Category Archives: Recovery Support

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

The 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 an 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

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:

• Clearing illegal camps
• A substance abuse treatment center
• An expanded Anchorage Safety Patrol

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.

staying sober during the holidays

8 Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

8 Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

Although the holidays can be a fun time, recovering from substance abuse can put a damper on the festivities. It’s common for people to throw parties and serve alcohol or to have family gatherings that cause a great deal of stress. Staying on your path of addiction recovery at this time of year can be a real challenge as you navigate these situations. To get through this season successfully without relapsing, here are eight tips for staying sober during the holidays.

Continued after video:

  1. Surround Yourself with People Who Support Your Recovery

Support is crucial to a person in recovery at any time of the year. However, the holidays can be extra challenging. Surrounding yourself with family and friends who love you and who are wiling to help you remain sober will make things easier. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your close family and friends to help keep you accountable to your recovery. Most importantly, do not isolate yourself. This may only cause depression or relapse.

  1. Choose Holiday Parties Wisely

There are always a number of holiday parties you can attend during the holiday season, most of which will offer substances that you have worked hard at removing from your life. Even though you have started recovery from addiction, you do not have to decline all of the offers that you are given. However, it is smart to choose the ones where alcohol will not be the center of attention.

Avoiding gatherings that provide the greatest temptations will make things easier for you. Realizing that a few hours of partying are not worth ruining your sobriety is vital. Make sure to arrive with a plan so that you can leave when the urge to drink becomes too strong. You should come with a trusted friend who will agree not to drink as well. Make plans ahead of time not to rely on others for transportation. This will keep you from getting into uncomfortable situations.

  1. Keep Attending Meetings and Staying Sober During the Holidays

Although the holiday season is busy, it is not the time for you to take a vacation from your recovery process. Besides surrounding yourself with family and friends, it is important to keep attending regular sobriety meetings. Even if you are away from home for the holidays, it is possible to find and attend a local meeting in the area. Support groups contain people who are going through the same challenges. You can work together and help each other get through the holidays without relapsing.

  1. Give Back

Your recovery is like a rebirth. A way to make the most of this gift is to give back. Helping others during the holiday season is an effective way to remain sober as well. Your community is probably looking for volunteers to help serve a meal to the hungry or to decorate various parts of your town. These activities will give you purpose and will make you feel good about helping others. Lending a hand to other individuals is a way to show thanks for the people who have helped you along your sober journey.

  1. Be Honest with Yourself

Many recovering individuals are too confident in their abilities to remain sober at all times. However, even the strongest person can succumb to temptation. Do not think that it is possible to avoid relapsing when you are placing yourself in situations where alcohol is flowing. If you are at a party or event where most people are getting buzzed, you will likely fall victim to relapse. Although it is important to socialize during the holidays, it is vital not to make a habit of visiting bars or similar venues at this time of year. Being honest with yourself about your struggle with addiction is one of the best ways to fight against yourself.

  1. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is known to release endorphins in the brain. These endorphins make people feel happy and satisfied. This is why a person in recovery should establish a regular workout routine, especially during the holidays. Also, exercise can help you to clear your mind and to escape the chaos that the holidays may bring. Simply taking a walk to enjoy some Christmas lights can improve your mood and keep you away from triggers that can harm your recovery.

  1. Create New Traditions

If drugs or alcohol have haunted you for a long time and have prevented you from enjoying quality time with friends and family during the holidays, it may be nice to create new traditions. Now that you have decided to live a sober life, you will be able to spend memorable times with your loved ones. Host an alcohol-free decorating party or cookie exchange, plan a family game night, or go sleigh riding after you trim your tree. All of these activities can become a yearly tradition. They create positive feelings for everyone who is involved.

  1. Take One Day at a Time

Sometimes, people think too far into the future. As a recovering individual, it is essential to take one day at a time. Do not worry about the past or what is yet to happen. Live for the moment so that you enjoy a wonderful holiday season. Celebrate with family and friends without negative thoughts of relapse.

For more helpful tips to remain sober this holiday season, or to start your recovery journey, contact Desert Cove Recovery today.

President Signs Bill to Curb Opioid Crisis

After declaring the US in the midst of a public health emergency in 2017 due to the opioid crisis, The President signed a bill into law that experts believe will help to curb the opioid crisis. The new legislation is called the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.

More Funding for Addiction Treatment

The new law provides funding to federal agencies and states so that they can provide increased access to addiction treatment. It also puts measures in place to help alleviate the crisis, such as:

• Preventing overprescribing
• Training law enforcement agencies to intercept drug shipments at US borders

The bill signing was the culmination of a 12-month effort by the legislative and executive branch to react to the opioid crisis. While lawmakers said the bill was a step in the right direction, although many of them said it didn’t go far enough to deal with the epidemic. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey cautioned of ramifications of talk of reducing access to publicly-funded treatment programs.

Congress and the White House entered into discussions for making a plan for confronting the epidemic in October 2017. This was before several congressional hearings by the House and the Senate on the same subject.

Public health experts have spoken out in favor of the bill, since it increases access to treatment. They say this is a critical step to controlling the epidemic. One of the measures in the legislation removes an old measure that didn’t allow clients with substance abuse issues get treatment in mental health facilities with more than 16 beds under Medicaid.

Private Companies on Board with New Initiatives

The White House has also pointed to new initiatives from private companies:

• Amazon has programmed its Alexa voice service to answer consumers’ questions about opioids and addiction.
• Blue Cross Blue Shield, the major insurance provider, will establish a national toll-free phone number to help US residents locate drug and alcohol treatment centers.
• Biopharmaceutical company Emergent BioSolutions will offer free Narcan nasal sprayers at over 16,500 public libraries and 2,700 YMCAs. Narcan, when administered to someone experiencing an opioid overdose, can help reverse the condition.

Treatment Still the Main Focus

What this new law and other efforts do is to help continue to focus on the need for treatment at all levels. This current drug crisis won’t subside until there are enough people seeking and receiving quality treatment for their substance use disorders. Desert Cove Recovery is proud to be a leader in rehabilitation for people both in Arizona and from all over the country.

Report on Substance Use: Alcohol Holds No. 1 Spot

Reports about the opioid crisis and drugs fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin have dominated recent headlines. During the years 200-2016, the number of lives lost to opioids has more than quadrupled. Though opioids have taken up a lot of our collective attention during the first part of the twenty-first century, it would be a mistake to ignore another addictive substances that have had a negative impact on people’s lives: alcohol.

A new report released from the California Health Care Foundation looked at substance use disorders in California. It examined the impact of alcohol, opioid and other substance use over time. Although this particular report was specific to California, the figures are a fair representation for situations in Arizona and nationwide as well.

Key Findings from Substance Abuse Report

The report, entitled “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment,” has several key findings, including:

• Alcohol use disorder was the most common type of substance use disorder among California residents. Approximately six percent of Californians met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Three percent of state residents met the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs.

• Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is likely to start during the adolescent years. By the time they reach Grade 11, over half of students in California have tried alcohol and close to 40 percent have tried marijuana.

• Young adults (aged 18-25) were most likely to develop substance use disorders, with the likelihood close to twice the state average.

• The number of Emergency Department visits related to heroin in California has tripled during the years between 2006-2017.

• Alcohol was responsible for more nonfatal Emergency Department visits in California than all other drug diagnoses combined.

Substance Abuse Disorders Treatable

Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, can be treated and managed. Like other chronic illnesses, the risk of relapse is a real and ongoing one. Behavioral therapy helps people with substance use disorders change unhealthy coping mechanisms for new ways of dealing with destructive behaviors. Medications can be used to control cravings for opioids and alcohol and reduce the physical reward a user experiences when they are ingested.

Naltrexone is among the most common medications, which is used in many different forms. Vivitrol is an monthly injectable version of naltrexone that is often used to help fight cravings.

sharing addiction story, breaking anonymity

Breaking Anonymity and Sharing Your Addiction Story

Breaking Anonymity and Sharing Your Addiction Story

When life’s circumstances don’t go as we originally intended, it’s easy to feel guilty about choices we’ve made leading us to where we are today. Many people who file for divorce, declare bankruptcy, or have a substance abuse issues blame themselves for their problems. Harboring that guilt and embarrassment may make sharing your addiction story very difficult.

Very few worthwhile endeavors are also easy, and that includes telling others about your battle through addiction. Just remember that you are not the only person who has been down this road. Some twenty million Americans are addicted to a non-tobacco substance, and only about 10 percent of them seek treatment for their illness. If your story inspires one of these people to make the call, sharing your addiction story was more than worth it.

Talking about abuse is important to recovering addicts as well. Statistics vary widely, but there is no doubt that serious relapse is a problem. Once again, if your story keeps just one person in recovery, you should tell it.

