Category Archives: Recovery Support

Gene Mutation that Contributes to Addiction Discovered

Gene Mutation that Contributes to Addiction Discovered

Researchers have known for some time that genetics is one of the risk factors for substance abuse. One of the big questions remaining is why are some people at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse than others?

William R. Lovallo, Ph.D., a researcher at Oklahoma University College of Medicine, published a study that focused on how a person’s genes play a role in addiction. Dr. Lovallo’s research demonstrated that a minuscule genetic mutation can put some people at higher risk for drug or alcohol addiction. The results of his research have been published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the leading journal on the subject worldwide.

Nature, Nurture and Causes of Addiction

Many people wonder whether addiction risk is something that a person is born with (nature) or if it is the result of the family environment (nurture). The risk factors for addiction involve nature and nurture. Dr. Lovallo’s research looked at a particular gene and how it responded to a particular type of environment.

COMT is a gene that helps the body control dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate attention, movement, emotional responses and feeling pleasure. Dopamine is also released when someone drinks alcohol or uses drugs like amphetamines (“uppers”).

Link Between Genes and Childhood Adversity

Dr. Lovallo discovered the relationship between a person’s genes and childhood adversity. People who have the genetic mutation of the COMT gene have a baseline of being more vulnerable to the effects of stress early in life. This type of stress could include divorce, emotionally distant parents, etc. Children who have a heightened vulnerability to stress may turn to drugs or alcohol before their mid-teens, which is one of the most telling independent predictors of addiction.

He explained that experiencing adversity during one’s early life doesn’t always lead to drug addiction or alcoholism. The study does show that people who carry this genetic mutation are at higher risk for developing an addiction if they had a significant level of stress during childhood.

Since COMT helps to determine how well dopamine works in the brain, it helps to explain why some people are at higher risk than others. The gene mutation varies from person to person, affecting how dopamine works for each person differently. It would be oversimplifying matters to say that a specific “addiction gene” has been discovered. However, there are certain genes that respond to the environment in ways that can place some people at higher risk for developing an addiction.

ways to practice self-care in recovery

Ways to Practice Self-Care in Recovery

Ways to Practice Self-Care in Recovery

Triumph on the journey of recovery always uses multiple paths. Long-term recovery success depends on examining, attending to, and maintaining the parts of one’s life that constitute who we are as individuals. Practicing self-care in recovery include four primary areas – the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual facets of an individual.

Physical Self-Care in Recovery

Individuals struggling with addiction have difficulties believing that they are worthy of certain things, such as love, respect, or to be treated with dignity. Sometimes it can be hard to envision someone wanting to date them, which leads to “letting themselves go.”

In other cases, individuals may work themselves to the point of exhaustion. They can ignore symptoms of poor health and keep right on working despite a cold, flu, or other illness. Those struggling with addiction must remind themselves regularly that they do indeed matter.

Fortunately, when it comes to physical care, a little bit can go a long way. For example, the following activities can be easy to integrate into daily life:

  • Practice Tai-Chi
  • Take daily bicycle rides
  • Walk for 30 minutes a day
  • Perform stretching exercises

Often it takes verbal reminders with themselves consistently, enforcing that it is not only okay to take care of their own physical needs, but a responsibility to themselves to do so. It must be acknowledged that it is acceptable to allow the world to move past them for however long they need to take care of themselves.

Most importantly, individuals in recovery who maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep to increase their long-term recovery success. With regular practice, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will become a good habit to keep the momentum going and further the potential of relapse.

Mental Care

Granted, everyone has bad days, but individuals recovering from addiction can sometimes beat themselves up unnecessarily for even the smallest infractions. This behavior can lead to a deluge of negative self-talk. Negativity in almost any form can quickly turn them down a dark path, potentially right back into their addiction if they are not careful.

Conversely, individuals also need to be careful about staying grounded when things go well. When individuals struggling with addiction begin to get their life back on an upward swing and life starts to go “right” for them, any kind of bump or hiccup can easily get blown out of proportion. Panic and fear can set in which, and if left unchecked, it can become the first step on an inevitable downward spiral.

