August 2020 Issue - Pink Prescriptions
Addiction kills thousands of Americans every year and impacts millions of lives, relationships, families and careers. Whether it’s a problem with alcohol or drugs, addiction is a mental disorder which compels someone to repeatedly use substances, or engage in behaviors even though they have harmful consequences. With more than 21 million Americans having at least one addiction, having open dialogue about this topic is imperative to finding help and the road to recovery. There is hope! Addiction doesn’t have to win. With more resources than ever, and addiction on the rise, reaching out for help is the wisest thing to do. Read on for insight and advice from our local experts.
How do I know if I (or a friend) need help for addiction? How far is too far, and how much is too much? What signs should I look out for?
by Dr. Debi Lynes
A problem with a substance such as alcohol, marijuana, or even a prescribed medication, becomes a problem when it interferes or impacts your quality of life or relationships in a negative way. Signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder can present in various forms. Has your sleep recently increased or decreased? Has your routine or schedule been disrupted? Have you noticed a change in your motivation or energy on one extreme or the other? Are you constantly thinking about, or have you become dependent on, the substance to get through the day? Have you had a run in with the law?
Addiction is a term that is defined on a spectrum according to the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as substance use disorders. It is divided into three categories of severity: use, abuse or dependence.
There are some simple questions to ask yourself, or even a friend, that may be a first step in recognizing a substance use problem. These questions include: How often and how much do I use the substance? Do I use the substance socially, for fun? Do I use the substance to numb, avoid or escape? Do I binge on the substance? Do I need the substance to get through the day?
Your primary care physician is a valuable resource if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one who may have a substance use disorder. It is important to determine next steps, or the treatment options available as soon as possible.
Other resources available:
> Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous
> SAMHSA: www.samhsa.gov
> National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov
> Beaufort County Drug and Alcohol
Dr. Debi Lynes is a licensed addiction counselor, who also specializes in eating disorders (CEDS). She has lived in the Lowcountry community for nearly 40 years. Her areas of interest include her 10 grandchildren, aging in place and therapy animals. She is the host of Hilton Head Regional Healthcare’s Healthy Living Show on WHHI-TV.
What are the major risk factors for addiction?
by Dr. Johnna Stevens
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, up to half of your risk of addiction to alcohol, nicotine or drugs is based on your genetic makeup. If someone in your family has experienced addiction, you’re more likely to experience it, too.
But don’t think you’re immune from addictions just because you don’t have a family history of it. Addictions transcend age, gender and all socioeconomic classes. These days, alcohol is at the forefront of abuse from people having a hard time coping with the isolation, boredom and loneliness caused by the pandemic.
Underlying mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also are risk factors for developing an addiction.
In addition, a variety of environmental issues can raise your risk of getting hooked on alcohol or drugs. They include social alienation caused by poor relationships with family and friends, as well as peer pressure. Teens are particularly susceptible to pressure from friends to fit in. Studies have shown that use of alcohol and drugs at an early age leads to addictions.
Adults can experience peer pressure, too. They often feel compelled to participate in social drinking at business events or happy hour with friends.
In recent years, opioids, narcotics, amphetamines and benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Ativan and Valium, have gotten a bad rap for being abused by patients. To ensure these high-risk medications are being taken for their intended purposes only, prescriptions for these restricted pharmaceuticals are being strictly monitored and patients counseled on their use.
Anyone using an addictive substance is at risk of addiction. It’s not a personal flaw, it’s the nature of the addictive substance.
Board-certified Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Johnna Stevens practices at Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care in Westbury Park. A Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University School of Medicine, Dr. Stevens was the medical director of an opiate addiction center prior to joining Beaufort Memorial. She can be reached at (843) 706-8690.
10 Fast Facts
1) Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction,
yet only 10% of them receive treatment.
2) Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990.
3) In 2017, 34.2 million Americans committed DUI, 21.4 million under the influence of alcohol and 12.8 million under the influence of drugs.
4) About 20% of Americans who have depression
or an anxiety disorder also have a substance use disorder.
5) More than 90% of people who have an addiction started to
drink alcohol or use drugs before they were 18 years old.
6) On average, 30 Americans die every day in an alcohol-related car accident, and 6 Americans die every day from alcohol poisoning.
7) Men between the ages of 18 and 25 are most likely
to binge drink and become alcoholics.
8) About 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
9) Since 1999, the sale of opioid painkillers has
skyrocketed by 300%.
10) In 2017 alone, 47,600 fatal overdoses occurred in America
involving at least one opioid.