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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.
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