Addiction Research Sheds New Light

addiction

There isn’t an alcoholic or addict who hasn’t asked him or herself, ‘why me, and not them? Why is it that when I drink, it affects me differently than most of society?’ This simple musing isn’t unique to the millions of people whose lives are turned upside down by addiction; researchers continue to probe for answers to an age-old question. What are the prerequisites for chemical dependency?

Even people with a rudimentary knowledge base of the known mechanisms for addiction understand there are many factors to consider. Three elements that are thought to play a significant part in the development of use disorders come to mind: biological, psychological, and social factors. The interaction between and an understanding of the bio-psych-social relationship helps clinicians treat those who contend with alcohol and substance use disorder.

When trying to get to the bottom of a mental illness like addiction, researchers attempt to make sense of the relationship between a person’s genetics and biochemistry; with mood, personality, and behavior; along with cultural, familial, and socioeconomic factors. All of which are worth considering, and attempting to understand these connections can help clinicians establish therapeutic targets for fostering recovery.

While making sense of the myriad factors that play a role in addiction is of the utmost benefit, such knowledge doesn’t wholly answer the question at the start of this article. It’s one thing to identify the similarities between addicts and how they differ from the general population, it is another thing altogether to pinpoint one item that all people who’ve struggled with substance abuse share. If only 15 percent of people who drink alcohol become “hooked,” mustn’t there be something under the surface consistent from one alcoholic to the next? In addiction research, whys often lead to more whys.

The Vulnerable Minority of Addiction

In short, psychiatrist Markus Heilig has a history of racking his brain about addicts and alcoholics. Helig spends a lot of time studying rats and mice, and their minds on chemicals; and he says that he and his fellow researchers have been going about it all wrong, The Atlantic reports. Markus points out that at the end of each rodent study the findings “will lead to an exciting treatment” for alcoholism. Unfortunately, Linköping University professor’s labor never bore fruit when transitioning from animal models to clinical trials; Helig became disillusioned for time, and then he made a breakthrough.

Helig excels at making rodents alcoholics; he can even treat and potentially “cure” their alcoholism. With alcohol in the cage, practically every rat or mouse develops a problem with the substance. Whereas, every human can access alcohol if they want and 85 percent don’t experience problems. Why? The answer appears to be “options.” Researcher Eric Augier, whose previous work involving cocaine and mice, gave the rodents more than just the cocaine option, adding sweet nectar to the menu. Helig, together with Augier, et al., used Eric’s technique; they gave rodents the choice of alcohol or sugar water. Eureka!

Remarkably, rodent trial after rodent trial produced results consistent with humans; only 15 percent of rats choose alcohol over sugar. Even when deterrents are in place (i.e., bitter tasting, electro-shocks accompanied doses), 15 percent of rats drank regardless.

Embedded in the criteria for diagnosing alcoholism is that people continue to take drugs despite good knowledge of the fact that it will harm or kill them,” says Heilig.

Once they were able to establish correlations between human and rodent behavior, the next task was determining why 15 percent are vulnerable to addiction. What was different in the brains of the minority?

Amygdala, GABA, and GAT3

Scientists know that there is an association between the primitive brain and addiction, and have known this for some time. Notably, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens—regions of the brain involved in processing emotions and fight-or-flight behavior—researchers hold are underpinnings of addiction. Helig and Augier looked for gene variations in six areas of the brain thought to have a role in use disorders, according to the article. Five revealed no apparent differences; however, the researchers found something in the amygdala.

The team noticed that in the amygdala of alcoholic rats exhibited indication signs of low activity in several genes linked to a neurochemical called GABA. In the brain, particular neurons produce and release GABA into neighboring neurons to prevent them from firing. After which, the neurons producing GABA use the GAT3 enzyme to pump the molecule back into themselves for recycling. This cycle occurs in everyone's brain, but in the alcoholic’s brain something unusual happens.

Helig’s team found that the gene that makes GAT3 is much less active in the amygdala of alcoholic rats, and makes only half the usual levels of GAT3. The shortage of the pump enzyme causes GABA to accumulate around the neighboring neurons, rendering them inactive. By reducing GAT3 in the amygdala of non-alcoholic rats, Helig was able to turn them into rats that now preferred alcohol over the nectar. The researchers then looked at postmortem brain tissue samples from alcoholics and found low levels of GAT3. The study suggests GABA-influencing chemicals could lead to helping people manage their addictions.

Curing alcoholism in rats is not important,” says Helig. “What’s important is what this looks like in humans with alcohol addiction.”

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

The above research is very significant and will guide future research. A better understanding of the biological mechanisms of addiction could lead to new treatments that will aid counselors as they help clients cope with the psychological and social factors that can disrupt recovery. Alcohol use is a severe problem in the U.S., and research published this week shows a 65 percent increase in deaths from cirrhosis of the liver in the U.S. since 1999. What’s more, the most significant growth is among millennials; cirrhosis-related deaths are rising 10 percent a year among people aged 25 to 34.

Please contact PACE Recovery Center to start the process of healing if you are a young adult male living with an alcohol use disorder. Our gender-specific, addiction treatment center for men is the perfect place to begin the life-long journey of recovery.

