If you feel like God is far away,

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Fewer Teens Using Tobacco Products

tobacco
“Gateway drug” is a term that many young people are familiar with in the United States. In elementary school and beyond, by way of programs like DARE, kids are cautioned about staying away from drugs and alcohol. With good intentions to be sure. However, marijuana is often talked about in the context of being a gateway drug that will lead to the use of other, more dangerous drugs.

In some cases that is true. Teenagers who use marijuana in high school are far more likely to try, experiment or abuse harder substances. Yet, research over the past few years has shown that alcohol and tobacco is the true gateway drug for young people. So, with that in mind, it makes sense that prevention efforts be focused more on the two legal substances, before addressing marijuana.

It is worth noting that fewer Americans, regardless of age group are smoking cigarettes than in decades past. But, a significant number of young people are still smoking either traditional tobacco products or e-cigarettes. We have written in the past about concerns over young people using e-cigs, many high schoolers now prefer them over normal nicotine delivery systems. A number people close to the field of addiction, expressed concerns about nicotine initiation via e-cigarettes. Fearing that it would start people who would never have tried regular tobacco on a slippery slope to addiction.

 

Good News On Tobacco


New research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, shows that fewer teenagers are smoking e-cigarettes or using other tobacco products, The Washington Post reports. The study showed that in the past year 11.3 percent of high school students engaged in e-cigarette use, compared to 16 percent in 2015. The data can be viewed on the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Regarding e-cigarettes that is good news, but the highlight of the report is with regard to traditional tobacco products. The study showed the lowest numbers on record for high school students using any type of tobacco product, according to the article. With 8 percent reporting smoking cigarettes in the past year and 20 percent using any form of nicotine product. Including:
  • Cigarettes
  • E-cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Hookahs
  • Pipes
  • Smokeless Tobacco

 

Young Adults Smoking


People who smoke cigarettes or use nicotine products in high school are far more likely to drink alcohol or use other drugs. Which is why it is so important that the rate of tobacco use continues to decline. Teenagers who abuse substances in high school often end up abusing in young adulthood. It can be a sign that addiction has developed and it is vital that intervention occurs before the problem gets worse.

If your young adult child has been abusing drugs and/or alcohol, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. Our highly-trained staff can help break the cycle of addiction and get them on the road to recovery. The sooner recovery starts, the better.

Friday, June 16, 2017

1 Million Heroin Users in America

 heroin
Grim news was printed this week, courtesy of The New York Times. And, once again opioids are at the center of the discussion. Preliminary data compiled by the newspaper indicates that drug overdose deaths in America probably exceeded 59,000 last year. Unless something drastic is done soon, this is a trend that will likely continue in the coming years.

People are dying. Opioid use disorder, or opioid addiction is the root of the problem. Yet, in 2017, nearly twenty years into the 21st Century, millions of Americans still struggle to access addiction treatment services. Even when they want help. In rural America, the closest addiction treatment center is sometimes hundreds of miles away. Given that fact that many opioid addicts are at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, the likelihood of traveling such distances for help is slim to none.

In addition to a lack of treatment options, many addicts still have hard time getting naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug that has saved thousands of American lives, and will continue to do so. But, getting the drug without a prescription is still not possible in certain places. Even if one can acquire it, affording the medicine is a whole different story. Perhaps you've heard the news about ever-increasing naloxone prices. Wherever you find demand, you find greed.

 

An Epidemic That Costs Billions


Prescription opioids are still a problem, to be sure. Yet, heroin use has steadily increased in recent years. What’s more, the mixing of heroin and fentanyl has become a common occurrence. Users who don’t know their heroin was mixed with the deadly painkiller are at great risk of overdose death. There are an estimated 1 million people actively using heroin in America today, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago press release. All told, heroin use in the United States costs society $51 billion in 2015. The costs are tied to:
  • Addiction Treatment
  • Heroin-related Crime
  • Imprisonment
  • Treating Chronic Infectious Diseases
  • Treating Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
  • Overdose Deaths
  • Lost Job Productivity
“The downstream effects of heroin use, such as the spread of infectious diseases and increased incarceration due to actions associated with heroin use, compounded by their associated costs, would continue to increase the societal burden of heroin use disorder,” said UIC pharmacoeconomists, Simon Pickard.

 

The Greatest Cost Is Life


Loss of productivity pales in comparison to the staggering death toll that could be reduced by increasing access to addiction treatment services. The longer one goes without treatment, the greater the chance of an overdose. If you are struggling with addiction to any form of opioids, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope By The Sea today.

Our highly-trained staff specializes in the treatment of opioid use disorder. The opioid addiction epidemic is the most serious drug crisis the world has ever seen, and putting an end to it starts with treatment.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Recovery: You Have A Lot to Be Grateful For

recovery
Are you working a program of recovery? Or maybe you are in treatment, one that allows you access to the internet? Either way, you have a lot to be grateful for, and our hope is that you know the importance of your decision to find recovery. You know what it was like out there. Lying and manipulation is the code of the active addict and alcoholic—burning every bridge like it was built for the sole purpose of destruction. And in the end, one finds oneself in relative solitude, without anything worth smiling about. Recovery, of course, it the complete opposite.

