Author: Justin Mckibben
Substance abuse and drug addiction have made an impact on our country and the culture of our cities in an immense way. The overdose epidemic has laid the casualties of the War on Drugs at the nations feet, along with the aftermath of pill-mill empires, online drug-dealing sites, and continued plagues of synthetic drugs. The threat of drugs is still very alive, and some suggest a whole new strategy is needed to change the tide.
Well along with a seemingly nationwide shift in popular opinion on drug policy toward the means of harm reduction and decriminalization of specific substances, it seems that some states are trying to continue implementing new innovative forms of education and recovery. Soon recovering drug addicts in Massachusetts may have the means to attend new recovery high schools.
Take notes, this will be on the final.
Sobriety Class in Session
Recovery High schools are specifically designed campuses with a curriculum for students recovering from a substance abuse disorder. The concept of these schools was originally introduced back in 1987, and as recovery schools generate awareness, and more states and foundations consider funding such schools, some push for more research to be done to evaluate the most effective methods of this alternative branch of education.
Democratic State Senator Karen Spilka from Ashland, Massachusetts recently announced that $1 million in funding will go towards opening not one, but 2 new recovery high schools in the state, one of which is expected to be in Worcester.
Now this isn’t an entirely new strategy for the state of Massachusetts, which already has recovery high schools in a few areas including:
Now it appears that the local policymakers are re-concentrating their efforts towards effectively helping young people in light of the latest spikes in opiate overdoses in the area. If the bill passes, Massachusetts will provide a total of $3.1 million for the 2 recovery high schools. Senator Spilka stated:
“Substance abuse we all know is a crisis across the state, impacting all our families,”
The concepts of treatment and recovery have been evolving, and until recently much less focus was placed on adolescent treatment than on prevention of adolescent substance abuse. However as these issues become more prominent, there has been information released to better represent those in need. Teen drug abuse is a reality, and more people are taking notice and taking action to address the problem before it gets any worse.
The Senate also aims to provide other resources in the field of drug treatment such as:
- $5 million towards 150 new post-detox treatment beds
- $1 million for a pilot program to purchase Narcan (opiate overdose antidote) in bulk
- $10 million towards a substance abuse trust fund
All this effort is being put in place to contest with the growing issue of teen drug abuse. Many anticipate this new budget proposal could provide support to adolescent drug addicts looking to get clean and stay clean in the face of rampant opioid abuse.
Similar programs have been proposed and put into effect all over. Drug Free Clubs of America are in place to provide incentives and support for avoiding drug use, and in Illinois there has even been legislation proposed to put Narcan in the hands of school nurses.
When you consider that getting kicked out of school in light of drug abuse only keeps a teen uneducated, which in turn will most likely keep them from a stable and healthy career, the results only depress and oppress them further, which often leads to more drug and alcohol abuse.
Therapy for students got a little attention earlier this week as some exclaimed the mental health improvements possible when teens are given an opportunity to receive some level of therapy in school, and others have pushed for drug testing in schools. It is apparent the safety and well-being of young people is paramount, as they are the future. So why not provide a second chance that keeps teens out of the vicious cycle of uneducated marginalization that feeds the patterns of addiction?
Bring and open mind and your number 2 pencils.
While addiction treatment grows and advances with the times and the progression of our understanding, new options and techniques come to light, and maybe the answer to the addiction problem is multiple choice. For those looking for treatment, there are always a special kind of teachers willing to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is not without its own history of facing conflict and adversity, as the civil rights of these individuals are often debated and questioned, and certain people in the LGBT community have been speculated to have a unique susceptibility to specific health risks. Lesbian women have been said to be more vulnerable to breast cancer, while gay men are suggested to have an increased risk of HIV or other infections.
With the various notions of threats to these individuals health, it may not be too much of a shock that there is some conjecture of another serious health risk for the LGBT community, as recent research proposes these individuals may be at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than straight and cisgender individuals, with transgender people at the highest risk.
Just to clarify some general information:
Cisgender (cissexual) – Related types of gender identity where individuals’ experiences of their own gender match the sex they were assigned at birth
Transgender – When gender identity or gender expression does not match one’s assigned sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as:
- Asexual, etc.
This relates to a report published on April 28th in the Journal of Adolescent Health with data drawn from the first study examining eating disordered behavior among a significant proportion of transgender people compared to cisgender people, with numbers making it sufficient enough to make a meaningful comparison.
Researchers surveyed students from 223 universities across the United States between 2008 and 2011, inquiring about several aspects including:
- Mental health
- Substance use
- Sexual behavior
- Nutrition history
Out of those included in the study:
- 200,000 were heterosexuals
- 5,000 were “unsure” of sexual orientation
- 15,000 were gay/lesbian/bisexual
- 479 were transgender
The survey found that cisgender heterosexual men were at the lowest risk of eating disorders, while transgender people were at the highest risk out of those surveyed. This again does not prove to be rule of thumb, but is the idea presented by the research.
According to the study’s lead author, Alexis E. Duncan from Washington University in St. Louis, that in broad terms they determined cisgender heterosexual men had the lowest rates of eating disorders, while cisgender heterosexual women found themselves in the middle, and transgender individuals were found to have the highest risk.
- Approximately 1.5% of the students reported being diagnosed with an eating disorder during the previous year
- Nearly 3% had self-induced vomited or used laxatives to control weight
- More than 3% had used diet pills in the previous month
Out of these overall averages transgender individuals had the highest rates, so from reading these results it seems to support the concept that these issues are more commonly combatted in the LGBT community.
Now this new research may actually provide a shift in stigma that has labeled eating disorders as a ‘women’s issue.’ Past studies of eating disordered behaviors have been generally focused on heterosexual women, who are considered the most at risk, to the extent that so many assume the stigma of disordered eating being a ‘female issue’ and ignoring the growing number of males who suffer from eating disorders as well.
This study could raise a red flag that creates a change, because it revealed that transgender students were actually more than 4 times as likely as cisgender heterosexual women to report an eating disorder diagnosis. Transgender students were also 2 times as likely as cisgender females to have used unsafe methods to control their weight such as:
- Diet pills
- Self-induced vomiting
These are only part of the data collected that suggests the outdated ideas behind eating disorders being a gender-specific issue are not as founded in facts as many may believe, and more can always be revealed.
Monica Algars of Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland once conducted a study on eating disorders that determined there is a connection between eating disorders, gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction among transgender people, which means to infer that transgender people may adopt unhealthy and harmful eating habits to manipulate their bodies to try and fit the gender the identify with, or revolt against one they do not.
Algars explains that these attempts to suppress features of their birth gender may manifest as a desire to control weight, and the added stress created by stigma and discrimination may also contribute to the problem. But all this has the possibility of being alleviated by gender reassignment therapy.
Out of all the conclusions one can come to, one definitively counts: stigma is hurting people, and even killing people who never get the help they need. Be it someone from the LGBT community or a cisgender heterosexual individual, stigma puts us all at a greater risk. It can fuel body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and even substance abuse. And once someone has fallen prey to these conditions, they can be trapped in a never ending cycle of abuse, stigma and self-mutilation in the form of obsession and deprivation.
Regardless of someone’s sexual orientation, they deserve the same life of love and freedom from stigma as the rest of us. It is up to all of us to make recovery and unity a reality.
Eating disorders and substance abuse are tormenting and fatal symptoms of the disease of addiction, but recovery from that hopelessness is possible for everyone who seeks it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Has the World War on Drugs truly failed? Have we as a nation been fighting a losing battle, and have our alleys themselves suffered from the inefficiencies of their own initiatives in the fight against drug abuse and addiction?
We have fought hand over fist to bring an end to violent and vicious cartels across the globe building ill-gotten empires from illegal drug trafficking, and we have struggled to stay afloat in the midst of a plague of intensifying death rates due to overdoses of illicit narcotics. But are we gaining ground?
While we have been forced to come to terms with some less than desirable realities, and with the flaws of our systems, many would say that we have also decided to learn from our mistakes and seek out new methods by which to treat the drug problem. Soon, in 2016 some of the most influential organizations of the world will meet to dictate the future of the drug war.
The UNGASS Effect
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) is a meeting of United Nations (UN) member states to assess and debate global issues such as health, gender, or in this case, the world’s drug control priorities.
The last time the UNGASS met on the topic of international drug policy was in back in 1998, just a couple years short of 2 decades ago. And then the officials had unrealistically (almost ironically) predicted that we would be living in a “drug free world” by the year 2008. Unfortunately that is clearly not the case.
This past month on April 30th a group of over 100 nonprofit organizations met to discuss the 2016 UNGASS on the “World Drug Problem” hosted by the Brookings Institute. Scholars Vanda Felbab-Brown and Harold Trinkunas from Brookings Institute wrote in their blog,
“the goal of UNGASS 2016 should be to inject realism into the global discussion of drug policy objectives, instead of once again setting an unattainable goal of a drug-free world.”
