Tobacco Cessation Can Improve Long-term Outcomes in Addiction Treatment

Tobacco smoking rates among US adults with significant depression and/or substance use disorder (SUD) declined between 2006 and 2019 at a steeper rate than among individuals without substantial depression and/or SUD, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The findings, which were published in JAMA in April, suggest that groups at risk for nicotine addiction can be reached by tobacco cessation efforts. While such efforts have been effective, the NIDA researchers noted that individuals with psychiatric disorders still reported higher smoking rates than those without, although the gap is narrowing.

“This study shows us that, at a population level, reductions in tobacco use are achievable for people with psychiatric conditions, and smoking cessation should be prioritized along with treatments for substance use, depression, and other mental health disorders for people who experience them,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, co-author of the study, in a news release.

“Therapies to help people stop smoking are safe, effective, and may even enhance the long-term success of concurrent treatments for more severe mental health symptoms in individuals with psychiatric disorders by lowering stress, anxiety, depression, and by improving overall mood and quality of life.”

The NIDA study analyzed data from more than 558,000 individuals 18 and older who participated in National Surveys on Drug Use and Health between 2006 and 2019. While individuals with major depression, SUD, or both were more likely to smoke cigarettes, cessation rates among these populations improved during the period studied.

“It is crucial that healthcare providers treat all the health issues that a patient experiences, not just their depression or drug use disorder at a given point in time,” Dr. Volkow said. “To do this, smoking cessation therapies need to be integrated into existing behavioral health treatments. The result will be longer and healthier lives for all people.”

The Harmony Campus is Tobacco-Free

Harmony Foundation has been providing the holistic approach to addiction treatment Dr. Volkow suggests. The treatment team at Harmony works daily to address all relevant needs a client might have. Our cutting-edge addiction treatment at Estes Park in Colorado includes tobacco cessation. Consequently, clients are not allowed to bring any tobacco products to our tobacco-free campus.

Like other drugs, nicotine engages the reward cycle of the brain. “A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the ‘high’ associated with other drugs,” explains the relevant NIDA page. “However, like other drugs of abuse, nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in these reward circuits, which reinforces the behavior of taking the drug.”

Since tobacco engages the same brain circuits as other addictive substances, smoking is counterproductive in recovery. Harmony offers a tobacco cessation group as part of its holistic addiction treatment to help those seeking additional support. If you are interested in beginning a life of recovery and interested to hear more about how quitting nicotine can help your goal, our admissions team is here to help.

Since addiction is a biopsychosocial and spiritual disease, Harmony’s treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong journey of recovery. All our services are provided in a safe, culturally sensitive, and trauma-informed manner.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs and workshops, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Harmony Foundation Names New Director of Clinical Services

Harmony Foundation names Karen Cramer as its new Director of Clinical Services. Karen Cramer is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) in Texas and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Texas and Colorado. Karen received her Bachelor’s in Psychology and her Master’s in Counseling at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. In her new role, she will oversee counseling, family programming, and case management and will serve as part of the executive leadership team. Her vast experience throughout her career brings a unique balance of clinical success and organizational operations.

“Karen has been a critical part of the core leadership team that has made Harmony Foundation what it is today,” stated president and CEO Jim Geckler. “This change in role will help continue that path by providing her greater focus on clinical development.”

Previous to running multiple departments at Harmony, Karen helped open a women’s Dallas-based Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). She has also worked in private practice and at the SMU Family Counseling Center. This experience will contribute to upcoming changes to Harmony, including its IOP, which currently serves clients across the state. Karen is in long-term recovery herself, which adds to her passion for helping others that suffer from the disease of addiction.

“Harmony’s unwavering commitment to its mission is recognized nationwide, and continual innovation has and will be key to providing excellent treatment,” added Karen Cramer.

Karen is an active member of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NAADAC), the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), and is a member of The National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. (NBCC) with a passion for collaborating on outcomes and best practices. She also serves on the board of directors for Medicine Meadow Heard: Rescued Horses, Healing Humans.

September is Recovery Month!

National Recovery Month (Recovery Month) started in 1989 and is a national observance held every September to promote and support evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the nation’s strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and communities who make recovery in all its forms possible.
 
