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All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

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Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Author: Justin Mckibben

I came across an article the other day that asked a very interesting question- what if the media covered alcohol the way it does other drugs. To be clear, I’m not writing this to shame people who drink alcohol. This is all about perspective.

More recently the conversation about the drug epidemic in America has been focused on opioid abuse and addiction, of course with good reason. The rate at which opioid abuse, opioid overdoses and related deaths have risen immensely in the last few years. The alarming numbers prove that both prescription opioids and illicit opioid drugs are a very real threat. Thousands of people die every day, and experts see no sign that it will not get worse before it gets better.

And yet, similar statistics associated with alcohol are nothing short of staggering if you look at them the way we look at heroin or methamphetamine.

So, let us imagine for a moment a world where we treated alcohol like the drug it truly is. What if we treated drinkers like we do addicts?

Alcohol Drug Addiction

For decades a devastating and potentially fatal drug has wreaked havoc across the country, ending countless lives and altering countless others. This insidious substance can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in America. You can find it on almost every street corner, and the overwhelming majority of adults have consumed this substance at least once.

Alcohol has many aliases, include:

  • Beer
  • Liquor
  • Spirits
  • Booze
  • Drank
  • Giggle Water
  • Moonshine

The drug comes packaged in a long list of names, with a variety of mixes that can be more or less potent depending on the source. Some use massive labs to concoct their drinks, while others brew out of secret unregulated areas in their homes.

The Alcohol Epidemic

No matter where you go, there will be a prominent presence of alcohol users. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 4% of people 18 or older report to have drank this dangerous drug at some point in their life
  • 1% of people report to have consuming this substance in the last year
  • 0% of people admit to have taken the drug in the last month

Looking closer at the drug, we see that many users go from recreational consumption to excessive use. The NSDUH shows:

  • 0% report to heavy use in the past month
  • 9% of people 18 or older admit to binge drinking in the past month

As with most other drugs, this substance also leads to sometimes debilitating addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). NSDUH reports:

  • 1 million Adults age 18 or older suffered from AUD in 2015
  • 8 million of them were men
  • 3 million were women
  • 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years old had AUD

All 50 states in America have been hit hard by the alcohol epidemic at some point or another. One reason the outbreak of this drug has been so tragic is because in so many places it has become social acceptable for people to consume alcohol!

In fact, many have minimized the use of alcohol or even celebrated it! In several communities around the country there are all-out events where drug use is actually publicly promoted! Events like “Craft Beer Fest” or the infamous “Oktoberfest” have become hotbeds for excessive abuse of this incredibly hazardous substance. Young adults often talk about getting “wasted”, “tipsy” or “turnt” as slang for ingesting such high levels of the drug they are inebriated.

Alcohol Related Deaths

According to data collected by the federal government, alcohol is the second deadliest drug in America. If you combine:

  • Heroin- connected to almost 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015
  • Prescription opioids– 15,000 overdose deaths

You still have less than half of the deaths of alcohol. In fact, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes every single year!

Because of binge drinking and other risk behaviors, mild to moderate alcohol overdose has almost become far too common. Beyond that, there are numerous ways this deadly drug has contributed to an inordinate number of deaths over hundreds of years! On a global scale, the alcohol drug is the leading risk factor in premature death and disability.

  • In 2012, 3.3 million deaths in the whole world were alcohol related
  • 2013, 45.8% of liver disease deaths for individuals 12 and older were alcohol related
  • In 2013, 47.9% of all cirrhosis deaths were alcohol related

The health effects of the alcohol epidemic are very real.

Alcohol Epidemic Hurts Others

It isn’t just the people who use this lethal drug that suffer from the adverse effects of the alcohol epidemic. Even the people are the users are often put in serious danger. For example, driving while under the influence of the alcoholic drug has been a very severe problem for a long time.

  • In 2014, over 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related- 9,967 deaths

Also, public health officials from all over America have stood up to expose other terrible effects of alcohol use. Alcohol use also has a great deal of influence on:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual assault

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both.

  • Violent crime

To that point, in 2010 sources indicated that more than 4.6 million emergency room visits were alcohol related.

