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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Needle Exchanges Have Fallout

needle exchanges
It would be ideal if every person in America living with an opioid use disorder received treatment. Given the state of the opioid epidemic, however, that would seem like wishful thinking. Even when you discount opioid use disorder, the clear majority of all people living with addiction never access treatment. But, unlike most other drugs and alcohol, opioids carry a much higher risk of premature death and the transmission of disease via intravenous use. It is for those reasons that more and more states have turned to increasing access to naloxone and the use of needle exchanges. Going a step further, the mayor of Seattle announced earlier this year the implementation of “safe-injection” sites.

All the aforementioned efforts are an attempt to mitigate the yearly death toll from opioid abuse. If treatment cannot be provided to those who need it, the least that can be done is reducing the chance of overdose and the spread of disease. Needle exchanges are perhaps the best way to ensure that IV drug users can access sterile syringes. Exchanges are also an opportunity to discuss addiction recovery with active users.


Needle Exchanges and Fallout

The way needle exchanges are intended to work is that IV users bring in used syringes to be replaced with fresh needles. Give one, get one. This not only mitigates the risk of spreading disease, it keeps potentially infectious needles out of trashcans and street gutters. Unfortunately, it appears that needle exchanges are not always the best about adhering to their own rules. As is evident by the fact that across the country used syringes are popping up everywhere.

Improper disposal of needles is a bi-coastal problem, much like the epidemic itself. In New England and California there has been a major problem with syringes being disposed of in unsafe manners. In beautiful Santa Cruz, California, an organization called Take Back Santa Cruz has found more than 14,500 needles in the county in just 4 1/2 years, NBC News reports. When needles are not disposed of properly, the general public is at risk of getting stuck. Take Back Santa Cruz has received reports of 12 human needle prick cases—half of them involving children.

"It's become pretty commonplace to find them. We call it a rite of passage for a child to find their first needle," said Gabrielle Korte, a member of the group's needle team. "It's very depressing. It's infuriating. It's just gross." 

So, if needle exchanges require the actual “exchange” of syringes, why are so many being discarded improperly? Well, in the case of Santa Cruz, the exchange was previously operated by a nonprofit until 2013, which did not always require users to provide dirty needles to get clean ones, according to the article. Santa Cruz County took over operations of the various exchanges.


A Symptom of A Much Greater Problem

The reason the country needs needle exchanges and the provision of clean syringes is because of our staggering opioid addiction rates. A form of narcotic that many users administer via injection. As dependence gets more severe over time, simply ingesting or snorting opioids does not provide the desired feeling of euphoria. Forcing people to choose the more dangerous route of IV use, which provides more intense and quicker relief.

The more IV drug users that can be encouraged to seek treatment, and can actually access it, the fewer used syringes that will likely be recklessly discarded. At least logically, that is. It is of the utmost importance that IV drug users can access and get the help they desperately need.

If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids, please contact Hope by The Sea today. Recovery is possible, and we can help.

Friday, July 14, 2017

12-Step Meetings, Home Groups and Beyond

It can be easy to get in the habit of going to the same recovery meetings every week. This is, in many ways a good thing. One’s connection to the fellowship is of the utmost importance. It’s paramount that you establish or form a circle of peers that you can rely on when life throws you a curve ball. Recovery is a program that requires us to all lean on each other from time to time. If you are constantly going to a different meeting every day, it can be hard to form strong bonds with your peers. The value of a “home group” cannot be understated.

There may be weeks where it is hard for you to attend a meeting every day. But being sure to get to your home group at least once a week is vital to the strength of your program. If you are still new, and do not have a meeting that you consider your home group, that is OK. However, you should be actively trying to whittle down the various meetings you attend to find one that suits your recovery palate.

Having a home group is kind of like having an extended family. People who may not know you inside and out, but have a vested interest in your health. And in Our case, an interest in continued recovery. The relationships that can be built in one’s home group can last a lifetime.


Visit Other 12-Step Meetings

Your home group should always be your "go-to." It is likely your sponsor's home meeting, as well. Which means even when your life is busy, there is a good chance that you can get some one-on-one time with your sponsor. Either before, or after the meeting. This is an extra level of accountability. If you do not ever see your sponsor, you may not feel inclined to share as much as you might while in their presence. What’s more, given that sharing in early recovery can be a little nerve racking, you might gain some courage from sharing in the company of your sponsor.

To be sure, your home group is your most important meeting of the week. But as the weeks turn into years (god willing), you may find that the meetings you go to are feeling a little stagnant. Fortunately, there are typically scores of meetings every day in a given area. You might consider broadening your horizons and visiting some meeting you have never been to before. Doing so will put you in a position to hear new stories and meet new people.

