Friday, June 14, 2019

New Research on Cannabis Use

cannabis use disorder
Marijuana may not be at the top of the American people’s list of concerns, but it’s vital to stay up to date on current research. The end of cannabis prohibition in many states has led to a surge in scientific studies. There is a whole lot that we do not know about the dangers and benefits of marijuana.

Since cannabis use can lead to addiction and subsequent adverse effects, having all the facts can better inform treatment providers. Marijuana is a polarizing subject matter; as such, there is a lot of misinformation.

Several claims have been made that suggest weed can do wonders for people with severe medical conditions. In some cases, the assertions hold water, but others are unequivocally false. Weeding through all the material to find peer-reviewed research is an arduous task.

Given that more and more states are going to legalize both medical and recreational use, it’s paramount to inform citizens about the science.

New Research on Cannabis

Two new studies published recently present some interesting findings regarding medical marijuana, legalization, and the pathways to a cannabis use disorder. One study contradicts previous research, which claimed that medical cannabis reduces the rate of fatal opioid overdoses. The other seeks to explain why some heavy users become addicted, whereas others do not.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found no evidence that indicates opioid overdose deaths are reduced by the availability of medical cannabis, according to a press release. Moreover, the researchers found that states with medical marijuana had higher overdose death rates. The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“If you think opening a bunch of dispensaries is going to reduce opioid deaths, you’ll be disappointed,” said Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “We don’t think cannabis is killing people, but we don’t think it’s saving people.” 

A separate study we’d like to focus on appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Researchers used brain imaging to observe the neural of cannabis users who viewed images associated with use (e.g., drug cues), according to Elsevier. All of the human participants were heavy cannabis users.

The findings indicate that people with heavy marijuana use, with and without cannabis use disorders, had exaggerated responses in a brain region called the ventral striatum. This area of the brain handles reward processing. The scans of those who had a cannabis user disorder also showed more significant responses in the area that forms habits—the dorsal striatum. What’s more, the researchers found that dependent users had increased responses in the regions that attach importance to things.

“Cannabis is now legal for medical and recreational use in many parts of the United States and the health impacts of this development are still being understood,” said Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. “These findings are important insights that can help us better understand why some individuals might be more likely to become addicted to cannabis.”

California Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment

Marijuana addiction can take a severe toll and affect life quality. Those who meet the criteria for a cannabis use disorder tend to struggle in several areas of their life. Many who try to quit experience withdrawal symptoms that, if not managed professionally, lead to relapse.

If you or a loved one is having difficulty with marijuana, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our highly trained team of clinicians helps individuals break the cycle of addiction and sets them on a path toward long-term recovery. We invite you to take the first step and call us today for a confidential assessment. 866-273-0868

Friday, June 7, 2019

PTSD Awareness Month 2019

Exposure to traumatic experiences can leave lasting marks on a person’s psyche. While mental scars may seem indelible to those affected, evidence-based treatments for trauma exist and recovery is possible. When people are unable to access professional help, they are at significant risk of self-medicating and self-harm. As a result, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often accompanied by alcohol and substance use disorder.

Channeling more people who are living with PTSD to therapeutic and recovery services is a must. Unfortunately, stigma walls off many men and women from accessing recovery resources.

Even though victims are not at fault for the pain they’ve suffered, they can convince themselves otherwise. Vicious cycles of self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors come to life, resulting in the development of addiction and another mood-related psychopathology.

Fortunately, there is help available for individuals living with post-traumatic stress and co-occurring substance use disorders. During June, the National Center for PTSD is asking the general public to help raise awareness and break the stigma of this treatable mental health condition. This is PTSD Awareness Month!

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, we understand that mood or mental disorders coincide with addiction regularly. Many of our clients, now in recovery, began their journey towards addiction in direct response to trauma and subsequent PTSD. Stigma prevented many of these men and women from seeking help sooner. We have the power to change this common occurrence and empower people to request assistance.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Experts have long understood that there is a correlation between adverse experiences and substance use disorder. The connection is especially true when the trauma occurs during childhood before a person has developed effective, healthy coping mechanisms. As a person ages, and is introduced to drugs and alcohol, they discover that the symptoms of PTSD can be alleviated to a degree.

Mind-altering substances have the power to change people’s perception and numb some of the pain that they bear. Occasional use morphs into regular, heavy use; at which point, the substances, that one thinks are helping, become pernicious. In time, self-medicating PTSD symptoms will begin to have the opposite effect, serving only to exacerbate the feelings which men and women are trying to escape.

When co-morbidity or “dual-diagnosis” becomes one’s reality, it is paramount that they receive treatment for both conditions simultaneously. Treating one, while ignoring the other, significantly impedes a person’s ability to recover. In a sense, co-occurring disorders require co-occurring recoveries.

PTSD Awareness Month

When discussing PTSD, people are inclined to attach the condition to combat veterans. However, survivors of sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, or other traumatic events are all eligible for developing the condition too. Anyone dealing with symptoms can benefit from seeking professional assistance. The markers of PTSD include:
  • Re-experiencing the trauma (flashbacks)
  • Avoidance (i.e., staying away from anything that reminds one of the experiences)
  • Arousal and reactivity (feeling tense or being prone to outbursts)
  • Cognition and mood symptoms (negative self-talk, guilt, and blame)
“Even though PTSD treatments work, most people who have PTSD don’t get the help they need. June is PTSD Awareness Month. Help us spread the word that effective PTSD treatments are available.” – National Center for PTSD

There are several ways you can assist the efforts to break the stigma and encourage people to seek treatment. Please click here to learn more.


Southern California Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

We invite you to reach out to Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder. We specialize in treating men and women who have a dual diagnosis. Please contact us today to learn more.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Mental Health Disorders in College

mental health disorders
Families play a critically important role in the lives of young people in recovery. They are often the catalyst for a child seeking professional assistance for mental health disorders, and they also provide support at home.

Upon learning that a son or daughter is experiencing mental health or substance use problems, mothers and fathers struggle to determine the best course of action. They understand that expert help is necessary, but they may not want to derail their child’s life. Urging their kid to take a break from college often comes with a heavy heart.

Parents wanting their children to succeed in life is usually the main priority; they may hesitate to intervene or downplay the severity of the situation. It's both understandable and risky because mental illnesses are not to be ignored.

In recent years it has come to light that college students are subject to significant amounts of stress. Without healthy coping mechanisms in place, such individuals are apt to experience severe anxiety or turn to self-defeating behaviors to weather the storm. Many young people engage in alcohol and drug use to manage their symptoms.

Higher education is extremely competitive, exorbitantly expensive, and classloads are daunting for most students. Given that teens push themselves to the limits in high school to get into a top university, by the time they get into the college of their choice, they are exhausted.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 32% of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder. The American College Health Association reports that 60 percent of college students suffer from anxiety disorders and psychological distress.

Anxiety in College

Today is the conclusion of Mental Health Month. We want to direct parents and students to an NPR interview with Dr. Anthony Rostain, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and B. Janet Hibbs, a family and couples psychotherapist.

Dr. Rostain and Hibbs authored The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years, a new book about anxiety and stress in college.

“One of the reasons we wrote this book is not to scare parents, but to help them know what they can do to help,” said Hibbs. “When a child, for whatever reason, is hopeless or verging on that, families are incredibly, vitally important in maintaining hope. ... Having the emotional expression of the family convey warmth, support, unconditional support, not judgment, that ... is one of the best medicines.” 

The authors point out that kids today are being pushed extremely hard to succeed. They add that those with preexisting mental health conditions often let up on therapy once in school. Moreover, they point to research that shows only about one in four young people with suicidal ideation seek help. Rostain tells parents:

“Don’t be afraid of getting help from mental health professionals. We’re here to work with you and with your kids and we’re not here to blame you or to condemn you. So many parents face this fear of the shame or the embarrassment or the stigma, and what we think is the most deadly thing of all is not the mental illness, but the stigma around it that leads people to avoid getting the help in time.”

Self-Medicating Mental Health Disorders

Alcohol and substance use and abuse in college is often the result of untreated mental illness. Young men and women will turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their symptoms. The practice can result in the development of a use disorder on top of the mental health condition. It is critical that such people receive help for both issues simultaneously.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment program for young adults. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about our services and begin the journey of recovery.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Patrick Kennedy: On Addiction and Stigma

“Addiction was unimpressed that I came from a famous family.” – Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy 

Mental illness does not discriminate is a sentiment shared among experts in the field of medicine. Each person, if certain conditions are met, can struggle with mood disorders or behavioral health issues. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

To complicate matters even further, more than half of individuals who live with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. The fact of the matter is that addiction and other mental health disorders affect tens of millions of Americans. What’s more, despite a modern understanding of the mechanisms of psychological morbidity, stigma and shame remain pervasive.

As long as there have been mental diseases, there has been the stigma that goes with them; sometimes, it comes from strangers and other times, family. Moreover, the American health industry is still guilty of discriminating against people living with mental health conditions. Even though legislative protections exist, insurance providers continue to do everything they can to deny coverage.

Parity is a word of vital importance: the state or condition of being equal, especially regarding status or pay. In health care, the word means providing the same level of care and coverage to everyone regardless of the ailment.

Not too long ago, ante-Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) and Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurers were allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies could also set arbitrary coverage restrictions on those with mental illness.

Despite the enactment of the MHPAEA and ACA, the fight for parity continues, as well as the effort to eliminate stigma.


Mental Disorder and Addiction: Legitimate Health-care Issues

Last December, we wrote about former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and his “Don’t Deny Me” campaign. The champion of equal coverage and lead sponsor of the MHPAEA continues his effort to ensure every American receives the coverage they deserve.

Patrick Kennedy, some of you will remember, is in recovery. He has a keen understanding of what it’s like to live in silence, to be treated differently by those who you love. Now sober for eight years, he continues to share his story with others and encourage people to seek mental health services.

Over the weekend, Kennedy gave a commencement speech to an audience of 15,000 at the University of Rhode Island, Dispatch reports. He used the opportunity, as one might expect, to talk about his experience with addiction, mental illness, and stigma. Mr. Kennedy also encouraged 3,434 undergraduates to seek help if they experience symptoms of mental disorder.

During his speech, Patrick shared how his father, the late U.S. Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, lacked compassion for his struggles, according to the article. He said that “when it came to my addictions,” his father’s response was: “Patrick just needs a swift kick in the ass.”

“I spent many years lost in a fog of shame,” Kennedy said. 

Like many people with substance use issues, Kennedy hid his illness as best he could for as long as possible. Stigma will cause people to go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their problems, such behaviors often come at severe costs. When Patrick first sought recovery, he went out of his way to ensure no one knew he was seeking help. Again, such actions are a testament to the shame that looms over mental health conditions.

Seeking Help for Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Acknowledging that you have a problem that requires outside assistance isn’t simple, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we understand how challenging it is to ask for help and to look past stigma.

Recovery is possible for all determined to make it their reality. At HVRC, we can help you break the cycle of addiction, address any co-occurring disorders, and give you the tools to realize long-term sobriety. Please contact us today to speak with our admissions staff and to receive a chemical dependency treatment evaluation.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Decriminalizing Addiction in America

When discussing addiction in the United States, it is hard to ignore the fact that it has not been handled appropriately. On top of being in the midst of a substance use epidemic, we have a long history of punishing people for being ill. Arresting and incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders have led to the largest prison population in the world.

Even though Americans account for merely five percent of the global population, we have more inmates than any other country by far. While steps have been taken in recent years to confront overpopulation in penal institutions, more than two million adults live behind bars.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, one in five incarcerated people is locked up for a drug offense. Moreover, 451,000 Americans are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses on any given day. Over one million drug possession arrests occur each year in the U.S.

Addiction is a form of mental illness. It is imperative that more be done to put a stop to draconian drug sentencing laws and provide people with treatment instead. Locking people up for the crime of drug use is only a temporary fix. Without access to adequate mental health services, inside jail or out, recidivism is practically a guarantee.

There are other ways lawmakers and enforcement officials can tackle substance abuse in America. Many states and municipalities have changed their stance on drug use, opting for diversion, and addiction treatment over jail and prison.

The American opioid crisis has had an impact on policymakers, many of whom now understand that substance use disorder is a disease. They have witnessed that addiction can impact anyone in their communities. However, we still have a long way to go as a nation regarding the handling of all mental illnesses, but with use disorder especially.

How Portugal Handles Addiction

Making alterations to the criminal justice system is not a simple task. Dispelling bad ideas and implementing evidence-based changes does not happen overnight. While America has excelled at trying to arrest away drug addiction, we are not alone. Many other countries have engaged in similar wars on drugs. Although, some republics have made drastic changes to how they deal with substance use in recent years.

Some of our readers may remember when Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs in 2001. The outcome of the country’s decision to treat drug possession as a public health issue has had mixed results. While more research is needed to better understand these outcomes, there are some interesting items worth mentioning. Statistics show:
  • More people are seeking treatment.
  • New HIV diagnoses reductions.
  • Reductions in drug-related deaths.
  • Drug use among adolescents and problematic users declined.
  • Decreases in drug-related criminal justice workloads.
American prosecutors, in many cases, decide how to handle nonviolent drug offenders. It would seem that they may be able to glean insight from how things are being done across the Atlantic. This month, twenty prosecutors from major cities, like Philadelphia and Baltimore, are touring Portugal to learn about decriminalization.

The Marijuana Moment reports that the contingent of prosecutors will tour courts, prisons, treatment facilities, and health and community service providers. The trip is sponsored by the advocacy group Fair and Justice Prosecution.

“The enormous power of prosecutors to exercise their discretion in ways that ensure outcomes that enhance public safety and reduce recidivism is unparalleled in the criminal justice system,” said Washington, D.C. Attorney General, Karl Racine. “My colleagues and I look forward to learning from countries that have successfully reduced mass incarceration, reintegrated previously incarcerated individuals back into society, and treated drug users and individuals struggling with mental illness with health services and supports that have a high degree of success.”


California Chemical Dependency Treatment Center

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat to speak with our Admissions and Assessment Department. We can answer any questions you have regarding our approach and what you can expect from receiving our care. We can help you stop the cycle of addiction and show you how to take steps toward lasting recovery.