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Friday, April 21, 2017

Recovery Over The Weekend

community
Idle time is the devil's workshop, such words could not be closer to the truth, especially for young men and women in early recovery. There is a reason why people new to the program sometimes hit more than one meeting a day, and if you are not currently employed there is a good chance you have ample time to go to multiple meetings in one day. For those who are employed, whether it be career that you have been in for years or working what is known as a “get-well” job in early recovery, the weekend can be a dangerous time because of having an abundance of free time.

A get-well job may be a way to make some money while relearning how to take on responsibility. Such jobs can teach you how to schedule your time in healthy ways, but they do not instruct you on how to “be” outside of work. That’s where the program comes in. If you are anything like a good percentage of recovering alcoholics and addicts working a program, then you may find yourself inclined to isolate when you have down time. But, it is that very idle time that can be, and has been, involved in many a relapse.

 

Engaging With Others


Typically, the weekends are a time for relaxation after five (5) straight days of work. If you are working a program of recovery, the weekends might be a good time to take advantage of your end of the week freedom by doubling your efforts with your program. This could look like several different things. Naturally, hitting more meetings is always a positive move towards spiritual growth. It allows you to get out of your head, which is often a dangerous place to reside in early recovery.

Going to meetings, even when you do not want to, is a valuable exercise for life. It’s easy to just "veg" on the couch with Netflix and a snack, but such activity does not necessarily strengthen your program. What’s more, members of recovery programs are part of a greater community. You rely on one another. When one member is having a hard time, you might be a source of strength to help carry them through the day without resorting to drugs or alcohol. And vice versa.

If you have been in the program for a bit, then you probably know that meetings are often a jumping-off point for other sober activities to involve yourself in with the company of like-minded peers. Movies, dinner et al. There is a lot of fun stuff you can do with people in the program that can help your recovery, even when it does seem like it would. Even when you do not feel like being social. If you have not been all that active with your support group, this weekend is a perfect time to recommit yourself to the community. We use alone. We stay sober together.

 

Volunteering


You may be strong in your recovery as of late. Attending your regular meetings, communicating with your sponsor or sponsee and fulfilling all your commitments. If so, there are a number of other ways you can give back to the community-at-large. Volunteering at your house of worship or a local community center are great ways to get outside yourself over the weekend. Find a local soup kitchen and inquire about helping. They may not need your help, but selfless acts like that can help you greatly.

Clients at Celebrate Hope are taught the value of community throughout the course of their treatment. Thus, better equipping them to engage and be of service with the greater recovery community upon discharge. If you or a loved one is ready to take the life-changing journey of addiction recovery, please contact us today.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Substance Abuse and Suicide Among Veterans

suicide
It's a good sign. Major media outlets like premium cable (e.g. HBO or Showtime) and Netflix have been dedicating their resources and addressing suicide. Just recently, Netflix released a series called 13 Reasons Why, about a teenage girl whose temporary problems made her life no longer worth living. The web streaming service also released an original movie, The Discovery, which focused on where we go after we die, a realization that leads to a spate of suicides across the world.

While such content are works of fiction, the messages ring true. More importantly, they encourage us all to question the case of suicide. The reasons behind it, the various ways that it might be prevented. It is important that people, who may be susceptible to suicidal ideations, are made aware that suicide in most cases is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As much as it may feel like you can't go on, feelings are not facts—there is always a solution to be had.

One demographic that is no stranger to suicide, or thinking about it, is people who have or are struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder. Especially among those whose substance abuse is a direct result of attempting to self-medicate another form of mental illness, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Suicide In The Military


One does not have to experience trauma in order to develop a substance use disorder, but such people are at a greater risk. Whether or not someone is struggling with addiction or a co-occurring disorder (substance abuse combined with another mental health disorder), people in the military take their own lives at a far greater rate than the general public.

It turns out that out of more than 4 million veterans, drug and alcohol abuse affects 8 percent of males and 3 percent of females, HealthDay reports. Such individuals were two-times at risk of suicide, compared to veterans without an alcohol or substance use—20 veterans die by suicide every day in the United States. The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

"We hope these findings will help clinicians and health systems care for people with substance use disorders, with mental health conditions, and with both -- and focus suicide prevention efforts accordingly," said lead study author Kipling Bohnert, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, and also a researcher with the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. 

