Tag Archives: addiction

September is National Recovery Month

recovery-monthOrange County, California is well known for many things; such as its affluent communities and sandy beaches. It is also known for its large recovery community, being home to many substance use disorder treatment facilities, sober living homes and hundreds of 12-step recovery meetings held every week. People working programs of recovery make up a large part of the community; triangle and square stickers proudly adorn many a car bumper.

While today and this month will be the same as yesterday and last month when it comes to working the principles of recovery, this month is a special time for many who are working a program or work in the field of addiction medicine. September is National Recovery Month, a time to recognize the countless people working towards living a healthy life – free from drugs and alcohol.

If you would like to find a Recovery Month event in your area and learn more about local activities to support recovery efforts, click here. You are welcome to attend, even if you are not in recovery; the disease of addiction touches everyone in one way or another, when more people support the efforts of recovery it reduces the stigma that has long accompanied the illness.

Recovery month is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), and if you are interested in hosting an event they have a number of tools at your disposal to guide you through the process.

Use these tips, guidelines, and resources to help you plan your Recovery Month event:

The President issued a Proclamation endorsing National Recovery Month, and it is worth reading in full:

NATIONAL ALCOHOL AND DRUG ADDICTION RECOVERY MONTH,
2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

Every day, resilient Americans with substance use disorders summon extraordinary courage and strength and commit to living healthy and productive lives through recovery. From big cities to small towns to Indian Country, substance use disorders affect the lives of millions of Americans. This month, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all those who are seeking or in need of treatment, and we recognize the key role families, friends, and health care providers play in supporting those on the path to a better tomorrow.

This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!” It encourages us all to do our part to eliminate negative public attitudes associated with substance use disorders and treatment. People in recovery are part of our communities — they are our family and friends, colleagues and neighbors — and by supporting them and raising awareness of the challenges they face, we can help eradicate prejudice and discrimination associated with substance use disorders, as well as with co-occurring mental disorders. Prevention and treatment work, and people recover — and we must ensure all those seeking help feel empowered, encouraged, and confident in their ability to take control of their future. Americans looking for help for themselves or their loved ones can call 1-800-662-HELP or use the “Treatment Locator” tool at www.SAMHSA.gov.

My Administration remains dedicated to pursuing evidence-based strategies to address substance use disorders as part of our National Drug Control Strategy. Seeking to widen pathways to recovery, our strategy supports the integration of substance use treatment into primary health care settings and the expansion of support services in places such as high schools, institutions of higher education, and throughout the criminal justice system. In the wake of public health crises related to non-medical use of prescription drugs and heroin in communities across our Nation, my Administration has pledged considerable resources to help Federal, State, and local authorities boost prevention efforts, improve public health and safety, and increase access to treatment in communities across the country. And the Affordable Care Act has extended substance use disorder and mental health benefits and Federal parity protections to millions of Americans.

Behavioral health is essential to overall health, and recovery is a process through which individuals are able to improve their wellness, live increasingly self-directed lives, and strive to fulfill their greatest potential. During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we reaffirm our belief that recovery and limitless opportunity are within reach of every single American battling substance use disorders, and we continue our work to achieve this reality.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2015 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

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If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, please contact Pace Recovery Center.

Shatter the Myths of Drugs and Alcohol

NDAFWIn January, two NIH institutes will be coming together to talk to young people about drugs and alcohol. Teenagers and young adults often have misconceptions about the effects of substance use in both the short and long term; educating them is of the utmost importance and may save lives down the road. Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) will occur between Jan. 25-31, 2016.

We are delighted that we can now fully focus on the scientific facts about alcohol as well as other drugs that are popular among teens,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “This partnership will allow teachers and other organizers to create events that are tailor-made for the specific issues in their communities by accessing links to the needed resources for drugs and alcohol all in one place.”

Just as NIAAA and NIDA scientists routinely collaborate on many issues of common concern, it’s vital that we join together in this effort to ensure that young people get the facts about how alcohol and drugs can affect them, both in the short-term and over their lifetime,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D.

NDAFW was first launched in 2010, and last year there were more than 1,500 events in all 50 states. There is an online toolkit available that serves as a guide for people who would like to set up an event. The toolkit advises teens and their adult coordinators on how to:

  • Create an Event
  • Publicize an Event
  • Find an Expert
  • Obtain Scientific Information on Drugs

We are not powerless when it comes to drug and alcohol use among young people. We know that preventing substance use before it begins is the most cost-effective approach to reduce substance use and its consequences,” said White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Michael Botticelli. “By raising awareness and educating young people and their families, we can help reduce drug use and the number of people affected by substance use disorders.”

