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Addiction Medicine

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For those suffering from addiction, help is available! 

(DuBois, Pennsylvania) – Addiction is the compulsive use of substances despite loss of money, relationships, family members, employment, freedom, health, dignity and even life. But addiction is not a sign of weakness or moral failure. Rather, it is a common condition that affects millions of people of all backgrounds. 

“Addiction is considered a brain disorder, because it involves complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment and an individual’s life experiences,” said Gopi Vadlamudi, MD, Medical Director of the CNX Foundation Substance Recovery Unit at Penn Highlands Mon Valley. “While individuals in the throes of addiction may feel hopeless, it is a treatable medical disease.”

How do I know if a family member or friend has a substance use disorder?
It can be difficult to know if someone is struggling with addiction. While the following symptoms may be caused by other factors, they may also be warning signs of substance abuse:
•    Problems at school or work, such as frequently missing days, a sudden disinterest in activities or a drop in grades or performance
•    Physical health issues, such as a lack of energy and motivation, weight loss or gain or red eyes
•    Lack of interest in appearance, clothing or grooming 
•    Changes in behavior and in relationships with family and friends
•    Money issues, such as sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation

Alcohol is often present at many social functions, but when does social drinking become a more serious issue?

“If your alcohol use puts your health or safety at risk, it is an unhealthy use of alcohol,” said Dr. Vadlamudi. “Binge drinking, which is defined as a male having five or more drinks within two hours or a female having at least four drinks within two hours, is another sign of unhealthy use. Generally, if your drinking results in repeated significant problems in your daily life, you may have alcohol use disorder.”

What do I do if I suspect a loved one is struggling with addiction?
Like other chronic conditions, such as asthma or heart disease, addiction is typically characterized by relapses, but it can be treated. Starting a conversation is an important first step. When you approach the person, do so in a positive, compassionate and helpful way. Do not shame or criticize them. It can help to remember that addiction is a disease like diabetes or high blood pressure.

You may also want to encourage them to talk to their primary care doctor, since it may be easier to talk about the subject with a doctor than with a family member or friend. For someone in the early stages, a conversation with a healthcare professional may be enough to get them the help they need. 

You can also get help and resources from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which offers a free 24/7 helpline for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations. You can reach the helpline by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers outpatient, intensive outpatient (IOP) and substance recovery unit care. Outpatient treatment serves those with both substance and behavioral (gambling, gaming, sexual, pornography) addictions. IOP treatment addresses stress and emotional well-being, as well as the ability to develop and implement skills to increase proper communication and reduce likelihood of relapse and stress. Penn Highlands Healthcare also offers the CNX Foundation Substance Recovery Unit at Penn Highlands Mon Valley. The unit is the only Level 4.0 inpatient withdrawal and treatment facility in Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties. This unit is equipped to treat patients suffering with substance use disorders along with complex medical problems or very high risk withdrawal symptoms. To learn more, visit https://www.phhealthcare.org/addictionmedicine       


Penn Highlands Healthcare was officially formed in 2011, and is comprised of eight hospitals – Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands Clearfield, Penn Highlands Connellsville, Penn Highlands DuBois, Penn Highlands Elk, Penn Highlands Huntingdon, Penn Highlands Mon Valley, Penn Highlands Tyrone -- that have served area communities for the past 100+ years. Penn Highlands State College, a new hospital, with a patient-centric design and atmosphere, is slated to open in 2024. The health system’s business continuum also includes a home care agency, long-term care facilities and residential senior living communities, as well as durable medical equipment companies and retail pharmacies.

Penn Highlands Healthcare has evolved into an organization with approximately 6,200 employees in 150+ locations throughout 26 counties in Pennsylvania that include community medical buildings, outpatient facilities, surgery centers and physician practices. The facilities have a total of 1,396 inpatient, skilled nursing and personal care beds.  The system, which has 849 physicians and 427 advanced practice providers on staff, offers a wide range of care and treatments with specialty units for cancer, 

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