TERM EFFECTS: Over time, substance abuse will take a drastic toll on the physical, mental, and social functioning of those plagued by addiction. These include: (SOURCE: http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/)

• Cirrhosis of the liver - most common cause of death associated to alcohol abuse
• Cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus
• Depression, and anxiety
• Cognitive problems and dementia
• Dependence
• Social consequences such as acts of vandalism, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, financial problems, accidents, and poor personal appearance to name a few.
 For More Information, Contact:

National Institute On Drug Abuse
http://www.nida.nih.gov

Alcoholic Anonymous
http://www.aa.org


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