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International Overdose Awareness Day 2016

 

International Overdose Awareness Day 2016

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Today, August 31, marks International Overdose Awareness Day. On this day, the goal is to raise global awareness of overdoses and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. This day is intended to acknowledge the grief felt by friends and family who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose.

The Shocking Reality

The tragedy of a drug overdose is preventable.  Today is a day to spread awareness to others about the disease of addiction.  Drug addiction is a global phenomenon; however, the United States, in particular, is facing a major drug epidemic. More deaths were reported from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record. Deaths from overdoses are up among all genders, races, and nearly all ages. This is a disease that does not discriminate.

Out of these shocking numbers, three out of five drug overdose deaths involve opioids. Overdoses from opioids such as prescription opioids and heroin have nearly quadrupled since 1999. Overdoses from opioids killed over 28,000 people in 2014. Half of these deaths were related to prescription opioids.

Between 2013 and 2014, the number of drug overdoses increased a total of 6.5 percent. The year 2014 had a total of 47,055 drug overdoses in the United States. These numbers continue to climb as the prescription painkiller epidemic continues to be a major issue.

To spread the message of awareness, International Overdose Day focuses on commemorating those who have been affected by drug addiction. While today is intended to encourage the message of prevention, it also aims to encourage a message of hope.

Principles of Harm Reduction

The Harm Reduction Coalition affirms that “we will not end the overdose crisis until we place people who use drugs, along with their families and friends, at the center of our policies and strategies. “

The coalition aims to accomplish this task by ensuring that those who use drugs and their loved ones have access to information intended to treat and support them without the fear of stigma or arrest.

Furthermore, naloxone remains one of the most powerful tools in preventing opioid overdose deaths. Naloxone is a medication that works to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose.  Recently, there has been a push to increase the access the public has to naloxone. In many places, naloxone can now be purchased via pharmacies like CVS, and even in school nurses offices.

Still, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, the United States is in a state of emergency.

“ We can no longer accept incremental progress; we must demand urgent action to save lives.”

Five Areas Needing Improvement

The Harm Reduction Coalition calls for immediate action in these five areas to increase access to naloxone:

  1. Funding: Congress should fully fund the President’s request for $12 million in Fiscal Year 2016 to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide grants to states to support broader naloxone access.
  2. Cost: The rising cost of naloxone by manufacturers in recent years is a deep concern. This increase threatens to limit the distribution of naloxone, especially by community-based programs that reach those most vulnerable to opioid overdoses. When prices increase, it directly increases the likelihood of more overdose deaths. Therefore, the coalition calls upon naloxone manufacturers and developers to price their products responsibly to ensure the best possible distribution.
  3. Access:Despite improvements in the access to naloxone, access remains limited and inadequate. Prescribers and health care professions play a vital role in ending the overdose crisis. Therefore, there should be an effort by all parties to develop guidance, education and training, resources, and support tools aimed at increasing awareness and access to the drug.
  4. Availability:Many states are working to make naloxone available through pharmacies through arrangements and agreements. These efforts should increase and broaden to ensure the widest availability of naloxone.  In addition, the Food and Drug Administration should develop, facilitate and expedite the regulatory pathways needed to ensure naloxone can be sold over the counter. Over-the-counter naloxone should be available to the market by 2018.
  5. Awareness: Despite the rising number of overdose deaths in the past decade, there still is not a national awareness campaign to educate the public and those most at risk about the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose. Countless anecdotal reports suggest that the lack of awareness is a critical factor in many preventable overdose deaths. Therefore the HHS and CDC must develop broad national awareness campaigns; that spreads information on how and where to obtain naloxone.

Ways to Raise Awareness

In addition to the guidelines suggested by the HHC, the International Overdose Awareness Day website aims to raise awareness through innovative technologies like there overdose aware app. The app raises awareness amongst those who are experiencing drug use and their families. The app shares information on what an overdose is, and the main overdose symptoms.

The website also has an area where those who have been directly affected by drug addiction overdoses can write a tribute to their story and grieve anyone they have lost. These tributes are where many share the impact drug use and overdoses have had on their family and friends.

How are you spreading awareness of International Overdose Awareness Day? If you are struggling with drug addiction, do not wait for it to progress into an overdose. We can help you get back on track. Please call toll free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Stigma VS Fact: Supervised Injection Facilities

Stigma VS Fact: Supervised Injection Facilities

Author: Justin Mckibben

I know what you’re thinking… but just set aside that thought for a second. Many of us know the flaws of contempt prior to investigation. So I ask of you to consider the following, and do some investigation yourself, to see what impact this whole idea might have.

You may remember, because I’ve written on the subject of safe injection sites many times, that last September the Harm Reduction Coalition convened with law enforcement and public health experts on an international level to deliberate on the possibility of supervised injection facilities helping to reduce the opiate addiction crisis and overdose death outbreak in American. Since then, officials in several states in America have proposed the implementation of supervised injection facilities, including:

In this discussion, reports were presented with some of the pros and cons of the concept, and with the press and politics focusing so heavily on addressing the epidemic status of heroin and opiate abuse I wanted to revisit the conversation with some information presented. I bring it up again because I have had a few conversations about these facilities; people seem split on the issue and many are misinformed.

What a Supervised Injection Facility IS

Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are legally sanctioned locations where people who use intravenous drugs can inject pre-obtained drugs under medical supervision.

For those of you who keep implying it makes heroin legal, supervised injection facilities do NOT sell heroin to users OR make heroin legal. It is simply a place where people who are already using can safely use.

They are designed to reduce the health and societal problems associated with intravenous drug use, and have been shown to reduce injection-related risks and harms like:

  • Vein damage
  • Overdose
  • Transmission of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C

Public Injection Alternatives

Now when it comes to drug abuse and recovery from addiction, there is no cookie cutter answer and no express-lane (in my experience) to lasting sobriety. There are numerous programs put in place to provide different treatment alternatives, and one genre of treatment that has been making some come back is harm reduction- which includes supervised injection facilities and needle exchange programs.

As part of the consultation there was a report titled Alternatives to Public Injection in which experts with experience operating supervised injection facilities shared how such services were implemented in their countries. These areas included:

The experts also enclosed in the report how effective supervised injection facilities could be as an alternative solution to public health crises that involve injection drug use. Over the course of this committee there were other entities including:

  • Open Society Foundation
  • Foundation for AIDS Research

From these reports and discussions there came some relevant information that could be crucial to American policymakers. These points might also cause the everyday skeptic to pause and wonder if these kinds of initiatives can’t do some good.

  1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves
  2. They reduce or eliminate their needle sharing
  3. Ultimately, participants reduce their drug use all together
  4. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services
  5. Participants have resources to seek addiction treatment
  6. SIFs do not increase drug use in the surrounding area
  7. Crime and public disturbances decrease in the areas around these programs
  8. There has not been a SINGLE overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation

That last one… that is an especially impressive statistic with all things considered! The simple fact that these sites, which are not yet in America, have been able to treat overdoses and eliminate deaths should at least have people thinking twice about supervised injection facilities.

Long Way to Go

The fact of it all is America has a long road ahead before we ever get to a place where this is a popular idea. Taking into account how many people on the outside of addiction looking in still only have an understanding based on stigma and fear, the reality is that it would be incredibly difficult to get this idea off the ground and make it work because every country in so far operating SIFs have stressed in order to successfully implement supervised injection facilities it is important to have support from all corners, such as:

  • The community
  • Stakeholders
  • Local law enforcement

Greg Scott is a professor of sociology at DePaul University who has shown a strong sentiment for the need of progressive ideas that promote health and safety over incarceration and punishment. Scott stated,

“SIFs are practical, concrete, humane, and cost-effective.”

“In every respect, SIFs make sense. They represent a logical (and arguably moral) next step in the process of creatively and effectively providing the whole country with far better health solutions for drug users than have ever been available before.”

American families of every demographic and in every community are feeling the damages of the opiate epidemic and the side-effects of unscientific drug policies, causing an upsurge of interest in public health alternatives. No wonder more people are starting to take supervised injection facilities more seriously.

The Recovery Community

When it comes to people in the recovery community, I understand why some people would be cynical about the possibility of government run establishments allowing injection drug use of heroin or other dangerous narcotics.

Even asking people I personally respect in the local recovery community it seems I get answers ranging from one extreme to the other. Some still say that it is just making legal “shooting galleries” that enable addicts to avoid the consequences of their addiction.

Others say with so many people dying every single day, the numbers speak for themselves and no statistically and scientifically supported program should be ignored without at least a conversation.

Once more, I think the preservation of life and promotion of effective addiction treatment is worth some effort.

Now, tell us what YOU think.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital, and getting the right kind of treatment for drug addiction is paramount to progress. If you or someone you love is struggling, don’t wait. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

How Young is Too Young for ADHD Medication?

