drugs

PTSD: A Common Dual Diagnosis

PTSDJune is an important month regarding mental illness; this is a time to play an essential role in the effort to encourage people to seek assistance for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At Synergy Group Services, we treat a significant number of people each year who meet the criteria for both addiction and PTSD. More than half of individuals living with an alcohol or substance use disorder also struggle with the symptoms of co-occurring mental illnesses; PTSD is one the more common “dual diagnosis” that people contend with each year.

The primary sponsor of PTSD Awareness Month is the National Center for PTSD, a division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Makes sense, right? After all, the condition we speak of effects a good many service men and women. In fact, researchers estimate that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. More recently, about 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year; and, about 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD in a given year.

The division, which leads the nation in trauma and PTSD research, is right to point out that the disorder can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. About 6 of every ten men (or 60%) and 5 of every ten women (or 50%) experience at least one traumatic event in their lives.

PTSD: A Common Condition Requiring Treatment

Raising awareness about post-traumatic stress and available treatments is vital. Those unable or unwilling to seek help are at terrible risk of experiencing myriad problems. One of the reasons people with PTSD often struggle with addiction is due to the common practice of self-medication: the act of drinking alcohol or taking drugs (illicit or nonmedical pharmaceuticals) to cope with the symptoms of the disease. The Division recognizes four primary symptoms, including:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms): Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings: The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal): You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable, i.e., hyperarousal.

If any of the above symptoms occur right after the trauma, it is normal. However, you should seek assistance if any of the above markers present for longer than three months, cause you great distress, or disrupt your work or home life. The following statistics focus on Veterans, but the trend holds true for citizens who struggle with PTSD; more than 2 of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have SUD and almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD. 1 in 10 OEF and OIF soldiers seen at the VA have alcohol or substance use problems.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It doesn’t matter if addiction manifests before PTSD, or the other way around, simultaneous treatment is critical for lasting recovery. If you are struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and PTSD, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.

Mental Health Month in America: Let’s Cure Stigma

mental healthMay is finally underway which means the horizon of summer nears closer and closer, thankfully. At Synergy Group Services, we hope that you were able to participate in National Addiction Treatment Week, even if it was a short little post on your social media account; sharing a fact or words of encouragement can generate enormous ripples. Those who have come through the other side of active addiction are living embodiments of the programs’ power. Your compassion towards those still suffering can be the spark that lights the torch of another’s recovery.

Treatment Week is over, but that doesn’t mean we stop working to end the stigma of mental illness that prevents millions around the globe from seeking treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), stigma prevents the 1 in 5 Americans with mental health conditions from seeking help. When you consider that 60 million people in the United States are living with any form of mental illness, stigma is standing in the way of millions of people’s recovery. But, it doesn’t need to be; together, those in recovery and not can change the narrative about mental health conditions and guide countless individuals toward recovery.

Perhaps you are already aware that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? If not, this is a perfect opportunity to help organizations like NAMI and Mental Health America raise awareness of mental health and support changing society’s perception of debilitating brain diseases. Throughout the course of the month events are going on across the country; hopefully, you will find time to take part. If not, you can utilize social media; when efficiently wielded, the internet is a powerful weapon for fighting stigma.

Mental Health and Curing Stigma

NAMI has set its sights on helping the general public better understand stigma and the impact it can have on those living with mental illness. Given how pervasive stigma is, it is not uncommon for individuals to know they are contributing to the problem. With that in mind, NAMI offers a short quiz that everyone can take to determine if stigma has infected them, please take a moment to take the test and be part of the cure. As an aside, some people in recovery may have views about mental illness that are not in line with the facts; stigma can be an internal feeling confusing “feeling bad” with “being bad.” The point is, addressing the virus of stigma is vital for all of us.

Effective ways to work the problem and be the solution:

  • Examine your own behavior before judging others.
  • Stigma may not directly affect you, but it prevents others from seeking help.
  • Be an ally to people with mental health conditions.
  • There’s no cure for mental health conditions, but we can cure stigma.
  • Take the test, find out if you need to make some adjustments.

Please take a moment to watch a short video:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and co-occurring mental illness, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month 2018

problem gamblingAddiction is a broad term that covers a multitude of behavioral health conditions. More times than not, when people think of addiction they consider alcohol and substance use disorders; however, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), which classifies mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S, indicates that addiction takes many forms.

Mental illness in any form takes a severe toll on people’s lives. Without treatment, those living with mental health disorders are at risk of experiencing adverse effects, i.e., social, familial, employment, and financial problems. One behavioral health disorder that doesn’t involve the use of drugs or alcohol is problem gambling; while blackjack may not lead to an overdose death, the condition still has the power to destroy lives. What’s more, there are more compulsive gamblers in America than you’d think; almost 10 million people had problem gambling addiction in 2016.

Addressing problem gambling isn’t dissimilar to how you would any mental health disorder; prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Getting compulsive gamblers the help they require rests in encouraging the afflicted to talk about their condition and seek treatment.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month

Educating people about the nature of problem gambling is of the utmost importance. Those who gamble, despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop, put their entire family at risk of problems. Compulsive gambling recovery doesn’t just help the gambler; it improves the lives of loved ones as well. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM); it is a time to talk about the effects of the disorder and options for those struggling with the condition. Now, in its 14th year, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) asks that we “Have the Conversation.

Events will be taking place across the country all through March. The goals are to raise public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of prevention, treatment & recovery services. The NCPG would like to encourage healthcare providers to screen clients for problem gambling. As with any mental health condition, when patients feel like they can talk about their issues without fear, recovery is possible.

If you are interested in attending a PGAM event, you can find more information here. You can also play a part in raising awareness about this treatable disorder using social media. The organization has several graphics you can share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et. al.

Compulsive Gambling Treatment

If you or a loved one is a problem gambler, Synergy Group Services holistic treatment approach can help. We can assist you in getting a better understanding of your illness’ nature and provide tools that will help you regain balance of mind, body, and spirit. Please contact us today to begin the life-changing journey of addiction recovery.

Heroin(e) Documentary Inspires Hope

heroinHuntington, West Virginia, is home to around 50,000 people and has an overdose rate ten times the national average. You may be familiar with the town for personal reasons, or perhaps you’ve seen the documentary “Heroin(e)” on Netflix. With the 90th Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, maybe you’ll have some time to give the documentary a watch beforehand. “Heroin(e)” is nominated for the best documentary (short subject) Oscar.

Some might call Huntington the epicenter of the American opioid addiction epidemic; maybe the statement is true, what is sure, that the situation in the former industrial town is reflective of much of rural America. The Appalachian region is losing mothers and fathers and sons and daughters at unbelievable scale; it is a reality that “Heroin(e)” director, Elaine McMillion Sheldon (“Hollow,” 2013), would much like to drive home.

The scope and scale of the epidemic have no parallel; solutions hardly seem in sight at this juncture. One of the biggest deterrents to tackling the epidemic is the way most Americans continue to view addiction. The stigma of mental illness is alive and well, it’s a fact that Sheldon understands.

Opioid Epidemic Heroin(es)

The short documentary released last September follows the lives of three women in Huntington; including a fire chief, a drug-court judge, and a street missionary. Sheldon chose the three human subjects for the doc, she tells Business Insider, because the three women treat people battling addiction as “human beings and not as junkies.”

Sheldon, a native West Virginia, wanted to tell a different kind of story about the epidemic—one that places a greater focus on the people trying to help. Plenty of documentaries center on the use and abuse side of the epidemic, “Heroin(e)” shows how selfless individuals are affecting change in their community. Compassion is a powerful tool; it can help alter the course of peoples’ lives for the better. The Peabody Award-winning director said:

“We wanted to try and find a story that was around solutions and the inner-resilience that people have to overcome this problem.”

Sheldon is hopeful that politicians will watch her film and see what real people are going through and shape policy decisions off of reality. Her lengthy interview with Business Insider is worth a full read if you have the time, especially her thoughts about misconceptions surrounding addiction. She concedes that a byproduct of the opioid epidemic is that nobody can see that it is “those people” doing the drugs and ruining their lives; rich and poor, young and old, black or white, rural or metropolitan—all are eligible for addiction and premature death if they don’t get help. Please take a moment to watch the trailer below:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Netflix has made “Heroin(e)” available for educational streaming unlimited. Movie theaters can screen the film as many times as they like as long as they don’t charge admission.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans grappling with opioid use disorder, 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.

Fentanyl-linked Memory Loss is Concerning

fentanylThe 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.

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