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Friday, May 26, 2017

Distractions In Addiction Recovery

recovery
Every week, 365 days a year meetings of addiction recovery take place not just here in America, but around the world. People coming together to take part in a life-saving fellowship, with the mission of not using drugs or alcohol, no matter what. And it is no easy feat. Those who commit themselves to working an honest program must look the darkness of addiction in the eye in order to bask in the light of recovery. One should process things with a sponsor or recovery coach that are not easy, but extremely important.

Most people who begin working a program of recovery get caught up on the 4th Step. The point of the process that involves making “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." To make it through to the other side of Step 4, one must work hand in hand with their sponsor to gain a better understanding of some of the root causes of one’s addiction. It requires being honest about your moral deficits and shortcomings. Accepting that the problem is not the other people or even the drugs and alcohol. The problem is You. And nobody, but yourself, is responsible for how you got to where you find yourself and your chances for success in recovery. Please, please do not find ways to put off this most important step.

It could be easy to write a whole article about the minutiae of the Fourth Step; however, that is something you will do at length with your sponsor. What we would like to discuss today is distractions, and how they can impede your ability to feel the sunlight of the spirit, work the steps and be there for your fellow alcoholic or addict.

 

Connection In Recovery Is Everything


As was mentioned in the last paragraph, success rests upon you. While that is true in more than one way, it is important to remember that without the fellowship the process of recovery would stop in its tracks. People working a program rely heavily on one another to both work the steps and process what is going on in each other's lives. Failure to do so often results in relapse. Which is why it is so important that people attending meetings give the program and those sitting in the room your undivided attention. Not always an easy task, because at the end of the day we are generally programmed to eschew the process and talking about the hard things going on in our lives. It is so much easier to distract ourselves than it is to face things head on.

All of you reading this post who attend meetings regularly are acutely aware that smartphone use is pervasive in the rooms of recovery. You may be guilty of checking your Facebook timeline or Instagram feed while in a meeting. If so, you know you are not alone. That being said, when one is focusing on something outside the group they become detached from the energy of recovery. You may say that you can listen and scroll at the same time, but in fact you may be missing something that you could potentially provide another member feedback on. Or the phone may be a shield, keeping you from speaking up about what is going on in your own life.

 

What’s An Hour Without Your Phone


Granted the only requirement for attending meetings is a desire to stop... Everyone is well within their right to stare at their portable devices, as long as it is not distracting others. One cannot argue that it is not a distraction from working one’s own program. In a way, playing games or scanning social media during a meeting unplugs you from the group. You are simultaneously present and not. One of the most important facets to recovery is one’s bond to the group, without it recovery comes apart.

If you are a habitual smartphone user during meetings, we encourage you to turn the phone off for the hour or hour and a half duration of the meeting. Even still, having the phone in your pocket may be too tempting. In that case, try leaving your phone in the car when you go to meetings. Rest assured, you are doing yourself a favor, as it will strengthen your relationship with others. Those people who are often the last line of defense between you and a relapse There’s plenty of time throughout the rest of the day to update your status.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Protecting Your Recovery from Opioids

prescription opioids
If you are working a program of addiction recovery, then you know that to take any mind-altering drug or drink will compromise your sobriety. Obviously, you know this applies to illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine and alcohol. But what about prescription narcotics? For some people, the answer to that question is easy, any drug, even if taken as prescribed, could be a slippery slope to a relapse. Others might answer that question depending on the circumstances.

Certainly, if you have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, such a cancer, protecting one’s program should not come at the expense of suffering. Severe or traumatic pain usually dictates taking an opioid to mitigate the symptoms. If the drugs are taken as prescribed, one’s program is usually considered to remain intact. However, it is worth noting that a significant number of people in recovery have experienced a minor injury, gone to the doctor and left with drugs they probably could have done without. It is no secret that doctors are often too quick and injudicious when it comes to prescribing this most deadly class of drugs.

 

Protecting Your Recovery


Should taking the opioid route of pain management be a decision that you and your doctor decide is warranted, certain steps should be taken to protect your recovery. In such cases, one should enlist the help of another to hold you accountable. Left to one’s own devices, it can be easy to convince oneself that taking an extra pill before you are supposed to or taking such drugs in non-prescribed ways is the same as taking a drug orally. It is not, that is your disease taking the reins.

It is usually a sound practice to turn to your sponsor or somebody in the program you are close to, that has significant recovery time. They can help dole out your medication as prescribed and as needed. In other cases, you spouse or relatives may be able to assist you with the situation. The take away here is that even if opioids are not your drug of choice, being in a position where there is a potential for abuse is never a good idea.

It's probably impossible to quantify how many people in recovery have relapsed because their addiction convinced them that they could be responsible with prescription narcotics in their house. Even if one manages to take the drugs as prescribed there is a chance that just the taste of euphoria is enough to tip the scales and start you on the course to relapse.

Minor Pain Leading to Addiction 


Everyone in recovery understands how dangerous opioids can be. How many of you have lost people to an overdose? Unfortunately, many Americans still do not fully grasp the risks of taking prescription painkillers for minor pain. A new report indicates that about seven (7) percent of emergency rooms' patients seeking help for a sprained ankle were prescribed opioids, Science News reports. Despite a high likelihood that such drugs were unnecessary.

What’s more, a sprained ankle patient who received 30 or more pills compared to less than 15 pills, were twice as likely to fill an additional opioid prescription within three to six months. A fairly good sign that a problem has developed. Sprained ankle injuries do not last for six months.

“An even more critical aspect of this study is that many would argue that opioids should not be prescribed for ankle sprain at all,” said senior author Jeanmarie Perrone, MD, a professor of Emergency Medicine and director of Medical Toxicology. “Exposing young patients with an ankle sprain to opioids is unnecessary and risky. To limit the escalation of the opioid epidemic in this country, it’s critical to keep these medications limited to patients whose injuries absolutely require them, and limit exposure to opioids for all other patients.”

Opioids Are Often Not Worth The Risk


If opioids can hook people that have no history of addiction, the risks of relapse among recovering addicts is sure to be great. If you seek help for a minor injury and the doctor offers up opioids, please think long and heard about your answer. Please make sure your doctor knows your history before moving forward.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Connecting With Nature In Recovery

higher power
Memorial Day is just around the corner. On May 29, 2017, people all over the country will come together to embrace the start of summer and rejoice. The summer months are great opportunity to reconnect oneself with nature, giving you an opportunity to work on reflection, meditation and prayer. Three things that for people working programs of recovery can do to improve their connection with a higher power.

At Hope by The Sea, in sunny Southern California, we know first-hand the awe-inspiring beauty of both the ocean and the mountains to the east. On any given day, this summer you can go out into nature to work on yourself, both physically and spiritually, either by yourself or with others in your support network. One of the most important goals in recovery is balance. Achieving homeostasis!

Active addiction is marked by chaotic solitude, because drugs and alcohol cut you off from the spiritual nature of existence. That is, something greater than yourself. Addiction is self-will run riot, one is convinced that they are in command of all things under the sun. When in fact, there are far stronger forces governing the dynamics of life. In recovery, one's relationship with a higher power is the glue that holds everything together.

 

The Light of Recovery


With the dark clouds of winter at our back, we strongly encourage you to get out into nature and work on the spiritual connection of life. Some of the best places to accomplish this are on hikes or sitting quietly on the beach, away from the constant drone of everyday life. Free from crowds and car horns, ringing phones and the like.

In some ways, it is hard to hear yourself think indoors or on city streets. But in the great outdoors all those hindrances fade away. You can dig deep into your soul to remind yourself of everything for which you are grateful. See the progress you have made; and humble yourself to the spirit of life governing all things beautiful and meaningful.

