Tag: <span>Drug Addiction</span>

The Importance of In-Person Addiction and Alcoholism Treatment During the COVID 19 Pandemic

There have been many mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased depression, anxiety and exacerbations of PTSD as a result of isolation, changes in lifestyle and fear. Along with increases in suicidality and domestic abuse, one of the most dangerous mental health effects of the pandemic has been increased substance abuse.1Along with all the dangerous effects of substance abuse there have been “an increasing number of reports from national state and local media,” including New York, of “an increase in opioid and other drug related mortality.”2

What is the Cause of Increased Substance Abuse During the Pandemic?

The cause of increased substance abuse is many. More people are using illicit drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms or to “self medicate.” Boredom, unemployment, as well as lack of structure in school and work are all triggers to increase alcohol and drug use. Traditional forms of treatment have been all but shut down, with many 12-step meetings and traditional outpatient programs transitioning to Zoom. Many mental health practitioners are unavailable for in-person treatment, and many residential rehabs are full.

Isolation is a Contributing Factor to Substance Abuse

Addiction and alcoholism thrive in isolation, and the pandemic has done all but assured that most people in New York are much more isolated. Although Telehealth is better than nothing at all when it comes to addiction treatment in Manhattan, we have found the results are much greater when in-person addition treatment is available. The limitations of a Telepsychiatry or Zoom meetings are well established by now.

We Provide Outpatient Addiction Treatment in Manhattan, New York

At Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, we have taken appropriate measures to provide in-person outpatient treatment for addiction and alcoholism in New York City. Our offices have good ventilation through open windows and air-purification systems. Our staff have seen the positive results of in person meetings and in balancing the health needs of our patients have agreed to provide “live” treatment. We provide counseling, medication management for depression, anxiety and OCD and PTSD, as well as Manhattan outpatient detoxification for alcoholism and opioid dependence. MAT is available for opioid use disorders, including Suboxone and Vivitrol.

For more information or to get in touch with our Manhattan, NYC addiction psychiatrists, please call 212-734-0506.

  1. Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1.
  2. Reports of increases in opioid- and other drug-related overdose and other concerns during COVID pandemic, American Medical Association, Issue Brief, October 6, 2020.

Treatment Approaches Designed for Women with Addiction and Alcoholism

By Britt Gottlich, Psy.D.

Through years of training and practice in the field of substance abuse, I have noticed some interesting gender differences. First, I have found that more men tend to seek substance abuse treatment than women. Second, I have noticed that often the core of what began the substance abuse problem is often different between men and women. Third, it has become evident that men and women do not always gain the same benefits from the same treatment approach. This month, my blog explores these interplaying factors and introduces addiction treatment approaches that may better fit the needs of female clients.

Women May Be Less Likely to Seek Substance Abuse Treatment

According to research, “Surveys in the early 1980s estimated the male/female ratio of alcohol-use disorder as 5:1, in contrast to more recent surveys that report a ratio of 3:1.” 1 Given these statistics, there is clearly a higher number of men seeking treatment for substance abuse. Supporting research, and my own clinical experience as Manhattan clinical psychologist shows that women may internalize more shame as part of their use, therefore making it less likely they will enter into treatment. For example, hormonal changes, body image issues, increased stress, and stressors or a history of trauma can all play into an individual’s perception of themselves and therefore willingness to seek treatment. So, it is not that there are fewer women who struggle with substance and alcohol use, but perhaps they are just less likely to ask for help.

The Link Between Sexual Trauma and Substance Abuse in Women

One specific area that has been researched extensively is women with a history of childhood sexual trauma. “Clinical studies have found elevated rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in women seeking treatment for alcohol or drug abuse”. 2 Oftentimes, individuals who report a history of abuse describe feelings of guilt and other uncomfortable emotional responses. Substances can act as a means of coping with unresolved trauma and difficult emotions. It is oftentimes an effective form of self-medication for individuals to “numb” the memories or emotional experience that those memories provoke. Research often focuses on sexual trauma in women and substance abuse specifically; however, in my experience, there is a link between any type of trauma (physical, sexual and/or emotional) and substance use.

