Dr. Britton and Gateway Alum Discuss the Opioid Crisis

Gateway Foundation President and CEO Dr. Thomas Britton and Gateway alum Nick spoke to Niala Boodhoo on Illinois Public Media’s The 21st show to discuss the current opioid crisis and Nick’s journey to recovery.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

“It destroyed everything.”

Nick’s addiction had severe consequences. It damaged his relationships with family and loved ones. He found himself in legal trouble, and struggling to maintain any sense of normalcy in his life.

 “If we were to snap back 10 years ago, 5 to 10 percent of the people that we supported had opiates as one of their primary drugs and in a lot of the facilities that we treat today it’s as high as 60 percent.”

Dr. Britton speaks to the increase in the amount of people seeking treatment for opiates as the opioid crisis  continues to grow exponentially.

“An estimated 27 million people that require treatment for substance use disorders and 66 million drank in a binge fashion in the last 30 days so there’s this massive problem with all substances. Opiates are one of the smaller as a whole out of that, however, the consequences are so much faster and more intense.”

Dr. Britton discusses the current substance use problems facing the country, including excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking, which are often overlooked. Though alcohol use disorder affects more people than opioid use disorder, the consequences of opioids are felt much faster.

“[Addiction] is a brain disease; it is not an issue of moral failing or willpower.”

Dr. Britton speaks to the importance of treating addiction as a brain disease and ending the stigma around addiction.

“There is fun in sobriety.”

Nick discusses how becoming engaged in the Gateway Alumni program and attending the events helped him after completing treatment.

“I’ve been sober for two and a half years… I have a great job that has insurance and benefits and the whole works.. It’s a total turnaround from who I was to who I am today… I gave this thing a shot and I actually gave myself that chance.”

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. 

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.

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. 

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.’”

 

Blog Series for Parents: There’s No Place like CLOSE to Home

Beautiful latin family smiling at the camera outdoorsThere are many decisions to make as you decide on the best place to receive substance use disorder treatment for yourself or your child. When it comes to the decision of where, it’s all about you. While there are pros and cons to both in- state and out-of-state treatment, we will focus on the advantages of staying in state; close to home.

“One might ask; who wouldn’t jump at the chance to go to a warm state during the cold Chicago winter?” states Gina Howard, Program Director at Gateway Foundation. “When I speak to patients and families about the right place for treatment it’s really about the individual. There is no ‘One Size Fits All’ substance use disorder treatment. Florida may sound great if you’re in Wisconsin in January, but what you really need to consider is the quality of treatment you need.”

Having the support of family and friends during your treatment and recovery process is significant to success. Choosing a treatment facility near family and friends will keep them involved and keep you in the comfort of familiar surroundings.

“Some may find that staying in the same surroundings where they faced their substance use disorder challenges is difficult. For them, there may be too many distractions created by the familiarity of their surroundings. Others however, find that the comfort of a familiar setting, coupled with the participation of close friends and family, is a very effective support system. Those that choose out of state treatment should be reminded that when or if they return home, those home-based challenges will still need to be addressed,” states Gina Howard.

In many cases, your insurance provider can drastically reduce the out of pocket costs of treatment. However, there may be restrictions on the type of facility at which you can obtain services. There can also be restrictions on going out of state if your own state offers similar or better treatment services than what is offered elsewhere. Check with your insurance provider or treatment facility to get the best idea of what to expect with regard to cost.

When looking for treatment facilities evaluate your personal situation to determine the best facility for your needs. To learn about what Gateway offers, visit www.recovergateway.org.

Blog Series for Parents: Know the Signs

Teen ProblemsIn our last blog series post we discussed delayed adulthood and substance use disorder. This post raised a question: How do I know if my child has a substance use disorder?

There is statistical evidence that teens are getting involved in drug use as early as 6th to 8th grade (12–14 years old). “In many instances the parents become aware of the substance use long after it has begun and circumstances have grown more threatening” said Katie Stout, Executive Director at Gateway Carbondale.

