Friday, April 13, 2018

Long-term opioid use is down among vets, study finds

opioid-use-vetsA study found that efforts by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to promote safer prescribing practices of opioids appear to be effective.

According to research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, opioid prescriptions by the VHA have been on the decline after peaking in 2012. The drop-off in prescriptions is primarily due to a decrease in long-term opioid prescriptions, which pose a higher risk of addiction and overdose compared to short-term prescriptions, said Katherine Hadlandsmyth, Ph.D., lead author and professor at the University of Iowa.

The study analyzed VHA prescription data from 2010 to 2016, which included more than 4 million veterans each year.

According to that data, in 2010 opioids were prescribed at least once to 20.8% of veterans (962,193 out of approximately 4.63 million). The opioid prescription rate dropped in 2016 to 16.1% of veterans (803,888 out of 4.99 million) who received new prescriptions for opioids including oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

Researchers also looked into long-term opioid use, which accounted for around 90% of VHA opioid prescriptions during the 6-year period. The percentage of veterans receiving long-term opioid treatment went from 9.5% in 2012 to 6.2% in 2016.

According to Hadlandsmyth, this is because fewer veterans receiving new prescriptions for opioids became long-term opioid users. The probability of a veteran becoming a new long-term opioid user decreased from 2.8% in 2011 to 1.1% in 2016.

Hadlandsmyth believes that the improvement in prescribing practices could be the result of recent VHA initiatives that call for opioid safety and opioid alternatives in chronic pain treatment. Since 2010 the VHA has provided clinical practice guidelines to health care professionals about how to safely and effectively use opioids to manage chronic pain, as well as how to select and monitor patients and wean patients off of opioids if desired treatment outcomes are not met.

The VHA also offers guidelines for complementary treatment and multidisciplinary therapy to manage pain, which include behavioral, chiropractic and stepped treatment, or delivering the most effective, least intensive treatment first, and “stepping up” to more intensive treatment as required.

“Future work to understand precisely which initiatives have most positively impacted opioid prescribing would be necessary to maintain effective approaches within VHA,” said Hadlandsmyth.

In the meantime, the VHA’s example could be valuable for other health care organizations. Prescription opioids are not the only way to manage chronic pain. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, our Chronic Pain Program and First Responders Program have effectively helped hundreds of clients find relief from chronic pain without opioids and address the physical and mental aspects of addiction as they relate to military trauma. For more information about our addiction recovery services, please contact a Hemet Valley Recovery Specialist at 866-273-0868.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Work

opioid use disorder
Over the last few years, the death rate from opioids fell by an astonishing 25 percent in Oregon; unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most of the country. Before we get to how such a feat was made possible, let’s discuss some of the ways the nation found itself in the midst of an epidemic. Remember, over two-million Americans are struggling with and opioid use disorder, fewer than 1 in 5 receive any treatment, and over a hundred people die each day from an overdose.

Most individuals are privy to the fact that prescription opioid addiction epidemic and heroin scourge is the result of severe over-prescribing. Doctors are not solely responsible, but they play a significant role. It is worth noting that the job of a physician, among other things, is to provide relief whenever possible. A patient is in pain, and a doctor can help ease their discomfort with the aid of opiate painkillers. In most cases, the practice of prescribing opioids in low doses for short durations does not lead to patient problems; however, when doctors prescribe opioids in high doses for months on end, dependence is almost guaranteed.

Despite the writing on the wall, many primary care physicians (PCPs) continue to prescribe in manners what experts can only describe as reckless. To be sure, doctors must consider and treat patient pain, and if they do so at risk of harming their patients, it is problematic. What’s more, merely turning off the fountain is not the solution; instead, primary care physicians must prescribe responsibly, have knowledge about alternative forms of pain management, be able to identify patients with use disorders and refer them to treatment centers. Any failures to provide that kind of support can lead patients to the street in search of illicit drugs.

Doctors Combating Opioid Use Disorder

Health and addiction experts understand how dangerous long-term opioid prescriptions are for patients. The same professionals also know, thanks to tireless research, that drugs like OxyContin are not adequate for treating chronic pain and can worsen one’s symptoms, lead to addiction, and cause an overdose. With that in mind, perhaps you remember the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing new prescribing guidelines in 2016? The suggestions were optional, but a vast number of doctors vehemently opposed the guidelines; their argument, primarily, was that they didn’t need instructions and such rules could keep patients from accessing pain care.

