The use and abuse of opioids in the United States is a public health crisis, most Americans are aware of the severe death toll from the use of this class of drugs. So, it’s probably not a surprise the White House renewed a previous order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, before it ran out toward the end of last month. Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, writes:
As a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective January 24, 2018, my October 26, 2017, determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide as a result of the consequences of the opioid crisis.
The use of any type of opioid can lead to addiction, or worse, overdose. Around a hundred Americans perish each day from drugs like OxyContin, fentanyl, and heroin; naloxone can reverse an overdose, but that’s not always the case—especially when fentanyl is involved. In a short time, synthetic opioids became one of the greatest threats to the drug using public. Fentanyl is regularly added to heroin to boost potency, but it’s done without the user’s knowledge; it’s an ignorance that often results in fatal overdose.
Fentanyl On The Mind
Synthetic opioids are great at killing pain in medically supervised environments. However, the influx of the drug into the U.S. from Chinese laboratories is a major concern. A report from the Senate shows that manufacturers of the drug in China market it online and use the USPS to get it to civilians in the U.S. Once here, fentanyl is stamped into pills resembling OxyContin or simply mixed into batches of heroin—a drug that requires no assistance in being deadly.
Even when fentanyl use doesn’t result in an overdose death, it can wreak havoc on people’s health. Researchers from West Virginia University warn that there is an association between fentanyl and severe memory loss, according to Health Day. More than a dozen patients exhibited signs of short-term memory loss after using fentanyl alone or with stimulants. Their brain scans showed lesions on the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory.
“They all have difficulty learning new information, and it’s pretty dense,” said Marc Haut, chair of West Virginia University’s department of behavioral medicine and psychiatry. Every day is pretty much a new day for them, and sometimes within a day they can’t maintain information they’ve learned.”
Haut says it’s possible the patients experienced overdose prior to the symptoms of amnesia arising, the article reports. He points out that such individuals do not recover quickly and may not fully regain their short-term memory.
“We talk a lot about people who don’t survive overdoses, but we aren’t talking about people who survive repeated overdoses and the impact that might have on them and their functioning,” Haut said. “If their memory is really compromised, it’s going to be hard for them to learn a new life that doesn’t involve drugs.”
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Painkillers, synthetic opioids, and heroin carry severe risks; if you are addicted to opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a life of lasting addiction recovery.
Mental health stigma isn’t good for anyone, let alone society. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe struggle with mental illness in any given year, yet most will never receive any form of treatment. One of the reasons for this, aside from severe deficiencies in accessing therapy, is that many of those afflicted are unwilling to discuss their condition for fear of reproach. With no other form of health condition are feelings of shame so pervasive, as is the case for people with disorders like depression and addiction.
As with any systemic societal problem, it falls on everyone to affect change. The people who have a fear of discussing their mental health disorders are, in fact, our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Every family is touched by mental illness in some way; the more extended society ostracizes such conditions, the more prolonged people’s suffering will endure. If a person feels they cannot talk about a problem, they are more likely to resort to dangerous methods of coping, such as drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
Fortunately, a significant number of individuals have committed to help end the stigma of mental illness. In the U.S., the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Drug Policy Alliance come to mind; organizations dedicated to helping, not hurting people who’ve suffered enough already.
Eliminate Mental Health Stigma
Those in recovery from any mental illness are aware that those afflicted often have a penchant for artistic creation. It’s likely that many of your favorite artists, musicians, and writers struggle with mental health conditions. Some of our readers working programs of recovery are artists. Might there be a correlation between mental illness and a propensity for abstraction? Nevertheless, one organization would like to use your artistic creations to end the stigma of mental illness.
The Perspective Project invites artists to submit artwork containing honest and compelling accounts of mental health issues. On the website, new artwork is accessible every Sunday and throughout the week via social media.
“Everyone’s lives, including ours at The Perspective Project, have been touched by mental health. You are not alone in your suffering. In the fight against mental health stigma, empathy and acceptance are our most powerful allies.”
The organization accepts all forms of art for submission, including painting, photography, writing, and poetry. If you would like to submit your work, click here.
“The Perspective Project provides a blank canvas for those who wish to discuss mental health issues. Your Story. Your Art. Your Poetry. Your Mental Health. Your Perspective.”
Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment
If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with untreated addiction or a use disorder accompanied by a dual diagnosis, please contact Synergy Group Services. Recovery is possible, but a person’s addiction and co-occurring mental health disorder need simultaneous treatment. Every time an individual makes the courageous choice to seek help, the stigma of mental illness erodes.
If you are a teenager or young adult, for that matter, you are going to come to your own decisions regarding the harm associated with drug and alcohol use. Older adults and experts in the field of medicine will try to convince you that substance use can be a slippery slope, and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, not everyone that uses mind-altering substances develops a problem, so you might convince yourself that the adventure outweighs the risk.
There is no scientific way to predict who will be touched by the disease of addiction, but there are some factors common among those who develop problems. Unfortunately, people do not become aware of such similarities until it’s too late. With that in mind, abstinence is the only sure way one can prevent the series of misfortunes that befall people who meet the criteria for addiction.
When someone offers you drugs or alcohol at parties, how you respond can shape the course of one’s life. We know that many young people go on to lead productive lives after experimenting with substances, but that’s not everyone’s story. Ask yourself this: ‘Will using mind-altering substances help me achieve my goals in life?’ It’s a rhetorical question, we know, but one that will hopefully make people who have already started down a path of substance use to rethink what they are risking.
Tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are usually the first types of substances that young people use. In every state, use of the three is prohibited by law; however, it’s no secret that getting one’s hands on them is not a difficult task.
