Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pleasure Now but None Later

If you are about my age...let's say 50 something, you probably remember the advent of the war against drugs. If you were really into the subculture of the 60's and 70's you may remember some of the anti drug slogans and those attention grabbing PSA's from Partnership for a Drug Free America starring a frying pan and two eggs...any questions?
Due to medical research and a desire to know more about the brain, we have a lot more sophisticated information to get the word out about drug use. We have MRI scans of brains before and after drugs. We have EEG's of brain activity and how certain drugs impact the impulses in our brain. We even have a study that shows the long term impact of a club drug called Ecstasy on hormone receptors and our ability to experience pleasure. This is what I want to tell you about. A study shows that even after on dose of Ecstasy, the brain shows a definite lack of the ability to respond to dopamine and serotonin for as long as 15-20 years. Endorphins ability to make us feel better, feel a natural "high" is reduced significantly with one dose. So does that mean that if we choose to have an experience with Ecstasy as a teen we are trading our ability to experience pleasure the rest of our life? Maybe not totally, but this study from the University of Michigan does point to that prospect. Additionally, it shows that contrary to popular belief, smoking cannabis raises you blood pressure and heart rate, which could result in sudden heart attacks in kid who don't know they have a heart issue.
That is significant, but the information about Ecstasy and it robbing a kid of their pleasure pathways should send an alarm through every school in this country. After all we are all about feeling good, experiencing every possible shred of exhilaration and joy we can. Now we find out that something that supposedly increased sexual pleasure may very well take away that same pleasure for the rest of our lives. Just once and we are pleasure pathway challenged! So far, we think it can't be fixed. Once the damage is done it can't be undone. I have had kids tell me that they have taken drugs and then taken them again the very next day and felt nothing. They thought they had been burned, and gotten a placebo or fake drug. Maybe they are instead just experiencing the price they paid unknowingly. Does continued use increase the damage? My guess would be yes. But we really don't know for sure. The more studies are done, the more we will surely know. Question is, with all this new information can we convince a new generation of the dangers of substance abuse?

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