Dr. Sunder is the Medical Director at The Mind and Body Treatment and Research Institute in Riverside, California
Dr. Sunder is the Medical Director at The Mind and Body Treatment and Research Institute in Riverside, California
It was a less than a year ago that Adrienne Heinz lost her brother, Austen, who committed suicide after a lifelong battle with depression.
Austen was a science geek and a risk-taker. He enjoyed hiking under the Redwoods and playing with his newborn nephew. He wore flip flops to investor meetings, and embodied the extremes associated with entrepreneurship. He was on the brink of great success and grappling with the rocky road that it took to get there.
Austen had turned his radical idea, a scientific approach to laser-print DNA, into a company, Cambrian Genomics. It had all the makings of a Silicon Valley success story: a disruptive idea, a charismatic founder, a roster of impressive investors. And the media had begun to pick up on it — his outspoken and sometimes brash nature garnered both good and bad press.
Long before he became an entrepreneur, Austen battled depression. And on May 24, 2015, he ended his life. He was 31 years old.
Those closest to Austen say his struggle with mental illness was magnified by the pressures of running a startup — pressure he kept to himself.
“He already had those mental health issues and the stress and the challenges of entrepreneurship were just too much,” friend and mentor Mike Alfred recalled. “He was fine as long as things were generally going well, but as soon as he experienced too much negativity … It was like they overflowed and he would go into this spiral.”
“This ability to live with uncertainty, to take risks, it pushed him further than he should have gone before he asked for help,” his sister Adrienne said.
Related: Coder who committed suicide: Tech was ‘bright spot in her life’
Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Freeman studies the relationship between entrepreneurship and depression.
He says many of the personality traits found in entrepreneurs — creativity, extroversion, open mindedness and a propensity for risk — are also traits associated with ADHD, bipolar spectrum conditions depression, and substance abuse.
In a study Freeman conducted, nearly half of the entrepreneurs said they experienced mental health issues at some point in their lives.
He says having more resources available would make a huge difference, and he calls for more MBA programs and tech incubators to educate people about mental health issues.
Freeman recalled a conversation with an entrepreneur who wanted to help other people in a similar situation but didn’t feel comfortable disclosing his struggles.
“[He] told me that he would really like to help other entrepreneurs but can’t because his company is going to be acquired or it’s going to be public within the next 12 months,” Freeman said. “He’s afraid that being associated with those issues could adversely impact the acquisition or the IPO.”
This seems to be indicative of a broader trend. Because while Silicon Valley appears to be an open-minded mecca, it’s not always a welcoming place for people to honestly discuss their mental health. Startups are encouraged to only let on that they’re “crushing it,” and founders in the throes of running a company are pressured to put on a good face for investors and employees.
“There’s this weird dynamic that happens where when you’re weakest, you’re most vulnerable, you can’t actually share that with your investors,” said Alfred. “Because maybe they won’t fund you right when you need it.”
Related: Does text therapy actually work?
Alfred encourages entrepreneurs struggling with mental health issues to find a network outside the company.
“If the only people you ever talk to are your employees and your investors and your board, you’re going to become overly focused on one thing,” he says, emphasizing that running a company can be isolating for those who are struggling.
Amy Buechler is a psychotherapist who works at Y Combinator, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent incubators. She said these issues are particularly tricky for entrepreneurs.
“Being open and vulnerable is hard in general — really hard. Entrepreneurs themselves aren’t any more or less afraid of than the rest of us,” she said. “What’s changing is how society views entrepreneurs — they’re becoming celebrities, and with that comes scrutiny and high expectations.”
But she’s optimistic that the stigma is starting to disappear — and Y Combinator is trying to be part of that shift. The accelerator has invested in a nonprofit called Innerspace that hosts workshops on communication and emotional awareness and offers founder-friendly therapists.
“We’ve negotiated a deal with one of these clinics to lower the cost of therapy,” she says. “We’re doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible to access psychotherapy so founders are happy and healthy.”
Related: Can daily text messages close the confidence gap?
Heinz, meanwhile, hopes to facilitate a discussion in Silicon Valley that goes beyond success stories — that touches on the darker moments that often accompany those stories.
