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Updates from Our Medical Director: Recent Drug Trends


_DSC0316_webToday, Austin Recovery’s Medical Director, Dr. Marilyn Vaché, shares a few updates on recent drug trends including information on synthetic drugs and marijuana.

Endlessly Creative, Endlessly Risk-taking

Synthetic drug use, abuse and overdose has been popping up in the news a lot recently, such as this recent story on a local Round Rock boy who died after ingesting a synthetic drug known as “25i.” As the story demonstrate, drug experimentation can be deadly. And it’s nothing new. Some of us remember the tragedy of contaminated heroin that resulted in sudden-onset and dementing Parkinsonism that occurred as an epidemic in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Most of the synthetic drugs of today are related to cannabis (“K-2” and “spice”), amphetamines (“bath salts”), and hallucinogenic drugs like mescaline and LSD (“25i,” “nBomb”). One drug that is still new and still uncontrolled (meaning the FDA has not — yet — put it in the category of dangerous and illegal drugs) is methoxetamine (“legal ketamine”). It is similar to ketamine, a short-acting anesthetic. Its particular danger lies in the fact that it can take up to 90 minutes to kick in, so users may take a dose and then, losing patience, take another one. The cumulative effect can cause confusion, agitation, rapid heart beat, and high blood pressure requiring emergency management.

An up-to-date list of new street drugs comes from The Carlat Report:


Marijuana, Memory, and the Developing Brain

Here are some recent findings from conferences and scientific literature:

Daily marijuana use in teens grew from 2.4% n 1993 to 6.5% in 2012, and even weekly marijuana use is associated with worrisome changes in mood and even IQ. At the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting a symposium highlighted research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A study led by Krista Lisdahl, PhD, followed over a thousand people from birth to age 38, and found that regular marijuana use in adolescents was associated with changes in brain structure and an average IQ drop of 6 points. There were also identifiable brain changes in imaging studies done on users vs non-users.

This is not too surprising, given previous studies showing persistent use of marijuana by adolescents is associated with an 8 point IQ drop by age 38 (Meier, et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, 2012). A study by Geller, et al., published in Translational Psychiatry, used the fact the mouse brains, too, have receptors for cannabinoids. The adolescent (but not adult) mice given marijuana had less inhibition of brain firing, and less ability to learn from previously fear-inducing experiences. And on dissection they had abnormalities in the memory areas of the brain. In Nature Neuroscience Puighermanal et al, 2009, were able to outline the protein synthesis pathways where cannabis interferes with memory. These proteins are what make our memories.

Since Lancet first published an article in 2007 it’s been known that use of marijuana increases by about 40%  the risk of psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusional beliefs), particularly in people with other mental illness such as depression and bipolar disorder. Adolescent and heavy users are particularly likely to experience these severe problems.


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