April 10, 2017

Addiction- whether to alcohol or drugs- is a serious problem. More than one in four people are directly or indirectly affected by this chronic illness. Shame and stigma keep many from recognizing the problem and/or seeking help until there is a crisis.

Heroin and opioid (synthetic opiates) addiction is of particular concern. According to the CDC, the number of Americans addicted to heroin nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012; deaths from heroin overdoses have quadrupled since 2010. Prescription opioid sales have quadrupled in the United States since 1999 (207 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers were written in 2013 alone) and so have the number of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses. 

As many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy struggles with opioid addiction. Evidence suggests the high cost of opioids drives people to cross over to heroin after an opioid addiction is established. 

Adolescents are especially at risk as they are  experimenting to find a distinct  place for themselves in the world. The neurobiology of their developing brains makes them more susceptible to addiction than adults. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex, which does not fully develop until 21-25. Not surprisingly, young adults aged 18-25 have had the greatest increase in addiction rates.

Yet there is a paucity of treatment options available for those in need. 80% of people who are dependent on heroin or painkillers are not getting treatment, according to the AMA.
Your Brain on Drugs: a lay explanation
Most drugs affect the brain's "reward circuit" by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine, controlling the body's ability to feel pleasure. This overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable "high" that can lead people to repeat drug usage. T he brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by making less of it and/or reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. To achieve the same dopamine high, users need to increase doasge. L ong-term use can also cause other changes in the brain, which affect  learning,  judgment,  decision-making,  memory, and behavior.

Know the Extent of the Problem 
  • more than 2 million people in the U.S. suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012
  • an estimated 467,000 people were addicted to heroin in 2012
  • 40% of people addicted to opioid prescription pain killers become addicted to heroin 
  • nearly one in four people who try heroin for the first time become addicted 
  • 29,230 people died in car accidents in 2014 in the U.S., while 47,055 died from drug overdoses- of that, 27,000 deaths were attributed to heroin and opioids
  • the per-capita rate of heroin and opioid deaths in N.J. is more than triple the national rate reported by the CDC
  • heroin now eclipses homicide, suicide, car accidents and AIDS as a cause of death in N.J.
  • every racial demographic has been affected by this increase in addiction, with white families experiencing the largest percentage increase
  • opiate abuse and opiate addiction cost the U.S. over $484 billion annually, including healthcare, lost wages, car accidents, crime, and criminal justice system costs
Building Strength
Engage in positive activities with your loved ones. Model stress reduction activities. Talk to your family and share your concerns about substance use and abuse. Pay attention to what your loved ones are doing. Speak up in your communities about the need for more treatment options. Insist that health care continues to cover substance abuse treatment. Let go of the shame and stigma- it does not belong. We need to be vigilant and pro-active to protect our families and communities.  

Addiction affects the entire family. Remember, addiction is a chronic and treatable medical condition. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, seek help from a trained professional. Earlier intervention is better. Contact me to discuss appropriate treatment options.
At Core Counseling, you can pursue Mind-Body Wellness through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness and other therapeutic techniques. To find out more or to schedule an appointment, call me at Core Counseling, LLC: 201.875.5699. Experience a comfortable, private and confidential environment with an atmosphere of encouragement, optimism and compassion.

Together we can find solutions to your core issues.  "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now." - Chinese proverb

In Health and Wellness,

Lisa Fedder, MSW, LCSW, LCADC
560 Sylvan Avenue                     108 Baker Street
Englewood Cliffs, NJ  07632       Maplewood, NJ  07040
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