People's perceptions of their own life stories are carefully and methodically changed during the course of treatment for drug addiction, according to an ethnographic study published in Sociology of Health and Illness. And some self-perceptions and stories are significantly less welcomed by treatment providers. More →
While I was in charge of the public systems for both mental health and addictions in Oregon, I found it a challenge to maintain an equal focus on alcohol/drug problems compared to mental health. One big reason for the emphasis on mental health was that the mental health budget was big, about 6 times greater than that for addictions. And that doesn’t even count the hidden funding for psychiatric drugs which probably added another 30 or 40% to mental health —atypical antipsychotics are a lot more expensive than Antabuse.
The former CEO of the UK's National Treatment Agency explains in The Conversation why the vast majority of people who use addictive drugs don't ever become addicted, and why that's important when it comes to developing social policy. More →
Three University of Queensland addictions experts challenge last year's Nature editorial that claimed there is a scientific "consensus" that addiction is a brain disease. There is better evidence, the authors state, to support a social model of addiction. And parts of their evidence -- the 1970s experiments with rats in constructed play-parks in Vancouver -- are re-visited in a new book. More →
When I was locked in a psychiatric hospital, I wasn’t able to have much of a conversation with my parents about what was going on. Phone calls were tense and filled with silence, and as I stood at the ward payphone I was so confused and frozen in fear that each call just confirmed to them how lost I was. Every day as a patient centered around the various prescriptions I was on, and like so many people suffering in a psychosis, helping me became a wait to “find the right combination of medications.”
About 9% fewer Americans are using prescription opioids than were five years ago, but those people are taking more of the drugs for longer periods of time, according to a study by pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts reported in FiercePharma. And nearly one-third are being put in serious risk of overdose death by taking the opioids alongside prescriptions for benzodiazepine sedatives, stated the New York Times. More →
MinnPost reports on a recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that nearly a third of American adults drink excessive amounts of alcohol, but only 10 percent of them are alcoholics. "That’s a surprising finding," comments MinnPost. "For the prevailing assumption has been that most people who drink excessively are alcohol dependent... The new CDC finding also has important public-health implications, for it suggests that most excessive drinkers don’t need to be treated for addiction." More →
On Substance.com, Maia Szalavitz discusses her own experiences with addiction, and examines the research that suggests addiction is less a chronic disease of the brain and more a passing creature of age and circumstance. More →
Q13 Fox News discusses recent research giving psychedelics to people struggling with alcohol or cigarettes. David Nutt, an Imperial College London neuro-psychopharmacologist "thinks psilocybin could be a game-changer," reports Fox, when "used as part of a therapeutic package where the mind-altering and confronting nature of psychedelics are combined with therapy to treat people within just one or two doses of treatment." More →
MIA Foreign Correspondent Peter Gøtzsche, author of the book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime, was interviewed on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night as part of a feature about the pharmaceutical industry and the marketing of prescription addictions. More →
The Boston Globe interviews people who became ever more severely dependent on sedating benzodiazepines without realizing it, because as they tried to stop taking the drugs they thought their withdrawal symptoms were actually symptoms of underlying anxiety problems. “My anxiety was getting worse; I was getting dizzy spells; I was getting sick more often, and my capacity to deal with stress was less,” Alison Page told the Globe. “I thought I had a worsening anxiety disorder.” More →
As a prescription drug and addiction expert for The O’Reilly Factor, Fox National News and many other news outlets, I am often called when a celebrity death occurs. While the loss of a talented actor or musician is tragic, I know from personal experience that the magnitude of devastation from legal drugs is happening to millions of innocent people – through psychoactive medications.
I had a soul-redemptive heart-to-heart reunion with a woman I had known from a distance but whom now (after our hours long coeur-a-coeur/heart-to-heart) I consider a close friend. I shared with her some very exciting and some challenging circumstances I have been experiencing of late. After I shared and shed a few tears she told me a story from her life that also poses, like my story, an invitation for profound change in our lives.
