Balance Is Everything: Thoughts on Our Collective Approach to Opioid Addiction

Balance Is Everything

People who are close to individuals with active addiction sometimes have to make high-stakes decisions.  Desperate situations compel them to act, and then leave them hoping and praying for a positive outcome.  Parents’ decisions may be the toughest, regardless of the age of their child.  “Will giving support right now save my child—or be enabling and ultimately destructive?”  “Will withholding support right now save my child—or precipitate disaster?”
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Watch Your Language!

In addition to their literal definitions, the words we use can invoke powerful ideas and feelings.  The extended cognitive and emotional meanings of words are their connotations.  Words, particularly their connotations, help shape sense of self and expectations, which makes it important to choose words carefully when characterizing others and ourselves.  Affirmations enrich sense of self and set favorable expectations.  Pejorative language and labels, on the other hand, feed stigma and generate harmful self-fulfilling prophecies.
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Ask for Help!

Ever wonder why so many of us lose our voice precisely at the moment we need to ask for help?  Credit shame, the pivotal emotion that drives self-defeating behavior, together with all-or-nothing thinking, our most common cognitive distortion.

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Childhood Matters — Very Much

Educators and clinicians have long recognized that children and youth with social, emotional, and learning problems often experience neglect and abuse in earlier years.  Research now shows that harm associated with traumatic childhood experiences does not end when young people grow up.

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Opioids for Pain Management: Less is More

Written by Mel Pohl, MD and Dan Mager, MSW              

Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Nationwide, chronic pain causes more disability than cancer and heart disease combined, and costs $550 million annually in lost workdays. Continue reading

Keep Your Distance!

Ask people engaged in addiction treatment for a single word to describe where they just came from—a word that sums up the experience of active addiction—and they quickly agree on “hell.”

Many years ago someone asked the then famous and now controversial evangelist Billy Sunday, “What must I do to go to hell?”  Sunday replied, “Nothing.”  In other words, make no effort; you will get there.  Beliefs about religion and an afterlife aside, Sunday’s answer speaks to people who want to get free from active addiction:  make no effort; do what comes naturally; and you will keep returning to hell.

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The Two Pillars of Recovery®

In the United States, an estimated 20 million people have problems with alcohol or other drugs.  Many of these individuals attempt to get sober, but remain stuck using addictive substances because they try to fix things their own way—and berate themselves when nothing changes—unaware they are working against the laws of nature.  Much like drivers who hit the gas but go nowhere when their car is stuck in snow, they keep using alcohol and other drugs because they don’t understand why they are stuck or how to work with the laws of nature—laws that govern human behavior, addiction, and recovery from addiction—to cope with their problems.

Behavior is everything we can observe an organism do.  Examples of human behavior include talking, eating, driving, dancing, breathing, and body language.  Human behavior originates in the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord.

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Marijuana – A Country Divided

People in the United States don’t shrink from passionate expressions of opposing views.  Whigs vs. Tories, Republicans vs. Democrats, and Red Sox fans vs. Yankees fans are just a few cases in point.  People’s views on marijuana are no less passionate and no less polarized.  During treatment for addiction to opioids a man in his early twenties said, “Marijuana is an herb; it’s natural.  It relaxes me; I’m not addicted to it; and I’m going to smoke it when I get out of here.”  In the same room, a man in his early thirties also in treatment for addiction to opioids said, “People disagree whether marijuana is a gateway drug.  It is for me.  If I never smoked marijuana I never would have gotten hooked on harder drugs.  And if I hadn’t tried to smoke it again after my first treatment, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

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Five Ways You Can Reduce Stigma

Too often society is unfair to people with addiction—a fact that disturbs most people with active addiction, most people who are recovering from addiction, and most people who advocate for those groups.  Fortunately we can do something about it.  Don’t be daunted—small steps can have a powerful impact. Continue reading

The Prevention of Substance Use Disorders: Part Three – Evidence-Based Practices

Written with Michael Ballue CADC II, BSBA

This series has advocated that society make disease prevention a priority—especially the prevention of substance use disorders—while recognizing that the prevention of substance use disorders (SUDs) is already a priority for some providers and agencies.  Before organizers of SUD prevention services present an intervention to a target population, they like to be confident that their efforts will result in healthy change.  Also, before funding sources contribute to SUD prevention services, they like to be confident that their investment will produce worthwhile results.  For both these reasons, organizers of SUD prevention services prefer to deliver prevention approaches that are evidence-based.  That is, organizers like to replicate programs that were shown to be effective when they were presented before. Continue reading

The Prevention of Substance Use Disorders: Part Two – Preventing Alcohol Problems

Written with Michael Ballue CADC II, BSBA

The harmful use of alcohol is the third leading risk factor for poor health worldwide and the estimated costs of alcohol abuse in the United States, which encompass lost productivity as well as medical problems, top $220 billion per year.  There’s a lot to be done.  Fortunately, a lot is being done.  April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a fitting time to acknowledge creative and effective prevention approaches that are reducing risk now—we’ve come a long way from the ineffective and sometimes harmful information-only scare tactics of the 1950s and 1960s. Continue reading