Some Reasons Sharing Your Addiction Story is Important

Your recovery story is not just about a personal journey. Elements of your long, hard journey resonate with many other people in the recovery community. Understanding these facts makes it easier to overcome guilt, embarrassment, or whatever else is holding you back. If you need some specific reasons, here are just a few:

Making it Real

Your recovery story is not really a story until you share it with others. Once you open up and share it, the whole experience becomes more real to you and to them.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Funeral eulogies are not just for broadcasting nice things about the departed. Many people have multiple and confusing feelings about their lost friends and loved ones whom they lost to addiction. Only preparing and telling the story helps them make sense of everything.

Making a Contribution

These shared experiences help us find strength in times of great need. When you share your story, you are creating an atmosphere where others feel comfortable to tell theirs as well.

Strengthening Your Resolve

Sharing your story gives you more of a stake in your recovery. If we know people are watching, we tend to watch our steps a bit more closely. Furthermore, as mentioned, your story could well be the catalyst which drives someone to seek help.

Note that some of these reasons are about other people, and some of them are about you. Your story has the power to impact more people than just yourself.

Continued after video:

How to Share Your Addiction Story

For some people, speaking or writing in front of an audience is second nature. But for many others, such actions may be harder than rehab. Desert Cove Recovery staff is here to help you share your story.

Many people start with anonymous online comments on addiction-related blogs or news stories. Or perhaps, you can start by liking recovery stories online. By using social media, sharing your addiction story can be safe and anonymous. Such comments have a cathartic effect for you, and they may have an inspiring effect on others.

Posting a comment or blog on our Facebook page may be the next step. People who are interested in addiction and recovery issues will see the post. It is like preaching to the choir. These public comments in a non-threatening environment are a good way to not only help yourself and inspire others, but also help build community.

When you are ready, post on your own blog site, Facebook page, or other social media account. People outside the addiction/recovery community will hear what you have to say. There may be some negative feedback, because people are not always empathetic. But such posts enable you to connect with your circle of friends in a very meaningful way. And truthfully, some people post negative comments on anything they see! Try not to focus on the naysayers, and instead remember what you have accomplished by beginning your recovery.

If you need help finding your voice or getting the words right, reach out to us or find fellow recovering people in recovery for help. Remember, you are not the only one who has problems in this area.

Finally, consider an informal speaking engagement at a local support group. Sometimes, that just means speaking up when you have the chance. Other times, that could mean being a guest speaker for a group. These things can be very intimidating for many people, but you have already come this far. Taking this next step will complete this part of your recovery.

Recovery is not easy and is not limited to your activities at a treatment facility. Recovery is hard and requires lifelong effort. For both yourself and for others, recovery should include sharing your addiction story. If you are struggling with any aspect of a substance abuse problem, you can always count on Desert Cove Recovery for help.

Deep Brain Stimulation May Treat Severe Alcohol Addiction in the Future

Despite all the attention that has been paid to the current opioid crisis, alcohol addiction hasn’t gone anywhere. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, rates of alcohol use disorder rose by just over 49 percent in the US population in the years 2001-2013. One in eight adults meets the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Mild Electrical Current Used

Researchers at Stanford University have found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be a possible treatment for even the most severe cases of alcoholism. The results of the study, which were published in the journal Neurosurgical Focus, involves sending a mild electrical current through the affected person’s brain.

How Body Responds to Alcohol

When alcohol is consumed, the brain naturally releases dopamine. This is the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitter, which is released during pleasurable activities, like watching a movie, eating a good meal, exercising or having sex. When the brain becomes overstimulated by drinking alcohol, it associates alcohol with pleasurable experiences.

If that person continues drinking regularly and consumes large amounts of alcohol, the brain becomes desensitized to the release of dopamine. Alcohol no longer provides the same level of enjoyment it once did. The person needs to drink more alcohol to feel pleasure from the experience.

The Slide Toward Addiction

The slope toward addiction starts at the point when the brain compensates for alcohol’s depressant effects by increasing its glutamate function. Glutamates cause cells to increase their level of activity. In the case of someone with AUD, being around alcohol feels exciting and this feeling continues when alcohol is no longer present. He has to continue drinking to feel normal and less excited.

The longer someone has been drinking, the harder it is to stop. Regular, high-level consumption of alcohol rewires the brain and affects the decision-making process that tells an alcoholic not to drink.

Deep Brain Stimulation Technique for AUD

Deep brain stimulation is already being used to treat Parkinson’s Disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Scientists have also noticed that this type of therapy also reduced alcohol cravings in patients.

