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.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

PTSD Awareness Month | Helping Heroes and Military Family Members

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone who experiences a traumatic event in their lives. PTSD Awareness Month is a good time to learn more about the disorder, what causes it, and who can be affected by it. First responders, members of the military, and military family members experience a significant amount of trauma in their jobs as well as in their personal lives. Helping heroes and military family members learn new healthy coping mechanisms is an important step toward working through their trauma in a positive way.

Trauma and PTSD

PTSD is “a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events. There are currently about 8 million people in the United States living with PTSD,” according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

When you experience PTSD, you can have physical as well as behavioral symptoms. You might have flashbacks or bad dreams in which you re-live the event. You could develop negative thoughts about yourself or others. Symptoms can also include increased irritability, not being able to sleep, and avoiding people or places that remind you of the event.

First Responders

When you’re on the job as a firefighter, police officer, or member of the military, dealing with PTSD from a traumatic event takes on a more challenging face. Career firefighters, for example, report a much higher level of PTSD than do volunteers. When it’s your job to deal with trauma every day, it can be especially difficult to recover from those experiences.

PTSD symptoms for first responders, including police officers, firemen, military personnel, and medical workers can include anxiety, depression, and emotional numbing, resulting in relationship problems and job failures, among other issues.

Helping heroes such as first responders involves helping you overcome the memories and nightmares that may haunt you. An emphasis on resolving and healing traumatic events that occurred as part of your work is especially important to your recovery from the effects of PTSD as a first responder.

Military Families

PTSD is often associated with the military. In fact, the term has morphed from the use of phrases such as “shell shock” during World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. However, military family members also experience PTSD. Being in a military family is not easy. Service members can go on deployment for many months at a time. The stress and worry can be unbearable for their families. Bad news or the strain of fear and worry can lead to PTSD in military family members.

In addition, being a military family member of a service member who is experiencing PTSD can present its own challenges. About 20% of military members who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD and approximately 50% of the total number of military members who suffer PTSD do not get help. Often, military members and their families are concerned about how it might look if they asked for help with the disorder. However, when they don’t seek help, the complications build and the results can be devastating.

PTSD and Addiction

Drug and alcohol abuse are very common in people who are suffering from PTSD. You may be tempted to self-medicate to alleviate the symptoms associated with PTSD, such as depression, panic, or anxiety. Helping heroes and military family members involves working with you through therapeutic activities to help you confront your negative life experiences and any resulting depression, anxiety, trauma, anger, stress, or grief, so that you don’t have to turn to drugs or alcohol.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we focus on helping you through our Heroes Program and our specialty area of military families. We want to see you succeed and will work with you on positive ways to address your mental health and addiction issues so you can lead a productive life in recovery.

Contact Us for Help with Your PTSD and Addiction

Helping heroes and military family members is a huge part of our mission at Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. We tailor our services to your individual needs, including services for psychiatric inpatient and outpatient treatment, residential treatment services, and substance use disorder treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD and addiction to alcohol or drugs, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat today. Our treatment center and medical detox is the ideal environment to begin a journey of lasting recovery.

Detoxification: Individualized Approaches for Each Case

One-size-fits all works well for many things. It's convenient when measurements aren't required for fitting. However, when it comes to detoxing from substance abuse, medical assessment and treatment is paramount. One size does not fit all.

Detoxification, the period when substances are purged from the body, is always the first step in the recovery process. It is also one of the most critical. It is in this timeframe when a patient is most likely to experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. It is also for this reason that "cold turkey" methods can lead serious complications.

detoxificationThere are two detoxification models: social model detox and acute medical detox. Is one more effective than the other? It is important to examine each model before arriving at a decision.

First, social model detox involves monitoring the patient in a non-medical residential inpatient setting, and is frequently administered narcotic and non-narcotic medications by non-medical personnel, in conjunction with counseling and therapy. Social model detox can be effective in instances when the potential of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms are not an issue.

Conversely, acute medical detox is a detoxification model combined with medical care, which generally occurs in a hospital setting. Medical personnel carefully monitor and supervise the patient, administering the necessary medication to ensure a safe detoxification process.

Both methods require careful monitoring, with therapy to be safe and effective. With medical detox, it is guaranteed - medical professionals monitor the process throughout, all of which take place in a hospital setting. The pain and risks associated with withdrawal are scientifically managed. Each treatment plan is uniquely.

Social model detoxification is not always as regimented. Social model detox as described above can be successful - and compared to medical detox, highly cost-effective. However, the pitfalls lie in the interpretation. Not all facilities have the same definition of social detox. Some believe that social detox can be successful in an outpatient setting, making checkup visits while essentially independently. Depending on the length of time and level of substance abuse, this method can be a recipe for death; it may mean life-threatening withdrawal. Similarly, lack of 24/7 monitoring often means higher risk of relapse, and overdose.

When deciding what the best method of detox, many factors are at play - level of dependency,  type of substance(s), current health status/ medical problems, and previous response to the detoxification process - just to name a few. It is always best to seek consultation from a medical professional - one who is licensed in addiction medicine, when embarking on this process.

Whether social model or medical detoxification is recommended, it is important to remember that 24/7 monitoring and supervision is important. Detoxification should never be handled outside of an inpatient or hospital setting. When it comes to detoxification, one size does not fit all; each plan should be uniquely designed and administered by medical professionals. 

Take the First Step.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat
 866.273.0868 or visit us at www.hvrc.com

We look forward to seeing you!!