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Know the many dangers of addictions: Psychiatrist brings her expertise to Amherst acupuncture meeting

AMHERST, N.S. – You’re not born a winner, you’re not born a loser, you’re born a chooser.

“That’s a quote by a motivational speaker from the NFL who talks to adolescents,” said Libby Stuyt.

Stuyt, the medical director for the Circle Program at Crossroads Turning Point in Pueblo, Colorado, is also the president of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA).

She was in Amherst during a five-day regional meeting of NADA, which was hosted by Amherst’s Betsy Prager, a NADA board member, at the Four Fathers Memorial Library.

Stuyt has been an addictions psychiatrist since 1990, and has treated thousands of people addicted to drugs ranging from nicotine, to alcohol, to heroin.

During her visit, Stuyt talked about ear acupuncture and how it can help with addictions.

“What we’re finding is that it works mostly for stress relief, and it does help with cravings,” said Stuyt.

She says ear acupuncture targets five points on the ear.

“One of the points is for the sympathetic nervous system, which helps balance the sympathetic nervous system, and another point is a heart point, so it helps calm people down,” said Stuyt.

The three others are for organs of detoxification; the liver, lungs and kidneys.

“Drugs of abuse are detoxified and eliminated in your body, and those organs can become very damaged, so the purpose of this is to nourish those organs and to help calm people down.”

Acupuncture is one of many tools to help people with addictions.

“With smoking cessation, it needs to be available three times a week, plus they need to be doing education and counselling,” said Stuyt. “It’s not something you can do alone. It helps people be more open to a whole range of treatment.”

Stuyt says first-time drug users start with a choice, and that choice can quickly lead to addiction.

“The way drugs of abuse work in the brain is that they hijack the brain and it no longer becomes a choice,” said Stuyt. “Once somebody is addicted to something they are no longer choosing to do it.”

Colorado legalized Marijuana in January of 2014. She says part of the problem is the lax laws in Colorado.

“With our commercialization of marijuana there’s no regulation. We have dispensaries putting out stuff that isn’t what they say it is.”

Also, there is no upper limit on the amount of THC in marijuana sold in Colorado.

“Colorado has a reputation of having the most potent marijuana in the world, so people come from all over to get it,” said Stuyt. “The average potency in the dispensaries is 20 per cent, and as high as 40 per cent. I’m not sure you can get the lower stuff anymore.”

Stuyt fears high-potency marijuana is more likely to bring on psychosis, especially in young people.

One young adult she recently treated suffered a serious psychotic episode that hospitalized him for two months. He was eventually tapered off his anti-psychotic drugs but went back to smoking marijuana, and, again, he needed to be treated.

She’s also concerned marijuana dispensaries in Colorado are recommending marijuana to pregnant women.

“This female called over 400 dispensaries in Colorado saying she’s ‘eight weeks pregnant and is really nauseated, do you have anything that would help me?’” said Stuyt. “About 70 per cent of the dispensaries recommended marijuana. What is it doing to the baby?”

Stuyt acknowledges that Canada’s laws are stricter than Colorado, but she still encourages people to be cautious.

“During adolescence, we’re creating new neurons in the brain, and deciding what neurons to add and what to get rid of,” said Stuyt.

“When you put an outside form of THC in the brain during adolescence you have no idea what you’re doing,” she added. “This is why there’s more and more research out there showing decreased IQ and negative effects on significant cognitive abilities that are persistent into adulthood.”

She pointed research out of New Zealand and Australia that show a drop in IQ among marijuana users.

“If you’re high IQ it might not be a big deal, but if you’re in the average range a loss of eight points in humungous, and that’s going to increase a lot of social service needs."

The legal age for smoking marijuana in Canada is 19. Stuyt says that’s too young to be smoking pot.

“The brain is not developed yet at that age,” said Stuyt. “You’re going to start seeing a lot of dummying down, I’m afraid.”

The NADA meeting was the first regional meeting ever to be held in Canada, and people came from throughout the Maritimes and North America take part.

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