Friday, September 18, 2020

Substance Use Disorder and COVID-19

Many people who begin journeys of recovery also contend with co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. What's more, many individuals working programs also have physical health problems linked to years of alcohol or substance misuse. While it's still possible to achieve lasting recovery, such individuals must address comorbidity; successful outcomes depend on managing any illnesses that might jeopardize one's efforts. 


Drugs and alcohol affect both mind and body. Part of the recovery process is about no longer neglecting one's physical health. Eating healthy and prioritizing physical fitness is strongly encouraged by addiction professionals, as both help with the recovery process. Healthy foods nourish the mind and body. Making eating right a priority can help repair the damage caused by prolonged use of mind-altering substances. 


Learning how to lead a healthy lifestyle is a crucial facet of addiction recovery—the mind, body, and spirit are connected. Choosing to eat nutrient-rich foods and establishing an exercise routine pays off, especially in early recovery—when one's neurological and physiological systems are off-balance. A healthy diet can boost your immune system, which helps the healing process in turn; it can also help ward off sickness. 


People in early recovery also benefit from choosing to give up tobacco products. There is evidence that smokers are at a higher risk of relapse. Moreover, tobacco can slow down healing, and the long-term damage that cigarettes and smokeless nicotine products cause is well documented.


Substance Use Disorder and COVID-19


There are individuals in early and long-term recovery who have compromised immune systems. A large cohort of recovering alcoholics and addicts have heart, liver, and lung conditions. As such, men and women with physical health problems benefit from doing whatever they can to improve their health. 


In the year of a novel coronavirus that has infected nearly 7 million Americans and taken almost 200,000 lives, the term immunocompromised is part of the national lexicon. Those with pre-existing health conditions are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, and they may be less likely to recover. Naturally, the above should be concerning for many men and women in recovery for the reasons stated above. 


New research appearing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry confirms that people with substance use disorders (SUD) are more susceptible to COVID-19 and related health complications. The National Institutes of Health-funded (NIH) study found that individuals with a SUD diagnosis on record were more likely to contract COVID-19, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 than people without a SUD. 


The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow and Rong Xu, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University, analyzed non-identifiable electronic health records (EHR) of millions of patients in America. While patients with a SUD accounted for 10.3 percent of the total study population, they represented 15.6 percent of the COVID-19 cases. The correlation was strongest among people with an opioid use disorder or tobacco use disorder. 


"The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19," said study co-author, Dr. Volkow. "Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services. It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group." 


According to the study authors, the research confirms that health care providers should closely monitor men and women with SUDs. The researchers also recommend that doctors "develop action plans to help shield them from infection and severe outcomes." 


Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital


Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat if you or a loved one struggles with drugs, alcohol, or a co-occurring disorder. HVRC is still fully-functional during these unprecedented times, and we are strictly adhering to CDC guidelines to safeguard our patients' well-being. Our admissions team is standing by to answer any of your questions about our programs and services. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Recovery Month 2020: Celebrating Connections

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day! September 10th is an excellent opportunity to show your support for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Together, we can encourage men, women, and teenagers to seek help and get on the path toward recovery.

Each Mind Matters would like you to show your support by placing a burning candle in your window at 8 pm as a symbol of hope and support for suicide prevention and remembrance of those we've lost to suicide. If you don't have a candle, no problem; you can post an image or GIF of a candle on Facebook or another social media platform. You can use #SuicidePreventionWeek 2020 #SuicidePrevention or #StigmaFree to expand your post's reach.

As we shared last week, Each Mind Matters would like us to shine a light on "the intersection between suicide prevention, alcohol, and drug use and efforts that foster resilience and recovery." Substance use and addiction often play a role in suicides; the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares that more than one in three people who die by suicide is under the influence of alcohol. It's also worth noting that many drug overdose deaths are intentional.

September is a salient month. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and National Recovery Month coincide. Throughout the month, organizations and individuals join forces and voices to educate the public and those still suffering that recovery is possible. Faces and Voices of Recovery writes:

"National Recovery Month is now in its 30th year. It is an annual event sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with the goal of letting Americans know that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and fulfilling lives." 

Recovery Month

recovery month

There are many ways to participate in Recovery Month, such as attending virtual events and webinars. SAMHSA is hosting a webinar series during Recovery Month. Today’s (Thursday, September 10, 2020) webinar is Transforming Lives Through Supported Employment at 1:30PM (ET). The webinar highlights the salient role that employment can play in recovery.

While SAMHSA is still involved with Recovery Month, this is the first year that the recovery community is guiding the observance. This year's theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections.

"Recovery Month works to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible."

All month, individuals and organizations around the country are celebrating the millions of men, women, and teens who have transformed their lives in recovery from mental health and substance use disorders. We have an opportunity to break the stigma of addiction by acknowledging the gains made by people in recovery.

Each day, those working a program are living examples that recovery works—that it's possible to rejoin communities and society at large. Moreover, members of the recovery fellowship give hope to the tens of millions of individuals who are still in the grips of their disease.

California Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital

National Recovery Month is an ideal opportunity to reach for support and begin your journey of healing. Hemet Valley Recovery Hospital & Sage Retreat are fully operational and continue to accept new patients during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Please rest assured that our highly qualified team of clinicians are following all CDC protocols to protect our clients' well-being.

We invite you to take the first step toward a life in recovery by calling our admissions team for a confidential assessment today at 866-273-0868. HVRC is a Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital (CDRH), which means that we can provide programs and specialty services all in one facility. Please contact us to learn more about the HVRC difference.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2020

suicide prevention
Summer is coming to an end, and life is still far different than it used to be in many parts of the country. While we've made gains concerning COVID-19, the number of new cases and deaths continues to rise. What's more, many Americans are struggling with trauma, mental illness symptoms, and substance use is on the rise at an alarming rate.

Natural disasters like a public health crisis are bound to impact people's psyche severely. Unlike a hurricane, only a handful of men and women are alive today who have lived through a global pandemic. As such, there wasn't any way to prepare for COVID-19, nor any guidance on how to handle 6.13 million friends and neighbors contracting a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus.

These last several months have been extremely challenging for men and women from all walks of life. Those who work a recovery program have had to deal with unprecedented adversity, while having to learn to cope in isolation hasn't been a simple endeavor. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the crisis isn't over yet. Hot spots continue to flare up, the latest being in the Midwest.

While many researchers are tasked with finding a cure or vaccine for the virus, others have their attention on the pandemic's hidden impact. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released some troubling data about mental and behavioral health disorders. CDC researchers found that living through a pandemic has – perhaps not unsurprisingly – had a deleterious effect on an untold number of Americans.

Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma

Many Americans are living in a heightened state of fear and anxiety. Without healthy mechanisms for coping, some are using drugs and alcohol to manage the discomfort. Moreover, symptoms of mental illness among our people have exponentially increased compared to the same time last year, according to the CDC study. So much so that many individuals (11 percent) are dealing with suicidal ideations.

Combating COVID-19 is a top-tier priority among public health experts, but there is little energy or financial resources left to address mental health. The psychological toll of the pandemic may exceed the cost of reigning in the virus.

A survey of 5,412 Americans showed that 41 percent had at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition. Of the responding pool of participants, 31 percent reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder. Compared to the same time last year, anxiety symptoms tripled in incidence, and the prevalence of depression symptoms quadrupled. The findings explain why 13.3 percent of respondents reported having started or increased alcohol and substance use.

Many men and women lack the tools to cope with the stress and emotions related to COVID-19. Those working in hospitals and as first-responders could be at even higher risk of trauma. After all, medical professionals are not immune to COVID-19 either; such people are an exponentially higher risk of contracting the deadly pathogen.

CDC researchers found that 26.3 percent reported symptoms of trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic. TSRDs include acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The difference between the two is that PTSD lasts for more than one month, being either a continuation of acute stress disorder or a separate condition that starts up to 6 months after the initial trauma.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

suicide prevention

The CDC study is not unusually large, but it could be a prognostication of what's to come in the coming months and years. It's vital that state and local governments direct resources toward helping people struggling with mental illness, whether they are related to COVID-19 or not.

Given the percentage of respondents reporting that they had seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey (June 24–30, 2020) was over ten percent, public health experts should be concerned. Moreover, the CDC found that serious suicidal ideations were significantly higher among respondents aged 18–24 years (25.5%).

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10; National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) encourages everyone to "share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic." Those who are struggling right now need to be reminded that they are not alone. You can #BeThe1To remind them on social media and beyond.

The California Mental Health Services Authority's "Each Mind Matters" campaign is another resource you can utilize for spreading the message. There are many ways you can get involved, even if you are pressed for time. The initiative writes:  

This year, in support of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, World Suicide Prevention Day and National Recovery Month, all held in September, we are encouraging a special focus on the intersection between suicide prevention, alcohol, and drug use and efforts that foster resilience and recovery. 

Those looking for mental health resources during COVID-19 can visit the Each Mind Matters Resource Center here.

California Recovery Program for Addiction and PTSD

If you are struggling with addiction and co-occurring PTSD, then you have come to the right place. Our Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospital is fully equipped to address all your mental and behavioral health needs. We also offer a program specifically for those who place their lives at risk in their country's service.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center remains open and accepting patients; we will continue to follow the CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19. Please call us at 866-273-0868 to receive a complimentary assessment and discuss treatment options.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hyperalgesia: Opioids Actually Worsen Pain

opioid-induced hyperalgesia and chronic pain

Opioids are most often prescribed for the management of chronic pain. However, new research suggests that these medications may actually increase a person’s sensitivity to pain over time. This phenomenon, called hyperalgesia, provides further caution to healthcare providers about the long-term prescription of opioid pain medication.

Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia

The word hyperalgesia literally translates to over (hyper) + pain (algesia), and it refers to an increased sensitivity to painful stimuli, which may be caused by damage to nociceptors or peripheral nerves. Hyperalgesia may take several forms, including occurrences in focal, discrete areas (primary), or diffused over all areas of the body (secondary). It can be caused through injury or, as recent research now shows, long-term use of opioid painkillers.

When a person experiences increased pain response due to opioids, their condition is referred to as opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). Reports of this disorder have increased with the nationwide surge in opioid prescription over the past decade.

This condition may seem counterintuitive. How can medication meant to reduce pain actually result in worsened pain? While opioids work by blocking pain, the body reacts to their action by increasing the number of pain receptors. Acclimation to these medications also results in lower levels of endorphins, which serve as natural soothers for pain. When your endorphin levels dip, it is more difficult to deal with injuries and stimuli on your own.

Put simply, due to neural changes, something that wouldn’t normally result in pain will generate a pain response in a person with hyperalgesia, and painful occurrences will be stronger than normal.

Symptoms of Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia

This condition has three main symptoms. The first, as stated above, is an increase in the intensity of pain felt over time. Second, people with hyperalgesia will experience spread of the pain to another location other than their point of injury. Finally, OIH results in an increase in the discomfort felt from external stimuli.

These symptoms present themselves even when a person increases their dosage of pain medication, with or without the advice of a physician. In fact, they will likely worsen with a heightened opioid dosage.

OIH is assessed through bedside tests, which include the pain intensity response to a cotton swab, finger pressure, pinprick, and cold or warm stimuli.

Other Side Effects of Opioids

Hyperalgesia is not the only health issue caused by long-term opioid use. These drugs have been the source of America’s opioid epidemic, a massive health crisis characterized by rapid dependence and addiction. Even with prescribed use, these drugs are incredibly habit-forming, meaning that people recovering from surgery or seeking help for chronic pain may find themselves reliant on opioids (and affected by OIH).

Signs of opioid addiction include…

  • Drowsiness or nodding off mid-conversation
  • Significant weight loss
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Financial problems
  • Craving the drugs or increasing one’s dosage
  • Worsened work performance
  • Stealing money, items, or medication
  • Sleep problems

Addiction is a disease that affects the entire person, physically and mentally. People who develop a dependence on opioids may find themselves unable to function without them. They may exhibit drug-seeking behavior, cravings, and compulsive use. Over time, these behaviors may damage a person’s life, personally and professionally. It is vital for people with OIH to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Treatment for OIH

The best approach for the treatment of hyperalgesia is the tapering and even eventual discontinuation of opioid pain medications. This process may take a long time and will require the advisement of a physician and addiction specialist, who together will oversee the patient’s progress and response to the tapering. People who discontinue their opioid prescriptions may experience withdrawal, but with proper medical supervision, it is possible to limit one’s discomfort, symptoms, and existing pain while overcoming a dependence on these drugs.

Find Recovery from Opioids

Fortunately, evidence-based treatment is available. If you or a loved one have developed a dependence on opioids which has resulted in OIH, there is hope. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, our team of clinicians can help you to overcome hyperalgesia and opioid dependence.

Our California Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program is designed to help individuals who rely on narcotic analgesics to seek alternative pain management solutions. We provide medically managed detoxification and chemical dependency treatment supplemented by targeted therapeutic groups.

Through our biopsychospiritual model, patients learn alternative pain management strategies in group therapy, breathing techniques, music, poetry, yoga, acupuncture, exercise, physical therapy, massage, and other tailored programs.