“In celebration of Americans on the road to recovery, this National Recovery Month we recommit to helping prevent substance use disorder, supporting those who are still struggling, and providing people in recovery with the resources they need to live full and healthy lives,” President Biden wrote in the
official proclamation. “When our fellow Americans recover from substance use disorder, our Nation becomes stronger and more resilient. Still, we recognize that the path to full recovery can be long and demanding.”
 
Recovery Month was preceded by Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, with events to commemorate those who died from an overdose and to reflect on the grief of those they left behind. Many people continue to live with the stigma associated with having a close family or friend die from an overdose.
 
Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for people ages 18 to 45 in the United States today.
More than 100,000 people died of an overdose in the United States in 2021, according to provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
 
Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction frequently require comprehensive treatment and deserve our compassion. 
 
The recovery community utilizes the annual campaign to increase public awareness surrounding mental health and addiction recovery. In the years since Recovery Month launched, the federal
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has timed announcements of initiatives and grant funding during Recovery Month while collaborating with private and public partners to celebrate individuals during their long-term recoveries.
 
This year, to address the nation’s growing crisis of substance misuse and overdose deaths, SAMHSA is
launching initiatives that promote and support evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery possible.
 
An estimated
67,000 Coloradans with substance use disorder (SUD) are not receiving the treatment they need. Barriers include stigma, financial cost, and a shortage of available services. Untreated SUDs contribute to unemployment, homelessness, physical health problems, incarceration, and premature death. 
 
Harmony Foundation has been part of the recovery community for decades. We are one of the longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers in the world. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible.

Conquering Executive Function Woes

This presentation is no longer eligible for a CEU.

Disorganization, poor time management, and difficulty shifting gears are just a few symptoms of poor executive functioning. EF skills are essential throughout all stages of life and are the most inquired about skills from both parents of children and adults in the workplace from our experts at The Nectar Group. These skills enable us to develop leadership, time management, and prioritization, along with allowing us to follow multi-step instructions, think critically, and adapt to change. We’ll build a solid understanding of and cover how you can help you and your clients develop these critical skills! Continue reading “Conquering Executive Function Woes”

Improving Addiction Treatment Outcomes Through a Relational Approach

*This presentation is no longer eligible for the 1 CE credit*

The phrase “the opposite of addiction is connection” has been floating around recovery spaces for years. Research is beginning to look at the validity of this statement, even on a neurological level. This webinar will review important information to consider when working with individuals and families in early recovery, both in terms of clinician considerations for self of the therapist’s work, and as it relates to clinical application. We will explore recent research that points to the importance of taking a relational approach to addiction treatment, looking at the neurological intersections between relational functioning and addiction. Participants will gain knowledge regarding the power of meaningful connection as it relates to sustaining long-term recovery and will also learn clinical interventions that can be utilized in sessions in order to improve treatment outcomes. Continue reading “Improving Addiction Treatment Outcomes Through a Relational Approach”

The Benefits of a Nicotine-free Campus at Harmony

Using tobacco products is prevalent among people with substance use disorder (SUD).

“Persons with mental or substance use disorders or both are more than twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as persons without such disorders and are more likely to die from smoking-related illness than from their behavioral health conditions,” wrote Marynak, VanFrank, et al. in their 2018 study “Tobacco Cessation Interventions and Smoke-Free Policies in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities.”

The good news is that “many persons with behavioral health conditions want to and are able to quit smoking, although they might require more intensive treatment. Smoking cessation reduces smoking-related disease risk and could improve mental health and drug and alcohol recovery outcomes.”

Many modern, evidence-based addiction treatment centers are fully aware of these data and have made their programs nicotine-free. One of them is Harmony Foundation. In a recent webinar hosted by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), Harmony CEO James Geckler and Harmony’s medical director, Michael Rountree, talked about their experience with introducing a tobacco-free campus.

After exploring options during 2019, Harmony became tobacco-free in January 2020. “We knew that it supported people’s wellness, it made for better options for long-term recovery, and it spoke to our mission of being foundational,” said Geckler. “it had all the right pieces to it.”