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If you or a loved one has is struggling with addiction, please contact Pace Recovery Center.

The “Tetris Effect” On Drug Cravings

drug-cravings, tetrisBefore video games became the action packed thrillers that teenagers and young adults know today, there was a time when video games were quite rudimentary. In the 1980s millions of kids and adults alike, either had an Atari or they wanted one. Today, there are few video games from the 80’s that young people are familiar with, but practically everyone knows the game Tetris. The game was first developed in the USSR in 1984, and a version has been made available for practically every video game operating system designed since.

At this point you, and perhaps Alexey Pajitnov (creator of Tetris), may be wondering what Tetris has to do with addiction? New research suggests that playing Tetris can reduce a person’s craving for drugs, ScienceDaily reports. Just playing the simple block game for 3 minutes at a time can weaken cravings by as much as one fifth.

Psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, Australia monitored participants’ level of craving whilst playing Tetris at random intervals throughout the day over a week long period. The researchers found that playing Tetris affected the cravings for activities other than drugs, according to the article.

Playing Tetris impacted craving levels for:

  • Food
  • Coffee
  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Sex

Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%. This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating,” said Professor Jackie Andrade, from the School of Psychology and the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University.

“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity. Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.”

The findings were published in the international journal Addictive Behaviors.
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If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact Pace Recovery Center.

Personalized Feedback About Alcohol Can Reduce Drinking

binge-drinking
Karen Moskowitz / Getty Images

The consumption of alcohol is a common occurrence among college students, especially freshman – free from the nest for their first time. While many students are able to moderate their alcohol intake, there are those whose drinking gets out of hand, and can result in academic, social, and addiction problems.

Naturally, limiting alcohol consumption is a top priority for faculty members on every campus across the country. New research suggests that sending students personal feedback about their drinking habits via text message and websites can reduce alcohol consumption, The Wall Street Journal reports. In-person interventions appear to reduce drinking by as much as 13 percent.

Robert Leeman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, says that electronic interventions “dramatically increases access to techniques that have been proven to work.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 4 out of 5 college students drink alcohol, and around half of them engage in “binge drinking” – the practice of drinking as much as you can as fast as you can. Opening up a dialogue with students about drinking practices can save lives, which is important when you consider that 1,825 students lose their life each year from alcohol-related injuries.

“Most students overestimate the amount and frequency that other students are actually drinking, and research has shown that if you can correct this misperception, students’ drinking tends to decrease to be more in line with the true norm,” said study co-author Jessica Cronce of the University of Washington.

In 2011, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle published a study which indicated that electronic intervention programs were more likely than general alcohol awareness programs to reduce college drinking, according to the article.

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Excessive alcohol consumption is not only dangerous, it results in an alcohol use disorder. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.

Differing Views Regarding E-Cigarettes

e-cigarettesE-Cigarettes: A Smoking Cessation Aid or A Temptation?

In a short period of time, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular, with sales growing exponentially with every year that passes. While many e-cigarette users believe that the product(s) are effective smoking cessation devices and are healthier than traditional cigarettes, medical professionals and researchers have varying opinions.

A lack of governmental oversight and regulation has allowed e-cigarette sales to grow faster than research can keep up with. Without a complete and accurate understanding of e-cigarettes, many users may be mistaken in their beliefs.

A new study has found that a number of former smokers see e-cigarettes a temptation, one that may prompt them to begin smoking again, Reuters reports.

Because e-cigarettes are relatively new products we are only beginning to learn about the health risks,” said senior study author Amanda Amos, a researcher at the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.

The Research

In Scotland, the researchers conducted interviews with 64 smokers. In the past year, the research team conducted 12 focus groups and 11 individual interviews with former and current smokers. The findings produced little consistency, the participants had differing views regarding the pros and cons of the devices, according to the article.

The varying opinions on e-cigarettes by the participants included:

  • Some found e-cigarettes as more satisfying than traditional cigarettes.
  • Some found the devices to be less satisfying.
  • Others found e-cigarettes to be a potential threat to smoking cessation.

The findings appear to indicate that, while e-cigarettes may help people quit smoking or be used as an alternative to traditional tobacco products, the findings suggest that smokers view e-cigarettes differently than gums, patches and medicines.

The findings were published in Tobacco Control.

