A Harvard Medical School psychobiologist delivered what she called a “semi-alarmist message” to attendees of the 11th Annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit at the Hot Springs Convention Center on Wednesday morning.
Bertha K. Madras was the keynote speaker for the day-long event which presented several options for attendees – clinical, criminal justice, education and prevention, counseling and recovery, and family.
“The United States is currently experiencing a major drug crisis, a drug crisis that was created in America, and hopefully fades away in America,” she said. “But that’s up to us. Thousands of years ago, people explored plants for food and discovered by chance that certain plants were good as medicine. So they started marketing the plants as medicine. , as well as as food.”
When chemists began to uncover what caused the medicinal properties of these plants, it was a “very serious trade-off,” Madras said.
“Cocaine was found in the coca leaf, and it was used as an anesthetic,” she said. “And then it was diverted in very high concentrations for recreational use. The same with morphine and all of the morphine and opioid analogues, the same with amphetamines, which were converted to methamphetamine and some of the other types of stimulants, as well as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC from marijuana,” she said.
“So out of these plants came drugs, and then illicit drugs, and illicit drugs are designed to bypass the firewall that exists between using drugs as medicine and using them recreationally.”
Madras brought up opioids, marijuana and hallucinogens during his speech, but his main topic was how marijuana is the next wave of deadly drugs in the United States. She noted that the opioid problem in this country is nearly five times the average of the next 30 countries that prescribe opioids at the highest levels.
“If you look at the 31 countries that are the biggest subscribers and prescribers of opioids, the United States is by far the number one, and all the others are much less, on average five times less than the United States” , she said.
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“What caused this massive increase in opioids? Have we had more pain than in other countries? No, we didn’t. Did we have more crashes, more construction issues that resulted in severe kinetic pain and knee pain? No, we haven’t had any. So why did we come to this in our story? ” she asked.
“How serious is it? Well, the prevalence of opioid use disorder in the United States is by far the highest in the world, and the death rates in the United States are the highest in the world, compared to any other , for example. , the countries of the European Union,” Madras said.
“This is the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – we have an average of over 100,000 deaths from all drugs, of which 75,000 are from opioids. All states in the Union have seen an increase in overdose deaths except South Dakota. and New Hampshire.”
She said the United States leads the world in cannabis use among 16-19 year olds.
“Once again, the United States has the dubious distinction of being number one when it comes to one issue, and that’s youth,” she said. “This does not apply to all age groups. Marijuana use in the past year has increased dramatically among 18 to 25 year olds.”
Marijuana use can cause significant problems with mental development, Madras said.
“Children exposed to marijuana in their youth have more psychotic experiences,” she said, referring to data from the adolescent brain cognitive development study. “They have more internalizing and externalizing issues. They have reduced white matter and gray matter. They have had functional issues as they age and they have sleep issues. All of this comes from this long, ongoing study. “
Madras said hallucinogens are the next wave of drugs she plans to abuse.
“It’s the next wave of science and public policy, and what we’re seeing is that there are so many conditions where current drugs aren’t so adequate,” she said. “And so some people have resurrected the hallucinogens that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s to try to address the public health burden on chronic brain disorders, unmet or inadequate treatment needs, and indications are mental disorders. internalization, the troubles that afflict people inside the house.
She said information needs to be better disseminated than it has been so far.
“We need to discuss and publicize the dangers of teenage drug use, the dangers of high potency drugs, the influence of parents on the use of offspring, and above all remember that out of the brain and the brain only will come our laughter, our joys, our sorrows, and from brain and brain arise only our ability to administer justice, to develop laws, to develop drugs, to develop rockets, to develop iPhones and computers and cars and all the other wonderful advancements that have made our lives so much easier,” she says.
“So I can’t say we’re fighting a war on drugs. We’re basically defending our minds. It’s the repository of our humanity.”