How Young is Too Young for ADHD Medication?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

A new report states that more than 10,000 American toddlers ages 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which leads many experts to question if giving toddlers this kind of medication is safe. According to pediatric guidelines, ADHD medication like Ritalin and Adderall should not be given to children before the age of 4.

There has always been wide criticism of prescribing ADHD medication in young children. Typically, children in their earliest stages of life tend to be full of energy, very curious and adventurous. Diagnosing toddlers at such a young age is controversial due to the fact that it is hard to tell if the child’s behavior is an actual condition or just a part of growing up.

For now, we still do not know for sure if these medications provide any real benefit at such a young age. What we do know, however, is that medications like ADHD can have serious side effects. They interfere with sleep and suppress appetite.  Because toddlers typically need large amounts of sleep for proper development, giving medication that promotes an irregular sleep schedule can be incredibly problematic.

The report also discovered that toddlers who were covered by Medicaid insurance were especially prone to be put on medication like Ritalin and Adderall. They were also the most likely to be diagnosed with ADHD below the age of 4.  The data was presented at the Georgia Mental Health Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta, and several outside experts strongly criticized the use of ADHD medication in children that young.

Even more concerning, the Academy of Pediatric does not even address the diagnosis of ADHD in children under 3 years old, let alone even mention the use of stimulant medications for children this young. The safety and effectiveness of these drugs have barely been explored in that age group.

“It’s absolutely shocking, and it shouldn’t be happening,” said Anita Zervigon-Hakes, a children’s mental health consultant to the Carter Center. “People are just feeling around in the dark. We obviously don’t have our act together for little children.”

This is not the first time ADHD diagnoses for children this young were criticized. Last year, a nationwide C.D.C. survey found that 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 have received a diagnosis of this disorder and one and five will get one during childhood.

The most commonly prescribed medications are Ritalin or Amphetamines. While these drugs may calm a child’s hyperactivity and impulsivity, it also carries the risk of growth suppression, insomnia and hallucinations.

Furthermore, very few scientific studies have examined the use of stimulant medications in young children. One study conducted in 2006 found that ADHD medications could reduce hyperactive symptoms in children however that study only studied about a dozen 3-year-olds and no 2-year-old. Also, the research was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, had significant financial ties to pharmaceutical companies that made ADHD medications.

Still, many doctors stated that they understood using stimulant medication in toddlers under rare circumstances. There are often cases in which nothing would calm a toddler down who was harm to himself or others. as stated by Keith Conners, a psychologist and professor at Duke University.

While there are some extreme cases that stimulants may be beneficial for, Dr. Doris Greenberg, a behavioral pediatrician in Savannah, Ga., who also attended the presentation, is certain that there should not be 10,000 such cases in the United States per year.

“Some of these kids are having really legitimate problems,” Dr. Greenberg said. “But you also have overwhelmed parents who can’t cope and the doctor prescribes as a knee-jerk reaction. You have children with depression or anxiety who can present the same way, and these medications can just make those problems worse.”

In the presentation, many doctors suggested that children could be suffering from anxiety symptoms that are not being addressed in the right manner. Rather, parents are going to their doctors out of desperation to find some sort of solution. While, ADHD medication may be useful in some cases, more often than not, other options should be explored?

What do you think? Is it safe to prescribe drugs like this to children at such an early age? Ultimately, it is up to the parent of these children to make that personal decision. With all the media focus on prescription drugs, it would be advisable to take caution and become informed when making decisions involving taking drugs like this for long periods of time. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva 

There has been an influx of media attention on the heroin and painkiller epidemic which is now at record numbers. The focus in the media has been on the rise in overdose fatalities from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdoses have more than tripled in the last decade and the numbers continues to rise at alarming rates. While raising awareness of the opioid epidemic is necessary and much needed, we still cannot take our attention away from the drug killing Americans the most: alcohol.

The biggest threat to Americans remains to be alcohol. Americans are dying from alcohol abuse at numbers that exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 35 years. The CDC estimates that in just the last year, over 30,700 people died from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver.

In a little over a decade, the number of Americans who have died from alcohol have risen by 37 percent.  In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from painkillers and heroin combined, says the CDC.

If you think these numbers are high due to alcohol-related accidents, you are wrong. These numbers do not even include deaths caused by alcohol like drunken driving incidences, and murders committed under the influence. If we were to count those deaths, the death toll would be up to 90,000.