  • 40% of violent crime is alcohol related.
  • 37% of current convicted offenders in jails admit to being on alcohol during their arrest

The War on Alcohol?

So with such glaring instances of the impacts of alcohol use on Americans, and young people in particular, surely drug policy officials and politicians are aggressively pursuing legislation to engage in a full on War on Alcohol, like they have with the War on Drugs, right?

Well… not so much.

It may come as a shock, but U.S. federal and state officials seem to think banning alcohol is out of the question! Citing the past attempts at alcohol prohibition as a major failure that instigated higher crime rates, while also claiming the vital part alcohol production and sales play in the economy, lawmakers seem content with allowing the drug to remain in circulation.

Thankfully officials are still willing to provide emergency response services to individuals who have overdosed on alcohol or been injured in alcohol-related accidents. While city officials are fighting for the option to deny the overdose antidote Narcan to opioid users who overdose multiple times, none of these officials seem to believe alcohol related illness or drunk driving accidents should be ignored the same way.

Drunk driving in many areas on multiple occasions does constitute jail time, but it seems being in possession of one of the deadliest drugs in America still doesn’t come with a mandatory minimum sentence. The Alcohol epidemic seems to have avoided a lot of the stigma that other drugs are held to, yet experts insist more should be done to decrease the astonishing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Alcohol may be legal, and it may be more mainstream than most drugs, the alcohol epidemic in this nation is still a very real threat. The fact it is legal and easily accessible makes the problem so much more serious. This article isn’t meant to demonize alcohol, but it is meant to point out the severity of alcohol use and the damage that comes with it. Maybe this kind of perspective can also diminish the stigma attached to other illicit addictions, if we are willing to acknowledge the similarities.

Alcohol is more dangerous than people give it credit, and alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous.

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Controversial Harm Reduction Method Highlighted On Megyn Kelly’s Show

Controversial Alcoholism Treatment Highlighted On Megyn Kelly’s Show

Author: Shernide Delva

The controversy surrounding the Megyn Kelly Sunday Night show continues. The first investigation piece on drug addiction focused on issues plaguing the South Florida recovery community.

Now, Megyn Kelly returns to cover addiction treatment, and this time her show is highlighting another polarizing subject: harm reduction programs. On Sunday night, Megyn Kelly’s shows featured  The Sinclair Method. The Sinclair Method is a harm reduction treatment program that allows patients who struggle with alcohol use disorder to continue drinking.

The segment introduces viewers to Marisa, a 25-year-old binge drinker. The crew follows Marisa around for day one of her introduction to The Sinclair Method.

First Marisa sees a doctor, who gives her a prescription. Shortly after taking the prescription, she has a drink. According to Marisa, her intense cravings to binge disappears.

“I feel like I could have another drink or not have another drink and be totally fine,” she tells the camera.

What changed?

The apparent miracle pill is naltrexone, a commonly used opioid antagonist typically used to treat heroin addiction. However, under The Sinclair Method, the drug is used to treat alcoholism.

“The drug blocks pleasure receptors in the brain―a buzzkill,” Melvin explains in a voiceover. “And when combined with psychotherapy sessions, the theory goes, eventually the cravings go away.”

Essentially, the idea behind the program is patients take naltrexone before drinking and over time, the desire to excessively drink diminishes. For Marisa, the unorthodox treatment seems to have worked. Only three months after starting the treatment, she told NBC she had lost her drive to drink.

Still, this approach is far from traditional. The 12-step model of addiction promotes abstinence only treatment. The show highlighted an interview with Hazelden Betty Ford’s executive director, Chris Yadron.

“The 12 steps are crucial because it’s a spiritual program of recovery,” he told Melvin.

Dr. Mark Willenbring who once ran the NIH’s alcohol recovery research defended The Sinclair Method, added that 12-step approaches do not rely on modern science.

“We don’t send someone with diabetes to a spa for a month, teach them diet and exercise and then say, ‘Go to support groups, but don’t take insulin.’ I mean, that’s the absurdity of what we’re doing now,” he said. “We’re still providing the same pseudo treatment that we provided in 1950. And 85% of rehabs in the country are 12-step rehabs. People don’t have any choice.”

The tension between abstinence-based and harm-reduction approaches to treatment has created a long-standing controversy in the recovery community. Throughout the segment, tweets were displayed from people who were for and against harm reduction strategies.

“This is very troublesome to see that some doctors are giving people with a thinking disease a “magic” pill,” tweeted one user.

Others felt the treatment option provides another solution than the standard abstinence-only approach. We’ve seen harm reduction programs like Moderation Management receive massive criticism, specifically after the founder, Audrey Kishline, killed a 12-year old girl and her father while driving in an alcoholic blackout.

Overall, programs like these remain controversial and risky. It is best to get treatment to address the underlying issues behind your addiction. If you are struggling with mental illness or addiction, please call now.

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This Gene Could Play a Major Role in Depression

This Gene Could Play a Major Role in Depression

Author: Shernide Delva 

Each year, more than 300 million people are affected by depression. Depression is a debilitating illness that is difficult to treat.

What if there was one gene that played a key role in depression? Furthermore, what if that gene could be identified and even manipulated to actually treat depression?

Shockingly, this could all be a possibility. Researchers have discovered a gene that may play a central role in depression.  This gene either protects us from stress or triggers a downward spiral depending on its level of activity.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM). It was the first to pinpoint in detail how one particular gene, known as Slc6a15, is a key role in depression. The study found the same link in both animals and humans.

“This study really shines a light on how levels of this gene in these neurons affects mood,” said the senior author of the study, Mary Kay Lobo, an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.

“It suggests that people with altered levels of this gene in certain brain regions may have a much higher risk for depression and other emotional disorders related to stress.”

Potential Treatment Solution?

A study like this could help with treating depression in the future, and that help is desperately needed.

Nearly 800,000 people die annually from suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 to 29. Beyond that, depression destroys the quality of life for tens of millions of patients, and their families suffer too. Although environmental factors play a significant role in many cases of depression, genetics are equally as important.

This is not the first time this gene was studied. Back in 2006, Dr. Lobo and her colleagues found that the Slc6a15 gene was common in specific neurons in the brain. They recently demonstrated that these neurons were important in depression.

Connection to Anhedonia

Her lab decided to investigate the specific role these neurons have in depression. In the latest study, she and her team focused on a particular area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This region is crucial in the brain’s “reward circuit.”

When you eat a delicious meal or participate in any kind of enjoyable experience, neurons in the nucleus accumbens are activated letting you know the experience is enjoyable. When a person is depressed, it ‘s hard to experience any kind of enjoyment, a condition known as anhedonia.

Researchers discovered subset neurons in the nucleus accumbens called D2 neurons. These neurons respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a central role in the reward circuit.

Mainly, these subset neurons responded to feel good chemicals like dopamine which is lacking in those with depression. Next, they studied mice susceptible to depression. These mice tended to withdraw from activities and exhibit behavior indicating depression such as social withdrawal and lack of interest in the food they would normally enjoy.

Dr. Lobo found that when the mice were subject to social stress, the levels of the Slc6a15 gene in the D2 neurons of the nucleus accumbens was noticeably reduced. The researchers also studied mice in which the gene had been reduced in D2 neurons. When those mice were subjected to stress, they also exhibited signs of depression. Furthermore, when researchers increased the levels of Slc6a15 levels in D2 neurons, the mice showed a resilient response to stress.

So what does this mean?

Next, Dr. Lobo looked at brains of humans who had a history of major depression and who had committed suicide. In the same region of the brain as the mice, the gene Slc6a15 was reduced. This indicates that the link between gene and behavior is found in both humans and mice.

In the future, manipulating these genes could help improve depression. While it is still unclear how Slc6a15 operates in the brain, Dr. Lobo states it may work by altering neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

This research could lead to therapies that focus specifically on this particular gene to treat depression. If you are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, call now. Do not wait.