Well, it’s now 2018, and not much has changed nationally regarding prescribing practices, except for in a few places, Oregon is one such state. Instead of ignoring the CDC guidelines, a task force came about to put the suggestions into practice with vigor. Doctors in Oregon are using the prescription drug monitoring database which has curbed over-prescribing and doctor shopping. Better educating physicians on pain management has led to relying on opioids less, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. PCP’s are introducing people to alternative pain treatments like acupuncture, sleep, and physical therapy. Teaching patients about proper prescription drug disposal is beneficial, as well.

“There’s this report that says that the average time that it takes guidelines to turn into clinical practice is 17 years. That’s from the Institutes of Medicine,” said Dr. Cat Livingston, a family physician at OHSU’s Richmond Clinic in Portland. 

With so many people dying each day, seventeen years is not a realistic time-frame. Livingston says the task force came about to lessen that time. It appears to have worked; a 25 percent reduction is worth taking notice; hopefully, other states will make adjustments.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are struggling with opioid addiction, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat. With the assistance of our Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program, you can begin the life-saving journey of lasting recovery, so that you may lead a fulfilling and productive life.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

5 Ways to Manage Chronic Pain Without Opioids

manage-chronic-pain-opioid-alternativesIf you’ve ever dealt with pain, especially chronic pain, then you know how hard it is to think about or do anything else. You just want to make the pain go away as quickly as possible so you can finally get relief.

This approach--pain relief as quickly as possible--can lead to an unhealthy reliance on pain medications such as opioids, which can lead to tolerance and addiction. But there are other ways to cope with chronic pain than just taking a pill. These opioid alternatives might require a bit more effort, but they can bring relief without unpleasant side effects or the risk of addiction.

1. Acupuncture

This form of traditional Chinese medicine involves the insertion of very thin, sterile needles into certain pressure points in the body, which stimulates nerve fibers and signals the central nervous system to release natural chemicals that relieve pain. According to traditional Chinese medicine, energy, or chi, flows through specific pathways in the body. When illness, pain or inflammation are present, they block energy flow. Acupuncture helps to restore the flow of energy and relieve pain.

Clinical studies have shown it’s useful in treating a multitude of symptoms, conditions and diseases, including:

  • Headaches
  • Sciatica
  • Joint pain
  • Neck pain
  • Low back pain
  • Sprain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Post-operative pain

2. Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractic is a common alternative treatment for back pain, though it can be used throughout the body. Hands-on spinal manipulation aligns the body’s musculoskeletal structure and helps the body heal itself without medication or surgery. There is substantial evidence that supports chiropractic as an effective treatment for low back pain or disability.

Manipulations help to restore mobility to joints damaged by a tissue injury caused by a fall or repetitive stress, such as tension or sitting at a desk with poor posture. It’s commonly used to relieve pain in the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues, such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments.

3. Yoga

Chronic pain triggers changes in the brain that are linked to anxiety, depression and impaired cognitive function, but research has shown that yoga has the opposite effect on the brain and can actually relieve chronic pain.

Studies have found that chronic pain leads to changes in the volume of gray matter and the integrity of white matter connectivity. Gray matter consists of neurons and is abundant in the cerebrum, cerebellum and brainstem. White matter is the filaments that extend from gray matter and create communications pathways between various regions of the brain.

The volume of gray matter and the integrity of white matter decrease with age, but yoga has shown to offset the decrease of gray and white matter and reduce the perception of pain by volumizing gray matter and strengthening white matter connectivity.

4. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy for chronic pain uses essential oils, which are highly concentrated extracts from plants that contain medicinal healing properties. Essential oils offer numerous therapeutic benefits that promote rebalancing and healing for the mind and body. When applied topically, essential oils are delivered to cell membranes and diffuse throughout blood and tissues, increasing immune function and circulation.

Aromatherapy can be delivered in a number of ways, including:

  • Inhalation
  • Massage
  • Baths
  • Diffusers
  • Compresses

Lavender, chamomile, rosemary, peppermint, bergamot and eucalyptus oil can reduce inflammation and stimulate circulation. While aromatherapy isn’t a proven treatment for chronic pain, there is research that supports its efficacy in reducing pain in the low back and knee, as well as chronic pain caused by surgery and multiple sclerosis.

5. Biofeedback

This self-regulatory form of therapy helps to increase awareness of pain and change physiological responses to reduce symptoms. Sensors are placed on a patient’s body while a therapist monitors brain waves, blood pressure, breathing, muscle tension, heart rate and skin temperature on a computer screen in real time. The therapist guides the patient through a series of relaxation exercises that help the patient change and control the things that cause pain. Studies on the efficacy of biofeedback have found that it provides relief for chronic pain conditions, such as:

  • Tension headaches
  • Migraines
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ disorder)
  • Arthritis

Prescription opioids aren’t the only way to reduce chronic pain. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, our Chronic Pain Program has helped hundreds of people get relief from pain and recover from addiction. For more information about our holistic therapies and pain management alternatives, contact us at 866.273.0868.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Mental Illness Impacts College Students

mental illness
At HVRC, we treat many young adults struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Our team of skilled professionals stresses to clients the importance of treating the whole patient, not just the alcohol or substance use disorder. It is of the utmost importance that both conditions receive treatment simultaneously if clients are to achieve successful outcomes in the way of long-term recovery.

There has long been a debate over whether addiction precipitates co-occurring mental illness or if conditions like depression and anxiety bring about self-medication and addiction as a result. The dialectic on the subject will likely persist for decades to come, but it’s likely that both propositions are cogent. With that in mind, ensuring the treatment of mental health disorders is the vital part any discussion.

When pathologies present themselves varies from case to case; however, young adulthood is a time when people most often show signs of illness. College-age men and women regularly struggle with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder; and, until recently, most students kept their struggle to them self. Thanks to a significant effort to encourage young people to disregard the stigma of mental illness, a more substantial number of nascent adults are speaking up and seeking assistance. This new-found reality is good news, what isn’t so great is that many institutes of higher learning are woefully unprepared to meet the demand.


Mental Illness In College

Young adults living with mental health conditions are far more likely to resort to self-medication, self-harm, and entertain suicidal ideations. Those who are attending college courses have access to campus resources that can assist young people with their disorders. However, an American College Health Association survey shows that nearly 40 percent of students dealt with symptoms of depression and 61% of students said they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. They also reported that their symptoms made it difficult to function at times, TIME reports. The survey results are alarming, and thankfully there is support to be found on campus. But is it enough?

A 2016 report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health shows that the number of students seeking support on campus for mental illness rose 30 percent between 2009 and 2015, according to the article. Schools are doing what they can to meet the ever-increasing demand for support, but resources are limited. The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey shows that the typical American university has a single counselor for every 1,737 students (the recommended minimum is one therapist for every 1,000 to 1,500). What’s more, much of a therapist’s time is devoted to crisis control; students don’t have access to long-term treatment options.

“A lot of schools charge $68,000 a year,” says Dori Hutchinson, director of services at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. “We should be able to figure out how to attend to their whole personhood for that kind of money.”


Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

If you are a young adult in college and are struggling with addiction and a co-occurring disorder, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat. We can help you begin the life-saving journey of lasting recovery, so that you may lead a fulfilling and productive life.

Monday, March 19, 2018

What Is PTSD and How Is It Treated?

Post-traumatic stress is a mental health disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It’s estimated that 7.8% of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives, and approximately 5.2 million Americans experience PTSD during the course of any given year.

Traumatic events include:

  • Exposure to combat, accidents, or other gruesome scenes
  • Childhood abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Assault
  • Being threatened with a weapon
  • An accident

Symptoms of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by four types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms: Flashbacks accompanied by a racing heart or sweating, nightmares and frightening thoughts are characteristic of this type of symptom. They can be brought on by a person’s thoughts and feelings or triggered by anything that is a reminder of the traumatic event, such as words, people or objects.
  • Avoidance symptoms: A person may alter his or her routine to avoid particular triggers, such as people, places, objects or situations that serve as reminders of the traumatic event. For example, a veteran may stop watching news coverage of combat scenes.
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms: Instead of being triggered by something, reactivity symptoms, such as insomnia, hypervigilance and angry outbursts are constant and can make it challenging to function day-to-day.
  • Cognition and mood symptoms: These symptoms can be brought on or made worse by a traumatic event. Having trouble remembering significant details about the traumatic event, negative feelings about oneself and the world, distorted emotions like extreme guilt, and loss of interest can make a person withdraw from family and friends.

Risk Factors for PTSD

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age, but not everyone who lives through a traumatic event develops PTSD. It’s not clear why some people get PTSD and others don’t. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most people won’t. Like most other mental health problems, however, it is likely caused by a combination of stressful experiences, a person’s temperament, a family history of mental health issues, and how the brain regulates the hormones and chemicals released by the body in response to stress.

Risk factors for PTSD include:

  • Witnessing or personally experiencing a traumatic event
  • Having experienced trauma earlier in life
  • A job that increases your exposure to traumatic events, such as a first responder, member of law enforcement or military personnel
  • Mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety
  • A family history of mental health problems
  • A lack of a stable support system
  • Substance abuse

How PTSD Is Treated

Because PTSD affects everyone differently, the treatment that is effective for one person might not be sufficient for another. The main types of treatment for those with PTSD include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), is the primary form of treatment for PTSD. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are also commonly prescribed.

If you or someone you know is affected by PTSD, it’s crucial that you are treated by a mental health professional who is experienced in treating PTSD. Proper treatment can reduce and even eliminate many symptoms of PTSD. Talk therapy and, if necessary, medication can help you learn how to:

  • Address and manage symptoms
  • Change the way they view themselves, others and the world
  • Treat the other issues associated with traumatic experiences, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse

You can’t forget the memories of a traumatic experience, but effective treatment can help you gain control over your life by eliminating or even reducing the extent to which those memories trigger symptoms.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center’s specialized First Responders Program addresses the effects PTSD has on first responders, firefighters, law enforcement, medical professionals, military personnel and others who have experienced trauma firsthand. Every HVRC client’s treatment plan is designed to address their unique circumstances utilizes a range of therapeutic modalities to help men and women recover and reclaim their lives.

We are also in-network with most major insurance providers, as well as Medicaid and TRICARE. For more information about our First Responders Program, or to verify your insurance coverage, please contact us at 866.273.0868.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

FEND Off Opioid Use Disorder

opioid use disorder
Millennials who grew up in Southern California are familiar with Vans Warped Tour, an annual event for the last 24 years. The festival is primarily a roaming music tour that showcases half pipes and professional skateboarders, from sometime in June right into August. In fact, many musicians cut their teeth in the 1990’s at Warped Tour, including Blink 182, Limp Bizkit, and My Chemical Romance. What’s more, over the years the event’s founder, Kevin Lyman, has taken the opportunity to advocate for sound causes; the overwhelming teenage audience at the festival affords a chance to talk to young people about everything from breast cancer to donating blood. This year, Lyman is focusing on the American opioid addiction epidemic.

When you consider that nearly every demographic in the U.S. has felt the impact of the opioid use crisis, you also have to acknowledge that many adolescents have already started down a perilous path toward addiction. Opioid use isn’t in most young people's sphere, like alcohol and marijuana; that isn’t to say that today’s youth aren't experimenting with painkillers and heroin. Efforts to educate young people about the risks of using OxyContin and illicit opioids is critical. The potential for overdose is exponentially high; those who manage to avoid overdose are still at risk of developing an opioid use disorder which can easily shatter young people’s dreams.

Reports indicate that 2018 is the final Warped Tour. As event organizers prepare to drop the curtain on the beloved event on August 5th, Lyman is calling on young people to FEND off opioids this summer.


Full Energy Not Drugs

Last week, Forbes writer Steve Baltin interviewed the founder of Vans Warped Tour in Costa Mesa, CA, at the shoe company's headquarters. A major topic of the discussion, among other things, is Lyman’s new initiative FEND (Full Energy Not Drugs). The new drug prevention campaign has its target on opioid use, abuse, addiction, and overdose. FEND members will be present at every stop of the tour, from Pomona to West Palm Beach, Florida.

The goal is to reach teens and young adults regarding safe use of opioids, identifying and responding to an overdose, according to the initiative's website. FEND members will also educate teenagers about where the can find help for someone struggling with a substance use disorder. Lyman tells Forbes:

“The first phase of this is an education thing. We’re finding there’s just a general lack of knowledge of what are opioids, the storage of opioids when you get hurt, and they give you something is that potentially addictive?” 

