How to Prevent Overdosing | Overcoming Addiction

Drug addiction is a disease that requires an individual to take an ever-increasing amount of a substance to achieve the same high. Overdose prevention begins by understanding that not everyone is addicted to the same substances and recognizing that each type of addiction requires its own course of treatment. Treatment for addiction involves identifying the problem, going through physical detox, and then learning how to live a productive life without abusing substances.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of deaths from drug overdose in the United States was 64,070 from January 2016 to January 2017, a 21 percent increase from the previous 12 months. Without treatment, this number will only continue to rise.

Overdose Prevention Must Address the Widespread Increase in Drug Abuse

how-to-prevent-overdosing

Despite growth in the addiction treatment industry, the need for quality treatment continues to rise faster than the number of treatment options available. New regulations for prescription pain medications seek to stem the rising tide of opiate addiction, and this may result in an eventual decrease in opiate-related overdoses. While cocaine and other harmful drugs are also abused, prescription pain medication is among the fastest-growing drug epidemics.

 

Prescription of Opiate Pain Medications Has Decreased

Only a few short years ago, prescription opiates such as Vicodin and Oxycodone were relatively easy to acquire, even for a minor injury. While the addictive nature of prescription opiates may have been a small concern, few people could have predicted the widespread opiate epidemic caused by the overuse of prescription drugs. It is now harder to get prescription opiates, but it’s still not impossible for those who have had a recent surgery or injury.

When using opiates for pain management, patients can quickly become addicted to the medication. Breakthrough pain occurs, and it becomes necessary to use more medication to get the same pain relief. Over a short period of time, this leads to an addiction that is difficult to escape. Many people who begin opiate use because of a prescription later turn to illegal opiates such as heroin to continue feeling the same effects.

Drug Addiction Reaches Across All Demographic Barriers

Drug addiction and the need to prevent overdoses applies to all demographics. An increasing number of people understand the nature of drug addiction and the methods required for treatment, so trends in addiction treatment have changed. Individuals who are addicted to substances can go through the process of recovery one step at a time, starting with time spent in a supervised detox facility.

When more individuals begin to recognize that addiction doesn’t discriminate, the approach to addiction changes. Once people acknowledge that addiction has reached their own neighborhood, they are more likely to show empathy rather than contempt for those addicted to substances.

It’s Time for a Re-branding of What Drug Addiction Means

Drug addiction is not a small problem in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 11 million Americans abused prescription opiates in 2016, which led to an influx of individuals needing treatment for substance use issues.

With that in mind, it’s time to reconsider the meaning of drug addiction. While drug addiction has long been treated through the criminal justice system, this is not an effective strategy for long-term recovery. Addiction is a disease that requires professional, empathetic care in order for the individual to get better. It’s time to start looking at addiction as the disease it is and to address the issue accordingly.

How Is the Drug Abuse Epidemic Being Solved Today?

With better education for the public and more treatment programs available to give people the help they need, the opiate epidemic is starting to be addressed. Considering that opiates are responsible for an estimated 30,000 deaths per year, this is a critical issue that needs continued attention.

Beyond opiates, other illegal drugs such as cocaine are also a major cause of overdose deaths in the United States. Cocaine overdose accounted for 10,619 deaths in 2017, which is 16.5 percent of the total drug overdoses from January 2016 to January 2017.

Programs for addiction treatment have spread rapidly throughout the United States in recent years. People are starting to understand that addiction is not a lack of willpower but a disease that worsens without professional treatment. This knowledge is a key factor in putting an end to drug abuse and preventing overdoses.

So, how is it possible to prevent overdosing on a significant scale?

Education, Treatment, and Recovery Options

Educating the public about addiction is a good first step in the prevention of an overdose. Drugs such as Narcan have been developed that can reduce opiate deaths if the drug is administered at the right time to an individual who has too many opiates in their system. People can learn how to administer Narcan in areas of heavy abuse, making it possible for average citizens to combat the opiate epidemic one person at a time.

Teaching the public about the addiction signs to look for may also prevent overdosing in some individuals. When parents of susceptible teens know the signs to look for, for example, it can become easier to identify potential drug abuse early on.

Teenagers are abusing opiates at high rates for a number of reasons. Heroin is highly accessible and not very expensive. While drugs like cocaine are often financially out of reach for teenagers, prescription pain medications can sometimes be found right in a parent’s medicine cabinet.

A teenager who suddenly starts doing poorly in school, who loses excessive amounts of weight, or who often appears lethargic even when awake may be abusing substances.

It’s important to open the lines of communication between parents and teenagers. Early intervention can be a big help when it comes to addiction. While teenagers can suffer from substance use disorder, it may still be early enough to mitigate the potential for long-term addiction and physical harm.

Addiction treatment for people of all ages has progressed in the United States, but it still has a long way to go. While recovery programs have become more accessible and treatment facilities have opened in response to the opiate epidemic and the rise in illicit drug use, many people still aren’t getting the help they need. Some are concerned about the cost, some lack the knowledge necessary to find a worthwhile facility, and others are still in denial about their addiction or afraid to seek treatment.

Continued investment in treatment facilities and education for those struggling with addiction is necessary if we want to quell this growing epidemic. While new regulations on prescription pain medications may be a good start, there is still much work to be done.

Creating New Treatment Opportunities for Those Dealing With Addiction

Addiction treatment is a multi-step process. Those who struggle with addiction may require prolonged inpatient and outpatient treatment in order to develop the necessary skills to conquer their urges. If a patient receives insufficient treatment or returns to the same environment that fueled their addiction in the first place, a relapse may soon follow. Without long-term recovery, the likelihood of an overdose increases exponentially.

Community support is an essential part of recovery and overdose prevention. Most people in recovery go to support groups of some sort while living independently, and they find support from others who are also striving to live a sober life. When community buildings such as churches or nursing homes open up their space so that meetings can be held, this can improve the quality of treatment that individuals receive.

Learning about addiction and what it does to the individual can make a big difference in the prevention of substance abuse. It’s important to understand that addiction is not a weakness. Addiction is a disease, one that continues to spread throughout the United States. The longer a person waits to get treatment for addiction, the more likely they are to experience a fatal overdose. This is due not only to an increase in drug exposure but also to the fact that long-term use requires greater quantities of the drug to achieve the same high. If you struggle with addiction or notice signs of addiction in a loved one, it’s important to seek help right away.

Overcoming Addiction to Prevent Overdose

People addicted to substances need to start slow in the recovery process. It begins with time spent in a medically supervised detox. This is the safest way to withdraw from substances, as withdrawing on your own at home can be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can become extremely painful and possibly even harmful. Access to supervised treatment programs is essential to the success of any push to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the United States.

Once detox is complete, support is necessary for learning how to cope with the emotional side of addiction. Those who are newly sober need to educate themselves about abuse triggers and how to cope with the stress of everyday life. A person new in their sobriety is often overwhelmed by the road ahead and requires the support of a structured environment in order to successfully live life without drugs or alcohol.

Sober Living Helps Prevent Relapse

People who aren’t ready to return home will go on to a sober living community. This is a residence where everyone is working on sobriety and trying to live their lives one day at a time. Sober living communities are sometimes difficult to get into because the need is so great. A sober living community offers support during a time when a person is learning how to live, work, and survive in a sober world, but the programs are just not available to everyone.

As the United States continues to gather information on drug abuse and restrict prescriptions for pain medications, program development will also be essential. With more targeted programs to combat the growing drug epidemic, over time the United States should see a slow but steady decline in the number of people addicted to substances.

With the right treatment, it is possible for anyone to fully recover and live a productive life. Without treatment, however, the addiction likely will only get worse. Early prevention can help stop the growing tide of those addicted to substances while intervention, later on, can help reduce the number of overdoses and people actively abusing substances.

The number of deaths caused by drug overdose is higher than ever in the United States, but an overdose is not impossible to prevent. Education and support are key. Be aware of the signs of addiction, and know which drugs are available to help reverse an overdose, such as Narcan. Recovery is possible, especially with professional help from a treatment program.

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Books to Read in Recovery & The Top Secret Project

We may live in a digital paperless age, but the power of books still proves strong. People read more nowadays because of social media and clickbait than perhaps ever before. In America, people also overdose on heroin and prescription painkillers more than ever before. It’s a sad plight, the epidemic of our nation, the opioid crisis, and it kills about 100 of us every day. We believe strongly in the power of professional rehabilitation, and we endorse the latest in evidence-based therapies and medicines. We also believe in the power of words.

Although nothing can replace enrolling into a professional addiction treatment facility, sometimes a little reading can go a long way. The first half of this article will focus on some selections of reading that could serve as quite positive during addiction recovery. The second half of this article takes a turn toward community activism, words in motion.

This article must start with a sincere thanks to Mary Healy, manager of the Anoka County Library Centennial Branch in Minnesota. Her recent article for Hometown Source inspired us to both share her article and expand on it. Mary’s heartfelt article discusses some books she believes can be empowering to an opioid addict who is either considering quitting or is in the process of recovery already.

We will discuss the literature, but there is another layer to this, one much deeper. Mary Healy isn’t just a librarian. She is a member of The Top Secret Project, a program based out of Anoka County that employs quite unique methods to help parents identify potential substance abuse among their children.

