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Friday, June 15, 2018

Benzodiazepine Use Rising In America

The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of contributing to addiction in America. In fact, the list of drugs doctors prescribed for home use over the decades that are now banned is extensive, Quaalude (methaqualone) is one example. Today, doctors no longer prescribe Quaaludes, but not because they were habit-forming, instead due to the high risk of overdose. The banning of methaqualone drugs was no big deal for the prescription drug industry’s bottom line, companies like Pfizer had other sedatives in their quiver. Not surprisingly, sedative tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium carry a commensurate risk of overdose to that of Quaaludes; and yet, millions of Americans take such drugs every day.

While the nation continues to reel over the unprecedented opioid overdose rates, a disturbing trend is taking place in the shadows. And, once again, doctors are at the center of a troubling story of overprescribing benzodiazepines. The American Journal of Public Health reports that the prescribing of benzos to adults rose by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased from 1135 in 1999 to 8791 in 2015, a nearly eight-fold increase.

Opioids are deadly narcotics to be sure; but, they don’t need a hand in precipitating an overdose; however, when benzodiazepines like Xanax are brought into the picture, the risk of an “opioid” overdose death exponentially increases. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that more than 30 percent of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzodiazepines. The overdose may be accidental, but the mixture of benzos and opiates is anything but!

Poly Drug Abuse

Benzodiazepines work well at easing people’s troubled minds. They are commonly prescribed to people who struggle with anxiety disorders, sleep issues, and at times for muscular problems. Many people take drugs like Xanax as prescribed and still become dependent and can form a substance use disorder. Those who try to stop taking them [Xanax] without medical supervision can experience deadly side effects.

"[Benzodiazepines] work really well until they turn on you and then it's just utter living hell," Dr. Christy Huff, a cardiologist who graduated in the top of her class from the University of Texas Southwestern medical school, tells VICE.

Among those who have an opioid use disorder, benzos are highly coveted; when the two types of drugs are taken together you get what is called drug synergism. Drug synergy is an interaction between two or more drugs that cause the total effect of the drugs to be greater than the sum of the individual effects of each drug, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Those who take the two drugs together experience heightened euphoric effects unlikely to be achieved by taking each medication individually. Similar, but likely deadlier than what is known as “speedballing,” taking stimulant and opioid at the same time. What makes the former combination of drugs so deadly is that when admixed, benzodiazepine and opiates cause severe sedation and respiratory depression. The perfect recipe for disaster!

Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder that involves, opioids, sedatives, or both, please contact Hope by the Sea. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

PTSD Treatment Works, Recovery is Possible

Have you ever experienced an event that was so traumatic it change your entire outlook on life? Do you ever find yourself over anxious or hyper-aroused in situations that you would have reacted differently to prior to the traumatic event? If so, there is a possibility that you meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder; fortunately, there are treatments available that can help you cope with your symptoms and learn how to lead a productive life in recovery.

PTSD can come about from any one of many traumatic events. While society most closely associates the condition with people who have seen combat, any distressing event can result in the disease developing. In fact, the disorder is quite common amongst those who have had near-death experiences or were the victims of sexual or physical assault. It is unclear why some individuals develop the condition; however, once the problem arises the signs are relatively consistent from one patient to the next. There are four symptoms of PTSD include: reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms), avoiding situations that remind you of the event, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal).

Those who experience the above symptoms find simple tasks daunting; the condition (untreated) makes it nearly impossible for individuals to hold down a job and maintain meaningful relationships. A person living with PTSD is at significant risk of developing other mental health conditions, including but not limited to, alcohol and substance use disorder.


PTSD Awareness Month



June is PTSD Awareness Month; the National Center for PTSD asks that everyone play a role in educating themselves, and others, about this severe form of mental illness. The goal throughout the month is to encourage as many people as possible to seek help if they exhibit signs of PTSD.

