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A recent article in a Pennsylvania newspaper concerned a person who was arrested for being in possession of marijuana. Many people who use marijuana, as 9,413 of 60,290 Pennsylvania residents who participated in a substance abuse survey admitted to doing, usually try to hide their "stash" in order to avoid arrest. However, the Pennsylvania resident who was arrested had tucked a marijuana "joint" (a hand-rolled cigarette which contains marijuana instead of regular tobacco) behind his ear.

One of the effects of marijuana is short-term memory loss. Is it possible this was what made him forget that the joint was there, in full view of everyone, including the police officers who arrested him? Short-term memory loss is common in all types of substance abuse. When a person uses alcohol to excess, or is addicted to alcohol, as 14,651 of the Pennsylvania residents surveyed admitted to being, short-term memory loss is sometimes referred to as a "blackout". Further, in some cases, it isn't all that short-term. People have been known to lose many hours and sometimes days as a result of alcohol addiction.

When alcohol is taken in conjunction with another drug, as 12,219 of the survey respondents said they did, this can actually make short-term memory worse, or cause it to happen faster. That is because, as mentioned earlier, this is a common side effect of using drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine (meth), which were the other drugs for which use statistics were gathered.

This time is was simply a joint that was forgotten. It could have been worse, however. The person who was arrested could have temporarily fogotten something important, like fastening his seatbelt, or worse, that he was responsible for a small child. Both these scenarios, as well as others, could have resulted in serious injury or loss of life.

Sometimes a person's short-term memory will return after the drug's effects have worn off. Repeated use, however, of any addictive drug, not just those mentioned, can lead to permanent problems with short-term memory. Some memories or information just will not be recalled.

Also as a result of the arrest, a search of the arrestee's person led to the discovery of prescription drugs. The particular drug involved in this situation was a sleep aid. The pills were not in a prescription bottle. People sometimes think that if a drug has been prescribed by a doctor, then it is all right to take it. Many people also believe that one cannot become addicted to prescription drugs. Others may know this but may think it cannot happen to them.

The truth is that prescription drug addiction can happen just as with any illicit drug. However, just as with illicit drugs, Pennsylvania substance abuse treatment centers can help people with this type of addiction just as they can with any other addiction. Some of the centers may even specialize in treating prescription drug addiction, and accept those who have only that problem. Others may accept those who are addicted to both alcohol and prescription drugs (as can sometimes happen.)

Oftentimes, the first person to notice a prescription drug addiction is one's health care provider. He may be aware of the signs of this addiction, or he may see that the patient is asking for too many refills after the initial symptoms for which the prescription was given have been alleviated. When this occurs, he may have information on substance abuse treatment centers at his fingertips.

Even if some places have waiting lists, a health care professional may be able to get someone in sooner, especially if he feels that the prescription drug addiction is very serious. In this way, treatment can be immediately so that a person can start overcoming the addiction, and resume a normal life again.

http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/marijuana/Marijuana3.html
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/drug___alcohol/14221

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