Whether you are in treatment or have completed a program and are now working a program via the 12-Steps or Smart Recovery, you know that the place you find yourself in today is far safer than where you were before. To be sure, recovery is hard work, but one could easily make the case that maintaining an addiction is much harder. Consider the constant effort required to keep from withdrawal or the radar of the law is arduous. It is hard to sleep soundly when you are always having to cover your tracks, and keep the drinking or drugging pumps primed.

With that in mind, recovery then is a breath of fresh air, and one should never hesitate to take a moment to remember everything they have to be grateful for, today. Even when you don’t feel like you have much, you might surprise yourself.

 

Gratitude


If you are new to the program, you may be reading this and are thinking that you don’t have much for which to be thankful. But, consider the fact that you are reading this sober and have begun to develop relationships with others who share a common goal of recovery: People who will have your back and provide you support for little but honesty in return, and to whom you reach out your hand to when they are in need.

That’s what makes the program so special, perfect strangers willing to drop everything to come to the aid of a fellow alcoholic or addict. None of your using buddies could be counted on in such a way. Which is why one could be family-less, homeless, jobless and car-less, yet still have something to be grateful about. Even having the hope or belief that one day continued spiritual maintenance will result in one getting some of the aforementioned things back in their life—is something to cherish. In active addiction, hope turned its back on you years ago.

Perhaps by now you have started working with a sponsor. Maybe you are trudging through the steps as we speak? Working towards the goal of long-term recovery is something worth taking stock of on a daily basis. At Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea, our team’s wish is for you to never discount the importance of what you are working towards. We know the dedication it takes, and in time it will seem like everything is working against you. But if you stay the course, your list of things for which to be grateful will only grow.

 

Need Help With Addiction


If you are still in the grips of your disease, it is vital that you seek help immediately. Drug and alcohol abuse, left unchecked, has only a few logical ends. Jails, institutions or death. None of which are promising. Please contact Celebrate Hope today, to begin the journey.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Opioid Epidemic: Naloxone Pricing Revisited

naloxone
Most Americans have heard of the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, often sold under the brand names Narcan, Hospira, Amphastar and Evzio. The latter of which comes in auto injector form, to be used with little training by addicts and their family members in the case of an emergency. While these overdose antidotes don’t always work, especially if other drugs or more powerful opioids like fentanyl are involved; they have been proven to be extremely effective in most cases, saving thousands of lives each year.

At the end of last year, we discussed how the companies who make naloxone products have been dramatically raising their prices. Price gouging is status quo for most drug companies whose product is essentially one of a kind. However, unlike a lot of drugs that carry a high price tag, drugs like Evzio can be the difference between life and death. If a patient or a police department can’t afford to resupply, untold numbers of people may perish as a result.

Around the country, both lawmakers and health experts were up in arms about what was happening in the industry. How could a company ethically justify such egregious price hikes, with full knowledge that people may die as a result? For example, in January 2016 the makers of Evzio, Kaléo, charged $937.50 for two injectors, which by most people's standards is unreasonable. In April of the same year, Kaleo raised the price of their life saving product to $4,687.50.

 

The Reasons Offered


The explanation given by Kaléo was that the price increase was meant to offset the costs associated with a new patient-assistance program, The New York Times reports. This patient-assistance program means to lower the out-of-pocket costs for patients unable to afford Evzio. Kaléo eats the bill on all out-of-pocket costs for patients with private insurance, and for anyone making less than $100,000 per year—the drug is free.

The counter to Kaléo’s reasoning is that such programs end up increasing the costs of the drug, placing a huge burden on the American health care system, according to the article. Insurance companies being forced to pay for the majority of the bill has a rippling effect, potentially resulting in the raising of everyone’s insurance premiums.

 

No Easy Solutions


Evzio is ideal because people can use the auto-injector without much instruction. But there are other naloxone delivery systems that are much less expensive. And thosee are not being utilized as much as they should be. But, at the end of the day, both drug makers and insurance companies are corporations concerned with profit and cutting costs. The best solution, perhaps, would be for the Federal government to step in, mandate some form of fixed pricing, or reasonable cost standard. After which, buy up the bulk of the drug and provided it to states to hand out for free.

One could even argue that the opioid painkiller makers should provide the drug for free to every patient taking their medications. Such companies helped create the epidemic, they should have a hand in mitigating the risk of overdosing on their medications.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day, PTSD Addiction Recovery

PTSD
We are more than halfway through the three-day weekend, and tomorrow is Memorial Day. This weekend marks the beginning of the summer which is most certainly cause for smiles. However, it is important that you have a plan in place for tomorrow if you are working a program of recovery.

