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As “Thay” – Father of Mindfulness – Prepares for the End, We Honor His Gifts

As “Thay” – Father of Mindfulness – Prepares for the End, We Honor His Gifts

As TIME reported this week, in a matter of weeks, days, or possibly even hours, Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh — known by his disciples as “Thay” — will no longer be among the living. Although his passing could be viewed as a tragedy for some of his followers, the monk’s impending next step in his spiritual journey is also shining a light on the wisdom and lessons he passed down to those who followed him over the course of his eventful life.

Thay, which is Vietnamese for “teacher”, a renowned spiritual leader, is perhaps best known as the “Father of Mindfulness.” His teachings have brought peace and joy to millions over his 92-year life, and they all stem from his early Buddhism beliefs that mindfulness goes hand in hand with living a content and fulfilling existence.

Mindfulness is one of the foundations of a mind-body-spirit, or whole person, approach. The practice of even one minute a day has been found to lower stress, increase focus and joy, and assist in improving mental health, substance use, and other related issues such as chronic pain [1] [2] [3]. For some people — including many of Thay’s pupils — the Buddhist principle provides life-changing results unlike anything they’ve ever tried before.

The process of becoming more aware of oneself and one’s surroundings physically, spiritually, and mentally is Thay’s own spin on a very simplified version of Buddhism. It also provided the basis for evidence based approaches for behavioral health treatment like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and work in tandem with EMDR and other trauma therapies. Although it has enhanced the lives of everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Oprah Winfrey, committing to it fully is a lifelong process and should be practiced daily to achieve its full benefits.

Part of what makes Thay’s teachings so effective though, and largely why it works so well for clients at Roots Through Recovery, is that everyone can always become more mindful and no matter your commitment level, the noticeable improvements on your life are immeasurable. Regardless of where a person may stand within the Buddhist doctrine, self-improvement and mindfulness are two aspects that we believe can always help. So even as Thay’s life comes to an end, we will continue to honor his blessings to the world and keep his legacy alive.

References

[1] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1727/db7dbe033fdd89a021baabac0cbff58bab2a.pdf

[2] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.912.4622&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[3] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/05c1/4273f0d3d4acdac20ee49c76ba3aa3afe7a5.pdf

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Synthetic Drug Use On The Rise In Long Beach

By Samantha Mehlinger, Editor

This article originally appeared in the Long Beach Business Journal on November 19, 2018

A growing concern among Long Beach health care providers, law enforcement and government officials is the growing use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The drug, which is adding fuel to the flames of the American opioid crisis, is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Although originally developed pharmaceutically to care for cancer patients, the drug is also produced illicitly, and is increasingly being added to other drugs such as heroin and cannabis, according to local drug abuse caregivers and city officials.

An academic study on synthetic opioid involvement in U.S. drug overdose deaths between 2010 and 2016 found that “heroin and synthetic opioids (primarily illicit fentanyl) are increasingly implicated in overdoses,” and that “synthetic opioids are increasingly found in illicit drug supplies of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and counterfeit pills.” The study was published in May in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although other synthetic drugs are used with more prevalence in Long Beach, particularly the stimulant methamphetamine, local officials said they were currently most concerned by fentanyl because it is often fatal.

“California saw a 57% increase in overdose deaths related to fentanyl in 2017. Opioid abuse was a Midwest and East Coast phenomenon for several years, but it has now hit California,” City Prosecutor Doug Haubert told the Business Journal. “We should prepare to see more deaths related to fentanyl in the near future.”

Haubert added, “Simply touching fentanyl with your bare hands can kill you. It can enter your system through the skin.”

Sgt. Tim Long, who leads the Long Beach Police Department’s (LBPD) drug investigations section, said that synthetic drugs are becoming more commonly used in Long Beach. “Synthetic drugs are growing in popularity because they are more potent than natural drugs; the effects on the user are enhanced, lasting longer and producing a maximum high,” he said in an e-mail to the Business Journal. However, he noted, “Long Beach has not yet experienced an elevated level of detrimental effects as [those] other communities are battling, due to the dedicated resources focused on prevention.”

Roots Through Recovery opened two years ago in Bixby Knolls, and provides outpatient drug addiction and mental health services. According to Noah Warren, partner and business development manager, the facility is treating an increasing number of patients exposed to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Warren, right, is pictured at the center with Joshua Pannell, executive program and clinical assistant. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Brandon Richardson)

The most commonly used synthetic drug in Long Beach is methamphetamine, and the “second runner up is fentanyl,” Long said. “Heroin derivatives, opioids, and depressant drugs are becoming more prevalent within local communities. Another synthetic making a small comeback is MDMA (Ecstasy). This synthetic is very popular with college students and youth,” he noted.

Synthetic drug use is not associated with any particular population, Long pointed out. “In the past, drug abuse may have been identified with specific populations. Today, drug abuse affects all walks of life,” he said. “There is no longer a specific population that can be absolutely identified with drug use and addiction. Any community can be affected by drugs today, as evidenced by the nationwide drug abuse epidemic.”

Haubert noted that, as a powerful depressant, fentanyl “slows the respiratory system to the point that it will actually stop, and you will die,” unlike methamphetamine, which acts a stimulant to the body.

Commonly sold in colorful packaging at California convenience stores before being outlawed in 2017, “spice,” a synthetic drug, is known to cause hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, paranoia and other adverse side effects. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)

 

Although referred to as synthetic cannabis, the drug pictured is not made with marijuana. Instead, it is manufactured by spraying a concoction of man-made drugs on dried plant material. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration)

 

Noah Warren, partner and business development manager of Long Beach-based addiction and mental health treatment center Roots Through Recovery, said that it is easy and cheap to obtain fentanyl illicitly. Of concern to Warren is that he is seeing increasing numbers of patients who are testing positive for fentanyl, but who did not knowingly ingest the drug.

“When you’re buying something on the street, you don’t know what’s in it,” Warren said. “We’re finding that people are doing heroin that is cut with fentanyl. Or they think they are doing benzo[diazepines]s, like Xanax, but they are buying it off the street – and when they come to us they are actually testing positive for fentanyl. The danger in that is the synthetic opioids are so much more potent than . . . what the pharmaceutical companies are creating.”

Warren noted that fentanyl’s effects are so powerful that Narcan, a nasal spray used to revive individuals who have overdosed, sometimes does not work.

Long said the number one risk of synthetic drug abuse is overdose. “Users and addicts underestimate the potency of the drug, wanting a better high, and their body cannot adjust to the strength of the synthetic drug,” he said. “Medical synthetic drugs are designed for extreme applications such as pain management and surgical procedures. Used irresponsible and illegally, synthetic drugs can be deadly.”

Fentanyl is often used legally for in-home hospital care. “A home’s medicine cabinet is the ‘best’ and ‘number one’ source for synthetics drugs. Anyone, such as an immediate family member, house guest, neighbor or child, allowed in the home can be the vehicle for drug removal and theft,” Long said.

“Synthetic drugs are a concern regarding rising crime rates,” Long said. “They do pose a risk to responding police personnel and the public. Synthetic drugs can have abstract or unfamiliar symptoms. Synthetics can produce unfamiliar symptoms appearing to emulate a hallucinogen or various psychoactive behaviors. It greatly depends on the community it is affecting, how easily they are accessed, and the level of usage.”

Another prevalently used synthetic drug in recent years was spice, a synthetic drug meant to stimulate the same brain cell receptors as marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Typically, spice comes in the form of dried plant materials sprayed with a synthetic concoction of drugs. Before being outlawed in California in 2017, spice was commonly sold in gas station convenient stores and labeled as incense “not for human consumption,” according to Warren.

It is difficult to predict the effects of spice, because its chemical make-up varies from batch to batch, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Spice is known to cause extreme paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, rapid heart rate, seizures and other detrimental health effects that, in some cases, many also endanger others.

According to Warren, spice has been a problem particularly among teenagers, who would smoke the same amount of the drug as they would marijuana, resulting in psychosis and seizures.

The prevalence of vaping – smoking substances through an e-cigarette – makes it more difficult to know what a person is ingesting and if it is illegal, according to Haubert.

As the city prosecutor, Haubert said, “I am concerned with how difficult it is for law enforcement to prevent the widespread distribution and use of synthetic drugs. Our streets are being flooded with synthetic drugs and there is no easy solution to stopping it.” He continued, “Without a doubt, any time you see an increase in drug use on the streets, you’re going to see an increase in crime in order to feed the habit.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please reach out to us at (562) 473-0827.

Non-Opioid Pain Relievers Just as Effective as Opioids, Study Finds

Non-Opioid Pain Relievers Just as Effective as Opioids, Study Finds

As Dr. Gabor Maté pointed out on Tim Ferriss’ podcast recently, every three weeks, there are as many people dying from opioid-related overdoses in the United States as the number of casualties we saw in 9/111. This fact was straight from the report that came out of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in November 2017, where the members reference the daily death rate of 142 Americans due to opioid-related overdoses2. There are many tragedies we could compare this death rate to paint the picture of how serious the crisis is, but the committee’s reference to 9/11 is significant because they go on to point out that after 9/11, the country came together to address what it decided was the cause—putting time, money, energy and resources behind the fight against terrorism. So why are we not responding with the same level of urgency to the opioid crisis that continues to take thousands of lives every few weeks? Why are we not considering opioid alternatives?

