By Cheryl Steinberg
There’s a rarely-noticed and even more rarely-discussed trend happening among U.S. doctors – and it’s not something that should be swept under the rug. American doctors are struggling with addiction and depression – and even taking their own lives – at a troubling rate.
Currently, there is no official data on the phenomenon of physician suicides. Pamela Wible, a family medicine doctor in Eugene, Oregon, writes about this disturbing trend and estimates that 400 doctors kill themselves annually. Put another way, family doctors roughly see about 2,300 patients in the span of a year. That means that 400 physician deaths translate to about a million Americans who will lose their doctors to suicide each year.
Apparently, it’s something that doctors are well aware of, even if they don’t really talk about it. There’s the story of a retired surgeon recalls how his medical school professor lectured students about suicide and how to go about it. The professor had said that, if any of his students decided to kill themselves, they should do it ‘right;’ he then provided detailed instructions.
Physician Suicides are Highly Successful
Because of the stigma of depression, especially when it comes to medical professionals experiencing it, doctors ‘close ranks’ around each other and even pressure medical examiners to rule the cause of doctors’ suicide deaths as “unplanned” though they obviously are not. “Accidental overdoses?” Wible asks, skeptically. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Doctors calculate doses for a living.”
Doctors have the knowledge and training to make sure that they are successful at completing the act. They know anatomy and drugs – as well as have access to said drugs. Thus, physicians have a far higher suicide “completion” rate than the general population. An essay published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) in 2005 stated that male doctors committed suicide at a rate 70% higher than their counterparts in other professions. And among female doctors? That rate is anywhere from 250 to 400% higher. Holy Smokes!
“Unfortunately,” says Bradley Hall, a Bridgeport, West Virginia, addiction medicine physician, “suicide is one thing doctors are pretty good at.”
The Whys: Addiction and Suicide is Rampant Among Doctors
There are a lot of theories floating around as to why so many doctors kill themselves each year. First, American physicians have to deal with the pressures of “assembly-line medicine,” daunting scheduling demands, dealing with insurance companies, keeping up with growing regulations and constantly new scientific findings and literature in their field. All of that while under constant fear of a malpractice suit. Add to that personal debt – medical school and training is expensive, after all – and doctors’ debt often totals hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Yet another aspect to consider – yet again – is the stigma surrounding depression and, of course, addiction, which is heavily tied to the trend of physician suicide. Although it’s routine for family doctors (i.e. PCPs and internists) to screen their patients for depression and anxiety, the doctors, themselves, have a different set of expectations. As Wible says, “In general, we’re in a profession that will shun you if you show weakness or suffering in any way.” She adds that, in medical school, students are taught to put aside their own emotions, even when they attend to tragic cases.
Doctors and Depression: Statistics
A study found that only 22% of medical students who demonstrated signs of depression actually sought help from a therapist and that only 42% of those who experienced suicidal ideation got help.
Instead, many doctors turn to self-medicating; after all, they have the knowledge and access to do so. About 9% of the U.S. population suffers from an alcohol- or substance-use disorder. However, that figure is between 10 to 15% among doctors.
Doctors, Substance Abuse, and Treatment Options
Physicians’ health programs (PHP) are in charge of treating doctors with substance use disorder and/or mental illness. PHPs answer to the medical boards, which have ultimate say over a doctor’s competence. Paul Earley, an addiction medicine physician and medical director of a PHP in Atlanta, admits that the current one-size-fits-all approach to alcohol and drug treatment isn’t perfect. “Are we being tougher on physicians than the general population?” Earley asks. “Yes, we are. Frankly, if you sign up to be a physician and put other people’s lives in your hands, you have a greater responsibility to the public than if you work in retail.”
But, many doctors who seek or who are referred for treatment are required to attend a pre-selected rehabilitation facility for 60 to 90 days and afterward must agree to monitoring and drug testing, which the doctors, themselves, usually have to pay for. If a doctor resists recommendations made by the PHP, they run the risk of losing their medical licenses and therefore their livelihood.
Many doctors believe the approach to addiction treatment should be tailored to the patient; the current options are too limited and are at odds with what modern medicine has shown us about treating mental health disorders and addiction.
There is a massive distinction between being diagnosed with depression and being wholly incapable of performing a profession’s duties. Understandably, physicians should be screened and monitored carefully , in general, because of the nature of their work. However, when a diagnosis becomes a defining blow to one’s career and sense of self, what then?
“Acknowledging a history of mental health or substance abuse treatment triggers a more in-depth inquiry by the medical board,” wrote Dr. Robert Bright, a psychiatry professor at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. “The lack of distinction between diagnosis and impairment further stigmatizes physicians who seek care and impedes treatment.”
Depression, thoughts of suicide, and anxiety are all medical conditions that need attention and treatment. Often, these are present in individuals who also experience a substance use disorder, such as alcohol use disorder and opiate addiction, for example. Palm Partners offers dual diagnosis treatment for professionals who struggle with co-occurring conditions like these. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 day or night.
By Cheryl Steinberg
As someone with long term, chronic depression, dysthymia in medical-speak, I know what it’s like to feel depressed a lot. I also know what it’s like to hear bits of “advice” from well-meaning friends. If you suffer from depression or have ever had a bout of depression, then you probably know what I’m talking about. “Just snap out of it,” “you have so much to be grateful for,” or the ubiquitous question: “Why are you depressed?”
With long term depression, there is no why, it just is what it is. I mean, if the person really wants an answer, you can go into the whole explanation of brain chemicals and neurotransmitters and how, for some, there are physiological and organic reasons for our depression, a chemical imbalance simply-stated. We don’t need to have just lost a loved one or our job or a relationship or a pet to feel depressed; we just are.
With that said, here are 5 ways to stop depression in its tracks, from someone who lives it every day. I know this stuff is easier said than done: they say the best way to break the cycle of depression is to get up and do something but, that seems physically impossible when you’re experiencing a particularly bad depressive episode.
So, my first bit of advice is to take it easy, accept your feelings for what they are, and be patient and gentle with yourself. It’s OK to take some time for yourself to recharge – after all, feeling depressed also means having low energy. However, do not let yourself sit in self-pity for too long. There comes a point when you will have to take some initiative towards feeling better.
#1. Pick up the phone
Call or text someone when you feel your depression setting in, or after you’ve been wallowing in it long enough. Be honest about why you’re calling and how you’re feeling. It’s OK to let your friends know how they can support you specifically. Maybe it’s stopping by to say hello or meeting for a cup of coffee.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with your friends or family, reach out to a counselor, clergy person, or other person you can trust and be open and honest with.
The dreaded E-word. I know for many, myself included, it can be tough getting motivated to go to the gym on a regular basis, let alone being motivated while being depressed. However, the benefits of exercise are crazy-good. It boosts the feel-good chemicals in your brain, releases endorphins, as well as boosts self-esteem and self-confidence. It’s really an all-around win to incorporate exercise in your daily activities and this doesn’t mean having to go to the gym. You can walk or bike instead of driving to nearby places, use the stairs instead of escalators, or exercise at home with a video.
From personal experience, I can tell you that, once I started exercising on a regular basis, my mood improved noticeably. And, it’s true, you will get to a point where you will want to exercise, even if the word leaves a bitter taste in your mouth right now.
#3. Practice pet therapy
I am a believer when it comes to the benefits of having furry friends around, especially when feeling down in the dumps. Some people out there claim they aren’t “animal lovers,” which is weird to me but, whatever. I guess this doesn’t apply to them. But, pet therapy is a real thing and for real reasons. For example, studies have found that the vibrations of a cat’s purr can heal soft tissue and even bone and that having a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack by 40%. Besides those physical benefits, there’s something to be said for the soothing sensation of petting fur, the sound of appreciation in their purr or the wag of a tail, and the unconditional love that an animal can bring.
#4. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is part of Buddhist practice. What it means is practicing being present without any judgment on the situation, such as how you feel or what you think is happening. It just is. It’s definitely harder than it sounds – at first but, with practice, it can become an integral part of your outlook on life.
It’s especially difficult to practice being present when you’re feeling all those icky feelings that come with being depressed because, who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but there in that moment of ickyness?! But, overall, the practice can be an astonishingly good anti-depressant for your brain.
There are many different aspects to the benefits of mindful meditation. For those who seek to bolster their spirituality, it can be a perfect supplement to prayer and anything else spiritual that you do. If you’re interested in feeling mentally balanced, there is a lot of support from peer-reviewed research showing that it can be an effective treatment for anxiety and – you guessed it – depression.
