Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID-19, Addiction, and "Deaths of Despair"

Amid a global pandemic, it can be challenging to remember that America was already facing a national addiction epidemic before COVID-19 washed ashore. Now the country is faced with two public health crises; one is two decades old, and the other just a few months. However, in a short time, 1,713,775 Americans have tested positive, and at least 100,446 have lost their lives to the health complications related to the coronavirus since February.

It's not much of a surprise that the focus has shifted from the addiction epidemic to the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 40 million Americans out of work (roughly one in four), it's hard to think about anything other than the pandemic. Still, it's vital that we do not lose sight that the two public health crises we face will impact one another.

First, those living with drug addiction and alcohol use disorder are immunocompromised, which means they are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Second, the anxiety, depression, and uncertainty plaguing millions of Americans will lead to an increase in self-destructive behaviors as people try to cope.

Alcohol sales are soaring; deadly synthetic opioids are being used to make up for the shortages in heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Containing the virus has made it much more challenging to get illicit drugs across the border. There is already evidence of a spike in overdoses due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and a new – which is uncontrolled by the DEA – designer opioid called isotonitazene.

Millions of Americans are in a bad way, and they have no idea when things will change for the better. After making some strides in recent years to level the curve of "deaths of despair," there is a high likelihood that the pandemic will cancel out those gains.

COVID-19 and Addiction

Since 1999, overdose deaths rose annually across the country. In 2017, there were 46.6 deaths per 100,000 Americans, according to the Well Being Trust. Then, surprisingly, there was not a marked increase in overdose deaths in 2018; researchers again found the annual death rate was 46.4 deaths per 100,000. A slight reduction, but worth taking note of considering that at least 630,000 people died of drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is almost certainly going to lead to a rise in deaths of despair in 2020. The Well Being Trust conducted a new study that shows that more than 150,000 Americans could die due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Without significant action and funding from federal, state, and local governments, the predictions could come to fruition in the coming days and months.

"We see very troubling signs across the nation," said 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). "There's more substance abuse, more overdoses, more domestic violence and neglect and abuse of children."

SAMHSA is asking for more funding to address the predicted increase in people's need for mental health and addiction treatment, USA Today reports. McCance-Katz adds:

"The impetus is COVID-19, but the need was there before and it's just been increased by what's happened as a result of the virus."

California Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital

Addiction and mental health treatment is an essential service that saves lives. 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.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the tens of millions of people around the globe who have been impacted or lost a loved one from COVID-19.

Friday, May 22, 2020

A Memorial Day for Recovery and Remembrance

In a typical year, Americans would gather to pay their respects to the brave men and women who courageously made the ultimate sacrifice for our country this Sunday. Naturally, this is the most unusual year in living memory, so the thought of Memorial Day parades happening in town and cities across America is unthinkable.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevents us from gathering in large groups, lest we spread or contract the coronavirus. It is sad that we will not be able to honor our fallen heroes in a typical fashion, but the risks of parades are too significant to ignore.

On September 28, 1918, despite the warning of a deadly flu sweeping across the country and abroad, the City of Philadelphia decided to throw the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive parade to raise money for the war effort (WWI). Sources report that as many as 200,000 people lined the streets to show their support and watch the floats.

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, three days after the parade, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was occupied. Around 2,600 people in Philadelphia died from the flu in the week ending October 5. The number of deaths nearly doubled in the following week.

We can learn a valuable lesson from the Liberty Loan Parade. Today, with 1,570,154 Americans infected and 93,436 men, women, and children lost to the coronavirus, it is imperative that we continue taking extreme precautions.

Veterans Struggle with Memories of Those Lost

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we treat a number of veterans each year who struggle with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A myriad of causes can lead to PTSD, but many people battle with the memories of seeing a fellow soldier and friend die.

We have been fighting wars in the Middle East for nearly twenty years now, following 9/11. Thousands of our troops struggle with PTSD, and many of them cope with their symptoms by using drugs and alcohol. Self-medicating may provide some relief at first, but it will do more harm than good ultimately.

Many veterans get on the road to addiction by self-medicating their post-traumatic stress. Fortunately, both addiction and PTSD are treatable and long-term recovery is possible with professional assistance. As with any co-occurring disorder, it is critical to treat both the addiction and dual diagnosis simultaneously.

If you lost a friend while serving overseas and have trouble coping with the loss in a healthy way, we strongly advise you to seek help immediately. Drugs, alcohol, and co-occurring mental illness is hugely detrimental to your health and must be treated.

Memorial Day could be an ideal opportunity to seek assistance and begin healing mentally and physically. Addiction and mental health treatment is an essential service, and help is always a phone call away.

A Memorial Day for Recovery

At HVRC, we offer a "Heroes Program" that specifically caters to the needs of veterans and first responders who have co-occurring PTSD. Our team of highly trained professionals can give you the tools to lead a productive life in recovery. Please contact us today to learn more.

This Memorial Day, our staff would like to honor all the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms. We also hope that men and women in recovery have safe and sober remembrance.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Older Americans Month and Addiction Treatment

Older and immunocompromised Americans are at the most significant risk of contracting and succumbing to the coronavirus. Seeing as many people in addiction recovery are elderly, many of whom have compromised immune systems from misusing drugs and alcohol, older individuals in the program are at even higher risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities across the globe. America now has the highest number of cases and deaths by far, and the elderly are the most likely to be hospitalized and die during this pandemic. As of May 7, 2020, 1,244,465 Americans have been infected, and 74,413 have died.

