Tag Archives: addiction

This is Your Brain On Drugs – 20 Years Later

This is Your Brain On Drugs

Some of you are likely to remember a series of public service announcements (PSA) made by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America ® for a nationwide anti-drug campaign called This is Your Brain On Drugs. The large-scale campaign was launched in 1987, in a different era, at least with respect to how the nation viewed drug addiction and what to do about what we now know to be a form of mental health disorder. The first PSA titled “Frying Pan,” has actor John Roselius frying ups some eggs in order to show viewers what drugs do to your brain.

The second iteration of the campaign was released in 1997 and was titled again, "Frying Pan." The PSA starred actress Rachael Leigh Cook essentially using a frying pan and an egg to demonstrate to viewers the inherent dangers that accompany using heroin, and presumably other drugs as well, but heroin was singled out. The 30 second clip highlighted the fact that one’s drug use didn’t only affect the individual, but rather one’s family and one could even argue society.

If you were not born yet, too young to remember or would like to refresh your memory, please take a moment to watch the short PSA:

If you are having trouble viewing the clip, please click here.

You can probably gather that the PSA’s toed the line of the American “war on drugs.” While the PSA’s attempted to scare people away from drugs, pointing out that they would take everything from you, even your life; the makers of the ads seemed to forget to mention that before drugs took your life, they could be a cause for losing your freedom. Both the aforementioned PSAs ending with the rhetorical statement, “Any Questions?” As if frying an egg or smashing up an apartment would say everything that needed to be said about the reasons for abstaining from drugs.

Any Questions About Addiction

While Entertainment Weekly named “Frying Pan” 8th best commercial of all time, the American Egg Board, naturally, had some concerns about eggs getting an unfair reputation. At the end of the day; however, This is Your Brain On Drugs was a scare tactic, as were all public service announcements about drug use going back to Reefer Madness. They were all created under the premise that drug use was a choice; you could choose to, or not, but the power was in your hands. If you chose wrongly, you risked everything.

Even though addiction is a disease, a symptom of which include the use of drugs, drugs are still for the most part illegal under both state and Federal law. For decades, as we have written about in the past, the 40+ year war on drugs has done little to prevent and treat substance abuse. What it has done is disenfranchise millions of Americans, mostly people who were low on the socio-economic spectrum and minorities. Getting caught up in the legal system for the crime of addiction has proven to be relatively easy, getting out of it has proven to be much more difficult.

Today, in the 21st Century and still in the grips of an opioid addiction epidemic, many people's views about the war on drugs have changed. Thanks both to science and the fact that the epidemic has predominantly affected white America (both rich and poor), our society has been rethinking the true cost of the war on drugs. And, as a result, more Americans than ever are advocating for addiction treatment over prison for those caught possessing illegal drugs.

We are not out of the woods yet. There are still swaths of lawmakers who cling to draconian drug policies as the solution to addiction. Which is why the fight to end the stigma of this most serious mental illness must continue. Which has not been lost on the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. The organization, with the help of a 20-years older Rachael Leigh Cook, decided to make a postscript to the 1997 PSA. In the new version of the “Frying Pan,” Cook says:

The war on drugs is ruining peoples' lives. It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counter parts. It cripples communities, it costs billions, and it doesn't work. Any questions?

Please take a moment to watch:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Addiction Treatment Is The Answer

Effective measures of treating addiction were helping a significant number of Americans in 1987 at the start of This is Your Brain On Drugs. It wasn’t talked about, because it did not line up with the stigma-driven narrative of addiction employed at the time. It was being treated and people were living lives in recovery, just as they are today. Fortunately, people touched by the disease today have more of an ability to seek help, without fear of prosecution.

Now the science behind addiction, and other forms of mental illness is far better understood. With each year that passes, the stigma of addiction seems to soften. Slowly, but surely, more Americans see the value of ending the war on drugs and advocating for treatment. If you or a loved one has been touched by the deadly disease of addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center.

Addiction Treatment Begins With Surrender

addiction

There are many young men and women whose addiction has reached untenable heights. Perhaps “lows” would be more apt. Either way, when one begins down the perilous path of substance use, abuse and addiction in their teens, then by their early or mid-twenties life has already become unmanageable. If you are one such person who can identify with that path, trust and believe that it is far more common than you might think.

Societal tropes and stereotypes of addicts and alcoholics in recovery often resemble middle-aged and older people. While it is true that many do not decide to work a program of recovery until later in life, most such people would probably tell that they were definitely eligible for the need of assistance for years—if not decades earlier. Every case is different, but a significant number of people have fought and will continue to fight tooth and nail to remain in a state of denial about the severity of their condition. Even though alcohol and substance use disorders are an accepted form of mental illness.

Nobody, addict or not, wants to admit defeat. In some ways, we are programmed at an early age to continue fighting even if we know that a fight is unwinnable. While perseverance may be a sign of strength in a clearly unwinnable high school sports game given that there is no certainty that it will end the way everyone thinks, when it comes to active addiction perseverance can and often does mean premature death. Often after years of heartache and despair.

