Author: Justin Mckibben
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can understand the desire to find something that can help protect yourself from haunting feelings of dread that cripple your peace of mind. Anxiety is a complicated condition that can creep in from the most unexpected places, and people experience it in many different ways. While some may think it’s based in fear or weakness, the reality is far more complex. Those people may say all you need to overcome anxiety is a more grounded and positive outlook. But the truth for most people with an anxiety disorder is that battling anxiety goes a lot deeper than promoting optimism. Especially when your condition convinces you that all levity is just you lying to yourself. Sometimes, you need a little outside help, and anti-anxiety drugs can be very useful when a physician and an individual decide on the right route to take.
However, anti-anxiety medications can also be dangerous. These anti-anxiety drugs may not be in the spotlight the way opioids are, they are commonly abused, extremely addictive and can be just as lethal.
With recent reports showing a rise in deaths associated with anti-anxiety medications, some experts are saying there is a hidden epidemic being overshadowed by the opioid crisis.
Anti-Anxiety Drugs Underestimated
It is true that opioids are doing massive damage all across the country, but that doesn’t mean the death rates due to anti-anxiety drugs should be ignored. While focusing on prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids is important, we should also keep in mind the other dangerous medications out there.
The usual suspects are benzodiazepines, which include drugs like:
While these anti-anxiety drugs may be useful in helping some people, they still carry their risks, which can be devastating and even lethal.
According to the director of the Scripps Mercy Hospital emergency department Dr. Roneet Lev, benzodiazepines are responsible for more drug deaths in San Diego County than people may expect. She says,
“That comes from people who come into our trauma center from car accidents because they’re on benzodiazepines, people who come in because they’re falling down because that affects their balance and coordination on benzodiazepines,”
“We’ve seen terrible withdrawals, when they’re used to having it, with seizures, that end up in the ICU.”
And it isn’t just people who are buying these drugs off the street. Concerning drug-related deaths by legal prescriptions, benzodiazepines are not as far behind opioids as people may think. Dr. Lev adds that while oxycodone is the number one prescribed drug associated with death, hydrocodone is second, and benzodiazepine is in third place.
But San Diego County is definitely not the only area experiencing a surge in benzodiazepine-related deaths. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), deaths involving these anti-anxiety drugs have more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2015.
Something that does make these medications even more treacherous is when they are mixed with opioids.
Mixing Meds Causing More Deaths
As if opioids or anti-anxiety drugs weren’t hazardous enough on their own, the fact that many people mix these two medications makes them even more deadly. The San Diego County Medical Examiner has concluded that 83% of benzodiazepine-related deaths also involved opioids. Nathan Painter is an associate professor in pharmacy at UC San Diego. He explains how the chemicals interact with the body, and how mixing them only amplifies these effects.
“The benzodiazepines themselves can cause respiratory depression, or your breathing slow down, and so can opioids. So when you combine them, especially in the case of not using them on a regular basis, or being new to the benzo or the opioid, if you give too much, or combine it with other things like alcohol or other medications, then it can cause that breathing to slow down, or even stop.”
What could make this even worse? Well, many of the people mixing these medications may have just been following instructions as prescribed by their doctor. Painter notes that sometimes the prescribing physicians aren’t necessarily aware of all the drugs that someone is taking, and may not be as conservative or as slow in starting the medicines as they could be. So some people may be unknowingly consuming dangerous amounts of these drugs.
Sadly, there are areas of our current culture that put people at elevated risk of death by anti-anxiety drugs.
One of the more vulnerable populations is our veterans. In fact, the Veterans Association Healthcare System has to deal with the issue of mixing medications in particular, as many veterans end up using both benzodiazepines and opioids. Dr. James Michelsen is a physician at the VA. According to Michelsen,
“Anxiety related to their combat time, problems with sleep, post-traumatic stress disorder. And traditionally these conditions benzodiazepines have been used to treat. Additionally, many of our veterans came back with physical wounds, as well.”
This becomes a serious issue when there is a lack of communication between networks of doctors, which can happen if a veteran visits a non-VA doctor and receives a prescription.
It’s not just veterans and hospitals that have problems with benzodiazepines. In fact, benzodiazepines are some of the most prescribed medications in the United States. But it has gone beyond that and even made it into pop culture.
Drugs have always been part of the music industry. History shows us how hallucinogens like LSD influenced rock like the Beetles, and how cocaine coexisted with disco, or how heroin lingered along with jazz and blues over the years. It’s still hard to find a country song that doesn’t glorify good ol’ boys with whiskey and beer. Now, pill-popping in hip-hop and pop music is so mainstream it can be unsettling.
