Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Prevention

The Dangers of DMT and Psychedelic Experimentation

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the Throughtryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT.  This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain.  Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.

 

Adolescents are naturally curious creatures. They want to know about the world that they live in and they want to understand why it is the way it is. Developmentally this leads to a natural curiosity about the nature of the world and spiritual matters. During the 1960s, well-respected researchers looked into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, including depression. The ’60s generation took this as a cue to experiment with their minds. What we have learned since then is such experimentation is potentially dangerous and harmful, especially for those with a latent tendency toward depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness.

 

Psychedelic drugs have a distinct effect on brain chemistry. Some of them have chemical structures similar to natural neurotransmitters and almost all of them are classified as alkaloid. Historically, psychedelic drugs have been used by ancient cultures for spiritual practice and ceremony. And science has used psychedelic drugs for research.

 

However, psychedelics are significantly abused.

 

One of the most dangerous components of psychedelic drugs is the potential negative effect on people already vulnerable to mental illness. The user is, in effect, playing with his or her brain chemistry without direct knowledge of any short- or long-term effects these drugs may have. And someone who has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness can adversely affect his or her mental health with the use of psychedelic drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Drugs like DMT, though old, are no different. DMT works fast, it has an intense effect that lasts for 15 minutes but purportedly feels like several hours. This can be an overwhelming experience, especially in cases of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness.

 

The bottom like is this: Experimenting with your mind is dangerous. Curious or not, this type of psychological misadventure is not worth the risk and the potential fallout.

 

Categories
Depression Mental Health Recovery

Visions Remembers Robin Williams

It is with a heavy heart that I write this piece about comedic legend Robin Williams. He was someone that literally touched lives across generations. His comedic value was priceless, and he continued to break barriers throughout his career. Robin Williams also suffered deeply from substance abuse and mental illness, both of which were a common thread through his all-too-short life.

 

Here’s a touch of what Robin Williams taught me:

  • He taught me that being different was ok, if not downright cool.
  • He taught me to be who I am and to take risks.
  • He taught me to laugh in the face of adversity.
  • He reinvigorated my love of poetry.
  • He taught me that love is invaluable and that sometimes we have to do whatever we can to let it shine.

I only wish that the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse didn’t rest in his shadow. I wish he had time to see the outpouring of love and celebration for his genius. My hope is that we can SEE our loved ones who are suffering with kind and compassionate eyes, and that we can make efforts to normalize mental illness and substance abuse. Depression is serious business, it cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. Self-care is often low on the priority list in depression; it’s that thing often out of reach. It’s up to us to give depression and mental illness a voice.

We all have fond memories of Robin Williams, moments of his comedic genius (some of which are too rife with expletives to post  here), and moments of seriousness. Here are a few fine moments with Robin Williams that capture a mere smattering of his versatility and light:

 

His compassion in Patch:

 

Telling stories to heal in Fisher King:

https://youtu.be/6s26WxsgyKE

 

His quirkiness in Mork and Mindy:

https://youtu.be/v9g1yRXF8I8

 

And a reminder of the innate value of poetry in Dead Poets Society:

Categories
Mental Health Personality Disorder Recovery Therapy Treatment

Do I Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

We’ve all done it: called the arrogant, self-righteous, unsympathetic person we know a

Narcissus (oil on canvas) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“narcissist” and we may have even felt pretty confident that they are most certainly suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  It’s a buzzword for the selfish and self-indulgent people we have difficulty with. We may even be right on occasion. I know I have, much to my chagrin. We never really want our laymen’s assessment to be true, do we?

 

While it’s true that someone can have narcissistic tendencies, to receive a diagnosis for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you have to meet some significant traits and they have to have been present for some time. Because of this, adolescents aren’t typically diagnosed with this particular personality disorder because their brains are changing so rapidly. However, if an adolescent presents with the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they have to be actively present for at least a year.  I do think it’s important to remember that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is diagnosed as a result of it being a long-standing, enduring behavior.

 

It’s not common for someone with any personality disorder to seek help. Often times, one ends up in treatment or in a therapist’s office for something else and it’s determined then. Rather than trying to diagnose someone who is innately selfish, ensure that you have firm boundaries and limits around this difficult person.

 

I asked Noelle Rodriguez to give me some clinical insight on Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

 

“A narcissist is only interested in what reflects on them. All she/he experiences is a reflection of self, denial of profound feelings and grandiose fantasy as a shield from unworthiness caused by not feeling truly loved by their parent. A narcissist attacks separateness in everyone with whom he must have a relationship; either they fit into his ego-supporting mold or they are excluded from his life.

Narcissistic rage and aggression is based on fear. His entitlement and absolute control over others must go unchallenged.”

Noelle went on to expand on part of the child’s development that may contribute to Narcissistic Personality Disorder and where parental neglect or denial is a factor, “The child’s natural growth sets off a parental alarm: he or she is blamed for their emerging individuality as if it were a crime. He is made to feel that there is something wrong with such development.”

 

According the DSM-V, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is described thusly:

 

  • A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  • Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

For more information about personality disorders, please speak to a therapist, or medical professional skilled in working within this genre of mental illness.

 

 

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Trauma

Acknowledging and Honoring Grief

With addiction and mental illness comes something that we often don’t want to look at, which is grief and the deep sense of loss that arrives when we or a family member steps into recovery. Drugs and alcohol and/or mental illness are often viewed as the villains in the aftermath of addiction. But the underlying weight of grief often gets shoved to the side or bypassed entirely.

 

The truth is, grief can be crippling. It can take the wind out of us and make us feel like we’ve landed flat on our faces, gasping for air. When we ignore it, or devalue the importance of the grieving process, we suffer more.

 

Mental illness and/or addiction may have ripped your family at the seams. It may have poked holes in your belief system, and placed a shadow on your hopes and dreams for your family. The truth is, everyone suffers: the one with the disease and the ones close to them.

 

I grew up with a parent mired by the tragedy of her own childhood, which was fraught with a mentally ill mother and a stoic father. Now, I see this same parent as an adult and it affords me the opportunity to recognize the untended grief and loss she’s endured and the great suffering that has resulted. A large portion of our existence in a scenario like this revolves around survival and learning how to endure the shame and fear associated with our circumstances. It’s not uncommon for the grief we feel to be ignored or for us to feel as though it is something to endure.

 

How can we stand tall in the midst of suffering while honoring our grief?

 

Talk about it. Develop a relationship with someone you trust that can help you process your feelings. It could be a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, a good friend. What we hold onto holds onto us. Processing grief is part acknowledgement and part letting go. It evolves and becomes something we can hold with care instead of treating it like a hot stone.

 

Practice self-care. Take walks, meditate, do yoga, surf, get a massage, take a bath. Indulge in yourself. Healing is hard work; it’s important to nurture ourselves in the process.

 

Lean toward your difficulty. As counterintuitive as that may sound, this is ultimately the way out. That which we fear, can hold us back. We have to find a way to feel our feelings, touch our own hearts with kindness and compassion, and begin the process of finding acceptance and letting go. Take baby steps here. You don’t have to take on the high dive just yet.

 

Grief is present all around us. In adolescence, we grieve the loss of childhood and the inference of responsibility. In recovery, we grieve the person we were, the things we missed, and the damage we did. We also grieve the perceived “fun” guy/gal we thought we were. Be patient: recovery will afford you many more fulfilling ways of having fun.  This list goes on, but it doesn’t have to be daunting.

 

My experience has shown me that when I lean toward the thing I fear, the fear lessons. When I acknowledge the shadow side and hold the difficulties with compassion, the light starts to trickle in. I suffer when I turn away, and when I ignore the suffering, it becomes more unbearable.  The work in recovery teaches us that we can walk through difficulties with grace, we can begin to feel our feelings and we can crack open the barriers around our hearts. With our feet planted on the earth, and our minds open to possibility, the plight of suffering has a place to fly free.

Categories
Recovery

A Look at Recovery: Complete Abstinence

Recovery can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but what it means when you are talking about recovery from addiction and mental illness is complete abstinence. You can’t dabble here and there. An alcoholic can’t smoke weed, and a pothead can’t drink; a heroin addict can’t have a drink now and again and an anorexic or bulimic can’t go on juice cleanses every so often. They just can’t. It’s not wise action or safe behavior. It’s also not indicative of abstinence.

 

Being sober and in recovery means:

  • You don’t drink or use drugs. Period.
  • You eat mindfully and healthfully if you are recovering from an eating disorder.
  • You have a recovery program that you are a part of and that you continue to participate in: 12-step, Refuge Recovery, Al-Anon, et cetera.
  • You are of service to others.
  • You are seeking mental health care if you need it.
  • You are getting help from someone who has been doing this longer than you have and are on a recovery path that you admire.
  • You learn to ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
  • Your relationships are stable or are becoming more and more stable as your recovery time increases.
  • If you are required to take medication, you do so under the care of a physician who is aware of your addiction history. You can’t go rogue here.

 

Recovery is one of those things where there really is no grey area. You’re either in…or you’re out. When we come across someone on the slippery slope of relapse or in the full swing of addiction, what we may find is a chorus of denial and accusations of judgment. An addict certainly doesn’t want to hear that they are slipping down the rabbit hole.

 

The delusion of addiction tells them that they are just fine.

 

What can we as family members and loved ones do?

We have to maintain strong boundaries. If we are in recovery ourselves, it’s a good time to reaffirm our own programs, and ensure we are staying grounded and that our needs our met. Remember that in order to help others, it’s important that we help ourselves first.

We may need to reach out to therapists and arrange an intervention for our loved one, or we may need to make that phone call to a treatment facility to get our son or daughter into treatment.

No matter what the next step is, we must make sure we do it with firm boundaries, compassion, and love in our hearts.

 

The suffering involved in untreated addiction and mental illness is great. Dysregulation is common, along with anger, resentment, and a feeling of isolation. Family systems often start to show signs of wear, if they weren’t already. Addiction doesn’t magically appear! It’s important that the family is ready and willing to begin the work of recovery as well and come to accept that it’s not just the addict in the “hot seat” of recovery.

Categories
Recovery

Recovery Month 2013

September marks the 24th annual Recovery Month, hosted by SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Recognizing that our communities are confronted with substance abuse and mental health issues on a regular basis, Recovery Month highlights opportunities and notable systems of support for those seeking recovery.  For example, facilities like ours avail themselves to families seeking treatment for the various manifestations of substance abuse and mental illness. Our goal is to therapeutically facilitate the reconstruction of the family system, healing the lives of those suffering from and affected by addiction and mental illness.

 

Still, addiction and mental illness continue to prevail. Current research shows the following:

  • 20.6 million people, age 12 and older were classified with alcohol or elicit drug dependence or abuse.
  • 45.6 million people ages 18 and older had mental illness within the past year.

The repercussions from mental illness and/ or substance abuse can be wide reaching: relationships are often strained if not shattered, there are financial woes, there’s an inevitable loss of trust, and in some cases, there are impending health issues. Many of these things feel insurmountable when one is in the thick of their disease but with support, and some therapeutic direction, the possibility of recovery becomes more plausible. Beginning the path of Recovery doesn’t mean your life has ended; it means your life has just begun.

 

There are many opportunities to participate in Recovery Month. This years theme is “Join the Forces of Recovery: Together on Pathways to Wellness,” which highlights the various ways in which we can prevent substance abuse, encourage treatment, facilitate recovery and its corresponding healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

If you’re in Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Dodgers will Celebrate National Recovery Month before and during their home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 10.  Click here for ticket info and logistics.

For more information on Recovery month, check out https://www.recoverymonth.gov/. You can search for activities in your area, and find ways to get involved. This is about you speaking up and out. Use the month of September as an opportunity to be of service. Make it a practice.  Share your recovery stories online; if you’re on social media, use the hashtag #RecoveryMonth.

Get active, be of service, and spread the word. Recovery is meant to be shared.