Friday, October 6, 2017

Addiction-Free, A Life of Meaning Awaits - from the Intelligencer

My Guest Editorial appeared in the Intelligencer on Friday, October 6, 2017.

Sorry about the spacing below, all squeezed together. That's good ole Blogpost for ya. 


by Ruth Z.Deming

For his then-girlfriend's 30th birthday, Stephen Stills wrote Judy Collins a song: “Suite Judy Blue Eyes.” It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun anymore / I am sorry / Sometimes it hurts so badly I must cry out loud / I am lonely.
Was Stills, now 72, speaking about his cocaine addiction?
Both Stills and Collins, now 78, are on a world tour, and appeared in August at the sold-out Keswick Theater in Glenside, where mixed drinks are served.
Americans love their booze. And their recreational drugs, which occasionally lead to addictions. It's why Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe has declared war on heroin and opioid abuse.
The shocking statistics reveal that in Bucks County, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids -- heroin and opioid-based prescription painkillers -- rose to 185 last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2015, reported the Inquirer. They further noted that overdose deaths rose by 43 percent in Montgomery County, claiming 253 lives.
We may all know someone who has overdosed. Instead of living a meaningful life, they are now dead.
Members of New Directions Support Group, which I founded in 1986, for people and families affected by depression and bipolar disorder, have often used illegal drugs in an attempt to feel “normal.” Sobriety is a long journey filled with both victories and setbacks.
No one is immune from drug addiction, or, for that matter, depression and bipolar disorder.
“My bipolar cousin calls it ‘The Family Curse’ since bipolar disorder runs in our family,” said Doris, a mom and grandmother. "A minute of depression and I feel like I don't want to live anymore." A prolific published poet, she stays in touch with her psychiatrist to keep suicidal urges away.
Mark, 66, has his own story. “I suffered from the deadly threesome -- alcoholism, mental illness, drug addiction. The drugs don't have to be from the street," he said. "They were prescribed: 23 antidepressants and anxiety meds over 20 years, usually more than one at a time. Street or pharmacy, your brain doesn't care.
"These meds have a really poor track record when combined with alcohol. They can't work if you drink."
State Attorney General Joshua Shapiro recently discussed Pennsylvania’s participation in an investigation into the manufacturers of opioid painkillers and their role in the addiction crisis, telling Talk Radio 1210 about his approach to substance abuse.
“… Number one, [is] holding those doctors and nurses … accountable. So, we’ve doubled the number of arrests of docs in the first quarter of 2017 versus the first quarter of 2016, who are illegally prescribing or selling or giving away things like Percocet and Oxycontin and dangerous opioid painkillers.
“The second thing you’ve got to do is get at the root cause. Get at the supply chain. For so many people, that’s these opioid painkillers. I announced that Pennsylvania is one of the lead states in a massive, bipartisan, multi-state investigation into the opioid manufacturing industry.”
At the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the Counseling and Psychological Services center tells incoming freshman it’s OK to ask for help, said Dr. Meeta Kumar.
“Twenty percent of undergrads at some point or another come to us,” she continued. That’s almost double the rate 15 years ago.
Like colleges everywhere, Penn has seen a rise in students dealing with anxiety and depression. A survey last year disclosed that 20 percent of college students had once been diagnosed with depression, up from 10 percent when the survey began in 2000, according to Penn Live.
Anxiety, in the past few years, has overtaken depression as the top mental health concern, said behavioral health expert Dr. Micky Sharma.
“The millennial generation has grown up in a very fast-paced society with high expectations,” he continued. Students’ coping skills are “not as high as we’d like them to be.”
Mark, a substance abuser in recovery, has such good coping skills today he chaired his first AA meeting.
With the smell of coffee permeating the room, he says with confidence he’s been clean and sober for 14 months.
His life, at last, is full of meaning.
Ruth Z. Deming is founder/director of New Directions Support Group of Abington and Willow Grove.. Visit www. Newdirectionssupport. org. A psychotherapist in private practice, she and friends participate in a weekly writers’ group “The Beehive.”

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