The key to making and keeping New Year’s resolutions is that they have to involve complete lifestyle change. Throwing money at a gym membership without a solid plan to change your lifestyle results in squandered money and disappointment. Here are six tips to help you create New Year’s resolutions that will actually change your life.
- Make a plan. If the change you want to make is important to you, you must make a plan to ensure that the change happens. For example, if you want to improve your fitness, you must identify a type of workout that you enjoy and schedule that workout into your day as a non-negotiable activity – the same way you schedule brushing your teeth. If you choose something you do not like or allow yourself to put the activity off, you’ve failed before you’ve begun.
- Make your change fun. If we address change with a bad attitude, it isn’t going to happen. If you dread an activity, you’re likely to let yourself off the hook by not continuing to do it. Are you trying to eat more fresh vegetables? Serve yourself on beautiful new plates or get flowers for your dining room table. Reward yourself for a week of healthful eating with ten dollars in a jar that you save up for a day at the spa. If you get short, medium, and long term rewards for your change, odds are better that you’ll stick with your program.
- Don’t glorify the past. If you tell yourself, “Boy, I sure do miss my morning donut,” then you can bet that pretty soon, you’re going to start pulling up to the donut shop. Once you’re past the initial shock of the change, think through relapse into old habits. Was the daily donut really better than the increased energy you have now? Most of us lie to ourselves to reinforce our old habits. Tell yourself the truth. Having another Christmas with the grandkids is a better outcome than stuffing your face with sugary treats after your doctor has warned you of the probable health outcomes.
- Set short term goals. If you need to lose a hundred pounds, that’s going to take time. It’s easy to get lost on the way to long term goals. Instead, set short term goals. After you lose the first ten pounds, reward yourself with new gym shoes. For fifteen pounds lost, take yourself to a movie with your best friend. If you set, attain, and reward yourself for short term goals, you’re more likely to make it to the end result you want to see.
- Be positive in your self-talk. If the whole time you’re on your evening walk you’re telling yourself that you’re a fat S.O.B. who can’t do anything right, you’re probably not going to continue with that activity for very long. Instead, tell yourself over and over how proud you are of yourself for making change. Look at you, up off the couch! You’re doing a great job! Congratulations for making an effort! Write yourself encouraging notes or postcards so you get something other than bills in the mail. You’re making changes to improve your life. You can do it!
- Ask for help. If change was easy, we would have no need for resolutions. If you need help, seek it out. Maybe you need a psychotherapist to help you sort out interpersonal issues or a life-coach or mentor to help you get your career on track. You might need a personal trainer to encourage you during your workouts or a friend to help you go through the pantry and get rid of all those things you shouldn’t eat. Use your support system to help you stay accountable to yourself.
Change isn’t easy, but with solid goals, a good attitude, positive self-talk, and maybe a little help, 2017 can be a new year in which you meet and exceed the goals you set for yourself.
December 29, 2016 Comments Off on Making New Year’s Resolutions that Work in 2017
Celebrate Your Nice List:
Here’s Your Holiday Shopping Guide for Loved Ones in Recovery from Addiction
Holiday shopping season is in full swing. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a loved one new to recovery, here are a few classic gift ideas you can be sure will make them smile and support their healthy lifestyle.
A blank journal. Writing in a journal at night before bed is a great way to process the events of the day as well as a nurturing, sustainable mental health tool. Your loved one can use the blank journal you give them to process their feelings, track projects and accomplishments, write poetry, compose songs, or begin an autobiography. Not much of a writer? Your loved one can still use the space to doodle, sketch or collect inspiring images and thoughts. The beauty of a blank journal is that the ways it can be used are limited only by imagination.
A high-end gym membership. It’s been proven time and again that regular exercise is not only good for your body, but an excellent therapy for the mind. The holidays are the perfect time to splurge on a loved one’s annual gym membership or spring for a series of specialized exercise classes, like water ballet or hot yoga. Being able to hit the gym when they’re frustrated or upset will give your loved one another positive health option to use instead of picking up their drug of choice.
Potted plants. The positive impact of nature on our psyche is so powerful that even just looking at images of natural scenes has been shown to boost mood by significant levels. Potted plants are very in vogue these days and come in all sorts of varieties that even the most brown-thumbed beginning gardeners can keep alive. Caring for another living thing can also help your loved one appreciate their compassionate side, even when they’re feeling down.
Show tickets. Tickets to a concert or show your loved one has had their eye on is another great gift idea perfect for someone in recovery. Having a date to look forward to in the future can help your loved one stay committed to their recovery even when the current day is a tough one.
Quality time. Don’t forget that the most valuable thing you have to offer a loved one can’t be wrapped or boxed up. Sharing time with your loved one, like sharing a hobby, catching a movie or just running errands together, is the most important gift you can give this holiday season. You can’t put a price tag on how good it feels to spend time with someone who understands you and will stick by your side.
Don’t stress if you didn’t find anything for your loved one in recovery from addiction on cyber Monday or black Friday. Simple but substantial gifts including quality time, a new potted plant or tickets to a favorite band’s next concert will get your message of love and appreciation across loud and clear. Your friendship means everything.
December 13, 2016 Comments Off on Celebrate Your Nice List: Here’s Your Holiday Shopping Guide for Loved Ones in Recovery from Addiction
Apples and Honey, but No Wine: Here’s How the High Holidays Can Support Your Recovery
A plane ticket home can burn a hole in your heart. Just thinking about how you’ll handle your family’s controversial politics or misaligned values can make even the calmest among us look around desperately for some way to make it through dinner. If you’re someone who has traditionally leaned on alcohol to get through the High Holy Days, you’re not alone; the alcohol industry makes a quarter of all its sales during the last quarter of the year, the holiday season.
If this is your first High Holy Day season in recovery, you know you’ll need a new plan to deal with the craziness or just plain rudeness that family seems so good at pulling out. Before you decide to cancel your trip home altogether, consider the ways you can use this family gathering to support your recovery instead of poking holes through it.
For example, chances are good that while you were using your drug of choice, you ended up making a few choices that you now regret. Although they are usually the last people we want to hurt, over the years our family and loved ones often bear the brunt of these mistakes. Once a situation has passed and months if not years have gone by, it can feel awkward to bring up an experience no one is proud of.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish holiday celebrating a new Hebrew calendar year and the holiday immediately preceding Yom Kippur, is all about reflecting on the past and making amends with those you have wronged. Citing this holiday and its imperative to seek out and make amends with those we have hurt is the perfect opportunity to bring up and apologize for the way you’ve acted in the past. Speaking to someone about a perceived wrong will also give them an opportunity to air out any feelings they’d like to share too, giving you both stronger footing in your relationship moving forward.
The holidays also give you an opportunity to create new, positive memories with your family to replace the ones you wish were different. Unfortunately, there’s no way to go back in time and undo what was done, whether you showed up to services or a meal drunk or never showed up at all. But don’t let your disappointment over what you did or didn’t do get in the way of enjoying your family now. 5777 is a new year and a new experience.
Always wished you’d made it to that dinner in 5774? Come early this year and help your mom prep the side dishes. Secretly missing how “fun” alcohol made an otherwise tense dinner? Try introducing the whole family to an innocuous but fun game that you can play around the table – taking everyone’s minds off the squabbles of the past.
Most importantly, remember to take care of yourself first. If you think seeing your family all together will prompt you to use, give yourself a pass from the occasion guilt-free. Find other ways to spend time with the family members you want to see. The people who love you will completely understand what a priority it is to you to maintain your recovery, and they’ll do everything in their power to keep you there. Protecting your life from relapse is one act you’ll never need to repent for.
