There are many national observances every month, all year round, that remind us of issues that may not always be on the forefront of our minds. These issues are typically not something everyone will put much thought into each day, but when we pause to acknowledge them for a few days at a time we may realize these are real problems that affect real people every single day. Some of these issues go unseen, like mental health disorders. One of these observances for the month of October is National Antidepressant Death Awareness Month.
If you never realized this was an actual observance, then that is kind of the point. The fact that this is enough of an issue to acknowledge for one month out of a year should speak volumes. The fact a lot of people don’t even realize it is happening says a lot too.
Let us be clear: this article is NOT to discredit or denounce the use of antidepressant medications. It is simply to acknowledge the importance of awareness and education.
So what does this observance mean?
The purpose of National Antidepressant Death Awareness Month is to remember those who have been injured or killed as a result of antidepressant use. Part of this commemoration is to urge people to always report any adverse reactions while taking any drugs to the FDA, especially in cases that end in death. Depression is a common mental health disorder in the United States. In fact, recent data shows:
- More than 300 million people suffer from depression globally
- Approximately 16 million adults in the US had at least one major depressive episode in 2012
- Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
- 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18
- 10%-20% of new moms will experience postpartum depression
- 30% of college students report feeling depressed enough it disrupted their performance in school
- 50% of Americans with major depression don’t seek treatment
Needless to say, depression is a prominent condition that impacts a lot of people across America. So of course, antidepressant medications are a valued resource in mental health treatment. However, excessive use of antidepressant medications or dependence on these drugs can lead to some devastating consequences.
Too often people joke about needing to “pop a Prozac” or “borrow a Zoloft” to relax, but these medications are nothing to play around with.
Antidepressants and Suicide
In 2016 reports came out about a suicide epidemic in America. According to the World Health Organization suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death in 2015, representing a 60% increase worldwide over 45 years! A report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found an estimated 9.3 million adults in the United States (3.9% of the adult population) reported having suicidal thoughts in that past year.
With such shocking statistics, researchers decided to examine data on suicides and the antidepressants associated with some cases. Of most of the medications the most disturbing revelations were those for:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
The review revealed that these antidepressants actually seemed to double the rate of suicide and aggressive behavior for adolescents and young people under the age of 18.
So drugs intended to treat depression actually increased risks of harmful side-effects. But even more disheartening is the fact the Big Pharma companies behind these medications were documenting “serious underestimation of the harms.” Meaning they believe drug makers misreported their findings from case studies. In many cases, researchers concluded more serious side-effects were being recorded as something else.
Side-Effects of Antidepressants
Antidepressant drugs can be very useful, but they are still drugs and should always be taken seriously. Not only can antidepressants be detrimental to emotional stability, but they cause various physical side-effects as well.
Some of the more common side-effects of antidepressants include:
- Blurred vision
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
There are other more serious health concerns that certain antidepressant drugs can contribute to as well, including:
Depending on the particular substance, some of these adverse effects of symptoms may differ. One should always speak with their doctor about the possible adverse effects of any medication and be sure to discuss all treatment options.
Be sure to consult your doctor before discontinuing any medications as well. Some of these medications can cause adverse effects when abruptly discontinued. Again, the point of this conversation is not to scare anyone away from antidepressant medications; it is simply to encourage anyone who may be taking these kinds of medications to be aware and make informed decisions with the help of your doctor.
The connection between antidepressants and addiction isn’t as clear as other drugs. Doctors still debate the addictive nature of antidepressant medications, with most considering them non-addictive. However, it is possible to develop a dependence on antidepressants.
Antidepressant medications alter the brain’s chemical activity. So a lot of people use antidepressants excessively because they feel like they cannot function normally unless chemical changes in their brain activity take place. So while antidepressants may not be as addictive as other narcotic medications, people can depend on the drug to feel ‘normal’.
Antidepressant dependence commonly forms in people who never needed the drug for medical reasons. Some people receive an incorrect diagnosis of depression and thus end up on antidepressants. According to one study, doctors misdiagnosed almost 2/3 of patients with depression and prescribed unnecessary antidepressants. Still, others will abuse antidepressants for a psychostimulant-like effect.
The use of the drugs also becomes even more dangerous when combined with alcohol. People suffering from addiction to other drugs, including alcohol, also run a higher risk of abusing their antidepressants.
Combining alcohol and antidepressants can cause problems such as:
- Worsened depression or anxiety
- Intense sedation
- Dangerously high blood pressure
- Impaired coordination
Abuse of antidepressants can lead to overdose. Symptoms of antidepressant overdose often include:
- Impaired coordination
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Irregular heartbeat
Safety before Stigma
Of course, no one should ever be afraid or embarrassed about taking an antidepressant medication. That kind of assistance can be an essential piece of someone’s balance in life, and there is no judgment.