Dr. Rountree explained the basic science. Many people in recovery want to quit smoking. ”Clients find treatment to be the appropriate place for quitting,” Dr. Rountree said. “And smoking cessation does not impair outcomes in patients presenting with substance use disorder.”

Not only does smoking cessation not impair outcomes, there is a “25 percent improvement in long-term abstinence for people with SUD.”

Some organizations fear a smoke-free campus will have a negative impact on the census. As the Harmony experience demonstrates, there is no real reason for concern. “We now have about one patient a month who is not admitted because of the smoking ban,” Geckler said. “If people object to the tobacco-free setup, we refer them to another treatment center.” Overall, the transition to a smoke-free campus “was easier than expected.” Dr. Rountree added that he was “stunned at the lack of complaints.”

Harmony Foundation prepared for the transition well. The team started having conversations with clients, staff were trained and supported with studies to promote tobacco cessation, and the campus itself had to be prepared. “We used to have smoking gazebos for cigarette breaks and smoke breaks were actually built into the schedule,” explained Geckler.

Before going smoke-free, Harmony had offered smoking cessation groups to clients interested in quitting. Now, all nicotine products are off-limits with the exception of patches and gums. Sometimes, clients bring e-cigarettes or nicotine pouches only to learn they are not permitted on campus. However, most clients understand why such products are not helpful when explained to them.

“Flexibility and patience are important,” said Geckler. “Appropriate training and good communication is key. We had to learn to look out for mail deliveries of tobacco and how to check clients’ baggage for tobacco products. We ended up with a cleaner campus—no more cigarette butts on the ground, and have better group attendance, as nobody has to finish a cigarette.”

Nicotine addiction is very similar to other substance use disorders. Like other drugs, nicotine engages the reward cycle of the brain. “A transient surge of endorphins in the reward circuits of the brain causes a slight, brief euphoria when nicotine is administered. This surge is much briefer than the ‘high’ associated with other drugs,” explains a webpage from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Nicotine works like other psychoactive substances; consequently, cessation tends to support recovery from substance use disorders. Since addiction is a biopsychosocial and spiritual disease, Harmony’s treatment program promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering patients to embark upon a lifelong journey of recovery. All our services are provided in a safe, culturally sensitive, tobacco-free environment and in a trauma-informed manner.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs and workshops, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Impact of Minority Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences on LGBTQ+ People

Although gains have been made in securing the rights of LGBTQ+ people, over the past few years, several state legislatures have attempted to remove some of these rights, contributing to increased stress due to discrimination and oppression of marginalized communities.

Todd Connaughty, MA, LPCC, LADC is the director of clinical services at the PRIDE Institute. He is passionate about his work with the LGBTQ+ community and has given presentations at the Cape Cod Symposium on Addictive Disorders, the Finding Freedom Symposium, West Coast Symposium, Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH), and the Minnesota Social Services Association (MSSA) among others.

Connaughty identifies as a pansexual white cisgender male and his pronouns are his and him.

In a recent webinar for Harmony Foundation, Connaughty presented data on minority stress as it applies to the intersectionality of identities of LGBTQ+ individuals. He examined minority stress, compounded with emerging research on adverse childhood experiences as it relates to the higher prevalence of substance use and mental health issues in the community.

First off, Connaughty presented a number of statistics that illustrate the stress and discrimination LGBTQ+ individuals are frequently exposed to:

  • 90% have been threatened or harassed at work
  • 60–70% have experienced physical or sexual harassment by law enforcement officers
  • 43+% report using substances to cope with stress and discrimination
  • 41% report suicide attempts (compared to 1.6% in the general population)
  • 10% higher rate of smoking than the general population
Connaughty then reviewed some of the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) for working with LGBTQ+ clients:

  • Psychologists understand that gender is a nonbinary construct that allows for a range of gender identities and that a person’s gender identity may not align with the sex assigned at birth.
  • Psychologists understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are distinct but interrelated constructs.
  • Psychologists are aware of how their attitudes about and knowledge of gender identity and gender expression may affect the quality of care they provide to TGNC people and their families.
After reviewing some of the increasingly complex LGBTQ+ terminologies, Connaughty explained the elements of an LGBTQ+ affirming assessment, including the client’s coming out history, any internalized home/bi/trans/lesbo/queer negativity, and a complete adverse childhood experience (ACE) screening—childhood trauma such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect, witnessing violence in the home or community, or having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Research shows that 52 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals experience three or more such ACEs compared to 26 percent of straight adults.

