Categories
Mental Health

Telemental Health: Bridging the Gap Between Care, Coronavirus

We are living in unprecedented times. A deadly pandemic has surfaced, the likes of which have not been experienced since the early 1900’s. The impact of this current pandemic has the potential to be even more devastating than the last, as the world is much more interconnected and interdependent than before.

On the other hand, the potential for people to receive applicable treatment for both the physical and psychological impact of this pandemic is in a much better place than in decades past. Thanks to the technological progress which has been made over the past several years, people are often no further from a phone call or video conference away from being able to consult with professionals regarding their concerns.

What Is Telemental Health?

Telehealth refers to any type of health service which is delivered via a medium other than face-to-face contact. It can include telephone calls, texts, video conference, and online interaction. Telemental health refers specifically to the ability to deliver and receive mental health support from a distance. It encompasses other, more familiar, terms such as telepsychiatry, telepsychology, and teletherapy.

Proponents for the widespread availability of telemental health services have long pointed to statistics which indicate that certain portions of the population are lacking in mental health support due to lack of access to physical mental health locations. Individuals who live in rural areas, those who suffer from mobility difficulties, and those who lack transportation and time are often unable to make the journey from their locations to a facility which provides quality mental health care.

The progress toward providing telemental health services has met with some resistance from regulating agencies. These types of agencies were constructed along with the growing popularity of mental health treatment from the mid 1900’s, and were charged with overseeing the requirements of mental health care providers to include best care practices for their patrons. Changes in these regulations have not quite kept pace with the growth of technology, leaving access to quality telehealth services in a gray area.

How Mental Health Care Rules Are Evolving for Coronavirus

With the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing guidelines arriving suddenly on the scene, regulators were compelled to take a closer look at the convenience of receiving therapy from a remote location. Data indicating that telemental health is similarly effective in treating a multitude of disorders was placed in the forefront, and privacy rights of patients and clients receiving remote care were scrutinized.

Similarly, insurance companies began to be pressured toward accepting claims for mental health services provided through such avenues. The result is a temporary lifting of former restrictions so that providers can deliver much needed therapy to those who are suffering from mental health symptoms while simultaneously heeding the call to avoid excessive social contact. There are many providers who hold out the hope that these current progressions in acceptance of telehealth as a viable treatment option will remain far into the future.

Telemental Health Services and Support

Telemental health services rely on the effectiveness of talk therapy toward treating mental health concerns and disorders. Talk therapy has been the go-to treatment since its early application by psychotherapy pioneers such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. It has been demonstrated as being effective with disorders ranging from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, and personality disorders.

When it comes to deciding upon the right type of telemental health treatment for you, some insight into how you best learn and communicate can be helpful. If you are a visual person, support provided through video conference may be what provides you with the best outcome. An auditory person will tend to benefit most from sessions provided over phone. Someone who gains more from reading and writing is likely to find therapy bulletin boards and interactive journals useful.

Anxiety Treatment

Anxiety is already the most common disorder experienced in the country. With the stress of COVID-19 in play, there are even more reasons to feel anxious. Our health, finances, and future  plans are all at risk. Receiving telemental health support during this time can help you to examine your core values, reframe your fearful thoughts, and develop coping mechanisms to use when the anxiety levels are high.

Depression Treatment

Experiences of depression run a close second when it comes to prevalence of mental health disorder in America. While anxiety tends to focus on fear of the future, depression tends to focus on current and past situations. Many people are feeling the weight of our current crisis, yet are unable to engage in activities which might otherwise work to alleviate and distract from depressive thoughts and feelings.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

A hallmark of bipolar disorder is that a person’s mood shifts from highs to lows. While largely thought to be due to a chemical fluctuation in the brain, moods can definitely be negatively and positively affected by situations and mindset. Talk therapy can assist in helping a person with bipolar disorder to learn to recognize the impending mood shifts, and mitigate the drastic responses and behaviors which often result.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Mental health disorders and tendency toward substance abuse are highly correlated. Mental health disorders can prompt a person to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, and substance abuse can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. With so many people stuck at home, and with idle time on their hands, even old habits of abusing drugs and alcohol may creep back in. Talking with a therapist can help to weigh the pros and cons of giving into the temptation to use substances, and can assist you in finding more healthy ways to cope with the stress and boredom.

Personality Disorders Treatment

Personality disorders are those which tend to influence a person’s entire approach and evaluation of life. One of the most diagnosed personality disorders is that of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Talk therapies have been shown to be extremely successful for those struggling with this disorder, as such therapy is focused on providing the client with new ideas and techniques for navigating life situations.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Trauma Treatment

In Recovery, We Lean In to Let Go

Being in recovery from mental illness, substance abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, behavioral issues, et cetera, require that we lean into some things that make us uncomfortable. Let me tell you, “leaning in” isn’t easy. Our brains like pleasure and revile pain. In fact, finding ourselves in rehab tells us that our habitual patterns of trying to put an elementary salve on a gushing wound weren’t working very well. It means that drinking, drugging, stealing or lying our way out of our feelings doesn’t work — at least not permanently. Frankly, none of these “solutions” ever work. Not in the long or short term.

By suggesting that we lean into our difficulties instead of leaning away, I am asking for you to embrace your courage. I am also asking you to trust in your exemplary clinical team, your support team, and in your own ability to do this difficult work while you are in treatment and beyond. Positive thinking or praying for it all to magically go away are both examples of temporary, feel-good actions that don’t provide a long-term solution. It’s wise to also recognize that the recovery process often requires legitimate, clinically supported psychological care.

Recovery is about change. It’s about shifting perspectives and learning how to redefine and revise old paradigms in order to create healthy ones. When we face our old thought patterns and old ideals, we offer ourselves the opportunity to let go. We often find ourselves able to walk through our issues not around them, recognizing that while they are present, ready and willing to make us miserable, we don’t have to take the bait. When we begin to look at our issues with some awareness and compassion, their negative influence has a chance to dissipate.

Our ability to recognize the negative for what it is allows us to invite the positive experiences and influences into our lives. In our recent blog, “How do You Stay Motivated,” I quoted Dr. Rick Hanson, Ph.D., who addresses this very thing: “The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it is to foster positive experiences – and in particular, take them in so they become a permanent part of you.”

Negative experiences do not have to own us; in fact, they can be part of the landscape without being part of our foundations.  This is emblematic of recovery.

The process of recovery is not something you have to do alone. In fact, you can’t. There are support groups, clinicians, treatment facilities, therapists, et cetera, as available resources to you. Yes, there are things you may have to face and work through, but coming to an understanding that you don’t have to ride through that storm alone is a welcome relief.

Categories
Addiction Parenting Prevention Recovery Safety

Prevention: The Best Way to Store and Dispose of Prescription Drugs

We see a lot of adolescents who have been abusing prescription drugs, and prescription drug use is being hailed as the new gateway drugs. Parents are often concerned their teens will experiment with street drugs and/or alcohol, but many teens are dipping into a familiar medicine cabinet, looking for a free and easy way to get high. A sticker that says, “May cause drowsiness,” can be misinterpreted to mean one can get high from it. Unfortunately, this sticker can be found on all sorts of medications, including anti-depressants and blood pressure medications.

Sometimes, prescriptions are stolen by teens for their own use, and sometimes it’s for the purpose of trading from friend to friend or at parties. Pharmaceutical bartering amongst the teen set is far too common; two driving factors of adolescent prescription drug abuse are:

1: The misperception that prescription medication isn’t harmful

2: Ease of access to these drugs at home or a friend’s house

 

Some kids start experimenting with prescription drugs because they are trying to find ways to cope with their stress or anxiety; some use it to try to get an “in” with a certain crowd. There are those, too, who have been prescribed a medication for one thing, but notice a “benefit” for something else (like more focus on a test), and begin misusing it or sharing it with friends.

 

  • According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than 71, 000 children ages 18 and under are seen in the ER for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription medications get them from friends, family, and acquaintances.
  • Among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug (behind marijuana)
  • Teens ages 12-17 have the second-highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse; young adults 18-25 have the highest rate.
  • Every day, 2700 teens try prescription drugs for the first time with the intent of getting high.
  • Nearly one in four teens have taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them.
  • One in three teens report being offered a prescription drug or OTC medication for the purpose of getting high.
  • One in three teens report having a close friend who abuses prescription pain medications.
  • One in four teens report having a close friend who abuses cough medicine to get high.
  • One in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.

 

Parents must take preventative action with their medication. It’s imperative that all medications are accounted for and kept locked up. Do you safely dispose of unused medications? Or do they reside in the dark corners of your medicine cabinet, collecting dust on their exhausted expiration dates?  Are they loosely out on a counter or tabletop for easy access?  Our kids watch us all the time; they learn from our actions and reactions, and they mimic us our behaviors. It’s important to mirror positive actions so our kids do the same. Kids will try anything on, and if taking a lot of medications is part of your habitual behavior, they may try that on too.

 

Here are some guidelines to support healthy means of communication around the use and misuse of prescription drugs, and the safe way to store and dispose of all prescription medications:

  • Communicate with your kids and educate them about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Be honest and age appropriate.
  • Don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you. (A recent study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showed that 27 percent of parents have taken a prescription medicine without having a prescription for it themselves.)
  • Store your medications in a secure place..
  • Keep a record of what medications you have and how much you have – have this information before you lock the meds up.
  • Keep note of your refills;
  • If your teen has been prescribed a medication, make sure YOU monitor it, not them;
  • Educate your friends and relatives about the danger of prescription drugs and encourage them to store them properly;
  • Discard drugs that are either expired or are no longer needed;

 

See HERE for the the list of medications you can flush; beyond this list, please ensure that medications are disposed of as follows, per FDA.gov:

 

1: Remove medication from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).

2: Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag. Then you can toss them in the trash.

 

Please stay on top of this. The public has access to many viable resources like SAMHSAPartnership for a DrugFree America, and the Medicine Abuse Project for more information and free pamphlets. If you suspect your child is abusing prescription drugs or any drugs at all, seek help.

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
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
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Recovery

Willingness: A Condition of Recovery

Willingness means: “The quality or state of being prepared to do something.” 

 

Finding willingness to take a leap into the unknown is a feat that is often met with great resistance. Early on, one is asked how willing they are to change their behaviors, their circle of friends, or their reactions to difficulty. They are asked to find the willingness to take that first step toward healing, because the truth is, no one can make you take that step—you have to do it yourself. It takes the willingness of the person seeking change. And it’s scary. There is a perceived safety in our dysfunction but what that really is, is familiarity.

 

How often have we found ourselves doing the same thing over and over again even though we know we shouldn’t? Where is our resolve? For starters, that resolve is wrapped up in the dysfunction of addiction and untreated mental health. However, it is our willingness to seek out our resolve, which ultimately invites real change to occur.

 

Someone who shows a lack of willingness does so by perpetually making excuses, redirecting themselves to something more familiar and less uncomfortable, and fundamentally getting in their own way. Often, the message received is that one needs to be ready to recover, but readiness is not synonymous with willingness.  For example, imagine your family member has just completed detox, and they are now clear headed enough to begin the healing process. Essentially, they are ready. But instead of taking action, they start making excuses: “I’m good now. I will go to a meeting tomorrow,” or “What do you mean you don’t trust me, I’m clean now!” And in cases where mental health is the issue, we hear,” I feel fine. I’m taking my meds. I can see my therapist next week.” Or, “I am good! I don’t need my meds today.” Readiness is a moot point; in these scenarios, its willingness that is absent.

 

What does it take?

 

  • Take contrary action – Go to a meeting, even when you don’t want to. Take a commitment. No one wants to clean up after a meeting, but we do it anyway.
  • Ask for help – Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated? Call someone! Reach out. And keep those therapy appointments. They are there to help you, regardless of how uncomfortable they can be at times.
  • It is ok not to be ok – At some point, we learn that feeling our feelings is part of the recovery process – accepting that is another story. However, when we move against our feelings in an attempt to run away from them, we suffer more.

Willingness is action, and it is the key to the door of recovery. What are you waiting for?

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
Addiction Parenting Prescription Drugs Prevention

Prescription Drugs: The New Gateway Drugs

Prescription drugs are one of the easiest drugs to obtain.

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often times, it’s as simple as going into the medicine cabinet at home, at a neighbor’s house, a friend’s house or a family member’s home. This ease of accessibility coupled with the curiosity and natural rebelliousness of teenagers is a recipe for experimentation, sneakiness, and even mimicry of parental actions.

 

Some kids start using prescription drugs because they are trying to inappropriately cope with their stress or anxiety; some use it to try to get an “in” with a certain crowd. There are those, too, who have been prescribed a medication for one thing, notice a “benefit” for something else (like more focus on a test), and begin misusing it or sharing it with their friends.

