Weight Loss Surgery (Gastric Bypass) May Lead to Alcohol Abuse


iStock_000004332079_MediumGastric bypass (GB) surgery is the most common type of weight loss surgery in the U.S., attracting about 200,000 people per year. Also called Roux-en-Y bypass surgery or stomach stapling, the procedure appears more effective than other weight loss surgeries, resulting in about 50 to 80 percent weight loss in the period following surgery. It’s reserved for people whose weight affects their health and who have exhausted most other weight loss methods. However, growing evidence claims that it’s capable of turning social drinkers into hard core boozers.

What is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

GB surgery effectively shrinks the stomach to about 10 percent its former size and enables food to bypass a section of the small intestine. In this way, less food and calories are ingested. Stomach banding, on the other hand, is about surgically placing a flexible band around the stomach to decrease the amount of food it can carry.

The Research Findings

In a study conducted at the Medical Center of the University of Pittsburgh in June 2012, about 2000 participants from 10 U.S. centers were grilled about their drinking habits a year before they underwent various types of weight loss surgery. Of the GB bypass patients in the study, 7 percent reported excessive alcohol use before surgery. However, two years afterward, the figure had risen to 11 percent. But the figure remained constant for stomach banding patients. The 5 percent who drank heavily before surgery were the same who did so after surgery.

These findings were backed up by a study of the Obesity Nutrition Research Center in New York in October 2012. The study focused on 100 patients who’d received GB surgery and a further 55 who underwent stomach banding. All patients’ drinking and eating habits were assessed prior to surgery and then every three months post-surgery for two years. The study discovered significant incremental rises in alcohol use specifically among those who’d undergone GB surgery.

A further study in Sweden which monitored 12,000 patients over 25 years, found that GB patients were twice more liable to seek alcohol addiction therapy than those who received the stomach band, and other forms of obesity surgery.

How Alcoholism Happens

Some patients who drank moderately prior to GB surgery, found themselves with a drinking problem soon after surgery. Health experts put this down to physical or emotional issues, or both.

Physically, sensitivity to alcohol may be connected to how alcohol is metabolized in the body after GB surgery. The stomach contains enzymes which would normally breakdown the alcohol but because patients have very little stomach after GB, the alcohol reaches the intestines quickly and virtually in concentrated form. This makes for a short high even with little alcohol ingested. But the process is too quick to be satisfying so increasingly more drinking occurs. In one study, researchers had GB patients consume a glass of wine and then measured their blood alcohol content (BAC) every 5 minutes. They found that these patients’ BAC peaked at a higher level than those with regular stomachs, and it took them much longer to become sober again.

Other health experts say the increased ingestion of alcohol after GB surgery is caused by “addiction swapping.” They contend that the obesity was caused by addiction to food in the first place. So once the capacity to eat too much food is reduced, patients take on a substitute addiction – alcohol. Addictive behavior, they say, is the patients’ usual response to emotional signals like anxiety and depression. So while the surgery took care of their outer body issues, it did nothing about the inner issues which still propel the addiction. This may explain why some social drinkers become alcoholics after the surgery. While patients appear to be evaluated psychologically before surgery there’s apparently no clear follow-up procedure afterward.


The controversy around GB surgery does not mean that everyone who has the procedure will become an alcoholic. And there’s no campaign for it to be discontinued seeing that its health benefits are considerable. It has helped high obesity sufferers improve their body image and ward off extreme weight-related problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and therefore stave off early death. But if these benefits are not to be derailed by alcoholism, some revisions could be made in the way people are screened for emotional problems before surgery, and in the follow-up procedures afterward. But the best protection is to cut out alcohol altogether after surgery, or to opt for banding surgery, which hasn’t been linked to heightened alcohol sensitivity, and it still results in significant weight loss.


Benhilda Chanetsa has a BA Honors degree in History and Sociology and a teaching diploma, both from the University of London. She was a high school teacher for 11 years, and chief subeditor at a weekly newspaper for four years. She’s been a freelance lifestyle writer for the past 10 years and has two nonfiction e-books published on Amazon. The books are on overcoming negative thinking and surviving abusive relationships.

Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Commercial Tells Us of Recovery


mcconaughey_lincoln_640If you haven’t seen Matthew McConaughey’s new Lincoln commercial, it’s a must see. Not so much for the Lincoln car he’s driving, (though it is nice) but for McConaughey’s contemplative message about life. Once you get past the fact the one of Hollywood’s sexiest guys is doing a commercial, you begin to really take in what he’s saying, or pondering. It’s quite existential. It’s inspiring. Here is the script Matthew so wonderfully speaks, taking a rather long pause after each sentence:

“Sometimes you got to go back, to actually move forward.

And I don’t mean going back to reminisce or chase ghosts.

I mean going back to see where you came from, where you’ve been, how you got here.

See where you’re goin’.

I know there are those that say you can’t go back.

Yes, you can.

You just have to look in the right place.”

Is there any significance in this commercial when it comes to folks in recovery? Can recovering addicts take Matthew’s words and apply them to their own lives in order to gain some mastery over their mental, emotional, and behavioral health?

Surprisingly, McConaughey’s words can actually be applied by people in the recovery sphere. We dissect his script and explain its application to recovery below:

“Sometimes you got to go back to actually move forward.”

This sentence packs a powerful punch. It’s true. Sometimes you really do have to go back in order to move on with your life with a shot at peace and happiness. Not in the sense that you have to go back and beat yourself up over mistakes, trouble you’ve been in, grief you’ve caused others, chase ghosts, etc. No. Chances are you’ve beat yourself up enough.

Rather, just as Matthew states:

“I mean going back to see where you came from, where you’ve been, how you got here. See where you’re goin’.”

You didn’t end up an alcoholic randomly. You haven’t been carrying that weight of grief, anger, sadness, shame, etc. for no good reason. You aren’t living with some internal emotional mayhem just because. Some “things” got you here. Family problems, a certain person, grief, anger, loss of a loved one, bullies, poverty, disappointment, ended relationships, etc. The list could go on and on.

Think about how you got here. Going back in recovery is essential for growth. In fact, it’s the 4th Step in the 12 Step programs that will take you through a life inventory to see just where you came from, where you’ve been, and how you got here. This step is oftentimes quite scary for the newcomer, as the thought of honestly taking a look at your past can be incredibly frightening. Not only do you have to take a look at the part others may have played in your life of addiction, but first and foremost you must take a good look at how you let your instincts run amuck and how you used alcohol as a pain reliever and celebratory for the good and bad times of your life. In addition, you will be forced to stare at your pain face to face.

“I know there are those that say you can’t go back. Yes, you can. You just have to look in the right place.”

When it comes to recovery, just where is “the right place” to look when it comes to going back in order to move forward? Well, there are several options here. You can attend counseling, which is a wonderful tool to visit your past and with the help of a trained therapist, dig deep to get to the alcoholism. What led you to start drinking? What kept you drinking? Why in the world is it or was it so difficult to quit?

When you can identify the root issues and address them with the help of someone who has keen insights and success tips, you can experience peace. You can process and let go of the negative emotions you’ve been drowning in. You can move forward.

Another great place to perform some much needed “life inventory” work is the 12 Step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). There you will have the opportunity to get yourself a sponsor/mentor and you can work the 12 Steps one by one, discussing each one with your sponsor as you go along. In Step 4 you are given the opportunity to visit your past and answer many questions about such. In Step 5 you can go over Step 4 with your sponsor, as talking to another person about your past and character defects is helpful in getting through it and moving on.

“Yes, you can.”

I love how the commercial gives people permission to go back in order to tie up loose ends so that they can move forward with greater ease. After all, who wants to tote around heavy baggage from day to day? When it comes to recovery, everyone who begins to recover has some baggage from the past that holds them back. Great news is that you do not have to keep lugging that baggage around and there are tools you can use to shoot that baggage to the moon.

“See where you’re goin’.”

Go back. Dig deep. Unearth what’s been driving you to drink. Process it. Take a look at it and understand at a deeper level. Then, take a deep breath and let it go with a firm resolve to keep your eyes on the future. Scan the horizon. Where do you want to go? What are your desires? Keep in mind you are given a clean slate in recovery. A blank canvas.

Now it’s time to move forward. Go, allow the ebb and flow of life to push you forward and create a life you love.

Dominica Applegate has a BS in Psychology, an MA in Counseling and has worked in the mental health field for 12 years before launching her own business as a writer. Specializing in addictions, relationships, codependency, fitness and health, Dominica’s work is ultimately about helping people remove blocks that keep them stuck, because everyone can really create a life that they love.


Feds Push States To Provide Medical Treatment for Heroin Addicts

September 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


shutterstock_79301824Many treatment programs nationwide support abstinence for all forms of addiction treatment, but increasingly, the use of drugs such as Suboxone and Methadone is seen as more effective than the traditional model. So much so that recent block grants handed down from the federal government now included allotment for drug-enhanced treatment for heroin addiction

What is the Difference?

The new funds being provided through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) will provide funds for programs in those states which provide medication-assisted treatment protocols. While not required to do so, the push is on for the option to be made available in all facilities funded through the grants.

Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a type of treatment that has created controversy for many years. It is based on the fact these drugs can be more highly addictive than heroin itself. Treatment is optimal when these drugs are used short-term and then decreased gradually to give addicts a bridge from addiction to becoming drug-free.

The Food and Drug Administration cites increasing reports of positive treatment outcomes in research performed using MAT. For many years, heroin addiction has seen low incidence of long-term abstinence using any previous models for treatment.

It is hoped that providing the option for MAT will increase recovery rates, along with inciting addicts to receive treatment in increasing numbers. Many treatment programs across the nation already provide MAT. Some of the funds are earmarked for those programs without the resources (usually medical staff) to accommodate the protocols; and give them additional help in upgrading this status.

Why is this happening now?

The recent increase in heroin use and addiction has created a treatment environment focused on providing optimal outcomes for heroin addicts seeking recovery from their addiction.

Along with the news from SAMHSA, drug spokesman, Michael Botticelli, announced that the federal government would fund only those drug courts in states with MAT-supported treatment protocols.

How do block grants work?

Federal block grants such as this are awarded to states, who then distribute the funds to Counties that request the funding through a grant application process. These counties then administer the funds within County facilities and also by disbursing them to agencies within their boundaries who compete for funds for operation. Most of these agencies operate on a non-profit basis, which allows them to qualify for federal grants.

Few of these agencies operate at a funding level that allows for medical staff. SAMHSA spokesperson, Anne Herron, who is the director of Division of Regional and National Policy, stated that most of the states had a positive response to the grant language. She did confirm, however, that each state has autonomy when deciding how funds were distributed.

As this indicates, the trend is moving toward MAT types of treatment, which may influence more of the funding received in the future.


Huffington Post: Feds Now Pushing States Toward Medical Treatment For Heroin Addicts: Some federal grants will even require rehab centers to offer it. Retrieved online from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/heroin-addiction-treatment_55cd1855e4b055a6daafe67f


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Bath Salts: An Overview

August 27, 2015 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News


iStock_000005147861_LargeAs summer comes to an end, thousands of parents are preparing to send their young teenagers off to college. And with new found freedom, these young adults may be tempted and influenced to explore drugs that were never known before, such as bath salts.

Decades ago, in a much more innocent time and place, bath salts were an innocent product that was dissolved in bath water to soften or perfume the water.

Fast forward to today and, with all the changes in our society, bath salts have emerged as a new monster in addiction. Bath salts is the informal, slang term for a new group of man-made designer drugs becoming well-known as a synthetic drug with mood-altering and stimulant properties, typically in the form of crystals. Bath salts derives its name exclusively due to their appearance.

Teens are often drawn to bath salts because they are easy to find and relatively inexpensive to buy.

Regretably, it is difficult to predict how bath salts will affect each and every individual who takes them. Bath salts contain synthetic cathinones and act like a stimulant with effects similar to amphetamines. Paranoia, agitation and a racing heart are common, and according to the Partnership at Drugfree.org, these symptoms can begin in just 15 minutes and last for four to six hours.

Additional indicators of bath salt intoxication include feeling intently focused with an unusually high level of energy.

The dangers of bath salts are compounded by the fact that these products are frequently a mixture of “mystery” ingredients and may contain unknown compounds that may cause their own harmful effects.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse for Teens revealed that bath salts have been involved in thousands of visits to the emergency room.