Invite some of your peers along for the journey. One can draw much insight from friends in your support network. Experiences together are almost always richer than those undergone alone.

 

Finding Hope


The summer may also be a good time for people that are still using to turn the page and start a new chapter. One free from the bondage of self. Please contact Hope by The Sea to learn how to achieve the miracles of recovery. What better time than now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Memo: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Return

mandatory minimum sentencing
Treatment is the answer. Jail and prisons only make the problem of drug use and abuse in this country worse. Health experts and a significant number of lawmakers all agree that draconian drug sentencing laws have long served to disenfranchise certain demographics, particularly the impoverished and racial minorities. Trapping people in a system that is next to impossible to extricate oneself from actually serves to encourage recidivism.

People who serve time for one drug offense, who do not receive any form of substance use disorder treatment are far more likely to return to jail after release. Steel bars do not deter addiction, a mental illness that cares little about punishment. Over the last decade, we have seen a major shift in thinking regarding the efficacy of mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

 

Nonviolent Offenders Sentencing Reprieve


In 2013, then Attorney General Eric Holder ordered federal prosecutors to avoid specifying the amount of drugs involved in a particular case when charging low-level and nonviolent drug offenders, Politico reports. Judges were allowed to exercise discretion with the length of sentences handed down, rather than relying on arbitrary sentencing rules.

The change in thinking that led to such a directive came in the wake of the worst addiction epidemic in American history. When it became ever so clear that addiction does not discriminate, evident by the broad spectrum of people affected by opioid use disorder—both individuals and families alike.

Complementing the apparent paradigm shift regarding mandatory minimums, the former White House administration reviewed thousands of cases where lengthy sentences were given to nonviolent drug offenders. Hundreds of offenders were given a second chance, some of whom had been serving life sentences for the crime of poverty and addiction. More times than not, such people were not in a position to afford a good defense.

Between various mandates from the federal government and the enactment of laws designed to treat addiction rather than punish it, things seemed to be looking up. However, there is evidence that the federal government may be sliding back to old thinking. And with it, a call to honor mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

 

Attorney General Memo


Last Thursday, a memo was sent out from the office of the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ordering federal prosecutors to return to mandatory minimum sentencing practices for all future cases, according to the article. Sessions said that altering mandatory sentencing practices should not fall to the Executive Branch, but rather to Congress.

The memo comes at a time when comparison is needed more than ever. People are dying, children growing up without parents and families are being destroyed. Not surprisingly, people have begun to speak up about the AG's memo, people who understand that such practices do more harm than good.

"The Justice Department’s expected shift to prosecuting and incarcerating more offenders, including low-level and drug offenders, is an ineffective way to protect public safety," said Brett Tolman, a U.S. Attorney for Utah under President George W. Bush. "Decades of experience shows we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of America’s drug problem. Instead, we must direct resources to treatment and to specifically combating violent crime. This will help law enforcement do our jobs better.”

 

Treatment Now, More Than Ever


If you are still in the grips of active drug addiction, a new possession charge could mean doing serious time behind bars, once again. Treatment works, and Hope by The Sea can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and, in turn, mitigate the risk of spending years in jail for the perceived “crime” of addiction. Please contact us today.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Hepatitis C Cases Increase Dramatically

hepatitis C
People who use drugs intravenously put themselves at great risk. The IV method of drug use is the surest way to experience an overdose. That is not to say that you cannot overdose from opioids via oral use, just that IV users are at a greater risk. To be sure, loss of life from overdoses in the United States has highlighted the importance of tackling the American opioid addiction epidemic. It is so easy for people miss-dose or to not have all the facts regarding what it is they are putting in their body, such as heroin mixed with fentanyl, a drug nearly hundred times stronger than morphine. In other cases, fentanyl is being disguised to look like OxyContin pills, a favorite brand opioid among abusers.

Even without an overdose, intravenous drug use can be a slippery slope towards premature death. Those who engage in the most dangerous form of drug use are also at great risk of developing other life threatening health problems. As is evident by the reports in recent years of both HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks across the country, sometimes in some of the most unlikely of places—such as the state of Indiana, et al.

Such outbreaks could have been easily avoided in the richest, most powerful country in the Western World. Every intravenous drug user is aware of the risks of sharing hypodermic syringes, yet acquiring clean needles is still a real challenge in place hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Faced with the option of withdrawal or potential contraction of a virus, the mind of an addict in the grips of it will often throw caution to the wind and reuse a syringe

 

Hepatitis C On The Rise


A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found almost a tripling of new hep C cases between the years 2010 and 2015, CNN reports. In 2010, there were 850 new cases of the deadly illness reported. The number of new cases is 2015 reached 2,436, and those most likely to contract the liver damaging disease were 20- to 29-year-olds. In 2014, more people died from hepatitis C than at any time.

"These new infections are most frequently among young people who transition from taking prescription pills to injecting heroin, which has become cheaper and more easily available in some cases," said Dr. John Ward, an author of the new report and director of the division of viral hepatitis at the CDC. "In turn many -- most, in some communities -- people who inject drugs become infected with hepatitis C."

The agency points out that the true number of new cases is actually much higher, according to the article. Due to the fact that the early stages of the illness do not always reveal symptoms, prompting people to continue doing what they are doing—potentially spreading the disease. The CDC estimates that new cases in 2015 were likely closer to 34,000.

 

Getting Screened


It is crucial that states realize that needle exchanges do not promote drug use, they save lives. If you are still using drugs of any kind intravenously, or have recently begun working a program of recovery, it is vital that you are screened for both hepatitis C and HIV. The earlier the conditions are detected, the sooner you can begin treatment to mitigate the damage caused by such illnesses. If you are still using, we strongly encourage you to seek help at treatment center.

Withdrawing from opioid addiction is extremely difficult and the best chance of seeing it through to the light of recovery is greatly increased with the help of medical detox. Please contact Hope by The Sea today to break the cycle of addiction.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Obstacles to Addiction Recovery

recovery
Addiction recovery is a simple program with dynamic elements. It requires that people adopt a new way of living and changing how one looks at all things. To be sure, giving up drugs and alcohol is life-changing to say the least, especially after years of use and abuse. People new to recovery often have a sensation of nakedness, they have lost their protective armor. Mind-altering substances give people a false sense of armor, shielding you from how things affect you. Now, without the prophylactic properties of chemicals, one must stare life directly in the eye.

At first, recovery seems impossible. To have to feel everything that life throws at you head-on, without any sort of damper, can seem untenable. However, in time one realizes that the program keeps you safe. When troubles arise in life, you are not alone. You have your “higher power,” sponsor and peers in recovery to process the trials and tribulations of life without having to resort to behaviors that will ultimately make matters far worse.

If one is being honest with them self, and others, there isn’t any obstacle that can’t be traversed if one subscribes to the tenets of recovery. And practices the principles of the program in all their affairs. It is always hard at first, but trust what you hear from those who have been in the program longer, ‘this too shall pass.’

 

Obstacles to Recovery


When one begins the life-saving journey of addiction recovery abstaining from drugs and alcohol may seem like a “no brainer.” They were the symptom of your disease that precipitated you being brought to your knees. But it is not always cut and dry. When it comes to mind-altering substances in recovery there are, both fortunately and unfortunately, a few gray areas—particularly with respect to nicotine.

While products like cigarettes are in fact addictive and deadly, not many will associate them with life becoming unmanageable. An assessment that is not without at least some merit. However, that does not mean that tobacco is constructive to building a new life in recovery. Nicotine is a drug, one that people turn to when they are stressed to “calm one’s nerves.” They also can be used to burn up idle time, or fulfill an oral fixation. For drug addicts and alcoholics, cigarettes or other nicotine products are typically the last thing to go. The last bastion of one’s disease, holding on to just one more release.

If you were to ask people who have been in the rooms of recovery for a while they would probably say that nicotine is relatively benign. On the other hand, cigarettes can also be viewed as another defense mechanism of one's disease. While early recovery may not be the time for some to address their relationship with tobacco, it should be at some point. It isn’t easy, but it is possible and will likely strengthen your program.

 

Stubbing Out Addiction


Setting the negative health consequences of tobacco aside, there is convincing research about nicotine increasing recovering addicts and alcoholics risk of relapse. Giving up everything at once may be too much of a shock to the system, but once you feel a little more comfortable in sobriety it is strongly advised that you address nicotine. Please note, that people who smoke are not guaranteed to relapse, but clear associations have been made. Which is why many addiction professionals encourage clients and patients to give everything up in treatment, where you are free from the temptations of the outside world.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact Hope by The Sea. We can help you recover from substance abuse and any co-occurring mental health disorders that are impacting your life.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Addiction Recovery Amidst An Epidemic

addiction recovery
There isn’t anything pretty about addiction. A disease of the mind that carries with it, if it could be summed up in one word—loss. The list of virtues the condition can strip from an individual is incredibly long; Authenticity, Self-Respect, Dignity, Commitment, Responsibility and Accountability are several examples. A lot of addiction recovery, on the other hand, is a return to probity. When the smoky haze of intoxication recedes from one's brain while in treatment, one can begin to reconnect with what one values most about themselves. The side of your soul that your friends and family loved about you before the death spiral of addiction took its course—attributes which drugs and alcohol stole from you on the short or long road to self-destruction.

Recovery is a difficult process on various levels. It requires you to take a close look at things that are painful. In order to recover, one must walk back up a snow blanketed mountain of wreckage that the avalanche of addiction left in ruins. And to chart a path to the summit where the sunlight of the spirit can once again shine upon you, help is required. Assistance from others who have made the trek before, but know if they do not go back down and guide others then they cannot keep their place at the top. Obstacles will be a part of the journey, but with support and commitment to be honest with yourself and others, one can prevail.

A key component to addiction recovery is opening one’s eyes and mind, taking a telescopic look at the damage done. Aside for that incurred on one’s self. The wreckage of years of dishonesty and a lack of accountability. Many people consider what their disease took from them early on in recovery; loss of career, home, financial security and any number of personal possessions. Certainly, those losses when added up will leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth; however, the most painful deficits and hardest to get back are the relationships. Substance use devoids a person of partners, friends and most importantly family. To take it one painful step further—their children.

The list of people harmed by your addiction will likely vary in length, depending on how many years were defined by alcohol and drug abuse, but even a short list can be daunting to address. What’s more, some amends cannot be made in words, only by one’s visible action after having made a commitment to honesty, accountability and responsibility for one’s actions.

 

Children of The Poppy


Time to put metaphors aside. As you well know, we have been in a stranglehold of an epidemic for two-decades. The result of an over-reliance on prescription opioid painkillers for all things pain (and not) and a scourge of heroin abuse that is arguably a byproduct of rampant painkiller abuse. The media is mostly fixated, and for good reason, on overdose death rates and a serious lack of resources to help addicts find recovery. But there is an even darker side, or heavier cost to millions of Americans abusing opioids, children who for all intents and purposes are castaways in the sea of epidemia. Generations of children and teenagers growing up without one or both parents, to be raised by relatives or worse—the State.

The findings from the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau showed that there are 2.7 million grandparents and other relatives raising grandchildren in America and 430,000 in foster care. To be sure, not every one of those kids are wards of people other than their parents because of opioid addiction, but there are many who believe that there has been a serious increase, because of rampant abuse across the country. Anecdotal evidence certainly supports such claims, according to CNN. School administrators in the State of Kentucky have witnessed a steady increase of grandparents or other relatives seeking social services and counseling for kids who lost parents to opioid addiction.

Grandparents, who just a decade ago would have said that retirement was a forgone conclusion regarding their golden years, are thinking again. In some cases, grandparents are raising multiple children. Sandra and Michael Flynn of Kentucky are two grandparents who have found that to be the case, when the state asked if they would assume custody of their daughters five, yes five, children ages 16 down to 6, the article reports. The Flynn’s have been permanent custodians for the last six years, assuming guardianship just after their daughter gave birth to twins.

"They were born addicted," said Sandra. Likely referring to the condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) i.e., acute opioid withdrawal. 

While the Sandra and Michael have reservations, they have begun the process of arranging with the court to allow “strict, supervised visits” contingent on passing drug tests. One must remember that most of the children are likely too young to comprehend the neglect they were subject to and are interested in meeting their mother for the first time.

 

The Realities of Addiction Recovery


There is no way of knowing if the Flynn’s daughter will manage to live a life free from substances. Or adopt the tenets of recovery. But, assuming she does:

"She will never have unsupervised visits," said Sandra. "We have worked too hard to get the kids in a good place." 

One of the main takeaways from the Flynn’s case is that while addiction is guaranteed to take everyone and everything from a person, recovery cannot guarantee that you will get back everything you lost. But that is not an excuse to keep dying in living addiction. One can still have a role in their child's life, even if they do not see or regain custody of their children. What's more, there are no certainties in life. Wounds can heal, living amends can be made. And there is just no telling what blessings working an honest program of recovery will bestow upon those willing to take the steps. One need only sit in a 12-step meeting to hear about the miracles of recovery.

If your life has been turned upside down by opioid addiction, please contact Hope by The Sea. Recovery is the hardest journey you will ever take, but it is also the most important one you will ever set upon.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mayday: Talking About Mental Health

Mental Health Month
Every day millions of Americans come together in rooms of recovery across the country to share their experience, strength and hope. People with varying lengths of sobriety and/or clean time rely on each other to live one day at time without picking up a drink or a drug. When one member is having a difficult time, they give what they are going through up to the group, and by doing so feel a sense of relief by getting it off their chest. What comes back in return from the group is oftentimes guidance in getting through the particular issue, potentially averting someone from exacerbating the situation by doing something that makes the situation worse.

There is a great chance that if you are having an issue, somebody else has gone through the same thing or something similar. Everyone may be unique in their own way, but when it comes to the symptoms of the disease of addiction (i.e. how one thinks and acts in response to such thoughts) people often go through the same types of issues. Both inactive addiction and active recovery.

While 12-Steps programs have the word anonymous in the various organization's titles and what is said in the rooms is intended to stay there (for a multitude of reasons), more and more people have become willing to share their experience with society, with the hope that maybe what they say will resonate with others who have not been able to find the strength to seek assistance. Feeling less alone in one’s disease can be a catalyst for change.

Addiction is one of several debilitating mental health disorders that can be hard to talk about because of stigma. The harder it is for someone to talk about, the more likely it is that they will attempt to keep what they are going through hidden, thus preventing treatment. When it comes to mental illness, an inability to reach out for help can be deadly.

 

There's Power in Sharing


Mayday is an international distress signal. So, it should come as little surprise that the month of May is Mental Health Month given that people with untreated mental health disorders are truly in distress. The organization, Mental Health America, is asking everyone to join them “in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about.”

In addition to providing a toolkit to help individuals and organizations spread the word, you can also take to social media to talk about what #mentalillnessfeelslike. You never know how your story might help someone that is still in the grips of any form of mental illness, including:
  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • PTSD
If you are in recovery for addiction or a co-occurring mental illness, you know the courage it takes to surrender and reach out for help. Observing Mental Health Month could help countless people who are in a similar predicament.

