Tag Archives: mental health

Prisons Failing to Provide Adequate Help to Inmates with Behavioral Health Disorders

Inmates with Behavioral Health DisordersPrisons have long been a final destination for drug addicts and people suffering from various types of mental illnesses. Oftentimes they are convicted of selling or using drugs or committing some unlawful act due to their mental state. However, while imprisoned, many of these people are not getting the help they actually need in order to get better.

According to a new study published by the Department of Justice, over 60% of inmates who are in need of help are not receiving any form of treatment. In this case mental health problems include drug abuse. This is despite the fact that there is plenty of information that would indicate that prisons, both state and federal, should have policies in place to help their mental health population.

The study shows that prisoners are five times more likely to have a mental health problem than other U.S. citizens, and most prisoners report that they have had a mental health issue at least once in their lives prior to being convicted.

As part of the study, the researchers wanted to determine how many current prisoners exhibit mental health issues without receiving treatment. They found that many of the inmates polled exhibited major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, all things that can lead to a drug addiction or a higher recidivism rate. What is unknown is how much being in prison escalated their symptoms, although some treatment experts have indicated that incarceration can trigger mental health issues.

“Once you’re in jail, your life is going to be destabilized – you’re going to lose your house, employment, it can have a snowball effect. Again and again we are seeing people who are in crisis and are being put in jail for substance abuse issues or mental health issues and that’s just not the best way to be dealing with those problems. Jails aren’t treatment programs,” explained Wendy Sawyer, an analyst with the Prison Policy Institute.

Of course, the main debate is whether the prison system is intended to help a person or punish the person. If prison policies aim to restore an individual to a working, honest and contributing member of society, then mental health help will need to be provided. There should also be frequent screenings to ensure that prison life is not creating more mental health issues and the focus should be on actual rehabilitation as much as possible.

Treating Alcoholism and PTSD

Those who struggle with an alcohol addiction and also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have often struggled to tackle either of their issues, let alone both of them at the same time. The duality of these two problems can make treating them very challenging. Researches have been looking into possible solutions to these problems and the growing population of people who are addicted to alcohol and have PTSD.

Research like the kind that is being conducted at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina is vital for the long term physical and mental health of those that struggle with an alcohol use disorder and post-traumatic stress.

A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aimed at treating substance abuse and exposure therapy aimed at treating PTSD seems to be the most effective approach. Attacking the problems individually allows for each issue to receive adequate treatment. Concurrent Treatment of Substance Use Disorders Using Prolonged Exposure (COPE) is the name researchers have given this two-pronged attack to the problems. The research shows that after several months of administering this type of therapy to individuals, many experienced significant gains in mental health.

There are other types of treatment that have shown positive results as well. Some researchers have made headway when administering certain kinds of blood pressure medication in conjunction with therapy. A specific study showed that those that received clonidine had longer time between relapses and stayed sober for longer and reported less stress. While these studies are still in the early stages, it does appear that treating both problems at once is possible.

In the past, many people were concerned about those who suffered from co-occurring disorders. Figuring out which problem to treat first proved to be difficult. Treating the addiction first oftentimes got the person out of immediate danger and allowed them to better focus on their therapy. However, some people argued that treating the mental disorder first allows for better and longer lasting treatment of the addiction. More information seems to indicate that both issues should be addressed concurrently for the best results, though the types of therapies used can vary widely.

How Family Structure Relates to Substance Abuse

familybhIt has been documented throughout the years that children who grow up with a family history of substance abuse are more likely to develop a problem as well. How much of the blame is to be placed on genetics vs. learned social behaviors is a different story, though, and there is plenty of disagreement on which has the greater influence.

Now there is new research comparing the percentage of children who grow up in different types of family environments and have exposure to substance abuse problems. Taking information from the National Survey of Children’s Health, it was determined that children have less exposure to substance abuse and mental health issues in families that include both birth parents still married.

In cases where children lived with a divorced parent, single parent or step-parent, the percentage chance of their being exposed to behavioral health problems increased significantly. They were also more likely to need counseling themselves with these family histories present and changing family dynamics.

What the study wasn’t able to determine was whether the substance abuse or mental health problems were contributing factors in family shake-ups, or if the stress from difficult relationships contributed more to the behavioral health issues.

In any case, this is yet another indication of how much of an impact parents can have on the development of their children, whether good or bad. In the case of substance abuse prevention, parents should not expect schools or other groups to be responsible for the drug education of their kids – they need to take an active role in preventing addiction through open, honest communication and doing the best they can to provide stable environments for them.

Treating Addiction and Mental Health Disorders Together Can Be Critical

ddchartIn the broader addiction treatment community, there has been some discussion in the past about whether addiction or mental health issues should be treated first, while others feel that they can be treated at the same time in a co-occurring or dual-diagnosis setting. At Desert Cove Recovery, we feel that it is essential to address the multiple issues and challenges toward living a rewarding life that come with substance abuse and other disorders. In fact, it can be the critical difference between repeated relapses or lasting sobriety.

Rather than arguing the chicken-or-the-egg theory, time and efforts are better spent finding solutions to the problems individuals face in life, and studies have suggested that one disorder can exacerbate another. With multiple program and therapy tools available, experienced clinicians and other treatment professionals work together with the patients to improve the symptoms of each disorder, which can continue to get better over time through involvement in support groups.

For example, in the upcoming issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, study authors from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Massachusetts General Hospital found that dual-diagnosis patients responded well to active ongoing participation in 12 step meetings. Other research has demonstrated that simultaneous treatment of co-occurring disorders improves substance abuse rates as well, rather than treating one diagnosis at a time.

With the new year upon us, there isn’t a better time than now to start on the road to recovery with successful treatment. Whether you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one, contact Desert Cove Recovery today to find out more about our mental health and addiction treatment program.