  • In 2011 there were 22,904 reports of bath salts use during emergency room visits.
  • About two thirds of those visits involved bath salts in combination with other drugs.

Bath salts can become easily addictive, and it can be difficult for teens to overcome the addiction without outside and professional help. The treatment of bath salts often involves using medication to decrease the signs of anxiety and other nervous behavior. In addition, as it is for many other drug addictions treatment involves medical monitoring by qualified physicians.

Often, teens who have taken bath salts on a regular basis need help from a reputable rehab program. Do not be deceived by the innocuous name of this drug. It can be more destructive than its name implies.


Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

New Technology Tests Breath for Illegal Drugs


iStock_000001996195_LargeFor many years, testing urine samples have been the primary method of checking for the presence of drugs and alcohol. However, this can be an invasive and challenging process, depending on circumstances. Urine samples can present problems such as the following:

  • Samples are easy to manipulate, those being tested can purchase drug and alcohol-free urine.
  • Samples may be easily tainted with other substances, such as water and/or other easy to obtain items,
  • The sample must be procured by witnessing the person creating the sample, often considered an invasion of privacy.
  • Results can be complicated by the presence of other medications and is not always accurate.
  • Samples are messy and may be mishandled easily.

The search for more accurate forms of testing has been ongoing. Blood tests are one option, but are lengthy to perform and require medical staff to obtain, as well as process. Expensive lab fees and long waiting periods for results are other reasons this method is less popular.

What is the new approach?

New technology being developed eliminates many of these factors. Analyzing the breath of the person being tested happens with a process called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. This is a highly sensitive method for detection of drugs in the system of the person being tested.

Basically, this technology captures small aerosol particles being exhaled and tests them for the presence of drugs. The device collects these particles and filters them for presence of drugs, such as amphetamines, methamphetamines, marijuana and cocaine.

How will it be applied?

Those most often impacted by the waiting period for testing of urine or blood are law enforcement officers and personnel. Others who will find this form of testing valuable and viable are employers who perform random testing, emergency room personnel who must act quickly in medical situations, treatment professionals who perform regular testing of participants, school officials who suspect drug use on campus, sporting officials who must perform random testing on athletes in competitions, and all those who need to save money on testing procedures as well as obtaining access to fast results of the testing.

What is the importance of testing?

Recent studies have shown that approximately 75 percent of those aged 18 and higher who use drugs, even only occasionally, are employed. They often use drugs while on the job and in the workplace, therefore making them a high risk group for workplace accidents and loss of productivity.

Using the percentage above, this translates to about 42,000 people per year who are coming to work high or getting high while in the workplace. This can lead to liability for the employer in many arenas. Is it any wonder that more employers are beginning to see the benefit of drug testing for their employees? It is estimated that approximately three quarters of the Fortune 500 companies now regularly perform drug tests.

Retraining costs and loss of productivity from employees who begin to lose work and eventually either quit or are laid off has created the trend toward pre-employment drug screens. It is estimated that 71% of employers now utilize this practice. Waiting times for blood and urine samples, along with high costs of lab and medical fees for this practice make the new technology very appealing for small to medium sized companies who currently do this type of testing.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Hypertension Medication Finds New Use in Treating Opioid Addiction

July 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News


New medicineThose in the early stages of opiate addiction treatment or anyone experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms typically receive Buprenorphine.

Trade names for Buprenorphine are Cizdol, Suboxone, Subutex and Bunavail. Suboxone, which contains Naloxone, reportedly provides a safer alternative to Methadone treatment, which has been used for many years in treating heroin and various other opiate addictions. Methadone is known as a likely cause of respiratory depression among users when abused or mixed with other opiate drugs.

The combined effect of Suboxone with naloxone was designed to reduce pleasurable effects of crushing the pills for injection, although the creators of the drug report painful withdrawals when these drugs are injected.

A recent development in opioid recovery, however, has found a new blend of medications to also be effective in helping recovering opioid addicts stave off cravings.

What is Clonidine?

Researchers found that Buprenorphine, when combined with the drug Clonidine, shows positive and promising results in reducing cravings, even when symptoms of withdrawal were gone.

Clonidine is a medication frequently administered to regulate high blood pressure and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is a medication used to reduce hypertension as it relaxes the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely. Other uses for the drug include reduction of menopausal symptoms and as an aid to smoking cessation.

Trials were conducted on 208 individuals undergoing outpatient treatment for opioid addiction, which used randomized double-blind techniques for control of a placebo versus the Clonidine recipients. Results showed a marked difference in the time that was seen in those who relapsed back to drug use.

Why is this Important?

Reduction of stress is an important factor in the treatment of addiction to pain medications and other opioid drugs, such as heroin. When stress is reduced, the craving for use of drugs is reduced as well.

Many years of research have been conducted to quell the high rate of recidivism and relapse with heroin and opium abuse and addiction. Today, the highest incidence of drug abuse is seen with pain medications. The high cost of pain medications typically lead those who are addicted to find relief through heroin, which has shown high rates of use and abuse due to its widespread production, availability and low cost.

Treatment protocols for reduction in use and abuse of opioid medications are a priority in the fight against addiction. The use of Clonidine provides another step in the battle faced with abuse and addiction to opioid drugs.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.


Cocaine’s Effects on the Brain: Impulsive Behavior

July 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


77490More than 800,000 people in the United States suffer from cocaine addiction. They are known to be highly impulsive without regard to negative consequences, possibly due to increased cocaine relapse. Many scientists speculate that this impulsivity may serve as an important behavioral target for the development of relapse prevention medications.

In attempt to end cocaine addiction, medical researchers have searched for a medication that can help end this dependency. Regretfully, many of these past attempts did not see complete success, but they’ve shown hope.

A new scientific study has discovered that the brain function of cocaine addicted people who demonstrate highly impulsive behavior differs from the brain activity of those who are not addicted. During this research, the left caudate, which is a brain structure known to control motor function, performed differently between cocaine users and non-cocaine users when answering specific questions.

To measure impulsivity in the study, scientists used a common test called the “Go/NoGo task.” This monitors a person’s ability to inhibit an impulsive response. More on how this task is administered can be found here.

The findings led researchers to believe that “Targeting altered brain connections in cocaine addiction for therapeutic development is a fresh idea, offering a whole new arena for research and the potential to promote abstinence and prevent relapse in these vulnerable individuals.”

The Brain During Relapse

In addition, a report published last month examined how cocaine can alter the brain, leading to more common relapses addicts. The process is a bit intricate to understand, but provides incredible insight for the possibility of reducing relapses.

The findings suggest that stress may cause “profound changes” in the brain and therefore, play a role in increasing the risk of relapse in cocaine addiction addicts.

This new research pinpointed a mechanism in the “reward center” of the brain that identifies how cocaine addicts relapse after stressful events.

Perhaps more importantly, this animal study detected a potential mechanism for protecting against such relapses.

Here is what took place during the research:

  • Researchers focused on neuropeptides which are “messenger molecules” that carry information between neurons in the brain and form the brain’s communications system.
  • Scientists discovered that there was direct communication between the neuroreceptors controlling stress and neuroreceptors controlling reward.

They concluded that “Our research showed that cocaine disrupts the interaction between receptors and these changes… [This] could increase the risk of relapse under stressful conditions.”

The next step is to design a process that can restore this broken interaction between neuroceptors to minimize stress-driven relapse in cocaine addicts.

These two recent studies certainly provide hope and provide the foundation and opportunity for the development of new, more targeted methods for reducing addiction-based relapses, especially with the highly dependent drug, cocaine.

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

New Synthetic Drug ‘Flakka’ Triggers Crazed Behaviors

July 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News


Young man smokingFlorida seems to be the point of entry for “flakka,” a new drug reportedly coming primarily from China, India and Pakistan. The substance’s frightening effects has been seen to put a number of Florida residents in the headlines, emergency rooms and in the hands of local police.

In April 2015, flakka exploded in the media after causing erratic and delusional behavior. According to Florida police, it has similar effect as another recreational designer drug termed “bath salts.”

What is Flakka?

Flakka—sometimes referred to as “gravel” due to its small crystal pebbles and foul odor—is produced from cathinones, a naturally occurring amphetamine-like stimulant found in the khat plant. Much like the coca plant in South America, some cultures are known to chew on khat leaves to achieve euphoria.

The active ingredient found in flakka is alpha-PVP, which is a substance banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2014, although it continues to be found in vast amounts throughout parts of the U.S. Last year in Broward County, Florida, there were 200 cases filed against laboratories reportedly using alpha-PVP. Within the first three months of 2015, Florida officials reported having discovered more than 300 cases within state.

How does it affect the body?

Flakka affects the user’s central nervous system by stopping the re-uptake of the chemical compounds dopamine and norepinephrine. These two chemicals in the brain, known as the “pleasure chemicals,” then flood the brain causing a concentrated pleasure effect. This is similar to the brain’s reaction with other amphetamine drugs.

What are symptoms of flakka?

As the user increases the dose, which can be easily done as the amount of flakka needed to get high is both small and inexpensive, they begin to experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, increased excitability and a very intense sense of pleasurable euphoria. This is quickly lost, however, as their brain begins to produce hallucinations and delusions due to higher concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine.

Most users experience a spike in body heat up to 106 degrees farenheit, explaining the tendency for them to take off clothing and run around naked, as seen with many recently reported incidents in Florida.

The user becomes very agitated and violent as their adrenaline soars, along with surges of super-human strength. Police report that some users require up to four officers to subdue and restrain them. Intense paranoia and hallucinations added to their intense violent reaction to the drug make these users frightening to deal with.

What are the dangers of flakka?

The most serious risk around use of flakka is that it takes only a tenth of a gram to have strong effect on the brain chemistry of the user. This amount currently costs only $4 to $5 on the streets. Due to this low cost and the small dose required, users will experiment with higher doses and begin to experience dangerous side effects.

As the dose increases, so does its effect on the user’s brain chemistry. This leads to a state known as “excited delirium.” Users become extremely agitated, highly excitable and delirious. This effect becomes longer lasting, the higher the dose.

High body temperatures, when sustained for any period of time, create the breakdown of internal muscle tissue, which are then released into the bloodstream, leading to kidney failure. Heart attack is also a common side effect of sustained, increased heart rate from use of flakka.

Some users also experience extended periods of psychosis, as a result of the drug. As with similar drugs, it is possible for permanent psychosis to occur, along with psychotic episodes that may be a long-term problem for users.

There is also no “build up” of effects with flakka. The user does not develop tolerance or the need to up their doses overtime to get the same high, nor does a user develop tolerance to higher doses. This makes it possible to reach an overdose at any point, from the first or 100th use.

Another dangerous factor with using flakka is the user’s ability to mask their drug use with vaping, or inhaling vapor through an e-cigarette or similar device. Virtually unknown to others, flakka is easy to mask in this fashion, making it easy to use in public. Flakka, however, can also be smoked, inhaled, snorted, injected or swallowed.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Painkiller-Addicted Babies a Growing U.S. Concern

June 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


Newborn baby girl crying , ten days old.

As the problem with addiction to pain medication and other opioids increases in our country, so does the incidence of infants being born addicted. According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of U.S. babies born withdrawing from narcotic painkillers has tripled since 1995.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, stemming from increased rates of addiction to oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone, has become a nationwide epidemic. Withdrawal symptoms for infants include seizures, muscle spasms, shaking, diarrhea, vomiting and high fever, along with extensive crying, which can all last from a few weeks to a few months. The symptoms are usually seen in infants early as two weeks of age.

In Florida, where research is being conducted to quell the onset of such high incidence, doctors suggest increasing treatment for mother exposed or addicted to painkillers. The increasing rates of babies born with birth defects caused by their mother’s addiction to opioid drugs has also alarmed a number of Florida doctors. These birth defects, aside from the babies’ withdrawal syndrome, include heart, brain and spinal problems as well as high risks for premature birth and decreased birth weight.

The reports also show that from 2010 to 2011 alone, 242 babies in three hospitals were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. With this onset increase in infant birth defects, CDC has been contacted to provide assistance to physicians and mental health professionals.

Infants in four out of five cases require treatment with morphine or anti-seizure medications to control withdrawal symptoms, a Florida doctor reports. The hospitals are also required to place these babies in neonatal intensive care units, where they stay an average of 26 days while being treated.

Because the mothers of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome suffer from addiction, few of them are able to afford to put their newborns in such expensive treatments. At the same time, a number of these infants do not get to go home as their mother’s are decline custody, usually landing the children in foster care. This interferes with bonding between the mother and baby, which is an important developmental stage of mental health for the infant.

One solution, according to both medical and mental health providers, is to place these mothers in immediate treatment when they test positive for drugs during pregnancy. Currently, it is reported that only 10 percent of addicted mothers are being sent for help. Intervention to the mother’s addiction is one way to reduce the incidence of babies being born with these issues, provided they are able to abstain from substance use during pregnancy.

Canadian Reports

Doctors in one Canadian province of Ontario report a rate of increase at 15 times during the years from 1992 to 2011. The Canadian treatment for mothers who have taken or abused pain medications during pregnancy is to place them on Methadone, which is reported to counter-balance the effects of pain medication addiction, increasing birth rates without infant withdrawal symptoms.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

SAMHSA Releases New Guidelines for Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

June 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe largest U.S. government agency that deals with public mental health issues has released an updated guide to widely used alcohol addiction and abuse medications. While other large treatment communities have long voiced out their own opinions regarding regulation of medication treatments, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s recent update is an addition to the progress being made within this arena over the past few years.

Along with the updated diagnostic tools found in the current The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), SAMHSA also sends treatment providers “Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide,” which is a booklet that allows for charting the course of a patient’s treatment experience using medications that are increasingly becoming more popular in treating different degrees of alcohol dependence.

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence has seen an increase nationwide. One reason for the growth of this treatment protocol are changes in medical insurance. Often, these changes are driven by the need to reduce treatment episodes for each individual as costs for detoxification and treatment program services continue to rise, along with numbers of individuals who require treatment.

Many treatment providers have struggled for decades to meet these increasing needs and create a bridge from patient treatment to long-term recovery for patients. While medication-assisted alcohol abuse management is not new, some of the drugs and their methods of prescription have been receiving new uses.

Currently, there are four medications recognized to be the most appropriate treatment for alcohol dependence. SAMHSA’s booklet provides a table with information about the use of these four medications and the DSM-5 criteria for severity of alcohol dependence. When used as suggested, these medications may be used as short-term or long-term tools for recovery.

The four drugs, which have been approved by the U.S. Drug Administration (FDA) for alcohol disorder treatment in the detoxification and oral processes and for preventing relapse, include disulfiram, acamprosate, oral naltrexone and an injectable extended-release form of naltrexone.

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) has been used for a long time for alcohol use and abuse, mostly as a preventative intervention. This drug causes abdominal discomfort and illness if the patient drinks alcohol while on the medication.
  • Acamprosate (Campral) is a medication used to bridge the brain’s functioning in the glutamatergic and GABAergic systems. These are the areas of the brain thought to control mood and nervous system health. When alcohol use and withdrawal disrupts this dynamic, the drinker experiences mild to severe symptoms, both as a result of drinking and of stopping drinking. This drug is primarily used post-withdrawal to alleviate long-term symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Oral Naltrexone (also known as Vivitrol) is a newer medication used for blocking the opiate receptors, or pleasure-sensing receptors in the brain. Both forms of the drug give the same effect when alcohol is introduced; the patient receives no sensation of pleasure. The oral form of the drug is used to introduce these effects at onset of treatment to provide relief from cravings and withdrawal.
  • Injectable, extended-release Naltrexone is used for long-term purposes of abolishing the cravings for alcohol and a return to drinking behaviors (relapse).

SAMHSA’s booklet cuts through the usual challenges that comes with working with various clinical criteria and caters to providers who are not trained in medical settings, such as counselors and other lay persons without medical education.

Along with guidelines for assessing and diagnosing alcohol dependence, SAMHSA also lists other possibly co-existing mental and physical health conditions, which can interfere with alcohol abuse treatment if not addressed. Based on each patient’s needs, assessment for medication-assisted treatment begins. SAMHSA has also produced a guide for how much treatment to use as the patient progresses through specific stages of treatment.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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