 

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment


At Hope by The Sea, many of our clients who are working a program of addiction recovery have a co-occurring mental health disorder. We know first-hand what can happen if both forms of mental illness are not treated concurrently. Our program is designed to treat both conditions so that one does not undermine the other on the difficult road of recovery.

If you are struggling with drugs and/or alcohol, there is a good chance that other pathologies may be at play. Our skilled team of doctors, psychiatrists and therapists work to assess the whole patient, so that no stone is left unturned, concealing a problem that could lead to relapse down the road. Please contact us today to begin a life of recovery.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Overdose Deaths In Orange County

overdose deaths
If you happen to be a regular reader of our blog (we thank you for readership), then you are aware that we have covered the American opioid addiction epidemic in spades over the years. The crisis is without a doubt unlike anything that lawmakers and health officials have seen before, both regarding its scope and deadly wake it has left behind. Across the country, around 100 Americans suffer premature death as a result of overdose, many more survive such an event and millions more are caught in the maelstrom of opioid addiction.

Much of our coverage of the deadly epidemic has focused on parts of the country which have been hit severely by the scourge of prescription opioid and heroin abuse. A combination of variables in certain areas created perfect conditions for staggering abuse to grow uncontrollably. Poverty and rural settings are two contributing factors to heightened addiction rates and few resources to offer adequate addiction treatment services. Left unchecked, the debilitating mental illness has but one eventuality—progression. And the longer opioid use disorder goes untreated, the greater the likelihood of a fatal overdose.

Rural New England, Appalachia, and the Midwest region are often associated with being impacted the most by the epidemic; the occurrence which has been reflected in a multitude of posts on this blog. But, it is important to remember that no corner of America has gone untouched by the pernicious hand of opioid narcotics; and we can’t forget that any amount of overdose deaths in an area needs to be addressed to affect change.

At Hope by The Sea located in sunny Orange County, California, we have treated people for opioid addiction from across the country and beyond. We have also helped a significant number of people residing in the 'So Cal' area, as well. The vast reach of opioid abuse does not pass over even the most affluent of areas, such as Orange County.

 

Overdose Deaths In Our Back Yard


The most recent “Drug & Alcohol Morbidity & Mortality in Orange County” report from the OC Health Care Agency revealed that since the turn of the century, drug and alcohol deaths have risen 82 percent, The Orange County Register reports. The findings indicated the primary factor for the increase was due to accidental opioid overdose. What’s more, the city with the highest overdose death rate is Laguna Woods (50.8 per 100,000), followed by coastal cities, including:
  • Dana Point (40.1 per 100,000)
  • Seal Beach (33.8)
  • Laguna Beach (31.4)
  • San Juan Capistrano
Men were twice as likely as women to die from an overdose and more than three-fourths of the premature death victims were white, according to the article. Over three-fourths of overdose deaths were accidental, 66.8 percent involving opioids of any kind (including heroin). However, half of the overdose deaths in the county were linked to prescription opioids.

“Our goal is to highlight the trends to better target our efforts at outreach and treatment,” said Curtis Condon, research manager for the Health Care Agency. “The report says we need to do more to reach out to the folks who live in (coastal) parts of the county and raise awareness.”

 

Treating Opioid Use Disorder


If you are one of the thousands of Southern Californians struggling with opioid use disorder, please contact us today. As is evident by the above-mentioned report, people are dying and most overdoses are accidental. Often the result of taking more a substance to keep up with one’s ever harder to appease tolerance. The longer the condition is left untreated, the greater the risk of a potentially fatal overdose.

Our comprehensive prescription drug rehab program can help you begin the life changing recovery process.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Alcohol's Impact On Women

alcohol
Over the years, there has been significant research on the impact of alcohol on the brain, specifically with regard to both addiction and the damage long-term heavy alcohol use can do to what is arguably our most important organ. With that in mind, it is worth noting that the majority of alcohol related research involved men. Which makes sense if one considers, for a moment, that men tend to drink greater amounts of alcohol for longer periods of time than women do.

What’s more, men tend to engage in alcohol use beginning at a younger age than women. They are also more likely to engage in what are considered to be unhealthy drinking practices, such as binge drinking. However, new research published in the last year or so has shown that women are closing the gap with men regarding prevalence and types of unhealthy drinking. Such revelations mandate that more research be conducted on alcohol as it pertains to women.

A better understanding of alcohol’s effect on the female gender could lead to more effective methods of treatment. Which is important, because women are just as eligible to be touched by addiction as men. New research aims to shine some light on the subject.

 

Women, Alcohol and The Brain


A collaborative research effort involving Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has shown that the reward system structures in the brain are bigger in alcoholic women, compared to non-alcoholics, according to an MGH press release. The researchers found that in the brains of recovering female alcoholics, the size of the fluid-filled ventricles in the center of the brain associated with reward were smaller than that of active drinkers. Which implies that the brain can recover from the changes caused by alcohol. The findings were published in Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging,

"Until now, little has been known about the volume of the reward regions in alcoholic women, since all previous studies have been done in men," says co-author Gordon Harris, PhD, of the 3D Imaging Service and the Center for Morphometric Analysis in the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH. "Our findings suggest that it might be helpful to consider gender-specific approaches to treatment for alcoholism." 

The researchers point out that with each year of abstinence from alcohol, recovering women and men saw a 1.8 percent decrease in the size of the ventricles, the press release reports. The alterations in the brain caused by alcohol, can seemingly be reversed over time. The researchers plan to broaden the scope of this research in the future.

"We're planning to take a more detailed look at the impact of factors such as the severity of drinking and the length of sobriety on specific brain structure, and hope to investigate whether the imaging differences seen in this and previous studies are associated with gender-based differences in motivational and emotional functions," says co-author Marlene Oscar-Berman, PhD, a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Anatomy & Neurobiology at BUSM.

 

Not Too Far Gone to Recover


Many people who have been abusing alcohol for decades may be discouraged from seeking help with their disorder. Especially if they have already begun to experience both physiological and psychological damage. It can be easy for one in the grips of addiction to say, ‘what’s the point, the damage has been done.’ Fortunately, millions of people have managed to work a program of recovery and gone on to live healthy lives. The human brain is an extremely resilient organ, but there isn't a threshold to gauge when something is beyond repair, so the sooner one starts on the path of recovery the better.

If you or loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, please contact Hope by The Sea today. We can help you break free from the snares of alcohol, and show you how to live a fulfilling life in recovery.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Recovery Stress In April

recovery
If you are anything like the millions of other Americans who pay taxes, April is not on the top of your list of favorite months. April can be an extremely hard time, having to determine what you owe in both Federal and state taxes can be extremely frustrating and time consuming. What’s more, you may be asked to come up with money that you do not have. The list of reasons why can range from unexpected health bills to sudden loss of employment. At the end of the day, the month of April could be summed up in one word—stressful.

Such stress can be especially poisonous to one's program of recovery. Financial worries can cause people to want to ease their troubled mind. If one, in the past, has typically relieved stress with mind-altering substances, the “ides” of April is one of the riskier times of the year—particularly for those in early recovery. Years of not paying one’s taxes could fall under the umbrella of “wreckage of one’s past.”

It practically goes without saying that people caught in the grips of addiction, even those who manage to function enough to hold down a job, are not the most diligent when it comes to budgeting and accounting. When choosing between one’s next high or drunk and paying one's income tax, addiction dictates where your priorities likely lie. It is not uncommon for people in recovery to owe years in back taxes.

 

Holding On To Your Recovery During Tax Season


When working a program of addiction recovery, clearing up the wreckage of your past to the best of your ability is of the utmost importance. It is part of the process of acknowledging where you went wrong and doing the best you can to make it right, as part of your new commitment to recovery. Financial restitution or amends is often a part of people's recovery process. And you may not be rich or in place to pay it all off at once, which means that getting right with the “tax man” will take some time.

If you attend meetings of recovery, there is a high likelihood that several people in any given meeting are chipping away at debt. While they may not like it, they do it because they are willing to go to any lengths… and it is vital that calm is exercised. Understanding that paying off debt, like recovery, does not happen overnight. It is a process that demands patience, lest you get worked up about it. Fixating on such wreckage can send you into a tailspin that may be difficult to pull out of. If you are new to recovery, and just filed your taxes for the first time in years...then it is strongly advised that stay close to your support network (i.e. sponsor and recovery peers).

You are not alone, and a problem is only as big as you make it. At times like these it can be easy to desire solitude, isolating yourself from your program—a slippery slope to relapse. If you find yourself getting down on yourself, talk to your peers or share about it at a meeting. Somebody else in the room knows first-hand what you are going through, they can help you see that in time this too will pass. But they cannot help you, if you do not ask for support.

 

Finding Recovery


If you are currently in the grips of active addiction, April is likely to be just as frustrating for you. A reminder of the endless troubles that have arisen due an illness that has gone untreated. Perhaps you are ready to turn your life around? Please contact Hope by The Sea, we can help you break the cycle of addiction, equip you with tools and set the foundation that will help you build a new life in recovery. Treatment can be the first step to turning your life around and clearing up the wreckage of your past.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Psychological Distress In America

psychological-distress
Do you find that you are stressed-out much of the time? Do you feel anxious throughout your day, depressed or both? If so, you may think that you are alone? In many cases, one's mental illness tells them that no one can understand what they are going through. One can develop the feeling that everyone around them is happy, while they are mired in constant suffering. However, the reality is that there are millions of Americans struggling with the same issues.

What’s more, mental illness affects millions around the globe. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a year-long campaign to help the more than 300 million people living with depression get assistance.

It is extremely common for people’s psychological distress to prevent them from seeking help for their mental health disorder. Perhaps the only thing more tragic than receiving a diagnosis for a form of mental illness, is when it is left untreated.

 

Psychological Distress In America


A new study took a close look at data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) survey of more 35,000 households across the country. The analysis showed that an estimated 8.3 million American adults (about 3.4 percent of the population) struggle from serious psychological distress, CBS News reports. Any issue from hopelessness and nervousness to depression and anxiety. The findings were published in the journal Psychiatric Services.

Without treatment for such conditions, substance use, abuse and suicide are a common occurrence. Unfortunately, the majority of people suffering from such dis-ease are unable to access care or afford care. And many people’s illness hinders their ability to seek help even when they do have access and/or can afford assistance.

“Mental illness is on the rise. Suicide is on the rise. And access to care for the mentally ill is getting worse,” said lead researcher Judith Weissman, a research manager in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. 

The research links the rise in psychological distress to the Great Recession of late 2007 and beyond. The trauma of losing work and home left serious scars on many Americans, having long-term effects.

 

Navigating Mental Health Care


Weissman highlights the fact that there is a serious shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S., according to the article. Coupled with the fact that insurance companies still hesitate or fight to not cover mental health service claims; getting covered for the help you need is no easy task. She points out that mental health services need to be better integrated with primary care.

“We need to increase access to care for the mentally ill,” she said. “We also need to put trained psychiatrists and mental health providers within the primary care setting. If you have linkages of care within primary care, then the mentally ill patient can be helped even if they’ve come in for some other reason.”

 

Treatment is Available


If you answered “yes” to any of the questions at the beginning of the article, failing to seek help will only make the problem worse. It is possible that you have started down, or are in the grips of an addiction with a co-occurring mental health disorder. If so, please contact Hope by the Sea today to begin the process of recovery. Our highly-skilled staff is not only trained in treating addiction, we can help you address conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder as well.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Substance Abuse At Work

substance use disorder
If you are a recovering alcoholic or addict, or are still in the grips of active addiction, we don't need to tell you how hard it is to function on par with one’s peers who do not have a history of abuse. Alcohol and substance use disorders make even the most menial of tasks difficult to accomplish. Even people who are, comparatively speaking, functional addicts and alcoholics struggle to hold down jobs and contribute to society.

Even if one does manage to muster up the strength to get out of bed in the morning and to work, his or her efficiency and productivity is far below those who do not have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Aside from being partially or fully impaired while on the job affecting one's work productivity, the ability to do good work is even more diminished by the fact that one must exert extra effort to hide their condition from co-workers and management.

Hopefully, if somebody presents themselves as having a problem with mind-altering substances at work, it will lead to co-workers encouraging them to seek help. Yet, that is not always the case. In certain fields of work, substance use and abuse could be described as a systemic problem. In some ways viewed as just being a part of the job. New research suggests that the prevalence of employees with substance use disorders is twice the national average in the field of construction, entertainment, recreation and food service businesses. The findings come from an analysis and survey from the National Safety Council, NORC at the University of Chicago and Shatterproof (a national non-profit focused on addiction).

 

Working With Addiction


In a given year, people with substance use disorders are absent from work almost 50 percent more days (up to six weeks per year) than their peers, according to a National Safety Council press release. What’s more, workers with substance use disorders were found to be less productive and rack up higher healthcare costs, compared to work peers without a disorder. The analysis showed that untreated substance use disorder costs about $13,000 per employee working in the information and communications sector, compared to $2,000 for employees working in agriculture. Those who misuse or abuse prescription drugs have three times higher healthcare costs, compared to other workers.

Yet, despite the apparent dangers of prescription drug abuse, with around 100 deadly overdoses daily in the United States, employers don’t seem to be all that concerned about it. The survey showed that 71 percent of employers reported issues with employees using prescription drugs, just 39 percent believed it was a threat to safety and only 24 percent had issue with it, the press release reports. However, the research shows that employers have a vested interest in helping their employees seek help, saving them [employer] as much as $2,607 a year.

"Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand," said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The problem exists, and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business. As the tool shows, the cost of inaction is far too great."

 

Treatment is the Answer


Both employer and employee have something to gain by addressing substance use. It saves employers money and saves the lives of employees. Workers who seek help and follow through with a recovery regimen can make a real difference in the workplace. Naturally, ignoring the elephant in the room will only lead to more problems. Eric Goplerud, Vice President, Public Health with NORC at the University of Chicago, points out that:

"The most significant finding that is new and may be surprising to employers, is that workers who are in recovery, who have received treatment at some time in the past, but who are not currently abusing substances, are less likely to leave their employer, use less unscheduled leave and use fewer health care resources than co-workers with an untreated substance use disorder. This finding stands up for every one of the 16 industry sectors. Supporting workers to treat substance use disorders is cost effective for employers." 

That being said, if you know that your alcohol and/or substance use has become untenable, leading to significant unmanageability in your life, then you do not need to wait for someone to point out your problem to seek help. A preemptive strike or, rather, seeking assistance on your own volition in most cases leads to more successful outcomes, compared to those who are told to go to treatment or look for a new job.

Recovery is possible, contact Hope by The Sea to begin the process. We can help you break the cycle of harmful drug and alcohol use, and show you that you never have to use mind-altering substances again. There is no time like the present.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Curbing Addiction Cue Reactivity

cue reactivity
Addicts and alcoholics are dependent on drugs and alcohol respectively. Their brains are wired to expect feelings of euphoria and calm when they use various mind-altering substances. Over time, it takes more and more of said substance to achieve the desired feelings of relief—commonly referred to as tolerance. As you might imagine, over prolonged periods of pleasure-seeking behavior, using greater amounts progressively, the hooks of one’s addiction sink deeper and deeper.

If you have wrestled with the insidious Goliath of addiction, and later gone on to find recovery, then you have first-hand knowledge of the fact that you are not just susceptible to the drugs and alcohol. You are also attached to the actions, behaviors and rituals of substance use. When you first sought assistance in the rooms of recovery, somebody told you right from the start to avoid people, places and things that have a link to your addiction. That being around such things, especially early on, would likely lead to a relapse.

Sure, it seems like common sense. But common sense, while glaring, is commonly ignored by people with a history of substance use and abuse. As if addicts and alcoholics are somehow hardwired to think they are exempt or ineligible to fall victim to the various pitfalls that can lead to a relapse. It is easy to delude oneself into thinking that your environment in active addiction, had nothing to do with why you abused drugs and alcohol. A line of thinking that has led to countless relapses.

 

The Power of Cue Reactivity


After years of continued substance use, one’s brain becomes acutely sensitive to various forms of stimuli. The mind associates visuals, sounds and smells with release. Exposure to certain stimuli, can lead to reactions that pave the way to relapse—even in those with long term recovery. Cue reactivity, according to research published in the journal Addiction, is a type of learned response involving significant physiological and subjective reactions to presentations of drug-related stimuli (i.e. seeing a bottle of alcohol or smoking marijuana). Addicts and alcoholics who want to avoid relapse, typically avoid drug-related stimuli like the plague.

Some cues are harder than others to avoid, but even those who exercise extreme vigilance are at risk of exposure. While cue reactivity is a learned response that comes with little conscious effort, unlearning those types of connections is extremely difficult. It is possible, but it takes time, which is why people with long term recovery reiterate over and over to newcomers the value of staying close to the program and its members, while avoiding anything or anyone that can be linked to one's addiction.

 

Weakening the Reaction to Drug-Taking Cues


It is not uncommon for recovering addicts and alcoholics to find themselves in a situation that they did everything in their power to avoid. They are exposed to a cue that leads to severe cravings, often too powerful to ward off. They begin to rationalize. Telling themselves that one drink or drug couldn’t hurt. And before they realize it, they have relapsed. It is regular occurrence among members of recovery programs.

What if scientists could develop a medicine that could weaken one’s reaction to drug-taking cues? That is, a medication that could make people in recovery less susceptible to relapse after being exposed to people using mind-altering substances or coming across a piece of paraphernalia. Well, it turns out that such a drug may already have been developed.

New research on a weight-loss drug has shown significant promise in achieving the aforementioned goal. Researchers from the Center for Addiction Research in the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, found that the weight-loss drug Lorcaserin reduced oxycodone self-administration and cue reactivity associated with relapse in rodent models, MNT reports. The findings were published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Lorcaserin helps people eat less, by making them feel full by altering the brain's serotonin system, according to the article. Serotonin has a hand in regulating the brain circuit that influences cue reactivity and drug reward. Study leader, Prof. Kathryn A. Cunningham, says:

"The effectiveness of lorcaserin in reducing oxycodone seeking and craving highlights the therapeutic potential for lorcaserin in the treatment of opioid use disorder."

Friday, April 7, 2017

Talking About Depression On World Health Day

depression
Do you ever feel paralyzed by your thoughts? Find yourself unable to concentrate or carry out everyday tasks? Are you ever exhausted from staying up all night ruminating? Are there some weeks that you are uninterested and or unable to derive pleasure from doing things that most people seem elated about? Do you have feelings of guilt or low self-worth, for no apparent reason?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of those questions, then there is a good chance you are suffering from depression; a mental health disorder that affects more than 300 million people around the world and some 16 million of which are Americans. Depression is a mental health disorder that requires treatment and a continued reliance on medication and/or talk therapy. Without treatment, recovery is unlikely. Those living with untreated depression are far more likely to develop unhealthy relationships with drugs and/or alcohol. They are also much more likely to seek out a permanent solution to their temporary problem (not the disorder, the episode)—commit suicide.

Mental illness is not something you can ignore, the stakes are far too high. While there are treatments available that have proven to be effective for a significant number of people, only a small percentage of depressives ever seek or receive care. If you, in fact, suffer from depression, we don’t need to explain to you why depressives are generally hesitant about seeking assistance. For those who are not familiar with the ever persistent cloud of stigma that has long hung over people with mental illness, perhaps we can shed some light.

 

Barriers to Treatment


There are a number of reasons a person with mental illness will avoid treatment, but perhaps the biggest barrier is stigma. People living with mental illness are often treated poorly by their community. When the general public talks about mental illness it is often in a pejorative way. While there are many different forms of mental illness, it can be easy to lump everyone in one group or another. You are either “normal,” or you are abnormal. Being the latter of which leaves the afflicted open to any one of several types of discrimination.

Keeping that in mind, it can become apparent that nobody would want to be viewed as being broken. Or being the person that people say, “something is just not right with that one.” Given that millions of people suffer from one form of mental health disorder, or another, it is of the utmost importance that the general public be made aware that stigma does absolutely no good for society.

It’s vital that the public be educated about the nature of mood disorders, that people can and do recover from conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. But, the affected need encouragement. They need to feel like they can discuss their problems openly, without fear of some kind of reprisal. That they will not be shunned by their peers. Please remember, when people spread or disseminate inaccurate information or derogatory remarks about mental illness, there is a good chance that it is affecting a loved one or at the very least—a friend.

 

 World Health Day


The World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen to turn their lens on depression this year. “Depression: Let’s Talk” aims to get more people with depression to seek and get help. To accomplish the goal, they are asking everyone to help with their ever-important mission. Today, is World Health Day, the focus is depression. Using the tools provided by the organization, we can all have a hand in ending the stigma of mental health disorders.

“If you think you have depression, talk to somebody you trust,” says WHO. Getting help begins with talking about what you are going through. At Hope by The Sea, we know how hard that can be, but we also know that it is worth it. If you need help, please reach out to us, we can help.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Stigma of Addiction Lives On

addiction
In a world dominated by technology, it is safe to say that film may be one of the more effective ways to get a message across and educating people about the dangers of substance use. With everyone constantly on their smartphones, in many way eschewing traditional media outlets like print and even television, it is vital that campaigns harness the power and global reach of the internet. Going even further, a multi-pronged approach using every available media format has the best chance at reaching the most people.

When it comes to addiction, there are so many factors to consider and it's difficult to know where to start. Millions of Americans need help, many of them do not even know where to begin. In some cases, the stigma of being branded an addict or an alcoholic is enough to keep one from seeking helping. Believe it or not, despite the rampant reports of overdose deaths taking around 100 American lives each day, a significant part of the opioid-prescribed population does not view painkillers as being all that dangerous.

 

Super Bowl PSA


During Super Bowl LI, there were two public service announcements (PSA) highlighting the need for safely storing one’s prescription opioids. The makers of the PSAs wanted to drive home the fact that drugs that are not properly stored place loved one’s at great risk. Americans lock up their firearms to keep them out of their children’s hands, but just store OxyContin in the family medicine cabinet. Parents admonish teens about texting and driving, yet more teenagers are likely to die from an overdose, than they will from texting and driving. If you have not seen the PSAs, you can take a moment to watch them below.

Safe:


Please click here if the video does not load.

Smart Phone:


Please click here if the video does not load.

 

Ending the Stigma of Addiction


It has been estimated that there are more than 2 million Americans struggling with an opioid use disorder. Yet, the clear majority of them do not have access or are willing to seek treatment. Unlike drug epidemics of our Nation’s past, which were primarily believed to be associated with poor people and minorities, the American opioid addiction epidemic has affected Americans from all walks of life. Showing firsthand what experts have been saying for years, addiction does not discriminate. Thus, chipping away at the stigma of the disease.

However, when it comes to the stigma surrounding substance use disorders, there is a lot more work to be done. Stigma serves just two purposes, creating feelings of shame and guilt in the afflicted, and discouraging them from seeking help. People battling cancer or other serious illnesses are never subjected to the kind of treatment addicts and alcoholics experience. In an effort to drive that point home, a substance abuse prevention and recovery organization known as First Call help create PSAs to raise awareness about stigma. We hope that every adult is exposed to the two videos below.

Addicts Hear Comments Cancer Patients Never Would:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Addicts Hear Comments Parkinson’s Patients Never Would:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Smoking Cessation: Rethinking Varenicline

varenicline
If you have ever tried quitting something you were addicted to, then you know how difficult it is to succeed. The chemical hooks and snares of mind-altering substances make the goal of quitting indefinitely exceedingly hard, as is evident by the high relapse rates across the board. It is possible to free oneself from active addiction, but it typically requires a combination of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and a continued program of maintenance to guard yourself from relapse.

The disease of addiction is constantly working diligently to be sated, and if fed the results are usually pernicious. One need look no further than opioid painkillers to see what can happen, if addiction is left unchecked. The death toll has steadily been rising for nearly 20 years. The focus of most addiction experts and medical organizations has been to ensure that people who need treatment for an opioid use disorder get it, before overdose and potential premature death ensues. Approximately 52,000 died in the United States from drug overdoses in 2015, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It could be argued that the urgency to reign in the epidemic stems from how quickly a life can be lost after an opioid addiction develops. Yet, every year in the U.S. other addictive substances are responsible for an exponentially greater number of premature deaths than opioids. A reality that is rarely discussed these days partly due to the shadow cast by the opioid epidemic. The CDC reports that cigarettes are responsible for about one in every five deaths in America, with more than 480,000 deaths annually.

Effective Medications for Tobacco Addiction


At a very young age, Americans are warned about the dangers of tobacco use, whether it be cigarettes or smokeless tobacco. The risks may take decades to come to fruition, but more times than not tobacco users die prematurely. There are a number of reasons for why tobacco is so hard to quit, especially for good. Even those who have managed to succeed at working a program of long-term recovery from an addiction to what most people consider to be more insidious substances, quitting cigarettes often proves to be too much for them. Yet, at the end of the day, tobacco is the deadlier substance in the long run.

Smoking cessation is possible, but few people can manage it cold turkey. The majority of people addicted to nicotine require assistance of either cessation aids like patches or gums, CBT and/or medications. Sometimes a combination of all three. When it comes to medications, the most commonly employed are bupropion (Wellbutrin) or varenicline (Chantix). Regarding the latter, which has been around for just over a decade, it garnered a bad reputation because of claims from small studies that found it to cause both depression and suicidal ideations. Such concerns led to a “black box” warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009, a warning which the agency did away with recently due to new research, ScienceDaily reports. Researchers of a new study argue that if the black box label had never happened, as many as 17,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease could have been prevented.

 

Saving Lives


Before the FDA’s warning, Chantix showed to be effective at achieving permanent quit rates of approximately 25 percent, according to the article. The warning resulted in a 76 percent drop in varenicline prescriptions dispensed. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) argue that the majority of people who experienced adverse effects from the drug, had a history of mental illness.

A large randomized trial was carried out over a 12-week period and involved about 8,000 long-term smokers, the article reports. Participants in the study were broken into subgroups, those with a history of mental illness, and those without. People without a history of a psychiatric disorder that were treated with varenicline had less neuropsychiatric symptoms, and both groups achieved higher abstinence rates at 12 weeks, compared to controls.

The take away from the research appears to be that varenicline may not be right for everyone (i.e. those with history of depression or suicidal ideations), but could be quite effective for many smokers. A commentary about the findings and recommendations was published in The American Journal of Medicine titled, "Smoking Cessation: The Urgent Need for Increased Utilization of Varenicline."

"The existing totality of evidence suggests an urgent need to increase the use of varenicline in the general population as well as in those with serious mental illness who on average die about 20 years earlier than the general population, in part, because their smoking rates may be as high as 75 percent," said Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.P.H. He adds, "For reducing risks of cardiovascular disease it's never too late to quit, but to reduce risks of cancer, it's never too early."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Naloxone "Opt-Out" Model

naloxone
What is naloxone, and how can it save your or a loved one’s life? First, let's begin with why naloxone, also sold by the brand name Narcan, would be required. You are probably well aware by now that the United States has been in the grips of an epidemic for nearly two decades, stemming from prescription opioid use and abuse. The class of drugs, while extremely effective at mitigating symptoms of pain, they are exceedingly addictive as well. On top of that, taking one or more pills too many can easily result in an overdose. As is evident by the overdose death rates that are nothing short of staggering.

There were 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription opioids in 2015, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not all of those deaths were people who met the criteria for an opioid use disorder, in a number of cases the people who experienced opioid poisoning were run-of-the mill pain patients who had an adverse reaction. The point being that you do not need to be an opioid addict to succumb to an overdose.

It is not a forgone conclusion that an opioid overdose will have a fatal outcome. In overdose situations involving strictly opioids, there is a good chance that naloxone can reverse the life-threatening symptoms. Case in point, like many rural states that have been hit hard by the epidemic, the State of Maine lost 208 of its citizens to a fatal overdose in 2014, The New York Times reported. However, that number pales in comparison to the 829 lives saved by naloxone in the same year. With that in mind, it is easy to see how invaluable the life-saving drug is, and how important it is to expand access to Narcan.

 

Naloxone In The Right Hands


There has been a major push from lawmakers, health experts and various nonprofits to ensure that first responders are equipped with naloxone kits. The drug can easily be administered by a police officer or EMT using a nasal applicator attached to a vial of the drug. Across the country, practically every squad car is now equipped with an easy to use naloxone kit. The role of today’s law enforcement officer goes far beyond the motto “Protect and Serve.”

It is of the utmost importance that every first responder has the miracle drug on hand. But, it is arguable more important for another group of people to be trained and equipped with Narcan nasal spray kits, addicts themselves and their friends and family. The CDC points out that upwards of 80 percent of overdose reversal cases involved other drug users administering naloxone. When someone experiences an overdose, there are often other people around who can call for help, which takes time—a luxury that an overdose victim lacks. Having the overdose antidote on hand, at the instant a problem occurs, can greatly increase the chance of a reversal. Unfortunately, there are number of obstacle hindering opioid users from acquiring the opioid poisoning antidote, with stigma being a leading roadblock.

 

Opting-Out of Naloxone


In a number of cities and a couple of states, Narcan kits can be acquired at pharmacies without a prescription. Even though most Americans prescribed an opioid are aware of the existence of naloxone, it turns out that many are hesitant to ask their pharmacist about it, and pharmacists are reluctant to bring up the subject. The reasons for this, according to a new study published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association, are three-fold:
  • Patients are unaware of the drugs availability.
  • Pharmacists worry about the implications of offering the drug to patients unsolicited.
  • Patients hesitate to inquire about the drug due to the stigma that accompanies opioids.
We wrote earlier, many overdose victims were not opioid addicts. Patients prescribed opioids find themselves reluctant to ask about the drug with their pharmacists for fear of being thought of as an addict. On the other hand, pharmacists worry that offering the drug without being asked, could be taken the wrong way by the patient. Two sides of the coin, both paralyzed by fear and stigma.

