Women in our society have a unique set of stress and pressure in their everyday lives. Sprinkle in some addiction problems, and you’ve got quite the cocktail of strain. Add in a pregnancy before, during or after an addiction problem and you’ve got a dangerous mixture. Some women are in need of an alcohol and drug detox and are too fearful to admit it. Some do not have the information they need to find an alcohol and drug detox to suit their specific situation and distinct set of needs.

It is hardly a surprise that women who are pregnant and addicted face more scrutiny that most subsets of people who struggle with addiction. But, they may find themselves in a situation where they need alcohol and drug detox just like any other woman. One’s mental image of a pregnant woman is one that is perfect and protective of their unborn child, always taking the necessary prenatal vitamins and printing sonogram pictures to share the progress of growth with their friends and family.

It is estimated that 2.7 million women use alcohol or drugs. Many are pregnant. It is difficult to estimate exactly how many of those women that use alcohol or drugs are pregnant but a very high percent of those women are of childbearing age. If a woman has an unexpected pregnancy in the midst of her drug or alcohol addiction, the risks to the fetus are staggering. Some drugs can cause a baby to be born too small or too soon. The baby can be born addicted and suffer withdrawal symptoms at birth not to mention the baby may have birth defects or learning and behavioral problems.

Because many pregnant women who use illicit drugs may additionally use alcohol and tobacco, which also pose risks to a fetus, it often is difficult to determine which health problems are caused by a specific illicit drug. It is also important to recognize that many illicit drugs may be prepared with impurities that can also be harmful to a pregnancy.

Women who are pregnant and addicted do not care any less for their child, they simply face a much more challenging pregnancy. Addiction is widely accepted and described as a disease. That disease does not simply disappear if a woman becomes pregnant. However, it is important to make alcohol and drug detox readily available to these women because a pregnancy can be the perfect catalyst for change. Not only is alcohol and drug detox most necessary during a pregnancy but also a woman can be most motivated to permanently stop her unhealthy behaviors, typical of drug and alcohol use, when presented with the miracle of motherhood.

Another huge obstacle for women facing alcohol and drug detox is the possibility of being criminally charged with everything from child abuse to delivery of drugs to a minor via the umbilical cord and/or breast milk. Or in the case of a stillbirth, the woman may be charged with homicide. The sooner the woman can be admitted to an alcohol and drug detox, the better chance the fetus will be born a healthy baby and be able to be raised by his/her mother. So many women are afraid to admit that they have used alcohol or drugs during their pregnancy for fear that their child will be taken away from them, that they dismiss any possibility of alcohol and drug detox.

Dr. Harolyn Belcher, director of research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Family Center, said it best with: “rather than using funds on punitive incarceration approaches for individuals with drug dependence, resources should be used to provide these individuals and their children access to comprehensive evidence-based supportive treatment services.

It is not too late to go to an alcohol and drug detox if you’re pregnant; in fact, that is the perfect time to go to an alcohol and drug detox.

Last year in 2012 the US saw the widespread proliferation of a group of dangerous synthetic drugs called bath salts. These drugs gained more and more traction in the United States along with synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs, and in many cases, produced bizarre and horrific behavior in those who took them. Some of the more extreme actions were highly publicized, such as a woman abusing her toddler before succumbing to a heart attack; a man who stood poised to kill his family after ripping the hinges off the door to the room where they hid for protection; another man who threatened a five-year-old with a knife; and a woman who went after her mother with a machete.

Bath salts were easily obtained through stores and internet purchase, and were considered by many drug users to be a perfect alternative to cocaine and expensive prescriptions. Bath salts are not one singular drug; rather a group of substances with similar chemical makeup. Users never really know exactly what they’re taking and-as has been illustrated by the aforementioned cases-are vulnerable to prolonged episodes of psychotic and delusional paranoia. Physical effects include dangerously high blood pressure and adrenaline level, as well as chest pain. Although law enforcement and community involvement have forced the emerging bath salts operation out of the spotlight, thousands are now left with residual addictions for which they need urgent and comprehensive care. It’s entirely possible that the developers of bath salts are just biding their time and developing a new and equally dangerous permutation of designer drug.

The worst episodes have been experienced by those who quickly ingest the entire pouch of bath salts. The sudden and quick assault of psychoactive stimulation causes the brain and body to go into panic mode, which usually means overheating, extreme panic attacks, dangerous behavior, mood swings and an overload of the central nervous system. This inhibits, or simply deprives, a person from sleeping which brings a whole new assortment of psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, irritability and even psychosis. Perhaps the most dangerous component to the bath salts epidemic was the unpredictable and horrific range of effects of the drugs. As a population, we only knew what they were capable of when something awful happened.

Central New York and other areas of the Northeast were hit especially hard by the tidal wave of bath salts abuse; however the problem raised awareness throughout the whole country. As nationwide crackdowns appear to have stalled the development and distribution of these drugs, we’re left with an illuminating, and perhaps tragic revelation: if it wasn’t bath salts, it could have very easily been something else. This is why it’s critical for addiction care and mental health experts to constantly stay abreast of what new drugs are threatening their community and the country as a whole, and extensively research their physical and behavioral effects to offer relevant and substantive treatment.

By now it’s clear to law enforcement officials, prevention advocates and regrettably the loved ones of overdose victims that synthetic drugs are posing an increasingly greater risk in the United States. Though fairly new to the consumers and distributors, authorities have already seized millions of doses of these drugs, as well as tens of millions of dollars in cash belonging to distributors. One of the new and more deadly synthetic recreational drugs flooding the landscape are called Spice. Otherwise known as K2, Spice is a potpourri-like substance meant to emulate the effects of synthetic marijuana. Many drug abusers have gravitated toward Spice and other synthetic drugs because they rarely appear on drug test results.

Unsurprisingly, Spice is said to be all natural and perfectly safe by distributors; however recent episodes of violence, hysteria and paranoid delusions linked to the drug indicate the contrary, including a case Texas in which an individual high on Spice killed and started eating his cocker spaniel and one in Phoenix in which a man was accused of beating his infant daughter after smoking it. Additionally, two Tucson high school students recently overdosed with near fatal consequences. Members of communities in which Spice has become a problem have called for prevention and education programs to alert potential users of the consequences of all synthetic drugs.

Over the past two years, calls to emergency personnel related to synthetic drug
Overdoses have increased to over 13,000 from just over 3,000, and have reached what the American Association of Poison Control Centers calls epidemic proportions. Use of these drugs is tantamount to Russian roulette and has been known to cause severe intestinal distress, hallucinations, high blood pressure, violent behavior, long-term heart problems and much more. Poison control officials have described these drugs as the worst they’ve ever seen, and have reported users turning aggressive, violent and psychotic.

In July of 2012, the House of Representatives and President Obama passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act which broadly prohibits many of the chemical ingredients used to concoct these drugs; however many, including DEA officials claim that the law may not do enough. While it limits access to necessary ingredients and accounts for interstate and internet sales, synthetic drugs have managed to linger, proving that education, enforcement and prevention must be available at the local level as well. Many communities have already started offering workshops for parents and children on how to avoid synthetic drug abuse.

Many Doctors and Nurses Abusing Prescription Drugs

recent piece on USAtoday.com reveals startling statistics and testimony regarding the use of prescription drugs in the medical community. The article includes recollections from recovering nurses giving who admit to treating patients while they were; a medical technician who infected at least 46 patients with hepatitis after injecting himself with their pain medicine and refilling their syringes with saline and a selection of other hospital horror-stories. It’s estimated that over 100,000 medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and technicians actively struggle with prescription addiction. This does not include those who are currently in treatment or recovery for substance abuse.

An Institutional Problem

Research conducted by USA TODAY revealed hundreds of cases in which medical professionals faced disciplinary action for infractions related to their drug abuse. The article also highlights a lack of consistency in oversight, regulation and enforcement among medical facilities and failure from states to adopt universal drug-testing requirements. It also chronicled the addictions of several medical practitioners that gravitated toward addiction via legitimate medical conditions and external factors, such as professionals stress. Medical professionals have practically unfettered access to a vast inventory of powerful prescriptions. This combined with limited institutional monitoring has only served to exacerbate this problem.

