Pandemic blamed for Oregon’s 40% increase in drug overdose deaths

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Oregon saw a nearly 40% increase in overdose deaths this year, a jump that’s similar to the trend nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blames the increase on COVID-19. It said the pandemic has hit people already struggling with substance abuse disorders hard.

CDC figures show Oregon reported 580 deaths from drug overdoses between June 2019 to May 2020 . For the whole country, there were more than 81,000 deaths. That’s equivalent to the entire population of Medford, and it is the highest number of overdose deaths in a one-year span the country has ever seen.

“Many people who are using substances, they may be hanging by a thread as is,” said Dr. Tom Jeanne, deputy health officer with the Oregon Health Authority. “Throw in a pandemic and all the disruptions, access to housing, access to health care and mental health services, stress from losing jobs and social isolation, all of those things just compound the already significant stressors that many of these people are facing.

“The COVID crisis also interrupted ways people with substance use disorder can get help, such as mental health services, 12-step programs and ambulatory visits.”

The Oregon Health Authority is reporting a 63%t spike in drug overdose deaths during the second quarter of 2020. The deaths appear to have peaked in May and then returned to near-monthly averages in June and July. Death figures for more recent months have yet to be updated, but early data indicates a worrisome increase in November.

While most Oregon deaths from overdoses involve opioids, troubling contributors include methamphetamines and the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

The state said it is taking several steps to try to reduce overdose deaths. For example, the state is distributing the overdose prevention drug naloxone. It’s using real-time overdose surveillance data to mount immediate responses to sudden increases in deaths. And it’s providing methadone to patients through opioid treatment providers and it’s using people who’ve recovered from drug addiction to mentor those currently using drugs.

People using opioids on a regular basis are also being advised to reach out to treatment programs, hotlines, and mental health services.

Five overdose calls, including two deadly cases, hit Oxnard police in 10-hour stretch

Oxnard authorities responded to five overdose calls — including two fatal incidents — during a 10-hour stretch starting Tuesday afternoon.

The cluster of cases prompted the Oxnard Police Department to issue a news release that included resources for people struggling with opioid addiction.

The spate of calls started around 3:35 p.m. Tuesday when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a suspected heroin overdose in the parking lot of a business in the 2300 block of North Rose Avenue, south of the junction with Highway 101, the department reported. A 40-year-old man died at the scene after crews attempted life-saving measures.

The next two patients were revived with the use of naloxone, a nasal spray sometimes called by the brand name Narcan, which can reverse opioid overdoses. Patrol officers with many local law enforcement agencies now routinely carry and administer the spray.

Shortly after 7 p.m., a  29-year-old man described as unconscious and not breathing at Rose Avenue and Highway 101 was revived by emergency medical crews using naloxone. Less than an hour later, a bystander successfully administered naloxone to a 49-year-old woman reported as unconscious and not breathing at Ninth and B streets, authorities said.

More local news:Vagabond Inn in Oxnard officially purchased for homeless housing under Project Homekey

At around 11:26 p.m., officers responded to the 1200 block of South Victoria Avenue, south of Wooley Road, where a man was reportedly not breathing inside a business restroom. The 36-year-old man died at the scene despite live-saving efforts by medical crews.

Two hours later, police officers administered two doses of naloxone and started CPR on a 29-year-old man, successfully reviving him. He had reportedly stopped breathing in a business parking lot in the 1900 block of North Rose, north of Gonzales Road.

In 2019, 149 people died of drug overdoses in Ventura County, authorities have reported.

Oxnard police have recently increased seizures of heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, the department noted. Addiction to prescription pain relievers has caused a sharp increase in use of heroin and fentanyl use in Ventura County because heroin is cheaper and more widely available than prescription pills, authorities said.

Heroin is often laced with fentanyl, which is about 50 times stronger and can be lethal in very small doses. An amount of fentanyl equivalent to about three grains of salt could provide a fatal dose, according to police.

“Very few people can say they do not know somebody who is not affected by the epidemic,” officials said in a statement, noting that opioid addiction can touch people from all walks of life. Naloxone kits are available for family members or others who live with a person struggling with opioid addiction from Ventura County Behavioral Health.

Authorities urge residents to explore resources available from Ventura County Behavioral Health at www.venturacountyresponds.org.