The Literature

Mary brings to light four books: one non-fiction, two that might be labeled as ‘self-help’ and also a children’s book. The non-fiction selection, Dreamland: The True Tales of America’s Opiate Epidemic, is by former LA Times reporter Sam Quinones. The book tells the story of how a combination of Mexican drug cartels, over-prescription in America and greedy pharmaceutical companies pushed us into our current opioid epidemic. While not necessarily comforting, Mary calls it “one of those books that everyone should read to see where the connection from OxyContin overuse escalated to full-blown heroin addiction in small town USA.”

Of the two self-help books Mary chose, one is more for family members of addicts and the other for addicts themselves. Addict in the House: A No-nonsense Family Guide through Addiction & Recovery by Robin Barnett is for the family members. If you know you need to step in for a loved one but you don’t know how, get yourself a copy of this book. As Mary puts it, “This book can be a great start to finding the help one needs for their loved ones and themselves.”

The second self-helper is Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy by David Shef. The main point made in this book is something we have been stressing for years. Shef compares substance addiction to other diseases, such as diabetes, as it should be, since addiction is indeed a disease. The problem? America as a whole doesn’t see it that way. America as a whole sees addiction as a crutch, a weakness, a sign of lack of will. Read David Shef’s book. It’ll change your mind, but it will also help you understand that as an addict you are not a bad person, not at all.

Lastly we have a children’s book. We feel of all Mary’s selections that this one is perhaps the most important. It also ties in perfectly with The Top Secret Project, the program Mary is a part of. Bird by Zetta Elliot is actually a picture book. Through illustration, a story is told of a young boy dealing with his older brother’s drug-caused death. The boy realizes in the end that there is indeed much optimism in the world. This message is crucial. One in three homes in America are directly affected by the opioid crisis, and sadly enough that means there are plenty of young children with older siblings or other family members who have died at the hands of drugs. Learning early to cope with this unfortunate reality is critical, and Bird gently teaches children how to handle the drug-induced loss of a loved one.

Some Other Selections

Mary’s list ends here, but before we delve into the Top Secret Project, we wanted to briefly share a few more literary works that may serve as a positive boost to a recovering addict. Believable Hope by Michael Cartwright, a former addict so deep in it he was in a catatonic state in a psych ward, is a powerful book. According to the Amazon review, “…he shares his personal struggles, his recovery process, and the 5-pronged approach that has caused dramatic transformation with clientele ranging from those living on the street to celebrities and everyone in-between.”

Reddit is actually a wonderful place to read some inspiring words. There are plenty of sub-reddits about sobriety and recovery, and it provides a free, easily-accessible community. Of course, like all social media websites, there is plenty of trash to waddle through, but some of what you’ll read on there is raw and eye-opening, perhaps enough so to provide a boost of encouragement along your own path to sobriety.

The Top Secret Project

Okay. Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. The Top Secret Project of Anoka County, Minnesota, is a free traveling exhibit that visits mostly schools but also community centers and/or parks. Their mission statement: “The Top Secret Project is committed to helping adults uncover the mysteries in the lives of teens, providing tools and resources to foster safe environments, and encouraging ongoing dialogue.” Their method? Not entirely so straightforward.

Attendees walk through a full-size model of a teenager’s bedroom. They are taught to look for signs of potential substance abuse, but also much more. Parents (or whoever wants to attend) will learn to discover signs of self-harm, eating disorders, bullying, and many other risky behaviors. How? By recognizing the presence of certain everyday objects to perhaps mean more than it appears.

the top secret projecct
A shot of participants walking through a virtual bedroom set up by The Top Secret Project

The idea is not to spy on your kids. It’s to recognize that the presence of, say, aluminum foil or candles, might mean more than it seems. The idea is to “recognize unfamiliar hazards that are often in plain sight,” as it says on their website. In the virtual bedroom are literally hundreds of items and/or indications of possible risky behavior. And there’s more.

After the virtual bedroom tour, The Top Secret Project offers a resource fair involving both local law enforcement and community programs. Also, there is an hour-and-a-half long discussion hosted by staff members of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, one of America’s most prominent addiction treatment and advocacy organizations. Rhonda Sivarajha, chairwoman of the Anoka County Board, from the above-linked site: “We all want to help our children safely navigate the teen years, but we can’t do that if we don’t know what to look for. The Top Secret Project offers invaluable insight and resources for parents to help them identify warning signs that are often hiding in plain sight.”

And there’s even more.

For children age 2 on up to fourth-grade, there is free daycare at a Top Secret Project event. There are activities for children in fifth-grade and older. There are prize drawings. There are guest speakers. There is free pizza. Free pizza. In fact, the entire event is free. Here is the event’s upcoming schedule so far:

  • January 9: Centennial High School West Building, 4757 North Rd., Circle Pines, MN
  • January 11: Anoka-Hennepin School District Educational Service Center, 2727 N. Ferry St., Anoka, MN
  • February 22: St. Francis High School (time to be determined)

If you happen to be even somewhat near any of these locations, you should go. This author has not attended as this author lives on the east coast, but if this author could this author would! It truly seems not only that it works, but that it’s fun, and fun is a major motivator for an American in 2018. And at heart, it serves to prevent risky behaviors in our youth, which is when it all starts. According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation website, “This project stemmed from a desire to make our families safer, stronger and healthier. There is no manual for raising children but if we come together to share experiences and resources, we can be stronger because of it.”

In Conclusion

We realize this has been sort of two articles crammed into one, but the spirit behind both recovery literature and something like The Top Secret Project is the same. The prevention of drug abuse is paramount, and the treatment of inevitable substance abuse is equally important. There unfortunately will probably always be addicts. What we can do is spread the message that addiction is a disease, a treatable one, and far too many people are afflicted and live untreated.

If you are an addict and you are not in any kind of treatment, seek help immediately. The literature suggested in the first half of this article is meant for addicts already in some form of viable recovery. The Top Secret Project is meant for parents seeking knowledge on how to best recognize risky behaviors in their own children. A professional rehabilitation center is meant for addicts not in treatment.

Let me leave you with something a bit personal. This writer is too a former addict. From age 16 to about age 18, ecstasy was my drug of choice. About two months after entering into a rehabilitation program, my counselor died of a massive heart attack in his sleep. All hope was lost, and my addiction came back, this time in the form of “what have you got?” It took my best friend ending his life with a shotgun for me to finally get my life back together. Sometimes it takes an unfortunate tragedy to sort of wake up. Don’t go looking for one.

Some of the best advice ever came from my father, who fought with me through my years of addiction. He told me that drug addicts only ever end up in one of three places: dead, locked up, or in a looney bin. Those were his words, but they’re true words. Without stopping and without help, drug use will kill you, criminalize you, or land you in a home.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, act now. Every moment an addiction continues untreated is a dangerous one. If you are even thinking that maybe you should reach out, then now is the time. Don’t let yourself or your loved one become a statistic.

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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms | Detox & Treatment

You can become addicted to just about anything. You can be addicted to something good, like exercising, something neither good nor bad, like video games, or something horrible, like heroin. The important thing to realize is the difference between being addicted to something and being extremely passionate about something. One of the main ways to tell that difference is whether or not withdrawal symptoms are suffered without whatever it is, whether it’s gummy bears or cigarettes.

Determining whether or not you’re addicted to alcohol, (an alcoholic), can be a tricky beast, mainly due to four reasons. For one it’s legal, for two it’s glamourized excessively in the media, for three, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that approximately 56% of American adults consume alcohol at least once a month, and for four, alcohol is everywhere.

This article will describe alcoholism, the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, how important supervised detox from alcohol is, and what types of treatment are available post-detox.

alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol Use Disorder

Having a get together? Better get some alcohol. Stressed? Have a few glasses of wine. Everyone’s going out after work. Where? To the bar! Hung over from the night before? Have another one to cure it! Three of us are going to Bill’s for the game. Bring your own beer! Attending a concert? Purchase that eleven-dollar Budweiser. Alcohol really is everywhere, and it seems to have to be involved in many of the things we do, from celebration to coping with stress. It’s when you move from “I could really use a drink” to “Oh wow I need a drink” that drinking turns from a fun party favor to a disease.

Using the NIAAA percentage and current population totals, of the 42 million Americans over eighteen years of age who are drinkers, 15 million are alcoholics. That’s nearly the entire population of the state of New York, which is why alcoholism is indeed a public health crisis, at least according to a September 2017 article in the Journal of American Medical Association. The title of the article alone should make it clear: Remarkable Increases in Alcohol Use Disorders. The researchers say alcoholism rates have gone up about 50% since a decade before the study began in 2012. Therefore, for every two alcoholics that existed in 2002, five years ago there were three. Stretching that rate out to present day means there are nearly twice as many alcoholics right now than there were in ’02.

So how do you know if you suffer from an alcohol use disorder? Do you suffer from any of these symptoms of alcoholism?

