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PTSD and Addiction: Substance Abuse in the Military

PTSD and Addiction in our Armed Forces In honor of Memorial Day 2015, I wanted to call attention to the high comorbidity between PTSD and addiction in our Armed Forces population. Although illicit drug use is lower among U.S. military personnel than among civilians, heavy alcohol and prescription drug abuse is prevalent and on the rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, military personnel with multiple deployments and combat exposure have the highest risk of developing substance abuse problems. The high comorbidity between addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has much to do with the widespread untreated trauma issues found in our Armed Forces population. According to a 2008 Department of Defense study, prescription drug abuse among service members is higher than that of our non-Armed Forces population. In 2008, 11% of service members reported abusing prescription drugs; this number increased from 2005 when it was 4%. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, more than 2 of 10 Veterans struggling with PTSD also suffer from a substance abuse addiction, and almost 1 out of 3 Veterans seeking treatment for addiction also struggle with PTSD. In regard to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in VA suffer from a substance abuse problem. War veterans with PTSD tend to be binge drinkers and use nicotine twice as much as veterans without PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is significantly more common among veterans than the general population.  PTSD can cause intrusive memories, intense anxiety, and nightmarish flashbacks that interfere with daily life and can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. Many individuals struggling with... read more

Hepatitis C Treatment: WHO Advocates for Affordable Options

Hepatitis C Treatment: WHO Advocates for Accessibility In an attempt to overcome the high costs of Hepatitis C treatment, the World Health Organization (WHO) has added the latest HCV regimens to its essential medicines list. Without lowering the cost of hep-C drugs, the WHO fears that the curative regimens may not be accessible to the majority of people struggling with the virus worldwide. The WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines is updated every two years and is being increasingly used by institutions and governments to develop their own essential medicine lists. The most recent version of WHO’s list was released in the beginning of May 2015 and included the emphasis on hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is present in both high-income and lower-income nations. Affecting more than 150 million people worldwide, the majority of people struggling with HCV live in Third-World countries. Unfortunately, these countries lack the resources needed to cover healthcare costs and provide HCV treatment. The World Health Organization’s focus on hep-C treatment is also an attempt to democratize healthcare across the world. The drug still remains very expensive in the United States, preventing many people from obtaining access to it. With one pill of Gilead’s Sovaldi costing $1,000 in the United States, many people are unable to receive the necessary treatment. Insurance companies are reluctant to cover the full cost of the treatment, leaving many Americans unable to afford the treatment regimen. Gilead has cut the cost of treatment in several Third-World countries, but more needs to be done in order to ensure global access to the drug. Treatments for hep-C continue to evolve rapidly, with several... read more

Sobriety Diary: Life Lessons Learned in Recovery

Life Lessons Learned in Sobriety My time spent in recovery from drugs and alcohol has been filled with little miracles, blessings, and many, many lessons. Each day in sobriety I learn something new about the world around me and how to best interact with said world. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned through working a spiritual program and living free from all mind-altering substances. »Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness → We hear this all the time in therapy and in the rooms, but I have learned the hard way that asking for help is one of the bravest things a person can do. For awhile in my sobriety, I carried around this false belief that just because I was sober, I should be 100% healthy, not needing any therapy, psychiatry, or anything of the like. Unfortunately, this false belief lead me to some dark days in my sobriety. This is when I truly learned that strong people recognize when they are struggling and reach out for the appropriate help. I learned to ask my Higher Power of my understanding for help, but also started reaching out to sober supports and my outpatient treatment team. My life goes much more smoothly when I have a team of strong women by my side, helping me to sort through challenging emotions and learn more about my strengths along the way. »Letting go of the past → This has been a huge lesson for me in sobriety. Letting go of the past does not mean forgetting about it and pretending it never happened; rather,... read more

Addiction and the Family: The Importance of Family Recovery

Addiction and the Family: Addiction Is a Family Disease Addiction and the Family: We often hear that addiction is a family disease, but what exactly does this mean? Alcoholism and drug addiction not only affects the addict, but also the entire family. When one family is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, the entire family system suffers. Addiction is a family disease that affects the family’s mental and physical health, unity, finances, and overall family dynamics. Not only does the addicted individual need recovery, but the entire family does as well. How does the family recover? First and foremost, family members must realize that they can not “fix” their loved one, and that it is necessary for them to work a recovery program as well if they wish to heal from the suffering caused by their loved one’s addiction. Because addiction affects everyone in the family, it is essential that each family member receives the necessary support required to heal from the past pain and learn how to live peacefully regardless of their loved one’s recovery. Addiction and the Family: Fortunately, help is available for families of addicts. Family counseling services and support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can be incredibly helpful for families struggling with a loved one’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. Family systems are complex, but family counseling can provide a safe space for loved ones to learn how to communicate openly and set healthy boundaries. One of the primary goals in family counseling at Recovery Advocates is to discover and utilize a family’s strengths to bring about positive change in all areas of life, including the loved... read more