When Does Drug Use Become an Addiction?

Drug addiction is a complex and chronic brain disease. People who have a drug addiction experience compulsive, sometimes uncontrollable, craving for their drug of choice. Typically, they will continue to seek and use drugs in spite of experiencing extremely negative consequences as a result of using.

Characteristics of Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by:

  • Compulsive drug-seeking
  • Continued use despite harmful consequences
  • Long-lasting changes in the brain

NIDA also notes that addiction is both a mental illness and a complex brain disorder. Diagnosing addiction requires an assessment by a trained and certified professional. Talk to a doctor or mental health professional if you feel that you may have an addiction or substance abuse problem.

Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Treat Addiction?

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy approach that can be used to help treat substance use disorders. CBT is commonly used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other mental disorders, but it has also been shown to be valuable in treating alcoholism and drug addiction. This is especially true when it’s part of an overall program of recovery.

CBT helps people learn to better identify the negative and self-defeating thoughts and actions that can contribute to substance use. It is a short-term, focused therapeutic approach to helping drug-dependent people become abstinent.

How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Works?

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Rational emotive behavior therapy, also known as REBT, is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy developed by psychologist Albert Ellis. REBT is focused on helping clients change irrational beliefs.

The Basic Steps of REBT

In order to better understand how REBT looks, it is important to take a closer look at the therapeutic process itself.

Identify Irrational Thought Patterns and Beliefs

The very first step in the process is to identify the underlying, irrational thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that lead to psychological distress. In many cases, these irrational beliefs are reflected as absolutes, as in “I must,” “I should,” or “I cannot.” According to Ellis, some of the most common irrational beliefs include:

  • Feeling excessively upset over other people’s mistakes or misconduct
  • Believing that you must be 100% competent and successful in everything to be valued and worthwhile
  • Believing that you will be happier if you avoid life’s difficulties or challenges
  • Feeling that you have no control over your own happiness, that your contentment and joy are dependent upon external forces

Holding such unyielding beliefs makes it almost impossible to respond to activating situations in a psychologically healthy way. Possessing such rigid expectations of ourselves and others only leads to disappointment, recrimination, regret, and anxiety. Rational emotive behavior therapy can be effective in the treatment of a range of psychological disorders, including anxiety and phobias. It can also help people manage specific behaviors, such as severe shyness and excessive approval-seeking.

Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others.

DBT can help people who have difficulty with emotional regulation or are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors (eating disorders and substance use disorders). DBT is sometimes used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How It Works

DBT has evolved to become an evidence-based psychotherapy approach that is used to treat many conditions. DBT is used in three therapeutic settings.

Group settings where patients are taught behavioral skills by completing homework assignments and role-playing new ways of interacting with others.

Individual therapy with a trained professional where a patient’s learned behavioral skills are adapted to their personal life challenges.

Phone coaching in which patients can call the therapist between sessions to receive guidance on coping with a difficult situation they are currently in.

Each therapeutic setting has its own structure and goals, but the characteristics of DBT can be found in group skills training, individual psychotherapy, and phone coaching.

Acceptance and change. You’ll learn strategies to accept and tolerate your life circumstances, emotions, and yourself. You will also develop skills that can help you make positive changes in your behaviors and interactions with others.

Behavioral. You’ll learn to analyze problems or destructive behavior patterns and replace them with more healthy and effective ones.

Cognitive. You’ll focus on changing thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and actions that are not effective or helpful.  

Collaboration. You’ll learn to communicate effectively and work together as a team (therapist, group therapist, psychiatrist).

Skill sets. You’ll learn new skills to enhance your capabilities.

Support. You’ll be encouraged to recognize your positive strengths and attributes and develop and use them.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the automatic negative thoughts that can contribute to and worsen emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These spontaneous negative thoughts have a detrimental influence on mood.

Through CBT, these thoughts are identified, challenged, and replaced with more objective, realistic thoughts.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT encompasses a range of techniques and approaches that address thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. These can range from structured psychotherapies to self-help materials. There are a number of specific types of therapeutic approaches that involve CBT:

  • Cognitive Therapy centers on identifying and changing inaccurate or distorted thinking patterns, emotional responses, and behaviors.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) addresses thoughts and behaviors while incorporating strategies such as emotional regulation and mindfulness.
  • Multimodal Therapy suggests that psychological issues must be treated by addressing seven different but interconnected modalities, which are behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal factors, and drug/biological considerations.4
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) involves identifying irrational beliefs, actively challenging these beliefs, and finally learning to recognize and change these thought patterns.

