Category Archives: Substance Abuse
Beginning in 2011, October became National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. This is a month dedicated to raising awareness about substance abuse and a call to action for prevention. Substance abuse has effects on both an individual level as well as a community level – giving us plenty of reason to stay informed and do our part to guide people toward help and provide support and prevention.
Elizabeth Holmes’ rise to fame and fall to infamy was spectacular in many ways. The youngest self-made female billionaire according to Forbes – a media darling – was soon after charged with defrauding patients and investors alike by covering up issues with what was thought-to-be a transformational technology. Shortly, Ms. Holmes will be going on trial to determine if her actions were indeed fraudulent. Regardless, of her guilt or innocence, her defense team may be using a rather uncommon approach to avoid a guilty verdict – that of intimate partner abuse.
This article is not meant to pass judgment, one way or another, on the defendants in this trial. Nor does it seek to offer an opinion on the validity of intimate partner abuse as defense for committing this or any crime. Rather, this case presents an opportunity to shine the spotlight on a very real problem for millions of Americans and what can be done to treat the effects of intimate partner abuse, which can include long-term mental illness and trauma along with substance abuse.
ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be a debilitating mental illness. It is estimated that upwards of 5% of adults suffer from ADHD, which can manifest as difficulty concentrating, organizing, hitting deadlines, and following directions. ADHD often occurs in children, but up to 60% of these kids do not outgrow it in adulthood. ADHD can also cause lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. As a result of these deficits, those with ADHD may not feel the same pleasure response as those without the disorder.
A Canadian study of almost 7000 20 to 39-year-olds showed that those suffering from ADHD had a greater risk of having a substance-abuse issue. While most of these substance-abuse disorders involve alcohol or cannabis, it was shown that one in six were suffering from abuse of harder drugs including cocaine and heroin.
My story began as a child witnessing what I thought were the best parts of life. Up late on weekends, little supervision, and get to hang out with grown-ups. My parents were young when they had me and as an only child, I got to see a lot of stuff. Growing up we weren’t poor, I always had a roof over my head, hot meals, and clothes. So, from an outside perspective our family looked like we had it together. Behind closed doors is where I got a close up of madness and chaos. I witnessed domestic violence, rowdy friends, little to no respect for females, let alone anyone, strong hate for certain races, sexualities, and authority. My parents divorced at the age of 5 and the new man in the picture was of the same nature as my father. Party lifestyle. Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll. The next 3 years of my life, I moved to a different city each year – new friends, new town, new house, new beginnings. At the age of 8 I had my first drink on a camping trip and I remember loving the feeling. I had snuck drinks before in the past and had grown up in the bar scene, being back and forth with my mom and dad. Finally landed in Fort Collins, Colorado where I would remain until I graduated.
Substance abuse overdose is epidemic in our society. Statistics show that in 2019 over 7 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20 reported that they drank more than a sip of alcohol in the previous month. 20% of seniors in high school report they have taken prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. And the overall overdose rate in Americans rose by 4% from 2018 to 2019.
Not only do Americans begin to abuse drugs and alcohol an earlier age, but the abuse is following many in our society through the remainder of their adult lives. For example, substance abuse has reached outrageously high levels in the senior citizen community. Studies indicate that 33% of alcoholics developed their problem in their later years of life.
Admitting you have a substance abuse problem and seeking treatment takes courage. The ideal treatment option depends on your age, physiology, medical history, and whether you have other pre-existing mental or physical health conditions. Before treatment, you should understand the ABCs of choosing a treatment plan, plus what to expect from your clinician and from yourself. The primary objectives of addiction treatment include education, detoxification, and developing positive coping strategies.
Stress management is an important issue in our modern world, and some occupations are more acutely associated with stress than others. First responders like our EMTs nurses and doctors, especially with the current COVID-19 crisis, face enormous levels of stress daily. Without optimum stress management, these frontline medical professionals are vulnerable to the effects of stress, which can be extremely damaging to their physical and mental health.
While the coronavirus has yielded staggeringly high infection numbers around the world and even in the United States, the death rate has remained in single digits for most people and extremely low for healthy younger individuals. However, for the elderly and those with immunocompromising conditions, the risk of severe complications and even death is exponentially higher. While we are still early on in the epidemic, and we don’t know much, it is very clear that those with medical problems are at the most risk.
To that end, it is extremely important that substance abusers and their loved ones prioritize recovery and abstinence in the form of appropriate medical and therapeutic treatment as soon as possible. Research performed on substance abusers show a strong correlation with abuse and complications associated with flu and other infectious diseases. We expect this is no different with coronavirus. Ultimately, the problem rests in the fact that drugs of abuse and alcohol can suppress the immune system, making the body less able to fight off infection.
With coronavirus and related shutdowns dominating the headlines over the past few weeks, it can be difficult to see past that and remember that many of the societal crises that were top of mind just a couple months ago, still exist. One of these is the extreme rise in opioid addiction and overdose that the United States has been experiencing for the past few years. As we refocus on this new and exotic medical threat to our society, the substance abuse and addiction has taken a backseat. Well there’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic needs to be dealt with immediately, ignoring the very real and continuing scourge of addiction is at our own risk.
We hear heartbreaking stories of addiction, overdose and relapse virtually every day. In most cases, these stories relate to celebrities or otherwise well-known people that have succumbed to the disease. Alternately, we hear of truly shocking behaviors that happened under the influence. Sadly, the day-to-day stories about addiction are too many to cover and have, for most people, become normal and expected. Overdose deaths often become the norm, in many people’s eyes, with the overwhelming statistics we see on drug use and addiction. This is not totally surprising. Indeed, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that almost everyone has been affected by addiction or knows someone who has battled substance abuse or addiction – either alcohol or drugs.