The Comparison Problem With Addiction

It cannot be stressed enough. The longer an alcoholic or addict waits to seek help, the worse it gets. Always! The problems that accompany substance abuse may be solely superficial at first, but over time the persistent fueling of the fire of addiction leads to systemic health problems—many of which cannot be reversed (e.g. cirrhosis, cancer, cognitive dysfunction and co-occurring mental health disorders).

There is a common delusion among chemically dependent people that their problem is not as bad as ‘that person's’. That It won’t get as bad, because you are somehow unique. You may be special in many ways, but when it comes to addiction, comparisons will only pave the road to becoming as worse off as the very people you compared to yourself to keep you from surrendering. The “comparison problem,” if we may, is especially pervasive among young people. It is a barrier to hope and serenity, two feelings that people living with active addiction are in short supply.

Has your use of drugs or alcohol brought about a series of negative consequences before, or in early adulthood? If your answer is yes, then we implore you to stop comparing yourself to your peers and seek assistance. It may be that your friends and family have a problem too, but you are in no position to help them until you help yourself.

Strength in Surrender

Dependence and addiction touch the lives of young people quite often. The good news is that many young men and women can, and do recover. What’s more, they can go on to live productive and fulfilling lives with a clear head on their shoulders, developing a meaningful relationship in both their program of recovery and society at large. And they have the power to be there for their peers when life throws curveballs. All such people, started with the courageous act of surrender.

Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage,” wrote William S. Burroughs.

Accepting that your own will is not acting in your best interest, allows you to start the process of first seeking treatment followed by continued growth in recovery. It gives one the ability to accept help from others who have been down into the dark cave of addiction, and returned to the light via a program of recovery. It is hard to admit to oneself, “I don’t have all the answers.” But it is of the utmost importance.

At PACE Recovery Center, we work with young adult men who have been touch by the hand of addiction. The PACE Recovery Center team is made up of addiction treatment professionals, many of which have first-hand experience with addiction. We know the courage it takes to ask for help and break the cycle of this pernicious disease, and embrace the principles of a wholly new way of thinking and living. Please contact us today.

Anonymity, Depression and Instagram

anonymity

When it comes to addiction recovery, one of the more appealing aspects of the 12-Step program is the focus by members on anonymity: the condition of (of a person) not being identified by name. Those who turn to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for support and guidance, are encouraged to introduce themselves by their first name only. If there are more than one person with the same first name, sometimes the first letter of one’s last name will be attached to the end (i.e. John T. or Amanda S.) to avoid confusion when referring to people.

Some of you may be wondering, ‘what’s with all the secrecy?’ A question that can be answered in multiple ways, all of which are good reasons for not disclosing one’s full identity. But, perhaps, the most important reason for avoiding self-disclosure among members is the newcomer. People who suffer from any form for mental illness, whether it be addiction or depression, have long been given pejorative labels and looked down upon by society. While we have come a long way in the United States regarding ending the stigma of mental health disorders, there are still those who would use another's issues as ammunition.

Those who make the brave decision to seek help for alcoholism and/or drug abuse, need to be and feel like they are they are in an environment that will not cast judgement. That the things that they share will not be used against them at a later day by another. Even if you have zero-experience with substance abuse, you could probably imagine that a big part of the healing and the recovery process rests on honestly sharing aspects of one’s past that are extremely difficult to talk about (e.g. where they have been, what they have seen and the unsavory things they did while out there in active addiction). When it comes to the latter, there is hardly an addict or alcoholic who has not broken one or multiple laws.

As was mentioned earlier, honesty is vital to the recovery process. If a newcomer does not feel like he or she can share their life candidly without repercussions, it is unlikely that they will share at all. Or stick around long enough to experience the miracles of recovery. In a world where social stigma can destroy lives, confidentiality is of the utmost importance. While individuals are free to share their story and full name with whomever they please, they are expressly prohibited from sharing that of others. To ensure that people do not disclose information about others, the safeguard of not using one's full name is staunchly encouraged. Under the model of 12-Step recovery, there are in fact 12 steps that need to be worked, but there are also 12 traditions that members are asked to respect, the twelfth tradition reads as follows:

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

Anonymity In The Information Age

When the founders of the 12-Step modality wrestled with anonymity, it was at a time when the average person did not have the ability to reach millions of people. Your typical American could not share their story or the stories of others by way of press, radio, and films. Those that did were strongly encouraged to exercise extreme caution, lest they break another person's anonymity.

In the 21st Century, the outlets for expressing oneself in seemingly cathartic ways has reached new heights, i.e. blogs, Facebook and Instagram. There is hardly a young person in America who does not have a social media account. What’s more, most young people in recovery spend a good amount of time on the internet.

Our laptops and smartphones allow us to reach total strangers, who cannot easily figure out who is the one doing the sharing. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Sharing one’s struggles on social media platforms can result in one receiving support for their issues, but given that we are talking about the internet, a hotbed for vitriolic unmasking—such platforms can tempt people to disclose things that they wouldn’t likely disclose with others in person. Thus, inadvertently revealing the identity of others.

If you rely on social media sites for therapeutic reasons, sharing your struggles with the hope of feedback, be sure to keep what is said be about you. You are responsible for your own anonymity, be sure that what you share will not have the unintended effect of coming back to hurt you later. For more information on sharing with others while remaining anonymous, please click here.