#5. Consider professional help
If you are experiencing depression that lasts for longer than 2 weeks, you should probably talk to a medical professional about what’s going on and about options of how to approach the situation, such as seeking specific treatment or medications.
This of course, is a personal decision but, you should at least talk to someone, like your doctor, about your depression. Medications, like anti-depressants, and psychotherapy (talking to a therapist) can be a beneficial combination for treating depression.
Depression is a serious medical condition and, although attitudes are changing, it’s still stigmatizing to admit you have a mental illness. But, you should consider that mental illness is just an invisible form of physical illness; it is just as real – even if it’s not easy to “see.” People with depression and other mental illness have a tendency to self-medicate with alcohol and other substances. If you are struggling with one or both of these, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist. We are here to help.
By Cheryl Steinberg
You may or may not be aware of this but, some of the highly-illegal drugs today were once used in virtually any kind of cough drop, tincture, or formula to treat anything from cough to nausea to insomnia. And many of these medical preparations that included drugs like heroin and cocaine we even available over-the-counter!
Nowadays, there are much stricter regulations on what have been found to be illicit drugs, as well as other drugs that are prescribed for our ailments.
But, there are some surprising ways in which illicit drugs are being used today. Here are 5 illegal drugs that will cure you…
#1. Cocaine for wound care
First, cocaine is an effective local anesthetic and, once applied, it numbs the area very quickly, usually in less than two minutes. Secondly, cocaine is effective at stopping the bleeding; it’s a vasoconstrictor, which is a drug that constricts – or narrows – the blood vessels. The smaller a blood vessel gets, the bleeding occurs.
Even many pediatricians recommend using cocaine on children’s wounds because of cocaine’s properties that make it a valuable tool for treating cuts and lacerations.
#2. LSD for Alcoholism
Studies show that your chances of staying away from alcohol will be dramatically increased after tripping on acid. There was an extensive study done in the 1960s and ’70s that revealed how recovering alcoholics are much less likely to drink to excess and how some even stopped drinking altogether for several months.
The reason why this works could be due to the LSD helping the participants to feel more confident, happy and satisfied with their lives, which, in turn, decreased the feelings they had that led most of them to abuse alcohol in the first place. The alcohol-abstaining effects from the one LSD trip lasted for about six months, at which point, if LSD were legal, the patients would be able to return to a treatment clinic for another dose, repeating the process until they were able to transition into sobriety.
#3. Heroin for women in labor
Heroin is an opiate, in the same class of drugs as painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine. However, heroin itself is actually much more effective than morphine and takes effect in about two or three minutes. In fact, The National Health Service (NHS) in Britain recommends giving it to people in extreme pain, people in surgery, and women in labor.
Now, just to be clear, the NHS is, in fact, made up of medical professionals. The practice in Britain is to give women in labor an injection of heroin to help with the contractions as they give birth. The one-time use doesn’t do any damage and doesn’t cause dependency, because it is only administered when the baby is on its way out of its mother’s body.
#4. MDMA for PTSD
MDMA, or Ecstasy, has been shown to help treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The reason for this is actually the same reason that the drug is popular for recreational use: It releases large amounts of the feel-good chemicals serotonin and oxytocin in your brain, which makes you relaxed, euphoric, and feel at ease. This results in relieving the stress experienced by PTSD sufferers.
When used in a therapeutic setting, MDMA allows PTSD patients to relive their experiences more easily, which is crucial to overcoming the disorder. Ecstasy lets the sufferers do so without being overwhelmed, by activating the area of the brain responsible for controlling fear and stress. Over time, this results in long-term reduction of fear.
#5. Methamphetamine for ADHD and obesity
Desoxyn, the purest form of meth, is prescribed to obese people for quick short-term weight loss. It’s only prescribed as a short-term treatment for obvious reasons, since meth is highly addictive as well as overall catastrophic to your well-being. Meth is rarely prescribed in this way and only when all other treatments fail.
