Categories
Addiction Parenting Prescription Drugs Prevention Substance Abuse

A New SAMHSA Report Brings Xanax Front and Center

According to a new report issued by SAMHSA  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

(Photo credit: Dean812)

Administration), there has been an increase in ER visits due to the recreational use of alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax.  Per the report, “The number of emergency department visits involving non-medical use of the sedative alprazolam (Xanax) doubled from 57, 419 to 124, 902 from 2005 to 2010, and then remained stable at 123, 744 in 2011.”

 

Xanax is part of a class of medications called benxodiazapenes and is indicated for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepenes work on the brain and the nerves – our central nervous system – producing a calming effect.  Benzodiazepenes enhance a chemical, which is naturally found in the body called GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), which plays a role in regulating the nervous system.

 

It’s noted that Xanax is often one of the first pharmaceutical interventions given to someone struggling with anxiety or panic attacks. In fact, “Alprazolam is the 13th most commonly sold medication in 2012, and is the psychiatric medication most commonly prescribed in 2011.”

 

While Xanax may be effective when used appropriately for anxiety and panic disorders, it is profoundly dangerous when used recreationally. It is highly addictive and often encourages drug-seeking behavior. SAMSHA reports, “The non-medical use of alprazolam can lead to physical dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and seizures.  If alprazolam is combined with alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system — such as narcotic pain relievers — the effects of these drugs on the body can be dangerously enhanced.”

 

The side effects of Xanax (alprazolam) include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Disinhibition.
  • Skin rash.
  • Constipation.
  • Hallucinations (very rare)

 

According to the SAMHSA study, “In 2011, there were over 1, 200, 000 emergency department visits” as a result of recreational prescription drug use. Often times, recreational users mix several types of prescription drugs or add alcohol, creating a chemical mash-up. How these drugs are acquired is also a problem. It’s not uncommon to procure them from the medicine cabinets of parents, or parents of friends. This fact alone is a reminder for parents to lock away medications that present a danger and get rid of unused medications they have lying around the house. Keep in mind, expiration dates are a non-factor to a teen looking to get high and the reality is, all drugs not currently being used need to be viewed as dangerous.

 

The SAMSHA study acts as a reminder to pay closer attention to our children, and to take responsibility for the medications we have on hand. Adolescence breeds curiosity and is fraught with risk-taking behavior. What’s normal can very quickly go rogue. A child’s curiosity coupled with a genetic propensity for addiction is dangerous; likewise, a child’s curiosity coupled with a lack of impulse control (normal) and a rapidly developing brain (normal) is also dangerous. There is no “safe” curiosity when it comes to drugs. And misusing prescription drugs is not an exception.

Categories
Addiction Mental Health Recovery Wellness

Finding Hope in Recovery and Beyond

Hope is fleeting or nonexistent for someone locked in the downward spiral of mental illness and substance abuse. In many ways, the transient quality of hope in the mind of the sufferer creates a sense of dissonance; it always seems to be out of reach. Recovery makes space for a more tangible kind of hope to develop and take root.  The hope we do have when we are in our diseases is hope for an escape. However, the hope we have in recovery is revised to resemble its true meaning: a desire for something good to happen and the capability to see its fruition.

 

We need to integrate hope into our lives as part of our recovery, viewing it as an action rather than as a “thing” to grasp. If we are going to recover, we have to have a life worth living, and building a foundation for hope is one of the actions needed to create such a life. This provides us with something to reach for and hope becomes something actively fostered in our lives.

 

There are some basic things one can do to work toward bringing hope into their lives:

 

Connection: Connect with others and begin to develop healthy relationships with people. The fellowship in 12-step meetings is helpful in creating connection with others. Fellowship provides opportunities to build new relationships with people who are on the same path. Within that context, one can begin to heal old relationships and build new ones.

 

Have fun: How often does someone come into recovery and assume that because they aren’t drinking and using that “fun” is off the list? Guess what—it’s not. When you realize you can laugh, and I mean, a stomach-clutching-falling-over kind of laugh all without the use of drugs or alcohol, it is liberating.

 

Get an education: This is a positive step to building hope for a fuller, better future.  Feeding your mind with knowledge and realizing your potential is a powerful thing. An education provides fertile soil for hope to take root and blossom.  It puts our foot on the path toward building a future that we want to be a part of.

 

We recognize that many of our teens and their families have lost hope. We support families in developing courage to change, and we foster the desire to heal. Every week, Visions facilitates Recovery Fun outings where we encourage teens to have fun, to laugh, and to find joy in their recovery.  We host yearly alumni and client events such as: the Big Bear ski trip, our staff vs. alumni softball game, our Catalina Adventure, and Halloween Fright Night. Fostering joy and laughter breeds healing and it leads to hope. Having fun reminds us that we are alive!  Just because we are dealing with heavy issues doesn’t mean that joy doesn’t exist.  We won’t let kids give up on themselves—we want them to start to recognize their potential. We give them skills that provide them with the knowledge that they are capable, and with that, they build an environment of hope.

 

Categories
Family Mental Health Recovery

Ways A Family CAN Pick up the Pieces and Recover

Healing a family from addictive behaviors and emotional dysregulation takes work.


It takes willingness from all parties involved and a moment of clarity from the addict as well as the family in order to get the ball rolling. It takes dedication and a commitment from the entire family system. When someone says, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” it helps us to recognize that this is the brain’s way of taking a breath of fresh air. That “breath of fresh air” is the internal shift an addict or alcoholic needs to embrace and encourage them to move toward the next level. In our last blog, we noted the following 4 things a family needs for recovery. I thought it wise to break it down further:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

What does a healthy home look like?

When when Visions’ Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. is working with families and helping them heal broken or disrupted family systems, she stresses the importance of “having an intentional culture in the home that supports open communication, boundaries that are well defined, and have mutual respect.” In this way, home can become a refuge instead of a place of commotion.

 

Mental and Physical Health:

If a mental health diagnosis has been made, it is imperative that there is consistency with medication, consistent medical and psychological follow-ups, and that the family as whole is on the same page. Recovery requires a broadening net of support. It often begins with the clinical support in treatment, and expands to include a network of sober, healthy peers, and often reparation of the family system.

 

Sense of Purpose:

Find something that inspires you:  Something that is positive and supports your path on recovery. Remember, purpose is another word for motivation: take commitments at meetings, be of service, volunteer somewhere that you love, take a morning walk. Joseph Rogers, Assistant Education Director at Visions’ IOP says, “If students/clients don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to, it is hard for them to see why they should continue making an effort.”

 

To have and build a sense of community:

One of the most amazing things about treatment and the path to recovery is fellowship (community). Knowing that you have a net of like-minded people in your corner is a powerful salve. How often do we hear the John Burroughs quote, “Leap and the net will appear”? I have to tell you from my own recovery experience, building and sustaining a healthy community of support and care has shown me truth in that very quote. I have leapt often and each time, I have been met with an incredible “net” that I call community. Your community will tell you the truth, love you when you can’t love yourself, and hold you accountable when you make a fool of yourself. Community aka fellowship is a glorious thing.

 

I recently heard something I found revolutionary from an addiction psychiatrist about hitting bottom, saying that it’s important that we as professionals and families “eliminate rock bottom as a condition of recovery and find the right conditions for recovery.” This moved me because it encourages taking action sooner, it encourages destigmatizing what recovery can look like, and it provides a sense of hope. Families need hope. They need to believe that recovery is possible. They need to know and understand in the fiber of their being that there is light at the end of the tunnel. UCLA’s Dr. Tim Fong said, “Addiction and mental health are not necessarily curable conditions, but they are controllable conditions.” In other words, recovery is attainable.

 

Categories
Adolescence Dual Diagnosis Family Parenting Recovery

An Intensive Family Program Promotes Healing the Family System

Visions knows that a family in crisis needs requires an intensive family program. It doesn’t benefit a family to be viewed as having individual branches that need to be removed, trimmed or repaired. We are thrilled to be building out our 3-day intensive family program with the help of Jeff and Terra Holbrook. They have been doing family work for almost two decades and are deeply committed to healing the family system. Their insight and experience are invaluable and in line with the  culture of Visions. Visions wants the family to heal from the inside out; We require all families to go to:

  • Weekly parent support groups;
  • Weekly multi-family groups; and
  • Individual family sessions.

Families are also encouraged to go to outside support groups (Al-Anon, AA, ACA, Refuge Recovery, et cetera).  When we meet with families, we address issues of attachment, enmeshment, codependency, and we assist families in creating healthy boundaries. The recovery process requires a level of willingness and curiosity on everyone’s part and it is particularly important to do family work because addiction and mental health are rooted in the family system. It is not uncommon for parents and loved ones affected by their child’s addiction or mental illness to become angry, place blame, distance themselves from their child, or try to fix the problem themselves; often times, the focus remains on the addict. Here’s where an intensive family program comes in.

 

Think of the family system as a garden. Imagine the roots of everything in the garden weaving their way through nutrient rich soil containing love, respect, healthy boundaries, positive attention, and connection to healthy resources. Now imagine what happens when that same soil becomes fallow: The roots begin to suffer from neglect, abuse, abandonment, deprivation, and entanglement; the garden begins to whither away, grasping onto whatever is closest to try to survive. Family systems need to be nurtured from their root systems all the way up. Removing one unhealthy part won’t allow the entire system to heal. In fact, the entire root system will malfunction as a result.

 

Our intensive family program provides salient educational tools for parents to learn to face addiction and mental health in a healthier way. Families must begin to unpeel their own layers, and begin looking deeply within themselves and at the origins of their own root systems. Parents must also understand what they are asking their kids to do to recover, and more importantly, it’s invaluable for parents to show their kids they are willing to do the same hard work.  For example, if a family is asking their kids to look at how they are powerless, that same family needs to ask themselves the same question.  Addiction and mental health are a family disease; they are not isolated incidents wherein one family member goes rogue. As David Sheff, author of Clean says, “The addicted are not morally bereft, they are ill.”

 

An intensive family program will also help parents move away from the stigma of mental health and addiction and move toward acceptance and healing.  Families are often surprised to find out that their feelings are in line with their child’s: Both may feel angry, betrayed, ashamed, scared, resentful, frustrated, tired, and so on. When parents are able to shed a light on these similarities, the willingness to look at the hows and whys of addiction and mental illness becomes more palpable. Recognizing this similarity also elicits compassion and empathy for their child and for themselves. When a family can recognize that everything is connected, recovery can truly bloom.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcoholism Mental Health Parenting Prevention

Affluenza: A Disguise for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

The news is rife with the term “Affluenza,” which was recently used as a defense for a 16-year-old Texas teen* accused of killing 4 people in a drunk driving case. Instead of jail time, he was sentenced to 10 years of probation, presenting an interesting perspective on what can happen when parents don’t set boundaries, create limits, or teach accountability. For those who don’t know, the term “Affluenza” is a term coined by John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann and economist Thomas H. Naylor, authors of the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.

 

When speaking to John Lieberman, Director of Operations about this case, he said:

“This is a sad and horrible situation. No amount of jail time or punishment will heal the wounds or bring back the dead. The simple fact here is this: Every parent can learn from this situation. This young man was showing signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse prior to the accident. Early intervention is the most important and effective way to deal with addiction, drug abuse and “affluenza.” Parents, please take actions to stand between your children and the actions that may destroy their lives and the lives of others.

One of the most important standards of responsible treatment is accountability. Adolescents who act out may have been abused, neglected or spoiled. The issue at hand is not weather this young man should get treatment. The issue is if this recent light sentence fits the crime. I believe it is a mistake for any licensed mental health professional to make up a diagnosis; Affluenza is not a recognized diagnosis. The sad thing is that the symptoms this teen was exhibiting do relate to a defined diagnosis.”

 

The 16-year-old’s blood alcohol levels were three times the legal adult limit and the alcohol he’d consumed that fateful day had been purloined illegally. The public outrage stems from his lack of accountability and lack of his family’s accountability. According to Mary Greshem, an Atlanta psychologist, “The diagnosis for youths in such situations would be impulse control problems, and impulse control problems are seen across all socioeconomic levels in families where limits aren’t set.”

 

Soniya Luther, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University says, “There are ways in a society that we collectively shape the behavior of our kids.” For example, if parents aren’t setting boundaries for themselves and regulating their own behavior, their kids won’t either. If a parent persistently fights consequences of their negative actions, they are sending negative messages to their children about taking responsibility. The reality is, a child who never faces consequences for their actions will have increasingly larger and larger problems to deal with. A therapist once said to me, “Little people, little problems; big people, big problems,” an apropos sentiment for this situation. Ignoring negative early childhood behaviors frames the perception of a consequence-free future, where the issues will be far greater than, “No, you can’t have an extra cookie.”  Soniya Luther says, “It really speaks to the importance of attending to our children’s behavior early on. In all cases, it is our duty (sic) to step in and do the right thing. It’s not just loving our kids but putting the appropriate limits on their behavior.”