Along with that spotlight came greater influence. Some musicians try to paint that pretty picture with abusing anti-anxiety medications, but these drugs have taken the lives of some of the great artists of a generation. In the last several years alone we lost:
There are even others like Chris Cornell, who’s wife believed that the anti-anxiety medication he was taking is partly to blame for his suicide. Even with all the death caused by these drugs, some still glamourize prescription drug abuse in our culture. Not to mention the issue of mental health and substance use disorders already growing across the country.
Fighting Anxiety and Addiction
Personally, the risks involved with anti-anxiety drugs is troubling because a lot of my anxiety is rooted in health. It manifests at times in the side-effects of even the most mundane of medicines. Some days I can’t take an Aspirin without a secret part of me wondering if my kidneys will shut-down (which is ironic considering the years I spent polluting my body with hard drugs and excessive drinking). So while everything is going fine on the outside, my inner dialog is trying to measure and analyze every muscle movement or twitch as an indication of a terminal illness.
In reality, anti-anxiety drugs can be the difference between an everyday struggle to endure the rush of nameless terror and a window into serenity and stability. For people who can take advantage of the opportunity, it can be life-changing.
However, these drugs are nothing to take lightly, and plenty of people develop severe addictions to these drugs. Anti-anxiety medications can be fatal. Some might think they are an easy way to get a rush, they can be just as lethal as opioids. Just because they are not painkillers doesn’t mean we should underestimate their capacity to do harm.
Fighting anxiety is extremely important for people with anxiety disorder. But we have to remember the risks that come with these drugs and find a way to stay safe. This is especially true for those of us in recovery from addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment is a way to create comprehensive and holistic recovery that addresses both anxiety and addiction simultaneously in order to help people overcome their anxiety in the healthiest way possible.
If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, or any mental health disorder, please seek help. If you struggle with substance use disorder, drugs or alcohol is not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Once upon a time, cosmetic surgery was a little more taboo. With exception to correcting physical deformities, surgery of fashion instead of function was a little less mainstream. Today, it is widely accepted and the doctors highly trained and respected in their field. Over time, as more people have sought cosmetic surgery, another trend has come to the surface- cosmetic surgery addiction.
Often when we talk about addiction, most people instinctively think of the opioid crisis in America. It has become just a prominent issue that it has dominated the conversation when it comes to substance use disorder, treatment programs, and mental health. Yet, there are still other forms of addiction that are affecting a lot of people. Smartphones and tablets have ushered in a discussion on social media addiction, and a handful of scandals have highlighted sex addiction.
So what do we know about cosmetic surgery addiction?
Body dysmorphic disorder
While you may not be likely to become physically addicted to plastic surgery, it is still possible to develop a cosmetic surgery addiction. According to Canice E. Crerand, PhD, psychologist in the division of plastic surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,
“It is more of a psychological issue than a physical addiction.”
The underlying psychological issue is attributed to body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):
- BDD affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population
- That comes out to about 1 in every 50 people
ADAA also states that people with body dysmorphic disorder think about their real or perceived physical flaws for hours each day. Their obsessive thoughts may lead to severe emotional distress and can even interfere with everyday life.
An individual suffering from BDD can dislike any part of their body, but most often they find fault with:
One study actually suggests that 1/3 of patients who receive nose-jobs show symptoms of BDD. Other reports show:
- BDD most often develops in adolescents and teens
- Research shows that it affects men and women almost equally
- BDD occurs in about 2.5%of males in America
- It occurs in about 2.2 % of females in America
- According to the American Psychiatric Association, BDD often begins to occur in adolescents 12-13 years of age
Someone with body dysmorphic disorder can see their flaws as significant and prominent, even if they are barely minor imperfections. Still, body dysmorphic disorder is a condition that can drive people to go under the knife again and again. The desire to fix the perceived ‘defect’ can ultimately create a cosmetic surgery addiction.
Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgery Addiction
Experts suggest that while plastic surgeons are trained to perform these cosmetic procedures, they should also have the ability to identify cosmetic surgery patients who may develop a cosmetic surgery addiction. So what are some warning signs doctors could be watching for? Crerand said a few examples may be:
- Patients are often unhappy with the results of their cosmetic surgeries and take their frustrations out on surgeons in extreme cases.
- The individual may have very unrealistic expectations about surgery, thinking it will gain them a better job or a better relationship.
- May be satisfied with the requested surgery, but then “suddenly realize” another feature is unacceptable and desire even more procedures.