While each type of cognitive behavioral therapy takes a different approach, all work to address the underlying thought patterns that contribute to psychological distress.

Cognitive-behavior therapy can be effectively used as a short-term treatment centered on helping people with a very specific problem and teaching them to focus on present thoughts and beliefs. CBT is used to treat a wide range of conditions including:

  • Addictions
  • Anger issues
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality disorders
  • Phobias
  • Problems with stress

Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly goal-oriented and focused, with the therapist taking a very active role. People work with their therapists toward mutually established goals. The process is explained in detail and people are often given homework to complete between sessions.

Impact

The underlying concept behind CBT is that thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in behavior. For example, a person who spends a lot of time thinking about plane crashes, runway accidents, and other air disasters may avoid air travel as a result. The goal of cognitive behavior therapy is to teach people that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment.

CBT Strategies

People often experience thoughts or feelings that reinforce or compound faulty beliefs. Such beliefs can result in problematic behaviors that can affect numerous life areas, including family, romantic relationships, work, and academics.

Identify Negative Thoughts

It is important to learn how thoughts, feelings, and situations can contribute to maladaptive behaviors. The process can be difficult, especially for people who struggle with introspection, but it can ultimately lead to self-discovery and insights that are an essential part of the treatment process.

Practice New Skills

It is important to start practicing new skills that can then be put in to use in real-world situations. For example, a person with a substance use disorder might start practicing new coping skills and rehearsing ways to avoid or deal with social situations that could potentially trigger a relapse.

Set Goals

Goal setting can an important step in recovery from mental illness and helping you make changes to improve your health and life. During CBT, a therapist can help with goal-setting skills by teaching you how to identify your goal, distinguish between short- and long-term goals, set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) goals, and focus on the process as much as the end outcome.

Problem Solve

Learning problem solving skills can help you identify and solve problems that arise from life stressors, both big and small, and reduce the negative impact of psychological and physical illness. Problem solving in CBT often involves five steps: identifying a problem, generating a list of possible solutions, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each possible solution, choosing a solution to implement, and implementing the solution.

Self Monitor

Also known as diary work, self-monitoring is an important part of CBT that involves tracking behaviors, symptoms, or experiences over time and sharing them with your therapist. Self-monitoring can help provide your therapist with the information needed to provide the best treatment. For example, for eating disorders, self-monitoring may involve keeping track of eating habits as well as any thoughts or feelings that went along with consuming that meal or snack.

Progress Gradually

In most cases, CBT is a gradual process that helps a person take incremental steps towards a behavior change. For example, someone with social anxiety might start by simply imagining anxiety-provoking social situations. Next, they might start practicing conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances. By progressively working toward a larger goal, the process seems less daunting and the goals easier to achieve.

One of the greatest benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy is that it helps clients develop coping skills that can be useful both now and in the future. CBT is one of the most researched types of therapy, in part because treatment is focused on highly specific goals and results can be measured relatively easily.

Oak Forest Recovery in Agoura Hills, meet the Founder & Owner RJ Elizarraz

RJ Elizarraz

Oak Forest Recovery in Agoura Hills, meet the Founder & Owner RJ Elizarraz

Interview with RJ Elizaraz where RJ discusses his personal experiences in recovery and how they have shaped his business, and the principles that guide him as a leader.

