Can Eastern spiritual philosophies support recovery from addiction?

Spirituality has increasingly been recognized as a resource for treating addictions, ever since Alcoholics Anonymous introduced its 12-step program – with its recognition of a “higher power” – over 75 years ago. 

Join Dr. Ashok Bedi for a reading/signing/author event on Wednesday, July 17 at 7pm at Boswell Book Company, 2559 North Downer Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53211

Join Dr. Ashok Bedi for a reading/signing/author event on Wednesday, July 17 at 7pm at Boswell Book Company, 2559 North Downer Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53211.

The American Psychological Association confirms an association between spirituality and positive outcomes in substance abuse treatment. SAMSHA statesThe beneficial role that faith and spirituality play in the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse and in programs designed to treat and promote recovery from substance abuse and mental disorders has long been acknowledged.”

One study published in the October 2000 issue of Psychiatric Times showed that the measure of “importance of religion” was the best predictor in indicating lack of substance abuse.

The Residential Treatment Program at the Dewey Center of Aurora Psychiatric Hospital uses a holistic and evidence-based approach to drug and alcohol rehabilitation and recovery, including incorporating spirituality. The addictions program at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital includes group therapy provided by Dr. Ashok Bedi focusing on the benefits of Eastern spirituality philosophies in recovery.

Spirituality is part of the human experience in which we explore who we are and what our life is about. Some approaches to healing, such as mindfulness based therapies, incorporate Eastern spiritual practices, without a requirement to believe in a higher power or religion. This can be a good way to get in touch with your spirituality, without getting embroiled in ambivalence about your beliefs, or feelings of inconsistency between the therapy and your beliefs or lack of them. Eastern spiritual philosophies offer much wisdom for achieving health, happiness, and wholeness, including successful recovery from addiction.

“The goal is not to get patient feeling better for 1 month or 1 year” says Dr. Bedi. “The goal is to give them instruments that can make them feel better for the rest of their lives”.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers treatment programs that can help. For more information, call 1-877-666-7223 or visit the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital website.


April is Alcohol Awareness Month

NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and  Drug Dependence) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month since 1987. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of alcohol abuse and encourage people to make healthy, safe choices.

ncadd%20alcohol%20awareness%20month%202013-%20logoDrinking too much alcohol can lead to health problems, including alcohol poisoning, hangovers, and an increased risk of heart disease. If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Keep track of how much you drink, avoid places where overdrinking occurs, and find new ways to deal with stress. If you are concerned about someone else’s drinking, offer to help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drinking problem, Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers treatment programs that can help.

If you or someone you know is battling addiction, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible

April 10 is National Alcohol Screening Day. How do you score?

ncadd%20alcohol%20awareness%20month%202013-%20logoNational Alcohol Screening Day is an outreach, education, and screening program that raises awareness about alcohol misuse and refers individuals with alcohol problems for further treatment.

Thousands of colleges, community-based organizations, and military installations provide the program to the public each year.

What are the warning signs?

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may have a problem with alcohol:

  • Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
  • Does your drinking ever make you late for work?
  • Does your drinking worry your family?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won’t?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while drinking?
  • Do you get headaches or have a hangover after drinking?

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drinking problem, Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers treatment programs that can help.

If you or someone you know is battling addiction, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.


Are you a “heavy drinker?”

A recent story published by the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel indicates Wisconsin was the state with the nation’s highest percentage of heavy drinkers — well above the U.S. median of 6.6%.

Aurora offers a full continuum of substance abuse treatment and related services for children, youth, adults and families.

Aurora offers a full continuum of substance abuse treatment and related services for children, youth, adults and families.

Wisconsin ranked number one, with 9.8% of residents considered heavy drinkers. Just what is a “heavy drinker”?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, men having more than 14 drinks per week, and women having more than 7 drinks per week fall into the heavy drinking category.

Binge drinkers are those who have more than 5 drinks in a day for men, or 4 drinks in a day for women.

“Heavy or binge alcohol consumption can negatively affect an individual’s health in many ways” according to David Smith, MD, vice president of Patient Experience and Care Management at Aurora Health Care.

“The impact on families, communities, and workplace are well known. The brain, nervous system, heart, liver, stomach, gastrointestinal tract, and pancreas can all be damaged by alcoholism. In addition, accidents and injuries related to alcohol use are much higher. We are placing a lot of emphasis on encouraging our caregivers to live healthy lifestyles, and limiting alcohol consumption is key to good health”

For more information on the impact of heavy alcohol consumption, visit these resources.

If you or someone you know is battling addiction, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.


Addiction: why can’t you just stop?

Many people believe overcoming an addiction is simply a matter of will power. You can stop using drugs or alcohol if you really want to. Jennifer Johnston, LCSW, a psychotherapist at Aurora Behavioral Health Services helps explain why recovery is not that easy.

This is quite possibly one of the most common questions I’ve come across in treating individuals and families who struggle with addictions. Some ask it of themselves and others ask it of their loved ones out of anger, disappointment, frustration, and so on. What many people don’t realize is that recovering from an addiction is a process which often requires hard work and many other deliberate changes in order to sustain one’s sobriety. Listed below are some factors that, if not addressed, can make it difficult (but not by any means impossible) to “just stop.”

Physical Dependence

Repeated exposure to a substance of abuse can cause the body to adapt to its presence, altering the body’s physiological constructs, eventually causing the body to expect the substance in order to function according to its new “normal.” Chronic use tricks the brain into thinking it is producing a chemical that is artificially being fed to it, thus altering the brain’s natural production and output of mood regulating chemicals.  When use is stopped, especially abruptly, the system can go into somewhat of a shock causing physical withdrawal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, etc.), urging the person to use again in order to stop the withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological Dependence

With continued use, people can condition themselves to rely on their substance of choice as a way to cope with mental and emotional discomfort, and each time relief is provided (real or perceived, regardless of how temporary), the use is reinforced. For instance, if one uses each time he or she is anxious in order to relax, anxiety can become a trigger due to the association between the use and relief from anxiety. This also brings up the topic of co-morbidity, or having more than one disorder at the same time, such as alcoholism and depression. Since substances of abuse can both mask and mimic symptoms of other mental health diagnoses it can be difficult to differentiate what came first and can perpetuate a self-destructive cycle of self-medication.

Lifestyle Changes

Once enslaved to physical and/or psychological dependence, many alter their lifestyles in order to make room for and protect the addiction, preventing physical withdrawal and/or mental and emotional discomfort. For example, someone who may have always been an honest and outgoing person may begin deceiving family or friends, and isolating in order to prevent getting caught and having to face judgment or potential ultimatums. In extreme cases, this can alter a person’s belief system as well as his or her way of thinking and behaving. Even if use is stopped, if people struggling with an addiction do not address the altered lifestyle, they run the risk of becoming a “dry drunk.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, there IS hope for successful recovery. Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers many forms of treatment to help people safely address physical withdrawal (medically monitored inpatient detoxification) and to rehabilitate the psychological and lifestyle factors that typically perpetuate addictions (residential, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs as well as outpatient therapy).

If you or someone you know is battling addiction, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.

With supportive solutions, teens can conquer substance abuse

Is your teenager using alcohol or drugs?

Fact: one in three kids begins drinking before 9th grade.

According to a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) report, 1 in 3 children starts drinking by the end of 8th grade – and of them, half reported having been drunk. A 2010 SAMSHA study indicates among youth aged 12 to 17, 10% had used an illicit drug within the 30 days prior to interview.

Consider these additional statistics.

