The Gateway Drug

Person passing marijuana joint to another person's hand near outdoor trees

From Marijuana To Other Drugs

When people hear marijuana being the gateway drug, they are quick to become offended and dismiss the saying right away. But what they fail to admit is how marijuana increases one’s curiosity to either get higher or try a new substance that will provide a new effect. The gateway theory is not as farfetched as many would like you to believe.

Marijuana does an amazing job at enhancing your senses, making you think outside the box and helping you escape reality. Your perception while high is significantly altered: movies become more interesting, Netflix becomes your best friend, iTunes glows louder than ever before, hooking up feels better than ever before, etc.

Guess what happens when one starts coming down from a high, especially after having a good time? They want to get right back up. And that’s what they often do. The reinforcer is all the pleasurable activities that are enhanced by marijuana itself. But many eventually give up on marijuana, and not for a good reason.

They give up on it because they have lost their taste buds for the substance. They want something more potent that will take them to Pluto instead of Saturn (even though Saturn might be more safe and fun). And so that’s when marijuana users become influenced by others around them, “Hey man, have you ever tripped on acid before?”

In general, the use of marijuana can lead to an interest in recreational psychedelic use. Because high doses of marijuana itself can be a little trippy, it’s not unusual for many users to be attracted by the allure of tripping on magic mushrooms (psilocybin), LSD or even DMT.

But tripping is not done very often; nobody dedicates every weekend to using hallucinogens. So now the user scratches his or her head and thinks of a new drug to try. That’s when they become influenced by others around them again, “Hey man, there’s a party this weekend. Have you ever tried coke?”

In conclusion, that is what is meant by the gateway drug. People might wrongfully believe that “one hit of marijuana means hit one of something else”, but that’s incorrect. The gateway theory is based on the idea that regular use of marijuana can slowly spark one’s curiosity to alter his or her mind with a more powerful substance, or a substance that provides a different effect in general; not necessarily a stronger high.

That’s the gateway theory.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Alcoholism

Bottles of liquor lined up on concrete surface outside

Bonding With Liquor

There is much concern in the media about vaping, opioid use disorder and even the legalization of marijuana, but why are we forgetting to address alcoholism? The world keeps spinning and new drugs keep reaching the surface, but alcohol has been around since 80 million years ago, when our human ancestors consumed rotting fermented fruit rich in ethanol.

We’ve been bonding with liquor since the beginning of time; alcohol is the real epidemic that needs to be more carefully addressed! The question is, why do you like alcohol so much to the point of sacrificing your health, relationships, job or even your life? Many people will give you different responses, some honest and some based on denial.

The most uncommonly common answer is, “I just like it!” You have to understand that not all alcoholics have developed their addiction based on the unfortunate circumstance of getting hooked on the drug. Many simply just like the taste, smell and high that they get from alcohol.

When people think of alcoholics, they believe that something bad must have happened in their lives, and that they unfortunately self-medicated with alcohol to the point of becoming addicted. That’s not always the case! Many people also started binge drinking in college for the sake of partying, and eventually lost control.

Many adolescents start binge drinking in high school and eventually lose control. The loss of control over the use of alcohol happens for many reasons. Again, one big reason that is often left out of the picture is the love for the high that alcohol provides. It makes the user feel elated, relaxed, disinhibited and it’s easy to consume: just pour it in a glass and enjoy!

Bonding with liquor can be a truly enjoyable process as compared to other drugs. The ingestion of alcohol is so convenient and there’s always the mental comfort that it’s legal to use. But with other drugs such as marijuana, the act of smoking or even worrying about legality is too much of a pain and concern.

In addition, not everyone likes the feeling of other drugs such as marijuana or opioids, because they still want to be functional while under the influence. With alcohol, one can still go to work intoxicated and no one may have a clue! Alcohol is also very easy to disguise: just mix it with some Pepsi or Coca Cola and you have yourself a concealed mixed drink on the go!

Overall, ease of use, functionality, disinhibition, burial of negative emotions and a pleasantly confident high are the main reasons why alcoholism develops, and why more than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States.

