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The Risks of Alcohol, Marijuana, and Other Drugs Explained

POSTED ON April 9th, 2015  - POSTED IN Alcohol Awareness, Drug Use

Original post Vox.com 2/25/15 | Re-Post 4/8/15

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Researchers have said for years that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana. But what does that mean, exactly? And how do we know?

It’s certainly not because of any government-acknowledged evaluation. The federal government’s scheduling system evaluates drugs by medical value, first, and abuse potential, which is poorly defined under the law, second — but it excludes alcohol and tobacco altogether. Even if the federal classifications included alcohol and tobacco, both would likely fall in the same category as marijuana — schedule 1 — since they have no acknowledged medical use and some potential for abuse, making it hard to compare the drugs based off that.

This has left it up to researchers and drug experts to evaluate which drugs are truly the most dangerous. A 2010 study published in The Lancet, led by drug expert David Nutt, evaluated the use of 20 drugs in the UK, putting alcohol at the top of its harms rankings and hallucinogens at the bottom. Here at Vox, I’ve pointed out that alcohol is one of the three deadliest drugs in America.

There are big drawbacks to looking at drugs exclusively through these blunt measures. Alcohol, tobacco, and prescription painkillers are likely deadlier than other drugs because they are legal, so comparing their aggregate effects to illegal drugs is difficult. Some drugs are very harmful to individuals, but they’re so rarely used that they may not be a major public health threat. A few drugs are enormously dangerous in the short-term but not the long-term (heroin), or vice versa (tobacco). And looking at deaths or other harms caused by certain drugs doesn’t always account for substances, such as prescription medications, that are often mixed with others, making them more deadly or harmful than they would be alone.

For these reasons, it’s nearly impossible to come up with an exact measure of a substance’s harm. So I talked to drug experts about the reasons people take drugs (legal and illegal ones) and the risks behind them. Although experts generally agree that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, there was a lot of nuance in how they took on the issue — and there is enormous variation within what makes pot, alcohol, and other drugs dangerous. Here’s a breakdown of what experts said about some of the most widely used drugs.

Risks: One of the biggest short-term risks to alcohol is that it can heighten the risk of accidents, particularly car crashes. One study from Columbia University researchers found that drinking and driving multiplies the chance of a fatal accident by nearly 14 times. But if someone consumes alcohol with another drug, the risk is multiplied by more than 23 times.

Alcohol is also capable of making people more aggressive and violent, potentially leading to more violent crime.

In terms of health risks, alcohol can lead to extensive organ damage, especially to the liver. These problems are most prominent among heavy drinkers, but can occur among lighter drinkers who consistently consume alcohol over long periods of time.

Alcohol can also heighten the dangers of other drugs. It can further increase the risk of aheart attack or stroke when mixed with cocaine. It can enhance the effects of opioid-based painkillers, raising the chance of overdose. And it can interact with antidepressants to severely hinder a person’s reflexes.

Addiction is also a widespread problem, which makes it all the more difficult to deal with the other problems presented by alcohol.

Why people do it: Some people drink beer, wine, and other forms of alcohol to wind down at the end of the day. And although it’s not recommended, some people use alcohol to self-medicate through tough periods in their lives.

Alcohol can also be used for medical and hygienic purposes, such as to clean wounds and hands.

Bottom line: A lot of people can use alcohol for most of their lives without having any problems with it.

But alcohol is still a public health problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths each year and one in 10 deaths among working-age US adults (ages 20 to 64). Alcohol is also capable of making people more aggressive, and it’s a factor in about 40 percent of violent crimes, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

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Risks: Marijuana has never reportedly caused an overdose death, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

“The main risk of cannabis is losing control of your cannabis intake,” Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA, said. “That’s going to have consequences in terms of the amount of time you spend not fully functional. When that’s hours per day times years, that’s bad.”

Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University put it another way: “At some level, we know that spending more than half of your waking hours intoxicated for years and years on end is not increasing the likelihood that you’ll win a Pulitzer Prize or discover the cure for cancer.”