October 3, 2016 Comments Off on Apples and Honey, but No Wine: Here’s How the High Holidays Can Support Your Recovery
Challenge is Inevitable, Stress is Not: The Case for Including Mental Health Care in the Workplace
Workplace stress comes from a wide variety of circumstances and situations. It’s easy to see how an attorney speaking on the record or a surgeon making that first incision could feel a twinge of anxiety or a rush of anticipation. But just because we don’t all have someone’s life or freedom in our hands doesn’t make our work any less anxiety producing. Stress that comes from or interferes with your work can have a huge negative impact on your quality of life, not to mention the quality of your performance. Employees and business owners alike have much to gain from a renewed commitment to work environments that promote positive mental health.
To supervisors and employers:
The first step towards implementing positive mental health policies and a caring culture at work is to develop a nuanced understanding of the kinds of pressures your employees are facing. There are some common stress and anxiety triggers that are nearly universal to the workplace, like facing strict deadlines and meeting customer demands. Specific fields will also have their own concerns that can ratchet up the anxiety level or dial it down, depending on the stakes at hand. Deepening your understanding of the challenges your employees can expect to face in their work will make you better equipped to handle common stressors and recognize disproportionate reactions to stressful situations.
Second, it is important to have a written plan for assisting employees who have mental health concerns. This includes everything from creating opportunities for stress relief to professional mental health support. There are some companies that have nap rooms, meditation times, yoga classes directly after work, or ping-pong tables in the break room – all as efforts to help employees relieve stress and be more productive. It is also important for employees to know where and how to seek help for life-concerns that can have a negative impact on work performance, such as the anxiety and stress caused by caring for aging parents, children who are ill or acting out, depression experienced by the employee or a family member, or substance abuse. The more support an employee has access to and they more encouraged they are to use that assistance, the better they will perform.
If you suspect that one of your employees is experiencing stress above and beyond the typical reaction in a given situation, pay attention. Better yet, anticipate the unforeseen by training employees or human resources staff to recognize the early warning signs of deteriorating mental health and guide the staff person to appropriate, supportive programs. Although this kind of investment in your business’ infrastructure will not bring you a direct profit, you can be sure that happier workers make for a more productive and dependable labor force.
You shouldn’t take for granted that your workplace positively contributes to your employees’ mental health. A healthy work environment should be challenging and stimulating for your employees, but if you push them too hard or stretch people too thin you’ll find yourself with more turnover and less productivity than is optimal. With the right prevention and support systems in place, you can play a role in helping your employees live happier, more productive lives.
September 28, 2016 Comments Off on Challenge is Inevitable, Stress is Not: The Case for Including Mental Health Care in the Workplace
Not Everyone Wants to Ban Kratom: Here Are Some Issues to Consider
Never heard of kratom? The media has been so focused on the ongoing opioid epidemic that it’s easy to miss a less frequently used or abused substance, like kratom. But a movement to ban or restrict the sale of kratom in cafes, at head shops and on the internet is gaining momentum across the country and states are taking legal action to curtail the public’s use of this drug. So what exactly is kratom, and why are people divided about its use?
Common in the United States for almost ten years before catching the attention of the federal government, kratom is a plant grown in Southeast Asia and cultivated as a kind of organic medicine. Currently the drug is classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an herbal supplement. Kratom is primarily used to treat and manage pain, but it can also produce a euphoric high similar to, but not as strong as, that created by opiates like heroin. Kratom is also unique in that it creates both stimulant and depressive physiological responses in the brain, a potentially harmful combination.
Proponents of the drug point to its long-term, widespread use without serious public health repercussions as proof that overall, people are using the drug responsibly. A press release recently issued by the American Kratom Association (AKA) and the Botanical Education Alliance (BEA) condemns the Drug Enforcement Agency’s emergency action to make kratom a Schedule 1 substance, the same classification used for heroin and ecstasy. Banning kratom is really about creating the appearance of making progress in the fight against prescription opioids, the press release suggests, and is not in the best interest of the public.
Despite the benefits outlined by the AKA, BEA and other supporters, several states have already moved to ban or restrict the sale and possession of kratom. Some regulations focus on a mandatory minimum age for purchase, as is common with alcohol and tobacco, while other legislation blocks the use of kratom in the state by identifying it as a synthetic drug with the possibility of abuse. Several of the states that have already banned kratom cited a potential for abuse and addiction as a significant reason for their bans.
Kratom advocates are also concerned that many people who use the drug as a “less dangerous” alternative to heroin or prescription opioid painkillers or as an ongoing recovery support mechanism, in place of drugs like methadone or Suboxone, will relapse as a result of the national crackdown. These relapses could have deadly outcomes.
Addiction treatment professionals see the possibility for harm and some overdoses, but point out that there are several medications available to help opioid addicts, substances that have been researched and are regulated. Instead of relying on a drug that can itself be abused and cultivate addiction, addiction treatment professionals recommend utilizing medicines that have a proven safe dosage and that are regulated so that the user knows exactly what s/he is getting. Instead of kratom, medications like Vivitrol should at least be considered as an option. Addiction treatment professionals and organizations are wary of kratom as both a substance with addictive potential and an unstable coping mechanism to support recovery.
What is unacceptable is an outright ban on kratom without allowing scientists to study it. The plant has been used for hundreds of years and has regularly been used to treat both pain and to wean individuals off of opioids. It seems prudent to allow researchers to study the plant to find out which chemicals inherent in the substance provide medicinal effects and in what doses. We also need to know what long-term side-effects, if any, kratom causes, so that we can compare it with other medications for safety and efficacy.
It is in the public health interest to ensure that all substances that we ingest – be they foods, medicines, or supplements – are safe. Consumers need to know what’s in the products they buy and the dosage that will give them the best effect. While proponents of kratom downplay its potential for abuse and highlight its use for many as an addiction recovery or pain management tool, enabling continued use of kratom by the general public largely without restrictions of any kind contributes to a culture of addiction and obscures the prerogative of states and the country to protect citizens from potentially unsafe products. This drug should not be sold without regard to age in supplement stores or head shops. It is not a product that should be haphazardly used by teens or young adults. However, it also should not out of hand be made a Schedule 1 substance and research prohibited. Kratom should be studied so that those adults who might want to use it for pain relief or to assist with addiction treatment have a choice, assuming that it is found to be as safe and useful as proponents claim.
September 21, 2016 Comments Off on Not Everyone Wants to Ban Kratom: Here Are Some Issues to Consider
You Can Change Your Mood Without Drugs: Understanding and Choosing Better Coping Skills
When it comes to better understanding and treating addiction, we can learn a lot by looking at a person’s coping mechanisms. Conventional wisdom tells us that a certain number of negative experiences are just part of life. Things don’t always turn out like we hope they will; we are sometimes disappointed in ourselves and others. The question is not if you will go through hardship at one time or another in your life, but rather, how you will handle it.
Coping mechanisms are skills we all have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world. When life gives us lemons, our coping skills help us see this as an opportunity to make lemonade. Without effective coping mechanisms, we can feel like a ‘lemon’ ourselves, misinterpreting accidents or other people’s bad intentions to be a reflection of our own inadequacy.
Feeling bad about who you are and the world we live in is an especially difficult way to go through life. Anxiety over the future and our own well-being can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We go to an important job interview, but are convinced there’s no way a future employer could want to hire us. When we don’t get the job, this confirms our negative perspective of the world and ourselves. Without the coping skills to convert disappointment over one missed opportunity into increased resolve to land the job of our dreams, it’s easy to get stuck in a revolving door of let down after let down.
Like many things that make us human, there are both social and biological aspects to coping mechanisms. Growing up, we watch and learn from the adults around us as they model how to respond to everything from minor annoyances, like a build up of dishes in the sink, to major crises like losing a job or a home. Perhaps the most important aspect of coping skills is that, once a deficiency is brought to our attention, they can be learned and honed, or un-learned and replaced, to help us through even the toughest situations.
One of the most notorious coping mechanisms is substance abuse. Taking a drug is an easy way to prompt your body to dump feel-good neurotransmitters into your brain, creating a strong, but temporary, feeling of peace and security. As any addiction treatment professional can tell you, the long term negative effects of abusing substances as a way to cope with stress or numb ongoing pain, far outweigh the short-term benefits.
There are other ways to manage moods and stress and deal with situations that are difficult, that don’t require you to risk addiction. Physical activities like exercise have been shown to alter the brain’s chemistry for the better. Self-reflection and meditation, too, can create significant changes over time that leave you better prepared to handle disappointments. Creative work from doodling to collage to making music to performance art can all go a long toward helping you bounce back from depression and anxiety. The key is to engage in activities that improve your overall health and/or relieve stress and help you get a better focus on the real issues at hand.
Healthy coping mechanisms can help you translate fear and ambiguity into a sense of calm confidence and inner-peace. By setting yourself straight, you can act as a model for others in your circle of family and friends, encouraging those you love as they go through difficulties of their own.
September 16, 2016 Comments Off on You Can Change Your Mood Without Drugs: Understanding and Choosing Better Coping Skills
How Drum Circles Can Improve, if not Cure, Your Depression
Have you ever wondered how people used to treat depression before prescription medications were invented? Even today many developing countries do not have the medical infrastructure or cultural norms in place to connect depressed individuals with medically indicated anti-depressant medications. Although historical interpretations of and treatments for depression vary widely from culture to culture, one common antidote may surprise you: communal drumming.
Some benefits to making and dancing to music in a circle with your friends, family and other community members are intuitive. Dancing is a physical activity that can create positive effects similar to other forms of aerobic exercise, like releasing endorphins that elevate mood and act as natural analgesics. A communal drum circle also describes a kind of low-risk social event, like attending a party of people known to you or joining a non-competitive sporting event, that people generally enjoy as rewarding and personally affirmative, without being too emotionally demanding.
The effects of communal drumming can extend even further than we realize. A recent study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom sought to put to rest what, if any, objective benefits communal drumming specifically could offer people struggling with depression. Somewhat surprisingly, the researchers found that those who engaged in drumming fared better than the control group that attended social events without dancing or music-making elements. Drumming had a positive impact on mood.
Researchers also found that the physical activity characteristic in group drumming circles had an effect on individual’s immune responses. The study participants who engaged in group drumming experienced a corresponding improvement in their immune system’s functioning. In short, not only did group drummers end up feeling better, but making music and communal dancing also made them less likely to get sick.
The positive effects of communal drumming extend beyond even our most integral internal systems. When viewed holistically, communal drumming creates a physical and emotional experience of belonging that addresses one of the core psychological components of depression: feelings of isolation, alienation, invisibility and worthlessness. Communal drumming offers an opportunity for individuals to wordlessly come back into the fold of the community and physically realize their contributions to the group.
Any activity that occurs regularly, according to a schedule, can also add the benefit of bringing structure and an experience to look forward to that so many experiencing depression struggle to find. If you’re having trouble getting out of bed, a completely clear social calendar isn’t going to motivate you to get up and out into the world. Even something as a small as a weekly religious service, class, or exercise or artistic group – like communal drumming – can make the difference between staying in bed all day or taking care of yourself.
If you or someone you know is battling depression, don’t make the mistake of thinking treatment needs to come only in a pill bottle. Connection, no matter how difficult it may feel to do, is necessary. The answer to your troubles may be waiting for you in the middle of a vibrant community drumming circle. What do you have to lose by trying?
September 7, 2016 Comments Off on How Drum Circles Can Improve, if not Cure, Your Depression
The Case for Recognizing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Purple Heart Injury
Receiving a Purple Heart in recognition of a veteran’s bravery and sacrifice is a cherished honor among military families. Traditionally given out by the Pentagon in the name of the sitting president, Purple Hearts formally recognize the physical injuries and sacrifices an individual endures in combat, including death.
But not all of the most disfiguring injuries our veterans experience during their service are physical, and the lasting effects of mental health disorders originating in combat are sorely underestimated and often ignored. If severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are capable of destroying someone’s ability to live a normal, healthy civilian life, why aren’t veterans with this condition considered for Purple Heart awards?
One reason may be a poor understanding of what trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder are and how they function. Trauma refers to an event that an individual perceives to be a serious threat to his/her life coupled with an intense feeling of being helpless to protect him/herself or prevent the threat from occurring. Post-traumatic stress disorder sets in as the brain develops new, often unhealthy responses to stimuli in an effort to prevent the trauma from recurring.
In the context of active duty personnel, trauma is the experience of being shot at, seeing a friend killed in combat, or running over an IED (improvised explosive device) and witnessing others be maimed or killed while one survives. Post-traumatic stress disorder following one of these events could look be intense feeling of anxiety anytime one hears sounds resembling gun shots, or sudden and vivid flashbacks to the traumatic event. If left untreated, post-traumatic stress disorder can drive a veteran to drug addiction, social isolation and/or suicide.
Some military officials worry, though, that if PTSD becomes an injury that makes soldiers eligible for a Purple Heart, individuals may be incentivized to fake these symptoms in order to receive the award. Others maintain that Purple Hearts are intended to memorialize the specific experience and ramifications of physical injuries received in combat, and that recognizing psychological injuries should necessitate an entirely separate award. Some health professionals advocate for the recognition of PTSD caused by combat trauma by linking it to head injuries received while on active duty.
At the heart of all these officials’ concern over expanding the group of injuries that make one eligible for a Purple Heart is a deep desire to respect and remember the extreme sacrifices of those willing to fight and die for our country.
Recognizing the psychological extent to which veterans are wounded by their military service would not dilute the meaning of the Purple Heart; on the contrary, it would deepen our understanding of how high a price so many have paid to protect our nation. As an award that recognizes severe injuries incurred on the battlefield, the military would be right to consider awarding veterans with combat-related post traumatic stress disorder a Purple Heart in honor of their sacrifice and bravery.
August 30, 2016 Comments Off on The Case for Recognizing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Purple Heart Injury
Why Some Therapists Want to Treat Patients with LSD, Explained
When someone tells you they’re in therapy, their taking LSD as part of that psychotherapy is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. While most of the time your instincts would be spot on, small but meaningful studies being conducted around the globe are beginning to change that. There is growing proof that the clinical use of LSD, in limited doses and for a very short period (usually 1-2 sessions), can have a tremendous positive impact on mental health.
Take for example the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).Nearly one in ten Israelis have post-traumatic stress disorder, pushing therapists there to pioneer new ways to treat mental health disorders that can create lasting effects. Despite limited research to date, psychedelic drugs are proving to be an unorthodox treatment method with very promising results.
Although now its status is well outside of mainstream medical research, scientists began investigating possible benefits of psychedelic drugs as therapeutic tools in the mid-twentieth century. Initial experiments did prove worthy of further research, but at the time, social stigmas against drug use were so strong that the administration of psychedelics like LSD (or MDMA) even in a medical setting was considered scandalous. Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made that moral code an official state policy, and LSD (along with other drugs) was classified as a Schedule I Substance with a high potential for abuse and no acknowledged medical benefits. This was a true setback for mental health research.
Over the years, a few dedicated scientists continued to study and eventually test, therapeutic treatments that involved LSD. Today, there are researchers who administer LSD and other psychedelic substances in controlled environments and under the supervision of medical staff, making it possible to conduct studies that live up to the most rigorous research standards. Beyond blanket moral judgments associated with drug abuse, there is no reason why LSD should be treated any different than other pharmaceutical capable of interacting with your brain and body chemistry for therapeutic effect. In fact, there is much reason to believe that psychedelics can successfully treat several mental health issues, from PTSD to depression. Studies are taking place not only in clandestine labs, but also in rigorous settings in European nations, Israel and the USA.
