Author: Justin Mckibben
Using needles to heal addicts is nothing new. Those who practice and promote holistic healing are often familiar with the concept. In recovery, the needle can mean something totally different than what it meant in addiction. For some it opens up a new world of medical treatment they never knew was possible. Acupuncture itself is actually much more powerful than some may realize, and a recent study only magnifies the usefulness of going under the needle for chronic pain and mental health.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Journals Library now features a report where the researchers show there is significant evidence to demonstrate that acupuncture provides more than a placebo effect.
To clarify, a placebo is a substance or treatment with no active therapeutic effect. These kinds of treatment may be given to a person in order to trick the recipient into thinking that it is an active treatment, meaning the answer is all in the mind.
This new data suggests there is an active therapeutic element to acupuncture.
Clinic Trials: Acupuncture VS Pain
Professor of Acupuncture Research, Hugh MacPherson, helped bring together this research with a team of scientists from the UK and US. The data is strung together using the results of 29 high-quality clinical trials. These trials specifically reviewed patients treated with acupuncture, alongside standard medical care.
For most of the clinical trials, patients with chronic pain treated with acupuncture and standard medical care were tested against those who were provided with standard medical care alone. The standard medical care includes treatment such as:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
Those examined were approximately 18,000 patients diagnosed with chronic pain of areas such as:
- Lower back
According to the published reports, the addition of acupuncture to complement standard medical treatment has a few powerful effects. Acupuncture was able to:
- Significantly reduce the number of headaches and migraine attacks
- Reduce the severity of neck and lower back pain
- Reduce the pain and disability of osteoarthritis, which led to patients being less reliant on anti-inflammatory drugs
Clinic Trials: Acupuncture VS Depression
The teams report also includes a new clinical trial for the impact on depression. During these trials acupuncture or counselling was compared to the effectiveness of antidepressants and related medications.
Researchers sourced from 755 patients with depression in the North of England. The new study shows that both acupuncture and counselling significantly reduced the severity of depression. Not only did they reduce the severity, but the benefits were generally continuous for up to 12 months after the initial treatment. So the long-term implications alone are pretty exciting to see.
Professor MacPherson, from the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences, has said:
“The front-line treatment for depression in primary care usually involves antidepressants; however, they do not work well for more than half of patients.
“In the largest study of its kind, we have now provided a solid evidence base to show that not only can acupuncture and counselling bring patients out of an episode of depression, but it can keep the condition at bay for up to a year on average.”
Professor MacPherson believes that because patients and health professionals can now make decisions on using acupuncture for treatment with more confidence, this new data provides a significant step forward in managing and treating chronic pain and depression.
Clinic Trials: True Acupuncture VS Sham Acupuncture
As stated in the beginning, many believed acupuncture’s benefits to be at least partially associated with placebo effects. With this doubt hanging over it, the uncertainty of it’s clinical effectiveness has stunted its growth.
Professor MacPherson says that this new research provides definitive evidence that acupuncture can work to treat chronic pain; that in doing so the reductions in pain are substantially more than those measured from what is called “sham acupuncture.”
Sham acupuncture is only for clinical trials for research purposes. This “sham” method involves inserting needles at the ‘wrong’ locations, or using non-inserted needles (fake needles) at the correct locations. Having data to attest that ‘true’ acupuncture has significantly more effect in reducing pain than ‘sham’ acupuncture offers evidence that it is not simply a placebo effect.
This research also asserts that this kind of treatment is cost effective. With the value for money being rated as less than the threshold of £20,000 cost per quality of life year; a metric for measuring cost-effectiveness used by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). MacPherson went on to state:
“There has been a question mark for many years over whether policy and decision makers should or should not provide wider access to acupuncture. Our aim was to bring together data from high quality clinical trials and provide a robust evidence base that will help reduce this uncertainty and support commissioners and health professionals in making informed decisions backed up with research.”
Professor MacPherson insists that not only is it more cost effective than medications, but acupuncture reduces pain levels and improves mood levels, which could reduce over reliance on drugs that can sometimes result in unwanted side effects, such as physical dependence or abuse.
In the world of addiction, pain and depression are often simultaneous with substance use disorder. Many people who battle with addiction also fight to overcome depression, and countless people have become addicted to opioids as a result of prolonged dependence on prescription pain medications. As we move toward more innovations in prevention and intervention, innovations in treatment are more important than ever.
For years Palm Partners has believed in the healing power of acupuncture and offered the opportunity for people struggling with substances to have access to this powerful resource on their path to recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now!
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Some would say “good things come to those who wait,” but others would add “only what is left by those who hustle.” Our characteristics can seem like virtues or defects depending on the lens through which they are examined, or the circumstances they arise from. There are always pros and cons, even if we have to take a very close look to find them. Sometimes, even the parts about ourselves we are most unsure of can be useful. So then what would be the advantages of anxiety?
How could our fear or stressful uncertainty help us? What good can come of being anxious? Here are 4 surprising advantages of anxiety.
Doubt and double-checking
This one is all about balance, which isn’t easy for those who struggle with anxiety. While it is true that following up is time consuming, sometimes the time is worth it. Anxiety causes you to doubt, which can lead to double-checking. That feeling of something not being quite right can have us taking inventory, and sometimes this helps us catch things we may have missed.
One of the advantages of anxiety here is there will be many occasions when your double-checking proves useful. How many times have you asked someone if they were OK, and they say they are, but then it turns out they aren’t? Doubt and double-checking might help you push past that pretense and get to the heart of the matter.
Also, if you are depending on someone else to complete a task. Sometimes people forget. Perhaps people are afraid to ask for help. Sometimes they are misinformed and need course correction. While micro-managing can be irritating, double-checking may help you find a problem before it becomes a problem.
Yes, you may end up experiencing unnecessary stress and worry. It may become annoying to others that you need constant reassurance. In extreme cases you could even have unnecessary medical investigations due to health anxiety, leading to injuries caused by medical investigations or treatments.
Again, it is all about balance. Even if reassurance is a good thing, you can still have too much of a good thing.
More careful and thoughtful
Fear is often not that useful to us, but it can be. Worry stems from fear, and the greatest danger of worry is that it is more likely to lead to inaction than it is to useful action. People who worry excessively are commonly overwhelmed by their anxieties. So much so, in fact, they ultimately don’t face their worries because resistance seems futile.
However, there are times when worry can actually be productive. The advantages of anxiety often have a lot to do with the idea of insurance. Like with any form of insurance, you are creating a back-up in case something happens, and this is useful. Just like with a car and an insurance policy, your anxiety may teach you to be more careful and protective.
That goes for your own peace of mind, your property and other people.
Worry also allows us to be more thoughtful of others, because we also come to worry about their well-being. Anxiety can help us be more conscious of our actions and how it will impact others, or how others will see us as a result. It can make us more compassionate and even more giving.
Strategic worrying is the best way to utilize this anxiety. It means making an honest evaluation of whether worrying is helping you on a case by case basis. If you connect worrying and positive behaviors, then the worrying may be worth it to you. If you are only stressing yourself without taking action, it is merely wasted energy.
Prepared when things aren’t OK
This goes with the first two advantages of anxiety quite naturally. Anxious people love to rely on the idea of better safe than sorry. They have checked and double checked; they have tried to be as careful as they can. So when things are difficult, or when things go wrong, they are definitely prepared.
When things do go wrong, people with anxiety almost have the unique position of a fortune teller being vindicated. They have had time to make sure back-up plans and safety-nets in place. At the very least, they have mentally prepared themselves for that worst-case scenario. Some of us who struggle with anxiety have almost built up immunity to it.
It is not so much to say that it is good to always expect the worst, because that can lead to compromising your standards and a willingness to settle where you shouldn’t. However, knowing that you have put things in place just in case is reassuring that you’ve done all you can. Then, even if things fail you cannot say you didn’t at least do your best.
So essentially, being prepared for when things go wrong shouldn’t be an excuse to prematurely accept defeat. Instead these advantages to anxiety give you a reason to take more action.
Excited when everything is OK
On the flip-side to that last point, another of the big advantages of anxiety is when you are surprised to learn that everything is OK. As we were saying, anxiety can have you preparing for the worst and jumping to negative conclusions, but when those premonitions don’t come to fruition, it is both relieving and exciting.
You basically give yourself a little rush with that experience of relief and happiness when you learn your fears have been averted, especially if your anxieties have almost convinced you that your nightmare scenario came true. That feeling of discovering everything isn’t what is seemed can be truly uplifting. This is probably the most gratifying of the advantages of anxiety.
It is nice when our expectations of a situation are exaggerated. We find some things are easier than we expect. Sometimes, this can make us even more proud of all the work we had done leading up to that moment because we overcame our fear, while still being prepared either mentally, physically or even financially not to come out OK.
As someone who has battled with anxiety a lot in life, I can say that knowing I was ready, even when I didn’t end up needing it, was an extremely gratifying feeling.
If you have an anxiety disorder it can interfere with your life in some very big ways. If you feel like you need more support with getting it under control, please consider some form of treatment. Anxiety and other psychological disorders are common to those who also struggle with substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling, help is available. Palm Partners offers dual diagnosis treatment to help people with mental illness and addiction issues to heal and recover. Please, call now.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Remember the movie Forrest Gump? If not, I am so very sorry. Spoiler alert: it’s about a southern gentleman (Tom Hanks) who tells the incredible story of his amazing life to total strangers while waiting on a bench. He taught the world that life was like a box of chocolates, and that going for a run once in a while will change your life.
While on that bench, Forrest shares a lot of himself, and it has a pretty deep impact on some of the random folks he sits next to. Not to mention all the people watching the film who were moved by the experiences and emotions he shares.
Well this whole idea of making friends on a bench and soothing the soul by opening up to the strangers you sit with has taken new life in a place very, very far from the little park in Georgia that Forrest found himself in. The ‘Friendship Bench’ program in Zimbabwe is changing lives for those struggling with mental illness. A recent study proves that even just sitting on a bench and talking to a new friend can improve your mental health symptoms.
The Beauty of the ‘Friendship Bench’
The program is carried out by Zimbabwean lay health workers, who give brief but effective psychological treatment to the public. Instead of a big medical office, you find them conducting their problem solving therapy sessions on simple wooden seats. These health workers, or community “Grandmothers” carry out this practice with a personal touch in several major cities in Zimbabwe. The benches themselves are located on the grounds of health clinics.
The lay health workers are trained to listen and support patients living with common mental disorders such as:
The beauty is in the simplicity of the system, and the fact that it is showing to be so influential for countries where access to modern mental health treatment is limited or even nonexistent.
Studying this Solution
The study of the ‘Friendship Bench’ was published in JAMA. As a randomized controlled trial funded by the Government of Canada through Grand Challenges Canada, multiple sources contributed to the trials, including:
- The University of Zimbabwe
- The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- King’s College London
After a six month period, following six weekly sessions of “problem solving therapy” on a ‘Friendship Bench’ with a health worker, data showed a significant difference. The severity of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts was noticeably reduced. This is based on locally validated questionnaires:
- The Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ)
- Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD)
The Big Results of the ‘Friendship Bench’
According to the research:
- 50% of patients who received standard care still had symptoms of depression– Compared to only 14% who participated in the Friendship Bench (based on PHQ)
- 48% of patients who received standard care still had symptoms of anxiety- Compared to only 12% who received Friendship Bench care(based on the GAD)
- 12% of patients who received standard care still had suicidal thoughts- Compared to 2% who used the Friendship Bench program(based on SSQ)
The Friendship Bench intervention was also shown to be well suited to improve health outcomes among highly vulnerable individuals. Out of all the ‘Friendship Bench’ program participants:
- 86% were women
- Over 40% were HIV positive
- 70% had experienced domestic violence or physical illness
With CDN being granted $1 million in funding from Grand Challenges Canada earlier this year, the ‘Friendship Bench’ program has since been expanded to 72 clinics in the cities of Harare, Gweru and Chitungwiza (total population 1.8 million). The plan is for this growing movement to keep expanding. In 2017, the team plans to focus on extending the model to other vulnerable populations, including youth and refugees.
The Need for New Methods
Forgive me if my math and comparison is a little off, but I tried to put all this in perspective.
Zimbabwe has a population of 15 million. 25% of the primary care patients suffer from depression, anxiety or other common mental disorders. In a country with 15 million, there are only 10 psychiatrists and 15 clinical psychologists!
In comparison, (hypothetically) if even only 1/4 of the population of Zimbabwe suffers from a mental health disorder… That is still 3,930,000 people. Even if you could split them up between 25 mental health professionals evenly, it’s still 157,200 patients per person!
26.2% of adults over 18 in America suffer from mental health disorders. That’s 57.7 million people out of 318.9 million people (population as of 2014). If the United States had such a cripple mental health care system, it would be catastrophic.
At the end of the day, holistic treatment is all about healing mind, body and spirit through innovative and effective strategies. The value of sitting down with another human being and getting the support and therapeutic connection we need is paramount. Therapy can come in all shapes and sizes, and developing a unique and personalized treatment program can make all the difference. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call now. We want to help.
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Author: Shernide Delva
The Palm Beach Post has made the audacious decision to highlight the silent epidemic of opioid overdoses in its newest project titled “Generation Heroin.” As part of the project, the paper profiled all 216 people who died of an opioid overdose in its coverage area last year. The goal was to draw attention to the magnitude of the addiction epidemic in a way statistic simply could not do.
The “Generation Heroin” project rolled out last month. The project was motivated by Palm Beach Post reporters’ who discovered that many addicts overdose in sober homes where they had gone to recover. When reporters dug further, they discovered the problem was far worse than they ever imagined. Shockingly, in 2015, more people died in Palm Beach County from heroin, fentanyl, or illicit morphine overdoses than in car accidents.
“We felt like we really wanted to make a major impact with this project,” says managing editor Nick Moschella. “We needed to go beyond what many outlets have done—and done well. We thought, how can we really wake up the state and the community to something that is killing a generation?”
In so many news stories, the focus is on the statistics behind the epidemic. Occasionally, there are a few profiles of victims from families who agreed to participate. However, the scarcity of these profiles means more people believe it will never happen to them or someone they love. This could not be further from the truth.
The Palm Beach Post took a more direct approach. The reporters and editors decided to profile all 216 victims who had died from overdoses, regardless of whether they received permission from families. The reporters and editors divided up all the names and made the difficult calls to family members to alert them of the upcoming story.
At first, they dreaded the reaction. Fortunately, most of the victim’s families responded more positively than negatively.
“I expected families to be very angry with me from the moment they picked up the phone,” reporter Pat Beall says. “We found this overwhelming support.”
In the end:
- Family members of 98 of the victims supported the project
- Another couple dozen was neutral about the report.
- Ten asked The Post to pull their family members out of the project, some threatening to sue.
- Family members of some 70 victims were unreachable, but The Post reconstructed stories from police and autopsy reports.
When contacting the families, the reporters utilized a standard script before starting the calls.
“We felt we had to get certain things across very carefully and clearly,” Beall says. “If we were leaving a message, we didn’t know who was going to hear it. We were telling them ‘it’s our intent to show these people as individuals and not statistics.’ We felt very deeply that we could be hurting people.”
Palm Beach Post: Not Asking For Permission!
Although the Post was considerate in calling family members, they were not asking for permission. They felt an obligation to print the names of all victims even if family members opposed it.
“The Palm Beach Post did not casually decide to publish the pictures and personal stories of every person in Palm Beach County who died after taking heroin, fentanyl or illicit morphine in 2015,” explained Publisher Timothy D. Burke in a column. “Though most families of those who died and who spoke with The Post expressed gratitude for the decision, it will bring some others pain. But we believe that the staggering toll this epidemic is taking has been largely hidden from public view, and as a result has not been aggressively addressed.”
The decision to post all the victims regardless of permission brings up the issue of journalistic ethics. While the Post can legally publish names and photos of these victims; it could be deemed unethical.
In the end, the story fulfills one of the main components of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. The goal of the story was to minimize harm. While some would argue the story could pose harm to the family of victims, it minimizes harm on a grander scale because it raises awareness of the gravity of the addiction epidemic.
While the post did name the victims, the paper also highlighted what communities are doing to tackle opioid addiction. It also made suggestions on what else should occur, and what Palm Beach County and Florida could be doing to improve these devastating numbers.
Minimizing Stigmas While Exposing the Truth
The stories in the project are heartbreaking and chilling. One addict admits that after his friend had overdosed on heroin, he decided to use the rest of his friend’s heroin first and then call 911. The friend ended up dying.
Many family members were not ready to discuss their loved ones but sent the Post moving written responses. Hearing the stories and devastation from family members were both traumatic for the families and the reporters.