Understanding Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Despite the type of trauma history or emotional stressor that leads a woman into substance abuse, one of the most effective forms of treatment for these women is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a therapeutic approach that helps provide individuals with life skills that help manage emotions and interact with people more efficiently. DBT consists of four modules:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotional regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

DBT was initially created for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, however, research shows it can be used for a number of different disorders including substance abuse. 3

I personally use different elements of DBT with nearly every person I work with, as I believe DBT skills can be beneficial for everyone (myself included!) in any given situation. DBT allows us to learn how to be more in touch with our emotions and control them in times of stress. Often times women that present to individual therapy for substance abuse disorders present with emotional dysregulation. Regardless of the reason behind their emotional regulation (any of the reasons mentioned above), I usually find that approaching therapy through a DBT skill-based lens is the ultimate first treatment approach.

In addition to individual therapy, DBT skills groups can be a helpful treatment approach. These groups allow individuals to learn and practice skills with the help of other members. Group members will be given skills and homework which are then revisited in the group, where group members will provide encouragement and support to each other.  Encouragement, support, and a sense of community are just a few of the many benefits that group work can provide, as my colleague Dr. Tracey Bassett highlighted in her blog last month about the importance of group work in treatment.

Our Manhattan Addiction Treatment Team Can Help

In being able to acknowledge that female clients have different needs than male clients and that perhaps they struggle differently with treatment barriers, we can begin to take a step in creating more informed and supportive treatment practices. In working in an informed way, we can offer the appropriate skills and support that each person needs. It is my belief, that once an individual can learn to manage their emotional reactions, they will feel less likely to resort to unhealthy coping skills, therefore not having to rely on substances to cope, and learning that they can rely on themselves and the support built around them.

Our addiction treatment team in Manhattan is ready to help. Call Fifth Avenue Psychiatry for science-based treatment.


  1. Greenfield SF, Back SE, Lawson K, Brady KT. Substance abuse in women. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2010;33(2):339–355. doi:10.1016/j.psc.2010.01.004
  2. Maffei, Cesare & Cavicchioli, Marco & Movalli, Mariagrazia & Cavallaro, Roberto & Fossati, Andrea. (2018). Substance Use & Misuse Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training in Alcohol Dependence Treatment: Findings Based on an Open Trial Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training in Alcohol Dependence Treatment: Findings Based on an Open Trial. Substance Use & Misuse. 53. 10.1080/10826084.2018.1480035.
  3. Wilsnack, Sharon & Vogeltanz, N & Klassen, A.D. & Harris, T. (1997). Childhood sexual abuse and women’s substance abuse: National survey findings. Journal of studies on alcohol. 58. 264-71. 10.15288/jsa.1997.58.264.

 

Group Therapy for Executives with Addiction

Group Therapy for Executives with Addiction

By Dr. Tracey Bassett

In deciding what to write about this month, I drew from Dr. Glazer’s most recent post in which he said, “I now understand that my most important role as a physician and therapist for alcoholism and addiction is to help provide a safe space, a trusting, mutually respectful relationship where I can help guide a person through their own recovery process.” I could not agree more.

One of the things that I think makes our practice so unique is that when we meet with a client for the first time, we conduct an assessment for what the client really needs. Which therapist will they work best with? Which modality of treatment will they respond the best to? What do they feel like they need? We then take all of these factors into consideration and make a treatment plan that works for them. We try to create a plan in which the individual client is getting what they truly need in an environment in which they can feel respected, connected, and supported.

The Benefits of Group Therapy in Addiction Treatment

In working to identify key aspects in recovery, we started to see a gap in treatment. A majority of clients seeking substance use treatment report something similar—feeling that no one in their close circle quite understands what they are going through. As a result, they often feel alone in the process. As doctors, we try to validate and normalize these common feelings. Sometimes this is enough, but a lot of times it is not.

In addition to individual therapy, some clients work well with 12-step or other peer-led recovery programs as part of their recovery process. For example, 12-step meetings can be a really great place for social support and validation, which subsequently reduces isolation, guilt, and shame. This is one of the reasons that these programs can work to support sustained recovery. However, I have found that a lot of clients want the peer support that meetings provide, but they are turned off by other aspects of the program that they feel are too “all or nothing.”

In starting to research alternative options that provide peer support, I’ve found that there is not a lot. Small cohesive group work in a private practice setting for high functioning clients is missing from the treatment landscape. As doctors, we are able to provide a safe supportive environment in our office, but what about an environment in which peers can support each other through mutual experiences?

