South Florida School Shooting: Gun Violence and Mental Health Debate

South Florida School Shooting: Gun Violence and Mental Health Debate

Only days after the horrific South Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we must take a hard look at the mental health debate, and why mental health should always have been a priority.

It seems like just yesterday I wrote about last year’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas and emphasizing how critical it is that mental health support and awareness be a serious and key focus of this conversation. The school where this tragedy took place is a mere 37 miles from where I sit and write this today. I lived within a 20-minute drive of the building for over 3 years. Now, with only a month and 15 days into 2018, we already up to 19 similar acts of terrible violence.

On Wednesday, February 14, Nikolas Cruz entered the high school in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15 rifle and took the lives of 17 people, wounding over a dozen others. This is America’s deadliest school attack in 5 years, perpetrated by a lone 19-year-old gunman with a reputation for disturbing behavior.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump included in his statement about the South Florida school shooting that there were “so many signs” the suspected shooter was “mentally disturbed.” But should mental health be our own focus?

It is extremely difficult to find answers to this complex problem. So what action should we take to change?

The Mental Chaos of Nikolas Cruz

Authorities have confirmed that Cruz was previously expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary issues. Reports from the school indicate Cruz as a potential threat who demonstrated a fixation on guns. This obsession can be seen on full display through the photos suggested to be pulled from Cruz’s social media accounts.

Reports said that teachers, classmates and even strangers were concerned about Cruz. One teacher apparently reported that administrators sent an email last year saying that Cruz was not allowed to carry a backpack on campus. Cruz’s adoptive father died a few years ago, and his adoptive mother, who was one of the only people the teen was ever close with, died around Thanksgiving. The orphaned 19-year-old had been living at a friend’s house, with some suggesting he was showing signs of depression. Some former friends have even said they cut ties with him after saying he liked to shoot animals. Classmates claim he used to sell knives out of a lunchbox in the school and even threatened students with violence.

Cruz had been suspended more than once before being expelled, for fighting and having bullets found in his backpack. While he had no criminal history prior to this appalling act of violence, he lived a troubling and chaotic life.

What was being done?

Failing to Catch Red Flags

While it is unfair to say there were no actions taken, those actions failed to put a stop to this tragedy. The Washington Post reports that Cruz had been getting treatment at a mental health clinic, but had stopped after less than a year. Some are insisting that not enough was done to try and address the many obvious issues shown in Cruz’s past. Howard Finkelstein, the chief public defender in Broward County, states,

“Every red flag was there and nobody did anything. When we let one of our children fall off grid, when they are screaming for help in every way, do we have the right to kill them when we could have stopped it?”

Even the FBI admits to receiving a warning about this individual and failing to act. With so many indications that Cruz was a threatening, violent and unstable individual it is deeply troubling that not only did he slip through the cracks of any efforts to curb mental health-related issues, but he was able to obtain a variety of weapons. Despite the many red flags, Cruz’s background wouldn’t disqualify him from purchasing the rifle he used in the shooting.

The Mental Health VS Gun Rights Debate

The biggest debate we see after each one of these terrible atrocities is that familiar blame game;  Is it a ‘guns’ issue or a ‘mental health’ issue? Without picking a side, I’ll try to acknowledge a lot of the concerns. For example, there is an enormous amount of data showing that the rates of mental health disorders in the last few decades has increased at astonishing rates. Every year the mental health of our nation is dwindling. So is this the answer to the riddle? Some seem to think so. Others- not so much.

The current federal law already denies the sale of firearms to anyone who is considered “adjudicated as a mental defective” by a lawful authority or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. It also allows for states to create stricter restrictions. Some states have taken advantage of this and enacted legal channels for stripping firearms away from gun owners flagged as potential threats. However, some do not think this is enough. Others have even gone as far as directly linking mental health to gun rights.

  • In Hawaii, a person diagnosed with a mental disorder may not own a gun without clearance from a doctor.
  • California firearm owners can be disqualified from gun possession for five years if involuntarily confined to psychiatric care for 72 hours and deemed by medical professionals to be dangerous to themselves or others.

However, legal experts also warn that it isn’t as simple as identifying people with mental disorders. According to Fredrick Vars, a law professor at the University of Alabama,

“By and large, the people who engage in these horrific events don’t have obvious major psychiatric issues,”

Dr. Rozel, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. He states that these broad restrictions based on a psychiatric diagnosis risk depriving hundreds of thousands of law-abiding people of their gun rights. Rozel goes on to say,

“Fundamentally, that’s the problem with focusing on the mental-health issue.”

According to a study by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education in 2004, conducted after the attack at Columbine High School, surveyed “targeted school violence”:

  • Only 1/3 of perpetrators had ever received a mental-health evaluation
  • Fewer than 20% of that 1/3 had been diagnosed with mental health or behavior disorder before the attack

The President of the American Psychological Association (APA) Jessica Henderson Daniel does not agree with automatically assigning the label of mental illness to school shooters. She and other experts believe such rhetoric oversimplifies the complex problem of mass violence while also stereotyping those who struggle with mental health disorders.

“Framing the conversation about gun violence in the context of mental illness does a disservice both to the victims of violence and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness.”

A senior policy adviser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness said in an interview that invoking mental illness in the gun-control debate is often more political than helpful to those who actually struggle with mental health issues. Many see it as a means to draw attention away from any discussion on gun control. So is it really that far-fetched to even consider an honest and thorough examination of how we might improve policies surrounding access to guns?

After all, American has more mass shootings than any other developed nation, and not even by a little. Studies indicate that the rate at which public mass shootings occur tripled since 2011.

From 1982 up to 2011, a mass shooting occurred roughly once every 200 days.

Then, between 2011 and 2014 that rate has accelerated to at least one mass shooting every 64 days in the United States.

Realistically, it is fair to question the idea that this is simply a mental health issue. It may be a piece of the problem. Yet there is so much more that needs to be addressed in order to work toward a future without this kind of senseless violence.

What Can Be Done For Mental Health?

The sad thing is, we should never have waited for any acts of violence to make mental health a priority. A wide spectrum of issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder are all very serious and very damaging conditions. Countless Americans still struggle and don’t even know it, or don’t have access to care.

Many argue that the way lawmakers are changing healthcare is making it harder for people to receive mental health services. So with all that has happened, will mental health truly become the priority everyone says it will be? Thursday President Trump promised to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health” while speaking in regards to this tragic incident. But how will these words be followed by action? The president’s current budget actually includes massive cuts to mental health resources, so will these resources be given new priority?

For trauma survivors, there is a whole other element to providing mental health support resources. Horrific incidents like this recent shooting create shockwaves throughout the community and impact the mental health of innumerable others. Students, families and friends, teachers and other officials like law enforcement are all exposed to a new level of unimaginable pain and suffering. We must also make their mental health a priority. But we need to stop waiting until something unspeakable happens before we worry about our nation’s mental health.

Our hearts break for all of our neighbors here in South Florida who are suffering. No matter what we do, be it changing our mental health care or any other policies concerning guns, we MUST DO BETTER!

If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma, depression, or any mental health disorder please seek help. If you struggle with substance use disorder, drugs or alcohol is not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.

  CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

First Delivery of Medical Cannabis in Texas Made to Child With Epilepsy

First Delivery of Medical Cannabis in Texas Made to Child With Epilepsy

Last Thursday, over two years after Republican Governor Gregg Abbott signed the law to legalize the sale of specific cannabis oil in Texas for intractable epilepsy, the first legal delivery in the state was made.

Many medical cannabis advocates are calling this a historic moment for the Lone Star State, as it could be the catalyst to usher in a new era of drug policy as it relates to medicinal alternatives.

The First Delivery

The first recipient of medical cannabis oil in Texas was a school-aged child. A spokesperson for the company told reporters that it could not disclose which city the patient lives in, but did share how the delivery was made.

Current regulations dictate that only a social worker or nurse can deliver the medical cannabis product to a patient or the patient’s caregiver. In the case of Texas’s first delivery, a nurse transported the oil to the patient’s home. The nurse also showed the patient how to use it.

The first delivery was made by Knox Medical, a dispensary in Schulenburg. José Hidalgo, the founder, and CEO of Knox Medical stated,

“For Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy, the wait for medical cannabis is finally over. This is a historic day for Texas and we will work tirelessly to uphold the trust and responsibility the state has placed in Knox Medical.”

Notably, less than 1% of the population of Texas suffer from intractable epilepsy. But still, that comes out to roughly 160,000 people.

Texas Medical Cannabis Law

At this point, there are only three licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the state of Texas. These facilities were allowed to be opened following the 2015 Texas Compassion Use Act. But the programs are run by the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, Texas has not been as open with their medical cannabis movement as other parts of the country. As of now, state law scarcely allows for the sale of medical cannabis oils. The only oils to be sold are those that meet requirements:

  • Low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.
  • High levels of cannabidiol, a non-euphoric component known as CBD that is used to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions.

And patients themselves have to meet very specific criteria. A person only qualifies if:

  • They are a permanent resident of Texas
  • Have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy
  • Must have tried two FDA-approved drugs and found them ineffective
  • Qualified physician has determined they would benefit from medical cannabis
  • Have a second qualified physician agree with the assessment that they would benefit

Qualified doctors must be listed on the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.

Needless to say, Texans won’t be rushing out to dispensaries anytime soon to stock up on medicinal marijuana. State officials seem to have a very precise mission in mind when it comes to allowing for this treatment to go forward. Still, some medical cannabis supporters are happy with the direction. So how do products like medical cannabis and CBD oil impact those trying to recovery from addiction?

Legalization and Recovery

In the world of recovery from drugs or alcohol, the idea that marijuana legalization is becoming more widely accepted may seem tempting to some. Others seem to believe legalizing marijuana invites more hard drug use. What does it really mean for the recovery community or people struggling with addiction?

Legalizing a drug and having it readily available may be tempting, but it’s not as if it isn’t already done everywhere with alcohol. Almost any store you walk into is stocked with booze and plastered with adds to try and sell cigarettes. People in recovery from addiction are already exposed every day to some of the most dangerous drugs in the world because they are legal.

When we talk about legalization of marijuana, we want to remind people that for many struggling with substance use disorder the issue is not the specific chemicals you are using. Addiction is far more complex, influencing the mind while terrorizing the body. A drug is not suddenly any safer or better for you because it is becoming socially acceptable or legal.

It is important to find a middle ground. We can support those who benefit from new modalities while offering effective treatment opportunities to those who struggle. However, it is also important to offer experience and education for those who truly struggle with chemical dependency and everything else that comes with substance use disorder. It may seem easier to justify using marijuana for some people. But people should also know that marijuana abuse is a real risk. Substituting one drug for another is probably not the best option for some habitual drug users.

Medicinal and recreational marijuana reforms may be changing the way that the law dictates drug use for some, but for the addict or alcoholic, the risk can be far greater than they expect. Part of comprehensive and effective recovery is understanding how drugs affect people differently and learning how to make the best decisions for your health and your future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

China and America Team Up to Take On Opioid Trafficking

China and America Team Up to Take On Opioid Trafficking

This month, Chinese and American officials are talking about new, combined efforts at combatting opioid trafficking. One spokesperson from China’s foreign ministry was quoted saying that the country is-

“…ready to work with the US to enhance our cooperation in this field.”

Back in August of 2017, we wrote about how China has been singled out by many in America as the main source of synthetic drugs like fentanyl getting into the country. Drug dealers online have been able to order shipments through websites hosted in China, making everyday package carriers into unknowing drug smugglers across the US. According to reports from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seizures of fentanyl arriving by mail have increased drastically in the last few years:

  • In 2011, 0.09 kilograms of fentanyl were seized by mail
  • In 2016 is rose to 37 kilograms

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, had said he firmly believed that China would be teaming up with the United States in order to end the spread of fentanyl trafficking.

Now it seems those predictions are coming to fruition, as China has announced that it intends to work with the United States to fight illegal shipments of opioids. This comes following a congressional investigation that unearthed the secret to how opioid manufacturers have exploited inadequate safeguards in the U.S. Postal System.

So how will China and America team up?

Searching for Fentanyl Sales

One of the key elements of the issue is the way packages get into the United States. Recently, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs investigations subcommittee launched a probe that revealed a troubling reality. You can find information from the probe in a January 24, 2018 congressional report.

According to the report, an advanced electronic data system (AED) commonly used to identify suspicious packages only captured information on around a third of all international packages. So what does that add up to? Well, those numbers leave more than 318 million packages unscreened! That paves a very clear path for Chinese opioid manufacturers to ship lethal synthetic substances to individuals all across America.

The probe also provides details of just how easy acquiring fentanyl from Chinese manufacturers can actually be. Subcommittee staff told reporters that by simply conducting an internet search using the phrase “fentanyl for sale,” they found six “very responsive” sellers in China. Ultimately, investigators were able to identify:

  • 500 online transactions involving fentanyl
  • These transactions represent an estimated value of $776 million
  • Can trace at least seven deaths from fentanyl in the United States to Chinese sales

To make matters worse, drug traffickers have been using each country’s own postal services against them. This major loop-hole in shipping has made a profound contribution to fentanyl trafficking.

Going Postal on Drug Traffickers

The investigation also reports that fentanyl distributors will push for investigators to pay for delivery through Express Mail Service (EMS). EMS is an international shipping method that utilizes each country’s own postal system to deliver packages. Part of the EMS network includes the U.S. Postal Service.

In an email to an investigator, one drug distributor wrote:

“Guaranteed delivery only via EMS, other shipping methods will not be guaranteed.”