Why do these numbers continue to climb? Researchers conclude it is simply because Americans are drinking more. The statistics prove this conclusion:

  • Americans who drink at least once a month rose from 54.9% to 56.9%.
  • 51.9% of women reported drinking at least monthly in 2014, up from 47.9% in 2002.
  • Binge drinking by women is up to 17.4% from 15.7% in 2002.

All in all, binge drinking is the major culprit. People who drink the most are at the highest risk for alcohol-related death. According to past research by Cook, the top 10% of American drinkers consume close to 74 drinks a week on average. Drinking at this rate is linked to a range of health complications, including cirrhosis, cancer, brain damage, drunk driving and other accident fatalities.

For more moderate drinkers, the health effects of alcohol remain less clear. The research and data from moderate drinking has been all over the place. Some data suggests moderate alcohol consumption; around one-to-two drinks per day may actually be healthy.

However, there is a gray line when it comes to moderate to harmful drinking. A recent study revealed that when used alone, alcohol was the deadliest recreational substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. For this reason, many are urging public health officials to shift focus away from the dangers of drugs like pot and LSD and focus more on educating people about the dangers of drinking.

Alcohol is a dangerous substance that when used in excess, can cause serious health consequences.  However, since alcohol remains more accessible than any other drug, it increases the risk of abuse. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and has played a role in our culture for so long that many do not even realize they have a problem until it is too late.

Alcoholism is a serious disease and if you feel your drinking is getting out of control, do not wait to be a statistic, get treatment today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

How Lights and Magnets Can Help Fight Drug Addiction

magnetphotoMagnets may be the next solution to treat drug addiction. According to a new study, transcranial magnetic stimulation has been shown to reduce cravings in cocaine addicts. The treatment has been used for decades for treatment-resistant depression, yet a number of studies have found the treatment to be effective for a number of other disorders.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS in the past has been used to treat OCD, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and migraines; however the results have been mixed. Now, a growing body of research supports that TMS may have applications for various kinds of addictions and addictive behaviors such as alcoholism, smoking and binge-eating. So far, most of the studies have been on a small scale however results have been generally positive.

Optogenetics Light Therapy

Two years ago, Antonello Bonci, a researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, published a study in the journal Nature. The team stimulated the rats brains with a new technique called optogenetics. Optogenetics is a fairly new biological technique which involves the use of light to control cells in living tissues.  Optogenetics introduces light-sensitive proteins into the brain and activates the proteins with light beams. The light activates the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with addiction. Interestingly, after the treatment, the rats showed less interested in cocaine.

Shortly after the results were release, a newspaper in Italy published an article about the work. Turns out, a man whose son struggled with cocaine addiction and suicide thoughts saw the article and pondered if the same treatment could help his son overcome his cocaine addiction. He went to researchers at the University of Padua in Italy who agreed that that work sounded promising.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment

In collaboration, Bonci and the doctors in Padua led a new study that looked at the effect of TMS on cocaine cravings. Subject received treatment using a small figure eight-shaped magnetic device placed near the skull which delivered painless pulses to the brain for five consecutive days. Afterward, the magnetic treatment continued once a week for three weeks.

The study enrolled only 29 subjects but the results generated exciting results in the addiction treatment community. Out of the 13 subjects who received the all-TMS protocol, 10 showed “significant improvements” in reducing the drug craving.

“I have met with these patients, I have seen them, I have seen their families,” said Bonci. “They are alive, they are well…something has clearly happened to these people.”

For now, no one truly knows how TMS works. One theory is that is stimulates the production of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine. Perhaps it enhances neural connectivity. When it comes to addiction, another theory is that is “scrambles” the brain’s craving signals.

Furthermore, we still do not know if TMS will be just as effective when tested on larger and more diverse populations. Like we mentioned, this study was very small, yet promising. One criticism is that the study used mostly Caucasian men and that the participants were “treatment seekers” who were motivated to get better. There needs to be future studies that are more diverse and focus on different types of people.

“This is a pilot study—we have a lot of work to do,” Bonci said in regards to the results. “I think that we will know, in just a few years, if this will become an accepted treatment [for a variety of addictions].” 

Bonci plans to launch larger, more placebo –controlled, double blind studies in the future to confirm his results. Until then, there continues to be a growing number of drugs aimed at reducing cravings and the neural reward for using. However, many of these drugs have side effects. TMS would be a treatment that would be largely free from side effects. The only side effect known is the occasional headache.

What do you think? Could light and magnets be the answer to combating addiction? Either way, the more options we have to treat addiction, the better. The time is now to take advantage of all the latest forms of treatment available to help you overcome your addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Author: Shernide Delva

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