So why is this so important? Among other things, groups are helpful as they provide the following benefits:

  • Positive feedback and support
  • Decreasing isolation
  • Sharing useful coping mechanisms
  • Challenging self-judgment and negative self-talk
  • Giving the opportunity to witness the recovery of others
  • Providing support to members should they stumble in recovery

A cohesive group can be a very powerful tool in recovery.

Our Manhattan Addiction Treatment Doctors are Backed by Experience

I, along with my colleague Dr. Gottlich, have had the pleasure of seeing the benefits of cohesive group work first-hand. After a lot of thought and planning, we started our first group at the practice in September 2019. After six months, the group is going strong. We have been witnesses to the type of unconditional support, and subsequent rewards, that a group can provide. Although Dr. Gottlich and I are able to provide the space, it is truly the work of the group members that provide a safe and supportive space to navigate the ups and downs of recovery. I feel lucky to be a part of the process, and I hope that we can continue to build group work as a larger part of the practice, as it is a powerful tool that allows a lot of people know that they are not alone in their recovery.

At Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, our addiction doctors in Manhattan are prepared to help. Call our office for addiction treatment in New York City.


Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy (2005). Retrieved From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22514847

 

 

The Lack of Evidence in “Evidence Based Treatment” for Alcoholism and Addiction

By Samuel Glazer, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Health

Many “for profit” treatment programs, both inpatient and outpatient, tout “Evidence Based Treatment” (EBT) as their approach to treat alcoholism, addition, and other substance use disorders. This label can be misleading, and though EBT sounds effective and backed by research (thus justifying the high cost of their programs), many “evidence based treatments” are actually associated with very poor outcomes.

As a skeptical addiction psychiatrist in Manhattan, I have observed and communicated to many of my patients and colleagues that though labeled “evidence based,” and considered the standard of care for addiction, many evidence based treatments have either very little or no evidence or extremely biased research showing efficacy. I am grateful for the many conversations with my patients and colleagues about this concept that have provoked this blog post.

The Common Misconception of Evidence Based Treatment for Addiction

The concept of Evidence Based Treatment (EBT) in addiction treatment actually derives from the movement in health care towards Evidence Based Practices. In fact, when physicians use Evidence Based Practices in delivering healthcare, it tends to be a very good thing. In the Evidence Based Practice of medicine, decisions are based on real data (not gut reactions), minimizing cost and unnecessary morbidity and leading generally to better outcomes. But, like many things you hear about in the addiction treatment world, Evidence Based Treatment is not what it seems.

The reality is that many treatment modalities for substance use disorders, though considered “evidence based,” often have very weak evidence behind them, in some cases none, and often are misused and/or administered by clinicians who do not have the training, experience or education to appropriately suggest them, let alone administer them. If one looks closely at the research, no medication or type of psychotherapy, even including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, stands out as truly being effective or close to a cure for most addictions.

Types of Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

Treatment for substance use disorders falls into two categories:

  1. Psychosocial: Includes individual and group psychotherapy (the most studied being Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
  2. Medication-Assisted Treatment: Includes medications that help with everything from detoxification, symptom relief, treatment of craving, and enhancing abstinence.

A few of these treatments really do work if used appropriately by the right people on the right patients in the right circumstances. But most do not show any statistically significant difference from placebo, and at best are comparable to AA, which is free and accessible to just about anyone anywhere in the world.

Naltrexone is a wonderful example of an evidence-based treatment that is clearly effective for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder. Naltrexone is an opiate blocker, meaning it binds to the opiate receptors in your brain so that if you take an opiate (prescription painkillers, Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin and heroin to name a few), you are not affected by it. Given monthly as an injection in the form of an extended release injectable suspension (Vivitrol) in combination with psychosocial treatments, it is clearly proven useful as an effective treatment in preventing relapse and enhancing abstinence from opiates in people in treatment for Opiate Use Disorders.1 But Naltrexone is also a wonderful example of how a minimally helpful treatment actually has been falsely promoted, poorly studied, and wrongly executed as an evidence based treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders.

Naltrexone, an “Evidence Based Treatment” for Alcoholism

Naltrexone is currently considered an “evidence based” drug treatment for alcohol use disorders and alcoholism. It is often referred to as the first line drug treatment for alcoholism by many journals and clinicians. There are studies and methods published in many journals and referred to in media as “evidence based treatments” for alcohol use disorders.