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‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis Died from Heart Failure Due to Alcohol Withdrawal

'True Blood' Star Nelsan Ellis Died from Heart Failure Due to Alcohol Withdrawal

Author: Shernide Delva

True Blood star Nelsan Ellis passed away from heart failure due to attempting to detox from alcohol on his own. The 39-year-old actor is best known for his role as Lafayette Reynold’s on the HBO hit. Reports originally stated the actor’s death was due to heart complications. No other details were stated. However, days later the actor’s family opened up about the cause of death as a “cautionary tale” to help others.

Rather than shy away, the family of Nelsan Ellis revealed that it was a long battle with alcoholism that ultimately led to Ellis’ death.

The Illinois-born actor studied at the prestigious New York performing arts school Juilliard and played the role of Lafayette on True Blood from 2008-2014. More recently, he was working on the CBS detective series Elementary.

Prior to his death, Ellis was attempting to quit drinking. According to the reports, Ellis felt shame about his drinking and had already gone to rehab a few times before. Therefore, he decided to hide his drinking and quit on his own.

Detoxing from alcohol without medical supervision can result in a variety of medical issues including heart failure.

Warning: Alcohol Withdrawals are Deadly!

It is so important others learn from Ellis’ mistake to stop drinking on his own. Many people are unaware of how severe alcohol withdrawals are. In fact, alcohol withdrawals are more dangerous than any other drugs, even prescription painkillers, and heroin.

In severe cases alcohol withdrawals can result in:

  • Severe tremors
  • Racing heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Brain Damage

Alcohol leads to more deaths than all other drugs combined. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) estimates that alcohol causes 88,000 deaths every year.

Nelsan Ellis’ Family Comes Forward to Help Others

It was very brave of the family to come forward with the reality of their loved one’s condition. The original news reports released after the actor’s death did not mention anything regarding the actor’s alcoholism. It would have been extremely easy for the family not to say anything and go along with the reports

Instead, they released a statement so that others struggling with alcoholism know the importance of seeking treatment before it is too late.

“Nelsan has suffered with drug and alcohol abuse for years,” the actor’s manager said on behalf of the family.

“After many stints in rehab, Nelsan attempted to withdraw from alcohol on his own. According to his father, during his withdrawal from alcohol he had a blood infection, his kidneys shut down, his liver was swollen, his blood pressure plummeted, and his dear sweet heart raced out of control.”’

“On the morning of Saturday, July 8th, after four days in Woodhull Hospital, Nelsan was pronounced dead. Nelsan was a gentle, generous and kind soul…Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others.”

From the statement, it is evident the family decided to make the death of their loved one a warning to others. Many addicts would rather hide in shame or attempt to detox on their own instead of getting the help they desperately need.

Alcohol withdrawals vary from person to person, and for some, detoxing without medical supervision is highly risky. Individuals may experience what is known as delirium tremens (DTs) characterized by disorientation, severe agitation, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and fever.

DTs can last up to 3 or 4 days, according to Dr. Richard Saitz in “Introduction to Alcohol Withdrawal,” a paper published on the website of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

“About 5% of patients who experience DTs die from metabolic or cardiovascular complications, trauma or infections,” Saitz state.

One should never detox on their own.

This unfortunate death serves as a message to those considering withdrawing from drugs on their own. Don’t do it.  The detox process should be monitored by medical professionals that can provide the tools needed to do so safely.

Overall, we must commend Nelsan Ellis’ family for choosing to come forward about the adored actor’s condition. The stigma of addiction prevents addicts from seeking treatment. Do not try to fight your addiction on your own. Instead, call today. We are waiting for your call.

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The Different Drug Categories and What Drugs Qualify

The Different Drug Categories and What Drugs Qualify

When we are in a crucial time of combating substance use disorder and drug addiction in America, it could be useful to remind everyone of the key differences in different drug categories and which common drugs can qualify for these descriptions.

Needless to say, this is not a complete list of every known drug. Truthfully, there is a vast library of known chemical combinations that are utilized as either medical treatments or abused as a means of recreational intoxication. There are the more abstract medications that have no known recreational use, and there are many synthetics that can be far more complicated.

