Archive for April, 2019

Marijuana: Is it Safe for Adolescents?

medical marijuanaThere is no doubt that marijuana holds a special place in American pop culture. It frequently appears in Billboard chart-topping songs, in high-profile celebrity Instagram posts, and is even celebrated in yearly festivals. In fact, the movement to legalize marijuana has largely been driven by the public. California was the first to decriminalize marijuana use for medical purposes, followed by Oregon, Alaska and Washington in the late 1990s. The next 20 years witnessed rapid changes in the marijuana legal landscape. Nowadays, legal marijuana is a booming industry estimated to be worth over 10 billion dollars.

Marijuana’s active ingredients are a class of chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that causes a sensation of euphoria or “high.” CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating and has been used to provide relief from a series of medical conditions, including chronic pain and epilepsy. Products marketed as medical marijuana typically have high amounts of CBD and low THC. The state of Georgia permits patients with a medical marijuana card to possess up to 20 ounces of low-THC cannabis oil. However, possession, sale, or trafficking of whole plant marijuana is strictly prohibited, and doing so can result in felony charges.

So, is marijuana good or bad for your health? The drug Epidiolex® made history by being the first cannabinoid-related product approved by the FDA for certain types of seizure disorders (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome). It is important to note that this medication has no THC content. While there are documented medical benefits to some marijuana-related products (specifically, CBD for specific seizure disorders), approximately 1 in 6 adolescents who use marijuana long-term will develop a cannabis use disorder. Data also demonstrates that adolescents are uniquely susceptible to the negative effects of marijuana on brain development. Many of the newer strains of marijuana used for recreational purposes have higher THC content than ever before. The use of concentrates, or marijuana-related products that have been condensed into a highly potent THC form, may increase the risk of side effects from THC, including psychosis, paranoia and anxiety. Those who want to quit may face withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, changes in sleep (sometimes an increase in vivid dreams), irritability and anxiety.

There are also reports of illicitly purchased marijuana that has been laced with substances unknown to buyers, such as fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is driving a spike in U.S. mortality.

We still have much to learn about the potential harms and benefits of marijuana-related products. If you or someone you care about needs professional help for a substance use problem, click the link below to learn more about our services.

Learn more about substance use treatment from Emory Healthcare Addiction Service.


Getting Help for Substance Use in Your 20s

young adults and alcoholIt’s Friday night, and everyone in the dorm is getting ready to go out. Your roommates are pregaming before heading out to the bar. They hand the liquor bottle to you. As the night goes on, you keep getting more and more drinks. The next thing you remember you are waking up in the dorm hallway. This is the fourth time you blacked out this month. At brunch, your friends joke about you being a “lightweight,” and nobody seems bothered by your binge drinking. However, you know something is not right.

Young adults are at particularly high risk for using substances in dangerous ways. More than one-third of college students have engaged in binge drinking (five or more drinks on one occasion) just in the past month. In addition, nearly 1 in 7 U.S. young adults qualifies as having a substance use disorder. Drinking may be viewed as a natural phase of their lives. However, the choices made today can have a huge impact on the future.

As Ben puts it, “Recovery is a life-long journey, and today I’m glad to know that I’m in it.” Ben is one of the many people who has benefited from seeking help early (click for more recovery stories from the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

It may be hard for people in their early 20s to realize that their substance use is a problem before their family or friends get involved. Some may even try to abruptly quit using substances as a way to keep things discrete. But even after potentially experiencing highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, they are still faced with a high likelihood of relapse.

Hundreds of thousands of young adults struggling with addiction have benefited from treatment on their journey to recovery. If you or someone you know is having problems with substance use and needs professional help, click the link below to learn more about our services.

Learn more about substance use treatment from Emory Healthcare Addiction Service.

Caregiver Stress and Depression: A Silent Health Crisis

Caregiver StressWith April comes warmer weather and sunnier days, but there also comes a time to shine a light on one of America’s biggest issues: stress. April marks National Stress Awareness Month, and as our society becomes more fast-paced, it’s important to step back and take a deep breath.

Stress management has become the focal point for many health and wellness professionals. From meditation, frequent exercise and a good night’s rest, most of us know how to handle the stressors of daily life. Knowing how to handle stress can be helpful in maintaining overall well-being.

Caregiving, while rewarding in many ways, also brings significant stress, especially when the care receiver has a dementia diagnosis.  Many lives have been changed by transitioning into a new caregiver role. Within the United States, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that dementia affects around 5 million people, a number projected to rise to 16 million by 2050. They also estimate that more than 15 million Americans are providing unpaid care to loved ones living with a dementia diagnosis. With this high of an estimate, it is crucial to learn how to properly take care of oneself as a care partner.

Caregiver Stress and Depression

When people hear about the effects of memory loss, most automatically think of the stress on those diagnosed with a type of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease. However, care partner stress also has been proven to lead to a decline in both mental and physical health. Providing care for a loved one can be challenging as is, but adding the complexities of memory loss can present its own set of unique challenges.