What are your feelings towards alcohol?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Tobacco Buying Age Raised To 21

Single cigarette stick on conifer leaf

Harder To Consume Tobacco

The Trump administration has officially raised the tobacco buying age to 21. But why did it take this many decades to pass this common sense policy? History has taught us that banning a substance does not work: alcohol prohibition was a failure and the current schedule I classification of marijuana is quickly crumbling.

But something different is at play here. While tobacco is not illegal, young adults will now have to wait an extra three years to purchase it on their own. While there are many teens who rely on their older friends and family members for such types of purchases, there are also many who will now not get their hands on tobacco. Three years is a lot of time for a young adult’s judgment and planning to improve.

For every less person who now consumes tobacco, that’s another victory in the bag for the the medical field. While this policy will not prevent tobacco use altogether, it’s a step in the right direction: it spreads a message that the government is not willing to stand by and casually observe the youth ruin their throats, lungs and mental health with tobacco products and vaping.

Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to mankind. It’s the perfect deadly combo: it’s legal, it doesn’t get you high and it makes you feel good. Making you feel good is not equivalent to getting high. Getting high is when your mind is intoxicated: your thinking is impaired. Feeling good is when your mind is relaxed, as if your mind is taking a “breather” from life.

But as your mind takes a breather, your lungs take a hit: a few thousand carcinogens that impair the cilia lining the bronchioles of your lungs and the immune system, resulting in the accelerated formation of potential cancer cells. When cancer cells make your lungs their new home, the pleasure from years of smoking suddenly gives you the biggest guilt trip of your life.

Will the tobacco buying age of 21 prevent the consumption of tobacco-related products? Absolutely not. Will it make a dent? Possibly. What is the point? Intervention. You see, not everything is about liberalism, even though it’s widely promoted and accepted in this day and age. On the other hand, being too conservative and implementing prohibition has clearly proven to not work.

So rather than viewing this new age limit as an attempt by the government to interfere with our rights and liberties, look at it from the point of view of Big Brother stepping in to provide guidance and protection. This guidance is an honest attempt to prevent our physical and mental health from deteriorating from one of the most deadliest drugs known to man.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Being Ashamed Of Your Drug Addiction

Addicted young man in front of messy bed praying

It’s Time To Come Out

There are many people who remain in hiding because of their drug addiction. Many are ashamed to tell their families because of their religion and stigma surrounding drug use. Drug use has no boundaries: it affects all races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, ages, mental illnesses and whatever else has not been mentioned.

People find it easier to hide their drug addiction in order to avoid the uncomfortable and embarrassing conversations that often follow. In an addict’s mind, the energy and stamina required to cope with these conversations is simply not worth the effort. Time becomes more valuable when it’s used to obtain the drug and enjoy its high.

But living in shame is not the answer in the long-run. It might work for a few months or a few years, but your mental health slowly breaks down from your shame and misery. All you’re doing is suppressing your drug use into your unconscious mind; you’re essentially building a ticking time bomb.

Then there are the people who don’t care about being ashamed of their drug addiction, because they prefer to just enjoy the high and ignore the consequences. This scenario too does not last very long. Eventually the risks outweigh the benefits (getting high) and something always goes wrong.

Drug use has and continues to be associated with concealment and privacy. But it’s time to come out of the shadows and reveal your drug addiction to the world: “Hi. My name is Lisa and I’m a drug user.” “Hey. My name is Mark and I’m hooked on drugs.” We’re not attempting to embrace the use of drugs; we’re just attempting to initiate the first step much sooner, which is admitting to the world that you have a drug problem!

The stigma of drug use remains alive and kicking, but this is exactly what public enemy number one has been all this time. The war on drugs was a legitimate attempt by the U.S. government to help protect its people from the serious evil addiction to drugs. But the problem with the war on drugs is that it had the wrong enemy identified from the start.

The enemy of the people are not drugs. The enemy of the people is the stigma associated with drugs. Stigma is behind the secretive and allusive nature of drug use. Stigma is what keeps people in hiding and their drug use flourishing underground and well-hidden. If you eliminate the stigma, you eliminate an entire mindset that is associated with the use of drugs.