"There's this tension between patients who are afraid of the stigma associated with asking for naloxone, and pharmacists who worry about damaging relationships or breaking trust with patients by offering it," said study lead author Traci Green, PhD, MSc, epidemiologist and associate director of the Injury Prevention Center at Boston Medical Center. "It's these fears that hold pharmacists back from offering naloxone to people who may need it for themselves or their family." 

So, what then should be done about the aforementioned reticence? The researchers proffer an "opt-out" model, according to ScienceDaily. Whereby, pharmacists would offer naloxone to any patient filling an opioid prescription, or to any family member filling a prescription for a loved one. Such people would then accept the naloxone or opt-out, this would make Narcan more of a formality rather than something that might be taken the wrong way.

"Most overdoses occur at home or with a loved one close by. With expanded naloxone access in the pharmacy setting, we have the opportunity to give people the choice to keep themselves and their family safe, and reduce the stigma of getting naloxone and of addiction. Our study suggests that by giving pharmacists the model and language to do so, they have the power to save a life with naloxone" said Green.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Recovery: A New High

recovery
“It’s up the mountain or it is down into the grave.”

The hardest thing for anyone with first-hand experience of addiction is recovery. The hooks and snares of the disease are so powerful that even amid true despair (e.g. loss of friends, family and home) one will still have a desire to use. In many cases, physical dependence is so strong that to stop using means terrible withdrawal symptoms. Without assistance, relapse typically occurs within the first couple days of trying to quit.

While the disease of addiction is extremely difficult to recover from, it is possible. But it requires hard work day in and day out. It demands that one essentially throw everything you think you know out the window, and adopt a new set of principles and traditions. Recovering addicts and alcoholics must themselves to use muscles, both physical and mental, that they didn’t even know they had. At times it is painful, every part of you wants to quit recovery and have you return to the paradoxical comfort of one's disease. But those who are determined to live life one day at a time and never drink or drug again, appreciating the fact that this is life or death, will push forward into the unknown.

In many ways, recovering from a disease that is trying its best to kill you, is like scaling a mountain. If you are to be successful, one must train on a regular basis to be in the shape required to have a fighting chance of making it to the summit. In recovery, success rests on a daily commitment to stay spiritually fit, failure to do so typically results in relapse at some point. Just like on a mountain, one's environment in everyday life is unpredictable. Things happening in real time require that you have the tools necessary to defend oneself from the elements. On that mountain, what could look like a sudden change in weather, in the real world of everyday life for people recovering from addiction—that can be risky people, places or things.

The mountain analogy may seem corny, trite or vapid. But that doesn’t make it any less true. For serious mountain climbers, such as those who have scaled peaks like Everest, et al, there is an expression that is tossed around sometimes known as the “point of no return.” Simply put, the point of no return is the point beyond which one must continue one's current course of action, because turning back is physically impossible; to turn back would carry a serious risk of injury or death. It could be said that people who battled addiction for years to the point of needing recovery, essentially reach a point of no return. Having to make a choice between life (recovery) or death (active addiction). You either keep climbing in recovery, or you turn back into the abyss.

 

A New High


Such was the case for a number of recovering addicts living in a homeless shelter in Seattle. A documentary released this year, A New High, chronicles the harrowing story of a former Army Ranger who leads people who want to reclaim their lives from addiction, up 14,400 ft. Mt Rainier. The participants took part in a yearlong addiction treatment program, part of which was preparing them for the climb. The film was directed by Samuel Miron and Stephen Scott Scarpulla.

"I think we all have preconceptions about what 'homeless people' and/or 'addicts' look like,” Scarpulla told The Fix. “Hopefully, this film puts all of those notions to bed. After my first week in the shelter, I quickly learned that addiction doesn't always resemble a guy on a corner with a cardboard box. It can look like your best friend, your neighbor, your boss, your lover. Addiction doesn't discriminate. And the more we recognize that openly in films and media, the more we can combat the stigma and get a clearer picture of truth." 

Please take a moment to watch the short trailer below:


If you are having trouble watching the clip, please click here.

"I don’t think I really understood how personal this film was going to be for many people, nor how life changing the experience was going to be for me," Miron said. "If A New High causes just one conversation to happen that helps just one person feel that it is okay for him or her to ask for help, for me, the film will be a resounding success."

 

The Journey of Recovery


Naturally, most people's road to recovery will probably not include a mountain over 10,000 feet tall. Yet, at times, in early recovery one may feel like they are on the side of the Matterhorn (not the Disneyland ride). The pains of early recovery are of the utmost importance, especially when you consider that most good things in this world come by way of a struggle, whether that be efforts to earn a degree or working the 12-Steps of recovery to earn back humanity.

Making the decision to seek help for addiction takes enormous courage. But help is available if you would ask of it. If you or a loved one’s life has become unmanageable due to the disease of addiction, please contact Hope by the Sea today.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tanning Addiction and Alcohol Dependence

alcohol-dependence
Not everyone in the United States lives in a climate like Southern California, Arizona or Florida. Climes around the country are far from consistently sunny, much of the year in some places are typified by rain or snow. For those who like to have a copper hue year-round, they usually rely on the assistance of ultraviolet rays via a tanning bed. The practice is somewhat controversial, because it has been associated with various forms of cancer—specifically melanoma. Nevertheless, millions of Americans visit tanning salons, sometimes on weekly basis.

The reasons why people tan vary, some just like the way being tan looks. For many people image is of the utmost importance, and being ashy or pale is not an acceptable appearance. Concerns about physical appearance can be harmful to one’s health in extreme cases. People often exercise in unhealthy ways to cope with their perception of how they look, whether the flaw exists or not. Left untreated, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) can wreak havoc on one's life. The DSM-5 categorizes BDD in the obsessive–compulsive spectrum.

There is also a significant number of Americans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as seasonal depression. While the condition can affect people during the summer, it is usually associated with the winter months when natural vitamin D happens to be in short supply. SAD patients will use tanning beds in an attempt to change their current mood.

Tanning Addiction


Aside from the potential for cancer due to tanning, most view the practice as being relatively benign (no pun intended). However, there has been a growing body of evidence suggesting that tanning can become an addiction. There may also be a relation between tanning dependence and other harmful disorders, such as alcohol use disorder.

New research from Yale University showed that people with tanning dependence were six times as likely to be dependent on alcohol, according to a press release from the Yale Cancer Center. People with tanning dependence were five times more likely to show signs of "exercise addiction" and three times more likely to experience SAD. The findings were published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

"People who are tanning dependent could also be assessed for SAD," said Brenda Cartmel, Ph.D., the paper's lead author and senior research scientist and lecturer in the school's Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology. "There are ways of addressing SAD other than indoor tanning. Regarding the alcohol dependence association, it may be possible that addressing that behavior could help address tanning dependence."

 

Focused On Recovery


It is often said in the rooms and centers of addiction recovery that if you're addicted to alcohol, you can also become dependent on another substance or behavior. Many a recovering addict has experienced the pitfall of adopting new addictions in the place of another. It is important that one practice moderation even when an activity is inherently safe. Developing unhealthy relationships with other activities can actually result in a return to the harmful behaviors which brought one to the rooms of recovery in the first place.

It can be easy to put off the work of recovery by focusing on other activities, sometimes in the name of living a healthier life; that in the long run may have a harming effect on both mind and body.
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