Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Nicotine: As Addictive as Heroin and Marketed to Teens

During National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (Jan. 22-27, 2019), The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) seeks to expose facts and “Shatter the Myths” about drug use.

Here’s a fact you might not know: Nicotine is just as addictive as heroin. That’s not a new-found fact. As far back as 1988, the surgeon general  compared the addictive quality of nicotine to both heroin and cocaine. That means it’s just as hard to quit smoking as it is for someone addicted to heroin to stop using drugs. While this may not be a new fact, it has renewed meaning today, when this highly addictive substance is being marketed to teens in the form of e-cigarettes.

Like other addictive substances, nicotine releases dopamine—a chemical in the brain that helps control pleasure and motivation. When a smoker finishes a cigarette, the pleasurable feeling subsides quickly, and he or she craves more. Eventually a person develops a tolerance, meaning more nicotine is needed to feel pleasure—and overtime, more is needed just to feel normal.

The risk of addiction is worse in teens and young adults, because their brains are still developing. Today, that risk is exacerbated by the increasing popularity of vaping among high school and middle school students. E-cigarettes often contain higher, more concentrated levels of nicotine than traditional cigarettes.

The most popular e-cigarette brand is JUUL, which uses cartridges that deliver the nicotine equivalent of 200 puffs of a traditional cigarette. While adolescents commonly think vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, addiction actually happens faster with JUUL than with traditional tobacco products.

Disturbingly, JUUL and other e-cigarettes come in fruity flavors that are marketed to appeal to teens. In 2018, the National Youth Tobacco Survey found that vaping was reaching epidemic proportions among high school and middle school students, with more than 3.6 million respondents reporting they were current e-cigarette users.

What can parents do to keep their teens from using this common drug that is just as addictive as heroin? The Council on Chemical Abuse recommends that parents talk to their kids about the dangers of all drug and alcohol use. Click here to see our Time to Talk recommendations.

Learn more about nicotine addiction

Blue Cares Reaches Out to Help Overdose Survivors in Berks

Blue CARES is a collaborative program between Berks County Law Enforcement and the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA). When an individual is revived with NARCAN® Nasal Spray by a Berks County Law Enforcement Officer, COCA and Berks County Law Enforcement schedule a time for a home visit to the overdose survivor and family. A Law Enforcement Officer and Drug & Alcohol Professional engage the overdose survivor in a conversation offering help to access substance use treatment and/or support services. If the individual accepts such help, there is an immediate referral for appropriate services. If no one is home, substance use disorder related literature is left behind. Resources and services available are also provided for family members.

The goals of this program are the following:

  • To encourage the overdose survivor to engage in appropriate addiction treatment.
  • To provide the much needed inspiration and the necessary know-how to facilitate such an admission.
  • To inform family members on how they can help themselves as well as how they can support their loved one.

Understanding Addiction: Getting Beyond Myths and Misinformation

Today, when the opioid crisis has reached epidemic levels, we hear a great deal about addiction. Nevertheless, misinformation and myths abound, making it difficult for many people to comprehend the true nature of addiction. When it comes to understanding addiction, a good place to start is with the American Society of Addictive Medicine (ASAM) definition:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.”

A key word here is primary, meaning that it arises on its own, as opposed to a secondary disease, which is caused by a previous ailment. Unfortunately, addiction is commonly misunderstood as arising from a moral failing or behavioral problem. Therefore, it’s critical to recognize that medical experts have determined that addiction is its own illness and not the fault of some existing condition.

An equally important element of the ASAM definition is the word “chronic.” This is, perhaps, easier to grasp because we all know someone who suffers from or, may ourselves suffer from, a chronic disease, like asthma or diabetes.

“Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission,” the ASAM definition states. So, again, the common assumption that relapses are the result of a moral failing or a symptom of poor willpower, is in fact a misconception. The American College of Physicians has called for addiction to be treated like other treatable, chronic medical conditions, which, in many cases, involve lifelong care.

We don’t blame people with asthma when they have a relapse, and we don’t expect people with diabetes to be fully cured. We recognize that these are diseases that can be successfully treated, but that, even when they are in remission, they can return. Because addiction changes the chemistry of the brain, it too is a chronic disease that often requires a series of treatments before an individual enters into recovery.

It is crucial for families and friends to understand addiction for what it is, so that they can help their loved one get the treatment they need. “Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death,” the ASAM definition states.

While there is much to fear when it comes to addiction, there is also good reason for optimism. Addiction actually has better treatment outcomes than many other chronic conditions. Evidence shows that individuals in recovery can manage their disease and live fulfilling lives.

Related Content:

Learn more about Addictions

CRAFT: Helping Families Help Loved Ones

How to help a family member struggling with drug addiction?  Family intervention and the CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Trainings) Program are the topics for January on COCA-hosted programs on WEEU and BCTV.

CRAFT is a skills-based training program designed specifically for families of a loved one who is actively abusing drugs and/or alcohol and refuses to get help.  The Berks Counseling Center offers CRAFT trainings that meet weekly over a seven-week period, teaching families and friends strategies for communication, positive reinforcement, problem solving, self care and more. The goal of the program is to help a loved one accept that he or she is ready to enter into treatment.

CRAFT has proven success in getting people into treatment by a three to one margin over traditional intervention strategies. It uses motivational rather than confrontational methods, teaching families to inspire their loved one to change by rewarding sober activities and discouraging drugs and alcohol-related activities.

The BCTV program on CRAFT aired on January 9. Click here to watch the video.

Request for Proposal: Community Awareness Campaign

Recently, the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA) and SOS Berks were awarded a grant to complete a Stigma Reduction Project during the calendar year of 2019. This project includes community education (to be completed by COCA and entities) as well as a community awareness campaign. To complete the community awareness campaign, COCA and SOS Berks are requesting the services of an advertising/marketing agency. The awarded agency will be responsible for creating the messaging and branding for the community awareness campaign component of the Stigma Reduction Project.

To receive a request for proposal for this project, please complete the form below:

Request For Proposal: Community Awareness Campaign

This form is to request an RFP for COCA's 2019 Stigma Reduction Project. Once the form is completed, an email will be sent to you with the RFP file from Jennifer Kirlin.

SOS Berks: The Creation of a Name and a Call to Action

The following article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of The Response. Click here to read it online or enjoy more articles in The Response.

By Michael Kaucher, Executive Director, Reading-Berks Conference of Churches

The opioid epidemic can be an overwhelming force. The arena of treatment and recovery alone is overwhelming, with an acronyms list a mile long, as highlighted in the first issue of The Response.

The intimidating factor of opioids and treatment & recovery aside, there is also all that “normal” life throws at us at any given time. There are so many things vying for our attention. These are some of the thoughts that initiated conversation among the Community Awareness and Outreach Team of the Berks Opioid Coalition, (Say that five times fast!), as we took on the job of creating the identity for the coalition efforts.

The goal was not only to create a visual identity for the coalition efforts, but to also invoke a call to action and extend a life-line to those in need. In a world screaming for our attention, what could possibly be created that would break through the wall of communications that flood our lives? A small, yet purposed team went to work. Toni Reece, Annarose Ingarra-Milch, Jennifer Kirlin, Keith Stoudt, Mary McDevitt, Patrick Murray and I began to toss ideas around. A number of us are not experts in the field of addiction and recovery. Together we recognize the vast challenges of this current epidemic and desire to find a way to help. After a number of ideas hit the table, we kept coming back to the anchor. The addition of S.O.S. to the anchor started to bring this identity to life. S.O.S., the long-standing code for distress and danger, is a strong call demanding people’s attention. On its own it would be incomplete for our purposes. The anchor added a sense of hope in the midst of a deadly epidemic.

Next began the debate over what S.O.S. could symbolize to make it a local call to action. This became very interesting. Again, there were many ideas thrown around. One of our ideas for an acronym for SOS was “Seriously Opioids Suck.” While this is true and expressed the overall frustration with this epidemic, it did not offer the call to action that we desired. Breakthrough finally came when “Stop Overdoses Save Lives” was brought forth. This became the call to action that we sought.

The combination of the anchor, with S.O.S. and our tag line, birthed a new identity for the efforts of the Berks Opioid Coalition. Jennifer made it look great with her graphic design skills.

So, what does this all mean for the average person walking down the street? Our goal is that this logo becomes a symbol that causes people to stop for a minute and connect with some valuable information. You will, if you haven’t already, begin to see this logo on anything related to communication efforts for the coalition. The logo itself is a call to action, asking people to stop and absorb some information. It could be a resource, or informational article, or a statistic that brings to reality the seriousness of this epidemic. It could connect you to someone’s story, sharing that there can be hope on the other side of overcoming an opioid addiction.

This call to action invoked by the SOS Berks logo, is for all people everywhere. This crisis requires the attention of every person in Berks County, our focus area, and beyond. Chances are that you know someone struggling with this addiction. You could be connected to information that helps you identify signs of someone struggling and you could be the one to lead that person to help. There are resources out there to  help  friends,  family  members,  and individuals who are directly struggling with opioids

and other drugs. Watch for the logo to lead you to information that you may need today, or you may need down the road. Share what you learn so that others can be educated. You will read over and over that this addiction does not discriminate over who can be effected.

Young, old, male, female, rich and poor are all at risk. We invite you to watch for “SOS Berks,” heed the call to action and ultimately be a part of stopping overdoses and saving lives in Berks County.

Check out the full Winter 2018 issue of “The Response”

A Berks County, PA Opioid Coalition Magazine.

Winter Issue of The Response is Now Available

Check out the newest issue of The Response! The Winter 2018 edition focuses on the journey everyone must take after confronting addiction. It features, among other things, articles pertaining to Berks County’s prevention, treatment and recovery programs. It also offers tips for enjoying safe, healthy holidays, and a book review by COCA’s Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz, MSW.

The Response is a magazine put out by the Berks County Opioid Coalition, also known as SOS Berks. Its goal is to inform the public on a variety of topics related to substance use disorders. The Winter 2018 edition is only the second issue of the new magazine and it is chock full of information of interest to any one involved in or interested in learning more about the opioid crisis in Berks County.

COCA has played a key role in producing the magazine. It includes an article written by COCA Board Member Michael Kaucher about the inception and meaning of SOS Berks (Stop Overdoses Save Lives).  Another article, co-written by COCA Executive Director Stanley Papademetriou along with Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, discusses the progress being made in Berks County through SOS Berks.

The magazine is available online here. You can also pick up a hard copy for free from participating social service agencies, medical professionals and from the Council on Chemical Abuse.

PA Youth Survey Offers Insights on Berks Co. Teens

The Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) results from 2017 give insights into the attitudes and behaviors of Berks County youth on issues such as bullying, gambling, depression and drug, alcohol and tobacco use. The survey is issued statewide in the fall of odd-numbered years to any school that opts to participate.

PAYS data provides critical information about students’ perspectives of their school environment, as well as knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward alcohol, tobacco, drugs, violence, depression and other problem behaviors.

The data can be used to identify strategies for supporting youth, and to gauge the effectiveness of current prevention and intervention efforts.

In Berks County, eight school districts and one charter school participated, administering the survey to students in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades, yielding a total of nearly 8,000 valid surveys. That, however, represents less than half of the 18 public school districts in the county.

Participating schools included: Antietam School District, Boyertown Area School District, Brandywine Heights Area School District, Conrad Weiser Area School District, Exeter Township School District, Governor Mifflin School District, I-LEAD Charter School, Kutztown Area School District, and Reading School District.

Council on Chemical Abuse Prevention Program Manager Jaclyn Steed said it is important for school districts to participate in the PAYS survey.

“The Pennsylvania Youth Survey data is a key piece for prevention planning in Berks County. It helps establish priorities and target audiences for current and future programs,” she said.

What’s more, PAYS data is mandatory for the Berks County Needs Assessment, which is required to secure state funding for prevention services. Reading School District, for example, received three years of funding for Project Towards No Drug Abuse as a result of PAYS data. The district also received six years of funding, as well as teacher trainings and curriculum materials for Botvin Life Skills, an evidence-based substance abuse and violence prevention program.

The 2017 PAYS questionnaire asked students about bullying, school safety, gambling, depression and, the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

Overall, 27.4% of students in Berks County indicated experiencing bullying in the past 12 months (compared to 28.2% of students at the state level).

The survey asked questions about lifetime use of drugs and alcohol. In Berks County, 44.5% of students reported having used alcohol at some point in their lives and 19.2% had used marijuana, compared to, respectively, 43.3% and 17.7% at the state level.

PAYS also asked questions about mental health and suicide risk.  In Berks County, 41.5% of students reported they felt sad or depressed most days in the past 12 months. Overall, 16.9% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 16.5% of students at the state level.

“This information allows decision makers to direct prevention resources to areas where they are likely to have the greatest impact,” said Jaclyn Steed.

The survey results, which compare Berks County youth to those statewide and also provide comparisons by year, are available online on the PA Commission of Crime and Delinquency website.

NEWS: 2018 COCA Annual Conference

Trauma & Addiction: Healing the Hurt
The Council on Chemical Abuse’s 18th Annual Conference

Reading, PA (November 1, 2018) – Year 18 of the COCA Conference did not disappoint. Three hundred and fifteen professionals from Berks and surrounding counties spent a day learning about trauma and addiction.

Attendees were greeted in the morning by COCA Executive Director, Stanley Papademetriou and Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt as part of an announcement regarding the Berks Opioid Coalition – SOS Berks. SOS Berks is a coalition of Berks County community members who have come together in an effort to reduce overdose deaths and stem the negative effects of the current opioid crisis. Since the coalition was formed in December 2016, the group has been working hard to make a difference in Berks. Coalition leaders shared their accomplishments and assured that they are working hard to decrease overdose deaths in the community.

Following the announcement Keynote speaker, Cheryl Sharp addressed the connection between Trauma, Addiction, and Recovery.

Prior to participants engaging in their workshops, a panel discussion on healing from trauma gave attendees insight into the reality of the devastation of losing a loved one from the disease of addiction and the healing that takes place over time. Three individuals shared their stories and discussed how their lives have been impacted by trauma and how they hope to educate others.

“As a non-social worker and non-counselor professional, this conference was informative and needed. The workshops were well organized and interesting. I enjoyed the conference and will definitely be back next year!” – 2018 Conference attendee.

Save the date for November 7, 2019!

For more information about SOS Berks CONNECT with them on Facebook, or visit their webpage HERE.

The COCA Annual Conference is brought to you by the following partners: The Council on Chemical Abuse, The Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/HealthChoices Programs of Berks County, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, Berks County Children and Youth Services, and Substance Abuse Service Providers Association of Berks County.

Community Strong – Annual Report FY 2017/18

It takes an entire community to address an enormous problem such as addiction. Since 1972, the Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA) has served the Berks County community, offering prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services in response to the disease of addiction. Read more in this year’s report about the services provided to the Berks County community through COCA. 

For further information regarding programs and statistics for the 2017/18 Fiscal Year running July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018, please CLICK HERE

Additional links related to this year’s publication:
SOS Berks
Upcoming Events
Treatment Options
Recovery – Resources for friends and family


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