Crerand also says there are many challenges in trying to determine if someone is suffering from BDD. But many also believe that a cosmetic surgeon has an ethical responsibility to weigh the risks and potential benefits of a surgery. If a plastic surgeon suspects that a patient may have a cosmetic surgery addiction or body dysmorphic disorder, they should refer the patient to a consulting psychologist or psychiatrist.
Another important aspect is that people who have body dysmorphic disorder are likely to have another psychiatric disorder such as:
So someone showing signs of cosmetic surgery addiction may also be suffering from another issue that is causing them to abuse drugs and alcohol as well as put themselves through repeated surgery.
Combination of Addictions
Cosmetic surgery is not the only way that people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder try to ‘fix’ their flaws. Some will turn to very dangerous drugs in hopes of improving their bodies. This self-medicating can also lead to substance use disorder.
According to the Harvard Medical School, men who develop BDD often focus on weight and muscle size. Unfortunately, the disorder prevents them from feeling as though they’ve developed an adequate amount of muscle so they may turn to steroids. Sadly, anabolic steroids are commonly associated with intense addictions that form in an incredibly short amount of time.
Women can also develop body dysmorphic disorder symptoms relating to their muscles. They may also develop preoccupations with their weight and with the size of specific parts of their bodies. This obsession can lead to the use and abuse of stimulant drugs. These substances are known as side effects that reduce the appetite and allow people to skip meals without feeling either hungry or deprived. Stimulants can also leave chemical damage behind, even when the person feels sober. All this chemical damage can cause compulsive use and abuse of drugs.
These are just a few examples of how the same issues that lead to cosmetic surgery addiction can also create serious substance use disorder. This is why dual diagnosis treatment is so important. For people who struggle with co-occurring disorders, the recovery process can be extremely difficult if both issues are not addressed. Having a comprehensive and holistic recovery program with dual diagnosis resources can make all the difference.
For people who may be dealing with cosmetic surgery addiction, there may be a much more serious disorder just beneath the surface. The best option for healthy recovery is a treatment for both. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
A few weeks ago, my sister told me about an upcoming concert that would celebrate popular acts such as DMX and several others. The event was called the “Ruff Ryders and Friends – Reunion Tour – Past, Present and Future” and would be in Miami on September 7th.
Tickets were cheap so I figured why not. I opened my computer and prepared to purchase the tickets for the show until I read the letters in red: “Canceled.” This was certainly not what I had hoped for.
Why did the show get canceled?
In fact, why did the entire tour get canceled? I could not believe my eyes as I glanced over the list of cancellations. Cancelling an entire tour is practically unheard of. What happened? Sadly, the answer involves drug addiction.
After some careful searching, I discovered a TMZ article which reported back in April that DMX had to cancel his shows due to an “unspecified medical issue.” Sources at a Los Angeles show state the rapper had been drinking heavily.
His history with substance abuse is not anything surprising. In the past, the rapper was open about his journey to addiction recovery. Therefore, when news of his drinking spread, relapse concerns heightened.
It turns out DMX has reportedly sought treatment for drug addiction. Addiction treatment reports surfaced a couple weeks after the rapper was put on house arrest for violating bail conditions.
According to speculations, the 46-year old is undergoing treatment in the Nashua, New Hampshire area or is living in a sober home. The Nashua Telegraph reported that DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was spotted at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, a Shaw’s supermarket, and a Walmart.
Along with addiction troubles, Simmons is facing charges that he allegedly owes $1.7 million in back taxes dating back to 2000. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges and was freed on $500,000 bail, according to Billboard. Still, while he was on bail, the rapper failed drug test four times. These test found cocaine, opiates, and pot in his system. Because of these results, Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff put him under house confinement on August 11.
During the hearing, the judge stated that Simmons had violated bail “probably more times than I can remember,” according to Court House News. He chose not to send the rapper to jail, although he described Simmons’s drug addiction as “gross.” He said that his past run-ins with the law exemplified that he’s had “more than a passing acquaintance with illegal drugs.”
After that hearing, DMX told a reporter, “When God is for you, who can be against you?”
The judge reportedly lifted Simmons’s house arrest on the condition that he enter a sober program and travel with a sober coach around the clock. According to court documents reviewed by TMZ, the rapper would need permission to leave New York State.
According to his lawyer Murray Richman, the rapper has decided to go to rehab on his own.
“This is a voluntary move on his part,” Richman said.
It is clear that DMX has struggled on and off with drug addiction. We wish him the best as he seeks a life free from the grips of substance abuse. Recovery is possible, and it is the answer out of this cycle. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol dependency, please call now. We are here to help. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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!
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135