Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gambling Disorder and Older Americans

When we speak on the topic of addiction, it is typically with regard to drugs and alcohol. Yet, there are a number of other addictions that can disrupt the course of one’s life that do not involve mind altering substances. One such addiction is that of gambling, and it is not uncommon for people to sacrifice everything with the hopes of hitting it big, just once, on the casino floor. It is a dream that can lead to the loss of savings, home and family. And in the grips of despair, many gambling addicts will choose to take their own life—considering that to be their only option.

Gambling addiction is a condition which on the surface appears to be benign, when compared to substance use disorder, but it can actually be just as insidious. Millions of Americans meet the criteria for gambling disorders, the National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 2 million adults in the United States meet the criteria for "pathological gambling," and 4 to 6 million are considered "problem gamblers."

Gambling Disorder

There are a many labels that have been placed on people whose gambling has gotten out of control, such as problem, compulsive and pathological. The American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) calls the most severe form of the problem—"gambling disorder." While the problem can affect people from all walks of life, the most susceptible demographic is people in their later years.

In fact, casino data indicates that of the 101 million American casino visitors in 2014, about half were ages 50 or older, AARP Bulletin reports. There was time when the only places in America one could gamble were Atlantic City, NJ and Las Vegas, NV. Today, people need not travel far to find a casino, with Indian casinos dotting the landscape across the country. You can just hop in the car and be at a casino in no time at all, which can appear to be low lying fruit for older Americans that have the time and the money to spend. A costly illusion.

Casinos are spending a lot of money and time luring older Americans through their doors. They offer up enticing promotional deals, such as free food, booze and accommodations. And as long as one keeps the ante coming and the slot machines singing, casinos will do whatever they can to keep one in a trance. In 2014, the American casino industry reported racking in $66 billion in gambling revenue, according to the article. Seeing as nearly half of the gamblers are people over the age of 50, it is safe to assume that a lot of that money was spent by people who could ill-afford to spend it. Spending Social Security (SSA) checks, cashing in 401-Ks and mortgaging homes in order to keep playing, are not uncommon.

Gambling Disorder Treatment 

Hopefully, one’s gambling problem can be addressed before the situation gets any worse. Like with any addiction, those who are suffering are often in denial about the problem. It can be hard for someone to make the decision to seek help, and it can be hard for loved one’s to recognize that there is in fact, a problem. The DSM-V lists a number of signs that can indicate that someone has a gambling disorder, including:
  • Unable to cut back or control.
  • Irritable or restless when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Risks more money to reach desired level of excitement.
  • Gambles to escape problems or depressed mood.
  • “Chases" losses
  • Lies to family and others about gambling.
  • Risks or loses relationships or job because of gambling.
  • Relies on others for financial needs caused by gambling.
In the AARP Bulletin it is reported:
'Slots are also the most addictive form of casino gambling, with the machines designed to maximize your "time on device" until you're out of money. A 2001 study by psychiatrist Hans Breiter, then of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, confirmed that the machine's nickname—"electronic crack"—is an apt one. Using MRI scanners, he found that in subjects playing slots, the brain's neural circuits fired in a way that was similar to those using cocaine.' 

Seeking help for yourself or a loved one...

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Older Adult Addiction Treatment, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Smoking Cessation for Recovery

smoking cessation
Tobacco is a plant that is used to make a number of addictive products, such as cigarettes, cigars and “chew” or “dip.” The chemical that makes tobacco products both pleasurable and addictive is nicotine. For those working a program of recovery, tobacco products are typically the last habit to kick, yet in many ways they are the deadliest.

While the nation and its lawmakers continue to direct the main focus regarding mind altering substances towards opioids, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of the overall picture of addiction. Cigarettes, and their ilk, are rarely associated with loss of family, friends and/or employment—yet smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On top of that, nearly 6 million Americans lose their life to tobacco use every year, the equivalent of 1 in 5.

Smoking cessation is important to the longevity of anyone's life, yet for those in addiction recovery the stakes could be considered to be even higher. Those working a program of recovery who smoke cigarettes are found to be at an increased risk of relapse.