Even if the recovery path is seemingly moving along without any hurdles, a premature feeling of having all issues under control may occur. When this happens, those in recovery may feel they no longer need support, guidance, or counseling. Therefore, it is important to keep mentally engaged, such as:

  • Have a good laugh
  • Commit acts of kindness
  • Regularly express gratitude
  • Strengthen social connections

To assist in managing both the ups and downs experienced during recovery, it is critical they surround themselves with people who can help them stay grounded, stable and help gain a better perspective when even the small molehill begins to look like a giant mountain.

Emotional Self-Care in Recovery

Mental and emotional care share a strong link, but each requires individual attention to maintain a long-term, successful recovery trajectory. Individuals in recovery often become flooded with a wide range of emotions they may have been repressing for years, if not decades. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of recovery is learning how to deal with this sudden onslaught of highly chaotic emotions appropriately.

Caring for one’s emotional health requires a self-awareness beyond that needed for maintaining good physical or mental health. Positive emotional care involves one to:

  • Make time to rest, relax, and recharge
  • Accept responsibility for their actions
  • Take time to reflect and journal feelings
  • Be aware of your self-talk and inner critic

Individuals in recovery can also quickly ping-pong between almost violent emotional extremes.

Proper emotional self-care in recovery involves accepting this reality and learning to not act on the constant changing whirlwind of emotions. Instead, they should simply feel them, walk through them, and learn how to make better, more rational decisions when they are no longer in the grip of powerful and intense emotions.

Spiritual Care

Spiritual care can sometimes involve religious practices, but not always. In some cases, individuals struggling with addiction may even be dealing with some religious abuse that contributed to their addiction. In others, spiritual self-care may involve finding ways to reconnect with spiritual practices while simultaneously disconnecting them from religious or spiritually abusive practices.

Spiritual care may include:

  • Traveling
  • Meditation
  • Self-exploration
  • Religious practices

Every human being has their own unique beliefs regarding spiritual matters. Where we might have come from, where we might be going, and what our purpose is on earth are part of the human experience. For some, not having the answers or questioning currently held beliefs can trigger negative behaviors. Finding a safe place to investigate and explore one’s personal beliefs free from criticism or judgment needs to be a part of any recovery plan.

Care Support

If you or someone you love has struggled with addiction and is beginning the recovery journey, contact us to learn more about our post-care services. We customize recovery plans to help those in recovery grow and thrive as they re-enter a healthy life. 

Five Unexpected Benefits of Sobriety

5 Unexpected Benefits of Sobriety

Five Unexpected Benefits of Sobriety

When you struggle with addiction, your life is nowhere near how you imagined it ever would be. Somehow the life you’re living is not the one that you thought you would, and you’re not sure that you can ever get it back. The truth is that you can, indeed, reclaim your life and live the one you were meant to. When you decide to take steps to break the chains of addiction in your life, you might be surprised to find some unexpected benefits of sobriety that come along.

1. You’ll sleep better at night.

A report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism detailed the effects of alcohol consumption and sleep disorders. Since alcohol consumption can disrupt REM sleep cycles, those who suffer from addiction disease also tend to suffer from poor sleep architecture and sleep disorders.

A 2007 study from the Society for Neuroscience and a study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep also confirmed similar effects on one’s sleep and sleep disturbances with the use of cocaine and opiates. Sleep is vital for healthy brain development, regeneration, and overall healthy wellbeing. With sobriety, restorative, and refreshing nights of sleep return!

2. You’ll be able to put your words into actions.

When you’re actively in using drugs or alcohol, you know that many of your actions are not those you’d make when you are sober. You feel poorly about those words and actions, but your dependence prevents you from putting your remorseful feelings into action. This brings additional guilt and shame into your life and often exacerbates your drive for one more drink or one more hit.

