Thanksgiving Day is upon us once again, a time to join together with friends and family and rejoice. Thursday marks the beginning of the holiday season as well, followed by Christmas, Chanukah and New Years. While the holidays are a special time all around, for those of us in recovery it can also be a trying time, with a high likelihood of one’s recovery being put to the test.
There is little debate regarding the insidious nature of opioid addiction, a scourge that has been tearing American families apart for over a decade. The prescription opioid painkiller epidemic stems from a change in modalities with doctors and how they manage a patient’s pain. Gauging a patient’s pain is no easy task because pain intensity is subjective. Doctors are required to treat a person’s pain adequately, which has resulted in rampant overprescribing and a subsequent rise in addiction rates. After a decade and a half of overprescribing opioids, both federal and state governments had had enough. In more recent years, practically every state implemented prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) to track patients who fill multiple prescriptions of the same types of drugs. Before such programs were put in place, patients could visit multiple doctors in a week complaining of the same ailment - giving them the ability to accumulate more pills than any one person could use in a month. The medications, often paid for by state assistance programs, were then resold at inflated prices to those who would abuse the drugs. Government crackdowns on prescription opioid abuse made it more difficult for addicts to acquire drugs, such as oxycodone (OxyContin ®), due to scarcity and heightened pricing. Curbing painkiller abuse had an unintended consequence, addicts left with few options turned to heroin - a cheaper and often more potent substance. In the last decade, heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18–25, and 45% of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioids, whether by prescription or bought on the street in the form of heroin, are not just highly addictive, misuse can result in a fatal overdose. The CDC reports that 44 people die every day from an overdose. Thankfully, if an overdose victim is discovered in time, their life can be spared. The drug naloxone hydrochloride has life saving potential, reversing the effects of a prescription opioid or heroin overdose. Until recently, naloxone was only approved for use in the form of injection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Naloxone injections, while effective, requires the administrator to be proficient in giving injections - ruling out the majority of people who are first to discover an overdose victim. This week, the FDA announced the approval of a nasal spray version of naloxone, which first responders say is easier to use, according to an FDA news release. Naloxone nasal kits eliminate the risk of a contaminated needle prick. While unapproved, many first responders, such as EMTs and police officers, used naloxone with nasal spray adapters; now, the nasal spray devices will meet the FDA’s high standards for safety, efficacy and quality. What’s more, the nasal spray does not require extensive training to administer, meaning that a mother, father or even child can save the life of a loved one. A number of states and municipalities have lighten the restrictions on who can have access to the life saving drug, hopefully the new approval will convince other states to follow suit. The majority of overdose victims are discovered by a friend or family member. With overdoses, time is of the essence, the sooner naloxone is administered - the greater the chance of saving a life.
Combating the opioid abuse epidemic is a top priority for the FDA,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., acting commissioner, Food and Drug Administration. “We cannot stand by while Americans are dying. While naloxone will not solve the underlying problems of the opioid epidemic, we are speeding to review new formulations that will ultimately save lives that might otherwise be lost to drug addiction and overdose.”___________________________________________________________________________ If you are or a loved one is struggling with prescription opioids or heroin, please contact Pace Recovery Center.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place. TecumsehTecumseh is gone now over 200 years, but his words still echo when we consider the power of a nod of understanding and appreciation for the men and women who have served our country throughout times of war and peace. So again, PACE salutes Veterans November 11, 2015: We will stop what we are busy doing, maybe just for a few minutes, and consider the sacrifices made by our veterans to build and protect our freedoms and those of other countries.
Understanding veterans with addiction and PTSD, at the movies...Over the past couple of years there have been a number of movies about war and PTSD, such as American Sniper, Unbroken and Railway Man. Two of these movies dealt directly with the impact of PTSD, and while Unbroken didn’t deal with Zamperini’s alcoholism and PTSD many of his family members will attest to his suffering from both and receiving help for his addiction and PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the term we have used for the past few decades to describe what many veterans experience as the result of service in times of war and minor conflicts. Over the centuries, the definitive terms were hysteria, melancholia, battle fatigue, combat fatigue, shell-shock, or operational exhaustion. In 2015 The Wounded Warrior Project conducted an annual survey of 23,000 injured service members and found that three in four wounded veterans are dealing with PTSD. This month a film completed in 2014 is now more widely available to view in the United States - Of Men and War. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “...the horrors of the battlefield come home to roost in ways that are both riveting and deeply disturbing in Of Men and War (Des hommes et de la guerre), a remarkable chronicle of Iraq War veterans suffering from the devastating effects of PTSD.” This month Of Men and War will have playdates across the United States, including Southern California. Learning from films can be personal, powerful, and provocative.
PACE is honored by the service of veterans and our psychiatrists’ specialized skillsOn Veterans Day 2013 we proudly featured two veterans who serve on our staff: Sean Kelly, now PACE’s Chief Operation Officer and Victor Calzada, A PACE Resident Manager. This year we want to also recognize Matthew Johnson, A PACE Resident Manager who served four years in the Marine Infantry and highlight our Consulting Psychiatrists who are experts in the field of addiction and skilled in working with those suffering from PTSD, including veterans. Dr. Hisham Korraa, M.D. is a UCLA trained psychiatrist specializing in psychotherapy and medication management for adults and adolescents. With a heavy emphasis on addressing the individual, Dr. Korraa’s treatment focuses on variables that would impact the individual’s development and coping patterns over the course of the years. Dr. Korraa developed a special interest in helping individuals overcoming their chemical dependency issues and addressing underlying core struggles to focus on growth and health. Dr. Korraa works well with several different chemical dependency programs in Orange County including PACE Recovery Center and he maintains a strong relationship with his patients well after their acute recovery period. Dr. Korraa did his undergraduate training at University of Houston. He later graduated from Texas Tech School of Medicine. He then specialized in Psychiatry at the reputable UCLA/Sepulveda Training Psychiatry Program. Being exposed to several different facilities in the Los Angeles area (with much exposure to veterans in the greater LA VA and Sepulveda VA program), Dr. Korraa became well versed in PTSD and chemical dependency. In addition to psychopharmacology and individual therapy, Dr. Korraa is one of the very few physicians who also specializes in both the transcranial magnetic treatment of depression and deep brain nerve stimulation of obsessive compulsive disorder. Dr. Korraa has been awarded multiple awards over the course of the years. He has been recognized by his patients with several “Patient’s Choice Award” and “Compassionate Doctor Recognition”. He has also been recognized as among the best rated doctors in the area. Dr. Ryan Wright, M.D. is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He completed college, medical school, and residency at the University of California, Irvine. While in college, Dr. Wright graduated Magna cum laude from the school of Biological Sciences at UCI, was invited to join the national honors society Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated from the Campuswide Honors Program at UCI. During medical school and residency at UCI, he received extensive training on treating a wide range of psychiatric disorders utilizing both medication management and psychotherapy. Dr. Wright worked extensively at the Long Beach VA treating veterans for post traumatic stress disorder. He successfully mastered the skill of using cognitive behavioral therapy to improve the quality of life of veterans after returning home from overseas. During his final year of his residency, Dr. Wright elected to spend a significant portion of his year working at a substance abuse treatment facility in Orange County in order to gain specialized training in the field of chemical dependency. This experience allowed him to treat psychiatric patients who have a co-morbid substance abuse diagnosis. Dr. Venice Sanchez, M.D. received her Bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles and Medical Degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She continued her training at the University of California, Irvine Psychiatry Residency Program where she was recognized by faculty with the Outstanding Resident of the Year Award as an acknowledgement for her dedicated efforts in education, the clinics and her work with her patients. Dr. Sanchez has had extensive training at multiple facilities under supervision of experts in her field, which allowed her to gain comprehensive knowledge and experience in treating a wide array of psychiatric disorders. Her work at Long Beach VA, Pat Moore Rehabilitation Center, San Diego Detention facilities allowed her to gain expertise in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Abuse and mood and thought disorders underlying the substance use. Dr. Sanchez realizes the significant need in women’s health, especially in treating pregnant and post-partum patients who are struggling with mental illness. She not only trained with a specialist at the Maternal and Fetal clinic at UCI Medical Center, she was also a forefront in opening up the first Women’s Mental Health Medication Management Clinic at Long Beach VA Veteran’s Hospital. Her passion for her field allowed her to diligently pursue the much needed training and experience in treating patients who have a co-morbid psychiatric diagnosis.
In closing…PACE Recovery Center staff and the gentlemen whom we treat salute all veterans, remembering their sacrifices. Gratefully the enormity of these sacrifices is memorialized in monuments in our nation’s capital (see below) and throughout our country with national cemeteries that provide a final resting spot, a permanent salute to our veterans. ___________________________________________________________________________ If you are or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact Pace Recovery Center.
Millions of people around the world are currently working programs of recovery, determined to live a life free from all mind altering substances and to be productive members of society. While the nation and the rest of the world have a long way to go with regard to understanding that addiction is a treatable disease, one that should be openly discussed to break the stigmas that have long been associated with drug and alcohol use - in recent years Americans have come a long way and addiction is no longer viewed as a moral failing. The Internet has played a large role in bringing addiction out into the open, and has become a vital tool for those looking for information or help for themselves and/or a loved one. There are hundreds of organizations that are devoted to breaking the stigma of addiction, so that those who are struggling can receive the help that they so desperately need. One such organization, is the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), an advocacy organization which has been addressing alcoholism and drug dependence since 1944 - the oldest of its kind in the nation. Last week, via a press release, NCADD announced the launching of their new website which encompasses the organization’s commitment to educating Americans about substance use disorders. The organization's goal is to inform people about the fact that addiction is treatable, preventable and millions of people do recover. The new website gives users the ability to access a wide range of information that both addicts and their loved ones can harness to make informed decisions. The NCADD site works on multiple platforms, and is an inclusive resource that people can turn to for more information about alcoholism, drug dependence and options individuals can turn to for finding recovery.
We have reconfigured the website to reach more people,” says NCADD President Andrew Pucher, “making it easier for those searching for answers about alcoholism and drug dependence to find them - regardless of what device they choose to utilize.”In the 21st Century, those battling with addiction are fortunate to have resources as informative as the NCADD at their fingertips, which could not be more useful at a time when our nation continues to face an insidious opioid epidemic; a scourge linked to thousands of overdose deaths every year. Learning that you are not alone can often be the catalyst required for people to reach out for help in the form of treatment and/or 12 step programs. NCADD makes available a number of personal recovery stories that people can not only learn from, but relate to - the tie that binds. While every story of addiction is different, the underlying themes are the same, which are easy for any addict or the loved ones of an addict to identify with. One’s story of recovery is the common bond, recovery is not possible alone.
Personal experience provides the heartbeat of recovery,” says Pucher. ____________________________________________________________________If you are or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact Pace Recovery Center.