Thursday, May 19, 2016

Will You Take The Pledge To Fight Mental Health Stigma?

Stigma Free
“It is an odd paradox that a society, which can now speak openly and unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable, still remains largely silent when it comes to mental illness.” - Glenn Close

  1. of or relating to the mind.
  1. the state of being free from illness or injury.
In the United States we have made great strides when it comes to treating mental illness. Not too long ago there were few options available for people living with psychiatric disorders, short of handing the afflicted a pill and hoping for the best. While behavioral health therapies have been around for quite some time, many Americans were unable to gain access to treatments that could save their life due to insurance companies refusing to cover the costs.

The passing of Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) was designed to prevent group health plans and health insurance companies who cover mental health or substance use disorder benefits from making  such benefits less favorable, compared to the level of coverage for general medicine. The MHPAEA was hailed as a victory, and for a time it seemed that people who were unable to get the help they need would finally receive treatment. Unfortunately, the MHPAEA has had limited reach and mental health parity is something that still needs to be addressed—in a number of different ways.

In the past year, only 41 percent of adults in U.S. living with a mental health disorder received any mental health services, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). When less than half of  those who suffer from mental illness are getting help, clearly some changes need to be made. The month of May in Mental Health Month 2016 (MHM), a time to raise awareness about mental illness. NAMI is calling on everyone to do their part and take action in order to:
  • Advocate for Equal Care
  • Educate the Public
  • Fight Stigma
  • Provide Support
Mental illnesses, such as depression or the disease of addiction, have long been viewed by the general public through the lens of disgrace and shame—a moral failing. However, scientific research tells us that mental illness is a real health condition, and while they cannot be cured, those who receive treatment have a real shot at living healthy, productive and fulfilling lives. Sadly, a large number of people who do have access to treatment are afraid to accept it, largely due to the stigma that accompanies mental health disorders.

There are number of things that you can do to help end mental illness stigma, and we all have a good reason to be proactive. Just about everyone knows someone whose life has been impacted by mental illness, NAMI points out that approximately 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime. Take some time during the remainder of May to post mental health awareness information, images and graphics to your social media accounts, using #StigmaFree or #MentalHealthMonth.

If you would like to go one step further, you can Take the Pledge to be ‪#‎StigmaFree‬. It is fairly simple and could go a long way, please follow the steps below:
  1. Take the pledge.
  2. Record your video.
  3. Upload your video to your YouTube channel and other social media accounts.
  4. Be sure to include #StigmaFree in the title of your video.
At Cottonwood Tucson we specialize in treating addiction and a number of other mental health disorders. It is worth noting that more than half of the 20.2 million Americans living with addiction, also have a co-occurring mental illness i.e. anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression. It is paramount that both the addiction and the co-occurring disorder are treated simultaneously, if successful recovery is to be achieved.

Glenn Close is an American actress who has won three Emmy Awards, three Tony Awards and received six Academy Award nominations. Close is also a mental health advocate who knows firsthand how debilitating mental illness can be, she herself suffered from depression (continues a low dosage medication) and her sister has bipolar disorder. She is the co-founder and chairperson of BRINGCHANGE2MIND.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Drug Tests Affect Job Market

drug tests
Just a few decades ago it was practically unheard of to require both employees and potential employees to submit to drug testing, even for government jobs. Today, it is the polar opposite, with drug testing requirements in practically every field, especially those involving salary pay or working with heavy machinery. It is quite common for people who are looking for employment to look somewhere else when asked to take a drug test before being hired.

In the wake of both the greatest recession post Great Depression in American history and elevated addiction rates, many employers are finding it difficult to hire people who pass a drug test, The New York Times reports. A significant number of Americans, who lost either home or livelihood, or both, turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the economic downturn of the late 2000’s. When the economy finally turned around many were able to stop using and get back in stride; however, that was not the case for some.

As a result, companies who are trying to rebuild after massive layoffs are faced with challenges, the article reports. The changing tides of marijuana prohibition in the United States is also a factor in the difficulty employers are having. Despite cannabis use being legal for adults in four states, many industries do not view the drug in the same way as alcohol. Since the drug is illegal under federal law, employers can circumvent state laws when it comes to hiring practices.

