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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Senior Acohol Use in SLO County and Beyond

alcohol use
During National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (January), The Haven at Pismo shared some startling data related to alcohol use. Fatal alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) is on the rise in the United States. What’s more, 25- to 34-year-olds succumbing to ALD almost tripled between 1999 and 2016. The takeaway is that drinking can do irreparable damage in a short duration; unhealthy relationships with alcohol can steal a life before an attempt at recovery is made.

Heavy drinking and the practice of binge drinking is common among many young adults. Keg parties and “blackouts” are a part of many twenty-something-year-olds’ lives. Binge drinking is often defined as women consuming four or more drinks in about two hours, and men consuming five or more.

While most people will curtail their drinking as they transition from college to the workforce, a statistically significant proportion will not. Those who continue to drink hazardously are bound to experience adverse effects. However, risky alcohol consumption is not merely a young person’s problem, nor is binge drinking; older Americans struggle too.

As more and more “baby boomers” transition into retirement across the country and throughout San Luis Obispo County, some seniors are fostering new relationships with alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that baby boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964 – are binge drinking at an alarming rate. What is even more concerning, the NIAAA says that AUD is on the rise among this demographic as well.

The most recent available data indicate that an estimated 2.5 million older Americans are living with alcohol or substance use problems, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).


Older Adults Struggle with Alcohol in SLO County and Beyond

SLO County Addiction Treatment
When people who battle substance abuse from a young age don’t find treatment, their disease often results in premature death. As a result, older demographics make up only a small portion of the number of individuals seeking treatment each year. However, with more older Americans drinking additional significant amounts than they ever did before, some are developing alcohol use disorder.

How does one make it through their whole adult life, only to form an unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol as a senior? First off, baby boomers or children of the 1960s on, are known to have reasonably liberal outlooks about substance use, when compared to other generations.

As people age and settle into their golden years they can be struck by the loss of close friends, loved ones, and spouses. Idle time (boredom) in combination with grief is a recipe for loneliness resulting in a desire to anesthetize. And, deteriorating health conditions add to those factors. Substance use may alleviate some of the pain that comes with aging, but it’s is guaranteed to bring about new problems.

"You become more sensitive to [alcohol and drugs] as you get older," Colin Quennell, program supervisor for the County of San Luis Obispo Health Agency's Drug and Alcohol Services Department. "It can make health conditions worse."

Even though more and more seniors are becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol, Quennell points out that only 43 out of the thousands of clients who went to treatment in SLO County from January through August of 2018 were seniors, according to New Times. Recovery is possible for older adults, and it is likely that more and more will seek it in the coming years. Quennell spoke at the SLO County Veterans Memorial Building recently; he shared that he has a family member who got sober in his 80’s.

"There's no age limit for a person starting out getting clean and sober," said Quennell. 

Nancy Gottlieb, clinical director for the Santa Barbara branch of the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, serving the California Central Coast, stresses the importance of primary care physicians (PCP) screening their elderly patients for alcohol and substance use problems. While older Americans are relatively liberal when it comes to drinking, they are still susceptible to the stigma that looms over addiction. Gottlieb says that they may not be willing to contact an addiction treatment center for help, but they may respond honestly to questions from their PCP.

"There's a big percentage of people who will answer honestly and get help if you just ask," Gottlieb said. "So there's been a real push to get primary care physicians to ask these kinds of questions."


SLO County Addiction Treatment

If you are a senior who has an unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol, then The Haven at Pismo can help. Our Central Coast private, addiction recovery center is equipped to treat men and women, old and young adults alike. Please contact us today to learn how we can help you live a life free from drugs and alcohol.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dispelling Myths About Alcohol Use

alcohol use
Alcohol is the most heavily used mind-altering substance on the planet. More than 88,000 Americans lose their lives to alcohol-related causes each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that over 15 million Americans struggle with an alcohol use disorder or AUD; however, less than eight percent of those people receive treatment.