That is to say that instead of making a declaration promising the extermination of the drug problem and militarizing the anti-drug efforts, the nations of the world should seek a more educated and realistic approach. The growing conglomerate of UNGASS is a collective consciousness of nonprofit organizations, including big names such as:
- Harm Reduction Coalition
- Human Rights Watch
- Open Society Foundations
The UNGASS just released an open letter where they stae:
“Existing U.S. and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations.”
The letter can be condensed into a simple and incredibly power statement when you truly read it. That last quoted segment of the open letter sounds like the UNGASS has flat out declared that the drug laws nations all over the world have been enforcing for years are actually violating the basic human rights of their citizens, and that alone screams the demand for reform- with a voice that is strained and harsh from the foot of the prison system having stood on its neck for so long.
Another firmly made statement makes a point simple enough when it says:
“Human rights principles, which lie at the core of the United Nations charter, should take priority over provisions of the drug conventions.”
What’s the Big Deal?
Just in case you missed why this is so important, the UN taking such a stance etches in time a histrionic change in policy, which as it stands is under the dominion of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Just an example of how strict and uncompromising the UNODC can be, and how much of a surprise this shift creates, the UNODC office is headed by a Russian diplomat named Yury Fedotov who has repeatedly and loudly condemned marijuana legalization in the U.S. and across the globe. So imagine the shock some express when they see that one of the UNODC’s objectives, as stated on the website, is to convince “governments to see drug use as a health problem, not a crime.”
You may be wondering why, if this isn’t happening until 2016 is this topic so important now?
Because the conflict against status quo drug policies is an arduous struggle, which is why these organizations are rallying together now.
With everything from content and priorities, to strategies that will be discussed at the UNGASS are determined months and sometimes even years ahead of time, now is exactly the time for people to speak out and tell their governments that the current tactics and statistics in the War on Drugs is NOT acceptable, and should no longer be endured.
If we want change then we need to act now to influence these organizations to understand our current drug policies are failing us, and in the end they hurt more than they help. The power needs to be taken out of punishment and put toward treatment, and those who need treatment need to have more access. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
In case you were still skeptical, social media has become a significant element of our society… definitely. We have evolved into a culture that circulates information and cultivates emotional and ethical responses based on the shares, likes and comments associated with our tweets, posts and pics. Social media has been credited with being both helpful and detrimental to depression depending on the context, and now there is another aspect of mental health that some suspect is being threatened by our threads.
A new study is suggesting that observing violent news events via social media can actually cause people to experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How much of an impact can our videos have, and could this be the beginning of a whole new brand of stress and trauma diagnosis?
Sharing Our Stress
Dr. Pam Ramsden from the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bradford presented this concept back on Thursday May 7th 2015 at the Annual Conference of the British Psychology Society being held in Liverpool. Here Dr. Ramsden explained:
“The negative effects of exposure to other people’s suffering have long been recognized in roles such as professional healthcare workers. Various studies have documented the negative psychological reactions following indirect exposure to traumatized people called vicarious traumatization.”
This refers to incidences where individuals in several fields including healthcare professionals experienced trauma through others and ultimately were affected by that shared experience. Someone reliving their trauma and expressing it to another person can take a toll on that person. Hearing the grotesque and gruesome details can create a kind of second-hand shock and stress. Ramsden went on to say,
“Social media has enabled violent stories and graphic images to be watched by the public in unedited horrific detail. Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those directly experiencing them may impact on our daily lives. In this study we wanted to see if people would experience longer lasting effects such as stress and anxiety, and in some cases post-traumatic stress disorders from viewing these images.”
So when we see something brutal or violent happen online through videos, images and dialog we can still feel that impact, even though some have suggested we become disconnected from the images and words on the screen and dehumanize the victims, it appears this is not always the case.
Assessing the Trauma
189 participants around the age of 37 years old with an almost even equal number of men and women completed a few tests for trauma including:
- Clinical assessments for PTSD
- A personality questionnaire
- A vicarious trauma assessment
- A questionnaire concerning different violent news events on social media or the internet
The violent events used for this test included the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, school shootings and suicide bombings. The details of the examination indicated:
- 22% of participants were significantly affected by the media events
- 1/4 of those who viewed the intense internet images scored high on clinical measures of PTSD
The fact that these individuals scored high on clinical measures of PTSD was a very concerning development considering that they experienced this level of stress despite:
- They did not have previous trauma
- They were not present at the traumatic events
- They had only watched them via social media
There was also an increased risk for those with outgoing, extroverted personalities. So those social butterflies that are more likely to share and comment were also those that could be more sensitive to the effects of being exposed to violent and graphic material on social media.
So by exposing ourselves to such extreme and foul content we are increasing the risks of PTSD, and possibly even creating a whole new brand of it. Extensive research into the trend of internet addiction and some kind of dependence on social media has already begun, as debates continue on the influence social media makes on depression.
So is it safe to assume that with all the sway social media has over us that we should be careful of all the distasteful and uncensored stories and depictions we take in?
Are we as a society overloading ourselves online with images and audio that intoxicate our anxiety and compound with our already rattled reasoning to create new levels of trauma?
What new methods of diagnosis and treatment could come from PTSD inspired by social media?
For now we should remember that the impressions these sites have are real for some people. Some have been oppressed by these unstable emotional ties to their online lives, while others have been liberated by the sense of connection. Whatever way you believe, your social media can change your mind if you let it.
An issue like PTSD is nothing to take likely, and mental health has a serious impact on the quality of life and possibility of recovery for anyone struggling with substance abuse issues. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
As always we celebrate the graduation of each and every individual who successfully completes their personal treatment program here at Palm Partners, and they are given the chance to share some words of inspiration and gratitude to their peers and to those who have worked with them through their path to recovery.
Commencement is always a bitter sweet time. Sweet because we are proud of those who have made the choice to take action and make steps toward change for life. Bitter because we must say goodbye, and because of the powerful connections made between clients, peers, and instructors who are moving on to the next stage of their personal evolution. This past week we celebrated another group of warriors commencing, and one individual gave a heartfelt speech to the group, later asking that it be shared on our blog as a reminder to those he shared his journey with, and perhaps be an inspiration to those who have not yet made the choice to make a change. Below is his speech.
I’m Adam, and today I’m a human being worth being loved and capable of loving.
I want to open with a quote that I heard from my man Dug my first week in Res [residential treatment].
That quote is:
Be who you are
Because those who mind do not matter
And those who matter do not mind.
– Dr. Seuss
With that being said, being selected to represent all of these wonderful people commencing with me today is truly humbling and more than an honor. So with a weak heart I would like to say that I am beyond grateful for being entrusted with this responsibility.
In the past, we’ve all made some mistakes. It’s not an “addict thing,” it’s a “human thing.” And we’re all human here. True or true? We’ve experienced a plethora of trials that have brought us here today. We did things that we didn’t want to talk about, even to these wonderful therapists.
In any event, none of us came here to dwell on the past, but to improve the quality of our future.
And then there was Palm Partners. I’m still waiting for all this ice cream and candy I was promised on the phone. Nonetheless, we’ve all been given an opportunity that the vast majority of people like us will never see. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably realized by now that this place was never about ice cream and candy, We’ve been given a second chance at life. And for that I am more than grateful. Everyone here is worthy of the unconditional love whether you realize it yet or not. The only person standing in your way of getting what you want beyond these doors is you. So get out of your way.
Now it’s time to align our hearts with what we’ve placed in our minds since we’ve been here and let our bodies do the work. We’ve all realized that we need thing to change and that nobody’s going to take it upon themselves to change us, so here we are putting in the work to change ourselves. And with our new found belief that we can change ourselves we’re well on our way to become the best people we can be.
The choice is now ours, with all that we’ve experienced in our crazy pasts, everything that we’ve learned from this wonderful institution, and the potential that we have to create our picture perfect future, all there is left to do is be the best that we can be. When we do that, we will be a force to be reckoned with. Now that we know who we are and are equipped with the tools that all of the wonderful teachers here at Palm Partners have given us, let’s go out there and give ‘em hell guys. I love each and every one of you here for who you are and who you aren’t. I wish you all the best in your journey beyond here.
I love you.
Thank you for being part of my journey.
Sometimes people come into our lives that help us realize the opportunities we have right in front of us, and teach us to take them to their full advantage. Sometimes a unique individual can inspire us to remember just how unique we all are, and for us one staff it can remind us why we do what we do. Thank you Adam for letting us be part of your journey, and to anyone else who is waiting to make the change, don’t hold yourself back. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135