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Mental health and substance abuse services: Continuing the battles

Valley Morning Star - 5/14/2017

The "War" rages on as we continue the battles to provide needed services to those individuals and families afflicted with Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders. Faced with a rising population in our Nation, State, and Community; the numbers of individuals in need of services also continue to rise.

In this new national and State Congress, the legislative battles are now in full swing; appropriating and administering the funding necessary to provide services are all in play; as are the planning of programs in our State and local community in providing the direct services. Everyone in the interest of their state regions, communities, and organizations; are most concerned how the monies will be divvied up, if the appropriate funding will be available.

At no time since the 1970s have we seen such an upswing in the abuse of ethanol beverage and illicit substances as we are now experiencing in our nation. The abuse of opioids, and the number of deaths from opioid use is at epidemic proportions in many States within our Nation.

With the advent of the five states and our Nation's Capitol, whom enacted legislation for the recreational use of Cannabis; and clearly two-thirds of the United States passing medical marijuana laws, the latest news is that there has been an alarming increase in Cannabis Use Disorders in those States (as my colleagues and I predicted would happen).

In addition, the increase in the illicit consumption of ethanol beverage among our youth is alarming. Related to the Mental Health in our Nation, the rates of suicide have also reached alarming, and unacceptable, epidemic levels.

In this article I wish to address the uptake in Cannabis, Alcohol, Opioids, and suicide. These are major, most serious, contemporary issues in our society; issues that have drawn a lot of attention?particularly toward the prevention and treatment communities, as well as some legislators.

According to a recent study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center of New York City, and released through the Journal of the American Medical Society (JAMA), reported that illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased in those states that passed medical marijuana and recreational use laws than those that did not. Their analyzed data pointed out that "holding population size and demographic distributions constant, an additional 1.1 million adult illicit cannabis users and an additional 500,000 adults with a DSM-IV diagnosed cannabis disorder may be attributable to medical marijuana law passage."

This study echoes the conclusion of at least two studies conducted in the last few months by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Without going into a lengthy dissertation about the study, the researchers lead, Dr. Deborah Hasin, relates that, "Americans increasingly see marijuana as a harmless substance.

While some can use marijuana without harm, it does have risks, including the risk for cannabis use disorder and its symptoms. The public should take this into account when making personal decisions about use, and when voting on new marijuana laws. Health providers should take this into account when working with patients. Policy makers should take this into account when considering new legislation so that if new laws are passed, the laws can incorporate regulations to reduce the likelihood of unintended heath consequences from increased use."

The increase use of Ethanol beverage among our youth continues to be a major problem of concern as well. According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse (NIAA), clearly one-half of children attending grades 7 through 12 of public school have drank alcohol. Alcohol beverage consumption has also increased among college age youth. Studies by the NIAA also conclude that as much as 40 percfent of youth who consume alcohol before age 15 develop alcoholism as adults.

It is my contention is that not only peer pressure plays a role in alcohol consumption by youth, but also adult behaviors associated with the abuse of alcohol play a large factor in this chosen behavior of youth?they follow adults as "role models," which at times is dysfunctional in nature?the abuse of alcohol being just one facet of behavior.

The most critical substance abuse problem of our society at this time, is in regards to the Opioid epidemic which is gripping our country? the single most pressing substance abuse problem we currently face?particularly so due to the vast amounts of individuals overdosing on Opioids. As I wrote to you in not less than two articles on the Opioid Epidemic last fall, the Center for Disease Control related that almost 35,000 overdose deaths have occurred in the U.S. since 2015. Our current President has budgeted $675 million to combat drug trafficking and the Opioid Epidemic, more than $175 Million than the previous administration.

Additionally, he has called for $500 million to address treatment and prevention efforts as carried out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). How much our State will receive from this, and how the State will utilize these funds is yet to be determined.

The other issue that needs to be addressed in our Nation is that of Suicide. Since the turn of this century, the rates for suicide have increased at a dramatic rate, most particularly has been the spike among adolescents and young adults; suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among our young people. The incidents of suicides have climbed for a number of years, with current estimates the rates now stand at approximately 13 suicides for every 100,000 of the population.

The elderly population, particularly those over the age of 75 has the highest rates of suicide in our nation; at around 39 per 100,000; followed by the rates of Army active duty and discharged Veterans which have increased to 30 per 100,000 (the VA reports that 20 Veterans commit suicide everyday). The VA is currently doing an excellent job in addressing the major problems of PTSD and suicide among our Veterans. An increase in Mental Health funding in this area has also been budgeted for and sorely needed.

These major contemporary problems involving Substance Abuse and Mental Health issues are paramount. It is most positive to note that the current Presidential administration is taking an aggressive stance on these issues (although I am aware that many of his efforts are called into question), and it is my hope that our Congress, State, County, and Local Governments will support him in these efforts and follow suit?that they all will be most willing to continue the battles.

Until next time, Stay Healthy My Friends!


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