Naltrexone is prescribed by many doctors to help people “control” or cut down on their drinking. Alcoholics are given the injection form when they are at rehab and outpatient programs to “help with long term craving” before they are discharged. There is even an entire program that has received a great deal of publicity called the Sinclair Method, which claims a 78% success rate in helping people control drinking with the use of naltrexone.

Unfortunately, a recent systematic review of the literature found that Naltrexone (or any other drug for that matter including nalmefene, acamprosate, baclofen and topirimate) show very little efficacy in controlling drinking and what little efficacy they show come from studies with a high risk of bias.2

The History of the FDA’s Approval of Naltrexone

In order to understand how this misinformation on naltrexone for alcohol use disorders was established, one needs to look into the history of how it became FDA approved as a treatment for alcoholism.

In the 1990’s, some studies showed that naltrexone could actually help a group of people in general cut down on their drinking. The FDA, desperate for some type of medication to help for alcoholism, and lobbied by big Pharma, approved naltrexone (brand name: Revia) as a pill indicated for alcoholism. If one reviews these studies, it is clear that the studies were not robust and were highly biased and conflicting.

In fact, many of these studies actually showed naltrexone has no effect, at all, on alcohol use. Looking more closely at the data, most studies show it has no effect on rates of alcoholism, almost all show it has zero effect on craving, and a few show that a few people out of the group may drink a bit less over the period of time that they are taking it.

The Truth About Naltrexone as an Evidence Based Treatment

In summary, naltrexone is a first line EBT in alcohol use disorders. Naltrexone is prescribed to control drinking, help with craving, and even extinguish the desire to drink.

Perform a web search and you will find many treatment programs boasting about their results with naltrexone. But, in reality, though there may be very scant evidence that it may cut down on the amount of drinking some people do, naltrexone cannot help people control drinking, demonstrates no effect on craving, and has zero effect on rates of people with alcohol use disorders in general.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as an Evidence Based Treatment

Some of you may be thinking, we all know Pharma influences medicine, what about behavioral treatments? Most programs (including our own) tout CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as part of their program.

CBT is an EBT that is often contrasted to spiritual or self-help treatment. CBT is a therapy that was designed by psychologists to be easily studied, and there are many studies of the effects of CBT in substance abuse treatment. It is believed to be the gold standard of therapies for addiction but, in line with all psychosocial interventions for substance use disorders, abstinence rates are low and unstable overall.

Although difficult to study, more and more evidence suggests that self-help and many other forms of treatment can be a first line treatment that is as effective as CBT. In fact, of all types of treatment, Contingency Management seems to stand out as being the most effective across the spectrum of substance use disorders. While CBT seems to work best for cannabis use disorder3, abstinence rates are still low.

Addiction Treatment is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

As time goes on, and I add more entries to this blog, I hope to explore in more detail the limitations as well as efficacy of other treatments. But, suffice to say, there is no one size fits all. Though there are many types of both pharmacological and therapy-based treatments, most are limited in efficacy, often falsely advertised, or just misunderstood.

A major qualification that I do want to make clear, is that though there are some charlatans in the addiction treatment world, and some who are too arrogant to understand their limitations (I know of one therapist who claims he has a 100% success rate in treating addictions!), I do believe most clinicians are in it for the right reasons and are looking for any thread of evidence that can help them help their patients. Though there is only modest evidence behind even the most effective of treatments, we as Manhattan addiction therapists use what we can to help people.

The point of this blog is to shed some light on a highly misunderstood and stigmatized brain disease and the confusing information conveyed about its treatment mostly by for-profit programs preying on desperate and vulnerable people suffering with substance abuse disorders.

Our Manhattan Addiction Psychiatrist, Dr. Glazer, Provides Individualized Treatment

I was recently asked by a new patient who was consulting with me for his alcohol abuse what I could do for him to help him stop drinking. I thought about his for a minute and said (drawing on 20 years of experience treating substance use disorders and teaching at NYU Langone Health), “Not much.” I now understand that my most important role as a physician and therapist for alcoholism and addiction in Manhattan is to help provide a safe space, a trusting, mutually respectful relationship where I can help guide a person through their own recovery process.

Every person I see in my consultation room is unique. Nobody is an “addiction” for which “an evidence based treatment” will cure them. Rather I join with my patient and collaborate to find what motivates and what will be most effective for them.

For some, CBT is a great fit, for others, medication helps too, insight oriented or supportive therapy are best suited for some people, and others of course, are better off with twelve step programs.

For most people, it is a combination of these different modalities as a part of a commitment to growth and life change. Everyone has their own path. As one of my former patients likes to say, “I had to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to go talk to a fancy Upper East Side psychiatrist so that over time, he could help me find the help I really needed for my addiction in AA.” (The last I heard from him he was sober many years and was recently engaged to be married).

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Charlie Silberstein, MD who is a wonderful friend, mentor, and writer, and whose own writing inspired me to start blogging.


Sources:

  1. A Randomized Trial Comparing Extended-Release Injectable Suspension and Oral Naltrexone, Both Combined With Behavioral Therapy, for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder. Sullivan MA, Bisaga A, Pavlicova M, Carpenter KM, Choi CJ, Mishlen K, Levin FR, Mariani JJ, Nunes EV. Am J Psychiatry. 2019 Feb 1;176(2):129-137. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17070732. Epub 2018 Oct 19.
  2. Pharmacologically Controlled drinking in the treatment of alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorders, a systemic review with direct and network meta- analysis on nelmefene, naltrexone, acamprosate, baclofen and topiramate. bY Palpaccuer Et Al. Addiction, Feb2018 113(2) 220-237.
  3. Psychosocial interventions for cannabis use disorder, Gates PJ1, Sabioni P, Copeland J, Le Foll B, Gowing L. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 May 5;(5):CD005336. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005336.pub4

 

Meditation and Mindfulness for Alcoholism and Addiction

Meditation and Mindfulness for Alcoholism and Addiction

Written by Olga Megwinoff, MD

There is so much referring to meditation and mindfulness. Every mental health guru speaks of mindfulness and media outlets are saturated with everything meditation. It is definitely trendy and even in my own neighborhood, in the non-trendy suburbs, we started a meditation group. When something is so trendy, it can be easy to dismiss as a valuable and important tool in psychotherapy.

Nonetheless, I am ever grateful that I pursued this method of treatment as it changed my views and opened the door to the great teachings and understanding of the mind from the eastern psychology perspective. In this, my first blog, I will try to explain in simple terms a novel theory of why mediation works for anxiety, depression, OCD and addiction.

Understanding Meditation and Its Use

The main goal of meditation in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions is spiritual enlightenment. Nevertheless, western psychology has appropriated a version of it for the treatment of mild to moderate anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and addiction. Meditation’s benefits on the mind are difficult to ignore given that at even the beginner’s level, its participants get a good glimpse of these benefits. Beyond the effect of slowing down the nervous system via purposeful control of the respiration and its secondary effect on slowing down the heart rate, (the “fight or flight” response) meditation also has immense and immediate effects in the brain.

The first goal of meditation at the beginner’s level is to draw attention to the breath in an attempt to get rid of any other thoughts. It doesn’t really matter what you focus on, it can be your big toe or your right ear. The objective is to choose a part of your body you can feel; therefore, you don’t think. The focus is on the feeling, on the somatic sensation of this body part. The only purpose of this initial learning phase is to train the mind to focus on only one thing fully.

A lot of people say, “I can’t do this,” “I have ADD,” “it’s too much work,” but I am fully convinced that if you have a brain, you can certainly develop the ability to meditate. It does take effort and discipline (maybe this will be the topic of my second blog, I find this is the aspect that most people struggle with, the discipline to practice every day, NOT with the ability to sustain attention).

If the participant can focus on the breath fully, and therefore clear the mind of any other thoughts, for a few seconds, the relaxation is immediately palpable. This was a big surprise for me, that the mere absence of thoughts created relaxation in the mind. My training in psychiatry was heavy on psychoanalysis and Cognitive Behavioral Theory, the basis of anxiety and depression is understood as a conflict arising from conscious and unconscious thought (psychoanalysis) and/or distorted thoughts (CBT). Therefore, the content of thoughts is indirectly considered ever present.

The Absence of Thought in Meditation

However, in meditation, if you achieve the goal of having an absence of thought (not a resolution of any unconscious conflict, or the identification and correction of a distorted thought pattern), just a quiet mind for a few seconds, this relieves symptoms for those few seconds.

Eastern psychology is not as invested in the content of the mind as western psychology is. The target, at these early levels, is absence of content. If a patient is able to achieve this for a few minutes every day, they can ultimately achieve relief from these symptoms during a greater period of time.

As you continue to progress in meditation, you can “open” the mind to thoughts and feelings, and as you “notice” the thoughts and feelings, the participants learn that they don’t have to react to them, introducing some distance from negative thoughts and feelings and realizing that they do not define you.

Meditation Contributes to Changes in Brain Structures

There is a lot of research demonstrating correlations between the positive effects of meditation with changes in particular brain structures like the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus and limbic system. However, there is not a global hypothesis integrating all these structures functions and meditation correlates.

What is the Default Mode Network?

The first such theory I have read about comes to life with the “discovery” of the Default Mode Network (DMN).

The DMN was identified via neuroimaging in 2001 by Marcus Raichle, a neurologist at Washington University. He published his findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is important to note that the concept of the default mode network is not yet globally accepted.

The DMN forms a critical and centrally located locus of brain activity that links parts of the cerebral cortex to deeper and more primitive structures involved in memory and emotion. It is stipulated that the DMN is responsible for wandering, daydreaming, rumination, worrying and self-reflection. It is also involved in mental constructions, moral reasoning and the concept of “the self”, among other functions. Some neuroscientists call it “the me network.”

Self-reflection can be responsible for powerful thinking and understanding but it can also be responsible for destructive forms of self-regard. Psychologists have identified a strong correlation between unhappiness and time spent in wandering, a principal activity of the DMN.

The DMN stands opposite to the attentional networks, when one is active, the other goes quiet, and vice versa. According to Judson Brewer, a researcher from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Center for Mindfulness, states, “Scans of experienced meditators’ brains show the DMN activity decreases significantly.”

A theory by the British neuroscientist, Robin Carhart-Harris, is of “the spectrum of cognitive states.” He describes high-entropy mental states (psychedelic states, infant consciousness, early psychosis, creative thinking) and low-entropy mental states (rigid thinking, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anesthesia and coma). Carhart-Harris suggests that the psychological disorders at the low entropy end of the spectrum are not the result of lack of order in the brain (as the established theories postulate), but rather an excess of order.

The Danger of Excessive Self-Reflective Thinking

When self-reflective thinking becomes excessive, heavy self-consciousness gradually shades out reality. This may be the result of a hyperactive default mode network, which can trap us on repetitive and destructive loops of rumination—this is a substantial part of addiction, obsessions, anxieties, and depression.

With a regular meditation practice, many people with substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, and OCD can transform their minds by lowering the volume of the DMN and therefore quieting the self-consciousness, ruminations, and worrying that so characterizes these disorders.

If you’d like more information or would like to speak with one of our award-winning Manhattan addiction doctors, call Fifth Avenue Psychiatry. We provide discreet, private treatment.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction 

By Britt Gottlich, Psy.D.

I often meet with people who say they are unsure of whether they have experienced trauma or not. So, what is trauma? Most people define trauma based on how trauma is portrayed in the media. But, in reality, it is a very subjective experience. Something that may be traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” The way I like to understand trauma is based on an individual’s interpretation of the event. As children, we live under the assumption that “good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.” When we experience a trauma, often our interpretation of this rule becomes clouded and confused. For example, it could change to, “If good things happen to good people, and this happened to me, then I must be bad.” Therefore, a person’s reaction to a traumatic experience often affects the way they see themselves, other people, and the world around them.

We can’t change or erase a traumatic experience, unfortunately. But what we can do is change the way we interpret it and ultimately the way we understand the world around us as a result of that event.

What is Cognitive Processing Therapy?

This is where Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), a 12-session behavioral psychotherapy, can be a useful treatment modality. It helps us identify the cognitive distortions that are derived from our traumas and, using evidence and facts, combat those thoughts with rational ones.

How is Cognitive Processing Therapy Used to Treat PTSD?

CPT has been a very effective treatment modality which is often used in treating veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, in 2017, a study which analyzed the effectiveness of CPT on veterans found that veterans who completed the 12-session treatment had a significant difference in their symptoms and a decline in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist scores than veterans who did not complete or comply with treatment.

