Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Mental Health Care Act:

Laughter is the best medicine. If you believe that then I guess that is why it is so hard for us all to believe that such a comic genius like Robin Williams, who gave us all such joy and laughter, could feel such hopelessness and despair that he could take his own life.

I have heard that we all have thought of suicide at one time or another. I certainly have. I've had cancer twice and sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. I have always valued quality of life over quantity and if I was ever at a stage 4, I'm not sure what decisions I would make but chemo might not be one of those choices, but an extra dose of pain killers might be.

But if we can learn anything from the unfortunate event it is that no one is exempt from inner demons. We all have them, some just have stronger more powerful demons. Yet the safety net for those who struggle with depression and other mental illnesses has huge holes in it. Here is a man who had all the resources money could buy, yet it didn't save him. What about the ordinary John or Jane Doe. What are we to do? In the 1980's our mental health system was gutted and it has never recovered.

What I am suggesting is that we use this tragedy to help others. I hope that everyone who reads this, will write to your congressman/woman and suggest a "Robin Williams Mental Health Care Act". This will fund mental health services that are so badly needed in our country. Won't you join me today and write President Obama, your senators, your house representatives. 34,000 people commit suicide every year. We couldn't save one of our brightest actors but we can start to help others. If nothing else just copy this letter and email it:
President Obama:http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments
For Congress: http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/

Friday, July 25, 2014

What is a Tobacco Treatment Specialist and how can you help me quit smoking? Can't I just quit smoking on my own?

A Tobacco Treatment Specialist (TTS) is a person who has been specially trained in the treatment of nicotine addiction. I was trained at the Mayo Clinic. I also belong to a professional organization: The Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence(ATTUD). A TTS will use evidence based material (proven strategies) to help a smoker become smoke-free. One guideline that is used is the The Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. This publication has delved into all of the research into tobacco treatment and has complied the best practices. Methods are rated A, B, C.

  • A = This method has been proven to work on a consistent basis.
  • B = These methods have conflicting information. 
  • C = No clinical controlled trials to show efficacy.

Many smokers do quit on their own, just like other addictions such as alcohol, cocaine and heroin. But many need help to kick their addiction, especially nicotine. I have had former heroin addicts tell me that heroin and/or alcohol were easier to quit than smoking.

Have you ever talked to a former smoker and asked what helped them to quit? They can tell you the long trial and error process they used and what ultimately worked for them. It doesn't mean that it will work for you. Working with a professional will shorten your learning curve in what will help you quit and stay quit.

Here is what you can expect when working with a professional Tobacco Treatment Specialist:

  • A detailed personal history. Every smoker is different. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to tobacco treatment, not even a one-size-fits-most. You will be asked about how much you smoke, for how long, your previous quit attempts, your medical and mental health history, previous or current substance use, your common triggers, assessment of your nicotine dependence and your perceived obstacles to quitting. 
  • From your detailed history, an individualized treatment plan is developed. It will include information of what medications may help and what practical counseling skills are needed for your particular situation including: emotional cues, dealing with stress, weight gain, handling withdrawals with or without medications, being around other smokers, and relapse prevention.
  • Motivation when times are tough. Some days you will feel that nothing can ever drag you back to smoking and other days you will feel that nothing will help except a cigarette. 
  • Explanations for any questions or myths related to smoking. I have had many clients whose doctors have told them that if they quit they would: breathe better, have lower cholesterol, their neuropathy will improve etc. yet they didn't believe their doctors. Why? Because their doctors didn't take the time to fully explain what smoking is doing to their body and how the body heals itself when you quit. 
  • Someone who understands how difficult it is to become smoke-free. While I am a former smoker having quit 9 separate times for at least 3 months and I personally know how hard it is, many TTS's have never smoked but with their specialized training and after working with countless smokers, they don't need to know what it is like. Just as an OB/GYN doctor doesn't need to know how it feels to be pregnant to deliver a baby. 
Signs that it is time to use a TTS instead of trying to quit on your own:
  • You have quit multiple times, only to relapse back to smoking. 
  • Have a history of other substance abuse and/or addiction, or a history of mental illness.
  • A sense of shame or guilt that you are still smoking. Shame is when you feel there is something wrong with you that you can't quit. Guilt is when you feel you should quit and want to quit, but are still smoking. These are normal emotions that a TTS can help you work through instead of letting these emotions stop you from moving forward. 
  • You've tried everything and nothing works. A TTS will help you cut through the "noise" of quitting, helping you focus on what will work. Too often a smoker relies on the latest fad or gimmick to quit instead of what will work, or will rely on just one tool instead of developing several coping strategies. A TTS will focus on the process of quitting, not just the method, since every method will work for some smokers, NO method will work for every smoker.  
Call me today at 760-333-1270 for a FREE 15 minute counseling session to see how I can help you. 