Reinvigorating the field, researchers have investigated LSD as an alternative treatment method for a broad spectrum of psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Even cigarette smokers could potentially benefit from therapeutic interventions that incorporate LSD. Most researchers agree that any administration of LSD should complement another form of traditional talk therapy to enhance its efficacy and intentional use. Again, legitimate psychedelic treatment is used only on a limited basis and in a clinical setting.
The unique benefits a closely monitored, therapeutic dose of LSD can create are significant. By altering the patient’s perception of the immediate present, therapists can safely revisit trauma and approach it from a neutral, outside perspective. Having the mental space to stand back from, acknowledge and reflect on even our most difficult of experiences gives the individual an opportunity to reclaim their narrative around an event, accept it and move on.
Therapeutic use of psychedelics like LSD won’t be an intervention that interests everyone, and with its use still largely maligned, it is barely available even to those desperate for an alternative to treatments that aren’t working. But despite its political detractors, the medical community has an ethical obligation to investigate all possible treatment options to provide the care that will give patients the best quality of life.
August 15, 2016 Comments Off on Why Some Therapists Want to Treat Patients with LSD, Explained
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Texas Just Made Naloxone Available Over the Counter: Here’s Why Your State Should Too
If you don’t live in the Lone Star state, you may have missed some big news about opioid overdose prevention happening now. According to a press release issued by CVS Pharmacy in late July, Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, is now available over the counter at all of their locations throughout Texas. In order to implement this unorthodox policy, CVS obtained a special standing order from Texas physicians permitting the sale of Naloxone without a prescription.
Surprisingly, CVS isn’t the first pharmacy in Texas to make Naloxone available over the counter to almost anyone who asks. In June of this year, Walgreens was officially the first pharmacy to champion broader availability of this life-saving drug, working with physicians at Baylor University to get a standing prescription that allows them to stockpile the drug and sell it at their discretion. Both pharmacies were cleared to pursue possession and at-will sales of Naloxone following the landmark passage of a bipartisan bill in the Texas Legislature this summer, loosening regulation of a substance that has the potential to put a steep curb in the number of opioid overdose deaths in Texas.
The clear safety and efficacy of Naloxone make its wide-spread availability refreshingly noncontroversial. Ahead of many treatment providers’ biggest concerns, Naloxone’s only activity in the brain corresponds to blocking opioid receptors, making it impossible to abuse. Whereas some pharmaceuticals used in addiction treatment do carry a significant risk of abuse, there’s only one thing Naloxone can do: save lives.
As deaths related to opioid abuse and overdoses reach record highs in our country, we are in desperate need of immediate, impactful interventions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that nearly 2.5 million people abuse opioids in the United States, with about 80% of addicts abusing prescription opioids. If this isn’t alarming enough, keep in mind that these statistics represent a booming growth in the number of opioid users, addicts and unintentional overdoses over the last twenty years. Deaths by unintentional overdose specifically have more than tripled from 1994 to 2014, and there’s no sign of this trend abating.
There’s no doubt the medical community will closely monitor the effects of making Naloxone more broadly available to the general public. Public health officials in Texas and beyond hope to see a significant decrease in the number of unintentional opioid overdoses as a result of this new policy, with even wider ramifications for other states looking to curb their own addiction epidemics.
When it comes to fighting the opioid crisis, we are obligated to try every ethical intervention we can to save lives. If Naloxone isn’t widely available where you live, contact your local legislator to find out what your state government is doing to help save lives in your part of the country. Don’t know where to look? Here’s a link that will help you find contact information for your national and state elected officials.
August 10, 2016 Comments Off on Texas Just Made Naloxone Available Over the Counter: Here’s Why Your State Should Too