  • Inability to control how much you drink
  • Feeling the need to cut back on drinking, or trying to unsuccessfully
  • Spending significant time recovering from alcohol use
  • Strong urges to drink
  • Interruptions at work or at home due to drinking
  • Continuing to drink regardless of negative effects
  • Losing interest in hobbies or social life due to drinking
  • Drinking in unsafe situations, such as driving or watching your child
  • High tolerance to alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

As the cliché tells us, just because something is last does not mean it is least. One could begin to exhibit withdrawal symptoms from alcohol as soon as eight hours after the last drink. If you experience any withdrawal symptoms from lack of alcohol, do not ignore them. Alcohol withdrawal is much more than a sign of addiction; it can be fatal. If you are an alcoholic planning on quitting, seek professional treatment immediately. If you are suffering from any alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek medical help. Quitting without assistance can be extremely dangerous. Withdrawing without assistance can kill you, just as it did Amy Winehouse.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

Understand not all symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are life-threatening, at least not individually. Some are. It’s easy to tell the difference. Any combination of symptoms has come to be recognized as AWS, or Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Although some cases are worse than others, every single case of alcohol withdrawal is dangerous. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include but are not necessarily limited to:

If you are a casual drinker and after a night of partying you wake up hungover and therefore irritated and a little anxious, it may not necessarily be that you are suffering from AWS. You should know the difference. If you are a heavy drinker and you wake up from a night of partying extremely depressed and with the shakes, seek help. If it’s someone you know who is struggling, please click the link for their sake. These symptoms are signs of severe alcoholism. It is ever so important to listen to your body and know the differences between withdrawal symptoms and a hangover. Some of the more severe symptoms of AWS include but are not necessarily limited to:

Alcohol is an extremely potent substance, and when abused it becomes a dangerous weapon against the body and brain. With alcohol abuse, your brain’s neurotransmitters actually start to adapt to the presence of alcohol – which is not just when you’re actively drinking. For every fluid ounce consumed, alcohol stays in the body for one hour. This doesn’t seem like long until you add the time up. For someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08, legally drunk, it would take over five and a half hours for the alcohol to be fully gone. An alcoholic actively drinking to excess can reach a BAC of 0.25 or higher. (A 180-pound man who consumes a six-pack has a BAC of about 0.21). Now you’re talking about nearly an entire day having to go by before alcohol is out of the system. If this alcoholic does this every day, well, the brain knows nothing else.

Now consider someone who drinks this way for years. His or her brain is fully adapted to the constant presence of alcohol. If that person suddenly stops drinking, even for a day, several bodily malfunctions can, and probably will, occur. Hence there exists AWS, a condition that covers all of these malfunctions.

OK so let’s say you, dear reader, are an alcoholic looking to quit. How do you do it? Lucky for you we have it all figured out.

The Road to Recovery – Step One: Detox

Anybody entering into any type of treatment for alcoholism is going to undergo detoxification prior to anything. Safely ridding the body of alcohol is paramount to curing addictions of all types, the first step on each and every road to recovery. Now for the specifics…

Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as eight hours after the last drink, it’s important to seek professional detox immediately upon deciding to stop. Whichever of the symptoms mentioned above you endure will peak within 24-72 hours, and can last a few weeks. Doctors, nurses, and a supporting staff will guide you through the discomfort, meanwhile ensuring none of the symptoms turn fatal. Alcohol withdrawal without proper treatment can indeed be deadly.

Spend quality time in deciding which facility to enter into. As we will discuss, treatment very often (and should) follow detox, and regardless of which level of treatment you opt for, these will be the people who literally help you change your life for the better, and keep it that way. Talk to the program representatives. Discuss the following:

  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Amount of alcohol you consume daily/weekly
  • How long you have been drinking excessively
  • Your drinking patterns previous to realizing you had a problem
  • Overall nutrition
  • Weight, age, habits & hobbies
  • If you abuse other substances as well
  • If you have any co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, or an eating disorder

These details will help guide you toward the right facility for you personally, since recovery from addiction is a personal journey. As mentioned, detox should be followed by treatment for addiction, the second stop on the pathway to sobriety. There are endless options today when it comes to seeking help. Develop a plan for long-term support, consult with medical professionals, pay attention to your body and health needs, and be sure to seek support groups after release from a program.  There are many options out there once you or someone you love makes the decision to quit drinking.

The Road to Recovery – Step Two: Treatment

In less severe cases, an outpatient treatment program may be suitable. This is where you would visit the recovery facility according to a schedule, checking in for guidance, therapies, and any applicable medicines. In the case of moderate to severe symptoms, an inpatient stay may be more fitting, where you actually stay at the facility.

Most alcoholics who quit suffer from some form of AWS. Approximately one out of ten will exhibit severe symptoms. Regardless of severity, treatment should include the monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and blood levels of multiple different chemicals in the body/brain. Moderate to severe cases may also include the assistance of medication; benzodiazepines tend to be used most often. There exist two possible approaches with benzodiazepines:

  • The symptom-triggered approach is primarily reserved for high-risk alcoholics. As it sounds like, medicine is used to combat symptoms as they occur.
  • The fixed-regimen approach involves the medicine being dispersed in time intervals, with additional doses given as required, based on the individual’s symptoms. This is the much more common approach.

Benzodiazepines are much safer than alcohol. They help to restore the brain back to normal neurotransmitter levels. They can be prescribed and self-administered. In rare instances, a patient can become addicted to the benzodiazepines. In the U.K., an alternative, called Clomethiazole, possibly less addictive, has proven successful in treating AWS but cannot be self-administered as of yet.

For less severe (and more common) cases of AWS, treatment will likely be more patient-oriented, as the risk of fatality is much lower. Something called the harm reduction model is commonly utilized. This is where the patient gradually scales back his or her drinking under a controlled system. It is much safer to wean than to cut off.

Other common forms of treatment for less severe cases of AWS include:

  • Sedative drugs to help ease withdrawal symptoms
  • Blood tests
  • Patient and family counseling to discuss the long-term issue of alcoholism
  • Testing and treatment for other medical problems linked to alcohol use

In Conclusion

It’s almost silly in a way to think about how quitting drinking can be equally as dangerous as drinking itself. This is the case, though. Don’t let the symptoms deter you from quitting, though. With the proper care, detox and treatment is much less painful than a lifetime of alcoholism.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Alcoholism, do not hesitate to call us. Our caring and compassionate team is here to help you on the road to recovery.

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Holiday Spirits: A look at Holiday Time drinking (and ways to cope)

The end of December brings America alive. Christmas is coming, a new year is next, and cheeriness is running on high. The holidays are a time for family and friends, for love and for togetherness, for giving (and for hopefully getting) some pretty cool stuff. For many, the holidays are also a time of indulgence – overspending, overeating, and overdrinking. When it’s just egg nog, no big deal… just make a resolution to work out more! It’s when the egg nog gets spiked, so to speak, that trouble can start.

Not to scare you, but starting Christmas Eve and ending on New Year’s Day, the number of DUIs increases by 33% on average. Furthermore, 41% of accidents on Christmas are alcohol-related, and 58% of them on New Year’s. This is much higher than average daily percentage of alcohol-related crashes, which is 28%. Now to scare you, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly half of all car accident fatalities during that holiday week involve drunken drivers.

This is not an article on drunk driving. This is not just a regurgitation of statistics, although many will be cited. This article takes a look at holiday-time alcohol consumption, brings awareness to how dangerous Christmastime binge drinking can be, and offers a little background on Alcoholics Anonymous, the model example of the many free support groups that can further assist you in having a safe holiday.

The holidays bring a spike in problematic drinking.

Although this year’s Thanksgiving has come and gone at the time of this writing, the serious increase in national binge drinking actually starts the day before turkey day, which has come to be called ‘blackout Wednesday’. Many bars and alcohol-serving establishments say they receive more business the day before Thanksgiving than on St. Patrick’s Day, or even New Year’s Eve, according to PR Newswire. High school friends who have since moved on to live their lives are again reunited, possibly spurring on this day of binge drinking.

The Harris Interactive Survey recently took a poll regarding American holiday drinking. The results are eye-opening to say the least. Nearly one in six people admit to drinking more than they usually do during the holiday season. Nearly one in five say they’ve felt pressured to drink during the holidays. One in two people say their family’s holiday get-together involves alcohol directly. Most shocking of all, virtually everyone polled (96%) either admitted to being hungover for work after a holiday party the night before, or having known someone who was.

According to Scram Systems, makers of some of the top-of-the-line ignition interlock devices, half of those who already have a legal history of drunken driving consume more alcohol than normal during the holiday. (More than nine out of ten DUI offenders said having an ignition interlock device saved their lives). The holidays are meant to be fun, and there are ways to drink responsibly. We hope what we’ve discussed so far will give you reason to do so.

We drive (drunk) more during the holidays.

It’s an expensive time of year, what with dinners and gifts and travel expenses, and driving as opposed to any other form of transportation definitely saves some dollars. Driving sober saves lives. According to AAA (the Automobile Association of America), an astounding 48.7 million Americans drove at least fifty miles last year for Thanksgiving. (Over 89% considered the drive to be a road trip.) The number of those who drove such distances for Christmas surely is not far behind. Last year actually set a record for the number of individual holiday drivers on the road between the 23rd of December and the 3rd of January: 103 million. The highways are quite crammed, and in many areas of the country, snow is falling, making for even more hazardous conditions.

