Category Archives: Mental Health

Addict Advocacy-Opioid Crisis

Overall, it seems as if addict advocacy, lobbying their service providers, and for society as a whole has become a zero-sum game.  The opioid crisis thrives.

There are apparently sides to be taken in a battle of “us” versus “them.” There have been and always will be addicts amongst us.

There will always be drug providers (be it at the street level, at the liquor store, the marijuana dispensary, or those who have medical degrees and write prescriptions for pills). There will always be prejudice. Their will always be a lack of sense of community when fear and mistrust is involved. The addicts and their families want to blame the healthcare industry. Society wants to blame the treatment industry. They want to blame anyone but themselves. We want to blame them as being morally inferior and mentally weak.

They have a comprehensive and robust report from the U.S. Surgeon General, unequivocally identifying addiction as a national disease. We have an independent Grand Jury investigation, Sober Homes Task Force Report, and extensive local investigative reporting from a multitude of press outlets, The Palm Beach Post in particular, identifying an overwhelmingly fraudulent industry that seems to have an insatiable appetite for consuming its own class of people.

Maybe we are all wrong, that the march towards decriminalization and deinstitutionalization of the addict has been a social experiment mistake? Maybe addicts need to be isolated from society for their own good? Perhaps the “integration” mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act really did not take into consideration that the disabled in a wheelchair may really be different in kind than the disabled on heroin?

Maybe we do need to reopen and reexamine the ADA, not to discriminate, but because there now is clearly a different set of facts that requires a different modality of response?

While I subscribe to the inherently American values of individualism and self-responsibility, we must put aside philosophical differences and recognize the clear science that the modern opioid epidemic is a terrorist that hijacks the mind, body and spirit.

Even without the misuse of substances, what is true for all Americans is that greed is the most tolerated yet the most destructive addiction of them all.

We cannot demand that someone do something about “those addicts” but then refuse to offer the necessary funding, resources, infrastructure, housing, and services to care for this population, and we can therefore neither blame the addicts nor the treatment provider. We are the adults in the room. We cannot blame the unsupervised children for playing with matches and burning down the house.

If the disease of addiction is truly a public health crisis, rather than the now debunked theory that it is a moral failing, we seem to be left with only one choice – double our efforts, buckle down, and fix this system once and for all. Not later, not when it is more politically palatable. Now. We no longer have the luxury of time.

Self Worth


Author Unknown

I used to believe I was not worthy of happiness. I believed the first person that told me that. It became a subconscious mantra to myself. It defined the young woman I was I hid behind a mask pretending I was in control and I was “OK”. I ran from even looking at myself in the mirror because I had defined myself as less than. It was one of the most exhausting, debilitating, saddest times in my life. Using and drinking made me feel numb and gave me liquid courage, which was actually more, fear and pain. I didn’t know it at the time I just thought it was a fast and easy remedy. It was until it almost became my demise. It was then I decided I could no longer feel this way again. I didn’t know if I could recover but I had never gave it a true shot. I was truly scared to find out who I was. The REAL ME!. I must wholeheartedly say I’m grateful not only that I have given myself a chance at a beautiful life but I too was beautiful with every imperfection. I forgave my pain and what wreckage that came with. We all deserve to recover! I’m recovering and I’m the Best person I can be in a daily basis. Not perfect but better than yesterday

Ending America’s Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Putting politics aside, this is a comprehensive plan that needs bipartisan support. If you agree then contact your representatives on all levels and ask for their help. We can help end America’s quiet opioid addiction epidemic.

Governor Peter Shumlin began his remarks at the New Hampshire Roundtable on Addiction and the Heroin Epidemic by describing a phone call from Hillary Clinton a few months ago. According to Shumlin,“I figure it’s gonna be another politician talkin’ about how great they are.” But Clinton surprised him: “When I go to New Hampshire, when I go to Iowa, something strange has happened…” Clinton was told story after story about the “quiet epidemic” that had not even been on the table when she last ventured out as a candidate. She heard from families who were unable to help their loved ones and law enforcement officials who knew they couldn’t arrest their way out of the problem, so Clinton “resolved to do something about it.” She called the right person: Gov. Shumlin has been working to reframe the public debate around addiction for years. For the past two years he has dedicated his State of the State Message entirely to the topic of the heroin crisis in Vermont. Under his guidance, the state has implemented programs to address the complexity of addiction that have been imitated by states across the nation. Shumlin was struck by Clinton’s humility and patience, “She did what a lot of politicians aren’t very good at–she listened. For a second I thought she’d hung up.”

Clinton placed Shumlin’s advice amongst the advice of many others, and four weeks later “out came a policy” that the Governor believes, “if implemented, will give us the help from the federal government that we need to finally take this battle on and treat it as a disease and not a crime.” The plan would allocate 10 billion dollars to tackling America’s deadly epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, and would address the following five points: Criminal Justice Reform, Treatment and Recovery, First Responders, Prescribers, Prevention.

In a statement about the indiscriminate reach of the epidemic, Clinton wrote: “Substance use disorders are a problem that touches Americans everywhere, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns, and from our richest enclaves to our poorest neighborhoods.”

I. Criminal Justice Reform

Governor Shumlin has visited treatment centers, jails, and detoxes all over Vermont to speak with those who have been impacted by the epidemic: “there are stories that make you want to sit down and cry,” he said. When he asked what kind of response was needed, “they told me that we were doing almost everything wrong.” Like most criminal justice systems across the nation, Vermont’s was slow and ineffective, especially when it came to dealing with drug-related crimes. Vermont has worked to try and turn the moment of arrest from a tragedy into an opportunity: “when your busted, when you’ve bottomed out, when the blue lights are flashing–that’s the most likely chance that we have to move someone from denial into treatment.”

Third party assessors are stationed in every county in the state and when someone is arrested, these experts determine whether the person needs treatment by asking: “is this someone that will hurt you or is this person more likely to hurt themselves?” Today, people who would have been arrested are told that if they participate in the “Hub/Spoke” treatment initiative with the wrap around services: “we’ll stick with you. You’ll never see a judge, you’ll never see a criminal record, you’ll never see a court.” And it’s working on all fronts, “they’ve got hope, they’ve got a job, they’ve got life and they’re getting back with their families.” Vermont has saved 50 million dollars since implementing the prison diversion program.

Clinton intends to “end the era of mass incarceration” by prioritizing treatment over incarceration for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. In order for this to happen, greater collaboration and coordination must be fostered between public health and criminal justice institutions “to ensure continuity of care for those who suffer from substance use disorders.”

II. Treatment & Recovery

Gov. Shumlin introduced the second point of Clinton’s plan by talking about when his father, who is now deceased, was first diagnosed with lung cancer: “Why is it that when my dad is diagnosed with a cancer that’s created from behavior that we all know isn’t very smart—smoking—that we say ‘we will do everything we can to keep you on this earth as long as we can and you will not stand in line,’ but if you’re addicted to opiates, we say ‘get in line, we might serve you sometime—usually sometime later.”

Clinton’s plan involves building out more treatment centers, matching participating states 20/80 in federal funds, abolishing lengthy wait-lists and ultimately treating addiction like any other disease, “stop the discrimination—line up.”

Clinton’s plan makes sure that “everyone who needs support has access to continuing treatment.” This emphasis on continuity is key due to the fact that many treatment methods are too short-lived to be effective.

III. First Responders

Clinton’s plan ensures that states have adequate funding to get and dispense life-saving tools such as naloxone to anyone who wants it and that first responders are trained in proper practices.

IV. Prescribers

Clinton’s plan ensures that licensed prescribers meet training requirements and consult a prescription drug-monitoring program before writing a prescription for controlled medications. “Let’s make sure that we enhance the database so that we stop pill shopping across borders,” said Shumlin, “and doctor abuse, where folks can go in and line up this stuff, FDA approved Oxycodone and the rest, put it in their pockets, and keep getting more of it, with no questions asked.”

V. Prevention

“Let’s change the attitude about the disease. Let’s get rid of the stigma.” Clinton’s plan defines Substance Use Disorders as chronic diseases and insists that they be treated as such. Clinton emphasizes the importance of empowering communities to design their own “evidence-based programs tailored to their communities.” Such programs would focus on engaging adolescents through education and early intervention programs.

Letter To My Children

Doing Right

In a letter to my children, I want to express my unconditional love and support.
My daughter texted me Tuesday night, November 8, around the time it was clear that Hillary Rodham Clinton was not going to win in a landslide and that Donald J Trump was closer to being the winner. She was afraid for her freedom and her life. She thought “they” hate her because she is a woman and an outspoken member of the LBGTQ community. Her best solution was to leave the country and not risk her life at the hands of a government and people about to make laws restricting her ability to live in peace. Her fear was based on the nasty rhetoric she had received on social media aimed at her before the election, and the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and bigoted racist comments made by Trump and his followers.
It was crushing for me. What do I say to an adult child who is in fear of our government? A person who has achieved a modicum of fame, who helps others, speaks out on behalf of those less fortunate, embraces the rights to freedom of women and the LGBTQ community. A young woman trying to do well, who now is afraid?
My best effort was to draw parallels to the 1960’s when we lost the Kennedy’s and King, and how we persevered and continued to speak out and not accept the War in Vietnam, and lack of Civil Rights for people of color.
And how to this day I believe that many people are living in fear and seeking a better way of life. And because unfortunately some are seeking to devalue or disenfranchise others we must stay strong. That this is a battle we must fight.
Our Government is made up of men, women, whites, blacks, browns, yellows, Christians, Jews, Muslims, young and old. Most of us want to live in peace with each other.
We cannot be silent and let the hateful and intolerant subjugate others. We cannot tolerate sacrificing our moral convictions because they are different. As long as we are not harming others, then our decisions about sexuality, health, lifestyle and safety are ours.
We must harness the power of all freedom loving peaceful people to protect each other from those who threaten the values of America and the pursuit of happiness of others.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Now is the time to stand up and speak out, not to diminish others but ensure our pursuit of happiness.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when ?
Hillel – Pirke Avot 1:14

WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY!!!

Dual Diagnosis and Addiction

Research shows that most people who struggle with addiction are also dealing with a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The technical term for this is dual diagnosis.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Among the 20.2 million adults in the US who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.”

Proper treatment for mental illness involves professional therapy, not just coping skills. At the end of the day, the question is, Do you want to cope with your issues or heal them?

Combining Coping Skills for Addiction and Therapy

Dual diagnosis treatment isn’t about choosing between coping skills and therapy. Rather, it’s about combining the strengths of addiction coping skills and therapy to promote recovery. It’s about using a holistic model of healing, one that integrates all four levels of self:

  • The physical level (what we do)
  • The mental level (what we think and believe)
  • The emotional level (what we feel)
  • The spiritual level (who we really are)

In true dual diagnosis addiction treatment, trained clinicians use evidence-based tools and approaches to empower people to both encounter and heal their emotional wounds.

Emotional wounds are like physical ones in that if you open up a wound, it is important to know how to close it back up properly! Trained therapists can help individuals to close those inner wounds with love, compassion, and expertise.

In the process, people tap into the power within them and redirect it for good.

They learn to stop abusing themselves and begin to make self-honoring choices.

They start to counsel themselves and work through the issues that arise when they return to their normal lives.

The aftercare from treatment to normal living requires structure and discipline.

The Rest Of Your Life offers complete lifestyle changes for relapse prevention.

Overcoming Addiction

Alcohol Dependency & Detox

Reprinted from: http://www.lunaliving.org/

Alcohol is the drug of choice for most Americans. It can be the beginning of addiction.

Besides being legal, alcohol is relatively inexpensive and considered by most to be socially acceptable. Alcohol has been “sold” to us for thousands of years as a feature of good living. Our society celebrates special moments with champagne and drowns sorrows with drink.

From childhood we learn to hide or lie about liquor when we drink too much, or are underage. But apart from feeble resistance from a few religious groups, and a state’s legal restrictions, there is no barrier. Americans consume over $212 billion worth of alcohol per year.

If alcohol use is so widely accepted then what’s wrong with drinking? For most people alcohol isn’t a dangerous drug. But for the person with the chronic brain disease called Addiction, alcohol is pure poison and can be life-threatening.

Although the medical community acknowledges certain health benefits of moderate alcohol use (1 drink for women and 2 for men), they post a clear WARNING: More than three drinks a day for women, or four for men, puts you at high risk of irreparable brain damage.

An Alcohol Damaged Brain

Chronic alcohol abuse severely compromises your mental ability. In the short-term it can cause you to drink and drive. And, in the long-term it can irreversibly affect memory formation, abstract thinking, problem solving, attention, concentration, and emotions.

Alcoholics who abstain from drinking can recover from some alcohol-induced brain damage. But no one knows how much alcohol it takes to cause irreversible brain damage? Drinking can be like playing Russian roulette.

Alcohol immediately passes through the blood brain barrier, which is why people often say, “The drink went straight to my head”. Alcohol’s rapid absorption, in high concentrations (i.e., multiple drinks ingested quickly), can suppress the centers in the brain that control breathing causing you to pass out or even die.

Additionally, alcohol causes the release of a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine, labeled by neuroscientists, as the “addiction molecule” is responsible for the rewarding effect that keeps you drinking. For many this reward can be limited to a single cocktail but for an alcoholic this “pleasurable moment” can quickly turn into a life-threatening physical disease.

HOW MUCH CAN ONE DRINK depends on many factors – the rate of consumption, the quantity, how much fat and muscle mass you have, and whether or not you eat while drinking.

The kind of alcohol we drink is called ethanol. Once ethanol hits your bloodstream it travels to every organ in the body, which is why
heavy drinking is so physically, mentally, and spiritually debilitating.

HOW YOU DRINK ALCOHOL ALSO AFFECTS YOUR RISK. “Binge drinking” is particularly dangerous. When young people drink too much, too fast, they risk passing out and dying. Never leave someone who has passed out from alcohol alone. Too much alcohol suppresses normal breathing and is extremely dangerous. If in question, call 911.

Combining alcohol with drugs is a huge NO-NO! All sedatives can become deadly when combined with alcohol. Mixing alcohol with narcotics can result in overdose.

Alcohol should not be mixed with any drug that makes you sleepy – opiates (heroin, oxycodone, and morphine), Valium-like drugs (benzodiazepines, sleep medications (Ambien) and antihistamines found in cold medications.

• Mixing alcohol with antibiotics can cause convulsions (seizures), nausea, and vomiting.

• Mixing alcohol with antihistamines can enhance sedation and excessive dizziness, which is particularly dangerous for older adults.

• Mixing alcohol with Tylenol (acetaminophen) creates a chemical that causes liver damage.

• And, the list goes on.

Alcohol Dependence vs. Alcohol Abuse

In general, alcohol abuse refers to patterns of drinking that cause health problems or social problems, or both.

Alcohol dependence, more commonly known as alcoholism, refers to the brain disease we know as Addiction.

Addiction leads to lack of control over drinking and life. Signs of physical dependence (withdrawal) appear within hours of stopping to drink and may manifest as anxiety, hallucinations, seizures and tremors.

Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is characterized by cravings. A person, who suddenly stops, without the proper medical care, can experience severe and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms. If you are an alcoholic do not try detox on your own. Seek medical help immediately! Don’t drink if you are pregnant

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is the full range of neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and learning disabilities associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcohol passes the blood brain barrier and immediately, and negatively, affects an unborn fetus. There is absolutely no safe level of drinking during pregnancy. Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) suffer learning impairments for life.

Addiction

Addiction is a primary, chronic brain disease that affects brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Without treatment and engagement in recovery activities, it often results in disability or premature death.

HOW DO I KNOW I AM ADDICTED? Addiction is characterized by your inability to consistently abstain; cravings; a dysfunctional emotional response and a diminished recognition of significant problems with your behavior and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, Addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission and premature death if left untreated.

A widely used screening test is CAGE. If you have two or more positive responses it is likely you have a problem with alcohol.

• Have you ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking?

• Have you ever felt Annoyed by someone criticizing your drinking?

• Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking?

• Have you ever felt the need for an Eye-opener? (a drink at the beginning of the day)?

NO ONE IN MY FAMILY IS AN ALCOHOLIC. AM I AT RISK? Overexposure to alcohol can lead to alcohol dependence. Alcohol changes the brain of everyone! Anyone that chronically abuses alcohol will eventually become dependent. If you drink to self-medicate for co-existing conditions it is likely you will become addicted, if you aren’t already.

ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL

Alcohol sedates your brain. Your brain works 24/7 to protect you, to do its job the brain offsets the sedative effects of alcohol consumption by producing larger and larger quantities of norepinephrine, a chemical similar to adrenaline. Although you abruptly stop drinking, your brain needs time to respond. It may take a few days to rebalance your brain chemistry, which is why the excess norepinephrine in your bloodstream causes withdrawal symptoms.

Only about 5% of alcoholics experience a dangerous withdrawal, known as delirium tremens, or DTs. Because your brain is unable to adjust to the quickly changing chemistry, you can experience confusion, hallucinations, and you are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. There is no way of knowing in advance if you are one of the 5%, which is why you should seek medical care to detox your body.

An Open Letter To Families Where Addiction Is Present

by Alicia Cook

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Alicia-cook/an-open-letter-to-families-where-addiction-is-present_b_8691970.html?utm_source=digg

Last night someone said to me, “For someone who writes about addiction, you are being judgmental!” Now, without going into specifics, I can tell you I was a lot of things last night: Mad. Hurt. Sad. Confused. Frustrated. At a loss — but judgmental? No. No way.

I wish it wasn’t me who was writing this blog. I really wish it wasn’t. I wish I wasn’t “qualified” to speak on the heroin epidemic from the perspective of the loved ones. I wish I wasn’t gaining notoriety for having one of the “best handles” on this subject. I wish I wasn’t a member of a community no one really wants to be a part of. No one ever says to themselves while reading articles like mine, “I wish I could relate to this.”

But I am. I am the non-addict who knows all too well what it’s like to love a person who suffers from addiction.

I know what it’s like to worry yourself sick. To cry yourself to sleep.

I know to watch out for pinhole pupils and subtle changes in behavior. To listen to them talk and make excuses and pile on lie after lie. I know what it’s like to pretend to believe them because you are just too mentally exhausted for an argument.

I know what it’s like to be confused all of the damn time; to see their potential, to know what they are throwing away. I know what it’s like to want their recovery more than they do. To be the one doing research on rehabs and other outlets for recovery.

I know what it’s like to miss someone who is still standing right in front of you.

I know what it’s like to wonder if each unexpected phone call is “the” phone call. I know what it’s like to be hurt so bad and be made so sick a part of you wishes you would just get “the” phone call if nothing is going to change. You want that finality. You need the cycle to end. I know what it’s like to hate yourself for even allowing yourself to find relief in that horrible thought.

I know what it’s like to get the worst news of your life, and still walk into the grocery store and run your errands and smile at the cashier.

I know what it’s like to become a part-time detective. You know you are going to find something, and you look until you do just so you feel less crazy. So you can say to yourself, “I am not paranoid. This is happening again.”

I know what it’s like to have your mind clouded; to turn into a functioning zombie. I know what it’s like to be physically present at board meetings and dinner dates, but mentally gone.

I know what it’s like to be really mad. Like, REALLY pissed off. Between the sadness there is a lot of anger. I know what it’s like to feel guilty for being so mad, even knowing all you know about addiction. You are allowed to be angry. This is not the life you signed up for.

I know what it’s like to scour a bookshelf and not find what you are looking for because this illness is still so hard to talk about, let alone write about.

I know what it’s like to hear someone argue that addiction is not an illness, but a choice or social disorder. I know all too well that feeling of heat rising in your face as they go on and on about something they know nothing about.

I know what it’s like to stop being angry with these people. They do not understand. They are lucky to not understand. I know what it is like to catch yourself wishing that you didn’t understand either.

I know the difference between enabling and empowering. I know there is a fine line between the two and the difference can mean life or death. I know what it’s like to the feel the weight of each day on your shoulders trying to balance the two.

I know what it’s like to have “good days” and “bad days” but never “normal days.” I have been through enough to know that things don’t just change for the worse overnight; they can change in a millisecond. In a blink of an eye. As quick as it takes two people to make a $4 exchange.

I know what it’s like to feel stigmatized. To be the “cousin of a drug addict,” a “friend of a drug addict,” a “sibling of a drug addict,” “a parent of a drug addict,” “a neighbor of a drug addict.” I know what it feels like to be handled with kid-gloves because no one outside of your toxic bubble knows what to say to help.

I don’t know what the future holds for anyone who loves a substance abuser today. One thing I know for sure is I am not alone. I write often on addiction from the family’s perspective. My last article, Lessons I Learned from Loving a Drug Addict, was picked up by numerous news outlets. My new essay series, The Other Side of Addiction, aims to help non-addicts and addicts alike share their story in a place free of, you guessed it…judgement. They often feel voiceless, so I wanted to give them a voice.

I write on addiction for a lot of reasons. I want to let you know you are not alone. I write on addiction because for far too long many have felt isolated, hopeless and stigmatized by this illness.

Today I am writing on addiction to let loved ones know you are allowed to feel angry without feeling guilty. You are allowed to feel sad, mad, or frustrated without feeling guilty. You are allowed to take a step back if you need a breather without feeling guilty.

With so many variables being out of your power, the one thing you are in control of is your well-being. Feeling any of this at any point does not mean you are suddenly a judgmental person who does not understand addiction. All of this does not mean you do not love this person unconditionally.