On Memorial Day, we should all take a moment to reflect on the brave American soldiers who gave their lives to protect all that we hold dear. We would be wise to remember the sacrifices made by veterans who are still with us, but have been changed by the trauma of armed conflict. Thousands of veterans are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

PTSD In The Military 


The Department of U.S. Veteran Affairs reports that:
  • About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) deal with PTSD in any given year.
  • About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in any given year.
  • About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s. It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
PTSD is a debilitating mental health disorder, one that wreak havoc on the afflicted lives. Without adequate treatment, such individuals are left to manage their symptoms on their own which often makes the problem worse. It extremely common for people battling PTSD to use drugs and/or alcohol to calm their symptoms, a counterproductive behavior that actually makes one’s symptoms more severe and often leads to a co-occurring substance use disorder. If you have loved one self-medicating their untreated post-traumatic stress, please call Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea today.


Staying Clean and Sober On Memorial Day 



If you are new to the program or have been in the rooms for a while, it is vital that you have a plan for getting to the other side of major holidays. Memorial Day often involves barbecues and family gatherings where drinking alcohol is pervasive. If you are planning to attend get-togethers where people are drinking, talk to your sponsor or recovery coach beforehand. It is always a good practice to attend such events with somebody from your homegroup. Even if you feel strong in your recovery, temptation can rear its ugly head. Do your best to attend a meeting tomorrow, one's addiction does not break for holidays. Nor should your recovery. We hope that everyone has a safe and sober Memorial Day.

If a relapse does occur, then please get back to the program immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it is. If you need extra assistance, please contact Celebrate Hope.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Stigma: Talking About Depression and Anxiety

depression
It is fairly well understood that the best weapon against stigma, and to promote compassion, is to talk about mental illness. No easy task, to be sure. For time immemorial, people have been made to feel that talking about their psychological symptoms of addiction, depression and anxiety would be a road to social exile. Brain diseases are not as well understood as other health conditions, for many reasons. And due to the reality, most people will fill in the blanks with stereotypes and pejorative remarks that do little good for both society and especially the afflicted.

To be fair, we have come a long way in the mission to talk about mental illness and encourage people to seek help without fear of reprisal. Yet, the fact remains that the clear majority of people living with any form of mental illness never receive any form of treatment. Without such care, the consequences are typically grave. Commonly people with mental health disorders abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with the debilitating symptoms they face. Addiction is usually the result of self-medication. Worse, left feeling like there are no more options, people suffering from depression and anxiety often try to take their own life. Many succeed.

 

Shining a Light On Mental Illness


In popular culture, several movies and televisions shows now cover the topic of mental health. And not just because mental illness is fascinating, but due to the fact by doing so—lives can be saved. It is a trend that tells people who may be afraid to seek help that they are not alone. That treatment can improve the quality of one’s life dramatically. It is worth noting that around the world some 300 million people suffer from depression, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports. Many of those people live in countries that are not as fortunate as Americans are when it comes to mental health care.

The World Health Organization has deemed depression to be the leading cause of poor health on the planet.

 

Katie & Shaun Talk About Depression and Anxiety


On May 26, 2017, a new web series will debut on YouTube which focuses on depression and anxiety. Katie & Shaun is the name of the show, which was created by husband-and-wife Matt Thomas (Writer) and Susan Allen (Director), according to Broadway World. The six-minute episodes are based on the creator's own experiences. Susan Allen says:

"We both have personal experience with mental health, and we've supported family and friends over the years, so it's a story close to our hearts. First and foremost, we hope people will find the show entertaining. And if someone feels less alone, or more like they can handle their own problems because of it, that would be amazing. By illuminating the characters' struggles with anxiety and depression - which are often confusing or debilitating, sometimes downright frustrating, and yet just one part of who they are - we hope to foster a deeper and broader understanding of mental health, and its role in the human experience." 

Please take a moment to watch the trailer below:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Gray Death: Deadly Opioid Admixture

fentanyl
Fentanyl, carfentanil, U-47700, et al. If those names do not mean anything to you, it could mean one of two things. Either you have no history of opioid drug use or you are an active prescription opioid or heroin user and you are unaware of the dangers lurking just before the surface.

Given the news of late dedicated to covering this nation's most serious drug epidemic, there is a good chance that fentanyl is a drug that is now part of your pharmacological lexicon. Depending on the purity of fentanyl, the drug can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. When mixed with heroin or pressed into pills to resemble oxycodone pills, unbeknownst to drug users, the outcomes are often deadly.

Naturally, in the dark underworld of illicit drug use, there is hardly any kind of code. Dealers provide a service to people who are dependent on opioids, they are not required to disclose the ingredients of their product. And even if they did, one could easily argue that many an opioid addict would take the risk and use the admixture regardless. The fire of addiction needs to be fed, one way or another.

Fentanyl Analogs


Powerful opioid painkillers like fentanyl are certainly on the radar of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Yet, they all seem to be at a loss regarding curbing the deadly fentanyl trend. And if that is not disconcerting enough, there are even deadly synthetic opioids to contend with making their job even more difficult.

Of late, sporadic stories of powerful painkillers, some of which are used to sedate large animals. And by large, we mean elephants. Carfentanil is an analog of fentanyl, 10,000 times more potent than morphine. U-47700 is another analog of fentanyl that is much stronger than morphine and has been rearing its ugly head in America.

In the state of Georgia, there have been 50 overdose cases in the past three months from a deadly mixture of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and U-47700, the Associated Press reports. The dangerous admixture is being called “Gray Death.” The compound looks like concrete mix, and is believed to have caused overdoses in Alabama and Ohio, as well.

"Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis," said Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Opioid Treatment


The nature of opioid use in America seems to be ever changing, and with it the risks. Heroin by itself is dangerous, but with these new admixtures…the best thing that people in the grips of opioid addiction can do is to seek treatment before they end up getting a bad batch.

Please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea to begin the lifesaving journey of recovery.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg On Addiction Stigma

addiction
Americans spend an exorbitant amount of time on Facebook. And to be fair, the Social Network is not without its appeal. It allows people to reach others who would otherwise be out of reach. Staying connected is a huge part of maintaining relationships, especially with the constant hustle and bustle of everyday life. Many of us are too young to remember a time before the social media platform first graced college campuses across the country and beyond. On the flip side, many older Americans find that they pine for the days when people were not concerned about friend requests, likes and the reach of their status updates.

But as anyone in addiction recovery will tell such people, as with all things life—we cannot turn back the clock—social media is here to stay. While it can become easy to spend too much time scanning one's timeline and it can be even easier to lose sleep about the awful things said and done to others online, FB has the power to affect much change for the better—especially regarding breaking down the stigma of mental illness and using complex algorithms to flag users who may need help.

It is widely accepted that one of the most effective measures against seemingly perpetual stigma, about mental health disorders like addiction, is talking about the condition openly. Sharing the science behind the disease and the fact that it is a treatable condition, humanizes the condition. And it could be argued that at no other time in our history is compassion more important; one need only consider the American opioid epidemic and the recent Surgeon General’s report on addiction (the first of its kind), which showed that only 1 in 10 people receive any kind of specialty treatment for the disorder.

 

Reaching Out About Addiction


A number of icons and celebrities have used their status for good with regard to addiction over the years. One of the most renowned addiction treatment centers in the country is named for a former First Lady. That being said: In the digital age, reach is everything. And one cannot deny that the founder and CEO at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, qualifies as having a global reach with 89,643,710 Facebook followers.

Which is why it is comforting to learn that Zuckerberg has begun to wrap his head around the seriousness of addiction in America. Last weekend, the social media mogul met with recovering addicts and the families who lost a loved one to an overdose in Dayton, Ohio, The Huffington Post reports. What’s more, it appears that he was affected and understands that need for changing the conversation about addiction and would like to be a part of the solution. He shared some of his observations and what he learned from his experience in what could only be called a remarkable post. I hope you will take a moment to read it below:

I just sat down with people recovering from opioid addiction and people helping them get treatment in Dayton, Ohio.

The opioid epidemic is one of the worst public health crises we've faced. More people die from it today than died from AIDS at its peak, or that die from car accidents and gun violence. The rate is still growing quickly.

The pull from opioids is incredibly powerful. A man I met said that when he saw someone overdose, his first thought was who that person's dealer was so he could get better stuff. Another woman who was forced to give up her kids said it wasn't because she didn't love them. She just needed the feeling from getting high more.

Everyone in Dayton is affected by this. One woman told me her daughter, who is a recovering heroin addict, got promoted to hostess at the restaurant where she works because the last hostess overdosed in the bathroom. Another woman whose husband is a police officer said her family hears overdose calls coming over the radio every night. The Dayton police department once responded to 29 overdose calls in a single day. She's worried it's all going to seem normal to her young daughter.

Treating an epidemic like this is complicated and the people I met say it's years from even peaking. But they also came back to the importance of connection and relationships.

A big part of recovery is surrounding yourself with people who are a positive influence and will help you avoid situations where you might relapse. You can't get dragged back down. One woman told me she'll talk someone down who is about to use, but she won't go out to a drug house to find them. She has to look out for herself first.

Purpose is also really important. One man who has been in recovery for seven years told me, "Most addicts have destroyed personal relationships, stolen from their family members, sold their cars for drugs, and they have to rebuild all of that. We have to help them develop a sense that they have a goal in life, and we have to do it one addict at a time."

The people I met also talked about how important it is to reduce the stigma that comes from being a recovering addict. One woman who has been clean for a year told me, "If we're in active addiction it doesn't mean we're not human. Even if we're not living our potential at this moment we have a chance to do something with this life." Another told me, "It's important that addicts don't end up as 'those people.' It's not 'those people,' it's your neighbor, and you need to be there to support them."