When you’re sober, you are empowered! You’ll no longer find yourself spouting empty words that tear down relationships; you’ll instead be strong enough to follow through with the good intentions you’ve always had.

3. You’ll find more money in your pockets.

Depending on the substance, those who suffer from addiction find they spend anywhere between $20-$1200 a day on their habit. It’s nothing for some in active addiction to spend over $100,000 on alcohol or drugs, and often at the risk of losing their consistent paychecks in the process. Additionally, financial decisions made when using a substance can be catastrophic to you and your family.

When you focus on your sobriety, you’ll find you’re making smarter financial decisions and spending your money more wisely because your judgment is not clouded with intoxicated decision processes.

4. You’ll have better long-term health and life-span.

Drugs and alcohol wreak havoc on your body. Abusing drugs and alcohol can do damage to your body physically in organs like your lungs and your liver, as well as in your brain, which is your body’s command center. Substance abuse impacts your health tremendously. When your body is suffering, so does the rest of you.

When you work on your sobriety, though, you’ll also be working on improving your overall health and longevity. When you are living in sobriety, drugs, or alcohol no longer change your brain’s chemistry and weaken your immune system. Instead, you’ll find you may come back to a healthy weight, and your body will crave things that continue to make it feel amazing, not drag it down.

5. You’ll become passionate about life again.

Yes, becoming sober has many physical and monetary advantages, not to mention benefits to repairing and restoring relationships with friends and family members. Most importantly, though, becoming sober helps you become the you that you were always meant to be. You’ll be able to focus your time, talent, and resources into activities and relationships you’re passionate about. In doing so, you’ll find that the healthy and natural highs you get from doing the things you love drive you to enjoy and be thankful for every day you have.

You’ll be reminded that you don’t need alcohol or drugs to enjoy this beautiful life and that you want to continue living substance-free for all the of the unexpected benefits of sobriety you’ve found.

Recovery is Possible

Though there are so many reasons to focus on your sobriety. The number one reason is that you deserve to live an enriching and fulfilling life.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse, the compassionate staff at Desert Cove Recovery will walk with you upon the path to your new sobriety.

We know that recovery and sobriety are hard-fought. We want to show you how to live a full and happy life substance-free. We’re ready to help you take those first steps and find the real you again. Contact us today and start living the life you were meant to live.

Share the image below if you have experienced any unexpected benefits of sobriety!

unexpected benefits of sobriety, drug rehab arizona

fulfilling life after addiction

Living a Fulfilling Life after Addiction

Living a Fulfilling Life after Addiction

Addiction is estimated to affect as many as 20 million people in the U.S. and nearly 7 percent of people across the industrialized world. Although the prevalence of this very serious chronic ailment remains high, a great deal of progress has been made over the last few decades in its treatment. In fact, we know far more about addiction now and how to effectively treat it than at any time in the past.

However, once many individuals exit rehab, they begin to realize the hard work is not behind them. The real challenge lies in staying the course and preventing addiction from reconquering one’s life. For many who have struggled with alcohol or other substance use disorders, the key in remaining free of addiction’s iron grasp lies in constructing a positive life after addiction.

The Real Key to Long-Term Success

Despite the fact that evidence-based treatment is now able to produce short-term recovery success rates of 90 percent or higher, the most important factor in long-term successful recovery remains the ability to reconstruct one’s life in ways that do not rely on the use of substances as a central girder. As one man who beat his addictions put it, “the decision to get off drugs was easy, but the decision to stay off drugs was always elusive.”

12-step programs have long required that their participants subscribe to a higher power as a means to displace substance abuse as life’s foundational pillar. But many who once struggled with addiction have successfully gotten their lives together without turning their free-will over to a deity. How do they do it?

Discover Your Deeper Passions

One of the most surefire ways to beat addiction over the long term is by realizing a simple truth: There are many things that are far more important and rewarding than using drugs or alcohol. In fact, aside from using substances in controlled moderation, abusing drugs and alcohol ends up consuming an individual to the point where they no longer care about anything else besides their next fix.

The truth is that drug abuse produces nothing of lasting value. Someone who replaces their drug habit with a hobby or other activity about which they are passionate may soon find that they are able to enjoy other endeavors they never would have had the time for beforehand. If someone who overuses alcohol spends 40 hours per week in an unproductive fog, quitting drinking and spending that time on something like learning the piano or becoming a computer programmer could easily turn them into an expert in a matter of years. And once that ball gets rolling, it tends to be self-reinforcing.

The simple fact is that people who are truly passionate about something — anything — simply don’t have time to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Continued after video:

Rekindle Relationships with Friends & Family

One of the oft-heard refrains from people who have managed to stay on the course to recovery is that they feel almost as if time has stopped: Their sober version is a close facsimile of the person that they were prior to starting heavy drug or alcohol abuse. This is because relationships are the benchmarks of our lives, helping to fill out the map of where we have been and where we may be heading. And so much of what makes up normal relationships with people, including a clear recollection of shared experiences, is sacrificed when drugs and alcohol are the primary focus of one’s life.

Forging new relationships or rekindling old ones with friends and family, especially those who do not abuse drugs and alcohol, is another one of the most effective ways to prevent a relapse. The simple truth is that people who have not centered their lives around drugs or alcohol tend to be a hugely positive influence on someone who is trying to live a fulfilling life after addiction. And those who one may have shut out or turned away as a result of their substance abuse may now be far more open to once again becoming a part of the life of someone who has demonstrated a genuine will to change and to stay sober.

 A Shift in Perspective

Contrarily, those who remain sober for extended periods are often shocked at how intolerable and uninviting the lifestyles of fellow substance abusers are when seen from the other side. Some people who have formerly suffered from addiction find continuing motivation in the realization of all the trouble that they left behind when they made the decision to give up their addictions. Many former addicts point to the deaths of close substance-abusing friends and acquaintances as one of the most sobering wakeup calls that they have received.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

One of the most well-attested findings in the addiction recovery literature is the fact that those with strong social support networks are able to successfully recover at rates that far exceed those who are alone in their efforts or who have only fellow addicts to turn to for social support. Friends, family and addiction support groups are all fine ways of maintaining that social support bulwark against relapse that is so critical in the first years of recovery.

Desert Cove Recovery is focused on helping people to achieve sobriety and live a fulfilling life after addiction. With our modern, evidence-based approach, we will work with those who choose sobriety to find approaches that are suitable to their individual needs.

Unlike many other programs, we focus strongly on helping our clients build and maintain adequate and lasting social support while discovering their unique purpose in life. We aim to help them to construct a meaningful existence that is driven by healthy passions and that is no longer an empty cell in which their fleeting impulses keep them confined.

For more information on our revolutionary and highly effective long-term approach to addiction recovery, call Desert Cove Recovery today.

dating while in recovery

Dating While in Recovery

Dating While in Recovery

When you’re in a recovery program for addiction, you should be focusing on yourself and ways you can live a sober life. A lot of time and energy goes into the recovery process which is why dating while in recovery is not always recommended.

How Dating May Hinder Recovery

While some may look at dating as no big deal, it can bring its own set of challenges and obstacles that may hinder recovery. This is not to say that a partner may not offer much-needed support, but if things start heading south, so could your recovery.

Since your focus is on getting and staying sober, much of your time may be dedicated to meetings and therapy sessions. This lack of time to spend with a significant other could compromise a relationship. Not everyone will understand why you can’t make it to dinner or why you may need to cancel at the last minute because you desperately need to go to a meeting.

Continued after video:

If you’re a recovering alcoholic and are having struggles with remaining sober, your date should respectfully abstain from drinking while you’re out together. If he or she doesn’t, this could pose an unwanted temptation that may be difficult to resist. This may be a red flag to end this relationship. You will also want to avoid people from your past who were linked to your addiction. This can be a major roadblock to your recovery.