Parents need to know the signs of substance use disorder and take immediate action before the problem grows worse.

 

The signs:

  • Frequently tired
  • Depressed
  • Hostile behavior
  • Withdrawn
  • Change in friends
  • Neglect with grooming or hygiene
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Change in eatin
  • g habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Weight changes
  • Deteriorating relationship with family and friends

Many signs may be overlooked as parents may believe them to be a normal part of growing up. “I encourage parents to discuss their concerns with a physician, school guidance counselor or substance use disorder treatment provider. These professionals can help you determine if there is reason for concern,” said Katie Stout.

Parents seeking treatment for their child can reach out to Gateway Foundation at 877.505.HOPE (4673) or visit recovergateway.org. Be sure to look for our next blog in the series on the topic of choosing treatment close to home.

Blog Series for Parents: Delayed Adulthood and Substance Use Disorder

blogIt is not uncommon in today’s world to have twenty-somethings living at home, holding off on marriage and family, and exploring many career options. This “delayed adulthood” stirs mixed attitudes among parents. Parents often struggle and feel conflicted in supporting young adults but also encouraging independence and self-sufficiency.

While some parents may be more or less focused on a particular age a child should be “on their own”, most parents agree: The end goal is to raise a self-sufficient adult. Sometimes an adult child may be experiencing some behavioral health issue which may be keeping them home and unsure of their next step.

At Gateway Foundation Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers, many parents reach out for help with a twenty-something who is living at home, unemployed or under employed. Parents worry that their child’s alcohol use or use of other substances is impacting their functioning, success, and happiness.  At this age, some young adults begin to show signs of a developing Substance Use Disorder because this time period in their life is usually filled with significant life changes, increased freedoms, and societal pressures. .

“Young adults we see in a treatment setting often desire independence, stable relationships, educational and career success, and fulfilment of goals and dreams.  When struggling with a Substance Use Disorder, it becomes difficult to see past the next day, and to take meaningful steps forward.  Time slows down, and people feel stuck or even hopeless that their dreams can become reality.” said Bennie Haywood, Program Director at Gateway Foundation.

According to “The Truth About Marijuana: International Statistics” of adults 26 or older who used marijuana before age 15:
62% went on to use cocaine at some point in their lives
9% went on to use heroin at least once
54% made some nonmedical use of mind-altering prescription drugs

“Addiction has an impact on every member of a household. I encourage parents to take an active role and educate themselves first about substance use disorder and then about the types of treatment available,” recommends Bennie Haywood.

You never stop loving and looking after your child, regardless of age.  Help in the launch to adulthood by staying informed. In our next Blog Series for Parents post, we will discuss the signs of addiction and what every parent should know.

Gateway is a recognized leader among behavioral health care providers in offering substance use disorder treatment, as well as treatment for individuals that are diagnosed with a co-occurring mental illness. To learn more about our treatment programs visit us at RecoverGateway.org.

The Relationship of Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

suicide and substance abuse, gateway treatment centersAt Gateway, we recognize that mental illness and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) often coincide. In fact, the presence of a co-occurring diagnosis is more the “rule” than the exception. The terms “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring” refer to an individual that is affected by two or more disorders or illnesses.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that 37% of individuals with alcohol use disorder and 53% of those with a drug use disorder also have at least one serious mental illness.

It is difficult to diagnose which came first – the SUD or the mental health disorder. Drug use can cause one to experience symptoms of mental illness. However, mental illness can also lead to drug use as a form of self-medication to manage symptoms. There are many overlapping factors that can make it difficult to detect the initial issue.

“There is no question that no matter which came first; both issues need to be addressed in treatment,” said Katie Stout, Executive Director at Gateway. According to reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the most common reason for relapse is an untreated mental health problem.

“The best chance of recovery is through an integrated treatment program that includes treatment of the SUD and the mental health illness,” said Katie Stout.

Evidence-based treatment for co-occurring disorders includes: motivational interviewing, mindfulness based therapy, trauma informed therapy and 12 step facilitation.

Gateway is a recognized leader among behavioral health care providers in offering substance use disorder treatment, as well as treatment for individuals that are diagnosed with a co-occurring mental illness. To learn more about our treatment programs visit us at RecoverGateway.org.

Stress on the Road to Recovery

April is Natiroadonal Stress Awareness Month. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), medical specialists believe that stress is the leading cause of relapse back into drug use. Research shows that the brain of those with substance use disorder is more hypersensitive to stress, which may provoke them to relieve their stress by returning to drugs.

 

 

For those in recovery, many stressors arise such as family/relationship conflicts, work, money and health concerns. It is important to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you to recognize stress.

  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Stomach upset
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Stress is often unavoidable. However, you can take a proactive role in acknowledging and calming the stress to avoid relapse. There are many healthy and practical ways to reduce stress and increase your chance of staying sober. Among these are: Exercise, talking it out (or write about it), breathing with purpose (yoga/meditation), and of course good old laughter.

Most important is to recognize when you are experiencing stress and find your most healthy way to cope with it.

What Is the Difference Between Alcoholics Anonymous and an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program?

In Honor of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, Gateway highlights the differences between 12-Step Meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) and an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous or 12-Step?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-Step group for those struggling with alcohol use disorder. Led by peers, this group allows participants to follow a set of recovery steps to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol.

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. AA works through members telling their stories of recovery from alcohol use disorder. AA is nonprofessional – it doesn’t have clinics, doctors, counselors or psychologists. All members are themselves recovering from alcoholism. There is no central authority controlling how AA groups operate. It is up to the members of each group to decide what they do. However, the AA program of recovery has proven to be very successful and almost every group follows it in very similar ways.

How is an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program Different from AA?

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment believes 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other kinds of recovery support groups play a valuable role in substance abuse treatment, but they only comprise part of the picture.

Gateway believes that a substance use disorder treatment program should include the use of evidence-based practices – drug and alcohol disorder treatments that integrate professional research and clinical expertise to achieve the best outcome for an individual.  The clinical professionals at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers employ evidenced-based practices to create meaningful, individualized treatment programs. We believe there is more than one pathway to recovery so we expose clients to a wide array of treatment methodologies. The greatest benefit can be derived from experiencing 12-step programs in conjunction with evidenced-based treatment.

Gateway engages both adults and teens through a variety of highly effective clinical approaches and therapies to help them get life back on track. On average, Gateway’s drug rehab programs have a 10% higher successful treatment completion rate when compared to other Treatment Providers.

12-Step as Part of Gateway’s Integrated Treatment Programs

“It’s a Personal Choice – Some individuals come to Gateway convinced that a 12-step program is the only thing that will work for them, while others have equally strong reservations about them. We make it a priority to accommodate the needs of clients who are of either mindset and implement the 12-steps accordingly,” said Gilbert Lichstein, LCPC, MS Clinical Psychology, Program Manager at Gateway Chicago.

Gradual Exposure- Our experienced staff utilizes a targeted approach that provides clients with an in-depth understanding of 12-step principles. Our curriculum is designed to break down barriers to participation and “kick start” the process of attending meetings and finding a sponsor.

12-step meetings can not only be challenging for some, they also vary from group to group and meeting to meeting. In order to give clients a good idea of what to expect out of support groups like these after leaving treatment, Gateway provides exposure to 12-steps in multiple settings. To offer our full support, we accompany individuals in our treatment programs to both on-site and off-site 12-step meetings.

For those who prefer not to use 12-step techniques, many Gateway treatment locations offer on-site SMART recovery groups and linkage to other peer support options such as Dual Recovery Anonymous.

To learn more about Gateway’s alcohol and drug treatment programs, visit RecoverGateway.org

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