If you share at a new meeting, you might say something that resonates with a newcomer. You never know. A sponsorship could arise out of you visiting a foreign 12-Step meeting. Every meeting is little different than the next, you might be exposed to different things that appeal to you more than some of your other weekly meetings. If you are feeling lackluster about certain meetings, change it up. Step outside your comfort zone.


Recovery Is Waiting for You

If you are still using drugs and alcohol, and are ready to make some changes for the better, then you might need more help (initially) than meetings can offer. Please contact Hope by The Sea, it is the first step to lasting addiction recovery.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alcoholism In America: A Wet and Dry History of Recovery

Are you actively working a program of recovery, via the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? If so, then you are a part of the storied history about breaking free from addiction in America. There are people working programs of recovery in over hundred countries around the world, to be sure. But, the origin of the most effective method ever devised has its roots in the history of alcohol in the United States. Dating back centuries.

It seems fitting, that America would be ground zero for the global recovery movement. After all, this great nation’s birth is owed to both enlightenment and liberation. The idea that every human is equal, that compassion and empathy are more powerful than fear and punishment.

Every alcoholic knows what it is like to be mired in mud that is societal stigma. Knowing first-hand how the insidious effect of misunderstanding and stereotyping can deter people from seeking help. Over the years, many an alcoholic has resigned themselves that they would die with a bottle in their hand. Convinced that they were, in fact, everything that society said alcoholics were: weak minded, slaves to the sensual, constitutional-less.


Alcoholism in America and the Birth of Recovery

Over the centuries countless efforts were made by individuals to free themselves from the grip of alcohol. In other cases, crude methods of breaking the alcoholic from their destructive habit were forced upon people at sanitariums, and the like. While abstinence may have been achieved for periods of time, the effects were always fleeting. Then comes World War I, Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Volstead Act’s end and World War II. But, over the course of two decades a groundbreaking program of recovery would be developed. This would lead to the liberation of millions of alcoholics around the globe, for years to come.

Beacon Press published a book recently, authored by Christopher M. Finan, which probes deep into the role of alcohol in America’s history. “Drunks: An American History,” covers 300 years of alcohol, alcoholism, temperance, treatment and recovery. Regarding alcoholism recovery in the U.S., Finan shows how temperance and prohibition, coincided with the government ending support for a number of institutions, like the Minnesota Hospital Farm for Inebriates, The New York Times Book Review reports. Alcoholics were left with nowhere to turn for help. The government reasoned erroneously, as they did with the “war on drugs” years later, that eradication and punishment would put a stop to addiction. It does not!

In the time preceding the Volstead Act, organizations like the Mission Recovery Groups [Boozers' Brigade, United Order of Ex-Boozers (1870 - 1915)] and the Oxford Groups (1921), would be precursors to Alcoholics Anonymous. When in 1931, a man named Roland Hazard got sober, worked with a one Sam Schumacher, who then carried the message to Ebby Thatcher. If you are familiar with AA history, then you know that Ebby paid it forward to Bill Wilson. While Ebby would relapse, Bill shared what he had found with Dr. Bob and thus, Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

Abstinence, sobriety and recovery (even among bottom of the barrel alcoholics) were proven to be an achievable goals. Temperance in America dates back to the first prohibition in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633, in 1935 Alcoholics Anonymous is created—some 300 years later.

“The fight against addiction is one of America’s great liberation movements,” Christopher M. Finan writes.”


A Profound Debt

“Drunks: An American History” would likely be a fascinating summer read for not just people in recovery, but for those whose loved one has been touched by the disease. Everyone working a program would do themselves a great service by taking a moment to be grateful for the thousands of people who fought to recover from alcoholism. Without them, you may not have found a meeting to attend, a seat to sit in or a sponsor to guide you through the process of recovery.

Are you still in the grips of active drug and/or alcohol abuse? If so, please contact Hope by The Sea. Recovery is possible, and the program works, if you are willing to work it.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Prescription Opioids for Mental Health Disorders?

People living with a mental health disorder of any kind should stay clear of mind-altering drugs, from marijuana right on to opioids. Yet, a significant percentage of people suffering from depression or bipolar disorder will use drugs and/or alcohol to cope with their symptoms of untreated mental illness. In the field of addiction medicine, co-occurring mental health disorders are common place. That is when somebody is diagnosed with addiction, and another form of mental illness.

Addiction professionals work hard to treat both conditions in order to increase a patient's chances of long-term recovery. Co-occurring mental illness is not a new concept. There should not be a licensed, practicing physician in the country who is unfamiliar with dual diagnosis cases. Doctors who treat patients with any form of mental illness should avoid prescribing a mind-altering narcotic, such as OxyContin, unless it is absolutely necessary. The propensity for abuse is staggering.

Unfortunately, despite the need for physicians who are versed in the nature of addiction and mental illness, it would seem that most fail to see the danger of prescribing opioids to mental health patients. New research published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, has some shocking figures that should be considered.


Some Opioids With Your Depression?

Researchers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center found that patients with anxiety and depression are disproportionately prescribed painkillers, INDIESOURCES reports. Almost 19 percent of American adults with mental health disorders (38.6 million) use prescription opioids, compared to 5 percent of patients not touched by mental illness.

This next figure might floor you, so brace yourself. There are 115 million opioid prescriptions distributed each year across the country, adults living with depression and anxiety receive 51 percent of those prescriptions, according to the study. Keeping that figure in mind, Americans with mental health disorders only make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. 51 percent of opioids to 16 percent of the population?

Image Credit: Dartmouth-Hitchcock

“Because of the vulnerable nature of patients with mental illness, such as their susceptibility for opioid dependency and abuse, this finding warrants urgent attention to determine if the risks associated with such prescribing are balanced with therapeutic benefits,” said Brian Sites, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and study co-author. 

Dr. Sites believes that curbing the over-prescribing of opioids within the mental health community could be achieved by expanding access to alternative forms of pain management. Such as:
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Non-Opioid Drugs

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

The study did not look into whether people with depression and anxiety are, in fact, injured more than the general public. Enough to warrant the market share of all opioids. But, we can probably be assured that the answer is absolutely not. What is more likely is that a number of people with untreated mental health disorders are attempting to mitigate their symptoms by way of drugs that produce euphoria and pain relief. Opioids can dull both physical and emotional pain.

In the long run, however, using opioids to escape the symptoms of anxiety or depression will only lead to dependence, addiction and a heightened potential for overdose. It will also make your symptoms of mental illness worse, over time. If you are self-medicating your mental illness with opioids, please contact Hope by The Sea today. We can effectively treat both the addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Alcohol and Drugs Linked to Attention Deficit

binge drinking
Do you struggle to stay focused on certain tasks? Perhaps you find yourself constantly losing your train of thought? Maybe you find it difficult to multi-task? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, it is possible that you have concentration problems. You may even be struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or some other form of cognitive dysfunction. It also might be the case that you have drunk too much alcohol or smoked too much marijuana. Maybe you use harder drugs, like cocaine or opioids.

Over the years there has been significant research to support claims that drug and alcohol use impair cognitive function. Especially heavy use and abuse. The toll that introducing mind-altering substance can take is extensive. Yet, many of those who drink in unhealthy ways are often unaware of the true extent of the damage.

The clear majority of people with alcohol and substance use disorders never seek or get treatment for their illness. With that in mind, a significant number of people experiencing cognitive deficits may in fact have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol.


Attention Deficits Link to Drugs and Alcohol

New research conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center found that cognitive impairments due to frequent alcohol or drug use may be a major problem in the general population, ScienceDaily reports. The researchers found that deficits in attention are far from limited to people who have been treated for addiction. The study, the first of its kind to link people's impairments using information to binge drinking, marijuana, cocaine, opioids, tranquilizers and stimulants in general population adults, was published in the journal Addiction.

"Regardless if cognitive impairments precede substance use or vice versa, poorer cognitive functioning negatively impacts daily life and may cause lack of insight into one's substance use as a source of problems, impeding treatment utilization or decreasing the likelihood of effective treatment," said senior author Deborah Hasin, PhD, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health professor of Epidemiology and in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. 

People who engage in frequent and infrequent binge drinking and use drugs (stimulants, in particular) scored lower on executive functioning tests, according to the article. The scale was associated with frequent binge drinking and drug use, particularly cocaine. As we have defined before, binge drinking is typified by having four drinks for women and 5 drinks for men, over a two-hour period. The study set the binge drinking bar at four or more drinks for women and at least 5 drinks for men, a day.

"While abstinence or reduced substance use may partially improve cognition, future research should determine whether factors shown to protect against cognitive impairments in aging adults, such as a healthy diet, and physical and intellectual activities, also protect against cognitive impairments in populations with difficulties in reducing substance use," said Dr. Hasin.


Addiction Treatment Can Help

If you are regular heavy drinker, or engage in drug use, there is a chance that a problem may be present. Have you found that you have trouble remembering things or staying on task? If so, you would be wise to be screened for an alcohol or substance use disorder. Please contact Hope by The Sea for a free consultation. It should go without saying that the longer it goes untreated, the worse that it will get.
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