She had pins made for a suicide prevention walk in San Francisco called “Out of the Darkness.” They feature a smiling Austin and read: “We are all creatures, and we need one another.”
It’s a nod to her brother, who loved science and the idea of creation. They also serve as a message for those who may be suffering.
“It’s to say, ‘We’re a community.’ If we don’t hold each other up and provide support, it doesn’t allow us to thrive.”
Have you experienced addiction, or seen a loved one suffer?
Addiction, from prescription drug or alcohol – to caffeine, is all the result of a change in your brain. Stopping addiction starts with education, and understanding this disease. Learn more about fighting back against the urges that cause addiction.
Acupuncture is a practice that originated from ancient Chinese medicine. The practice of acupuncture didn’t reach the West until the 19th century. However, it didn’t become popular in the United States until the early 1970s, shortly after President Nixon received acupuncture after visiting China.
Today, several studies have shown that acupuncture improves health through reducing pain, anxiety, and improving memory. Whether you’re suffering from pain, the side effects from long-term opiate abuse or other mental health problems, acupuncture can be beneficial.
So how can placing small needles on your body improve your health?
It’s all in the Qi. Qi, also known as “chi”, is your body’s natural energy. In Traditional Chinese medicine, Qi regulates the energy force in the body. If you think of the body as a pathway, Qi helps to direct the flow of energy throughout the body through pathways known as meridians.
However, when your body gets stressed due to injury, poor nutrition or physical changes in the environment, this can block your “chi” and disrupt the energy flow throughout the body. A board-certified acupuncturist will use the following techniques to restore your energy:
• Insert sterile, tiny needles a half millimeter away from the nerve.
• The acupuncture points will cause the nervous system to generate chemicals that reduce tension and kill pain in the targeted area.
• After 20-30 minutes, the procedure will reinvigorate the body’s natural healing process.
Acupuncture is not a one-time procedure. To help your body get the most out of acupuncture, it helps to receive treatment multiple times or weekly. Most people receive up to 12, 30-minute sessions over a span of a few weeks.
It’s common for people who have abused opiates (painkillers) in the past to have issues with chronic pain. Once they detox from opiates, pain can still persist long after use. If you’ve struggled with substance abuse, especially opiate addiction, acupuncture can help to reduce pain.
According to a study in the North Carolina Medical Journal, acupuncture works to reduce symptoms from opiate abuse such as pain, nausea, dizziness, sedation, and other symptoms. Acupuncture for acute (short-term) and chronic pain relief is used in conjunction with other pain management methods and works well for back, neck, knee and headache pain.
Stress and anxiety from pain often go hand-in-hand. Whether pain persists from stress and anxiety or stress and anxiety causes pain, they often co-occur. Since acupuncture works to relieve tension, it also restores your body’s chemical imbalances from stress and anxiety.
According to The Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, acupuncture can reduce anxiety immediately after treatment. When “chi” is restored, patients can often wean off anxiety medication. Patients also see an improvement in memory.
Of course, when you learn that family or friends are in active recovery you want to be there for them and offer encouragement. If you’ve never dealt with addiction first hand, you may not know just how important it is to be mindful of what you say.
There are a few things we hear people say all of the time to those who are in recovery, which actually aren’t very helpful.
Addiction brings people to the lowest places in their lives. It is likely that while your friend was using, you wouldn’t even recognize them. As someone who has no idea what it’s like to be in this position, you are probably just wondering out of genuine curiosity; but honestly, how do you expect someone to answer this question? Unless your friend/family member decides to share this intimate information with you on their own terms, it should never be brought up.
In saying this you are trying to relate to your friend and possibly deflate any tension. Although, in reality it just comes across like you have absolutely no grasp on the gravity of the situation. Addiction costs people their marriages, their children, their jobs, their peace of mind and more.
You can’t relate, and that’s okay. A simple, “I love you no matter what, and I am here for you” is enough said.
Your brain doesn’t work the same way as that of a person dealing with addiction. When you say just one, or once in a while, you actually mean it. To someone in recovery ‘just one’ is meaningless. ‘Just one’ is the beginning of a long spiral. To live clean and sober is the mission of a person in recovery, not to live ‘mostly’ clean and sober.
Furthermore, it is important to be mindful of how the words you say could be used later. Asking your friend if they will still partake ‘once in a while’ could give them that extra push they needed to legitimize a poor decision.
Just know that drinking or using is not an option for your friend/family member, ever. Their life will be infinitely better because of it.
Addiction to certain drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, can lead to an extreme amount of weight loss. Although you may be struggling with your workout commitment and think they look amazing, this is generally an embarrassing topic.
If you’re visiting a person who has been dealing with addiction, it’s a good rule of thumb not to comment on their appearance, even if you’re intentions are good. Saying they look great, or that they look thin could discourage them from continuing with their recovery.
Instead, encourage them on their decision to be clean and sober!
Telling someone in recovery that it’s not that hard to quit is always a bad idea. Regardless of whether this is coming from an innocent place, or you’re saying it to shame your friend for their lack of will power, it’s unnecessary. No matter how you meant it, it will come off as condescending. It’s great that you had such control over yourself and were able to stop using, but your friend just needs support and encouragement during this fragile time in their life.
Do you know someone with a drug or alcohol problem, who could use a helping hand? Lead them to The Shores Treatment and Recovery. We are a treatment center with an emphasis on whole-person healing. We work with each of our clients to create a recovery plan suited for their specific needs. Every day in addiction is another day wasted. Contact us today at 772 800 3990
What is relapse prevention? Find out here.
Suboxone is classified as a semi-synthetic opioid and largely used to reduce the painful and difficult withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin and other opiate dependence. In a monitored, medical detox setting, Suboxone is often prescribed as a taper which brings an individual through heroin or opiate withdrawal in a much more comfortable way than “cold turkey.” Since fear of the painful withdrawal process is often what keeps an individual in active addiction, Suboxone definitely has a place in the recovery process.
Suboxone is just the brand name. The active ingredient in the drug is buprenorphine, which is also found in Subutex, Norspan, Zubslov,, Butrans, and Buprenex. Although Suboxone can be a a welcome relief to individuals who desire to quit using drugs such as heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers, much controversy surrounds the drug due to its use in lengthy (and even life-long) maintenance programs keeping patients using the drug far longer than medically necessary.
When introduced into the body, buprenorphine binds to opiate receptors in the brain just as an opiate would, releasing dopamine and essentially making the brain believe it has consumed an opiate, but without the euphoric effect. This chain of events can successfully suppress withdrawal symptoms, and is the reason why the drug is commonly used for individuals being medically detoxed from opiates.
That’s the simple, condensed version of how it works. Of course, every person is different and sometimes —if other opioids are still present in the user’s brain, for example— an individual may experience some degree of withdrawal symptoms before the buprenorphine begins to take effect.
All of the above information sounds good, and it is. Suboxone, when used in a monitored medical detox situation (short term) is useful in the recovery process. But, as many individuals who have battled heroin and opiate addiction for any length of time are aware, Suboxone can have it’s dark side.
Suboxone is addictive – Although some say the euphoric effects pale in comparison to other drugs, it is still classified as an opiate, with a high potential for physical dependency if consumed on a regular basis for an extended period of time.
Because the opioid receptors of the brain are used to binding with a chemical that tells them when to release dopamine, withdrawal begins when this chemical is absent. This is true for any opiate.
Suboxone maintenance – Recently, a friend of mine relapsed on heroin. Due to a laundry list of complicated situations, he decided not to return to a treatment center. Here’s where a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous. Instead of treatment, he decided to seek out a doctor who would prescribe a Suboxone taper. Sounds like a pretty normal idea on the surface, right? Except, he came home from the doctor with a full month’s supply. “The doctor told me I was not capable of breaking free from addiction and decided to put me on Suboxone maintenance. He said I’d probably be on it for the rest of my life.”
Much like the methadone maintenance programs, Suboxone is becoming increasingly used by many doctors. The rationale behind this may be that it is safer to be taking prescribed Suboxone on a daily basis than it is to be out scoring harder drugs. But in reality, it is trading one bondage for another and the user is still dependent on a substance to make it through the day.
A New York Times investigation into Suboxone found that it’s manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, has employed aggressive tactics to locate physicians interested in rolling the painkiller market over into Suboxone-lifers. I know this might seem crazy to anyone in the recovery community, but much of the general medical population still believes that an individual with a history of painkiller abuse can never be drug-free.
Suboxone maintenance is a threat to recovery, as well as your physical health.
Long-term Suboxone “therapy” can cause thyroid dysfunction, shut down the endocrine system, lower testosterone levels, and cause premature menopause, infertility and osteoporosis.
It doesn’t take much brain power to recognize the similarities between Suboxone maintenance programs and the pain clinics that caused a national epidemic in recent years. “Suboxone clinics” are opening all over the country at an alarming rate, often charging patients a “cash-only” rate just to speak with a doctor who can potentially put them on a maintenance plan.
As a medical doctor, becoming certified to prescribe buprenorphine is remarkably easy. It requires completion of one eight hour online course. No background in addiction medicine is required to take the course. The amount of time in the course agenda dedicated to detoxing patients off off the drug is little to none. Combine the growing population (which is already vast) of opiate addicts to the easy money connected to Suboxone maintenance and you have quite a situation for physicians who may be opportunists.
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine, which is an opiate, and naloxone.Naloxone is added to prevent Suboxone from being used intravenously. The presence of naloxone would initiate immediate withdrawal if used intravenously. Subutex, on the other hand, is pure buprenorphine (and can be used intravenously) so has a much higher chance of abuse.
Harm reduction may sound good in theory, until you listen to what some of the individuals who were put on Suboxone maintenance actually say they went through (or are still going through).
Bottom line, Suboxone is, in fact, a mood and mind altering substance with physically addictive properties. When used properly, in a medical detox setting, it can be extremely useful. Left in the hands of an individual in active addiction to monitor and self-dispense….probably not a good idea.
If you’re ready to be truly free from drug and alcohol addiction, we are ready to hear from you. This can be the beginning of the BEST of your life. Give The Shores a call today.
Join us to raise awareness and support those affected by addiction. This walk will feature entertainment, vendors and inspirational speakers. Each registered participant will receive a free T-shirt at the walk. Registration will also be available onsite at the event.
The Game of Life
I have come to the conclusion that life is a game, an emotional, physical, and mental tug of war
A game you only get one chance to play. You can choose to play the game in many different ways. See, the game goes on, even if you want to play or not. That’s what most people fail to realize. See, if you just ride the bench the game passes quickly and you are just a speed bump in the road of life, a blur, non-entity.
A wisp of wind that never touched anything or anyone, that never made a leaf fall, or never made any waves. It’s like you were never seen, you were just a passing breeze.
Maybe you tickled the back of someone’s neck at some point, but you certainly never lived, really lived, loved, hurt, cried, laughed, hated and most of all tried. Do you want to look back on your life and be known as a hurricane or a light wind in the night? Tell me!!
It’s not about being noticed, but it’s about being alive, living for the moment, appreciating the pain, anticipating the love and harboring the courage to step up to the plate every day, every minute and every second. I can tell you that you will strike out often, you are going to have bad games but you must cherish the pain and compare it to the big scope of things, the big picture, it will make you appreciate the good games even more.
The great experiences, your first love, your girlfriend’s eyes, babies’ feet. All the little stuff we take for granted, all God’s little gifts. Little things, everything has meaning!! Enjoy everything!!! Enjoy your game!!
Notice an extra freckle in someone’s eye. Notice how a flower turns toward the sun, notice the smell of the grass!! Notice everything, and hate it or love it. Just notice it and notice it with passion.
I challenge you to be passionate every day. Be passionately in love with God, your wife, your girlfriend, something, someone. Live!!! Play the game with all you have!!! Don’t let anyone or anything put you on the bench!!
See, it’s all a game and you have the choice to play hard, passionately and by the rules or sit on the bench and watch. Remember, at the end it’s doesn’t matter if you win or lose but how you played the game.
What do you want??? Do you want to come to play? I challenge you to get in the game today!!!!!