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Monday, July 30, 2012

High Suicide and PTSD Risk Seems Related To Combat

Da Nang, Vietnam. A young Marine private waits...
Da Nang, Vietnam. A young Marine private waits on the beach during the Marine landing, August 3, 1965. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
New research conducted at the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah indicates that the more severe combat a warrior experiences, the more likely he or she will attempt suicide at a later time. These results may seem obvious. It has long been thought that a connection existed; however, up to this time it has not been proven with empirical data.

On July 31, 2012, David Rudd, who serves as the center's director and dean of social and behavioral sciences for the University of Utah, will share his research with the Congressional Veterans Caucus in Washington.

The United States has been involved in non-stop military combat since the fall of 2001. Never in our history have we sent service people into combat for this extended period of time. Since the end of the Vietnam War our military has been an all voluntary force. This means that if a conflict is long lasting the enlistees return to combat over and over again for deployments that can last in excess of a year. 

244 veterans were surveyed by Rudd, working through the Student Veterans of America.The Salt Lake Tribune reports: "For those in his study who saw heavy combat, the findings are stark: 93 percent qualified for a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and nearly 70 percent had attempted suicide."

 Dr. Rudd offers:
"It makes it hard to argue the case anymore that, ‘Hey, people who haven’t deployed are trying to kill themselves,"... "Yes, they are, but … it’s a separate issue. What this paper helps articulate is there are two different populations of people."

This study seems to indicate that serving multiple stints for long periods of time does not provide to make the service people more resilient or more comfortable. Seeking mental health treatment can be a long and arduous process. Many people do not want to admit they want or need help. Also, many families are fearful of admitting that their loved one chose suicide as a solution. Often obituaries are simply written to say a loved one died suddenly or unexpectedly. One reason for disguising the cause of death is that some life insurance policies will not pay a benefit if the cause of death is suicide. Also most religions consider suicide to be a sinful act, even affecting burial rights. This perceived shame limits accurate data from being collected and statistics may continue to be skewed. 

It is very hard to work towards solving a problem when the gathering of facts is hindered by our cultural beliefs. Hopefully, Dr. Rudd's study will be a strong step forward in the solution.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

College Community Drinking Intervention

Logo of the United States National Institute o...
Logo of the United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interventions can play a major role in the addiction and recovery field. Honestly, interventions are not always easy, they are not always successful; however, for many people suffering from the disease of addiction it is the best hope in getting them to understand and admit that they do have a problem and to accept help in finding recovery.

Usually when we discuss interventions we are discussing a personal or private intervention: one where the alcoholic and/or addict meets with his or her family members and a professional interventionist. However, on July 24, 2012, the result of a new study was released that discusses the efficacy of comprehensive environmental intervention.

The National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which is part of National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded the Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (SPARC) that found according to the NIH press release:

“This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that strategic changes to the environment on [a college]campus and in the surrounding community can have an impact on high-risk drinking and its consequences among college students,” said Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The study was led by Mark Wolfson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC. Here are a few details:

  • 10 universities in North Carolina participated in the three year study
  • Five campuses organized coalitions made up of campus administrators, faculty, staff, students and members of the community at large.
  • Five campuses did not organize similar coalitions; they served as the study's control group.
  • Using a community organization approach, each of the campuses that organized a coalition were asked to design and use specific strategies that addressed alcohol availability, harm reduction, social norms ( i.e., correcting mis-perceptions about the rate of high-risk drinking among peers) and alcohol price and marketing.
  • On SPARC campuses the percentage of students reporting sever consequences as a result of alcohol use decreased from 18% to 16%. The non-SPARC campuses reported no change.
  • SPARC campuses reported the injuring of another person as a result of alcohol consumption decreased from 4 percent to 2 percent. A smaller and insignificant change was noted in the non-SPARC campuses.

Alcohol abuse on college campuses is a public health crisis. We have written about college students and alcohol and drug abuse many times over the past few years. We are hopeful that this study will encourage college communities to organize and bring about an answer to this health crisis. Sometimes it really does take a village to raise our children. Certainly it is worth a try!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

PTSD Surviving A Horrible Event Like The Theater Massacre In Aurora Colorado

Seal of the City of Aurora, Colorado
Seal of the City of Aurora, Colorado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Horrific events happen daily in our country. For that matter horrific events happen daily worldwide. Keep in mind an horrific event does not need to be a major event like what we are watching unfold as a result of the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. On the contrary, it can be very personal events like a car accident, a work accident, exposure to ongoing war efforts, an unexpected illness or death of a loved one, physical abuse or sexual abuse, however, what we do understand is that the human mind can take these kinds of events and result in one suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Over the years experts have continued to study PTSD. They have come to understand that if the survivors of an horrific event do not understand PTSD and do not seek help they may develop depression and substance abuse disorders.  Many sufferers of PTSD are not aware of what is happening to them. They instinctively know something is not quite right, but they are not cognizant of the medical diagnosis and may not know how to reach out for help.  

It is important to remember that not all people who witness an horrific event will develop PTSD. As Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, told Fox News:
“The most common reaction to a traumatic experience is not PTSD [as people may think], but actually the increased use of alcohol or other drugs, and depression,” First said. “It’s understandable; people want to numb themselves and self-medicate.”

In addition, for anyone who was already suffering from a mental or physical condition, such as depression, the event could exacerbate it.

“Most mental disorders can be made worse with stress, and this is about as stressful as an experience as anyone could have,” First said. “There’s a strong link between the mind and the body, so I think people can expect a rough time after this and need to be on the lookout for any condition being worse.”

A smaller proportion of the witnesses may go onto develop PTSD, a debilitating anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience. A person’s likelihood of developing PTSD is mainly due to their own predisposition to the disorder, according to First. The risk may be greater if the person has a family or personal history of mood and anxiety disorders.

“A lot of it is just natural factors -- certain people are just more predisposed,” First said. “We can’t predict in advance who’s going to develop it, but we do know only a minority of people do, so that’s the good news.”

It’s important not to confuse normal reactions to a traumatic event with something more serious, like PTSD, First added.

“It’s very normal for people to have a bad reaction after trauma like this,” he said. “People shouldn’t get too upset if they are having bad dreams and can’t get [the event] out of their head or have trouble functioning in the days after. That’s not a warning sign for PTSD; that’s normal. In a severe trauma, it’s normal to have a severe reaction.”

However, if these trauma symptoms persist for months afterward, it is time to seek help.

WNEP (ABC Affiliate) from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA interviewed Doctor Joseph Boscarino, a psychologist at Geisinger Medical Center, regarding dealing with PTSD following a tragic event:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

In the meantime, we will keep all the victims of the Aurora, CO, massacre in our prayers and thoughts. We are hopeful that those needing help will have the strength to reach out to someone and begin the process of healing.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Recovery High Schools, Colleges and Sober Living College Programs

We can all agree that raising children, parenthood, is a full time "career." If you are lucky your child (ren) will move through life learning and enjoying life and celebrate high school graduation with plans for college or motivated to find a career with employment in a field that continues their maturation in becoming functioning adults. However, many parents often find themselves discovering that their child has started to use drugs or alcohol and then come to discover that their beautiful child has crossed over from drug use to full-blown addiction. So what does a parent do? If you are lucky you can find recovery treatment for your child with the help of counselors and hopefully entering treatment is accepted by your child before they become entangled in the legal system.

Recovery treatment for teens can work miracles. They learn about their disease, they make new friends, they spend anywhere from 30 to 180 days sorting through the process of recovery and look forward to "starting over" and returning to their family and taking each day one day at a time. But what becomes of the teenager who has just discharged and finds him or herself back in the high school environment where they don't fit in because now that they have experienced sobriety they are not sure how they will relate to old friends and temptations?  The fact is it is hard to do.

Our last post dealt with high school kids looking to fit in after going through treatment. Today we want to talk about alternatives that are available in the United States for sober high school students, college students and even those who may have dropped out of college and sought treatment and are now looking to reboot their college goals while living in a sober living home.

You might be surprised to learn that the first recovery high school was conceived in 1987 and opened its doors in 1989 as Sobriety High in Edina, Minnesota. Now 25 years later there are at least 35 recovery high schools in the United States and five more in development. Additionally, the non-profit Association of Recovery Schools was founded and its members include sober high schools, colleges and associates and whose mission is:

"The Association of Recovery Schools advocates for the promotion, strengthening, and expansion of secondary and post-secondary programs designed for students and families committed to achieving success in both education and recovery.
ARS exists to support such schools which, as components of the recovery continuum of care, enroll students committed to being abstinent from alcohol and other drugs and working a program of recovery."

According to NBC Nightly News, while recovery high schools first started in 1987 recovery dorms were first offered on a college campus in 1988 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.  Today, July 18, 2012, the 11th Annual Association of Recovery Schools Conference will get underway in Houston, TX.

The message today is that there are answers and solutions. We just need to ask the question "where can my teenager or young college age student continue their recovery after primary treatment?"

Learn more from Michelle Lipinski, founder of Northshore Recovery High School in Beverly, MA. As Michelle says of her students, our children, "They are all worthwhile..."

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
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Monday, July 16, 2012

High School Kids Looking To Fit In

It is probably safe to say that from the time we are very young toddlers "we want to fit in" and be part of a group. This feeling of "fitting in" starts with our parent(s), branches out to our siblings, extended family members, day care buddies, pre-school friends, grade school pals and before you know it you are making friends in high school, college and your first place of employment.

Wanting to "fit in" is very natural; taking it to an extreme can be dangerous and even deadly. Peer pressure is often blamed for why a young person tried alcohol or drugs for the first time. When teen-age drug or alcohol abuse reaches the point of addiction, many parents or guardians will look to send their teenager for treatment. While the student is in treatment the outcome looks promising and positive; however, how the teenager deals with life when they are discharged from treatment and heads back to high school can present problems. How do they or how will they "fit in"?

Last year we wrote about drug treatment in high school. At the time we talked about sober high schools and that there were 19 sober high schools in the United States.  The number of sober high schools is now approaching 35, but the need is greater. 

Here is a report by Kate Snow for NBC Nightly News regarding Recovery High Schools.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you are having trouble viewing the video you can see it here. NBC News reports:

"According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, close to two million American students meet the criteria for drug or alcohol abuse. Yet less than eight percent of them receive the treatment they need. Those who do get treatment typically return to the schools they left in order to recover, and 75 percent of them relapse within their first year after treatment."

Our next post will give more details about sober high schools and college campuses that promote sobriety.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Doctors and Patients To Be Trained by Drugmakers & Medical Education Companies

For the past few years the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working on what they call a "risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) for extended-release and long-acting opioids." This week it was announced that the FDA finalized their opioid painkiller education plan; however, some in the medical field do not believe this education plan goes far enough.  Here are a few of the facts:
  1. The training programs will be developed by medical education companies and follow a blueprint drawn up by the FDA and the drug makers involved in the manufacturing of some 30 products. 
  2. Extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics training will not be mandatory. Mandatory training would require Congress to pass a new law. 
  3. These classes would offer continuing education credits.
  4. The program will not cover powerful short acting opioids, like hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  5. The training programs must be available by March 1, 2013.

 According to CBS News:
"Such opioid drugs are blamed for thousands of fatal overdoses each year. The safety measures, released by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday, are designed to reduce misuse and abuse of long-acting opioid pain relievers, which include forms of morphine, methadone and oxycodone. The agency's plan mainly involves educating doctors and patients about appropriate use of the drugs."
This is a first step to provide more education for physicians, as well as patients. We invite you to read the related articles below to understand what this training program will cover and what it is not intended to accomplish. Also, here is a video from CBS This Morning when the team interviews Dr. Christopher Gharibo, Medical Director of Chronic Pain Management, NYU, regarding this new training program.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
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Monday, July 9, 2012

Starbucks Now Offers Alcohol In Some Locales

On June 30, 2012, we read this Chicago Tribune headline: Schaumburg Starbucks now offers beer, wine alongside coffee drinks. This news might be welcomed to the average Starbucks's customer; however, if you are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) you might find this news startling, even disheartening. For more than four decades Starbucks has been serving coffee and various food items to patrons, starting first in Seattle and branching out to locations across the United States and in 1996 it began its worldwide expansion to 58 foreign countries. Over the years Starbucks has become a "safe haven" for AA members, a place to meet friends before an early morning meeting, a place to meet with sponsors, or a place to go after a meeting where you know you will be welcome and not be tempted by a "trigger." This is particularly true for people new in recovery.

This is not to say that people in recovery must avoid every place that serves alcohol, obviously most restaurants have some kind of license to serve beer and wine, and many have full liquor licenses. Part of recovery is learning how to be in environments that are a common part of everyday life. It is much easier for the person addicted to hard drugs to avoid their old "haunts" and old friends, but enjoying a meal with friends where alcohol is served without getting tempted means learning a new behavior and this is part of relapse prevention.

Here are additional articles that provide information about Starbucks' decision to sell alcohol and reactions to the decision.
And here is a YouTube video that offers more information:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

So how do you feel about this new menu item for Starbucks? 

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Have You Made Your Recovery Summer Reading List?

Happy July 4th!

Do you remember just as school summer vacation was about to begin your teacher would hand you your summer reading list? Some kids seemed screamed with delight, others moaned in animated pain. Children loved to be read to when they are toddlers, it becomes a bedtime ritual with mom or dad or an older sibling. As children mature they learn to read and hopefully enjoy reading. But some struggle, perhaps dealing with undiagnosed issues like ADHD or dyslexia. Reading can be an acquired  joy. The magic of the first book that "grabs" their imagination can start a child or adolescent on a wonderful adventure that will last a lifetime.

Last week we offered some suggestions for summer reading for adult children of alcoholics. After publishing that post, we thought we would provide some other titles written by people in recovery. Today we want to introduce you to just one of our favorite writers: Christopher Kennedy Lawford.

Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption was published in 2006 and according to Amazon.com it is "Lawford's unflinchingly honest portrayal of his life as a Kennedy—a journey overflowing with hilarious insider anecdotes, heartbreaking accounts of his addictions to narcotics as well as to celebrity, and, ultimately, the redemption he found by asserting his own independence."

Moments of Clarity: Voices from the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery was published in 2010 and according to Amazon.com it "includes stories from men and women, young and old, across all barriers of celebrity, color, and class. Represented in these pages are the singer and the actress, the writer and the anchorman, the man from the movie screen and the woman who lives down the street. This book brings together a myriad of different moments, all with the common understanding of where these men and women have been and where they must go. As they bravely share their stories, they shed light not only on their own experiences but also on the journey we all take as human beings who are trying to make sense of our world."

Here is a video featuring Mr. Lawford discussing the importance of being a proponent for change...

If you are having trouble viewing the video you can see it here. 

Take a break this summer, read a book. These are just two books that we think you might enjoy, as Mr. Lawford shares his experience, strength and hope.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Update On Bath Salts

We have been writing about bath salts for the past 18 months. Earlier this month we wrote Bath Salts: Just The Latest Designer Drug in which we stated an observation and asked a question:

"Most of us have seen the gory headlines stemming from cannibalistic attacks acted out by people considered to be under the influence of bath salts. So now what do we do about this latest designer drug that is impacting people's own lives and others?"

Notice we wrote "considered to be under the influence of bath salts"? We mention this today because blogging is not just about publishing current and interesting headlines to grab the attention of one reader or many. We feel strongly that when we blog about current events as they relate to addiction and recovery, it is our responsibility to offer our readers facts as we understand them and as they are being reported. And by doing so, we are encouraging our readers to learn more about a certain subject.

Today we would like to bring our readers up to date with the most recent news about the man who has been called the "Miami Face Chewer", Rudy Eugene.  On Thursday, July 28, 2012, the Medical Examiner of Miami-Dade County released the final toxicology report. According to NBC6 Miami's report:

" 'The department's toxicology laboratory has identified the active components of marijuana,' the statement said.  'The laboratory has tested for but not detected any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs, or any adulterants found in street drugs. This includes cocaine, LSD, amphetamines (Extasy, Meth and others), phencyclidine (PCP or Angel Dust), heroin, oxycodone, Xanax, synthetic marijuana (Spice), and many other similar compounds.'...The department also ruled out common drugs found in the street drugs called bath salts, which authorities had initially speculated were the cause of the brutal attack."

You can learn more about the latest details watching NBC6 Miami's interview with Psychiatrist Delvena Thomas.  Dr. Thomas offers good insight and cautions on how mental illness can lie beneath the surface and then be triggered causing a life-threatening and life-ending event. 

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.  Take some time and read the related articles below.  The most important action item, is to stay informed and sort through the facts. We all know that bath salts are dangerous, learn and share your knowledge with your family members and friends. 
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