Another component of the campaign is called gamification. Lyman points out that we are living a “gaming society,” and that they can utilize games for educational purposes. FEND members will encourage Warped Tour goers to download a smartphone app that prompts users to learn, answer questions; those who participate will receive rewards. Down the road, Lyman hopes to start working with people who are already in addiction recovery.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Opioid use among teenagers is a sure path to addiction. Disease progression is different for everyone, although it often develops quickly. Many people entering young adulthood are in need of assistance, those who do not receive help are at a significant risk of harm. If you are a young adult battling an opioid use disorder or have a struggling adult child, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center. We can help break the cycle of addiction and help you begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

4 Substances Commonly Abused by Older Adults

substances-commonly-abused-older-adultsThe baby boomer generation came of age during the 1960s and 1970s, an area marked by changing attitudes toward drug and alcohol use, and substance use disorder has remained prevalent among this population as they’ve aged. In fact, substance use disorder rates among those 50 and older are expected to increase from about 2.8 million in 2006 to 5.7 million in 2020.

Here’s a look at four substances that are most commonly abused by older adults:

1. Alcohol

Although the rates of illicit and prescription drug misuse among adults over 65 are on the rise, alcohol is still the most commonly used substance among older adults, so much so that it is referred to as an invisible epidemic.

Most existing research on substance use among older adults centers on alcohol use. Although research suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption offers some health benefits, risky or heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of falls and mortality, and it also indicates a broader pattern of other health risks, including a history of alcohol abuse or dependence, smoking, and major depression.

2. Tobacco

Teenagers’ attitudes toward tobacco have shifted in recent years, and overall tobacco use has hit a record low, but tobacco use among older adults is still quite common. 14% of adults ages 65 and older report having used tobacco within the last 12 months.

Smoking is particularly dangerous for older smokers who are at an increased risk of health problems, including respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Tobacco use may be down among younger age groups, but aging baby boomers are likely to spike the total number of older adults who need smoking cessation services in the next several years.

3. Marijuana

Illicit substance use is more prevalent among older adults in the United States than in any other country in the world. Marijuana remains, by and far, the most prevalent illicit substance used. The number of adults ages 65 and older who reported marijuana use increased by 250% between 2006 and 2013. The legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana have contributed to more lax attitudes toward the substance, and more older adults may use it to manage illness-related side effects, which can lead to recreational use.

4. Prescription Opioids

Prescription drug abuse is a public health emergency but rarely does the conversation mention older adults. Older adults report misusing painkillers more than any other type of prescription drug. According to an AARP survey, “The prevalence of older adults who reported misusing painkillers in the past year is about 1 percent among adults 65 and older and less than 4 percent among adults 50 to 64.” Those numbers are particularly concerning when you consider that 51% of adults ages 50-64 and 70% of adults ages 65 and older got painkillers from their doctor.

Opioid use among older adults may increase the risk of falls, fractures, delirium, pneumonia and all-cause mortality. The rate of opioid-related hospitalizations among older adults ages 65-84 quintupled between 1993 and 2012.

Substance use, especially prescription drug use, is a growing concern among all ages, especially older adults. Recovery is possible, but it requires a treatment plan that is structured around the needs of this unique age group. Hemet Valley Recovery Center offers an Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program that encompasses interdisciplinary care administered by a team of experienced physicians, registered nurses, therapists and dieticians.

We believe in the efficacy of our Older Adult Program and want it to be accessible to all because it’s never too late to get treatment. We accept a range of insurances, including Medicare and TRICARE. Contact HVRC to learn more about Older Adult Program and verify your insurance benefits.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Recognizing People Who Encourage Recovery

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we invite our readers to suggest nominees for our Joseph L. Galletta “Spirit of Recovery” Award. In the field of addiction medicine there is no shortage of individuals who’ve made an enormous difference; for example, those whose good works and tireless dedication to treatment and addiction recovery affect significant change in the lives of others. Each year, we select an individual to honor who is committed to the 12 Step philosophy and exhibit leadership in the field of recovery field. We salute exemplary men and women who encourage addiction recovery in others and promote the merits of sobriety.