Desoxyn is also prescribed by U.S. doctors to treat ADHD. Considering that sufferers of ADHD typically exhibit symptoms of jitteriness and inattentiveness, which are also associated with meth use, it nevertheless has a therapeutic effect on people with ADHD. When it comes to the brain, nothing is simple, and meth. Like other stimulants, helps regulate brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Drugs and dosage are carefully controlled by your medical providers who can monitor the results and adjust your medication accordingly by a medical professional who can monitor the results. In general, you shouldn’t self-medicate any medical problem with alcohol or illicit drugs and you should only take medications as prescribed. If you are struggling with substance abuse and or a psychological disorder, such as PTSD, ADHD, or depression, Palm Partners is here for you. We offer dual diagnosis treatment for people who are ready to end the cycle of drug abuse. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
If you struggle with PTSD or another psychological disorder, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, you may have turned to alcohol and/or other substances as a way to self-medicate. This is quite common. Especially in the case of PTSD.
Dual Diagnosis Outpatient Treatment for Addiction and PTSD: PTSD Explained
PTSD is most commonly associated with war veterans however it can affect anyone who has experienced some kind of traumatic event. A person might develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if they are exposed to trauma either firsthand or as a witness, such as sexual assault, serious injury, or threats of imminent death. A diagnosis of PTSD is made based on the presence of certain symptoms, such as disturbing and recurrent flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and a perpetual state of fight-or-flight (called hyperarousal), that continue for more than a month after the traumatic event.
Dual Diagnosis Outpatient Treatment for Addiction and PTSD: What is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is a clinical term used to describe a person who has both a psychological disorder and a substance use disorder. The relationship between the two is complex, and treating people with co-occurring – or co-existing – issues that involve substance abuse and mental illness can be more complicated than the treatment of either condition alone. Therefore there is great need for dual diagnosis treatment that is specifically designed to treat all conditions simultaneously so that healing and recovery can begin.
Dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD is especially important to treat those with these coexisting conditions who wish to continue to work or need to be at home, such as to care for family members (i.e. children, ailing parents) and other family-related matters.
Dual Diagnosis Outpatient Treatment for Addiction and PTSD: What is Outpatient?
Outpatient treatment refers to a level of care that is the most flexible and that allows you to fulfill your personal and professional day-to-day duties while getting the help you need. Outpatient programs offer either day- or night-sessions that occur for 5, 3, or 1 day a week, depending on level of intensity and that last for about three hours.
Dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD includes a variety of therapeutic programs in which you will attend classes and therapy sessions – both group and individual – at regular intervals at the treatment facility you choose.
The specific types of therapy available in a dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD setting include:
Dual Diagnosis Outpatient Treatment for Addiction and PTSD: Benefits
For some, inpatient rehab is required in order to get them back on the right track. For others, a less-intensive therapeutic environment is more fitting. It’s up to you and your doctor and/or therapist to decide.
Flexibility is important because a more flexible dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD is likely to evolve as your treatment needs change. If someone isn’t responding to one particular type of treatment, these facilities can quickly alter the treatment strategy in order to maximize the odds of success.
Many people seeking dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD want no part of the stigma attached to addiction or mental illness, as both are still highly and negatively stigmatized medical conditions. They want to be able to keep their daily routine as close to normal as possible.
Support is one of the most purposeful elements of dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD. Someone who is trying to recover from substance abuse and mental illness cannot do so without the necessary love and support from family, loved ones, and healthcare professionals, such as the ones who work at dual diagnosis outpatient treatment programs. Clients will learn essential coping methods and tools so that they can deal with the issues related to their substance use disorder, such as temptation, withdrawal, and craving as well as with those related to their psychological disorder, such as loneliness, fear, depression, and anxiety in healthy, productive ways.
Mental illness and addiction quite often go hand in hand. Dual diagnosis outpatient treatment for addiction and PTSD helps those who experience mental illness and chemical dependency so that they can heal and recover while still living their lives, taking care of their families, and/or pursuing their careers. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.
You might be a recovering addict but, I’m willing to bet there are other areas of your life that would qualify as active addiction. About 20% of you are smokers. For those without a recognized drug addiction – normies as we call them – about 10% use some other illicit drug; admitted alcoholics make up about 10%.
For the rest of you – the ones who think they’ve got addiction ‘licked’ or for those who don’t consider themselves to have any addiction problems at all, you’re about to lose a game you don’t even know you’re playing.
Here are 6 ways addiction is in our blood and is being exploited:
#1. Everyone has a vice
If you insist you’re not an addict because you’ve never bought pawned anything to pay for your habit or had to get what you needed in a dark alley, think about this: caffeine and nicotine are addictive substances, too…have you ever experienced a headache or irritability if you go without that morning cup or smoke (if you do smoke)? If so, you’re having withdrawal symptoms and that’s a sign of addiction.
Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine alone probably cover just about everyone reading this and that leaves out other “gray areas” of addiction that we’ve just begun to understand and accept as real issues: food addiction, sex addiction, internet addiction and so on. That is, if it’s not illicit or prescribed drugs, coffee, or cigarettes – then it’s probably food (ever eaten something you regretted or too much at a meal and hated yourself for it?), or some behavioral addiction, such as compulsive gambling.
#2. We’re hardwired for addiction – all of us
The first act of human civilization was to make beer. It’s true.
The ancient Sumerians, the first humans to establish something what looked like an actual civilization, used half of their grain in order to brew beer. The importance of that, alone, is that it is believed to be the driving force behind why humans went from nomadic hunter/gatherer tribes to settling in large cities and, later, nations. Alcohol is difficult to make on the run and therefore the answer was to settle down and brew it. Ironically, having to deal with the complexities of civilization is the reason most of us turn to alcohol.
After beer, it was opium (at least 6,000 years ago), then caffeine (going back at least 5,000 years) first in the form of tea and later coffee, which only goes back about 700 years, when it was “discovered” and then promptly started taking over the world.
#3. Addiction is a source of exploitation
Here’s the thing: once we know exactly how addiction works, it will be that much easier to take advantage of it which translates into there being far more money in the exploitation of addiction than actually curing it.
Consider this: just a few decades ago, snack-food makers wanted to boost profits (as any good businessmen do) and so they had a novel idea: seek out scientists and have them figure out how to create addictive foods. Not only do these foods incite powerful cravings for more, they also never actually satisfy your hunger.
Snack foods are created to please your taste buds and the pleasure receptors in your brain, without actually triggering the “it’s time to stop eating” response that every human has as part of their normal bodily function. In other words, they had found out how to manufacture foods that would trigger that same overload of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in the brain as narcotics.
#4. Addiction and will continue to be exploited because it is profitable
Society wants addicts just so long as they can ‘behave’ themselves.
Any civilization wants citizens who work all day, sleep all night, and spend their free time consuming goods (i.e. spending money) and/or sitting motionless on the couch. This is much more desirable than say, having its citizens wreaking havoc in the streets or else getting (rightfully) angry and demanding “change.” In other words, it wants stability; complacency.
#5. The ‘System’ is totally onboard
As mentioned above, the system wants to pacify you. It needs impoverished customer service workers, and it needs those impoverished customer service workers to be OK with their “lot in life.”
The best way to pacify a person is to simplify their life’s goals to one simple need: feeding their addiction. An addict can become OK with anything – their status in life, their dead-end job, the system overall – as long as they’re getting their fix.
Take for example the recent steps towards weed legalization. It may not be as detrimental as meth, or alcohol, but it’s really good at making you OK with sitting motionless on your couch. If you’re working all day to make money to buy weed, then spending your free time stoned on the sofa, you’re the perfect drone. So many people are OK with living paycheck-to-paycheck as long as they can afford their habit, whether it’s weed, video games, or Twinkies®.
We’re letting someone else hijack our brain’s pleasure centers and placate them with easily-attainable chemicals rather than authentic experiences that we evolved to experience as pleasure: a high from a successful hunt or winning a battle, securing food, making a friend, or falling in love. In other words, all the things that actually improve your life.
Once ‘they’ can decode how to artificially create those feelings of bliss with various combinations of chemicals or stimulus, we’re screwed; chemicals will always be more easily-acquired than the actual pleasures they’re replacing.
#6. Everyone self-medicates
There’s a double standard when it comes to addiction: they are either harmless or the result of an uncontrollable urge, while others are a result of moral failing on their sufferer’s part. For example, food addiction is a shameful, disgusting display of moral weakness, however, the same person passing that judgment may have Red Bull, beer, and weed in their apartment because, that’s what they need to relax and get through the week. In fact, that fat-condemning person probably boasts about how much weed he smokes, and how much beer it takes to get him drunk. As if all of those are cool, manly accomplishments and not clear-cut evidence of his own lack of impulse control.
This is society’s approach to addiction: the divide-and-conquer tactic.
Addiction is real. And it’s not a choice or moral failing; it’s a disease – one that lasts a lifetime. The good news is that healing and recovery are possible. Call an Addiction Specialist at toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to learn more.