Mental Health Month 2015: Mental Illness and Addiction

Mental Health Month 2015 During the month of May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the rest of the country celebrate Mental Health Month, bringing awareness to the important issue of mental health. Mental Health Month is an important time of year for fighting stigma, educating the public, providing support, and advocating for equal care for those struggling with mental illness. According to NAMI, 1 in every 5 American adults experience a mental illness of some sort, and approximately 13.6 million American adults live with a serious mental illness. Mental illness affects countless American individuals and families on a daily basis and it is important that we remain educated and informed about mental health issues. This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is B4Stage4 — focusing on how people can address their mental health issues early on, rather than at an advanced stage when the symptoms are more severe. Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions or disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. There are many mental illnesses including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. The signs and symptoms vary depending on the mental illness, but some of the common ones include (but are not limited to): extreme mood swings, changes in appetite, weight loss or gain, feeling sad or down, isolation and withdrawal, inability to cope with daily problems, substance abuse, suicidal thinking, changes in sex drive, low energy, detachment from reality, and trouble sleeping. Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder manifest as physical maladies such as headaches, stomach pain, and other unexpected aches and pains. Statistics... read more

Baby Boomer Drug Abuse: A Growing Problem with the Elderly

Baby Boomer Drug Abuse: Older Adults’ Increasing Struggles with Addiction According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, aging baby boomers are struggling with drug abuse at increasingly higher rates.. The report states that the amount of older adults abusing drugs, getting arrested for drug-related crimes, and dying from drug overdoses is increasing steadily. The baby boomer generation’s struggle with drug abuse has been a topic of discussion for the past decade, but Wall Street Journal’s new report is calling attention to the growing problem as the 76 million baby boomers, who as youth used drugs at the highest rates of any other generation, reach older age. Baby boomer drug abuse is a significant, but often overlooked, issue in the United States. The implications of this trend are important for everyone to be aware of, but they are especially significant for those who work in the substance abuse field. People over 70 years of age are the fastest growing group in the United States, and despite the common co-occurrence of substance use disorders in the baby boomer generation, health care providers often overlook this issue. The predominant drug concerns for the older generation are prescription drug abuse and binge drinking. Baby Boomer Drug Abuse: Behavioral health expert David Oslin, MD., said a few years ago that older adults tend to have increased sensitivity to alcohol and prescription medications compared with younger adults. Older adults also tend to take more medications, which can interact poorly with alcohol and other drugs. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the baby boomer generation’s chance of dying due to a drug overdose... read more

Kratom: A Dangerous and Addictive Legal Drug

Kratom: Legal, Addictive, and Dangerous After the tragic suicide of Ian Mautner last July that was attributed to kratom, Broward County has been making efforts to ban the herbal drug. Mautner’s mother watched her 17-year-old son’s life spiral out of control as he started taking this legal substance at kava bars with his friends. Mautner said her once happy and successful son started spending hundreds of dollars on kratom each day, becoming depressed, delusional, argumentative, and addicted to the substance. Ian was in and out of rehabs for several years before plunging to his death on I-95.  What is it? Kratom, found in head shops and kava bars, is a designer drug that comes from a tree in Southeast Asia and produces both a stimulant and sedative effect. It is a green, leaf-like substance that can come in its traditional plant form, teas, powders, or pills. In its natural form and in small quantities, it is known for its calming effects and is safe to use in holistic medicine, particularly in Thailand. Unfortunately, the kratom found in the United States is not typically found in its natural form, and is being combined with other drugs. As people try different new ways to get high, it has become dangerous and addictive. An overdose includes hallucinations, aggression, tremors, delusions, loss of muscle control, nausea, and listlessness. This designer drug is addictive and a person addicted to it will experience withdrawal symptoms similar to opiate withdrawal. Banning kratom in Florida This January, Florida lawmakers proposed a bill banning kratom in the Sunshine State. The bill would make it a Schedule I controlled substance, classifying it as a drug with a... read more

Alcohol Rehab Florida: How Can Treatment Help Me?