The risk of abuse is compounded by the widespread perception that pot is harmless: since many marijuana users believe what they’re doing won’t hurt them, they feel much more comfortable falling into a habit of constantly using the drug.

A lot of research has linked adolescent marijuana use to a range of bad consequences, including cognitive deficiencies and worse educational outcomes. While it’s not clear marijuana’s relationship with these outcomes is cause-and-effect, it’s generally agreed upon that people younger than their mid-20s should avoid the drug.

The research on other health effects of marijuana is inconclusive. One study linked the use of potent marijuana to psychotic disorders, but other studies suggest people with psychotic disorders may be predisposed to pot use. Research on whether smoked marijuana causes lung disease or cancer has yielded conflicting results, with studies that control for tobacco smoking finding no significant effect from marijuana on lung cancer risk.

Marijuana also increases the chance of accidents. The previously mentioned study from Columbia University researchers found that people driving with marijuana in their system were nearly twice as likely to get in a fatal car crash. The increased risk indicates that some people likely die as a result of marijuana use every year, but it’s unclear how many due to inadequate data and reporting.

Why people do it: The euphoric high from marijuana lets some people relax by enhancing everyday activities, including music, food, and sex. The research and anecdotal evidence also suggests marijuana could be used to treat several medical problems, such as pain, nausea and loss of appetite, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and epilepsy.

Bottom line: Marijuana is safer than most other drugs on this list, but it’s not harmless. It can have a seriously negative impact on some people’s productivity at work or school.

But many people can lead normal lives while regularly using pot. And experts largely agree that alcohol and especially tobacco are more dangerous drugs to individuals and society as a whole.

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Risks: Tobacco destroys the body in various ways. It is the leading cause of lung cancer, which killed more than 200,000 people in 2011. It heightens the risk of heart attack and stroke. It also increases the risk of diabetes, leukemia, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, kidney disease, and intestinal disease. And secondhand smoke can increase bystanders’ risk of lung cancer and heart disease, among other issues.

Nicotine found in tobacco is hugely addictive, making it very difficult to quit even if someone knows the tremendous risks involved.

Why people do it: The slight buzz from tobacco is a cheap, legal way for some people to wind down, but it can come at an enormous cost to someone’s health if used over long periods of time.

Bottom line: Tobacco is the deadliest substance in America. The CDC estimates it kills 480,000 people each year — more than all reported homicides, traffic accidents, and drug overdoses combined. Even that may undercount the death toll of tobacco: a recent study found tobacco kills 60,000 more people each year than previously estimated.

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Risks: The most common risk of opioid-based prescription painkillers is fatal overdoses.

Overdoses tend to happen in a few scenarios. Keith Humphreys, a drug expert at Stanford University, said some people try to “chase pain” by swallowing pills until their pain is relieved, and accidentally take too many. Many users underestimate how long the drug remains in their body, and consume more pills or other drugs before they should.

People who mix prescription painkillers with other drugs increase their chances of overdose. The CDC found that 31 percent of prescription painkiller-linked overdose deaths in 2011 were also linked to benzodiazepines, a legal anti-anxiety drug. Alcohol and muscle relaxants can also increase the risk.

Other side effects of painkillers include narcotic bowel syndrome, increased risk of bone fractures, and the potential for hormonal imbalance.

Prescription painkillers are highly addictive and some people abuse them to get high. A 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that addicted patients will resort to the more dangerous heroin if their painkiller supply is cut off, since it is an opioid as well.

Why people do it: Painkillers are good at alleviating pain. This addresses a very big health problem in America: a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine found that about 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and many are under-treated for it. There’s some debate, Humphreys noted, about whether painkillers are good for treating long-term pain, but they can relieve problems in the short-term.

Bottom line: More than 16,200 people died of prescription painkiller overdoses in 2013, according to the CDC. Although the drugs are often prescribed to deal with real, significant pain, they’re widely misused and can lead to deadly complications.

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Risks: Crack and powder cocaine increase blood pressure and heart rate, raising the risk of heart attack or stroke in otherwise healthy people. Both drugs can also cause psychotic episodes, potentially making someone temporarily paranoid or violent, according to George Woody, a drug expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

Crashing after the high from cocaine can also cause severe depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts. “You see this in emergency rooms, where somebody will come in and be suicidal,” Woody said. “Then you see them the next morning, and they’re fine.”

Cocaine can have terrible reactions with other drugs. Alcohol and cocaine can mix in the liver to form a chemical known as “cocaethylene,” which can heighten the high from cocaine but also the cardiovascular risks attached to the drug.

Although crack and powder cocaine are chemically similar, there are two major differences that make crack more accessible and potentially more harmful than powder cocaine: crack is smoked, so it takes effect more quickly, and it’s much cheaper.

Different forms of consumption can also bring their own medical issues. Snorting can hurt someone’s sense of smell and ability to swallow. Smoking may damage the lungs. Injecting can be more dangerous, since dirty needles can carry infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Cocaine is also very addictive, exacerbating some of the issues related to it. Some people will resort to crime, such as theft or drug dealing, or sex work to make money to obtain the drug.

Why people do it: Crack and powder cocaine’s temporary high makes users more energetic, attentive, and focused, though the effects can be achieved with safer, longer-lasting drugs.

Bottom line: Crack and powder cocaine can cause problems, ranging from heart attacks to violent behavior that leads to criminal acts. Neither appear to pose the same level of long-term risks of tobacco, but they can cause serious issues in the short-term.

Read more about this very important issue at Vox.com

2015 NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month

POSTED ON March 30th, 2015  - POSTED IN Alcohol Awareness

“For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction”

Orig. Post by NCADD | Re-Post March 30, 2015

Alcohol Awareness – The Key to Community Change, Personal and Family Recovery 29 Years of Improving and Saving Lives Through Prevention, Treatment and Recovery

alcohol awareness monthEach April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. This April, NCADD highlights the important public health issue of underage drinking, a problem with devastating individual, family and community consequences.

With this year’s theme, “For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction,” the month of April will be filled with local, state, and national events aimed at educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism. Local NCADD Affiliates as well as schools, colleges, churches, and countless other community organizations will sponsor a host of activities that create awareness and encourage individuals and families to get help for alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous—both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction. Adolescence is a time of heightened risk taking and young people may not be fully prepared to anticipate all the consequences of drinking alcohol, such as swigging drinks to “celebrate” a special occasion, or being in a car with a driver who has been drinking. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America’s youth, and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.

Reducing underage drinking is critical to securing a healthy future for America’s youth and requires a cooperative effort from parents, schools, community organizations, business leaders, government agencies, the entertainment industry, alcohol manufacturers/retailers and young people themselves.

“Underage drinking is a complex issue,” says Andrew Pucher, President and Chief Executive Officer of NCADD, “one that can only be solved through a sustained and cooperative effort. As a nation, we need to wake up to the reality that for some, alcoholism and addiction develop at a young age and that intervention, treatment, and recovery support are essential for them and their families,” says Pucher. “We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

In support of the NCADD National Network of Affiliates and other organizations who want to work in support of the campaign, NCADD has developed the following NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month resource materials:

  • Organizer’s Guide (23 pages) includes:
    – Theme, History, Stigma and Links to Additional Resources
    – Sample Proclamation
    – Sample Media Advisory and News Release
    – Sample PSA scripts
    – Sample Op-Ed Newspaper article
    – Sample Letter to Editor
    – Suggested Grassroots Community Activities:  States, Communities, Schools, Students, Colleges, Media, Religious Organizations and Parents


Alcohol Free Weekend:  April 3-5, 2015

An integral part of Alcohol Awareness Month is Alcohol-Free Weekend (April 3-5, 2015), which is designed to raise public awareness about the use of alcohol and how it may be affecting individuals, families, and the community. During this seventy-two-hour period, NCADD extends an open invitation to all Americans, young and old, to participate in three alcohol-free days and to use this time to contact local NCADD Affiliates and other alcoholism agencies to learn more about alcoholism and its early symptoms.

The True Meaning of Easter

POSTED ON March 26th, 2015  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

Orig. Post March 26, 2015 by Sports World

Jesus and EasterEaster is just around the corner. To many of the students we speak to, Easter brings to mind images of bunnies, eggs, and candy. Those things are good and fun but Sports World brings something even better. We bring the message of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for their sins. Easter is about remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for us all and the forgiveness it brings.

We all fall short at some point in our lives and are in need of forgiveness or another chance. Maybe we’ve hurt someone we love. Maybe we we’re doing things we knew were not healthy. Or maybe we just feel like we aren’t good enough. All of those things, and more, happen to us all at some point. The biggest mistake is to let those failures define us.

Our message to students is that their past doesn’t define them. That is the beauty of this life. We have the freedom to choose. If we choose to dwell on the past, we may find ourselves in a cycle of negative situations. If we choose to find forgiveness and move on, we may find ourselves breaking out of our current cycle and end up chasing our dreams.

Finding forgiveness can be hard at times, but it is necessary if you want to live a more God centered life.

Steps to living in the joy of forgiveness:

Ask for Forgiveness – This can be a very challenging step. It is hard to admit when we are wrong and when we have hurt someone. Asking for forgiveness shows that you understand what you have done and that you want to mend the relationship. Losing the weight of regret can help you see things more positively in your life and relationships. Just know they may not forgive you right away or ever. Don’t hold that against them.

Forgive Yourself and Others – Possibly the hardest thing to do is to forgive yourself but doing so will drastically change your outlook on life. You will see yourself for the person you are instead of the person you may have been.

Receive God’s Forgiveness –  Jesus bore our sins on the cross. He paid our debt in full. When we receive Jesus Christ we get the assurance that God is no longer angry with us.

They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You shouldn’t expect to see immediate impact on your life the second you decide to make positive choices, but if you take a new step each day, you will be amazed at where you find yourself down the road.

Bullying, Harassment, & Civil Rights

POSTED ON March 24th, 2015  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

Orig. Post by stopbullying.gov | Re-Post March 24, 2015

An Overview of School Districts’ Federal Obligation to Respond to Harassment

This video has been developed as part of collaboration among the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services. The video is designed to help schools, parents, and others who interact with kids understand the differences between harassment and bullying, and their legal obligations with respect to both.

Schools have a responsibility to create safe learning environments for all students. When harassment is based on a protected class and creates a hostile environment, schools have an obligation under federal civil rights laws to take action. Please use the resources identified in this video to support your own efforts to address harassment and help us all build safe, supportive learning environments for our young.

Happy Holidays

POSTED ON December 17th, 2014  - POSTED IN Uncategorized

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at home office! #christmastimeishere

A photo posted by Sports World Inc (@sportsworldinc) on

Happy Holidays

Christmas time is upon us. The house is decorated. The tree is up. The gifts are wrapped. Plans have been made for the special day. Some of us will spend time with our extended families while others may stay home with those closest to them. However you end up spending the day, just remember why we celebrate in the first place.

Luke 2:10-12 reads, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Did you catch the part in there where it says the good news of great joy is for all the people? Jesus was not a gift sent to a select few. He was sent so we all may know God’s love.

We are so fortunate here at Sports World to be able to share the gift that is Jesus Christ with the youth. He has changed all of our lives and given us new beginnings. It is no surprise that we celebrate a fresh start in the new year just one week after celebrating the birth of Jesus. He has given us the chance to start over and to have new life.

What will you do with this fresh start?

Being Thankful

POSTED ON November 24th, 2014  - POSTED IN Uncategorized
It can be very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives, especially this time of year. There is work to be done, decorations to be hung and gifts to purchase. How are we suppose to take time to stop and count our blessings?

Thanksgiving is a time of year where we gather with our families to eat food, laugh and be thankful for all that we have. Psalm 100:4 says “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Oh how easy it is to forget to stop and be thankful for what we have. It’s not always easy to see the blessings right in front of us. Take some time to enjoy time with family. Take time to count those blessings in your life that you may have overlooked. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” -Psalm 136:1

There is so much in our lives to be thankful for. It is right there in front of us. All we need to do is take the time to seek it out and reflect on it. So take some time this Thanksgiving to be thankful for all you have and the love God has for us.