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.”

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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).

Treat Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders Together

dual-diagnosis, co-occurring, gateway treatment centers

Article By:
Gilbert Lichstein, LCPC, M.S. Clinical Psychology
Program Director
Gateway Chicago West

Known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, substance abuse and mental health issues frequently occur together. The likelihood of succeeding in treatment is greatly enhanced when both are treated simultaneously.

Clients arriving at Gateway receive a comprehensive assessment and those who are found to have an Axis 1 mental health disorder may be admitted to the dual diagnosis unit. Axis 1 disorders include depression, mania, excessive anxiety and psychosis. One of Gateway’s distinguishing features is the depth with which we are able to address these issues.

Dual diagnosis care involves creating an individualized, client-centered treatment plan, which is a hallmark of Gateway’s approach to all treatment. We work together with clients to develop mental health care that capitalizes on things that may have worked for them in the past.

During this process, we listen to strategies clients believe will work and synthesize this information with our expertise to provide feedback and enhance those strategies.Medication assisted treatment is offered, but not mandatory.

One aspect of treatment that sets Gateway programs apart from other programs is our co-occurring disorders group, which is a standard part of all our residential programs. The core curriculum is a mindfulness based sobriety curriculum that combines relapse therapy, motivational interviewing, and acceptance and commitment therapy, all of which are evidenced-based practices. Treatment for mental health disorders is built into the continuum of care, so discharge planning starts when the person enters treatment.

Patients may elect to have family and loved ones involved; our family group component is an evidence-based practice for mental health concerns.

Chicago-IL-West-Drug-Abuse-Psychologist-Office

Treatment Programs and Gateway Chicago West

Life Skills Treatment and Recovery: the LSTAR Program

The LSTAR program at Gateway’s Chicago West location is an enhanced co-ed residential treatment program for people with both substance abuse and moderate to severe mental health concerns. More robust than our standard dual diagnosis program, LSTAR has proven to be effective for clients who did not succeed in other programs.

LSTAR provides more one-on-one contact, addressing mental health concerns with greater concentration. Individual counseling, psychological consultation, monitoring, nursing, testing and assessment are ongoing.

Additional components of LSTAR include:

  • Co-occurring group which uses an evidenced-based cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum
  • Mindfulness based sobriety, motivational interviewing, and seeking safety, a curriculum for co-morbid trauma and substance abuse
  • Single and multi-family group counseling, 12-step facilitation and transition groups to help clients adjust to outside care
  • Recreational therapy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) anger management curriculum

To learn more about the treatment of co-occurring disorders, or for a free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit RecoverGateway.org.

Health Problems: Is Alcohol at the Heart of the Matter?

Alcohol health problems, gateway treatment centersAccording to the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 28 percent of American adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence and alcohol-related health problems. Yet the risks associated with heavy drinking, such as high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, are seemingly overlooked.

The scary thing is people may never feel the symptoms of menacing health issues related to alcohol use. That’s why an annual physical should never be considered complete without  a screening for substance abuse issues. And, when required, doctors need to initiate brief interventions to motivate positive change. Screening and brief intervention may be provided in an office, emergency department or inpatient visit for both new and established patients, and is a reimbursable service.

Medical professionals are in a unique position to play a key role in increasing awareness of risks associated with alcohol abuse, including:

  • Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to changes in the way the brain looks and cognitive functioning.
  • Alcohol abuse is a frequent contributor to elevated blood pressure.
    • Heavy consumption may weaken the immune system. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead not only to liver damage, but also to increased illness and death from infectious diseases, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and septicemia.
    • Alcohol consumption is associated with a range of mental health problems, including:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Personality disorders
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Schizophrenia
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

Learn More About the Effects of Alcohol Abuse>

Moderate Drinking Defined

To remain within the low-risk range, medical professionals should advise adherence to accepted moderate drinking guidelines.

For women, moderate drinking is defined by USDA as up to 1 drink per day; low-risk limits set by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommend no more than 3 drinks per day and no moderate drinking, gateway alcohol and drug treatment centersmore than 7 drinks per week.

For men, moderate drinking is defined by USDA as up to 2 drinks per day; low-risk limits set by NIAAA recommend no more than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

For adult and adolescents who need help with alcohol and/or drug abuse issues, Gateway offers convenience as an in-network treatment provider with centers throughout Illinois and the St. Louis Metro East area. With substance abuse treatment programs offered before and after traditional work hours, getting help doesn’t require falling behind at work or school. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, please call Gateway at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

 

 

Gateway CEO Rallies Alcohol & Drug Rehab Industry to Reach More Patients

drug rehab, industry, iadda, Gateway Treatment Centers

Michael Darcy, President & CEO, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment, speaking at IADDA’s annual meeting on Sept. 4, 2014, at Hilton in Lisle, Ill.

Michael Darcy, President & CEO, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment, urged members of the alcohol and drug rehab industry attending IADDA’s annual conference at Hilton in Lisle, Ill., on Sept. 4 2014, to focus on attracting consumers who need treatment for substance abuse  with private pay insurance. Inspired by Gateway’s own successful model of treating the insured population, Darcy explained to a packed ballroom of industry leaders that treating the insured population will help the industry fulfill its collective mission of supporting individuals who can’t afford alcohol and drug rehab.

“More than 80 percent of Americans have private health insurance. And, with the Affordable Care Act in effect, the majority of Americans now have access to treatment for substance abuse issues through their health insurance benefits. With state budgets in flux, treating the insured population will ensure future viability of the alcohol and drug rehab industry so those who may not be able to afford treatment will have access to help when they need it,” says Michael Darcy, President & CEO, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment.

As the soon-to-retire leader of one of the largest substance abuse treatment organization in the U.S., Darcy has dedicated his career to evolving treatment and expanding accessibility and recovery support throughout Illinois and beyond. Since 1968, Gateway Foundation has steadily improved its expertise and capacity, growing capabilities to treat more than 9,000 individuals daily through successful programs and treatment centers spanning five states.

“In the long run, it is best for the consumer and society at-large if America has a vibrant substance abuse treatment industry that works seamlessly with health care professionals, hospitals and insurance carriers on behalf of patients in the primary healthcare arena,” explains Darcy.

For more information about Gateway Treatment Centers and its executive leadership, please visit RecoverGateway.org.

Can Low Self-Esteem Lead to Substance Abuse?

low self esteem, substance abuseLow self-esteem, a perception that one is inadequate, unlovable, unworthy and/or incompetent, often stems from exposure to dysfunctional behavior as a child. If children bear the brunt of anger, abandonment, abuse, neglect or continual negative criticism, it can lead to feelings of low self-worth.

With little to live up to, people with chronic self-esteem issues may take on behaviors that reinforce their feelings of inadequacy, including drug use. When people use drugs or alcohol as an artificial boost to self-esteem, they’re attempting to function in situations where they lack confidence.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem:

  • Overly critical of self and others and believes others view them in the same negative ways that they view themselves.
  • Makes a big deal about comments or behavior of others they view as inappropriate or offensive.
  • Only thinks about what goes on around them in terms of their own needs and wants.
  • Excessively submissive to authority figures.

With professional help, people who suffer with low self-esteem and substance abuse issues can enhance relationships by improving their coping and communication skills. Rather than reacting to preconceived notions, each person has the ability to learn how to resolve their disagreements with others in a healthy, productive manner.

“Treatment is about rebuilding self-esteem. Thanks to Gateway, I finally saw the beauty inside me. They helped me work through issues that were too heavy for me to tackle on my own—some issues were deeply buried since childhood,” explains Christine, a 25-year-old woman who completed treatment for alcohol and drug abuse at a Gateway Center located in Carbondale, IL.

Does someone you know suffer from low self-esteem combined with substance abuse? Gateway can help get life back on track. Call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

The Teen Brain and Addiction: Brainstorm by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel

addiction, gateway treatment centersA new book called Brainstorm by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel sets out to help adolescents and adults understand just how vulnerable the teenage brain is to addiction.

The book features new research evidencing teen drug use may alter the control of areas of the brain that regulate emotion or dopamine release. What this means is, early exposure to alcohol or drugs may in fact make a teen more vulnerable to substance abuse issues later in his or her life.

Dr. Siegel recommends mindfulness practices to help individuals support the development of their mind to better handle distressed emotions that can lead to substance abuse, such as anxiety and stress.

Mindfulness, as described by author Jon Kabat-Zinn, is: A gentle effort to be continuously present with experience…paying attention on purpose.

The key to appreciating mindfulness is twofold:

  1.  Be aware and accepting of urges, cravings, emotions, and all aspects of your experience, while not driven to act on them.
  2.  Base motivation and actions on what need to be done in order to move towards a life worth living.

Dr. Siegel believes the more people use mindfulness to generate internal education and inner life focus, the likelier they are to be able to effectively regulate their emotions and think clearly.

“It’s a broad skill you develop. You are learning literally the internal techniques of how to balance your emotions, and deal with upsetting memories, and deal with them well,” Dr. Siegel explains to TheFix.com.

At Gateway Treatment Centers, adults and adolescents can learn how to address their substance use disorder and help prevent relapse using mindfulness. To learn more, please visit RecoverGateway.org/Mindfulness.

Teen Drug Trends Survey: K2 Losing Popularity but Illicit Drug Use on the Upswing

k2, spice, synthetic drugsGateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment points to a new study that shows synthetic marijuana (marketed as K-2, Spice, etc.), which has been of increasing concern because of its adverse effects and high rates of use, is losing its appeal with teens. Conversely, teen drug trends indicate overall illicit drug use is trending upward—which is being driven by teens’ drug of choice: marijuana.

