Tag: mental illness

The Heartbreaking Toll of Addiction & Mental Illness Combined

A Worried Mother & an Addicted Son

Barbara Theodosiou isn’t a household name. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people outside of a particular community who know her name. That doesn’t change the fact that she’s fighting a life or death battle.

“There is no peace for me. Ever again. This is a life sentence,” Barbara uttered during a speech in Oakland Park, FL. She was talking about the impact her son Daniel’s death has had on her life and work.

the addicts mom
image via The Addict’s Mom

Barbara Theodosiou is the founder of a support group called The Addict’s Mom. She started it in 2008 to help other families struggling with addiction. Since 2008, The Addict’s Mom has exploded. What started as a small Facebook group has grown to monumental proportions – 30,000 members and chapters in each of the fifty states.

Still, when Barbara lost Daniel, a twenty-three year old boy struggling with addiction and mental illness, none of her group’s success mattered. She was simply heartbroken that her child, who had been missing for a week, was gone.

Daniel passed away in April. She’s still awaiting the toxicology report. Over the last few months, Barbara has thrown herself all the more into advocating for mental health and substance abuse treatment reform.

She’s using Daniel’s story and her own heartache to raise awareness of the dangers individuals with co-occurring disorders face. She’s committed to reforming a broken system – the mental health and addiction treatment industry as it pertains to schools, jails, and youth.

This is her story.

“Text message therapy” is real and it’s saving lives!

The Addict’s Mom

Barbara’s path to mental health advocate isn’t a straight line. She never set out to reform anything. She was just a mother struggling with her two sons’ addictions.

Her eldest child, Peter, was addicted to both painkillers and heroin. He abused them throughout his teenage years before getting sober. Today, he’s been in recovery for a number of years, has graduated college, and is doing well.

Daniel, on the other hand, is a tragic example of the deadly toll addiction and mental illness have on families. From as far back as elementary school, Daniel struggled with isolation and social issues.

Barbara took her son to see a psychiatrist at twelve. The doctor didn’t diagnosis Daniel with any specific mental illness, instead suggesting he potentially suffered from a few. These included ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Soon, Daniel followed in his older brother’s footsteps and began abusing drugs. He escalated from over the counter medicines to just about anything he could get his hands on. Barbara believes he was self-medicating with substances.

That makes sense considering at school Daniel wasn’t offered much in the way of mental health treatment. There was no compassion or understanding when he got in trouble. There were only punitive measures like detention.

[BLUECTA title=”Addiction is not a choice!”]866-205-3108[/BLUECTA]

An Ineffective System Led to Daniel’s Death

Of course that’s a vast oversimplification. Death from substance abuse and mental illness isn’t due to any single factor. Rather, it’s an amalgamation of several factors. In Daniel’s case, the largest was the incredibly ineffective mental health system in schools, jails, and even institutions.

And he wasn’t alone. Close to 9 million Americans suffer from a co-occurring disorder. Only 7%, or 630,000 people, are treated for both. While that number seems high, consider that 56%, or almost 5 and a half million people, are treated for neither.

Okay, let’s think about this for a second. There are 9 million people who’re struggling with both addiction and mental illness. Close to 5 and a half million receive no treatment at all. For either. That’s negligent in the extreme.

child dies of drug overdose
image via The Addict’s Mom

What about those with mental illness in jails and institutions? Well, according to the US Department of Justice, 56% of those in state prisons suffer from mental health issues. 45% of those in federal prison and 64% of those in jail suffer from mental health issues.

Those are incredibly large numbers. Something isn’t right here. In fact, something is very, very wrong.

That’s where The Addict’s Mom is focusing the majority of their advocacy. Among other tactics, they’ve submitted a bill to the Florida State Congress that would make it illegal to arrest an individual who’s currently in a psych ward.

The bill is born from Barbara’s direct experience. In late 2014, Daniel was receiving care from the psychiatric unit in St. Lucie Medical Center. While there, he allegedly assaulted a security officer.

The assault landed Daniel in jail and triggered to a chain of events which culminated in his death in April.