 

*We’ve chosen to eliminate the teen’s proper name due to his age, despite its release in the media.

 

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Service Treatment

Visions: We Have Your Back

I go through the news endlessly, looking for things of interest for the Visions community, looking for things that act as a springboard for the Visions’ blogs, or simply reading to stay on top of the myriad things going on in the environment in which we live and breathe. I sniff out science and psychology articles the way some people seek pop culture references. Keeping you informed and in the loop is my priority. At Visions, we see and experience all walks of life and treat a varied population of teens struggling with everything from mental health issues, substance abuse, and psychological trauma, and for that reason, it’s imperative we address a multitude of subjects.

 

We are currently knee deep in the heat of summertime, and for some, that might signify a sense of freedom. For some, it’s a time of leisure, and dealing with “issues” feels like it’s putting a crimp in their style. For others, it’s just a shift in barometric pressure and a change in their work attire. Because we maintain a structured schedule year round, Visions maintains a level of consistency that adds a real sense of grounding for teens while they are learning to navigate the newness of recovery. This provides consistency and structure for our treatment population, which is highly beneficial to their recovery process whether they are at one of our inpatient facilities, outpatient, our Day School,  or NeXT. The goal is to create a safe, therapeutic container for our adolescents and their families.

 

Visions has an incredible knack for providing different psychological layers of support for teens to pass through in order for them to get back onto their feet. What I mean by this is, we don’t just toss them back into the unchartered world with old friends and into old stomping grounds without proper coping skills and tools to manage new feelings and challenges. In fact, we encourage the development of new friends, with healthier habits more in line with a lifestyle in recovery. We provide teens with different levels to walk through and gain success and confidence before moving onto something new. If that means backing up a step or two, then we encourage that and provide sufficient support until the client is established and grounded enough in their recovery to move forward.

 

I marvel at the resiliency in so many of our families. Substance and mental health aren’t easy seas to navigate, but they are not impossible and the Visions team is one that is full of many skilled sailors. Many of us are walking the path of recovery ourselves. It’s imperative that we do stay on top of what’s going on both inside of our facilities and out in the world. If we have our blinders on in any of these places, we become limited in our ability to do what we do best, and that is help those who cross our path. We cannot leave any stone unturned because we never know who might need our help.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Substance Abuse

Adolescent Substance Abuse Rises the Summer, According to Study

Adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. Notably, this period correlates with a time where adolescents have more idle hours, less parental supervision, and looser schedules with less responsibility. Summertime, has always been that time of teen freedom. Unfortunately, it also is prime time for experimentation and adolescent substance abuse.

According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. Yes, this is surely problematic, but it’s also a call for ardent preventative measures. Adolescent substance abuse isn’t a rite of passage; it’s an emblematic symbol of the frightening difficulties facing our teens. The substance abuse conversation needs to happen year round, not as a one-time discussion, but as an ongoing dialogue between parents and their burgeoning teens.

The media has a multitude of public service announcements (PSAs), which target adolescent substance abuse. In particular, this study suggests increasing the frequency of these PSAs during the summer months in hopes of increasing awareness. In areas where there is limited access to preventative measures, however, the study suggests communities create “attractive alternatives” to alcohol and substance abuse, inspiring curious adolescents to move in a safer direction. Some of these alternatives could include community events or youth activities that encourage sober fun. It’s definitely possible to combat adolescent substance abuse in a non-preachy and informative way. The biggest challenge might be grabbing the interest of teens, who tend to steer away from any adult-led suggestions of fun, engaging entertainment.

We have the facts: adolescent substance abuse is up in the summer.  What are we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals going to do about it? For starters, we’re going to do our darndest to create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us. We are going to leave our hearts and minds open to having a consistent, transparent dialogue with our adolescents. It’s not easy; frankly, it’s one of the toughest things to do, but this is prime time to be present for our kids. They need us more than ever during this period of their lives, even though they may tell you otherwise.

If you are a parent, friend, or relative of a teen struggling with adolescent substance abuse, there is help. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to–you are not alone.