Dr. Ruth Potee came and spoke to Nashoba community members, on Thursday, March 21. She spoke about addictive substances and how they affect the brain.
Potee works as a family physician, an addiction medicine physician, as well as the medical director of Franklin County House of Corrections, the Franklin Recovery and Treatment Center, and the Pioneer Valley Regional School District. She wants to get the message out to communities and teens about the effect of addictive substances.
The brain is constantly changing, and does not fully develop until you are 23-24 years old. Before this age, the brain is more susceptible to major damage from addictive substances such as alcohol, marijuana and opioids. According to Potee, addiction is very difficult to treat but if one can “delay your use as long as possible” there is a lower chance of doing major damage to your brain.
Alcohol “breaks the brain more slowly”, says Potee, and is also found to be a cause of cancer. It has been found that 2-6 months after detox from substances, people tend to relapse, which is referred to as the 3rd wave epidemic.
Marijuana is not believed to be a bad drug compared to alcohol, but it influences synaptic refinement and myelination during development. THC is the part of marijuana that affects the brain; the studies out on effects of marijuana are inaccurate as they are based on old pot. The newer pot being sold now, has a greater potency of THC making it more addictive and more harmful.
Opioids is the number one drug killer. Some opioids are so potent and dangerous that less than a penny size of heroin can kill you. Recently, Nashoba nurses have taken the initiative and decided to obtain Narcan, a drug that can be administered to reverse the effects of opioids, for the school in case of an opioid overdose.
Only 2% of people who postpone drugs and alcohol until their brain is fully developed become abusers. The idea of substance abuse is looked down upon and should be looked at differently by emergency services and doctors because it is a disease and is also known as Developmental Pediatric Disease.
Genetics, early exposure and trauma are the major triggers of addiction, these can lead to abuse because with poor mental health, people tend to use substances as a self medication to deal with these issues.
Drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine fuels and controls everyone’s compulsions and preservations. Normally everyone has from 85-105 units of dopamine in their body which can be built upon from exercising, eating food (not always good,) listening/playing music and talking to others. Drugs cause your levels to skyrocket, this causes the brain to stop making its own dopamine and it becomes dependent on substances.
Right now the biggest thing affecting teens is vaping. 25% of students who vape develop a nicotine addiction. It is believed that Juul’s are safer than cigarettes but this is not true, one Juul can amount to a whole pack of cigarettes.
Click here to learn more about Dr. Ruth Potee and her research.