Parents: How to Prepare for Prom

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It’s warming up (unless you’re in Chicago), finals are looming, bank statements are lowering, meaning one thing for high schoolers and their parents: prom.

For many, prom marks the end of high school and a transition into uncharted territory. Students may be leaving home for college, entering the workforce full-time, or struggling to figure out their next step, all of which may increase susceptibility to peer pressure and substance use. Studies show more than 75 percent of underage drinkers reported drinking in a group. And although adolescents and young adults drink less often than adults, they tend to binge drink, leading to consequences like visits to the emergency room or even death.

Gloom and doom aside, prom season can be fun; it can also an opportunity to start a conversation with your teens about substance use. Two of our Gateway experts, Aurora and Joliet’s Jim Scarpace and Lake County’s Karen Wolownik-Albert, share their tips for a safe prom:

Allow them to ask questions and be open to hearing their experiences with peers and even with drinking and using drugs. Help them understand the dangers and risks associated with using drugs and drinking, like the increased likelihood of unsafe sexual behaviors or victimization

  • Prepare them for what they may be exposed to on prom night.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of binge drinking and drunk driving or riding with an intoxicated driver. About a third of alcohol-related traffic deaths involving teens occur between April and June, the most popular months for prom. Try practicing their responses to different scenarios.

  • Establish a back-up plan.

Let your teen know they can call you immediately, regardless of the time or situation, and you will be willing to come get them. Develop a code word. Let them know they can text you instead of calling, if that is easier for them.

  • Figure out a structured and supervised post-prom event.

If this is not possible, be sure to meet or speak to the parents at any home where your teen may be hanging out after prom.

  • Do not provide alcohol to teenagers in your home.

Although it may seem safe, social hosting laws have established significant legal consequences for adults who allow alcohol or drug use in their home.

If your teen is struggling with substance use, be sure to express your support in overcoming the problem with them and reach out to professional resources and treatment.

If you’re a parent and have other questions about your children’s substance use or mental health, please contact us at Marketing@GatewayFoundation.org and we will work with our experts to answer them.

What Is Binge Drinking?

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What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is the consumption of alcohol that raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.8 or above, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For men, this usually takes five or more drinks in two hours, and for women, it usually takes four or more drinks. In contrast, the recommended amount of alcohol consumption for women is no more than one drink a day and no more than two for men.

Why is binge drinking dangerous?
Most people who binge drink do not have a substance use disorder. However, the consequences of binge drinking are still severe, and extended periods of binge drinking can lead to alcohol dependence.

There are a lot of health risks associated with alcohol consumption, such as an increased likelihood of contracting certain cancers and difficulty with memory and learning. With excessive alcohol consumption, additional risks such as unintentional injury like blackouts, alcoholic coma, and alcohol poisoning are higher than with moderate use.

Rates of violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, also increase when drinking is involved. An estimated 50 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol.

For women, binge drinking additionally increases the likelihood of an unplanned or a difficult pregnancy.

How common is it?
Binge drinking typically evokes images of college students in fraternity houses and, in fact, young drinkers consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.
However, they are not the only ones. One in six adults in the United States engages in binge drinking four times a month. Over 50 percent of those who binge drink are between the ages of 18 to 34. It is also most prevalent among men, as men are twice as likely as women to binge. However, in the past couple of years, studies show women have begun to close the gap in alcohol consumption.

What should I do if I am or someone I know is struggling with binge drinking?
Attempts to quit without professional help are mostly unsuccessful, and they can also be fatal. Seeking professional help is the safest and most reliable way to stop drinking

Dr. Britton and Gateway Alum Broadcast Insights on Opioid Crisis

Gateway Foundation President and CEO Dr. Thomas Britton and Gateway alum Spencer spoke to Justin Kaufmann on WGN’s “The Download” about the opioid crisis, how we can combat it, and Spencer’s journey to recovery.

Biggest takeaways:

“A criminal problem rather than a public health problem

Dr. Britton mentions how more government funding is being allocated to law enforcement compared to treatment options. He says of the estimated 30-60 million people who need treatment, only 3 million get it, and those who do often don’t get enough to be successful. He advocates for a multi-pronged policy approach.

“A bridge to recovery”

Dr. Britton speaks to the importance of medication assisted treatment (MAT) and how it saves lives every day. However, he warns MAT is not the cure for addiction, but one of the methods used to help people with substance use disorders. Other measures still need to be taken.

