One of the fundamental tenets of recovery is that it ultimately has to be the addict’s decision. Conventional wisdom indicates that an addict can’t get clean for anyone else but themselves and they have to truly want to enter treatment. This assertion is of little comfort, however, to the millions of families that have been ripped apart by drug and alcohol abuse. At some point, every loved one of an addict has wished they could force them to get help, but with relapse rates among recovering addicts being as high as they are, is that really the answer? Certain members of the Pennsylvania State Legislature are thinking it might be.
It’s Presidents Day and regardless of how one may view the current occupant of the Oval Office, the Presidency is still among the most powerful, prestigious and revered institutions in the world. The bottom line is that when the President opens their mouth, the entire country and a majority of the world listens, including those affected by drug and alcohol addiction and their families. While the approach to addiction treatment in the US is experiencing constant innovation and refinement amid continuous research and clinical exploration, it has undergone an especially noticeable evolution over the past 30 years, both philosophically and practically. As America observes another Presidents’ Day, and 46 years after President Nixon declared war on drugs, it’s also worth observing what role our past few Chief Executives have had in this evolution.
Venezuela and the United States have, for a long time, had a difficult and contentious relationship. Going back decades, even before the inflammatory back-and-forth between the Bush and Chavez Administrations, these two fundamentally different political powers have had a hard time seeing eye-to-eye on nearly every major issue. This week, the relationship got worse when the US Treasury Department blacklisted one of Venezuela’s top leaders, Vice President Tareck El Aissami. The move comes amid claims that El Aissami oversaw narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) from Venezuela, some of which ended up in Mexico and the US.
Officials in Louisville. Kentucky recently reported a significant spike in opioid-related drug overdoses, citing 52 incidents in a 32-hour period, a considerable increase from the average of 22 per day that Louisville’s Metro Emergency Services handled last year. Although the state of Kentucky has been front and center in the fight against prescription painkiller addiction, these numbers are of great concern even to those most familiar with the problem. Officials at local and regional hospitals have accepted this rampant addiction as a new reality. There were 695 overdose cases through the first month of 2017, a 33 percent increase from last year.
Although the link between substance abuse and mental illness has been well documented, many fail to recognize the presence of a dual-diagnosis disorder in themselves or a loved one. Whether they’re unable to see that their substance abuse and mood disorders are related or they’re unwilling to admit that a problem exists at all, millions struggle with addiction and co-occurring mental illness each year without getting the help they need. The National Association of Mental Illness estimates that of the roughly 20 million Americans suffering from addiction, 53 percent suffer from at least one serious mental illness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health reports that nearly eight million people suffer from some sort of dual-diagnosis disorder.
It is now generally accepted philosophy in the addiction treatment community that customized treatment plans that address each patient’s individual substance abuse history are crucial for success. A new study from researchers at Yale University may now be taking this philosophy one step further through exploration of gene variants to treat opioid addiction patients. Led by Yale student Andrew H. Smith, the study was funded largely by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and shed some interesting light on the role of genetics in the continued innovation of treatment for chemical dependency. It was published on January 24th in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Let’s start with some statistics. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there were over 54,000 overdose deaths in 2015, easily eclipsing the record-setting number of roughly 47,000 the prior year. Nearly 35,000 of the overdose deaths in 2015 were the result of opioid drugs; and over 12,000 of those were caused by heroin. Put these figures up against the fact that roughly three percent (31,619) of the country’s 800,000-plus physicians are certified to prescribe the potentially lifesaving drug buprenorphine. Roughly 23 million Americans suffer from addiction and only a fraction of them have access to one of this critical treatment and maintenance resource.
Music was Rob Tomlinson’s first drug. During a recent conversation with Recovery Unplugged, the vocalist and guitarist for Philadelphia’s The Post War Dream confessed to rushing home every day after school to listen to videos from MTV-2 that he had recorded off of his cable box. “It was my first taste of downloading music illegally,” he quips before going on. The son of a performing musician, and self-proclaimed victim of bullying, Rob taught himself how to play guitar, in large part, to establish an identity for himself: “I was so afraid of being alone and not fitting in.”