John Oliver Brings Much Needed Attention to a Very Important Issue

On Sunday night, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver had a segment on the addiction treatment industry. During the segment, Oliver touched on many concerns that those within and outside of the industry have regarding addiction treatment providers.

At Gateway Foundation, we agree that there is not enough transparency or information available to the public about many of the treatment providers. People should be able to have access to the information they need to make a well-informed decision about where they or a loved one will receive treatment.

Oliver also made an assertion that there needs to be more expertise and oversight of the industry. At Gateway, we share his sentiment. There does need to be more oversight of the industry. This is why we are so pleased with all of the great work the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, NAATP, has done, including its Treatment Selection Guide and Code of Ethics 2.0. In addition, NAATP has also worked closely with Google and LegitScript to develop the qualification standards a treatment provider has to demonstrate in order to use Google AdWords.

In his segment, Oliver called for more treatment centers to provide evidence-based treatment options. We understand the importance of ensuring each one of our patients receives the treatment they need, which is why we utilize evidence-based practices, including medication-assisted treatment, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and many more.

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. 

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.

The Trump Administration’s Opioid Action Plan

valentino-funghi-276005-unsplashDuring the 2016 presidential election, then Republican nominee Donald Trump took a tough stance on the opioid crisis, declaring he would help solve the crisis if he were elected. President Trump often cited his personal connection to addiction as a major motivator, as his oldest brother passed away after a battle with alcohol use disorder.

The first step the Trump administration took was to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency last October. In 2017, Trump also donated his third quarter salary to the Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.

During a speech on Monday in New Hampshire, President Trump released his plan to combat the opioid crisis, which he called “The Crisis Next Door.” The plan is broken into the following three sections: enforcement and interdiction, education and prevention through a federal advertising campaign, and employment assistance for those battling addiction:

Enforcement & Interdiction

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President Trump has mentioned numerous times a desire to implement the death penalty for drug traffickers when the Department of Justice (DOJ) deems it appropriate, which has stirred controversy. During today’s speech, Trump officially called for the use of the death penalty for high-level drug traffickers.

The DOJ is now leading a task force on major litigation against drug companies at the federal level. Trump called for these companies to be held responsible for their actions. The administration plans to cut the nationwide opioid prescriptions by one-third. Trump also stated federal funding will be invested in the development of non-addictive painkillers. In addition, within two years at least half of all federally employed healthcare providers will adopt best practices for opioid prescribing, and within five years all federally employed healthcare providers will do so in order to prevent over prescribing.

Trump also emphasized supplying emergency responders and law enforcement with the overdose-reversing medication Narcan. Some cities, including Chicago, have already put forth this policy.

Education & Prevention

children-403582_1280A major initiative will be a federal advertising campaign targeting young adults and children. The administration plans to spend money on commercials that depict the devastating effects of drugs to scare children away from ever using them.

During his speech, Trump highlighted Adapt Pharma and its work with colleges and high schools. Adapt provided colleges and universities across the country with four boxes and high schools with two boxes of Narcan in an effort to reduce student overdose deaths. Adapt has also provided education on Narcan to school staff.

Employment

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Another focal point is helping inmates with substance use disorders get the treatment they need and, further, helping them secure employment after they are released. Trump referenced the country’s low unemployment rate and strong economy as being beneficial to helping inmates get hired.

Additional Takeaways:

Although no financial plans were discussed during the speech, in his latest budget proposal released in February, Trump called for an allocation of nearly $17 billion in 2019 to fight the opioid epidemic. The money from the budget will mainly go to expanding coverage of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and helping states monitor and track clinics that prescribe a large amount of opioids, which many public health officials deem necessary to resolving the crisis. Trump reiterated in his speech that the administration will dedicate resources to ensure the accessibility and affordability of medication-assisted treatments.

The administration will also waive a Medicaid rule that prevents treatment facilities with more than 16 beds from receiving reimbursements for addiction services. This initiative could prove instrumental for low-income individuals seeking treatment.

Shortly after the president’s speech, Congress released plans to introduce multiple bills to help end the opioid crisis. One of the bills is the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) act. This bipartisan bill aims to set up protocols for emergency rooms across the United States on best practices for discharging overdose patients, to ensure patients have the resources they need to succeed post-hospitalization. Measures of this act would ensure patients’ access to overdose-reversal medication and other medication-assisted treatments, as well as peer-support specialists and other types of treatment programs.

It’s Not Always Easy Being Green: Staying Sober this St. Patrick’s Day

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This weekend, the Chicago River will flow green and people dressed in green across the country will flood the streets, bars, and restaurants for St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday, originally celebrated in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, has become a drinking holiday for many Americans. It can be easy for nondrinkers and those in recovery to feel excluded and uncomfortable during the holiday weekend. So here is Gateway’s guide to activities that do not involve alcohol and some tips in case you find yourself among the pint glasses:

Stay in and enjoy your favorite indoor activities.

Whether you prefer Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, there are plenty of streaming options to choose from. Marathon a new series or re-watch a classic film from the comfort of your own home. For a list of what is available for streaming this weekend, click here.

If sports are more to your liking, then, as you probably already know, you’re in luck—March Madness . College basketball is now at the forefront of the sports world with games playing nearly every minute of the day. Even if your ride or die team failed to make it into the tournament or is already out, there are plenty of exciting matchups and Cinderella stories waiting to happen. For the schedule of all this season’s games, click here.

Read a new novel or re-read your favorite one. For a list of books everyone should read, across different genres, click here.  If you’re in the mood for fresh books with the potential to become classics, here is a link of New York Times’ best sellers released this past weekend.

If you prefer something more hands-on, look no further than the DIY board on Pinterest to find tons of crafts to keep you busy through the weekend—and even through the remainder of the month.

Focus on any of your hobbies, whether it’s playing an instrument or baking. Whatever you decide to do, dedicate time this weekend to something you thoroughly enjoy.

If you start to feel cabin fever…

Use this weekend to see the newest movies in theaters. Blank Panther has shattered world records and received glowing reviews. If you’ve already seen Black Panther or classic superhero movies aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other options now showing, including A Wrinkle in Time and Tomb Raider. Click here for a complete list of movies currently playing.

The time for New Year’s resolutions may be over, but it’s never too late to make a new resolution or to revisit one you made in January. Heading to the gym or a fitness class is a sure way to get your body—and your mind—feeling good. Exercise is proven to signal the release of dopamine, which makes you feel happy.

Surrounding yourself with people who are also not drinking is the surest way to resist temptation. Even if you are not drinking, simply seeing alcohol can lead to cravings.

However, if you find yourself somewhere where other people are drinking, remember to keep your mind and hands occupied. Try to find a sober friend who will accompany you so you have additional support and someone to talk to. Mingle with other guests but shy away from areas where alcohol is located, like bars. Hold a cup of a non-alcoholic beverage, like a carbonated drink or seltzer water mixed with juice. This reduces the likelihood someone else will make a drink for you or ask if you want something to drink.

Always remember you know yourself best, and if you feel uncomfortable, it is okay to leave. Trust your instincts.

There is no wrong way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and regardless of what everyone is doing, you should take the time to do what is best for you this weekend.

“It’s All in Your Head”

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For centuries, addiction was viewed as a psychological problem, all just in someone’s head. To be “cured” someone simply needed to want to quit. Addiction is, in fact, in a person’s head, but not in the way many believed. It is in people’s heads because addiction alters the brain.

Addiction is a chronic disease that afflicts millions of people across the country and millions more around the globe. It does not discriminate against an individual’s socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. It affects people of all backgrounds across all generations. It collaterally affects the families and loved ones of those battling this disease.

Addiction is an extremely complex disease that is misunderstood by many people to this day. Though much progress has been made regarding the stigma around addiction, many still view addiction as a moral failing. Unlike many other diseases, there is a sense of blame that is placed on those that have addictions.  As a whole, society has demonized addiction and made it so that those who are battling the disease have a hard time speaking out and seeking out the necessary treatment for the fear of being ashamed and judged.

Addiction, however, is not a moral failing. It is, instead, a chronic disease that often requires medical and professional help. Much like other diseases, addiction can destroy relationships with loved ones, it can cause many health and financial problems. Even with all of the negative consequences, addiction is hard to break because there is no simple solution or cure.

While no one decides or chooses to have a substance use disorder, some are more genetically predisposed to addiction than others. Through various research regarding addiction, genetics have been found to play a role in the disease. Studies conducted on twins and adopted children show that about 40 to 60 percent of susceptibility to addiction is hereditary. While it is not clear why some people become addicted and others do not, there are some factors such as genetics and environment that increase a person’s susceptibility to having an addiction.

But what is clear is the use of alcohol and drugs alters the brain and makes it harder for those with substance use disorders to quit. The brain starts to rely on the substance. Though the initial decision to try a substance may be voluntary, after a while it becomes compulsive – people begin to lose the ability to say no.

After continued substance use, the part of the brain that controls judgment becomes impaired. Once the brain becomes impaired, the person struggles to have the control he or she needs to say no. Addictive substances flood the brain’s reward circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that signals pleasure. Once dopamine is released, the brain begins to associate the substance with that feeling of pleasure, the “high.” This leads to the individual wanting to use that substance over and over again to chase that same feeling.

However, the feeling of pleasure diminishes as the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine; as a result, more of the substance is required in order for the individual to experience the same amount of pleasure. This leads to individuals developing a tolerance, needing more to feel the pleasure they once experienced. In many cases, individuals begin to take more of the substance in order to achieve that high and it becomes more difficult to break the addiction. Long-term use of drugs and/or alcohol leads to sometimes permanent changes in the brain, depending on the frequency and amount the individual used. The repeated use of drugs and/or alcohol begins to affect functions in the brain like learning, judgment, decision-making, and memory.

In addition, this excess dopamine can also lessen the pleasure an individual feels when they begin to do other things that once brought them pleasure, such as spending time with friend or eating their favorite dessert.

After someone stops using, they face withdrawals. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, shaking, fatigue, among many more effects. The only way to get immediate relief from the symptoms is to use the substance. Wanting a release from these unpleasant symptoms and to temporarily experience the “high” once again, the individual oftentimes turns to the substance. The brain has already associated said substance with pleasure and learned that this is the way to feel good. The brain is wired to seek pleasure, and once it has associated a certain action with pleasure, it is begins to seek out the source of the pleasure.

Since addiction affects learning and memory, people may be in danger of relapsing after seeing a beer bottle, for instance if they have alcohol use disorder. Because of conditioned learning, they will begin to crave the alcohol and feel compulsion try to take over – even if they haven’t had alcohol in a long time. The hippocampus and amygdala are the two parts of the brain that store environmental cues and even when an individual no longer wants to continue seeking out the source of their pleasure, the brain still associates the source with pleasure – they develop cravings when they are around the substance.

Many individuals battling addiction feel that they have to go through this fight by themselves, and to carry that burden solely on their shoulders. It is not an easy topic to discuss, but it is one that needs to be addressed differently. Instead of blame, empathy and acceptance needs to be shown towards those who are struggling. The stigma of addiction puts blame solely on those who have it. While breaking the vicious cycle of addiction does indeed take a lot of willpower and inner strength, it is not as easy as an individual deciding to quit.

Much like many other diseases, addiction can be treated and managed. It is important to remember that relapses do occur, but it does not mean that the individual cannot successfully manage their addiction. Having specialized treatment programs and seeking out professional help is the best way to start towards a life of sobriety. Attempting to go “cold-turkey” without professional supervision can be dangerous. There are instances of death and other life-threatening occurrences. Which is why seeking out professional help is the safest and most reliable way to begin the journey to recovery.

Medication Assisted Treatment Can be Key Piece in Treating Alcoholism

In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month, founded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 1987, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers aim to increase public awareness and understanding of alcoholism and the alcohol treatment options available for individuals and families who may need help.

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Kerry Henry
Executive Director
Gateway Treatment Centers in Springfield and Pekin

 Kerry Henry, Executive Director, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Springfield and Pekin, explains how Medication Assisted Treatment can play a key role in treatment for alcohol use disorders:

Treatment for alcohol use disorder, often referred to as alcoholism or alcohol abuse, calls for a multi-faceted approach that is personalized to the individual. Sometimes this approach includes medication assisted treatment (MAT).

For alcoholics, MAT initially consists of different treatment options that help them through the initial stages of detox withdrawal symptoms. Freedom from these symptoms enables people to participate in therapy sooner than later.

Skeptics of Medicated Assisted Treatment believe that it’s just substituting one drug for another, which is far from the case. The medications Gateway uses are not harmful, are closely monitored, treat symptoms and, the way we use them, are not addictive. We use the minimum effective dose and discontinue their use as soon as possible.

The ability to medically assist people with alcoholism has brought positive changes for those receiving treatment at Gateway. Read Full Article

To learn more about medication assisted treatment for alcoholism, or our free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 800-971-HOPE (4673).

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