Taking Addiction Recovery to New Heights

addiction

Abstaining from drugs and alcohol is a crucial facet of addiction recovery. In order to turn your life around you must exercise commitment and fortitude; sticking to a program is trying at times, and the slightest of obstacles can place your recovery in jeopardy. It is vital to remember—at any stage in a person’s quest for self-care—that the use of mind-altering substances is but a symptom of a more significant issue: an inability to take life as it comes, essentially. Take away the chemicals, and there still exist multiple aspects of one’s life that lead a person to begin looking for an antidote to the issue of Self.

More than half of people living with use disorders have a dual diagnosis, which means they are contending with conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. When psychological comorbidity is a factor, individuals seeking recovery will find achieving their goals next to impossible unless the co-occurring illness is addressed along with the addiction. The good news is that people who seek treatment for alcohol and substance use have an opportunity to deal with every aspect of their mental health. At the time of discharge, clients are better equipped to manage their depression for instance, through utilizing tools to help cope with their symptoms.

People who do the work in treatment will find that they no longer need to rely on their old methods for coping with life. With continued professional therapy, participation in a program of recovery (i.e., 12 Steps or SMART Recovery®), and an influential group of peers to support you along the way, long-term recovery is made possible. Of course, people can have all the things mentioned above and still run into problems, particularly in the first months after treatment.

Helping Recovery Along

Those who take measures to go above and beyond, whenever possible, position themselves not only to make progress but to make it last. If you have completed an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, then you have an excellent foundation for building a new life. In treatment, you learned that you will always be a work in progress; and, what you do moving forward and every decision that you make must be in service to your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. The days of selfish and self-centeredness and self-harm and self-defeating behaviors have to be behind you, if the seed of recovery is to grow.

In the early days, weeks, and months of working a program, one must face difficult feelings that arise head on without chemical assistance. In treatment, many safeguards keep dangerous types of thinking in check. Being surrounded by people working toward similar goals and a team of addiction professionals—many of whom are themselves in recovery—act as safeguards to acting on cravings and triggers. After treatment, one must be quick to replicate the layers of support provided while in rehab.

In whichever modality (program) you subscribe to, go to a meeting and put yourself out there as soon as you can after rehab. Introduce yourself to people before and after the meeting. Ask those who you meet if you can get to know them better over coffee, for example. Get phone numbers, use them, and develop relationships with like-minded people. Those same individuals may one day talk you out of a relapse, which is nothing short of saving your life.

Service Gets You Out of Your “Self”

Going to meetings is crucial and fostering relationships is critical, but being of service to others can take your program to a higher plane. Addicts and alcoholics are prone to get lost in their head. If people in recovery stay busy in productive ways, they are less likely to harp on the past or spend too much time dreaming of a future yet to arrive. Being present is a pillar of addiction recovery! With that in mind, helping others is an exceptional method for staying in the here-and-now.

People who work a program glean quickly that service is invaluable to recovery. Meetings offer service opportunities, of course, but you can be of help to your peers in other ways, too. Merely talking to someone at a meeting who has less time than you, could be a move that keeps that person from acting on thoughts of using. Assisting someone with their “service commitment” is another way to affect change in your peers' lives. Providing unsolicited assistance is a useful way to comport yourself at meetings. What’s more, it feels wonderful to know that you have made other people’s day just a little bit brighter; a realization that makes you worry less about things in life that are out of your control.

You aid the greater community if time permits it, by looking for local volunteer opportunities. Houses of worship and community centers are ideal places to find ways you can help others. In the process of volunteering, you will have less time to worry about things that cannot change. Along the way, please remember to trust in what you were taught in treatment — trust in the process.

Addiction Treatment and Lasting Recovery

PACE Recovery Center, located in Huntington Beach, CA, is the ideal place to begin the life-saving journey of addiction recovery. We offer gender-specific treatment to men struggling with use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions who would like to overcome the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol and lead a meaningful and productive life.

Recovery Boys: Young Men Living With Opioid Use Disorder

Recovery Boys

Beyond drugs and alcohol, there is a meaningful life to be had for anyone provided however they are willing to make significant changes. We know this, we have seen it first hand at PACE Recovery Center; each year we help young men pull themselves out of the depths of despair and embrace a wholly new way of living. Males whose prospects for the future were exceedingly dim just a short time ago are today committed to doing whatever it takes to keep their disease at bay. Those same men are living examples of the power of recovery, and they serve as an inspiration to all who are interested in following a similar path.

When scrolling through news feeds of addiction-related topics, it can be easy to adopt the opinion that recovery is nearly impossible. Such is especially for some people when they see headlines about the almost two-decade-long opioid addiction epidemic, a crisis that has shattered families and stolen the lives of both young and old alike. With over 100 Americans perishing from opioid-related causes every day, and another 2.1 million people whose next use could be their last, it can be easy to become discouraged.

It is vital we balance the scales and dispel myths about addiction and recovery. And, the general public should know that for every tragic story, there is one of hope; with the help of detox facilities, treatment centers, and a daily program, men and women can persevere. This most deadly illness has a weakness, that of community, compassion, and empathy; working together with those who came before, people can overcome use disorders and find peace and serenity.

Recovery Boys

Encouraging people to take the leap from substance use to recovery isn’t simple, addiction has a way of persuading people to act in ways counter to their best interest. With that in mind, it helps if addicts first believe that recovery is possible and one way to accomplish the task of encouraging individuals to seek treatment is to show them stories of success. Documentary filmmaker and director, Elaine McMillion Sheldon, has made it her mission to light the way toward healing for many young men still “out there.” In her latest film, “Recovery Boys,” Sheldon follows four young men living with opioid use disorder as they chart a path out of the dark cave of addiction.

