Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Opioid Addiction Among Older Americans

opioid addiction
The “golden years” of one’s life ideally would be typified by spending time with grandchildren and spending time on the links. After all, you have earned it after decades working towards a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, older Americans are often set back by chronic pain, the lingering symptoms of an injury or just the byproduct of weathering life’s many storms. Back injuries and arthritis is particularly common among people in their 60’s and beyond.

Our interest in the trend of chronic pain among older Americans, as you can probably easily deduce, lies with how pain is managed in America—more times than not the solution rests with opioid painkillers. Given that much of the talk about the opioid epidemic in the United States is focused on young adults overdosing in record numbers, it can become easy to lose sight of the true scale and scope of the epidemic. It is important to understand that people from both ends of the adult spectrum have been touched by both opioid use disorder and opioid overdose death.


Eligible For An Overdose

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that nearly 14,000 (42 percent of the annual total) people who died from an opioid overdose were over the age of 45. The fact that older Americans are becoming addicted and dying from overdose made up nearly half of the death toll that year is certainly troubling, but what’s just as concerning is that that has not gained much attention.

"The deaths of older people are an untold part of it," Jeremiah Gardner tells AARP, public affairs manager of the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. 

The reality is that everyone is eligible for developing a dependence to a narcotic - old or young, rich or poor, white or black. Just because someone is experiencing regular symptoms of pain does not mean that the answer is always opioid painkillers. But, in the same year mentioned earlier, almost one-third of all Medicare patients (around 12 million people) received a prescription for opioids like OxyContin (oxycodone), according to AARP. In 2015, 2.7 million Americans over 50 painkillers were used in unintended ways, and in the past 20 years opioid abuse related hospitalizations of people over 65 quintupled.

Please take a moment to watch a video about older Americans affected by opioids narcotics:

If you are having troubling watching, please click here.


We Know How We Got Here, Now What?

The causes of the American prescription opioid addiction epidemic are aplenty. One of the major contributing factors is our over reliance of this class of drugs for practically all severities of pain. Researchers have yet to offer a viable, non-addictive alternative to date—which means prescribing trends will probably remain stable, at least among older Americans, whose health problems are objectively visible. However, what is done when opioid use disorder is identified will make all the difference in the fight to save lives.

Those who seek help in addiction treatment facilities, especially centers with specialty tracks like our own, greatly increase their chance of not becoming a statistic of the morbid side of this epidemic. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we understand that our older clients have specific needs that must be addressed, if successful outcomes are to be achieved. Our 30 day Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program is tailored to meet those needs, providing an intimate setting where clients are surrounded by a non-confrontational group of peers all working towards the goal of long-term recovery.

Please contact us today to begin the lifesaving journey of addiction recovery.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

PTSD Awareness Month 2017

On Monday, much of the nation observed Memorial Day. Historically, the day was a time for honoring the brave American men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. While that is still the case, people who observe the holiday today often take a moment to also remember and honor those men and women who came home from overseas after their tours of duty. To be sure, and thankfully, those individuals are still with us. But one might find themselves wondering what Memorial Day has to do with those who survived? A question that could probably be answered in several ways.

That being said, it is an unfortunate fact that a significant young men and women come home after serving in armed conflict—changed. Some suffered serious physical injuries, and have scars to show what they went through. Whereas, others come back physically unchanged, but a have a hollow look in their eyes; the wounds they suffered are internal, and such injuries are the direct result of witnessing traumatic events. The experience of war can linger on in veterans for years to come, what is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A condition which, for some, makes it almost impossible to have healthy relationships, hold employment and lead a fulfilling life.

Some veterans who come back from war with symptoms of PTSD receive treatment, and with continued maintenance do recover. The reality is that the clear majority of American servicemen and women living with post-traumatic stress are not getting the help they need. Such people often resort to drug and alcohol abuse to mitigate their symptoms. And, as a result, alcohol and substance use disorders are the byproduct of self-medication. Without treatment, the problem continues to untenable points, the substances no longer help and only serve to exacerbate the PTSD. A staggering number individuals with PTSD and a co-occurring substance use disorder, attempt and succeed at taking their own life. All of which could have been potentially avoided with treatment. With all this in mind, one could easily argue that those soldiers lost their life overseas.

PTSD Awareness Month 2017

Mental health disorders of any kind can dramatically disrupt the course of one’s life. Providing access to effective methods of treatment are paramount, not just for veterans but for anyone who has experienced trauma. As was pointed out earlier, left to one’s own devices self-medication often occurs, creating even more problems. It is absolutely vital that people experiencing symptoms of the disorder are encouraged to seek help.

June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time to encourage everyone to raise public awareness about PTSD and the treatments available. As with any form of mental illness, we can all have a hand in showing compassion and support, helping those who have been touched by PTSD.
“Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help Veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care." - Dr. Paula P. Schnurr, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD.
June 27th is PTSD Awareness Day. For more information on how you can help people suffering from untreated PTSD, click here.