Marijuana Use is No Longer Flat
Each year, the University of Michigan conducts a survey to gauge young people’s perceptions of drug use. Questions also include whether or not teens have tried or use a particular substance. The findings this year were both negative and positive. For many years, teen marijuana use rates have been stagnant, being relatively consistent with previous years despite the changing public opinion about the drug. This year, researchers witnessed an uptick possibly linked to “vaping.”
Vaping is a term associated with electronic cigarettes, but the devices can be used to vaporize cannabis oils, as well. In the past 365-days, one in 10 high school seniors reported having had vaped cannabis oil, The Chicago Tribune reports. Previous studies show that while tobacco use is down among high-schoolers, e-cigarette use has been steadily on the rise. This year’s survey is the first time researchers have looked at the teenage use of such devices for marijuana. Vaping is the primary way young people get high today, although the practice likely played a role in the 1 percent rise in overall marijuana use.
On a more positive side, in the 43 years since the survey’s inception, cocaine, heroin and other illicit drug use among teens are the lowest it has ever been, according to the article. More research is needed to address cannabis vaping among young people, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA), points out that 1 in 17 high school seniors report using marijuana every day.
Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment
If you are young adult who began using marijuana in high school, there is a chance that you meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder. Those of you whose use impacts your daily life in negative ways should consider seeking help. Marijuana might be benign compared to other narcotics, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Addiction is addiction; any substance can wreak havoc on one’s life. Please contact Synergy Group Services for help; addiction recovery is possible.
In the last year, we have all watched the government take a new shape, for better or worse. The new guard has appointed individuals into positions relevant to the field of addiction medicine and treatment. You might be aware that as of September we have a new Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams.
Those of you who weren’t aware of former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s replacement, we will take a moment to share with you his credentials. The 20th Surgeon General of the United States is an anesthesiologist and a vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, according to STAT News. He attended medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Adams has the kind of resume that you’d expect from someone serving in the position of Surgeon General. However, it turns out that he also has some personal experiences that can help him address the American opioid addiction epidemic. Adams has a younger brother named Phillip, whose substance use and abuse have severely impacted the entire family. Dr. Adam’s brother is currently serving time in prison just down the road from his office; it’s fair to say that he thinks of the plight of addiction quite often.
Family Addiction Might Change the Discussion
The Surgeon General does not make policy, but they do have a platform and voice that calls for deference. He believes that getting law enforcement and addiction medicine experts to work together on this crisis is critical, the article reports. With that in mind, he shared his thoughts at a recent National Academy of Medicine panel discussion about the opioid epidemic. When a judge opined that it was strange for him to share a stage health experts, Dr. Adams shared:
“The No. 1 touch point for people with addiction is not a physician … it isn’t a medical touch point. It is the law enforcement community,” he said. “This room should be half full from the law enforcement community if we really want to tackle this issue.”
The new Surgeon General seems to think a balance can be struck between law enforcement and public health services to find a solution to the American addiction crisis. He realizes that the criminal justice system has not helped his brother Philip break the cycle of addiction, but believes that at times people must be held accountable for their actions.
“We can’t ignore the fact that there are crimes being committed,” said Dr. Adams. “I’m not saying my brother or anyone else should be absolved of all the crimes and the real harm they’ve done to people. I’m saying the way that you prevent that from continuing to occur is by making sure those folks have access to treatment, so that when they do get out, they don’t go down the same pathway.”
Committing petty crimes is resorted to when addicts can’t support their disease any other way. Once in the system, perpetual cycles of recidivism are commonplace; giving more people access to addiction treatment services would make recidivism be less a reality.
If you are one of the millions of Americans actively caught in the grips of addiction, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you break the cycle of self-defeating behavior and lead a productive life in recovery.
The United States military is the most powerful in the world, thanks mainly to a definite edge over our adversaries. As a result, the Government can send our troops into traditional conflict with relatively minimal casualties. Unfortunately, it’s the injuries nobody sees that do the most damage, the wounds inflicted on the mind. If a soldier’s invisible injuries are not addressed, many of them will turn to opioids to deal with the pain.
In respect to Veteran’s day, which took place last weekend, it’s vital to discuss the well being of our Veterans. Thousands of young American men and women have come back from the conflict in the Mideast, only to fight an even more significant battle at home. One of the notable differences, of course, is the war that some Veterans fight now is waged on the battlefield of the mind.
America doesn’t have the most exceptional track record when it comes to treating mental illness, like depression and addiction. The military is not much different, with many American heroes left to their own devices in coping with mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who struggle with the condition resort to mind-altering substances to deal, an action which worsens one’s symptoms. In a number of cases, such people are also contending with chronic pain from physical injuries sustained overseas. Physical pain, mental distress, and opioids make for a lethal cocktail.
Opioids Don’t Spare Veterans
Treating your average American’s chronic pain with opioids puts them at high risk of addiction and overdose. Veterans are no different; however, when other forms of mental illness are in the picture the risks are even higher. In fact, opioids have led to more Veteran deaths than all the casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, Reuters reports. Vets are at double the risk of dying from prescription opioid overdose than non-veterans. The suicide rate among Veterans is also 21 percent higher than with people who didn’t serve in the military. It’s no secret that opioids are often used to commit suicide.
“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said Sen. John McCain.
To encourage doctors to prescribe opioids to Vets less often, McCain introduced the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, according to the article. Unfortunately, the bill has stalled in Congress. The need for such measures is urgent. Since March 2017, Veterans Affairs has treated 68,000 vets for opioid use disorder.
“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said recovering addict and former Democratic Congressman, Patrick Kennedy.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
Opioids of any kind carry the risk of addiction and premature death; treatment is a must if recovery is to occur. At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in the treatment of opioid use disorder. We are also equipped to treat the condition when a co-occurring mental illness is involved. Please contact us today.