Several studies conducted over the years have linked alcohol use to myriad, life-threatening health problems. Such conditions include, but are not limited to:
  • Liver Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Breast, Mouth, Throat, Esophagus, Liver, and Colon Cancer
The above list presents the physical problems that can arise from drinking. However, the substance can wreak havoc on the brain as well. Researchers associate several mental health problems with alcohol use, including addiction, anxiety, and depression. Despite experts agreeing unequivocally that alcohol use, in any amount, carries inherent risks, myths about the substance persist. It is of the utmost importance that we work to dispel some the common misconceptions about alcohol. Particularly the idea that using alcohol moderately has health benefits.


No Safe Level of Alcohol Consumption

A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 found that nearly 3 million deaths globally can be attributed to alcohol each year; and, about 1 in 10 deaths is linked to alcohol use among people ages 15 to 49. The authors conclude that there's no "safe" level of alcohol consumption.

"The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising," the researchers wrote in their paper, published in the journal The Lancet. "Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none." 

The massive study did find a slight correlation between moderate drinking and reduced risk of ischemic heart disease. However, the researchers acknowledge that the health risks of alcohol eclipse such benefits.

The authors of a new study point out that the previous studies confirming the benefit – alcohol can protect against ischemic heart disease – are faulty. Support data for the above finding usually involved people ages 50 and older; it fails to consider the people who have perished from alcohol use at younger ages, LiveScience reports. The observation is important because one-third of deaths from alcohol consumption occur among people ages 20 to 49; and, the authors write that "deceased persons cannot be enrolled in" medical studies.

The research, published last month in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, shows that only 4.5 percent of estimated deaths said to be prevented by alcohol consumption occurred among those ages 20 to 49, compared with 80 percent among those ages 65 and older. The study authors, led by Dr. Timothy Naimi of Boston Medical Center's Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit, conclude:

“Because of premature mortality, alcohol-mortality associations based on cohort studies may underestimate negative health consequences compared with those observed among the general population.”

California Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Alcohol use disorder is a treatable mental health condition, and addiction recovery is possible for you or a loved one. The more extended treatment is postponed, the worse a person’s symptoms become; alcoholism is a progressive, life-threatening disease with no known cure. With professional assistance, however, men and women can learn how to manage their illness and lead a productive life in recovery.

We invite you to contact The Haven at Pismo to learn more about our sanctuary for those seeking recovery. Our dedicated team of addiction professionals can help you find physical restoration, spiritual reawakening, and freedom from chemical dependency. You are welcome to submit a confidential online request or call 805.202.3440 today to speak with a recovery counselor.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Study Links Fruits and Veggies to Better Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health is a big part of recovery, especially if you’re dealing with a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness. Your mental health is crucial for whole-body healing – it’s one part in the process of healing your mind, body and spirit for lasting sobriety.

There are many things you can do to safeguard your mental health during recovery – for example, meditation, journaling, exercise and proper rest. And, according to a new study, loading up on fruits and veggies might help, too.

The study: Researchers from the University of Leeds based their study on a smaller 2016 study from Australia that found that eating more fruits and vegetables led to improvements in a person’s psychological well-being. They wanted to determine whether the findings would hold true with a larger pool of study participants, so they evaluated the habits of more than 40,000 individuals from the UK Household Longitudinal Study. The results: The higher fruit and veggie consumption, the higher self-reported rates of mental well-being and life satisfaction.

While the researchers noted that healthy eating can’t replace proper mental health treatment, they did say that “adding just one serving of fruits or vegetables daily may have as many benefits for mental well-being as adding seven to eight walks per month to your physical regimen.”

Eating Better for a Better You
One of the reasons we chose to talk about this study is that March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help people make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits.

It’s the perfect time to commit to small changes in your diet – like eating an extra piece of fruit or side salad with your meal – that can eventually lead to big changes in how you feel and how your body and mind function. You don’t need to overhaul your entire diet, but prioritizing proper nutrition and physical exercise can help assist with the healing process. It can also provide you with increased energy and focus so you’re able to do the hard work of recovery.