Other Treatments Used to Treat PTSD

Other treatments that are used for PTSD are Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) and Prolonged Exposure (PE). In my experience and training with all the above modalities, however, I have seen the most improvement and success with CPT.

While there are treatments such as CPT that are very effective in treating trauma, one of the most important pieces in this type of therapy is rapport. In all therapy, it is important to have a positive relationship with your therapist where you feel comfortable and not judged. Especially when disclosing a trauma and going deep into the event, feelings, and cognitions related to it, it is important that you feel trusting of the person providing that treatment.

The Common Connection Between PTSD and Addiction

From my experience working at a VA and here at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, I see that there is a high comorbidity for substance abuse and PTSD, especially when PTSD goes undiagnosed or untreated. VA statistics note that more than 2 out of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder, and one out of three veterans seeking treatment for substance use disorders also meet criteria for PTSD. The American Addictions Center reported that 55-60% of individuals who suffer from PTSD have comorbid addiction or alcoholism. They also note that “people who suffer PTSD are between two and four times more likely to also battle addiction than their peers who do not also struggle with PTSD.”

Again, traumas are not something that can be erased, but they can be something you can learn to live with. You can begin to see the world, people, and yourself in healthier ways again. You may never fully believe that “good things happen to good people,” but eventually you may believe that “bad things sometimes happen to good people.”

In need of PTSD treatment in Manhattan? Contact our Manhattan PTSD psychiatrists for an individualized, science-based treatment plan.


Sources:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for Addiction and Alcoholism

By Tracey Basset, PsyD

Making the decision to seek help for a substance use problem is challenging enough. On top of that, for a lot of people, they face the challenge of choosing where to go, who to see, and what type of therapy will benefit them most. This can be a very confusing and daunting process.

My aim for this post is to provide some useful information about the benefits of one type of therapy, my favorite type of addiction therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

CBT is based on the notion that the way we think influences how we feel and, subsequently, how we behave. Think of it like a domino effect—something happens, you form a thought or belief about that event, that thought creates a feeling, and that feeling creates an action.

For example, if you try to reach out to a friend or family member and they do not have time to see or talk to you, then you might think that you are not important to them, that you are not worthy of their time, or that you are not good enough. That thought can lead to feelings of loneliness, rejection, sadness, or even anger. Those feelings can then lead to the desire to escape, which could ultimately lead to using a substance. Substance use leads to more isolation and less connection, so the cycle starts again and continues to build.

How is CBT Used to Treat Addiction?

In CBT, we explore these triggering events and identify patterns. We explore the thought patterns, or belief systems, and we challenge those patterns that may be problematic.  Some beliefs are true, and we work to problem-solve and change them. Others are not true and are simply believed to be true because they have been ingrained for a very long time. We learn to explore where beliefs come from, and we learn to challenge them.  In CBT, we learn strategies to cope with the uncomfortable feelings and strategies to help reduce the likelihood that certain feelings will trigger substance use.  This is just one example of how CBT can play out in therapy; There are dozens more.

The Benefits of CBT

CBT can be a great therapy for individuals struggling with substance use along with co-occurring anxiety and/or depression because it provides tools, strategies, and a roadmap for how to gain control when you feel out of control. If you are someone that struggles with anxiety and/or depression in addition to substance use, it may feel like there are too many things to tackle, and you may even feel stuck, helpless or hopeless. However, CBT works on exploring, challenging, and changing the relationship between symptoms of depression, anxiety and substance use.  Therefore, it is a very practical, effective and efficient approach to tackling co-occurring substance and mental health needs that feel complex in nature.

So, why is CBT my favorite type of therapy?  Because there is a lot of evidence to show that it works. CBT is empirically-based, meaning that there are many research studies that consistently show that it helps individuals to reduce anxiety and depression and successfully address substance use.

In closing, I will leave you with a quote.  It is one that I recently stumbled upon in my personal life, and I instantly connected with it because it just made so much sense to me given my predisposition to think of life through the lens of CBT.  So, despite what you may be going through, and my guess is that it may be something quite challenging since you are here reading this page, the good news is that at any time you can choose to take the steps to change your destiny.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.

– Upanishads

 Call our award-winning addiction doctors in Manhattan for one-on-one, discreet treatment. 

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