Also according to AAA, over the course of a year, one in eight drivers who are users of alcohol drive their vehicles with what they believe to be a blood alcohol content over 0.08, the legal limit. That means one in eight admitted to it in a survey. So, in reality, this writer bets everything in the bank that in reality, the number is more like 2 or 3. For the sake of the benefit of the doubt, even if the number is 2, this means of the 103 million drivers on the road during the holidays, well over three million of them are drunk.

Okay, there are just a few more stats courtesy of AAA, but stats paint a picture in a unique way, offering insight from a bird’s eye view. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, approximately 25,000 will be injured in an alcohol-related car crash, and another 1,200 will perish. This is about three times the average for this period of time, the highest spike all year.

Control your holiday drinking. Here’s one way how.

About 24 million Americans consume alcohol with some regularity. The number of Americans that consume alcohol during the holidays is probably somewhere in the range of 30 million. The NIAAA says just over 15 million Americans have AUD, or alcohol use disorder, commonly known as alcoholism. Half of those drinking during the holidays are alcoholics. If you find yourself among them and you want to be safe this year, or even if you’re not an alcoholic but you want to educate yourself on safe holiday drinking, an excellent place to start is Alcoholics Anonymous.

Disclaimer: Alcoholics Anonymous and similar self-help groups are not substitutes for alcohol abuse treatment in a professional facility. If you feel you have a drinking problem, absolutely check into a rehab as soon as possible.

Before the stock market crash of 1929, Bill Wilson made himself quite a wealthy man from Wall Street trading. By 1934, Wilson drank it all away. His severe alcoholism cost him his law school degree and his marriage, and then nearly his life. Hospitalized in New York City’s Towns Hospital, his doctor suggested to him that alcoholism was a disease, not a lack of willpower.

Through some now outdated therapies, Wilson stopped drinking successfully. Then he heard his calling. Wilson was a longtime member of the Oxford Group, a Christian missionary group, searching their philosophies for an answer to his drinking problem. At their meetings, still an active alcoholic but still seeking a cure, Wilson decided to make it his life’s goal to save as many other alcoholics from the disease that he could. In Akron, Ohio, on a business trip, Wilson found himself tempted to drink, and wanted to speak with a fellow alcoholic. Asking around, he was introduced to Dr. Bob Smith.

Henrietta Sieberling was also an Oxford Group member, and was the person who Bill Wilson asked about talking to an alcoholic. Sieberling was at the time attempting to help someone with severe alcoholism, a medical doctor named Bob Smith, who for seventeen years had been getting extremely drunk every single night. Sieberling arranged a meeting between Dr. Smith and Wilson, which reportedly lasted six hours.

Wilson actually moved into Dr. Smith’s home, living alongside the doctor and his wife. Wilson was able to cure Dr. Smith of his alcoholism, and the two men set out to develop one uniform program that could help people with any and all levels of alcoholism. It was 1935 when what would become Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) began. Since then, millions upon millions of people have attended and benefitted from the free service.

If you are an alcoholic, a problem drinker, or simply a concerned social drinker, call us today.

How do I know if I have an alcohol use disorder?

Alcoholism, AKA alcohol dependence, AKA alcohol use disorder, is a disease. However, the definition is not exactly clear cut. This is unique. Nobody can be on the fence with diabetes; you either have it or you don’t. Such is not the case with alcoholism. However, as a general rule of thumb, there are four components to the disease of alcoholism.

  1. Craving – Every drinker on every level experiences a craving for an adult beverage. If you experience this craving often, and the craving is strong, that is a sign of alcoholism. If you crave alcohol a few times a year, and even then could live without it, chances are you are not an alcoholic.
  2. Loss of Control – You may remember the longtime slogan for Pringles potato chips: “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” If this is how you feel about alcoholic beverages, there’s good chance alcoholism has crept in. Alcoholics are either literally unable to control, or have an extremely hard time controlling their consumption. Picture yourself at an open bar with no drink limits. Do you have a few and enjoy the rest of whatever the night has to offer, or do you find yourself drinking as many drinks as you can in order to achieve maximum drunkenness?
  3. Dependence – Being dependent on something is when the desire crosses over from a craving to a need. If someone exhibits withdrawal symptoms when sober from alcohol, it’s safe to say that someone is an alcoholic. Symptoms commonly associated with alcohol withdrawal include but are not limited to shaking, sweating, agitation, nervousness, nausea/vomiting, increased heart rate, and in rare cases delirium tremens which can be fatal.
  4. Tolerance – A tolerance to a substance is defined as the need for more and more quantity of that substance in order to achieve the desired effect. The first time someone gets drunk, it usually only takes one or two drinks. If you find yourself needing to drink six, twelve, maybe even more beers than that just to feel your desired level of intoxication, you, my friend, have an alcohol tolerance, and that is a surefire sign of alcoholism.

There is a commonly accepted AUD quiz. Here it is.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) offers a free online self-assessment as to whether or not you have alcohol use disorder. There are far too many questions to list here. All of the questions are important and play their own role, but we have determined there are nine pertinent questions. Reworded, they follow. The more answers of ‘yes’ you have to the following nine questions, the more likely you have alcoholism.

  1. Do you sometimes find yourself drinking more or for longer than originally desired?
  2. Do you sometimes want to cut back on alcohol intake but fail to?
  3. Do you need more time than average to recuperate from a night of drinking?
  4. Do you often feel a strong urge to drink?
  5. Does drinking ever interfere with your personal life, i.e. work or family?
  6. Do you sometimes find yourself giving up on or avoiding your hobbies in order to drink?
  7. Do you ever find yourself in dangerous or hostile situations due to drinking?
  8. Do you consistently need more alcohol to feel drunk?
  9. Do you ever experience any alcohol withdrawal symptoms when not drinking?

In Conclusion

Holidays are meant to be fun, family-filled, and ultimately safe. Contribute to safety this year and drink responsibly, if you drink at all. If you need help, then as stated, AA is not meant to be a substitute for rehab. If your drinking is excessive, and you question whether or not you’re an alcoholic, chances are you are. AA is, however, a wonderful place for recovering addicts to join and fight the good fight together. Good luck, and happy holidays.

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Trump Anti-Opioid Commission Overlooks Prevention, Favors Supply Cuts

First and foremost, this article is politically neutral. We are not here to oppose President Donald Trump, and we are not here to support him. America has become quite a divided nation in this regard. We are simply here to report on the latest report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and then to give some opinions from there. We will say that Trump’s commission has quite a long name, so from now on it will be referred to as the CCC, which we’ll say is short for ‘the commission combating the crisis.’

The CCC’s latest report was issued this October, and it heavily favors limiting and/or cutting-off opioid supply over reducing and/or eliminating demand for illegal opioid use. In other words, the CCC is extremely focused on both the criminal side of opioids and the way legal opioid prescriptions are handled. They are focused loosely at best on the prevention side of the fight against the opioid epidemic. This article explains why this is true, why this could be bad, and what could change if prevention were weighed evenly with cutting off supply.

Limiting Supply is a Good Thing, But…

Yes it is. Trump and his commission’s focus on criminal drug-dealing operations is extremely important business. There are plenty of high-scale dealers willing to do just about anything for another dollar. This includes violence, spiking drugs with deadly substances, and selling to anyone with cash – regardless of his or her condition. However, criminalizing regular people who happen to be opioid addicts has proven to be devastating. We all know how absurd some of the jail sentences are for non-violent drug offenders. So, does all of American law enforcement believe that addicts are diseased, not criminals? We think you know the answer here…

The CCC’s focus on prescriptions is also extremely important business, perhaps more so than the black market. After all, the vast majority of heroin addicts began with legal opioid pills such as Vicodin or OxyContin. It’s difficult to pinpoint who exactly is to blame for it, but this country is FLOODED with opioid pills. There are enough prescriptions for them written every year to give every single adult American his or her own bottle. Over-prescribing opioids is a terrible thing, and changes need to be made. However, just as with fighting the criminals, restructuring the legal side of opioids still doesn’t prevent people from abusing drugs.

The Commission’s Report

The full text of the report can be found here. The report in total makes 56 recommendations for how to combat the opioid crisis. Two of them are focused on prevention, and one of those two recommendations is for an ad campaign. Advertisements are old news. We live in a world now where we fast forward through them all, because we’ve recorded the program we actually want to see. Sorry, CCC, but ad campaigns simply don’t work. The commission’s other prevention-based recommendation is called SBIRT. It’s short for ‘screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment,’ and frankly it’s an awesome program. However, it does not prevent people from starting abuse – it (attempts to) identify people already abusing and prevent further abuse.

The commission did not invent SBIRT. It began with a theory presented by the Institute of Medicine, and is now endorsed by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SBIRT actually consists of three separate components: the screening, the intervention, and the referral to treatment. Here’s how it works.

Say you have a regular old doctor visit. You’re just getting a physical examination and hoping your cholesterol levels are normal. If the office you’re visiting participates in SBIRT, (which many do nowadays), part of your visit will include a screening for possible drug abuse. Your doctor will assess you and determine using standard screening methods if you are abusing substances. No, it’s not foolproof, but it is evidence-based.

