Funding and access to treatment is still a critical problem for many. This topic, summarized in brief by NCADD from a USA Today article, identifies several factors that contribute to the biggest dilemma in addiction treatment. Check out NCADD’s summary here and the full USA Today article here
The Pennsylvania State Coroners Association has released their Report on Overdose Death Statistics 2014. This report is broken down by overall totals for the entire Commonwealth of PA and also county-by-county. It provides the raw data and percentages as they pertain to each drug in addition to breakdowns by day of week, month and gender totals for incidents of overdose deaths. They identify 2488 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania for the period covering January 2014 to December 2014. It is also important to recognize that “a vast majority” of the deaths involved the presence of more than one drug in toxicology results. Bucks County alone endured 205 overdose deaths in 2014: 66% male to 34% female. A slight majority (30%) of those deaths fell in the 31-40 age group, closely followed by the 41-50 age group (29%) and then the 20-30 age group (23%). The remainder fell in age groups under age 20 or over age 50. Opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine etc.), Benzodiazepines (Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, Valium) and non-legal drugs (heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine etc.) accounted for the highest occurrences in toxicology results. These are just a few of the black & white facts. More than that, this study represents the irreversible tragedy associated with drug addiction. It is the culmination of too many worst case scenarios that parents, siblings, wives, husbands, partners, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, co-workers, employers & countless friends are trying to process in their grief. The report itself is not all data and graphs; they preface the statistics with a poem written by the mother of a young woman who died from an overdose this past year. It is a heartbreaking example of the ultimate pain caused by drug addiction. This battle cannot solely be measured by its casualties in sheer, raw numbers. There is also a definitive, almost tangible, qualitative price levied by it and all illnesses. Treatment, support and advocacy are the platforms that give us the greatest chance at conquering this epidemic. Those platforms are bolstered by individual perseverance, resiliency and compassion. When we combine those elements, we can make these staggering numbers dissipate. We can improve the quality of life for the afflicted and their loved ones. The time to act is NOW. If you or someone you know is sufferance from drug abuse/dependence seek help as quickly as possible. It is unacceptable to let these numbers continue to grow or remain steady. Seek out help, tirelessly if need be. Treatment is effective! To read the full report m click here
Vicodin in generic version was the most widely prescribed drug under Medicare in 2013. This article published in The Wall Street Journal and summarized by NCADD outlines a key contributing factor to narcotic addiction problem in the United States and the heroin problem, also. Check out the NCADD summary here and the full article from The Wall Street Journal here
The following self-assessment was published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as part of the article “What To Do If You Have a Problem With Drugs” in June 2014. It is a simple list of screening questions & it can help identify whether drug/alcohol use has become problematic. It is a list of twelve “yes or no” questions. Keep in mind, this list is not a diagnostic tool rather it can help someone to begin to identify the depth to which alcohol/drug use is effecting their life. This is crucial to making the decision to seek help. These are the 12 questions: 1) Do you think about drugs a lot? 2) Did you ever try to stop or cut down on your drug usage but couldn’t? 3) Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit it or have a good time without the use of drugs? 4) Do you ever use drugs because you are upset or angry at other people? 5) Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you? 6) Have you ever taken one drug to get over the effects of another? 7) Have you ever made mistakes at a job or at school because you were using drugs? 8) Does the thought of running out of drugs really scare you? 9) Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs? 10) Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your drug use? 11) Have you ever overdosed on drugs? 12) Has using drugs hurt your relationships with other people? “Yes” answers to some or all of these questions indicates the need for professional assessment and possibly further treatment. These can be difficult questions to answer in an honest fashion. Beyond that (and a HUGE part of the recovery process) it can be exponentially MORE difficult to discuss those life consequences with another person. A certified/licensed addiction professional provides a non-judgemental and compassionate environment to begin addressing these patterns without recrimination or shaming. Physicians trained in addiction medicine (board certified by ABAM or board certified in Addiction Psychiatry) can discuss medication options that facilitate the recovery process. A combination of medical and counseling services is the most effective treatment intervention. Seeking a treatment professional in your area is the next step. If you are in Bucks County, PA or the surrounding area contact BioCare Recovery at 267-392-5200 for more information about addiction recovery.
Research reported by Health Day shows that ER doctors are limiting the number of Opioid prescriptions they write. This is an important step in decreasing the availability, and subsequently, the abuse of narcotic pharmaceutical painkillers. Check out the press release form NCADD here
Successful treatment for mostly all chronic illnesses is demonstrated by significant reduction in recurrence of acute symptoms. The goal of most treatments for chronic illness is complete sustained remission of all symptoms. The nature of chronic illness makes complete remission, in perpetuity, a painstaking task. It is hard to get well. It takes vigilance and sacrifice that can be challenging to accept and then maintain. When we are diagnosed with a chronic condition, it is life altering. We can be determined not to be limited by our illness. This resiliency walks a razor’s edge, however. On one end we have the capacity to face down our condition, alter our lifestyle, embrace our survival & make necessary changes to keep symptoms at bay. On the other hand we can minimize the seriousness of the condition, soldier on with our current lifestyle & minimize/endure the damage it is causing. There is no moral code for these decisions; it is our right as individuals to make independent choices for the life we want to lead. Bearing that in mind, most people want to achieve or experience some level of contentment in their life. Chronic, progressive conditions like addiction cause pain. Eventually that pain begins to intrude on a person’s ability to feel contentment; to the point where it can no longer be ignored. We then contemplate getting help. Some, most, then decide they NEED help. A menu of helpful options is available for people with substance abuse disorders. There is definitive proof that these accepted, studied, and commonly practiced remedies can be effective at reducing relapse. The combination of counseling and medication assistance is the gold standard from the treatment angle of the recovery process. It requires vigilance, however, and that is the toughest part. It can be easier to get well than to STAY well. Human tendency can lead us to discard help in the belief that we are past its ability to aid us. “I don’t need it anymore” or “I got this” are common refrains. That is when relapse occurs. Have you eve taken an antibiotic? Notice that the instructions say to “Take all medication as directed until finished” or some variation of that. People preemptively stopping treatment is not unique to addiction. Research treatment options, ask questions, seek second opinions, do the homework, make there tough decisions either for yourself or with a loved one in mind. There is no shortage of resources in the greater Philadelphia five county area (Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, Philly and Chester counties) . For information about reducing relapse and utilizing treatment options, check out this press release from the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence here. For the full article, check it out on Forbes website here
This article from Philly.com outlines some disturbing data directly caused by the nation’s burgeoning opioid problem. The number of newborn babies suffering from neonatal opioid withdrawal has nearly quadrupled since 2004. Alarming consequences from addiction and opioid abuse that MUST be addressed. Check out the article here
The federal government recently released a national survey on drug use and health. Some significant findings are as follows:
1) The methamphetamine epidemic is declining. Restrictions on ingredients, such as pseudoephedrine, have contributed to the drop.
2) Heroin use is increasing, having nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012. Prescription opioid addicts are moving toward heroin as they lose access to their illegal pill sources.
3) Marijuana is becoming more popular. This rise is attributed to the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes in many states and recreational uses in some other states.
4) Drug use among older Americans has increased. These statistics are attributed to the aging of the Baby Boomers, who had higher illicit drug use as teens and young adults than other generations.
5) Roughly 60 million people reported being binge alcohol drinkers. These drinkers had at least five drinks at once within a month of the survey.
The TIME article can be found here.
“However bad life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope” — Stephen Hawking 2006. Addiction is a family disease. The affliction alters reasoning, judgement, emotional stability & decision-making —- for loved ones. Countless time is spent researching the effects of addiction on drug users yet, perhaps, not enough consistent attention to the family’s needs. The landscape is not completely barren. There is plenty of support and information out there. Most families have been introduced to Al-Anon/Nar-Anon in some way or other support resources. In my experiences as a counselor, I have (subjectively) observed a parallel process: substance abusers difficulty seeking peer support and family members resistance to seeking consistent external support. It is difficult to ask for help, for anyone. The consequences of addiction are draining, crippling. These consequences make us vulnerable and a loved one may find themselves making decisions based on immediate emotional reactions (anger, disgust, fear). Just as a person in a active addiction may act on the desperation to sustain/protect their drug use so will a family member (parent, sibling, grandparent, spouse, significant other etc) defer to self-protective instincts. There is continuum of support: on one end of the extreme is “Neglect” and at the other end is “Overprotect”. When we “wash our hands of someone”, it is indicative of the ‘neglect’ end of the spectrum. When we “helicopter” over someone’s recovery, we are leaning towards the ‘overprotect’ part of the spectrum. Balance & self-care are paramount. Seeing a loved one succumb to addiction obliterates attention towards self-care and balance. It can be like navigating a minefield trying to find that balance, knowing when to maintain self-care and not martyr oneself in an effort to ‘save’ the substance using person. Families need support, sometimes counseling and guidance AS MUCH as their loved one. The addicted person may seek treatment; often overlooked is that the closest loved ones need to engage in THEIR OWN program/network of support on a consistent basis. If we are truly supportive, it is incumbent upon us to learn as much as we can. There are better outcomes with an open mind. Learn from science and the experiences of others. Recovery is not an addicted person “fixing” their own self-contained problem; such a philosophy undermines the complexity of the disease. The following article from Philly.com is a beautifully told slice-of-life presenting one mother’s struggle to maintain the balance of support and self care. This mother’s plight is easily relatable to many parents out there who have feeling like they are losing, have lost (tragically) or are fighting alongside their addicted sons/daughters. The story has the added benefit of being in our own backyard, a situation empathized with by parents throughout the 5-County area (Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery & Delaware counties) Check out the story here
More & more people’s lives are directly effected by consequences of addiction and conversely by the relief & inspiration from recovery. It becomes harder to turn our heads away from addiction as a result. It is a form of attrition that any illness yields when it begins to impact our children, siblings, parents, wives, husbands, co-workers, friends. When a condition begins killing people in greater numbers, we especially take notice. Our fears are heightened. In the heat of the moment and when we read about provocative stories resulting from aberrant behavior related to drug addiction, it can be difficult to see how this attrition is chipping away at addiction’s grip. Our generalizations about addiction are directly shaped by what we observe and experience, by what our consciousness is saturated with. It is actually true that more people RECOVER from addiction than are slain by it. This recovery is not provocative, however. It is subtle and nuanced. It takes time, patience, vigilance, privacy, pain and sacrifice. When the afflicted and their family do find themselves on the stable side of a recovery effort, we do not read about it in the papers. We do not soak up headlines. We are not bombarded by stories of people who have overcome their addiction. The progression of addiction has a similar pattern, kind of the other side of the mirror. It is also, oftentimes, subtle and nuanced. Our prejudices and stereotypes are shaped by the tip of the iceberg; the overdoses, antisocial behavior, DUI’s, outlandish public outbursts, drug shipment seizures by law enforcement, images of people nodding off or intoxicated in public and so on. We need to see the whole picture, the entire spectrum of addiction & recovery if we are going to win this thing. Bucks County, PA is implementing a program to step on the front lines of the fight against addiction. Check out more here