Female veterans with substance use problems were found to commit suicide at more than five times the rate of female veterans who did not abuse drugs or alcohol, according to the article. The researchers found that females who abused opioids and males who abused amphetamines were at the greatest risk of suicide.

 

Suicide Prevention by Way of Treatment


Active substance abuse takes people to the darkest of places. With each day that passes one sees more and more doors closing. If you add other forms of mental health disorders into the equation, the picture becomes even more dismal. Despair can lead to a rash decision that can’t be reversed.

The first step to addressing why you feel the way you do, is to identify what you are doing that might be a contributing factor. If daily drug and alcohol use is occurring, it is definitely contributing to your feelings of despair. It is quite common for people abusing drugs and alcohol to also have a co-occurring mental health disorder, as we mentioned previously otherwise known as a “dual diagnosis.” While depression, anxiety, PTSD and bipolar disorder certainly complicate the treatment of addiction, recovery is still possible.

Please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We specialize in treating co-occurring mental health disorders. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the process of treating your dual diagnosis, so that you can lead a life in recovery free from drugs and alcohol.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Heroin: Educating Young People

heroin
The most recent Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey had promising results regarding young people using drugs and alcohol. When it comes to opioid narcotics, such as prescription painkillers and heroin, teenagers are using them at fairly low rates. In fact, heroin use (intravenous) rates among high school seniors was remarkably low at 0.3 percent in 2016, even though we are in the midst of an epidemic. Teenage use of prescription opioids seemed to be declining as well. All good news!

Considering the MTF findings, it is vital that young people continue to be given the message about the dangers of opioid narcotics; because the trends seen among high school age students are not mirrored in young adults. New research from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that Americans using heroin has jumped by an exponential of five over the last ten years, according to a press release from the university. What’s more, the most drastic increases in heroin use and abuse was among:
  • Young Adults
  • Males
  • Whites
"In 2001 to 2002, whites and non-whites reported similar prevalence of heroin use. However, in 2012-2013, increases in heroin and related disorders were particularly prominent among whites, leading to a significant race gap in lifetime heroin use by 2013," said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.

The findings, published in JAMA Psychiatry indicated that people with low incomes and no more than a high school education were at a heightened risk. So, it is vital that young people are educated in high school about the insidious nature of opioid addiction. Across the country, many public high schools have begun to place a greater focus on opioids.

"Our results underscore the need to expand educational programs on the harms related to heroin use and access to treatment in populations at increased risk," said Dr. Martins. "Promising examples of prevention and intervention efforts include expansion of access to medication-assisted treatment -- methadone, buprenorphine or injectable naltrexone -- as well as educational campaigns in schools and community settings, and consistent use of prescription drug monitoring programs." 

In the states hardest hit by the opioid addiction epidemic, lawmakers are thinking about mandatory opioid abuse education in public schools, The Washington Post reports. Michigan, ­Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are all considering legislation that would include some form of opioid education in public schools throughout their states. Such programs could deter use both in high school, and later into young adulthood.

If you are one of the many young adults in this country struggling with opioid use disorder, then you are likely aware of the deadly nature of such drugs. Overdose is rarely a question of “if,” but rather a question of “when.” Please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea to begin the lifesaving journey of addiction recovery.

Side Note: Today is World Health Day. We would like to encourage all of our readers to take a part in ending the stigma of mental illness, in order to help people seek help and recover. Stigma hurts us all, putting an end to it could help countless individuals around the world. You can find more information here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Addiction Recovery: Experience, Strength and Hope

addiction recovery
The 12-Steps model is one of the more common roads for one to take in the journey to recover from a substance use disorder. For more than 80 years, individuals caught in the maelstrom of addiction have turned to the rooms of 12-Step recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. What started as two people sharing their story with one another, overtime morphed into a program where millions of people with the disease of addiction work together to live a spiritual life free from drugs and alcohol.

We all have different stories. All of us came to the rooms of recovery by a different road. But, at the end of the day, our stories are remarkably similar. With an open mind, one can easily see that no one living with the disease of addiction (active or not) is all that unique. As much as we all imagine that we are unique, that is our addiction or our path to it was somehow special, as one’s disease would lead one to believe, at the end the day the driving forces that led to and perpetuated the vicious cycle are quite the same.

A “normal” person may try a drug on more than one occasion, and think nothing of it. Whereas, others being exposed to a substance will have a far different experience and develop an insidious relationship with drugs and alcohol due to genetic, psychological and environmental factors. If the aforementioned explanation seems ambiguous or nebulous, that is because it is; while addiction experts and researchers have a basic understanding of what precipitates an addiction there is still much that is not well understood.

