Tag Archives: substance use disorder

Mental Health Program Requires Funding

mental health

Health care is not free in the United States. Those who do not have insurance are unable to acquire elective services, even if they are potentially life-saving. Mental health care, whether it be for addiction or depression, is no different; many people do not get help because they lack financial resources.

In recent years, mental illnesses of the behavioral health and mood disorder varieties have come into the spotlight. Rising overdose and alcohol-related death rates and suicide have forced millions of Americans to take notice. Preventable “deaths of despair” have given many individuals cause for concern.

The reality is that there are not enough treatment centers, nor funding to provide evidence-based mental health care. Millions of Americans, many of whom are living in affluent parts of the country, are suffering needlessly. The situation is even more dire in rural America, where there may be one center or just a handful of mental health and addiction specialists for a radius of hundreds of miles.

Men and women who need assistance are unable to access it, and recovery is just out of reach for countless people. When one considers that we live in the most prosperous country in human history, facing the hard truths about mental illness is both perplexing and troubling.

In the last decade, lawmakers have introduced, passed, and signed into law legislation meant to increase funding and expand access to mental health care. The list of bills written to stem the tide of untreated mental illness and increase access to insurance parity include:

  • The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008
  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010
  • The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016
  • The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) of 2016

Mental Health in America

Over the past few months, we observed several awareness campaigns focusing on addiction and mental health. June is PTSD Awareness Month; May is Mental Health Month; April is Alcohol Awareness Month; March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month; and, February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month.

Whenever we cover the subject of national observances, pointing out the statistics is critical to catch people’s attention. Tens of millions of Americans are battling untreated mental health disorders. Those who would like to get assistance find it exceedingly challenging to do so. The human cost of not being able to find support is high; each day not in recovery can end in tragedy.

Many of the mental health-related awareness months deal heavily with ending the stigma that prevents people from recovery. However, a lack of funding for life-saving support is just as harmful than society’s attitudes about mental illness.

It’s fair to say that most people lack the financial resources to cover the costs of all or some of their care. Which means that the burden falls on the state, county, and municipal leaders to ensure less-fortunate people can access recovery services. Expanding access to care requires money, and the necessary funds can only come from one place: taxes!

Free Mental Health Care Program

San Francisco is no different than any other metropolis in America despite being the epitome of opulence and affluence. The city has its fair share of homelessness, drug use, and people struggling with various mental health problems. However, unlike Cleveland or Indianapolis, San Francisco is in California—home to many of the wealthiest cities in the nation. The Golden State is the fifth largest economy in the world.

Silicon Valley is just down the way from San Francisco; if it were a country of its own, it would be the second richest in the world, The Mercury News reports. Many tech companies, CEOs, and execs call San Francisco home. At street-level, just beneath some of the wealthiest Americans penthouses and tech company offices, people are crippled by mental illness symptoms.

Interestingly, San Francisco lawmakers would like companies with well-paid CEOs to foot some of the city’s mental health bill, Reason reports. The Board of Supervisors introduced a motion last week that would place a new tax on “disproportionate executive pay.” Companies paying top executives 100 to 600 times the median compensation of their employees would pay an additional .1 to .6 tax on gross receipts.

In November, San Franciscans will vote on two measures that could significantly help people living with addiction and other forms of mental illness. Six of the 11 supervisors support a disproportionate executive pay tax and a program called Mental Health SF. If voters approve both motions, the tax on CEO pay will cover some of the cost of a program that offers round-the-clock mental health services.

We have a crisis of people who are severely addicted to drugs and that have severe mental health illnesses that are wandering the street and that desperately need help,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

California Mental Health Treatment for Men

At PACE Recovery Center, our team of highly trained mental health professionals specializes in the treatment of addiction and co-occurring mental illness. We also offer programs for men who do not meet the criteria for substance use disorders, but they struggle with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.

We invite you to contact us today if you or a male loved one requires mental health assistance. Please call 800-526-1851 now to learn more about our behavioral health treatment team and mental health programs.

Addiction Messaging and Seeking Treatment

addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines addiction as compulsive use of a mind-altering substance despite adverse consequences. Scientists characterize brain disorders involving the use of drugs and alcohol as compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse outcomes.

