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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

PTSD Awareness Month: Treatment Works

June has been a challenging month for hundreds of millions of Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps those affected most by the coronavirus epidemic in America are men and women living with mental health disorders and behavioral health disorders. Isolation and loneliness are plaguing an untold number of people; individuals living with conditions like addiction, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are severely impacted by being cut off from society.

Since March, we've been instructed by public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay indoors and avoid contact with others whenever possible. Social distancing, self-quarantining, and staying at home for extended lengths of time isn't easy for any person. However, the mandates mentioned above are challenging for those with pre-existing mental health disorders.

Millions of Americans rely on support networks to maintain their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic is a barrier to accessing mutual support groups, and countless individuals face enormous obstacles to their recovery. What's more, the ever-rising number of new cases and the coronavirus death toll has resulted in millions living in fear for their lives. Mental health experts predict that new cases of PTSD will be a significant byproduct of the pandemic.

Fear and anxiety are only natural, particularly if you consider that more than 2.5 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19. Worse, 124,442 men, women, and children in America have lost their lives to complications stemming from the coronavirus.

Moreover, previously held records of new cases are being broken each day in many states. The spike of new coronavirus cases is being attributed to some states' decision to reopen businesses prematurely. Making matters worse, more than a few citizens are averse to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks and are not taking social distancing seriously.

PTSD Awareness Month

Post-traumatic stress disorder – a condition commonly linked to individuals who've served in the military – is a mental health condition that impacts millions of Americans. However, PTSD is not solely relegated to those who've seen combat. First responders and victims of sexual or physical assault also contend with PTSD. For example, those whose safety is compromised or perceived to be in jeopardy, being at risk of contracting a deadly virus, are also prone to develop the condition.

Those who develop PTSD require both treatment and continued support to manage the condition. Individuals who are left to their own devices often self-medicate to manage their symptoms, which can lead to further complications like alcohol and substance use disorders. A significant number of men and women working programs of addiction recovery also have co-occurring PTSD.

Now, maybe more than ever, it's critical to shine a light on post-traumatic stress—its causes, symptoms, and available treatments. June is PTSD Awareness Month! While the month is coming to a close, there is always time to raise awareness about the mental health condition and spread the word that therapy is available, and recovery is possible.

The National Center for PTSD reports that about 8 million people in the United States live with PTSD. Again, while the annual observance is in its 12th hour, you can help people suffering from this treatable mental illness year-round. You can utilize social media to share facts and encourage community members to seek help and let them know that they are not alone. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs writes:

"Even though PTSD treatments work, most people who have PTSD don't get the help they need. June is PTSD Awareness Month. Help us spread the word that effective PTSD treatments are available. Everyone with PTSD—whether they are Veterans or civilian survivors of sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, or other traumatic events—needs to know that treatments really do work and can lead to a better quality of life."

Southern California Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Hope By The Sea specializes in treating men and women who struggle with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders like PTSD. We give our clients the tools to lead a life in recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders, and any co-occurring mental illness impacting their lives.

It's essential that addiction and any form of mental illness are treated simultaneously to ensure successful outcomes. Please contact us today to learn how we can help you or a loved one. Hope Starts Here!

Friday, June 19, 2020

How Alcohol Weakens Your Immune System

how alcohol weakens your immune system

The stress and uncertainty of these challenging times have caused many people to turn to alcohol more frequently, in an effort to cope with their feelings of isolation and anxiety. When you are under an order to stay at home, you’ve been told to work from home, and you are not able to go out to visit friends and family, it can be quite distressing. However, alcohol use can make the situation much worse, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to understand how alcohol weakens your immune system, so you can take steps to remain safe and healthy.

Alcohol and COVID-19 

The coronavirus outbreak has presented challenges to just about everyone in the country. You want to protect yourself so you can stay healthy, but it is also difficult to stay home for extended periods of time without any interaction with other people. The isolation can cause you to want to drink more and, in that, you are not alone.

One survey found that over 1 in 3 Americans said they're more likely to drink more in isolation, and market research from Nielsen found that sales of alcohol in the US rose 55% in the week ending March 21, the first week that many began social distancing. However, the increased use of alcohol can also increase your vulnerability to the virus.

Dr. E. Jennifer Edelman, a Yale Medicine addiction medicine specialist, says that “Alcohol has diverse adverse effects throughout the body, including on all cells of the immune system, that lead to increased risk of serious infections.” Dr. Edelman adds that “With COVID-19, alcohol is likely to interfere with an individual’s ability to clear SARS-CoV-2 and cause people to suffer worse outcomes, including ARDS, which commonly results in death.”

ARDS is acute respiratory distress syndrome, which occurs when fluid builds up in the tiny, elastic air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. Alcohol has been shown to damage the immune cells and these fine hairs that clear pathogens out of your airway.