In the realm of recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, it is important for people to understand the difficulties that others may face and accept that medical assistance might be necessary for some people to safely and comfortably grow while letting go of other dangerous substances. As long as people are willing to be mindful of how a medication effects them and take appropriate steps to protect themselves, recovery with the help of antidepressants is absolutely possible.
Approximately one in every eight adults in America take antidepressants, which are among the most commonly used medications. These medications can be life altering and important to overall health, but they must be taken seriously. This month we remember all those who have suffered through depression and been adversely affected by antidepressants. We remember those who lost their lives due to complications related to antidepressant medications, and we strive for better understanding and use of these medications to preserve lives.
Abusing prescription medications like antidepressants is extremely dangerous, and if you are trying to overcome an addiction or mental health disorder this can put you in even more danger. Getting the right kind of treatment can make all the difference. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Lady Gaga continues to pave the way for mental health awareness, and now she’s bringing that awareness on her upcoming tour.
Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation has partnered with the National Council for Behavioral Health to bring Mental Health First Aid training to every American city on her Joanne tour. Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, want fans to be better prepared to help those struggling with mental health and substance abuse.
The training, described as “CPR for the mind,” will consist of an eight-hour-long course that teaches and provides the tools needed to help someone with mental health challenges. While the training does not turn people into crisis counselors, it does help people better understand how to identify and respond to signs of mental illness. The objective is to train 150,000 people by the end of 2017.
Since 2008, over 1 million people received training in Mental Health First Aid.
“To us, [the training] is so vitally important because there’s still a very large stigma around mental health, and around talking about it and providing help for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” Cynthia Germanotta told Mashable. “It’s really been invaluable because there’s just a comfort level knowing that if you see someone in crisis, you can have a conversation with them and hopefully determine how severe it is.”
Earlier this year, the Born This Way Foundation released its report regarding factors that influence mental wellness in young people. The results were gathered through surveying over 3,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24, and over 1000 parents.
The findings confirmed that having a network of friends, community support, and access to resources was crucial for the mental well-being of young people. The report also found a dire need for more resources for young people to take better care of their mental health.
Mental Health First Aid Training:
These findings make Mental Health First Aid training even more valuable. These training help people obtain the tools and confidence needed to encourage friends and family seek help. Often, young people are not willing to talk to older adults or their parents.
Germanotta told Mashable about how Gaga was bullied in middle school, which inspired them to be a part of this mission. In the past, Lady Gaga has opened up about her mental health challenges, including her PTSD diagnosis.
Back in December 2016, Lady Gaga first revealed during an emotional visit with homeless, LGBTQ teens in New York that she had struggled with PTSD. She visited the Ali Forney Center to surprise teens with gifts as part of Today and NBC Universal’s #ShareKindness campaign.
“These children are not just homeless or in need. Many of them are trauma survivors. They’ve been rejected in some type of way,” Gaga said. “My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others.”
Furthermore, Gaga hopes her efforts during this upcoming tour will make an impact on the lives of young people.
What do you think about Gaga and her mother’s mission on the Joanne tour? Should other artists consider promoting similar programs? PTSD is not a laughing manner and if left untreated, can cause further mental health struggles, even substance abuse. Please reach out if you are struggling. No one should have to battle this on their own. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Oregon just became the 5th state to raise its smoking age to 21. Oregon will now join California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Maine as states where a person must be at least 21 to purchase tobacco products.
Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill on Wednesday, and it will take effect at the start of 2018. The bill will bar anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products.
The empirical research shows the change could save lives. Prior to this, Brown praised Lane County in Oregon for raising its legal age, arguing it was a necessary move to reduce smoking rates.
“I want to make sure that we continue to reduce the number of young people starting to smoke, but it’s also critical that we reduce the number of people smoking,” she said in May.
In short, these new bills are a popular strategy to address the high death rates from smoking. While smoking rates have actually declined in the past several years, tobacco products still kill far more than all other drug-related deaths, murders and car crashes combined. Policymakers believe these new bills will decrease the amount of deaths that occur every year due to tobacco
The Stats & The Controversy:
Tobacco kills over 480,000 people in the US every year. A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that raising the smoking age to 21 could prevent approximate 223,000 premature deaths among Americans born between 2000 and 2019.
Still, some remain skeptical. Many argue that since 18-year-olds can serve in the military, get married and enter into legal contracts, they should be able to choose whether or not to smoke. Furthermore, there are concerns about how these policies are going to be enforced and the overall cost for taxpayers.
However, Beverly May, a regional director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids supports the bill. She believes it is another step in changing social norms and reducing the amount of youth who smoke.