Next comes the ‘BI’ part of SBIRT, the brief intervention. According to the SAMHSA website, during this part of the process, “a healthcare professional engages a patient showing risky substance use behaviors in a short conversation, providing feedback and advice.” If your screening shows you to be negative for substance abuse, there will not be an intervention. Finally comes, the ‘RT’ part, the referral to treatment. Again according to SAMHSA, “a healthcare professional provides a referral to brief therapy or additional treatment to patients who screen in need of additional services.”

Does it work?

Keith Humphreys is a government adviser in the field of drug prevention and treatment. He also happens to teach at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He also happens to think that SBIRT isn’t as effective as it should be. Humphreys was quoted as having said this recently to the New York Times: “The brief intervention part of S.B.I.R.T. has had success at changing problem drinking, but little with drug use. Referral to treatment has been a failure across the board. Almost no one follows up.”

Also, SBIRT does not prevent people from getting into drugs.

Preventive Methods to Combat the Epidemic

The remaining 54 recommendations made by the CCC involve in some way or another cutting off the supply of opioids to America. Obviously we are much more prepared to get rid of the drugs than we are to get rid of the addictions. This could be bad. It’s this writer’s humble opinion that we will never be able to fully get rid of drugs. They will always exist, no matter how many pounds of them are seized. It’s like that arcade game Whack-a-Mole; every time we knock one down, another will pop up.

If you prevent people from getting into drugs in the first place, it essentially doesn’t matter how many drugs are around. This is not to say we shouldn’t try and limit the supply of opioids. This is to say we should also be preventing the desire to abuse opioids altogether. Trump’s commission mentioned two methods of prevention in their report last month. However, there is an entire world of preventive methods out there to combat the opioid epidemic.

Let’s discuss a few of them. We think you, dear reader, will start to see just how important preventing drug abuse truly is.

The Nurse Family Partnership

Sometimes effective drug abuse prevention comes in a form you wouldn’t quite expect. The Nurse Family Partnership, or NFP, is a non-profit organization which places registered nurses in homes of first-time mothers who have low income. The nurses are there to educate the mothers about pregnancy and motherhood, help develop parenting skills, and promote infant health. It’s a beautiful program. What does it have to do with drug abuse prevention?

Well, in the results section of a fifteen-year long 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association all about the long-term effects of nurse home visitation, there is this sentence: “Parents of nurse-visited children reported that their children had fewer behavioral problems related to use of alcohol and other drugs.”

More up to date, a similar study, but twelve years long, was published in 2010 in Pediatrics and Adolescent Magazine that claimed, “By the time the firstborn child was 12 years of age, those visited by nurses, compared with those in the control group, reported fewer days of having used cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana during the 30-day period before the 12-year interview…”

The Good Behavior Game

Back in 1967, Muriel Sanders just began her new job as a fourth grade schoolteacher. In order to maintain good behavior in her classroom, she developed a kind of game. Students were given a point for each occurrence of bad behavior, and then whoever had the fewest points would win a prize. Two years later, Sanders, Harriet Barrish, and Montrose Wolfe (who invented the ‘time-out’ for kids), officially created the Good Behavior Game.

The game is still being used in classrooms. In fact, in 2010, NIDA, (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), published a paper with the title Behavior Game Played in Primary Grades Reduces Later Drug-Related Problems. The opening line of the paper: “Awarding smiley-face stickers to teams of first-graders in Baltimore for the good behavior of the individual team members greatly increased the likelihood that the students would experience an adolescence free of substance abuse and dependence.”

The Good Behavior Game doesn’t just work – it works quite well. From the NIDA paper as well comes this eye-opening graphic:

trump anti opioid commission

Communities That Care

The final program we will mention began at the University of Washington and is now national. Communities That Care, or CTC, creates support groups within communities nationwide that foster good decision making and try to utilize evidence-based methods to stop and/or prevent drug abuse. It works well too. A trial involving 4,407 students was conducted, and followed them for three years starting in fifth grade. There was a control group not given the CTC program, and a group that was given the CTC program.

According to their website, “Panel students from CTC communities were 25% less likely to have initiated delinquent behavior, 32% less likely to have initiated the use of alcohol and 33% less likely to have initiated cigarette use than control community youths.” These numbers are staggering.

In Conclusion

It should be known that Trump’s CCC report from last month does mention these programs, and more, but it does not actually recommend implementing them. One can guess that means governmental funding for them will not be supplied. This doesn’t mean they’ll disappear, but they could be used on a much grander scale. This writer, for one, remembers the D.A.R.E. program and how inefficient it was. Perhaps things like the Good Behavior Game and Communities That Care should be implemented.

Strangely, no specific funding amounts were given in the report at all. For this reason, the report was met with some disdain. For example, Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said the CCC’s report “starves the country for the real resources it needs to save American lives.” On the bright side, the report recommends a one-application process for states to receive multiple federal grants, which is a world easier than the current process of applying for each and every grant individually.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is head of the commission. He knows personally how tragic drug abuse can be, having lost more than one person close to him to drugs. Although nobody knows how much money will actually be spent to implement some of the report’s suggestions, Gov. Christie did say in late October on cable news program This Week that Trump would soon be asking for an increase in funding for the good fight.

Richard Frank, former Obama administration member and Harvard Medical School professor, believes that it would cost approximately $10 billion annually “to provide medication and counseling to everyone with opioid use disorder who is not already in treatment.” Considering how many billions of dollars are tossed around daily, this seems well worth the cost.

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Seven Myths about Going to Rehab

myths-about-going-to-rehabAddicts really have it bad when it comes to public perception. There is the stigma of addiction itself, whereby the public sees drug addicts or alcoholics as druggies or losers lower than the rest of us. Of course drugs themselves are horrible, but addiction is a disease. The average American does not tend to see it that way, or if he or she does, it doesn’t show on a grand scale. People with diabetes are treated much differently than heroin addicts.

Then there is the stigma surrounding seeking help as a drug addict or alcoholic. Entering a rehabilitation program tends to be seen as hitting rock bottom. The general public perception of an addict entering drug or alcohol rehab is not that of someone making perhaps the most important decision of their lives. It is seen as a weakness, a form of being helpless – when it’s really quite the opposite.

Finally, there are a handful of myths about rehab itself, what it’s like and whether or not it works. This article is meant to debunk the seven most popular of those myths and not just tell you but prove to you that rehab as an addict seeking recovery is the strongest and single most empowering move you can make. It’s not scary and it’s not overwhelming. This isn’t the mid-1900s, when doctors wore white coats and experimented with your brain. Today’s rehabilitation facility, (at least the good ones), are designed to make you feel as comfortable as possible all the way through your recovery process.

Let’s begin the debunking.

Myth No. 1 – “Rehab is like jail.”

This is absolutely false. Jail is like jail. Rehabilitation facilities are extremely accommodating, sometimes even offering extracurricular activities such as hiking, swimming, basketball or tennis. Of course there is around the clock treatment, abstaining from all illicit substances, and multiple forms of therapy (depending on your addiction), but there are also books and movies and sometimes computers with internet and comfortable furniture and usually decent food to eat. If this is jail, then you are Martha Stewart.

The only goal of any rehab facility is to provide a safe and friendly environment for an addict seeking help to detoxify from his or her substance(s) of choice, and to make his or her stay at the facility as comfortable as possible. Jail-like surroundings are not conducive to healing. Also, in case you are wondering, you can leave rehab at any time! You are not a prisoner! Unless of course your stay at the rehab is mandated, you are free to check out whenever you want to.

Myth No. 2 – “I’m not bad enough of an addict to need rehab.”

If you think you are an addict, you’re probably an addict. If you have questioned yourself as to whether or not you’re an addict, even if you came up with an answer of no, you’re probably an addict. Drug addiction and alcoholism creep in slowly but take hold fast. If you truly believe that you are a recreational user, and not addicted, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you easily say no when it’s offered to you? If not, then you might be an addict because recreational users have no issue declining the substance.

 

  • Do you have healthy relationships with more users than non-users? If so, then you might be an addict because we as humans tend to hang around those who have similar interests and hobbies, and do the same things as us. If you are with your friends 3 or 4 times a week doing drugs or drinking, addiction has likely set in.

 

  • Do you depend on or rely on the drug to ‘get you through’ certain things? Do you find yourself using before events like movies or concerts? If this is the case, then you might be an addict because recreational users never feel the need to be high for personal strength or gain.

 

  • Do you crave the drug often, thinking about doing it again next? If so, then you might be an addict because cravings are one of the main signs of addiction.

 

  • Do you spend money on the drug even though you may not be able to afford it? If so, then you might be an addict because non-addicts would never spend money on getting high when other things need to be paid.

 

Let us clarify. Being a recreational user of illegal drugs, or abusing legal drugs, is NOT okay. We are merely attempting to point out the differences between a recreational user and an addict. Recreational use is literally the edge of the diving board into the pool of addiction. Consider this: every single addict essentially began as a recreational user.