Support from Social Media

A significant number of young men and women battling with mental illness have turned to Instagram for support. Unlike Facebook, Instagram allows its users to maintain a greater level of secrecy. This has a twofold effect: 1) People can share what they are going through anonymously (e.g. a relapse or a depressive episode) and get feedback that might help. 2) Masked user activity allows people to negatively comment on what people share, what is known as “trolling,” a behavior that has led suffering people to suffer more.

The general public often hears of horror stories involving trolls, mental illness and suicide. We hear less about people with specific disorders finding support and help by way of social media. A new study sought to shed light on the power of anonymous social media posting, and the feedback users received. The researchers found that the majority of responses on Instagram to posts about mental illness using the hashtag “#depression,” were actually positive and supportive, Vocativ reports. The findings will be presented at the Association For Computing Machinery conference.

There’s this kind of double-edged sword about being anonymous and not having to use your real name,” said Nazanin Andalibi, one of the study’s lead doctoral researchers. “The popular narrative around anonymity has been that people will troll each other and everything will just be really abusive…but opportunities for anonymity are really central to disclosing things that are sensitive for some people and to give and provide support. It just so happens that in this particular platform people are finding each other and being supportive of each other.”

The researchers point out that further study is needed to see what users do with the positive feedback they received. Does it lead to positive change?

Depression: Let’s Talk

Last Friday, was World Health Day. The focus of discussion was depression, a mental health disorder affecting more than 300 million people around the world. The World Health Organization(WHO) launched a yearlong campaign. “Depression: Let’s Talk” aims to empower people to talk about their condition with people they trust, so they can get the help they require. With respect to the aforementioned study, not only do people with depression get positive feedback, but Instagram allows posts that appear to be cries for help to be flagged. When that happens the users, who may be at risk will be sent messages that include resources for help with mental illness. Talking about despair, can lead to hope treatment and recovery.

At PACE Recovery Center, we work with young adult men, targeting the underlying issues that contribute to addictive behaviors and behavioral health diagnoses. The PACE Recovery Center team provides multidisciplinary treatment for co-occurring disorders, including depression. Contact us for more information, “Let’s Talk!”.

Stigma of Addiction: Stop the Shame

stigma

How we treat people who have diseases which can be fatal says a lot about who we are both as a nation and a society. Our ability to express empathy to those who are suffering from conditions that are, in many cases, outside of one’s control is of vital importance—especially in this day and age living in a country that has been racked by addiction.

Throughout out the second half of the 20th Century and into the 21st, the United States has made and gone through significant changes with how we look at those afflicted by a substance use disorder and how to best effectively treat addiction. Not too long ago, the majority of Americans would have said of addiction, if asked, that it was likely a moral failing; such people lack constitution or willpower and are an example of extreme narcissism.

To be fair, a superficial look at addiction could present a picture of the aforementioned pejorative statements. It could be easy for anyone without all the facts to view the disease in such a light, and such viewpoints are then perpetuated and disseminated to others who also lack the ability to grasp what is actually going on inside the mind of an addict. As a result, thunderous clouds of stigma float permanently above the millions of Americans who have been touched by this pernicious mental illness.

Yet, a closer look through the lens of science reveals the nature of addiction as being something altogether different. Which is why, for quite some time the disease of addiction has been classified as a serious mental health disorder, a condition that has little to do with a moral compass. Scientists have overwhelmingly concluded, that while no one chooses to be an addict and there is not a cure for the disorder, with assistance those living in active addiction can make changes to break away from drugs and alcohol and recover. Going on to live a meaningful and productive life, existing as part of society rather than being the subject of ostracization.

From Stigma to Empathy

If addiction is a disorder which has no cure, but can be maintained allowing for individuals to live relatively normal lives, then do you wonder why addicts are viewed so differently than those who suffer from other incurable conditions? The response to that question is far from easy to answer, being the subject of many an investigation. But simply put, much of the stigma of addiction rests on the fact that the complex disease is not well understood. Such a reality has opened the door for people without any qualifications to draw conclusion about substance use, and nonchalantly disseminate their “2+2=5” summations.

We would like you to imagine for a moment and entreat you to look honestly inside your selves, that somebody close to you contracted a serious illness. Perhaps a condition that science currently offers no cure, but does provide treatments that can prove effective at slowing down the progression of such disorders (e.g. diabetes, HIV, cancer and Parkinson’s). Could you picture yourself acting towards that individual in such a way as to elicit guilt or shame inside your loved one? Can you see yourself saying to someone dying from cancer or AIDS that they are ‘not trying hard enough?’ That they could get better, but are choosing to do otherwise. While rhetorical questions like this may seem like “no brainers,” they illustrate the absurdity of casting stones at somebody with a terminal illness.

Now, please close your eyes, picture your mother, daughter or neighbor is not suffering from cancer, but rather addiction. Would you act the same way in respect to them, as you would if they had cancer?

PSAs About Stigma

Breaking the stigma of addiction is a process that requires a multifaceted approach involving several agencies. Last week, the American College of Physicians (ACP) published a position paper arguing that addiction should be viewed as a “chronic disease” requiring treatment. Substance use problems are not a "moral disorder or character defect."

At the same time, a new campaign was launched called “Stop the Shame,” which released two public service announcements aimed at breaking the stigma of addiction. We must warn you ahead of time, the PSAs are hard to watch due to the videos accuracy with regard to how people living with addiction can be, and often are treated.

PSA 1: Addicts Hear Comments Cancer Patients Never Would

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

PSA 2: Addicts Hear Comments Parkinson’s Patients Never Would

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Far Reaching Effects

The tough comments that people with addiction endure on regular basis have a serious impact, affecting American society. Those made to feel shame and guilt about addiction are less inclined to seek help for their condition. As a result, their illness progresses, sending ripples throughout the country. For starters, without treatment, more and more families find themselves burying loved ones before their time. There is also a huge economic toll that is associated with untreated addiction. Lawmakers have tried arresting addiction away, unsuccessfully. The time for compassion, is now.

Legalization: Placing Age Limits On Marijuana

legalization

More than half of the 50 United States have voted in favor of medical marijuana legalization, and nearly a fifth of all states have legalized the drug for recreational use. Since marijuana policy reform in America seems to be heading one way, it is vital that lawmakers heed the wisdom of researchers when it comes to drafting such policies. It is ever important that quality standards and age restrictions pay mind to experts in the field.

For the most part, those charged with rolling out recreational use in states like Colorado and Washington have deferred to scientists and experts. The fact that one must be 21+ years of age to buy and use the drug was not decided at random, and it was not meant to be an affront to ebullient 18-year-olds itching to exercise their new-found sense of freedom. The age restriction in states with legal “weed” was set in deference to brain science, and the fact that the human brain continues to develop into the mid-20s.

Given there is ample research showing that the marijuana can have a serious impact on cognitive function, affecting memory and intelligence quotient, the further along one goes in life before having tried marijuana — the better. On top of that, studies have also shown that marijuana use, beginning at a young age, can increase one’s risk of abuse and dependence of not only cannabis, but other substances, down the road. While marijuana may register low on the Richter scale of dangerous drugs for adults, there is really no way of predicting what kind of damage it may do to a developing brain.

Cannabis in America, Legalization and Beyond

Last November, you may have been one of the majority of Californians who voted in favor of legalization. Adults over the age of 21 in California can use, possess and even cultivate the plant in their own home. The retail aspect of Proposition 64 isn't expected to take effect until sometime next year, which will give officials time to work out the minutiae.

What’s more, efforts are likely to be underway to ensure that the right messages are being sent to young people about the drug. Specifically, that while cannabis is now legal for people over the age of 21, that doesn't mean that it is safe for everyone to use.

With more states expected to adopt a more lenient position about marijuana, continued research is of the utmost importance. At the end of the day, experts know far less than they don’t know, the byproduct of over 80 years of prohibition hindering effective research on the substance. As our neighbors to the North prepare to announce next month Canada’s plan to legalize marijuana from British Columbia to Newfoundland effective July 1, 2018, age restrictions are a hot button topic, according to a press release from Concordia University. The Canadian Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommends that cannabis use be restricted to those who are at least 18 years in age. While the restriction is 3-years below what U.S. states have set, CBC reports that provinces would be allowed to set a higher age limit.

Research Supports 21

A new study published in the journal Health, examined the results of three national surveys on tobacco, alcohol and drug use (two in Canada and one in America), showed that those who refrain from using marijuana until the age of 21 are unlikely to develop a lifelong habit, the press release reports. Study coauthor James McIntosh, professor of economics in the Faculty of Arts and Science, said that earlier in life one starts using marijuana, the more negative the physical and mental effects will be. McIntosh and his co-author Rawan Hassunah’s study was novel in how closely is examined the age of first marijuana use. They found that early cannabis initiation and use can lead to cognitive impairment, including:

  • Memory Loss
  • Diminished IQ
  • Reduced Educational Success
  • Greater Risk of Mental Illness

Despite the findings of the study, McIntosh believes that the pros of legalizing outweigh the cons. He points out that Canada’s move towards legalization puts the country in a distinct position to start seriously researching the effects of the drug on every age group:

We need to start collecting data on it to see what the effects are on people of all ages. You can get all kinds of information on drinking behaviours -- they should do that with marijuana."

Cannabis Addiction

The use of cannabis, while considered to be a benign practice by those with a history of addiction or not, can actually wreak havoc on one’s life. As was listed above, the impacts of heavy cannabis use, starting at an early age can make your life unmanageable. Attempts to cease use often results in withdrawal symptoms which are typically mitigated by continued use of the drug. It is not uncommon for marijuana addicts to seek help by way of an addiction treatment center. If you are a young adult, male whose life has been significantly impacted by cannabis use, please contact Pace Recovery Center.

Giving Back in Recovery and Community

giving back

The principles and virtues of addiction recovery are what the program is built upon. Honesty, willingness and service, for example, are essential to recovery; without these the goal of long term sobriety could not be achieved. Adhering to the principles, like those mentioned above, are not only good for recovery, it is a good way for anyone to live. But for those with a history of addiction, a disease that is often typified by extreme selfishness, practicing the principles of recovery in all of one’s affairs can be difficult at first. For many recovering addicts and alcoholics, being honest with others is 180 degrees different than how one has been historically.