“This is just another tool of a comprehensive approach to working with youth … It’s not just (raising the legal age to) 21. I think there’s been a lot of emphasis on law enforcement, but this is something we want to do for changing the social norms. It’s working with communities and convenience stores so they don’t sell the cigarettes,” May said.
Changes in smoking regulations are always shocking at first, May explains. At one time, smoking was common in airports, public restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. However, nowadays seeing someone smoke indoors would be incredibly uncommon.
“Now what happens is that if you walk into a restaurant and someone sees another person smoking, usually a patron will tell them to quit smoking or will tell the management. So a lot of these laws are policing themselves,” May continued.
Young People Are More Likely to Become Regular Smokers
Furthermore, older people are less likely to become smokers in comparison to younger people, the study notes. About 90 percent of adults who are daily smokers started smoking before 19 years old. Almost 100 percent report their first use before age 26, according to the IOM report. Therefore, preventing people from smoking at a young age could prevent them from smoking for a life time.
The higher legal age would delay the initiation rate in several ways:
- It would prevent 18- to 21-year-olds from legally purchasing cigarettes.
- It would have a trickle-down effect by making it more difficult for 15-17-year-old to access cigarettes from friends and family.
- Middle and high-school students are more likely to have peers around 18-19 than peers closer to 21, making it more difficult to regularly obtain cigarettes illegally.
These new bills are modeled after The National Minimum Drinking Act of 1984 which rose the legal drinking age from 18 to 21.While many argue that the drinking age should be lowered, a 2014 review in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that evidence strongly suggested that the increasing drinking age has, in fact, reduced the amount of underage drinkers.
The review discovered that the minimum 21-year old drinking age saves hundreds of lives annually when you look at reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities among underage drivers. One study found that the number of fatally injured drivers with a positive blood alcohol concentration decreased by 57 percent among those ages 16 to 20.
New Zealand, which reduced its drinking age from 20 to 18 in 1999, saw increases in drinking among ages 18 to 19. There was an even bigger increase among those 16 to 17 years old, as well as a rise in alcohol-related crashes among 15- to 19-year-olds.
Still, critics commonly argue that these age increases force youth to drink in secret, which increases binge drinking. However, there has not been any research that confirms this.
What do you think about increasing the age to use tobacco products? Either way, it seems like this is becoming a trend. There are officially five states that have enacted this type of bill. Smoking may seem harmless, but it is clear the consequences can be deadly overtime. If you are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, please do not wait to seek help. Call now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
The American Generation X faced high rates of depression, but it seems now the millennial age is plagued with an outbreak of American anxiety.
Anxiety on an occasional basis is a pretty standard part of the human experience. When we are faced with difficult tasks, frightening news or even critical decisions, we will naturally experience some form of anxiety. There is a big difference between these feelings of worry and a developed anxiety disorder. With serious anxiety disorders the feeling isn’t fleeting, it can linger and grow worse over time. Anxiety disorders can cripple our ability to complete everyday activities, and it can take many forms, such as:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Of course our outside world can have a drastic impact on these feelings, and our ability to face them. Here in America some believe that anxiety has evolved with society and now impacts more and more people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults age 18 and over in the United States, accounting for 18% of the population
- GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) affects 6.8 million American adults
- Panic Disorder affects 6 million American adults
- Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million American adults
- Specific Phobias affect 19 million American adults
Other disorders are closely related to anxiety disorders, such as:
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)– affecting 2.2 million
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)– affecting 7.7 million
- Major Depressive Disorder– affecting 15 million
This doesn’t even begin to address the various related disorders that often co-occur with anxiety disorders, such as eating disorders or substance abuse. So is American anxiety a mental health epidemic?
An Anxious Nation
Earlier this month there was an article in the New York Times entitled “Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax” In the piece the author recounted how American society has seemingly grown into a nation where an anxiety diagnosis is now as common as a diagnosis of depression. The author, Alex Williams, suggests:
“Anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition, too: a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media.”
Williams includes some pretty damning numbers to support the conclusion, such as:
- Anxiety disorders are now more common than depression on college campuses, which has always been the leading mental health disorder among university students.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports:
- 38% of teenage girls have an anxiety disorder
- 26% of teenage boys have an anxiety disorder
Politics and Anxiety
If anyone out there is like me, this one may hit close to home. Every time I come across a story about the state of national affairs, or even about a controversial piece of legislation in another state, it gives me pause. I am not going to point the finger at anyone, but needless to say I am an idealist and I think we could do much better. My anxiety flows from the intensity with which some people attack those they cannot compromise with, and what that may say about our future. Politics frequently contribute to many people’s anxieties.
Another article on anxiety was published in the New York Times back in April of this year, where the author looked at the issue of American anxiety from both a social and generational view, comparing the issues of past generations with the social construct the newer generation of Americans face today. With wondering what to worry about, some would say to pick your own panic flavored poison. From the side of political anxieties people could choose between:
- Economic anxiety
- Racial anxiety
- Cultural anxiety
- Demographic anxiety
In the grander scheme of things, American anxiety was the “profound unease” and the more our politics seem to revolve around our racial, economic or cultural differences the more unease sets in.
While the news is constantly informing us of another contention with legislation on education, health care and immigration, we are also dogged by the drama of foreign influence and relations. While no average American is in control of such things directly, we can easily adopt anxieties over these outcomes, especially in the current political climate. Far too many have developed the “us VS them” attitude of party politics, and it only fuels more anxiety through division and distrust.
Technology and Anxiety
Of course the concept of smartphones and social media comes hand in hand with examining how American anxiety has reached such heights. We have these constant tools of connectivity that some have said simultaneously make us feel more detached. When social media, instant messaging and texting has us on the constant look out for communication, validation or distraction we can easily become far too reliant on technology for peace of mind. On top of that, studies have indicated people develop an urge to constantly check their phones for updates and interactions. This need to be tethered to our iPhones has fed into our nervous behavior.
Another new wave of technology, if you can even call it that, is the hand-held toys specifically designed for people dealing with fidgeting. We all remember stress balls, and now a recent phenomenon of the “fidget spinner” device has seen incredible spikes in sales. These types of toys were originally developed to help children with anxiety, ADHD or autism. These toys come in various shapes and designs to replace the incessant clicking of a pen or tapping of a finger. Lately children, adolescents, and young adults appear to use these toys. One may see it as a fad taking off, but could these tedious decoys be actually serving a purpose by alleviating anxious feelings?
Is the seemingly ridiculous popularity of “fidget spinners” happening because more people are subconsciously trying to overcome their own anxieties?
Anxiety and Substances
Anxiety is notably a product of uncertainty. Many of us addicts use to seek out a measure of escape or comfort. So when we are looking to diminish our anxiety, wouldn’t it make sense that we ask for some semblance of certainty? Some might argue substances, legal or otherwise, provide some much needed consistency. I know personally, as someone who struggled with serious anxiety for years, that I would try to use drugs to be numb to the fear. However, I ultimately found that the drugs and the drinking fed my fear, which in turn exacerbated my anxieties.
Anti-anxiety medications, like Xanax, are some of the most prescribed drugs in America. It is possible to become convinced that a pill can fix everything, especially in a world where pills are everywhere and we are so used to instant gratification. And yet, many of these pills are potent and dangerous; they come with their own baggage. Xanax may be helpful to some, but it is also one of the top prescription drugs being abused in America.
Others will seek out a way to dull their anxieties through illicit substances. They may seek a calm release from their nerves through abusing alcohol or drugs, especially depressant drugs or “downers”. Opioids, such as OxyCodone or heroin, are the most commonly abused depressants next to alcohol. In the midst of an opioid epidemic, we may be seeing how growing rates of American anxiety have fed into a devastating drug addiction crisis. With mental health and substance use disorders, dual diagnosis treatment becomes essential.
Underneath all of this is a constant fact; American anxiety is real. What are we most worried about? That may be subjective. Freud explored the concept of “anxiety neurosis” which we today commonly call GAD. This Freud describes as a fear that could be attached to any appropriate idea. So no matter what our circumstances, we could attach fear to it and then it would become our focal point to the extent it may be debilitating. The fear is there, even in the home of the brave.
For those struggling with substance use disorder and an anxiety disorder, dual diagnosis treatment with a holistic approach can make all the difference. For someone to create lasting coping skills and break out of self-destructive and counter-productive habits, holistic treatment can be a game changer. If you or someone you love is struggling please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
If there are any other nerds out there like me, you may have come across an abstract animated series called Psycho-pass that rose in popularity a few years back in 2012. The show’s name fits firmly into the primary premise of the show, an authoritarian future dystopia, where omnipresent public sensors ceaselessly scan the mental states of every passing citizen. In the TV show, collected data on both present mentality and aggregated personality data is used to gauge the probability of an individual committing a crime, the rating referred to as that citizen’s Psycho-Pass. Law enforcement and public security utilizes technology tracking mental health of citizens in order to premeditate possible threats. The characters chase criminals who the system deems emotionally or psychologically at risk, and the show adds a few good twists of suspense and philosophical paradox.
Needless to say, I am a big fan of the series.
So of course, seeing a headline explaining a new research project that could make this kind of system a reality, it stirs up some curiosity. This abstract concept of machines reading the psychological profiles of everyday people as a security measure has jumped right out of the world of sci-fi fantasy and could soon be another innovation that changes our world.
Could a mental health security system be the future of public safety?