Also, if the relationship doesn’t work out, it may lead you to relapse because you’re heartbroken. Heartbreak can lead to many unhealthy behaviors with drinking and drug use being at the top of the list for those in recovery.

There are many people who will substitute their substance addiction for an addiction to a relationship. This can also be dangerous and hinder a person’s recovery. An addictive relationship while dating is not healthy for anyone, especially someone who is in recovery.

How to Handle Dating While in Recovery

Although it can be tricky, there are many people who do date successfully while in recovery. If the relationship is new and began while you’re in recovery, there are some things you can do to make it healthier for you.

Be Honest

Be honest about your addiction and your past and current struggles. Honesty is a big component of any relationship. Be upfront about your addiction and recovery. Some people can’t handle this, so it’s better to know sooner rather than later.

Don’t compromise your recovery time for date time. Anyone you’re dating should understand the importance of therapy and other activities you need to make your recovery last. They shouldn’t encourage you to skip those activities for a date. They should understand that your sobriety comes first. It’s taken you a long time to get to where you are and the journey isn’t over yet.

Take Your Time

Don’t rush into anything. You shouldn’t put a relationship in fast forward mode while in recovery. Take it slow. You have a lot on your plate and don’t need a high-stress, high-maintenance relationship to cloud your goals. Anyone worth being with will be understanding and won’t force you to take your relationship any faster than you feel comfortable. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, much like your recovery.

It’s OK To Be “High Maintenance”

Choose date locations that support your recovery. While some people may look at that as being high maintenance, it’s not high maintenance to choose a location that will support your recovery. While a quiet dinner may be a great choice for a date, a bar or nightclub is not. Either one of those may lead to the temptation to drink or do other activities that don’t support your recovery. Another good date choice may be a movie or physical activity like a hike or run. Choosing the right location can make all the difference in your recovery. If your partner can’t understand this, then perhaps it’s time to move on.

Be Prepared for ALL of the Emotions

Channel emotions into positive activities if heartbreak happens. No matter how hard you try to make a relationship work, there are many times when things fail and you end up getting your heart broken. It’s important to channel any negative emotions and sadness that comes out of this into positive activities like exercising, volunteering, and maintaining a healthy diet. You may also want to try journaling to get all of your raw emotions down on paper. The important thing is to find an activity that does not involve revisiting your old patterns. You don’t want to risk your sobriety for a broken relationship.

Get Support

If you’re dating while in recovery or considering starting a relationship, the folks at Desert Cove Recovery can help to keep you on track. A variety of rehab and recovery programs are offered including 12-step programs, holistic treatment, and extended care programs.

We will help to find the right program for you and give you the support and encouragement you need in all aspects of your recovery, including dating while in recovery. Contact us today to get started on the path to a sober life.

 

ways to overcome stress in addiction recovery

Ways to Overcome Stress in Addiction Recovery

Ways to Overcome Stress in Addiction Recovery

The use of drugs or alcohol often begins as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, seemingly harmless habits can turn into addictions that require treatment. How those affected address stress in addiction recovery plays an important role in the rehabilitation process.

Fortunately, professional treatment centers have strategies to help you overcome stress during the recovery process including:

  • Keep a stress journal
  • Self-examination of coping skills
  • Laughing
  • Fitness regimes
  • Get better sleep
  • Socializing with friends

Applying one or more of these methods can help decrease stress levels, improve life balance, and reduce the chance of relapse.

Keep a Stress Journal

Starting a stress journal and making daily entries can provide insight into the stressors that affect you. Over time, you can use the journal to identify the actions you take that led to the exposure of stressors. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to track any mistakes you made in dealing with them, giving you a blueprint of how to avoid them in the future.

Maintaining a stress journal should be simple. Spend just a couple minutes a day collecting a few key pieces of information include the following:

  • Cause of the stress
  • Your reaction to the situation
  • How you alleviated the stress
  • Emotional reactions to the stressor

Combined, these details will paint a picture you can reflect on, opening up opportunities to avoid stressors and enhancing your recovery.

Examine Your Coping Skills

In the past, you may have turned to drugs or alcohol to deal with stress in your life. However, if you have been through treatment, you now recognize this is an unhealthy response. Similarly, excessive sleeping, cigarette smoking, binge watching TV programs, and procrastinating are also poor ways of dealing with stress. Using your journal, identify when you turn to one of these coping mechanisms.

The ways in which you cope with stress in addiction is the second part of developing a healthy approach to managing stress. The first, identifying what and where your stressors exist, is balanced by examining and changing poor coping skills.

Continued after infographic:

ways to overcome stress in addiction recovery

Get Your 30 Minutes of Exercise

While a keeping a stress journal and examining your coping methods can reduce stress by themselves, one of the most powerful ways is through exercise. Doctors recommend getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. A moderate to high intensity workout can consist of any physical activity that engages and strengthens your different muscle groups.

In addition to the various physical health benefits that exercise provides, exercise reduces stress. As blood pumps faster and delivers more oxygen to the brain, the brain responds by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that interact with pleasure receptors in the brain. The result is the creation of a natural “high” and positive emotion.

The joy you experience may very likely encourage you to exercise more often. More importantly, more exercise will continue to lower the level of stress hormones in your body.

Socialize with Friends

Socializing with friends you trust can help you in two ways. First, it provides a safe outlet for your negative feelings. Discussing your problems with friends can reduce the stress you feel about different situations. This is true even if they are not able to offer advice on resolving a particular issue.

Secondly, socializing and enjoying the time you spend with your friends is a positive escape from stress. Having fun with friends takes your mind off of stressful problems and gives your body a chance to reduce the stress you’re experiencing. Socializing is a return to normalcy, a feeling that is a positive reflection of your recovery progress.

Get a Better Quality of Sleep

While sleeping excessively to avoid problems is unhealthy, many people experience a sleep deficiency that can become equally problematic. If you are not getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night, you may be causing a boost in stress levels.

To counteract this imbalance of stress, look for ways to get a better quality of sleep each night. You may need to limit caffeine consumption to the morning hours, shut down electronic devices an hour before bed, or engage in relaxation techniques. Yoga, meditation, or reading books can help you relax before bed. As an added bonus, these practices are also great for reducing stress by themselves.

Laughter is Still the Best Medicine

When people are stressed, the body creates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, combined with a boosted release of adrenaline, causes a more intense feeling of stress. However, when we laugh, the brain releases endorphins that counteract the effects that stress hormones have on the body. You can initiate this biochemical reaction by watching a funny movie or TV show, searching for videos of stand-up comics, or going to a live comedy show. Any entertainment that will bring out your sense of humor can help you reduce stress in a natural and healthy way.

Successful Stress Management

The road to recovery can be long and hard. It is important to work with a treatment center who understands the complex rehabilitation journey. Sobriety is not only about breaking free from physical addiction through detoxification, but also about the mental fortitude required to remain drug and alcohol free.

Rehabilitation centers such as Desert Cove Recovery, have trained professionals specializing in treating the mental aspects of recovery. Much of the mental recovery process is indeed about managing stress and how to cope in the presence of stressors.

If you or a loved are may be struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or stress in addiction, know that there are specially trained professionals here to help. It is never too late to seek professional guidance when it comes to substance abuse. The most important step is finding the help you or your loved one needs. 

 

 

 

 

breakthrough in measuring pain may help to reduce opioid crisis

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain May Help Reduce Opioid Crisis

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain May Help Reduce Opioid CrisisResearchers at Indiana University’s School of Medicine have developed a blood test that identifies biomarkers in the blood which can help to determine the severity of a patient’s pain. The results could potentially help doctors to accurately measure pain on a scale. Some people believe this breakthrough in measuring pain may help reduce opioid addiction and ultimately the opioid crisis.

Currently, doctors must rely on their patients’ accounts of the amount of pain they are experiencing and suggest a treatment plan accordingly. A more accurate way to measure pain could lead to better treatment options for patients.