In the field of use disorder treatment, the disease model of addiction is the standard today. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) support the disease framework. In 2015, Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) co-authored a commentary defending the disease model.

The two NIH Institute Directors defend their position by referring to current research. They point out how current studies show that chronic exposure to drugs and alcohol disrupt “critical brain structures and behaviors.” Dr. Volkow and Mr. Koob also cite research indicating that heavy, prolonged substance use impacts brain processes associated with:

  • Loss of control
  • Compulsive drug taking
  • Inflexible behavior
  • Negative emotional states

Volkow and Koob’s commentary states that the modern understanding of addiction has led to several advancements. The disease model and a better understanding of the processes of addiction have led to the development of brain stimulation treatments, behavioral interventions, and effective medicines, including:

  • Acamprosate
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naloxone
  • Varenicline

In their defense of the disease model, the experts go even further. They said the framework has also had a positive effect on public policy. While the accepted understanding of addiction has been mostly positive, some wonder about the impact it has on patients. Does calling addiction a disease adversely affect people with use disorders? New research attempts to answer that question.

Addiction Messaging

Addiction is a complex disease of a complex brain; ignoring this fact will only hamper our efforts to find effective solutions through a comprehensive and systematic understanding of the underlying phenomena.” – Volkow and Koob (2015)

Alcohol and substance use disorder in the United States is an epidemic. Tens of millions of Americans struggle with the disease of addiction despite available treatments. Encouraging more men and women to seek help is vitally important.

There is evidence that many people do not respond well to messaging defining addiction as a disease. As such, they are less likely to seek assistance, according to research published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Calling addiction a disease does not have an impact on the people conducting the research. However, there is evidence that the label may adversely affect those living with the condition.

Researchers at North Carolina State University compared the effect of disease messaging to a “growth mindset message,” a university press release reports. The latter says that human attributes are malleable.

Those who work programs of recovery and accrue long-term sobriety show us that people can change even though they have an incurable condition. With assistance, use disorder can be managed, and relapse is preventable. However, while the new study may be about semantics, the finding(s) could guide efforts to steer people toward treatment.

When we began talking about addiction as a disease, the goal was to decrease stigma and encourage treatment,” says Sarah Desmarais, co-author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University. “That worked, to an extent, but an unforeseen byproduct was that some people experiencing addiction felt like they had less agency; people with diseases have no control over them.”

Steering People Toward Addiction Treatment

The study involved 214 men and women with drug and alcohol use problems, according to the article. One hundred and twenty-four were placed in a growth mindset message group. The other 90 participants received disease messaging. Participants in both groups read articles that included the respective messaging.

Growth mindset enrollees read about the many causes of substance abuse and how to manage addiction. The disease group learned about the addiction-related changes in the brain. Participants in the growth mindset group were found to be more likely to seek treatment, compared to the disease message group.

“Overall, our findings support moving away from messaging about addiction solely as a disease,” Desmarais says. “It’s more complicated than that. Instead, the finding suggests that it would be more helpful to talk about the many different reasons people become addicted.”

Southern California Addiction Treatment

Alcohol and substance use disorders are treatable, and long-term recovery is attainable. Please contact PACE Recovery Center to discuss our gender-specific programs. Our clinically sophisticated approach can help you or a loved one make lasting changes.

We can also help men who have co-occurring mental illnesses accompanying their use disorder. Our highly trained staff will treat both conditions simultaneously to facilitate better treatment outcomes.

Co-Occurring Mental Illness: Eating Disorders and SUDs

co-occurring mental illness

February 25 - March 3, 2019, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week or NEDA. It is vital that people across America open up a dialogue about food, body image, eating disorders, and co-occurring mental illness. Such conditions include Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Bulimia Nervosa (BN), Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). As many as 20 million women and 10 million men will contend with one of the above disorders at some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life, regardless of age or gender. Moreover, a person can have an unhealthy relationship with food even if she or he does not meet all the specific criteria for one or more of these complex bio-social illnesses. Naturally, there is much stigma surrounding conditions like AN or BN. Experts refer to these cases as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder or OSFED. Any eating disorder, like most other mental health conditions recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), can be fatal if left untreated.

Mental health conditions involving food intake or body image are many. Disordered eating can go unnoticed for years due to societal pressure to look a certain way. What’s more, even those who appear to be at the peak of physical fitness can be suffering from an eating disorder. Many professional athletes place enormous dietary restrictions on themselves or have them imposed by coaches. In many sports, being lighter can mean a competitive edge against an opponent, i.e., cycling, gymnastics, or horse racing. Many professional athletes require assistance.

Male Athletes With Eating Disorders

While most people associate eating disorders as conditions usually affecting women, men struggle too. Millions of males, of all ages, battle with eating disorders at some point in their life and many of them are athletes. This week, Soledad O’Brien probed the dark side of athletics for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. O’Brien points out that a third of people struggling with an eating disorder are men; she goes on to highlight how athletes are at a heightened risk.

What makes you a great, elite athlete can also make you ‘great,’ if you will, at having an eating disorder,” O’Brien shares with Men’s Health in an interview. She adds, “I think what can first be read as commitment eventually becomes dedication gone horribly wrong.”

Please take a moment to watch a clip on the subject from Real Sports:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Eating Disorder and Co-Occurring Mental Illness

Some people meet the criteria for both eating disorder and co-occurring mental illness. Anxiety, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder plague many people who struggle with eating disorders. Fortunately, a full recovery from an eating disorder and dual diagnosis are possible. It is vital that such individuals receive treatment for each condition simultaneously for successful recovery outcomes.

The National Eating Disorders Association shares that up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs. The most commonly misused substances by persons with eating disorders are alcohol, laxatives, emetics, diuretics, amphetamines, heroin, and cocaine. Furthermore, some 35 percent of people with substance use disorders or SUDs also have a co-occurring eating disorder.

co-occurring disorder

Please watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

It is critical to keep in mind, substance use disorder can follow disordered eating or the other way around. In the video, Amy Baker Dennis makes clear that substance abuse problems can affect people after they undergo eating disorder treatment. She makes clear that people with binge eating disorders (BED) are particularly vulnerable to developing substance use disorder. Up to 57 percent of men with BED also have a co-occurring substance abuse problem.

We can all have a hand to starting conversations about eating disorders and co-occurring mental illness during NEDA. Please follow this link to learn more.

Co-Occurring Mental Illness Treatment for Men

In the field of addiction medicine, we know that people will often swap one use disorder for another following some time in recovery. Those at risk of one form of mental illness are at a higher risk of developing comorbidity.

If you are a male who struggles with mental illness, we invite you to contact PACE Recovery Center for support. With an accredited team of physicians, doctorate-level clinicians and drug and alcohol counselors we offer treatment for mood disorders, personality disorders and mental health conditions including disordered eating and our mental health program for men can help you make lasting changes and go on to lead a productive life in recovery.

Addiction Recovery Opens Career Doors

addiction recovery

When mind-altering substances are out of a person’s system, and a program of addiction recovery is established, many will ask, “What’s next?” Of course, the answer to that question is purely subjective. What is certain is that whatever people in recovery put their minds to can be accomplished.

Another truism for a good number of people in recovery is that they can’t go back to doing what they did before they broke the cycle of addiction. After undergoing treatment, there are some who find their previous lines of work or study untenable when leading a life in recovery. That’s not to say that there are not sober bartenders, for instance, but it’s not challenging to see why certain types of employment could jeopardize progress.

There are also young men and women in sobriety who have never held down a job. There are others who started college only to have their disease stymie the endeavor. So, with few points to jump off from in life after treatment, it is only natural that young adults will consider working in the field of addiction medicine. Moreover, people in recovery learn early on that to keep what they have they must also give it away—pay it forward. What better way to give back to the addiction recovery community than to help others find serenity, too?

In fact, it is quite common for treatment alums to volunteer their services at the very center that had a hand in saving their lives. Such individuals realize that by staying close to the source of their addiction recovery, they strengthen the foundation of their recovery. Going back home – for many people – is not always the best option following treatment.

Giving Back to The Addiction Recovery Community

Over time, volunteers or just those dedicated to sobriety often decide that the field of addiction medicine is a viable career path. One can be a productive member of society, reciprocate the gift of recovery to other willing people, and safeguard their sobriety in one fell swoop.

