Rising Instances of Substance Abuse Go Hand in Hand with Mental Disorders

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio Says Self-Medication a Problem for Those Dealing with Depression and Anxiety
May 19, 2014

Philadelphia, PA—Drug abuse is becoming so prevalent that several states have taken steps to monitor prescription drug use, with at least one state now considering a bill that would require health officials to keep closer tabs on the prescription drugs that could lead to addiction.

Currently, the Massachusetts Senate and House are considering a bill that may help curb the growing problem of drug dependency. The bill would toughen the state’s prescription monitoring program and require that pharmacists provide an interchangeable drug that deters abuse, unless the physician says that such a drug should not be provided.

The bill would also require insurance companies to pay for substance abuse treatment services provided by licensed drug and alcohol counselors—a topic that is especially close to the heart of Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at the Lighthouse Network, an addiction and mental health counseling helpline.

“We are seeing more and more patients who are struggling with a multitude of addictions and mental disorders,” Benzio said. “These problems and addictions create and then perpetuate a vicious downward cycle. When someone is depressed, anxious or stressed, they may turn to alcohol or drugs, which might numb the pain temporarily, but only exasperate the problems they are experiencing. Adding drugs and alcohol to any issue will never solve it but will only make it much, much worse.

“Only a heartfelt commitment to professional treatment—preferably with a biblical, God-centered focus—can break the cycle. The truth is that we are all addicts, addicted to comfort. Unfortunately, Satan and his world’s schemes promote many counterfeit remedies that people use to substitute for the ultimate pain remedy: Jesus Christ.”

While addictions take many forms, Benzio defines an addiction as pursuing something other than God in a repetitive, habitual or patterned way in order to get needs met. Simply stated, an addiction is an oft-used coping skill without God at the center.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and Benzio says that many who abuse drugs or alcohol are self-medicating as a way to escape depression, anxiety, or stress or to deal with problems that affect their everyday lives.

Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a report, “Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings,” which presented alarming facts about drug and alcohol use in America.

For example, in 2012, an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older—or 9.2 percent—were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants or prescription-type psychotherapeutics (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives) used non-medically.

The survey found that marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug—with 18.9 million current users. Those who used marijuana daily or almost daily increased from 5.1 million people in 2007 to 7.6 million in 2012.

One frightening figure was the number of those who had used heroin in the past year, which increased nearly 75 percent from 2007 to 2012.

“Heroin abuse is rising dramatically in our society,” Benzio said. “We see more and more who are struggling with this drug, as it is highly addictive and difficult for users to escape its grips. Particularly concerning is the tie between heroin and drugs that society might think aren’t harmful, like marijuana. The truth is that pot is, indeed, a ‘gateway drug,’ and when pot users find that it’s not enough or they are bored with its effects, they turn to much more harmful drugs, like cocaine and heroin. And when drug use is mixed with alcohol and a mental disorder or illness, the results can be devastating.”

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that slightly more than half (52.1 percent) of Americans aged 12 or older reported being current alcohol drinkers. This represents and estimated 135.5 million people. Furthermore, 23 percent said they were binge alcohol users in the past 30 days, meaning they consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion, or at one sitting, on at least one day that month.

The percentage of binge drinkers was even higher for the younger population. Among those aged 18 to 25, nearly 40 percent they had engaged in binge drinking.

The report contained approximately 67,500 responses from an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

For the past 65 years, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the country have led the observance of May as Mental Health Month. The theme for 2014 is “Mind Your Health” in an effort to tie mental health to physical health and educate the public about ways the mind and body interact.

Lighthouse Network works to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE.

Lighthouse Network’s web site, www.lighthousenetwork.org,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.

Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit https://lighthousenetwork.org/stepping-stones/ to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit www.lighthousenetwork.org or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE.

To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at dhamilton@hamiltonstrategies.com, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.

Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.

Dr. Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy.

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