An Outside View

This paper shows that the public’s view of e-cigarettes is far from being clear, with a great deal of ambiguity around the product and its intended use,” said Dr. Ricardo Polosa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Catania.

Polosa wasn’t involved in the study, but he believes:

E-cigs are a much safer alternative to smoking and are intended for smokers who are unable to quit using other methods.”

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More research will be needed to determine if e-cigarettes are a promising smoking cessation option. Nicotine addiction is a difficult habit to recover from, and tobacco products are the leading cause of cancer. If you or a loved one struggles with nicotine addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.

Low-Level Drug Offenders Deported

deport

In the past several years the President, as well as a number of government officials, have highlighted the need for the end of harsh punishments with regard to low-level drug offenders. Unfortunately, both illegal and legal immigrants do not seem to be covered under that umbrella. A new report has found that around 260,000 non-citizens convicted of drug offenses have been deported from the U.S., The Guardian reports. As many as 34,000 of these deportation cases were due to charges for marijuana possession.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Low Level Offenses, found that between 2007-2012 over a quarter million people were deported regardless of the nature of their crimes, their length of time in the U.S., or family ties to this country. Those deported included both undocumented residents as well as permanent residents holding green cards, according to the article.

Last November, President Barack Obama made a promise that deportation would only be reserved for the most serious criminals. However, the HRW report indicates the exact opposite of such a promise.

“Felons not families; criminals not children; gang members [and not] a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids,” said Obama.

Lawful permanent residents who are charged with simple possession are able to file for a cancellation of deportation, according to the report. While they may be able to win their case, deportation lawyers point out that such cases can take several months to years. In the interim, most people facing these charges are placed in mandatory detention while proceedings are pending.

If deported from the United States for a drug crime, many lose their right to ever return to the country. Such acts, for crimes as benign as simple possession, only serve to tear families apart. Crimes associated with drug possession, and perhaps ultimately with addiction, affect not only the individual, but also the entire family. Addiction is a family disease.

You can view the full HRW report, here.

Bipolar Disorder and Marijuana Use

cannabisBipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is one of the more common co-occurring disorders that people living with addiction experience. Those in the field of addiction are acutely aware that those with co-occurring disorders are some of the most difficult to treat, due to the fact that both the substance abuse and the co-occurring disorder need to be addressed, if a successful recovery is to be achieved. Failure to properly diagnose and medicate co-occurring disorders accordingly usually results in relapse.

Many living with mental health disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, often use illicit drugs to cope with their illness. Unlike prescription psychotropic medications, illicit drugs often exacerbate the mental illness, and often times lead to substance dependence and/ or addiction.

New research has found that those living with bipolar disorder who use marijuana experience increased manic and depressive symptoms, Medical News Today reports. Symptoms including:

  • Shifts in Mood
  • Energy
  • Activity Levels
  • The Ability to Carry Out Day-to-Day Tasks

Researchers involved in the study found that around 2% of the UK population has Bipolar Disorder, and 60% of them have used marijuana at some point in their lives, according to the article. “One theory that is used to explain high levels of drug use is that people use cannabis to self-medicate their symptoms of bipolar disorder,” said lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Tyler of the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University.

“The findings suggest that cannabis is not being used to self-medicate small changes in symptoms within the context of daily life. However, cannabis use itself may be associated with both positive and negative emotional states. We need to find out whether these relationships play out in the longer term as this may have an impact on a person’s course of bipolar disorder.”

The findings were published in PLOS ONE.

Be Aware Of The Power Of Touch

The Power of Touch
The Power of Touch

When a friend of mine was a waitress in a local restaurant she said she could always tell when she was serving people who had just come from a Twelve Step meeting; “They are the ones that are always hugging each other!” she exclaimed. Those of us who have developed a high comfort level with physical contact, such as an arm around the shoulder or a hug, sometimes forget that we are part of a larger society that provides very complex and contradictory messages about touch. Physical contact between two people can have a powerful effect, positive or negative. There are several dynamics that play a role in a person’s view of touch which are worth examining.

The Role Of Culture

The United States is generally considered to be a non-touch culture by most researchers. One study documented a very low rate of physical contact between pairs of Americans in a coffee shop setting, as compared to pairs from three other countries. The researchers observed of pairs of people as they engaged in routine conversations within the setting of a coffee shop. During a one-hour period of time, the average number of touch exchanges between the subjects ranged from 180 in San Juan (Puerto Rico) to 110 in Paris (France) to 2 in Gainesville, FL. (United States). Only the English engaged in less touch than the Americans (0 touches). From these results we can safety assume that many Americans will be uncomfortable with touch coming from a non-family member.