Dr. Casey Halpern, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University, stated that DBS is a minimally invasive form of brain surgery. When treating Parkinson’s, doctors place deep brain stimulators to restore normal functioning to dysfunctional parts of the brain. Patients improve right away when a small dose of current is applied to these areas. Dr. Halpern went on to say that a similar treatment should possibly be able to treat alcoholism.

This may sound like an extreme method of treating AUD. Researchers point out that DBS is one of the least invasive and safest procedures performed by neurosurgeons.

To date, DBS has not been approved as an AUD treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration. This status may change at a later date as more positive evidence is gathered by researchers.

How Meth Use During Pregnancy Affects Neonatal Outcomes

Methamphetamine addiction is on the rise again in many areas. Meth use by pregnant women resulted in a number of negative neonatal outcomes, according to results from a systemic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. The review indicated meth use during results in a measurable decrease in the following:

• Infant birth weight
• Head circumference
• Body length
• Gestational age at birth

The review also found that expectant mothers who were exposed to methamphetamine didn’t experience “excessive pregnancy complications” due to their illicit drug use.

Pregnant Women “Vulnerable Population” for Meth Use

Dr. Dimitrios-Rafail Kalaitzopoulos, from the Reproductive Endocrinology Unit, First Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, wrote that pregnant women are one of the “vulnerable populations” that use methamphetamine. Dr. Kalaitzopoulos stated that data about the effects of meth use during pregnancy is limited, since existing studies have involved only small samples and have not accounted for the participants using other drugs as well as methamphetamine.

The investigators examined several types of materials while conducting their review, including an orderly review of clinical literature and a deep dive analysis of case-control studies. They included studies which compared women who were exposed to methamphetamine during their pregnancy with a control group who didn’t use meth.

Multiple Studies Examined by Researchers

Eight studies involving a total of 626 participants who used methamphetamine during pregnancy and 2,626 women who didn’t use the drug during pregnancy (the control group) were examined and analyzed. The results showed no difference (statistically) between women who used meth during pregnancy and the control group on preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) rates.

Dr. Kalaitzopoulos pointed out there was a limitation to this type of meta-analysis due to the methods used to identify pregnant women who used meth. The ones who were recruited into the methamphetamine users group were placed there through a combination of self-reporting and toxicological reports, such as maternal urine tests, meconium tests performed on the infant’s first bowel movement or neonatal urine toxicology. In some instances, self-reporting only was used or taking a urine sample from the infant only was used.

None of these methods is considered ideal. To determine the extent of maternal drug use, all these methods should be used together, according to Dr. Kalaitzopoulos.

Study Finds Obstacles and Delays to Getting Help for Substance Abuse

When patients with substance abuse disorder visit their doctor’s office or the local emergency room seeking help, finding appropriate treatment for them is challenging in many instances. Physicians and treatment center administrators shared their thoughts about the obstacles and delays to getting help in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Several issues contribute to gaps in patients getting into treatment programs, according to the study conducted by researchers at Brown University and Butler Hospital. The opioid crisis has underlined the gap between the high need for substance abuse treatment and lack of availability to programs in the US.

SAMHSA Report Reveals Shortfall in Substance Abuse Treatment

A report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that 21.7 million people living in the US need substance abuse treatment. Only 2.35 million of them receive the help they need at a facility specializing in providing this type of care. There hasn’t been much information gathered at the organizational level about the barriers to treatment for people seeking help for substance abuse disorders.

Major Obstacles and Delays in Getting Help for Substance Abuse

Researchers interviewed 59 people they referred to as “stakeholders in the treatment referral process”. These included emergency room doctors, addiction specialists, drug and alcohol treatment center staff and administrators. When the interviews were analyzed, four major ideas stood out:

1. Healthcare providers may not be fully aware of scope of treatment options.

Providers may not have the knowledge required to determine the best type of treatment for a patient. If a healthcare provider does determine the right treatment level for a patient, he must find a program that is a good match for the patient’s needs.

2. Healthcare providers have difficulty determining patient eligibility.

Each treatment center sets its own eligibility requirements, which may prevent a particular patient from receiving needed care.

3. Providers unable to find out whether treatment centers have space available.

Once a healthcare provider determines a patient needs treatment, it is challenging for the provider to find out whether the chosen center has a bed available.

4. Communication challenges make referrals from emergency room directly to a treatment bed difficult.

Often, there is a delay in starting treatment. Direct referrals, where the patient can be taken directly to the drug and alcohol treatment center, are the best approach, especially for patients needing help for opioid use disorders.