An Underutilized Resource

Although medication has proven to be an effective and successful tool to prevent alcoholic cravings, only 10% of all patients treated for addiction utilize in their recovery efforts. According to the government’s SAMHSA website there are over 120 studies, involving almost 23,000 participants that demonstrate the efficacy of drugs like Naltrexone in inhibiting reward receptors in the brain to block cravings that lead to relapse. Many facilities are reluctant to administer medication to aid in alcoholism treatment because they’re afraid that patients will just trade one addiction for another. Other treatment professionals have lamented this statistic, claiming that patients should have every resource available to them as they endeavor to recovery from alcohol abuse.

Treatment Professionals Irritated

One of the major sources of frustration from within the treatment community Is the belief that lack of financial opportunity is causing this marketing delay for drugs that could help millions of people. There is little monetary incentive to market drugs such as Naltrexone because they are generic. Many primary care physicians aren’t even aware of these drugs’ benefits.

Patients Wait for Improved Health Measures under Obamacare

recent article on Philly.com reveals the affordable care act has not had the expected impact in boosting use of mental healthcare services. The legislation’s supporters, as well as many in the medical community, expected a prodigious uptick in patient enrollment due to measures within the bill which are said to provide better access to mental health treatment; initial results have been inconsistent with these projections. Experts claim that it is too early to speculate regarding the bill’s efficacy in expanding mental health treatment, citing that many are actually still learning how to use their plans and levels of eligibility.

The problem is particularly evident in Pennsylvania, where, according to local experts, the reluctance to expand Medicaid is a big part of the problem.

Old Law Hinders New Addiction Treatment Directive

A 50-year-old Medicaid provision could severely impact many low-income patients looking for addiction treatment. Although the Affordable Care Act was forecasted to improve access to addiction and mental health services, a rule established by Medicaid decades ago says that the program will only cover community-based residential programs with 16 beds or fewer. Many facilities are being forced to downsize because of the unforeseen glitch in the law, which was highlighted in a recent NYTimes.com article. 26 states have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, meaning residents can find themselves priced out of quality treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Cost vs. Survival

The article also discusses the alarming heroin surge throughout the United States and how millions of lower-income patients can be left without the care they were promised. In California, 90% of addiction treatment centers are too large for Medicaid reimbursement. According to the article, the rule was written to prevent Medicaid funds from going to in-state psychiatric hospitals. Addiction care experts and prevention advocates are hoping the issue is addressed, citing a definitive and absolute need for many low-income patients to enter some form of residential treatment. It would take an act of Congress to make any changes to the legislation.

More News in the Ongoing Battle against Prescription Addiction

A recent piece on huffingtonpost.com illustrates the tragic reality of prescription drug abuse among teenagers in the United States. The article profiles a teenager who had fallen into Percocet addiction after seemingly benign oral surgery. Her dentist had given her the prescription and she had taken it in a manner consistent with his orders. After her pain subsided, she continued to take the pills because of the numbing feeling they offered. The article also mentions that the CDC has named prescription drug addiction as the worst drug epidemic in United States history.

Addiction Can Happen Quicker than You Might Think

Perhaps the most tragic part of the article is just how quickly and unwittingly teenagers get sucked into prescription abuse. Most of them don’t even realize what is happening until it’s too late and they start to crave pills on a constant basis. This particular profile starts with a teenager rummaging through her family’s personal belongings in search of money or merchandise to sell in order to get high. This is yet another reminder of the importance of education and regulation when it comes to the dispensation of these dangerous medications.

Further Help on the Way for NJ Residents Struggling with Addiction

The New Jersey State Senate has approved a plan that would allocate more resources to treating addiction in the state. The bi-partisan bill was introduced last month as part of a multi-bill legislative package and reflects the collective will of both republicans and democrats to take a new approach to substance abuse prevention efforts. It comes on the heels of Governor Christie announcing an additional $12 million for substance abuse treatment. New Jersey has been battling a fierce opiate addiction problem for years, and both sides agree that treatment is a better solution than enforcement in combatting the problem.

How Will the New Laws Help?

The measures include the formation of a task force commissioned by the governor to spearhead recovery efforts and work to remove the stigma associated with addiction. They also call for mandated reporting of overdoses by healthcare providers to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System for detailed reporting and education purposes. Additional provisions include a mandatory annual report from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services; the creation of sober-living houses at four New Jersey Universities and the creation of a three-year pilot program to give eligible inmates access to addiction treatment programs. Designated prisons will also be required to dispense addiction treatment medication to recovering prisoners.

A Life-changing Moment that Sparked Recovery

UK artist Jamie Scanlon recently told the Huffington Post[1] about the role that art played in his recovery from drug addiction. The 37-year-old multimedia artist also credited legendary British graffiti artist Banksy with inspiring him to get well. Scanlon began creating art as a child but stopped when he went to college, during which he began to engage in casual drug use. The trauma he experienced when his two friends were murdered in the same year fueled his drug abuse and sparked a ten-year cycle of addiction, during which he stopped creating art altogether. In 2009 he attended a Banksy exhibit, an experience the artist defines as a critical moment which inspired him to rekindle his love for art and use it as a weapon against his drug addiction.

Unforeseen Rewards

Since replacing the buzz of substance abuse with that of the creative process, Scanlon has vastly improved his life and launched his career into previously unimagined territories. His story reminds us of the power and strength that people often draw from their passion and creativity. It also makes the case for addiction treatment facilities to offer art-based therapy programs to help patients heal and explore their abilities to express themselves in other, healthier ways without having to self-medicate. Scanlon is one of thousands of patients recovering from drugs and/or alcohol that have experienced healing through the power and significance of art.

Transcending All Skill-Levels: The Benefits of Art Therapy

The American Art Therapy Association has defined art therapy as a practice in which patients, facilitated by an art therapist, use artistic media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Participants engage in artistic expression in a variety of ways to articulate their feelings, including painting and sketching, depending upon the resources available at their facility. Some of the primary clinical benefits include:

  • Enabling patients to confront their trauma and stress via a safe and cathartic activity
  • Giving patients who aren’t particularly verbal an outlet to access their voice and express their emotions
  • Giving therapists advanced insight into their patients’ emotional state by examining recurring symbols and characters in their art
  • Bringing dormant or hidden emotional issues to light in a clear and tangible way
  • Reducing stress and anxiety through the actual act of art-making

A recent study from the University of Georgia found that art therapy was effective in decreasing denial, reducing opposition to alcoholism treatment, providing an outlet for communication and lessening shame.[2]

Impact on Treatment Outcomes

The American Art Therapy Association has compiled ample data to indicate art therapy’s clinical efficacy in treating a range of mental health issues[3]. These issues range from substance abuse disorder to autism spectrum disorder to cognitive impairment to ADD and ADHD. The use of art therapy dates back to the 1940s and has been further developed and innovated since its inception. To date, there are thousands of art therapy practitioners working in the United States. In order to be certified, one must possess a Master’s Degree or higher.

Integrating Art therapy Into Your Care Program

If you feel as through your loved one will benefit from art therapy, whether they have an artistic background or not, be sure to choose a facility that offers this type of therapy and can fully elaborate on the scope of their program. It’s also important to remember that art therapy, along with all other supplemental modalities, must be offered in combination with detox and individualized counseling, as reiterated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.[4]

If you’re interested in finding an addiction care facility offers art therapy, contact the National Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Information Center today. Our friendly and knowledgeable representatives will identify your loved one’s care needs and work to find you the best possible treatment option.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/jps-banksy-_n_6582264.html?ir=Good+News

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4268880

[3] http://www.arttherapy.org/upload/OutcomeSingSubjectStudies2007.pdf

[4] http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment