Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Sam Kwok

As the most commonly used illicit drug, marijuana has recently blossomed into an estimated $11 billion-dollar industry. Recently there has been a national shift towards the legalization of the drug, which has caused debates from both ends of the spectrum. But how does marijuana work?

Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short.  THC is produced by the cannabis plant and its molecular formula is C21H30O2. Anandamide, a naturally existing molecule in the brain, has the molecular formula C22H27NO2 meaning that the relative molecular weight and size of THC and anandamide are similar. Moreover, the 2 molecules have a similar structural layout which allows THC to imitate anandamide’s effects on the brain.

Anandamide is part of the endocannabinoid (EC) system in the body which helps neurons regulate the release of neurotransmitters- the brains way of sending and retrieving messages. Generally, cannabinoids affect the brain by slowing down the transmission of neurotransmitters. When marijuana is smoked, a large amount of THC enters the lungs and into the bloodstream where it can flow into the brain. THC then bonds to the same receptors anandamide normally would to slow down the activity of certain enzymes which reduces the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because anandamide does not naturally occur is large quantities, smoking THC overwhelms the brain, and it is this reaction that gives users that “high” feeling.

The other main chemical compound in marijuana is cannabidiol- known as CBD. CBD has been popularized due to its medicinal effects and much of the medical marijuana platform is built upon the usage it. Some laws allow, medical usage of CBD concentrates, but still consider THC as a schedule I drug. Though its molecular formula is identical to THC, it lacks key functional groups and effects the brain differently. This is why CBD has no psychoactive effects. CBD actually inhibits an enzyme used to activate receptors lowering the psychoactive effects of THC. While THC directly effects the brain by bonding to a receptor, CBD indirectly affects the brain by activating adenosine receptors. These receptors have been linked to having anti-anxiety effects and are known to also release dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is linked to pleasant feelings. CBD also activates serotonin receptors which are linked to benefiting sleep, appetite, anxiety, and depression issues.

Since marijuana is still illegal federally, there has been little research on long term effects on the brain. Several studies have shown that marijuana use during a child’s developing age may have irreversible damaging effects to the brain. Marijuana has also been known to have harmful effects when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol. Users of the drug have also been known to have a higher chance of becoming to addicted to other drugs as marijuana is a gateway drug. However, majority of the research are inconclusive and more research must be done to make definitive conclusions.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

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Negative Stigmas of Mental Illness

Mental Illness and Stigmas

Emily Ramos

When a person is born with a deformity, the source of their disability is obvious. But when someone is mentally ill, there are no obvious physical indicators for their behavior.  A lot of the times people pity those with a clear disadvantage and fear the behavior of those with a mental illness. This can cause someone suffering from a mental health illness to live in fear of embarrassment and humiliation if their condition is found out.

A common misconception people have about those who suffer from mental illness is that they are unpredictable like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any second. This portrayal comes from the fact that many who go on shooting sprees happen to also suffer from mental illness. This is a false depiction because not all patients act out in violence; same as how not everyone cries when they are mourning the loss of a loved one.

We have to remember to not stereotype everyone with the same diagnoses as being the same. The 2012 Aurora movie theater shooter, James Holmes, showed signs of depression since middle school and attempted suicide at the age of eleven. What people don’t know is that he also was obsessed with the idea of killing people which led to his violent outburst. Most individuals with depression don’t exhibit the desire to inflict pain on others.

The pressure that a negative stigma creates on an individual in addition to the weight of their illness can be overwhelming and unbearable. The best way to reduce mental health stigmas is to raise awareness and enforce discussions about mental health. Millions of people suffer from mental disorders and just as we treat those who suffer from physical illness with care and emotional support we need to provide care and emotional support to mental health patients.

If you or a person you know is struggling with mental illness, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Shopping Addiction (Yes, it’s Real)

shopaholic

Sonya Cheema

We are becoming more materialistic than ever now that we’re able to see the daily activities of rich people on social media every day – Kim Kardashian using a skincare regimen that costs more than your rent, Jeffree Star custom painting his Rolls Royce pink, various Instagram-famous models advertising their “favorite” detox tea, etc. It’s no wonder why we always feel the need to buy whatever’s new and trending. Getting caught up in the trends may be fun, but it could also lead to an overload of items you don’t need, debt you can’t repay, and guilt. Shopping addiction is real and should be brought to everyone’s attention, especially now.

Shopping addiction, or shopoholism, is just like any other addiction. The more you buy, the better you feel. Individuals suffering from this will get a “high” when they shop, meaning their endorphins and dopamine are activated, which reinforces their shopping problem. Some signs that a person may be addicted to shopping are:

  • Shopping to ease anxiety, depression, or other negative feelings/emotions
  • Engaging arguments with others about spending
  • Feeling lost without credit cards and/or having withdrawal symptoms without them
  • Purchasing items through credit instead of cash
  • Getting a high after spending money
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed after spending
  • Lying about how much money was spent
  • Thinking obsessively about money
  • Trying to juggle different accounts and bills to accommodate for more spending

If you recognize a shopping addiction within yourself or someone else, it may be best to seek therapy for yourself or the person, have an intervention for the person, or look up the nearest Debtors Anonymous meeting for additional support.

Some suggestions for what to do in the meantime are to get rid of checkbooks and credit cards, shop with someone else, and find other meaningful ways to spend your time. While these suggestions are crucial to recovery, seeking professional help and receiving therapy may be more beneficial.

If you or a person you know is struggling with shopping addiction, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Source used:

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/shopping-spree-addiction#4

How to Cope with a Loved one Affected by Alcoholism

 

alcoholism

Sonya Cheema

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease and is characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. If you suspect a loved one has alcoholism, look for these signs:

  • Unusually high tolerance for alcohol
  • Hiding alcohol
  • Isolation/absence from work
  • Irrational moodiness/emotional ups and downs
  • Dangerous behavior
  • Not being able to stop drinking once he/she starts
  • Lying/manipulation

Keep in mind that alcoholism affects 17 million adults in the US, and that it is a disease. Many people with loved ones suffering from alcoholism tend to think that the affected person is purposely ruining his/her life and trying to upset family members. You would not blame someone with cancer for hurting themselves, so treat alcoholism in a similar manner. The best things to do when dealing with someone with alcoholism are:

  • Having honest and open discussions with the person about love and the relationship
  • Getting help from others, including professionals
  • Committing to change. If you have to make boundaries or personal promises, be sure to stick with them.
  • Empowering yourself. Learn about alcoholism so you can have a better understanding of what your loved one is going through
  • Do not enable (ie: giving them money)
  • Offer to take him/her to therapy or Alcoholics Anonymous (12 step) meetings.
  • Lastly, DO NOT blame yourself. You are not responsible for anyone’s disease.

Alcoholism is never easy to deal with, especially when it is affecting someone close to you. The best you can do is follow the suggestions above and remember that it is not your responsibility to cure him/her.

If you or a person you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.     

 

Information in this blog post was received from:

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/spouse/

https://www.discoveryplace.info/2016/08/24/the-secrets-to-helping-an-alcoholic-family-member-or-friend/#1526263885900-8943f2ec-6b34

Leaving an Abusive Relationship

By: Emily Ramos

Note: Abuse is not sex-linked. Just as men can abuse women, women can abuse males, and vice-versa. This article applies to everyone who is a victim of abuse.

Why do people stay in abusive relationships if they are unhappy? It is easy to put the blame on victims for choosing to remain with their abuser when you don’t know the extent of what they are going through.  Many times they worry their attacker will do one of the following if they end up leaving:

  • stalk and harass them
  • kill them
  • hold their children hostage
  • kill their pets
  • threaten to commit suicide

It would be easier for someone to leave if they were guaranteed protection from their assailant like a witness protection program. Luckily there are restraining orders that can be filed on behalf of the victim and their loved ones. Here are some helpful tips if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship:

  1. Make sure you have a strong support system. The more people you have to provide moral and emotional support the more likely you are to follow through with leaving.
  2. Pack your things. Actions speak louder than words, saying you plan to leave is not the same as actually leaving. If you continue to hold off, the situation will only get worse. Abusive relationships never get better and, in some instances, end in death. Taking steps now will improve your chances of being able to escape. If you don’t already have one, open a savings account in your name. Start to put together personal items and important documents that you can leave with a trusted friend and make sure these items won’t get noticed it’s missing.
  3. IF you decide to end the relationship in person, make sure it is done in a public setting. Let your friends know where you are meeting and have someone close by waiting to make sure it all goes according to plan. Also, bring your cellphone and have the number of a local domestic violence shelter on speed dial in case of an emergency.
  4. DO NOT STAY IN CONTACT. Any attempt on the part of your abuser to reach out to you is just their way of manipulating you into taking them back. Agreeing to meet in person is very dangerous.
  5. NEVER assume you’re safe just because you successfully left. Make sure you have a backup plan for every possible scenario that may arise. Avoid participating in the same routines as previously or going to places you previously frequented. Make sure you never do things alone and switch all your social media to private (tell your family and friends to do so as well).
  6. Instead of changing your number, get an alternate number and only give it out to people you trust. Keep your old one and let all calls go straight to voicemail; this will give your abuser the impression that it is still your current number. Save any threatening e-mails, texts, or letters as evidence in case you need to get a restraining order in the future.

By taking the right precautionary steps, you can safely leave your relationship and live a better life.

If you or a person you know is struggling with an abusive relationship, it may be beneficial to have them contact a mental health professional and receive therapy for their illnesses. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Cause of ADHD

Isabelle Kreydin

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactive disorder. It’s typical symptoms are easily distracted, has trouble organizing tasks, is forgetful, fidgets, squirms, or is restless, talks excessively or has trouble staying quit, always seems on the go, and sometimes can be impulsive and act without thinking or interrupt.

It’s really important to educate oneself about this disability because despite hard work and great efforts, it may be hard to stay focused on a certain goal and it may be difficult to be around students and coworkers whom can function normally without their body and brain working in a different function to distract them.

ADHD is frequently confused for being caused by external environments. However, it is the result of low or imbalance levels of chemicals in the brain, specifically neurotransmitters. The two specific neurotransmitters that are implicated in ADHD are dopamine, and norepinephrine. These specific chemicals that carry messages in the brain are related to hyperactivity, inattention and impulsiveness.

Fortunately, there has been medications made that are known to work to avoid consequences associated with the symptoms of ADHD, such as poor academic performance, difficulty in academic performance, trouble in peer relationships, low self-esteem, etc.

These medications target these neurotransmitters and allow ones to control their symptoms better throughout the duration of the day. They are best combined with learning strategies and behavior modification, in the school, home, and academic environments. It’s important to try the medicines and see which one is best to help, since everybody’s chemical makeup is different and has a different reaction to certain medicines. Examples of these are Adderall and Mydais.

If you or a person you know is struggling with a narcissistic personality disorder, or any personality disorder, it may be beneficial to have them contact a mental health professional and receive therapy for their illnesses. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

The Power of Optimism

Isabelle Kreydin

When you go through a traumatic experience, the time it takes to recover is immeasurable and flooded with uncertainty. It could be anything between a breakup, abuse, a car accident, a loved one’s death, or even your entire childhood. When you acquire a mental illness, or know someone who has, it truly does affect every aspect of your life. Even stress, can alter brain chemistry and one’s way of life. But brokenness is not beautiful because of the way you are, but the way you will be when you are finally free.

You might feel alone. But you are alone because you feel as though are burdening others with your pain, and now are trying to reassemble yourself on your own and trying to fight the mental illnesses from becoming you. You’re trying but right now you are physically and mentally exhausted. It’s a tiring work of progress, but the only way out of the tunnel is through, and we know better than to turn around or take steps backwards.

It is easy for the brain to resort to the cloud that a trauma or illness might have installed in you, falling into despair or numbness, and there is truly nothing worse. Isolation is not the key, though it is most commonly a side effect of any of these negative experiences. Despite contrary belief, this leads you to an opportunity to get help. To find help within friends, family, and professionals. They can only help you understand that although you may not always be able to feel it, there is so much love and beauty to this world. There will ALWAYS be people there for your support. If you don’t feel this way, go out and make new friends, talk to your therapist, reach out to adults you may trust, or even kind strangers. The world has more love to offer than it seems.

Optimism is tough. You can be fighting for your body and thoughts to be positive, and have an outlook on life that shows light. However, your brain and body may be inflicting darkness, or feelings of nothingness, completely out of your control.

Optimism is also a savior. The more you put this fight into your brain, the more you convince yourself that you are going to make it, that everything will be okay, the more likely it is for your body to start behaving this way. Get up and force yourself to make plans, to do anything you once enjoyed or might find joy in.

The world may be falling a part in many aspects, and so are some humans that occupy it. However, everybody is still on this earth giving their full efforts to find the ultimate goal, happiness. It should not be overthought; it should not become the only purpose one strives for. It should be a feeling that comes through every day activities, thoughts, conversations. Positivity can help motivate the brain to feel that happiness, to appreciate the times it is felt, to hope for more positive outcomes and experiences. These can come from setting goals, making friends, loving, giving, being active, showing compassion, pursuing passions, treating oneself, or even physically seeing the beauty this world has to offer.
Life is too short to not love with everything you are. Giving with little return is tough, but you are tougher and have years to be given what you give.

Together, with optimism, have those around you help you rewrite your story and your future, and remember that it is okay to not be okay. There are billions that have struggled, there are millions that are fighting to overcome, and there are millions that have overcome and become a light and inspiration to us all.

You are never alone, and it will be worth it when you reach the end of that tunnel or even when you begin to see the light.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Nicotine Addictions

Isabelle Kreydin

People living with mental illness have a high rate of tobacco addiction. In America, 44.3% of all cigarettes are consumed by individuals who live with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. What’s it mean to be addicted? You might have problems paying attention, trouble sleeping, appetite change, and/or powerful cravings for tobacco at least once a day.

The nicotine in any tobacco product absorbs into ones blood when a person uses it. Upon entering the blood, nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline. Nicotine increases levels of the chemical dopamine, which affects parts of the brain that control reward and pleasure. Those who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. commonly lack a consistent flow of dopamine (as well as other neurotransmitters), and the nicotine can therefore be a sort of temporary enhancer and mood booster.

The addiction itself however, is more about the lies one feeds to himself, the subconscious thought that the cigarettes, e-cigarette or other drug will truly fill a void in the addict’s mind or body. Those struggling with addiction have something in common: an ache that they believe can be dimmed. Whether it’s simply a drug to relieve temptation, or tension in the mind or of thoughts, it’s still an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Like most drug addictions, nicotine only provides one with temporary relief or a brief time away from reality. Every year, smoking kills about 200,000 people who live with mental illness. Please do not be one of those statistics.

Smoking is known to cause heart disease, stroke and lung disease, among other medical problems. Second-generation atypical antipsychotic medications (SGAs) cause an increased risk of heart disease, so it’s important that individuals living with mental illness quit smoking. Like an e-cigarette, smokeless tobacco products contain 3 to 4 times more nicotine than cigarettes and contain substances that increase risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. If you ever wanted to quit your addiction in the future, it would only be more difficult, as your body becomes dependent on the chemicals and drugs you chose to feed it. Recovery is a long process, however very possible.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: What is it?

By: Cassie Sieradzky

Body dysmorphic disorder is an intense and distressing preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in body appearance. Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder ruminate on their perceived defect for an excessive amount of time. Some body dysmorphic disorder sufferers may have a minor physical abnormality, but the preoccupation with it is out of proportion.

A common feature among those with body dysmorphic disorder is the tendency to engage in a compulsive or repetitive behavior. Common compulsive or repetitive behaviors include, checking of mirrors, excessive grooming and make-up application, excessive exercise, repeatedly asking other people how they look, compulsive buying of beauty products, and persistent seeking of cosmetic surgery. Sufferers often feel they are unable to control the behaviors. This can be detrimental to daily functioning and cause significant distress.

Although body dysmorphic disorder is seen in both men and women, the disorder is often manifested differently between the genders. Men with body dysmorphic disorder are more likely to demonstrate a preoccupation with their genitals, muscles, and thinning hair. Women with body dysmorphic disorder are more likely to have a co-morbid eating disorder, and have a greater preoccupation with weight, hips, breasts, legs, and excessive body hair. They are also more likely to hide perceived defects with make-up, check mirrors, or pick at their skin.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

 

Griffiths, M. D. (2015, August 13). Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Retrieved May 8, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-excess/201508/body-dysmorphic-disorder

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia: Symptoms

By: Cassie Sieradzky

Schizophrenia is a chronic and often debilitating mental disorder. Schizophrenia affects all aspects of functioning and consequently, sufferers may appear to have lost touch with reality. Symptoms of schizophrenia usually begin between ages 16 and 30. The symptoms fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

The positive symptoms of schizophrenia consist of behaviors that are not usually seen in individuals without schizophrenia. Individuals displaying positive symptoms appear to lose touch with reality. These may include, hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (being controlled by aliens), thought disorders (incoherent speech), and movement disorders (agitated body movements) are classified as positive symptoms.

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia are classified as deviations to normal emotions and behaviors. Flat affect, reduced expression of emotions, are commonly seen in individuals with schizophrenia. Someone who displays flat affect may speak in a monotone manner and show little facial expression. Some other examples of negative symptoms include loss of pleasure in activities and reduced speaking or communication.

The cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include disruptions in executive functioning (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions), trouble focusing, and deficits with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).

Antipsychotic medications can be very beneficial in the treatment of schizophrenia. Additionally, psychotherapy is helpful in order to foster coping skills to address the everyday challenges of their diagnosis. Studies show that individuals who participate in psychotherapy are less likely to have relapses or be hospitalized.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from schizophrenia, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

 

Schizophrenia. (2016, February). Retrieved April 30, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml