The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?

Culturally, the holiday season is regarded as the most wonderful time of the year. From endless Christmas movies with the same cheesy plotlines to social gatherings for work, family and friends, December’s activities are all centered around love, happiness and togetherness. But for many people, that’s not the reality of the holiday season. When you’re coping with a family member who has substance use disorder, recovering from grief, battling seasonal depression or experiencing other negative emotions, it’s not always easy to feel the holiday spirit.

If you feel more depressed, anxious and stressed around the holidays, you’re far from alone. There’s a social expectation to be jolly all month long, but it’s okay if you’re not in the spirit. The more important aspect to consider is how you cope with your emotions during the holidays. It’s less common for people to discuss feelings like sadness, loneliness and anger when the world is supposed to feel like a winter wonderland. But the team at our Greater Boston addiction treatment center wants you to know that there are ways to get through the holidays with your mental health intact.

How to Cope with Holiday Depression

There are a few things you can do to help mitigate sadness and anxiety around the holidays.

Open up about your depression to a trusted friend or family member.

Reach out to someone who is also struggling with holiday depression; empathy and commiseration can do wonders if you’re feeling isolated and alone.

Volunteer at an animal shelter or an organization that helps provide Christmas gifts and meals to local families.

Avoid triggering media like holiday music, movies and commercials. It’s okay to change the channel or radio station.

Allow yourself to set the boundaries to protect your mental health and take care of yourself. For example, attend holiday gatherings but don’t feel obligated to stay the entire time.

Focus on any little moments that bring joy.

Winter Weather Means Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Look around. Most people you see are experiencing seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Less sunlight and colder temperatures lead to feelings of isolation and melancholy, which can make symptoms of depression and drug addiction more prominent. Staying home and spending time alone becomes much more common for people dealing with SAD because it’s cold, dark and snowy outside. This cycle of depression and isolation can be difficult to break, and many people just wait for spring to arrive. SAD affects holiday depression and can increase how much you dread the season and want to disengage with loved ones and the world around you.

New Year, New Outlook
As the year ends, it’s often easier to look back on the past 12 months and see a long list of mistakes you’ve made or actions you’d like to change than reflect on the good memories. You might be feeling end-of-year remorse or regret as you listen to people you’re close to or follow on social media discuss their own successes or positive memories of the year. Many people approach the new year feeling like they’ve failed because they didn’t meet all the goals they set back in January.

Think of the new year as a new opportunity to reevaluate your goals, not a time to beat yourself up for unmet benchmarks. To start, think about what prevented you from achieving this year’s goals and use that insight to inform changes for the upcoming year. Maybe it makes sense to identify smaller steps you must take to reach overall goal, allowing you to create more feasible resolutions.

Loved Ones with Substance Use Disorder During the Holidays
Are you worried about attending or hosting holiday gatherings with loved ones who have substance use disorder? There may be an added layer of stress or concern around celebrations if there’s addiction in your family. It’s essential for you to set expectations and boundaries around drug and alcohol use before or during the events. Once you’ve clearly communicated these guidelines, keep in mind that you’re not responsible for their behavior and shouldn’t blame yourself for their actions.

While you can provide help and support for your loved ones dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, it’s not your fault if they don’t follow through on your requests. If necessary, discuss the expectations you’ve set with another relative or friend who can help you say “no” and stick to the boundaries when it becomes difficult.

The team at Woburn Addiction Treatment is here if you’d like to discuss our Intensive Outpatient Program or other drug treatment options for your loved ones as we move forward into a new year. From outpatient alcohol rehab programs to evening IOP near Boston, MA, there are many ways for you or your loved one to start down the road of recovery today.

How Is the Community Combating Substance Abuse in the Boston Area?

New England continues to experience one of the worst drug abuse epidemics in the country. Millions of people in states like Massachusetts struggle with addictions to substances like prescription medications and opioids. To combat this growing problem, organizations throughout Massachusetts and elsewhere in New England continue to devise programs to help drug users and alcoholics. These programs are especially useful in metro areas like Boston where substance abuse continues to be one of the biggest public health risks.

Large-scale Response to Drug Use in Boston

Boston public health officials began to put together a large-scale response to the city’s substance abuse problem in October 2014. That month marked the beginning of a program that was designed to address every level of drug use as well as provide continued care and education to the general public.

The program labels all types of drug abuse as Substance Abuse Disorders or SUDs. The overall goal of the SUDs program aims to address SUDs at all level of the impact on health. It also is designed to offer primary continuity-based prevention of SUDs starting with early intervention and progressing to treatment of chronic disease management.

Levels of SUDs Program

Boston public health officials designed the SUDs program to encompass numerous levels in order to target the broadest scope of drug abusers in the area. The first level of the program is its inpatient component.

The inpatient component of the SUDs treatment and education program comprises of a multidisciplinary consultation team that provides patients with a variety of prompt and critical services. These services include:

Comprehensive evaluations

Treatment recommendations

Links to community and hospital-based resources

These services are rendered upon the admission of patients to a medical facility that participates in this community drug abuse treatment and education program.

The next level of the program is the SUDs bridge clinic. The bridge clinic is a transitional outpatient clinic designed to provide short term medical care for discharged patients and patients leaving the emergency room who do not yet have outpatient care services. It also will provide continued care for patients with SUDs until they can be linked to appropriate community outpatient services.

Recovery coaches are a key component to the community-based SUDs treatment and education program. Recovery coaches are actually peers who are in recovery themselves. They assist fellow patients who are in the process of working toward sobriety. They help patients overcome any barriers to substance abuse treatment, provide emotional support, and serve as key members of a patient’s care team.

This program additionally incorporates an enhanced health center treatment component. The health centers that participate in the program increase patients’ access to evidence-based treatment. The services in this component include:

Pharmacotherapy

Readiness services

Integrated mental health

Primary care around treatment of the patient’s substance abuse disorder

This component is closely linked to the program’s new opioid prescribing policies. These policies mandate more precise guidelines for safer prescription of opioids for chronic conditions. It includes taking inventory of inpatient opioid prescribing policies and has the ultimate goal of developing a standardized policy that can be utilized by all hospitals in Boston.

Implementing this policy ideally will be easier thanks to the discoveries made by the program’s research and evaluation component. Hospitals and medical researchers in conjunction with health officials continue to conduct clinical research and ongoing evaluation of comprehensive and integrated approaches to treating people with SUDs. The results they come up with ideally will influence treatment standards in Boston as well as in cities throughout New England.

The last component of the SUDs treatment and education program in Boston involves changing the culture of drug use. The culture change component utilizes all opportunities to not only inspire hope in patients but also motivate the overall caring for patients. It ideally will achieve this by shifting away from the historical component of SUDs and understanding that SUDs are chronic but highly treatable illnesses.

The SUDs treatment and education program in Boston is just one approach that public health officials now use to address the growing problem of drug use in New England. They appreciate that much of the problem that persists in Boston right now stems from the overprescribing of opiates.

While opiates have their rightful place in medicine, health officials hope to change the manner and frequency with which they are given to patients. This change could greatly reduce the number of people with SUDs in the region.

What Certifications Does an Addiction Treatment Center in the Northeast Need?

The state and national organizations both hold rehab facilities to the strictest of standards. These requirements are designed to protect patients who are admitted for care. They also ensure patients receive services that are worth the money and will actually guide them toward sobriety. In order for a recovery center to open, it must first pass a series of inspections and obtain the requisite licensing and certification. These certifications are awarded by both the state and agencies or commissions and are subject to constant scrutiny and renewal.

State Certification

Depending on in what state it plans to open and operate, a recovery center will need to pass numerous state inspections in order to obtain the required certifications. State inspections are typically similar to those conducted by federal investigators. However, they may be performed more frequently and closely scrutinize facilities within the actual building.

For example, state inspectors may closely examine facilities like the:

Kitchen

Dining area

Lobby or waiting area

Medication storage room and pharmacy

These areas of the recovery center are typically expected to be clean, organized, and safe. They may be examined on a monthly basis depending on the availability of state inspectors. If these areas fail to pass inspection, the facility may have its certification revoked. If it is a new facility waiting to open, it may be denied permission to admit patients until these areas are significantly improved.

Aside from inspecting service areas within the recovery center, state inspectors also will scrutinize its business practices. For example, the recovery center will be expected to employ a well-defined admittance process for all patients. Patients should clearly understand how to be admitted to the recovery center and also what will be expected of them during the time they are in care.

Further, the facility will also be expected to have an active liability insurance policy. This liability insurance protects the people admitted to the center for care. It also safeguards the people who work there in case of an accident.

Other requirements that rehab centers will need to satisfy include:

Submission of a floor plan

Certificate of occupancy

Passing a fire marshal inspection

Licensing for dispensation of medications

It could take weeks or months for a facility to obtain these credentials. However, once they are in place, the facility may be able to earn the state certifications needed to open to the public.

National Certifications

Like the state government, the treatment industry and insurance companies often require recovery centers to obtain credentials before opening to patients. Certifications typically focus on the people who will actually work at the facility. They also pay attention to the layout and design of the center so it can accommodate people with disabilities.

In particular, a rehab facility will be expected to be ADA-compliant and have walkways, doors, and other fixtures that meet these standards. People who are disabled and use mobility devices must be able to have access to the facility in the same manner as able-bodied patients.

Likewise, the federal government mandates that rehab facilities employ people who meet stringent federal hiring criteria. For example, doctors who want to work at the facility will need to be licensed by the state and also belong to the outlined medical organizations like the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Nurses, pharmacists, and therapists who apply for work there also must be licensed by the state and be certified by the appropriate medical boards. They must keep their licenses current and also undergo training as required in order to maintain their employment in this area of medicine.

Stringent hiring criteria are also applied to people who are not medical professionals. People who apply to be housekeepers, cooks, and others must generally be at least 18 years of age and also have a GED or high school diploma. These credentials must be verified before these individuals can be hired to work at the rehab center.

Finally, people who want to volunteer at a recovery center are required to be supervised closely by doctors, nurses, therapists, and other medical professionals. The federal government requires volunteers to also pass background checks and pose no risk to the people who are admitted to the facility.

Recovery centers must obtain certifications from both the state and federal government in order to operate. If they fail to secure these credentials, they may be forced to close or be denied the right to open to the public. The credentials are reviewed on a regular basis and subject to renewal. 

A Generation of Addicted Kids

I am a part of the millennial generation that often gets a bad rep. Life was easy for me growing up. I had two parents that were together and worked hard to provide everything I needed and made sure I never went without. I made friends easy, fit in with my peers, but was uneducated on the illness of addiction. Both in and out of school, the depiction of a drug addict or an alcoholic was painted to me as someone who drank from a paper bag, used needles, smoked marijuana, was homeless and/or didn’t excel in school. For myself and many others, a drug addict was not supposed to be the aspiring athlete from the suburbs, the kid who got straight A’s, or the person from a nice family with no past trauma.

Oxycontin hit the streets and our grandparents medicine cabinets, which was and still is easily accessed by the younger generations. At the time, we had no ideas on the dangers of these pills, there was no real warnings from distributors, and they came from professional doctors who we trusted and not the drug dealer on the corner. It took me a long time and a lot of heartache on my family for me to come to terms and identify myself as an addict. On the outside I did not fit the “picture” of someone who goes to rehab, or detox, or someone who threw away every opportunity in life just to get my next “fix.” Purdue Pharma created a generation of zombies. Families are being torn apart and financial insecurities of our elders are growing because both death rates and overdoses have skyrocketed while Purdue Pharma continues to make millions and families are left the financial burdens of addiction. With recent lawsuits, Purdue Pharma will hopefully soon be penalized for marketing substances they knew were addictive.

My mission in life is to be a voice of recovery for my generation and make positive changes in the way people view addiction. Addiction is an illness and it should be known that it is not a personal choice. It is important for us to openly discuss addiction and to recognize that it does not discriminate. Addiction is in all of our neighbors, in most of our families, and comes in all different shapes and sizes. I strive to be a guiding light to everyone I encounter and hope to show them that they too can have a life substance free and can go on to help the next person suffering. You don’t have to struggle anymore, please reach out if you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder