Shame, Stigma, and Addiction

Individuals struggling with substance abuse may often feel a sense of shame or stigma and find that it is easier to lie and hide rather than seek treatment. However, more prevalent coverage of substance use disorder-related issues in media and depictions on television of individuals who are not only struggling with drugs and alcohol but also seeking treatment and sobriety, is helping reduce the shame and stigma associated with addiction.

THE FIX REPORTS:

With addiction, stigma can crush you. Stigma is what says your drug and alcohol use is a character flaw. It’s what says you’re a bad mother, it is what says you are a bad son, or a bad husband.

TheFix

It took me a while to get to rehab. I spent years bashing around, harming myself and the people around me before I finally went. I knew I had some serious issues with booze, drugs and sex that I could not get under control on my own, but still, at least people didn’t know I had those problems, and at the time that was all that mattered. It wasn’t like my parents, friends, employers, wives and lovers, knew I was a drunk, a freak and a loser. Sure, it might help if I went to rehab, but as ridiculous as it sounds to me now, the embarrassment of going, and the stigma attached to it, outweighed the fact that I actually might be able to get help. I was terrified of people finding out what my problems were. I had fallen victim to shame, that was perpetuated by stigma.

If you are suffering with an issue of addiction, stigma can crush you. Stigma is what says your drug and alcohol use is a character flaw. It’s what says you’re a bad mother, it is what says you are a bad son, or a bad husband. It is what says you are weak, that you are crazy, that you are a piece of crap. It is why you are afraid to tell your boss that you need some time off to go get help. It is why you would rather lie than tell someone that you are not doing okay. It was why I would rather steal than let people know I needed help.

That was ten years ago. Now, when I look around at the people I know who are struggling with similar issues, there seems to be much less stigma attached to addiction and getting help for one’s problems, at least when it comes to the younger people I know. I am a member of Generation X, my generation hid everything we could about our issues as a rule, but with the coming of Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials, things finally seem to be changing.

Mike Reis, CEO and Founder of DecisionPoint Wellness, had this to say to me about stigma and the younger generation over an email interview: “A big factor that prevents many people from getting the help they need is the stigma associated with being labeled an addict. This is especially true for older Americans who isolate and feel an overwhelming sense of shame. Surprisingly, millennials are leading the way to remove the social stigma. I’ve learned a lot from the millennials that have come through our intensive outpatient program at DecisionPoint in Johns Creek, Georgia. They are connecting to others in recovery through technology and social media. Millennials openly share their recovery stories and daily journey on the Internet too. Unlike previous generations that came into recovery through the anonymity of AA, millennials don’t feel the need to be shackled to those traditions. They are more focused being individuals, and building a community of support. It’s common to see them proudly posting their sober anniversary dates on Facebook. Millennials seem to understand that the way to maintain their sobriety long-term is to publicly share their personal stories as survivors, and bring truth to the spotlight while creating a community of support. In doing so, they help others realize that addiction is a disease, and it needs to be treated as such without shame.”

Many millennials just don’t care a whole lot about what anyone thinks. A good example of this is Kassia Kristoff, a 30-year-old woman who once went to rehab to get help with her heroin use. “Fortunately for me, I have never cared much if at all what ‘society’ thinks of me, and as a result, felt no shame going to rehab. My world by the end consisted of only other addicts, so the only shame might have been in throwing in the towel. What I do feel shame about is the fact that people in this country are judged so harshly for being addicts. As someone who now works in a rehab and works with addicts in my personal life as well, I have seen the devastation that addiction causes to all who suffer from it. Most addicts, when clean, are extremely loving, caring and productive people. They simply need to be taught how to live without using first. Rehab is very helpful in this regard, because it teaches addicts (a term I use for all who suffer from addiction to any substance, including alcohol) about their addiction, and ways to cope without the crutch of their substance. Rehab gives addicts an opportunity to temporarily thrive in a safe and compassionate controlled environment, and to allow their brains and bodies to ‘sober up.'”

According to Karen Wolownik Albert, LCSW, who is executive director of Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment, social and traditional media has a lot to do with this change. She said to me in an interview: “More prevalent coverage of substance use disorder-related issues in media and depictions on television of individuals who are not only struggling with drugs and alcohol but also seeking treatment and sobriety, is helping reduce the shame and stigma associated with addiction. Younger generations are more likely to openly discuss the topic and be more transparent with their families and friends about their desire to seek help, compared to previous generations that kept their struggles private due the negative stigma of being an ‘addict.'”

Of course, it isn’t easy to go to rehab, no matter what generation you are in. But the stigma is way harder to deal with when you are going to get help than it is once you come out on the other side. As an obvious example, I have gone from someone who was terrified about letting anyone know about my issues, to writing about them in forums such as this one. Someone else who has done that is Lindsey Hall, who writes for many websites about her experiences with her eating disorder, including her own.

She told me that “I do not feel stigma around my eating disorder. Not anymore, at least… but I also write about it publicly and have connected with hundreds of people who have been through what I experienced, and I think that has slowly worn away the fear of stigma. Also, we live in a world where opioid addiction and eating disorders are on the rise, so it’s more likely than ever that you have a loved one or you yourself have experienced addiction. Due to social media, people talk about their ‘issues’ more openly than ever and for an eating disorder, there are so many body positive Instagram accounts as well as recovery websites and essays and blogs (including mine) about this exact topic that make you feel like you’re actually in a community. However, before I went to rehab in 2013, I absolutely did feel stigma. I was terrified to tell people I was going. I wanted people to respect me and think of me as someone who had her life together, and I felt like rehab had this whole stigma of ‘Oh, you went to rehab? You must be like super messed up. You’re crazy. I can’t take you seriously anymore.’ At the end of the day, I’m not going to say it’s easy to proclaim, when meeting new people, that I’ve been in rehab. But, it’s just becoming more of an acceptable reality in a culture where drug addiction/binge drinking/and eating disorders are rampant.”

David Rosenbloom, PhD, is a professor of Public Health at Boston University where he directs Join Together, a program that helps communities prevent and reduce alcohol and drug problems.

Dr. Rosenbloom told me that he believes millennials are more tolerant of a much broader range of human conditions than their parents or prior generations. When I asked him what we could do as a society to decrease stigma, he said, “We need to significantly expand access to medication-assisted treatment and conduct a public education campaign in support of their long-term use. We also need to apologize for past excesses in the criminal justice system, and systematically review and release hundreds of thousands of people who are in prison or jail because of their substance use disorder. We should repeal all laws that prevent individuals with criminal records associated with drug or alcohol use from getting jobs, housing or education, and expand public investments to provide jobs for these people.”

When it comes right down to it, more and more people of the millennial generation are not only not ashamed of their seeking help for their issues, they make a point of that for all to see. One of those people is Seth Leaf Pruzansky, who is shopping a book about his spiritual awakening that came when he was incarcerated for a drug-related offense.

Seth told me that, “The stigma of being an addict shouldn’t stop anyone from getting help. Taking responsibility for getting it is squarely in the lap of the addict him or herself. Until they really own the fact that despite the circumstances leading to their addiction, they are the ones who ultimately made the choice of devolving into their current station in life, they will remain in a state of not believing that help is available. They will continue to play the victim card because in the short run, it’s a lot easier to stay in that rut rather than to get help and clean up. But in the long run, the continuing spiral into de-evolution and death is all but inevitable. I know. I personally climbed out of that hell.”

View article on TheFix.com >

If you know someone struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues, know that help is available. Visit RecoverGateway.org for more information or call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Comprehensive Addiction Bill Passes Senate

Addictions to painkillers, heroin and alcohol are chronic diseases just like diabetes or heart disease. Up until a few weeks ago, there was no legislation authorizing much-needed funding for this health crisis.

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On March 10 2016, the Senate approved the first standalone bill to pass the Senate in years. The Comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Act, also known as CARA, authorizes funding for evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery programs to help Americans struggling with addiction. With a near-unanimous vote, the bill moves to the House for consideration.

CARA authorizes $600 million for grants to address the national prescription, opioid and heroin addiction epidemic. Authorized funds could be used for treatment and recovery services, alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, law enforcement initiatives and programs to prevent overdose deaths and improper prescriptions.

The National Council for Behavioral Health applauds the Senates approval of CARA. “It’s physically and emotionally crippling, wrecks families, jobs and local economies, and it takes millions of lives,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council. “The only way to attack a crisis of this magnitude is for the government, health care and law enforcement communities to attack the problem with adequate prevention, treatment and recovery services. Such an effort takes time, commitment, patience and yes, money. We are so gratified that the Senate has come to their aid.”

Seeking Help

Nearly 1 in 10 American adults and teens have a drug or alcohol dependence problem. That one person could be your neighbor, cousin, best friend or even your boss. The truth is – odds favor that someone you know is struggling with drug abuse or alcoholism.

If you know someone who is experiencing substance abuse, learn more at RecoverGateway.org or call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a free consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Source: http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/

 

Marijuana Update: Legalization Support and Teen Use Trending Up

From board rooms to family rooms, marijuana legalization continues to be a hot topic due largely to rapidly changing attitudes toward marijuana in the United States. According to a new 2015 Gallup Poll, the majority of Americans (58%) say marijuana use should be legal.

Young Americans have always shown the most support of any age group for making marijuana legal, but this number has grown form 20% in 1969 to 71% currently.

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Marijuana Legalization Support Trending Up: Young Americans have always shown the most support of any age group for making marijuana legal, but this number has grown from 20% in 1969 to 71% currently.

According to a new 2015 Gallup Poll, the majority of Americans (58%) say marijuana use should be legal.

To counter the hype, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers continue to carry out a marijuana awareness effort to educate affiliated professionals, as well as consumers, on why it’s important not to minimize the effects of marijuana use. With marijuana in the headlines nearly every day, it is important to separate the fact from the myths of this extremely popular drug.

Interested in learning how marijuana use impacts brain function and can lead to addiction? Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers recently published a free guide available for download at RecoverGateway.org/MarijuanaFacts.

Teen Use Trending Up

Marijuana use continues to exceed cigarette use among high school seniors. In 2015, 21.3% of high schools seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days compared with 11.4% who smoked cigarettes. In 2015, for the first time, daily cigarette use was lower than daily marijuana use. Moreover, 79.5% of high school seniors say it is easy to get marijuana.

Treatment for Marijuana Use
At Gateway Treatment Centers, we offer customized treatment plans for people who abuse marijuana as well as alcohol and other drugs. Our highly qualified substance abuse specialists provide the counseling and skills people need to help rebuild positive connections, improve relationships and identify the triggers that lead to excessive, extended use of a drug like marijuana.

If you know someone that you think may be struggling with marijuana use, visit RecoverGateway.org to access free information on prevention and treatment options in Swansea, Illinois. For a free, confidential consultation call our 24/7 helpline at 877-505-HOPE (4673). With more than 45 years of experience treating teens and adults, Gateway is here to help.

Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders: Is There a Correlation?

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, organized by the National Eating Disorders Association, began on Sunday, Feb. 21. The week seeks to bring about awareness of the dangers of eating disorders, and to challenge the way the public perceives these illnesses.

The goal of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness) is to put the spotlight on eating disorders and improve public understanding of their causes, dangers and treatments. Millions of people across the country suffer from eating disorders, and by increasing awareness and access to resources, we can encourage early detection and intervention. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, so early intervention can mean saving lives.

Co-Occurring Eating Disorders and Substance Use Disorders

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment aims to help individuals understand the connection between eating disorders and substance abuse.

Substance use and eating disorders have strong correlations starting at development. Both diseases are influenced by genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors and can develop before, during, or after treatment for an eating disorder. For some individuals, substance use may cause appetite suppression leading to significant weight loss that can trigger the onset of an eating disorder. For others, it can be relied upon for avoidance-based coping.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, nearly 50% of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing substances such as drugs and/or alcohol.

These two diseases feed upon each other and intensify the destructive qualities of one another. This in turn creates a vicious cycle for the person suffering being that one disorder cannot be treated without treating the other.

If you know someone who has an eating disorder and is also abusing substances, seek treatment and determine if they are equipped in treating individuals with this specific co-occurring disorder.

Sources:
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
www.eatingdisorderhope.com

Super Bowl Parties May Hide the Signs of a Functioning Alcoholic

Whether it’s an over-sized plate or an overfilled glass, overindulgence is not unusual on Super Bowl Sunday. For a functioning alcoholic, this can be an excuse to overdo it on the drinks while blaming it on the game.

About half of those with a drinking problem are functioning alcoholics. A functioning alcoholic is someone who can hold down a job, pursue a career or care for children while continuing with his or her alcoholism. Some can do these things successfully, but the question becomes, how well are they handling their role of spouse, parent, driver, financial manager or community volunteer while under the influence?

In identifying a functioning alcoholic, it’s not one single event that people need to watch for, but whether there’s a pattern of behavior, according to Lori Dammermann, Executive Director, Gateway Carbondale.

“One night of over-drinking at a Super Bowl party doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a functioning alcoholic, although if this happens on a regular basis that’s a cause for concern,” Dammermann said.superbowl_alcohol

One misperception about functioning alcoholics is that they drink every day. For some of them binge drinking is more common, especially among women.

Some key signs that someone could be a functioning alcoholic:

  • Hides alcohol use from others
  • Drinks more than they say or admit
  • Drinks to reduce stress or boost self-confidence
  • Drinks far more than others during social drinking
  • Becomes irritable or anxious when refraining from alcohol
  • Becomes defensive or angry if someone comments on their drinking
  • Behavioral changes when drinking: from shy to social, from amiable to aggressive

It’s important for someone who is a functioning alcoholic to understand the health risks for them may be just as serious as they are for someone who has a more obvious addiction to alcohol. Many people do not know what are considered moderate drinking amounts. Learn about USDA moderate guidelines for drinking alcohol.

Are you concerned a loved one may be a functioning alcoholic? Learn more about functioning alcoholics online or call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers for a free consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Emerging Teen Drug Trends and Treatment Options

teen drug trendsKeeping teenagers drug and alcohol free can be an especially difficult challenge parents face. There are many emerging teen drug trends they need to be aware of.

For example, the heroin epidemic sweeping the country is primarily among middle and upper class 18 to 22-year-olds. Coroner officials reported there were 29 heroin-related deaths in Lake County, Illinois alone last year. With many heroin users, their first experience with drugs is a prescription pain reliever provided by their very own doctor.

Teenagers with an opioid-based prescription are three times more likely to wind up misusing these drugs after high school, according to the Michigan study. Many of them turn to heroin when prescription drugs become too expensive or unavailable.

Parents also need to watch out for the use of synthetic marijuana, a dangerous and unpredictable product that many teens believe to be a legal and “natural” alternative to real marijuana.

This includes information on the signs and symptoms of teen drug use, teen drug trends, effects of drug use on developing brains, tips for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol.

Concerned parents can also visit RecoverGateway.org to access free information on prevention and treatment. To talk to our treatment specialists about teen drug or alcohol treatment options throughout Illinois, including Lake County, call our 24-Hour helpline at 877-505-HOPE (4673). With more than 45 years of experience treating teens and adults, Gateway is here to help.

Kane County Cougars “Pitch in” to Help Gateway!

GAteway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers

Gateway’s Fox Valley drug treatment center receives the charitable proceeds from this season’s Kane County Cougars “Pitch in for Charity” promotion. L to R: Jamie Horner, L.S.W., C.A.D.C., Counselor, Gateway Aurora, Sherman Fields, “Ozzie,” Kane County Cougars’ Mascot, Jim Scarpace, Executive Director, Gateway Aurora

Gateway’s Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center in the Fox Valley area has been chosen to receive the charitable proceeds from this season’s Kane County Cougars “Pitch in for Charity” promotion. “Pitch in for Charity” is a contest held before the fireworks following select Cougars baseball games and involves fans who purchase and throw numbered tennis balls onto a target to win prizes.

“The significance of the donation is twofold” said  Jamie Horner, L.S.W., C.A.D.C., Counselor, Gateway Aurora,  explaining that people often face financial limitations even if they have insurance coverage. “I am so happy that Gateway Aurora will use this donation to assist individuals in covering costs to enter recovery homes after they complete our treatment programs,” said Jamie.

Second, substance abuse treatment is often overlooked when companies choose to donate to a not-for-profit organization. “Often times, organizations are uncomfortable donating to substance abuse treatment centers due to the stigma associated with addiction and mental illness. This donation helps reduce that stigma.” Jamie said.

In her role as a counselor at Gateway’s Fox Valley drug treatment center, Jamie had discussed her passion for helping people recover and Gateway’s mission many times with her dad, Sherman Fields. Through his affiliation with the Kane County Cougars, Mr. Fields recommended Gateway for the “Pitch in for Charity” promotion because he is not only proud of his daughter’s work, he respects the good work performed by Gateway Treatment Centers.

In Honor of National Recovery Month, Gateway Alumnus Shares the Story of his Road to Recovery

In Honor of National Recovery Month in September, John Fields, Gateway Alumnus Shares His Recovery Story:

National Recovery Month, Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment CentersBy the time John Fields turned to Gateway, he was having a drink as soon as he woke up in the morning. He had become aware his drinking was out of control and that he needed help. “I knew I couldn’t quit on my own. I needed a safe place where I didn’t have access to drugs or alcohol,” John said.

John wanted to get his mind clear so he could begin to think rationally again. He also wanted to learn how to live on the outside without using alcohol

“Gateway gave me what I needed most, a safe place and the tools and knowledge I needed to live a sober life outside of treatment,” John explained.

John had been sent to drug treatment centers in the past by family members or managers at a job but he’d never gone to treatment for himself. Each time, he’d end up returning to his same routines. He never followed up with meetings or became involved in an alumni program, and he thought he could resume his old lifestyle with friends.

This time around, he was highly motivated and he also did his homework. John said, “Gateway is a much nicer facility than the others I looked at and the staff is great. These people know what they’re doing.”

Read John’s full story at RecoverGateway.org/AlumniSuccess>

International Overdose Awareness Day: Know the Signs Of Heroin Overdose

In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) a  global event held on August 31st each year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers provides you with potentially life-saving information regarding heroin overdose:

Know the Signs of a Heroin Overdose

  • Decreased level of consciousness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Heart rate and breathing slow down or stops
  • Lips and nails turn blue due to insufficient oxygen in the blood
  • Seizures, muscle spasms and vomiting (vomiting can cause death due to choking hazard)
  • Unable to awaken even if name is called or if shaken vigorously

Naloxone

heroin overdose-overdose-awareness-dayLegislation passed in 2009 made Illinois one of 16 states that allow distribution of naloxone with out a doctor prescribing every dose. Naloxone is an opiate antagonist that reverses the effect of overdose from opiates like heroin. The law’s implementation ended what had been a legal conundrum of how to distribute a drug to someone to give to someone else, or to a user who might not need to take a dose for months.

It is very important to give help to an overdosing person right away. Brain damage can occur within only a few minutes of an overdose as the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain. It can lead to coma and even death due to respiratory failure. Naloxone gives concerned loved ones and care givers a window of opportunity to save a life until emergency medical help arrives. 

“The increase in heroin overdose deaths is troubling. That is why we do everything we can to ensure the health, comfort and safety of the teens and adults we treat for opiate dependency,” says Sally Thoren, Executive Director, Gateway Chicago West. “Before the law was enacted, in the event of a heroin overdose treatment centers would have to call 911 and lose precious minutes waiting for the help to arrive.”

The Good Samaritan Overdose Law

Many residents may not be aware but Illinois is one of 14 states that have passed the Emergency Medical Services Access Act/The Good Samaritan Overdose Law (Illinois Public Act 097-0678), which went into effect on June 1, 2012. To help reverse the trend of deaths attributed to heroin overdoses and other opiate overdoses, The Good Samaritan Law is meant to encourage bystanders witnessing a drug overdose to seek medical help for the victim. The bystander who calls 911 or seeks medical help will receive immunity from criminal charges for drug possession (except for marijuana). The overdose victim is protected, too. Before the law, too many victims were dropped off alone and unconscious outside the doors of hospitals or even abandoned by friends to die for fear of criminal prosecution.

Learn more about heroin addiction treatment at RecoverGateway.org/Heroin or call our 24-Hour Helpline at 877-505-HOPE (4673)

Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment

Expert Insight from Gilbert Lichstein, Program Director, Gateway Chicago West

2 in a Series of 4

Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers employs 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. This series explores some of those methodologies.

Mindfulness-Based Sobrietymindfulness-based sobriety

Mindfulness-based sobriety is the core curriculum used by and developed at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers. Mindfulness is essentially a state of active, open attention on the present. Through mindfulness, those in treatment benefit from gaining enhanced life skills and self-confidence. The curriculum addresses mental health issues like anxiety and impulsivity, which can be a part of substance abuse, either as a contributing factor or as a result.

People tend to avoid thinking about or dealing with things that cause them emotional discomfort, sometimes turning to alcohol or drugs to dull the pain. Mindfulness involves learning to accept things as they are at any given moment rather than thinking about how we would like them to be. This new focus helps people notice things they used to ignore or take for granted. People learn how to observe and accept their thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges without judging or reacting to them.

Gateway’s approach to substance abuse treatment helps individuals gain a willingness to accept the realities of their lives and consequently, the insight required to make value-based decisions. With their values now in focus, people often see that substance abuse doesn’t support the things that are most important in life and is actually holding them back. Recovery becomes more than abstaining from substance abuse – it creates an awareness of how fulfilling life can be.

The skills acquired in mindfulness-based substance abuse treatment can become an integral part of how people live their lives. They can be applied to many situations throughout life, remaining with a person as they grow and change, thus reducing the likelihood of relapse.

Learn More about how Mindfulness-Based Sobriety is used in Gateway Treatment Programs >

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