Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Problem Gambling: The Hidden Addiction

Did you know that problem gambling is often called the “hidden addiction”? That’s because it has no visible symptoms, unlike drug or alcohol abuse. However, an estimated two million Americans suffer from a pathological gambling addiction. That figure jumps to 4 to 6 million when you count those people who don’t fit the definition of pathological gamblers, but have some gambling-related problems. Included in those numbers are people of all ages, from senior citizens who spend their weekends at casinos to teens who play online games that involve betting. In fact, as many as 10 to 15 percent of American and Canadian youth have some type of gambling problem.

The term “problem gambling” includes but is not limited to pathological gambling, which is a progressive addiction. It is characterized by an increasing preoccupation with gambling and a need to bet more money more frequently. A person who suffers from pathological gambling will become restless and irritable whenever he or she attempts to quit, and will continue to gamble in spite of negative consequences and financial losses.

While problem gambling does not involve ingesting a substance, it is nevertheless considered an addiction because its impact on the brain is similar to that of drugs or alcohol. It alters a person’s mood so that he or she continues to gamble to re-create that mood. Like a drug, the act of gambling releases dopamine in the brain. Eventually, the brain builds up a tolerance to it, and the person needs to gamble more to get the same stimulation.

But when it comes to problem gambling, there is some good news. Research shows that most adults are able to gamble responsibly. What’s more, people who are educated about the warning signs of problem gambling are more likely to make good choices. You can become more educated about problem gambling by joining us on March 26 at one of our gambling awareness events.

You can also learn more about problem gambling by watching our most recent BCTV episode:

PA’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Do you know that the Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) collects information on all filled prescriptions for controlled substances and uses that data for drug abuse prevention and treatment? During our February 13 Lunch & Learn, Meghna H. Patel, MHA, director of the program, gave a detailed overview of the types of data collected and how information can be used to track trends and improve treatments.

Information from the program is available to doctors and pharmacists, who check the database before prescribing or dispensing medications. By so doing, they can see if a patient has had opioids or other drugs prescribed by other providers. But data is used in a variety of other ways, as well. The PDMP’s website includes an interactive data report that provides analytics on a variety of data points, including overdoses by county, age & gender; as well as the types and quantities of controlled substances that are dispensed.

These figures arm government officials with valuable data for determining where treatment and prevention programs need to be implemented and the effectiveness of those programs. Patel said emergency rooms throughout the state provide timely information on overdoses. Because information is received rapidly, PDMP can respond quickly when an upsurge is reported. And, department officials can combine data on overdose deaths from several sources to keep track of what types of drugs were involved, whether a mental health history was reported and other details.

“These factors allow us to determine what exactly needs to be prevented and fixed,” Patel said.

A Long Range View of the Opioid Epidemic

A U.S. News & World Report review of two decades’ worth of data on opioid-related overdose deaths gives a long-range view of the opioid epidemic in America. The study, which analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 to the present, shows death rates rose steadily from 1999-2006, slowed from 2007 to 2014, and then began to skyrocket.

The U.S. News & World Report article points to the advent of OxyContin in the late 1990s for the early rise in opioid related deaths. While deaths continued to climb through the early 2000s, they did so more slowly from 2007-2014, when “doctors began limiting access to legally prescribed opioids.” Overdose deaths jumped significantly in 2014, when opioid users started turning to fentanyl and heroin. By 2017, opioid-related deaths had hit an all-time high of 14.9 per 100,000 people—up from about 4 per 100,000 in 1999.

According to the article, understanding the long-term data is important for developing and implementing effective prevention and treatment efforts.

“Only when we look at the data over time can we learn what is or isn’t working and which of the opioid-focused dollars, task forces and agencies are actually saving lives, ” said Rocco Perla, co-founder of new nonprofit The Health Initiative, who helped analyze the data.

Read the full article here

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:

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.


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