It can be easy to think that you are all alone with your mental illness; psychological disorders are isolating in nature, they can cut you off from the very people you rely on in life. Please understand that if you suffer from PTSD, you are not alone. In fact, PTSD can touch the lives of anyone; the condition is in no way a weakness. Around 6 of every ten men (or 60%) and 5 of every ten women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives.

The National Center for PTSD states that the kinds of trauma females are most likely to experience are sexual assault and child sexual abuse; whereas, accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or witnessing death or injury are more likely to affect males. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. About 10 of every 100 women and about 4 of every 100 men develop PTSD sometime in their lives.

When a person deals with the symptoms of PTSD and doesn’t seek treatment, they are prone to look for ways to cope. One of the most common ways individuals contend with the debilitating symptoms of any mental illness is to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol; the practice is both dangerous and often causes a person to develop a co-occurring alcohol or substance use disorder. Paradoxically, attempting to cope with drugs and alcohol almost always makes the symptoms worse.


Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with PTSD and a co-occurring alcohol or substance use disorder, please contact Hope by The Sea. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Curbing Smartphone Use for Recovery

How much time do you spend on your smartphone each day? Do you ever feel like your cell phone usage gets in the way of important tasks (i.e., work, social engagements, and addiction recovery)? Seeing as there is an excellent chance that you are reading this article on your smartphone, it stands to reason that you spend at least a fair amount of time gazing into the “black mirror.” While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Apple iPhones or Google Androids, people can become problematically reliant on devices if they spend too much time tapping and swiping.

It should go without saying that working a program of addiction recovery requires participation. Merely put, staying clean and sober demands your attention throughout the day. Just not drinking and drugging isn’t going to keep you on the straight and narrow; lasting recovery depends on actively engaging in the program to which you subscribe. When attending recovery meetings in the 21st Century, it has become commonplace to see several people staring at their phone. In some cases, there is a legitimate reason for pulling out a smartphone during a meeting, but, more times than not people are just trying to pass the time. A meeting is generally an hour in length; it is telling if one can’t manage without their phone for such an insignificant timespan.

If you find it challenging to avoid looking at your phone during a meeting, please ask yourself, ‘what am I losing by not being present?’ Sure, some support gatherings are less stimulating than others; however, any time a person shares it takes tremendous courage which should be met with some deference. What’s more, a group member may share something that could prove useful to your recovery; if you are immersed in a cellular reality, you just might miss something valuable in the real world.

Silencing Smartphones for Recovery

Cellphones are, in fact, useful tools that have the power to connect people; such devices offer several apps that can facilitate healthy behaviors; and, if problems arise that may jeopardize one’s program, picking up the phone may avert a relapse. There is plenty of time each day for scrolling through articles and seeing what your friends ate for lunch on Instagram. Taking a cellular hiatus for a couple waking hours can go a long way in helping you stay present. If you are new to the program, the more time you spend engaging with your peers in the physical realm, the better.

Smartphones have not been around all that long, but there are indications that devices are having some unintended effects. Many people spend over six hours a day checking their phone for the latest news alert, scanning friends’ timelines, and playing games. In many cases, people are unaware of just how much time they spend on their phone. As a result, there is a push of late to curb or curtail smartphone usage by encouraging individuals to take a step back. It is possible that if you knew how much time you were on your phone each day that you might make some changes.

Apple recently announced their efforts to help people unplug, even if it is for a little bit. For instance, instead of waking up to a salvo of alerts, your iPhone will flash a “Good morning” screen summarizing all the evening updates, The Los Angeles Times reports. The next update will include what is known as “Screen Time;” the tool allows users to view an activity report that includes:
  • How much time you’re spending on individual apps?
  • How often you pick up your phone?
  • Which apps send you the largest number of notifications?
"There's clearly users out there that are worried about the amount of time they're spending, or the amount of distraction or interruptions that they get," Apple CEO Tim Cook tells NPR. "So we thought really deeply about this and, sort of our latest is what you call a "Screen Time." He adds, "Right now we can all almost kid ourselves a bit about how much time we're spending, and whether we're distracted or not. There's nothing like getting a report of facts to see what is happening to you."