WHO Warnings

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “alcohol has effects, both short-term and long-term, on almost every single organ of your body.” The experts at WHO emphasize that there is no safe limit to alcohol consumption, stating that "alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and thus reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases.” The WHO also explains that heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of ARDS, one of the more severe complications of COVID-19, stating that “its consumption is likely to increase the health risks if a person becomes infected with the virus.”

Impaired Immune Cells

A report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) provides a summary of the evidence about how alcohol weakens your immune system. Alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury. In addition, alcohol’s combined effects on your immunity significantly weaken your defenses, predisposing you to a wide range of health problems, including infections and systemic inflammation.

Other studies have shown that alcohol typically first affects your body’s gastrointestinal system, which then alters the function of healthy gut microbes linked to immunity. Alcohol has been shown to impair key immune cells in the lungs and damage cells that line the lungs’ surface, where COVID-19 typically attacks.

Increased Susceptibility to Pneumonia

The NCBI also found that alcohol consumption has been linked to pneumonia, pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis and respiratory syncytial virus, as well as ARDS and COVID-19. Often, the alcohol-provoked lung damage goes undetected until a second insult, such as a respiratory infection, leads to more severe lung diseases than those seen in nondrinkers.

Pneumonia is a serious complication of the coronavirus and can also result from the flu or even the common cold. Understanding how alcohol weakens your immune system can protect you from further infections and complications such as pneumonia.

Get Help at Hope by the Sea

Do you need help with an addiction to alcohol? At Hope by the Sea, a drug and alcoholism treatment center, we believe in our patients’ ability to succeed. Our drug and alcohol rehab programs include treatment programs such as detoxification and residential treatment as well as outpatient treatment and long-term care. We provide you with the top clinical staff, a serene setting, and over fifteen years of experience treating addiction to guide you through a successful recovery from your alcohol addiction. Please contact Hope By The Sea immediately for assistance. Our team is following every CDC protocol for COVID-19 because our clients' safety is of the utmost importance.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Signs of Opioid Addiction

signs of opioid addiction

Being able to recognize the signs of opioid addiction can help you or your loved one understand how it affects you and whether you need to seek treatment. Addiction can impact virtually every aspect of your life and may actually be keeping you from living a truly fulfilling life. It is critical that you know the signs of opioid addiction, to determine whether you or a loved one has a substance use issue.

What are Opioids?

The term opioid refers to a group of drugs that are also sometimes called narcotics. Opioids can include strong prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and tramadol, as well as the illegal drug heroin. Your physician may give you a prescription opioid to reduce the symptoms of chronic pain, pain after you have had a major injury or surgery, or severe pain from health conditions like cancer. Prescription opioids used for pain relief are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by your health care provider. However, opioid misuse and addiction are still potential risks.

The Opioid Crisis

In 2018, the most recent year for which reliable figures are available, 128 people in the US died every day from an opioid overdose. The misuse and addition to opioids is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. Statistics show that:

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder. 
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

Recognizing the Signs in Yourself

When you are addicted to opioids, you may not be able to recognize the substance use disorder in yourself. People who are addicted often make excuses or even deny that they have a problem. There are signs of opioid addiction that are helpful in determining whether you are addicted and need to seek help, including:
  • You want to use the substance on a regular basis. 
  • There’s an urge to use that’s so intense it’s difficult to concentrate on anything else. 
  • You take larger quantities of the substance or prolong substance use for longer periods of time than intended. 
  • As substance use continues, you take larger quantities of the substance to achieve the same effect.
  • You always have a supply of the substance. 
  • Money meant for bills or other necessities is instead spent on the substance. 
  • Excessive amount of time is spent obtaining the substance, using it, and recovering from its effects. 
  • You develop risky behaviors to get the substance, such as stealing or violence. 
  • You engage in risky behaviors while under the influence of the substance, such as driving or having unprotected sex. 
  • The substance is used in spite of the problems it causes or the risk it poses. 
  • You try and fail to stop using the substance. 
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop using the substance.

Recognizing the Signs in Others

If you suspect that a loved one may have a substance use disorder, watch for their signs of opioid addiction:
  • Personality changes. Your loved one may experience anxiety, depression, irritation, or mood swings.
  • Behavioral changes. These can include acting secretive, aggressive, or violent. 
  • Changes in appearance. Your loved one has small “pinpoint” pupils, lost or gained weight, or developed poor hygiene habits. 
  • Health issues. They may have a lack of energy, fatigue, or chronic illnesses related to drug use. 
  • Social withdrawal. Your loved one may withdraw from friends or family, develop relationship problems, or make new friendships with people who use drugs. 
  • Poor performance at work or school. They may be disinterested or absent from work or school on a regular basis. They may have poor performance reviews or report cards, be expelled, or lose a job. 
  • Money or legal problems. Your loved one may ask for money without a rational explanation or steal money from friends or family. They may get in legal trouble.