Barbara isn’t alone in her loss. Many members of The Addict’s Mom have lost children to either addiction or mental illness. Sherry Schlenke, one of these mothers, had a son who struggled with heroin addiction for twenty years before passing away a year and a half ago.

Barbara, Sherry, and the rest of those involved in the Florida chapter of The Addict’s Mom sent a letter to the legal team that prosecuted Daniel. In it, Barbara wrote,

“All I can do now is tell his story to the world in the hopes that I am able to make the smallest change in a broken system that houses the mentally ill in violent jails” (Gant Daily).

Small or not, some change is desperately needed. Let’s just hope it comes soon.

Is suicide contagious? Recent research think so…

Marijuana Containing High THC Levels Linked to Psychosis

Strong Marijuana Causes Psychosis

Marijuana with large concentrations of the psychoactive chemical THC has been linked to a drastically increased chance of psychosis.

The link between potent cannabis and psychosis was made clear by researchers from King’s College in London. Marta Di Forti and Sir Robin Murray led the study, which examined how THC impacted an individual’s chance of developing drug-induced psychosis.

strong marijuana and psychosis
image via Tumblr

Their findings were recently published in the English journal Lancet Psychiatry. The specific findings, detailed below, shed new light on the dangerous connection between certain strains of marijuana and psychiatric distress.

Before examining Di Forti and Sir Murray’s research, we need to define what exactly “potent marijuana” means. For the purposes of this study, it refers to any weed that has greater than a 15% concentration of THC.

Sir Murray has stated that, “the results of the study point at the fact that almost one-quarter of cases of psychosis could be prevented if nobody smoked high-potency marijuana” (Utah People’s Post).

Learn facts and statistics about how many people smoke weed

New Info on Pot & Psychosis

The researchers from King’s College studied and analyzed data from 780 south London residents. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 65 years old and both male and female. Of the 780 individuals studied, 410 had previously experienced an episode of psychosis.

So, what did their research yield? Well, it showed that:

  • 24% of new cases of psychosis result from using strong marijuana.


  • Those who causally smoked strong marijuana are three times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.


  • Those who smoke every day are five times more likely to experience a psychotic episode.

[BLUECTA title=”Addiction is not a choice!”]866-205-3108[/BLUECTA]

  • The psychosis that strong marijuana produces is purely drug induced. It isn’t indicative of a lasting psychiatric disorder.


  • Using marijuana with lower than a 5% concentration of THC doesn’t lead to an increased risk of psychosis.


  • Using marijuana and hash with high concentrations of cannabidiol (also known as CBD) doesn’t lead to an increased risk of psychosis.


These findings led Di Forti to pronounce,

“When a [general practitioner] or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis, it’s not helpful; it’s like asking whether someone drinks. As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen” (Utah People’s Post).

Do you think a loved one is smoking pot? Learn how to be sure today!

Can Texting Help Prevent Suicide?

Yes, “Text Message Therapy” is Real

In 2011, Stephanie Shih and Nancy Lublin formed something called the Crisis Text Line. The nonprofit is a 24/7 crisis intervention hotline. It’s also, as the name suggests, conducted solely through text message.

text message therapy

The Crisis Text Line (or CTL) traces its history back to DoSomething.org. Shih was an employee there and Lublin is the current CEO. They were galvanized into founding CTL after receiving a heart wrenching message during a routine, text based announcement.

Shih was on the receiving end of a text that said, “He won’t stop raping me.” She brought the text to Lublin and, after some brainstorming, the two decided to form CTL. The rest, as they say, is history.

I learned about the organization after reading an incredible New Yorker profile. I’ll admit, at first a “text message therapy” line sounded strange. As I read on, though, I was soon a believer in the CTL’s mission. This was due, in no small part, to some interesting facts and some unique strategies the Crisis Text Line is employing.

New research shows that suicide is contagious

Texting Has Therapeutic Benefits

If “text message therapy” sounds strange to you, well, you’re not alone. The idea of something as abbreviated as a text being able to offer meaningful therapeutic benefits is foreign to many. There are some serious benefits to text based crisis intervention, though.

Consider that a single teenager sends, on average, two thousand texts each month. Consider that teenagers maintain contact with friends through text more than any other means, including face-to-face conversations.

Consider that almost all text messages are opened. The official number stands at 98%. Consider that people are four times more likely to read a text than an email.

Consider that hard research has shown writing to have therapeutic benefit. Consider that “According to Fred Conrad, a cognitive psychologist and the director of the Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, people are ‘more likely to disclose sensitive information via text messages than in voice interviews’” (The New Yorker).

Consider that the Crisis Text Line has received over five million texts. Consider that it receives, on average, 15,000 texts each day. Consider that they’ve received texts from each and every area code in the United States.

Keeping the above facts and statistics in mind, a therapeutic technique that’s able to tap into texting seems obvious. In fact, I’m left scratching my head and wondering why no one thought of this sooner.

Add into the mix the Crisis Text Line’s approach to “text message therapy” and there’s a lot of potential for positive outcomes.

[BLUECTA title=”Addiction is not a choice!”]866-205-3108[/BLUECTA]

CTL’s Unique Methods

The CTL has two unique approaches to crisis intervention. The first is how their staff actually corresponds with those who text in. The second is their research and analysis methods.

CTL counselors are trained through a seven-week course which, appropriately enough, can be done online through video conference. During their training period, counselors are taught to echo the language of those texting in. This helps put the texter at ease, as well as gain additional information about their situation.

Counselors are trained to ask open-ended questions, validate emotions/experiences, practice empathy, and point out various positive attributes. They’re discouraged from asking questions involving “why,” using overly formal language, and jumping to conclusions about a texter’s sex or sexuality.

In short, they’re trained like traditional therapists. They’re also trained in more internet savvy protocols, like using first person statements, avoiding typos, and not overusing acronyms.

crisis text line

Then, we come to the CTL’s data gathering techniques. These start at the interface that counselors use. It’s laid out similar to Facebook and highlights texts that contain words like suicide, kill, etc. It also has a helpful feature that lets counselors contact other, more experienced/specialized counselors without having to get up.

The sheer volume of texts the Crisis Text Line has received (five million) make it a goldmine for analyzing mental illness trends. Thanks to the CTL, new facts and statistics have come to light. These include things like:

  • Depression is highest in teens at 8pm

  • Anxiety is highest in teens at 11pm

  • Self-harm is highest in teens at 4am

  • Drug use is highest in teens at 5am

  • Arkansas has more teens struggling with eating disorders than any other state

  • Vermont has more teens struggling with depression than any other state

  • Montana has more teens experiencing suicidal thoughts than any other state

  • New Hampshire has fewer teens experiencing suicidal thoughts than any other state

Are antidepressants in sobriety right for me? Find out today!

And that’s just what the CTL has figured out so far! Imagine the mental illness information they’ll learn as they grow! More to the point, imagine the implications this information will have on treating mental illness. The New Yorker reports,

“The organization is working on predictive analysis, which would allow counsellors [sic] to determine with a high degree of accuracy whether a texter from a particular area, writing in at a particular time, using particular words, was, say, high on methamphetamine or the victim of sex trafficking.”

In the world of evidence-based, mental health therapies, this level of information gathering is invaluable. It’s truly a revolution in mental illness treatment. It would allow counselors, CTL and otherwise, an unheard of opportunity to help patients.

Check out the Crisis Text Line’s site!

Is Suicide Contagious?

Parents Who Attempt Suicide May Pass it On to Children

children of suicide

According to a new study from the University of Pittsburg, children of parents who’ve attempted suicide are nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide themselves.

Any factor that makes someone almost five times as likely to attempt to kill themselves is serious business. Equally alarming is the fact that researchers aren’t quite sure why a parent’s suicide attempt makes children more likely to try themselves. They’ve developed some theories, but have yet to come to a definitive conclusion.

The study, published in late 2014 in the JAMA journal Psychiatry, is an attempt by scientists to learn how suicide is transmitted through families.

How is talk therapy changing suicide prevention?


New Statistics on Suicide

The study examined over 700 children (with ages ranging from ten to fifty years old) of 334 parents with mood disorders. Of the 334 parents, 191 (roughly 57%) had attempted suicide before. On average, researchers examined the children for over five years.

Researchers found that, prior to the study, just over 6% of the children had attempted suicide before. During the five years of research, another 4% attempted suicide.

Episodes of depression also increased during the course of the study. During the first two years, almost 30% of the children reported experiencing depression. By the end of five years that number rose to just over 48%.

The question that’s on my mind is why? Why are children of suicidal parents more likely to attempt to kill themselves? Why are children of suicidal parents more likely to experience depression?

New Theories on Suicide

Part of the reason for the above numbers is surely environmental. If either of my parents attempted suicide, I imagine I’d be prone to depression. If this depression was left unchecked, it’s not a stretch to imagine suicide looking like a viable option.

What else, though? Surely that can’t be the sole contributing factor to why suicide seems to run in families.

It’s not. Researchers found that mood disorders elevated suicidal ideations and the risk of a suicide attempt. They also found that impulse aggression played a large role. Interestingly enough, they found that “child maltreatment” did not play a role in familial suicide attempts.

[BLUECTA title=”Addiction is not a choice!”]866-205-3108[/BLUECTA]

Suicide Prevention

What does this new information mean for preventing suicides? Or, to put it another way, how can these statistics and theories be used to save lives?

family suicide

Well, they suggest that not only is genetic and family history important, but in fact it’s vital to preventing suicide attempts. Think about it, if someone has a family history of clinical depression, with or without suicide attempts, that person is significantly more at risk for attempting suicide.

Likewise, if a family has a history of say Borderline Personality Disorder, all members of that family should undergo psychiatric evaluation. While this may sound a bit extreme, it absolutely isn’t. These evaluations may be able to not only uncover suicide risk factors for the family, but also aid ongoing suicide research.

This type of proactive research is how suicide should be treated. Rather than waiting for someone to attempt to kill themselves and going back through their family’s psychiatric history, let’s take a preemptive approach.

It’s through this hands on approach that we’ll be able to see a real impact made on reducing suicide and suicide attempts.

Learn how addiction impacts the entire family

Do They Really Work: Why Should I Use Antidepressants in Sobriety?

Do I Need a Pill to be Happy?

I got sober April 17th, 2008. I started taking antidepressants April 18th, 2008. For better or worse, antidepressants and sobriety have been linked for me from the very start.

antidepressants and sobriety

It’s over six years later and I still take antidepressants. I’ve questioned whether I need them to be happy. Hell, I’ve questioned whether I need them to be sober.

I don’t think I’m alone in this questioning, either. Although I’ve only spoken to a handful of my twelve-step friends about this, I believe depression in sobriety is something a lot of recovering addicts deal with.

So, my question is – do I need a pill to be happy?

The Truth About Mental Illness and Addiction

As far back as I can remember, I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety. In fact, I think those were driving forces behind my addiction.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that addiction and alcoholism are very separate from depression and anxiety. I’m an addict because I suffer from the disease of addiction. I’m an addict because I have a mental obsession, a physical allergy, and a spiritual malady.

That last point, though, is important. I believe that depression and anxiety are part of the spiritual malady. While the spiritual malady is removed by God, sometimes we need more help.

For me, that’s when antidepressants and sobriety entered the picture.

Learn why Delray Beach is the best place to get sober

Mental Illness: An Outside Issue?

I’ve heard this repeated at meetings. Someone will raise their hand and share about how they’re struggling with depression or anxiety. The next person will talk about how mental illness is an outside issue and shouldn’t be discussed in a twelve-step meeting.

On one hand, they’re absolutely right. Mental illness isn’t the same thing as addiction. Still, I think this type of thinking is shortsighted. After all, mental illness does go hand-in-hand with addiction. Don’t believe me? Ask ten addicts how many of them also suffer from some sort of mental illness. I bet you’ll see ten hands in the air.

So, how does a recovering addict talk about antidepressants and sobriety? How do we, as men and women of grace and dignity, start the conversation about antidepressants and sobriety?

[BLUECTA title=”Addiction is not a choice!”]866-205-3108[/BLUECTA]

My Experience with Antidepressants and Sobriety

Like I mentioned above, antidepressants and sobriety are intrinsically linked for me. I started taking antidepressants the day after I got sober.

