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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dealing With The Reality Of PTSD With Virtual Reality

English: signs and symptoms ptsd
English: signs and symptoms ptsd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a process, not an event. We have discussed PTSD many times over the past few years. Now as our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to wind down many people seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction often present with co-occurring PTSD. That being the case experts continue to research new and innovative ways to work with both returning veterans and our local first responders (police, firemen, EMTs, etc).

This week NBC4 (Los Angeles) reported on a new therapy for PTSD sufferers. This new therapy uses virtual reality. It is a type of immersion therapy and it is currently being tested at 20 military PTSD clinics throughout the country.  According to the NBC4 report:

"The program was dreamed up by the US military and Hollywood special-effects artists, under the guidance of two pioneering psychologists, Skip Rizzo and Galen Buckwalter.
Rizzo is associate director of USC's Institute for Creative Technologies. Buckwalter is resident researcher at the Headington Institute in Pasadena, a one-of-a-kind psychiatric counseling center for first-responders who perform high-stress rescue work in natural and man-made disasters around the world."

Here you can learn more and see visually how this virtual reality therapy is presented to those currently suffering from PTSD, as well as how the therapy can be used to teach and train new military personnel and first responders to prepare for the reality of combat and everyday events encountered by our first responders.

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

It is important to remember that PTSD can happen to anyone. Life events like serious auto accidents, house fires, earthquakes, severe weather events, child abuse, spousal abuse, etc can impact one's life so dramatically that PTSD becomes one's day to day reality.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Honor Veterans By Learning

Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Mem...
Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the past we have written about Veterans. Learning about Veterans and their mental health needs is an ongoing process. Recently Hope by the Sea participated in the Freedom and Recovery Conference which focused on "integrated mental health and addiction treatment for service members."  Learning about Veterans' mental health and physical needs is one way to honor our Veterans, applying what we learn is the next step.

First, let's talk about some facts, as reported on May 27, 2012, by the Associated Press:
  • To date, 1,615,136 troops have left active duty and are now Veterans since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began.
  • Many of these survivors have serious injuries.
  • Thousands continue to suffer from what is called traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • More than half of new veterans who seek care are diagnosed with a mental disorder, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

One of the most startling statistics is that 18 Veterans commit suicide every day. That is one every 80 minutes.  We would like to share a video with you that discusses in depth issues faced by Veterans who return with injuries, both visible and invisible. Here is Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, being interviewed by "Viewpoint" host Eliot Spitzer.

This Memorial Day honor our Veterans by learning more about what they have sacrificed for our country. Take time to reach out and not just say thanks, but pay attention to their silent cries for help.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Addiction Treatment Versus More Prison Time

A little over two years ago we wrote about Cameron Douglas. At the time, Cameron had pleaded guilty to a serious drug crime. This guilty plea was the culmination of the results of his addiction which he admits to struggling with since the age of 13. As Cameron grew up and passed from adolescence to adulthood all the parental support and family resources could not convince Cameron to accept treatment. And so the years went by and eventually Cameron resorted to dealing methamphetamine and cocaine to support his own addiction to heroin. Cameron's story is not unique except for the fact that his story's visibility perhaps can help our justice system to understand that addiction treatment might better serve the individual and society at large.

So in 2010 Cameron was sentenced to serve five years in federal prison. This past December (2011) Cameron was given an additional four and one-half years, because he had been caught in prison with heroin and Suboxone. When the additional sentence was imposed experts felt it was unusually harsh, as most prisoners caught with drugs simply lose some of their prison privileges.

Here's a Reuters News covering the 2011 sentencing hearing:

This past week a group of well-known addiction doctors filed a legal campaign (brief) to argue that it is better to treat drug addiction, as opposed to sentence one to more prison time. This news prompted headlines in the New York Times and other prominent media outlets. This is a good thing, not because Cameron's story of addiction is unusual; but he comes from a well-known family which aids in making his story and others visible.

The New York Times article quoted one of the doctors who signed the brief - Dr. Robert Newman, the director of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center:

"My outrage is as a physician for someone who has a medical condition which has been ignored...what the judge has imposed has zero benefits for the community and has staggering consequences for society."

Maybe this legal campaign can be a beginning. Maybe using the face of Cameron Douglas to start this battle will aid in getting the attention of the public and our legislators. Cameron Douglas is like your son, your nephew, your cousin, your brother, your neighbor, your co-worker or your spouse. Right now his is the face of addiction. Let's be hopeful that the efforts of these addiction experts can start the important conversation about getting treatment and offering treatment (even behind prison bars).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cardinal Health Settles With DEA

The seal of the United States Drug Enforcement...
The seal of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last week the DEA finally reached a settlement with Cardinal Health. Cardinal Health is the second-largest drug distributor in the United States. According to the settlement Cardinal Health has been suspended from selling and shipping painkillers and other drugs for two years. This part of the settlement specifically applies to distribution from their Lakeland, FL facility.

According to the USA Today article:
"This is the second time the DEA has taken action against Cardinal. In 2008, Cardinal paid a $34 million fine after the DEA accused it of shipping excessive amounts of hydrocodone, another powerful painkiller, to Internet pharmacies. As part of that settlement, the DEA suspended licenses at three distribution facilities for a year."

The DEA is still considering civil penalties and fines. For the next five years, Cardinal Health has also agreed to:
  • Review orders for the controlled drugs at each of Cardinal's 28 distribution facilities
  • Routinely visit pharmacies that they distribute to observe any signs of diversion
  • Hire more field inspectors to specifically follow Florida pharmacies
We will continue to follow this story.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

Over the past three years we have talked about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, particularly as it relates to teens and young adults. As summer approaches and school vacation begins we thought it would be helpful to once again remind parents that the first place young people find prescription drugs is usually in the family medicine cabinet and when that supply runs out, then young people will turn to their friends and the street to feed their addiction.

This past month a new independent film premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The name of the film is Behind the Orange Curtain. Every showing was sold out, which tells us that people are eager to understand this epidemic and to know that it is an epidemic that can be found in every county across the United States. This film should be a wake-up call to all parents, but then again they probably don't need to go to the movies to witness the teen prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Here is a short news story from KABC-TV, Los Angeles. Start summer vacation by being informed. Take three minutes out of your day to watch this video...it could save the life of your child.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Ted Williams Celebrates First Sober Birthday

It has been a while since we last wrote about Ted Williams. In fact, the last time we posted about Ted was on February 14, 2011. From the time Ted was discovered, by a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, living on streets of Columbus, Ohio, his story gained headlines and his recovery became a national news story. We saw him interviewed on NBC, CBS, and featured on the Dr. Phil show. We read about him going to rehab and leaving rehab...and then we didn't hear about him for over a year.

But on May 4, 2012, Ted celebrated his first sober birthday and today Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show interviewed Ted and got to learn what this first year of sobriety has been like for Ted. You can watch the interview here:

Ted's is a remarkable story, but at the same time it is a story that plays out every day in every city and town across America. People suffering from the disease of addiction do find sobriety...one day at a time by focusing on staying sober one day at a time.

You might be interested to know that Ted has co-written a book, simply called A Golden Voice. Ted is telling his story, undoubtedly it will give others hope as they start their recovery.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Meet Noah Welch

Craniofacial features associated with fetal al...Craniofacial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Over the past years we have often written here about fetal alcohol syndrome. It is a serious problem and one that most people don't understand, have never witnessed or frankly think it will never happen to their baby. A few months ago I said to a friend of mine: "If only teen-agers (boys and girls), college students (men and women) and future parents of all ages could learn up close and personal what a child is subjected to when they are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)." If only...

Meet Noah Welch! Noah is 11 and according to his adoptive parents, he is starting his own business. He is now a public speaker and motivates his audiences to learn about fetal alcohol syndrome. As Noah's mom says: “All you really need to know is it’s the number one preventable cause of mental retardation in our country."

The News-Herald in Lake Havasu City, AZ reports that:
"Welch didn’t learn to smile until he was nine months old, and he didn’t learn to feed himself until he was five years old, his adoptive mother, Maureen Welch said.

He’s fed twice a day through a feeding tube; his head, eyes, mouth and jaw are smaller than average; another birth defect makes it hard for him to breathe; his chest is caved in; his brain development isn’t complete; and his coordination isn’t average."
Think about Noah the next time you offer someone a drink?  If you are thinking of becoming pregnant, think about Noah.  He is not just a funny looking kid.  What you see could have been prevented with responsible behavior. 
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Monday, May 7, 2012

Marijuana Cultivators Buying Foreclosed Homes to Grow

It is no secret that many Americans are struggling with the current state of the economy; people continue losing their jobs and in many cases even their homes. Homes that are foreclosed on are often times sold relatively inexpensively. Medical marijuana is being used to pay for these homes in order for cultivators to have another grow house, according to a new report by the New York Times.

Many of these homes are in high-end neighborhoods where most people would not be suspect says the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DEA spokesman Rusty Payne stated to the newspaper that, “They’re buying them in places like Northern California, where the real estate market’s really taken a turn for the worse.” Over 70 percent of all marijuana plants confiscated nationwide in 2010 were located in California.

“Ten years ago if there was a grow house, we’d seize all their equipment and lamps, and they would be prosecuted,” Sergeant Jeff Bassett of the Vallejo, California, Police Department, told the newspaper. “Now the chances of being caught, or of being prosecuted if you are, are substantially less than they were 10 years ago.”

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teenage Marijuana Use on the Rise

Marijuana consumption is becoming more and more popular amongst teenagers, with nearly one in 10 teenagers smoking marijuana at least 20 or more times a month, according to a new survey. The survey was released Wednesday by The Partnership at Drugfree.org, the findings showed that in the past-month marijuana use rose from 19 percent in 2008, to 27 percent last year, the Associated Press reports.

The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study found past-year use of marijuana rose from 31 percent in 2008, to 39 percent (six million teens) in 2011. The survey found lifetime use increased from 39 percent in 2008, to 47 percent (eight million teens) in 2011.

“Parents are talking about cocaine and heroin, things that scare them,” Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, told the AP. “Parents are not talking about prescription drugs and marijuana. They can’t wink and nod. They need to be stressing the message that this behavior is unhealthy.”

Medical marijuana may play a part in the rise, with a number of teenagers’ parents applying for their medical card. Teenagers will naturally assume that marijuana use must be safe if their parents are using the drug.

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