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Friday, December 30, 2016

Your Recovery In 2017

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.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Keeping Relapse Out of Christmas

People working a program of recovery are acutely familiar with the dangers that holidays pose, do to the fact that relapse is especially common this time of year. While the reasons for relapse are varied, the end result is typically the same. After which it can be difficult to dust yourself off, and recommit to the program—the byproduct of the shame and guilt that one puts on them self after a relapse. Anyone who has experienced a relapse can tell you that facing one’s recovery peers after such an ordeal is a humbling experience.

However, at the end of the day, the relapse itself is not what is important, it is what one chooses do after that counts the most. It takes a lot of courage to pull oneself together, and sit down with one’s sponsor in order to figure out the areas that need to be worked on. Restarting the clock of sobriety is no easy task, and it is a sign of strength to get up in front of your homegroup and identify as a “newcomer,” once again.

Every day of sobriety is hard fought. Having two-days sober is just as valuable as having a year. There is a reason that the mantra of the program is to “live life one day at a time.” We must reinvest our energy each day to maintain a constant connection with our "higher power," share at meetings and be of service to others in life. It could be argued that if people working a program need to give 100 percent to their program day in and day out, then holidays require 110 percent.

Preventing relapse during the holidays is group effort. Starting tonight, there will be recovery meetings for 24-hours straight. People who make a point to attend one or more meetings during Christmas are less likely to have what is called “stinkin’ thinkin’.” That is, thinking that it would be OK to go places that might jeopardize your recovery or that there would be little harm in having a couple drinks. To be sure, such a thought only seems reasonable until you take that first sip of alcohol. The feelings that precede the event typically take the form of guilt and regret, for having thrown away what you have been working hard to achieve.

Today is Christmas Eve. Many of you will be spending some of the day with family, which can bring about stress. Left unchecked, such discomfort can quickly result in bad decisions. We cannot stress enough just how important it is to keep one’s finger on the pulse of their recovery. If you find yourself getting worked-up tomorrow, call your sponsor immediately and get yourself to a meeting ASAP.

Relapse does not have to be a part of your story this Christmas. If you use the skills you have learned in the rooms of recovery, you should be able to make it through the day unscathed. That is our sincere wish at Hope by The Sea this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Risky Drinking In America

risky drinking
With the year coming to a close it is always a good idea to take an inventory of the good and the bad in one’s life. There may be things that are holding you back from being the best that you can be, such as drugs and/or alcohol. It is easy to fool oneself into thinking that your drinking habits are in line with your peers, and therefore–not a problem. It is dangerous to base whether or not you have a problem from what you see your peers doing, not everyone is the same and what one perceives is not necessarily fact.

If you are unsure about the nature of your relationship with alcohol, you may find it useful to do a little research to see if you meet the criteria for being a problem drinker. If it turns out that your relationship with alcohol is unhealthy and a change is needed, do not be discouraged—you are not alone. In fact, almost 70% of adults in the United States consume alcoholic beverages and close to a third of those individuals engage in risky drinking over the course of their life, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).

If you are unsure of what kind of drinker you are, you may do yourself a service by watching a new documentary, a collaboration between HBO and The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). HBO’s “Risky Drinking” is described as a no-holds-barred look at a national epidemic through the intimate stories of four people whose drinking dramatically affects their relationships.”

Please take a moment to watch the trailer for “Risky Drinking,” below:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

In the rooms of recovery, we know first-hand where risky drinking can lead. What starts out as “binge drinking” on the weekends, can eventually morph into a full-blown alcohol use disorder (AUD). Around 10 percent of adults who engage in binge drinking have an AUD. If you are a binge drinker and feel that your use of alcohol is impacting your life in negative ways, please contact Hope by The Sea.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Alcohol Trends With Older Adults

More and more “baby boomers” are retiring. For such people, it should be a time for relaxing after working for decades. Moving to a warm climate, traveling the world and spending more time with one’s adult children is a common picture of retirement. But for some, retirement may be a different picture altogether, involving substance use and abuse—especially with alcohol.

To get an understanding of alcohol trends among Americans age 50 and older, researchers analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, ScienceDaily reports. They were especially interested in self-reported past-month binge drinking and alcohol use disorder. The findings were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"Older adults have particular vulnerabilities to alcohol due to physiological changes during aging, including increasing chronic disease burden and medication use," said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and health services researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYU Langone). 

The research team at NYU found dramatic rise in:
  • Past-Year Alcohol Use
  • Past-Month Alcohol Use
  • Past-Month Binge Drinking
  • Alcohol Use Disorders
Setting addiction aside for the time being, the researchers point out that older adults are at extreme risk of experiencing the negative effects of alcohol, according to the article. They point out that alcohol can be detrimental to chronic disease management and increase one’s risk of injury.

Men, as you might expect, had higher binge drinking rates and were more likely to have an alcohol use disorder, the article reports. However, the researchers found an alarming trend among older women, with increases in both binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorder.

"Health care providers need to be made aware of this increasing trend of unhealthy alcohol use, particularly among older females, and ensure that screening for unhealthy alcohol use is part of regular medical care for this population" said Dr. Han.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Opioid Overdoses Claim 30,000 Lives

overdose deaths
Last week we discussed a naloxone price freeze which will hopefully expand access to the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug. It is hard to imagine anyone being against prescription-free naloxone at a reasonable price. While lawmakers across the board have become more accepting of naloxone, seeing the medications intrinsic value as a life-saving tool. The need for providing greater access to naloxone, commonly sold under the name Narcan, is ever apparent considering a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Prescription opioids are still a major concern in the United States, but heroin and fentanyl have been in the spotlight a lot of late. And for good reason. The CDC found that prescription opioid deaths have leveled off relatively speaking, but heroin and fentanyl deaths continue to rise sharply, The Washington Post reports. In 2015, opioid overdoses took the lives of more than 30,000 Americans. There were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths in 2015, compared to 28,647 the year before. CDC data indicates that:
  • Heroin overdose deaths rose to 12,990 in 2015, a 23 percent spike.
  • Synthetic opioid overdose deaths rose to 9,580 in 2015, a 73 percent increase.
  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths showed a slight increase to 17,536, a 4 percent hike.
Once again, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the increase in overdose deaths is that there is a serious lack of addiction treatment services across the country. Changing prescribing practices and stemming the flow of heroin and illicit fentanyl into the country can only do so much. At the root of this epidemic is addiction, so then it stands to reason that addressing addiction by way of treatment should be the main focus of government efforts. We should see more Americans getting the help they need by way of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act.

“The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country—in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment,” said Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “That is why the President has called since February for $1 billion in new funding to expand access to treatment. This week Congress finally acted on the President's request. The Administration will work to get this new funding out to States as quickly as possible to make sure that every American who wants treatment for an opioid use disorder is able to get it.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

E-cigarette Use Among Youth Young Adults

Teenage and young adult tobacco use has been steadily declining since the 1970’s. A victory in so many different ways. While marijuana has long been touted as being the “gateway” drug, leading to the use of harder narcotics, many experts believe that nicotine and alcohol are the substances that people use precipitating the use of other illegal drugs. So, it is vital that prevention efforts stay strong, discouraging young people from starting down a path that could lead to addiction.

Over the last few years there has been less talk about cigarettes, and more talk about electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs. Such products vaporize liquid that contains varying strengths of nicotine. When the devices first hit the market, mind you with zero regulation or research, countless smokers were led to believe that they would finally be able to quit smoking with the aid of e-cigarettes. One’s oral fixation could be sated; they could get their nicotine fix and slowly step down the amount of nicotine until they were just vaporizing flavored e-juice.

To be sure, some people have managed to quit or cutback their traditional cigarette smoking dramatically through the use of an e-cigarette. Additionally, the consensus among health experts is that e-cigs are in fact safer than their traditional counterparts. However, when it comes to young people there are multiple concerns about the devices leading to nicotine addiction.

In fact, e-cigarette use has surpassed traditional cigarettes among young people, Reuters reports. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a report: E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults, with the hope of encouraging the use of techniques, which proved effective for preventing cigarette use among young people, with e-cigarettes. Murthy points out that dangers of e-cigarettes use among young people:

“These effects include addiction, priming for use of other addictive substances, reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders,” Murthy said in the report.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Adapt Pharma Naloxone Price Freeze

Aside from addiction treatment, the overdose reversal drug naloxone may be the most valuable tool available for mitigating the fallout of the American opioid epidemic. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, has been in the news quite often in recent years—primarily cast in a good light. If administered in a timely manner to an opioid overdose victim, naloxone can reverse the deadly symptoms of an opioid overdose. Thousands of people are still alive today because of this miracle drug.

The importance of naloxone cannot be overestimated, considering that over two million Americans are living with an opioid use disorder. All of which are eligible for an overdose. In recent years, a number of states began equipping their first responders with naloxone spray kits. An easy to use device which a child could administer if needed. Naturally, first responders can’t always get to the scene of an overdose in time, so it makes sense to provide addicts and their families with naloxone kits. In several states, naloxone kits can be acquired without a prescription at one’s local pharmacy.

The maker of Narcan nasal spray is Adapt Pharma. While no one can deny that the company's product is vital to opioid epidemic efforts, there have been concerns about the dramatic rise in price for purchasing the drug. And, if people or agencies cannot afford to buy the drug, lives will be lost. Which is why the Attorney General of Ohio, Mike DeWine, made an agreement with Adapt Pharma to freeze the Public Interest Price of naloxone kits for one year, WSAZ reports. The price will be frozen at $75 for two 4 mg doses of Narcan, 40 percent below the company's wholesale acquisition cost of $125.

“The cost to purchase naloxone has prevented some agencies from carrying this life-saving drug, but I hope that Adapt Pharma's new price freeze for Ohio will allow more agencies to consider keeping naloxone on hand," said DeWine. "I continue to urge law enforcement agencies to carry this drug, because it can mean the difference between life and death for those suffering from addiction."

Adapt Pharma says that they are working with Attorneys General in other states in order to expand access and affordability of NARCAN(r) Nasal Spray, according to the article. Thom Duddy, executive director of communications at Adapt Pharma, points out that around 90 percent of Americans with health insurance have plans that cover Narcan.

Please take a look at the short video below:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Addiction Treatment Finds Funding

addiction treatment
The fight continues to provide every American, who requires addiction treatment, access to such services. In 2016, many addiction experts were hopeful about the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). And for good reason, the bill was created to provide greater access to addiction treatment services, which experts believe is the best opportunity we have at curbing the American opioid epidemic.

Lawmakers once believed that addiction was something that we could arrest our way out of; that fear of jail or prison would be enough incentive for people to stop abusing drugs. If only it were that easy. We know now that addiction is a debilitating mental health disorder that must be treated, rather than punished. It does not matter how many times you lock an addict up, without something like a program of recovery to replace the behaviors typified by addiction, addicts will more times than not fall back into the cycle upon release—in turn resulting in recidivism.

While CARA received overwhelming bipartisan support, lawmakers disagreed on how to fund the bill. Many believe that the legislation lacks the necessary funding to accomplish its goals. Fortunately, funding may be found packed into another piece of legislation that was approved in House of Representatives this week, known as the 21st Century Cures Act. Packed within the 996-page measure are several programs for improving healthcare in America, including provisions for strengthening existing mental health parity laws and $1 billion in funding for opioid addiction prevention and treatment, USA Today reports. Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.

Much like CARA, the Cures Act received bipartisan support and is a piece of legislation that the current White House Administration supports. There are critics of the Cures Act, but hopefully it will help reign in the opioid epidemic, which claims lives every day of the week. In a statement, the Executive Office of the President wrote:

“The opioid epidemic is devastating families and communities and straining the capacity of law enforcement and the healthcare system. The resources included in the bill will allow states to expand access to treatment to help individuals seeking help to find it and to start the road to recovery.”

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