This is not in any way promoting the use of drugs. This is helping bring drug users out in the open in order to be exposed to help much sooner than perhaps “never later.” Exposure to treatment and support earlier in the addiction process has a much higher success rate than exposure later in the process.

Public enemy number one has been revealed. Are we ready to finally initiate the right war?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Addicted To Addiction

Closeup photo of green and white signage of person running towards arrow and door

Warning: Addiction Territory Ahead

No matter the amount of pleasure that some people seek and receive, it never seems to be enough. Either more of where that came from is their thought process, or they seek a new form of pleasure. Not every source of pleasure is derived from a substance, but all sources of pleasure have the potential for inducing an addiction.

Why are some people more prone to developing an addiction? What is an addiction? Why do we feel the need to provide ourselves with pleasure? These are all fundamental questions that need to be answered in order to better understand ourselves, and the decisions that we make in our everyday lives.

An addiction is a state of mind that involves a person becoming dependent on a source of pleasure. Dependence is a state of relying on or being controlled by something. People can be dependent on alcohol, drugs, sex or even other people, known as dependent personality disorder!

Some people are more prone to developing an addiction because it has a great deal to do with their personality traits and genetics. If their relatives had addicting personalities, there’s a high chance that their genes were passed onto them; genes have a great influence on personality. Some people also enjoy pleasure more than others: what might be “fun and cool” for one person hitting a fat J, might be “amazing and dope” for another.

The “amazing and dope” person could be that one person who develops Cannabis Use Disorder, Severe. The same applies with sex, eating, gambling and any other type of pleasure that happens to be very reinforcing. Reinforcing means that you want it over and over again, because of the intensity of the pleasure; your behavior for seeking a particular activity is credited, strengthened or reinforced with pleasure.

We feel the need to provide ourselves with pleasure because it’s human nature to feel rewarded and happy. Without pleasure, life would be mundane. Depression and suicide rates would probably be astronomically higher than they already are. But keep in mind that pleasure can also lead to a mundane, depressing and suicidal state of mind!

At the end of the day, pleasure is innate in all of us. We need pleasure to survive. But what we don’t need is that invisible line that we are all susceptible to crossing over into addiction territory. You’ll never actually see the line, but you’ll be bombarded with warning signs and flashing lights! When this happens, stop and return back from where you came from. It means that you’ve overdone it with pleasure.

Don’t overdo pleasure; it’s much sweeter in moderate amounts.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Sugar Addiction

Young brunette woman smiling while holding pack of candies inside grocery store

My Addicted Sweet Tooth

A sugar addiction is not as serious as it may sound. Nobody goes to rehab for eating too much sweet-tasting foods. But the addiction to such foods poses many physical health problems which one should be wary about. Eating too many sweets can impact your weight, health, appetite and even your motivation to exercise.

Your weight is the first change that you may notice upon eating too many sweets. For men, that’s the accumulation of fat around the abdominal region. For women, fat usually accumulates in the buttocks region. An increased weight raises your chances of developing diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular problems, and may affect your confidence and self-esteem as well.

If you have a low confidence to begin with, worsening it with an increased weight gain secondary to a poor diet will only affect you adversely even more. Low confidence is associated with less motivation to be active and to socialize, and an increased risk of developing a mental illness such as depression.

Eating too many sweets also has an impact on your appetite. While you may have noticed that sweets are not a replacement for a meal, they still fill you up to the point of causing you to eat less than you would have had without them. Add some coffee to go along with those cookies, and you have created yourself a killer appetite suppressant.

Lastly, eating too many sweets can affect your desire to exercise. It can be a challenge for many people to remain motivated to exercise on a consistent basis. Add to that mix an increased weight gain secondary to eating unhealthy food, and there goes your drive to remain fit. For many people, it’s easier to maintain a pattern of immediate gratification: unhealthy eating + not exercising enough + enjoying that sugary taste!

Always keep an eye out for how often you indulge in sugary delights. One way to decrease your consumption of such foods is to simply stop buying them. There’s no magic secret to it! If you decondition yourself from not eating sugary foods, you will no longer crave it as much as you once did.

It’s all about mind over matter!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Glued To Our Cell Phones

People holding their cell phones while sitting in public outdoors

Technological Addiction

The idea of going one day without your cell phone is unimaginable by today’s standards and expectations. You’d probably have your family members and significant other entertaining the thought of filling out a missing persons report. Cell phones are probably the most addicting technological piece of hardware known to modern mankind.

The fact that smartphones can basically do everything from GPS to tracking your heart rate, keeps people from putting them down for even one hour of their day. But it’s not so much the features that keep people glued; the idea of instant contact via texts, calls, emails and social media is driving this madness!

People love to socialize, and what better way than on-demand access at their fingertips? This form of connection via FaceTime, iMessage and social media is almost replacing in-person meetups; why leave your home when you can communicate from your couch? Don’t get me wrong, people still meet up all the time.

But we’re not as motivated to meet up because of the on-demand access; especially when it comes to dating. Why get dressed to go out when cold and rainy, when you can just use Tinder or Bumble to match with someone and hope to get a chat fired up? Our phones are literally learning how to control us with every yearly upgrade.

Have you ever tried disconnecting yourself from your cell phone for at least one day? Try and see if you can put your cell phone away for one entire Saturday! You will see how difficult it is, because your mind has become trained to continuously use apps and to anticipate people contacting you.

Even if we want to put our phones down, it becomes very hard to do so because our minds have become addicted to it. However, we don’t consider it an addiction unless someone goes overboard with it, as per societal standards. But aren’t we all overusing our phones on a daily basis?

So what is the solution? The expectation that you’ll use your phone for less than 10 minutes per day is out of the question; achieving that is unrealistic, unless if you are a monk! But you can decrease your usage and the way you view your cell phone by literally not caring so much about it.

Stop viewing your cell phone as this be-all-end-all technological prize. Appreciate what it can do for you, but learn to replace cell phone time with meditation, praying, in-person communication, reading and even thinking! Do we even think anymore? That’s an entire separate subject to be considered.

Just remember that you are greater than your cell phone; don’t allow it to take a hold of you.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Planet Covered In Marijuana

Field of tall green marijuana plants during daytime

Recreational Marijuana For Relaxation

The debate continues as to whether marijuana is a good tool for relaxation. As a whole, it seems like were driven by a motor running on coffee, stimulated by nicotine when stepping out for a breath of fresh air, and turned on by alcohol when in the company of others. But does marijuana play a role in our lives as well?

Not everything that grows naturally is good for the human body and brain. Cocaine comes from the coca plant, yet people become addicted, develop nasal perforations, stroke out and even die of cardiac vasoconstriction. Tobacco comes from a plant and is the most addicting substance known to man!

And here comes in marijuana . . . a plant that provides beautiful flowers that humans can ingest and feel relaxed as well as high. The question is whether marijuana can be safely used by the masses for relaxation purposes, without bringing in all of the baggage that alcohol and tobacco have brought in.

Marijuana is not simply a pretty plant that smells great and provides sticky fat buds to roll up with. Along with the beauty comes the hidden dangers: the increased risk of developing psychosis; a lack of motivation; dullness of the mind; anxiety; social isolation and even violence in some!

But we have been trained by NORML and other organizations to believe that marijuana does not cause violence. If you are in the mental health field, you know very well that psychosis and violence go together like peanut butter and jelly! How do we know who is predisposed to developing schizophrenia before they take that first hit of Banana Kush?

On the other hand, marijuana and relaxation go together like milk and cereal: your body melts into the couch; your mind absorbs your iTunes; your eyes relax upon something beautiful; the touch of another human being feels silky smooth; your creativity sparks up a notch or two and sleep pulls you in like a black hole.

It’s important to keep in mind that this extreme relaxation that is provided by marijuana can be easily abused; after all, it is a drug. It can be abused because one may find less temptation to relax naturally, especially after experiencing the amazing effects that marijuana has on the mind. But marijuana should never be a replacement for natural happiness.

As governments around the world legalize the green skunk, we have to remind ourselves that it’s still our responsibility to use this tool appropriately, responsibly and maturely. The governments always have their own agenda and so we can not always rely on them.

The planet is covered in marijuana. Are you?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Destructive Nature Of Binge Drinking

Two young women holding beer bottles and binge drinking

Slowly Killing Your Happiness

Binge drinking is defined as 5 drinks for men in one sitting at least once in the last 30 days, and 4 drinks for women in one sitting at least once in the last 30 days. The psychological rush that binge drinking brings is what reinforces the behavior. It is not the same as drinking every day like an alcoholic does.

Binge drinking brings upon a rush before one even consumes the first drink. Just the thought of “going out tonight” and getting intoxicated reinforces the behavior. This is followed by “pregaming” or drinking multiple drinks before arriving at the event. The pregaming part can be especially addicting!

Pregaming is exciting because it sets up one’s mindset for the evening, especially if one is in a good mood to begin with! The act of “chilling” with your friends and slowly becoming intoxicated while sharing stories is very pleasurable. This usually lasts for 1 hour at most, followed by the actual partying.

Once at the final destination, large amounts of drinks are consumed to the point of becoming drunk. At this point, one slightly loses touch with reality and is in a state of mind focused only on pleasure. This pleasure can be flirting, dancing, talking or sexual interactions.

The worst part is the hangover the following day. Besides the physical symptoms, the hangover can put you in a depressed mood, make you feel guilty or anxious and just makes you feel bad in all possible ways. The hangover day has basically one goal: to get through the day and wake up the next morning at one’s baseline.

What is destructive about binge drinking is that “this weekend” I did this, so “next weekend” I would like to do that! Memories are a very powerful experience, whether good or bad. It is memories and experiences that motivate one to keep binge drinking; the more one does it, the greater the tendency to repeat the behavior.

Avoid binge drinking. If you enjoy alcohol, then just stick to a few drinks at most.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

America’s Playground: Hooked On Drugs

Drug addict holding cash and cigarette in hand

Welcome To The Candy Shop

Many chronic mentally ill patients who have been discharged from the hospital continue to abuse synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or Spice. It is readily available at bodegas, online or through the hands of drug dealers. There is no apparent good reason given by psychiatric patients for their usage of K2, besides its cheap price tag.

But countless times, whether sunny or rainy out, you can witness the flashing siren lights of a speeding ambulance rushing towards the hospital. You know right away: another K2 medical emergency. Many of these patients admit that they are addicted to the substance.

K2 is just synthetic marijuana: THC synthesized in the laboratory and mixed with other chemical compounds. Its users don’t care what chemicals make up K2; as long as it gets them high and gets them high quick! Many of these users will sit outside all day and just pass K2 joints in circles.

It’s a tragedy to see poor people waste their brain cells on this synthetic drug. Many even end up in the ICU on a ventilator and come out to light up again a week later. With vaping, K2, bath salts, “smart drugs” and other synthetic but legal drugs flooding the market, there is no knowing where this drug culture will take us next.

The two main drug epidemics engulfing the United States are heroin and methamphetamine: heroin on the east coast and meth on the west coast. East of the Mississippi, white powder heroin is more prevalent; west of the Mississippi, black tar heroin is more prevalent.

The meth capital of the United States is Fresno, California, with the addiction expanding eastward. But in-between, we have all these minor epidemics which include vaping, K2, alcohol, tobacco and stimulants. Stimulants are definitely on the rise! And yes, alcohol and tobacco are epidemics!

What we have here is America’s playground:

  • Legal deadly killers: alcohol and tobacco
  • Illegal deadly killers: heroin and methamphetamine
  • Legal stingers: K2, vaping and bath salts
  • Illegal stingers: cocaine and other stimulants

Marijuana is not mentioned in the list above because it’s not really a killer. But psychologically, the potential for addiction is great and is still considered a gateway drug by many. And no concrete evidence exists to demonstrate that opioid usage has gone down in states that have legalized marijuana.

This is America’s playground. It’s better to sit this one out, would you agree?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)