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain: Researchers Developed Prototype for Blood Test for Pain

The study was led by Alexander Niculescu, MD, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor, and was published in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry. Hundreds of participants were tracked to find biomarkers in the blood to that can help doctors to objectively determine how much pain a patient is experiencing. This blood test, which is the first of its kind, would also help doctors to understand a patient’s long-term prognosis.

The blood test can objectively tell doctors whether a patient is experiencing pain and how severe the pain is. It’s important to have an objective way to measure this symptom since until now the feeling of pain has been subjective. Physicians have to rely on what patients tell them about their pain or whatever clinical observations they can make to determine their patients’ pain levels. This blood test promises to give doctors a tool to treat and prescribe medications more appropriately for people experiencing pain.

Biomarkers in Blood Help Doctors Assess Pain Levels

The researchers looked at biomarkers in the blood. These biomarkers work in a similar manner to the way glucose is a biomarker to diabetes; they let doctors assess the severity of their patient’s pain and then provide appropriate treatment. It’s hoped this prototype may alleviate the problems that have contributed to the current opioid crisis.

The goal of pain management is to match the patient with the medication that is going to provide the best level of relief with the fewest side effects. Dr. Niculescu points out that through precision health, by having “lots of options geared toward the needs of specific patients, you prevent larger problems, like the opioid epidemic, from occurring.”

The study experts on the team found biomarkers that match with non-addictive drugs for treating pain and can also help to predict when patients may experience pain going forward. They will assist doctors in determining if a patient is experiencing chronic pain which may result in future Emergency Room visits.

Further research will focus on establishing whether there are some markers for specific conditions, such as headaches or fibromyalgia, or for ones that work better for men or women.

Neural Pathway Linked to Addiction and Depression

Neural Pathway Linked to Addiction and Depression

New research conducted by a team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore has identified a neural pathway that is linked to addiction and depression. Their findings, which were recently published in the journal Nature, found an increased intensity of signals passing between the hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens.

Pleasure and Reward System Governed by the Brain

The pleasure and reward system is one of the most important systems that the brain regulates in humans. It gives us the “nudge” we need to eat, drink and be sexually active. All these activities are needed to ensure the continued survival of our species.

The way the reward system operates is also an important factor in many types of addictive behavior.

Professor Scott Thompson, Ph.D., the leader of the research team, stated that the two parts of the brain (the hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens) are known to be important in processing rewarding experiences for humans. He went on to say that the communication between the two is stronger in a case of addiction, although the underlying mechanisms were unknown to the team.

Team Tests Depression Hypothesis

The research team tested a new hypothesis: whether the same signals became weaker in people living with depression. Since one symptom of depression is anhedonia (a loss of pleasure in usually pleasurable activities), the researchers wanted to discover whether weakening signals in the neural pathways could be the underlying cause of depressed patients.

Using mice, the team focused on brain circuitry that plays an important role in goal-oriented behavior. They wanted to see if they could change the animals’ activity. They added light-sensitive proteins into the neurons forming the brain’s circuitry. Once this step was completed, the researchers hoped to control the signals by blocking or boosting the levels between the hippocampus and the nucleus.

The researchers created a false reward memory in the mice that received the light-sensitive protein by exposing them to light during a four-second period. This meant the mice learned to associate pleasure with the location where they felt light exposure.

After a day, the researchers took the mice back to the place where they had received the false memory of associating pleasure with light and exposed them to light again. The goal was to shut down the signal between the hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens this time, however.

They confirmed this pathway is critical to the way the brain is wired for reward association. Once the pathway is shut down, the mice stopped liking the location where they originally received the reward memory.

Next, the researchers looked at depression. They tried to boost brain activity in depressed mice but this part of the experiment wasn’t successful. The researchers had to administer antidepressants to the mice before they could imprint any artificial reward memories in the brain of depressed mice.