Myth No. 3 – “Rehab is for the rich and I can’t afford it.”

It’s no lie that rehabilitation can be expensive, especially if planning an extended stay at a facility. Health insurance covers most if not all of this cost. However, let’s face it. Not the majority of drug addicts have top of the line health insurance, if any at all. Thankfully there are many ways to enter into rehab without health insurance. Of course you will need to prove why you cannot get health insurance. You can’t just quit your job, lose your benefits, and jump right in.

We feel the best place for anyone, health insurance carrier or not, to begin looking is with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s locator tool, available here. This tool is designed to cater to your specific situation. Also, it might not be as expensive as you think. Find out what prices really are before you assume they’re all through the roof.

The average cost of a 90-day outpatient treatment program, with absolutely no insurance and no outside help, is around $5,000 which averages out to be about $55 a day. Now, subtract however much money you were spending on drugs and/or alcohol because you won’t be buying that in rehab! Say on average you spend $20 a day on your substance. Now, rehab costs $35 a day, well worth your health… and again that’s with NO insurance and NO outside help.

Of course, the glamorous and extremely lush rehabs you tend to see glorified in movies or online can be ridiculously priced, but these facilities are designed for the rich and famous and are priced accordingly.

Myth No. 4 – “I can quit on my own without the help of rehab.”

If you are an addict and you are thinking about quitting on your own, think twice.

There is a small chance you can. Then, on the other side of the coin, there is an overwhelming chance you will fail and relapse and then use even more than before. Quitting alone provides nothing but your sheer will to guard you against the widespread temptation of substance abuse. This is especially true for recovering alcoholics. Attempting to quit drinking on your own as an alcoholic is next to impossible. It’s literally everywhere.

The same goes for addicts of any other substance. If you abuse it, you know where to find it. Sure you can avoid those dark alleys, so to speak, but sometimes those dark alleys find you. Triggers of relapse can appear anywhere and in any form. Being in rehab eliminates the possibility of those triggers firing. Plus, scoring drugs in rehab is quite difficult… perhaps yet another difference between rehab and jail.

OK, so that was bathed in humor while also true. However, something very, very serious is how dangerous quitting alone can be. Most withdrawal symptoms from substances are intensely unpleasant when unassisted. In the cases of alcohol and opiates, unassisted withdrawal can be deadly.

Myth No. 5 – “You have to be at rock bottom to go to rehab and I am not.”

You yourself may not be at rock bottom, but that does not mean you don’t need help. You might even be what’s known as a functioning addict, meaning you can carry on a normal life, all except for the sober part. This is perhaps worse, since most functioning addicts do not believe they have a problem. Rehab is definitely the right place to go from rock bottom, but you do NOT have to be at rock bottom in order to enter rehabilitation.

Millions upon millions of Americans enter into treatment every year. It’s highly improbable that all of them felt they were at their absolute low point. Yet here’s something to consider. If you aren’t at rock bottom, but you’re continuing to abuse drugs or alcohol, where do you think you’re headed? Nobody ever abused their way to the top. Check into a rehab facility now before it’s too late and you do hit that personal rock bottom.

Myth No. 6 – “Rehab can be dangerous because it’s like quitting cold turkey.”

This is not true, and we’ll prove it with an age-old saying:  Fight fire with fire. Sometimes it takes one to know one, so to speak, and this is the same with the human body. Drugs like buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are designed to aid in the process of recovery; tricking the body into thinking it’s receiving the substance of choice. However, these recovery drugs are infinitely safer than street drugs or being addicted to prescription pills.

Less severe opioid addicts and most alcoholics will generally be given either buprenorphine or naltrexone, respectively. In severe opioid addiction cases, methadone is often preferred. Antidepressants are also commonly used to ward off some of the negative mental effects of withdrawal, regardless of substance.

Myth No. 7 – “Rehab is for celebrities.”

While there are plenty of television shows that glorify rehab, they are shows, forms of entertainment. Entering into a rehab to help better your life is not a form of entertainment; it is a form of self-help. By making the choice to go to rehab you are allowing as much help in as you can. Rehab does not belong just to child actors and outdated musicians. Rehab is meant to be a haven of assistance for those who wish to abstain from illicit drug use.

If you see celebrities in rehab fail, do not let it discourage you. The majority of those who complete a treatment program remain sober. TV is not real life, and at this point in time, doesn’t even necessarily reflect it.

In Conclusion

Rehab is not an expensive jail meant for the privileged that can be dangerous and doesn’t even help. Rehab is the opposite of all of these things. It is a freeing place, meant for all who seek it, and is safe and comfortable and absolutely works. This writer once heard someone tell him that rehab is like working out because you’re only going to get from it what you put into it.

If you enter rehab with the mindset that it’s not going to work, then the chances are it’s not going to work. Yet if you give it your all and let it work for you, it will. Enter rehab if you are an addict seeking help.

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Press Release

Help Reduce Suicide Rates

Coronado, California November 10, 2017:
The Coronado Bridge has been called the deadliest bridge in America. Nearly 400 people have committed suicide by jumping off this bridge. Unfortunately, this is the fate of many people who suffer with mental health and substance abuse issues.Coronado Bridge

Many of our Veterans have found the Coronado Bridge to be a convenient and easily accessible means to this end.   According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the risk for suicide is 22 percent higher among Veterans when compared to U.S. non-Veteran adults. VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin said “These findings are deeply concerning, which is why I made suicide prevention my top clinical priority.”

We must all do our part in helping to prevent suicides especially among our Veterans who have risked their lives in service to our country. On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, Dr. Matthew J. Bruhin, Ph.D., LMFT, the CEO of Apex Recovery Rebab was on his way home to Coronado. As he drove across the bridge, he noticed a man walking along the edge. He watched as the man then put one leg over the 3-foot-high wall of the bridge, prompting Dr. Bruhin to take immediate action. He pulled his car over and began speaking to him. Thankfully, the man was convinced not to jump. During their conversation, Dr. Bruhin learned that the man was a Veteran and had recently become homeless. He also had a history of substance abuse, like many of our country’s Veterans. Apex Recovery Rehab, one the country’s leading addiction treatment centers, as well as, the only residential treatment center offering all levels of care to hold a Joint Commission Certification offered aid to this individual. He is now in counseling and a GoFundMe page was set up for him by the community of Coronado earning $1,175 to date. You can contribute to this fund by going to https://www.gofundme.com/coronado-bridge-cares-fund. He was also placed in one of Apex Recovery Rehab’s premier treatment facilities. It is everyday citizens, like us, who can help save and improve the lives of others.

There are many things each of us can do to prevent the rate of suicide on the Coronado Bridge. We can contact our local government and insist that the bridge be modified by installing nets underneath it. Perhaps, the 3-foot-high guard rail is not enough of an impediment to prevent people from easily climbing over it. Finally, we should all get more involved in helping other people by speaking out about Mental Health, Drug Addiction and Veteran’s Suicide issues.

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Apex Rehab: Only Facility in San Diego with Joint Commission Accreditation

apex rehab joint commission san diegoApex Rehab is located on Camino del Rio in gorgeous San Diego, California. Apex recently received accreditation for behavioral health from the Joint Commission, which is “America’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care,” according to their website . This makes Apex Rehab the first and only current drug and alcohol rehab in San Diego with accreditation from the Joint Commission.

This article will explain why this is so important.

Behavioral health is a complicated term. Preferred nowadays to the term ‘mental health,’ it’s the science of emotion, behavior and mental health all in one. According to Psychology Today, “Behavioral health includes not only ways of promoting well-being by preventing or intervening in mental illness such as depression or anxiety, but also has as an aim preventing or intervening in substance abuse or other addictions.”

In the world of substance addiction recovery, this is a goldmine, because literally about half of American drug addicts and/or alcoholics also suffer from some type of mental disorder. It’s become no secret to the healthcare industry that substance abuse and mental disorders are linked. So, in a way, a rehabilitation facility that offers behavioral health therapy is offering help for a dual diagnosis.

This is a critical component for a rehab facility to have during today’s times, when heroin and prescription pills and alcohol are ravaging our nation. The current drug epidemic knows no borders, and every state in the US is suffering horribly. It would make sense then that the state with the highest population, California, is suffering pretty particularly horribly.

Californian Addiction

Approximately 5 million residents of California are either drug addicts or alcoholics. That’s nearly 20% of the entire population of the golden state. According to California’s own Department of Public Health, about eleven people die every single day in the state due to fatal drug overdoses. We are talking over 4,000 people a year. Plus, literally tens of thousands of trips to the emergency room in California are drug-related every year, (40,000 in the last three years), and that does NOT include alcohol-related ER visits.

Ten years ago, only two of the 58 counties in California experienced an annual fatal overdose rate of 20 people per every 100,000 people. Today, nineteen of the counties qualify for this horrifying statistic.

California has a lot of guns. A lot of states do, but CA’s population is huge compared to most other states, so naturally there are lots of firearms. In fact, among premature deaths, guns cause the fifth most in the state. The following information pertains solely to premature deaths.

California has some seriously violent areas. There are maximum security prisons and gangs are very real. Every day you can read about someone killing someone else on the west coast. Homicide, in fact, is the fourth most prevalent cause of death in the state.

People don’t just kill other people, though. Very sadly, sometimes people end their own lives, and in California, suicide is actually third among leading causes of death. Perhaps this too is a statistic altered by the fact that so many people live in California. Also, so many people drive in California. This writer has a friend who works in L.A. who once said, “People get out of their cars on the highway and grill burgers sometimes when it’s real bad.” Unfortunately, car accidents cause the second most deaths in the state.

You may have guessed by now where this is going. Even if you have indeed figured it out, you cannot read the following sentence without feeling some sort of shock and awe. In a state known somewhat for its violence, and for its insane driving, the single most prevalent cause of death in California is drug abuse turned fatal. Perhaps even worse is how few Californians are seeking professional help.

Not Getting the Help they Need

For every one hundred Californian drug/alcohol addicts, only 15 of them will ever receive any kind of treatment. This means over 4 million of the state’s population are untreated addicts. At this point in time it’s well-known that addiction is a disease of the brain. This is not a good scenario.

Alarmingly, this trend is nationwide. Take a look at the graphic below. Believe it or not, California, at 15% as stated above, is actually ahead of the national average (11%) for percentage of addicts that have received or are receiving treatment.

people who have received treatment vs not receieve treatment

So, for every 100 Americans struggling with their addictions, barely ten will seek the help they need. Is this true for any other disease?!?!? Since it couldn’t be worded any better, bear in mind how few addicts in this country receive the help they need as you read this from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

The substance use recovery process is highly personal and occurs via many pathways. For many Americans, this recovery process includes access to and use of substance use treatment at specialty facilities, such as a hospital (only as an inpatient), a drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility (as an inpatient or an outpatient), or a mental health center. Having access to substance use treatment and supportive services to address various needs associated with substance use disorders is critical for those who are in need of treatment.”

Now, let’s get real. The chances are that if you’re reading this, either you are an addict or someone you know and love is an addict. Also, there’s a decent chance you’re reading this from somewhere in California. The fact of the matter is that the services of a professional rehabilitation facility are definitely needed. Do not be like the majority and ignore the disease. Let’s talk about not only why rehab is a necessity for addicts, but which one is the best in California.

Note: Obviously, if you or someone you love is indeed an addict, reading this article should be low on your priority list. Seek help immediately, especially if any level of danger exists.

Why Behavioral Health Rehabilitation is a Must for Addicts

Addiction is not an easy thing to treat. It’s nothing that can be fixed with an antibiotic or some good exercise, (although the latter may help a little). According to CRC Health Group, “Because addiction has so many dimensions and disrupts so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment for this illness is never simple. Drug rehabs must help the individual stop using drugs and maintain a drug-free lifestyle, while achieving productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society.”

So, obviously the main goal is to stop use of the drug or of alcohol altogether. However, rehab does much more than that. The quote from CRC Health goes on to say, “Effective drug abuse and drug rehab treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences.”

It’s not only about sobriety. Rehabilitation will also:

  • Remove you from the stresses of your everyday life
  • Provide therapy for all stressful aspects
  • Medicate you as necessary to ensure a safe process
  • Offer outdoor activities and extracurriculars
  • Improve living habits
  • Possibly create bonds that are lifelong

Behavioral health rehabilitation is the ultimate form of recovery for a substance addict. As discussed, this type of rehab focuses both of the substance addiction and any concurrent mental disorders. The location of the rehab you choose is important, and should be somewhere calm and with weather you enjoy. In the state of California, perhaps no better city for behavioral health rehab exists than San Diego.

And perhaps no better rehab exists in California than Apex Rehab.

Why Apex Rehab should be the Number One Choice

As mentioned, Apex is the only rehab accredited by the Joint Commission in all of San Diego. This is a huge deal. Since 1972, the Joint Commission has been issuing accreditation to behavior health rehabs, and approximately 2,500 organizations are accredited as of today. It’s the single most stringent accreditation organization in the country. You don’t just pay for it and get it.

Accreditation from the Joint Commission “concentrates on operational systems critical to the safety and quality of care, treatment or services provided to the individual,” as per their website. The requirements for qualification are developed by a team consisting of health care experts, health care providers, measurement experts, and also people who have been in rehabilitation. This ensures a well-rounded point of view.

Now, consider this. Apex Rehab not only met the stringent requirements for accreditation; it exceeded the requirements and was given behavioral health home certification. According to the Joint Commission:

“Behavioral Health Home Certification is an optional certification to recognize organizations that coordinate and integrate all health care needs of a population served. The optional certification goes above and beyond what is required for accreditation and provides additional recognition as a health home.”

Better than the Rest

There are two main reasons Joint Commission accreditation makes Apex Rehab the best in San Diego. One is obvious. The facility is so top-notch that it was accredited in the first place. Second is the benefit of having accreditation from the Joint Commission. Patient safety is strengthened, risk management is improved, surveyors are on-hand for expert advice and/or education, and much more. For a complete list of Joint Commission accreditation benefits, click here.

With a stay at Apex Rehab, you can expect:

  • Reduced Drug Use
  • Improved Mental Health
  • Improved Overall Health
  • Healthier Relationships
  • Better Employment Opportunities
  • A safe, secure, professional environment

Of course, there is never a guarantee that rehabilitation will work for every single person every single time. The fact is that when it comes to inpatient treatment, 73% of those who enter a program complete the program, and 21% of those who enter a program remain sober for at least the next five years. Before you go thinking that these numbers are not exactly favorable, consider this…

Among those who enter into a treatment program for Type I Diabetes, about 40% experience a relapse of symptoms. For asthma, the number is as high as 70%. Addiction, like diabetes or asthma, is a disease, so one can take comfort in knowing that the relapse rates for substance addicts are similar to those of other common diseases.

Again, to quote CRC Health, because they are the nation’s leading provider of treatment and educational programs: “Three decades of scientific research and clinical practice have yielded a variety of effective approaches to drug addiction treatment. Extensive data document that drug addiction treatment is as effective as are treatments for most other similarly chronic medical conditions.”

In Conclusion

So there you have it. Rehab works, it’s a necessity, not nearly enough who need it actually go, and Apex Rehab may just be one of if not the best one in California. Apex is at least the best in San Diego, which may indeed be the single best location for recovery in the entire nation.

Apex Rehab offers detoxification services, residential treatment, partial hospitalization, inpatient rehab & outpatient rehab – all of which are accredited by the Joint Commission. You’d be a fool to go anywhere else, really, so contact them today.

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How to Prepare for Rehab | Getting Started

The first step in preparing yourself for recovery is to take a deep breath and recognize that you have made a healthy decision for your future.  Now that you’ve come this far, here are the next steps you should take before entering recovery.

The most important thing to remember when preparing for rehab is to keep it simple. It is important that you take care of any work, family or financial obligations.  Because while you are in treatment, your entire focus should ideally be on yourself and your recovery.

how to prepare for rehab

Spend positive time with loved ones.

The decision to go into treatment has likely come with encouragement and motivation from close family and friends. Before treatment, spend time with loved ones — this will help keep you strong in your decision to get sober.

Get the proper rest.

Take care of yourself before you go to drug and alcohol rehab. Get some rest, and try to eat right. You’ll get more of this when you go to drug rehab, but the initial detox period can be physically taxing so it doesn’t hurt to start out with a full tank.

Be positive and patient.

Going into rehab with a positive attitude is essential to getting the most out of your detox experience and maintaining a healthy outlook on life. Don’t get discouraged if results aren’t seen right away.

Leaving Children for Treatment

If you have children, talk to them one-on-one. Kids do not need to know every detail of addiction, but they can understand being sick. Explain that just like they see a doctor when they are sick, you too are getting help for something that is making you sick. Allow your children to ask questions.

Prepare your home for your absence.

If you live alone, pay any bills you might have ahead of time, and have your mail and newspapers held.  If you have pets, ask a family member or friend to take care of them while you’re away or line up their stay at a kennel.  You might also want to have a neighbor, friend, or family member check on your home periodically while you’re away.

Tie up any Loose Ends Before Going into Treatment

Before entering rehab, there are several steps you may need to take to prepare. In general, it is important that you take care of any work, family or financial obligations.  Because while you are in treatment, your entire focus should ideally be on yourself and your recovery.  If you are stressing about your life outside of treatment it will be difficult to maintain that focus. Additionally, if you return to a chaotic situation upon completing treatment, you may be more prone to relapse. After all, stress is a major relapse trigger.

Keep an Open Mind.

Keeping an open mind is an essential part to getting the most out of recovery. It is not easy to go into treatment without expectations and preconceived ideas but the more you can be open to the process, the more you will be able to benefit from it. Notice when you have expectations about yourself or your treatment program, and try to surrender them.

If you have made the decision to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, then you have taken the first step towards a healthier, happier, more mindful life.  Sometimes, just making the decision to address your addiction is the most difficult part of the process.  For many people, it can take a series of hardships to arrive at this point, like the loss of relationships, deteriorating health, financial problems, and more.  Even if it might not seem like it right at this moment, your circumstances can only improve upon freeing yourself from addiction.  Yes, the process is challenging, but the rewards are more than worth it.