Describe your business

What differentiates us really is the fact that Oak Forest has a really incredible structure. The structure is entirely created out of my own recovery and those recoveries that I’ve seen and admire most. We have a brotherhood here, and it’s an all male facility. Were gender specific, which I think is also very important because it creates a really cool camaraderie and that camaraderie is all being facilitated in the high structure environment that we have created here. We get guys up at 5:30 am, which is early, but what we find is that when you’re around 15 other guys going through the same struggles, waking up at the same time and meeting in the kitchen to have breakfast together with not only myself, but also Gerry and Marcos, it’s not so much of a chore to wake up anymore. It becomes like a fun summer camp, where these guys are waking up on their own and having fun in the kitchen at 5am before the sun is even out yet. Then after breakfast we go to a 7am meeting and after the meeting, we head to the gym for about an hour and a half to two hours. The gym is mandatory. Sometimes you get push-back from guys the beginning, but there is a male camaraderie that happens and its only facilitated through these structured events that happen. Getting up in the morning, going to the meeting together, going to the gym together, training together, playing basketball together and doing fun things creates a male bond where these guys are pulling each other through the fears. We put a lot of care into making sure that the clients that do come here are getting the right treatment. What also makes us unique is that we have an entire network of intensive outpatient programs, psychiatrists, doctors and therapists so we can really cater to the needs of our clients. Not only are they getting these men into a routine here and getting male camaraderie, but we are also setting them up with the right resources that allow for the best recovery.

Oak Forest Recovery

What made you decide to open this business?

My recovery journey started when I was about 20. I turned 21 in my first rehab in Utah. I went to a 45-60 day in patient treatment center and then went to a all male sober living in Salt Lake City. I connected so well with the guys there. I got into going to the gym, I got into fitness, I got into healthy eating, and healthy habits. I felt a camaraderie and brotherhood that I had never experienced before. I stayed sober fro 4 years from that and then I relapsed. Following my relapse, I started a tour of several other treatment centers and rehabs. I wanted to recreate what I found in my first sobriety but make sure to add the principles of spirituality and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. That is what I set out to strive to do and I think we achieved that.

What has surprised you most when owning a business?

I think the biggest surprise of running and owning a business has been the deep relationships that are created with the people I work with. One of the most important things to me is that anyone that I work with or that works for me feels like family. I didn’t expect it to be to the level that I have now found in running and owning a business, but the guys that work with me, I would lay my life on the line for. I think a business is only as good as the relationships that are created in it.

What is something most people don’t know about the business?

My life is totally transparent to everyone that is here. People don’t really understand the depth of that until they live here. There is noting in my life that is secret. It has created such an incredible wellspring of trust and relationship building. These guys can track where I am 24/7. They know every move I make whether I’m here, not here, where I go, who I see. They know everything. Its cool because it allows me to expect from them, the same level of transparency that I give to them. I am leading by example.

What are your goals over the next year?

Right now we’re an all men’s house, I would love to see a women’s house open or a second men’s house open. What we’re really good at here is the high structure, family environment. I want to recreate that for women and expand my capacity for men. I always want to use our local community for resources as far as therapists, doctors and psychiatrists and I plan to continue utilizing our outreach for our expansion moving forward.

How long have you lived in the neighborhood?

I was born in Los Robles Hospital. I grew up all over the Conejo Valley, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura and Newbury Park, but mainly in Westlake Village.
I had the unique opportunity of going to Westlake High School, Oak Park High School and Newbury Park High School. I can definitely say I loved my experience at all 3 schools.

What do you love most about the neighborhood?

I started a business here because I love this area. Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, the entire Conejo Valley – it’s one of the most incredible places to raise a family and raise kids. I grew up my entire life living in Westlake. I grew up my whole life in Westlake. I was a little kid running the street in Westlake and not once did I ever feel worried or scared. I never want to leave, I want my kids to grow up here.

What do you want to see improve the most in this neighborhood?

I would love to see more things for young kids to do in the later evenings. With the recent open of Dave and Busters in our area, everyone seems to be going there and loving it. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s just nice to see something that these young people are getting excited about.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with a customer?

There was a kid who came into Oak Forest and he was 20. He celebrated his 21st birthday here. He had never had a license, he had never worked a job in his life, he never paid bills and he had never had a normal life. Today is a year and a half later. He has a license, he bought his own car, him and his family are a part of my family now, his family fully trusts him. He also has a full time job working in treatment and getting paid about 20/hour and fully supports himself in only a year and a half. He is someone that will be part of my life forever and these are the experiences that are priceless.

Anything exciting going on that customers should know about?

Oak Forest is continuing to grow. We are looking for another house and are hopefully going to expand our capacity and offer services like this for women in the future.
I also started a media company called Mad Rose media which is a full production business. We do video production and high end content creation for corporate business needs.