Dr. E. Albert Reece, the dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said these are exciting results that will bring us closer to understanding what’s happening in the brains of clinically depressed patients.

Survey on Opioids in the Workplace Shows Impact on Employers

Survey on Opioids in the Workplace Shows Impact on Employers

Survey on Opioids in the Workplace Shows Impact on EmployersThe results of a survey conducted by The Hartford, a leading property and casualty insurance company, have found the current opioid epidemic is having a “tangible and growing impact” on employers across the US. The survey also found that a majority of Human Resources (HR) professionals and workers feel they don’t have the knowledge or resources necessary to deal with addiction.

Companies of All Sizes Participated in Opioid Survey

Two thousand workers and 500 HR leaders participated in the national survey, which collected responses from companies of all sizes.

• Two-thirds of HR professionals (67 percent) said their company is being impacted by opioid use today or will be in the future.
• Just under two-thirds of the HR professionals (65 percent) revealed that opioid addiction is impacting their company financially.

Employees, HR Staff Feel Unprepared for Substance Use Problems

The Hartford survey is an opportunity for employers to provide addiction education materials to workers, as well as develop and implement consistent policies and procedures regarding drug misuse.

• Many employees (76 percent), as well as HR professionals (64 percent), don’t feel they are well trained when it comes to helping co-workers who have an opioid addiction issue.
• When asked if they could spot the signs of opioid addiction, 24 percent of HR professionals and 18 percent of employees felt extremely or very confident they could.
• Nineteen percent of HR professionals and employees feel they are extremely or very knowledgeable about how to reduce the risk of opioid addiction.

Survey Methodology

The Opioids in the Workplace survey was conducted with an online research panel on August 9-15, 2018. A representative sample of 2,500 US adults from across the nation was divided into two groups. Two thousand full and part-time workers and 500 participants with an HR role answered questions.

The margin of error for the first group is +/-2.2 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. For the second group, the margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Mayor Proposes Alcohol Tax to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment

Mayor Proposes Alcohol Tax to Pay for Substance Abuse Treatment

The mayor of Anchorage, AK Ethan Berkowitz wants to ask voters’ permission to enact a new retail sales tax that would be dedicated to substance abuse treatment and homelessness services. The five percent tax is necessary since state-level support is declining.

Local Tax to be Used to Pay for Public Health Programs

This local tax would be collected and used for a number of public health and safety programs, including the following:

The tax money collected could also be used for:

  • Cold-weather housing and shelter
  • Storing personal property seized from illegal camps
  • Anchorage’s “Mobile Intervention Team,” made up of social workers and a firefighter, who triage homeless campers
  • Building a future “Alaska Center for Treatment,” or matching funds for private investment in a center

Mayor Berkowitz stated recently that unfortunately, alcohol is “an incredibly profitable business in this town.” He went on to say that it’s a cost-causer that isn’t paying the cost.

Voter Majority Needed to Bring in New Alcohol Tax for Treatment

The tax proposal will be introduced to the Alaska Assembly shortly. It needs eight Assembly votes to be placed on the April 2019 ballot. If a majority of voters indicate they are in favor of the measure, the new tax will be brought into effect.

Three Assembly members have signed on to co-sponsor the tax proposal: Dick Traini, Eric Croft, and Felix Rivera.

This isn’t the first time an alcohol tax has been proposed to the Assembly. Similar measures have been proposed on seven other occasions since 1984. Traini was involved in three of those efforts (1994, 2015 and 2017). Citizens have pushed for ballot initiatives in 2004 and 2007.

The city can choose to dedicate revenue to specific programs. According to Mayor Berkowitz, the alcohol tax would raise $11-$15 million. This amount would replace state revenue that has fallen in recent years.

The tax would amount to the following for different types of alcohol bought in Anchorage:

• $0.40 on a six-pack of beer
• $0.50 for a $10 mixed drink
• $1.75 for a $35 bottle of wine
• $2.50 for a $50 bottle of liquor

The Assembly could create exemptions for certain types of alcohol.