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Friday, July 29, 2016

No-Drug Pain Treatment Approach

prescription opioids
People in recovery for addiction face a serious dilemma when it comes to pain. It practically goes without saying that the most effective treatments for pain are also the most addictive—as is evident by the prescription opioid epidemic occurring in America. Those in recovery for any form of mind altering substance need to be especially careful in the wake of an injury. It is more common than you might think for a relapse to occur after being prescribed opioid painkillers.

If your pain is so severe that you require prescription opioids, it is paramount that you are up front with the attending doctor regarding your history and with your sponsor about being on the pain meds. Failure to do so can have catastrophic outcomes, derailing your recovery or worse. If you are written a prescription, it is always considered a good idea to hand over the bottle to either a family member who is familiar with your past or your sponsor—especially if you are recovering from an opioid use disorder. They can dole out your meds to you as needed and be a second level of accountability.

If you are in fact a recovering opioid addict, maintaining your recovery should be the number one priority. While it is true some injuries are so painful that prescription opioids are warranted, other times pain can be managed without the use of drugs, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. Talk to your doctor about alternative forms of pain management before you resort to opioids. In fact, a new study has shown that a non-drug approach which combines behavioral therapy and social support, could be a vital asset to those who are in recovery and combat the national opioid epidemic, ScienceDaily reports. It can also help people in treatment for opioid addiction who have chronic pain. The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

"These results highlight the need for addiction treatment programs to offer a multifaceted approach that doesn't only address substance use but also the other factors that might be driving substance use, including pain," said study lead author Mark Ilgen, Ph.D., a VA and U-M psychologist specializing in addiction research. "We've shown that it's possible to improve pain outcomes in people with addiction, and even have some spillover effects on their substance use." 

If you or a loved one is abusing prescription opioids and/or heroin, please contact Hope by The Sea. We can help you break free from the drugs and help you get on the road of addiction recovery.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Addiction Training in Medical School

addiction medicine
At this point, it should go without saying that a number of changes are needed if we, as a nation, are going to recover from the opioid crisis in America. The problem we face is not only unprecedented, it is an epidemic that many Americans had a hand in creating—and we are not referring to the people who are addicted to the deadly drugs.

People with substance use disorder (SUD) have been present in the U.S. for centuries, and people will continue to have these in the future; that being said, the rates of addiction could be mitigated by a paradigm shift regarding both addiction and the prescribing of addictive narcotics.

At this point, most addiction experts agree with the idea that primary care physicians had a major role in the creation of an epidemic affecting Americans from all walks of life. Years of widespread overprescribing and a failure to adequately train doctors to identify people with opioid use disorder, has resulted in loss of life at staggering levels. What’s more, many doctors are opposed to specific addiction training and mandates which tell them how or when to prescribe opioid painkillers.

Without prescribing mandates and addiction training, doctors will continue to be in a position where there are literally playing with patients' lives. While many are against change, there are some medical schools that see the value of addiction training, recognizing it as a vital tool necessary for combating the epidemic. After concerns were raised at Stanford University School of Medicine about little emphasis being given to addiction training, the institution is increasing the focus on addiction, NPR reports. Future doctors will have classes on addiction medicine, and the training will continue even after the students begin clinical rotations.

"We're at the very bottom of a very long uphill road," said Dr. Anna Lembke, the director of Stanford’s addiction medicine fellowship. Lembke was responsible for the changes being made at Stanford University.

Doctors who are trained to spot drug seeking behavior or the signs of somebody having an opioid use disorder, are in a unique position to help people get the treatment they need. Or, at the very least, no longer contribute to a problem that can have a deadly outcome. If you or a loved one is abusing prescription opioids and/or heroin, please contact Hope by The Sea. We can help you break free from the drugs and help you get on the road of addiction recovery.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Young Adults With Mental Illness

mental illness
A significant number of young adults in the United States battle with mental illness. Debilitating mental health disorders can seriously impact the quality of one’s life, and if left untreated they can lead to fatal outcomes. Unfortunately, many young adults who are living with mental health problems are unable to get the help they so desperately need. Common forms of mental illness include:
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • PTSD
The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that young adults aged 18 to 25 living with any form of mental illness (AMI) are less likely to receive mental health services than adults aged 26 to 49 or adults aged 50 or older, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). In fact, the data indicates that only one-third of young adults diagnosed with a mental illness were able to get treatment in the last year. According to the survey, only 33.6 percent of about 2.4 million young adults living with mental illness received any of the following:
  • Inpatient Services
  • Outpatient Services
  • Prescription Medication
About 1 in 4 received prescription medication and 1 in 5 received outpatient services, SAMHSA reports. Only 3.7 percent of young adults received inpatient services. The findings are especially troubling given the elevated rates of opioid addiction and overdose in the U.S., and highlights just how important it is to inform young people about the mental health options available. SAMHSA writes:

“Because young adults with AMI are less likely to receive services than adults in other age groups, young adults may benefit from developmentally appropriate services to facilitate the transition to adulthood. Young adults with AMI may want to talk to a mental health care professional to find out what type of services would best meet their needs.” 

If you are a young adult living with a mental health disorder, such as a substance use disorder. Please contact Hope by The Sea to begin the journey of recovery. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and assist you in getting your life back on track.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Energy Drinks and Alcohol Use

alcohol use disorder
Mixing alcohol with highly-caffeinated energy drinks is a common practice among young adults, especially those who are attending college. The reasons for the practice are varied; some claim that the admixture helps them stay up longer, thus allowing them to drink more. Whereas others simply prefer the taste of Red Bull infused with vodka or Jägermeister. Whatever the reasons, it is widely agreed upon by health experts that drinking alcohol (depressant) and caffeine (stimulant) concurrently is extremely dangerous.

Every weekend, binge drinking occurs at college campuses across the country. A practice typically defined as having 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women, over the course of a 2 hour period. Those who binge drink commonly drink energy drinks with their booze.

Those who engage in binge drinking put themselves at risk of alcohol poisoning and irresponsible decision making. This is a byproduct of seeking to be inebriated as fast as possible. As was mentioned earlier, those who simultaneously consume caffeine and alcohol find they have an added boost of energy counterbalancing the depressive nature of alcohol. People who mix the two drugs together tend to think they are somehow less intoxicated, thus making them more equipped to drive. The reality could not be any more different. Contrary to popular belief, while caffeine may make an intoxicated person more awake, it does not make one any more sober.

It turns out that the energy drinks may do more than allow people to drink longer, the practice may make people want to drink more. New research suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks may increase one’s desire to drink more, caffeine may actually increase the rewarding properties of alcohol, Medical Daily reports. The findings were published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

There was another study which linked mixing alcohol and energy drinks to the development of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the article. Researchers from Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center found that adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17 who engaged in the risky practice were four times at greater risk of developing an AUD.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Save Lives

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are a vital tool that have the power to prevent doctor shopping and help physicians identify at-risk patients. Not too long ago, it was easy for people to see multiple doctors to acquire opioid narcotics in a given month. The tactic was used by both people looking to turn a profit on highly sought after painkillers, such as OxyContin (oxycodone); those addicted to opioids would also engage in the same practice to ensure they would not run out of meds before they could refill.

Virtually every state has some version of PDMPs; however, not all doctors or pharmacies utilize the available resource. Efforts have been made to encourage those working in healthcare to use PDMPs—for doing so could prevent abuse, identify those who need help and prevent overdose. New research suggests that PDMPs help prevent as many as 10 opioid-overdose deaths a day in the U.S., Reuters reports. Researchers believe that improving state drug monitoring programs could raise that number to 12.

“Prescription drug-monitoring programs are a public health tool to ensure that we’re using opioids appropriately but limiting the negative health impacts we see in almost every community in the United States,” said lead author Dr. Stephen W. Patrick. “Our findings suggest that investments in upgraded prescription drug-monitoring programs will pay dividends in lives saved.” 

Fortunately, the U. S House of Representatives adopted the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last Friday. One of the provisions of the legislation will work to strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs. The U.S. Senate voted to adopt CARA Wednesday, July 13, 2016, which  will now be sent to the President for signature.

Perhaps the most important aspect of PDMPs is that they can help doctors help patients get help for and opioid use disorder. Breaking free from opioid addiction is no easy task, and usually requires effective-evidence based treatments. CARA aims to expand access to addiction treatment services throughout the country, given as many people as possible the ability to find recovery.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Medical Marijuana Reduced Opioid Prescriptions

medical marijuana
As we move closer to November, many Americans are poised to vote on marijuana legalization and/or adopting medical marijuana programs. It seems like there is less talk about marijuana of late, due to the constant focus on the use of prescription opioids and heroin. Which makes sense because opioids, unlike marijuana, are responsible for as many as 78 deaths every day in the United States.

Regardless of one’s views on marijuana, there is still much we do not understand about the long term effects of chronic cannabis use. However, it is widely accepted that marijuana is perhaps the most benign mind altering substance commonly used and abused. That being said, all efforts to change the legality of marijuana use have their roots in medical marijuana. In 1996, California became the first state to allow for cannabis use for patients who met certain requirements. Today, 25 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs in play.

Marijuana is used by a number of chronic pain patients as an alternative to prescription painkillers, like hydrocodone and oxycodone for instance. Practically every American adult is aware that prescription opioids can be a slippery slope to addiction and/or overdose. Marijuana is not linked to such eventualities in the same way.

That is not to say that marijuana use, especially among young people, is not without downsides. The drug can both impact developing brains and lead to dependence. That being said, when used medically, the drug is characterized as being the lesser of two evils when compared to opioid narcotics.

At a time when practically every state is trying to curb rampant prescription opioid use, new research suggests that states with medical marijuana programs have seen a drop in the use of prescription drugs, MNT reports. The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs. While the findings may be a good sign with regard to reducing prescription opioid use, more research is needed to understand the full meaning of the findings.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Predicting Teen Alcohol Use

Preventing teenage alcohol use is a top priority in the United States. The long term risks of heavy alcohol use during the teenage years are great, which is why millions of dollars are spent on youth alcohol prevention campaigns each year. Yet, despite the best efforts and good intentions of such campaigns, teenagers still consume alcohol at alarming rates.

For some teens, alcohol use is a weekend occurrence, and in many cases is considered to be a relatively benign practice. However, there is a fine line between casual and problematic alcohol consumption—a division that can be crossed easily. A significant percentage of American teens engage in the practice of binge drinking, a form of heavy alcohol use that has long been associated with negative outcomes—including the development of an addiction to alcohol.

Part of the reason that teen alcohol prevention efforts have limited success is due to the fact that they are aimed at all adolescents. It would be a vital tool if teens who were more at risk of using alcohol could be identified. This would allow for targeted campaigns that may bear more fruit. It turns out that such a resource may not be that far away.

New research suggests that we may be able to predict which adolescents (12 to 14-years old) will initiate alcohol use down the road around the age of 18, ScienceDaily reports. The researchers compiled data on 137 healthy adolescents through the Youth at Risk study, all of which had not used drugs or alcohol. By looking at a number of different variables, researchers were able to predict with astonishing accuracy, who would go on to drink alcohol.

The factors include:
  • Demographics
  • Cognitive Functioning
  • Brain Features
The researchers found that those who were male and came from a higher socioeconomic strata were more likely to initiate alcohol use, according to the article. They also found that those who performed unsatisfactorily on tests of executive functioning were more likely to drink as well.

"We were able to predict, with 74 percent accuracy, which 12- to 14-year-old youth eventually went on to engage in alcohol use by late adolescence," said Lindsay Squeglia, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Coming Back From A Relapse

Making it through the holiday weekend is not always an easy task for those in recovery for addiction. Those who have acquired significant time may find it easier than those who are new to the program, but they are still at risk of relapse. Working a program requires eternal vigilance, 365 days a year. However, holidays often require one to go above and beyond—making sure that you do not find yourself in a vulnerable situation that can jeopardize your recovery.

Nevertheless, the reality is that many recovering addicts and alcoholics end up taking a drink or drug during a holiday. The causes are varied and unimportant, but the outcomes are typically the same. It’s what a relapse does going forward that's important. After a relapse, there only two ways to go: either reinvesting oneself into a life of active addiction or recommitting to the program.

Naturally, the latter is the optimal course to take, but some will choose to continue using after their relapse. Relapse is often accompanied by shame, a feeling that usually fuels continued use. After amassing some time in recovery, working with a sponsor and making some friends in the program, it can be extremely difficult to be honest about what happened with said peers. A lot of that stems from having trouble being honest with yourself.

Despite the fact that the rooms of 12-Step recovery are judgement free zones, owing to the fact that everyone in recovery knows firsthand how difficult it is to get and stay sober; those who relapse cannot help but feel as though they have let everyone down and that it's easier to continue down a path of destruction than admit that you are a newcomer again. While such feelings are real, they are dangerous and could make a bad situation exponentially worse.

Just because relapse is a part of your story, doesn't mean that all is lost. You have the power to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into recovery. You can use the upsetting event as learning experience, which can actually be a tool that may protect you from a future relapse. If you happened to have relapsed over the 4th of July weekend, pick up the phone and call your sponsor and get to a 12-Step meeting. If you do not have a sponsor, get yourself to a meeting and talk to someone in the program.

After a relapse, time is of the utmost importance, the longer you wait in getting back to work—the worse it gets and the harder it is to return. Do not let a molehill grow into a mountain. Even people with a history of chronic relapse, have been able to acquire long term sobriety after a string of relapses.

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