Not long after the project published, a Palm Beach County commissioner pledged to push for reforms to slow the epidemic. The Post is hoping for a greater response in the weeks and months ahead.
How do you feel about the “Generation Heroin” Project? Do you think the Post should have received permission from the families of all victims published? What are your views on the ethics of the project?
Regardless of the reaction, the intention of the project was to raise awareness of how deadly the opioid epidemic is right now. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. Do not become another statistic. Call today.
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Author: Shernide Delva
A common way to explain addiction is to describe it as an allergy. Not everyone who does drugs will become addicted. Just like not everyone who eats a peanut will have an allergic reaction. The general understanding is that addiction is a chronic, progressive relapsing disease of structural and functional brain abnormalities. The understanding of addiction as a disease has allowed for better treatments and has made tremendous progress in reducing stigma.
However, when it comes to the allergy theory model of addiction, many question the accuracy. Does addiction really stem from an actual allergy? Time to get to the bottom of all of this.
Dr. Silkworth: The Allergy Theory (March 1937)
The allergy theory of dependency was first thought of by Dr. William Silkworth, M.D., in 1937. The theory was later inserted into the “Big Book” of Alcoholic Anonymous in a section titled “The Doctor’s Opinion.” It was Dr. Silkworth’s opinion that chronic alcohol addiction was, in its way, an allergic reaction. It was a phenomenon only present in certain people.
Silkworth noticed that people treated for alcoholism responded in two different ways. Person A would completely heal after treatment and return home to either drink socially or not drink at all. At first, person B would respond to treatment in a positive manner. However, they would lose control of their drinking if they ever tried to consume alcohol again. To explain this distinct difference, Silkworth concluded that there must be some allergic reaction present in person B that makes drinking an uncontrollable behavior. Otherwise, why would the two patients respond to treatment so differently?
The rationale behind Silkworth’s theory of alcohol addiction was quite sound. Those who are psychologically powerless to alcohol are also physically powerless. Just like an allergy, in some people, vital organs in the body fail to produce certain enzymes required to complete the decomposition of alcohol (or more scientifically ethanol.)
The Addict vs. Nonaddict Conclusion
In a non-alcoholic person, the body produces the right amount of enzymes to break down ethanol which reduces the high risk of uncontrollable drinking. In an alcoholic person, the body processes alcohol the same way as a non-alcoholic person, until it reaches a point within the liver and pancreas where there is not enough enzyme production to complete decomposition. This may be why there is an intense “craving” to continue drinking that prevents alcoholics from being able to control the amount they drink once they begin.
Ultimately, he concluded:
“The inevitable conclusion is that true alcoholism is an allergic state, the result of gradually increasing sensitization by alcohol over a more or less extended period of time… some are allergic from birth, but the condition usually develops later in life. The development and course of these cases are quite comparable with the history of hay fever patients…”
Further he notes:
“such patients may be deprived of liquor altogether for a long period, for a year or longer, for example, and become apparently normal. They are still allergic, however, and a single drink will develop the full symptomatology again.”
80 Years Later: Is It Really An Allergy?
Although Silkworth was on the right track, addiction is not exactly an allergy. An allergy, by definition, is a reaction of the immune system to a given chemical. A skin test can easily detect allergies. If alcoholism were an allergy, it would respond to a skin test. Alcoholism is not a true allergy in the same way that peanuts, soy, or bee stings are allergies. AA believed the allergy theory of addiction was helpful in explaining the serious physical and psychological effects addicts endure after one drink.
“The doctor’s theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account.”
Furthermore, defining addiction by comparing it to an allergy is an accurate way of describing the disease. Although Silkworth was scientifically incorrect, he was on the right track. Despite his error of concept, Silkworth made many concise, astute observations in an effort to identify the root of addiction.
In 1975, AA finally addressed the allergy concept stating, “alcoholism is not a true allergy, the experts now inform us.”
While addiction may not technically be an allergy, Silkworth’s allergy concept has been enlightening. It helped us develop a mode of treatment that is useful in helping individuals abstain from addictive behaviors. Addiction is a disease, and anyone struggling with it knows how powerless it can be. We have the tools to get you living a healthy, sober, productive, fulfilled lived. Don’t wait—call us today.
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