I just turned 50, had a physical and my doctor says I'm in great health. Why should I quit?

It is common to believe that you are one of the "lucky" ones who can smoke without it doing any physical damage, especially when hearing something like this from your doctor. Or believing that when your doctor listens to your chest and says, "Your lungs sound fine", thinking this means smoking has done no damage. This is called having an "optimistic bias".

The average life expectancy for men is 76 and for women 80. Smokers die about 10 years earlier than non-smokers. But since we all have to die of something, it might as well be something you enjoy -right?

Age 45 to 50 seems to be the tipping point. What your doctor should say is, "How do you want to live the last 20 years of your life? If you stop now, you will probably stay healthy and be able to continue doing the activities you enjoy most. However, if you keep smoking, you will probably end up disabled from heart disease, cancer, stroke, or emphysema."

Here is a graph that shows the progression of lung function decline of smokers, non-smokers and quitters leading to disability and ultimately death.

The truth is that no one who smokes is healthy. Fifty percent of all smokers will die from their addiction but almost all will develop some type of disability from smoking. The problem isn't that you will die too young from smoking but you will live too long suffering from a horrible debilitating disease. So quit now while there is still time to stay healthy. Turn your optimistic bias into believing that if you do quit, you will continue to be healthy but if you continue to smoke, you will suffer the disabling effects.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I just quit smoking, when will I feel better?

Most smokers feel better in three to four weeks. By this time the nicotine withdrawals have subsided or are being effectively managed and "habit" cigarettes have gone away.

Nicotine withdrawal is the main reason why smokers relapse the first month they quit. Physical withdrawal symptoms are: Cravings, depression, anger, irritability, insomnia, hunger or weight gain, fatigue, restlessness and frustration. For some smokers these symptoms can last up to six months.

There is no reason why a smoker should feel uncomfortable during this first month because there are seven FDA approved cessation medications to help with physical withdrawals. Often a combination of medications works better than using one. A recent study showed that the combination of Chantix with the Nicotine Patch worked better and had higher quit rates than using either of them alone. A professional tobacco treatment specialist can help a smoker figure out what combination of medications may work best.

Habit cigarettes are often seen as the hardest to quit. The one with your morning coffee, in the car on the way to work, or the one at break time. The cigarettes are a conditioned response. Your brain has associated different activities with the jolt of nicotine. This is the same conditioning as Pavlov's dogs. The dogs were taught to associate the ringing of a bell with food. Every time they heard a bell, they started salivating because they knew food was coming. A smokers brain is exactly the same - you smell the coffee and your brain immediately thinks of a cigarette. You get into your car and your brain immediately thinks of a cigarette.

What most people are not aware of is that Pavlov also taught the dogs to stop anticipating food when they heard the bell. It's called "extinguishing the condition". It takes about three to four weeks or about 30 different times where you have a cup of coffee without a cigarette. After this amount of time, your brain no longer anticipates getting a cigarette.

When nicotine withdrawals and the habit cigarettes are no longer an issue, a smoker will feel "normal" again. This is when a smoker may think they have the problem beaten. They have mastered their addiction. But they have only mastered two parts and the tools used for withdrawals and habit cigarettes are not the same tools needed to overcome what is needed to overcome the reasons for long-term relapse: stress, weight gain, emotional triggers, alcohol and being around other smokers.

So just because you feel better soon, don't let your guard down but develop new tools and strategies tostay quit for forever.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Looking for e-cigarette stories to be published.

Have you tried e-cigarettes? Did they help you stop smoking or was it waste of money? I'm looking for real world experience with e-cigarettes or personal vaporizers to include in a new e-book I am writing. This will be an informational e-book presenting both sides of the e-cigarette controversy.

For participating I will send you a FREE copy of the e-book once it's completed. You can either leave your experience in the comment section or I can call you and do an interview, whichever is easiest for you. Send an email to : VJSleight@cs.com with your phone number and the best time to call. All comments will be anonymous.