A Night of Learning and Sharing: Understanding Addiction in Our Families and Communities

October 11, 2017

Neighborhood Health Series Presentation Recap

On Thursday, September 21st, Roseman welcomed nearly 50 guests to its Neighborhood Health Series Event on “Understanding Addiction in Our Families and Communities,” by Dr. Jeff Talbot and Dr. Krystal Riccio.  The presentation focused on identifying behaviors associated with substance/ drug abuse and understanding the basic neurobiological mechanisms underlying addiction.

Drug abuse, Roseman UniversityDr. Talbot defined addiction, from the Latin root, addicere, meaning to bind or enslave, and explained that addiction can take many forms in behaviors around gambling, work, love, food and eating, codependency, shopping, or online gaming. Over 20 million people today are addicted to drugs but are not receiving treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAHMSA), alcohol is the most abused substance in the US, with nicotine, marijuana and prescription pain killers. According to NIDA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 31% of American’s homeless suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. In the U.S, $503B is spent annually on Drug abuse treatment, in contrast to the $171M spent on Cancer.

Prescription pain relievers have been a growing problem in the state of Nevada and nationally. These include drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Norco. Since 2008, more Nevadans have died from a drug overdose than from traffic accidents or firearms alone. In Nevada, prescription drug abuse rates among adolescents are almost twice that of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines combines.  Marijuana, considered a “gateway” drug and now legalized in our state for recreational or medicinal purposes, has been used by 36% of high school seniors last year, while the amount of  Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased 5 fold in the last 30 years.Drug abuse, Roseman University

Surveillance state by state has historically been insufficient, as the Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS), a paper and pencil survey developed in 1993, is fielded every two years and has only 18 questions in total related to drug abuse. The study doesn’t allow for the responsiveness and sensitivity need to pick up rapidly changing trends or information at the community level.

Last year, Roseman University piloted a study, the Secondary Student Life Survey (SSLS) that is first of its kind in our state.  The study assesses drug abuse behaviors, attitudes and perceptions of risk among youth in grades 6-12.  Designed with Nevada’s youth in mind, the web-based study is designed using skip and display logic, in order to protect youth from getting questions about subject matter about which they have very little experience. This concept helps prevent norming among youth who may receive questions about substances with which they are unfamiliar—preventing them from believing these substances are perhaps more widely used than they might have thought. The study allows for understanding at the school, neighborhood and community levels, allowing for very specific data and insights to inform more targeted prevention instruction and messaging. At this time, the SSLS has been piloted in 4 schools throughout Nevada with over 1300 respondents to date.  Early date suggests that marijuana usage rates are lower than previously estimated data provided by the YRBS instrument, and that like other national data, that perceptions of risk are tied directly to trial and usage– in that those with greater perceptions of risk are less likely to try or use specific substances.  A recent $50,000 grant will allow for greater use of the instrument in additional schools. As data becomes available it will be shared.

Drug abuse, Roseman UniversityFinally, the NHS presentation focused on the attributes of a teen brain, more “feeling” than “thinking”, focused on emotion and reward. This drives more impulsive and reward seeking behavior, with research pointing to the propensity of sensation-seeking youth to be likely to try or use drugs. Drugs mimic the “rush” of positive emotion teens feel with stimulus of the nucleus accumbens leading to elevated dopamine levels. This impulsivity and risk-taking behavior leads to disregard of adverse consequences and obviously poor choices. While those that become addicted have a variety of factors in play such as environment, genetic predisposition and effects of drug use, complete abstinence is the only way to prevent addiction. The addictive properties of drugs cannot be underscored enough, even occasional trial or experimentation can lead to addiction.

Dispose of your old prescription drugs that are in your home. Seek a take-back event or a drug disposal bag from your local pharmacy.  Monitor your family members and don’t be afraid to be suspicious. Monitor kid’s time away from adults. Check in on them and let them know that you are monitoring their behaviors. And if you need help, turn to trusted resources such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Academy of Psychiatry, and SAHMSA.

Please learn more and join us for future Neighborhood Health Series Events at speaker.roseman.edu.

Vanessa Maniago
Special Advisor to the President
Roseman University of Health Sciences


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