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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

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

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

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

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

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.


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Smart Phone:

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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:

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Addicts Hear Comments Parkinson’s Patients Never Would:

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