To learn more about our services, contact us today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What is a Case Manager? | Case Management Explained

case manager providing case management services
As a person finishes their time in an inpatient or residential treatment program, the transition back to “real life” requires careful consideration. This is when case management services become important. A case manager provides guidance, support, and much-needed resources to program alumni, while also ensuring that they remain on track after leaving HVRC. Today, we’ll discuss what a case manager is and what they do on a daily basis.

Case Management Explained

A case manager serves as your advocate in the early stages of recovery. They will gather information about each client’s situation – including their history of substance use, home life, and more – during the screening or assessment phase of intake. After learning as much as they can about each person’s addiction and daily life, they work with the client to create a fully individualized treatment plan. Addiction treatment is not one-size-fits-all; in fact, it requires a tailored approach in order to be successfully addressed. As a client goes through the program, case managers frequently check in to monitor progress and modify the treatment plan as needed.

Case management also involves caring for a patient after they have left a residential program. There are many individuals who require an additional level of support after treatment, including ex-convicts, people with mental illness, those with co-occurring health conditions, and the homeless. A case manager advocates on the client’s behalf, ensuring access to medication, follow-up care, and services like job training, housing opportunities, and doctors’ appointments.

The Duties of a Case Manager

The daily responsibilities of a case manager are varied and require several core competencies. These individuals have a history of education and training on the subject of addiction treatment, and they are prepared to support individuals at all phases of recovery.

Case management tasks include:
  • Supporting and providing case management services to existing clients and alumni
  • Developing personalized treatment plans for each client
  • Ensuring that treatment plans align with each person’s needs
  • Monitoring client progression and revising case management as needed
  • Participating in meetings with each client
  • Continuing to attend trainings and educational seminars to advance education in the field of addiction treatment
  • Creating outcomes reports and highlighting success stories
  • Helping clients to access much-needed resources during and after treatment
  • Documenting each person’s needs and progress based on state and local requirements
  • Conducting crisis intervention as needed

Does This Service Help You Stay Sober?

Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own sobriety. No one can ensure that an individual never picks up a drink or drug again. However, ongoing support from a case manager can make a difference in a person’s risk of relapse.

By contacting agencies like insurance providers and community partners, it is possible for case managers to make the transition from rehab to home life an easier one. These support services can allow former clients to access important financial help, trainings, and childcare services, which lessen their stress on a daily basis. Through these resources, an individual will feel more supported in the early stages of their journey.

Additionally, case managers can help clients to access benefits they may not have known about. By working with social security and disability offices, it is possible to arrange for a client to have food stamps, Medicaid coverage, low-cost health insurance, and more. They can also create a network of support that is waiting for someone after treatment in the form of AA or NA meetings, local church groups, or support groups specific to a co-occurring condition or past trauma.

In short, case management can make an enormous difference in a person’s life, during and after treatment. If you have been to treatment before and are struggling, we encourage you to reach out for case management services today. Our team is standing by to help you access the financial and support services you need.

Find the Support You Need

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we understand that navigating the world after treatment can be complex and intimidating. This is why we offer a robust array of case management services. Our team of experts will work with you at all phases of recovery, ensuring that your fully individualized treatment plan is tailored to your needs every step of the way. From intake to aftercare, we’re here for you.

To learn more about our case managers and how they can help you to recover, please contact HVRC today.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What Drug is Most Commonly Abused by Older Adults?

Whether it’s problem drinking or the misuse of prescription medication, substance use is a significant problem for older adults – in fact, it is one of the fastest growing health issues in the United States. This pattern of behavior often goes unchecked because people are unlikely to confront older relatives about their drinking or drug use. Today, we’ll analyze substance use in the elderly, answering the question: What drug is most commonly abused by older adults?

Substance Use and Older Adults: The Statistics

While illicit drug use is normally associated with risk-taking young people, research shows that more than one million Americans over the age of 65 have a substance use disorder. According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, alcohol remains the most common drug of misuse. Their research demonstrated that 978,000 older adults had an alcohol use disorder, while 161,000 could be diagnosed with an illicit drug use disorder.

Combined data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH 2007-2014) indicate that during the past month, six million older adults drank alcohol, 132,000 used marijuana, and 4,300 used cocaine. On an average day in 2011, there were over 2,000 drug-related emergency room visits for older adults; of these, 290 involved illegal drug use, use of alcohol combined with other drugs, or nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals.

These numbers are staggering, and experts warn that they will grow. They warn that the baby boomer generation faces relatively higher drug use rates compared with previous generations. This cohort will experience the negative consequences of substance use, which include legal trouble, incarceration, physical and mental health issues, social and family problems, and potential death from overdose.

The dangers are known, and researchers must ask: If their risk is lower, how do older people become addicted to drugs and alcohol?

How and Why Do Older People Become Addicted?

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services divides older adult substance abuse into two discrete categories: individuals who have used substances for many years, and those who formed addictions later in life. People in each of these groups face different obstacles that create a perfect storm in which addiction can form.

Individuals who began misusing drugs and alcohol earlier in life probably did so as a result of environmental conditioning, genetic predisposition, or as an attempt at self-medication. As one uses substances over time, they develop a tolerance; as such, they require more and more of the drug or drink to achieve the same effect. Because addiction is a progressive, chronic disease, it is possible for someone to begin using drugs or alcohol recreationally, only to find themselves dependent on that substance in the long run.

Older adults who begin drinking or using later in life may be triggered into this pattern of behavior. Individuals who are diagnosed with an illness, dealing with chronic pain, severely injured, or coping with mental illness may find themselves struggling to get by. Older people go through a lot of transitions in their age – they retire, friends and family members pass away, or they may be relocated to an assisted living facility. These troubling instances can serve as a catalyst to substance abuse.

Finally, older adults who are prescribed highly addictive medications may struggle to adhere to label instructions. Even when used under the supervision of a medical professional, ongoing use of opioid pain relievers can result in chemical dependency.

No matter how an older adult finds themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is vital to identify that they have a problem as soon as possible.

Signs of Addiction

It can be challenging to identify substance abuse in older adults. As we age, our health deteriorates. Because of this, health care providers may overlook the signs of addiction entirely. Its symptoms can overlap with the effects of medical or behavioral disorders like depression, dementia, or diabetes.

Signs of addiction in older adults include…
  • Changes to eating and sleeping habits
  • Unexplained injuries or chronic pain
  • Irritability or depression
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Becoming isolated and secretive
  • Experiencing financial difficulty
  • Worsened personal hygiene
If you believe that a senior citizen in your life has developed an addiction, it is vital to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment for Older Adults

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that older adult treatment plans involve age-specific programming, a focus on coping with depression and loss, a pace appropriate for older individuals, staff members who are experienced in working with this population, linkages with other supportive services, and a focus on rebuilding one’s social network. We provide these services and more at our well-appointed, single-floor facility. At HVRC, we have created a track specifically tailored to the needs of older adults.

To learn more about our age-specific addiction treatment services, contact HVRC today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

How to Explain Addiction to a Child: A Guide

explaining addiction to a child
In America today, more than eight million children live with parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Living in a home with parental substance abuse can be frightening and confusing for anyone, but especially so for the very young. A child may struggle to understand why their parents behave a certain way, as they face unclear communication and erratic, unpredictable behavior from the adults in their life. This often results in kids making up their own explanations for what is happening; unfortunately, they may even blame themselves for parental substance abuse.

To make matters worse, family members are often hesitant to bring up addiction, or they may ignore the problem altogether.

Experts recommend being honest and up front with children whose parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol. This openness and shared understanding can pave the way for personal growth and common-sense next steps. Today on the blog, we’ll share with you our top tips for how to explain addiction to a child.

Why Should I Tell Them?

When a parent, sibling, or other family member is addicted to drugs or alcohol, a child’s entire life changes.

Children living in homes with people who abuse drugs and alcohol may find their lives unpredictable and scary. They may even think their parents’ substance use is their fault, or they can feel guilty or ashamed while trying to protect family secrets. It’s also common for children of addicts to feel abandoned, since their loved ones are not emotionally available to engage with or support them.

Young people who feel unsafe or unwanted tend to withdraw or act out, which can put them at greater risk of becoming addicts themselves. In order to break this cycle, it is necessary to be honest with them about their loved one’s substance use.

Remember above all else that the goal is to help a child better understand the disease of addiction. The conversation should be a way for them to have questions answered, assuage themselves of guilt, and know what’s going on with their loved one. It can also aid them in knowing their own predisposition to addiction later in life. The conversation should not be a chance to get the child on someone else’s side, turn them against their loved one, or scare them.

How Much is Appropriate to Explain?

There are some topics that are very difficult for children to understand, and addiction is one of them. When telling a child about the substance use of a parent, sibling, or more distant relative, it’s important to consider their age. By tailoring your conversation to their cognitive level, you will avoid overwhelming them and can help them to understand the issue at hand.

For very young children, this age appropriate conversation may involve describing addiction as being “sick.” Consider using books or other aids to guide you through this process. The older the child is, the more you can share; however, be careful not to provide too much upsetting information. Additionally, monitor your attitude while talking about this particular topic. The child may already resent the addicted family member. Instead of upsetting them further, seek to help them understand their feelings and the situation without creating prejudice or anger.

The Disease Model of Addiction

Be sure that the child understands that addiction is a disease. By letting them know that their parent is sick just like a person with any other condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you can significantly decrease the stigma around substance abuse. Tell them that they are not alone, and that millions of families are in the exact same situation.

You do not need to use this opportunity to launch into a full explanation of addiction; instead, focus on addressing the child’s concerns and helping them to develop a general understanding around the topic. This conversation is the time to tell them that their parent is sick and that it is not their fault. Later, you can talk to them at length about the disease model of addiction if necessary.

The Seven C’s

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics is an organization whose purpose is to eliminate the adverse impact of substance use on children and families. They recommend using the seven C’s to help young people better understand and cope with addiction in the home. They are…

  • I didn’t cause it
  • I can’t cure it
  • I can’t control it
  • I can care for myself
  • By communicating my feelings
  • Making healthy choices
  • And celebrating myself

These seven C’s are useful for combatting helplessness, guilt, shame, and other negative feelings that may arise throughout a loved one’s recovery or continued drug use.

Finding Support

In addition to providing an age-appropriate explanation, adults should find ways to support the children of addicts. Perhaps the simplest approach to this is to ask the child how they feel in a situation – for example, if they’ve seen Daddy get angry and throw things, or if Mommy has fallen asleep while talking to them. Having these conversations brings family secrets to light and allows the child to feel seen, heard, and supported through difficult times.

Teenagers may benefit from participation in Alateen, a version of Al-Anon for younger people dealing with a loved one’s addiction. In a group setting, participants may share experiences, discuss difficulties, and provide encouragement for one another.

Do You Need Help Explaining Addiction to a Child?

Telling children about addiction is a difficult task. However, with the right level of preparation, it is possible to use this conversation to help the child to feel supported, loved, and informed. At HVRC, our Family Program can help young people to better understand their parents’ drug and alcohol misuse, strengthening the family unit. To learn more about our evidence-based approach to addiction treatment and family healing, contact us today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Art of Storytelling | Learning from the Past


Storytelling as a Tradition

The art of storytelling has long been a respected skill and an important tradition in many cultures. Over the course of history, community elders and their stories have been regarded as a treasure trove of society's knowledge, history, and wisdom. Older members of a community were encouraged to share their stories with younger generations, keeping the oral tradition alive. Today, medical and social science researchers are interested in more than just the importance of storytelling as a means of teaching and entertaining, but also cognitive health.

Belonging and Acceptance

Storytelling goes far beyond the relating of culturally historic stories, myths, legends and lessons. It provides a means of belonging, acceptance and unity. Storytelling allows one to learn from the past and solidify an identity that may be unknown or misguided. The cultural act of storytelling from one generation to another provides a sense of being one with another, a belonging, and can evoke feelings of pride and diminish the thoughts and feelings of loneliness and not being understood. It is a way that our ancestors have created continuity in rituals and customs that define a family structure, regardless of education, finances and community stature. 

A family system is held together by unspoken mores and bonds that are seen, but too often, not understood. When generations take the time to provide such lessons, in the form of storytelling, it creates a bond that cannot be duplicated through other avenues. Storytelling sends the message that, no matter what you have done or the decisions you have made, you belong to someone, you belong to a system, and you are not alone. It is in these moments that the brain is introduced to a structure, a certain dynamic that makes sense in a world that may not. It allows for the cognitive process to minimize fears and embrace the decision-making process that has formed in our brains as influenced by past familial generations. 

Processing Reality & Overcoming Loneliness

Storytelling helps to activate multiple senses, solidify thoughts and bring our emotions into reality. It allows for our internal self to come to life and become real. It is imperative to feel if we are to heal! And, although it may be frightening to bring life to our stories, it is through this act that we create connections that help us through times of darkness and loneliness. This is when we breathe life to our values, morals and ethics that may have been forgotten or lost.

In the world of addiction and alcoholism, the feeling of loneliness is far too common. The belief that family and friends have given up on us is far too great to combat. And the thought that no one will understand and that family and friends have abandoned us is a reality that holds true in the minds and hearts of many who suffer from the disease of addiction. Through the simple act of storytelling and listening to storytellers, those feelings and beliefs can be transformed. This transformation can then be the catalyst to those seeking motivation and hope for sobriety and emotional and mental wellness.

Storytelling and 12-Step Meetings

In the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and all of the other 12-step realms, the use of storytelling is of the utmost importance. One is free to share his or her own story, give it life while taking the power out of its secrets and invisible stronghold. When others hear their own story, when others can relate and when others can learn from it all, it allows a sense of healing emotionally and cognitively. Within this healing come solutions – solutions to our sense of wellbeing and the tragic stories that we tell ourselves that we must succumb to. 

It gives those suffering from the disease of alcoholism and addiction a chance to see that we are not alone, even when we may think we want to be. This is seen with the most power within Step Five of the 12-steps. This is the part of our recovery journey that allows us to share with our sponsor, our Higher Power and ourselves the exact nature of our past. It is a sacred section of one’s journey in recovery where solutions become an epiphany, a sense of belonging becomes inherent and the shame and guilt of our secrets diminish into a path of healthy wellness.

Change Your Story

The act of storytelling is also aligned with the successes of psychotherapy. A client can use this act through the use of narrative therapy in sessions. Through this approach, the client is free to tell his or her story from the vantage point of being the sole author of his or her life’s journey. Taking it a step further, the therapist helps the client identify his or her own strengths to apply them as solutions to questions, concerns and struggles. It helps to separate the problems experienced from the person and allows the client to see it strategically in order to identify areas requiring change. The benefits of such an approach in the therapeutic room goes beyond a professional telling the client what to do, it allows the client the opportunity to bring the therapist along the journey so that no one has to ever experience it alone.

There is so much more to the act of storytelling, beyond that of entertainment. It can actually be the one thing that alters one’s decision to accept the strength that is already within to change and reunite with the family system that can never be broken. The freedom that comes along with sharing our stories, past and present, is one that cannot be experienced through any other means. When we share our stories with a genuine sense of vulnerability, we take the power out of their secrets. We find the freedom and genuine self-worth that was hidden behind our own negative connotations of self. We allow others who share the same story to unite with us and for us on a journey of wellness that can only be successful when we make the decision to no longer try and do it alone.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Treating Co-Occurring PTSD with CBT

Co-Occurring PTSD
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is an evidence-based modality for addressing unhealthy attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts. The treatment is often used in addiction and mental health treatment centers. CBT has shown to be beneficial for treating an array of substance use disorder and co-occurring mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Counselors and therapists trained to conduct the psycho-social form of intervention can help people find recovery. If you have undergone treatment for a mental or behavioral health disorder, there is an excellent chance that you received CBT. Hopefully, you were able to address and change unhelpful beliefs and are better able to cope with problems that arise in recovery today.

Overcoming obstacles in life can be extremely challenging for those with a history of substance use or co-occurring mental illness. It can be even more of a struggle to change core beliefs that one may have developed at a young age. In recovery, people discover that altering one’s outlook is often a prerequisite for making progress.

Learning to let go of certain mindsets that influence or lead to self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors is part of the therapy. CBT also helps people change how they see themselves in the world. It gives individuals the tools to adopt a position of selflessness, which allows them to form healthy and nurturing relationships with others.

Confronting Challenging Memories in CBT

It’s vital for patients to receive simultaneous treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental illness. Achieving long-term recovery depends on addressing all presenting conditions. If one condition is neglected, relapse is likely.

Interestingly, there’s been a debate for some time about using cognitive behavioral therapy to treat co-occurring PTSD. Since CBT strategies and techniques ask patients to confront challenging memories, some providers and patients argue it will cause alcoholics and addicts with PTSD to relapse. However, there is new research – supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – that may put such concerns to bed.

Co-occurring post-traumatic stress is prevalent amongst men and women living with addiction. According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, nearly a quarter of individuals with chemical dependency have PTSD. Jessica Peirce, Ph.D., and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and her colleagues took a close look at treating the above demographic with CBT.

The research team found that exposing patients to uncomfortable memories of their trauma didn’t lead to drug relapses after the first behavioral therapy session. Moreover, the authors report that PTSD severity, stress, and emotional problems lessened. By the ninth therapy session, the PTSD severity scores decreased by an average of 54%. The findings appear in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

“Now that we have evidence that treating PTSD won’t impact recovery, patients can request therapy, and mental health providers have a duty to make it available to their patients,” said Peirce. “There is a lot more resilience within this population than many health care providers give them credit for, and not offering the proper treatment is doing patients a disservice.”

Heroes Program for Co-Occurring PTSD

The above research comes at a fortuitous time, given the scars of the pandemic. Many men and women working on the frontlines, such as first-responders, doctors, and nurses, may develop post-traumatic stress from exposure to COVID-19. Contracting a potential virus or the fears of becoming ill can take a toll on people mentally.

Many people may begin turning to mind-altering substances to quiet their minds, and some could develop an alcohol or substance use disorder. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we created a program for first-responders struggling with addiction and co-occurring PTSD. Please contact us today to learn more about our Heroes Program.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Compassion Fatigue | The Negative Cost of Caring

compassion fatigue

About Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others, often described as the negative cost of caring. It is sometimes referred to as secondary traumatic stress (STS). According to the Professional Quality of Life Scale, burnout and secondary traumatic stress are two interwoven elements of compassion fatigue.

The Effects of Compassion Fatigue

Over time, healthcare professionals can find themselves struggling with their own responses to the trauma suffered by their patients. If not addressed, this can affect their physical and mental health, relationships, and overall work performance. Symptoms may frequently remain unnoticed, but may range from psychological issues such as dissociation, anger, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nightmares and feelings of powerlessness. Physical experiences may present themselves as nausea, headaches, general constriction, dizziness, and fainting spells. All are warning signs and need to be addressed or they will lead to health issues or burnout.

Hearing and witnessing the patient’s stories of abuse and trauma can weigh heavily on the professional, causing feelings of stress. Experts have found that self-care techniques both psychological and somatic can reduce susceptibility to the internalization of traumatic stress and compassion fatigue.

How to Recover

Reducing compassion fatigue can be as simple as working with the feelings which occur during the interactions with patients. It means checking with yourself, how your body feels or does not feel, giving yourself permission to take care of yourself. Taking a deep breath, moving and stretching, this helps in regulating your nervous system and decreasing the symptoms of stress.

Studies have shown that keeping a positive attitude toward life, having a sense of humor and focusing on all the good things in your life is extremely helpful. Additionally, finding a balance with your work and private life by finding a support system, regular supervision, the use of relaxation techniques and of course take that vacation you planned. Let go of the feeling that you don’t have the time for you!

Stay safe.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Business and War on Drugs: Supply and Demand

war on drugs
In 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon made a bold proclamation. He declared the opening of a new battlefront more than eight thousand miles from the jungles surrounding My Lai—The United States of America. The conflict would take the lives of significantly more Americans than those lost in Southeast Asia between 1955 and 1975.