In honor of National Nutrition Month, here are a few more healthy eating tips adopted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
  • Balance your plate: A great way to increase your veggie intake is to double up your veggie servings. In general, a healthy, balanced diet should include whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, fiber-rich fruits and veggies and a small amount of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, eggs).
  • Remove energy zappers: Skip the soda, sugary coffee and energy drinks – which can cause energy crashes – and instead opt for water, fat-free or low-fat milk or unsweetened decaf tea.
  • Honor fullness cues: Portion control is an important part of a healthy diet. If your meal carries you five to six hours without hunger pangs, it's likely that you're overeating. Try to eat so you’re comfortably full or not stuffed – this means reaching a 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 (starving) to 10 (painfully full).
  • Don’t skip snacks: The right snack can help keep energy levels high and prevent any cravings. Try to choose snacks with a combo of protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates. Consider an apple with a handful of nuts, or a serving of carrots and string cheese.
Nourish Your Recovery at The Haven
Our staff helps you create dietary patterns that support your physical and mental health and correct any nutritional deficiencies due to years of substance abuse. To learn more about our nutritional education and chef-prepared meals, call us today: 805-202-3440.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Connecting Families to Resources

haven at pismo seminarA family-friendly seminar on Contemporary Principles of Addiction Treatment will be presented by Dr. Michael D. McGee, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of The Haven at Pismo on March 7, 2019 in Arroyo Grande.

This educational support group will be held at CafĂ© Andreini in the village of Arroyo Grande, located at 131 E Branch Street, from 6:00pm-7:30pm on Thursday, March 7th. If you have a loved one suffering from addiction, this is an alternative that will provide you with the knowledge and responses needed to empower yourself and motivate your loved one into seeking treatment.

By providing an expert like Dr. McGee, The Haven of Pismo hopes to connect families with resources aimed towards healing and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction through Dr. McGee’s evidence-based principles of contemporary addiction treatment.

“These principles include a commitment to safe, compassionate and respectful care that is both recovery and discovery oriented,” says Dr. McGee. “This care is patient-centered, network-oriented and sees patients and families through a long-term process of healing and recovery.” Dr. McGee’s CRAFT approach has approximately 70% success rate compared to other approaches.

This seminar is free and open to the public with seating on a first-come, first-serve basis. It will also cover frequently asked questions about recovery support from addiction.

The Haven at Pismo is the only detox and rehab center on the Central Coast of California that provides medically supervised and top-quality care for people needing assistance from substance abuse. The Haven at Pismo specializes in restoring hope and rebuilding lives after the trauma of substance abuse through a five phase program. Dr. McGee is Board Certified in General Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, and Psychosomatic Medicine. He has also directed several treatment programs, conducted government-funded outcomes research and has published in the areas of spirituality, clinical treatment, performance management, care management and health information technology. 

Reserve your seat today! Seating is limited so please RSVP by March 1st. This is a free event but please RSVP to 805-202-3440. For more information about The Haven at Pismo and its resources, visit

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment for Women

alcohol use disorder
In January, during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, we reported that some 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes each year. We also pointed out on our blog that more than 16 million people in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder or AUD.

Those struggling with alcohol use can benefit significantly from seeking help; however, most people never access care. The reasons why people avoid reaching out for help are many; some people don’t think they have a problem, others do not know they do—still, more people fail to access care because of the stigma of addiction. There are other reasons why people are unable to get the help they need, but those mentioned above are some of the most common, the latter cause in particular.

The evidence is clear and overwhelming—addiction is a life-threatening mental illness. Fortunately, treatment exists, and recovery is possible. And still, many remain unwilling or unable to reach out for help, even individuals who have health insurance. The above fact is especially true among women who have insurance coverage, according to a new report from the Research Society on Alcoholism.

“The study confirms what anyone who is in the practice of managing patients with liver disease already knows — that while alcohol cessation treatment programs can improve outcomes, very few patients avail themselves to it,” said Dr. Robert Brown, a hepatologist and director of the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.