Holistic Treatment For Mental Health 

The therapeutic drug and alcohol treatment process at the Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat occurs within a holistic, cognitively-oriented framework. It is facilitated through educational, task oriented and process groups. Introduction to the twelve-step program and philosophy is a component of treatment. Our experienced, professional staff fully grasps the need for treating the whole patient, both substance use and any other form of mental illness that may accompany the insidious disorder. Please reach out to HVRC today. Recovery is possible.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Keeping Recovery During the Summer

addiction recovery
Whether you live on the east or west coast of America, summer appears to finally be at our doorstep. Phew! The winter can be a hard time for people in recovery for addiction. Less sunshine, cold days and nights often makes people depressed, particularly people who have a history of mental illness. It can be difficult to muster the strength to work and be active; and idle time for addicts is most certainly the devils…

Not feeling well because of the weather can cause you to think that maybe a drink or drug will improve your state of being. One must constantly be replaying the tape of where that kind of thinking can take you. Reminding oneself of the leaps and bounds you have made in life which you owe entirely to your recovery. If you managed to make it through the winter without a relapse, we at HVRC thank you for being living proof that even in tough times, the practices and principles of recovery work.

If on the other hand, you happen to have relapsed and returned to the program despite the feelings that come with a relapse, you made the right choice. Perhaps you are still in the midst of active addiction post relapse, we implore you to seek treatment immediately.


Addiction Recovery Over The Summer

While the warmer months certainly bring more opportunities to get out of one’s own head, suck the marrow out of life, it is not always a walk in the park. Particularly for alcoholics who long associated warm weather with drinking cold beer. Going to parties on the major holidays, and barbecuing every weekend can also carry a host of triggers.

Recovery is 24/7, 365 day-a-year is a mission to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. In order to experience the gifts that the program can afford you, vigilance is a must. If you find yourself experiencing triggers, then get to a meeting, talk to someone. Call Your Sponsor. Call Your Sponsor, Again. You can never protect your program too much.

Make plans to soak up the sun with others who are working towards your common goal of recovery. It cannot be said enough, we can have fun in recovery. If you are taking trips around the country or world this summer, have a plan in place. Find meetings to go to along the way, before you depart. Going to meetings in different cities, states and countries can be a really fun experience. You never know what kind of interesting people you will meet at foreign recovery meetings. Potentially making lasting connections.


This Could Be A Life Changing Summer

If you are in the grips of active addiction currently, the summer might be the perfect opportunity to address the problem and seek treatment. Many people will tell themselves that they do not have time to go to treatment for three months, worried that it will impact schooling or their job. But the summer may provide you the time you need. Even if it doesn’t, failing to seek help will eventually result in education or career losses. Ultimately, untreated addiction takes everything.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat today, to start a new existence. One free from the stranglehold of active drug or alcohol use. Recovery is waiting for you.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cannabis Use Disorder In America

cannabis use disorder
Every couple of years it seems like more states alter their policy regarding marijuana use, whether that be for medical or recreational purposes. While California was the first state to successfully pass and implement a medical marijuana program in 1996, the Golden State would not be the first to legalize recreational pot use for adults. But, nevertheless California voters passed legislation ending the prohibition last November, joining: Alaska, Colorado, DC, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. All told 29 states and Washington DC have medical marijuana programs operating or in the works.

The issue of cannabis use in the United States has historically been a hallmark of political division across the country, but it is clear the gap continues to diminish in size—arguably the result of fewer Americans viewing the plant as inherently dangerous. Even Americans who do not use cannabis products (or plan to) now believe that possession of the drug is not cause for arrest and/or imprisonment. More and more people in the U.S. understand that our prisons have more inmates (by far) than any other country in the world, and that the majority of the people behind bars are there because of nonviolent drug offenses. The product of a seemingly futile war on addiction—masquerading as a “war on drugs.”


The Big Picture

The arguments for legalization of medical marijuana and recreational use are very appealing when you consider the damage done to individuals whose only crime was simple possession of what even members of the government consider to be a fairly benign substance (relatively speaking). Such arrests do not just affect the individual, they impact families and entire communities that are by and large impoverished and mainly populated by ethnic minorities like African Americans and Latinos. Whether you are for or against marijuana use, it is hard to disagree with the statistics of who has been affected the greatest by the war on drugs.

On the other hand, it is important that we take a look at the big picture and what an end to prohibition can bring with it—particularly heightened addiction rates. There is still a lot that scientists do not understand about cannabis, and the drug's impact on humans. We know that it can wreak havoc in the developing brains of teenagers and young adults, and impact cognitive function in older adults. But there is rarely much talk about marijuana addiction, otherwise known as cannabis use disorder. However, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center have attempted to shed some light on progressive marijuana policies and addiction.


Cannabis Use Disorder

One reason why people do not speak much of weed addiction is because when compared to other substance use disorders it can be hard for people to view the former as being a big deal. Stereotypical representations of pot smokers do not show such people pawning all their belongings so they can inject weed into their arm. Sure, people who smoke pot may have a deficit in motivation, but they are not robbing pharmacies to get their fix. Even in rooms of addiction recovery, some people are prone to look down their nose at those whose life became unmanageable because of smoking marijuana. Yes, even among addicts there is at times what could be called a reverse hierarchy. To be clear regarding recovery programs, people viewing other problems as somehow lacking the credentials for free admission to recovery is not the norm—but rather the exception.

Opinions aside, there is clear evidence that cannabis use disorder is real. It can, and does, negatively impact people's lives. The condition is recognized in the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and furthermore, pot addicts who attempt to quit the drug do in fact experience withdrawal symptoms which can precipitate relapse.

Even though the country is steaming towards an end to prohibition on the Federal level, it is important that people living in states where the drug is now legal understand all the risks. A new study looked at cannabis use and cannabis use disorders before and after medical marijuana laws were passed in certain states, ScienceDaily reports. The researchers found that illicit marijuana use decreased and marijuana use disorder remained flat between 1991-1992 and 2001-2002, but both illicit use and cannabis use disorder rates increased between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. Naturally, more research is needed to better understand the correlation.

"Medical marijuana laws may benefit some with medical problems. However, changing state laws -- medical or recreational -- may also have adverse public health consequences, including cannabis use disorders," said study author Deborah Hasin, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. "A prudent interpretation of our results is that professionals and the public should be educated on risks of cannabis use and benefits of treatment, and prevention/intervention services for cannabis disorders should be provided."



If marijuana is impacting your life in negative ways, it is possible that you are dependent on the substance. If you continue to use despite adverse effects, it is a usually a sign that a problem exists. Help is available and there are a significant number of people who are recovering from cannabis use disorder, living productive and fulfilling lives. Please reach out to us at Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat to discuss treatment options and beginning the journey of recovery.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Opioid Addiction and Pain Management

pain management
Rough estimates indicate that some two million Americans are dependent on prescription opioids, though many experts believe that approximation is low. Between painkillers and other forms of opioid abuse, the problem has gained epidemic status. Those who become addicted to this class of drugs are at great risk of overdose and everyday nearly 100 people succumb to the side effects of opioid toxicity.

People who get hooked on powerful painkillers are in a tight spot, especially those who started using opioids as the result of experiencing chronic pain. Such people usually require detoxification and the assistance of an addiction treatment center, followed by working a program of recovery. While such programs are effective at addressing the addiction aspect, it is not as if one’s chronic pain is going to magically disappear. Unabated pain symptoms can, and do, steer individuals back into the cycle of addiction.

To be sure, there are in fact alternatives to opioids. They may not be addictive, but they are hardly as effective. Ibuprofen and the like can only do so much, a lot of people do not respond to acupuncture and holistic treatments. Which is why finding effective measures of pain mitigation could be argued as being just as important as ensuring access to addiction treatment services. Rest assured, researchers are working hard to find non-addictive medical alternatives that mirror the efficacy of opioids.


Complex Pain

One of the reasons treating pain effectively and safely, is that it is hard to measure the adequacy of a drug or procedure, because pain and one’s response to it is subjective. Big pharma has had limited success at developing opioid alternatives for decades, CBS News reports. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, pointed out that drug companies pumped a lot of money into the quest years ago, but “failed miserably.”

Tanezumab is one drug that has proven to be quite effective at treating pain caused by arthritis and bad backs, by targeting outlying nerves, according to the report. The drug blocks pain signals from reaching the spinal cord and brain that originate in the muscles, skin and organs. Unfortunately, tanezumab, pronounced tah-NAZE-uh-mab, has been plagued by setbacks which have kept it from market, even though trial participants experienced great results.

The drug blocks what is known as nerve growth factor—a protein made in response to pain—which might affect joint repair and regeneration in patients needing knee or hip replacements, the article reports. As a result, studies were put on hold in 2010 but have resumed again, results are expected sometime next year.


The Future of Pain Management

Cell therapies, stem Cells and sodium channel blockers are being researched by drug companies. Researchers are considering medicines that can be injected into joints to relieve pain, or grow cartilage. Drugs like Embrel for instance do not act directly on the brain rather targeting the pain pathways and specific types of pain caused by arthritis. There has also been much interest in developing cannabinoid medications that lack the euphoric or addictive properties. For the time being, opioid narcotics will still be the “go-to” painkillers, but it is a good sign that scientists are working hard to stem the tide.

It’s important to keep in mind that there may never be a cure-all pain medication that lacks addictive properties. What’s more, relying on less effective measures of pain management are likely the lesser of two evils when compared to the insidious nature of dependence and addiction. Better to live in some pain, as opposed to putting one’s life at risk of peril.

If you have become addicted to your opioid painkillers, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program can help you with the withdrawal process and begin you on the road of recovery. Under the guidance of our medical director, an alternative pain management treatment strategy will be developed. We have helped a significant number of people who have been in the position you find yourself.