On top of marijuana, heightened use of prescription opioids and heroin among millions of Americans has had an impact of on the job market. The vast majority of people who are asked to take a pre-employment drug test will just not show up and look for another job, rather than stop using, the article reports. John Sambdman, who has about 100 employees at Samson Trailways in Atlanta, says that many potential employees “just don’t bother to show up at the drug-testing place.”

Illicit drug use is illegal, but with so many Americans engaging in the behavior, simply not hiring them has the potential to be a slippery slope. States need to come up with solutions for helping those who are using drugs either find employment, or help them stop using so that they can be hired. In most states, people who are having trouble finding a job will often turn to the Department of Labor (DOL).

In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal is working out a way to help both employers and potential employees with the problem, according to the report. Those who seek help from the DOL would be drug tested, those who do not pass would be offered substance use counseling, after which enjoy job placement.

"Obviously, it’s not an easy process, and it would be costly,” said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner. “But you’ve got to think: What is the reverse of that? People needed to fill jobs are turned away," and, he added, “It’s pretty much a national issue."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

House Votes On Opioid Addiction Bills

opioid addiction
The American opioid epidemic is a bipartisan issue, one that affects practically everyone throughout the country in one way or another. Even if you yourself have never had a problem with prescription opioids and/or heroin, it is highly likely that you have a friend, family member or an acquaintance that has struggled with opiate narcotics. This is a reality which serves to reaffirm the fact that addiction knows no boundaries, it does not care who you are or where you came from - simply put, the disease does not discriminate.

While the crisis we have faced for over a decade continues, with people dying from overdoses every day, it has brought about bipartisan support for solutions that we have not seen in a long time in the United States. The President, Senators and Congressmen from both sides of the aisle are working together to gain control of the situation, a crisis that claims over 70 lives every day.

This week, the United States House of Representatives voted on 18 bills aimed at addressing and combating opioid addiction, The New York Times reports. Now with the bills approved, they will be bundled together with the Senate’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was voted on and approved in March. The measures that were voted on cover a number of different areas related to the opioid epidemic. Some of the legislation the House approved includes:
  • Making it easier for doctors to treat patients addicted to opioids.
  • Expanding protections for veterans and children affected by opioid addiction.
  • Giving law enforcement increased authority in fighting drug trafficking.
  • Require the federal government to perform research to determine the nation’s capacity to treat opioid addiction.
  • Compelling a study of Good Samaritan laws which protect people who administer naloxone.
“House Republicans promised swift action to tackle the opioid crisis, and they are staying true to their word,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for the House Speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

And so it was yesterday, the House passed H.R. 4063, otherwise known as the Jason Simcakoski Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific Expertise (PROMISE) Act, according to The measure will also make it safer for veterans to get opioid therapy and pain management care. The Speaker of the House issued a statement:

“Earlier today, I had the honor of meeting Jason Simcakoski’s family, making House passage of the PROMISE Act even more special. America lost a Marine, a husband, a father, and a son when Jason passed away—a tragedy that could and should have been prevented. Those seeking help shouldn’t have to fear mistreatment in return, especially our veterans. This is further illustration that opioid addiction knows no bounds. The courage of the Simcakoski family can and will save lives.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hank Williams' Death: A Familiar Story

If you have gone to the cinema lately, you may have noticed a billboard for I Saw the Light about America’s first country music superstar Hiram King “Hank” Williams Sr., who sometimes went by the alias Luke the Drifter. The film drew its story line from the book Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen. Hank’s music career only lasted about six years, before he passed away in 1953 at the age of 29 from what was deemed to be heart complications. In that short time Williams sold over 11 million records and had 11 number one hits.

There is darker side to the "honky tonk hero's" life, one that almost certainly had a hand in the beloved musician's death. Williams' story, like a number of top of the charts musicians, involved chronic pain, a doctor and addiction. Hank was born with a condition that would not be diagnosed until the later years of his life, known as spina bifida occulta. It is a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Williams experienced severe back pain which could be, at times, debilitating and would prohibit him from performing. Upon learning of his condition, Hank reportedly said: “Cure me or kill me, Doc. I can’t go on like this.” He underwent surgery, but still struggled with the pain.

