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.