Treatment Options for Opioid Addiction

There are often underlying issues behind your opioid addiction. Effective treatment can include therapy to help you discover and uncover those issues. The beginning step in healing your mind, body, and spirit is detoxification, ridding your body of the toxic opioids in your system. Detox should be medically managed and supervised, to guide you through the withdrawal symptoms and help you on your way to a successful, long term recovery.

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Hope by the Sea

At Hope by the Sea, we are much more than “talk therapy.” Our Orange County facility network blends evidence-based treatments, experiential therapies, holistic modalities, and family services to help you overcome your opioid addiction. We provide you with the top clinical staff, a serene setting, and over fifteen years of experience treating addiction to guide you through a successful recovery from your opioid addiction. Please contact Hope By The Sea immediately for assistance. Our team is following every CDC protocol for COVID-19; our clients' safety is of the utmost importance.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Relationship Between Chronic Stress and Addiction

chronic stress and addiction

Most people experience some form of stress during their lives. You may be nervous about a job interview, moving to a new home, dealing with a physical injury, or even getting married. These stressors may make your heart pound or your palms sweaty, temporarily. When you are unable to manage your stress properly or you experience what is known as chronic stress, you may have more pronounced and prolonged reactions. In addition, the relationship between chronic stress and addiction means that you may be more vulnerable to addictive behaviors or relapse.

Chronic Stress

When does stress become chronic stress? Usually, the effects of stressful situations do not last long. You may experience some physical symptoms in the moment and then return to normal functioning once the stressful moment has passed.

Chronic stress is a nearly constant state of heightened alertness that puts pressure on your body for an extended period of time. You may experience chronic stress if you have a high-pressure job, are experiencing financial difficulties, or are in a challenging or abusive relationship. When you are under chronic stress, your whole body is affected. You may have several physical or psychological symptoms that can make functioning on a daily basis more trying.

Explained in terms of physical responses, chronic stress decreases the gray matter volume in your brain region that is associated with cognitive control and stress regulation. The part of the prefrontal cortex that is involved in deliberative cognition is shut down by stress. Your stressed brain loses the ability to be reflective and becomes automatic. When you experience chronic stress, you are more prone to give in to impulses like smoking, overeating, alcohol abuse, and prescription drug abuse to cope with your stress.

Stress and Vulnerability to Addiction

The relationship between chronic stress and addiction means that you may be more vulnerable to addiction. Research has proven a link between chronic stress and the motivation to use and abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol. For example, adverse childhood experiences such as physical and sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and family dysfunction are associated with an increased risk of addiction. People with an unhappy marriage, employment dissatisfaction, or harassment also report increased rates of addiction.

The more stressors you have been exposed to in your life, the greater the chances are that you will become addicted to drugs or alcohol if you do not properly address your chronic stress. When you are stressed out, you are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, to attempt to cope with the tension and to relieve the symptoms of your anxiety and depression. Self-medicating is an unhealthy coping mechanism, though, that can actually lead to more severe physical and emotional symptoms.

Chronic Stress and Self-Medication

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) warns that the symptoms of anxieties, such as those developed when you are under constant and chronic stress, can make the symptoms of alcohol or drug abuse worse, and vice versa. An anxiety disorder may lead to using alcohol or other substances to self-medicate or alleviate anxiety symptoms. However, those with anxiety disorders may find that alcohol or other substances can make their anxiety symptoms worse. And those with anxiety are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives than the general population.

Alcohol or drugs often cause panic attacks, and experiencing panic, such as that associated with chronic stress, is a risk factor for a relapse among people with a substance abuse disorder. Alcohol abuse commonly begins before or at the same time as panic disorder symptoms.

Stress and Relapse

When you have successfully completed addiction treatment and are in recovery, the relationship between chronic stress and addiction can play into your vulnerability to relapse. Exposure to stress is a factor in relapse susceptibility, just as drug-related stimuli and drugs themselves can be. Research data suggests that, in the case of cocaine dependence for example, stress and drug cue-induced distress states produce a similar compulsive drug-seeking state that is associated with relapse vulnerability. Also, in alcoholics, negative mood, stress-induced alcohol craving, and blunted stress and cue-induced cortisol responses have been associated with alcohol relapses.

Treating Stress and Addiction

When you need help with chronic stress and addiction, reach out to Hope by the Sea. You may be one of the 47.6 million Americans struggling with a mental health disorder, possibly from your chronic stress, as well as an alcohol or substance use disorder. We can help. Our team of highly trained professionals can help you heal and begin your journey of recovery. We offer many unique, evidence-based therapies designed to help you get on or get back on the road toward lasting recovery. Hope starts here!

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