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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Opioid Epidemic Week - Raising Awareness

September is an important month for people in both addiction medicine and recovery. There is a plethora of events taking place with regard to addiction and mental health as a whole, including National Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As we mentioned at the end of August, National Recovery Month is about increasing awareness and celebrating successes of those in recovery.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is equally important because most of the suicides that occur every year are related to mental illness. On top of that, a significant number of people living with a mental health disorder, such as depression, use drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. A coping mechanism that can lead to addiction. While mind altering substances can provide temporary relief, in the long run they actually exacerbate one’s mental illness. Without assistance in the form of treatment and continued therapy, people will often resort to choices that they cannot undue, i.e. suicide.

Encouraging people to seek help for any form of mental illness is of the utmost importance, and breaking the stigma that often accompanies mental health is just one facet. The other is making sure that assistance is widely available, especially in rural America—regions often hit the hardest by the American opioid epidemic. Treatment is the best weapon against mental health disorders, a tool that has proven to save lives—time and time again.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released their 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The findings were troubling to say the least. It turns out that one-third of American adults were prescribed opioid painkillers last year, despite the government's efforts to encourage a change in prescribing practices among primary care physicians.

On Monday, the White House administration announced the launch of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. The President is calling on Congress for $1.1 billion to fund a several initiatives vital to fighting the opioid epidemic.

“During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.” --Proclamation by President Obama, September 16, 2016

Federal agencies announced several plans, such as:
  • Expanding substance use disorder treatment in the TRICARE system to include coverage of intensive outpatient programs and treatment of opioid use disorders with medication-assisted treatment.

  • Establishing enhanced measures in conjunction with the Chinese government to combat the supply of fentanyl and its analogues coming to the United States.

  • Supporting distance learning and telemedicine programs that expand access to healthcare, substance use disorder treatment, and educational opportunities in rural communities.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Impulse Control In Alcoholics

A common thread that everyone with a history of addiction shares is having a lack of impulse control. For the average person, having a couple drinks and going to bed is no hassle at all. But for the alcoholic, having one drink begets another and they will typically not stop drinking until there is no more alcohol to be had. Simply put, there is no 'off switch' for people with alcohol use disorder.

While it is well understood that substance use disorder is a mental illness in the field of addiction medicine, a significant number of people still believe that addiction occurs in people who have a lack of willpower or a moral failing. It is a mindset that throws fuel on the fire that is the stigma of addiction. The reality of addiction is quite different than most people think, since addiction is a mental health disorder. Understanding the nature of substance use disorder begins and ends in the human brain.

In fact, when it comes to impulse control in alcoholics, new research suggests that it may be due to a lack of a certain enzyme in the brain, according to International Business Times. Years of research by the University of Linköping indicates that an enzyme known as PRDM2, or the lack thereof, could be responsible for diminished impulse control in alcoholics. The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

"PRDM2 controls the expression of several genes that are necessary for effective signaling between nerve cells," said lead author Markus Heilig. "When too little enzyme is produced, no effective signals are sent from the cells that are supposed to stop the impulse."

Down the road research on PRDM2 could lead to the development of drugs that could increase impulse control, potentially preventing relapse, the article reports. In the meantime, Heilig points out that addiction is a biological problem, one that should not carry stigma.

"We see how a single molecular manipulation gives rise to important characteristics of an addictive illness," adds Heilig. "Over the long term, we want to contribute to developing effective medicines, but over the short term the important thing, perhaps, is to do away with the stigmatization of alcoholism."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Oxygen Could Help Opioid Withdrawal

opioid withdrawal
For the millions of Americans currently living with an opioid use disorder, the thought of withdrawal is frightening. It is one of the major reasons that prescription painkiller and heroin addiction can persist for years, and in some cases even decades. Opioid addicts are fully aware that the drugs they use carry a huge potential for overdose, yet in some cases the risk out outweighs being subject to the pain of withdrawal.

Aside from opioid addicts who suffer from legitimate chronic pain which often leads to continue use, a significant number of people who are dependent on such drugs will relapse shortly after withdrawal begins. Unlike ‘kicking’ other addictive drugs, opioid withdrawal is synonymous with up to two (2) weeks of severe restlessness and discomfort, along with nausea and body aches. Without the assistance of a medical detoxification facility, most addicts will resume use in less than three (3) days after cessation.

However, even with the aid of certain drugs and medical supervision, withdrawal is still not a walk in the park. Finding ways to mitigate the severity of withdrawal could help opioid addicts see the detox period through and begin the journey of recovery before they throw in the towel. New research suggests that the use of pure oxygen in a hyperbaric chamber could ease the pain of opioid withdrawal, according to a Washington State University press release. The findings were published in the journal Brain Research.

The preliminary tests involved mice that were addicted to morphine. Before being withdrawn from the drug the mice were given pure oxygen at 3.5 times atmospheric pressure in a chamber, the article reports. The mice exhibited much less severe withdrawal symptoms and appeared to be calmer, compared to the mice that did not get the same treatment. Currently the use of hyperbaric oxygen treatment is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but hopefully it will be in the future—considering the opioid addiction epidemic the country faces.

"Our research and work that we hope to do in the future should stimulate some clinical researchers to come up with clinical evidence to convince the FDA that this should be an approved indication," said Ray Quock, a pharmacologist and Washington State University psychology professor.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

National Recovery Month 2016

National Recovery Month
Every year in the United States, we celebrate the success of those who have made positive strides away from various afflictions. Particular months are designated for people to come together to support those who are recovering from debilitating ailments, and to raise awareness with the hope that others will find the help that they desperately need. April is Alcohol Awareness Month (AAM), May is Mental Health Month (MHM) and June is PTSD Awareness Month for example. If you can think of serious health condition that affects millions of people, it is likely that a month has been chosen to acknowledge both those in recovery and those who dedicate their lives to helping others struggling with the specific disorder.

If you are recovering from addiction, it is possible that you know that September is National Recovery Month. The goal next month, according to RecoveryMonth.org, is to “increase awareness and celebrate successes of those in recovery.” Every day, people across the country put their best foot forward to maintain their recovery from drug addiction and alcohol use disorder (AUD). To be sure, it is no easy task, requiring one to practice the principles of recovery in all their affairs—staying eternally vigilant against the temptation to pick up a drink or a drug.

Everyone who is actively working a program of recovery deserves to be acknowledged for the fact that they choose to live a life free from mind altering substances. It is no secret that failing to maintain one’s program can, and often does, result in tragic outcomes.

A central component to addiction recovery is helping others find their way to the program, and helping them learn how to live clean and sober. For every person in recovery, there are countless more who have yet to experience the gifts the program can give; it is for that reason that it is vital that others be made aware of the fact that recovery is possible.

The theme this year is National Recovery Month: Prevention Works, Treatment is Effective, People Recover. At Whiteside Manor, we encourage you to Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery! If you are interested in taking part in this crucial time of awareness please refer to the toolkit.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Early Intervention Family Drug Court

substance abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse, verily, can ruin people's lives if left untreated. The disease of addiction is a progressive mental health disorder that has long been a crisis in the United States. The nation has faced a number of serious problems stemming from drug and alcohol abuse in the 20th Century, some of which were considered to be of epidemic proportions. But certainly, the opioid use disorder epidemic of the 21st Century is unprecedented, with over two million Americans addicted to an opioid narcotic of some kind.

While opioid addiction is insidious, and carries the potential for early death among abusers, it has also torn hundreds of thousands of children away from their parents. In an attempt to curb the exponential rise in children being remanded to foster care services because of their parents' addiction, some states are offering parents treatment before their child is removed from the household.

In California, the Early Intervention Family Drug Court (EIFDC) is helping parents with substance use disorders, by offering treatment before their children are taken away, NPR reports. If parents fail a drug test, formal family drug court is the next stop, and their children become a temporary ward of the state.

The need for EIFDC-type programs is dyer, considering the fact that around 265,000 kids entered foster care in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. Up to 80 percent of child removal cases are linked to substance abuse, much of which has been linked to opioids. Family drug courts can help families stay together by breaking the cycle of parental addiction.

"People can overcome addiction if the motivation is strong enough, and this is the most effective motivation I have ever seen," said Sherri Z. Heller, director of Sacramento's Health and Human Services Department.