This touches everyone. People I work closely with have had family members and high school friends die of overdoses. Ohio and communities all across the country have a long road ahead, but as someone told me at the end, "I'm hopeful because we're talking about it." Me too.

 

A Compassionate Stance On Addiction


Stigma remains to be one of the biggest obstacles in the way of people seeking and getting the help they require. There are millions of Americans actively abusing one substance or another, and all  those people are somebody's child. Not just beings who lack moral fiber. The sooner we treat addiction as we would any other chronic illness, the more likely individuals will be able to seek help for it. Treatment works. Recovery works. Stigma is but a black mark that needs be erased. We can all have a hand at making the findings of the next Surgeon General’s report on addiction more promising.

If you or a loved one has been touched by this insidious mental illness, and is actively in the grips of abuse, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We can help.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs

prescription opioids
We can all have an active role in preventing prescription drug abuse, addiction and overdose. It can be easy to feel helpless in the face of any problem of epidemic proportions, given the fact that about 100 people die from an overdose every day in the United States and millions more are caught in the insidious cycle of opioid addiction. Americans make up but a small fraction of the world’s population, but we prescribe and use up to the clear majority of all prescription opioids.

Many people with an opioid use disorder (OUD) were introduced to opioids by way of a doctor prescribing drugs like oxycodone for pain. However, a significant number of people abusing such drugs today were introduced to them by a friend or family member diverting their medication. Many Americans, even those who are aware of the facts, still do not see much harm in providing unused or unwanted pills to their peers. To take it a step further, despite the apparent risk of overdose, most adults with children do not lock up their medicine cabinet.

With such great risks at stake it is almost hard to wrap one’s head around the laissez-faire attitudes about the risk of overdose that prevails in the U.S. A lack of perceived danger has led to many a loved one being able to purloin opioids from medicine drawers. A practice that has resulted in teenagers and young adults acquiring opioid, benzodiazepines and amphetamines without a prescription.

 

Doing Your Part to Prevent Overdose


Both Federal and state governments can only do so much to affect change on a societal problem. Rules and regulations, while immensely effective, cannot address every aspect of this most pernicious crisis devastating families from Alaska to Florida, from Maine to Hawaii. To affect change on a massive scale requires that we, as a society make a conscious, concerted effort to be more responsible regarding drugs that are seemingly going to be around as long as people experience pain.

As has been proven, prohibiting the use of certain drugs has little impact on addiction. However, responsible use and disposal of such drugs can go a long way in preventing people from starting down the road of addiction—a path that often ends in overdose. Which is why it is vital that every American with unwanted or unused prescription drugs take advantage of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day happening tomorrow, April 29, 2017. Between 10AM to 2PM, you can take unwanted prescription drugs to safe disposal sites in all 50 states.

Last April, nearly 450 tons of unwanted medication were collected across the U.S, according to the DEA. Typical locations for safe disposal are hospital and pharmacies, fire departments and police stations. For more information on finding a medication drop location, please click here.

“These results show that more Americans than ever are taking the important step of cleaning out their medicine cabinets and making homes safe from potential prescription drug abuse or theft,” said DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.

California collected 32 tons of unused medication last year. While that is a mind-boggling number of drugs, there was likely even more drugs that could have been disposed, but were not. Perhaps this April, we can do even better.

 

Need Help With Prescription Drug Abuse


If you are currently battling an opioid use disorder, or prescription drug abuse of any kind, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We understand how difficult it is to withdraw from opioid dependence, but we have helped many accomplish what may seem like an insurmountable task to you right now. Let us help you break the cycle of drug abuse and teach you how it's possible to live a life in recovery.

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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Opioid-Tax In California

opioid epidemic
The American opioid addiction epidemic has put a serious burden on society, both the human and financial costs of the crisis are staggering. It is widely agreed upon that the best shot of gaining control of the scourge of opioid abuse in America is by way of education and addiction treatment. If health experts can properly educate people about the dangers of experimenting with opioids, fewer people may follow down the road towards addiction. For those who have already become snared by addiction, science-based treatment is the most effective way to throw a monkey wrench into the gear-works of the disease.

In recent years, federal and state lawmakers have been scrambling to provide and fund adequate addiction treatment services. In many states, people often wait long periods of time to get a bed at a treatment center. There is a serious lack of treatment facilities, counselors and funding to pay for both. If you consider for a moment that there are over 2 million Americans who meet the criteria for opioid use disorder, then you can see that it will cost a considerable amount of money to ensure that they all get the treatment they need, but may not be able to afford.

When looking for the root causes of the opioid addiction epidemic, fingers will point towards over reliance on prescription opioid painkiller—more times than not. While efforts to reign in prescribing practices have been successful in a number of ways, the problem didn’t disappear because individual addiction was not addressed. Making it more difficult to acquire prescription opioids often results in turning to heroin as an alternative means of avoiding withdrawal.

