Drug addiction affects the lives of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Addiction among the affluent occurs for many of the same reasons that other classes of people become addicted. Issues like genetic predisposition, mental illness, and stress affect people in every class of society.
Sean Walsh, Chief Executive Officer at The Meadows, talks with Mark Lewis on the Empowerment Team show about the heroin epidemic and the “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” simulcast project. This interview covers the law enforcement as well as the addicts side of this national crisis and offers Sean’s viewpoint on treatment.
New Bill Aims to Secure Addiction Treatment and Recovery
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Americans between ages 25 and 64. Approximately 100 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses, and about 75 percent of opioid addiction disease patients switch to heroin as a cheaper opioid source, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2014 Facts and Figures.
Opioids and heroin use are fueling the addiction landscape, and the problem is accelerating at lightning speed. Although heroin users were once associated with young men from low-income neighborhoods, this is no longer the case. Such users now come in all shapes and sizes with far-reaching demographics.
The problem has reached such epidemic proportions that senators are introducing legislation to combat the problem. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 is aimed to address this epidemic by helping to secure treatment for individuals – especially young adults – in the throes of addiction.
It has become clear that ignoring the problem or wishing it away isn’t the answer. Educating the medical community is another part of the solution. Many doctors just don’t have the necessary education when it comes to opioid addiction – or even addiction in general. The majority of doctors intend to be of service to their patients, but many of them don’t have sufficient knowledge about opioid addiction. Opioids should not be the first resort in dealing with pain management. This is especially important because people who become dependent on opioids often turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
Here at The Meadows we have physicians sit in on our lectures all the time and when we speak about opioid addiction, we’ll hear some of them say, “I do that all the time. I’ve been handing out prescriptions much too readily.”
Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease, but studies reveal that only a small fraction of those who need treatment receive it. The most successful outcomes are realized through in-patient residential programs such as The Meadows who also offer patients solid after-care strategies.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 – introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Senator Rob Portman (D-Ohio) – would make up to $80 million available to states and local governments to expand drug treatment, prevention, and recovery. More specifically, the Act would:
According to Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who himself suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. “The bill represents a significant step forward in how we understand and address addiction. The bottom line is that addiction and other mental illnesses are treatable, and recovery is real.”
If you or a loved one is addicted to opioids or heroin – or anything else – The Meadows is here to help. We’re the most trusted name in addiction and trauma treatment, so feel free to call The Meadows Intake Team at 800.244.4949 or visit us here.
“Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” will simultaneously air January 13 at 6:30 p.m. on every broadcast TV station and most radio outlets across Arizona. The 30-minute commercial-free investigative report was produced by Arizona State University student journalists and focuses on the growing perils of heroin and opioid use.
Sean Walsh, Executive Director at The Meadows, contributed to the project which was supported by The Meadows. Walsh was a member of the Steering/Planning Committee in charge of coordinating the large undertaking, and also chaired the Recovery/Response Committee. In this role, Walsh worked with different representatives from the treatment community around the state of Arizona to coordinate, staff, and oversee the 100-phone call center. The call center, sponsored by the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA), will be manned by trained professionals during and after the telecast for viewers seeking counseling or needing more information on heroin and opioid addiction.
“The growing heroin and opioid problem is reaching epidemic levels and has become a critical public health issue,” Walsh said. “I’m proud to be involved in this massive project that will no doubt save lives.”
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU have produced packages of digital stories and data analyses that will be available on the Web, an accompanying mobile tablet app, plus Spanish-language and radio versions of the documentary.
The TV stations committed to the simulcast include:
Evidence is mounting that regular marijuana use increases the chance that a teenager will develop psychosis, schizophrenia or a pattern of unusual thoughts or perceptions, earlier than they might have had they not used cannabis. Heavy marijuana use between the ages of 15 and 17, a critical period for brain development, could result in the onset of psychosis in those prone to the disorder, new research suggests (1).
“With several states easing marijuana laws or even legalizing the drug altogether, both adolescents and parents might pay heed to this warning about the potential for the earlier onset of psychotic illness in regular marijuana users,” says Dr. Stephen Brockway, The Meadows Psychiatrist.
It’s important to keep in mind that this research does not mean marijuana can cause psychosis. It only shows a relation between smoking pot and developing psychosis or schizophrenia earlier than one otherwise might have. Data from the Allied Cohort on the Early course of Schizophrenia (ACES) II project, a secondary analysis of ACES, showed those who regularly smoked marijuana (at least more than twice a week) aged 15-17 years experienced first episode psychosis an average of almost 4 years earlier than their counterparts with first episode psychosis who did not use cannabis (1).
Predictors that cannot be modified regarding the age of onset for development of psychosis are male sex and family history of psychosis. Young adults with a parent or sibling affected by psychosis have a roughly one in 10 chance of developing the condition, whether or not they smoke marijuana (2).
The study included 247 hospitalized patients who had experienced first episode psychosis. Most study participants were single, male and African American. Nearly half of the patients had not graduated from high school, and almost 60% had been incarcerated. It was discovered that the average age of prodromal symptoms was 19 years, age at onset of psychotic symptoms was 21 and age of hospitalization was 23 (1).
Researchers asked the patients’ detailed questions about their individual marijuana use and just fewer than 80% reported having used the drug. The average age of psychosis onset was 21 years in those who used cannabis between the ages of 15 and 17, compared to those with no cannabis use during that time period, which were roughly 23 to 24 years of age. The amount of marijuana smoked was also a predictor of age of onset for those under 18 years old.
Teen use of marijuana may be particularly harmful because the teenage brain is still a work in progress. Areas of the brain responsible for judgment and problem solving are still making connections with the emotional centers of the brain. It is possible that smoking marijuana could derail the natural process of brain growth, which in turn could increase a young person’s vulnerability to psychotic thinking.
Delay in psychosis onset is important because it improves outcomes in the severity of symptoms and disability level. The later in life psychosis symptoms arise, the more one has been able to accomplish, such as graduate from high school. This in and of itself is associated with better physical health, better mental health and better social outcomes over the course of a life span (1). Despite the growing evidence of the relationship between marijuana and psychosis, further research is needed to determine causality.
Many doctors explain how the link between marijuana and psychotic disorders is important to be aware of for patients with a family history of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, but there is no evidence in regards to marijuana being a cause for these disorders. It is most plausible to conclude that cannabis use precipitates schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders in individuals who are already vulnerable because of family history (3).