Posts Tagged ‘substance abuse’

Why Are More Middle-Aged Women Killing Themselves?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found a 49 percent increase in emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts for women 50 years and older.  Women in the 40-69 age bracket are at greater risk of killing themselves than other women, according to research on age-specific suicide rates between 1998 and 2007.  In 2007, this age group comprised 60 percent of the 7,328 suicides reported among women.  The question is:  Why is this happening to middle-aged women?

There is a possibility that it is a question of numbers: One in four American adults has a treatable mental health condition; women in the 40-69-year-old age group represent one of the nation’s fastest-growing populations.  Alternatively, it could be a function of baby boomers’ elevated rates of substance abuse, a critical risk factor in suicide, said Julie Phillips, Ph.D., a social demographer and associate professor at Rutgers University.  According to Phillips, the age-specific rates were derived from data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau.

During the nine-year time period studied, suicide rates remained fairly stable for women younger than 40; for women older than 70, suicide rates declined.  Women 50 and older may be in crisis because pain and sleep disorders — widespread problems related to aging — often lead to increased use of prescription drugs, said Albert Woodward, Ph.D., the project director of SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network.  According to the SAMHSA report, suicide attempts involving drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia rose 56 percent.  Woodward said that middle-aged women may experience depression because of declining health and other negative life events.   Loneliness and depression also are risk factors for suicide.  “Older women, especially in the U.S., are more isolated and separated from daily human contact outside of work and the internet,” said Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology at San Jose State University and the editor of the journal Women & Therapy.

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a psychologist and licensed clinical social worker in Sarasota, FL, has found  a surprising increase in suicide attempts by women aged between 45 and 54.  Women are susceptible to depression but older women may also be suffering from pre-menopause hormone fluctuations that can affect mood changes and depression.  According to Dr. Wish, women in their middle years are more aware of their mortality and may be disenchanted that they will never be happy.  Becoming an empty nester also is stressful.

Of greater concern is the 67 percent increase of women taking hydrocodone, and an astonishing 210 percent increase for women taking oxycodone.  According to SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., “The steep rise in the abuse of narcotic pain relievers by women is extremely dangerous and we are now seeing the results of this public health crisis in our emergency rooms.  Emergency rooms should not be the frontline in our efforts to intervene.  Friends, family, and all members of the community must do everything possible to help identify women who may be in crisis and do everything possible to reach out and get them needed help.”

Because they are often members of the so-called “Sandwich Generation,” middle-aged women frequently discount their own needs as they organize commitments to jobs, marriages, kids, and aging parents.  Many say they don’t get enough sleep and eat too much junk-food.  According to medical experts, these habits — combined with soaring cortisol (a steroid hormone, or glucocorticoid, produced by the adrenal gland) levels — from stress — could mean this will be the first generation of women who don’t live five to seven years longer than males.

Baby Boomers Worry About Their Health, Memory Loss

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Baby boomers are more concerned with the ways that aging impacts their physical and mental health than the role it plays in their appearance.  Fully 65 percent of baby boomers – who are currently between the ages of 47 and 65 — expressed concern with their health, with 26 percent focused on retaining their mental faculties.  Just eight percent mentioned appearance as their biggest aging concern.

Boomers also are slightly less active than the previous generation.  Just 57 percent started a regular exercise program in 2010.  Of those who exercise regularly, 35 percent are walkers.  Nearly 4.3 million adults 50 or older used illicit drugs in the last year, according to a report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  According to the agency, substance abuse in this age group could create public health challenges over the next decade.

Boomers are in less agreement about whether their longer lives will be better than the previous generation: 49 percent expect a better life than their parents, while another 25 percent believe it will be about the same.  Another 26 percent expect that the quality of their lives will be worse than their parents.

Although younger adults believe that 60 is the start of old age, Baby Boomers strongly disagree.  The median age they cite is 70.  Twenty-five percent of Boomers insist you’re not old until you’re 80.  “In my 20s, I would have thought the 60s were bad, but they’re not so bad at all,” said Lynn Brown, 64, a retired legal assistant and grandmother of 11 living near Phoenix.  Boomers – 77 million strong — are celebrating their 47th through 65th birthdays in 2011.  In general, they are more optimistic about their futures than past generations.  Americans born in the population boom that followed World War II are more likely to be energized about the positive aspects of aging, such as retirement, than worried about the negatives, such as poor health.

The findings that midlifers who are worried about aging are focused more on their health over physical looks may seem surprising to some — but then when you see stunning boomer role models like Susan Sarandon and Helen Mirren, it all makes sense,” said Cindy Pearlman, entertainment writer for the Chicago Sun Times and best-selling author of “The Black Book of Hollywood Beauty Secrets” series, and regular contributor to LifeGoesStrong.com’s Style channel.  “Even in a town like Hollywood, where you’d expect nips and tucks everywhere you turn, many celebrities are saying that the secret to looking great at any age is accepting the inevitable changes that the years bring, while staying in shape and embracing your own sense of style.”

Many baby boomers have no problem working till they’re 65 or 70 as long as they’re not doing heavy lifting. A majority are enthusiastic about aging and have less concerns about physical ailments than their parents’ generation.  Tom Beumont understands that the current status of Social Security will require him to work longer, but he is fine with that.  “We kind of learned from our parents…we have a more diverse background and we also exercise more so that’s more important to us”, Beumont said.

Cindy Black, a nurse, said a lot of the people she sees at a clinic work too much. “I think we are burning the candle at both ends. They went to bed earlier back then and drank more water,” Black said.  Black said that while baby boomers exercise more than their parents and drink and smoke less, their fast paced lifestyle has a price.  According to Black, Boomers might end up working themselves to death, literally.  “They laugh when I tell them this but they need to go to bed by 10 o’clock.”

Baby Boomers are also concerned about their independence. Boomers primarily worry about losing their independence because of illness, while 44 percent are concerned about experiencing memory loss.  Approximately 41 percent have concerns about remaining financially self-sufficient.  The hedonistic Boomer generation forever changed the social scene with the dawning age of the flower child, and the explosion of the sexual revolution during the 1960s and 1970s.

Just 18 percent of Boomers worry about dying, while another 22 percent are moderately concerned about it.  More than two-thirds expect to live to at least age 76, and one in six expects to live into their 90s.

“Drunkorexia” Is the Latest Thing on Campus

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Drunkorexia combines binge drinking with not eating on college campuses.  Although it’s not exactly a medical term, drunkorexia is an accepted slang term for the practice of trading calories from food for those from alcohol.  “It’s a sensationalized term, but it’s a tangible idea for students,” said Emily Hedstrom-Lieser of the Drug, Alcohol & Tobacco Education Office at the University of Northern Colorado, who is creating a series of events during Alcohol Awareness Week.  Sensationalized or not, the condition is becoming a serious problem on college campuses across the country.

Pam McCracken, communications director at the Colorado State University Health Center, deals with drunkorexia on a daily basis.  “They will think, ‘I’m drinking, therefore I don’t want to eat so much, so I’m going to have a mixed salad and a Diet Coke.’  I say, ‘Look, the day that you’re consuming alcohol is not the day to cut back on your calories.'”  Hedstrom-Lieser reports that students tell her how their classmates drink on an empty stomach and then binge on “drunk food” such as pizza, hotdogs and hamburgers; later they feel guilty and make themselves vomit.

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders noted a connection between binge drinking (defined as four or more drinks in a single sitting) and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.  According to the authors, there is a “crucial need for early interventions targeting binge drinking among college-age women regardless of their current drinking status.”  Felicia Greher, a psychologist in Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Colorado at Boulder agrees, noting that “Typically when someone comes in for treatment, and they are diagnosed with an eating disorder, and they are abusing substances, they also receive a substance-abuse diagnosis.”

Dr. Kenneth L. Weiner, medical director at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, who has treated people with eating disorders for 25 years, says “The term ‘drunkorexia’ is not my favorite, but as it brings awareness to the problem, it’s probably fine.  Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness.  It’s an incredibly serious disorder.  When you’re starving yourself, your brain is really starved.  You’ve had the experience of drinking on an empty stomach?  These folks are drinking on an empty body.”

HHS Awards $100 Million to Public Health Initiatives

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Affordable Care Act sends $100 million to public health agencies.Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services is awarding nearly $100 million in grants to support locally based public health and prevention services. The money will support several public health initiatives, including substance abuse; mental health; stop-smoking hotlines; HIV testing and prevention; and obesity treatment and prevention.  According to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, some of the funding also will be spent on health information technology.

“From providing tools to help people stop smoking to new HIV testing and prevention programs to a critical investment in mental health, these Affordable Care Act prevention grants will help people get what they need to stay healthy and live longer,” Sebelius said.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/ will receive $75 million of the funding for its state and local public health programs.  Approximately $26 million of the CDC money will fund epidemiology, lab and health information systems in the health departments of all 50 states, two territories and the nation’s six biggest cities.

The funding is intended to help public health departments participate in “meaningful use” of electronic health records by implementing high-tech reporting.  Another $21.7 million in CDC funds will promote HIV testing and prevention.