Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Smokers May Have Increased Risk of Mental Health Disorders

In the 21st Century it probably goes without saying that the vast majority of adults are aware of the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes. If you were to ask a smoker, former smoker or non smoker about the potential dangers of smoking they would probably answer you by listing a multitude of cancers and they would be right. But it turns out that smokers may be at risk of more than just cancer, and we can now add mental health disorders to the ever increasing list of reasons to avoid tobacco.

New research suggests that the rate of mental illness among smokers is increasing, and those at the greatest risk are recent smokers, HealthDay reports. The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. What’s more, when compared to older smokers, the researchers found that nicotine-dependent smokers who starting using tobacco in the 1980s were more likely to have mental health disorders, such as:
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Substance Use Disorder
“Our study confirms that recent smokers, though a relatively smaller group than those who started smoking decades ago, are more vulnerable to psychiatric and substance use disorders,” lead author Ardesheer Talati of Columbia University Medical Center said in a university news release. “These findings suggest that today’s adolescent and young adult smokers may benefit from mental health screening so that any related psychiatric or substance use problems can be identified and addressed early.” 

The researchers involved in the study analyzed data from 25,000 people born in the 1940s - 1980s, according to the article. While there is no question that the national smoking rate has been steadily dropping since the `60s, the researchers found that the percentage of nicotine-dependent tobacco users has been climbing.

The findings of the study are especially important with regards to addiction recovery because many alcoholics and addicts have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder. If the research holds true, and smoking has a role in the development of mental illness, it stands to reason that smoking cessation should be addressed early in recovery. Additionally, we now know that the use of nicotine products can also increase the chance of relapse.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Parents of Opioid Overdose Death Victims Speak to CDC

The American opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on families across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 44 people lose their life everyday from an opioid overdose. When a people die from an overdose, they are survived by countless loved ones. While both federal and local government agencies have taken drastic steps to alter opioid prescribing practices through limiting the amount and frequency a drug can be prescribed and implementing prescription drug databases to track suspicious prescribing, people continue to lose their lives which means there is a lot more that needs to be done if we are to curb the epidemic.

Last week, the parents of opioid overdose deaths called upon the CDC at a hearing about opioid painkiller abuse, urging the agency to publish guidelines on opioid prescribing practices, The Wall St. Journal reports. The public forum was the result of the proposed guidelines being met with opposition by both pain sufferers and lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies.

The draft guidelines were made up of a dozen recommendations for physicians with regard to the prescribing of pain medication, according to the article. The proposed guidelines would not be mandatory. The CDC's aim is the safer prescribing of opioids, which are both highly addictive and carry a high risk of overdose.

The recommendations for primary care physicians include:
  • The Use of Opioid Alternatives
  • The Use of the Lowest Effective Opioid Dose
  • Shortening the Duration of Use
  • Screening Patients for Current Prescriptions to Stop Doctor Shopping
While the guidelines were met with some opposition, there are a number of doctors and public health officials who support the publication of the recommendations, the article reports. What’s more, there are a number of families who would like what they have been forced to endure to not befall other families.

“I am a father who’s had the anguish of having to bury his firstborn son, who was addicted to opioids,” said Gary Mendell, founder of a nonprofit group called Shatterproof. “To reverse this horrible epidemic, the medical community is urgently in need of guidance from the CDC.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Innovative Technologies for Mental Illness

Mental health is extremely complicated, and can be difficult to treat effectively. While behavioral health therapies have made leaps and bound over the last several decades, there is still a lot more that can be done, especially when you compare the aforementioned field with other areas of the healthcare sector. Fortunately, the millions of Americans living with mental illness can look to their cellular devices for more than phone calls and mobile gaming, they can now find assistance.

In recent years there has been a rise in research in the field of mental health and/or addiction which utilizes smartphones. Researchers have realized that they can exponentially increase their reach and scope with smartphones apps, and gather real time data that would have otherwise taken long periods of time to collect.