Investigators claim that the EMS is the preferred method for shipping opioids into America. This is because the Postal Service failed to implement an AED system that would alert U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents about suspicious international packages. International fentanyl traffickers know how to manipulate and maneuver the postal systems. Those with the investigation also point out that surcharges are deterrents to send shipments through other delivery services such as:

  • FedEx
  • DHL

This is due to the greater chance that packages will be detected. Sadly, the Senate report shows that it saw no significant improvement in collecting data on packages in 2017. However, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) said that it has made the collection of this electronic data a priority.

China and America Teaming Up

Team USA

In a statement to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman said that in 2016 nearly 60% of all overdose deaths in Ohio were related to fentanyl. Portman emphasizes the need for more action to stop the flow of fentanyl by stating,

“The vast majority of illegal fentanyl is purchased online from labs in China and then shipped to the United States through the mail. The federal government can, and must, act to shore up our defenses against this deadly drug and save lives.”

A USPS spokesperson said that the agency is working “…aggressively with law enforcement and key trading partners to stem the flow of illegal drugs entering the United States,”

A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said it will “…continue to work with our government and private-sector partners to improve the efficiency of information sharing and operational coordination to address the challenges and threats…” of international narcotics smuggling.

Team China

We should note China still isn’t entirely sure that they are the major supplier of fentanyl to the US. In fact, Chinese officials have repeatedly pushed back against assessments like the one made by Senator Portman. In a press conference in December 2017, National Narcotics Control Commission official Yu Haibin said that there was-

“…little evidence showing China was the source of much of the chemicals used in the production of the powerful opioid fentanyl.”

However, it seems that China will be working toward a unified effort against fentanyl with America. Speaking on behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spokesperson Hua Chunying said that,

“Anti-drug coordination is one of the highlights of China-US law enforcement cooperation,”

Chinese officials are already working to curb sales of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs in their country. At the moment there may still be some indiscretions about China’s willingness to accept responsibility for the majority of fentanyl trafficking into America. Still, the fact that both countries have politicians advocating for cooperation against the common enemy might be a good indication of a more hopeful future in overcoming fentanyl.

If we are going to overcome the opioid epidemic, we will have to work together to face the issue at every level; whether we are taking on trafficking, breaking the stigma, or developing better opportunities for addiction treatment and recovery resources. Palm Healthcare Company is proud to work with people from all over America to help them overcome their own substance use. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Maintaining Mental Health and Well-Being: by Thomas Beley

Maintaining Mental Health and Well-Being: by Thomas Beley

Maintaining Mental Health and Well-Being

by Thomas G. Beley, Ph.D., LCSW

Executive Director of Palm Healthcare Company

     We hear a lot about the importance of mental health.  However, exactly what is mental health. If one looks at the research literature there is not very much written about what constitutes mental health.  Often times, by default, mental health has been referred to or alluded to as the absence of a mental illness.  To complicate the situation further, the literature seems to be overly ripe with how to treat various mental disorders as well as how to reduce the specific symptoms a person may be experiencing. Unfortunately, our society has become overly preoccupied with treatment focusing on the reduction of a person’s symptoms as an indicator of a mentally healthy person. Although treatment and symptom reduction are important facets of a person’s mental health, neither treatment nor symptom reduction guarantees a sense of well-being.

In examining the various disorders as outlined in the DSM IV and the plethora of research that has been conducted on how to treat these disorders, there appears to be a common thread that seems to exist between all of these disorders and conditions.  The common thread appears to be an on-going interrelationship between the biological or neuro-chemical make-up of a person;  the existing stress factors that may be presented in a person’s life; and the actually coping skills or mechanisms that a person uses as a way of dealing with everyday life. Furthermore, it appears that all three of these influences have the ability to impact the other for the better or for the worse. This article will examine these various influences on a person’s mental health and how these influences are involved in maintaining a person’s sense of mental health and well-being.

Stress

     Stress is a constant in everyone’s life.  Hans Selye, the father of the stress response, defined stress as “any change.”  So the fact of the matter is that stress is a constant in one’s life.  In essence, the moment a person opens their eyes in the morning, that’s stress.  The moment that same person gets out of bed, that’s more stress.  And, the moment that person jumps into the shower, even yet more stress.  In most instances, our bodies are able to handle this stress much of which is attributed to a person’s balanced neurobiology and neurotransmission.

Much of this can be explained through the “fight or flight response” of a person. This mind-body connection, which has been a part of human evolution, has worked the same way over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years, the same way. Any time a person’s brain, either conscious or unconscious, senses any type of danger whether real or not, there are a whole host of stress hormones that are being released into the body (neurotransmission) gearing the person’s body up to do one of two things, to run away from that danger or to fight that danger.  In either scenario, the body has to be an efficient machine.  Although a person doesn’t necessarily have to hunt for their food any longer per se or run away from man-eating animals, a person is still faced with the everyday modern dangers of life such as unemployment, finances, marital problems, parenting, etc. The list is endless. The important point, here, is that regardless of what that perceived danger, the mind, and body via neurotransmission, kicks into action.

A problem that arises, however, is that once the mind and body have turned it up a notch to deal with the stress, it takes the body a longer time to calm down.  The mind or more specifically the neocortex (the thinking part of the brain) is able to easily dismiss stress and false alarms of stress in a relatively short manner.  A person can become instantly alarmed at the prospect of their electric being shut off from a notice received in the mail, however, instantly “feeling” a sense of relief realizing that the notice is not meant for them but for the neighbor.  Although the mind has dismissed the danger, the stress hormones have already been released to key parts of the person’s body.  Studies have shown that these stress hormones or the signaling of the mind to the body to calm down can take anywhere between six hours to seventy-two hours for the body to receive the signal of no danger.  So what can actually happen is that a person can be walking around “feeling good” and the least little thing can happen, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, that can send a person into a stressed or panic state.

    There are three key points that need to be remembered about stress.

The first key point is that stress is a constant in anyone’s life by virtue of the constant change a person is going through from the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night.  All too often a person thinks of stress as “nothing bad has happened to me lately.”  It is irrelevant to ask the question whether a person is stressed, it is more appropriate to think in terms of whether that person’s neurobiology is handling that stress in an appropriate manner.

    Secondly, the body doesn’t really know the difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.”  It may be more relevant for a person to think in terms of how much and to what extent has that person experienced change during the course of the week or the month regardless of whether that change has been “good” or “bad.” The more change the person has experienced, the more stress that has been absorbed into the body.

And, finally, the third key point is that the body is a very slow responder.  It takes the body a much longer time to calm down than the cognitive processes that are occurring in the brain.  A person needs to be mindful that just because they are “feeling relaxed” doesn’t necessarily mean that their body is relaxed.

It is not always feasible to assume that lowering the stressful situations in one’s life is the answer since many people may be unable to avoid a stressful lifestyle.  Firefighters, police officers, emergency room medical staff, are all faced with potential chronic conditions of stress.  It is not fair to say these individuals will be excluded from feeling a sense of well-being because they are in constant stressful situations.  It is important for a person to be aware of trying to lower stress in their life where they can, but for those individuals who are in situations where stress is a constant, it will be more important for that person to develop the necessary coping skills to deal with stress such as exercise, nutrition, yoga, or meditation.

Neurobiology

     Research in the neurosciences in recent years has continued to shed new light on a person’s brain chemistry and how neurotransmission impacts a person’s sense of well being as well as behavior.  There have been numerous studies conducted on certain neurotransmitters of well being such as serotonin, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), dopamine, and others to suggest the necessity of these neurotransmitters for the person to function at an optimal level.  This is where the explosion of new prescription drugs has come on to the market to solve the ills of the world.  Needless to say, pharmaceutical companies have long since been proponents of this neurobiological research due to the ability to develop newer and more efficient drugs to attempt to balance a person’s neurochemistry.  An important aspect that has evolved over the years, however, is the recognition of, not only the importance of a person’s neurobiological chemistry to be in balance for a sense of well-being, but also the fact that a person’s biochemical makeup can be extremely delicate and subject to a whole host of outside influences such as stress, medical conditions, nutrition, and behavior that can throw a person’s neurochemistry off creating a variety of symptoms.  As a result, there continues to be a growing movement toward alternative methods of treatment to address brain chemistry issues such as acupuncture, nutrition, or chiropractic intervention to intervene and/or to enhance a person’s brain chemistry.

Regardless of whether you are a proponent of Prozac or a devotee to acupuncture, the important point to emphasize is that a person’s neurochemistry plays an important role in a person’s sense of well-being and contentment. Furthermore, the imbalance of neurotransmission in the brain can interfere with that person’s overall level of functioning and well-being.

Coping

    Coping with everyday life situations is another area which is an important influence on a person’s ability to achieve a sense of well-being.  A person needs to feel a sense of satisfaction about how they handle given situations that confront them whether if it is with themselves or with others.  However, in order to do this effectively, a person needs to have a repertoire of coping mechanisms to choose from.  All too often, a person doesn’t develop or change the necessary coping skills needed to deal with life situations.  An interesting point to make, here, is that the human species, which is supposed to be at the top of the so-called food chain of life, is the only species that will continue to do the exact same behaviors to problem solve a situation despite the fact that these problem-solving behaviors may have repeatedly failed in the past.  For a variety of reasons, it appears that change is often difficult for a person to make. In order to effectively cope with a situation, it is of vital importance for a person to maintain a degree of flexibility, adaptation, and a willingness to change regarding any given situation.

In a sense, a person’s self-esteem can be viewed as being borne in a series of “failures.”  Once a person makes a decision to do something, it is usually followed by a series of behaviors or actions. Often times these initial behaviors and actions are not going to be a success since doing something for the first time often leads to a number of miscues or possiblefailures.” However, if a person is willing to persist at following through with these behaviors and actions or be willing to try something different in an attempt to reach their goal, there is a greater likelihood the person will develop a sense of competence in that area. Once that person achieves that level of competence, a person’s self-esteem will increase.  Once a person’s self-esteem has increased, the easier it becomes for that person to make decisions and take action in other areas of life and the cycle begins all over again.

The important part of coping is that both coping mechanisms and skills need to be constantly reviewed and refined by a person.  There is no guarantee that a particular coping skill or mechanism is going to work in all situations.  As a person begins to adapt to the various complexities of life, the greater the need for a more complete range of coping skills to maintain that sense of well-being.

The Systemic Relationship of Neurobiology, Stress, and Coping

    In considering these various influences on a person’s mental health and well-being, it is vital to understand the interrelationship that exists between them.  One must comprehend that all three of these influences are constantly impacting one’s functioning and a person cannot focus on one of these areas without taking into consideration the ramifications it will have on the other areas.  There is a cyclical force that each area has on the other areas and vice versa.  For instance, if a person is experiencing an inordinate amount of stress, whether it is “good stress” or “bad stress,” the neurochemistry of the brain is going to be impacted.  If the neurochemistry of the brain is affected, there is a greater likelihood that this imbalance is going to affect the neurotransmission which can result in symptomatic behaviors such as panic, anxiety, depression, or other symptomatic behavior.  As a result of the symptomatic behavior the person may be experiencing, the person’s coping mechanism and problem-solving abilities are probably going to be compromised at least to some degree.  If the person is unable to cope with a given situation in an effective manner, there is the potential of the stress level increasing again. As a result, there is a cyclical process of impact.

Balance and Well-Being

    It appears that a key factor for a person maintaining mental health and a sense of well-being is the ability to monitor and balance the areas of neurobiology, stress, and coping.  The challenge, however, that confronts a person is the ability to maintain this balance on an on-going basis.  One of the difficulties stems from the fact that it is not always clear as to what a person needs to attend to at any given time.  For instance, let’s say that a person’s depression may simply be stemming from their genetic make-up.  If this is the case, it would probably be more prudent for that person to be prescribed the appropriate anti-depressant medication to correct the neurobiological issue as opposed to getting involved in therapy or attempting to reduce stress.  Although the latter two methods can be extremely effective in the long run, the more effective and efficient intervention may be from a pharmacological approach.

On the other hand, let’s say a person is depressed as a result of a great deal of existing stress that is occurring in their life, let’s say from being fired from their job,  or the person has limited coping skills to deal with real-life traumas like the death of a loved one.  In this scenario, a pharmacological intervention may be of little value, since the depression may be more a product of “normal” life situations that would be better addressed through support and the development of better and more appropriate coping skills for that given situation.  In these situations, yoga, meditation, and exercise may be extremely efficient in addressing stressful situations whereas psychotherapy can be effective in developing better coping skills.  In many instances, it is not necessarily the fact that a person’s anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication is not working, the fact of the matter is that the person’s life is still a mess and they need to begin to put it in order.  Unless the person is able to address these matters, the likelihood of a person responding effectively to a pharmacological intervention is going to be minimal.It is safe to say that one’s mental health and sense of well-being is not a given in anyone’s life.  Just because a person has a positive outlook on life, doesn’t mean that their genetic make-up couldn’t play a factor in that person’s level of functioning.  Or, the person who has savvy coping skills in dealing with incredible amounts of stress, doesn’t mean that the accumulative effects of those stressors will not take a physiological toll on that person via heart disease or cancer.

Maintaining mental health and well-being needs to be worked at on an on-going basis, not too different than an athlete needs to train to maintain peak performance.  In the arena of mental health and well-being, a person needs to monitor and train how they are performing in the areas of neurobiology, stress reduction, and the development of more effective and positive coping skills.  The ability of a person to attend to these areas through the use of yoga, nutrition, exercise, diet, meditation, stress reduction techniques, psychotherapy, hypnosis, just to name a few approaches, the greater likelihood the person will maintain that sense of well-being.  A question that a person needs to ask themselves is what is it they are doing to ensure the balance of these three key areas of their life.

For over 25 year, Thomas G. Beley, PhD, LCSW has worked in the field of addictions and mental health. Over these two-and-a-half decades of helping people who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders, he has proven to be an expert clinician and innovative and compassionate leader. Palm Healthcare Company is proud to have an executive team with experience and incredible commitment to helping others. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

How Acupuncture Treatment Helps Many Overcome Addiction

How Acupuncture Treatment Helps Many Overcome Addiction

To put it simply, acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine in which thin needles are inserted into the body. This practice is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine, and the most widespread method of acupuncture in the United States derives from traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture therapy has been used to help heal and promote wellness for over 2,000 years.

Modern medicine explains the benefits of acupuncture using neuroscience. Traditional Chinese medicine focuses on the balance and flow of energy. Western practitioners tend to identify acupuncture points as places where stimulation to nerves, muscles, and connective tissue increases blood flow and activates the body’s natural endorphins. There are critics who say many studies on acupuncture are hard to prove because of the nature of the treatment versus control groups. Some would say any improvements may merely by placebo effects. However, many have experienced benefits from trying this method of treatment as part of personalized addiction recovery programs.

It is typical to use acupuncture for pain relief, although it can help with a wide range of other conditions as well. Generally, acupuncture is used in combination with other forms of treatment and has been known to be an effective addition to holistic addiction treatment. In 1997, the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) publicized acupuncture’s safety and efficacy for helping treat various conditions.

Relapse and Craving Prevention

One acupuncture technique applies small needles called “seeds” to the ear. A large study examining three auricular acupuncture protocols such as this looked at relapse prevention in drug users. This study concluded that all three protocols were associated with reductions in drug use over time.

In another study examining acupunctures impact on relapse prevention, an 8-week randomized study of 32 subjects compared two groups:

  • One group was given acupuncture treatment with two prescription medications used for craving reduction
  • The other received a placebo for cocaine addicts on methadone maintenance therapy

Half of the subjects in the test dropped out, so the results were not so concrete. However, almost 90% of those who completed the treatment achieved abstinence by the end of the study. The patients who completed the trial and achieved abstinence reported:

  • Diminished craving
  • Significantly improved mood

Over the years there have been hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture. According to the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, some studies claim that it can successfully help treat:

Although again, these treatments can often include medications and other forms of therapy.

Opiate Addiction and Acupuncture

The mesolimbic dopamine system originates in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and projects to regions that include:

  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Prefrontal cortex

Expert believe these areas play a pivotal role in the development of opiate addiction.

Opioid abuse causes changes in the levels of dopamine in the brain. These reactions are typically associated with feelings of pleasure and well-being. This positive association helps drive the development of opiate abuse. So when someone discontinued opioid use, it reduces dopamine outflow in the nucleus accumbens. This is what creates opioid withdrawal.

Many studies in animals and humans have demonstrated that acupuncture causes multiple biological responses. The best-known mechanism is via endogenous opiates and their receptors.

In 1993, Han and Zhang reported the effectiveness of EA on morphine abstinence syndrome in a rat experimental model. The authors found that acupuncture point 100 Hz EA produced a statistically significant suppression of symptoms such as:

  • Wet shakes
  • Teeth chattering
  • Escape attempts
  • Weight loss

They also discovered acupuncture point 2 Hz EA produced a mild but significant suppression in:

  • Escape attempts
  • Wet shakes

These results suggest that 100 Hz EA was far more effective than 2 Hz EA in suppressing drug withdrawal syndrome. Further studies suggested that EA suppresses opiate withdrawal syndrome by activating κ opioid receptors and dynorphin release.

In short, there are researchers who believe that acupuncture is an effective method of therapy for helping treat those recovering from opioid addiction. Again, it may not be a good enough treatment on its own, but it can have an impact on cravings and other stressors in the body that help prevent relapse. So whether you believe in balancing the flow of energy in the body, or just pinpointing the nerves, acupuncture might be one way to enhance your recovery program.

Palm Healthcare Company offers acupuncture therapy as one of the many holistic treatment options to help each individual customize their own recovery plan. Acupuncture provides another opportunity to cultivate a state of physical and mental wellness in addiction recovery. Everyone struggling deserves a chance to be as healthy and happy as possible while overcoming drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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President Trump Plans Huge Cuts to Office of National Drug Control Policy

President Trump Plans Huge Cuts to Office of National Drug Control Policy

For the last few years federal politicians, local officials, and addiction advocates have spoken a great deal about the critical condition of the opioid crisis in America. Just a few months ago President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, and his administration had created a special White House Opioid Commission to do extensive research and community outreach to try and better understand the problem and offer possible solutions.

Now recent reports state that President Donald Trump is actually planning to cut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) just happens to be the top office responsible for coordinating the federal response to the opioid crisis. This plan is being noted as his administration’s second attempt to gut the ONDCP, so how would this change the current system?

What is the Plan?

So what does this mean? If President Trump were to go forward with this proposal, it would shift the office’s two main grant programs. These are:

  • The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant
  • The Drug Free Communities Act

According to POLITICO, multiple sources in the administration and others working with the government on the opioid crisis said those resources would then be given respectively to:

  • The Justice Department
  • Health and Human Services Department

According to a document from the Office of Management and Budget, this proposal would cut 95% of the ONDCP’s budget. Officials in President Trumps administration say that the approximately $340 million in grants will be administered by larger agencies. But the ONDCP will still serve as the White House’s drug policy shop. But the ONDCP will still be the main resource for President Trump for drug policy.

According to the proposal, President Trump and his administration believe these programs are just duplicates of other initiatives. This cut would also result in the ONDCP losing up to 33 employees. Skeptics say taking these resources leaves the policy office with little power or purpose.

Some Support President Trump Plan

Not everyone believes this is a bad idea. Some advocacy organizations are cautiously optimistic that changes to the ONDCP could actually end up being a good thing. One of them is the Drug Policy Alliance. They believe the opioid epidemic has continued to get worse under the ONDCP, and that maybe a shift in perspective is necessary to make a difference.

Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance states,

 “The reality is that ONDCP is an agency in dire need of reform,”

Smith believes that the particular grant programs mentioned previously “are a phenomenal waste of money that contribute to the incarceration and stigmatization of drug users.”

They are also afraid President Trump would use a more powerful Drug Czar to aggressively treat drug abuse as a criminal justice issue rather than as a public health problem. If so, it might be a good idea to take the power of these grants out of the executive branch’s control.

Some believe the ONDCP won’t be particularly helpful for the future of drug policy due to some of the organizations part positions, such as denying medical use of marijuana or encouraging the expansion of workplace drug testing. There have been stories questioning the 24-year-old deputy chief of staff President Trump appointed to head the ONDCP. Some see having an individual with no drug policy experience running this important agency as an indication of inconsistnecy.

Supporters of moving the grants and cutting the ONDCP say it would decrease overlap since the DOJ already works on drug trafficking and HHS also has substance use prevention. This may not be the worst assumption either, considering that President Trump and his administration have touted a law-and-order approach that has many concerned about further stigmatizing and punishing those in need of help.

An OMB spokesperson stated,

“DOJ and HHS are both major grant management organizations that can look holistically at allocations across law enforcement and drug prevention and treatment resources.”

So some are hopeful it could just put the grants under a different roof. But critics say these programs are working, and it is hazardous to try and dramatically restructure them at such a desperate time.

Other Republicans Rebuke the Plan

Health policy experts, lawmakers, and even fellow Republicans are unhappy with this latest proposal. Some even say this is just one example of a series of actions showing that President Trump’s administration isn’t serious about addressing the opioid epidemic.

Last year the White House Office of Management and Budget proposed completely cutting these grants. However, that proposal was met with intense resistance from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Now, health experts and officials from both sides are speaking out against this plan. Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP Chief of Staff during the Obama administration, states:

“I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,”

Many are already expecting lawmakers to push back again against this plan from President Trump.

Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, a state ravaged by opioids, told POLITICO she will “resist that move”. Capito also says she believes the grants should be kept at ONDCP. This would keep them within the executive branch and under the president’s purview.

Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, another state that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, said he also plans to fight back against the proposed cuts. Portman says the anti-drug programs the administration wants to cut have done an immense amount of good in Ohio.

Going Against Opioid Commission

President Trump established the White House Opioid Commission to make recommendations on addressing the opioid crisis. Now even advisors on this panel are saying this new move goes against the opioid commission’s recommendations.

Former Representative Patrick Kennedy, a member of the opioid advisory commission, said the panel advised President Trump to fortify the ONDCP, not defund it. The opioid commission had also endorsed both of these grants as crucial to overall response efforts. Kennedy went on to say,

“It guts the two main purposes of ONDCP… It really undermines the mission.”

So there are those that think changing the ONDCP could be a necessary sacrifice to make progress. However, others are concerned that it is not the right move, and definitely not the right time.

We should note that the proposal from President Trump is subject to change. There is still more time to learn about how moving money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy could impact the governments work against the opioid crisis. Could this change refine the process of accessing these grants? Or could it cripple an important agency for fighting addiction during of one of the country’s worst drug outbreaks? Hopefully, these changes can be managed in a way that creates new opportunities instead of removing them.

Providing support and life-saving resources is vital to overcoming addiction. Every day people are struggling with drug or alcohol use disorders, and some of them never find the help they need. Safe and effective addiction treatment is one of the best tools we have. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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Suicide VS Overdose: Study Claims Opioid Deaths Are Misclassified

Suicide VS Overdose: Study Claims Opioid Deaths Are Misclassified

Over the last 15 years, the suicide rate has climbed by an estimated 32%. While the overdose deaths in relation to the opioid crisis have become a constant issue around the country, some researchers suggest that the real suicide rates are even higher, but some of them are being misclassified as overdoses.

So, are more people dying due to drug abuse, or are more people taking their own lives using powerful street drugs and prescription narcotics?

Studying Suicide and Drugs

The idea that many of the deaths recorded as opioid overdoses may have been suicides, according to the researchers, is due to a significant gap between suicide rates and intoxication mortality rates.

A study from the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, was published in the journal PLOS One. This study states that both suicide and drug intoxication death rates in the United States have risen over a period of 15 years. Researchers compiled data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to show:

  • 2000- The suicide rate was 10.40 per 100,000 people
  • 2015- Suicide rate rose to 13.75 deaths per 100,000 people
  • 2000- Drug intoxication mortality rate for those over the age of 15 was 7.81 deaths per 100,000
  • 2015- Drug intoxication death rate for those over the age of 15 rose to 20.07 per 100,000 in 2015

This means that the drug intoxication death rate rose by 257% in those 15 years, while suicide rates only rose by 32%. While 32% is still a devastating number when it comes to such a tragic circumstance, there is still a huge difference between 32% and 257%. These researchers believe this major difference in the reports of mortality rates suggests a lack of suicide reporting.

Difficulties in Death Investigation

One of the big problems, according to the study’s author Mark Kaplan, is resources. Kaplan is a professor of social welfare at UCLA, and he stated to local news sources,

“Unfortunately, part of the problem is due to serious under-resourcing of state and local death investigation systems throughout most of the U.S.

“Many of these deaths were probably suicides, yet reported as accidental self-poisoning rather than intentional self-harm, particularly among the middle-aged.”

The study by Kaplan and his colleagues further explains that when it comes to suicide by overdose, things like an individual’s psychiatric history or the presence of a suicide note are crucial to helping professionals identify a death as a suicide.

“A suicide note, prior suicide attempt or affective disorder was documented in less than one-third of suicides and one-quarter of undetermined deaths,”

“Our incorporation of undetermined deaths, as well as registered suicides, not only provided a window on the nature of suicide misclassification within the undetermined death category but within the accident category—as a much larger reservoir for obscuring drug intoxication suicides.”

So by acknowledging that there is not always an obvious indication that a death is a suicide, even in cases that are classified in suicide, the researchers believe that many deaths that involved drugs have most likely been categorized as overdoses instead of making a deeper inquiry into the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death.

Opioids Causing Ambiguity

With the opioid crisis in America, it has become even more difficult to measure the suicide rates. And that isn’t just this research teams opinion either.

In 2015, the CDC hosted a meeting to address the challenges presented for medical examiners and coroners across the country. The primary focus was concerning cases of fatal intoxication due to opioids and other drugs. The summary of this meeting concluded that drug intoxication deaths may be among the most difficult to determine regarding the manner of death. The summary notes that reasons for such difficulty in having a more accurate manner of death include:

  • Potentially equivocal evidence
  • Intent to die
  • Overlapping demographic groups affected
  • Overlapping premorbid risk factors (e.g., substance abuse, mental health problems).

Opioid addiction, much like any other form of substance use disorder, is often closely connected to other issues, including anxiety, trauma and mental health disorders. Some individuals living with mental health conditions who abuse opioids may be self-medicating and accidentally overdose. But others may be suffering so severely, with conditions like depressive disorders or bipolar disorder, that they ultimately take their own lives intentionally with the powerful drugs. With opioid abuse being so widespread and devastating, the line between the two has begun to blur.

Both studies mentioned clearly indicate in order to truly comprehend an accurate number of suicides by overdose, more research is needed. Both also admit that the number may never be exact.

Even though we will probably never have a definitive answer, the question is still important to ask. By knowing whether opioid deaths are caused by accidents or intentional we can develop better strategies to provide education and prevention.

This is also why mental health should always be a priority when it comes to addiction treatment.

Substance use disorder and suicide are both connected to mental health and personal wellness. Too often they both lead to avoidable tragedies. Therefore, mental health and wellness should be a priority for addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Opioids on Wall Street: Addictions Influence on White-Collar World

Opioids on Wall Street: Addictions Influence on White-Collar World

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

The opioid crisis has affected every community in America. Opioids affect rural working class people, those in the inner city and suburbs, or even the wealthy and well-to-do professionals. While drug abuse in business has been highlighted in blockbuster films like the Wolf of Wall Street, the current reality is not far from it. According to addiction experts, substance use disorder is making a sobering impact on the financial industry.

This comes from not just an upscale partying lifestyle, but also from drugs used to manage performance and stress, along with physical pain. According to addiction experts, the financial industry itself is actively turning a blind eye to the issues concerning opioid abuse on Wall Street because money is still the priority, and stigma still gets in the way.

Opioids on Wall Street: White-Collar Confessions

As it stands there is no comprehensive research that takes a detailed look at opioid abuse in Wall Street among finance professionals. So we can’t exactly show the numbers to prove it’s prevalence. However, what we see consistently is a dramatic increase in addiction and overdose rates all over the nation in recent years.

Luckily, professionals from this demographic are beginning to speak out in hopes of progressive change.

One such individual is Trey Laird, a former Wall Street trader, who recently spoke to CNBC about his six-year opioid addiction. During the conversation Laird reiterates the critical understanding that substance use disorder can reach anyone, saying:

“Addiction pervades every single socioeconomic demographic that there is. Every industry, every race, men, women. It doesn’t care who you are,”

After getting clean himself, Laird went on to open a sober living community and says he hopes to specifically serve the Wall Street and white collar demographic.

According to Laird, there has been more talk about opioid addiction among people in higher socioeconomic brackets, but there is still much work that needs to be done. He acknowledges that increasing awareness is doing a great deal, but that the problem is also at an increase. Wall Street may finally be talking about it, but how many professionals will get the help they truly need?

Opioids on Wall Street: Stocks and Stigma

One of the biggest obstacles facing white-collar workers like those in Wall Street is the engrained stigma still attached to addiction. Even with all the shifts in our culture toward a better understanding of substance use and the compassion for those struggling, professionals still have this seemingly unbearable hurdle in front of them.

Truthfully, stigma is something that prevents most people from getting help. Professionals will often be too afraid of losing their jobs to admit they need help. Many in the world of Wall Street and finance may have no information on how to seek out treatment while adhering to their professional boards’ guidelines and business practices.

With white-collar workers, this may be an especially difficult thing because the idea of addiction is so often attached to stereotypes of the unemployable, the homeless, the unreliable and unstable that their high-earning careers might minimize the impact drugs have on their lives. Wall Street stockbrokers and traders might not see themselves as having a problem as long as they can function, which brings in the idea of the “functioning addict.”

Opioids on Wall Street: Function Addiction is Still Addiction

Many white-collar workers who struggle with drugs or alcohol may consider themselves a “functioning addict”, meaning they are less likely see their actions as a problem because they are able to maintain their professional or even personal lives. To make matters worse, frequently the people around someone who is professionally successful will not believe the addiction is real. They may admit that you’ve been careless or destructive in some respects, but will ultimately minimize it due to your financial stability.

As long as you’re making money and paying the bills how could you possibly be “that bad?”

Well, because “functioning addiction” is still an addiction.

Addiction isn’t about whether or not you are able to hold down a steady income. It does not depend on whether or not other people recognize that you have a problem or your competence with your profession. While addiction can and will have an impact on these things, it isn’t always as black and white as most people like to pretend.

Notice how earlier we said you may “maintain” other areas of your life? Well, we mean to say that you can get by for a while, but eventually, the effects of addiction will catch up with you. It could be in the form of serious health consequences or other devastating circumstances. It could take days, months or even years, but it will leave a mark.

Sadly, “functioning addicts” are also far less likely to get the help they desperately need.

Opioids on Wall Street: It Could Be You

While you might be able to keep your addiction secret, in the beginning, things will eventually get worse. Eventually, your addiction will become unmanageable.

If you think you might fit the “functioning addiction” criteria, look at the following questions and answer them honestly.

  • Do you often think about using drugs or drinking?
  • Do you find it hard to stop after you start drinking or using?
  • Are you scheduling your time around drinking or using drugs?
  • Have you tried to stop before, but found that you were unable to?
  • Do you drink or use drugs first thing in the morning?
  • Are you drinking or using drugs at work?
  • Do you hide your drug use or drinking?
  • Have you done something risky, like driven drunk?
  • Do you worry about your drug use or drinking?

If you find you are answering “yes” more than “no” then you should seriously consider speaking with a medical or addiction professional about your drug use or drinking.

The opioid crisis is nothing to be ignored. Despite all that we think we have learned about addiction too many professionals don’t get the help they need. No one is exempt from the destruction of addiction. Opioids don’t care what street you work on, Wall Street or not, they can ruin your life all the same. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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American Civil Liberties Union Slams Sessions Crackdown on Marijuana

American Civil Liberties Union Slams Sessions Crackdown on Marijuana

Last week we reported on the story of President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding a marijuana memo from the Obama administration that established a policy of refraining from federal interference with state laws concerning marijuana use. Once the announcement hit the internet, people from all sides of the argument began chiming in with either praise for the “rule of law” stance of this administration, or adamant opposition of this new policy that essentially reignites the “war on weed” in America.

This announcement came only days after the state of California had officially enacted the legalization of recreational marijuana. Needless to say, the conversation has not yet been dismissed. One voice came from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

American Civil Liberties Union VS Sessions

For some background, the American Civil Liberties Union is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a stated mission:

“to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

The ACLU has over one million members and works through litigation and lobbying while providing legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk.

In response to the news of Jeff Sessions rescinding the Obama-era policy for a hands-off approach to legal marijuana states, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Jesselyn McCurdy stated:

“Criminalizing marijuana may be a priority for Attorney General Sessions—who has spent decades using bad science to push his own regressive agenda—but it is not a priority for the American people, 52 percent of whom support legalization. Rescinding this guidance is yet another example of how this administration’s ‘law and order’ philosophy is deeply out of touch with most Americans. With today’s decision, the Department of Justice is essentially telling at least six states and the District of Columbia that they are not entitled to govern as they see fit when it comes to drug policy. For politicians who purport to believe in ‘small government’ and states’ rights, this is a wildly incongruous move.”

Later on in the statement, McCurdy concludes,

“The War on Marijuana, like the War on Drugs, has failed by almost every measure—with the exception of successfully destroying communities of color. Marijuana criminalization negatively impacts public housing and student financial aid eligibility, employment opportunities, child custody decisions, and immigration status. Today’s decision furthers entrenches the country in racially biased, fiscally irresponsible, and morally wrong drug policy—and the ACLU will continue to fight it.”

And the ACLU is most definitely not alone in this mindset. Both Democrats and Republicans are openly criticizing this shift, with some like Senator Cory Gardner promising to oppose it at every opportunity.

Compassion Not Punishment

The backlash from this most recent decision from Jeff Sessions has come from all directions. Pretty much every publication and news outlet has covered this controversial move. As of now, there is no definitive answer as to how this policy change will impact those states where medical marijuana use is legal, or how it will impact the recreational marijuana industry.

But despite the fact that marijuana has become increasingly supported for medicinal use across the country, with many advocating for recreational use as well, the reality remains that drugs can still be abused, regardless of their legal status.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana use can lead to an individual developing problems known as marijuana use disorder. Data from recent studies research suggests:

  • 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder
  • Use of marijuana before age 18 makes someone 4-7 times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder

The NIDA also states that marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. In 2015:

  • About 4.0 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder
  • Only 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for their marijuana use

So while some may still experience difficulties due to their use of marijuana, the focus should still remain on support and assistance through compassionate care and treatment, not punishment. Regardless of whether you support the decision of the attorney general, or if you stand with the American Civil Liberties Union and other legalization advocates, you can support compassionate and comprehensive treatment for those who do struggle with substance use disorder.

Marijuana use disorder is a real condition for some people. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, such as chemical dependency or addiction, please call toll-free now to speak with a specialist today. We want to help!

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Jeff Sessions Reversing Obama-Era Policy on Legal Marijuana

Jeff Sessions Reversing Obama-Era Policy on Legal Marijuana

Before the hype around recreational use of marijuana in California could even begin to dwindle, new reports are stating that President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is planning to begin a federal crackdown on marijuana laws.

Jeff Sessions is set to announce today that he is rescinding memos sent out from the Obama administration that established a policy of non-interference with state laws concerning marijuana use. For some time now there have been several stories highlighting Jeff Sessions’ disagreement with allowing states to decide their own laws concerning medical or recreational marijuana use. Some sources indicate he has been planning a new strategy that will actually bring federal law to a head against state marijuana policies.

UPDATE: According to The Washington Post, Jeff Sessions notes in a memo sent to U.S. attorneys that federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. Sessions undid four previous Obama administration memos that advised against bringing prosecutions in states where marijuana was legalized to use for recreational or medical purposes. Sessions said prosecutors should use their own discretion in weighing whether charges were appropriate.

So what does all this mean for marijuana states?

The Obama Era Policy

The memo essentially describing the Obama-era policy through the Justice Department is known as the “Cole Memo”. It was named after then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole in 2013.

The “Cole Memo” outlined new priorities for federal prosecutors in states legalized use of marijuana. These shifts in policy represented a major change from the strict enforcement approach of past administrations to an attitude of non-interference. Back in 2014 U.S. Congress approved legislation preventing the DEA from carrying out any raids, arrest, or prosecutions of patients using medical marijuana. Congress also blocked law enforcement agencies under the Justice Department from consuming federal dollars in efforts to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice did not pursue action against states that legalized recreational marijuana use. In 2015 there was a bipartisan effort in Congress to block the DEA from using federal funding for aggressively pursuing marijuana in the states where it was legalized.

The Obama era outline essentially allowed states to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana and to what extent. The federal prosecutors would not intervene as long as the state regulations did not threaten other federal priorities. So the distribution of marijuana to minors and cartels was still prohibited.

So with this announcement, many are wondering if Jeff Sessions will be working to undo other changes as well.

The Jeff Sessions Reversal

At the time of writing this article, whether or not Jeff Sessions will offer up a new strategy for dealing with marijuana-friendly states or not has yet to be seen. At this time the great concern is how this announcement may end up putting state and federal law in conflict, and what to expect out of enforcement from the federal government.

But many say this is a frustrating development, especially considering that President Trump has said in the past that he would not allow his attorney general to change the current policy, telling a reporter that,

“I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”

If we go back to February of 2017, Sean Spicer suggested in a press conference that the Trump administration and the Justice Department already had the intentions to no longer turn a blind eye to states with their own legal marijuana laws. At the time Spicer said the Trump administration would be “taking action” against these states. Contradicting all the talk of states’ rights and rolling back federal enforcement.

Many are wondering if President Trump was consulted about this decision, or if he has been made aware of the implications of this change. Especially since it goes against his original campaign promise to leave marijuana laws to the states.

This move would lay the groundwork for the federal government to begin a crackdown on the rapidly increasing marijuana industry all across the country. If these reports are confirmed this afternoon with no new innovations in their place, this move could have a drastic impact on the economics around the marijuana industry.

Sessions Track Record

However, this should all come as no surprise, since Jeff Sessions has repeatedly spoken out against decriminalization of marijuana and a return to the failed tactics of the War on Drugs at every turn.

In fact, a key adviser on marijuana policy to Jeff Sessions, Dr. Robert DuPont, believes drug testing should be a routine part of primary-care medicine. He has gone as far to suggest that primary-care physicians should be given the power to force some patients into treatment against their will. DuPont also suggests the following treatment to subject individuals to monitoring and random drug tests for up to 5 years.

Dr. Robert DuPont was among a small group of drug-policy experts involved last month in a closed-door meeting with Sessions to discuss federal options for dealing with the rapid liberalization of state marijuana laws.

The Marijuana States

Eight states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing for personal consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes. 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Even more states recently have begun to talk about changes in their own policies. California voters pushed through legislation to legalize recreational use back in November of 2017, and with the start of the New Year, those laws went into effect. Now, not even a week later, the fate of this state’s new policy is hanging in the balance.

Needless to say, marijuana advocates all over the nation are troubled by this news. According to NORML Political Director Justin Strekal,

“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels,”

But some states are not ready to give up on their marijuana laws. Other Republicans, such as Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, are avidly speaking out in opposition to the recent decision by Jeff Sessions. Senator Gardner has vowed to prevent any new appointees for the Department of Justice from being confirmed until this reversal has been reversed.

Hopefully, when Jeff Sessions makes his official announcement, we will have some more clarity on how the federal government plans to address marijuana use going forward.

Marijuana Abuse

While the legal status of marijuana may soon be up for a serious debate, the fact remains that it is still possible to abuse marijuana. Whether a drug is legal or not, there are still risks. There are already plenty of legal drugs that cost thousands of lives every year. When substance use becomes habitual it can be extremely harmful to an individual who struggles with substance use disorder. Even though marijuana is not claiming lives like the opioid epidemic, for some it has adverse effects on the quality of life.

While marijuana is not considered to be as dangerous as other illicit drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamines, it can cause dependence for people who use the drug. The typical consensus that marijuana is not as physically destructive and addictive as other “harder” drugs doesn’t change the fact that psychiatrists also believe the psychological impacts of a substance do matter when talking about an addiction. These effects can be just as detrimental.

Marijuana addiction treatment offers a safe and secure environment while providing a variety of therapeutic opportunities to help develop a healthy lifestyle without relying on the use of marijuana or other drugs.

There still needs to be resources available to help people who suffer from abuse. Supporting addiction recovery means breaking the stigma and offering holistic and effective solutions. Palm Healthcare Company is here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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