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San Diego Scientist Receives Grant for Addiction Medicine

Heroin. Cocaine. Meth. Nicotine. These drugs have more in common than you may know. Yes, they’re all dangerous, all addictive, and all far too prevalent in American society. But did you know they all basically work the same way? Someone who did know that, and acted on it, is Nicholas Cosford, a professor with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego.

Cosford has come up with a compound that could possibly end addiction to all of the above-named substances. This makes sense, because in addition to being a professor, Cosford is the co-founder and head of Drug Discovery at Camino Pharma.

He recently received a $10.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA), because it seems to be working. His idea is not original, just a tweak on a previously-established school of thought. Still, this brilliant professor from beautiful San Diego, California might have just cured drug addiction. We will explain how, but first let’s discuss how addiction workbiologically, and what the previous ideas for ending addiction were.

san diego scientist receives grant addiction medicine

Glutamate + Dopamine = Addiction

Put extremely basically, for this writer is no scientist, here is how shooting heroin, sniffing coke, smoking meth, and even smoking a cigarette, are all essentially doing the same thing to your brain. There are receptors all over the brain, which are tiny portals for neurotransmitters to go through. A neurotransmitter is what you may remember from high school as being called ‘a messenger.’ There are several different neurotransmitters, and they call carry different messages. The two most important in drug use are glutamate and dopamine.

Glutamate is known as an excitatory neurotransmitter because it stimulates the brain. At normal levels, it’s responsible for learning and memory in humans. It’s actually the most prevalent excitatory neurotransmitter in the whole nervous system.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure we feel when we engage in reward-motivated behavior. For example, it feels good to eat a candy bar, right? Have you ever wondered why? It’s because the sweetness of the candy is releasing dopamine into your brain’s receptors, causing you to feel joy from the behavior you engaged in – snacking on a Snickers.

Here’s where it gets tricky. When someone does a drug, say something strong like heroin, the brain gets absolutely flooded with dopamine and it feels good – it’s what we call a high or a buzz. At the same time, glutamate is also being produced at abnormally high levels. This causes the brain to basically remember how good the drug use felt, store that information, and then cause a desire for that drug again whenever a memory of using it is recalled.

OK that might be a lot of words. Here’s the true layman version: Doing drugs causes the brain to make the body feel really good, but it also causes the body to want to feel that same pleasure whenever drugs are around or thought of. This is why addicts have cravings, and this explains triggers, or things that cause cravings.

Here’s an example. Say Peter used heroin for years with his best friend Alice, but he quit last month. Chances are that every time he sees Alice, or even a picture of her, that his brain is going to associate her with the memory of feeling good (glutamate), and if he does use heroin again, the pleasure will return (dopamine) and again be remembered as a rewarding behavior (glutamate again).

It’s called addiction, and it’s a vicious cycle. The physical way to kill addiction is to simply not use the drug. This is nearly impossible for an addict. The physiological way to kill addiction is to enter into a treatment facility and take advantage of the medical professionalism. The psychological way to kill addiction is to attend therapy. Biology is concerned only with the actual body and brain.

Blocking Dopamine? Too dangerous.

In the past, the biological answer to addiction has been to block the dopamine receptors. The brain can release all the dopamine it wants, but if that dopamine is not received, no high, right? And if there’s no high, then why do the drug at all? Voila – addiction over.

That may seem good and dandy, but blocking dopamine receptors can cause some seriously horrible side effects. After all, it is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that when at healthy levels is essential in our day-to-day function as people. Here are just some of the possible side effects of using a dopamine antagonist, a drug that blocks dopamine receptors:

  • Tardive dyskinesia (involuntary body movements)
  • Impotence and/or loss of libido in men
  • Menstrual dysfunction in women
  • Galactorrhea (spontaneous milk-flow from breasts) in both sexes
  • Parkinsonism
  • Irregular heartbeat

In the more recent past, it has been discussed to block glutamate receptors. This way, the learning and the memory associated with drug use is tampered down and possibly could prevent compulsive drug use and ultimately addiction. In fact, in 2015, a study was published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience that specifically dealt with glutamate and drug addiction. The findings serve as the perfect precursor to the current work of Nicholas Cosford.

Blocking Glutamate? A 2015 Study.

When it comes to the brain, there are two types of reward: natural and drug. A natural reward is critical to our lives, something such as how we feel when we drink water when thirsty. A drug reward is not critical, and is only “…consumed for [its] ability to produce pleasure and euphoria.”

The idea of the study was to explore three things in general: the effects that glutamate has on drug reward, the then-current status of using glutamate antagonists to combat drug addiction, and, in their words, to “…discuss future studies needed to address currently unanswered gaps in knowledge, which will further elucidate the role of glutamate in the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse.” In short, they reinforced the knowledge that glutamate plays a crucial role in drug addiction. They also warned of how dangerous blocking glutamate receptors can be.

“Significantly, blockade of glutamate transmission… attenuates the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Further, blocking glutamate transmission in brain regions associated with reward… likewise attenuates drug reward.”

Translation Into Layman’s Terms: The author of the study is saying that blocking glutamate receptors not only decreases the actual amount of pleasure (dopamine), but that it also reduces the tendency of the brain to remember and learn that drug abuse is rewarding. So, where dopamine blocking only reduces pleasure, glutamate blocking reduces both pleasure and desire. What could go wrong?

This next section, a bit of a longer quote directly from the study, explains what could go wrong. Don’t worry; there will be another translation!

“The ubiquitous distribution of glutamate makes targeting glutamate transmission to decrease the reinforcing effects of drug rewards very challenging. Further, it must be emphasized here that glutamate transmission is involved in many other physiological functions such as learning, memory, regulation of normal behavior and reinforcing effects of natural rewards. Hence, there is a need to develop medications that selectively attenuate the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse without affecting other physiological functions.”

Translation Into Layman’s Terms: Because there is just so much glutamate produced by the body, and for so many different functions, simply blocking its receptors would cause some serious problems. These problems could include complications in essential functions such as learning and/or ‘regulation of normal behavior,’ which frankly is terrifying. Therefore, it’s a must that some kind of medication or compound be made that only blocks those glutamate receptors associated with ‘the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse’.

These words were published only two years ago. Professor Nicholas Cosford may very well have found that compound – one that blocks all the right receptors, and doesn’t affect those that help us live normally.

Professor Cosford and the SBP Compound

“Our institute is very good at doing basic biology,” said Cosford to the San Diego Tribune, linked above. He was not lying. He and his partners recently developed a compound called SBP-0069330. According to the wordage of the SD Tribune, it “…regulates certain receptors on brain cells for the neurotransmitter glutamate.” What the compound actually scientifically does is “…target the metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGlu2),” according to Cosford.

Again, using layman’s terms, the compound manages to focus on blocking those glutamate receptors most associated with addiction to heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and nicotine. SBP-0069330 has even been proven successful in rats, creatures which believe it or not are over 90% identical genetically to human beings. (This is why they’ve been used in such experiments for such a long time).

The ultimate goal is obviously testing the compound on people. Before that happens, a lot of work needs to be done. Toxicity tests have to be performed. Much more volume has to be created. These are just two of many things that need to be accomplished before it’s tested on humans. That’s where a nice and handy $10.8 million from NIDA comes into play.

The Grant

Three more years of preclinical work: that is what the grant is funding. Toxicity tests and volume increases and all of the other extremely important work that needs to be done before this compound enters a human being will hopefully be paid for by this grant. Obviously multimillion dollar grants are not tossed around on a regular basis, so NIDA, one of if not the leading institute on substance abuse, truly believes in Cosford’s compound.

An ulterior motive of the grant being given was also to quicken the process of getting the compound from research-level to an actual product, able to marketed. Cosford said to the SD Tribune that they have “…the ability to do very early-stage drug discovery that gets to the in vivo proof of concept stage.” (This means the tests on rats were successful and proved that the compound works in live animals). “What we don’t have is the ability to move things from the in vivo concept into the clinic.”

Nearly eleven million big ones ought to be a great start, which is wonderful news. Consider the implications of a drug that actually cures heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, meth addiction, and even cigarette addiction, which is the single largest preventable killer worldwide. It’s almost a shame that three more years are needed, but it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to medicine.

In Conclusion

The process is not over yet, and surely something could go wrong and compound SBP-0069330 might be canned for all time. Or, after three years, the compound might be perfected into a medicine and then made available to the public. Whichever drug company decides to endorse the end product will be delivering a significant punch in the battle against the drug epidemic that’s all but swept our nation.

It definitely helps that Professor Cosford is also the head of a pharmaceutical company. However, they are a start-up at this point, and they focus more on cancer therapies. It’s likely a different pharma company would have to endorse, but it seems rather likely one will.

In the conclusion of the Frontiers in Neuroscience study discussed earlier, it says that “…the FDA has approved several medications that attenuate glutamate transmission…” but that these medications are on route to become treatments for central nervous system disorders. While addiction may fall under that category, Cosford’s compound is apparently the first to be able to be able to target specific glutamate receptors associated with drug reward, and therefore with addiction. This is truly some exciting stuff.

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