More Women Have AUDs, But Few Seek Treatment

Alcohol use disorder can affect men and women alike. While more males contend with the disease than females, the number of women who do too is climbing. High-risk drinking rose almost 60 percent for women from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013, according to research appearing in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Moreover, the rates of women diagnosed with drinking-related cirrhosis increased by 50 percent from 2009 to 2016.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a life-threatening condition; but, addiction treatment and a program of recovery can prevent the disease from worsening. Of 66,053 privately insured female patients, ages 18 to 64, diagnosed with alcohol-associated cirrhosis from 2009 to 2016, only 10 percent of the group received in-person mental health or substance abuse treatment, Healthline reports. Interestingly, people who go to rehab or take medication to prevent relapse are 15 percent less likely to see their cirrhosis worsen, as opposed to those who never receive substance abuse treatment.

Deni Carise, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with expertise in addiction and an Adjunct Clinical Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Psychiatry, says the reason for the gender disparity is attributable to societal and social challenges, according to the article. Carise is in recovery, with more than 30 years clean and sober.

“Women face additional barriers to treatment for substance abuse. They have family pressure not to admit they have a disorder or seek treatment, they generally have less financial freedom, and they tend to have more childcare responsibilities than men, making it harder to get treatment,” said Dr. Carise. She adds that “Effective treatment works, and people can go on to have great lives. The recovery can be so transformative for someone, so we need to keep pushing people to get the care they need.”


Stigma Doesn’t Have to Stand In The Way of Addiction Treatment

Seeking help can change one’s life dramatically. While it can be challenging to admit you have a problem and seek assistance, courage can be found—even in the most despairing of times. At The Haven, we understand how punishing the stigma of addiction can be; and, we know the guilt and shame that can accompany any form of mental illness. However, reaching out for support, considering our gender-specific treatment, and working a program of recovery is not a sign of weakness—it is a marker of strength.

Please contact us to learn how we can help you embark on an unforgettable journey of healing.  

February 25 - March 3, 2019, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness). For more information about how we can change the conversation around food, body image, and eating disorders, please click here! Join the movement, and #ComeAsYouAre, not as you think you should be.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Neuroscientist In Recovery Sheds Light On Addiction

Neuroscience is a fascinating field of study; the findings that derive from research on the mind can save lives. Those who dedicate their careers to developing a more concise understanding of how the brain works, help others find solutions to some science's most puzzling questions. The study of mental illness is no exception. Those in recovery, who began their journey in treatment, have benefited from advancements in neuroscience.

Naturally, taking the requisite steps to become a neuroscientist is a monumental task. Years of education is necessary before one can proudly put the letters PhD behind his or her name. So, those who choose to go into the field, require steadfast dedication to seeing their goal realized. It is also fair to say that people who become qualified to study and provide guidance to patients about mental disease need to steer clear of distractions.

Today, hundreds of millions of people around the globe struggle with mental illness like depression and substance use disorders. But, there are only a handful of individuals studying mental health disorders; and, there is an infinitesimally small number of neuroscientists with personal experience with mental diseases. One such example of the latter is behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychology, Judith Grisel.

Professor Grisel’s experience with drugs and alcohol, beginning at a young age, was the impetus for her interest in the neuroscience of addiction. Not only is Grisel working to understand better how drugs and alcohol affect the brain, but she can also serve as an inspiration for all those who have struggled or still struggle with addiction.


Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction

Judith Grisel’s primary focus is on determining the root causes of drug addiction. She teaches psychology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. She is a renowned behavioral neuroscientist and she is also in recovery. In her new book, Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction, she draws from her decades of research and personal battle with substance use disorder to give readers a better understanding of how addiction happens.

Professor Grisel spoke about her life, work, and the book on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross recently. She explains that after experiencing her first bout of drunkenness at the age of 13, her life changed in more ways than one. Like other people who had a profound first experience with a mind-altering substance, she struggled in the following years.

"It was so complete and so profound," she told NPR. "I suddenly felt less anxious, less insecure, less inept to cope with the world. Suddenly I was full and OK in a way that I had never been." 

With more than 30 years clean and sober, Grisel continues to light the road to recovery for people still “out there.” Her work is also helping policymakers make more informed decisions regarding a field of medicine that is largely misunderstood.

"I'm always interested in the mechanisms of things," she said. "And when I heard that I had a disease, I kind of felt naturally that that would have a biological basis, and I figured that I could study that biological basis and understand it and then maybe fix it."

If you have the time, listen to the interview; it may be enlightening:

If you are having trouble listening, please click here.


Addiction Treatment

Please contact The Haven at Pismo if you are in the grips of addiction or a co-occurring mental disorder. Our team of highly trained professionals relies on evidence-based practices to provide medically supervised and top-quality care. We help men and women recover from alcohol or substance use disorder. The Haven is the perfect place to renew to your best today.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Social Media Impacts Mental Health

mental health
Individuals in early recovery do well to remain focused. Naturally, staying present and grounded in sobriety is not simple. Each day requires a commitment to putting the best foot forward and doing the next right thing in service to well-being. There is clear evidence that when people put recovery first, any progress made can last a lifetime.

Those who work a program understand that they must do certain activities every day to stay on task. It is a realization that is often easier said than done, but taking daily steps to become the best version of “you” is possible. For instance, such people know that attending meetings of recovery is vital; and, that participating in one’s recovery is paramount. That means sharing, checking in with a support group, and remaining in a state of accountability.

People who merely go through the motions of working a program but do not engage are likely to encounter problems. Each person must be an active participant in the continual journey called addiction recovery. Staying tuned-in to a program is made challenging at times by the myriad distractions unique to the 21st Century. It was not long ago when seeing a cellphone in a
meeting-goer's hand was unheard of, let alone a smartphone.

Today, most adults in recovery have the Internet and social media at their disposal. Moreover, it is not uncommon for recovering addicts and alcoholics to be staring at their phone while in a meeting. With just a few clicks or swipes, an individual can find themselves virtually transported into the lives of others, reading news flashes, and snickering at memes. While social media is not inherently bad for people, there is a growing body of research that is causing some men and women pause.

For those who already struggle to maintain mental, physical, and spiritual equilibrium, rethinking social media may be prudent.


Deactivating Facebook May Affect Mental Health

A new study, conducted by researchers at Stanford University and New York University, indicates some benefits of deactivating Facebook. In just 30-days, study participants reported “improvements in well-being, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety." Without social media to turn to for distraction, the subjects spent less time online and engaged in real-life activities, i.e., spending time with friends and family.

While the findings may not appeal to the average citizen, who use social media, for those people with a history of mental illness the results should be cause for consideration. And, especially true for individuals in recovery who have a penchant for checking their “timeline” in meetings.

Addiction recovery is a collective pursuit, those in the program heal by listening, sharing, and working together to keep their disease in remission. When a person’s attention is lacking, they risk missing something they may need to hear. Or worse, squandering an opportunity to help another who may be struggling. It is always worth reminding ourselves that recovery works through paying it forward. Again, the researchers are not suggesting that everyone does away with social media, but it seems that limiting screen time could have positive effects on our lives. The authors conclude:  

Our results leave little doubt that Facebook produces large benefits for its users …. Notwithstanding, our results also make clear that the downsides are real …. We find that four weeks without Facebook improves subjective well-being and substantially reduces post-experiment demand, suggesting that forces such as addiction and projection bias may cause people to use Facebook more than they otherwise would. 

If you look at your phone in meetings regularly, perhaps try turning the device off and instead tune into your recovery. The results are likely to be positive.

California Central Coast Addiction Treatment

We invite people struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder to renew their best today with The Haven at Pismo. Please contact us to learn more about the medically supervised and top-quality care we provide.