If you are familiar with her prior work about the opioid epidemic, “Heroin(e),” then you would likely agree that Sheldon aims to erode the stigma of addiction. “Heroin(e)” follows three women in Huntington, West Virginia, working on the frontlines of the epidemic. Some call Huntington the “overdose capital of the United States!" If you have not seen the Oscar-nominated film, you can stream it on Netflix.

While the spotlight focuses on empathetic people trying to save the lives of addicts in “Heroin(e),” Sheldon turns the lens on young men who do not want opioid addiction to be the end of their story in “Recovery Boys.” Like most people in early recovery, the four human subjects in Sheldon’s new film have many obstacles ahead, but watching them go through the process may inspire others to embark on similar journeys.

I make this film not to victimize, pity or make excuses for individuals, but to uplift the stories of people who are actively trying to make change, no matter how big or small,” Sheldon said in a statement.

Please take a moment to watch the trailer:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment for Men

Many young men across the country believe that recovery is not an option. Some of those same people give recovery a go for a time only to relapse; when that happens, it’s easy to resign oneself to negative lines of thought about the prospect of change. Becoming discouraged is understandable, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to give up on recovery altogether. The fact is that there are thousands of compassionate people working in the field of addiction medicine, many of whom are healing from addiction too, who are committed to helping others adopt a program of recovery. Mental illness is treatable; we can break the bonds of the disease, and long-term recovery is achievable. Although to achieve the above ends, individuals must work together!

Due to the complexities of opioid dependence, long-term treatment is the most effective way of bringing about lasting recovery. If you are a young adult male who is battling an opioid use disorder, our team of highly skilled addiction professionals can show you how life in recovery is possible. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about the PACE Recovery model.

Opioid Summit Involves Google and Facebook

opioid

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hosting an Opioid Summit today, June 27, 2018, in Washington D.C. Government entities, academic researchers, and advocacy groups are attending the event, as you’d probably expect. Unexpectedly, internet stakeholders, as well as senior executives from major search engines like Google and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are also participating. Why would the FDA, led by Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., invite the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley to such an event? The answer, to combat illicit opioid sales over the internet.

Most people have heard or know a little bit about the “dark web;” home to multiple online marketplaces that allow people to exchange illicit goods. Users can peddle and procure just about anything in the far corners of the world wide web; and, those engaging in such activities are, theoretically, protected by proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs). Disguising one’s internet protocol (IP) address allows people to buy and sell things like heroin and counterfeit passports, evading the watchful eye of authorities, most of the time. You have probably heard about the dark web marketplace known as The Silk Road; if so, you know that the FBI shut it down and arrested its founder Ross Ulbricht in 2013. Ulbricht is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, which you’d be right to think should deter others from having similar aspirations. It didn’t!

Today, the internet is home to even more black marketplaces than before. The number of sales and profit generated on the most popular sites people now rely on for illicit goods dwarfs that of the preceding Silk Road, according to findings by RAND Europe and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

Hiding In Plain Sight

Not everyone looking to sell opioids online has the know-how to set up shop on the darknet. An even more significant number of people on the hunt for prescription painkillers or heroin do not understand how or have the tools to access dark marketplaces. Many people take a more cavalier approach to purvey and procure opioids over the internet; advertisements for online pharmacies abound on the plain old internet on search engines and social media sites. While some good many websites are scams to harvest private information from the naive, plenty of these sites make good on their promise.

Earlier this month, the FDA reached out to some 53 online pharmacies instructing them to cease and desist, or face severe legal consequences, Wired reports. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University shows that online illicit drug sale revenue increased from between $15 and $17 million in 2012 to between $150 and $180 million in 2015. Whether more people are acquiring their drugs from internet pharmacy sites or on the dark web is somewhat irrelevant, what is salient is how to stop the practice.

Addressing the problem of drug dealing on the web is more urgent than ever considering the rise of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, carfentanil, and U-47700 or Pinky. Dealers disguise the substances mentioned above as more popular and less dangerous opioids like OxyContin, and they carry an enormous risk of fatal overdose. On average, 115 Americans succumb to opioid misuse every day in the U.S.

Opioid Summit May Devolve Into A Blame Game

At this point, it is hard to tell what, if anything, will come out of the meeting in Washington today. Reports show that in the days leading up to the summit, tech representatives and lobbyist began tossing blame around. The Center for Safe Internet Prescribing (CSIP) released a report showing that majority of drug sales happen on the dark web, and that open web offers for opioids were more likely to be scams. Libby Baney, an advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, argues otherwise to Wired:

If all drug sales happening on the internet were on the dark web, I'd throw a party. Then the vast majority of Americans would be safe."

Tim Mackey, an associate adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego, and fellow researchers found that online links on Twitter and Facebook offering up for sale illegal items originate on the darknet. Professor Mackey, who will speak at the summit, says:

What’s happening on the dark web is a lot of business-to-business sales. The digital drug dealers are sourcing from the dark web and using social media to sell directly to consumers.”

