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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Treating Depression and Anxiety With Marijuana

When looking for a silver lining in the American electorate's ever changing stance on marijuana, two things often come to mind. 1) Medical marijuana and legalized recreational use will keep countless Americans out of jail or prison. 2) The loosening of the legislative grip on marijuana allows for some long awaited (previously impossible) research to be conducted. The findings of which will hopefully lead to more informed decisions regarding the use of cannabis.

Marijuana, like alcohol, is often used as a stress reliever at the end of a long day of work. While the stereotypical “pot” smokers are teenagers and young adults with Bob Marley shirts and healthy appetites, your average pot smoker is often the farthest thing from that picture. In fact, with the lightening of policies related to marijuana, we can now see a more accurate picture of cannabis users, free from what is portrayed in Hollywood. And what is being seen is college freshmen to businessmen partaking in marijuana use.

More American adults than ever can now easily access marijuana, so it is vital that they know the risks. When people think about the risks associated with cannabis use, cognitive and memory problems often come to mind. But, past research has found connections between heavy cannabis use and mental illness, especially among teenagers and young adults. Users beware!

There are also many pot smokers who use marijuana to self-medicate anxiety and depression. However, it has long been uncertain how effective marijuana is for treating mental illness, and it is likely that the drug may actually worsen one’s symptoms. Researchers at Colorado State University conducted a questionnaire-based analysis of 178 college-aged, legal users of cannabis to shed some light on how the drug affects emotional processing, KDVR reports. The findings were published in PeerJ.

The researchers found that people who use cannabis to treat their depressive symptoms, had less anxiety but were more depressed, according to the article. Those who used the drug to lessen anxiety symptoms had fewer symptoms of depression, but were more anxious.

The findings are important, and hopefully will influence some people’s choice to use the drug for alleviating symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Celebrate Your Program Of Recovery On Christmas

addiction recovery
From Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine—Americans working a program of recovery have a difficult day ahead of them with Christmas on our doorstep. People in recovery often dread the holiday season, and for good reason. Emotions tend to run high during the holidays, often revealing the vulnerability and fragility of recovery. Letting up on one’s program, even in the slightest degree, can bring about serious consequences. Staying plugged into your program of recovery during on Christmas is the best way to ensure that you keep your sobriety.

Whether you are new to recovery, or an old timer, the stakes are equally high. It is not just newcomers who struggle with the holiday season, people with many years of sober time have a hard time, too. Christmas can bring back memories of a time before one's drinking or drugging became unmanageable. Nostalgia can be a slippery slope for people in recovery.

It is important to set such feelings aside and work hard to develop new holiday rituals and traditions with your peers in recovery. A number of people working program will have an urge to isolate tomorrow, thinking that it will make the day easier. But solitude usually has an opposite effect, causing people to get lost in their mind with unsafe thoughts. The head of an addict or alcoholic, as you are probably aware, can be a dangerous place.

The best way to get out of yourself is to channel your energy elsewhere. Attending 12-Step or SMART Recovery meetings on Christmas is great way to keep your sobriety intact this Christmas. If you are feeling shaky, you should share with the group about it. You are definitely not alone, and your words may help someone is even shakier. It is likely that someone will give you some feedback, imparting some wisdom for dealing with your feelings.

Tomorrow is a perfect opportunity to reach out to newcomers, as they are often the most likely to relapse. Having a conversation with a newcomer may help them stay the course, making it through Christmas without “using.” Helping others makes you feel better about yourself, which can actually keep you stay sober for one more day.

At Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea we would like to wish everyone working a program of recovery a safe and sober Christmas Eve and Day. And please remember, we don’t drink or drug—no matter what.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

War On Drugs In South America

war on drugs
The “war on drugs” in the United States has had a terrible impact on millions of Americans since President Nixon first made the declaration. The reactionary punitive approach to containing substance use and abuse in the U.S. disproportionately affects minorities and the millions of Americans living in poverty. The result, America has the largest prison population in the world, as many as half the people behind bars are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

Over the last eight years there have been several efforts to rein in the war on drugs. Such as ending or amending mandatory minimum sentencing laws and commuting hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders who are serving unjust, lengthy sentences. The significantly greater number of lawmakers are in favor of treatment over jail, seeing that what’s needed is compassion rather than punishment.

It can be easy to view the war on drugs as a campaign that only affected Americans. However, unlike typical armed conflicts, the war on drugs has had an impact on citizens of several countries—specifically in South America. Realizing that the bulk of illegal drugs coming into our country came from south of the border, our government pushed its agenda on countries like Colombia and funded campaigns to take out coca farmers and cocaine traffickers. The result, as you are probably aware—bloodshed.

In many ways, the last several decades in Colombia have been shaped by our country's goal of eradicating illegal drugs. It is a trend that may be coming to an end, with Colombia’s peace treaty with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC—a 52-year old Marxist insurgency. The peace treaty earned Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, a Nobel Peace Prize, Civilized. reports. Acknowledging his role in ending a conflict that killed 220,000 people and displaced 8 million.

During Santos acceptance speech, he used the opportunity to criticize America's war on drugs, according to the article. He pointed out that the campaign in Colombia and other South American nations produced both violence and environmental damage. Santos believes that laws prohibiting consumption of drugs should be eased.

"It makes no sense to imprison a peasant who grows marijuana, when nowadays, for example, its cultivation and use are legal in eight states of the United States," said Santos.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Reversing Overdose Has A Heavy Price

In a perfect world, opioid addicts would have free-access to the lifesaving drug naloxone. The drug can reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, and one could argue that doctors should co-prescribe naloxone when they write an opioid prescription and community outreach programs should handout naloxone free to heroin addicts who cannot afford to buy it from a pharmacy. Sadly, that is not the world we live in, but some lawmakers in the United States have been fighting to expand access to the miracle drug, which has proved difficult because of price.

If one were looking to buy naloxone, they can expect to pay upwards of $150 for two doses. Certainly, you cannot put a price tag on life, but if you can’t afford the naloxone kit you may lose yours. Lawmakers have received a lot of pressure from addiction experts to reign in the ever-increasing price of the lifesaving drug. This week, experts called on the government to act in The New England Journal of Medicine, according to HealthDay. The experts write:

“Naloxone’s price increase is part of an overall trend of increasing prescription-drug prices for both new brand-name drugs and old, off-patent generics. Public frustration with rising drug prices has led to a number of recent policy proposals, including Vermont’s new legislation requiring companies to justify price increases, California’s attempt to constrain drug payments, and the recently proposed and bipartisan-supported Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act. None of the federal or state initiatives expanding naloxone’s availability, however, address the drug’s rising cost.” 

Part of the issue is that there are limited options. An increase in demand for the drug has the expected effect of drug makers seeing an opportunity to increase profit, regardless of the deadly consequence of people being unable to afford the drug. Here are the numbers:
  • Hospira (a Pfizer Inc. company) charges $142 for a 10-pack of naloxone —a 129 percent increase since 2012.
  • Amphastar's 1 milligram version of naloxone costs around $40—a 95 percent increase since September 2014.
  • A two-dose package of Evzio (naloxone) costs $4,500, a more than 500 percent increase over two years.
“The challenge is as the price goes up for naloxone, it becomes less accessible for patients,” said study lead author, Ravi Gupta, a fourth-year Yale medical student. "Taking action now is essential to ensuring that this lifesaving drug is available to patients and communities."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Naloxone Yo-Yo Effect

It could easily be argued that naloxone, the lifesaving overdose reversal drug sold under the brand name Narcan, is one of the most important drugs ever produced. If it's administered in a timely manner, the life of an opioid addict can be spared from what would have otherwise resulted in an overdose death.

In the United States, practically every first-responder has been trained to administer the drug, in response to the staggering overdose death rates linked to the epidemic plaguing America. Additionally, a number of states have taken certain actions, making it much easier for addicts and their families to acquire the ever important drug—in many cases a prescription is not required for obtaining the miracle drug.

While the United States has the highest overdose death rates in the world, after decades of over prescribing painkillers and a burgeoning heroin market, our neighbors from the North have hardly been spared. In fact, between November 17-23, there were nearly 500 overdoses that required paramedics in the greater British Columbia (B.C.) area, CTV reports. Situations that would usually be considered routine, involving naloxone treatment. However, it turns out that addicts have begun mixing naloxone with their heroin in an attempt to protect oneself from an overdose.

Obviously, the method is far from the right course of action. The act of using an opioid, followed by naloxone, is being called “yo-yoing” or the “yo-yo” effect, according to the article. Heroin causes feelings of euphoria; naloxone reverses those effects by essentially starting a process of drug withdrawal—a real up and down experience. One that is far from pain-free.

In B.C. paramedics are arriving at the scene of overdoses and seeing empty vials of the overdose reversal drug, the article reports. Addicts are getting a false sense of safety from yo-yoing, but Paramedic Sophia Parkinson says that a person who uses naloxone needs to be followed up with by medical personnel, as the effects of the antidote can be fleeting.

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the Yo-Yo Effect:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Questions About Recovery This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is less than a day away and if you are in recovery then there is a good chance that you have some apprehensions about being surrounded by family, especially if you are new to the program. You may be concerned about how your relatives are going to respond to your new-found sobriety, and they may bombard you with questions about the program. Naturally, how you choose to handle the potential onslaught of questions will have an impact on your day.

Please keep in mind that your recovery is between you and your “higher power.” You are not required to share your story of recovery with people who are not in the program. If people ask about your recovery, you can simply answer them with a simple: “my life got out of hand because of drugs and alcohol, and I'm trying to live life in a different way.” There really shouldn’t be any need for follow up questions. People who have not had a problem with mind altering substances will never fully understand what you went through or what you are doing, today, in order to be free from such experiences in the future.

Another common scenario for people new to recovery who find themselves going home for the holidays is the someone asking you: “Why can’t just have a couple? I mean, it is Thanksgiving after all!” There are probably a million answers you could give to that question, all of which would be accurate. Nevertheless, you can answer that question with, “I have had enough, already.” If drinking and drugging brought you to the depths of despair, that answer would not be an untruth.

Those who love and support you will commend you for what you are working towards. If they saw you in active addiction, then they may be pleasantly surprised about the progress you have made. If your family is unwilling to get behind your recovery, it may be painful, but it is not that big of a deal; in time, it is likely that they will come to understand. If Thanksgiving becomes too much for you to handle, call your sponsor and find a meeting immediately. It is a lot easier to pick up the phone before a relapse, than it is after the fact.

Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea would like to wish everyone working a daily program of spiritual maintenance a safe and sober Thanksgiving 2016.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Regulating Sober Living Homes

sober living homes
The American opioid epidemic has created a huge demand for addiction treatment services. With over 2.5 million Americans struggling with an opioid use disorder, providing adequate addiction programs across the country has proven to be a challenge.

Ideally, when an addict makes the choice to finally seek help and check into a program of recovery, there will be a treatment center close by with an open bed available. What’s more, such facilities should be both affordable and utilize evidence-based methods of treatment to ensure the best outcomes. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for addicts to access addiction treatment centers in rural America, such as inpatient and outpatient treatment or sober living homes.

Addiction treatment services are much more common in cities across the country. People with substance use disorders who reside in major cities often have a long list of choices when it comes recovery. Long-term, inpatient care is considered to be the best choice, usually resulting in ideal outcomes. The goal is being able to focus solely on one’s recovery, free from the distractions of family, friends and work.

Addiction counselors will typically recommend patients to aftercare programs, upon finishing the 90-day inpatient program. Aftercare options typically include outpatient treatment and living in what is known as “sober living” home. People in early recovery have a better shot at achieving significant recovery time, if they follow the recommendations of their counselors. The more time you spend in
safe environments, the better protected you are from relapse.

However, people who are new to recovery, should be careful when picking a sober living home. Not everyone who moves into a sober living home started their recovery in a treatment facility, so they may not have good sources for recommendations on which homes they should look at. There are some sober living homes that are not conducive to recovery.

The huge demand for addiction treatment services, led to a boom in sober living homes opening up across the country. When bad homes are operating, cities have struggled to determine which ones are taking advantage of the vulnerable to turn a quick profit. Addiction is a disability, which means that people living in sober living homes are protected by the Fair Housing Act, CBS12 reports. Unfortunately, medical privacy laws have actually ended up serving the interests of sober home owners, who are not subject to housing regulations. Meaning, people can get away with shady business practices, potentially affecting vulnerable newly sober people.

In an effort combat such behaviors, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the release of new guidelines for cities to use for the effective regulation of sober living homes, according to the article. A joint statement indicates that the agencies are giving cities:

"...the legal clarity they need to maintain the safety and character of their communities while protecting the rights and needs of people with disabilities, including those recovering from drug addiction.”

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels

Smoking cigarettes continues to be one of the number one killers in America. While products containing nicotine are legal for adult use, they are responsible for taking more lives than many Schedule I narcotics combined. With the nation focused on gaining the right to smoke marijuana, for better or worse, many have lost sight of cigarette smoking prevention efforts, despite the fact that experts overwhelmingly agree that cigarettes are one of the true “gateway drugs” along with alcohol, both of which are far more deadly.

Over the last decade, or so, there has been a push by tobacco opponents to include graphic warning labels on the packaging of cigarettes. Several Western countries have experimented with such labels, with beneficial results, yet “big tobacco” has fought graphic images tooth and nail. And for good reason. If people saw with their own eyes the havoc tobacco is wreaking on the inside, they would probably be less inclined to smoke.

Nevertheless, cigarettes continue to be sold in the manner that they have been for decades, despite the staggering death toll associated with the cancer sticks. There is more at stake than just the smoker, cigarettes have been linked to neonatal problems that could affect someone long after they are born. Secondhand smoke has also been linked to cancer with people who have never smoked.

We have come a long way in the U.S. with regard to tobacco legislation, none of which should be discounted. However, it is paramount that efforts to mitigate the harmful toll that tobacco takes on society continue. Graphic warning labels are the next logical step in the campaign to end tobacco use in America. New research suggests that labels depicting the harmful effects of tobacco could save more than 650,000 lives by 2065, HealthDay reports. The findings were published in the journal Tobacco Control.

"By any standard, this would be considered a very, very successful public health intervention," said study author David Levy. He is a professor of oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "The other countries have persisted and gotten the graphic warnings, so if they can do it, there's no reason that the United States shouldn't do it."

Friday, November 4, 2016

Teaching Teens the Science of Addiction

There is still much to learn about the disease of addiction, a complex mental illness that affects millions of Americans each year. Researchers continue to make breakthroughs regarding the complex nature of addiction, with the hope that it will lead to better, more effective methods of treatment. Addiction is a science, and failure to understand it or at least have a grasp on its nature, could lead to deadly outcomes for some.

Opioid addiction has been in the national spotlight for nearly two decades, with no real indication that the epidemic is diminishing. In the field of addiction medicine, it is well understood that addiction does not discriminate. While opioid use disorder affects primarily adults, teenagers are eligible too.

The “Just Say No” and subsequent D.A.R.E. campaigns over the years have shown that teenagers rarely respond to those types of adult directives. And, in fact, they may actually make teens more interested in trying drugs after learning about how they make you feel. It is no secret that adolescents hate being told what to do, even if such advice could save their life.

With that in mind, the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Chuck Rosenburg launched a new drug-education program that goes about teaching teens with science rather than scare tactics, The Washington Post reports. The DEA funded Discovery Education, a subsidiary of Discovery Communications, to develop a “virtual field trip,” which included a panel made up of a:
  • Scientist
  • Recovering Addict
  • Assistant Principal
  • DEA Agent
The group discussed addiction with high school biology students, according to the article. It was then broadcast to 200,000 students nationwide. The program also includes:
  • Free Videos
  • Classroom Materials
  • A Student Video Contest
“We’re focusing on the science behind addiction and what it can do to your brain and your behavior,” said Bill Goodwyn, president and chief executive of Discovery Education. “It’s not a one-off assembly where you’ll have a speaker come in once a quarter or once a semester. It’s actually part of the core curriculum.”

Friday, October 28, 2016

Opioid Addiction Medication Preauthorizations

The American opioid epidemic highlights the need for greater access to addiction treatment services throughout the country. While over 70 people die from an opioid related overdose every day, there are effective addiction treatments that are being underutilized. In recent years, there has been a huge push from both Federal and local government agencies to ensure that everyone who wants or needs treatment—gets it. Whether it be through residential treatment or intensive outpatient, millions of Americans desperately need care.

At reputable residential treatment centers around the country, the drug buprenorphine is widely used for detoxification purposes. The drug can ease the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Most people with an opioid use disorder would struggle making it through detox without buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Suboxone. However, buprenorphine is a semisynthetic opioid derivative, that can cause euphoria and lead to dependence if taken for extended periods of time.

Most treatment centers will wean patients off of Suboxone after their withdrawal symptoms subside and before they are discharged from the facility. On the other hand, primary care physicians around the country have begun prescribing Suboxone in an effort to stem the tide of opioid addiction epidemic, it is a program referred to commonly as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). There are conflicting opinions about MAT. On the one hand it is considered to be the lesser of two evils when compared to heroin abuse, yet the drug is addictive and withdrawing from Suboxone can be more painful than that of heroin.

As was mentioned earlier, people are dying so there is a real need to combat this epidemic where and when we can. If the recommendation from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) is MAT, then it is likely that more and more doctors will be prescribing Suboxone in the coming years. Last week, the insurer Cigna announced that it will no longer require pre-authorization for prescriptions to treat opioid addiction, USA Today reports. The news comes in the wake a national settlement announced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"Getting people into treatment faster, and when the window of opportunity is open, is vital to stemming the opioid addiction crisis,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Other health insurers should take notice of Cigna’s actions to remove access barriers to treat opioid dependency and I encourage those insurers to follow suit.”

Friday, October 21, 2016

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

prescription opioids
Even if you are not in recovery, or work in the field of addiction medicine, you can play a role in helping to end the American opioid epidemic. Every year, millions of prescription opioids are handed out by doctors to American patients. The United States accounts for about 5 percent of the planet’s population, yet we prescribe and consume the vast majority of all opioid narcotics.

Naturally, not everyone who is prescribed a painkiller is going to abuse them, or become dependent on the drugs. In many cases, people prescribed opioids for pain will only use the drug until the pain eases up. They often have leftover drugs that will just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust. While it may not seem like a big deal to just forget about one’s unwanted or unneeded medications, in actuality, many peoples' initiation into the world of prescription opioids is made possible by a friend or family member's prescription.

In fact, many Americans have no problem diverting some of their Vicodin or OxyContin to someone in need, even though the act is illegal. They will often do this despite having the knowledge that we are in the grips of an epidemic, believed to be caused by prescription opioids. It is crucial that unwanted medications are disposed of safely, so they do not end up in the wrong hands or lead to another person developing an opioid use disorder.

On October 22nd, Americans across the country can take part in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The event, which is organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), could help keep millions of unwanted opioids out of the wrong hands. With more than 5,000 collection sites nationwide, there will be ample opportunity to dispose of your drugs. You can find a location close to you by clicking here.

Additionally, the White House points out that major pharmacies are doing their part to help with the cause:
  • Walgreens Pharmacy has installed more than 500 drug disposal kiosks at pharmacies in 35 states and Washington, D.C.
  • CVS Pharmacy has donated more than 600 disposal units to law enforcement and is holding more than 125 events across the country for Take-Back Day.
If you have unwanted medication, please keep in mind that safely disposing of those drugs could save lives.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Slowing Mental Illness Progression

mental illness
Mental health organizations and addiction medicine professionals observed Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW) during the first week of October. Sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the aim of MIAW was to shine a light on disorders that will affect 1 in 5 Americans in any given year. By doing so, hopefully we can chip away at the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness face every day, which could result in more people seeking help.

There are currently a number of scientifically accepted treatments and therapies for mental health disorders, such as addiction, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The use of medication in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, can result in people, with a form of mental illness, leading a relatively normal life.