Smoking Cessation for Recovery 

In the field of addiction recovery, there has long been two different mindsets. In one camp, the belief is that when entering addiction treatment, a concerted effort should be made to cease the use of all mind altering substances. Whereas the other camp, while acknowledging that tobacco is both addictive and bad for you, it is best to tackle one issue at a time—focusing on smoking cessation down the road. The latter mindset, is not necessarily without merit, however, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that:
  • The majority of research indicates that smoking cessation is unlikely to compromise alcohol use outcomes (cf. Fogg and Borody 2001).
  • Participation in smoking cessation efforts while engaged in other substance abuse treatment has been associated with a 25 percent greater likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and other drugs (Prochaska et al. 2004).
  • Data indirectly suggest that continued smoking increases the risk of alcohol relapse among alcohol-dependent smokers (Taylor et al. 2000).

Quitting Smoking 

It is likely every American adult has no illusions about the dangers of smoking, yet even with smoking cessation treatments, success rates are fairly low. The options available for smokers today, include:
  • Gums
  • Patches
  • Inhalers
  • Medications (Chantix or Wellbutrin)
Those who use one of those treatments, in conjunction cognitive behavioral therapy, can and do manage to quit. Which is great! Yet, there are a number of people who cannot manage to abstain from smoking for long periods of time even with the aforementioned options, which is why researchers continue to look for innovative solutions.

Researchers have found a protein in the brain that could lead to smoking cessation treatments in the future, MNT reports. The research team found a way to crystalize the alpha-4-beta-2 (α4β2) nicotinic receptor, which helps them identify how nicotine works in the brain and could eventually lead to further breakthroughs. The findings were published in Nature.

"It's going to require a huge team of people and a pharmaceutical company to study the protein and develop the drugs, but I think this is the first major stepping stone to making that happen," said study co-author Dr. Ryan Hibbs, assistant professor of neuroscience and biophysics with the O'Donnell Brain Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. 

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2016

mental illness
At the beginning of the month we wrote about the importance of National Recovery Month with regard to breaking the stigma of addiction, encouraging people to seek addiction treatment and recognizing the achievements made by those in recovery. Those who are actively working a program, and have been for some time, are fully aware of the gifts of recovery—without their program nothing they have today would be possible.

Addiction is a debilitating, life threatening mental illness. Left untreated, and without a continued program of spiritual maintenance, addiction will continue to drag you down into the depths of despair. Every year people’s lives are cut short because of their addiction, which is why it is so important that we continue to spread the message that: together we can, and do recover from this insidious disease of the mind.

Blurring the Lines of Mental Illness

In the field of addiction medicine, it is not rare for people living with a substance use disorder to also have another form of mental illness at play, such as depression. When that is the case, such patients are referred to as having a co-occurring disorder. It is not all that important whether a person happens to have both addiction and another form of mental health disorder, or they developed a substance use disorder as a result of using drugs and alcohol to cope with the symptoms of their untreated mental illness. What is important for ensuring a successful recovery is that both the addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorder be treated at the same time, failure to treat one and not the other can be disastrous—leading to a relapse.

The stakes are exceptionally high, mental illness is a matter of life and death. People who use drugs and alcohol to cope with conditions like depression or bipolar disorder, put themselves at risk of overdose. Mental health conditions that are not treated can lead people to make rash decisions out of despair. After living with the uphill battle of mental illness for years—whether it be addiction, depression or both—many choose to take their own life. It is paramount that people who need help, get the assistance they desperately require.

A Permanent Solution… 

In the field of mental health, suicide is commonly referred to as finding a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But with aid of treatment, such finality can be avoided. In addition to September being National Recovery Month, it is also the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) would like to use the month of September to “promote resources and awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, how you can help others and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.”

The organization points out just how serious suicide prevention is, drawing from a number of statistics:
  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Of the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, often spurred on by mental health symptoms.
NAMI is asking that everyone do their part to help promote awareness of suicide prevention resources and promote discussion of suicide prevention awareness. If you’d like, you can share the image below on social media, using #suicideprevention or #StigmaFree.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Helping Others Find Recovery

National Recovery Month
In any given city or town in the United States, one can find a 12-Step meeting of recovery. Behind the closed doors, recovering addicts and alcoholics form circles and share their experience, strength and hope with one another. They do so anonymously, without fears of judgement or scrutiny. While everyone’s story is unique in its own way, people in recovery share many similarities with one another. There is hardly a thing that can be shared by one that will shock the other people in the circle.

Those who actively work a program find both comfort and strength through a common understanding that we are all in this together. Individual recovery depends upon working together with others who are trudging the road to a happy destiny—free from the vice-like grip of drugs and alcohol. A loose translation of the South African idea known as Ubuntu is as follows, ‘I am, because of you.’ It would seem that the 12-Steps of recovery have a lot in common with the “human-ness” concept of Ubuntu. And, just as all humans are connected through a universal bond, so too are the people who make a choice every day to better their lives in recovery. Only by helping others recover from substance use disorder, can you keep your own recovery.

Addiction Into The Light

The major reason for the anonymous aspect of 12-Step programs is the stigma which has long accompanied addiction. Verily, most people have little knowledge of the nature of addiction. It is an ignorance that perpetuates the need for anonymity. Even in recovery, addicts and alcoholics can be subject to reproach by the peers. Most people struggle to understand why you can’t drink like the rest, or why you would need to sit in a circle for an hour every day in order to abstain from using mind altering substances.

Fortunately, there are people all over the world who have made it their mission to break the stigma of addiction, with the hope that everyone who needs help will seek it. Many addicts and alcoholics prolong their chemical tenure because they do not want to be seen by others as having a problem that is beyond their control. Those working in the field of addiction know all too well that the longer one puts off recovery, the greater the chances that their disease will cut their life short. It is paramount that those who are active in their addiction find encouragement, not just from friends and family, but from society—to seek help and find recovery.

Join The Voices of Recovery 

In September we observe National Recovery Month. It is an important time of the year for everyone working a program and working in the field of addiction medicine. For 27 years, the month has been dedicated to raising awareness about addiction and other forms of debilitating mental health disorders. What’s more, National Recovery Month is about breaking the stigma of addiction, letting people know that recovery is possible and how to achieve it.

The theme this year is, Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery! Both people working a program and their families are being encouraged to share their story, with the hope that it will inspire millions of people to seek addiction treatment services. Addiction recovery should not have to exist in the shadows any longer, the stakes are too high. If you would like to share your personal story and successes in order to encourage others, please click here.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

College Students Drink More Alcohol

alcohol use
One’s adolescent and teenage years can easily be characterized as a time for experiencing new people, places and things. There is a plethora of changes that occur in people’s behaviors and social interactions, all while one is developing both inside and out. Young people often feel the need to fit in with their peers, and some are willing to go to extreme lengths to accomplish the goal of acceptance. It is a trend that often involves the use of drugs and alcohol.

While experimenting with mind altering substances can be viewed as being a part of a young person’s life, for others it can be the start of a dangerous road towards addiction. Sure, for the majority of young people, alcohol and drug use is just a passing phase that will be traversed without a problem, a reality which almost allows older people to be OK with endorsing such behavior. However, in light of the tragedy that befalls many young people every day due to substance use and abuse—it is vital that preventative measures be taken with regard to alcohol use by young adults.

College Drinking

In the United States, there is a common misconception that teenagers who go off to college are less likely to engage in risky behavior, compared to their non-academic peers. There is an idea that those who are keeping up their grades and attending class can have a pass when it comes to weekend use of mind altering substances. As is evident by how pervasive weekend parties are, in and around college campuses. Some people may even think that college students drink and drug less than young adults who are not working to advance their education. It is a line of thinking that is made in error.

In fact, new research suggests that college students actually drink more alcohol than those of the same age who are not attending an institute of higher learning, HealthDay reports. The research showed that college students are also more likely to binge drink than 18- to 22-year-olds who are not in school. Binge drinking is a dangerous behavior commonly defined as having 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women, in a two-hour period. Despite being in college, students often carry on a surreptitious affair with alcohol—a relationship that can result in an alcohol use disorder.

Target Audience

The findings come from a survey released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), according to the article. The data indicates that 60 percent of full-time college students are current drinkers, compared with 51.5 percent of other adults in the same age group. The survey showed that 38 percent of college students reported having had a binge-drinking episode at least once in the past month, compared with 33.5 percent of their peers not attending university.

Fran Harding, who directs the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), says the findings could help with efforts to tailor college substance use, "so that we can better target prevention programming to young adults from all walks of life with vital information on substance use disorder prevention and treatment."

Alcohol Use Disorder and Recovery

Our Young Adult Program at Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat focuses on the particular needs and sensitivities of the emerging adult. The use of alcohol and drugs during the developmental years can inhibit the necessary skills and abilities necessary to manage emotions, communicate thoughts and feelings, and problem-solve effectively.

At HVRC, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center, 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.