It’s worth noting that Facebook will direct users attempting to purchase opioids to addiction treatment resources, instead. Google played a significant role in the most recent National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. And, according to CSIP—which is backed by tech giants—117 million ads attempting to sell illicit goods were blocked last year.

Proactive Approaches to Opioid Use Disorder

Dark web, open web, prescribed by doctors or not; lives hang in the balance if significant corporations in the tech sector cannot work together with government agencies to stem the tide of opioid addiction in America. There is an opportunity here to put a stop to illicit online opioid sales. The problem is here, and we cannot afford to ignore it, the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report presenting incontrovertible evidence that average Americans can purchase illicit opioids online. Another report from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy shows that when searching online for prescription opioids, nearly 91 percent of the first search results led users to an illegal online drug seller offering prescription opioids—regardless of the search engine.

Social media companies, search engines, and domain registrars are in a unique position to nip, at least some of these kinds of practices, in the bud; not only redirecting people to addiction treatment services but having a hand in saving countless lives.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you or a loved is struggling with opioid use disorder, please contact PACE Recovery Center. We offer clients gender-specific, extended care treatment for males in the grips of progressive mental health disorders.

If you have suicidal ideations, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

WHO Adds Gaming Disorder to the ICD

gaming disorder

The World Health Organization’s (WHO)11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), released Monday June 18, 2018, includes "gaming disorder." The addition of “digital-gaming” or “video-gaming” addiction to the ICD as a new mental health condition probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise for most people; especially considering just how far the industry has come since the advent of games like pong and how many people are spending multiple hours a day “leveling-up.”

Once video games found their way into people’s households with Atari, followed then by the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was clear that the sky was the limit. Today, the myriad of games and various types of games is unbelievable; and, the emergence of online gaming allows users the ability to play endless games endlessly. Yes, that’s right, there isn’t a finish line or final stage in the most popular titles people are engaging with; ostensibly, an individual can play ad infinitum. Even if someone manages to find the end of a particular maze, game developers will promptly release a patch expanding the border of the playable realm.

Not long ago there were limits on how far a person could go in a game and the amount of money they could spend. Take a game like Super Mario Brothers for instance; people bought the game and played it and there was a final stage with a boss to be vanquished. Upon beating the boss that was all she wrote! Sure, you could play the game again, but you were not going to spend more than your initial purchase. Conversely, the games people play today, regardless of the gaming system (i.e., PlayStation, XBOX, or PC), offer players downloadable content(DLC); attaching credit card numbers to "Gamertags" allows users to buy DLC to give their character an edge or a custom look.

How Many People Play Video Games?

It’s safe to say that there was a time that the majority of people playing video games in the early day were young males. While young men continue to make up the market share of gamers, a good many females play regularly. There was, and still is, a number of stereotypes that people attach to gamers, social recluses, and nerds to name a few; however, as the technology gets better and more take part, it becomes difficult to blanket label the types of people who game. The result: gaming becomes normalized; a significant number of celebrities fancy “first-person shooters” or racing games. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with digital-gaming, to be sure.

When we talk about gaming, we would be remiss if we fail to point out that smartphones open up a whole new market. App games like Candy Crush eat up a significant amount of time of millions of people each day; even though they lack some of the bells and whistles video game systems boast, apps are quite captivating and allow people to play-on-the-run.

The annual Global Games Market Report shows that there are 2.2 billion active gamers in the world in 2017; of which, 1.0 billion players (47%) spend money while playing and generated $108.9 billion in game revenues. People pay to play smartphone games which produced revenue of $46.1 billion in 2017, claiming 42% of the market. The above figures make clear that an unbelievably significant number of people are not only gaming, but they are also spending money to play after the initial purchase. It is also safe to contend that some individuals are spending money they don’t have to continue to chase after an in-game item, often called “loot,” the acquisition of said item elicits a particular feeling. Sound familiar?

What is Gaming Disorder?

WHO’s website defines “Gaming Disorder” as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

Preëexisting Mental Health Conditions

There is still much to learn about the dangers of devoting increasing amounts of time to offline and online gaming. However, the available research shows stark similarities between problematic gaming and other forms of addiction. Researchers who had a hand in the World Health Organization's landmark decision to include gaming disorder to its list of mental health diseases write, “Gaming disorder shares many features with addictions due to psychoactive substances and with gambling disorder, and functional neuroimaging shows that similar areas of the brain are activated.”

You probably would have guessed that there are critics of WHO’s decision to include gaming disorder to the ICD. Some opponents are working for the industry, so we all should meet their opinions with some skepticism; however, Dr. Netta Weinstein, a senior lecturer in psychology at Cardiff University, tells The Guardian, “I just feel like we don’t know enough yet.”

Weinstein points out that only a statistically small number (nearly half that of gambling disorder) of gamers experience adverse symptoms that affect their lives. A big concern of hers is about comorbidity, having more than one mental health condition. In the field of addiction medicine, more times than not, people presenting symptoms of addiction also meet the criteria for a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder. In many cases, mental illnesses like depression often give rise to addiction via the process of self-medication. Could it be that people are excessively gaming to the point of disorder, in order to cope with a preëxisting mental health condition? Weinstein says:

We need to know that it is about the gaming [gaming disorder] itself, or we’re treating something that’s not the actual problem.”

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you or a loved is struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder and any one of many mental health diseases, please contact PACE Recovery Center. We offer clients gender-specific, extended care treatment for males in the grips of progressive mental health disorders.

If you have suicidal ideations, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Suicide Rates Steadily Rising In America

suicide

The majority of people with a history of alcohol and substance abuse wrestles with the life and death quandary of how — and whether or not — to live. It is probably fair to say that most people in recovery can remember a time when they gave some consideration to calling it quits (i.e., suicide) on the enterprise of existence. In the darkest hours of one’s addiction the mind is no longer an ally; and, it can be hard to move forward when an individual can no longer trust him or herself to make rational choices. A quote from William Burroughs, “every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage,” might tolerate an update; each person living with a mental illness, has inside himself a parasitic…

The desire to end one’s life is compounded too when attempts at sobriety fall flat; adopting a program of recovery is no simple matter, and those who might characterize themselves as chronic relapsers are apt to lose hope. If the term “chronic relapser” resonates with you, it is worth trying to keep in mind that relapse is part of many people’s story; there are a good many people with long-term sobriety who came in and out of the rooms of recovery for years before finally grasping what was necessary for lasting progress.

Those who were once the epitome of hopelessness find themselves, now, living fulfilling lives; what finally changed in each of the individuals mentioned above is subjective, but more times than not treatment reignites the fires of hope for a meaningful life. Such people ultimately find the courage to carry on, even when their disease tries to reassert itself, vying for the spotlight once again.

Suicide in America

There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. —Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Vital Signs, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows that the rate of suicide in the United States increased 28 percent from 1999 to 2016; almost 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide in 2016. In the last half-decade, we’ve seen many notable people succumb to suicidal ideations; attempting to understand why individuals who have everything (seemingly) would opt for deliberately killing oneself has had a lasting effect on all of us.

Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014. Nearly four years have passed, but doesn’t it feel like yesterday? It is difficult to not think about all the remarkable people that left indelible marks on society and then checked out prematurely. Even a cursory inquiry reveals several parallels between famous people committing suicide; mental health disorders are a foregone conclusion and, more times than not, substance use plays a significant role. And finally, the ever insidious stigma of mental illness continues to prevent people from getting help.

There is almost too much to consider when it comes to trying to make sense of the driving forces behind felo de se (Latin for "felon of himself"). The act of deliberate self-destruction is a discussion that we have to have, especially in the light of the recent deaths of fashion icon Kate Spade and culinary raconteur Anthony Bourdain. In every sense, the Internet is abuzz with rumor and speculation regarding the untimely demise of both stars; and, in almost every case, that which people are focusing on misses the most salient point. Rather than blaming, we must center our attention on dismantling stigma and encouraging treatment.

Stigma is The Key

The topic of stigma is one that comes up often; in fact, this blog features several articles on the subject. The two recent suicides, occurring just days apart, demand that we discuss stigma at greater length. Some of the reports circulating the web right now include interviews with people close to both Kate and Anthony. One such instance is an interview between the designer's older sister, Reta Saffo, and the Kansas City Star; the other is an open letter from actress and activist Rose McGowan who was close friends with Anthony and his partner, Asia Argento.

In order, Reta Saffo tells the newspaper that Kate’s death was not unexpected. Saffo says that on numerous occasions she made attempts to get Kate into treatment, “we'd get so close to packing her bags, but — in the end, the 'image' of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out." Kate’s husband published an open letter in the New York Times stating that she was seeing a doctor for the past five years and was taking anxiety medication for a mood disorder but was not abusing alcohol or drugs. There seem to be differences in opinion regarding Kate’s relationship with alcohol; some fashion insiders claim that her drinking was significant.

If Saffo view is accurate, that concerns about brand and image stood in the way of Kate seeking treatment, it something that millions of people can relate to today. Being “branded” as mentally ill prevents people from seeking the care they need; without treatment, such people are exponentially more susceptible to suicidal ideation and making good on their intentions. The case of Bourdain, it seems, is something altogether different.

Men Don’t Ask for Help

In an interview, Bourdain gave to addiction expert, and father of an addict, David Sheff (Beautiful Boy), Anthony says he struggled with cocaine and heroin since he was around 13-years old. When asked about getting clean in the 1980’s, he reveals a less-than-orthodox approach to recovery; while he gave up the coke and heroin in rehab, Anthony never wholly turned his back on marijuana and alcohol. Instead, he tells Mr. Sheff:

I reached a point where I thought, This is horrible. I’m not saying it’s any particular strength of character or anything like that. I’m definitely not saying that. This notion that I’m so f*cking tough and such a badass that I can kick dope without a 12-step program—that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t hold myself up as an example or an advocate or as anybody, okay? I made my choices. I’ve made f*cking mistakes. I made it through whatever confluence of weird, unique-to-me circumstances—I’m not going to tell anybody how to live, how to get well or any of that sh!t.

In the end, though, it wouldn’t be heroin that killed Mr. Bourdain; instead, a decade's long battle with depression, likely compounded by the use of alcohol. In McGowan’s open letter at the behest of Asia Argento, Rose points out that Anthony was the product of a generation that solves problems on sheer will alone. Hubris, perhaps?

Don’t Let Stigma and Pride Stand In the Way of Recovery

The life-and-death problem of whether, and by what method, to exist was likely on the minds of both Kate and Tony. Countless people will offer insight into their suicides; some will get things right and others will not. We will never know for sure what was going on in the troubled minds of the above icons, and that is OK. Moving forward, we all must set ourselves to task in reinforcing the possibility of recovery; Our mission is to encourage people to look past the barriers to treatment and fight for their lives. There is no shame in asking for help!

Anthony was 61, the same age my father was when he died. My father also suffered from intermittent deep depression, and like Anthony, was part of a “pull up your bootstraps and march on” generation. The a “strong man doesn't ask for help” generation. I know before Anthony died he reached out for help, and yet he did not take the doctor's advice. And that has led us here, to this tragedy, to this loss, to this world of hurt … Anthony's internal war was his war … There is no one to blame but the stigma of loneliness, the stigma of asking for help, the stigma of mental illness, the stigma of being famous and hurting. —Rose McGowan CC: Asia Argento

Help is available to all who can bring their self to surrender. Each time a person seeks help the stigma of mental illness becomes weaker and snowball recovery is a real possibility. When people seek treatment and find recovery they empower others to do the same; a life in recovery is not perfect but the joy of striving for something meaningful outweighs the alternative.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Life is complicated, made even more challenging when substance use and misuse accompany mental illness; but, you are not alone, treatment works, and recovery is attainable! If you would like to begin a journey of lasting recovery, PACE Recovery Center can help. Please contact us today.

The Gentlemen of PACE Recovery Center would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

If you have suicidal ideations, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

PTSD Awareness Month: Learn, Connect, and Share

PTSD

June is PTSD Awareness Month; we can all help those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a severe iteration of mental illness that requires treatment and daily maintenance; those who recover rely on a combination of trauma-focused psychotherapy, counseling, and non-narcotic medications. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of individuals living with the affliction never receive the kind of care they require; such persons are apt to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope which only serves to make the underlying condition more serious.

Those of you in recovery from alcoholism and substance use disorder are no strangers to trauma; after all, people’s active addiction often involves one uncomfortable experience after another. In some cases, traumatic experiences precipitate the use of mind-altering substances; in other scenarios, people’s substance use puts them into situations where experiencing trauma is almost a foregone conclusion. Human beings are capable of putting themselves at great peril due to mental illness; as a result, one both inflicts wrongs upon others or are their self the victim of another person's’ wrongdoing; in either case, being OK in one’s skin and sleeping at night is not an easy endeavor.

The painful incidents that occur during active addiction often lead to a vicious cycle; using leads to trauma and one of the reasons people continue to use is to quiet the internal echoes of one’s past discomforting episodes, and at a certain point, one loses sight of where the trauma ends, and they begin.

Trauma is a time traveller, an ouroboros that reaches back and devours everything that came before." —Junot Díaz

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Not surprisingly, PTSD is one of the more common co-occurring mental health disorders accompanying alcohol and substance use disorder. While treatment is effective and long-term recovery is possible, people living with the afflictions like PTSD often struggle accessing assistance. Encouraging people to seek help is of the utmost importance, and society benefits when those struggling receive aid.

In order for individuals to get treatment we first need to discuss what the condition looks like; the signs manifest differently in each person, but the National Center for PTSD lists four symptoms:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  3. Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can't trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

PTSD, Self-Harm, and Suicide

Most people associate post-traumatic stress with combat; those returning from conflicts overseas often experience lingering effects from exposure to trauma. However, PTSD doesn’t just affect veterans, a noteworthy percentage of general public struggles with the condition, as well; in fact:

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

In the absence of treatment, people rely on using drugs and alcohol to cope with their feelings of hopelessness, shame, and despair. While mind-altering substances may quiet one’s anxiety and depression, alcohol and substance use tend only to exacerbate the underlying condition. It’s worth mentioning again that self-medicating mental illness is a vicious cycle; the behavior is a sure path to addiction, self-defeating behaviors, and self-harm. There is a robust association between PTSD and suicidal ideation or attempts. If you or a loved one is contending with thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Encouraging PTSD Treatment

Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help Veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care." - Dr. Paula P. Schnurr, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD

During June, the National Center for PTSD asks that everyone take some time to Learn about PTSD and the valid forms of available treatments; Connect with support services for yourself or a loved one—reach out for help; and Share what you learn about PSTD with the world via social media. When we work together to take the mystery out of mental illness, we can encourage more people to seek help.

At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one learn how to navigate life without resorting to drug and alcohol to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Our highly qualified team of addiction professionals can address your co-occurring mental health disorders and teach you effective coping skills. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs.

Addiction Recovery: Summer Action for Winter Security

addiction recovery

Summer is knocking on the door, and most people are welcoming the uplifting season with open arms. The winter months are especially trying for some individuals working programs of addiction recovery; rain, snow, and cold weather are not conducive to warm feelings and thoughts, generally. If you also consider that a large percentage of men and women in the program struggle with a co-occurring disorder like depression, then you can probably understand that chillier months may contribute to dampening the spirits of some.

A good many people’s general outlook on life and feelings of worth seem inextricably linked to the weather. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD, a fitting acronym) is a condition that plagues a significant population; SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons which usually manifests between fall and spring. Naturally, those living with the disorder are likely to fare better in the Southwest; but, for those individuals residing in higher latitude environs, coping with the depressive snowdrifts of the soul during winter is a chore.

Those working programs of recovery whose psyche is sensitive to the weather must take measures to protect their recovery from fall to spring. Men and women who know that their feelings are susceptible to less hospitable climes must go above and beyond during the winter months to prevent relapse. Some of the tactics people employ to stay ahead of their seasonal depression are exercising, light therapy, psychological support via the program and professionally, and taking vitamin D. If you find it difficult, and potentially on the precipice of relapse when sunlight-deprived, it’s paramount to utilize some the above methods. At PACE, we are hopeful that recovering addicts and alcoholics were able to keep their SAD at bay this winter.

180° for Addiction Recovery

If your first year in recovery traversed the 2017/2018 winter and you found yourself struggling to keep afloat, it’s possible that you were not aware of techniques that could’ve helped. Perhaps the best way to prepare yourself for the many more cold seasons to come is taking a proactive approach during summer. Establishing a routine during this time of year will make life easier in 6 months. It’s worth noting that when you are feeling “down” it is difficult to motivate yourself, depressive symptoms beget depressive inaction. However, those feeling blue that get up and take a walk, exercise, and absorb available sunlight end up experiencing feelings of higher self-worth.

The weather is more approachable, now, and people in recovery will find it helpful to get outside and seize the day. Get outdoors as often as possible, exercise regularly, and eat foods conducive to a healthy mind and body. Did you know research shows that vitamin D along with marine omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are critical for serotonin synthesis, release, and function in the brain? People recovering from a use disorder and co-occurring psychological conditions can benefit from incorporating the above supplements into their dietary regimen. Since more than half of people managing an alcohol or substance use disorder also have a dual diagnosis, it’s fair to say that a good many people will find vitamin D and omega-3 useful to long-term recovery.

Before you make any significant changes to diet, first please discuss it with your physician and therapists. Anyone looking to be more active should also consider any physical limitations they may have before doing anything drastic.

Physical and Spiritual Fitness

Even if you are unable to hit the gym and weight train or commence doing cardiovascular exercises you can still do things to promote physical and spiritual wellness. Merely sitting outside with a book for a few hours or going for a swim can significantly improve how you feel, both inside and out. The more active you are during the summer months makes managing your anxieties and depressive symptoms next winter. The smallest of changes can produce essential benefits; when you encounter undesirable feelings next January, you’ll discover that you have tools to counter malaise.

It helps to look at addiction recovery as an agreement between mind, body, and spirit. The health of one affects the wellbeing of the other two; keeping active in the program and life, and with the aid of a healthy diet, is a recipe for long-term recovery. We encourage clients at PACE Recovery Center to place great stock in the physical and spiritual connection. Those who adopt healthier approaches are more likely to stay the course and make continual progress. We hope that anyone working a program takes advantage of the summer months to strengthen their recovery.

Addiction Treatment

At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and show you how to make lasting changes in your life. We will also address any co-occurring mental health disorders that could complicate the recovery process. Please contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based programs of recovery.

National Prevention Week: Action Today. Healthier Tomorrow!

National Prevention Week

Preventing substance use initiation, also known as "first-time use," can spare many young people from experiencing significant challenges later in life. While most drug and alcohol prevention efforts target adolescents, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a remarkable number of individuals who use drugs and alcohol for the first time after leaving home for college. What’s more, the late teens and early twenties are when many young people develop unhealthy relationships with mind-altering substances.

Illicit drug and alcohol use is pervasive in high school; however, many teens can avoid situations that could precipitate substance use. Some parents can successfully impress upon their children the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use; and, when young people fully grasp the potential consequences, they are more likely to make informed decisions.

There will always be teens who disregard the pleas of their parents and teachers to refrain from alcohol and substance use, and fortunately, the majority of such teens will not develop a use disorder down the road. Although, given that it is impossible to predict who will suffer from addiction later in life, it is critical that health experts, college faculties, and parents work together to prevent substance use initiation as long as possible. Furthermore, the use of drugs and alcohol can still cause severe injury or death even without the presence of a use disorder in an individual.

SAMHSA National Prevention Week (NPW)

A teenager or young adult can begin using drugs or alcohol at any time of the year; however, research shows that there are certain months that young people are more likely to start using mind-altering substances. For instance, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that college students most often use a drug or alcohol for the first time during June or July. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) believes that May is an excellent time to focus on prevention efforts. The hope is that as the school year or second semester comes to a close, young people will think twice before using drugs and alcohol.

The SAMHSA Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) reports that 2,100 to 2,500 full-time college students aged 18 to 22 used alcohol for the first time in June and July; compared to between 1,100 to 2,000 young people using alcohol for the first time during other months of the year. The organization finds that tobacco, marijuana, and inhalant use initiation among college students aged 18 to 22 peaks over the course of the summer, as well.

Each May, SAMHSA hosts National Prevention Week! Before young people break for summer, the administration helps schools and organizations host prevention-themed events aiming to strengthen the community, school, and family bonds that can shield adolescents and young adults from substance use. SAMHSA’s primary goals this week are to:

  • Involve communities in raising awareness about behavioral health issues and implementing prevention strategies;
  • Foster partnerships and collaboration with federal agencies and national organizations dedicated to behavioral and public health; and
  • Promote and disseminate quality behavioral health resources and publications.

NPW Prevention Challenge: Action Today. Healthier Tomorrow!