Dr. Joseph Galletta was the actual embodiment of everything outlined above. Over the course of many decades, he had a hand in bringing the miracles of recovery into the lives of others. The eponymous “Spirit of Recovery” Award goes to people who, like Galletta, advocate for the addict and inspire people to recover from mental illness.

All around the world, countless men and women selflessly give back through helping others break the cycle of addiction. They are those who teach individuals how to work a program of recovery openly and honestly; they show others how to embrace spirituality and open the mind to endless possibilities. Many of the people worthy of recognition are in recovery themselves; they know first-hand the tremendous courage required to rebel against the disease.


Who Was Dr. Galletta?

Joseph Galletta (1935-2004) is the author of the "ABC's of Addictive Behaviors;" he is also dear to us here at HVRC. In 2000, Galletta became the Medical Director of Hemet Valley Recovery Center. He was a selfless man who stressed the importance of the team, fellowship, and community. An impressive resume preceded his tenure with us.

He was one of the first 160 physicians in the U.S. certified in Addiction Medicine in 1983. He served as Medical Director for Hemet Valley Medical Center's Outpatient Chemical Dependency Center until 1986. Later, he served (1993-1996) as Medical Director at the Chemical Dependency Unit at Loma Linda's Behavioral Medical Center. In 1997 Dr. Galletta began serving as the Medical Director of Addiction Medical Specialists.


Spirit of Recovery 2017

The Spirit of Recovery honor went to Reverend Leo Booth in 2017. He is the author of 10 publications, and his writing appears in Counselor Magazine regularly. Rev. Booth is a lecturer, training people in many different areas, including spirituality, depression, addictions, compulsive behaviors, and low self-esteem.

Booth’s published works include: Say Yes to Your Life, Say Yes to Your Spirit, Spirituality and Recovery, The Wisdom of Letting Go, The Angel and the Frog. You can learn some more information, here.

If you believe someone should receive the honor of the Joseph L. Galletta “Spirit of Recovery” Award, you’re welcome to submit your candidate for 2018.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Why Are First Responders So Susceptible to Addiction?

first responders addictionPolice officers, firefighters, military personnel, paramedics and other first responders are trained to be calm in the face of chaos, but the amount of stress and trauma they experience on a daily basis isn’t just “part of the job.” It adds up over time, and the effects can be devastating.

We count on first responders to be sober and in control, but they are the very people who are most vulnerable to slipping into a cycle of isolation, avoidance and addiction due to work-related trauma.

Common Mental Health Issues Among First Responders

Exposure to images most of us can’t fathom----violence, accidents, injury and destruction--and working long shifts alongside people who are also grappling with stress and trauma take a toll. First responders often turn to substances to self-medicate, which only exacerbates mental health issues.

Common mental health disorders that affect first responders include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Co-occurring disorders

First responders experience significantly higher rates of mental illness, including substance abuse, addiction and, in particular, suicide. According to one study of approximately 4,000 EMS workers published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 37% of respondents had contemplated suicide, and 6.6% had attempted suicide. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation reports that a fire department is three times more likely to experience a suicide in any given year than a death in the line of duty.

The transition into retirement is an especially vulnerable time. It can reveal underlying mental health or substance use disorders that were previously covered up while the former first responder was working in the field.

Overcoming the Stigma

Although society as a whole has made great strides in discussing mental health more candidly in recent years, there is still a considerable stigma surrounding the topic in a field where people are expected to be tough and resilient. Many first responders who are struggling with mental health or substance use disorders are apprehensive to acknowledge their need for treatment or that their symptoms may be interfering with their ability to do their job. Given that a first responder’s duty is put others’ needs before their own, it’s easy to understand why.

It’s unfortunate that stigma could prevent someone from getting the help they deserve, because addiction can be overcome and mental health disorders can be managed with a combination of therapy and medication.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center offers a dedicated program for first responders. We can steer you or someone you love toward the path to recovery with a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and individualized treatment plan that connects clients with the most effective mental health and addiction treatment services based on their needs. We also believe that treatment for mental health and substance use disorders should be accessible to all, which is why we accept a wide range of insurances, including Medicare and Tri-Care.

Contact HVRC to verify your benefits and learn more about our services.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

"The Trade:" A Five-Part Opioid Epidemic Doc

Some people would argue that the American opioid addiction epidemic originated in the late 1990s when the health care system began placing a more significant emphasis on patient pain. Treating pain is especially tricky because it is a "subjective concern;" everyone handles discomfort in different ways, injuries and conditions affect people in varying ways. Determining the best course of treatment depends on each case.

