drugs

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.

Eliminating Mental Health Stigma Through Art

stigmaMental 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.

Cannabis Use Among Young People

cannabisIf 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.

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