As one would expect, working in the substance use disorder workforce will require some education; or, a lot of schooling depending on how far one wants to go. Doctors in recovery, after all, are not unheard of, which is again a testament to the door-opening potential of working a program.

It goes without saying that attending college to become a counselor or a medical doctor will cost a significant amount of money. Except for a small demographic in America, higher education will call for student loans; and, such debts can accumulate quickly. However, we have some excellent news for anyone who is interested in working in the field of addiction recovery and medicine.

The Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program can help addiction treatment clinicians repay up to $75K in student loans, in exchange for a three-year commitment to provide substance use disorder treatment services at National Health Service Corps-approved sites. The Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, writes:

The purpose of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Loan Repayment Program (LRP) (hereafter referred to as the NHSC SUD Workforce LRP) is to recruit and retain medical, nursing, and behavioral/mental health clinicians with specific training and credentials to provide evidence-based SUD treatment and counselling [sic] in eligible communities of need designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

A Career In Addiction Medicine

HSC SUD Workforce LRP participants have a choice between three years of full-time or part-time service. Those eligible will receive funds to repay their outstanding, qualifying, educational loans. One caveat is that those serving in a private facility are not eligible to practice half-time.

Dr. Gabriel Wishik, who works for Boston Health Care for the Homeless, took part in a loan repayment program from the same federal agency, according to MassLive. He points out that such programs do two things: help lure qualified candidates and increase the number of clinicians in a field that struggles to fill positions in many areas. He said, “there is a shortage at every single level in the treatment continuum.”

There are lots of competing career paths. It’s one way to get people into this career,” he said.

People in their first years of addiction recovery who have an interest in working in the field can benefit from looking to the HSC SUD Workforce LRP. At PACE Recovery Center, we encourage our clients to pursue higher education and know that men in their first years of recovery can make excellent substance use disorder technicians and clinicians. In fact, we have current team members who were once PACE Recovery Center clients.

PACE Academy

We understand that that pursuing higher education in recovery can be complicated; university culture, for instance, can put a person’s sobriety at risk. With that in mind, our PACE Academy program helps young men in early sobriety pursue their dreams and protect their sobriety. PACE Academy also provides Certified Alcohol Drug & Alcohol Associate credentialing for those interested in working in the field of addiction medicine.

Please contact us today to learn more about how you can reach your recovery and academic goals at Pace Academy.

Adoption Trauma, Mental Illness, and Addiction

adoption trauma

A study from 2012, appearing in the journal PLOS | ONE, demonstrates an increased risk of lifetime substance use disorders in adopted adults. A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota found that adoptees are at 1.87 times more significant risk of developing a SUD, compared to non-adoptees. The research indicates that this demographic is also more likely to contend with other psychiatric disorders as well.

While the above study is somewhat dated, the findings are as relevant today as when they were first published. Why adoptees are at greater risk often comes down to adoption trauma. According to PsychCentral, “adoption trauma is defined as the shock and pain of being permanently, abruptly separated from one’s family member.” The article notes that this form of trauma can be exacerbated by the “societal expectation that it [adoption trauma] shouldn’t exist at all. The article’s author cites a keen quote on this subject.

Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” –Reverend Keith C. Griffith

It isn’t difficult to grasp some of the struggles that adopted people face. Introspection can lead some individuals to believe that they are unwanted or unloved. The question of where a person came from – the genetic breadcrumb trail – can loom large. Not knowing one’s biological parents can cause distress as people age. If such people don’t have a method of coping with adoption trauma they are at a heightened risk of problems in the future.

Adoption Trauma, Mental Illness, and Addiction

Loss can lead to grief, to anger. Even those who never knew their biological parents can mourn their loss. Internal suffering early in life and into adulthood can position someone to cope with mental anguish in an unhealthy manner. What’s more, adoptees – whose birth parents (one or both) have a history of substance use issues – are significantly more likely to have their own struggles with drugs and alcohol. An unstable adoptive home is also a factor that can precipitate a person developing unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Research shows that 4.5% of adoptees had drug-abuse problems, compared to 2.9% of people in the general population, Health Magazine reports. Moreover, 8.6% with at least one biological parent who had substance issues, had their own drug problems. The findings – appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2016 – come from data on 18,115 adoptees born in Sweden between 1950 and 1993.

The link between adoption and mental illness often stems from insecure attachment styles. Young people who go into foster care or are adopted, or both, face many uncertainties. They are forced to adapt to many situations. Not knowing what the future holds or where a person will end up, for instance, can wreak havoc on one’s psyche. Insecure attachment styles include:

  • Anxious-preoccupied: a negative view of self and positive view of others.
  • Dismissive-avoidant: a positive view of self and negative view of others.
  • Fearful-avoidant: an unstable fluctuating/confused view of self and view of others.

Insecure, inconsistent attachment styles can result in mental health conditions developing, i.e., anxiety and depression. What’s more, such experiences can bring about unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance use. It is paramount that both mental health, and how a person copes, are addressed simultaneously for successful outcomes.

PACE Adoption-Related Treatment

Stigma accompanies both adoption and mental illness. The shame that many adoptees have about their past, the guilt that people have about their mental illness, can stand in the way of seeking help. While challenging, it is still possible to break through stigma and access treatment.

At PACE Recovery Center, we have helped many adopted people find long-term recovery. We offer a track that caters specifically to adopted men who are struggling with mental illness. Led by Brett Furst, M.A., MFTI, our adoption-related treatment utilizes several specialized approaches to help clients address the underlying causes of mental health issues and addiction. Aided by a safe and supportive environment, PACE assists adopted men in fostering healthy, secure attachment styles.

Please contact us today to learn more about our program and how we can help you manage adoption trauma, mental illness, and addiction.

Addiction Recovery Strengthened Through Exercise

addiction

As an addiction treatment center, PACE Recovery Center hopes that everyone working a program has a plan for New Year’s Eve. Our most recent posts provide some guidance for keeping recovery intact and setting resolutions you can follow. 2019 is about to get underway, and it can be a year of continued progress.

People who undergo addiction treatment learn that physical and spiritual health is a top priority. Men and women who seek to overcome and recover from mental illness benefit from leading a healthier life. Many addiction treatment centers encourage clients to engage in athletic activities as a means of facilitating healing. Persistent drug and alcohol use takes a toll on both mind and body, requiring healing. To that end, allotting a few hours each week to exercise establishes a healthy behavior and promotes wellbeing.

Substance use is a behavior that carries severe risks to one's health. However, once drugs and alcohol are out of the picture doesn't mean necessarily that an individual's mind and body will bounce right back. Encouraging wellbeing means eating nutritional foods and making an exercise routine. People living with physical disabilities will have to scale back such activities some, but they can benefit from physical fitness too.

Each year, at this time, many people in recovery resolve themselves to make physical fitness a priority. It is possible to lead a healthier existence in recovery and strengthen other areas of one's life just by taking a little time to get the heart beating faster. Naturally, routines should be realistic; no need to overdo it and risk burning out or worse, get hurt. Individuals currently in addiction treatment should ask counselors for guidance. Those working a program outside rehab can turn to their support group for support and perhaps an exercise partner.

How Can Exercise Help My Addiction Recovery?

Research regarding the benefits of exercise, in recovery, can be difficult to unpack. There are several studies on the topic. There are many approaches, each person has to find a routine that works well. Whichever one decides (i.e., jogging, biking, or swimming) most experts agree, physical fitness aids recovery outcomes. While working out alone will by no means lead to recovery, exercising in conjunction with psychotherapy and mutual-help groups, for instance, is quite beneficial.

Claire Twark M.D., writing for the Harvard Health Blog, points out some of the positives of exercise in recovery. Dr. Twark works at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital Addiction Recovery Program in Massachusetts. She has found that "exercise helps to distract them [patients with various substance use disorders] from cravings. Workouts add structure to the day. They help with forming positive social connections, and help treat depression and anxiety in combination with other therapies."

In her article, Dr. Twark highlights nonprofit organizations advocating for physical activity for people in recovery. As such, individuals can do more than just promote physical wellbeing, they can exercise for a sense of community. The Boston Bulldogs Running Club is for people with addiction and their friends and families. The Phoenix is a community of sober individuals bonding through peer-led CrossFit, yoga, rock climbing, boxing, running, and hiking events. Such activities occur across the country, as well as in the area north and south of PACE, in Long Beach and Costa Mesa, CA.

Those thinking of incorporating an exercise routine into their program of recovery will experience health benefits. Continuing to promote physical well-being outside of addiction treatment, provides an outlet for a more significant sense of community. If exercise is a resolution of yours, again, please consult with your support group. There is always strength in numbers.

Addiction Treatment In 2019

Many men who are currently struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder would like 2019 to be a year of change. However, embarking on a quest for healing is an objective that requires assistance. At PACE Recovery Center, it would be our great pleasure to be part of your incredible journey into recovery. Please contact us today to make the New Year one of progress.

The Gentlemen of PACE Recovery Center would like to wish everyone a safe and recovery-focused New Year’s Eve.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

mental health

September is a crucial month regarding mental health in America. Those who follow our blog know that this is National Recovery Month, which we covered in some detail last week. Hopefully, many of you have taken the time to promote this observance on social media. Now is also a time to celebrate people in recovery and acknowledge the treatment service providers who help men and women make critical changes in their lives. When we shine a spotlight on those committed to leading productive lives while abstaining from drugs and alcohol, we encourage others to seek help.

When alcohol and substance use disorders go without treatment, the outcome is usually tragic. Addiction is a progressive mental illness with no known cure, and like any mental illness left untreated, the symptoms often become deadly. One need only look at the overdose death toll year-after-year or consider the 88,000 Americans who die from alcohol-related causes annually, to see evidence of the disease’s destructive nature. However, we have the power to reduce the number of people who succumb each year by eroding the stigma of mental health conditions. The simple fact is that evidence-based therapies exist; people can and do recover from diseases of the mind provided they have assistance.

While many people who fall victim to addiction do so owing to physical health complications, sadly there are some who decide they’ve had enough. The vicious cycle of addiction takes a significant toll on the psyche of many individuals, and some make fateful decisions that are irreversible. Such persons come to believe that treatment is inaccessible, they convince themselves that recovery is an impossible dream; such resignations can result in suicidal ideations or worse—attempts on one’s life.

Eroding Stigma Saves Lives

One of the most efficient ways to take the wind out of stigma’s sails is by having real conversations about mental health disorders. Anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, and alcohol and substance use disorder are treatable, but many people are of different opinions. What’s more, many of those who live with such afflictions fear what others will think of them if they seek help. It’s as if reaching out for support makes one’s condition more real, and it's impossible to hide an illness from others if treatment is sought.

Men and women don’t develop a fear of seeking help for no reason, much of society either consciously or subconsciously looks unfavorably upon mental illness. Even individuals with afflicted loved ones can still harbor misconceptions about mental health and the possibility of recovery. Much of society could stand to alter their understanding of mental illness and take a more compassionate approach. People who suspect a friend or family member is battling mental illness can affect change by merely asking how said person is doing or if they need help. It doesn’t matter the type of disease in question, everyone benefits when we open up the dialogue on mental health.

National Recovery Month aside, September is also National Suicide Prevention Month. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) asks that we reduce suicide risk by making sure we connect with one another and talk about mental illness. The organization points out:

We don’t always know who is struggling, but we do know that one conversation could save a life.

National Suicide Prevention Week

Not too long ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a startling figure: more than 300 million people worldwide are living with depression. Major depressive disorder, just one of several mental health conditions, is believed to be the leading cause of mal-health on the planet. It probably will not surprise you to learn that depression is the most common mental disorder associated with suicide. It’s also worth mentioning that depression and addiction often go hand-in-hand, more than half of the people living with a use disorder meet the criteria for a co-occurring mental illness. Moreover, depression like addiction is underdiagnosed and undertreated. The AFSP reports that only 4 out of 10 people receive mental health treatment.

One in four people who die by self-harm is under the influence at the time of their death, according to the organization. It is of the utmost importance that everyone in recovery and those with affected loved ones, spread the message that seeing a mental health professional is a sign of strength. We need to end the pervasive association that seeking assistance is an indication of weakness or failure. There is no time like the present, and there is certainly no time to waste: each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide. The AFSP shares that:

  • On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
  • Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle age (white men in particular).
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder Treatment

This week and throughout the month, everyone is encouraged to talk about mental illness and what can happen without treatment. We can all benefit from learning the warning signs of mental disorders and share messages with each other that promote treatment. If you would like to get involved, you can find shareable images here. On social media, the hashtags #SuicidePrevention #StopSuicide #RealConvo are trending. Together we can fight suicide!

When addiction accompanies depression, bipolar disorder or any mental disorder for that matter, it heightens people's risk of suicide exponentially. However, when individuals receive simultaneous treatment for use disorder and their dual diagnosis, long-term recovery is achievable. At PACE Recovery Center, we specialize in the treatment of men living with co-occurring mental health disorders. Please reach out to our team at your earliest convenience to learn more about our evidence-based programs.

Meth Crossing the Blood-Brain Barrier

meth

Mind-altering chemicals, like drugs and alcohol, do just that, they change your state of mind. Naturally, each drug has its own unique effect and how a person responds depends on the substance in question. Any individual with a history of alcohol or substance use disorder has a first-hand understanding of what such experiences are like; however, few people with such pasts know what a particular chemical "actually" does in the brain, or to the most vital organ.

Those who’ve undergone treatment may have a cursory understanding of mechanisms like the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The term is defined as a filtering mechanism of the capillaries that carry blood to the brain and spinal cord tissue, blocking the passage of certain substances. When a person uses a mind-altering substance, the particular drug makes its way into the bloodstream and onto the brain. While not everything that enters the bloodstream can pass the barrier, the materials that lead to use disorders do; and, can cause damage in the process of crossing the threshold.

In a fundamental sense, the BBB lets healthy things into your brain cells and prevents anything harmful, like toxins from entering. Researchers at the Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering say that when drugs like methamphetamine pass the barrier, the substance increases the permeability of the BBB, Motherboard reports. Meaning, other harmful toxins found in the blood may find their way across, too.

Artificial Brains On Meth

Advancements in technology allow researchers to create artificial human brains involving the integration of human cell cultures into microfluidic chip platforms, according to the article. This process may sound complicated, only understandable to scientists; however, it is possible for non-specialists to grasp the concept. The research team at Wyss are using microchips lined with living human cells which are then introduced to drugs like meth, to observe responses and stimuli. The research findings appear in Nature Biotechnology.

“Our primary reason for choosing this drug is that it is one of the most addictive drugs responsible for thousands of deaths,” writes co-lead researcher Ben Maoz. “Given this tragic statistic, it is surprising that much is still unknown. Therefore, we sought to use this novel system to unveil the metabolic effect of meth on the different parts of the [neurovascular unit].”

Please take a moment to watch a short video for a basic understanding of the process:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

“Just like in the brains of people who choose to smoke meth, the BBB chips started to leak,” Kit Parker, professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics, told Digital Trends. “That’s exactly what happens when you smoke meth — and why you shouldn’t.”

Developing a more concise understanding of how narcotics interact with the human brain can have enormous implications. The research may lead to more effective methods of treating addiction, according to the article. What’s more, the findings could help scientists discover new processes of transporting beneficial pharmaceuticals to the appropriate brain targets. Lead researchers Ben Maoz, Anna Herland, and Edward Fitzgerald are developing new Organ Chip platforms applicable to neuropathology research on stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.

We took a game-changing advance in microengineering made in our academic lab, and in just a handful of years, turned it into a technology that is now poised to have a major impact on society,” said Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., is the Founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, who was not involved in the study.

Biologically inspired engineering may have near-limitless potential when it comes to studying the impact of psychostimulants on the brain, in real time. It also means that drug research – one day – may no longer require soliciting addicts and alcoholics in the grip of use disorders to participate in studies that involve using addictive substances.

Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Please contact PACE if you or a male loved one is battling alcohol or substance use disorder. At our treatment center, we address all components of addiction and mental health. Please call to speak to an admissions counselor who can answer any questions you have about our gender-specific, extended care alcohol and drug rehab for men.

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.

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

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