I Have A Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and Lance’s Mom

January 21, 2013

Today is Martin Luther King Day and I wanted to honor Dr. King’s memory and talk a bit about an ordinary Mom’s dreams, a Mom who wants to change the world – to educate people about addiction and mental illness. Twenty-nine years ago, my dream came true and I gave birth to Lance, a beautiful baby boy.  He had ten fingers, ten toes and seemed perfect in every way.  Fast forward to about 2002, a family of four boys and a journey through the world of drug addiction and mental illness.  My dreams turned to nightmares. I never dreamed we would enter into a world I knew nothing about: addiction and later, mental illness….  Without a known family history of addiction and mental illness, these issues were not in my realm of consciousness.  Be that as it may, I vowed to do anything I could to save my firstborn son who was smart, athletic, popular, the one everyone looked up to and idolized – until our world crumbled.  Today, my dreams are different than they were 29 years ago but I am happy to say they are filled with gratitude, faith and pride. My son’s mental disorder is stable and he is about to celebrate three years of recovery from substance abuse, a true miracle.   I encourage you to hold on to your dreams and although they may materialize differently than imagined, we can still find gratitude, peace and serenity. It may not be easy but if I can do it, anyone can!

In memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have dreams, keep dreaming and never give up until the miracle happens.

A Vaccine to Curb Addicts’ Highs

New research shows that our immune system can mute the effects of cocaine and other stimulant drugs.
The idea of using the body’s immune system to combat the effects of addictive drugs goes back to animal studies conducted in the early 1970s, but the first evidence that a vaccine could help people with cocaine addiction didn’t emerge until 2009. In a groundbreaking clinical trial, Thomas Kosten of Baylor College of Medicine and his colleagues tested a vaccine that combines molecules of cocaine with a harmless component of cholera. Sensing what appears to be an emerging infection, the body generates an immune response to the cholera that extends to the cocaine. At the end of the trial, patients whose bodies generated a strong immune response to the vaccine had almost 30% more cocaine-free drug tests than did patients who generated a weak response or who received a placebo.

—Dr. Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and a former senior policy adviser in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Wall Street Journal

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Lance: The Long Road to Recovery

January 15th

Every day is a struggle, do I get high or do I not get high?  This entails everything I have ever worked for.  Would you throw that away to spend a night with the devil?  Ever since I got clean I have gotten back my friends and family, sanity and a few odd and end things.  With all this on my plate, every morning I choose the large cup of coffee over a bag of cocaine for the last 2 years and 11 months.  I almost threw away my clean time but by the grace of G-d I will have 3 years clean on February 11th.  Why does G-d give us a choice to make?  The answer is very simple, for every reason in the world you stay clean, but I have learned to believe the devil was the test.  G-d created her to give us options.  Do I make a left or do I make a right?  I finally chose right!  The only reason I ever got high was to self medicate, to heal my pain and sorrow, but most importantly my mental illness was what really was bothering me and drove me to the drugs.  I know that if you choose right life’s miracles will come to you.  I am not promising you the sun, the moon and stars but you will be free from your sickness a/k/a addiction, and all kinds of mental disorders that stem from the wrath of drugs.  My drug of choice was ecstasy.  I thought it was the closest feeling to heaven.  But I was wrong! G-d did not make heaven in a pill form.  It’s unfathomable today what I believe heaven is.  It could be the ultimate relief of not getting high and experiencing happiness in life, whether it is the birds chirping on a nice day, piece of mind, or a sunny day on the beach.  Materials things would include, the birth of a child, a wife, house and money.  I made the right choice today; I believe so strongly that one day a higher power will pay me back, not necessarily in luxury but in serenity and peace.  If you are struggling with schizophrenia like me, there is a better way of life. You can always count on your belief that this too shall pass but if you have a mental illness, it usually doesn’t without the proper help.  My disorder took me to places you can only imagine, but the story is true. This is part of my story and my struggle, how about yours?

Lots of love,

Lance Sheena

The Top Psychoactive Drug Story of 2012: Bath Salts

Every year odd drugs get their fair share of ink, but none in 2012 received more attention than the deceptively named drugs called “Bath Salts”. Articles about these drugs and their effects (or alleged effects, i.e. zombie cannibalism) were all over the place, so in this one we’re going to get right to the point. Bath salts are dangerous for chiefly two reasons, and neither have anything to do with addiction or hallucinations.

The first reason is dosage, and the second is sleep deprivation.

Before addressing each of those in more detail, let’s quickly go over what bath salts are and are not, and how they affect the brain.

First, the name “bath salts” doesn’t refer to any single drug, but rather a group of substances with similar chemical properties. Most varieties contain either mephedrone or methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). Both drugs are related to khat, an organic stimulant found in the Middle East and East African countries. Khat is illegal in the US because it contains cathinone, a Schedule 1 controlled substance according to the DEA.

Neither of these drugs are new; mephedrone has been bouncing around laboratories since the 1920s, MDPV since the late 1960s. Recreational use of the drugs is relatively new, dating back just a decade or so. Mephedrone is a stimulant and MDPV is both a stimulant and psychoactive drug. The qualifier “psychoactive” means that the drug crosses the blood-brain barrier and causes changes in neurochemical function, resulting in amplifying effects on mood, thought, perception and behavior.

by David DiSalvo, Psychology Today

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Link Between Pot, Psychosis Goes Both Ways in Kids

Marijuana (cannabis) use may be linked to the development of psychotic symptoms in teens – but the reverse could also be true: psychosis in adolescents may be linked to later pot use, according to a new Dutch study.

“We have focused mainly on temporal order; is it the chicken or the egg? As the study shows, it is a bidirectional relationship,” wrote the study’s lead author Merel Griffith-Lendering, a doctoral candidate at Leiden University in The Netherlands, in an email to Reuters Health.

Previous research established links between marijuana and psychosis, but scientists questioned whether pot use increased the risk of mental illness, or whether people were using pot to ease their psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

“What is interesting in this study is that both processes are going on at the same time,” said Dr. Gregory Seeger, medical director for addiction services at Rochester General Hospital in upstate New York.

by Andrew Seaman, Reuters Health

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Adasuve Inhalant Approved for Agitation in Bipolar, Schizophrenia

Adasuve (loxapine) Inhalation Powder was approved late last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of agitation in bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia in adults.

Adasuve combines a proprietary delivery system with the antipsychotic drug, loxapine. The Staccato delivery system is a hand-held inhaler that delivers a drug aerosol to the deep lung that results in rapid systemic delivery and absorption of a drug, similar to an asthma inhaler. Adasuve is manufactured by Alexza Pharmaceuticals.

Adasuve (loxapine) Inhalation Powder comes in a 10 mg form.

Agitation, according to the company’s news release, is a serious problem that can present in a number of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder. Of the estimated 3.2 million patients treated for schizophrenia or bipolar I disorder in the U.S., about 90 percent suffer from some type of agitation in their lifetime. The agitation can be due to the natural course of underlying disease or because of non-compliance with chronic medication. Most patients average 11 to 12 episodes of agitation each year.

By PsychCentral

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Observing People with Mental Health Issues in Custody Encouraged a Copper to Start an Award-Winning Blog

Michael Brown: beyond the call of duty

The blog was initially conceived a year ago as an attempt to provide an online space where police officers could access clear, informed advice on how to deal with incidents involving people with mental health difficulties. Brown describes it as “by a cop interested in mental health issues, for cops who have to deal with mental health incidents”.

“It might be people who maybe present a risk to themselves or [are] expressing suicidal ideas. Or [a situation] where some kind of emergency intervention is needed,” Brown says of the kind of incident a police officer might encounter.

He refers to officers as “street-corner psychiatrists”, who are often first at a scene when a person might need expert medical attention from mental health professionals. Brown says it is “essential” that police officers are equipped to cope. Providing an online resource that officers feel happy to consult is, he suggests, one way of helping that happen. With this in mind, the blog is packed with more than 200 articles touching on issues ranging from the use of physical force by officers to the prevalence of mental health problems within the force itself. Alongside these are practical tools such as an FAQs section and digested guides to complex aspects of mental health legislation.

The fact that mental health problems can be extremely complex and that symptoms might not be obvious to an officer arriving at the scene makes it a confounding area, Brown argues. Add to this that mental health legislation seems opaque and perplexing to many officers, and it is understandable that some feel out of their depth.

by Mary O’Hara, The Guardian

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Persistence & The Serenity Prayer, Lance’s New Year’s Message

December 31, 2012

I am so grateful I no longer use drugs. My drug habit was “the nail in the coffin” for my Schizophrenia. After 5 trips to the hospital I still persevered to get clean and well. I love my life and I try every day to keep going strong. I am grateful for my support group for not giving up on me and myself for persisting.  After 10 years and 3 rehabs, 5 hospitalizations and a homeless mess, I came back to life. I needed strength and confidence to leave the hospital and make it on the streets of New York. Every day I wake up in the morning, living progressively gets better. Every day I thank G-d for giving me back my soul. I will always have my schizoaffective disorder but I still thrive and shoot for excellence.  Slowly but surely, I progress to be a better person and productive member of society. I try to give hope to others and myself. Every day I wake up I know my disease did not get the best of me or any of my supporters. I know my sickness actually affected all my supporters but most of all, it affected my family. My aunt and my mother told me once “We are all in this together!”

“G-d grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Lance Sheena

Helpful Hints about Schizophrenia for Family Members and Others

People with schizophrenia often encounter challenges when it comes to their friends and family. Family often try and cope with someone who has schizophrenia for a period of time, but can become frustrated by their seeming lack of progress in treatment or staying in treatment altogether. A family’s emotional support may wane, and some families cut off all contact with their schizophrenic son, daughter or sibling.

Friends can also not understand a person with schizophrenia’s experiences, and quickly lose interest in continuing the friendship when a person with schizophrenia deteriorates or drops out of treatment. The most common complaint amongst friends and family members of a person with schizophrenia is not understanding how to help them, or give them continued, long-term support that help keeps them from becoming homeless or unemployed.

A person’s support system may come from several sources, including the family, a professional residential or day program provider, shelter operators, friends or roommates, professional case managers, churches and synagogues, and others. Because many patients live with their families, the following discussion frequently uses the term “family.” However, this should not be taken to imply that families ought to be the primary support system.


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I Had to Accept My Disease and Believe That I Was Really Sick

I woke up one day with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I could not fathom that just like being an addict in Narcotics Anonymous, I also had to learn to believe and accept my disease as a paranoid schizophrenic. “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable”.  Please believe it. I know from all of my years of drinking and drugging, self-medicating, I have a lot worse problems than just being a drug addict.

I had to accept my disease and believe that I was really sick. With Narcotics Anonymous meetings and treating my sickness with medication and doctors it has been a long 2 years and 10 months of clean time. Being in and out of hospital situations, my friends, my family, and myself doctors, social workers and other addicts helped to keep me going.  Drugs make my disease so much worse. I would never make it not accepting I have schizophrenia. I just wanted to write that down and share it with someone who is sick like me.

Lance Sheena