“We’re looking to get a good picture of the client’s experience. We want to know what has been the impact of that minority stress,” he told the webinar audience. One way to reduce minority stress for LGBTQ+ people is using appropriate pronouns. “Asking and using the correct gender pronouns is the most basic way to show respect and has a significant impact on mental health outcomes,” said Connaughty.

He then went over the APA guidelines to counter stigma, discrimination, and barriers to care:

  • We recognize how stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence affect the health and well-being of TGNC (transgender and gender non-conforming) people.
  • We strive to recognize the influence of institutional barriers on the lives of TGNC people and to assist in developing TGNC-affirmative environments.
  • We understand the need to promote social change that reduces the adverse effects of stigma on the health and well-being of TGNC people.
As Connaughty explained, “minority stress theory suggests that sexual minorities, underrepresented gender identities, as well as queer and other sexual identities (LGBTQ+) commonly experience distinct and chronic stressors related to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Sexual minority health disparities can be explained in large part by stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination, and victimization.”

The impact of stigma, discrimination, and harassment can lead to unhealthy coping strategies such as avoiding people, places, and services, misusing substances, and mental health issues, including self-harm.

Tools and strategies to help traumatized LGBTQ+ people include education on minority stress and trauma (many don’t realize that they have been traumatized). Therapy should help clients identify triggers, create safety plans, and provide support and resources.

At Harmony, we recognize the importance of providing culturally competent services to the LGBTQ+ community and understand that this community often faces a different set of challenges. Our LGBTQ+ specialty group offers a safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals to share experiences related to the intersection of their identities and substance use.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Working with Men and SUDs: Building a bridge from the “Man Rules” to the Principles of Recovery through clinical interventions

*This presentation is no longer eligible for the 1 CE credit*

In this presentation, we will explore a path to recovery for men. By helping men dismantle the “Man Rules,” we can better enable them to practice the Principles of Recovery. We will examine clinical interventions that deconstruct the harmful socialized beliefs of masculinity and build a culture of community, connection, and courage in their place. The journey starts with the concept of self and moves into relationships, sexuality, and spirituality. Recovery happens in relationships—the Principles of Recovery are the blueprint for building healthy and rewarding connections with others.

Presented by:
D.J. Bishop, LPC, LAC
Experiential Therapist – DJBTherapy

D.J. is an experiential therapist who facilitates both experiential groups and individual therapy.   He resides and practices therapy in Louisville, Colorado in his private practice, DJB Therapy.  D.J. was born and raised in the panhandle of Florida before moving to Los Angeles, where he earned graduate degrees in history and psychology.

During his professional journey, he has had the privilege of being a primary clinician at Jaywalker Lodge. Jaywalker is a renowned drug and alcohol treatment center for men in Carbondale, Colorado. D.J. spent his time there helping men walk through trauma to better integrate into 12-step recovery communities.

After Jaywalker, D.J. started his private practice in Louisville and serves as a group leader at Onsite Workshops in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee. Onsite is one of the preeminent trauma treatment centers in the U.S. He leads individual and group experiential intensives to help clients move through their trauma, grief, anxiety, and relationship challenges.

 

 

 

 

 

DJBTherapy

The Impact of Minority Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences on LGBTQ+ Identified Individuals

*This presentation is no longer eligible for the 1 CE credit*

Although gains have been made in the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, recent legislation over the past several years has attempted to remove these rights contributing to increased stress due to discrimination and oppression of marginalized communities.  The session will present data on minority stress as it applies to the intersectionality of identities of LGBTQ+ individuals.  Minority stress, compounded with emerging research on adverse childhood experiences, will be examined as it relates to the higher prevalence of substance use and mental health issues in the community. Continue reading “The Impact of Minority Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences on LGBTQ+ Identified Individuals”