The enemy: illicit drugs, the people who use them, and those who sell the mind-altering substances. Nearly 50 years later, the “war on drugs” continues with no evidence of victory in sight, and every indication the problem is exponentially worse than before.

It’s often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Do some drugs have the power to ruin and steal lives? Yes. Are the men and women who manufacture and get rich off the suffering of others beyond reproach? No. Should actions be taken to steer individuals away from harmful substances and dissuade the sale of drugs? Of course. But, at what cost?

There isn’t any way to justify the damage caused by criminalizing the disease of addiction and irrevocably changing millions of people’s lives for the worse. There is no excuse for having the most significant number of incarcerated people in the world despite the fact that United States only makes up a fourth or fifth of the global population.

A Troubling Policy

President after president has run on reigning in the “drug problem” in America platform. Hubris, self-righteousness, and racism led to enacting draconian drug laws. Addiction was long chalked up to a moral failing, and addicts became socially outcast deviants. Considering what we know now about the science of mental and behavioral health disorders, it’s impossible not to look back and gasp at the barbaric treatment of the afflicted.

Our war on drugs created the “prison industrial complex.” One in five incarcerated people is locked up for a drug offense, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. In the 21st Century, you can still be sent to jail for a marijuana law violation (663,367 in 2018) in several states. It’s worth noting that many arrested for petty crimes were trying to get money to feed their addiction.

It’s also common to be charged with possession while committing a more serious crime; the more severe offense goes into the datasets. So, the number of people behind bars because of the war on drugs is much higher than what the data reflects.

What’s more, a disproportionate number of inmates are people of color. Black Americans make up 40 percent of the incarcerated population but represent only 13 percent of U.S residents. You cannot discuss the war on drugs without considering the role race and ethnicity have played.

The first anti-opium laws (1870s) targeted Chinese immigrants, The Guardian reports. Anti-cannabis laws (1910-20s) were meant for Mexican workers. Crack cocaine laws overwhelming impacted blacks in the 1980s and `90s.

One of America’s answers to our substance use problem is to pressure governments in other countries to crack down on drug manufacturers. Much blood has been spilled to that end, and cocaine, meth, and heroin are still coming to meet our demand. The Drug Policy Alliance reports that more than 200,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug war since 2006.

The Business of Drugs: Supply and Demand

Millions of Americans battle with a substance use disorder day in and day out. Addiction is an epidemic in the United States, and incarceration is not a cure for the condition.

Most public health experts and many lawmakers know that the war on drugs is a failure. New policies are required, as well as a concerted focus on shattering stigmas and providing evidence-based treatment for all. Lives would be saved if the federal government diverted a fraction of the annual $47+ billion spent fighting the war on drugs toward addiction treatment.

As long as there are drugs, there will be people who use them; some will develop a problem, and others will not. While the nation huddles at home during the pandemic, it might be an excellent opportunity to reflect on what the war on drugs has cost us. A new documentary series aims to get us thinking about the policy of prohibition.

The premise of The Business of Drugs, former CIA agent Amaryllis Fox contends, isn’t about facing the truth that America has lost the “war on drugs.” On the contrary, the series calls for “looking at the policies themselves rather than the fight to enforce them, and asking ourselves if in fact prohibition has any logical hope of working, or whether it’s a residue of a moralistic stance that I think is no longer relevant in our society.”

“The only way for us to tackle this is to have a very logical, adult conversation as a nation about whether there’s any possibility of demand going away,” Fox said. “And if not, what do we need to do in terms of legalization and regulation to bring an end to the violence and mass incarceration that this policy has created?”  

Warning: The trailer depicts drugs. Please refrain from watching if you have concerns about being triggered.

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, we help men and women break the addiction cycle and adopt recovery programs. Our highly skilled team of clinicians and substance use disorder experts can give you or a loved one the tools to lead a fulfilling and productive life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are adhering to both CDC and state guidelines to ensure our clients are safe.

Please contact us to learn more about our center for recovery.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Addiction Treatment Island

The history of addiction recovery in America is fascinating and disturbing, from barbaric, draconian “treatments” to sanitariums to the upscale, evidence-based centers of today. While we have come a long way over the centuries, there is still a long way to go in the fight against stigma.

Many men and women working a program of addiction recovery today find themselves with a plethora of downtime. Sheltering in place, stay at home orders, and staggering unemployment has led to the new normal we are facing. Those in the fellowship might use this opportunity to learn more about the history of recovery.

How society went from viewing addiction as a crime to accepting that behavioral health disorders are treatable diseases is a remarkable story. Progress has been hard-fought and is a never-ending quest. Learning about the struggle of those who came before us might help you find the courage to continue your journey during these challenging times.

Not far from where the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson or Bill W., lost everything on Wall St. in 1929, sits a small island with a storied past. Located at the western end of Long Island Sound in the Bronx Borough of New York City, New York, you will find Hart Island. Largely unknown by NYC residents, Hart Island is perhaps better described as the “Island of the Dead.”

The tiny island has a dark past, and if you were struggling with alcohol in the 1950s, you might have called it home for a stint. What’s more, you might have found yourself residing there between 1967 and 1977 if you had a substance use disorder.

Prison, Psychiatric Hospital, Addiction Treatment, and Potter's Field

It would probably take 20 posts to cover the entire, multi-hatted history of the little member of the Pelham Islands archipelago. Beneath the topsoil rests more than a million souls and growing, according to The Hart Island Project. NYC officials authorized the mass burial of some COVID-19 pandemic victims; such was the case in 1870 during yellow fever and the 1980’s AIDS epidemic.

Hart Island has had many public uses over the centuries, beginning in 1864 with training the 31st Infantry Regiment of the United States Colored Troops, according to the New York Correction History Society. Confederate troops were imprisoned there during the war as well. During the same time, the burials of impoverished New Yorkers and Union soldiers became a practice.

While the incarceration (precursor of Rikers Island) and mass burials (replacement of potter’s fields now known as Washington Square Park and New York Public Library in Manhattan) were the most common uses of Hart Island, it also played a role in the history of mental health and addiction treatment. In 1885, The Pavilion, a psychiatric hospital for women, was built.

The New York Daily News reported that from 1951 to 1954, the homeless and alcoholics were housed on the island. In 1955, some twenty years after Alcoholics Anonymous’ inception, the Department of Correction opened an alcoholism treatment center on Hart Island. A year later, those being treated might have looked out the window and seen Nike Ajax missiles; it was the height of the Cold War after all.


Following the island prison closure in 1966, six heroin addicts who met in detox proposed creating a drug addiction treatment center on Hart Island—The Phoenix House, The New York Times reports. A year later, it opened and operated for a decade, moving back to the mainland. The organization – still in operation today – became an alternative to prison for addicts. The model is even replicated in prisons throughout the U.S. today.

Please take a moment to watch a short video about Hart Island:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospital

We hoped you enjoyed a glimpse of the history of addiction treatment in America. We hope it will inspire you to learn more. If you are struggling with drugs, alcohol, or co-occurring mental illness, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center to learn more about our programs. HVRC is a Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospital, which allows us to provide our clients access to more than 100 physicians who specialize in a full spectrum of fields.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Recovery Community Impacted by Pandemic

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have been severely impacted by the pandemic. We understand that millions of Americans are grieving and fearful of contracting the coronavirus. In many states, the public health crisis is worsening, so it is critical to stay safe and healthy.

Reports abound that the addiction and mental health recovery communities are exceedingly vulnerable of late. Fear, isolation, uncertainty, and financial concerns are traumatizing, and trauma can bring about or trigger symptoms of mental illness.

Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression. Amid the pandemic, 50 percent of adults experienced a depressed mood, compared to 25 percent before COVID-19. Dr. Maurizio Fava, psychiatrist-in-chief, within the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, says:

"It's quite understandable the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause significant stress and psychological distress for a large proportion of the population. And we know the rates are progressively increasing." 

Since upticks in mental illness rates and behavioral health disorders like addiction dovetail typically, it will probably not surprise you to learn that drug and alcohol use is on the rise as well. In May, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), warned that the pandemic was the impetus for more substance use and overdoses nationwide.

Nearly two months later, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shares that opioid use, relapse, and overdose deaths are spiking. Dr. Nora Volkow warns that we were still contending with an opioid epidemic before coronavirus and that it could be worse than before.

Isolation is Detrimental to People with Substance Use Disorders

As if the pandemic wasn't hard enough for every American, with some 3.5 million infected and more than 135,000 dead, the psychological toll is proving to be enormous. Dr. Volkow shares that social distancing reduces disease transmission, but it also adversely affects people living with mental illness and addiction, WBUR reports. She reports that doctors are worried about intentional overdoses and other methods of suicide.

"We have to face the reality that ... isolation is particularly hard for people suffering from substance use disorders, also depression or other psychiatric disorders," says Dr. Volkow. "Withdrawal and isolation actually just in general exacerbates the problem." 

In the interview, the NIDA director shares that opioid overdoses may have increased 30 to 40 percent since the pandemic began. She says it's harder to track overdoses because autopsies are not being conducted in some communities due to an overburdened healthcare system. We may never know the exact number of overdose deaths in 2020. Moreover, state lockdowns reduce the opportunities for people to administer the life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone.

"The fact that we're very isolated now, if someone is taking opioids and they overdose, the probability that someone sees them and can give them naloxone, which is necessary to reverse the overdoses, is much less likely," says Dr. Volkow. 

Ever-rising unemployment rates mean that countless members of the recovery community are jobless. Financial uncertainty is stressful, which can trigger a relapse or lead people down a worse path. Volkow rightly points out that, "If you're trying to achieve recovery, one of the components is that you want to integrate yourself to everyday life, and now it's much harder to get jobs."

Those who've relapsed amid the pandemic must seek assistance immediately before matters worsen. It may feel like you are cut off from support, but help is out there, and treatment centers are still operating. Please do not let guilt stand in the way of getting back on track.

California Addiction Recovery Center

If you are struggling with addiction and require treatment for the first time or experienced a relapse in recent months, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center for assistance. Our dedicated team is here for you during these difficult times and can help you get on the path to long-term recovery.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mental Health Disorders Amid a Pandemic

mental health
Physical and mental health are interconnected; both require maintenance during these challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic has put the lives of millions in jeopardy. On the one hand is the real risk of contracting a potentially fatal virus, on the other is the havoc wrought on the minds of people who fear contraction.

Two demographics that are especially vulnerable during these troubling times is the addiction and mental health recovery community. The last few months have been hard on millions of people who heavily depend on support groups to manage life every day. People with alcohol, substance use, and co-occurring mental health disorders are no longer able to access their support networks the way they would historically.

Computers and smartphones are now a lifeline for countless Americans. Video and teleconferencing platforms are two safe methods of interacting with your peers for daily support and recovery guidance. It's critical that you take advantage of the available communication methods that allow you to interact with your support network.

With a dramatic rise in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, it's clear that we are far from being out of the woods. We have no way of knowing how much longer we will all have to continue practicing social distancing and observing stay at home orders.

Some 2,593,265 Americans have contracted COVID-19, which is an 11 percent (262,780) increase from one week ago. More people have died in the United States from the coronavirus than the Americans who fought in World War I (116,516 deaths). As of June 30th, 2020, the virus has stolen the lives of 124,567 men, women, and children.

From Mental Health to PTSD Awareness Month

The new normal of living in relative isolation has led to a dramatic spike in loneliness across the United States. Mental health and addiction experts can agree that separation is one of the worst things for people in mental and behavioral health recovery. Navigating life is a significant challenge of late for people living with mental illness.

Fear and anxiety are stressful for individuals living with pre-existing mental health disorders. Loneliness can be a catalyst for experiencing mental illness symptoms, and isolation can trigger people in addiction recovery. There is no available data on the number of relapses since the beginning of the pandemic, but it stands to reason that there has been a spike.

While we all do our part to keep ourselves and families safe from the virus, it's of the utmost importance that we support people living with mental health conditions. Both those in and out of the recovery community can help their fellow citizens during these isolating times. May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and June is PTSD Awareness Month. Both observances are essential, and we can all play a role in supporting those affected by mental illness.

The National Center for PTSD writes:

Even though PTSD treatments work, most people who have PTSD don't get the help they need. June is PTSD Awareness Month. Help us spread the word that effective PTSD treatments are available. Everyone with PTSD—whether they are Veterans or civilian survivors of sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, or other traumatic events—needs to know that treatments really do work and can lead to a better quality of life.

The consequences of failing to reach out to members of our community who struggle with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder could be dire. As mentioned previously, isolation takes an enormous toll on people with mental health conditions. Without support, the suffering are apt to turn to self-destructive behaviors like drinking, drugging, or worse—suicide.

Physicians from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School published a commentary in the Annals of Internal Medicine reminding us that we were already amid a loneliness and suicide epidemic before COVID-19. The doctors warn that social distancing and stress, and the recent rise in firearm sales could worsen matters in America.

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment for First Responders

Over the last few months, first-responders, nurses, and doctors have put themselves at significant risk in caring for those who contract the coronavirus. Men and women working on the frontline of this pandemic are heroes, and they are also vulnerable to post-traumatic stress and alcohol or substance use disorder.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we specialize in treating first-responders who struggle with addiction and co-occurring PTSD. Please contact us today to learn more about our Heroes Program.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Understanding PAWS: Early Recovery


When you decide to seek treatment for your addiction to drugs or alcohol, you will find that the first step toward recovery is usually detoxification. The detox process cleanses your body of the substance you have been using so you can start the path toward a healthier body and mind. Since you have been addicted to the drug or alcohol, you will experience withdrawal from the substance in the detox stage. This can lead to post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Understanding PAWS can help you through the early recovery stages.

What is PAWS?

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is something you may encounter in early recovery as your brain and your body start to heal. You can experience PAWS as you get used to being without the drugs or alcohol you were addicted to, physically and emotionally. Sometimes the symptoms are more than uncomfortable and may last for some time after you have detoxed.

The Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior at UCLA states that it is “estimated that 90 percent of recovering opioid users experience the syndrome to some degree, as do 75 percent of recovering alcohol and psychotropic abusers.” Symptoms of PAWS most commonly show up after a withdrawal period from alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, as well as other psychoactive substances.

While researchers are still not certain about the precise mechanisms behind PAWS, they believe that the physical changes to the brain that occur during substance abuse and that are responsible for an increased tolerance to the substance are also responsible for the recurring withdrawal symptoms.

PAWS Causes

Most recreational drugs and alcohol can cause the symptoms of PAWS; however, some drugs are more likely to produce symptoms than others. Marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, and benzodiazepines are among those more likely to cause PAWS symptoms after you begin your early recovery.

PAWS may result from physiological changes that occur in the brain as a result of a substance use disorder. Researchers believe that prolonged substance abuse can reduce the brain’s capacity to deal with stress. During the period of time in which you are using drugs, your brain adapts to accommodate for the changes in your neurotransmitters. These changes can cause increased excitability as your neurotransmitters make the change in your early recovery stage.

PAWS can manifest after withdrawal from almost any abusive substance, but those abusing benzodiazepines seem to be the most at risk. There have been reports of benzodiazepine abusers experiencing symptoms of PAWS for years after final cessation of drug use.

The PAWS Timeline

In early recovery, you will typically begin your treatment with the detox process. After the detox is complete, the second phase of the withdrawal process, PAWS, may begin. Depending on how long and how intense your addiction was, — that is, how frequently, how much, and for how long you used mind- and mood-altering substances — this second phase can last from a few days to years after you stop using drugs or alcohol.


The Semel Institute lists common symptoms of PAWS that tend to fluctuate in severity. These symptoms may actually disappear at some point, only to reoccur later in the recovery period. PAWS symptoms may increase in severity when triggered by stressful situations, especially as you are experiencing the stress and challenges of early recovery:
  • Difficulty with cognitive tasks, such as learning, problem solving, or memory recall 
  • Irritability 
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic 
  • Depressed mood 
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors 
  • Difficulty maintaining social relationships 
  • Craving originally abused substances 
  • Apathy or pessimism 
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns 
  • Increased sensitivity to stress

Professional Treatment

Safely, successfully recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol takes the help of professionals who can guide you through the stages of early recovery. Managing the symptoms of PAWS is critical to your continued success in addiction treatment to ensure that you can move forward with a healthier life, physically and mentally.

Contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat for Help with Your Addiction

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, our professionals in medical detoxification are certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). We assist you in all aspects of your care, from acute medical drug and alcohol detoxification through addiction rehabilitation and aftercare. Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat for help with your addiction. We are open during the COVID-19 pandemic, following all CDC guidelines for your health and safety. Take the first step with HVRC.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Key Life Skills for People in Addiction Recovery

Key Life Skills for People in Addiction Recovery
In addiction, your focus is usually on where to get your next drug or drink. In addiction recovery, your focus needs to be on developing life skills that will help you be more successful in improving your quality of life after treatment. Key life skills for people in addiction recovery can make the difference in the ability to secure a job, maintain positive relationships with others, properly manage your finances, and live a healthy, productive life.

Developing New Skills

Being addicted to drugs or alcohol can truly take over your life. You are not necessarily worried about eating well, opening a bank account, or developing interview skills. In fact, you may not have learned how to do these things that are basic to a fully functional life. Drug and alcohol abuse, particularly when it begins in early life, can stunt the addict’s emotional maturity which in turn can prevent the addict from learning appropriate life skills. There are some key life skills for people in addiction recovery to learn now so they can move forward toward a healthy and productive future.


One of the most important life skills to learn in recovery is self-care. Replacing addictive urges with healthy habits can form the basis of a successful recovery and a productive life. Personal hygiene, nutritional eating habits, and physical and mental fitness are all important aspects of self-care.

Finding productive ways to manage your stress as well as your cravings can help you to be healthier, mentally and physically. Taking better care of yourself can help you focus on other life skills you will need to develop.

Learning how to prepare healthy meals can help you become more self-sufficient as well as physically healthier. While in addiction, you may not have thought much about what kind of food you ate – or whether you ate at all – in recovery, you can take the time to learn about nutritious foods and how to prepare regular, filling meals.

Personal hygiene is an essential life skill for you in recovery. When you take better care of yourself and are properly dressed, you will feel better about yourself. Maintaining appropriate personal hygiene is also important for sustaining important relationships and when searching for a job.

Self-care skills can also include proper physical and mental exercises. You might try yoga, meditation, or mindfulness exercises to help improve your mental health. Simple physical exercises such as walking or swimming can also help you feel better about yourself in addiction recovery.

Job Search Skills

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that unemployed clients in substance abuse treatment programs face many challenges and obstacles in obtaining and keeping jobs. Developing job search and job-related skills, including interviewing skills, punctuality, regular attendance, appropriate dress, and responsiveness to supervision can help you in finding and keeping a relevant position in the workplace.

Financial Skills

One of the key life skills for people in addiction recovery is knowing how to manage finances. When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you probably were not concerned about opening a bank account or properly managing credit cards. In recovery, as you develop new skills, a new job, and possibly a new place to live, you will need to be able to understand how to pay your bills on time and not overextend yourself financially.

Money may become a trigger for you in recovery. However, financial responsibility can contribute to your sense of self-worth as you learn how to live within your means and actually save money. Learning the skill of financial management can help you transition to a more positive and stable lifestyle.

Relationship Skills

Knowing how to communicate and connect with others is one of the key life skills for people in addiction recovery. Whether in your social circles, among your family members, or in the workplace, relationship skills are critical to developing and maintaining positive personal relationships. You may have severely damaged these important relationships when you were using drugs or alcohol. In recovery, you can develop skills that help you to overcome social anxiety and to communicate effectively with the important people in your life.

Addiction Recovery Starts at Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we assist you in all aspects of your care, from acute medical drug and alcohol detoxification through addiction rehabilitation and aftercare. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol, substance use, or a co-occurring mental health disorder, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our treatment center and medical detox is the ideal environment to begin a journey of lasting recovery. Take the first step with HVRC.