So, if we can agree for the moment that treatment is the answer, then finding the necessary funds to provide it is of the utmost importance. Look no further than opioid wholesalers to finance the vital cause. Or, that is what one California lawmaker has suggested. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) introduced a bill that would impose a one-cent-per-milligram tax on opioid painkillers sold statewide, The Los Angeles Times reports. According to KTLA, "The tax would be imposed on wholesalers who import the medication into the state, not at the point of sale, and it would require a two-thirds approval vote in the Legislature." The companies making money on the drugs people are becoming addicted to would, in effect, pay for the treatment those patients now require.

The prescription opioid business is a multi-billion-dollar industry. While the drugs do effectively treat pain as advertised, they also carry a serious risk of addiction. It is hard to argue against the pharmaceutical industry covering some of the costs of treatment in America.

“California’s opioid epidemic has cost state taxpayers millions and the lives of too many of our sons and daughters,” McCarty said in a statement. “We must do more to help these individuals find hope and sobriety. This plan will provide counties with critical resources needed to curb the deadly cycle of opioid and heroin addiction in California.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

Ocean Holds Opioid Alternatives

In the United States, we are in desperate need of opioid alternatives when it comes to the treatment of pain. It is fair to say that the problems we face with opioid addiction today, would not be so severe if opioid painkillers were not so effective. Calls to look for alternative forms of pain management have been loud in recent years, yet physicians may be scratching their heads about what to prescribe instead. Unfortunately, many pain sufferers do not respond to meditation and acupuncture. And frankly, severe pain can require the use of powerful opioids.

Those tasked with developing opioid alternatives for pain relief are researchers at any one of a number of colleges/universities around the country. But effective research requires large teams working thousands of hours. The point being, finding opioid alternatives could take years to accomplish—when we need solutions now. Nevertheless, researchers trudge sedulously to find such alternatives, sometimes looking for answers in the strangest of places.

A number of medications currently used today have their origins in the tropical rain forests of the world. But when it comes to pain management, new options may be residing in the deep blue sea. Meet Conus regius, a species of sea snail that is both predatory and venomous.

Conus regius (Credit: Zsnapper)

Researchers at the University of Utah have isolated a compound from the snail's venom that acts on a pain pathway different from the pathway targeted by opioid painkillers, GEN reports. The compound, RgIA4, was successful at blocking alpha9alpha10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) pain pathway receptors in rodent models. The research was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"RgIA4 works by an entirely new pathway, which opens the door for new opportunities to treat pain," said J. Michael McIntosh, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Health Sciences. "We feel that drugs that work by this pathway may reduce the burden of opioid use." 

The Conus regius sea snail could be vital for the development of new painkillers that do not carry the same risks as opioids. What’s more, while RgIA4 works its way through the body in only 4 hours, the pain-relieving effects of the compound were still working 72 hours after the injection, according to the article. Dr. McIntosh points out that the majority of painkillers used today are not sufficient in addressing chronic pain. Better alternatives may be found in the ocean. Really exciting stuff.

“Nature has evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated and can have unexpected applications," says Baldomera Olivera, Ph.D., professor in biology at the University of Utah. "We were interested in using venoms to understand different pathways in the nervous system."

Friday, February 17, 2017

Depression and E-Cigarette Initiation

e-cigarettes
Last week we covered an alarming new trend regarding e-cigarette use among young people, known as “dripping.” We felt it important to keep the conversation about e-cigs going, considering the device's growing popularity among young people.

Smoking cigarettes has long been associated with a form of stress release, much like having a beer at the end of long day. Who hasn’t known someone who, when stressed out, said aloud, “I need a cigarette.” People don't just smoke when they are stressed. They smoke to alleviate anxiety and depression, as well. Some even smoke to quell their appetite, at times. Such behaviors are often what addiction is built upon, associating a specific action with relief.

In the field of addiction medicine, it is quite common for patients who report their addiction being the result of self-medicating untreated mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Such instances are referred to as co-occurring disorders. When mental illness is left untreated, people will often look to potentially dangerous remedies, like drugs and alcohol. But let’s get back to nicotine for the time being.

In recent years, there has been a heated conversation about electronic cigarettes, specifically with regard to the benefits over traditional tobacco products and the potential health risks. It is fair to say that at the end of the day researchers (in most cases) do not yet have definitive answers regarding the pros and cons of e-cigarette use. While most will agree that e-cigs are likely a safer alternative to other methods of nicotine delivery, yet there is widespread concern in the health community about the impact of the vapor devices on young people.

Concerns have also been put forth of late regarding mental health and e-cigarette use. A study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) showed a link between depression and initiation of e-cigarette use among college students, according to a UT press release. The findings were published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

While the researchers could not find evidence that e-cigarette use leads to elevated symptoms of depression, the study showed that college students who had had elevated levels of depressive symptoms were at a much greater risk of starting to use e-cigs, the article reports. The relationship was surprising to the researchers because the same could not be said for the relationship between depressive symptoms and traditional cigarette initiation.

"We don't know why depression leads to e-cigarette use. It may be self-medication. Just like with cigarettes, when students feel stressed out, using e-cigarettes may make them feel better. Or it could be that since e-cigarettes have been marketed as a smoking cessation device, depressed students may be using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking traditional cigarettes," said lead author Frank Bandiera, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas. 

The study was the first of its kind to establish a longitudinal relationship between the depression and e-cigarettes, according to the article. Further research will be needed to determine what the relationship means.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Teenage E-Cigarette Dripping

e-cigarettes
The e-cigarette conversation continues as more and more teenagers are using the devices. A 2015 survey found that 24 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the past 30 days, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally been given authority to regulate e-cigs, creating age restrictions, the devices are still being used by minors and young adults.

Most experts agree that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than other forms of nicotine delivery. However, nicotine is still addictive and can potentially start young people on the road to harmful behaviors that can lead to addiction. Furthermore, e-cig nicotine juices come in a number of flavors that can keep people coming back for more, where as traditional cigarettes have one flavor—you either like it or you don’t.

There have also been concerns raised about nicotine levels in e-cigarette “juices,” and how the devices are used. A new trend called “dripping,” allows e-cigarette users to get more bang for their buck, HealthDay reports. In fact, a survey shows that 1 in 4 teens have reported having tried dripping. So, what is dripping?

Normally, e-cigs users inhale to gradually draw the e-juice into a heating coil through what are known as “wicks,” creating a vapor, according to lead researcher Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "Dripping" is when e-cig users place drops of the nicotine juice directly onto the exposed heating coil and then quickly inhaling the thick vapor cloud produced. Krishnan-Sarin’s survey indicates that 26 percent of student e-cigarette users at eight Connecticut high schools has "dripped."

The immediate or long term health consequences of dripping are not known yet, according to the article. Although, the chief of general pediatrics of Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, Dr. Karen Wilson, says that the more potent nicotine could impact the developing brains of teenagers.

"Adolescents should not be using nicotine at all," Wilson said. "It changes the brain chemistry, and adolescents are uniquely susceptible to the addictive properties of nicotine." 

The findings of the report were published in Pediatrics.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Curbing Alcohol Cravings With Ibudilast

cravings
In recent years, the drugs like Naltrexone and Acamprosate have been used to treat alcoholics. While such drugs are classified as opioid antagonists, they have been shown to be effective at reducing cravings for alcohol. The drugs have proven to be useful inside and outside addiction treatment settings.

Cravings for any mind-altering substance can be one’s downfall, often leading to relapse for those working programs of recovery. It is for that reason that keeping one's cravings in check is of the utmost importance. Urges to use can creep up on people, and before you know it, one’s behavior can regress back to old ways of thinking about things. Essentially paving a road to relapse. If people in recovery are open and honest with their peers about their cravings, relapse can be avoided. But that isn't always an easy task.

Arguably, in a perfect world there would exist a drug that stops cravings altogether in the first place. In the meantime, those recovering from addiction must continue to make do with drugs that reduce cravings. While Naltrexone and Acamprosate are effective for some people, with others that is not the case. Researchers continue to create new drugs that can reduce cravings, or research drugs that were intended for something else.

As per the latter, addiction researchers have been experimenting with a drug called ibudilast, and have found that it can significantly reduce alcohol cravings in heavy drinkers, PsychCentral reports. Ibudilast is an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat asthma, mainly in Japan. The findings were published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and involved 17 men and seven women, according to the article. The participants reported drinking alcohol an average of 21 days per month and drinking seven alcoholic beverages per day when they drank. Study participants who were given ibudilast reported being in a better mood and having far less cravings for alcohol, than those who were not given the drug.

“We found that ibudilast is safe and well-tolerated,” said Dr. Lara Ray, a UCLA professor of psychology, director of the UCLA Addictions Laboratory and the study’s lead author. “This medication can be safely administered, including when people are drinking alcohol.” 

The researcher points out that none of the participants expressed a desire to quit drinking before the study. Moving forward, Dr. Ray plans on studying the drug with participants that are heavy drinkers who want to stop drinking.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore's Alcoholism

alcoholism
Mary Tyler Moore passed away Wednesday, January 25, 2017, at the age of 80. Often referred to as “America’s Sweetheart,” Tyler Moore's life was nothing short of extraordinary; she starred in both hot movies and television shows, and championed a number of causes. Her life was also extraordinary in a tragic way as well, and is a perfect example of addiction being family disease—affecting multiple generations.

Mary Tyler Moore was born on Dec. 29, 1936, the daughter of two alcoholics, according to The New York Times. Her sister, Elizabeth Moore, died of a drug and alcohol overdose in 1978. Mary Tyler Moore would struggle with addiction as well over the years, and was treated for alcoholism at the Betty Ford Center in 1984. She would open up about her addiction in her memoir and during interviews.

In 2005, Larry King asked her how she beat alcoholism, to which she responded, “I just made up my mind to stop:”

KING: No AA?

MOORE: Well, I went to the Betty Ford Center and got a lot of education there and a lot of spirit and determination. Somebody said something -- it's a
--> cliché, you've heard it a 100 times, but they say if you want to get all the air out of a glass, what do you do? There's no way to do it but fill it with something else. And that something else is joy of living, reading, being creative, know you're doing the right thing. And that got me to thinking.
KING: Why didn't the joy of success work?

MOORE: I don't know.

KING: One doesn't know, does he?

MOORE: No. And, you know, with alcoholism, you tend to drink because you're angry, or you drink because you're sad now, or you drink because you are just so happy you want to celebrate.

There is not just one way to recover from the debilitating disease of addiction. Tyler Moore’s may not be the course another takes, but her story is inspirational to say the least. She came from a line of alcoholics and found a way to not let the disease be her end. The champion of women’s rights and the treatment of diabetes, she died at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut of cardiopulmonary arrest.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. Our skilled team can show you how to live life without alcohol or any other mind-altering substances.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Opioids With A History of Mental Illness

mental-illness
It may seem like common sense that people with a history of psychiatric illness would be more susceptible to developing an addiction, at least to those who work in the field of addiction medicine. However, many doctors do not look at a patient’s complete medical history before deciding whether to prescribe opioid painkillers, or not. Or so a new study has found. Such lapses regarding a patient's background can have devastating consequences on certain patients.

New research suggests that people with pre-existing psychiatric and behavioral conditions are at greater risk of long-term use of opioid pain medications, according to a press release. The findings highlight the need for providers to run complete histories on patients they are considering prescribing narcotics. The research was published in the Pain: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

The researchers found that about 1.7 percent of patients prescribed opioids become long-term opioid users (six months or longer), according to the report. However, those with a history of mental health conditions or psychoactive medication use, became long-term opioid user at a much greater rate. The findings come from an analysis of data on prescriptions and health history for 10.3 million people, part of a nationwide insurance database, from 2004 to 2013.

"We found that pre-existing psychiatric and behavioral conditions and psychoactive medications were associated with subsequent claims for prescription opioids," study author Patrick D. Quinn, PhD, of Indiana University, Bloomington, and colleagues write. "Our findings support the ideas that clinical practice has deviated from the 'careful selection' under which most clinical trials are conducted and that thorough mental health assessment and intervention should be considered in conjunction with the use of long-term opioid therapy." 

In the field of addiction, it is quite common for people battling substance abuse to also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Treatment becomes more complex because success depends on treating both the substance use and co-occurring disorder. So, it stands to reason that prescribing opioids to people who are already likely to be more susceptible to addiction, may not be a good choice. Looking for opioid alternatives when treating the pain of patients with history of mental illness or substance use, would have a positive effect all around.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Addicts Make Riskier Decisions

cocaine
It is hardly a secret that people who abuse drugs and alcohol often make rash decisions that can greatly impact their life. People under the influence of alcohol will often choose to get behind the wheel of a car. Heroin addicts will inject another dose despite the risk of overdose, while already sufficiently intoxicated. Inside each addict and alcoholic is a force that is not acting with their well-being in mind.

Researchers continue to probe the mind to better understand what is operating. And in some cases, they would like to better understand the decision-making product of people with substance use disorders. New findings suggest that cocaine addicts make riskier decisions, because of an exaggerated decrease in the reward processing region of the brain, according to a press release. The findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

The researchers came to their findings by using gambling models, or what are known as a Risky Gains Task, according to the report. They compared the data from 29 people diagnosed with cocaine use disorder to 40 control participants. The participants were asked to perform a Risky Gains Task, where they could earn money by selecting between three monetary values -- the lowest value being the safest option and higher values being riskier. While undergoing the task, participants' behaviors were observed and neuroimaging was conducted. The findings could lead to a way of tracking the progress of a cocaine addicts recovery.

"This paradoxical relationship between how someone acts in response to a loss can give us clues for how to develop better interventions and how to track the recovery of the brain from cocaine addiction," said first author Joshua Gowin, of the University of California San Diego. 

Observations indicated that as potential monetary value increased, the control group and cocaine addict group made different choices. Neuroimaging showed a proportional increase in activity of the ventral striatum in the brains of the control group, not seen in the cocaine use disorder group, the article reports. The ventral striatum is believed to be important for processing of rewards. The researchers believe that the risky behavior exhibited by cocaine addicts was not motivated by reward.

"In an interesting parallel to their real life behavior, brain activity and choice behavior during a gambling task used in this study indicate an aberrant sensitivity to loss and a tendency to double down and make risky choices," said Cameron Carter, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.
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