“All my morals out the window”

In an effort to support his habits, Spencer talks about stealing from his parents, relatives, neighbors, and even kids to pay for drugs and alcohol.

“Mentally in love with the drug”

While in treatment for the first time, Spencer counted down the days until he could use again. This happens again while he is in his hospital bed following his heart attack, counting down the days until he could have a drink.

“The flu on steroids”

Spencer describes the withdrawals every time he tried to quit by himself: the muscle aches, nausea, suicidal thoughts.

“Learn my parents’ names again”

Following his heart attack at age 25, Spencer fell into a coma. After waking up a couple months later, he had to relearn the basics, like how to say his parents’ names, how to use a fork, how to use the bathroom.

“Like trying to swim against the current”

Spencer relates his experiences of quitting by himself to a person drowning. He needed a lifeguard, which in this case was Gateway’s support system, to help him to recovery.

“A silent killer”

Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, many people feel ashamed to ask for help and spend their lives hiding their struggle from their loved ones. Addressing this stigma could change the conversation and increase the number of success stories.

“I wouldn’t say [addiction] defines me; I’d say it definitely has taken a lot out of me… It’s like a soldier that has gone to war. You have the stories but you just gotta keep going forward. Now, I love volleyball. I’d say that defines me. I love my sister, my parents. I love life.”

If you or someone you know would like to tell your Gateway recovery story, please contact us. We’d love to interview you and inspire others. 

Spot Symptoms of the Other, High Functioning National Crisis

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The opioid crisis has been staking headlines across national and local media, but another substance has been quietly taking lives by the thousands for years: alcohol.

In 2016, more than an estimated 64,000 people died from drug overdose; meanwhile, an average of 88,000 have died from alcohol-related causes every year.

Alcohol use has been more normalized compared to other substance use. Because alcohol has become ingrained in mainstream American culture, it has become harder for people to distinguish between someone who enjoys having drinks in moderation and a person who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Further, the stereotype of an “alcoholic” at rock bottom who drinks all day and can’t hold a job does not reflect the vast majority of people living with alcohol use disorders.

One of those people could be your boss, who comes to work on time every morning, cleanly shaven and impeccably dressed, and finishes every task—then goes home and drinks bottles and bottles of beer. Or your neighbor down the street, who juggles raising kids and working a full-time job while never missing a single one of their games, but drinks an entire bottle of wine after putting them to bed.

The reality is that we all most likely know someone struggling with or affected by alcohol addiction. About 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, ranging from mild to severe. However, less than 15 percent of people receive any treatment.

Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way and every addiction story is different, but these 11 questions can help you distinguish whether enjoying drinks in moderation has turned into a problem:

1.) Are you drinking more alcohol, or for longer, than you originally intended?

2.) Are you having unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit?

3.) Are you spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?

4.) Are you experiencing cravings for alcohol?

5.) Are you having issues with carrying our roles at home or at school or at work because of alcohol?

6.) Have you continued drinking even though it was causing problems with loved ones?

7.) Are you getting into dangerous situations (like driving intoxicated or having unsafe sex) while or after drinking?

8.) Have you continued to drink even after experience negative side effects, such as depression, anxiety, and memory blackouts?

9.) Have you stopped participating in activities that were once enjoyable and drink instead?

10.) Do you have to increase the amount of alcohol consumed to feel the same effects as before?

11.) Do you have withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wear off, including shaking, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, nausea, or restlessness?

There are three categories for severity of alcohol use disorder: mild, moderate, and severe. Even if you or someone you care about is experiencing a mild case—the presence of two to three symptoms—seek out professional help.

And this April, Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s all reconsider the use of alcohol in our lives.

Biting the Hands that Feed Each Other: Stress and Alcohol

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Your boss wants the project on their desk first thing tomorrow morning. Your rent is due and you’re short, again. You forgot about your anniversary. It’s Monday.

When you finally get home, you have a drink or two to wind down, which isn’t necessarily a problem, not yet. According to Gateway Aurora Executive Director Jim Scarpace, stress-related drinking becomes a problem when someone starts relying on alcohol as a way to self-medicate, when alcohol becomes the only form of stress-relief.

To be clear, stress and anxiety are different from stress and anxiety disorders. We all experience stress and anxiety to a degree. Stress is sometimes even healthy. It tells our body and our brain to react to a threat. It can kick-start our body to fight off an infection or help us perform better under pressure. However, unmanaged and acute or long-term stress can damage our bodies and our minds.

Although alcohol in small doses acts like a stimulant, or a pick-me-up, alcohol is a depressant, meaning it lowers activity of the central nervous system; simply put, it relaxes us. If someone turns to the bottle time and time again under stress, however, they will likely develop an association between the two, a habit, and then a tolerance to its stress-alleviating properties. It will take more alcohol to feel the same level of relief, increasing vulnerability to addiction.

Despite alcohol’s ability to diminish stress, studies have shown it dually extends the negative experience of stressors and decreases alcohol’s positive effects. So the negative emotion associated with that project – still due tomorrow – may be even worse when you present it to your boss the next day.

People in recovery may need to overcome more hurdles to cope with stressors without the help of alcohol. Studies have also indicated people in recovery experience increased rates of relapse in the face of life stressors.

However, finding support and healthy coping mechanisms can reduce alcohol misuse, relapse rates, and stress levels.

Alternative ways to relieve stress:
– Exercise or go for a walk
– Laugh – at a video, TV show, or meme (here’s one to get you started)
– Listen to music
– Journal or craft
– Take a nap
– Spend time with pets or people you love

“If you’re struggling to stop using alcohol and not getting any relief from your coping mechanisms, then you really need to get support through medically assisted treatment or counseling or both,” Scarpace advises, “and that’s where treatment comes in.”

How do you deal with stress? Share your healthy stress relievers with us this month @RecoverGateway on Facebook and Twitter.

Gateway Presents New Program at National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit

The National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit took place in Atlanta this week, and two of Gateway’s own attended to speak about a new program on Thursday. Also in attendance were special speakers President Bill Clinton, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

Karen Wolownik-Albert, Gateway Lake Villa executive director, and Sally Thoren, Chicago-Independence executive director, presented on Project Warm Hand Off. This federally funded initiative targets those struggling with opioid use and works to remove barriers to treatment. Using the Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) model, this program aims to connect people struggling with opioid use disorders to treatment directly from emergency departments. Recovery coaches follow up with patients to ensure the Warm Hand Off is completed, and also with patients who initially declined assistance. “We call it ‘intercepting’ those in crisis and shepherding them to care,” Thoren says.

Biggest takeaways

“We were thrilled to find our room full of interested attendees,” Thoren says. “We found that the challenges we faced in implementation have been experienced by most others as well, including delays in hospitals agreeing to partner, capacity issues, and challenges with the Medicaid changes.”

Thoren left the conference struck by New York’s coordinated, state-wide efforts against the opioid crisis.

“They have obtained the waiver that allows for more services to be paid by Medicaid, so they don’t have the capacity challenges we face in Illinois,” she elaborates. “They have robust needle exchange programs, embracing a harm-reduction approach. They have outstanding data demonstrating their effectiveness.”

Dr. Adams’ presentation garnered most of the national attention: He issued the first surgeon general national public health advisory in 13 years, urging more Americans to carry naloxone, an antidote that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses overdoses.

“We fully support the surgeon general’s advisory,” Wolownik-Albert says. “At Gateway, we have been working for several years to increase naloxone access and provide education to clients, alumni, and family. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in need of naloxone has access to this life-saving medication. We train all of our staff on overdose prevention and administering naloxone.”

“In northern Illinois, we are very fortunate in comparison to other areas of the country, to have many programs and collaborations to combat the Opioid Epidemic,” Wolownik-Albert says.

Dr. Adams stated that more access to naloxone alone will not solve this crisis – access to evidence-based treatment also must be expanded.

“The ‘tone’ was one of action, not a ‘call to action,’” Thoren says. “That is, since there is universal agreement that this crisis is real, the need is great, the tone was ‘we are doing’ as opposed to ‘we must do.’”

 

A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

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Today is “Day4Empathy” in Chicago as the Ebert Foundation honors late, beloved film critic Roger Ebert on the fifth anniversary of his death. Coincidentally, it is also the 50th anniversary of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

The day is more than an observance; it is a call to action to people across the city, and even across the country, to show more kindness and work towards more understanding with one another. Throughout the day in Chicago, ambassadors from the Ebert Foundation will pass out cards and bracelets to call on people to perform random acts of kindness for others. In addition, Roger Ebert’s wife, Chaz, will take an empathy truck around the city and stop to interview people about what empathy means to them.

On a number of occasions, Ebert spoke about empathy as one of the cornerstones of civilization. This is especially true when thinking about people who are facing difficult battles, like addiction. People fighting addiction who have the support of a strong community demonstrate much higher rates of success. Developing an understanding of where another person might be coming from is necessary to build such communities; it is critical in the journey of recovery.

In his reviews, Ebert talked about the ability of movies to bring about empathy. “When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes,” Ebert once said. “I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.”

That is what great movies do – they transport us to places and situations we never dreamed of experiencing, developing our understanding of the characters, others, and ourselves.

Today, remember to practice empathy more days in our lives.

Gateway Foundation’s ASPIRE Program Achieves Top, Dual Diagnosis Rating

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Gateway is proud to announce the ASPIRE program at Chicago Independence is the first in Illinois to be certified as a Dual Diagnosis Enhanced (DDE) site. This means ASPIRE is now officially able to treat co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. ASPIRE is the only women’s program that has met the DDE standard, as determined by an independent rater, and one of the only women’s programs American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) deems appropriate for clients who have severe or unstable mental health disorders and need residential treatment.

Being able to treat substance use and mental health disorders is extremely important, as 80 percent of individuals with substance use disorders also have mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. In order for a person to have the greatest chance of a successful outcome, both aspects must be treated. When either disorder goes untreated, the probability of relapse is much higher.

In order to ensure the staff is thoroughly prepared for treating clients with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders, Gateway hired employees who established many techniques to develop a training program to spread the knowledge. Ensuring the staff is properly prepared to treat both disorders allows for patients to have the best chance at lifelong recovery.

What is ASPIRE?

The ASPIRE program was first implemented six years ago and provides evidence-based treatment for women suffering from substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. While addiction does not discriminate based on gender, addiction has often been painted as a male issue. In reality, millions of women in the United States are also battling addiction. A program like ASPIRE helps bridge the gender gap of addiction while still ensuring women receive a tailored, personalized treatment plan for their individual needs.

“The program gives women everything that exists in the best non-gender specific programs, with the added benefit of women-specific programming that addresses how gender roles impact substance use disorders and related co-morbid conditions, such as trauma,” says Chicago Independence Clinical Director Gilbert Lichstein. “The program is a safe space where participants are not addressed in a confrontational manner or judged.”

ASPIRE is one of many Gateway initiatives that demonstrates our commitment to treating not only substance use disorders but the underlying causes of addiction.

Fake Weed-Related Injuries and Deaths Break Out in Illinois

K2An outbreak of synthetic marijuana, starting in Chicago and fanning out in Illinois, has caused more than 50 cases of serious bleeding–including two deaths–and those numbers are rising.

“This is the first time we’ve seen an outbreak of this magnitude in the area,” Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, announces.

Its effects can be up to 10 times more intense than marijuana; as a result, it’s more dangerous. And its longterm effects on the brain and body are still unknown.

“Synthetic cannabinoids have been touted as ‘safe, legal’ alternatives to marijuana and other illicit substances, but they are neither,” says Gateway Lake Villa Executive Director Karen Wolownik-Albert. “Patients in treatment who are withdrawing from these unknown chemicals experience extreme agitation, language and perceptual disturbances, paranoia, hallucinations, and significant physical discomfort.”

What is synthetic marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana, often referred to as K2, consists of human-made chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material and smoked, or liquids that are vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices.

What are the signs?

  • Feeling lightheaded and having trouble walking
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation, confusion, paranoia, and panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rate and over-stimulation of the central nervous system

What should you do?

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

What’s Been Going on at Gateway?

This year marks our 50th anniversary, and we are celebrating our accomplishments while working to improve and innovate. These past few weeks, we’ve looked back and forward:

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Gateway Aurora alumna Lucy Gabinski-Smith (left) and Lake Villa alumnus Nick Kanehl (center) visited our Gateway Chicago headquarters March 20 to inspire the board, including CEO Tom Britton (right), with their recovery stories*. They also shared how they have continued their connection to Gateway through our alumni programs.

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Chicago River North and Independence Clinical Director Gilbert Lichstein taught 36 participants about motivational interviewing at a Loyola University Medical Center Grand Rounds Training on March 22. Motivational interviewing helps clinicians to treat each patient as an individual.

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We’re over the Cupid Shuffle. A Gateway team ran with members of the recovery community for the annual Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K March 25.

*If you or someone you know would like to tell your Gateway recovery story, please contact us. We’d love to interview you and inspire others. 

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