 

It Doesn’t Matter How You Got Here


People who are new to recovery, will often feel an urge to at least try explaining how this happened. Where they zigged when they should have zagged. But, when all is said and done, such explanations and experiences are only of value when it comes to not repeating past behaviors. Simply put, the road that brings one to the abyss of active addiction, is not the same road you will take to recover from the disease.

We can’t walk back down the road of our past, identify where we made a wrong turn and correct course accordingly. Rather, one must forge a new path. A journey that requires not only adopting, but showing deference to the principles and traditions that have saved the lives of those who have come before you. In the “rooms,” you will be asked to share your experience, strength and hope by relaying what it was like (active addiction), what happened (how you came to the realization that one’s course was no longer tenable) and what it is like now (the transformation which resulted from living life one day at a time and practicing the principles of recovery in all your affairs)?

It may seem like an onerous task, and it is most certainly. But, through honesty, humility and continually reminding yourself that without taking these steps the outcomes are bleak. In the rooms of recovery, you are taught how to learn from your past, by living for today, so that you may have a future.

 

Giving It Away Is The Gift


It is interesting to note the transformation people undergo, as is evident by what is shared. In early recovery, one is in total disarray. In a fog of one’s own shame and regret, incessant and pervasive thoughts about how your best thinking got you here. Newcomers are still so close to their disease that to talk about anything but what it was like out there is an impossibility. But those who are willing to do the work, follow direction and are honest (even when it hurts) have a fighting chance at not only achieving long term recovery, they will be in a position to share the strength and hope—potentially aiding others in their mission to live a spiritual existence.

Many, if not the majority, of people who enter a program of recovery are hopeful that manageability will be returned. They look around at those who have significant recovery time, they hear about how those peoples’ lives have been put back together from a multitude of infinitesimal pieces. Some of whom getting their families back, holding good job, driving their own vehicle (registered and with valid insurance), etc. It can be easy to see all those things as being the gift, or gifts of recovery. However, those are merely the byproduct of the true Gift of recovery. The miracle of living a spiritual life free from the bondage of self, helping others recover as they help you recover, simply by sharing one’s experience, strength and hope. Having an active role in another's recovery is the Gift, you get to keep your recovery because you freely give it away.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Smartphones May Impact Teen Substance Use

substance use
Everyday millions of Americans of practically every demographic spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones. Between checking for the latest news and playing games, there are countless ways to waste time on the pocket-sized devices. In recent years, many experts have raised concerns about our reliance on smartphones. It cannot be denied that they are sometimes used to distract us from the really important life issues, whether that be responsibilities or our mental state. For some people, smartphone use turns into dependence and even addiction. With that in mind, we would be seriously remiss if we failed to mention that smartphones may actually be doing some good when it comes to drug and alcohol use.

With the United States in the continued grip of an opioid addiction epidemic, it is hard to pinpoint areas of progress when it comes to substance use and abuse, until you take a look at teenagers. Research has shown that teens are trying and using drugs and alcohol less and less over the last decade. “Monitoring the Future,” is an annual survey which essentially takes a snapshot of teenage (eighth, 10th and 12th graders) drug and alcohol use. The most recent findings indicate that past-year use of illicit drugs (excluding marijuana) was the lowest in several decades.

While education and prevention can account for some of that progress, it would seem there are other factors at play that could be responsible for the decline. Researchers have theorized that smartphones could be one of the major causes for a drop in teen substance use rates, The New York Times reports. They point out that the downswing of drug and alcohol use coincides nicely with the significant increase in smartphone use.

The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, has plans in the works to research the correlation between smartphones and substance use reductions, according to the article. Interactive media is, the director of NIDA describes, “an alternative reinforcer” to
mind-altering substances, “teens can get literally high when playing these games.” Dr. Volkow will share the findings with a group of scholars this spring.

Dr. Volkow’s theory is “highly plausible,” said Dr. Silvia Martins, an expert on substance abuse at Columbia University. “Playing video games, using social media, that fulfills the necessity of sensation seeking, their need to seek novel activity.”