Williams was drinking whiskey by the age of 13, according to crime author Robert A. Waters. On top of struggling with alcoholism, the artist used a number of drugs, including: cocaine, morphine, chloral hydrate and heroin. Waters writes:

“In the last year of Hank’s life, a con-man and thief became Hank's personal doctor. Toby Marshall, a convicted robber and forger who’d bought his medical diplomas from a traveling salesman, promised to help Hank get off drugs and alcohol.”

The fake doctor would often turn to the extremely powerful sedative chloral hydrate as a remedy for addiction, but when the drug is mixed with alcohol it can be lethal, Waters notes. Just nine days before Williams passed away, Marshall wrote Hank a prescription for 24 grains of chloral hydrate which was basically empty. On the night of Hank's death, he was treated by another physician, Dr. Paul H. Cardwell, who administered two injections of an admixture of morphine and Vitamin B12. Marshall spoke to Dr. Cardwell over the phone, and instructed Dr. Cardwell to tell Hank to hit the road to Canton, Ohio where Marshall was waiting - regardless of Hanks condition. Williams passed away in the back seat of his Cadillac on the way to Canton.

While the autopsy showed alcohol in Williams' system, they did not test for drugs. Had the coroner done so, it is likely that both morphine and chloral hydrate would have been present. The death was ruled a heart attack, but it is worth noting that chloral hydrate is known to be a heart depressant. When mixed with both morphine and alcohol, it can create of a perfect storm that can be deadly, and such a storm likely had a hand in the “Lovesick Blues” musician's death.

Please take a moment to watch the trailer below:

If you are having trouble viewing the clip, please click here.

In our own times, we have seen a dramatic rise in overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers and sedatives, such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Xanax (alprazolam). Both drug types are highly addictive and carry the risk of a fatal overdose - especially when mixed together. If you are struggling with those types of drugs, please contact Cottonwood Tucson.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Reflections from Inside" - PSA On Drunk Driving

drunk driving
Every adult knows the risk they take when they get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol. The best case scenario is dodging a bullet and making it home in one piece. After that it gets severely worse, with a DUI that is often accompanied by heavy fines and jail time. For some, however, driving under the influence results in tragedy usually by way of a potential car wreck. It is hard to say what is worse, having to live with waking up after experiencing an alcohol related wreck and learning that the accident took the life of another, or losing one’s own life.

People whose drunk driving results in an accident are often the ones who end up surviving while others perish. There are many people who are spending decades in prison for taking the life of another while driving under the influence of alcohol. We all hear about such tragic events, yet people still decide to play with fire every day of the week. What if people who consume alcohol could be reminded regularly of the risks, especially while they are consuming alcohol?

For those drinking at bars in the Los Angeles area who decide to use the restroom and end up glancing at the mirror, they may be in for a surprise. At one bar, instead of seeing your reflection in the mirror, you see a video of Kris Caudilla who is currently serving a 15-year sentence for DUI manslaughter, NBC News reports. The campaign called "Reflections from Inside," shows Caudilla, 32, at the RMC Correctional Facility in Lake Butler, Florida.

"I made the choice to drink. I made the choice to get in the car," Caudilla tells drinkers. "You don't have to make that choice."

Caudilla's statements and questions were prerecorded and played on cue through a monitor behind the mirror, according to the article. What Caudilla says will be a direct response to the comments of the drinkers. The public service announcement (PSA) was created at the behest of We Save Lives, a highway safety nonprofit led by Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). While drunk driving rates steadily declined from the 1980’s onward, from 2010 to date rates have flattened out, according to Lightner. She decided that if PSAs covering victims was no longer working; maybe focusing on the perpetrators would be beneficial.

"I said why not, because the numbers haven't shifted, even though more laws have passed and PSAs abound," said Lightner, whose 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver in 1980. 

Please take a moment to watch the video below:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation FacilitiesNATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and ProgramsNBCCNAADAC