Given that not everyone can take part in a National Prevention Week event in person there are other avenues of participation. There are several webinars up in the form of YouTube videos that you may find of interest. The NPW Prevention Challenge is another way young people can take a proactive approach to avoiding the trappings of drugs and alcohol. The theme for NPW 2018 is Action Today. Healthier Tomorrow. SAMHSA asks you to write a video letter to yourself and, if you feel comfortable, upload it to social media. You can find an example below:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

NPW 2018 Prevention Challenge: #DearFutureMe encourages others to take action today for a healthier tomorrow!

PACE Academy

National Prevention Week is an important event that can steer young people toward making healthy decisions. For some young people, however, the cycle of addiction is already in full force, and there is a need for more significant attention. There is a substantial number of college students struggling with drugs and alcohol who require treatment. Unfortunately, a remarkable number of people who need help are resistant to it because they don’t want to get behind in school. The good news is that individuals can address their alcohol and substance use disorder with only a slight disruption to their education.

At PACE Academy, we help young people break the cycle of addiction and equip them with the tools necessary for working a program of long-term recovery. We help clients working towards an associate or bachelor’s degrees at several community colleges and universities. At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one keep addiction from derailing one’s future; please contact us today to learn more about our programs.

Opioid Addiction in America Accountability

opioid

The effort to rein in the prescription opioid problem here in America continues even though there hasn’t been an announcement from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on how it plans to tackle the issue. While state and Federal lawmakers tirelessly work to bring about change and hold those responsible for their actions, the pharmaceutical industry has been less than cooperative. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise, after all the prescription painkillers are a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. Taking even a modicum of responsibility for misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of opioids would be to acknowledge profiting off suffering and death.

All roads lead to the pharmaceutical industry no matter from what angle you examine the American opioid addiction epidemic. There is a plethora of evidence showing the tactics of companies, like Purdue Pharma, beginning in the late 1990s. Methods including promotional videos assuring doctors that the number of patients who might develop an opioid use disorder was statistically irrelevant. Before long, and with the bonus of incentives to prescribe, primary care physicians began doling out drugs like OxyContin for all things pain.

Naturally, the opioid scourge in America wasn’t the doing of just one entity; we need to consider that there are many stops along the way from the poppy fields to the medicine cabinet. The onus of the problem affecting millions of people falls on many private companies, health organizations, and government agencies like the FDA. In fact, some of the companies which profited the most from addiction in America were pharmaceutical distributors, those in the business of getting drugs from manufacturers to the pharmacy. Even a cursory look reveals that wholesalers turned a blind eye to filling suspicious orders.

Opioid Addiction Accountability

Yesterday, the leaders of five pharmaceutical distributors sat before a House panel hearing fielding questions regarding their practices in the state of West Virginia. The population of the “Mountain State” is roughly 1.80 million, according to today’s estimates and yet, 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone tablets went into the state between 2007 and 2012, CNN reports. The town of Kermit, WV, for instance has a total population of 400 people and yet, over the course of just two years almost 9 million painkillers were sent to one local pharmacy.

At one point during the hearing, House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee chairman, Gregg Harper (R-MS) asked McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Miami-Luken and Smith Wholesale if their companies had a role in the opioid epidemic? All the distributor heads but Dr. Joseph Mastandrea, chairman of the board of Miami-Luken, answered Harper unequivocally, “NO!”

Despite the fact that Rep. David McKinley, (R-WV) was not a member of the subcommittee he was able to sit in and allowed to share some thoughts with the distributors, according to the article. He points to the companies' "lack of attention on your algorithm and your core operation. And deflecting responsibility, saying, 'I just had to fill the order' -- no, you had a role. You had a role." Adding, "And for several of you to say you had no role whatsoever in this I find particularly offensive."

I just want you to feel shame in your roles, respectively, in all this," said McKinley. "I am so frustrated for the people of West Virginia and this country that you all have not stepped up and took more responsibility for this.

Paying for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Lawmakers’ ire is fervent toward manufacturers as well, with many reasoning that since the companies had a role in creating the problem, the least they can do is help cover the cost of treatment. Currently, some 15 states have legislation in the works that would tax prescription opioids; the revenue would then fund addiction treatment services, The Chicago Tribune reports. Of course, bringing such laws to fruition is, unfortunately, a David and Goliath scenario given the powerful ‘big pharma’ lobbies. To date, only the state of New York has been able to pass an opioid tax measure.

The industry is up-to-its-eyeballs in lawsuits and protracted litigation, owing mainly to the staggering death toll in the last twenty years. The general public and lawmakers (some of whom have lost loved ones to overdose) want the industry to do what’s right, take responsibility, and be a part of the solution. Such companies can afford to help, especially when you consider the amount of money opioid developers spend in efforts to defeat common sense legislation. The big opioid producers spent $880 million on politics and lobbying from 2006 through 2015, according to AP and the Center for Public Integrity.

So, what is the manufacturers and distributors argument, you ask? The companies contend that an opioid tax is wrong and would lead to patients or taxpayers eating the cost in the long run. As you can probably imagine some lawmakers are at their wit's end with the lack of accountability, state Sen. Julie Rosen (R-MN) walked out of a meeting with big pharma reps, the article reports. She said:

They know that they're spending way too much money on defending their position instead of being part of the solution.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are a young man struggling with opioid addiction, PACE Recovery Center can help. Our team of experts can teach you the skills and provide you the necessary tools for leading a productive life in recovery. Please contact us today to learn more about our program.

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