Gateway Embraces Solutions to Heroin Overdose Epidemic

Pictured: Sitting - Patricia Kates-Collins, Deputy Director, Division of Program Services, Illinois Department of Human Services / Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse - Standing - Carl Scroggins, Program Director, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers, Heroin

Pictured: Sitting – Patricia Kates-Collins, Deputy Director, Division of Program Services, Illinois Department of Human Services / Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Standing – Carl Scroggins, Program Director, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers

To help further awareness surrounding the heroin overdose epidemic, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers participated in the first Drug Overdose Awareness Event hosted by the Illinois Department of Human Services / Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (IDHS/DASA) on Aug. 26, 2014, at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Hundreds of attendees gleaned from expert presenters the physiological effects of opioid/heroin intoxication, the importance of adopting overdose prevention strategies and how to get involved with DASA Drug Overdose Prevention.

As part a concerted state-wide effort to save lives, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Program Supervisor Carl Scroggins encouraged other treatment providers to implement heroin and opioid overdose rescue strategies as Gateway has done. Scroggins stressed the importance of training to ensure that staff feel comfortable administering Naloxone in the event of an opioid overdose. He also encouraged attendees with family members who may be at risk for overdose to obtain Naloxone rescue kits and training through participating community agencies.

heroin problems, heroin overdose

According to The Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, the Chicagoland area has the nation’s most severe heroin problem as measured by 2010 emergency room visits—24,360 heroin-related admissions—in comparison, the second highest recorded number of heroin-related emergency room visits was 12,226 in New York City.

“Most fatal overdoses are unintentional. That’s why it’s so important to get Naloxone in as many of ‘right hands’ as possible because it has proven to be an extremely effective solution—with the potential to  save thousands of  precious lives. Quick access to Naloxone can mean the difference between manageable drug relapse and death,” explains Dr. John Larson, Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers.

To help individuals recover from heroin and opioid addiction, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers rely upon a personalized, integrated substnace abuse treatment approach. To manage the intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms that occur when heroin use stops, individuals under Gateway’s care have on-site access to medications like Suboxone® and Vivitrol along with substance abuse counseling, therapy and education offered at Gateway Treatment Centers.

For more facts and resources about heroin abuse and treatment options, please visit

A Doctor’s Note: How Self-Medicating Spirals into Addiction

By Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers


John Larson Gateway Treatment Centers

Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director
Gateway Treatment Centers

For many, addiction unwittingly begins with self-medicating, which is when a person uses substances, like alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or prescription medication, in an attempt to appease symptoms related to physical pain, social anxiety or depression.

For example, take social anxiety—in modest doses alcohol may initially produce a sense of relief because of the effect it has on brain chemistry. However, since alcohol metabolizes in the body very quickly, it soon loses its effect.  Plus, as tolerance develops, drugs or alcohol will become less and less effective. Indeed, with regular, continued use of alcohol or other drugs of choice, the chemistry of the brain will gradually change, worsening feelings of anxiety when alcohol and/or drugs aren’t present—even if an individual is not in a stressful social situation.

Once the occasional drink escalates in frequency and volume to appease the aggravated anxiety symptoms, physical dependence can develop.  Attempts to stop or cut back only result in symptoms of withdrawal, which results in an increased preoccupation with obtaining and using alcohol (or one’s drug of choice).

Actually, when an individual tries to cut back, the rebound of the original symptoms only intensifies the discomfort experienced during withdrawal, making it very difficult to stop using.  This often occurs with drugs, such as Valium and Xanax, sleeping medications and drugs used to treat acute and chronic pain.

depression, social anxiety, addictionUnfortunately, many are under the mistaken impression that addiction issues will disappear if the underlying problem is treated:  “If I can find some other way of treating my social anxiety, my alcohol problem will simply go away.” This is seldom the case.  When it reaches this point, the drug or alcohol use has a life of its own and the individual needs to be specifically evaluated and treated for addiction as well as for the underlying psychiatric or medical problem. Failure to treat both inevitably results in continued suffering and worsening health complications.

Wondering if you may have a problem with alcohol addiction? Take this Alcohol-Dependency Self-Test.

For more information about substance abuse treatment, call 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit

Robin Williams’ Death Puts Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues under Spotlight

co-occurring-disorders-robin-williamsWhile the specific circumstances surrounding Robin Williams’ untimely death may never come to light, this tragic loss is increasing awareness regarding the interrelationship between mental health and substance abuse issues.

Depression, for example, afflicts an estimated 350 million people across the globe according to the World Health Association. Furthermore, since one in three depressed people also suffer from some form of substance abuse or dependence*–more than 120 million people in the world have struggles similar to Williams’. And, to complicate matters even more, adults with substance use disorders are more likely than those without abuse to have serious thoughts of suicide according to SAMSHA.

“Due to the intense psychological distress associated with mental illness accompanied by substance abuse, co-occurring disorders are linked to suicidal ideation and suicide. Feeling a desire for immediate relief from such intense psychological pain can lead to thoughts of suicide as a means to escape the emotional agony,” explains Dr. Greg Tierney, a licensed psychologist and Program Director at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center in Aurora, Ill.

Having quit alcohol and drugs cold turkey and remaining sober for 20 years, Williams divulged in a Good Morning America interview that an overwhelming sense of fear preceded his relapsed in 2006.

“While it’s not uncommon for feelings like fear, anxiety and loneliness to precede relapse, the feelings associated with relapse itself, like guilt, powerless and shame, only intensify one’s depressive state. The interaction between such experiences cause an individual to feel hopeless and defeated,” says Dr. Tierney.

Historically, substance abuse and mental health issues have been conceptualized and treated separately, initiating a misleading assumption that the issues are isolated. Later, it was believed one issue caused the other.

Presently, a mental health condition, such as major depressive disorder or anxiety, in conjunction with a substance use disorder is called a co-occurring disorder. Hence, today’s integrated treatment premise is that each issue and the interplay of issues are taken into consideration.

In a 2009 New York Times interview, Williams expressed one of his hardest hurdles in life was dealing with the underlying issues related to his addiction. A poignant insight, Williams not only revealed the depths of his emotional hardship, he also reinforced the importance of embracing integrated treatment for complicated medical conditions like co-occurring disorders.

According to research gathered by SAMHSA, combining strategies from the fields of psychiatry and addiction treatment can lower the relapse rate among rehab graduates, reduce the number of suicide attempts and foster long-term abstinence.

“Substance abuse is rooted in avoidance. That’s why Gateway clients with co-occurring mental health issues are exposed to strategies like mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy to address anxiety and impulsivity, improve self-awareness and enhance self-confidence. Successful treatment of co-occurring disorders can help foster the tools and knowledge needed for lasting recovery,” says Dr. Tierney.

Learn More about Co-Occurring Disorders at >


Encouraging Substance Abuse Treatment

encouraging-substance-abuse-treatment, gateway treatment centers, gateway alcohol and drug treatmentIt is very important to remember that someone who abuses alcohol or drugs will continue to do so as long as the consequences of use do not outweigh the benefits. Once someone with an addiction problem experiences more consequences and fewer benefits they may begin to understand he or she needs help, and may consider substance abuse treatment. Do not feel obliged to cover up for another person’s habits, or make excuses about his or her behavior, that only puts you in the position of co-dependency and enabling.

As much as you may want a substance abuser to get help, you can’t force an individual to attend substance abuse treatment; begging or threatening won’t work either. You can only encourage someone to consider treatment as an option. Recovery will come, only if and when the substance abuser truly decides to seek a healthier lifestyle.

Discuss Substance Abuse in A Way That Places Importance On The Topic

It’s a tough subject, and sometimes it’s even harder to have time for a conversation that seems meaningful. Having a quick conversation about alcohol or drug abuse  in between texting and phone calls, or in the car on the way to work, doesn’t always signal the gravity and importance of the topic.

Tips for talking to a loved one about substance abuse: 

In approaching a loved one with substance abuse, the key is to choose your words and moment carefully when telling him or her how you feel. Ideally, pick a time when he or she is sober and when both of you are feeling calm.

  • Begin the dialog in an open, caring and supportive frame of mind. Anything less and the dialog may not go as planned.
  • Plan what you are going to say. This can be an emotionally charged conversation. There is a risk that you may say things under the stress of the situation that you don’t mean.
  • It is important that your loved one knows where he or she stands with you and that you mean what you say. Script out what you’d like to say, and go over it – it will help keep you on track.

If you have questions or are concerned about a friend or family member, call Gateway at 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit Let us provide you with the answers you need to take the next step.

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