Almost half of men and women in their golden years, 55 to 64, have at least one pre-existing health condition, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Current data shows that people with pre-existing conditions, particularly involving the respiratory and pulmonary systems, are at the most significant risk of death.

Older Americans who misuse alcohol are also at substantial risk when it comes to COVID-19; alcohol weakens the immune system, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Older adults with alcohol problems can protect their life by seeking help immediately.

Older Americans Month and Addiction

Older Americans Month
Last week, we informed our readers that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. However, May is also Older Americans Month; the theme for 2020 is "Make Your Mark." The Administration for Community Living writes:
"This theme was selected to encourage and celebrate countless contributions that older adults make to our communities. Their time, experience, and talents benefit family, peers, and neighbors every day. Communities, organizations, and individuals of all ages are also making their marks. This year's theme highlights the difference everyone can make – in the lives of older adults, in support of caregivers, and to strengthen communities."
While it is excellent to observe Older Americans Month, the fact that it's Mental Health Month dictates that we raise awareness about alcohol and drug misuse in the elderly communities as well.

As we mentioned above, alcohol use and misuse compromise the immune system; a healthy immune system is needed now more than ever. You may find it concerning to learn that a significant number of older Americans are binge drinkers and have problems with alcohol, according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

A study published in 2019 showed that more than one in 10 older Americans binge drink, CBS reports. Having five or more drinks at a time for men, and four or more drinks at a time for women is considered binge drinking.

Researchers discovered some even more concerning findings. The study showed that an estimated 70 percent of all hospitalized older persons had problems with alcohol; the same was true with residents at nursing homes—50 percent alcohol-related problems in general.

During a pandemic, it's essential to lovingly and compassionately encourage older Americans struggling with alcohol to seek help. Addiction treatment can save an older person's life in more ways than one.

Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we have found that age-specific treatment programs can produce better patient outcomes. HVRC offers a program for older adults struggling with addiction. If you or someone you love require assistance for alcohol or substance use disorder, then please contact our Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital (CDRH).

Friday, May 1, 2020

Mental Health Awareness Month: "You Are Not Alone"

mental health
The national coronavirus epidemic and the global pandemic have taken a significant toll on those who live with mental illness. Stressful situations impact mental health disorders of any kind, and the same is true for people with behavioral health disorders involving drugs and alcohol.

The new normal has led to an uptick in calls to national mental health crisis hotlines. Millions of Americans are doing their best to cope with social isolation, stress, and fear, while also attempting to keep their mental health stable–. It's not easy to manage depression and anxiety when you are feeling alone and are fearful that a deadly virus can steal your life.

Members of the addiction recovery community – many of whom contend with co-occurring mental illnesses – are having to adapt to a new way of life. None of us have ever had to confront a public health crisis of this magnitude.

Given the ever-rising death toll and number of confirmed cases, sheltering in place will likely continue through the summer. Each state is handling the matter in their own way, so it's hard to say when you will be able to return to 12 Step recovery meetings and meet with your therapist in person.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are 1,094,640 confirmed cases in the United States. The American coronavirus death toll has surpassed that of the Vietnam War (58,220); 64,177 people have succumbed to the virus. As such, you have every right to harbor fears regarding COVID-19.

Those who are living with behavioral and mental health disorders must stay connected with their support networks. Protecting one's recovery and mental well-being is of the utmost priority.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Every May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other organizations observe Mental Health Awareness Month. The observance has many goals, which include: fighting stigma, providing support, educating the public, and advocating for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.

Men and women with mental illness are one of the most vulnerable demographics during this pandemic. Such people require support now more than ever before. Please keep in mind that one in five Americans is living with a mental health disorder. 47.6 million adults battle the symptoms of mental illness each day. Many of those millions of people feel cut off and alone right now. However, NAMI would like to remind such individuals that "You Are Not Alone."

NAMI has launched the "You Are Not Alone" campaign to remind those who struggle with mental illness that resources are available even during a public health crisis. Treatment centers are still operating because they are essential to combating the mental health disorder epidemic in America. The organization reminds us of the importance of staying connected during these troubled times. NAMI writes:

"NAMI's "You are Not Alone" campaign features the lived experience of people affected by mental illness to fight stigma, inspire others, and educate the broader public. Now more than ever before, it is important for the mental health community to come together and show the world that no one should ever feel alone. The campaign builds connection and increases awareness with the digital tools that make connection possible during a climate of physical distancing. Even in times of uncertainty, the NAMI community is always here, reminding everyone that you are not alone." 

You are invited to share graphics on social media to help raise awareness about mental illness. You can also share your story and help other people feel connected while in isolation. We can all have a hand in breaking the stigma of mental health disorders and addiction.

Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Hemet Valley Recovery Center is a Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital (CDRH) for adults and young adults. We also specialize in treating men and women with a dual diagnosis for conditions like depression, bipolar, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Please contact our admissions team to learn more about the HVRC difference and take the first step toward a life in recovery.