Pain management changes at the turn of the century came when a new drug was lauded as an addiction-free opioid. Both patients and doctors were sold a bill of goods from the pharmaceutical industry that made some bold claims. Owing to financial incentives for doctors, and patients desiring pain relief, it was easy for OxyContin to sink its teeth into the patient population.

The epidemic, as we know it, is hard to comprehend fully. Society must be careful to avoid pointing the finger at one group or industry as the sole cause of the crisis. Many factors played a role in creating the problems we face today. Prescription opioids may have opened the door to heightened opioid use rates involving heroin and a skyrocketing overdose death toll, but there is much more to the story than greedy pharmaceutical companies.


Making Sense of the Addiction Epidemic

You are probably aware that it is now more challenging to access prescription painkillers; particularly in quantities enough to maintain an addiction. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Prescription opioid abuse rates haven't declined commensurately with all the talk of curbing abuse by health experts and lawmakers. Each day, many Americans die of a prescription opioid overdose. People who needed treatment, but never received it, paid the ultimate price for the disease of addiction.

The epidemic today has spilled over from emergency rooms and primary care offices; Mexican heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids have quickly become significant concerns. Fully grasping the scope and scale of the opioid scourge isn’t an easy endeavor; far too much for one person to make sense of, assistance is required. Even still, having a better grasp on the opioid problem doesn’t mean it will lead to solutions, but we need to start somewhere.

In recent years, television and media programming giants made documentaries to help explain how we got where we are today with opiates. Both HBO and Netflix have some essential docs worth watching, i.e., “Heroin (E),” “Warning: This Drug May Kill You,” “Frontline: Chasing Heroin,” and “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA.” All of which covers an aspect of the epidemic and serve to give viewers an inside look at the severity of issues we face.

Last week, Showtime put some skin in the opioid-documentary enterprise, with the premiere of “The Trade,” The Boston Globe reports. The five-part series, directed by Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land”), looks at the opioid epidemic from several angles. From small Mexican villages growing poppies for the cartels, to overburdened law enforcement officers in the Midwest. You can see the second installment this Friday at 9 pm.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with painkillers or heroin, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat. Opioid use disorder is treatable, and recovery is possible; we can help you begin the process of lasting addiction recovery.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Educating Young People About Addiction

It’s best to be informed when it comes to making decisions that could dramatically impact the course of your life. Doing your research gives you the ability to make choices that foster progress, failure to do so can result in severe consequences down the road. The more you know, the better off you are, in all things life: knowledge is power; we can apply this idea to drug and alcohol use. The fact that you are reading this blog means that you have some idea of where substance use can lead, most notably resulting in addiction.

Modern science has given all of us a more enlightened understanding of mental illness. It’s widely agreed upon that use disorders are mental health conditions with no known cure; while that may sound dismal, the good news is that experts also agree that people can manage the disease of addiction. With help, those afflicted by mental health disorders of any kind can recover; if such people stay committed to the path of recovery, they can lead fulfilling and productive lives.

As with many problems that people battle with in life, they often arise when we are young. The brain, scientists contend, is still developing into one’s mid-20’s; this means that a lot of chemical and physical changes are underway, and the substance people introduce to their bodies can result in the development of severe problems. It’s not a coincidence that teenagers who drink heavily in high school often experience issues later in life. There is no way of identifying (currently) which teenagers are susceptible to behavioral health conditions, which means is best for young people to play it safe and abstain.


National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week

Of course, we all know that teens are prone to obstinacy and invincibility complexes; they are not keen on being told what to do, let alone being led to think that they are not in control. Parents and teachers begin instilling adolescents with the facts about substance use at a young age, yet come high school countless teens across the country imbibe alcohol and consume various narcotics. The reasons for careless disregard in this area are varied; some don’t see the harm, many don’t grasp the gravity of what they are doing, while others know the danger but like the risk.

Those working in the field of addiction know that young people are extremely susceptible to developing substance use problems. The effects of drugs and alcohol on developing brains are many, including substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. We must do everything in our power, as a society, to give teens and young adults an accurate picture of substance use and addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) launched National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week in 2010 to “stimulate educational events in communities so teens can learn what science has taught us about drug use and addiction.” In 2016, NIDA was joined by their sister agency, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), to include alcohol into our discussion with young people. Alcohol and drugs are birds of a feather, after all.

NIDA and NIAAA understand that young people make decisions without having all the facts, especially regarding alcohol and substance use; the agencies want to Shatter the Myths ® of about drug and alcohol use. You can help them in their efforts by spreading the word about the risks of addiction on social media or by attending one of the many events taking place this weekend.


Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Addiction can develop during adolescence leading to problems in all areas of a person’s life in high school and down the road. In other cases, the seeds of use disorder are sown as a teen, only to blossom in college; in both cases, addiction treatment is of the utmost import. When the disease is left untreated, individuals live in clear and present danger; drugs and alcohol wreak serious havoc on both mind and body, and certain drugs carry the potential of causing a fatal overdose.

If you’re a young adult struggling with addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our Young Adult Addiction Treatment Program was specifically designed to meet the unique needs you young adults plagued by alcohol and substance use disorders. Recovery is more than possible, and it’s entirely vital; HVRC can help you stem the tide and give you the tools to make the journey of lasting recovery.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Protecting Your Recovery: Cigarettes, Relapse, and Zombies

Maintaining a program of addiction recovery is not an easy task, to be sure; one’s disease is always looking for an opportunity to resume control. Relapse prevention is the watchword of the addiction treatment industry; committed to helping people achieve lasting recovery. There are things that people can do to mitigate the risk of relapse, such as staying away from dangerous environments and practicing the principles of recovery in all one’s affairs. However, there is one suggestion that many recovering addicts and alcoholics either question or choose to ignore; the recommendation to quit smoking or using tobacco products at the onset of recovery.

You only have to attend a few recovery-related meetings to realize that a lot of individuals hold on to the habit of smoking. Cigarettes are addictive to be sure, but in some cases maintaining the practice could be chalked up to being one of the last bastions of a person’s disease. Such people know that their cigarettes despite gilded packaging, are in fact trying to kill them, slowly. The habit persists in spite of the warnings and a noticeable detriment to people’s health.

Whatever the reasons for continued use are, any justification for maintaining cigarette use is not backed by reason. What’s more, studies indicate that tobacco use leads to an elevated risk of relapse. Maybe the health risks don’t concern you, but returning to the depths of despair hopefully will lead to a course correction. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 30 days sober or 30 years, you don’t want your hard work to go up in smoke.


Promoting Health Paradoxically

Some of you may remember when CVS Pharmacy put the kibosh on selling tobacco products. While they cited promoting healthy behaviors as a driving force in the decision to can cigarettes and their ilk, there were financial incentives for making the switch. After all, if health were the motivating factor CVS would have quit selling alcohol too, they did not. Nevertheless, ceasing tobacco sales was a healthy move, and maybe one day only a few places in the country will sell cancer sticks.

CVS’s decision to go smoke-free wasn't echoed by other major pharmacies, leading anti-smoking advocates to push the issue. If you were in Washington D.C. filling a prescription at Walgreens flagship store a couple of days ago, you probably thought you were on the set of "The Walking Dead." However, the humans wearing zombie garb were not trying to eat the pharmacy's clientele, instead they were hoping to encourage the chain to stop selling cigarettes, The Huffington Post reports. Protesters are at odds with a company promoting health while simultaneously peddling death. Remember, cigarettes are still one the nation’s leading causes of preventable death.

"Simply put, tobacco and pharmacies don’t mix,” said Robin Koval, CEO, and President of Truth Initiative. “Our zombie protest underscores that while Walgreens continues to drag its feet on removing tobacco products from its shelves, more people are getting sick and dying from tobacco-related diseases."

Walgreens company leaders will meet in Arizona for its shareholder meeting next week; you can bet cigarettes will be a topic of serious discussion.


Protect Your Recovery

Those of you in recovery still smoking are strongly encouraged to seek assistance in the name of your program. Please talk to your doctor or pharmacists about smoking cessation products and their efficacy. Research shows the using patches or drugs like Chantix have the most significant success when used in conjunction with behavioral therapies.

If quitting proves too challenging to manage on your own, Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat can assist you in your effort to manifest the dream of lasting recovery.