The argument for the last decade has been that the risks associated with prescription opioids such as addiction and health hazards including death, were outweighed by their benefit in treating pain (based on no long-term randomized clinical research). But what if they aren’t, and haven’t been all along? A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on March 6th, 2018 found that not only are opioids not better at treating chronic pain in patients, they are actually worse at treating chronic pain than non-opioids. The randomized study, conducted by Dr. Erin Krebs out of the Veterans Affairs health system, studied 240 chronic back, hip or knee pain patients who were prescribed either an opioid pain medication (i.e. morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone/acetaminophen) or a non-opioid pain medication such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

The two groups were studied over a period of one year, evaluated for pain intensity, adverse effects and pain-related function; the conclusion of which was that over 12 months:

  1. Groups did not significantly differ on pain-related function
  2. Pain intensity was significantly better in the non-opioid group
  3. Adverse medication-related symptoms were significantly more common in the opioid group3

These results nearly broke the internet on Tuesday as national news outlets like VOX, NPR, NBC News, U.S. News and CBS News who have been covering the epidemic for years unanimously agree that the implications of study turn the shaky foundation of the opioid crisis on its head. Could one conclude from this study, and the others that have found no increased benefit in using opioids to treat acute pain4,5, that we should then eliminate the use of opioids? Not necessarily. What this study does do, however, is set the stage for more research to be conducted in the future—a randomized, double blind controlled study with a larger sample size; it forces physicians, the medical community and the government to consider that the benefits associated with opioids might not outweigh the risks; and it provides patients with new information to make a more informed decision before they begin an opioid pain prescription regimen. I’ll have a Tylenol, thanks.


References:

  1. https://tim.blog/2018/02/20/gabor-mate/
  2. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/Final_Report_Draft_11-1-2017.pdf
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673971?resultClick=1&redirect=true
  4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2661581
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26501533
Roots Through Recovery Celebrates a Successful First Year

Roots Through Recovery Celebrates a Successful First Year

On January 6, 2017, we opened the doors at Roots Through Recovery and brought a different kind of addiction rehab program to Long Beach. The Roots program is built on the belief that an experiential, exploratory approach to treatment leads to meaningful and lasting change from the inside out.

The therapies offered at Roots are as progressive and engaging as the philosophy itself and include drumming, breath work, music and art therapies, somatic experiencing, and mindfulness meditation. Research shows that these therapies, when used along with traditional therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, engage clients in the recovery process and improve the outcomes of rehab. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that since there is no single pathway to recovery, a holistic rehab program is essential for successfully treating addiction.1

Roots Through Recovery’s business development director Noah Warren has seen firsthand how this holistic approach helps people recover from addiction for the long-term. “Our clients come to us in their most vulnerable state, emotionally broken and seeking answers, and oftentimes with very little hope or a vision for the future,” Warren says.

“Our program addresses substance abuse by treating the whole person—their mind, body and spirit—and helping our clients rediscover their passion and purpose in life.” By treating the underlying issues behind the substance abuse that led to the addiction, Warren says, Roots helps people discover who they really are and uncover their true potential.

What 2018 Holds for Rehab at Roots Through Recovery

The impact Roots has had on the recovery and professional treatment communities in Long Beach has been powerful, Warren says. During its first year, Roots opened up the facility to outside meetings in order to increase access, bringing weekly Refuge Recovery, Crystal Meth Anonymous and Codependency Anonymous meetings to the area. Roots’ Lunch and Learn series offers professional development to others working in the field. Guest speakers in 2017 included several leading authorities on addiction treatment, including Dr. Deborah Sweet and Bill and Linda Woodbury.

In 2018, three new programs will be added to the lineup at Roots. These include a family program and a medication-assisted treatment program, as well as an LGBTQIA-specific program that will debut in February. In addition to these programs, Roots will be enhancing trauma-based treatments, adding dialectical behavior therapy, neurofeedback and psychodrama.

Roots Executive Director Eric Johnston looks forward to the organization’s second year as much as he did the first. His vision for the future is clear: “I want Roots to become an industry-wide name that is known not only for its clinical programming, but also the human connection that we create through all of our services,” he says.

The human connection and individualized care are hallmarks of what has made the first year of Roots Through Recovery so successful. Nicole Koontz, director of client services at Roots, attributes this success to a small, intimate setting, the individualized one-on-one care and the trauma-informed modalities of care offered. “We are a family, and our clients can feel the love from day one. Our whole team is involved in the client’s care.”

One-Year Celebration at Roots Through Recovery

A celebration event on February 6 will offer guests a firsthand look at the various services offered through Roots. The festivities will include breakout sessions with several group facilitators, including a Drumming for Healing session, a guided meditation and a Somatic Experiencing group.

Speakers for the event include Todd “Z-Man” Zalkins, who was the best friend of the late Bradley Nowell, the lead singer of the band Sublime. Zalkins, a Long Beach native in recovery himself, will speak about addiction and how it affects individuals and families. An upcoming Roots Through Recovery eBook about Zalkins will focus on his own battle with addiction and subsequent recovery, the opioid crisis in Southern California and Zalkins’ involvement in conducting interventions for families struggling with addiction.

As Roots Through Recovery continues to build on its momentum in 2018 and beyond, additional services and activities will be implemented to enhance the recovery of clients in rehab. “Watching the clients go through these experiences is what really moves me, because it proves that our program is having a positive impact on them,” says Johnston. “We are on the verge of building a truly unique treatment experience.”


References:

  1. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PEP12-RECDEF/PEP12-RECDEF.pdf