Still, plenty of drugs that we know of have been put into different classes. Here is a brief breakdown of the different drug categories and what drugs qualify.

Prescription Medical Drugs

First we will make a more solid distinction between medical drugs and recreational drugs. Sadly, prescription drug abuse has become a major problem in the country. The opioid crisis has been largely impacted by the abuse of drugs created for medical use. It is important to be aware of the dangers of prescription medical drugs.

Many medical drugs have side effects that make them appealing to people who don’t have a real medical reason to be prescribed these substances. Common medical drugs to be abused include:

Benzodiazepines

Amphetamines

  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Ritalin

Opiate painkillers

The tragedy we have learned through the opioid crisis is that even though these drugs are typically prescribed for medical purposes, they can be extremely dangerous. That includes people who use them recreationally, and for those who are prescribed the medication because of the risk of physical dependence.

Some prescription drugs are more addictive than others, and many can be deadly when taken improperly or with other drugs, especially alcohol.

Recreational Drugs

Recreational drugs are substances specifically used to achieve a desired feeling, or to get ‘high’. Most recreational drugs are illegal. Some legal drugs are recreational, and some recreational drugs are legalized in certain areas for medicinal purposes.

Recreational drugs are typically categorized into three main categories: depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens.

  1. Depressants

Depressants, which are also called ‘downers’ are drugs that depress activity in the body, meaning they slow down the messages sent to and from the brain. Examples of depressant drugs include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Opiates (such as heroin and morphine)
  • Sedatives (such as Valium)
  • Some glues, petrols and other solvents

An individual is at an even higher risk of overdose from depressant drugs when consuming different types of depressants at the same time. Large amounts of depressants can cause life-threatening respiratory issues and loss of consciousness.

  1. Stimulants

Stimulant drugs are also known as ‘uppers’. The term refers to the way these drugs make someone feel ‘up’ or ‘alert’ by speeding up the messages sent to and from your brain. Examples of stimulants include:

  • Amphetamines (such as speed or ice)
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine

Some of the hazardous side effects of stimulant drugs include:

  • Severe strain on the heart
  • Increased body temperature
  • Paranoia
  • Anxious
  • Psychosis

Combining different stimulant drugs, or using stimulants with depressant drugs can create even more strain on the heart and the body, which can cause major health problems or even death.

  1. Hallucinogens

Hallucinogen drugs are psychoactive agents which can cause hallucinations, anomalies in perception, and other substantial subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness. Examples of hallucinogens include:

  • LSD (acid)
  • ‘Magic’ mushrooms
  • Ecstasy
  • Mescaline
  • High doses of cannabis

Hallucinogen drugs do a number on the mind, and therefore they tend to make people experience things like:

  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Risk taking behavior
  • Psychosis

Legal VS Illegal

One thing that we should always keep in mind is that a drug isn’t necessarily safe just because it is legal. Whether or not a drug is illegal, it can still pose a great deal of problems to different people for different reasons.

Consider alcohol. This is a legal substance, but it is still considered by many to be the most dangerous drug there is. That isn’t to say that it is as potent as drugs like heroin, but the danger rating comes from the fact that it is deadly, addictive AND highly accessible! For one, someone can get alcohol poisoning and die if they drink too much. Also, alcohol withdrawals can be some of the most dangerous there are. Add in the fact that it is extremely addictive, even more lethal when combined with other drugs, and can be purchased on pretty much every corner in America.

THAT is a dangerous drug.

Synthetic Drugs

Then, there are synthetic drugs. These substances can be ambiguous when it comes to being flat out illegal. For a while there were constantly news stories about new dangerous synthetic drugs being sold as “legal highs” that were making people deathly ill. In some cases, people did die.

Synthetic drugs can also fall into any of these categories, for example:

These drugs can be far more dangerous than others because of the often random chemical combinations they come in, being cooked in homemade labs with substances that have no clinical trials on human biology.

Drug and alcohol rehab programs are designed to put you in the best position to succeed with as many resources as possible, and it all starts with a healthy detox. Understanding the different drug categories may help you better understand the importance of a safe and effective treatment program. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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