Coffee, Wine, Weed & Health

The past few weeks have included buzz-worthy info on coffee, wine, weed and health. The three stimulants can be addictive, enjoy a robust retail market (weed in limited states) and may have health benefits. My clients and readers of this blog know my mantra-”There is no one thing that is all good or all bad and moderation is the key.” Though the research on the three is still a work in progress, the following is a brief overview of how they can impact your health.

COFFEE

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 54 percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee daily and 65 percent of these drinkers are consuming the coffee during breakfast hours. The key component associated with coffee consumption is caffeine. Coffee is a stimulant that can improve mood, increase energy and cognitive function. When coffee is consumed, caffeine is absorbed in the bloodstream, and travels to the brain where it blocks a neurotransmitter. This blocked neurotransmitter leads to a stimulant effect, thus people may feel more alert, energetic and positive, with improved cognitive functions.

WINE

I’m a wine enthusiast and I enjoy drinking wine in moderation. U.S per capita consumption of wine is approximately 3 gallons, much less than in other countries. Wine does have benefits for heart health, reduced risk of cancer and long-term depression. Red wine is high in antioxidants which are linked to heart health and reduced blood pressure. One of the antioxidants that has been touted recently is resveratrol. Although resveratrol is still being studied, this antioxidant in red wine is thought to protect blood vessels, reduce LDL (Bad) cholesterol and prevent blood clots.

White wine also has positive effects on heart health as a result of the antioxidants found in the wine grapes. There has also been early research which links drinking two to three glasses of champagne a week to the prevention of brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now a glass of bubbly is always a good thing, however, note this research continues in search of definitive proof.

WEED

Still considered taboo in many circles, weed, aka marijuana, may also have health benefits. One-fifth of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal. The label medical marijuana refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has NOT approved the marijuana plant as medicine. However the FDA has approved the scientific study of chemicals in the plant called cannabinoids, which have led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form.

To date research by the National Institutes of Health has focused on two cannabinoids-THC and CBD. CBD is a cannabinoid that does not create a “high.” Findings indicate that THC can stimulate appetite and reduce nausea which can be beneficial to patients undergoing chemotherapy. Researchers continue their work and are conducting preclinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and conditions of diseases that affect the immune system including HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), pain, inflammation and seizures.

This post is a brief overview of trending topics on coffee, wine and weed. These subjects will continue to be of interest and the upcoming California Wine and Weed Symposium will certainly be a catalyst for more conversation.

Take Away: There may be undiscovered health benefits with coffee, wine and weed in the future, however my caveat is to make wise choices and moderation is essential.

Can ‘Safe Houses’ Keep a Check on Drug Overdoses?

Incidents of drug abuse and overdose continue to make headlines in the United States. Hardly a day goes by when someone is not being rushed to the emergency services of a hospital for an accidental or an intentional overdose. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the death rate from all drugs including opioids was 46,471 in 2013 whereas, the number of deaths caused due to firearms including suicides and homicides was 33,636. The number of drug-related deaths surpassed all kinds of gun deaths by nearly 13,000.

Under such circumstances, many California-based drug groups are pushing for “safe houses.” Safe houses are places where drug users can avail sterile supplies and their favorite drug under medical supervision. Supporters believe that under such circumstances, the chances of overdosing can be significantly diminished. Also, in case an emergency arises, relief can be provided quickly. The one-of-its-kind bill legalizing injecting sites has been passed in the Assembly, making California one of the few states to have done so. It has been approved by the Senate Health Committee as well.

Drug groups contend that legalizing safe houses would prove to be a lifesaver for most drug users. Most users resort to drugs as a coping mechanism or to get high. They are unaware of the right quantity and often end up overdosing without realizing the fatal outcomes. Whether on streets or in parties, many-a-times, help can come too late. As the illegal market is growing so is the epidemic of illicit drug use. In such a scenario, safe houses may give better access to treatment, counseling, prevention and timely intervention.

One such safe house exists in Vancouver, Canada. This site claims to have prevented 6,440 overdosing incidents in 13 years. It also claims to have given access to treatment to 4500 people. Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, aims to replicate the Vancouver Safe House in America. Apart from seeking to establish legal safe houses in eight counties from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the bill also aims to limit the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis among drug users due to their risky practices including needle sharing and unprotected liaisons.

Opponents consider rehab as the ‘safest’ choice

Critics on the other side of the fence disapprove any such move citing that it would allow the uninhibited use of drugs as per one’s convenience. One such critic is the Sacramento Pastor, Ronnie Allen. According to him, opening safe houses would increase the chances of developing a deep rooted and chronic addiction. Further elucidating on the dangers of safe houses, Pastor Allen says, “If anyone would offer me at that time a free place to smoke crack, it would have been a wonderful time for me. But I would have never… recovered.” Rehabs for him and his supporters seem to be the best choice to help a person walk the path of sobriety again.

It is advantageous to commit the habitual drug user to a rehab center, where not only he/she can be steadily weaned off from drugs but can also receive continuous counseling to manage emotions, thinking and behavior.

Drug addiction is almost a compulsive behavior. While the first experience with drugs is voluntary, most people start taking drugs with regularity once the alterations in the brain chemistry are deepened turning it into a necessity. Persisting with the habit for long is physically as well as psychologically damaging. It hastens the process of aging, causes physical illnesses and increases the chances of early mortality.

Road to sobriety

Drug overdose is a critical situation requiring immediate resuscitation and professional assistance. It is essential to look for vital signs such as temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, pupil constriction or dilation if someone suspects an individual to have overdosed. Timely intervention can help save a precious life.