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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

National Birth Defects Prevention Month

drugs
Every day babies are born with birth defects that could have been avoided. Everything that an expectant mother does during the course of a pregnancy can have serious impacts on the health and wellbeing of a child’s life. While it may seem like common sense to avoid drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, thousands of women make the choice to put the future of their baby at risk. It is for that reason that efforts to prevent birth defects continue in this country and abroad.

January is the National Birth Defects Prevention Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asks that everyone do their part to raise awareness about birth defects. Both their causes, and their potential impact. On top of educating women and their families about how to ensure that they have healthy babies, the CDC would also like to recognize the millions of people living with birth defects. The organization points out that people living with birth defects, despite medical advances leading to longer life spans, still need various support items to improve quality of life, including:
  • Specialized Treatment
  • Continued Care
  • Strong Social Support
For decades, health experts have warned expecting mothers about the potential risks that alcohol poses. Fetuses exposed alcohol are exponentially more likely to have birth defects, both mental and physical deficits, that will require continued care to improve quality of life. Such birth defects fall under the classification of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). These days, in the wake of the opioid addiction epidemic, more and more babies are being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The condition results from opioid-dependent fetuses being cut off from their supply at the time of birth, leading to acute withdrawal symptoms. The long-term effects of which, are not yet well understood.

So, what can you do to help raise awareness?
  1. Join the #Prevent2Protect Thunderclap to raise awareness of National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
  2. Share your story! Create an original picture or a video about your story and post on social media tagged with #1in33.
  3. Create an original picture or a video and post on social media tagged with #Prevent2Protect
It is important to remember that it isn't just alcohol and opioids that can affect your baby. Any mind-altering substance can significantly affect the development of a child. At Hope by The Sea, we hope that you will take part in this important campaign.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Doctor In Recovery Gives Back

opioid
Doctors are no strangers to the slings and arrows directed at them by critics of their prescribing practices. They are quite often held responsible for the state of prescription opioid and subsequent heroin abuse across the country. While such accusations are not entirely without merit, it can become easy to forget that many doctors have them self been affected by opioid addiction. More physicians than you might think have made the choice to sample the painkillers they prescribe to patients. And like many patients, such a choice has led doctors to dependence and addiction.

Health care providers who find themselves in the grip of addiction are at risk of losing everything. Not the least of which is their license to practice medicine. Doctors who abuse their powers to prescribe can also face criminal charges for such wrongdoings, potentially facing jail time. It may be fair to say that the stakes regarding one’s career are especially high for doctors with substance use disorders.

It is worth taking a moment to point out that some of those same doctors who nearly lost everything to addiction, manage to find recovery. And they set themselves to the task of helping others who fell victim to the drugs doctors prescribe. A perfect example is former anesthesiologist, Dr. James Follette.

Dr. Follette became addicted to fentanyl in 1987, which almost ended his career in medicine, Syracuse reports. Now, with ten-years sober, Follette has been treating opioid addicts since 2009. He understands firsthand how difficult it is to achieve long-term sobriety or clean time, having gone to multiple treatment centers, experiencing multiple relapses. Because of which, Dr. Follette can no longer work as anesthesiologist.

The former anesthesiologist pulled himself together with the help of the 12-steps and volunteer work. He went on to earn a certification from the American Board of Addiction Medicine to practice addiction counseling, according to the article. Follette says that he is grateful that he was caught and that he loves what he does today.

"Whatever happened to get me to where I am today, it was worth it," he said. "I look at it as God doing for me what I couldn't do for myself." 

Naturally, Follette is one of many physicians, especially anesthesiologist, who have been impacted by addiction. Dr. Brad Hall, president of the national Federation of State Physician Health Programs, points out that about 10 to 12 percent of physicians become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Regarding anesthesiologists, Hall says:

“You can look at the access to very potent drugs in the anesthesia field and a misperception that the knowledge about these drugs is protective and anesthesiologists get very comfortable with using extremely powerful, potentially addictive substances and underestimate the addictive potential of these drugs."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Alcohol Abuse, Does Not Mean Dependence

alcohol abuse
There has been a lot of talk over the years about moderate alcohol consumption resulting in a healthier heart. Reports of which have led to many Americans believing that their couple of glasses of wine with dinner is actually doing them a service. As you can probably imagine, it is a line of thinking that could have dangerous consequences. A threat that could be linked to the blurred lines between moderate and heavy alcohol consumption.

The idea that a little wine may help the heart may not be the best thing to focus on, and perhaps we should center our attention on what can happen to people who have a little too much wine. It's widely accepted among researchers and health experts that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a host of medical problems, from cirrhosis of the liver to cancer. However, while several researchers have looked at the benefits of alcohol with regarding the heart, few have looked at alcohol's harmful effect on this very important organ.