The Role Of Gender

It is common knowledge that males and females differ in their views of touch. The process of learning gender roles starts at a very young age. Studies of parents of infants found that touch was offered to female children with greater frequency than to male children of the same age. Mothers more frequently touched their sons than did fathers. Fathers more frequently touched their daughters than they did their sons. As children get older this trend continues. When 3-to-5-year-old children are dropped off at day care centers fewer expressions of physical affection such as hugging, cuddling, holding, or kissing take place between parents and boys than between girls and their parents.
In addition to receiving less touch than girls, as boys grow into men they are socialized to become easily aroused sexually by physical contact and, therefore, they have a diminished capacity than women to view comforting touch as a goal in itself rather than the beginning of a sexual encounter. This view of any form of touch being sexual combined with a fear of being labeled homosexual leads to a high likelihood of males responding negatively to being touched by another man.

The Role Of Physical And Sexual Abuse

A history of physical and/or sexual abuse is commonly found in those who attend mutual-help groups. Both males and females who have experienced childhood abuse often have negative reactions to touch, particularly if it occurs without warning, such as someone coming from behind them. Those persons who have only experienced touch as violence or as sexual may be suspicious of any form of touch, regardless of the other person’s good intentions.

The Role Of Addiction

Children who are born physically addicted to alcohol or other drugs commonly exhibit a decreased desire or an actual aversion for touch. Malfunctions in the addicted infant’s nervous system frequently cause excessive sleeping or to crying. Many of these children shun physical contact, are non-responsive to being held, and experience difficulties in bonding with their caregivers. Such children can be extremely frustrating for even the most competent and well-intentioned adult, and it is common for caregivers to feel rejected, irritated, or incompetent when such children fail to respond to efforts to soothe or nurture them. Furthermore, if the adult caregiver is also an addict herself, chances are that she is a person who has diminished self-esteem, a low tolerance for stress, and difficulty forming intimate relationships, all of which increase the risk factor that a child in her care may be physically abused leading to even further problems related to touch as an adult.

Guidelines To Consider When Offering Touch To Others

Although even with the best intentions any touch may be misinterpreted, there are several factors to keep in mind when offering touch so that it will likely be viewed by others as both comforting and non-sexual.

Asking First

If at all in doubt, ask the person if a hug or other physical contact would be welcome. Do not merely assume because you would find a hug comforting that everyone shares your comfort with touch.

Having Already Formed A Relationship With The Person

The offer of a hug is more likely to be seen as a helpful gesture if you have already shown compassion for the suffering of another in ways other than the use of touch, for example, saying supportive things or taking time to listen to the person’s problems. A hug or other form of physical contact is usually more meaningful from a trusted person than from a stranger. In other words, a hug ought to be the expression of a relationship that already exists rather than an attempt to form a relationship.

An Ability To Keep One’s Ego At Bay

An ability to keep one’s ego uninvolved in the process, which includes giving up any pre-determined agenda in order to be fully available for the needs of the other person is mandatory if the touch is to be for their benefit. In other words, if you take it personally whether another persons wants a hug or not the touch is more for your benefit than the other person’s. This is particularly important for members of Al-anon to remember. New members often have a difficult time allowing others to experience the pain that is a part of the recovery process. They have a difficult time standing by and being present while another person expresses pain. They want to make it all better immediately. The hug is sometimes more about their own discomfort of seeing someone in pain than for the benefit of the other person.

Being Thoughtful About Touch

For a hug to be meaningful it has to be given in a thoughtful manner. The hug that is given out of habit rather than out of a sincere desire to be supportive has no effect at best, or is taken as an insult by the recipient.

Touching Both And Men And Women In A Similar Fashion

A heterosexual person who only offers hugs to persons of the other sex ought not to be surprised to learn that people are suspicious that these hugs are more about sexuality than about support.

A Final Reminder

One of the things meetings can offer is a safe place to experience comforting non-sexual touch. However, one must always keep in mind that other members may have very different views of the meaning of touch and approach any touch with caution. Anything powerful enough to heal also has the power to harm, and touch is no exception.

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Dr. Mic Hunter is the author of:
The Ethical Use Of Touch In Psychotherapy (with Jim Struve)
Back To The Source: The Spiritual Principles Of Jesus,
Conscious Contact: The 12 Steps As Prayer
Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America’s Military,
Abused Boys: The Neglects Victims of Sexual Abuse
His solo practice is located in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

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