Overtime, adopting the principles of recovery and practicing these in all of one’s affairs becomes easier, and eventually acting counter to that way of living becomes more and more difficult. An individual comes to the program wanting to find a new lease on life. You surrender and commit yourself to the vital task of being not only honest with yourself, but with your peers. You commit to working a program as if life depended on it (and it does), not only working the steps, but living them. In time, if direction has been followed to the best of one’s ability per working the steps, you will accumulate a length of sobriety. Then what? The simple answer is that you make a commitment to pay it forward.

If You Want to Keep It, Give It Back

Giving back to the program which was given to you gratis, is a major component of recovery. Even if you have only attended a few meetings, there is a good chance you have heard it said that you can’t keep it unless you give it away. You may have scratched your head upon hearing that, saying to yourself, ‘I can’t keep it, unless I am willing to give it back.’ A paradox, right? Well, not exactly. As you work through the steps with a sponsor, you will come to realize that this person who you barely know is helping you save your own life. Something you were unable to do on your own. On the surface, it will appear that said person is in no way being compensated for teaching you how to work the program, and live life one day at a time.

At some point along the way you will come to understand that this relative stranger helping you, was once helped in the same way by another person. And is still likely being helped by a sponsor of their own. In effect, helping another find the gifts of recovery, in turn, helps them keep what you have earned from recovery. Such work does not only apply to sponsorship, it could be as simple or as menial as cleaning up after a meeting (even the bathroom) or making coffee for the group. Humility goes a long way, when it comes to long-term sobriety. Walking up to a newcomer and welcoming them to the group is a way of paying it forward.

The Recovery Community and Beyond

Practicing the principles of recovery in all our affairs doesn’t just apply to how we conduct ourselves in the rooms of recovery and among our peers working a program. Sure, after acquiring some time in the program your role with the support community is of the utmost importance. But you, or rather all of us, are members of a greater community—society. The good work you do in the program can also be channeled into the greater community. What’s more, as your time in sobriety accumulates and you begin to feel sturdier in recovery, you may find yourself desiring to become a productive member of society. Feeling inclined to do things like volunteer your services to good cause.

There is no shortage of ways you can be of service to the greater community. You may discover that you own life experience, even the bad parts, could be of great help to at-risk youth. Organizations and campaigns dedicated to mitigating the risk of certain young people walking down a similar path—that of addiction.

PACE Recovery Center Encourages Community Service

Throughout the year, PACE Recovery Center encourages the men in our treatment program to become involved with community events. This can include volunteering at charitable events, particularly working with the homeless during the holidays.

This year PACE Recovery Center has committed to supporting the Tucson Conquistadores Classic - An Official PGA TOUR Champions event. The event is sponsored by the Tucson Conquistadores, a civic, not-for-profit fundraising organization established in 1962. Over the decades, the Conquistadores have contributed more than $32 million to youth athletic programs throughout Southern Arizona.

The Tucson Conquistadores Classic begins March 15 and continues through March 19, 2017. It takes place at Omni Tucson National Golf Resort. And should you happen to be Tucson, AZ, this week, you may want to get involved.

It Is All About Giving Back…

Giving back is at the heart of the Tucson Conquistadores and Champions Tour. Net proceeds from this tournament go directly to youth charities in Southern Arizona including The First Tee of Tucson, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, Pima County Special Olympics and the Southern Arizona Community Sports Center at Curtis Park.

Here’s to a successful tournament and paying it forward.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month

problem gambling

Recovery from mental illness is possible, but it is always darkest before the dawn. If you have personal experience with addiction (i.e. problem gambling), then you understand firsthand that it is a progressive disease. Left untreated, you continue to spiral down until, at some point, you realize that you are in a worse position than hitting rock bottom—in fact, you are looking up at your “bottom.”

It is said time and time again in the circles of recovery, that one must truly reach their bottom in order to be willing to surrender and be able to embrace the principles of recovery. But, the truth of the matter is that you actually hit, and surpass several bottoms in multidimensional ways—a veritable tesseract of despair. No matter which direction you look, you are confronted by the entryway doors that connect you with the world around you closed or closing, one after another. With active addiction, you can feel like you are falling in multiple directions at the same time, stretching your mind to the brink. You finally cease plunging for just enough time to take a panoramic snapshot of existence, only to discover upon development that you are, in fact, alone—shackled to the disease. At such a crossroad, one must make a choice; follow the path you are on to its logical end, or…

Addiction is a mental health disorder that takes many different shapes. And while a number of behaviors or substances can be habit forming, regardless of what you are dependent upon, the outcomes for each of the afflicted (left untreated) are typically the same. Any number of things can lead to dependence, and each of them in their own way can bring one to their knees: Snatching friends, family, livelihood and life right out from under you. Fortunately, if one works on any problem, a solution can oftentimes be found. When it comes to addiction the solution is treatment and a commitment to work a program of spiritual maintenance.

There are millions of Americans plagued by one form of mental illness or compulsive disorder. However, while it is easy to find information about treating and recovering from a substance use disorder, the same cannot be said for other debilitating conditions—such as “gambling addiction" or "compulsive gambling." The reasons are numerous, but it is important that those who are actively struggling with problem gambling, sometimes referred to as Ludomania, come to realize that they are not alone and help is available.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month

Gambling can turn into a dangerous two-way street when you least expect it. Weird things happen suddenly, and your life can go all to pieces.” —H.S. Thompson

In 2012, there were an estimated 5.77 million disordered gamblers in the U.S. in need of treatment, according to the 2013 National Survey of Problem Gambling Services. Yet, of that staggering number of problem gamblers, only 10,387 (less than one quarter of one percent (0.18%) people were treated that year in U.S. state-funded problem gambling treatment programs. In comparison, substance use disorders were about 3.6 times more common at the time, than gambling disorders. However, the amount of public funding allotted for substance use disorder treatment was about 281 times greater ($17 billion: $60.6 million) than the funds directed towards treating problem gamblers.

Every March, a grassroots campaign is waged to raise awareness about problem gambling. During Problem Gambling Awareness Month events and activities will be held around the country to “educate the general public and healthcare professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and to raise awareness about the help that is available both locally and nationally.”

This is an important time for raising awareness about the condition, because there is a serious effort on federal and state levels to lift or amend the federal prohibition on sports betting, ESPN reports. While the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is neutral about whether or not sports betting should be legal, the organization believes that expanding the practice across the country will likely result in more people playing and in turn—more problem gamblers. The NCPG is asking legislators behind expanding sports gambling for funds to prevent and treat gambling addiction.

Getting Help

If you are a compulsive gambler and need assistance, you can call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (800-522-477). In some instances, your or your loved one’s condition may be so severe that residential addiction treatment is the best option. Additionally, PACE Recovery Center's Orange County Intensive Outpatient Program is a men’s only - gender specific program. We treat men who are suffering from drug and alcohol issues, depression, anxiety, grief and loss, relationship issues, process addictions, and gambling addiction.

Addressing Alcohol Use Disorder In America

alcohol use disorder

The American opioid addiction epidemic has long been a top priority among lawmakers and health experts. The scourge of opioid abuse across the country has resulted in thousands of premature deaths, the result of overdoses. If you have been keeping yourself apprised of efforts to curb opioid use and abuse rates, it is likely that you have heard or read statements indicating that the opioid epidemic is unprecedented.

A claim that is spot on when it comes to the abuse of drugs. What makes opioid abuse so pernicious is the fact that technically, someone can overdose at any time. People often say that addiction is a slow death, dying spiritually at first and then expiring physically down the road—often decades later. Not so with opioid use disorder. But, if we were to step back and look at addiction in America as a whole, one could easily argue that the most severe addiction epidemic that the U.S. has ever faced and continues to struggle with is tied to a substance that is legal for adult consumption. Alcohol is a drug that is responsible for far more deaths every year than opioid narcotics, such as OxyContin or heroin. However, opioid addiction receives far more attention than AUD.

Alcohol, like prescription drugs, is a multibillion dollar enterprise. Despite the deadly nature of heavy alcohol use, the substance is both legal and is considered to be a socially acceptable for both relaxation and celebration. The substance can be acquired with little effort, there are no rules about how much can be purchased or used at one time. Suffice it to say, one can drink themselves to death without out any checks and balances. Unlike a doctor who may stop prescribing a drug because of concerns of abuse, liquor stores will sell booze to anyone with a pulse.

Alcohol Abuse Figures of Interest

A few years ago a National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) revealed that over 20 million Americans consumed alcohol at potentially dangerous levels. The data was analyzed by author Philip J. Cook, and used for a book titled, “Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control.” NESARC data revealed that 24 million adults (18 +) - drink an average 74 alcoholic beverages every week—about 10 drinks a day. A lot of alcohol to be sure.

In the following year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that 26.9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. What’s more, the survey indicated that 15.1 million adults had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a figure made up of 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women. While those figures are staggering, perhaps the most concerning finding was that about 1.3 million adults received treatment for AUD at a substance use disorder center in the same year.

Alcohol and Opioids—A Common Tie

If one were to try and find a silver lining regarding the American opioid addiction epidemic, you may think that it would be a difficult task considering the death toll. However, the crisis has brought to light the fact that there is a real lack of addiction treatment services in this country. A reality that brought about the passing of legislation that would, among other things, expand access to addiction treatment.

Substance use disorder treatment centers utilize effective science-based therapies to help people save their own lives. In conjunction with medication and introducing patients to recovery support groups (i.e. 12-Step programs and SMART Recovery), people with the disease of addiction can have a real chance at sustained abstinence for decades. Many facilities have started to take advantage of certain medications that can help clients after being discharged avoid relapse. One such drug is naltrexone, commonly sold under the brand name Vivitrol ® has been used for years on opioid addicts.

Naltrexone has been found to have an impact on opioid cravings, it can deter relapse by blocking the euphoric feelings produced by opioid use. One can take an OxyContin, but not get high. Interestingly, science shows that both opioids and alcohol impact some of the same receptors in the brain. So, it stands to reason that naltrexone may help alcoholics curb their drinking. Studies indicate that Vivitrol can decrease the pleasure that comes with drinking alcohol, NPR reports. If you reconsider the survey that showed only a small fraction of alcoholics go to treatment, it is vital that primary care physicians utilize the drug which research shows has been historically underused.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, we implore you to seek help immediately. The problem, as with any addiction, it will only get worse. Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease, without treatment it can be fatal. Please contact PACE Recovery Center to begin the journey of recovery. We specialize in treating young adult males, and have helped many people start the journey of recovery. Here’s to life!

Addiction Linked to Weak Working Memory

addiction

Addiction and poor impulse control. Well, it is fair to say that the two go hand in hand. Addicts and alcoholics can easily be typified by making rash decisions, that are rarely in one’s best interest. A major component of addiction recovery is reining in such destructive impulses that, in recovery, can surely lead to relapse. It isn't an easy task. True addiction develops over the course of years. During which time, people’s brains become wired to act and react to various things in certain ways. Breaking such patterns is hard work, requiring continued maintenance.

Those living in active addiction have a “go to” response for most things that come up. If they are stressed, they use. If they are happy, they use. Ad infinitum. But in most cases, the continued reliance on a substance for coping with all things Life, comes down to how your brain functions with regard to memory. Addicts and alcoholics often have short attention spans, and minds that easily forget where drugs take them. Sure, one may find relief in using a substance for a time. But such relief is always outweighed by the bad that comes with the use of a substance. Despite that fact, people continue to use regardless.

Naturally, we are all wired a little bit differently, sometimes a lot differently. Beginning at a young age, individuals process things in a subjective manner. Some young people excel at staying focused and on-task, while others struggle to keep their heading. There is compelling research indicating that those who struggle with impulse control and working memory, the capacity to focus on a task without being easily distracted, are at greater risk of substance use disorder later in life, according to a study conducted by researchers at three institutions. The findings of which, were published in the journal Addiction.

Risk of Addiction

More times than not, teenage substance use is a risk factor for a substance use disorder in adulthood. Early drug and alcohol initiation, while the brain is still developing, can wreak havoc on the course of one’s life. However, that is not always the case. The majority of teens who experiment with alcohol, tobacco and marijuana in high school, don’t progress to addiction later in life. For a significant minority, the future holds something altogether different.

It goes without saying there isn’t a test that will identify who will be touched by addiction. Sure, there are several factors that often play a part in the development of the disease (i.e. family history and upbringing), but they do not necessarily mean that the child will follow the same road as an addicted parent. While doctors cannot look at any one thing and say emphatically, ‘this teen will have problems later in life,’ identifying which adolescents have certain risk factors can help guide prevention methods that may mitigate the likelihood of addiction developing in the future.

Researchers looked 387 study participants (ages 18-20) who were recruited as 10- to 12-year-olds in 2004 for a long-term study, a University of Oregon news release reports. Baselines for the participants working memory and impulsive tendencies were defined at the beginning of the study. Teens with weak working memories and poor impulse control were at a greater risk of experimenting with substances at a young age, and having a substance use disorder later in life.

We found that there is some effect that was carried through the early progression in drug use. It is a risk factor," said Khurana, who also is a research scientist in the UO's Prevention Science Institute. "But we also found that the underlying weakness in working memory and impulse control continues to pose a risk for later substance-use disorders."

Predicting Addiction Later In Life

In middle schools and high schools across the country, substance use prevention efforts employ a total abstinence methodology. The idea being that if teens don’t ever use drugs and alcohol, they will be less likely to have a problem later in life. While that may be true in some cases, it is an idea that isn’t based in reality for the simple fact that young people will often do that which they are told not to do. As was mentioned earlier, most of the young people who experiment will not have a problem later in life. With that in mind, it would seem that prevention and intervention methods that work to improve certain behavioral deficits, could help many young people in the future.

Drug prevention strategy in the schools typically focuses on middle school when early drug use tends to take place and assumes that any drug use at all is a problem,” said Co-author Dan Romer, research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “This study suggests that prevention needs to be more nuanced. The risk depends on whether drug use is likely to progress.”

If impulse control and one’s ability to stay focused is strengthened, teenagers and young adults would benefit greatly with regard to the relationship they develop with mind-altering substances.

Working with Young Adult Males

Through intensive, one-on-one addiction psychotherapy, under the care of licensed Master Level Therapists, PACE Recovery Center clients learn about and become aware of their experiences with addiction and behavioral health issues. They begin to identify personal core beliefs associated with negative sense of self, which exacerbates self defeating behaviors such as depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. Clients begin to challenge these self-destructive beliefs and ultimately restructure them into a healthier and more adaptive way of living free from mood altering substances. Each client's treatment plan is closely monitored, modified when necessary and evaluated by their therapist and the clinical treatment team.

The War On Drugs: A Closer Look

Some of our older readers can probably remember when President Richard Nixon called drug abuse America’s public enemy number one. You can likely remember when the 37th President of the United States declared a “war on drugs.” Setting aside any ulterior motives or hidden agendas, Nixon’s declaration of war seemed to make sense. Drugs are both dangerous and deadly. They have the power to ruin the lives of individuals and their families. Illegal drug manufacturing, distribution and use place a heavy economic toll on society.

The war on drugs was basically a three-pronged effort to target illegal drug sales, help addicts recover from what we know now to be a mental health disorder and educate young people about the dangers of substance use and abuse. Unfortunately, now forty years later, we know that most of the Federal government’s energy was directed towards incarcerating drug offenders. Whether they be dealers or addicts. The idea, presumably, arrest those who supply drugs and those who demand them. And voilà! The problem goes away. Right?

President Nixon may have started the war, but the battle to rid the country of both drugs and addiction would continue under every Commander-in-Chief to follow. Aggressively under both Presidents Reagan and Clinton. It is important for all of us to remember that the ill-fated war on drugs in America was believed in by lawmakers on both sides of the Congressional and Presidential aisle. It was about party affiliation. Going after drug traffickers in this country and abroad, and arresting individuals for breaking laws prohibiting the use of certain narcotics, seemed like good policy. Not just in America.

Decades later, and a closer look at such a policy and the results that it achieved versus the costs (not just monetarily), one will see that what can only be described as a dismal failure presents itself. As is evident by the fact that we host the largest prison population and have the biggest drug problem on the planet—despite everyone’s best intentions. Over half of inmates in the U.S. are in jail or prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

While the last decade could be called a quasi-cease fire in the war in drugs (i.e. changes in mandatory minimum sentencing, drug courts, state-level marijuana legalization and presidential pardons for nonviolent offenders), there is still a lot more to be done with regard to putting an end to draconian drug sentencing laws. Also, with breaking the stigma of addiction, so that people who need help can get it.

A War on Drugs, Abroad…

You may have seen news reports over the last year, covering President Duterte of the Philippines. A leader who essentially declared that the punishment for both drug dealers and addicts is death. One not even be given the luxury of a trial, evidenced by suspects being gunned down on the streets. It is fair to say that the approach in the Philippines is far more severe than any war on drugs to come before. Even compared to a country with a history of being the frontline of the global war on drugs, Colombia.

In the 1980’s and early-90’s, with the help of billions of American dollars and the CIA, the Colombian government fought tooth and nail to bring down narcotraficantes (drug traffickers). With the most notable target being Pablo Escobar, who was finally brought down under Colombian President Cesar Gaviria in 1993. While that nation won a few battles, Gaviria points out that it came at great costs in New York Times op-ed published last week. With first-hand experience in such matters and a founding member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the former Colombian leader used the op-ed as a forum to reach out to President Duterte. Warning him about what is at stake, if his hardline approach continues.

Winning the fight against drugs requires addressing not just crime, but also public health, human rights and economic development. No matter what Mr. Duterte believes, there will always be drugs and drug users in the Philippines. But it is important to put the problem in perspective: The Philippines already has a low number of regular drug users. The application of severe penalties and extrajudicial violence against drug consumers makes it almost impossible for people with drug addiction problems to find treatment. Instead, they resort to dangerous habits and the criminal economy. Indeed, the criminalization of drug users runs counter to all available scientific evidence of what works.” Gaviria adds, “Taking a hard line against criminals is always popular for politicians. I was also seduced into taking a tough stance on drugs during my time as president. The polls suggest that Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs is equally popular. But he will find that it is unwinnable. I also discovered that the human costs were enormous. We could not win the war on drugs through killing petty criminals and addicts. We started making positive impacts only when we changed tack, designating drugs as a social problem and not a military one.”

Not Just A History Lesson

Hopefully, Gaviria sage wisdom will not fall on deaf ears, and the lives of addicts overseas may be spared. Here at home, where we do not see addicts being meted out extrajudicial punishments, we have a seen a lot of progress in recent years with regard to drugs and how those who use them are treated. In a number of cities across the country, addicts can surrender their drugs to police. Instead of being given handcuffs in return, those living in addiction are shown compassion and referred to treatment centers. A trend that we all hope will continue.

While President Gaviria’s message was meant for the President of the Philippines, hopefully it will be heeded in some degree here in America. As was emphasized earlier, there is still a lot more that can be done, that can make a real impact for the better. Last week, a Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking was signed. Some working in the field of addiction fear that the language in the new EO might echo the draconian approaches of the past in the American war on addiction. In the NYT op-ed (unrelated to the new EO) mentioned earlier, Gaviria closed with:

A successful president makes decisions that strengthen the public good. This means investing in solutions that meet the basic standards of basic rights and minimize unnecessary pain and suffering. The fight against drugs is no exception. Strategies that target violent criminals and undermine money laundering are critical. So, too, are measures that decriminalize drug users, support alternative sentencing for low-level nonviolent offenders and provide a range of treatment options for drug abusers. This is a test that many of my Colombian compatriots have failed...”

PACE Recovery Mission

At PACE Recovery Center, our mission is to provide our clients with a safe and supportive environment to help them overcome the challenges they have experienced due to alcohol and drug abuse. We believe that incorporating sound clinical interventions and a lifestyle that encourages health and wellness, in a shame free setting that encourages accountability and responsibility, will help foster long term recovery.

We will continue our efforts to break the stigma of addiction.