I found myself in yet another treatment center. This time, though, the rehab’s doctor seemed to know what he was doing. He talked to me for about an hour and, at the end of our conversation, recommended I go on an antidepressant.

I was pretty hesitant. Like the title of this article, I thought to myself “Do I really need another pill?” I decided to listen to the doctor. I thank God everyday for that decision.

In early-sobriety, antidepressants allowed me to have some peace. They provided a window of sanity in an otherwise insane life. Remember, I was abstinent from drugs and alcohol, but I still hadn’t done much work on myself.

After I did the work, aka completed the twelve-steps, I continued to take antidepressants. I had a long talk with my sponsor about this. He said that taking non-narcotic medicine in sobriety was between me, my doctor, and God.

The Painkiller Epidemic: Real of Just Hype?

I’ve tried to talk to other addicts about antidepressants and sobriety. Most don’t want to talk about it. In fact, it seems like by asking I’m breaching some kind of code or something. They shrug the question off or respond by telling me to talk to my sponsor.

I briefly stopped taking antidepressants during my sobriety. Guess what happened? Both my depression and anxiety returned. They weren’t as bad as they’d been in active addiction, but they certainly handicapped me.

During this time, I prayed, meditated, and sought other types of spiritual relief. While these things helped, I was still depressed and anxious twenty-four hours a day. So, I went back on antidepressants.

Does the fact that I take antidepressants in sobriety make me less sober than someone who doesn’t? I don’t know. All I know is antidepressants have helped me tremendously.

Pros of Taking Antidepressants in Sobriety

  • They can relive depression and anxiety
  • They can provide relief in early-sobriety, before someone has completed the twelve-steps

Cons of Taking Antidepressants in Sobriety

  • Some people will claim you’re not really sober
  • It can be hard to have to take another pill in sobriety

If antidepressants are okay, what about Adderall?

Is Therapy Changing Suicide Treatment?

Therapy & Suicide: The New Facts

suicide and addiction

The findings of an eighteen-year, multinational study show that therapy reduces suicide rates. Okay, that sounds about right. I mean, that’s nothing we didn’t already know, right?

Wrong. Researchers from John Hopkins found that talk therapy reduced suicide attempts by 26%. That’s over one-fourth. That’s a pretty impressive number.

The study found that, at the five-year mark, participants in the therapy group attempted suicide 26% less than those in the non-therapy group. Take a minute to think about that. That’s real progress.

Also impressive were the ten-year statistics. Suicide rates were 229 out of 100,000 individuals from the therapy group. Again, that’s an impressive number.

What’s the link between shame, addiction, and suicide?

The Staggering Statistics on Suicide

If depression is “the silent killer,” then suicide is the silent assassin. Consider the following statistics:

  • Suicide kills approximately 800,000 people each year
  • Someone dies of suicide every thirteen minutes
  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide
  • Almost 40,000 Americans die each year as a result of suicide
  • For people aged fifteen to twenty-four, suicide is the second leading cause of death

All statistics are taken from SAVE.

It’s clear that suicide presents a major public health concern. In fact, I’d argue that it’s as big of a public health concern as anything else.

Look at how worked up the public recently became over Ebola. Suicide kills exponentially more people than Ebola, yet gets much less media attention. Why is that?

[BLUECTA title=”Addiction is not a choice!”]866-205-3108[/BLUECTA]

Barriers to Suicide Treatment

If talk therapy can lower suicide rates by 26%, the question then becomes how to provide access to those who need therapy most. In other words, how can we get someone who’s depressed into therapy?

That’s the hard part. The difficulty is only compounded when you consider that addiction is also a precursor to many suicides. So, how can we offer therapy to those who are unwilling to participate? How can we, as mental health professional, help those who so desperately need our help?

Perhaps the answer lies in integrating suicide prevention into substance abuse treatment. Perhaps the answer is increased education about suicide in schools. I don’t know. I do know something needs to be done and starting a dialogue about suicide is the beginning of affecting real change.

Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse or mental illness? Let us help you. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today!

We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute