The facts and effects of cannabis on Teenagers

Do you think that the use of cannabis is harmless? Well read on and find out the facts and then decide. There is a lot of talk about drugs in society today.  Some of it is true, some not. Much of what is being “promoted” actually comes from those selling them. Reformed drug dealers have confessed that they would have said anything to get others to buy drugs. People have unlimited access to all kinds of illegal drugs in every part of Ireland today. So what are the consequences for those who use?

Everyone knows about cannabis, it has been around for centuries, so what’s all the fuss about now? Cannabis describes any of the different drugs that come from Indian hemp, including marijuana, and a whole range of other street names as well as hashish. One of the reasons cannabis is big news today is that the nature of the drug has changed a lot over the years. Cannabis has become one of the most trafficked illegal drugs in the world. It no longer just grows naturally but is grown under conditions that make it much more potent.

The potency relates to the THC content –  the chemical in cannabis that gets you “high”. Some types of cannabis are grown for its potency and are extremely high in THC. This means that there is a higher risk of negative and damaging effects from using it. The more potent forms are grown to be more addictive. The potency varies between the different types of cannabis ie. resin, marijuana, or hashish, which is made from the resin of Indian hemp and is six times stronger than marijuana. Unlike alcohol, cannabis does not come with a label telling you how strong it is. You cannot tell from just looking at it. Regardless of the name, this drug causes hallucinations and has a substance which distorts how the mind perceives the world you live in. So one never knows what strength this drug is or the resulting harm caused by its use.

What are the risks?

Cannabis or marijuana is one of the drugs young people use the most. The effect is usually felt within minutes. The immediate sensations include increased heart rate, lessened co-ordination and balance, and a dreamy unreal state of mind. It also creates a severe impact on the lungs. The mental consequences for users are equally severe with users having amongst other dangers, poorer memories and decreased mental aptitude.  Cannabis can trigger underlying mental health problems. It has hallucinogenic properties which can make you feel paranoid, anxious and in some people, lead to a psychotic episode.

Recent studies, including from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, showed the connection between cannabis use in adolescence and schizophrenia. These studies state that it doubles your risk of developing schizophrenia as an adult. Previous research has shown that young adolescents who started using cannabis/marijuana before the age of sixteen are at greater risk of permanent brain damage and have a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders. This is the critical period in life during which drug use can be damaging and cause permanent health risks.

TEENAGE YEARS are the worst time in a person’s life to smoke cannabis, a prominent Irish child and adolescent psychiatrist has said.

Dr. Bobby Smyth was reacting to a study concerning the drug’s effect on the adolescent brain. He works for the HSE at the Youth Drug and Alcohol Service in Tallaght and referred to the growing evidence that cannabis has a long-term negative impact on the developing brain.

A study published yesterday in American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found cannabis can lower the IQ of young teenagers and may cause permanent mental impairment. The most persistent users suffered an average eight-point decline in IQ between adolescence and adulthood.

Users experienced significantly more attention and memory problems than non-users, the study found. This was the case even after taking account of different educational backgrounds and use of alcohol and other drugs.

The tests showed wide-ranging mental decline among men and women who began taking cannabis at a young age and continued using the drug regularly for more than 20 years.

A disturbing new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA, highlights and confirms the dangers of adolescents smoking cannabis.

Results of this research have also shown that young people who regularly smoke cannabis or weed have a greater risk of schizophrenia and can suffer long-lasting brain damage. Researchers say the drug is particularly dangerous for a group of people who may have underlying tendencies to a genetic mental disorder or have mental health issues. It also highlights the dangers of teenagers smoking cannabis during their formative years. The study found that even short- term exposure to cannabis impairs brain activity with the damage continuing into adulthood.

A separate study carried out only last month by the Imperial College, London, revealed that long-term use of cannabis destroys dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain that inspires a spirit of get up and go. It suggests that it can lead to individuals becoming withdrawn, lethargic, listless, apathetic or indifferent. Cannabis users who partook in the study said they had all experienced psychotic-like symptoms, such as having strange sensations and having feelings of paranoia and fear. Dr. Michael Bloomfield, of the above college, said there is mounting evidence that the idea that cannabis is a harmless drug is untrue.  He has noted short-term side effects include a decrease in short-term memorydry mouth, impaired motor skills, red eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.  Long-term side effects include addiction and decreased mental ability in those who started as teenagers. Also noted was the behavioral problems in children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy.

Aside from a skewed or twisted change in perception and mood, the most common short-term physical, and impact on the structure of the nervous system, include increased heart rate, increased appetite and consumption of food, lowered blood pressure, impairment of short-term and working memory,  lack of coordination, depression, panic attacks , anxiety and concentration. Users also suffer from bronchitis and brain abnormalities.

Some users experienced episodes of acute psychosis, or psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, mania that is marked by delusions, hallucinations, incoherence and distorted perceptions of reality, which usually abates after six hours, but in rare instances, heavy users may find the symptoms continuing for many days. So why are we ignoring these horrendous side effects of cannabis?

A reduced quality of life is associated with heavy cannabis use.  Society appears to have accepted the use of cannabis as a recreational drug, but when the effects of its use show such alarming after effects, is it not time that all parents educated their children and themselves about its immediate and long-term dangers. The younger you are when you start using, the higher your risk of becoming addicted to cannabis. Heavy and long-term users experience withdrawal symptoms that include:  Anxiety and restlessness,  insomnia, loss of appetite,  depression and problems with concentration and attention. Cannabis in all its forms is now readily available, and young people have no problem accessing it. It is long overdue that users be made fully aware of the dangers they are putting themselves in.

It is interesting to note that animals given marijuana by researchers have suffered structural damage to the brain.

Is smoking a joint the same as drinking alcohol?

The facts are that alcohol contains one chemical substance only; ethanol. Cannabis/marijuana and all its associates contain more than 400 known chemicals, including cancer-causing substances found in tobacco smoke. Unlike cigarette smokers, “pot” smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold the smoke as long as possible to increase the effect of the drug, worsening the damage to the lungs.  Alcohol is eliminated from the body in a few hours but THC stays in the body for weeks, possibly months, depending on the length and intensity of usage. THC damage the immune system, alcohol does not. I am not proposing using alcohol, far from it, but these are the facts about cannabis.

Some users in the research project experienced an episode of acute psychosis, or a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, mania that is marked by delusions, hallucinations, incoherence and distorted perceptions of reality, which usually abates after six hours, but in rare instances, heavy users may find the symptoms continuing for many days.

A reduced quality of life is associated with heavy cannabis use.  Society may have accepted the use of cannabis as a recreational drug, but when the effects of its use show such alarming after effects, it is time that all parents educated themselves and their children about its dangers. Cannabis in all its forms is now readily available, so it behoves society that the time is long past for users to be made fully aware of the dangers they are putting themselves in.

Cannabis/Marijuana changes the structure of sperm cells, deforming them and even small amounts can cause temporary sterility in men. It can also upset a woman’s menstrual cycle. It is one of the few drugs which causes abnormal cell division which leads to severe hereditary defects. Studies also found that mothers who “use” before birth may result in their baby having mental abnormalities, reduced initiative, and lessened abilities to concentrate and pursue life goals as well as an increased risk of leukemia in their children.

These are the facts from renowned institutions and researchers for you to study, and allow you to make an informed judgment for you and your children.

Peg Hanafin, MSc. Rehab/Psych/Couns.   18/4/2017

Author of Getting more out of life, Thoughts for your journey and Never Give up.





The Golden Rule is “do unto others what you want others to do unto you” or “don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you”.

One of the highest forms of disrespect is deceit, especially from a trusted friend, family, business partner, or partner in life. Being disrespectful can range from being dishonest in our words and actions, to deception and cheating.  Some people never learn to be respectful of people. Some may have had a bad day or in a bad humour and take it out on others not bothering with being polite or courteous. Some think that they are superior to you and speak in disrespectful tones. They think that by being disrespectful to others it makes them look superior, when in actual fact it diminishes them in the eyes of others who treat others with respect. They are insecure within themselves so they get an ego boost from making someone else feel inferior. The problem is, they have no self belief and if ignored they must keep doing it to feel better about themselves. They lack self-confidence and self-esteem and don’t know who they are, and sometimes do not know their place in society.

One of the reasons people disrespect another is because of the inability to empathise and to know how others feel. It also shows a lack of sensitivity, understanding and empathy. Disrespectful people often don’t realise the words they speak hurt others in an injurious way. But if one has  a positive mindset they just take it as a nasty experience, rather than turn it into an emotional and personal way to respond to those stinging words. Be calm and take it that not all people have manners or dignity. Learn a lesson from it, as how not to live. Being aware of, yet completely indifferent to someone else, is the highest or lowest form of disrespect.  Everyday people look at a starving, homeless person, but think nothing of throwing out the best of food when they go home.  Pretending someone doesn’t exist, especially when they are suffering, is also an offence that causes hurt. People who are intolerant and have no patience can often be very disrespectful.  Also other people’s erroneous perceptions about another, contributes to disrespect, especially if they feel that they are better, or suffer from grandiosity. Thinking this way is already a form of disrespect in it by itself.

Sometimes people disrespect each other out of retaliation for feeling that they themselves have been disrespected first.  That can never be justified, but we do live in a world that believes that  an “eye for an eye” is more gratifying  than turning the other cheek.  It has a lot to do with ego in which it can lead one person to believe that they are being disrespected when perhaps the other didn’t mean it that way.  When someone is rude—especially if they’re making personal comments about you—makes it easy to get upset. But you always have a choice about how you react. By taking the power out of their rudeness and choosing to treat it as their problem, not your problem, will shatter their beliefs. Most rudeness is senseless, so you are better off if you can cheerfully ignore it.

If you feel like raising your voice at a rude person, don’t. Joining in the drama will only escalate the situation. Whether you are dealing with a drama queen who is doing it on purpose, or an inconsiderate idiot  whose rudeness is unintentional, you can win by your own attitude.  Keep your dignity intact by not letting your behaviour provoke you into a tantrum of your own. Rudeness is hurtful, but removing yourself from the situation is the fastest and surest way to avoid an escalation of disrespectful behaviour from the same person. Walk away, even if they are still talking to you! If they are a stranger, you will never have to deal with them again. If they are a friend or colleague, they will soon learn that being rude to you gets them exactly nowhere, and make them aware that you will not  tolerate disrespect and maybe that will prompt them to be nicer next time. Some rudeness is a simple case of bad manners. But often, a person who is rude to you does so because they feel frustrated about something—and if it is within your power to resolve their frustration, you may see them switch from rudeness to gratitude in seconds.

Some people are rude simply because they are always rude, and  know no better. Once rudeness becomes a habit, it can be difficult to shake off even if they truly want to behave better. Habitual rudeness should never be taken personally; it is just a pattern that is hard to break, especially if it is their modus operandi.  You can never make someone be polite if they choose to be rude. In fact, trying to force a change in their behaviour will often make them behave worse instead of better. Sometimes your best option is to accept or ignore that their rudeness is not your fault and let them find their own solutions. Don’t let rudeness make you respond with more of the same. The best way to defuse rude behaviour is to stay friendly, calm and helpful, giving the other person a chance to adjust their behaviour to become more tolerant and courteous.

Not everyone always deserves total respect.  Since being respectful is treated as synonymous with being nice, disrespect can be treated as  ugliness.  And yet none of us can or should respect everything and everybody equally. To do so would be to surrender our powers of discernment, of evaluating the quality of one person’s views and actions. To accuse someone of being disrespectful is itself an act of such discernment, judging one person more inappropriate than others. We can’t live by the idea of “criticize critical people” without being hypocritical ourselves. After all, in criticizing the critical we ourselves are being critical.  A different way would be to disrespect ideas and actions. A total ban on disrespect is unworkable.  We need a different approach to disrespect.  Disrespect is not the sin it is made out to be. You must earn respect and if your actions are unacceptable well then, showing your feelings might be a more honourable and ruthful way to live. But there are many ways to skin the cat!!!!!!


Getting back to being happy


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie

Regardless of what problems you are going through today, you have many  choices, you just need to make them.  You can ask yourself questions like “Will I allow this to upset or annoy me?” “Will I choose to make this good or bad?” “Will I choose to stay or walk away?” “Will I choose to say no or yes?” “Will I choose to react or take the time to respond?”  We all go through pain and anxiety. We all have times in our life when we feel lost, sad, insulted, belittled, abandoned, betrayed, hurt, abused or unfairly treated. When the moment arrives when we feel we can’t put up with this feeling any longer, when we no longer feel as happy, as outgoing or as courageous as we used to be, we can stay stuck or we can choose to change. When we are feeling down and dispirited, it is very hard to get back on track, to let go of the negatives and start to smile again, even if we have little to smile about.

Stop bullying yourself and stop the self-criticism. Stop beating yourself up and find compassion and forgiveness of self. Let go of the need to think you should be feeling a lot better by now, and that it is not alright to feel sad or upset for so long. Try being kind to yourself and maybe have a little pampering. Treat yourself with consideration and understanding, instead of complaining about all the things you think is wrong in your life, and appreciate all the gifts that you might be taking for granted. Having strength, concern, empathy, courage, and resilience is a blessing during times of trials and challenges.

When we don’t make an effort to think positive thoughts we risk being depressed, feeling bad and then living a life from a dark, fearful, unhappy and a useless place. You have to make an effort yourself to confront the things you don’t feel like doing so that you can brush off the sadness, hopelessness and boost your energy. When you make the effort and join with others who are in a better frame of mind than your own, your levels of energy and interest in life will increase and you will become more upbeat. Try and think positive and encouraging thoughts that will turn your sad feelings into a more buoyant and happier way to live. It is very easy to let sad feelings turn into a habit that very quickly escalates into depression that may be hard to redeem yourself from.

Finding happiness is not always simple, but is about keeping your thoughts positive, especially when they are elusive after a downward spiral in life. Being happy is finding satisfaction, fulfillment and contentment, being cheerful, and a sense that your life is meaningful in spite of all the problems we are bound to have.  Nobody is living a life of excitement all the time, but some appear to be more fulfilled and fortunate than others. Many studies found that happiness has little to do with comfort, wealth, status or possessions, and more to do with gratitude, which is the biggest indicator of happiness.

Getting back to happy feelings comes when we accept the issues that made us feel down in spirits in the first place. When things are outside of our control we should start by examining the hard truth that sometimes changing your situation is not possible or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get a new job in an instant, or get away from people who are negative or hurtful, who may be family or close friends. You can’t make someone else change their actions or how they treat you and you certainly can’t erase the past. But you can always change your stance on how you view them.  By always choosing an attitude that moves you forward, will help you change things from the inside out, and allows you to let go of the things over which you have no control.
Worrying about the future is the biggest enemy of the present time. Your inner peace does not depend on external conditions, so surrender your thoughts and worries to the Almighty, that will bring a change of perspective. When you spend time worrying, you are just using your imagination to create experiences that might never happen and especially ones you don’t want.
Peace of mind arrives when you can rationalise what is bothering you, and happens when you let go of the need to be anywhere but where you are, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally at this moment. This is the only way of accepting the way things are and creates the basis for inner peace and quiet. Identify the thoughts that have been troubling you, and then imagine how life would change if you got rid of these thoughts. Would you treat yourself and others differently? How would you feel?  How would you act if the same thoughts appeared again?  What would you be able to achieve if your thoughts were optimistic? How would it change your outlook on your current life situation?

Occupy your mind with positive thoughts, and train your thoughts to see good in all things. Seeking or working on goals that will give you satisfaction, self-esteem and humming a little tune, for happy effects on the mind and body will overcome most unhappy thoughts. Only when you feel grateful for all the things in your life can you start to regain being happy again.

Peg Hanafin, MSc 11/4/2018  wp


Bad Behaviour

Bad behaviour

Children need to be taught from an early age that there is a consequence, be it positive or negative, to every action. These consequences, or correction, will teach children to make the right choices in the future. If children do not understand these consequences, or if they are not enforced, they cannot benefit from them. Some children need to realize that doing good things will result in positive consequences, while doing bad things will lead to negative ones. If your child doesn’t understand the concept of consequences, or punishment meted out if they do bad things, you may be able to get them to behave properly by pointing out the presence of what awaits them in consequences and withdrawal of privileges. These must inflict some measure of pain to gain results.

No child is an angel all of the time, but some children display bad behaviour more than others. If your child seems to misbehave more than is normal, especially if there is an audience, this could be the result of an diversity of issues. Try and determine what issues are at the root of the problem, so that bad behaviour can be  dealt with more effectively.

For some children, misbehaving and creating a scene is a way of getting attention. Children who feel that they aren’t given enough attention, or who require more attention because of other issues in the home, may turn to tantrums and other bad behaviours to force parents to pay attention to them. In some cases, children will display attention-seeking behaviour at home to demand their parents’ attention, and sometimes they will engage in disruptive behaviour in the classroom to get the teacher’s undivided attention. Children are smart and know the time to press your buttons to get the most attention.  You might be in the middle of doing something and they want your sole attention, so they start demanding your time.

While most adults have the ability to think before they act

irrationally, children do not have this skill and will act on sudden urges to get their own way. Nearly all children are impulsive, but some with disorders like ADHD, are exceedingly impulsive and impetuous. If your child doesn’t  recognise wrongdoing or why he did something he knows he will be punished for, or, when queried, replies that, “ I just wanted it now” childhood spontaneity could be the force that is propelling him toward misbehaviour. Disagreements can rise out of nowhere in  tantrums, upsets, and arguments that may seem to happen over small occurrences, so these characteristics in a child need to be handled with care.

Children are not born knowing how to behave. If children are not taught good behaviour, or encouraged by example, they may be apt to misbehave and do it over and over again. If you fail to create a discipline plan for your child, give them good example by how you speak and act, you may put him at a disadvantage when he goes to school. He will be required to be disciplined in the academic setting and, if he has no experience of doing what he is told, he will not know how to behave in a setting with other children. That will cause untold problems including bullying and even isolation.

Children whose behaviour is severely out of the normal acceptable activities, may suffer from a diagnosable behaviour-related disorder. The  Mental Health Association reports, that between 1 and 4 per cent of all children between the ages of 7 and 17 suffer from a disorder of this type. Children who suffer from a conduct disorder may be incapable of following structured rules, or who suffer from mental issues that make following rules and expectations seven more challenging for them. If you think that your child may have a problem, voice your concerns to your paediatrician or ask your school for a psychological assessment.

Peg Hanafin, MSc   24/4/2018  wp

How to deal with angry people


How to deal with angry people

“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you”. Joel Osteen
How many times have you had to deal with an angry person?  Anger is a universal emotion, and no matter what job you do, it is important to know how to deal with angry people calmly and assertively.  More often than not, another person’s anger has nothing to do with you. When you recognize this, it can have a major influence on how you cope with the situation, and allow you to see the underlying cause, perhaps. A recent survey done found that when people understood that they didn’t cause another person’s anger, they weren’t upset by the situation.

Perhaps your workmate or friend received some difficult news that they cannot cope with, and is taking his/her negative feelings out on you; perhaps they feel overwhelmed by their workload or their personal life, or maybe someone aggravated them to the point of feeling angry with the world. When you recognize and understand this, you can remove yourself from the anger, and you’ll find it much easier to cope with it. If however, you are the cause of another person’s anger, it is important to take responsibility for your actions and apologise, and ask if you can do something to change things.

Sometimes anger comes from a variety of emotional places, of how they expected to treated, a workmate was annoyed because you are given the most prestigious jobs that they wanted, or a shopkeeper was upset because of a late payment?

It is easy to get upset when you are confronted with an angry person, so how you respond can easily make the situation worse. When you respond calmly and with empathy, and listen to what is being said, you can stay in control and you can defuse the situation in a professional, courteous way. If you can calm them down, you can break the anger from spiralling out of control that can eliminate the anger and give you an opportunity to solve the underlying problems that have caused the anger in the first place.

If you respond angrily to someone else’s anger, you can easily end up being seen as aggressive and adding to the problem. This is disastrous if you are in the wrong and caused this to happen. But if you respond calmly and in a low voice you can get rid of the stress and unhappiness that can build up in someone else’s emotions. When you respond calmly to angry people, you set a good example for others. How you deal with anger can inspire others around you, which can transform their ability to deal with anger. We all know the signs of normal anger. But some people can suppress the visible signs of anger but seethe with a burning rage under the surface. This can appear in quite subtle, “passive aggressive ” ways.

Passive-aggressive anger is common in the workplace, and signs of it include the following:  Pretending not to hear or understand requests.  Avoiding involvement, or giving you a wide berth.  Spreading gossip or unfounded rumours, or telling hurtful jokes to retaliate.  They can also become  obsessive and start  sulking or withdrawing from conversations. Engaging in self-defeating behaviours, or setting other workmates up for failure.  Other forms of passive aggressiveness like behaving secretively,  ignoring others or demonstrating an “angry smile” or smirking.

It is a useful skill to know how to calm angry people down. When you can defuse someone’s anger, it can enhance your standing as a calm and mature person, and it can help you deal with people who struggle to manage or control their emotions, especially in times of pressure.

It is only natural to get upset when angry people confront you, regardless of whether their anger is justified or not or directed at you or not. When you feel the brunt of anger it can lead you to become angry yourself.  Do your best to respond calmly and intelligently when you face angry people. Learn how to manage your own response without emotion, so that you stay in control during upsetting  interactions. If you feel yourself getting upset, excuse  yourself  from the conversation and take a break or go for a walk to calm down.  Try to see things from their perspective as they express hurt feelings. Use active listening , so that you really listen to what she says.

When it’s your turn to talk, speak slowly and calmly, lower your voice as this will often encourage others to calm down. Show an interest in resolving the situation, and try not to judge the other person’s behaviour – this shows respect.  Once you have understood the situation, try to avoid making excuses or defending your actions. Going on the defensive make others feel even angrier than they are already. Ask quietly what you can do to resolve the situation and change how they see things. People who experience intense levels of anger might be unwilling or unable to change how they see things, however, and you may annoy them further if you try to get them to focus on something else.

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You may work or live with a person who frequently experiences angry outbursts. If so, once the anger has passed, it is important to communicate how this person’s anger makes you feel. Be respectful but assertive  with the other person, and use “I” statements to communicate how you feel.  Start by finding the real cause of their anger by asking open-ended questions. Try not to get angry yourself. Stay calm, speak slowly.  A calm, rational response can go a long ways toward calming angry people down.

Peg Hanafin, MSc.  19/4/2018 wp




“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort” —-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Confidence and self- belief are two essential components in reaching the goals you want to achieve in life. No matter how driven you are, you would be illogical to think you can achieve success single-handedly. Even if someone else is not aiding you directly, it is helpful to establish a network with whom you can copy or imitate and who will inspire you to persevere, or hold you accountable.   Only by what you know and what you believe in, can you arrive at a place that you are confident to get to the position you want in life.  Positivity, motivation, discipline and being more optimistic will underpin your goals. Your positive attitude will drive your determination and resolve, that will enable you to achieve your aspirations. Trust yourself and tell yourself that you can do it. Small successes will allow the presenting challenges to enable you to deal with the bigger tasks. Accept your hard work, your knowledge and your skills. By having a plan and a focus to achieve your goals will provide you with a basis and an underpinning of your future successes.

Reflect on what you want to achieve on your journey to find success.  Things may not always go according to plan, so learn from mistakes, and start again.  Look for the lessons and consider learning from not getting it right, but at least you have found what does not work. Change how you do it the next time. Never give up, you will find a way through if you have the discipline to keeping trying. Learning in this way will make you aware of your many skills and will give you a stronger belief in your capabilities.

Trust in yourself and learn to listen to others and take what is relevant from the advice they are giving you.  Find specific people who can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. This will support you with further knowledge in the  future decision making.  If you maintain the principles you stand for, the structure and growth in your character as a person will be with you throughout your life. Consistent reflection and taking time to examine where you are going, will act as a compass or direction that can be used to measure your progress. Knowing what your goals are and your plans for the way forward, will help bring success. This developed clarity will enable you to focus and not be distracted from your goals. Be open in the knowledge that the path to achieving your goals may have to alter, that is part of life. As long as the core remains solid and you believe in yourself, the path to realising your goal will still be attainable.

We all have, or ought to have goals in life. Each one of us wants to achieve something, whether great or small, at some point in our lives. We have deep-seated or entrenched hopes and dreams for the future and a burning desire to accomplish something great that we can leave as a legacy. It is a dream for many, woven into the core of who we are deep down inside. In fact, it is part of what has made us into who we are.  Not only have we wished for the impossible, but we have reached for the stars.

It is not easy achieving your goals in life, that much is a certainty. But couple that with our insatiable thirst for instant gratification and the seemingly endless seeking of happiness — where we are always reaching for something better than we have today – it is no wonder that we get frustrated while trying to achieve great things. When failure rears its ugly head and we may suffer the ridicule of public or peer humiliation, it is no wonder why we find it so hard to seek for goals that will fall into the public domain.

Yet, there is a simpler way with no complications. The greatest problem that most people face is that they fail to set their goals that even though challenging, are achievable. And once they do set their goals, to work with determination and discipline to achieve them. The best way to achieve any goal in life is to plan and in spite of any setbacks to never give up. Achieving those goals and dreams over time will come to fruition with discipline and hard work. Achievements are the important things that give fulfilment and satisfaction, and don’t we all want that in life.

Peg Hanafin, MSc.  1/5/2018.web pg




Do we really own anything, or are we just custodians?

Did you ever ponder that everything you own will belong to someone else when we say goodbye to this world?  Everything.  So your thoughts, your assets and the smallest little detail of your life are gone. Hindu leader Dada Vaswani put it this way: “If you have everything the world can give—pleasure, possessions, power—but lack peace of mind, you can never be happy.” Or, as someone else once said, “Rich people are just poor people with money”.  No amount of wealth or status that we acquire in this world can give us inner peace, we are only custodians for someone else. So to get a love for “Things” is a wasted effort, so why not share it while you are in control?  You only get one shot at this “thing” called life. It is not a rehearsal nor will it be re-run. You can live it for yourself, or you can live it by serving, sharing and caring for others. The surest way for happiness and fulfillment is to be generous and have gratitude.

Ownership also involves life’s intangibles: like your reputation,  status, position, knowledge, skills, achievements, health, love, or family, but we forfeit all of these at the end of life. How can you discover your purpose in life, and experience the full life that God wants you to have that will bring contentment and happiness? All that you have – your friends, your talents, your resources, your opportunities — are received from the Almighty, and to fully appreciate their importance must be to acknowledge that Presence in our lives. They can be snatched in a moment, and are.  So it behoves us to be concerned with how we use these blessings to extend the power of the Almighty to others. We are not an island, there are no one-man shows,  we are all dependent on others from before birth until death.

 When you realise that life is always on borrowed time rather than something that you control, it will change the way you think and live. No personal achievement will matter, once you are dead. The only thing that will live on after death will be the impact on the people that are still alive. And we all hope that our impact will be positive and that we will leave a legacy of love and service.

Everything is temporary in this world, nothing is everlasting. We came into this world with nothing, and we will leave it with nothing. So all the gathering of wealth and possessions will be left behind to others, to do as they see fit until their own time comes. These thoughts should stop you in your tracks if you hold on unjustly to anything in life that you had the loan of.  If you examine all the conflicts and wars around the world, what is at their core? Humans killing and maiming other humans both young and old, for what reason?   Those that inflict unquantifiable grief and pain for gain or perceived ownership, that will down the road, in a blink of an eye, has to be left behind, is incomprehensible and unfathomable. The cause of many conflicts, both personally and in the world at large, and the notion that someone owns something that they think they should have is a myth.

When we decide and recognise that we own nothing, we can then enjoy great pleasure from the sharing of all that we have for now. This includes our possessions, our talents and everything we have just the loan of. We can let go of the fear of loss. We can let go of anger, resentments, and bitterness and simply share and care. We can let go of the illusion of ownership because it is unrealistic. The fear of loss of things we love and value is a blight on our lives. When we are afraid of a perceived threat to take away what we think we own, we will eventually become angry and aggressive and meet the perceived threat head-on, sometimes with violence and hatred causing misery to another human being.

When we compare our gifts and talents with those of others, we create a social pecking order, and we think we are ahead in life. If we are satisfied that we are successful, we feel okay. If not, we may feel anxious, become competitive, and strive to move up the ladder of life.   Worse yet, are those who use position for personal power and financial gain at the expense of others.  But as we all know positions and power are changeable—you can be the boss one day and an nobody the next. Ego-tripping up and down the socio-economic ladder is not a recipe for personal joy and peace, but can bring conflict and anguish in the bat of an eye. All these things and thoughts are just illusions. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our desires and our need for false power at the expense of country, neighbours and family.

It seems a stretch of the imagination to claim ownership of even a little part of the world, when it will ultimately be outside of our control and will continue to live on for millennia to come.  And knowing that the human body also is short lived, should keep us all grounded.  Consumed by power and possessions, we completely miss living a rich life.  Author and philosopher Iris Murdoch offered this advice: “We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” If we had the understanding and the acceptance that everything in this life is temporary greed, avarice, violence, envy, resentments, building possessions, finding sharing too painful, and living a life of deception and dishonesty would become a thing of the past.  Integrity, justice, caring, loving your fellow man, generosity of time, possessions, and talents would be spread for the overall good of every human being.

We often appear to be blind to the fact that all of us will die. Sooner or later.  But the Reaper will reap His crop, and it will not matter either you are rich or poor, only how much love and care you gave to those whose paths you cross. There are only two commandments;  Love God and your neighbour as yourself. And who is your neighbour? Mankind of every description, without exception, even those who differ from us in beliefs and religion.  As we leave this world, it will not matter about who, what, or where you are from, we will be judged on how we lived and how we loved.

Peg Hanafin, MSc.   4/5/2018

A bitter pill to swallow – are we taking too many prescription pills?

When I was young the only pill I remember hearing about was Aspro.  Today we have a pill for every ill.  If it’s what the doctor prescribed, well then it is ok. Or is it?  Are we taking too much for granted and thinking doctors know it all?  Seeing that everyone over 65 years of age now takes between two and seven prescription pills every day, maybe we should all take more responsibility for fully understanding the consequences of prescription drugs and their use and misuse. The largest numbers of drug users in the country are always those on prescribed drugs and according to the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) more people die from prescription drugs than all other drugs combined, including heroin and cocaine. That is a challenging statistic. Statistics also show that people over 65 consume more than 30% of all prescribed medicine and purchase 40% of all over the counter (OTC) medications.

So who are the beneficiaries?  In 2012 the top 11 global drug companies made 85 billion dollars nett profit.  This is surely a flabbergasting and immoral reality.  Let me just take one example of a drug to show you why this happens. In Europe the prescription cost for Nexium,  a commonly prescribed drug used to reduce acid in the stomach, is on average €20.  In the USA it costs a whopping 187 dollars, six times more than in Spain, France, the UK and Ireland.  Consumers are being ripped off by greedy drug companies.  On top of that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)  more than 50% of all medicines prescribed or dispensed are wasted. Furthermore half of all patients fail to take medicines correctly resulting in further huge wastage, thus  increasing the vast amounts of medication that is manufactured. This adds further to the coffers  of drug companies.

In every country a substantial amount of healthcare budgets are spent on medication (between 10 and 40%)  which means that lots of waste costs taxpayers billions, and reduces the health budget available for other areas.   In the USA alone, 175,000 adults age 65 and over are seen every year in emergency departments due to adverse reactions to drugs taken, and every year around 106,000 senior people die from prescription drug use. In addition, some prescribed medications have mind altering substances which lend themselves to abuse.

The most commonly abused substances by teenagers and adults  in the USA are over the counter and prescription drugs.  There is evidence that the same statistics apply across every country. So what are the drugs prescribed that may be abused?

Opioids:  for pain relief,

Benzodiazopines: for anti-depressants, anxiety,  sedation and tranquilisers,

Stimulants: for ADHD,  sleep  disorders and obesity.

There is a misconception about the safety of prescribed drugs because they are given by a doctor and are assumed safe to take. In the USA between 1991 and 2010 prescriptions for stimulants  increased  from 5 million to 45 million and for opioids  from 75.5 million to 209.5 million.  Such a vast escalation of these drugs comes with serious risks to peoples mental and physical health.  Take for example the abuse of painkillers which when  coupled with alcohol or other drugs, greatly affects the respiratory system. This can, and does cause death. The unintentional overdose of pain killers has quadrupled since 1999 and these deaths now outnumber deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.  Antidepressants can cause withdrawal symptoms and people can suffer life threatening seizures, psychosis, and heart complications. A recent report showed that 50% of young people who inject heroin had abused pain killers beforehand.

When someone is dependent on drugs they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they are stopped abruptly or even reduced and dependence is often accompanied   by tolerance or the need to take higher doses to get the same effect.

In Ireland the misuse of benzodiazepines is a significant problem according to a report in 2002.  Dr. Suzi Lyons, Senior Researcher with the Health Research Board said that while they are considered safe for short term use, the risk of over use, abuse and dependence is well documented.  Diazepam is the drug most misused and is the most widely prescribed. The  Medical  Research Board found that 1 in 10 people on medical cards were being  prescribed  benzodiazepines and this results in more abuse and deaths.  While these drugs are safe for the effective treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, their overuse and dependence by people is a matter of grave concern.  A recent report by the Irish Examiner from figures derived from the Primary Care Re-Imbursement Service, (PCRS) show an increase in one brand of benzodiazepines from 283,000 to 383,000 prescriptions over the space of three years. Latest statistics from the Health Research Board shows an increase in numbers seeking treatment and dying from the use of benzodiazepines and these drugs are implicated in one third of all deaths by poisoning. Twice as many women as men die as  a result of their use. In the UK the prescribing of Benzodiazepines have been substantially reduced,  with  some brands removed completely from pharmacists.

Women are more likely than men to misuse prescription drugs. The Ballymun  Action Project carried out in 2004 found that women were twice as likely to have benzodiazepines prescribed to them for non-clinical symptoms such as stress, grief, acute or chronic illness, physical pain or an adjustment to a life change.  The NACD also found that the association between higher usage of tranquillisers and antidepressants to women in lower socio economic groups, those who have long-term dependence on state aid and those who have lower levels of educational attainment was a cause for further worry and need to be addressed by the authorities.  Mixed with other substances including alcohol they cause more deaths than any other drug.  Minor tranquillisers are involved in more than 40% of unintentional overdose according to the national Suicide Research Foundation. (2008).  Opiates  are the drug most likely responsible for death by poisoning.

The overuse of antibiotics is also a major problem in their effectiveness to combat disease. In Europe alone it costs €9 billion a year for prolonged stays in hospital and even death as a result. In 2008 the HSE ran a health promotion campaign in conjunction with the European Antibiotic Awareness Day to emphasize the importance of only taking antibiotics when really needed. A similar campaign should be run now to address the problem of tranquillisers and sedatives given the high rate of prescribed tranquilisers and sedatives that are given to women in Ireland. They should be informed about the potential negative effects of what they are being prescribed and other less harmful methods of dealing with their problems sought. People should fight against the constant prescribing of drugs and seek to be treated for core issues rather than being medicated for symptoms only.

The  overuse  of drugs has many documented problems and people can experience headaches, nausea, diarrhoea, sleeplessness, nervousness, etc. Sometimes, these side-effects can leave the person worse than they were from the condition they were being treated for.   Drug interactions can be caused by a seemingly innocuous combination of substances and result in heart attacks, strokes or even death.  A growing body of data from researchers suggests that antidepressants are not as effective as many people believe, with their prescribing being second only to cholesterol lowering medication in the USA.

Headaches may be triggered by a physical problem but they can also be triggered by different emotions (anger, guilt, grief, etc) or by relationship difficulties (including, bullying, mistreatment, loneliness, relationship breakdown etc). Yet some doctors adopt a one-size-fits-all approach for all these core problems  and simply prescribe a pill. These quick fixes only benefit Drug Companies and do not help to heal any underlying difficulties the person has.

Counselling and psychotherapy may be more beneficial to most patients,  but sadly prescribing is far more financially rewarding for the cosy cartel of the medical world and drug companies. The respect that doctors command and the obedience to the authority syndrome, where people obey because they bow to an authority figure, allows the medical profession to continue to prescribe medication that not alone may not heal, but may even kill you. When you examine how medical research is carried out with the use of placebo (where people are given medication that has no active drug ingredient), where people believe the drug cured them, highlights the importance of perception and the role the brain plays in physical health.  Doctors and the Drug companies are both well aware of the subconscious and natural abilities of a human being to heal themselves.  Yet they continue to follow the medical model to the detriment of so many.


Another disturbing fact is the purchase of drugs on the internet. In 2010 Pfizer conducted a survey and found that 20% of people buy from illegal sources, including online.  The Irish Pharmacy Union has stated that counterfeit medicine readily available may be mislabelled, contaminated and contain wrong ingredients.  Some blood pressure tablets sold on the internet were found to contain rat poison.  Paracetamol was found to have substances like chalk and talcum powder. The latest figures from the Irish Medical Board suggest large quantities of benzodiazepines are being brought into Ireland illegally with seizures of the drug reaching a quarter of a million.  The increase in internet and on line pharmacies and the relative ease in which people can purchase these and other drugs has also increased their use.    They may be cheaper but at what price?  Drug companies need to address their profit margins urgently and not continue to bleed consumers of their products dry. They need to charge an honest price, albeit one that includes a return for both their research and development of drugs that can improve conditions that are being suffered by so many.

Prescription drugs all have the potential for addiction and can alter a person’s judgement and decision making and lead to dangerous behaviours. Parents are the most effective force in preventing and reducing adolescent risky behaviour and help our young to lead health and drug free lives.  Research shows that young people who learn about drugs and their dangers at home are up to 50%  less likely to use drugs than their counterparts who don’t learn from their parents.  When you think of the cost of the misuse and abuse of illegal and prescribed drugs as well as over the counter medication which adds up to a staggering 154.4 billion dollars in the USA annually, is it not time to call halt  to the widespread manufacture of such lethal and acceptable  practices for the good of humankind?

It certainly is a bitter pill!

Peg Hanafin, MSc.     7/01/2014


The green shoots? For who?

Every day we hear the economists and the politicians telling us that we are seeing the “green shoots” of growth starting in our bare country. We associate green shoots with Spring and a new year when the buds come on the shrubs and trees. Green shoots mean that we have come alive and have left the long winter days behind.   So naturally when we hear these phrases used we hope we have left all the problems we have encountered since the Celtic Tiger absconded behind and that a new era has begun. Is this the truth or is it more of the same spin?. Are the green shoots for some and not for others?  Green shoots don’t select just some plants. In nature, all plants experience the green shoots as soon as the time arrives for rebirth.


A report published by the Central Statistics Office called Eu-silc (Survey on Income and Living Conditions) paints a different story especially for those who are poor, disabled or sick. In 2012, Eu-silc compared a broad range of issues in relation to income, living conditions and across a number of poverty indicators such as the “at risk of poverty rate, “consistent  poverty rate, and rates of enforced deprivation in Ireland.


It found that disposable income has decreased every year since 2004 when they started collecting that data. The findings also showed that the percentage of people who were at risk of poverty rate was also higher (16.5% compared to 16% in 2011).  In households where there was no one at work that increased to 36.6% and for single  unemployed  persons  that poverty rate stood at 34.7%.  That is, almost one in every three households in those circumstances  were at risk of poverty. These are not green shoots!.


Long-term unemployment is at a historic high and the proportion of our young people not at work is the 6th highest in the OECD with 16.7% out of work compared to the OECD average of 12.6% . These are not green shoots!


Our young people, especially those with third level education are emigrating in large numbers. They were educated by the Irish taxpayer and their loss to Ireland prevents strong growth and creates significant demographic problems for the future. According to the OECD  Ireland’s economic output, employment and average incomes all remain far below the 2008 meltdown, these are the facts.  There is a pretence that we are in recovery mode and that employment is growing but we still have 292,000 people  unemployed  and a growing number who are working fewer hours than they would like. These are not green shoots.


Society at a glance shows that incomes in  the average household in Ireland have fallen by 50% since 2008.  Almost one in ten people (9%) surveyed said they did not have enough of money to buy food, up from 4.2% in 2006. Lower income families are now more vulnerable to this food poverty and the gap between the rich  and  poor is set to continue.  Figures about unemployment, falling incomes and the increase in deaths by suicide all highlight the poverty being endured by families.



When you consider that 1 in 6 adults now live in homes where nobody is in employment,  compared  with the rate before the financial crash, which was 1 in 10 adults, the scale of poverty is unacceptable. The poor and those in low paid jobs have suffered the most as their income was not sufficient in the first instance to live meagre lives. When people become long-term unemployed  they  become permanently disconnected from the labour market and face poor earning or employment prospects throughout their careers. When employment does not give the financial rewards expected it becomes increasingly difficult for jobless people to work their way out of poverty. When a person gets employment in a low paid job, they often see only limited gains. That does not  motivate people.

The negative effects of poverty on people’s lives deprives them of opportunities in life and the  children of poor adults often go on to be poor themselves.  Debt and exclusion from the mainstream financial services also impact on those on low incomes and they are pushed into borrowing from high interest lenders like moneylenders.  Social exclusion or the feeling of not being equal within the community where they live and feeling unequal because of their financial circumstances all take their toll on the poor.

The high numbers of people who live in poverty is no asset to any country and should be tackled at every level and equality made a priority to improve the lives of all citizens before damage that is irreparable continues and destroys communities and puts lives at risk.  The green shoots need to filter down to those most in need if we can make statements that our economy is in recovery for everyone.

Peg Hanafin, MSc.  10/5/2014




Peg Hanafin MSc,  10/5/2014




Thoughts on Christmas

When we think of Christmas we hope that  everyone will experience happiness and inclusion and that the celebration of the birth of the Saviour will bring blessings to them.   In the lead up to Christmas, there is a scramble for presents, food,  beverages, millions of colourful lights, Christmas trees decorated in multi colours, homecomings, joys and happiness that Christmas brings. Christmas should be a time of rejoicing, celebrating,  being  generous, thoughtful and inclusive of family, neighbours and friends.  But, in the midst of all this excitement  we must not lose sight of those for whom Christmas is a huge challenge.

The reality for some people is that they simply have to survive. The lead up to Christmas can be surrounded by nightmares  of  “how  can  I get over this day without losing control or getting into debt”.  The  “highlights”  for this section of our community make for sad and upsetting thoughts.  We think about the people who are alone, those who may be housebound for diverse reasons, those who are lonely and those who are scared of  Christmas and its family orientation.   These include people who are financially poor, who have not the wherewithal to join in the festivities,  the poor in spirit who question the Christian values. It also includes people who are homeless searching for heat and food, those who crave for their homeland,  those who are  imprisoned who must surely reflect on their misdeeds and are trapped away from loved ones, the bereaved, the broken hearted who may be alone from family or  who are separated from children, the  sick in hospital or nursing homes  and feel isolated and for some,  forgotten, those who keep the wheels of the economy moving, those who  look after the sick, the emigrants who must spend Christmas away from home family and friends,  and for those who feel they have no one who really cares.  Christmas for all of these groups is a time for highlighting their plight which is painful and lonely.

Christmas should be about how we can make this time more meaningful for people whose paths we cross. Many today believe that life is meaningless, especially  those who lack faith, hope and charity.  We are simply cosmic dust, we live,  we die.  Believing in the real meaning of Christmas, or the birth of Christ,  gives us the criteria for discerning what makes human life precious and unique.  When we recognise and welcome God into our lives  we become stronger and will want to share and care with our fellow travellers.

There has been a drifting away from the values that were held dear throughout the ages, we have been consumed by commercialism, secularism,   and most of all, relativism which means there is no right or wrong.  In the recent past we see where these values have destroyed the integrity of so many organisations and leave many questions to be answered by those whose greed is flabbergasting.  We are bombarded every day with requests to give to  those who suffer inequality by the state,  a handout from charitable bodies,  only to discover that those in charge  fed their own wants first.  They should have been able to meet their needs from the large salaries paid in the first instance.  These were people plucked from privilege and society and it was hoped that integrity and conscience would form their basis to distribute the charity given by others for those in need. What a  let- down  for so many dependent on their honesty.  What a shameful way to conduct their responsibility.

This Christmas, after all the scandals of the past few years,  should encourage every individual, no matter what their circumstance to go back to basics and give and share their time,  their talents and their possessions with those who need them.  People who are in need and who have little of life’s comforts can always give a smile, a warm welcome, an offer of help, a kind word  while those with assets can share, even in a small way,  to people who are  finding life difficult.  These are ways in which we can all contribute to restoring faith in human nature at little cost and which bring back the true meaning of what we are celebrating to our friends, neighbours and our communities.

Just reach out today and bring the birthday gifts that the first Christmas espoused to every person and make it a meaningful and happy day for many, many people. Bring back the true meaning of Christmas this year.