There is a still much that is not understood about the causes of mental illness. This is why researchers continue to probe to find answers, which could result in the development of preventative measures and new, more effective treatments. Interestingly, the causes of mental illness may be answered by studying the brain of fruit flies.

A team of researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University, may have shed some light on the causes of mental health disorders, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

The fruit fly, known scientifically as Drosophila, shares a number of genetic similarities with humans, with 70 percent of the genes expressed in our brains matching the fruit fly’s brain, according to the article. The human brain has a RNA processing protein known as SRSF5, which is important to the synthesis of acetylcholine, a molecule which acts as a messenger between neurons. Previous research has shown imbalances in SRSF5 and acetylcholine production in the brains of patients with bipolar disease. The fruit fly’s brain has an equivalent protein known as B52, which could lead to drugs being developed to mitigate or slow the progression of mental health disorders.

"Our findings are exciting and have the potential to form the basis of drug therapies to address mental diseases in humans,” said study leader, Dr Torsten Bossing, Senior Research Fellow in Neurobiology at the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Young Adults Abusing Prescription Opioids

Everyone in America has been touched by the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Even if you do not have a problem with opioids yourself, there is a good chance you know somebody who does, or has struggled with opioids in the past. In no other time in our history, have we seen a substance abuse problem affect people from so many different walks of life, which reinforces the idea that addiction does not discriminate.

Prescription opioid abuse often starts with a patient complaining about pain to their primary care physician. Patients with no history of drug or alcohol abuse start by taking their painkillers as prescribed, but as time goes on what started as intended use, can quickly turn into unintended use and abuse. One of the reasons the problem in America has gotten so bad, is that doctors often fail to explain the dangers of prescription opioid use. What’s more, doctors typically prescribe more pills than a patient requires. When the pain subsides, the leftover pills often sit collecting dust or end up in the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, sometimes those wrong hands belong to young adults. In fact, new research suggests that young adults are at a greater risk of forming an addiction to prescription opioids than they were in years past, HealthDay reports. They were also more likely to use heroin, which is often stronger, cheaper and easier to come by than prescription opioids. The findings were published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City found that opioid use disorder more than doubled among 26- to 34-year-olds, rising from 11 percent to 24 percent, between 2002 and 2014, according to the article. Opioid use disorder increased 37 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds.

"Our analyses present the evidence to raise awareness and urgency to address these rising and problematic trends among young adults," said study first author Dr. Silvia Martins, an associate professor of epidemiology. "The potential development of prescription opioid use disorder among youth and young adults represents an important and growing public health concern."

Saturday, October 1, 2016

National Bullying Prevention Month

While it would be nice if teenagers could treat each other with equal respect, unfortunately a number of adolescents are subjected to ridicule and abuse from their peers. Some would argue that pain and discomfort is a part of growing up, that in the end it may make the victim of such treatment a stronger person. The reality is more times than not quite the opposite.

High school can be real challenge, making friends with the “right” clique or striving for popularity in a sea of awkward teenage growing pains. Some students manage to sail through their high school years without any problems, whereas others are the punchline of people's jokes. There are times when such criticisms become a constant problem, and can even elevate to physical abuse at times. Yet, as bad as that is, bullying continues to go unchecked among teenagers and young adults. As you might imagine this can cause serious mental health problems for victims down the road, but you may not have thought that bullies are susceptible to problems of their own.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that:

“Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death. Victimized youth are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Compared to youth who only bully, or who are only victims, bully-victims suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems.” 

The aforementioned point highlights just how important it is to curb bullying, as neither the victim nor the bully wins in the end. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. The anti-bullying campaign known as STOMP Out Bullying™ is calling upon schools and organizations to help them “encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.”

The CDC points out that in a 2015 nationwide survey, 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey. This is a nationwide problem worthy of concern.

Throughout the month there will be events held with the aim of opening up the conversation about bullying. The hope is that when people see others being bullied they will intervene, and that victims will find the strength to come forward for help. This coming Monday, STOMP Out Bullying™ is asking that as many people as possible where a blue t-shirt to show support for National Bullying Prevention Month and to help end bullying and cyberbullying.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

2016 Naloxone App Competition

The use of smartphones is pervasive in America. In the past, cellphones were a tool that people used for making calls when away from a landline; but today, the typical American adult has little need for a home phone, being all but replaced by iPhones and the like. In many ways we have become dependent upon smartphones, as is evident by sitting in an airport and looking around—practically everyone is staring down an LCD or LED screens of various size.

We use our phone for so many things. We no longer need to ask for directions or pull out our credit card to make purchases. All the information we need to access in our day to day life can be found in the microchips of our smartphones. It is often said that if you can think of something, then there is probably an app for that—and in many cases that is the truth.

While some people's reliance on cellphones can result in unhealthy behaviors, such as staring at Facebook or playing Candy Crush for hours every day, it is possible that in some cases a smartphone could actually save lives. Especially when it comes to addiction. There are a number of apps that have been developed to assist people in recovery when they may be having a rough day. And in some cases recovery apps may be the difference between someone picking up a drink or getting to a 12-Step meeting.

In response to the American opioid epidemic, a crisis stealing 78 lives in this country every day due to overdose, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling on app developers to create a naloxone application for smartphones, CNN. This week, the agency announced a competition to see who could develop the best app; the 2016 Naloxone App Competition began yesterday and will conclude on November 7.

In case you are not familiar with naloxone, a drug sold under the brand name Narcan, it is a drug that can reverse the potentially deadly effects of an opioid overdose. In recent years, naloxone has proven to be invaluable—saving lives every day of the week. Across the country, first responders carry the drug so that it can be administered as quickly as possible—in the event of an overdose, time is of the essence. In many states, you no longer need a prescription from a doctor to acquire the life-saving overdose antidote; which means that addicts, their friends and family can have the drug on hand in case of an emergency.

The FDA is looking for an app that will inform people in need of a naloxone kit, where they can find it in their proximity, according to the article. The app would also alert people who are carrying naloxone that someone nearby is experiencing an overdose.

"With a dramatic increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths in the US, there's a vital need to harness the power of new technologies to quickly and effectively link individuals experiencing an overdose ... with someone who carries and can administer the life-saving medication," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf.

Everyone is welcome to submit an app to the FDA.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bipolar Disorder Increases Substance Use Disorder Risk

It is well understood that it is of the utmost importance to treat the whole patient in the field of addiction medicine. A significant number of people seeking help for a substance use disorder, also have other mental health issues to contend with; it is common occurrence which can complicate one’s ability to work a program of recovery. Many people will actually develop a problem with drugs and alcohol as a result of using the substance to help cope with untreated mental illness; if substance abuse counselors fail to address a client's co-occurring disorder while in treatment, then there is an increased risk of relapse down the road.