Equipped with the above information, this feature will allow iPhone users to set limits on their usage of specific apps, according to the article. Knowing how much time you are spending using an application will force you to consider if the behavior is healthy; you may decide that an hour in the news app is enough for one day, and then focus your energy on something else, like sharing in a meeting perhaps.


Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder, please contact Hope by the Sea. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fentanyl Test Strips in California

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that few Americans are unfamiliar with of late. The mixing of the strong analgesic with heroin is now commonplace, and in recent years the admixture is almost expected. Any prescription painkiller or illicit opioid can be deadly without the aid of fentanyl; but, when the drug is present in heroin the risk of overdose is exponentially higher.

Opioid use carries many inherent risks, not the least of which is a substance use disorder. There is also a relatively high likelihood of exposure to infectious diseases (i.e., hepatitis C and HIV) for those who use opiates intravenously; such people are subject to skin infections as well, which can abscess and—left untreated—cause a host of health problems. Overdose, however, is perhaps the most significant cause for concern among individuals living with opioid use disorder.

Around a hundred people die each day from an opioid overdose in the United States; with each year that passes, fentanyl-related overdose deaths become more and more frequent. While most people living with an opioid use disorder are somewhat familiar with the line between getting “high” and an overdose, when fentanyl is a part of the equation there is no way to gauge how much is too much. And, to make matters worse, people using opioids have no way of knowing that their drugs also contain a synthetic opiate. As a result of user ignorance, it stands to reason that lives could be saved if individuals have a method for screening their heroin for fentanyl; and, as a matter of fact, in some states, opioid addicts can access such a tool.

Screening for Fentanyl

Ideally, the more than two million Americans struggling with opioid use disorder would seek assistance in the form of addiction treatment; recovery is the best protection against overdose. Those who seek treatment tend to do so when they can access addiction treatment services, and when they are ready. Since everyone has a different "bottom," some people will continue down the path they are on for as long as possible before surrendering and asking for help. It is vital that those who are not ready for a new way of life have access to any tools that can prove life-saving, such as the overdose reversal drug naloxone and clean syringes to prevent disease transmission.

The fact that naloxone isn't always effective on fentanyl, opioid addicts should have a method for detecting fentanyl in their heroin. The state of California public health department understands the need for providing addicts with life-saving tools and has begun paying for needle exchanges to distribute fentanyl test strips, The Los Angeles Times reports. No better time than the present it seems because the death toll from fentanyl in California tripled between 2016 and last year.

“The crisis that is fentanyl is rapidly evolving and increasingly deadly, and it hasn’t turned around,” said Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a UC San Francisco professor who studies heroin use. “I just see desperation.” 

Similar to home pregnancy tests, users mix a dollop of their drug with water and place a test strip into the mixture, according to the article. In five minutes, the test strip reveals either one or two lines, the former being a positive sign. Users who are aware of fentanyl in their heroin can then adjust their dosage to better avoid an overdose. The test is meant for urine analysis; so, there isn’t a guarantee that it will work every time on drug matter, and there is the possibility of false negatives.

Ken Osepyan, of the Pacific Pride Foundation—which manages needle exchanges in Santa Barbara County—says that 75% of heroin in the region contains fentanyl according to tests. Michael Marquesen, executive director of needle exchange Los Angeles Community Health Project, said that 40% of the heroin in Hollywood contains fentanyl.

Addiction Treatment

Fentanyl tests strips can save lives; research from Johns Hopkins University shows that 70 percent of users modify their behavior upon learning of the presence of the hazardous narcotic. Like naloxone, opioid users should have access to test strips; however, we must point out again that there are no guarantees, addiction treatment and recovery is the most effective way to avoid an overdose.

If you are struggling with opioid use disorder, please contact Hope By The Sea. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery.

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