People are Afraid to Call 9-1-1 After a Drug Overdose Because They Don’t Want to Be Arrested

Earlier today, Stephanie Bongiovi, daughter of acclaimed rocker Jon Bon Jovi, was arrested in Kirkland, NY after overdosing on heroin. A student at Hamilton College, Bongiovi was found by emergency personnel in her dorm room, unresponsive but alive. When police arrived, they arrested Bongiovi and another Hamilton student, Ian Grant, for allegedly possessing small amounts of heroin and marijuana. Now Bongiovi is recovering in a hospital, but she and Grant must return to court at a later date to face criminal charges for drug possession.

Bongiovi’s story made news because her father is a famous star, but thousands die every year without any attention at all. Accidental overdose has become a crisis in New York and around the country as the number of overdose deaths from both legal and illegal drugs has skyrocketed; there are more accidental deaths from overdose than from car accidents. Families are being devastated by the loss of loved ones to preventable overdose deaths.

Fortunately, most these deaths are preventable — if emergency services are contacted soon enough. But unlike Ian Grant, most people don’t call for help when witnessing an overdose. Why? Studies show that fear of arrest and stigma of drug use keeps people from calling 911. In short, most people don’t call 911 because they’re afraid of getting a ride in the back of a cop car instead of an ambulance. As a result, thousands of people lose their lives each year because they don’t get the emergency help they need.

by Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

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Memory Deficits Predict Schizophrenic Severity

Memory-related deficits and abnormal brain activity may predict disease severity in patients with schizophrenia, according to new imaging research.

In a small study of adults with first-episode schizophrenia who underwent functional magnetic resonance imagine (fMRI), those who did not achieve remission after 1 year of treatment displayed increased activity in the brain’s left posterior cingulate area when performing a task that involved encoding related images compared with the participants who did achieve remission.

In addition, those who did not achieve remission showed an overall worse ability to encode related images and worse overall recognition memory than those who did achieve remission.

Led by first author Michael Bodnar, PhD, the investigators note that “This is the first study to identify differential neural activation” between subgroups with this disorder.

“Memory problems are consistently associated with poor clinical and functional outcome in schizophrenia spectrum disorders.”

by Deborah Brauser

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Mental Disorders And Evolution: What Would Darwin Say About Schizophrenia?

It’s a question that’s baffled evolutionary theorists for decades: if survival of the fittest is the rule, how have the genes that contribute to serious, debilitating mental disorders survived?

It’s been shown that people who suffer from schizophrenia, autism, anorexia and other disorders are less likely to have children. And yet, the genes that cause these disorders aren’t going away. In fact, some of the disorders appear to be becoming more common. Evolutionary theory wouldn’t predict that.

Scientists have a few theories that attempt to explain this paradox.

One is that the genetic mutations that cause these disorders occurred relatively recently, so not enough generations have passed to allow the evolutionary process to weed them out.

Another theory is that the genetic mutations that cause a disorder in one person somehow make that person’s sibling more likely to have children. In a situation like that, the mutation offers a net benefit to a person’s family.


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Blood Test to Diagnose Major Depression in Teens Promising

A panel of transcriptomic markers in blood distinguishes teenagers who have major depressive disorder (MDD) from those who do not have the disorder, new research shows.

Further, another panel of partially overlapping blood biomarkers differentiated teens who had MDD together with anxiety disorder from those who only had MDD.

“This is the first step toward having a clinical diagnostic test for early-onset major depression,” study investigator Eva E. Redei, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, told Medscape Medical News.

“Should larger studies confirm and extend our findings, it could also lead to development of different individualized treatment strategies,” she added.

“Despite considerable efforts, there are still no valid, reliable and feasible peripheral/blood biomarkers that can diagnose MDD, classify MDD subtypes and measure treatment response, even in adult-onset MDD. Our research is unique in the attempt to discover a biomarker panel for early-onset MDD, a more severe disorder than adult onset,” the researchers note in their report.

by Megan Brooks

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New Research Stresses Potential Health Dangers of “Bath Salts”

NIDA research published in a recent issue of Neuropsychopharmacology shows that MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone), a synthetic chemical commonly found in the drugs referred to as “bath salts,” is potentially more dangerous than cocaine based on testing in rodents. In this study, MDPV prolonged the effects of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, and produced hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, and increased blood pressure.

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–National Institute of Drug Abuse

Helping Kids and Parents After an Emergency–Sesame Street

Disasters happen: hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, terrorism etc. Emergencies can be overwhelming, particularly for young children. Things can change suddenly, and maybe drastically. But even in the most difficult circumstances, you can find strength and resilience within your family and community.

