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.
Hurricanes Irma and Jose are behind us and Maria appears to be bypassing the state of Florida. With the exception of the Keys, the state was not nearly as devastated as many feared. Perhaps we can all take a moment to be thankful for that, it could have been so much worse. And we should pray for all those affected on the islands to the south. For those of you working a program of recovery, hopefully you were able to weather the storm — recovery intact?
Even though the damage was far less the expected, millions of Floridians were required to evacuate. The stress of which was palpable. As you well know, stress in recovery is to be avoided whenever possible. Hurricanes don’t usually afford such a luxury. A number of people on the journey of recovery had to ensure that everything was in order, a plan. Those of you who had one likely made it through to the other side without a drink or drug.
Unfortunately, reality dictates that not everyone did. Especially those who were in the early stages of recovery. Who were maybe short on ways to cope with the stress of a natural disaster, or the potential of it. If you relapsed recently, it is vital that you recommit yourself to the program. Please do not guilt and shame yourself further away.
Coming Back from Relapse
Almost two weeks have passed since Irma struck the Sunshine State. If you relapsed around that time, it is possible that you are still using. Ideally, you will dust yourself off and get to a meeting ASAP. Some of you probably have already. For those of you who haven’t, it is vital that you do so immediately, the longer this goes on the worse it will get. Not to mention the risk of physical dependence setting in, again. Thus, dictating the need for detox.
The aforementioned eventuality can happen quickly, especially with drugs like opioids. If you have detoxed at any point, you know it is not a delightful experience. If you feel like you are not in too deep, the fellowship is waiting for you to return. You may be thinking that your recovery peers will not welcome you back without judgment. They will. You might think that the program doesn’t work. After all you relapsed. It does work, though.
At the end of the day relapse is a part of many people’s story of recovery. Remember, recovery is about progress, not perfection. You learn from where you veered from the path and do what you can to avoid a repeat of history. Your sponsor and recovery peers will help you with this. Please do not let false pride stand in the way of returning to recovery.
Treatment Might Be Needed
Those of you who have been hitting the bottle or drugs hard for a couple weeks might need more than just returning to meetings. Treatment may be the best course of action, helping you avoid relapse again early on. At Synergy Group Services, we can help get you back on the path of recovery. Helping you determine what needs to change this time around to increase your chances of achieving long-term recovery. It’s possible.
Opioid use disorder should be great cause for concern among Americans. Current data shows that as many as 142 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose every day. However, America’s greatest foe has long come in the form of a liquid—alcohol. New research shows that drinking and alcohol use disorder rates in the United States are troubling and need to be addressed.
With the country fixated on opioids, it is hard to devote much energy to any other substance use related issue. But, while lawmakers and health experts fixate on prescription opioids and heroin, alcohol has continued stealing lives in relative darkness. Therefore, it is so important to remember that people misuse alcohol more than any other substance. It is not just the fact that millions of people drink regularly. It is that millions of Americans drink regularly in seriously harmful ways, such as binge drinking.
Great efforts and amounts of money have been spent to educate young people about the dangers of heavy imbibing. Accompanied by a long list of health conditions that can arise from high rates of consumption, including addiction. Left unchecked, people who binge drink regularly are at a far greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking is often defined as having four drinks for women and 5 for men, during a two-hour period.
21st Century Alcohol Use
As many as 30 million Americans binge drink at least once a week, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry reveals. Just for perspective, that’s more than the population of each state, but for California, SF GATE reports. About the same number of people report being dependent on the substance or abusing alcohol.
Opioid statistics show that somewhere between 2 and 3 million Americans have an opioid use disorder. That number is likely a low ball. But whatever the actual number is it’s still a far cry from alcohol use disorder rates in America. The study showed that adult alcohol use rose in every demographic, especially among:
- Older People
- People With Lower Incomes
- And Those With Less Education
“This should be a big wake-up call,” says David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved with the research. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.”
In 2001-02, 8.5 percent of survey respondents reported alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the article. That figure rose to around 12.7 percent in 2012-13, a 10.5 million person increase. With such high numbers, greater focus needs to be placed on the impact this will have on society. The cost of life is staggering.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Roughly one-fifth of people with an alcohol use disorder have ever been treated, according to Bridget Grant, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and lead author of the paper. Even though alcoholism is a mental illness, too, about 60 percent of people with depression get some kind of treatment. Without treatment, the outcome is never good.
If you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services for help. We can assist in breaking the cycle of addiction and impart the skills necessary for living a life in recovery.
It would be nice if everyone abusing opioid narcotics of any kind could be convinced that the best thing they could do today is seek help for their addiction. For unlike other substances that one could be addicted to, the likelihood of an overdose and potential death is so great with prescription opioids and heroin that it is simply not worth continuing.
Naturally, such a scenario could only exist if addiction were not what it is: A serious mental health disorder that fights to protect itself like a wolf backed into a corner. Addicts know that at any moment the drugs they are about to put in their body could be their last, yet they do it anyway because the thought of withdrawal sickness is so terrifying it is as if they have no other option.
There is not a formula to explain when an individual has had enough and will seek help. Even those who have survived an overdose will continue using despite the inherent risks. Which is why it is so vital that states and cities do their part to provide addicts with naloxone, clean syringes and a way to determine if the drugs they are about to do contain the deadly ingredient known as fentanyl.
Testing for Fentanyl
People can die from an overdose on morphine, they can die from an overdose on heroin. But if fentanyl is added to the equation the chances of an overdose death are exponentially greater.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out that fentanyl is anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Used in even small amounts it causes severe respiratory depression that can be deadly.
The drug is commonly mixed into bags of heroin to increase potency, without users having any knowledge of its presence. However, there is a way that addicts could determine if their bag contains fentanyl. In New York City, a program in the Bronx has begun equipping heroin addicts with easy to use fentanyl test strips, NPR reports. At St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, a needle exchange program in the Bronx, ordered test strips from Canada and are handing them out at the exchange.
“If you’re doing dope,” staffer Van Asher says to one client, “we’ll give you a test strip so you can test and see if there’s fentanyl.”
The Road to Recovery
There are some who might argue that giving out test strips and clean syringes encourages continued use. But, in reality, such practices prevent the spread of deadly diseases and can help prevent a fatal overdose. Needle exchange personnel typically talk with addicts coming in off the streets about the value of seeking recovery. Letting them know that it is possible. A significant number of people have gone to treatment based on recommendations from such clinics.
If you are actively abusing opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services to begin the journey of recovery.
Opioid use disorder is not generation specific. Young people and mature adults alike have been touched by the American opioid addiction epidemic, with upwards of 2 million Americans in the grip of opioid addiction, nearly 100 overdose deaths and scores of overdose reversals every day. The scourge is dire to say the least, and yet many Americans do not have access to addiction treatment. This is not just a trend with addiction, the clear majority of people living with any form of mental illness never get the help they need for several reasons.
A shortage of treatment facilities. Long waits to get into the extant programs. Insurance companies are reluctant to cover the length of stay in treatment considered to be the most effective. The list could easily be added to, but finding solutions is what we should be focused on.
Curbing the Opioid Addiction Epidemic
In recent years, the public has demanded that lawmakers address this most serious issue. To which they responded with passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last year, authorizing the U.S. Attorneys General to award grants for addressing the opioid epidemic. One of the bill’s many facets includes channeling millions of dollars for the expansion of addiction treatment services.
The important piece of legislation was followed by another bill’s passing, the 21st Century Cures Act which authorized over $1 billion for health innovation. Wrapped up in the bill, among other things, were provisions to strengthen mental health parity regulation and increase funding for expanding access to addiction treatment.
The White House is providing $485 million in grant money for states to be used for addiction treatment and prevention, keeping promises made last year with the passing of the Cures Act, the Associated Press reports. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price made the announcement at a drug prevention summit in Atlanta on Wednesday, and said that another half-billion dollars in state grants will be meted out next year. An HHS news release, states:
“Funding will support a comprehensive array of prevention, treatment, and recovery services depending on the needs of recipients. States and territories were awarded funds based on rates of overdose deaths and unmet need for opioid addiction treatment.”
In addition to expanding access to treatment in the states hardest hit by the epidemic, the funds can be used for:
- Training Health Professionals
- New technology and Support for Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)
- Promote and Expanding Access to Naloxone
Secretary Tom Price would like to go back to the beginning, to the root of the American opioid addiction epidemic to find ways to curb the crisis, according to the article. He acknowledges that physicians have had a hand in the problem the country faces. Price is going to review items like payments and prescribing guidelines, to make sure, “that we are not pushing doctors toward quick fixes that risk lives.”
“There is no question that this overreach helped create the problem we have today, and that ending this epidemic requires going back to its roots.”
The best prospect that people struggling with opioid addiction have at recovery is enlisting the help of an addiction treatment center. After detoxification, long-term residential treatment gives people the tools to live a fulfilling life in recovery. If you are battling with and opioid use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services. We utilize the benefits of traditional counseling in conjunction alternative medicine to achieve a synergistic outcome.