The Good News

The second-most popular illicit drug used in 2012 among 10th and 12th graders (after marijuana) is dropping in popularity today. In 2013, there was a highly statistically significant fall in use of K2 and Spice among high school seniors, and a significant decrease for three combined grades. According to the 2013 Monitoring the Future study:

  • Among 12th graders: 11.3 percent used K2 in 2012, which dropped to 7.9 percent in 2013.
  • Among 10th graders: 8.8 percent used K2 in 2012, which decreased to 7.4 percent in 2013.
  • Among 8th graders: 4.4 percent used K2 in 2012, which declined to 4.0 percent in 2013.

“This encouraging news regarding synthetic marijuana usage reflects a substantial win for the future health and well-being of American teens and families. It also validates how concerted efforts from local, state and national governments in cooperation with the private sector can positively affect public safety in a relatively short period of time,” says Michael Darcy, President & CEO, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment.

Likewise, research shows a sharply increasing proportion of teens in all three grades see great risk in using so-called “bath salts,” often described as “fake cocaine.” In a single year, the percent indicating that occasional use of bath salts carries great risk of harm has risen by 13, 17 and 25 percentage points in grades 8, 10 and 12, respectively.

teen drug trends, teen drug use, marijuanaThe Bad News

The proportions of students indicating any use of an illicit drug in the prior 12 months are:

  • Among 8th graders: 15 percent in 2013 compared to 13.5 percent in 2012.
  • Among 10th graders: 32 percent in 2013 compared to 30.4 percent in 2012.
  • Among 12th graders: 40 percent in 2013 compared to 39.4 percent in 2012.

These are the latest findings from the University of Michigan’s annual study funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Since 1991, the Monitoring the Future study has annually surveyed 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. secondary school students to help shed a light on teen alcohol and drug use.

For teens who struggle with substance abuse issues, Gateway Foundation offers specialized alcohol and drug treatment programs for teens while instilling healthy coping skills to assist teens with the challenging transition into adulthood. To learn more about Gateway’s free, confidential consultation, call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment is Different…Find Out Why

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment CentersWhen someone chooses Gateway  Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers, our team of clinical professionals strives to ensure each person is treated with respect and feels empowered to turn their lives around. We don’t fixate about the past rather we look ahead to what life can be like in recovery, a life that is truly worth living.

At Gateway, shame dissipates and motivation appears. Families heal and reunite. The brave decision to manage substance abuse issues and the commitment it requires remaining sober is celebrated every day.

Here is what people who recently completed treatment at Gateway Treatment Centers have to say:

“I am truly thankful to have found my way to Gateway Chicago West. The ENTIRE staff has treated me with dignity and like a family member…they all have helped save my life!  I sincerely hope that anybody who needs help with substance abuse finds their way to Gateway.  Gateway is the family helping to save me and my family.”

“I am now 120 days clean and sober after trying to quit myself the past 40 years. I would and will recommend Gateway to anyone who has a problem like I have.”

“I have had a wonderful experience at Gateway, I have learned so much in the time I have spent in treatment. The program has offered me a lot of support outside the groups. I would recommend Gateway to anyone seeking help.”

Read More Success Stories

To learn more about Outpatient and Residential Treatment Programs and our free, confidential consultation, please call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

alcohol abuseEver felt anxious, depressed or suffered emotional distress due to a trauma? If so, you are not alone in experiencing mental health issues. Actually, one in five American adults aged 18 or older, or 45.6 million people, had mental health disorders in the past year, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Mental health issues can significantly decrease a person’s quality of life and wellbeing, especially when left untreated. Unfortunately, rather than seeking help, many people may turn to alcohol or other drugs to briefly adjust their state of mental health.

The SAMSHA report revealed rates for substance dependency or abuse were far higher for those who had mental health problems than for the adult population which did not have mental health issues in the past year.

Mental health and substance abuse issues often co-occur. In other words, individuals with substance abuse issues often have a mental health condition at the same time and vice versa. Approximately 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders. What’s more, approximately 80% of individuals in treatment for substance dependency have co-occurring disorders. In essence, they are self-medicating in an attempt to cope with undesirable emotions and distressing thoughts.

To review the SAMSHA report findings click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance dependency, please call Gateway Foundation‘s 24-Hour Helpline to arrange a free and confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Al-Anon Substance Abuse Self-Test

Al-Anon/Alateen is a 12-Step, self-help support group for people whose lives are affected by the substance abuse issues of other people.

Al-Anon Substance Abuse Test

The following substance abuse test can help you determine if someone you know needs drug rehab or alcohol treatment.

Please answer every question. If a question is not applicable, select No.

Substance Abuse Self-Test

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions you may have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

For help or to schedule a free confidential screening, call Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment‘s 24-Hour Helpline at 877-505-HOPE (877-505-4673).

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