In a study done by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the Alzheimer’s Association, 30 to 40 percent of those providing care for people with cognitive impairment showed signs of depression and extreme emotional stress. Care partners consistently report higher levels of depressive symptoms and mental health issues than their non-caregiving peers. This stress can begin with a lack of knowledge or experience in caregiving. Most are ill-prepared with little to no support.

Unfortunately, this stress not only may lead to depression and anxiety but can also manifest in physical ailments as well. This is largely in part because, while caring for others, the family care partners put themselves second and don’t listen to their own bodies. Those providing care are less likely to engage in preventive health behaviors and over half reported eating and exercising habits worsening after becoming a caregiver.

Although this stress is a reality for many, caregiving doesn’t have to end in health deterioration. That’s why Emory is taking innovate steps to improve the quality of life for these dyads, the patient and care partner affected by memory loss.

Support for Caregivers and Patients with Memory Loss

Emory Brain Health Center’s Integrated Memory Care Clinic (IMCC) provides nationally recognized primary care for those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. This clinic exists to create a space for patients with cognitive impairment to receive individualized care in one place. The goal is to alleviate stress for care partners by decreasing the number of doctor and hospital visits patients have to endure. IMCC also provides multiple educational resources to specifically serve established patients and caregivers.

When beginning to provide care for a loved one, the transition can be very lonely. That’s why IMCC provides a supportive and encouraging community for patients and their caregivers. Classes are offered at least twice a year for early, middle and late-stage dementia education. These classes help caregivers address typical questions such as assistance programs, financial issues or difficult behavior patterns in patients.

“Our various resources provide peace of mind for family care partners, knowing that this team of specialists are always ready to help,” says Laura Medders, IMCC Administrative Director, and Social Worker.

IMCC has same-day appointment availability and an after-hours call line for established patients so that care providers can feel supported at any time.

Although memory loss is extremely common, caregiver stress can go unnoticed because of the disease’s gradual changes. With dementia, patients’ cognitive decline can be slow, so many care partners may not recognize the toll that caregiving takes on their own well-being. That’s why it’s important to seek out and take advantage of community resources from the beginning. Like any other stress, self-awareness is key to management of symptoms. If you are a caregiver and have experienced extreme stress, remember to take care of yourself. If you are experiencing caregiver burnout, here are some tips that can help you manage stress.

  • Remind yourself that your work has value.
  • Find ways to mass communicate with family and friends.
  • Join a support group.
  • Invest in positive relationships.
  • Give yourself a break.
  • Talk to a health care provider about any anxiety and/or depression.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with dementia, call 404-712-6929 to schedule an appointment or visit for more information.

Learn more about the Integrated Memory Care Clinic

When Your Young Adult is Using Drugs

Substance use treatment for young adultsSusan counts the pills in her oxycodone bottle again. It confirms her suspicion. She’s been running out faster than before, even though she is taking them precisely how her doctor instructed. Susan has noticed that her 19-year-old son has been using the master bathroom instead of the one next to his room. He becomes furious when she asks if he knows anything about the missing pills. A few days later, Susan finds a bag of unknown medications in his coat pocket. When asked, he says they are for some allergies he recently developed. Susan can tell he isn’t being truthful. She has read about the opioid crisis. The thought that her son might be caught up in it is deeply distressing. What can she do?

Every year, thousands of parents are concerned about their child’s substance use. Young adults are at particularly high risk for using substances in dangerous and potentially lethal ways. In 2017, 14.8% of U.S. young adults qualified for a substance use disorder diagnosis. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opioids (including heroin and pain relievers) are among the most commonly used. To make matters worse, young adults often do not realize, or are in denial of, their addiction problems. Many rationalize their use by comparing themselves to other substance-using peers. Unfortunately, young adults will often only volunteer to enter treatment after a negative life event that was associated with their substance use, or are encouraged to by their family members.

As parents, you can play a pivotal role in your child’s recovery. Studies show that patients whose families are involved in their substance use treatment fare better when compared to those who face addiction on their own. Young adults are often still living with or financially dependent on their families. Parents and family members are also typically the first ones to notice unusual behaviors.

“Parents of young adults often feel stuck. They want to help their child, but also give them space to learn and make mistakes on their own. When it comes to worrisome drug use, we often encourage parents to at least facilitate some type of clinical assessment. A plan can then be developed that promotes healthier behaviors while maintaining a degree of autonomy for the young adult.”—Dr. Justine W. Welsh, Addiction Psychiatrist

Young adults can be initially resistant to specialized care for substance use. Trained clinicians can work with you to develop a plan to engage your child in treatment. Every approach is individualized, taking into account what has and hasn’t worked for your family.

If your child is having substance use problems and needs professional help, click the link below to learn more about our services.

Learn more about substance use treatment from Emory Healthcare Addiction Service.