Over the years there has been a plethora of research conducted which indicates that people with a mental illness, such as depression, are at an increased risk of addiction. It might even be fair to say that a mental illness begets mental illness, in some cases. Studies also point out that a person with a co-occurring disorder, otherwise known as dual diagnosis, has a much better chance of long term recovery, if they are treated for the addiction and co-occurring disorder at the same time.

The most common co-occurring mental health disorders that addiction patients have, include:
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
As was mentioned earlier, people with mental illness are often far more likely to have addiction problems, compared to the general public. This was the results of a new study conducted recently that found that adolescents with bipolar disorder are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and develop a substance use disorder later in life, HealthDay reports. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The study involved 105 adolescents (average age 14) with bipolar disorder and 98 teens without the disorder, according to the article. Of which, 34 percent of the teens that were bipolar also had substance use disorder, compared to only 4 percent in the control group. The researchers followed up five years later with 68 of the participants with bipolar patients and 81 of the control group. The findings revealed that half a decade later, nearly half of those who were bipolar also had substance use disorder, compared to 26 percent of the control group.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Opioid Addicts Welcome At Fire Stations

It is ever apparent that we cannot treat the opioid epidemic the same way that the country did with other drug scourges in the past. Law enforcement in the United States cannot simply round up the over 2 million Americans with an opioid use disorder and ship them off to our already overcrowded jails and prisons. More than half of American inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.

The research is conclusive; incarceration has little effect on addiction rates. On the other hand, access to effective addiction treatment services is the best weapon against the opioid scourge that has now been plaguing the nation for nearly twenty-years. Addiction is a difficult malady to recover from as an individual, without effective science-based treatment modalities.

Treatment centers are, for the most part, in abundance throughout areas of the country that are highly populated. Prescription opioid and heroin addicts can look for help at municipal resource centers and nonprofit facilities. But, in rural America, where per capita the problem is significant, it is much more difficult to find addiction support. Meaning people will either continue to use, get arrested or overdose. The New England area has been devastated by prescription opioid and heroin abuse, seeing a steady rise in opioid overdose deaths in recent years.

In an effort to provide addicts with support and recovery resources, fire houses in Manchester, New Hampshire, have opened their doors to opioid addicts, The Wall St. Journal reports. Since May of 2016, the “Safe Station” has welcomed 370 people with opioid addiction problems. Of those who have sought assistance, the fire department EMS officer who created the program says that at least 70 percent have gone into treatment.

Upon seeking help from the Safe Station program, individuals are checked for any medical problems that may require hospitalization, according to the article. After which, the opioid addicts are then referred to a nonprofit which can find them either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program to begin the journey of recovery. Safe Station is similar to a program launched by the police chief in Gloucester, MA, where addicts could go to a police station to surrender their drugs and be referred to a treatment facility. While the program in MA has been deemed to be a success, now being modeled across the country, many addicts may fear that they are being duped into getting arrested. Which is why the Manchester program involves firemen rather than police.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Concerns About Increased Marijuana Use

marijuana use disorders
The cannabis being used by Americans today is quite different from days of yore. The main psychoactive ingredient that causes marijuana users to feel euphoria is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC). In the not too distant past, circa 1980’s the THC potency of marijuana was about 4 percent. In 2016, it is not uncommon for cannabis users to smoke strains that have THC levels around 30 percent. It is fair to say that it is an exponential difference, one that can have a serious impact on those who use the drug.

With more than half of Americans in favor of lightening restrictions on cannabis use, significant research is needed to determine the effects that drug can have on consumers. Many Americans, even people who do not smoke “pot,” do not perceive the drug as being harmful. As more and more states get on board with either medical marijuana programs or full legalization for adults, it is logical to think that the number of people using marijuana will only move in one direction—up.

A new study which focused on adult cannabis use, found that 13.3 percent used cannabis during the previous year in 2014, compared to 10.4 percent in 2002, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) EurekaAlert!. Over the same period of time, daily or near daily cannabis use rose from 1.9 percent to 3.5 percent. The findings were published in The Lancet.

Despite the prevalence of increased marijuana use among adults, the researchers found something about marijuana use disorder that was interesting. Between 2002 and 2014, marijuana use disorders among adults in the general population stayed about the same at 1.5 percent, the AAAS reports. You may find it more interesting to learn that the prevalence of marijuana use disorders among users declined, from 14.8 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2014. At the moment, the researchers can only speculate as to the cause for a decrease in marijuana use disorders among users.

"Understanding patterns of marijuana use and dependence, and how these have changed over time is essential for policy makers who continue to consider whether and how to modify laws related to marijuana and for health-care practitioners who care for patients using marijuana. Perceived risk of marijuana use is associated with high frequency of use suggesting the potential value for modifying risk perceptions of marijuana use in adults through effective education and prevention messages," says study author Dr Wilson M. Compton, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, USA.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Musicians Battle With Addiction

Great fame is often times accompanied by great stress, especially for those in the music industry. Musicians are constantly on the road, even more so today than ever because it is a lot harder to make money from album sales. Pressure comes down on them from record producers to meet deadlines. It is no secret that musicians, when they are not playing music, are at wild parties where drugs and alcohol are in abundance. Those who are struggling to cope with the stress of the music world may turn to substances to ease their troubled mind.

We have lost a number of beloved musicians over the years to substance abuse, i.e. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Townes Van Zandt, etc. All of whom had so much more too offer the world. A few years back we lost Michael Jackson and the world lost Prince this year to an overdose on the powerful opioid analgesic fentanyl.

It is important to point out that many world renowned musicians who have struggled with substance abuse have managed to find recovery and put their life back together. Sometimes they even write or share about their experience during interviews. Recently, James Taylor was interviewed in conjunction with the release of 16th album. He shared with The Telegraph:

‘A big part of my story is recovery from addiction... One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people. You short-circuit all of that stuff and just go for the button that says this feels good over and over again. So you can wake up, as I did, at the age of 36, feeling like you’re still 17. One of the things you learn as you get older is that you’re just the same.’

Taylor was not alone in his struggle to break free from alcohol and drug use, Phil Collins battled with alcohol after he retired from music making. The former lead singer for Genesis and solo artist, actually didn’t have a problem with alcohol until after he retired in 2011, The New York Times reports. Like many other powerhouse musicians, Collins’ retirement did not last, as is evident by the fact he will be the musical guest at the opening ceremony for the United States Open which begins next week, August 29, 2016. In an interview with the Times, he talked about his upcoming memoir "Not Dead Yet" and he shared a little about his alcohol use, he says:

'There’s a chapter in it about the drinking, which escalated when my third marriage broke up, and I retired. I was left with this huge void. I didn’t want to work because I wanted to be with the kids, but the kids weren’t there anymore, because they moved to Miami, and I was still in Switzerland. You start drinking, and then you start drinking too much. Then it physically hurts you. I came very close to dying at that point. I’m being honest about that. The book is honest, it’s self-deprecating. I’m not shirking my responsibilities. I apologize when I need to.'