  • Underage drinking costs the United States more than $58 billion every year.
  • 40 percent of those who started drinking at age 13 or younger developed alcohol dependence later in life. Ten percent of teens who began drinking after the age of 17 developed dependence.
  • Teens that drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than teens who never consume alcohol.
  • More than 60 percent of teens said that drugs were sold, used, or kept at their school.
  • 20 percent of 8th graders report that they have tried marijuana.
  • 28 percent of teens know a classmate or friend who has used ecstasy

Recently Brian Clark, LCSW started a treatment group for teens dealing with substance abuse issues. “I was struck by the lack of services in our community” noted Brian, “and I was receiving many inquiries for a group like this.”

The group is open to teens between ages 14 and 18 who are struggling with abuse or addiction issues. College students are excluded. Some of the issues that will be addressed include how is addiction defined, medical consequences, marijuana as a gateway drug as well as use vs abuse vs dependence. The group will also foster relapse prevention, emphasizing drink or drug refusal strategies along with sober support systems.

So far the participation has been great. “These kids are very candid in the group. One teen shared that the group was the one place he felt comfortable discussing his struggles to control his use” said Brian. “The group is a unique environment for the teens to share without judgment.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from the adolescent substance abuse support group, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services

Prescription painkiller abuse approaches “plague” proportions

Recent stories have continued to highlight the ongoing problem with heroin and prescription opiate abuse in our communities. These instances, along with many others in the past several years, are increasingly occurring in suburban areas.

Dr. Lance Longo, Medical Director of Aurora Psychiatric Hospital

According to Lance Longo, MD, Medical Director of Addictions at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, the path to becoming a heroin user typically starts with abuse of recreational drugs such as marijuana or alcohol. Some young people begin to experiment with prescription opiates, gaining access from the family medicine cabinet or by getting them from friends or associates off the street.

Other people begin exposure while being treated for a problem with pain. Percocet and Oxycodone are two of the more commonly abused pain medications. And the abuse of prescription pain medications is more common among young people than many realize. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA,) over 11% of young adults ages 18-25 used a pain medication for non-medical purposes in 2010.

For some people, it does not take long to become physically dependent on opiates. People initially begin to abuse the medication for the high they experience, but soon they may need it just to feel normal. Dr. Longo indicates that some people experience withdrawal symptoms after only a week of daily use. For an individual who has become dependent on the medication, it becomes increasingly expensive and difficult to acquire the medication they need to avoid withdrawal.

At this point, they may turn to heroin as a less expensive and more accessible way to acquire the drug. Heroin can be snorted or taken intravenously which produces an immediate effect for the user. This accelerates the downward spiral of addiction.

Treatment alternatives are available for opiate dependence. The Opiate Recovery Program at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, for example uses medication (Buprenorphine) along with an intensive therapy program to assist with recovery. Programs like this can be help in developing the coping skills and support system needed to maintain sobriety.

For more information on opiate abuse and treatment, visit the SAMHSA website.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options in a caring, confidential environment.  If you find you may be struggling with stress that is causing significant physical or emotional impairment in your lifecontact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.

Will the Packers go to the Super Bowl this year? Wanna bet?

A casual sports bet may not appear dangerous to most people. However, wagering on some sort of game is now possible in every state except Utah and Hawaii, with casinos now capturing more dollars than movie, theater, opera and concert tickets combined.

As gambling has become more available and accepted, problem, or pathological, gambling has become one of our country’s most critical behavioral health problems. The costs of problem gambling – crime, bankruptcy, domestic violence, lost jobs, broken families – are estimated at about $307 million a year in Wisconsin alone. For most people, gambling provides a controlled, affordable form of entertainment. But for some, this can become a dangerous addiction. The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling reports approximately 333,000 Wisconsin residents have a gambling problem.

Dr. Edward Rubin gives insight into how gambling addiction can destroy lives.

For some people, gambling can become an addiction, with many of the same consequences as other addictions: inability to stop gambling once started; a preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money to continue gambling; and the development of tolerance, or the need to gamble with more and more money to achieve the same level of satisfaction.

Problem gambling seems to develop in stages, beginning with the initial winning phase, when even occasional successes create in the gambler a sense of power, exhilaration and confidence that they can “beat the odds.” When the inevitable losing streak begins, gamblers will try to win back everything they have lost, all at once. “Chasing,” or betting larger amounts to make up for losses, is common.

Attempts to control the behavior are unsuccessful, and when the gambler is forced to reduce or stop gambling, he or she becomes restless and irritable. They begin to gamble more frequently, gamble alone and wager higher amounts, often covering up or lying about the extent of their gambling. Bills go unpaid, credit may become exhausted and relationships deteriorate.

At this point, some pathological gamblers “cross the line” into the desperation phase, when they may begin to do things that were previously unthinkable, such as writing bad checks, forgery or stealing from employers. The gambler often rationalizes that these are “short-term loans” that they will repay as soon as they win back their losses.

In spite of the increasingly negative effects on relationships, employment and finances, the compulsive gambler will ignore the consequences and continue the behavior that becomes more and more destructive.

For some, there is a third phase called the giving up phase, where pathological gamblers realize that they cannot get even and will never catch up, and they no longer even care. Playing itself is the only thing that matters. They want the action and excitement for its own sake and are looking to recapture the emotional high that was part of their early gambling experience.

It is not unusual for gamblers, in the second and third phases, to become depressed and even suicidal. Studies indicate that 75 percent of compulsive gamblers experience major depression in the later stages of their illness, when the gambler may withdraw from family and friends and may become increasingly dependent on alcohol or drugs. The individual is finally faced with four options: imprisonment, running away, committing suicide or getting help.

Although not impossible, it is difficult to change this behavior on your own. But there is help. The first steps are recognizing that your gambling is out of control and seeking help from others to help you change the behavior.

At Aurora Behavioral Health Services, our staff members are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of problem gambling. We begin with a thorough assessment of each person’s specific needs and develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan focused on achieving and maintaining a gambling-free lifestyle. This may include group therapy and support, individual and family counseling and relapse prevention planning.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call Aurora Behavioral Health Services at (877) 666-7223 or the WCPG Hotline at 1-800-GAMBLE-5.

Edward Rubin, PsyD, is a psychologist at Aurora Sinai Medical Center Mental Health Services, Aurora Health Care. He specializes in the treatment of addictive disorders.

September is National Recovery Month

National Recovery Month, now in its 25th year, is a national observance that creates awareness that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with a substance use or mental disorder to recover.

The main focus is to promote the positive stories of those in recovery from these conditions, just as we would those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and heart disease.

Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover. Research shows that substance use and mental disorders are treatable, and people should seek assistance for these conditions, with the same urgency as they would any other health condition.

In 2009, 4.3 million people aged 12 or older received treatment for substance use disorders and 30.2 million adults aged 18 or older received services for mental health problems according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. We must continue to reach the millions more who need help.

Throughout September, take advantage of this opportunity to educate, inform, and take action.  And most importantly, celebrate and support the special people in your life who have overcome their challenges to achieve emotional wellness.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs. If you or someone you know would benefit from addiction treatment or mental health services, please contact us at 877-666-7223 or visit our website.

Who could have helped Amy Winehouse?

So the world has lost a great talent and artist, and many fans are wondering, could something more have been done?

Addiction is complex. It is a chronic, primary, and progressive disease with multiple causes that affect the social, physical, spiritual, cultural, and emotional components of an individual’s life. Sometimes it is further complicated with a dual diagnosis of depression, bi-polar disorder or other mental illness. And the treatment methods that work for one person, may not be effective for another.

Now, I don’t know a lot about Amy Winehouse’s situation, but I do know that there is no easy answer here. Many talented individuals have been lost too soon to addictions, and the only sure answer is to keep trying to raise awareness about the deadly affects of alcohol and drug addiction.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help battling an addiction, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.