What’s more, computer scientists with help of mental health experts can develop applications that people suffering from mental health issues can download and use as tools for dealing with their illnesses, such as: addiction, anxiety and depression. A number of companies are now innovating in the field of mental health, which will vastly alter the mental health treatment landscape, Forbes reports. Below we will highlight a few innovative technologies that people living with mental illness may want to look into:
  • Pala-linq - As the company's website states: “We are on a quest to revolutionize recovery. We are developing a mobile/web application and wearable tech accessory for on-the-go recovery support.” For those in recovery who are interested, the technology will help connect you with your support network with the aim of preventing relapse. You can sign up to be a beta-tester, which will help the company move closer to launching its innovative app.

  • Pacifica - Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, this app is designed to address anxiety. The company's website states: “Pacifica distills these techniques down into simple, quick, daily activities and provides a way for people to track their progress.”

  • Fisher Wallace Stimulator - Taking it one step further, this FDA approved device for the treatment of depression, anxiety and (possibly) it will help with bipolar disorder. Users put on a headband which stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and other neurochemicals required to reduce depression and anxiety. Please keep in mind that if you are interested in using the stimulator, you will need approval from your health care provider.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New Recommendations for Depression Screening

Depression is a mental illness which affects millions of Americans, if left untreated the results can be dire. It is mental health disorder that is often seen in the field of addiction, as many of those who abuse drugs and alcohol commonly suffer from depression as well. A significant number of people suffering from depression will use drugs and alcohol to self medicate, and while they may find temporary relief from their depression - the use of such substances only exacerbates their depression in the long run.

What’s more, it is well understood by those working in the field of addiction that if successful recovery is to be achieved, both the addiction and the depression need to be treated. Failure to address the depression often leads to relapse at some point. When both addiction and other forms of mental illness are at play, such as depression or anxiety, it is referred to as having a co-occurring disorder.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has released new recommendations for the screening of depression, CNN reports. The new recommendations come from a panel of experts and are an addendum to advice given in 2009. The panel recommends that all adults be screened for depression at least once by their primary care physicians and screen pregnant women or those who have recently given birth.

The authors point out that depression is the number one cause of adult disability in high-income countries, and it estimated that 7 percent of adults in America battle with depression every year, according to the article. They add that depression increases one’s risk of death, diminishing the quality of life for not only patients but also their families.

"We believe that all practices should have adequate systems in place to screen, treat and follow up on depression," said Dr. Michael P. Pignone, professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and one of the authors of the recommendations. "I think compared to 15 years ago, more primary care practices are equipped to do this work." 

The recommendations were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week

Next week marks the beginning of the seventh annual National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW), where the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) brings together students with scientists and other experts. The goal, according to the NIDA for Teens website, is to break the myths that teenagers have about drugs and alcohol. Most of what teens know about addictive substances they get from friends and major media outlets.

The five-day event starts January 25th and runs through the 31st. The agencies aim to raise awareness about the dangers of substance use and abuse. In the past, the event was hosted by NIDA and it focused only on drugs. Together with the NIAAA, the educational week will, for the first time, bring alcohol into the fold. Both organizations fall under the umbrella of the National Institutes of Health.

You can find out the location of events happening in your area next week, or if you would like, you can host an event yourself. The NIDA for Teens website will give you the tools you need to facilitate this. They will help you:
Of late, many teens have come to believe that marijuana is safe to use and will not have serious impacts, an idea which stems from the growing acceptance of marijuana use. However, research shows that the drug can have detrimental effects on developing brains. Teens need to be made aware that even marijuana is not without risks.

Preventing teens from using drugs and alcohol will greatly reduce their chance of having problems both in adolescence and adulthood. Shattering the myths of addiction is of the utmost importance, people who begin experimenting with mind altering substances at a young age have a much greater chance of developing addiction.
CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation FacilitiesNATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and ProgramsNBCCNAADAC