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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Opioid Epidemic Affects Native Americans, Too

opioid addiction
The scourge of opioid addiction in America is a crisis that can’t easily be solved. Addressing the situation has proved to be a real challenge for at least three Presidents, especially regarding opioid addiction. Alcohol and substance use disorder have been and will always be a problem in the United States. The best that anyone can hope for is mitigating the number of new cases and treating individuals already plagued by the disease.

On numerous occasions, we have discussed how the epidemic faced today is somewhat different than drug scourges of this nation’s past. Specifically, how drug use was mainly considered an inner-city problem, with suburban and rural cases few-and-fare between. The opioid epidemic, on the other hand, disproportionately affects people living in rural America.

A couple weeks ago we spotlighted a story in The New Yorker about how opioid-use is killing off generations in small-town America. Just as “crack” cocaine was widely viewed as a poor-black American problem, opioids are affecting poor-whites. Further evidence that addiction doesn't discriminate, everyone is eligible regardless of their background or skin color. However, the general focus on opioid use disorder and overdose in America has not covered a couple demographics.


Scope and Scale of the Opioid Epidemic

Over the years we have discussed how Native Americans have been affected by prescription opioids. Reservations across the country have been hit especially hard by opioid use and overdose deaths. Unfortunately, the discussion about opioid addiction in rural America often glances over peoples with a long history of disenfranchisement. Native Americans and native Alaskans are underrepresented in discourse about opioid addiction, The Washington Post reports. Even though of all the minority groups affected by opioid use disorder, data indicates Native Americans have been impacted the most.

“The epidemic is especially centered outside cities and among Native Americans and whites,” writes The Washington Post's Paige Winfield Cunningham. “Deaths rose by 325 percent over the same period when you look only at rural areas, and by more than 500 percent among Native Americans and native Alaskans. Death rates among black Americans have more than doubled, though they have risen at a lower rate than among other races.”

Such startling statistics dictate the need for increased addiction treatment funding on or near reservations. If Native Americans can’t access treatment, the chance of recovery is slim to none. Expanding access to substance use disorder treatment in rural America has proved to be one of the biggest challenges to combating the epidemic.


Native Americans Addiction and Recovery Program

At Whiteside Manor, we have treated Native American men and women for alcohol and drug dependency problems for more than a decade. We understand the unique needs of Native Americans and can help you or a loved one find recovery. Please contact us today.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Opioid Addiction in Small-Town America

opioid overdose
In this week's issue of The New Yorker, the “Faces of an Epidemic” were on display. You probably know which epidemic is referred to here, the opioid addiction epidemic. The article is comprised mostly of pictures from photographer Phillip Montgomery, with four paragraphs provided by essayist Margaret Talbot.

Phillip Montgomery took his camera to the front lines of the opioid crisis, small-town America. He captures solemnly the devastation wrought by opioid use disorder, the rifts it leaves in communities. Nothing is uplifting about this article, but it’s eye-opening and should be digested by as many readers as possible.

With all the national attention this issue has received, there has only been limited progress. Overdoses continue to mount, addicts struggle to access treatment, and the death rate grows. Talbot points out the quietness of this tragedy and the “delayed sense of calamity.” Or, as the Montgomery County, Ohio, coroner says: it’s a “mass-casualty event,” but one played out in slow motion.


Refrigerated House of The Dead

The article provides some figures worth keeping in mind, data that will hopefully lead to greater action. Well over 50,000 Americans die from overdose every year. Opioids are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. Just to put that into perspective, overdose takes more lives than:
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Gun homicides
  • and AIDS at the height of the epidemic.
The bulk of photos taken and on display in The New Yorker are from Montgomery County. The area lost 127 people to overdose in 2010; a number that nearly tripled last year with 349 deaths. There were sixty-five overdose deaths in January of this year, alone. The morgue is short on space; as a result, the coroner is renting refrigerated trailers and space from local funeral homes. Talbot writes:

“If there’s hope at this moment in the epidemic, which killed more than sixty-four thousand Americans last year, it’s that many people in the harrowing center of the crisis want it to be witnessed. They want the depths of the problem acknowledged. There is courage in the willingness to be seen, and that courage is on display in Philip Montgomery’s photographs…”

Please take a moment to watch an interview with Phillip Montgomery:

If you are unable to watch, please click here.

Opioid Use Disorder Recovery

Overdoses are reversible, but there is no guarantee that naloxone will work, especially when synthetic opioids are involved. The most effective way to avoid overdose is to seek addiction recovery. Those who seek help find that life in recovery is possible; they discover that living life on life’s terms is possible.

Please contact Whiteside Manor to begin your journey of recovery. We will teach you skills and provide you with tools that will help you keep your disease at bay. With the help of a program of recovery, you can live a life free from drugs, alcohol, and the risk of overdose.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Promoting Mental Health At Work

mental health
October is an important month for people in addiction recovery, particularly for those with a dual diagnosis. Hopefully, you were aware that last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), and this past Tuesday was World Mental Health Day (WMHD). The critical events, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) respectively, raise awareness about mental health conditions.

During MIAW, the goal was to raise public awareness about various mental health conditions, including:
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Depression 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Psychosis 
Those of you in dual diagnosis recovery understand that mental health is dependent upon treating the substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but with the right kind of help, it’s achievable.

Most people go without treatment for far too long resulting in disease progression. Thus, people arrive at treatment facilities barely clinging to the will to live. Putting off recovery is overwhelmingly dangerous, and it’s quite often the result of stigma. The shame people feel about their condition(s) hinders their ability to seek assistance. Individuals fear repercussions from deciding to do something that will improve their quality of life. That may sound paradoxical, but it’s no less valid.


Consequences of Mental Health Treatment

People fear that which they can’t understand. Mental illness, and being diagnosed with one, is terrifying to most individuals. Psychological health conditions feel like a curse to those who are afflicted. The average person touched by psychiatric disorders fears what will happen if they seek help; they will no longer be able to deny the existence of a problem—treatment makes it real. Conversely, if they don’t recover, they may lose their job because of their abnormal behavior. The symptoms of depression or anxiety can make getting to work a real chore. Even arriving at one’s desk does not make the symptoms less burdensome.

Such people also have the fear of talking about their problems with a boss. They are afraid of how they will be viewed moving forward. If they ask for time off to address their disorder, people speculate that they will get fired, even when it’s unlikely. On Tuesday, World Mental Health Day was about encouraging employers to be supportive of their employees' mental health. The World Health Organization asks employers to exercise compassion concerning mental illness. WHO provided some statistics to highlight the prevalence of anxiety and depression:
  • More than 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide.
  • More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders.
  • Struggling with both conditions at the same time is not uncommon.
  • Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
A failure to promote mental health results in people turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with untreated mental illness. The outcome of which is never positive, substance use only makes one’s problems worse. What’s more, many substances have the power to cut life short. On the other hand, WHO writes:

“Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work.”


Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Substance use is not an efficient way to cope with symptoms of mental illness. It’s a behavior that often leads to dependence and addiction. If that happens, one must receive treatment for both conditions simultaneously to achieve recovery. Do you have depression or anxiety disorder and substance use disorder? Maybe you have loved one who fits this description? Please contact Whiteside Manor to discuss treatment options. Please do not let shame and fear stand in the way of recovery.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"War On Drugs," Lives On...

war on drugs
The previous White House administration made concentrated efforts to undo some of the wrongs of past administrations. Wrongs, what wrongs you might find yourself asking? Specifically, criminal justice that had run wild. For decades, ever since President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” drug sentencing laws have been used to unjustly punish Americans for possessing “illegal” drugs. Essentially the only infraction such people committed was the crime of mental illness—specifically addiction.

There is a good chance that in previous posts of ours you’ve ‘read, you became aware of some startling figures. For instance: The United States makes up roughly five-percent of the world's population, but there are more incarcerated adults in the U.S. than in any other country. The most disturbing figures of all: The majority of people in American jails and prisons are not doing time for rape or murder. No, our penal institutions are home to mostly nonviolent drug offenders.

This problem is systemic, which means that without a paradigm shift in societal beliefs progressive remedies are hard to come by. For starters, doing away with draconian drug sentencing laws, which typically come in the form of mandatory minimums.  Secondly, commuting or granting pardons for people affected by such laws. Thirdly, providing the option of addiction treatment services rather than jail for drug possession.


Commuting Sentences of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

The past eight-years showed great promise, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle taking a more enlightened stance toward nonviolent drug offenders. A change which can be partially due to the opioid addiction epidemic. It becomes harder and harder to support draconian drug laws when a politician's own family is being affected. What’s more, former President Obama commuted the sentences of 1,385 prisoners before the end of his tenure. It’s fair to say that if the President had more time he would have given more people a new lease on life. Even still, he signed more commutations than any other president in history.

All of that was good and well, and needed to be done. However, the Federal arm of authority could only go so far during that time period. In fact, FBI data indicates that every 25 seconds a drug arrest occurred in 2016, ALTERNET reports. The Uniform Crime Report indicates that U.S. law enforcement officials made more than 1.57 million arrests for drug law infractions. Up from the previous year (2015) and more than 3 times the combined number of all arrests for violent crimes. Here’s the breakdown:
  • 84.6% (1,330,401 arrests) were for simple drug possession.
  • Despite legalization in some states, marijuana arrests increased in 2016.
  • Roughly 41 percent of all drug arrests were for marijuana (again, mainly for simple possession).
  • 29 percent of people arrested for drug law violations were black people.
  • 35 percent of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession were black.
It’s worth pointing out that 13% of the population are black people, and they consume drugs at rates on par with other demographics, according to the report, Yet, they are arrested for possession more than those using drugs at similar rates.


We Are Not Winning the War

Good intentions or not, one thing is for certain. This war has created far more societal and economic blow-back than it’s worth. What’s more, Americans by and large do not agree with sending people to jail for using drugs.

Those living with an alcohol or substance use disorder are far better served by addiction treatment, compared to jail and prison. The country as a whole is better for it, too. Families are not split up; economic loss would not be as profound either. The fewer nonviolent “offenders” in jail, the better. Addiction treatment works, but people need to be given the option.

There are ominous signs that the current White House administration has no plans of letting up on the war on drugs. With that in mind, seeking treatment for your addiction preemptively mitigates the risk of going to jail for a mental health disorder, needlessly. Please contact Whiteside Manor to discuss your treatment options, we can help.

Friday, September 8, 2017

National Recovery Month: Sharing Your Story

National Recovery Month
Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) partners with addiction and mental health experts observing National Recovery Month. Throughout the month addiction and recovery related events will be held to celebrate the millions of Americans working programs of recovery.

While the act of getting clean and sober is a monumental feat, most people in recovery try hard to keep their pride and ego in check. Recovery being the difference between choosing life or a death, it is important to remember that the road to relapse is often paved with hubris. However, that does not mean that people in recovery cannot exercise gratitude for their achievements. Nor should recovering alcoholics and addicts discount the leaps and bounds they’ve made.

If you are in recovery, you know firsthand pain and heartache. You know that the disease brought you to your knees and was poised to kill you had there not been an intervention. Once in recovery, you realized quickly that you would have to fight to hold on to your program. And it would not be a fight using traditional weapons, you learned you’d have to wield total, uncompromising honesty if you were to keep what you have. There are no free rides in recovery, after all.


You Have a Voice In Recovery

We all found ourselves in the program by a different road, but everyone’s experience is remarkably similar. The embodiment of desperation. Like active addiction, our stories of active recovery are often homogeneous. There may be small variations from one person to the next, but at the end of the day we all practice the principles of recovery guided by the Steps. This requires a daily commitment to not do or behave in certain ways that might precipitate a relapse, and a return to our disease.

Those of you working a program also know that if you intend on keeping your recovery, you must give it away. Which usually takes the shape of spreading the message that recovery is possible, which can take many different forms. Sponsorship being the most common. By helping others find what you’ve found, you strengthen your own program.

As was mentioned earlier, National Recovery Month is time to honor the brave men and women who have taken certain steps. And, in an effort to encourage more people to embrace recovery, SAMHSA is asking those who are willing to share their story of recovery. After all, you never know the impact you might have on another. Just a few words might be lead another to seek help and find recovery. If you are interested in sharing your story via text or YouTube video, please click here. Below you will find an example of spreading the message of recovery:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.


Addiction Recovery is Possible

If you or a loved one is still battling with the demons of addiction, please contact Whiteside Manor. We understand how hard it is to turn one’s back on their disease and seek treatment. But, it is a decision that will ultimately save your life. Let National Recovery Month be your new beginning.