Recovery is a Gift – Happy Holidays from Turning Point
The holiday season is a time of warmth, fun, and good memories for many. But for some, the holidays are a time when other factors such as high stress or depression are present- compounding problems associated with substance abuse and addiction. This time of the year is the highest risk season for those struggling with drug abuse and addiction. Sometimes family gatherings can intensify difficult or unhealthy relationships and cause additional anxiety. Stressful end-of-the-year workplace demands combined with required holiday party attendance can place additional pressure to drink or use. There are also many opportunities to celebrate in excess that can create tremendous challenges for those with addiction and trying to hold it together. Those struggling with drug addiction can benefit from getting into a treatment program during the holidays. The greatest gift you can give your addicted loved one—or yourself–is the gift of recovery.
Turning Point recognizes the difficulty of recovery as well as aiding someone through the recovery process. We commend you for your efforts to overcome the challenges you or your loved one struggles with and appreciate the hard work you are making to change. Happy Holidays!
US vs. Europe: Drug Abuse
Drug abuse impacts society in many diverse ways. Homelessness, child welfare, worker productivity, crime, quality of life, health care utilization, prisons, and more are all greatly influenced by the amount and type of drug abuse in each country. The way each country goes about dealing with issues that arise from drug abuse also sway the outcomes of addiction and abuse. Between the US and Europe, there are varying policies and strategies used to attempt to decrease drug abuse.
For example, the War on Drugs has been waged for year in the US while Spain and Portugal decriminalized drug possession in their countries. But each country takes drug abuse very seriously and is putting measures into place to minimalize drug abuse and the effects on the daily lives of its citizens.
Comparing the US and Europe shows some interesting trends because there are various policies, demographics, and standards abounding. Just like in various states in the US, the various countries in Europe fight different drugs and struggle with different types of substance abuse, some more than others. Recovery services are also varied, but exist in some form in each area. A study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) shows some interesting trends.
One of those trends, which is unfortunate, is the fact that the US is shown to be in the top five countries for almost every national measure of drug abuse, when compared with European countries. Further, even though some European countries show up in the top 5 in prevalence of drug abuse, no other country does so as consistently as the US. Hopefully, knowledge can be gleaned, shared, and compared from this data to aid in our own recovery from drug abuse here in the US.
The following measures were observed in regard to the US vs. Europe and drug abuse:
- Europe leads the US in alcohol abuse
- The US ranked 2nd in cannabis (marijuana) abuse, Iceland was 1st
- The US ranked 2nd in cocaine abuse, Spain was 1st
- The US ranked 1st in opioid abuse scoring 34% higher than the 2nd ranked Czech Republic
- The US ranked 1st in amphetamine use and was 9% higher than 2nd ranked Estonia
- The US ranked 1st in the number of drug overdose deaths
- The US ranked 1st in the number of people in treatment for drug abuse
Exercise Helps Anxiety & Depression
If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety and are looking for a solution, consistent exercise may be key. Research shows that our physical, emotional, and mental parts are intertwined very intimately and can strengthen and support one another. Specifically, evidence points to three types of exercise that target alleviating anxiety and depression: running, hiking, and yoga.
Running has a reputation for improving mood. It also burns calories, reduces food cravings, and lowers your risk of heart disease. Further, running has been shown to mend troubled dispositions while increasing serotonin and norepinephrine output during and after exercise. These powerful neurotransmitters aid in lessoning depression, lowering stress, and alleviating anxiety.
Hiking has also been shown to have many health benefits. Not only does nature calm our minds, but hiking gets the heart pumping as well. Studies show that when immersing oneself in nature, around plants, trees, streams, etc., participants felt less anxious and had increased memory function.
Not surprisingly, yoga has shown to alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms. Some research recommends yoga be a complementary treatment for depression in fact. The focus on breathing while doing yoga really helps with anxiety because it is difficult to feel stressed or anxious when you are focused on breathing.
More and more research points to exercise to lessen the difficult symptoms of depression and anxiety. Although it may not be surprising, sometimes getting up and participating in yoga, running, and/or hiking may seem daunting to those dealing with depression and anxiety. However, if individuals can find someone to go with and encourage them to get out and exercise, or can find the drive to do it themselves, the benefits are enormous.
Drug Rehab During the Holidays? 5 Reasons
There are many reasons why checking a loved one into a drug rehab facility is a good idea. However, research points to 5 reasons why admitting your loved one to a drug rehab facility during the holidays is the perfect time.
- Even though families often feel that being around loved ones for the holidays will help individuals struggling with addictions, in fact, the opposite is true. The holidays can be filled with financial and emotional weight, stress, and risks of overdose or even suicide due to hopelessness. This is the number one reason to get help for your loved one and place them in a safe drug rehab facility during the holidays where that stress can be lifted.
- Second, oddly enough, the cold weather often turns individuals to their addiction for comfort from the cold and bleak winter days. This can intensify addictions and cravings and make life seem more miserable when the sun isn’t shining!
- Third, with breaks from work and school, there is more free time on hand during the holidays. And, as many of us have experienced, too much free time often leads to destructive habits/behaviors. It can also lend time to more dwelling on negative thoughts as well.
- Most people are aware that holiday family gatherings can take a toll on individuals with addictions. Memories, stress, expectations, and other events and emotions are bound to arise and can hurt a struggling addict. So fourth, being in a facility where family can visit when the addict is up to a visit is a better solution during the holidays.
- Fifth, sometimes knowing that your loved one who is struggling with addiction is in a safe caring environment can give you and others affected by the addiction time to heal and recover yourself. That way, when the addict leaves the drug rehab facility you can be in a healthier place to aid in their recovery. Having time with friends and family during the holidays while your loved one is safe in drug rehab and without the stress of taking care of an addict can be healing for many families and individuals.
Teen Depression Becoming More Common in Boys
Sad but true, statistics show that more and more teen boys are living with depression. What was once thought to be more of a teen girl issue, has noticeably been seen in many teen boys. With rates of anxiety disorders and depression up among teen boys, depression among males is nearly as it is among females in this age group.
Teen boys are learning and trying to become men. They get ideas about how to do this through television, movies, books, friends, and from older men. Many of these examples portray individuals who don’t have emotional problems that look like depression. Because of that, teen boys don’t feel like confronting their depression because it doesn’t seem “manly” or sometimes even allowed. This can make detecting and treating teen depression difficult.
Further, unlike female teens who may cry or express emotions outwardly, teen boys generally hold their feelings inside. Their depression may be expressed as anger or outbursts. Sometimes teen boys detach or can’t concentrate but more often, they hide their feelings or ignore them when they are feeling depressed. Also, most may not realize they are dealing with depression. Instead, because of what has been portrayed to them by society of what is “manly,” they may just feel weak and attempt to hide the feelings of frailty they are dealing with.
According to rightstep.com, “Boys ignore depression by zoning out in TV or video games. They ignore it by spending hour upon hour in their room listening to music. Rarely will adolescent boys verbalize their struggles. Instead (they adopts a mask to cover the pain (they are) feeling.”
Today’s teen boys are facing unprecedented stresses from many directions. Not only do many of them live in homes with divorced parents, step-siblings, and back and forth visitation, there is also less certainty about the careers and future jobs than there once was. Some teens may feel depressed about what lies ahead in their future.
Although there is a rise in depression among teen boys, there is much that can be done to solve the problem and help these boys regain confidence and happiness in their lives. Awareness and prevention are important; being open with your teen boy and having conversations about what depression entails can help him identify and seek help if it is needed.
10 Most Common Drug Addictions
A recent article published by addictioncenter.com is very insightful concerning the top ten most common drug addictions. These include: nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, stimulants, inhalants, and sedatives. The order was a bit surprising; often the media places more emphasis on certain drugs, so one may think they are more commonly abused. Or, there is not so much media attention on the struggles individuals have with other drugs, so it was surprising that they were so high on the top ten list.
Not surprisingly, tobacco (nicotine) is the most commonly abused drug. Although many do not consider tobacco a very harmful drug in comparison to other drugs because it is legal and easy to get, the impact of tobacco on one’s health is serious and harmful..
Next was alcohol. Again, not a huge surprise due to the fact that it’s legal and easy to obtain. However, the effects of alcohol abuse are severe: liver disease and drunk driving are a few. Because drinking alcohol is socially acceptable,—even more than smoking cigarettes—addiction may be hard to identify.
Marijuana is ranked 3rd and with the legalization of both recreational use as well as medicinal use in several parts of the country, this too should not be too surprising. Because it’s legal now, may also find it socially acceptable – making it harder to detect addiction to this substance. Further, studies show that marijuana is more potent than it once was, which has also led to an increase in addiction.
Painkillers are next and include Codeine, Vicodin and Oxycontin Many individuals recovering from surgery or accidents innocently become addicted to painkillers. Most are given a prescription for the drugs and some don’t realize the addictive nature because they feel that a doctor gave them permission to take them. Many individuals become addicted without even realizing it. Addiction to prescription drugs is an epidemic in the US with rising rates of addiction all of the time.
5th is cocaine on the list from addiction center. Although many believe cocaine to be a drug from the 80’s that has decreased significantly in popularity, its use has not decreased significantly enough. Crack cocaine is mostly responsible for the lives cocaine ruins through addiction.
Surprisingly, heroin is below cocaine on the list of the 10 most common drug addictions. Many people may think that more people are addicted to heroin because of the media attention it receives. However, the amount of individuals addicted to heroin is still very significant (426,000) and the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin use make it a very difficult drug to recover from. Interestingly, heroin use has been growing among women more than other drugs.
Benzodiazepines (otherwise known as “Benzos”) are mood-regulating drugs often prescribed to deal with stress and anxiety. Some common benzos include Valium and Xanax. Like painkillers, most of these are prescribed so individuals may not recognize the probability of developing addiction and may be surprised when they find they need them to function normally. Withdrawals are harsh from benzos and often need to be monitored in a clinical/rehab setting.
Highly addictive stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin are ranked 8th. Meth also falls into the stimulant category. Users can build up tolerance quickly to the high that these drugs produce, which can lead to increased use and risk of overdose
Although many don’t realize it, inhalants are among the top 10 most common drug addictions. Inhalants include such household items as: gasoline, cleaning products, and aerosols, so individuals often do not realize their severity. Because these substances are so toxic, they can lead to brain damage, hospitalization, and even death. Further, the toxic chemicals can linger in one’s system for quite a while.
Last sedatives (barbiturates), commonly known as sleeping pills, are often prescribed to treat tension and sleep disorders. But, each year, thousands of users build a tolerance, and then become addicted, to sleeping pills. Because of the mind altering effects that sedatives produce, continued abuse is common.
In sum, the number of individuals with the top ten most common drug addictions is as follows:
- Tobacco-Over 40 million
- Alcohol-18 million
- Marijuana-4.2 million
- Painkillers-1.8 million
Illness or Health Crises Can Trigger PTSD
Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with veterans or victims of a serious crime or assault that results in emotional trauma. However, few realize just how much serious health diagnoses or illnesses can produce trauma and disturbing memories. This trauma can lead to disturbing dreams, trouble sleeping and concentrating, lack of interest in favorite activities, and feelings of hopelessness. Although different types of therapy, such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and medications can relieve these symptoms, being aware that PTSD can stem from illnesses or serious health crises/diagnoses can happen is key.
For instance, a visit to or stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) can produce PTSD symptoms. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychological Medicine showed that 1 out of 3 patients experienced some form of PTSD when they had visited the ICU. Dr. Dale Needham, MD, PHD, senior study author and critical care specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine indicated that, “We usually think of PTSD as something you develop if you go to war, are sexually assaulted, or suffer a similar emotional trauma. Instead, it may be as common, or more common, in ICU patients as in soldiers, but it’s something many doctors — including psychiatrists — don’t fully appreciate.”
Another health crisis that can trigger PTSD is a stroke. Research shows that individuals who have experienced a mini-stroke (transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) often showed PTSD symptoms even though their stroke wasn’t long lasting or didn’t cause any permanent damage. These same patients experienced more depression and anxiety along with the PTSD symptoms.
Contracting Crohn’s disease may cause PTSD also. And, having both illnesses can make the digestive problems and symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease worse, according to research.
Not surprisingly, cancer is also an illness that can cause PTSD –whether from fighting the disease or being diagnosed with it. Recent research shows that many survivors of cancer fight PTSD several years after their initial cancer diagnoses.
All in all, new research is generating new information about many different phenomena that can cause PTSD, and health crises and/or illness are definitely on that list. Being aware of how these traumatic events can impact individuals can help in facilitating the therapy and processes needed to cope with and treat PTSD.
DEA bans “Pink”
This week, the US Drug enforcement Administration (DEA) classified “Pink” a schedule I drug. The synthetic opioid has caused at least 46 confirmed deaths and has been proven to have a high potential for abuse with no approved medical use. Thirty-one of those deaths occurred in New York and 10 in North Carolina but Pink has also been seen elsewhere.
Law enforcement has seen Pink in both powder and tablet form. The tablets appear to have been made to mimic prescription opioids, putting users in further danger of thinking they are ingesting something more “safe.” For example, earlier in 2016, police found approximately 500 pills in Ohio that looked like manufacturer’s oxycodone immediate-release tablets. But, upon laboratory analysis, it was determined that they contained the deadly synthetic opioid Pink.
The deadly drug is composed of synthetic opioids much more potent than morphine. Most often, law enforcement has concluded that Pink is imported to the United States from China. Tragically, Pink can be very toxic to users – even in small doses and is usually ingested with other drugs such as heroin or fentanyl.
Pink’s name came from the pinkish hue that the powder form of the drug often has. However, the drug is not always pink. Because the drug is sold over the Internet and labeled as a research chemical, many users do not understand the dangers associated with Pink. Banning Pink by labeling it as a schedule I drug allows law enforcement to prosecute dealers and users more fully, hopefully ending, or at least minimizing, the distribution of the dangerous drug.
Avoiding Holiday Relapses while in Recovery
The holidays are upon us and going through recovery during this time of the year can be rough. Cocktail parties and holiday celebrations involving other drinks can be difficult to navigate while in recovery. Although the holidays are a fun time of year, many individuals experience stress and turn to their drink or drug of choice to cope. Family time is often a trigger of stress as well and everyone knows that the holidays include more time with family. On the flip side, individuals without much family around may experience loneliness and/or depression and turn to the substances they’re recovering from in order to deal with those hopeless/lonely feelings.
However, individuals in recovery know that they do not need alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to have an enjoyable holiday season. Going into the holidays with confidence that things can still be fun and festive without these substances is key. Also, it is critical to have a plan in place before the holiday festivities begin.
Some ideas to have in mind as the holidays approach include:
- Be aware of what triggers you. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically can help ward off the triggers that arise.
- Eat before stressful events or get-togethers where drugs or alcohol may be present. Low blood sugar can lead to an increase in anxiety or irritability and can make substances more tempting – interfering with recovery during the holiday
- Begin each day with a plan. Take each day one at a time and make a plan for whatever is on the agenda for the day as well as planning for the unexpected. Having a firm plan in place (such as: I’ll leave if this happens”, or “I’m only staying so many minutes/hours”) can help. Practicing what you can say when offered a drink or other substances will help you refrain.
- Bring your own drinks. Bringing food and safe drinks that you enjoy will help fend off those temptations.
- Bring a friend who supports your recovery. Having someone else with you who agrees to abstain from what you are recovering from is very valuable. Knowing you aren’t the only one holding back can really help those urges.
Awareness is key. Knowing your triggers and having a plan in place – including supportive people- can really help in avoiding holiday relapses while in recovery.