We will continue to follow this interesting story in the coming months. Whatever the findings are, they will surely be of interest to those working in the field of addiction, or for those recovering from it. Parents will likely have a vested interest in Dr. Volkow's findings, as well.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Alcohol Legal Limit Debate

DUI
It was a long, hard fight to convince every state to come along with the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which required states to pass individual legislation raising the drinking age to 21. Fourteen years later, under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century of 1998, a Federal incentive grant was created encouraging states to set a driver blood alcohol content (BAC) limit at .08. Congress adopted .08 BAC as the national illegal limit in 2000.

Driving under the influence is a major concern in every state. Thousands of Americans lose their life every year from alcohol-related traffic accidents. Millions of dollars are spent annually to educate young people about the dangers of drunk driving, yet such efforts often fall on deaf ears. In many cases, people who get one DUI end up getting several more before the lesson is learned by serving serious jail time.

It appears with each year that passes, states attach stiffer penalties to those caught driving under the influence. How much alcohol it takes to reach .08 BAC depends on one’s metabolism, body weight and type of alcohol. But, it is generally agreed that 2 to 3 alcoholic beverages will put someone around or above the illegal limit to drive. Although, one should always keep it in the back of their mind that any amount of alcohol can impair one’s ability to drive.

Over the years, debates have been held about whether the .08 illegal per se law (meaning that the act is inherently illegal) was too strict. Or, not strict enough. It is easy to argue that a lower BAC limit would deter more people from taking the risk of driving with any amount of alcohol in their system.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been urging states to lower the legal limit for some time now. And, it appears that the State of Utah heard the call, poised to become the first state to implement a .05 BAC illegal per se level, according to the Associated Press. On Wednesday, state lawmakers voted in favor of lowering the legal limit, and Governor Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill which would go into effect on December 30, 2018. Just in time for the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The supporters of the reduced BAC limit believe it will save lives. On the other hand, some of the opponents of the bill say that it will only serve to hurt tourism and the hospitality industry, the article reports. States have been reluctant to do so because of pressure from the hospitality industry.

It will be interesting to see if other states decide to hop on this potentially life-saving bandwagon. It might be possible that dropping the legal limit will mean that people with alcohol use problems will determine that they have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol sooner. DUI sentencing typically requires one to attend 12-step meetings and diversion programs. In many cases, people that didn't think they had a problem, realize they do.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Heavy Alcohol Use and Cardiovascular Risk

heavy alcohol use
The list of health problems that can occur, setting addiction aside for a moment, from heavy alcohol use is extremely long. Some of the most severe conditions include liver disease, pancreatitis and multiple forms of cancer. How alcohol use and abuse affects people, depends on several factors such as the amount of alcohol consumed, how it is consumed and any genetic predispositions one may have. Regardless of which condition a heavy drinker is afflicted with, most of them are typified by severe pain and eventual death.

The importance of educating young people about the potential dangers of heavy alcohol use, and unsafe drinking practices such as “binge drinking,” can’t be over stressed. The relationship that individuals develop with alcohol usually begins in adolescence and young adulthood. A time when one not only has the misconception of invincibility, their bodies have the ability to bounce back quickly from a bender—an ability that dissipates over the years. Young people often do not realize that drinking to the point of brown/blackout, can cause serious physical damage over time.

There is a good chance that you have heard of studies which indicate that moderate alcohol use (1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men) can be beneficial to the heart. A finding that has been, and will continue to be, debated heavily in the coming years. However, there is often a blurred line in people's mind as to the difference between moderate and heavy drinking (more than 3 drinks per day for females and 4 drinks per day for males). Which is important for people to realize how damaging two (2) extra drinks per night can be in the long run.

A new study, led by Darragh O'Neill, Ph.D., an epidemiological researcher at University College London in the United Kingdom, indicates that heavy alcohol use can lead to stiffening of the arteries, MNT reports. The longitudinal study sought to establish a link between alcohol consumption (over 25 years) and changes in arterial stiffness. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The researchers who conducted the study write:

“This work demonstrates that consistently heavy alcohol consumption is associated with higher cardiovascular risk, especially among males, and also provides new insights into the potential impact of changes in drinking levels over time. It discusses the additional insights possible when capturing longitudinal consumption patterns in lieu of reliance on recent intake alone.” 

So why is this important research? Well, for starters, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number 1 cause of death globally, more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Arterial stiffness increases the risk cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Heavy alcohol use is dangerous in a number of ways, including the development of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). While the condition is treatable and long-term recovery is possible, finding recovery sooner rather than later, could be the difference between the development of irreversible health conditions that cause premature death. If you, or a loved one struggles with alcohol, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea.
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