How Can an Alcohol Rehab Florida Help Me? Alcoholism is a chronic disease and if left untreated, it can have serious, life-threatening consequences. Alcohol dependency is also progressive meaning that over time, it gets worse and never better. Fortunately, there are many different types of alcohol rehab Florida programs that can help an alcoholic learn how to live a healthy, productive life without using alcohol and other substances. Every alcohol rehab Florida differs in the variety of services and programs they offer, and it is important that you find the best treatment program for your specific situation. In honor of National Alcohol Awareness Month, I hope that this blog answers some of the questions you may have about alcohol rehab Florida programs and the process of alcohol dependency treatment programs. What is alcohol detoxification? Alcohol detox is an essential preliminary step in treating alcoholism. Because the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous, a medically supervised detox is highly recommended. An alcohol detox program typically involves a doctor administering medications to control withdrawal symptoms, as well as education about alcohol dependency and addiction in general. The individual is supervised by health professional to ensure his/her safety during the detoxification period. The symptoms of withdrawal include: sweats, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, tremors, hallucinations, agitation, paranoia, seizures. Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Detox may last anywhere from a few days to more than a week, and can occur in a hospital, a specific detox unit, an outpatient clinic, or an alcohol rehab Florida program. Making it through the uncomfortable alcohol... read more

Florida Flakka: The Dangerous Drug Trend in the Sunshine State

Florida Flakka: A Serious Problem We posted a blog a few weeks about the rise of flakka, particularly in South Florida. Since then, there have been more troubling news stories regarding this dangerous new designer drug right here in South Florida. Although the news stories may sound comical — they typically involve a naked person running down the street — Florida flakka is not a joke. The high from flakka is dangerous, uncontrollable, and leads to violence and hallucinations. This week, Fort Lauderdale police reported that a man streaking across Broward Boulevard through traffic was high on flakka. The drug caused him to believe that people were chasing him and attempting to kill him. He later told police that he was hoping to get hit by a car so that the imaginary people would stop chasing him. This is not the only frightening story involving flakka that has taken place in South Florida. Since January 2015, flakka has been the cause for a naked gunman on a roof in Lake Worth shouting that people were trying to kill him; a man impaling himself on a security fence trying to escape murderers in Fort Lauderdale; and a man kicking down a glass door at a Fort Lauderdale police station because he thought he was being chased by a mob of people. The Dangers of Florida Flakka Florida flakka is dangerous for addicts, people experimenting with the drug, and the public at large. Most of these bizarre, dangerous incidents are a result of “excited delirium” from either smoking, snorting, swallowing, or injecting the drug. Excited delirium is a syndrome where the body... read more

Alcoholism: Myths and Misconceptions about Alcohol Dependency

Alcoholism Myths and Misconceptions Alcoholism was classified as an illness by the American Medical Association in 1956 and in 1991, it was classified under the psychiatric and medical sections of the International Classification of Diseases. Despite its recognition by major organizations as a disease, there are many myths and misconceptions about alcoholism that still circulate. In honor of National Alcohol Awareness Month, I hope to debunk some of the most common myths. » Myth: Alcoholism is a moral dilemma Fact: Alcoholism is a multi-faceted, chronic, progressive, and fatal disease if left untreated. Alcohol dependency has nothing to do with morals or values. Alcoholism is characterized by tolerance, physical dependence, withdrawal, craving, and a loss of control. Alcoholism is a disease that affects an individual’s physical, mental, and spiritual conditions. The risk of developing alcoholism does not lie in one’s morals or values; rather, alcoholism is a result of various genetic and environmental factors. Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic (it lasts a person’s entire lifetime), has symptoms, and usually follows a predictable course.   » Myth: Alcoholics lack willpower and could stop drinking if they tried harder Fact: Alcoholism has very little to do with willpower — as mentioned in the last myth, alcoholism is a disease. People do not recover from illnesses by simply deciding that they will stop being sick. In actuality, alcoholics typically have a great deal of willpower. An alcoholic will go to many lengths to obtain their alcohol and will often hold down jobs way after they should due to their sheer willpower to convince themselves they do not have a problem. The craving... read more

Share Your Experience, Strength & Hope!

This blog is for you, so please send us any suggestions, personal stories, before and after photos, or anything else you would like to see on here. We look forward to hearing your experience, strength and hope. Send any submissions to alayna@ratcflorida.com.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don't wait any longer. Let Recovery Advocates Treatment Center be your advocate for recovery, call our confidential addiction treatment helpline at 844-723-9256.