Tag Archives: substance use disorder

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.

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.

National Recovery Month – Join The Voices

National Recovery MonthTogether, we can, and do recover from addiction. Those who suffer from substance use disorder are not lost, but rather they are living with a debilitating mental health disorder which, left untreated, can be deadly. There was a time when recovering from addiction consisted of what is known as “white knuckling” it, that is when one gives up drugs and alcohol but has nothing to replace it with. Those who fell into that category were often considered to be a glum lot, angry about being unable to use mind altering substances the way “normal” people can. Suffice it to say, they are not considered fun to be around. The advent of 12-Step recovery programs was a paradigm shift with regard to breaking the cycle of addiction. To put it simply, those living with addiction had a metaphorical hole that alcohol and drugs filled; by working the 12-Steps people could fill that hole by connecting with a higher power and helping others find recovery. Naturally, there are 12-Steps for a reason, and recovery under that model requires working them all—and reworking them in order to maintain constant contact with the higher power of each person’s choosing. Sadly, some addicts and alcoholics are unable to be completely honest with themselves and others, and work a program; maybe they will be able to surrender down the road, but it does not always happen the first time around. For those who have been able to do the work, stick to the principles of recovery and help others—the sky’s the limit. There is no cap on the amount of gifts that a program of recovery can provide—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Everyone who continues to recover from drug and alcohol abuse, day in and day out, should take a moment to be proud of how far they have come—especially since National Recovery Month happens every September.

National Recovery Month

Over the last 27 years, September has been designated as National Recovery Month. Over the next 30 days there will be recovery related events held all over the United States with several different goals. Of top concern are efforts to break the stigma of addiction, which is a clinically accepted form of mental health disorder. What’s more, bringing to the attention of those still abusing drugs and alcohol that not only is help available, recovery is possible. By acknowledging and applauding the efforts of those who have managed to get and stay sober, we can encourage others to seek help. In 2016, the theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery! Which, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is about pointing out the value of family support throughout recovery.

Family Addiction and Family Recovery

Addiction is like a bomb. Ground-zero being the addict or alcoholic. And just like a bomb there is fallout, i.e. friends and family. Addiction can, and does, wreak havoc on the entire family. Recovery is as important for the person living with a substance use disorder, as it is for the family. National Recovery Month 2016 encourages individuals in recovery and their family to share their personal stories of heartache and successes in recovery they have made, with the hope that it will encourage others to seek the help they so desperately need. If you would like to Join the Voices of Recovery to help inspire others, please click here. If you would like to watch personal stories of recovery on Recovery Month's YouTube, please click here. Below is an example of one young man’s story: If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.

Generation Found: ‘Just Say No’ Was a Slogan

generation foundIf you were an adult or a child in elementary school in the 1980’s, it is likely that you remember the saying: “Just Say No to Drugs.” It was an advertising campaign, part of the “War on Drugs” in America, designed to teach kids a way they could turn down offers from their peers to try illegal drugs. It is likely that you also remember Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., a program that was offered to students of various ages in the United States beginning in 1983. The organization, yet another tool used in this country's War On Drugs, educated adolescents on the dangers of illegal drug use and asked the students to sign a pledge that they would abstain from drugs or gangs. Both of the aforementioned efforts to prevent adolescent drug use were met with serious criticism, and were considered to be widely ineffective. While efforts to curb the use of addictive drugs by teens and young adults is crucial, the picture that has long been painted about drug use and addiction has been wholly inaccurate. In a number of ways, “Just Say No”…, D.A.R.E. and even This Is Your Brain on Drugs only served to further stigmatize addiction as being a moral failing. Today, while programs like D.A.R.E. still exist, the picture we have of addiction is quite different. As is evident by the American opioid epidemic, no matter who you are or where you came from—the risk of addiction is real. Everyone carries some level of eligibility.

Bringing Addiction Into The Light

The opioid epidemic in the United States has forced lawmakers, health professionals and the common citizen to reevaluate addiction. With thousands of people dying every year from opioid overdoses, it is clear that the nation can no longer hold onto War On Drugs rhetoric. Effective science-based, compassionate efforts are vital if we are ever going to stem the tide of addiction. The War On Drugs cannot be won, and addiction is not going anywhere. It is paramount that every tool of addiction recovery be made available to all who require them, only by helping people recover from substance use disorder will the demand for such drugs decrease. Despite all the options available for people suffering from addiction, many Americans hesitate to seek help—especially teenagers and young adults. Asking for assistance is at times viewed as accepting that you have a weakness that cannot be controlled. Those who do manage to surrender and seek treatment, often find that staying sober when they are back in the real world is an insurmountable task. They often feel that they are find their way out of the frying pan, only to land in the fire. One American community has taken a novel approach to ensuring that young people with addiction disorders, have a shot at sustained recovery.

Generation Found

‘Just say no’ was a slogan. This is a revolution. A sentiment shared by the creators of a new documentary called Generation Found. The film tells the story of a community in Houston, Texas, that developed the world’s largest peer-driven youth and family recovery community. Generation Found is the story of how a “system of treatment centers, sober high schools, alternative peer groups, and collegiate recovery programs can exist in concert to intervene early and provide a real and tested long-term alternative to the War On Drugs.” Please take a moment to watch the trailer: If you are having trouble watching, please click here. If you are in the Orange County, CA, area on August 30, 2016, there will be a showing of Generation Found at Island Cinema, at 7:30PM. You can learn more about the film here, reserve tickets, find a showing in your area or plan a showing in your area.

Traumatic Childhood and Substance Use Disorder

substance use disorderAs the month of June has come to a close and the July 4th holiday is almost here, we felt it would be a good idea to focus on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that affects many Americans. The National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) reports that about 8 million adults have PTSD during any given year. Left untreated, those afflicted by PTSD will often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their feelings. As you might expect, mind altering substances while they may provide some temporary relief—only serve to exacerbate the problem. Posttraumatic stress victims, sadly, will often make the choice to find permanent relief by way of suicide.

PTSD Awareness Month

In the United States, the Senate designated June 27th as National PTSD Awareness Day. The NCPTSD chose the month of June as PTSD Awareness Month; however, we should always be aware of PTSD and how it might impact us and our loved ones. While posttraumatic stress is often considered to be a problem that affects those who have served in combat, it is in fact a condition that can develop from a serious trauma, such as domestic violence or sexual assault. PTSD symptoms include:
  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms).
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings.
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal).

Treatment Works

Please take a moment to watch the short video below: If you are having trouble watching the video, please click here.

Traumatic Childhood

Researchers from the University of Toronto have published a study which showed that children who experience traumatic events, are at a much greater risk of developing a substance use disorder. The research team found that one in five drug-dependent adults and one in six alcohol-dependent adults had experienced sexual abuse as child, PsychCentral reports. One in seven adults with a substance use disorder had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence. The findings were published in Substance Use & Misuse. “Our findings underline the importance of preventing childhood abuse and domestic violence,” said study co-author Jessica Roane in a news release. “In addition, social workers and other health professionals must continue to support survivors of these childhood adversities across the lifespan, with particular attention to substance abuse and dependence issues.”

Recovery

It was mentioned earlier that using drugs and alcohol to cope with PTSD is a slippery slope that more often than not leads to addiction. It is paramount that both the PTSD and substance use disorder be treated simultaneously for recovery to be achieved. At PACE Recovery Center we specialize in the treatment of co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis). Please contact us to begin the journey of recovery. Wishing you all a peaceful, safe and sober July 4th Holiday.

A Look at Binge Drinking Among College Students

binge drinkingIt could be easily argued that alcohol is a part of college life. Without fail, between Thursday and Saturday night, college students will come together to imbibe at parties and at bars for those over the age of 21. While college drinking may seem relatively benign, as something that is going to happen regardless of prevention efforts, there are many young adults who do not fully grasp the dangers of “binge drinking” even though they may be engaging in the activity regularly. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as consuming 5 or more drinks for men, and 4 or more drinks for women in about 2 hours. Whenever someone drinks as much as they can, as fast as they can, the risks of danger exponentially mounts. Alcohol poisoning is a common occurrence among teenagers and young adults, a condition that can be potentially fatal. A team of experts have sought to paint a realistic picture of the dangers of binge drinking. The researchers estimate that every year 1,825 college students ages 18-24 lose their life from unintentional alcohol-related injuries, according to a University of Alabama press release. Those who do not experience an alcohol related tragedy put themselves at risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol; the research team found that about 20 percent of college students meet the current diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. While alcohol is legal for adults over the age of 21 to use, research published in The Lancet indicates that alcohol is the most dangerous substance, according to the article. Even more harmful than:
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
Alcohol abuse, binge drinking in particular, is thought to be a rite of passage for college students; but in reality it's a very serious health epidemic in the United States," said Peter Hendricks, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health Department of Health Behavior. "It is important to understand what alcohol is, why it's problematic, and what a person can do to minimize the risk should they choose to drink."
It is crucial that institutes of higher learning make alcohol prevention and education a top priority if the problem is to be mitigated. On top of not operating motor vehicles when intoxicated, college students should also be aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning, which include:
  • Confusion
  • Hypothermia
  • Irregular Breathing
  • Seizures
  • Slow Breathing
  • Vomiting
Alcohol is ingrained in our culture, and binge drinking is perceived as a lighthearted, fun and humorous rite of passage among college students," said Hendricks. "It's crucial to communicate the dire risks of binge drinking and challenge the notion that alcohol use is a normal and harmless part of the college experience."
If you are college-age male whose alcohol use has become problematic, please contact PACE Recovery Center. We specialize in working with young adult males struggling with substance use disorders. We can help you begin the journey of recovery.

Many Attorneys Drink Alcohol At Unhealthy Levels

attorneys drink alcohol unhealthy levelsMillions of Americans, upon finishing their workday, will often times cap off their night with an alcoholic beverage or two. This is why drinking alcohol is commonly equated with unwinding or decompressing. The behavior of drinking alcohol after a stressful day is usually considered to be relatively benign; however, sometimes end of the day drinking can get out of hand which can become problematic - especially for those whose line of work is stressful. New research suggests that more than one-fifth of licensed, actively working American attorneys drink alcohol at unhealthy levels, The Chicago Tribune reports. The study showed that many of those same attorneys suffer from depression and anxiety as well. The findings will be published this month in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. What’s more, the research showed that younger attorneys were affected by the aforementioned problems the most. The researchers hope that the new data will result in action.
“Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming, and paints the picture of an unsustainable professional culture that’s harming too many people. Attorney impairment poses risks to the struggling individuals themselves and to our communities, government, economy and society. The stakes are too high for inaction,” said study lead author Patrick Krill, in a news release.
The data comes from a sample of 12,825 attorneys in the United States who filled out surveys designed to assess both substance use and other mental health problems, according to the article. The findings showed that 28 percent of lawyers struggled with varying degrees of depression and 19 percent exhibited symptoms of anxiety.
“This is a mainstream problem in the legal profession,” said Krill, the Director of the Legal Professionals Program at a well respected treatment facility. “There needs to be a systemic response.”
This is the first major study on the prevalence of addiction among attorneys in 25 years, the article reports. The research was co-funded by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. This research is especially important because many attorneys are unwilling to seek help for mental health problems for fear they will be disbarred or lose their position. PACE Recovery Center specializes in working with young adult males struggling with chemical dependency and behavioral health issues. During this important transitional phase our clinical team focuses on helping young adults put into practice skills gained while in addiction treatment and balance their lives as they begin to integrate back into real world settings. Our treatment program is designed to focus on and develop our clients’ life skills, including understanding when stress and anxiety can impact one’s program of recovery.

Good Outcomes Are Contingent On Adequate Treatment Length

treatmentWhile every addiction treatment center has varying program lengths, it is generally agreed that the longer somebody with a substance use disorder stays in treatment - the better the outcome will be after discharge. After years of substance misuse and abuse, developing the skills necessary for long-term recovery will not happen overnight. Early recovery is a fragile time, clients are extremely vulnerable to relapse; longer time periods in treatment will protect clients from the pressures and temptations of the outside world. Not surprisingly, on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website the organization states that less than 90 days in treatment for addiction is of limited effectiveness, and “research has shown unequivocally that good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length.” NIDA is a federal government agency, one that lawmakers turn to when making decisions regarding addiction treatment in the United States. This week, the governing body of Medicaid proposed to cover 15 days of inpatient rehab per month for anyone enrolled in a managed care plan, NPR reports. While the proposal is a step in the right direction and one that would take some of the fiscal burden off state and local mental health agencies, there are a number of experts in the field of addiction medicine that say 15 days is not enough. "Where they came up with the 15 days, I don't know, but it's not based on research," says Mike Harle, head of the nonprofit treatment program in Pennsylvania. In the past, people battling addiction had to rely entirely upon state and local sources, so when the federal government offers to chip in, it is a sign of changes for the better. However, after 15 days a client is just beginning to come out of the cloudy state of detoxification and it is when the real work begins with regard to learning how to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. Even treatment facilities that offer a thirty-day program will almost always strongly encourage clients to enroll in either inpatient or outpatient extended care program. Clients who opt against taking such advice put themselves at great risk of relapse. There has been limited funding for researching what the optimal length of an inpatient treatment, with regard to how effective the outcome will be, according to Dr. Jeffrey Samet, a professor at Boston University's Clinical Addiction research unit. He adds that without such data, private insurance fluctuates with how many days of treatment they will cover. At PACE Recovery Center we offer extended residential care for men only – gender specific treatment, additionally we also have an intensive outpatient program and transitional living program. We are happy to work with our clients and/or their families to verify insurance benefits and coverage.

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