With that in mind it is important that we discuss a new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, indicating heavy alcohol consumption leading to atrial fibrillation, heart attack or congestive heart failure, CNN reports. When you consider that as many as 10 to 15 million Americans abuse alcohol, taking a closer look at how alcohol affects the heart and how Americans perceive the substance is of the utmost importance.

"When we look at alcohol, we have almost glamorized it as being this substance that can help us live a really heart-healthy life," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in the research. "I think, ultimately, drinking in excess leads to heart conditions, and we should really understand the potential toxicity of alcohol and not glamorize it as something we should include as part of our lives -- certainly not in excess." 

The current study relied on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's California State Ambulatory Surgery Databases, Emergency Department Databases and State Inpatient Databases. Specifically, California residents 21 or older, hospitalized between 2005 and 2009, according to the article. Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, director of clinical research in the Division of Cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues, found that alcohol abuse could be linked with a:
  • 2.3-fold higher risk of congestive heart failure.
  • Two-fold higher risk of atrial fibrillation.
  • 1.4-fold higher risk of heart attack.
"It didn't matter if you had a conventional risk factor for these diseases or not. In every case, alcohol abuse increased the risk," said Marcus. If asked, many Americans might equate alcohol abuse with alcohol addiction (alcohol use disorder).

While people with an alcohol use disorder do in fact abuse alcohol, people who abuse alcohol are not necessarily alcoholics. Most people who drink alcohol in unhealthy ways, such as binge drinking or drinking multiple days in a given week, are not always dependent upon the substance. Those who fall into that subgroup may fool themselves into thinking that because they are not reliant (dependent) on the substance, they are not experiencing any of the negative consequences alcoholics are subject to. Which simply is not the case.

"Abuse doesn't necessarily lead to a pattern where you use it every day and you're developing a tolerance or developing withdrawal symptoms," said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York. While Krakower was not involved in the study, he points out that alcohol abuse is when "you're using it excessively at times and it's getting in the way of functioning." 

If your use of alcohol is affecting your health, work and/or relationships, then you may have a problem that is beyond your control. Please contact Hope by The Sea to help you better evaluate the situation, and assist you in determining if you or a loved one needs treatment.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative

addiction treatment
Illegal drug users have a long history of fearing law enforcement officials, and for good reason. People caught in possession of illegal drugs, more times than not, could expect to be facing significant jail time. On the other hand, police have historically viewed addiction as a crime, rather than what it truly is—a debilitating mental health disorder which requires treatment as opposed to punishment.

Today, addiction is increasingly being viewed as a treatable disorder rather than a crime. Owing largely to the opioid epidemic, which claims thousands of lives every year across the country. The days of thinking addiction can be arrested, swept under the rug and forgot about, are seemingly coming to an end. So, what does that look like when it comes to addict/police relations?

Well, the answer to the above question varies depending on the state, county, city or town you live. But there may come a time soon when your community's police department's response to addiction looks like the response of law enforcement in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Just over a year ago, the Chief of Police Gloucester initiated the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.), appropriately referred to as the “Angel Program.” The success of the program, which encouraged addicts to surrender their drugs to the police and be directed to treatment (not jail), resulted in the creation of similar programs across the country.

Not too far up the 405 freeway, the City of Anaheim has become the latest addition to the list of municipalities offering an Angel Program, The Orange County Register reports. On top of helping people with substance use disorders get into treatment, city leaders would like to see reduced crime and homeless rate.

“Drug Free Anaheim provides a path to sobriety and alternative to criminal prosecution,” said Anaheim Police Chief, Raul Quezada. 

Over 150 police departments in 28 states have followed the Angel Program model, with more expected to follow. Since the beginning of the program in Gloucester, over 500 people have found assistance, and crimes related to drug use is down 27 percent, the article reports.

“I’m confident this innovative program will fill the much-needed gap in our ongoing efforts to identify ways to reduce and prevent crime,” Quezada said. “Drug addiction plays far too large a role in criminal activity, and we must collectively do everything that we can to reduce the number of people in our families, neighborhoods and community suffering from this physical and emotional dependency.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Medical Marijuana and Traffic Fatalities

medical marijuana
When states across the country began to adopt medical marijuana programs, and subsequent legalization of recreational “pot” use, there were a number of fears—naturally. Opponents of lightening the legislative stance on marijuana have voiced concerns about more young people thinking the drug was safe to use. Considering significant research says otherwise—especially when it comes to young people with developing brains. Other concerns that were brought up had to do with an increase in motorists driving intoxicated. Both of which are not without merit.