Understandably, your first priority is keeping your family safe. However, after the event, your comfort and support can significantly help your child and your whole family. There are simple ways you can soothe and reassure one another. Through your routines, you can bring a sense of calm into your lives. To help adults and children cope with disasters, Sesame Street developed Here for Each Other, a resource that includes tips, ideas, and activities. In these pages, you’ll find ways to talk with your child about what happened while remaining hopeful for better things to come. With this information you can create a comfortable and caring environment, no matter where you are, even when you’re not surrounded by your own familiar things.

Your furry Sesame friends are here to help you and your child through this challenging time.

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Current Addiction Theories Don’t Explain the Facts

Ask 10 Americans what addiction is and what causes it and you might get at least 10 answers. Some will insist addiction is a failure of morality or a spiritual weakness, a sin and a crime by people who won’t take responsibility for their behavior. If addicts want to self-destruct, let them. It’s their fault; they choose to abuse.

For the teetotaler and politicians, it’s a self-control problem; for sociologists, poverty; for educators, ignorance. Ask some psychiatrists or psychologists and you’re told that personality traits, temperament, and “character” are at the root of addictive “personalities.” Social-learning and cognitive-behavior theorists will tell you it’s a case of conditioned response and intended or unintended reinforcement of inappropriate behaviors. The biologically oriented will say it’s all in the genes and heredity; anthropologists that it’s culturally determined. And Dan Quayle will blame it on the breakdown of family values.

The most popular “theory,” however, is that addictive behaviors are diseases. In this view, an addict, like a cancer patient or a diabetic, either has it or does not have it. Popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous, the disease theory holds that addictions are irreversible, constitutional, and altogether abnormal and that the only appropriate treatment is total avoidance of the alcohol or other substance, lifelong abstinence, and constant vigilance.

Absolving The Diseased

The problem with all of these theories and models is that they lead to control measures doomed to failure by mixing up the process of addiction with its impact. Worse, from the scientific standpoint, they don’t hold up to the tests of observation, time, and consistent utility. They don’t explain much and they don’t account for a lot. For example:

  • Not all drugs of abuse create dependence. LSD and other hallucinogens, caffeine, and tranquilizers are examples. Rats, for example, which can be easily addicted to heroin and cocaine just like humans, “just can’t appreciate a psychedelic experience,” notes Childers. “The same is true of marijuana and caffeine; it’s hard to get animals to take them. People take these drugs for different reasons, not to feel pleasure.”At the same time, rats and other animals can become physically dependent on alcohol, but won’t seek out alcohol even when they are in convulsions of withdrawal. Says Jack Henningfield, Ph.D., an addiction researcher at the National Institute of Drug Abuse in Baltimore, “we can get rats physically dependent on alcohol and even get them to go through DTs by withdrawing them. But we can’t get them to crave alcohol naturally.” Apparently, they have to learn, to be taught to want it. “Only when we give them the rat equivalent of smoke-filled rooms, soft jazz, and other rewards will they seek out alcohol.”
  • Some substances with dearly addictive properties are almost universally used and socially acceptable. Giving up coffee and colas containing caffeine can yield rapid heart beats, sweating, irritability, and headaches—markers of withdrawal.
  • People can experience withdrawal syndromes with drugs that don’t addict them or make them physically or psychologically dependent. Postsurgical morphine is always withdrawn gradually in the hospital, but most people who get morphine still undergo so-called white flu—flu-like symptoms after they leave the hospital. They are actually undergoing withdrawal symptoms, but they have not become dependent on or addicted to the morphine. There is also no evidence that terminal cancer patients in severe pain get “high” on heavy doses of morphine, although they do become dependent.
  • Some drugs of abuse produce tolerance and some don’t. Heroin addicts need more and more of it to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine produces no tolerance, yet most would say cocaine is far more addictive because craving accelerates to sometimes lethal doses. If permitted, lab rats will continue to take cocaine until they die.
  • Some people, notably celebrities, check in regularly at the Betty Ford Center to overcome addiction to painkillers, alcohol, and barbiturates. Yet one of the most famous studies on Vietnam veterans shows that very few of those who returned addicted to heroin stayed addicted. Lots of planning went on for intensive treatment for them. But on follow-up back home, their rate of continuing addiction dropped to levels no different than those of the general population, despite their exposure to lots of drugs, stress, high-risk environments, youth, and other risk factors that predicted a serious addiction epidemic. They had no trouble for the most part leaving their addictions behind in the jungles, while in the U.S., relapses are legendary and widespread.For decades, we’ve sent heroin addicts to Lexington, Kentucky, for treatment in an isolated treatment facility; the idea was to remove them for long periods from their conducive environments. Almost all got “clean” and stayed that way, but when released, still sought out their old haunts and relapsed. Yet the majority of people living in drug-infested cultures never get addicted.
  • The children of alcoholics have a much higher risk of alcohol abuse than children of nonalcoholics. Some studies show that alcoholics have an enzyme abnormality related to alcohol activity that doesn’t seem to exist in people who’ve never had a drink. Yet some people who are classic alcoholics can and do learn to drink moderately and safely. Others quit even when they know they can drink moderately.

Read full article by Joann Ellison Rodgers, Psychology Today

British Labour Leader: Verbal Attacks on Mentally Ill Similar to Racism and Homophobia

“There are still people who abuse the privilege of their celebrity to insult, demean and belittle others, such as when Janet Street-Porter says that depression is ‘the latest must-have accessory’ promoted by the ‘misery movement’.
“Jeremy Clarkson at least acknowledges the tragedy of people who end their own life but then goes on to dismisses them as ‘Johnny Suicides’ whose bodies should be left on train tracks rather than delay journeys.
“Just as we joined the fight against racism, against sexism and against homophobia, so we should join the fight against this form of intolerance. It is not acceptable, it costs Britain dear, and it has to change.”
He will liken the failure to tackle mental health as akin to the failure in the past to tackle public health issues such as sanitation and smoking.
Miliband will claim mental health is not just an issue for the health service, saying it means bringing together everyone in Britain to acknowledge, understand and confront this national challenge. The total cost of mental ill health in business is £20bn, he will contend.
The taskforce is likely to look at what can be done to revive the increasing access to the psychological therapies programme that Labour claims is being undermined by cuts enforced on primary care trusts.
The commitment to rewrite the NHS constitution is potentially expensive, but Miliband will argue that the cost of leaving mental illness untreated is higher.
Full Article by Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

Karen Easter and Dr. Mark Munetz Win 2012 Torrey Advocacy Commendation

Karen Easter of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Mark Munetz, MD, of Akron, Ohio, have been awarded the Treatment Advocacy Center’s 2012 Torrey Advocacy Commendation for their dedication to improving the lives of people with mental illness and treatment law reform. The Torrey Advocacy Commendation recognizes the courage and tenacity of individuals who selflessly advocate – despite criticism and opposition – for the right to treatment for people too severely disabled by mental illness to recognize their own need for care.

karen easterEaster became an activist after a loved one was arrested for behavior resulting from his untreated mental illness. At the time, she lived in one of the few states without an assisted outpatient treatment  (AOT) law. She realized that had AOT been available to her relative, it might have prevented his encounter with the criminal justice system. Since Easter became an advocate, her efforts have resulted in a critical first step toward changing Tennessee’s laws. This year, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill creating a small two-year AOT pilot program in Knoxville, providing access to treatment for people living with untreated severe mental illness.



headshot - dr  mark munetzDr. Munetz, a psychiatrist, has been inspiring stakeholders to come together on mental health issues for many years. He has implemented AOT with widespread support and great success, significantly decreasing hospital admissions in Summit County. Dr. Munetz initiated the Ohio Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence to promote jail diversion alternatives for people with mental illness, one of the many examples of his unwavering dedication to helping all those with severe mental illness, including the most ill and vulnerable. He is currently at the forefront of advocacy for Ohio Senate Bill 350, which encourages the use of AOT as an alternative to incarceration for people living with severe mental illness.

“Karen and Mark have tirelessly dedicated themselves for years to fighting for improvements in the lives of mentally ill persons in their home states of Tennessee and Ohio,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “They exemplify the qualities and achievements the Torrey Advocacy Commendation was established to recognize.”

The Torrey Advocacy Commendation is named for E. Fuller Torrey, MD, Treatment Advocacy Center founder, board member and life-long advocate for those with the most severe mental illness.

Making Therapy Affordable: The Open Path Psychotherapy Collective

We know that mental health care is expensive. For most it’s more expensive than they can afford. I didn’t begin to fully experience the disparity of wealth in our country until I set out to build my private psychotherapy practice six years ago.

I launched my practice with some naïveté: I wanted to help as many people as possible. I took on clients at a low fee. But gradually reality dawned: I couldn’t afford to take on too many low-fee clients. I just wasn’t going to be able to provide for my family if I did.

One night a woman called me in crisis. As we talked I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to help her: My waiting list was already too long. Heart sinking, I referred her to the mental health agency in my county. I felt like a cog in a system I didn’t embrace. She would probably encounter delays and uncertain care there: Very likely she made too much money to qualify for their services.

It was a pivotal moment for me. And I had too many other moments like it. I started to think about how to solve the problem. I looked at my local farmer’s market. If the small farmers in my area could help each other reach the public, why couldn’t therapists in private practice?

We’ve all seen therapists depicted on television shows. They seem harbored in office islands unto themselves. These depictions are almost always oversimplified, but there is something television gets right: Private practices are for the most part private, isolated from each other.

I started to think: What if psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers working privately could band together on the Internet — and make themselves available for low-cost sessions in their local area? I found a wonderful group of therapists already doing this in Boulder, Colo. where I’d received my graduate training. Why not try to do this on a national level?

Read full article by Paul Fugelsand, Huffington Post