 

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than 71, 000 children ages 18 and under are seen in the ER for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

  • Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription medications get them from friends, family, and acquaintances.
  • Among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug (behind marijuana)
  • Teens ages 12-17 have the second-highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse; young adults 18-25 have the highest rate.
  • Every day, 2700 teens try prescription drugs for the first time with the intent of getting high.
  • Nearly one in four teens have taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them.
  • One in three teens report being offered a prescription drug or OTC medication for the purpose of getting high.
  • One in three teens report having a close friend who abuses prescription pain medications.
  • One in four teens report having a close friend who abuses cough medicine to get high.
  • One in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.

Parents need to take preventative actions with all of their medications. Do you safely dispose of unused medications? Or do they reside in the dark corners of your medicine cabinet, collecting dust on their exhausted expiration dates?  Are they loosely out on a counter or tabletop which is easily accessible? Now is the time to batten down the hatches, so to speak, and take some preventative measures.  Our kids watch us all the time; they learn from our actions and reactions, and they often mimic us so it behooves us to behave in a way that we would like to see our children behave.  Trust me, seeing my son say something sarcastic and realizing he’s just mimicking me is mortifying, and that’s just sarcasm! Kids will try anything on, and if taking a lot of medications is part of your habitual behavior, they will try that on too.

 

  • Communicate with your kids and educate them about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Be honest and age appropriate.
  • Don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you. (A recent study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showed that 27 percent of parents have taken a prescription medicine without having a prescription for it themselves.)
  • Store your medications in a secure place.
  • Count and monitor the amount of pills you have before you lock them up.

 

Prescription drugs are being hailed as the new gateway drug.

More often than not, one begins with prescription opiates and ends up using and abusing street drugs. The reality is, once the medicine cabinets are depleted and the sheer cost of Oxycontin, Vicodin, etc., becomes prohibitive, the path inevitably darkens.

 

Stay aware. Tap into the multitude of resources like SAMHSA, Partnership for a DrugFree America, and the Medicine Abuse Project for more information and free pamphlets. If you suspect your child is abusing prescription drugs or any drugs, seek help.

 

Resources for this blog:

Partnership for Drug Free America

Medicine Abuse Project

Educate Before You Medicate

Dispose My Meds

FDA

Categories
Addiction Heroin Prevention

The Skinny on Heroin: Cheap, Accessible and Deadly

The media is calling Heroin the “silent assassin,”

Heroin syringe (Photo credit: Thomas Marthinsen)

and many are  saying there’s a Heroin epidemic, mostly because of the recent celebrity overdoses and increase in heroin deaths across the country.  The latest celebrity death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman seemed to really strike a nerve. Is it because he was clean for a long period of time, openly talking about his troubles with addiction? Or is it because he’s someone we as an audience want or need to respect because of his wide range of talent? It’s a loss, a great one, but it is more a reminder of the devastation drug use can cause.

 

The use of heroin is prime for a death sentence and its inexpensive procurement makes it an easier and more desirable go-to than drugs like Oxycontin, particularly if you are young, desperate, and broke. At the same time, for celebrities like Hoffman or Cory Monteith, familiarity may be the calling card.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.”

 

And according to a 2012 Monitoring the Future study (a NIDA funded survey of teens in grades 8, 10, and 12, only 0.05% of 8th graders, 0.6% of 10th graders and 12th graders reported using heroin at least once in the past year. The number of teens using heroin is down significantly to what it was in the 1990s. The main concern now is that teens addicted to prescription opiods like Oxycontin will eventually turn to heroin because of its low cost.

 

Concerned about your teen or young adult? Here are some signs to look for:

 

  • Extreme drowsiness: nodding off, acting sleepy, moving really slowly
  • Itching, scratching at face and arms
  • Nausea
  • Pupils very small, like pinpoints, even in dim light
  • Marks on the skin (if heroin is injected vs sniffed)

 

Talking to someone who has a drug problem isn’t always easy, in fact, it can be down right difficult. You may encounter denial, anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and you may face a litany of excuses. Regardless, encourage your friend or loved one to talk to a counselor or a teacher, or trusted adult. Be kind and encouraging and make sure you are also getting the support you need. Reaching out to a friend or loved one lost in the throes of their addiction can be overwhelming and deeply upsetting. Make sure you also have resources you need to decompress and ground yourself: a therapist, AlAnon, CoDA, or a space or practice that you can lean into to take care of yourself.

 

Check out NIDA for more information on heroin.

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