Now, over 20 years since California passed medical marijuana legislation and four years since the first states legalized recreational use, research can finally show if such fears were warranted. In fact, research has shown that teen marijuana use has remained practically unchanged as a result of medical marijuana and legalization. With regard to driving, a new study has found that traffic fatalities have actually declined in states with medical marijuana programs, according to a news release from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Through the use of data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 1985-2014, states with medical marijuana programs saw 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities on average, after enacting the laws, according to the report. The researchers found an 11 percent reduction of among 15 to 24-year olds, a 12 percent decrease among the 25 to 44 age group, and 9 percent drop for people 45+.

“This finding suggests that the mechanisms by which medical marijuana laws reduce traffic fatalities mostly operate in those younger adults, a group also frequently involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities,” said Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. She adds that: “The evidence linking medical marijuana laws and traffic fatalities lays the groundwork for future studies on specific mechanisms.” 

It is important to understand that while the findings are a good sign, it doesn’t mean that marijuana is safe. The drug can have a negative impact on your life, and can be addictive. If you have been struggling with marijuana, please contact Hope by The Sea today.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Your Recovery In 2017

recovery
The holiday season is coming to an end with tomorrow being New Year's Eve; and for those of you working a program of recovery a sigh of relief is in order. While Thanksgiving and Christmas are often dreaded due to the feelings the two holidays can incite, the New Year can bring with it a feeling of accomplishment and promise for the days ahead. And, if you haven’t already, today and tomorrow are a good time to take some time to reflect on the past year, especially regarding your strengths and weaknesses of your program.

Programs of recovery should always be measured one day at a time, but it can’t hurt to take stock of the progress you have made, the things you are grateful for and what you would like to accomplish in the coming year. If you have been in the program a while, you know that with every day the sky's the limit. You can witness this just by attending meetings. An example being when you first see the light return to the eyes of a newcomer, who but only a short time ago was on the edge of despair.

Maybe 2017 will be the year that you direct more energy into helping newcomers discover the miracles of recovery, by way of sponsorship or just being a friend. Perhaps your inventory will indicate to you the need to volunteer your services to the program more, maybe pick up a service position in your home group. There are several ways to strengthen your program by way of volunteering, the value of which should not be undervalued.

The end of December is usually when people begin working on their list of resolutions. Like improvements you would want to make in your life in the coming year. Scores of people in the program, while sober, still hold on to certain vices such a tobacco and caffeine. While the latter may be relatively harmless, tobacco is not good for anyone—being linked to many life-threatening health disorders. What’s more, research shows that those who use nicotine products are at greater risk of relapse than their peers who do not smoke.

If you have yet to give up tobacco, maybe 2017 will be your year. Scores of people with a history of alcohol and substance abuse have used the program to be free from tobacco. In conjunction with smoking cessation aids, quitting cigarettes or chewing tobacco is possible and can greatly improve the quality of your life and the strength of your program.

Hope by The Sea would like to commend everyone who maintained a program of recovery in 2016. We hope that you will remember that even one day sober is worth being proud. We wish everyone a safe and sober 2017.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” — Einstein

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Psychiatric Medications, Pregnancy and Self-Harm

mental illness
People living with any form of mental illness (AMI) can benefit greatly from any one of the large number of available psychiatric medications. For some people, life would be nearly impossible without such prescription drugs. However, there are circumstances that can arise in life that might lead patients to stop taking their medication, sometimes with a provider's recommendation—sometimes not. One such situation is pregnancy.

Those treated effectively for mental illness can lead relatively normal lives, which can cause people to make normal life decisions. Such as getting married and starting a family. But, there are some who feel that the same drugs that help a mother may actually harm their fetus. This can prompt expectant mothers with mental illness to stop taking their medication, until the baby is born. As you might imagine, it is a decision that can lead to tragic outcomes.

A new study which focused on mortality rates involving new mothers in Colorado showed that self-harm was a leading cause of pregnancy-associated deaths between 2004 to 2014, according to a University of Colorado at Denver news release. The researchers defined self-harm as suicide and unintentional overdose. The findings were published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The majority of new mothers who took their own life had a history of substance abuse and psychiatric disorders, the news release reports. Depression was the most common mental illness associated with postpartum mortality. The researchers point out that nearly half of the new mothers in the self-harm cases were found to be taking prescription drugs for mental health care at conception, but 48 percent had chosen to discontinue use of their medication until their child was born. The psychiatric drugs included:
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Depression
  • Medications for Sleep
  • Mood Stabilizers for Bipolar Disorder
"This finding speaks to the importance of an informed discussion of the risks and benefits of continuing psychiatric medications during pregnancy," said lead author Torri Metz, MD, assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at the CU School of Medicine. "Ideally this would occur prior to conception. The benefit of continuing medications, especially SSRIs in women with depression, frequently strongly outweighs the risk."

If you are an expectant mother with a history of mental illness, it is crucial that you speak with your doctor at length before you decide to discontinue using your psychiatric medication. It is a decision that cannot be taken lightly.
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