Friday, August 19, 2016

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Despite the fact that the main focus regarding addiction these days is centered upon opioid use disorder, a form of addiction involving prescription painkillers and heroin, many Americans continue to regularly abuse cocaine. It is often the case that both opioids and cocaine are used in conjunction, as addicts attempt to maintain a delicate balance between the downing effects of opioids and the upper effects of cocaine. A practice commonly referred to as “speedballing.” You may be aware of the fact that a number of notable celebrities have lost their lives due to speedballs, such as John Belushi.

When cocaine is used on its own, the chances of an overdose are significantly less than that of opioids. Drugs in the opioid family cause severe respiratory depression which can easily lead to death. Part the reason that opioid addiction has garnered the attention of mainstream media to the degree that it has is the result of how deadly that form of drug can be. But rest assured, cocaine addiction can severely impact the course of one’s life, and without treatment it can be extremely difficult to find recovery.

Unlike opioid addiction, there are currently no accepted drugs to help people get off, and stay off, of cocaine. There isn’t a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug to treat cocaine addiction. However, new research suggests that blocking certain brain-cell receptors, specifically a receptor referred to as the TrkB, could reverse signs of cocaine dependency, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"I think this study could help revive the idea of targeting TrkB signaling to treat addiction," said The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) biologist Candice Contet, senior author of the study. 

While blocking the TrkB has not been tested on humans, the technique showed great promise in rat models, according to the article. The researchers found that rats that learned to self-administer cocaine infusions, reduced their use of cocaine markedly when the TrkB blocker was given to them—exhibiting decreased signs of dependence. The findings are extremely important, especially when you consider that over 2 million Americans abuse cocaine.

People struggling with addiction may not be able to admit their need for help. If your cocaine problem is affecting your marriage, parenting, employment, friendships, finances, and spirituality, it’s time to call Celebrate Hope’s Christian addiction treatment center.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Genetic Underpinnings of Alcoholism

Addiction is a complex disease that few understand, and one that no one may ever understand completely. What is well understood is what can happen if the disease of addiction is left untreated—jails, institutions and death. Alcohol continues to be the most commonly abused mind altering substance, and is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

People often muse over why do some people become addicted to alcohol, while others do not? Naturally, the answer to that question involves a number of different factors, from genetics, brain chemistry and environment.

The science behind addiction is complicated, but research teams around the globe continue to shed light on the disease—a disorder which affects tens of millions of people. In fact, researchers at Purdue and Indiana University have identified 930 genes associated with alcoholism, as well as neurological pathways which could potentially serve as targets for treating the disorder, according to a Purdue University press release. The findings of the study were published in PLOS: Genetics.

The research teams compared the genomes of rats, that exhibited compulsive drinking behavior, to rats that abstained from alcohol use, according to the report. The researchers point out that it took decades to breed rats to consume alcohol. Scientifically, it was important to do so when you consider that rats are mammals that humans share a majority of genes. While the research is promising, the scope of factors at play may make it hard for pharmaceutical treatments to be created.

"It's not one gene, one problem," said William Muir, a professor of genetics. "This trait is controlled by vast numbers of genes and networks. This probably dashes water on the idea of treating alcoholism with a single pill."

Research will continue and at Celebrate Hope our Christian alcohol rehab program continues to be  offered in conjunction with advanced medical treatments from Hope by the Sea. This allows clients to have access to fellowship, physical fitness, and faith-building activities. Each program empowers addicts to reconcile with God and loved ones. In treating alcohol abuse, our counselors recognize that every addict’s struggle is unique.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Celebrate Recovery 25th Anniversary

Celebrate Recovery
Between August 10-12, 2016, many of those working a Christian based program of recovery will be attending the Celebrate Recovery Summit West. The event is meant to celebrate the program’s 25th Anniversary. Our Celebrate Hope clients participate in Celebrate Recovery on a weekly basis, an experience which allows them to work through the program to experience profound life changes and freedom from their hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

Many of our Christian Tract clients currently at Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea will be attending the 25th Anniversary event which is being held at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. While the event is sold out, you can follow what is happening on Facebook or Twitter. There are several keynote speakers and special guests taking part in the event, including:

Dr. Cloud: A clinical psychologist and bestselling author. He is a leadership expert who draws on his experience in business and consulting psychologist background to help others strengthen their leadership skills, personal relationships and business performances.

Dr. Townsend: A bestselling author with a background in clinical psychology and marriage/family therapy. Townsend has sold over eight million copies of his books. He is the founder of John Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling.

Skit Guys:

Hosanna Poetry:

Also in attendance will be the founder of Celebrate Recovery, John Baker. The program had its origin at Saddleback Church where the summit is being held. According to Celebrate Recovery, nearly 27,000 individuals have gone through this Christ-centered recovery program at Saddleback Church. Thousands of churches nationwide also offer Celebrate Recovery.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Elephant Sedative Mixed With Heroin

There has been a lot of discussion lately about mixing fentanyl with heroin, or overdosing on fentanyl that they thought was heroin. Fentanyl is a powerful analgesic, between 80 and 100 times more potent than morphine and as much as 50 times stronger than pharmaceutical grade heroin. The drug causes severe respiratory depression that makes it extremely deadly, which is why we have seen an uptick in fentanyl overdoses in recent years.

Fentanyl was never intended to be used without close medical supervision, yet Mexican cartels are manufacturing the drug in scores to be sold in the United States. The growing demand for heroin in the wake of prescription drug prescribing crackdowns has lead illegal drug manufacturers and dealers to come up with novel ways of making it. This has led to the sale of mock OxyContin (oxycodone) pills that are actually comprised of fentanyl. A pill that is significantly more deadly than your typical oxycodone medication.

If emergency departments weren't busy enough with opioid overdoses, it turns out that a drug used to sedate elephants is being mixed with or sold as heroin, NBC News reports. The drug, carfentanil (which is used to tranquilize elephants), is 100 times as potent as fentanyl and has led to a number of overdoses in several states recently.

This week, an Ohio man was indicted on 20 counts, after selling carfentanil which led to nine overdoses and one overdose death, according to the article. The overdose death brought the man a murder charge. Everyone thought they were buying heroin, but lab tests showed the contrary. It is likely that we will see many more deaths in the future related to carfentanil.

"It certainly is a very disturbing trend," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. 

If you or a loved one is battling with opioid addiction please reach out to Celebrate Hope at Hope By The Sea. Celebrate Hope is the Christian residential drug rehab and alcohol treatment program.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Pain of Opioid Withdrawal

prescription opioids
It is easy to blame the American opioid epidemic on doctors, pharmaceutical companies and our over reliance on prescription drugs. While all of those played a huge role in the issue becoming a full blown national crisis, the fact remains that opioid narcotics are extremely difficult to stop using for many people—especially those who experience legitimate chronic pain. Those of you in recovery for an opioid use disorder, whether prescription painkillers or heroin, know all too well just how difficult it was to break the cycle of opioid addiction.

It often takes people suffering from opioid addiction a number of attempts at abstinence to finally succeed. And those who do manage to find recovery from such drugs typically need assistance via medical detox, inpatient treatment and regular attendance at 12-Step recovery meetings.

Those who have known alcoholics who managed to sober up using Alcoholics Anonymous, may find themselves asking why opioid addicts are unable to do the same? The answer to that question usually lies in the nature of opioid withdrawal. The early days of abstinence from opioids is by all accounts an extremely painful, uncomfortable experience. Typically characterized by:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Restlessness
While it is true that opioid withdrawal is painful, those who actually have a chronic pain condition which led to the use of opioids in the first place, are met with even more pain as the drugs leave their system. What’s more, it can take some time for the brain to start producing painkilling endorphins after being idle for extended periods of time. Those who cannot tolerate the pain experienced during that interim period are at great risk of relapse, HealthDay reports. Kelly Dunn, an addiction specialist who researches opioids at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, points out that:

"When you stop taking opioids it takes time for your body to regenerate its own 'painkiller' system," she explained. "Generally, four to five days. The severity varies per patient, and it's not predictable who will react how -- but withdrawal is real." 

It for the reasons mentioned above that many prescription opioid addicts require inpatient treatment. Being in a monitored environment, closed off from the medicine cabinet at home and aided by addiction withdrawal medicines are vital to the success of recovery.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Quitting Smoking With Varenicline

smoking cessation
Abstaining from all mind altering substances is of vital importance for those working a program of recovery. Even using a chemical other than one’s drug of choice can be risky. A large number of people in recovery smoke cigarettes, and it is like those who are smoking were also smoking before they found recovery. That being said, we know now that people working a program who smoke are at greater risk of relapse, compared to those who do not.

Those who find recovery in a treatment center are often advised to give smoking cessation a try. Tobacco is both addictive and can cause serious harm to one’s health, illness that is often times deadly. Recovery is not just about abstaining from drugs or alcohol, it is also about living a healthy and productive life. Cigarettes, naturally, are not conducive to such a goal.

It is well understood that quitting cigarettes for good is no easy task, and most smokers attempt to quit as many as thirty time before accomplishing the feat, according to research published in BMJ Open. With that in mind, anything that can be done to assist you quit should be taken advantage of, but many of those resources are often times ineffective, i.e. gums, patches and inhalers.

There are medicines available that have shown some promise, such as Chantix (varenicline) or Wellbutrin (bupropion). However, new research suggests that varenicline is more effective for women than any other form of smoking cessation treatment, ScienceDaily reports. There were no differences seen with men. The findings were published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

"Before our study, research had shown that among the choices for medications for smokers who wanted to quit, varenicline was the clear winner when it came to promoting quitting," said Assistant Medical Professor Philip Smith of The City College of New York's Sophie Davis Biomedical Education/CUNY School of Medicine. "Our study shows this is clearly the case for women. The story seems less clear among men, who showed less of a difference when taking any of the three medications."

Friday, July 8, 2016

Prescription Opioid Diversion

prescription opioids
When most people are given a prescription for an opioid painkiller, they take the medication until the pain dissipates. It is quite common for there to be leftover tablets sitting in the medicine cabinet. Patients usually forget the pills are even there and continue living their life.

The prescription opioid epidemic that has been raging since 1999 has prompted a number of actions that were previously deemed unnecessary. Leftover opioid painkillers pose a serious threat, and often end up in the wrong hands. That is why prescription drug take-back programs have become more and more common in recent years. Opioid addicts will scavenge other people's medicine cabinets for drugs like oxycodone and Percocet. More importantly, teens will also raid their parents' medication bottles as well.

Such drugs are highly addictive and carry a large risk of overdose. It is vital that those with leftover medication dispose of them properly. Many pharmacies will actually take back unused medications. Another common trend of concern is medication diversion. People with a prescription for opioids giving the drugs away to friends, family or peers. A new study sought to find out how often painkiller sharing occurs.

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, found that 50 percent of patients with prescribed opioids have leftover tablets and 20 percent share the drugs, MNT reports. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"The fact that people are sharing their leftover prescription painkillers at such high rates is a big concern,” said Prof. Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D., senior study author. “It's fine to give a friend a Tylenol if they're having pain, but it's not fine to give your OxyContin to someone without a prescription." 

There were some other findings of note, including:
  • 14 percent of respondents said they would share with family.
  • 8 percent said they would share the pills with a friend.
  • Less than 50 percent were not given safe storage or proper disposal information.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Staying Sober on July Fourth

We at Celebrate Hope would like to take a moment to wish everyone working a program of recovery a safe and sober Fourth of July. National holidays can be a challenge to navigate through, especially for those who are new to recovery. It is difficult not to pick up a drink or drug on any day, but holidays often bring back a lot of memories, some of which are good. Such reminiscences can trick one into thinking that it is not a big deal if they have a few drinks on the Fourth—the reality is quite the opposite.

If you are new to the program, we would like to strongly encourage you to stay close to your support network, i.e. sponsor and/or recovery peers. They can prove to be a vital resource for refraining from drugs and alcohol on Monday. It is also important that you attend a 12-Step meeting or two, sticking to one’s normal routine can make the day go by smoother and mitigate the risk of a relapse.

Every year, a number of people in the program experience a relapse. It is a sad truth that months, or years of hard work is thrown to the wind on major holidays. To avoid relapse becoming a part of your story, vigilance is needed. We are not suggesting that you should shut yourself in on Monday, in fact it is the opposite. It is often said in the rooms of recovery that “we thoroughly insist on enjoying life.”

Having fun in recovery is possible and holidays are no exception. The only difference is that you will be experiencing new kinds of fun with a clear head. It is likely that some recovery barbecues will be taking place near you on Monday. If so, you should make an effort to attend one, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised by how much fun they can be.

Remember to keep your phone handy in case a problem arises, or you think you may drink. It is much easier to call your sponsor before a relapse than it is after.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Alcoholics Anonymous Turns 81

alcoholics anonymous
The vast majority of addiction treatment centers in the United States incorporate the 12-Step model of recovery into their program. The 12-Steps were developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930’s, and since that time the steps have been slightly adapted to be used for any number of addictions or unhealthy behaviors that people would like to be free of.

That is perhaps that most wonderful aspect of the 12-Step model, it reinforces the idea that alcohol is but a symptom of a greater problem. You can replace the word “alcohol” with just about any harmful aspect that holds one back in life, and the principles will hold true—they are universal.

It is held that the first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) took place in Akron, Ohio in 1935. It was a small gathering consisting of two individuals whose lives had become unmanageable due to their alcohol use. It is hard to imagine that Bill Wilson, a former New York stock broker, and Dr. Bob Smith, could have known the impact that their meeting would have on millions of people around the globe.

The idea was simple, one alcoholic helping another alcoholic recover from the affliction—in order to lead a productive life. Alcoholism is a lonely disease, but recovery is a communal endeavor—where people with similar pasts and like-minded goals can work together to recover from their insidious disease. Now, eighty-one years later, recovering alcoholics and addicts continue to use the model formulated by the founders of AA, incorporating the principles and traditions of the program.

Thanks to a chance meeting between two bottom of the barrel alcoholics nearly a century ago, millions of people have learned how to not pick up a drink or drug—no matter what. The heart of addiction recovery is paying it forward; you cannot keep what you have unless you are willing to give it away.

On the 81st anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous, we at Celebrate Hope at Hope By The Sea would like to commend everyone who continues to live the principles of recovery—helping others find the miracles that come from not picking up a drink.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fentanyl Salesmen Arrested for Kickback to Doctors

An aspect of the prescription opioid epidemic that is often ignored is the role of pharmaceutical salesmen. These are people who are employed by pharmaceutical companies to travel around the country enticing doctors to prescribe their medical product. Now, it stands to reason that a physician's willingness to prescribe a drug should be based off of the drug's effectiveness at treating a specific condition—and in a perfect world that may be the case. However, doctors are often times given huge incentives to prescribe one medication over another, a practice which surely had a hand in the rampant over prescribing of drugs like OxyContin (oxycodone).

In the wake of the beloved pop star Prince’s death, attention has been redirected back to the powerful opioid analgesic fentanyl. Many Americans may have never heard of fentanyl as the drug is not commonly used outside of hospital settings. Those who had heard of the drug before may have been unaware that fentanyl is 100 time more potent than morphine. Fentanyl, while fast acting and highly effective, can cause severe respiratory depression that can be fatal; this is why it should be scarcely used except under the close supervision of doctors and nurses.

In an attempt to stem the tide of irresponsible prescribing practices, law enforcement has begun to set their sights on pharmaceutical salesmen. Recently, two former pharmaceutical salesmen were arrested from charges stemming from paying doctors to prescribe a form of fentanyl, USA Today reports. The two salesmen, who worked for Insys Therapeutics, allegedly paid two doctors in the New York-area $259,000 in kickbacks to prescribe Subsys.

Most fentanyl prescribed for take home use comes in the form a transdermal patch. The patches are adhered to one’s skin—slowly releasing the drug throughout the course of the day. Subsys, on the other hand, is sprayed under the tongue, according to the article. The spray version of fentanyl works quickly, relieving pain in just five minutes.

"You have this hyper-powerful drug marketed intensely, aggressively and shamelessly without any sense of the addictive and lethal power of what is being sold," said Arthur Caplan, the director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

We will continue to follow the fentanyl story. Stay tuned. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Naloxone Without a Prescription

In the United States, we face a grave and serious situation with regard to both prescription opioids and heroin use. For far too long an unprecedented number of Americans have been able to access prescription opioids, even in situations where an alternative treatment could be utilized. In the wake of widespread over prescribing, an old drug reemerged on the scene—heroin.

Historically, heroin was thought to be a drug found only in heavily populated urban environments—used primarily among the poor and those of ethnic descent. While there may have been some truth to that idea in the past, it is far from reality today; Americans affected the most by illicit heroin and prescription opioid abuse reside in rural parts of the country—the Appalachian region strongly considered to be the epicenter of the American opioid epidemic.

If you have been following the media reports on this subject, it is likely that you have read about the efforts being made to mitigate the crisis. Efforts include:
  • Expanding Access to Addiction Treatment
  • Offering Treatment Instead of Jail Time
  • Utilizing Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
  • Making It Easier to Acquire Naloxone
By and large, there has been widespread support on both sides of the political spectrum for expanding access to the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone—sold under the brand name Narcan. Thousands of American lives have been saved by the miracle drug, prompting lawmakers, health experts and those who work in the field of addiction to call for legislation which would make it easier for the friends and families of addicts to acquire naloxone.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Time is of the utmost importance when it comes to an opioid overdose. Friends and family are, more often than not, the ones who are present—having naloxone on hand can better ensure a positive outcome. The good news is that states are jumping on board, and now practically every state has some form of legislation allowing people to buy naloxone without a prescription, Fox News reports.

"This saves lives, doesn't seem to have any negative impact that we can identify, therefore it should be available," said Dr. Corey Waller of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Coroner's Report: Fentanyl Caused the Death of Prince

This past April, millions of people around the United States and across the globe were shocked to learn that Prince Rogers Nelson, more widely known as Prince, died at the relatively young age of 57. While it was unclear as to the cause of the pop singer's death, many were convinced that the superstar passed away from drug related issues. It probably comes as little surprise that Prince suffered from pain after decades of high energy performances, and it was widely known that he endured a hip injury that required pain medication.

Prince had been known to lead a clean life, refraining from mind altering substances over the years, which made it hard for many to believe that his death could be the result of a drug overdose. Now, two months later, the coroner's report has come out, and the cause of his death was an overdose of the powerful opioid analgesic fentanyl, CNN reports. It is likely that you have heard news reports about the drug in recent years, as fentanyl is commonly mixed with heroin to increase potency—resulting in a wave of overdoses across the united states.

Just to put the drug into perspective, fentanyl is around 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and roughly 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) heroin. The drug is known to cause severe respiratory depression even in small doses—rife for the potential of overdose. Heroin users, more often than not, have no idea that the “dope” they are about to snort or inject is laced with fentanyl; being unaware of the presence of the powerful analgesic, users will dose themselves out as they normally would—ignorance that can prove deadly.

Authorities are still trying to determine where Prince acquired the fentanyl that led to his death, according to the article. To be sure, it could have come from only one of two places. Either a physician wrote him a prescription for fentanyl to treat his pain, or he acquired the drug through illegal channels. Fentanyl is being produced in clandestine labs, typically overseas in countries such as China where it is easy for chemists to acquire the requisite precursors. The drug is then shipped out of China, finding its way to Mexico where it is then moved north of the border.

Without a doubt it is important authorities find Prince’s source; however, where the drug came from will not bring the beloved artist back—as is the case with the thousands of Americans who lose their life in this country from prescription opioid and heroin overdoses. What’s more, Prince’s death, much like Michael Jackson's and a number of other stars' deaths in recent years, drives home the point that everyone is eligible for addiction—and all who use opioids are at risk of overdose. Every day in the United States alone, over 70 people succumb to opioid overdose deaths.
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