Many personal stories of people struggling with an addiction that they were never told could happen punctuate an article about indiscriminate benzodiazepine prescribing in Oregon's The Bulletin. “You take it for a while and it works, and you think you’ve got this miracle going on and then it stops working,” Carol Brainerd tells The Bulletin. “So the doctor ups it and ups it, and that’s where a lot of us get into trouble.” Ann Metcalf says, “The Xanax wears off after four hours. I would wake up even more panicked than when I went to bed.” More →
As a trauma survivor growing up in various adolescent mental health systems, I never learned any useful self-care tools or practices. I was taught that my current coping skills (self-injury, suicidal behavior, illicit drug use) were unacceptable, but not given any ideas as to what to replace them with. No one seemed to want to know much about the early childhood traumas that were driving these behaviors. Instead, I collected an assortment of diagnoses. I was told that I would be forever dependent on mediated relationships with professionals, and an ever-changing combination of pills. The message was that my troubles were chemical in nature and largely beyond my control.
Based on my experience both as a therapist and client in the mental health field, I have learned that when therapists or psychiatrists give you the following diagnoses all too often here is what they really mean:
My name is Leah Harris and I’m a survivor. I am a survivor of psychiatric abuse and trauma. My parents died largely as a result of terrible psychiatric practice. Psychiatric practice that took them when they were young adults and struggling with experiences they didn’t understand. Experiences that were labeled as schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder. My parents were turned from people into permanent patients. They suffered the indignities of forced treatment. Seclusion and restraint. Forced electroshock. Involuntary outpatient commitment. And a shocking amount of disabling heavy-duty psychiatric drugs. And they died young, from a combination of the toxic effects of overmedication, and broken spirits.
Prior admissions with stimulant disorder, but not a prior cannabis disorder diagnosis, are a negative prognostic sign in first-episode psychosis according to new research in the British Journal of Psychiatry. “Young people with substance comorbidities may have both the best and worst of outcomes, depending on whether problematic substance use is discontinued,” the authors note.
According to the University of South Dakota's The Volante, "In 1993, about four percent of American college students used prescription drugs for nonmedical uses, according to a March 2007 study in the journal “Addiction”. By 2001, that number had increased to 10 percent. Then, in 2010, that number spiked to 27 percent."
Although cocaine and psychostimulant dependence are thought to be related to increased dopamine release, research from Tokyo and Long Island finds that the effect of antipsychotics did not differ from that of a placebo in regard to cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine use, addiction, craving, depression, anxiety, or abstinence. Antipsychotics were discontinued more than placebo, as a result of intolerability, leading to antipsychotics being outperformed by placebo in some measures.
In "the largest assessment of substance use among individuals with severe psychotic illness to date," researchers from Washington University and the University of Southern California found that the odds of substance use among those with severe psychosis diagnoses is dramatically higher than that of people with less severe diagnoses. Though the study only establishes a correlation between psychosis and substance use, the lead researcher comments that "the most likely explanation is that substance use contributes to the development of severe mental illness."
Heavy pot users were found to have working-memory deficits and associated changes in brain morphology that were consistent with changes found in persons with schizophrenia diagnoses, according to a study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin. "The abuse of popular street drugs, such as marijuana, may have dangerous implications for young people who are developing or have developed mental disorders," says Dr. John Csernansky, an author of the study. "This paper is among the first to reveal that the use of marijuana may contribute to the changes in brain structure that have been associated with having schizophrenia."
Our lives changed the day we began looking inside ourselves for ways to move towards more joy and less suffering for us and those around us. We took ownership of the good and bad from our past and learned that if we came from a place of inner strength we could frame much of our future. The lessons and necessary mentoring that led to us reshaping our experiences happened within the context of addiction treatment. This treatment for us, and many others, consisted of working on ourselves with the guidance of people who had re-built – or built for the first time – daily lives rich in meaning and social connection.
When I lived in Massachusetts I taught yoga and led writing groups for alternative mental health communities. While the organizations I worked for were alternative, many of the students and participants were heavily drugged with psychiatric pharmaceuticals. There was one skinny teenager I’d never have forgotten who listed the drugs he was on for me once in the yoga room after class: a long list of stimulants, neuroleptics, moods stabilizers; far too many drugs and classes of drugs to remember. I was at the housewarming party of an old friend, and who should walk in but that boy who used to come to my yoga classes and writing groups religiously. And he was no longer a boy; he was now a young man. “I’m thinking yoga teacher,” he said. I nodded. Did he remember where? “I’m not stupid,” he said, as if reading my mind. “I’m not on drugs anymore. I’m not stupid anymore.”
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