Thousands of people get behind the wheel intoxicated every day in the United States. Those who make such choices are literally playing a game of Russian roulette, with “bullets” that can either severely change the course of one’s life or end it all together. Unfortunately, despite the warnings and campaigns which aim to prevent the behavior, many Americans will simply ignore them and drive under the influence (DUI). Those who have gotten a DUI, OUI or DWI—acronyms for driving while inebriated in various states—in the last decade can attest to the fact that the experience is anything but delightful. While courts in each state vary on how they deal with the offense, more times than not offenders can expect to be hit with huge fines and some length of jail time. Most Americans who find themselves talking to a police officer whilst intoxicated do not consider the aforementioned ramifications of their actions before they put their lives and the lives of others in their hands.
The overprescribing of opioid painkillers in the United States has created an epidemic that many fear will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. At the end of the day, all that we as nation can hope for is mitigating the rampant opioid abuse and overdose rates, a class of drugs both illegal and legal that are responsible for over 70 deaths every day. While it has become more difficult to acquire large quantities of such drugs, sometimes from multiple doctors, prescription opioids are still doled out at alarming rates. Efforts to combat the epidemic with effective measures have led to the U. S. House of Representative adopting the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last Friday. Yesterday, July 13, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 90 to 2 to approve the bill; a move which, if all goes well, will hopefully bring about much needed resources for tackling the multifaceted opioid crisis in America. The legislation covers a number of different areas, including:
- Expanding access to addiction treatment services.
- Strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
- Increasing the availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
- Enlarging the number of prescription drugs safe disposal sites.
Opioids In The Wrong HandsHistorically, when people were written a prescription for particular drugs, the medications were taken until no longer needed. For instance, if you sustained an injury and a doctor prescribed an opioid, then the pills would be taken until the pain dissipated. More often than not, there would be leftover tablets that would reside in one’s medicine chest collecting dust. Such medications were not given another thought and people would continue living their lives. But those were in the times before the epidemic we face today. Today, leftover prescription opioids pose a serious risk to society, as they often end up in the hands of others—sometimes for an injury—sometimes to be abused. Unwanted or unused pain medication can be found in great numbers in medicine cabinets across the country, which some believe to be the result of doctors writing prescriptions for too much of an opioid painkiller. Please keep in mind that the population of the United States is only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we are prescribed and use the vast majority of the planet’s opioid medication supply. Leftover medication is inevitable. With over 2 million Americans abusing prescription opioids, there is a desperate need to make sure that unwanted medication is disposed of safely—lest the drugs end up in the hands of children or are abused, potentially resulting in an overdose. New research suggest that more than 50 percent of patients’ prescribed opioids have unused medication, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Despite the fact that most adults are privy to the knowledge that prescription opioids are both addictive and deadly, 20 percent of the research survey participants reported sharing their medication with either friends or family. Perhaps the most troubling finding of the survey was that 50 percent of patients failed to receive information on safe storage or proper disposal of unused/unwanted medication.
Opioid Take-Back EffortsFederal, state and local governments have made an effort to offer patients with leftover medication access to safe disposal sites for a number of years now. National Prescription Drug Take-back Days result in the collection of millions and millions of pill tablets that would have otherwise sat in medicine cabinets, been flushed down the toilet and/or diverted. Additionally, many pharmacies will take-back your unwanted prescription drugs year round. Nevertheless, whether out of laziness or failing to grasp the severity of the crisis, a significant number of prescription narcotics never make it to safe disposal sites. Simply flushing your pills down the toilet is not a safe form of disposal, evident by the fact that many municipal drinking water supplies contain remnants of prescription drugs. There is now a way to safely dispose of unwanted medication at home. A safe and environmentally responsible method of disposing of prescription meds may be made available to patients across the country in the near future. The Deterra Drug Deactivation System, or Deterra System, is “a simple 3-step process, a user can deactivate drugs, thereby preventing drug misuse and protecting the environment,” according to the product manufacturers website. The system is currently being utilized by:
- Law Enforcement
- Healthcare Providers
- State Agencies
The holiday weekend is now several days past and hopefully those of you who are working a program of addiction recovery were able to get through Independence Day without incident. We at PACE Recovery understand all too well just how difficult it can be to navigate the waters of recovery during any major holiday. Abstaining from drugs or alcohol during any given day of the week can be a real challenge, during the holidays the obstacles are exponentially greater. Those who have managed to acquire significant recovery time know that there are certain measures to be taken to aid one in making it through the holidays without a drink or drug. Staying close to your support network, going to 12-Step meetings and keeping your cell phone charged are a few of the ingredients for a safe and sober day of celebration. Naturally, avoiding risky people, places and things that could jeopardize your sobriety and clean time is always advised—especially for those who are in early recovery. While we fully grasp the difficulty of maintaining your recovery over the holidays, we also regretfully know that many people did in fact relapse over the Fourth of July weekend.
Honest RelapseExperiencing a relapse is an upsetting event, one that brings about a number of painful feelings. Shame and guilt typically go hand-in-hand with a relapse. One cannot help but feel as though they have not only let themselves down—but also their friends, family and recovery peers. While as natural as those feelings may be, shame and guilt can be a slippery slope manifesting into trying to maintain a lie. Every person who found recovery in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is aware of what it felt like to identify as a newcomer in front of a number of people who have more time in recovery than you. You meet people who have several years of clean and/or sober time, and wonder if you will ever be able to accomplish such a feat. After 29 days of identifying as a newcomer, it is likely that you said to yourself—never again. It is quite common for people who relapse to not tell their recovery peers about a relapse, but still continue to go to meetings as if nothing had happened. Failing to humble yourself and be honest about what happened will eventually begin to weigh on you, a burden that usually leads to more drinking and/or drugging. The sooner you are honest with yourself and those within your recovery circle, the better off you will be. Please do not let a relapse lead to full on active use on account of your pride. Remember the stakes of addiction are ever so high—the difference between life or death.
Rejoining the Circle of RecoveryIf you did in fact relapse and have not yet called your sponsor, please do so immediately. If you don’t have a sponsor, get yourself to a meeting and raise your hand when asked if there are any newcomers in the room. Walk up to get a newcomer chip and a hug, so you can reboot your recovery. Such a humbling experience can be the catalyst for a new journey, one where you learn from your past so that you can have a future free from drugs and alcohol; all while in the company of meaningful friends and peers who share the same goal. Relapse may be a part of your story, but not as mark of shame but rather a reminder of how fleeting your recovery will be if you let down your guard. Eternal vigilance is required to protect against your addiction that is waiting for you to become vulnerable. You are not alone, recovery is an individual goal, that can only be accomplished collectively. Your relapse, while unfortunate, can serve to strengthen your volition.
As the month of June has come to a close and the July 4th holiday is almost here, we felt it would be a good idea to focus on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that affects many Americans. The National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) reports that about 8 million adults have PTSD during any given year. Left untreated, those afflicted by PTSD will often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their feelings. As you might expect, mind altering substances while they may provide some temporary relief—only serve to exacerbate the problem. Posttraumatic stress victims, sadly, will often make the choice to find permanent relief by way of suicide.
PTSD Awareness MonthIn the United States, the Senate designated June 27th as National PTSD Awareness Day. The NCPTSD chose the month of June as PTSD Awareness Month; however, we should always be aware of PTSD and how it might impact us and our loved ones. While posttraumatic stress is often considered to be a problem that affects those who have served in combat, it is in fact a condition that can develop from a serious trauma, such as domestic violence or sexual assault. PTSD symptoms include:
- Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms).
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal).