Each week, Inside Addiction features the biggest news related to addiction and mental health. For the week of Nov. 10–16, the top stories include discussions on mental health disorders in the wake of the California bar shooting, how states can use Medicaid funds for mental health treatment, and whether American adults should expect to receive alcohol use screenings during regular doctor visits.
California Bar Shooting Brings Mental Health Back Into Spotlight
Officials investigating the California bar shooting say that the shooter might have had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is one of the most common mental health disorders among veterans.
The shooter, Ian Davis Long, is a Marine Corps veteran. He is accused of shooting and killing 12 people in a country bar in Thousand Oaks, approximately 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
States Allowed to Use Medicaid Funding for Expanded Mental Health Treatment
The Trump Administration announced that states can now provide more inpatient treatment services to people with mental illness by using Medicaid funding.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the change to state Medicaid directors. The move hopes to curtail the effects of mental health disorders, such as violence and homelessness, among Americans.
States previously could not use Medicaid for mental health treatment in facilities with more than 16 beds. This rule was put in place to prevent keeping people with a mental illness in the facility at the taxpayer’s expense. Proponents of the change say that loosening the restrictions will allow for more people to receive higher-quality mental health care. [Star Tribune]
Funding for Mental Illness Doesn’t Match Prevalence
Approximately 1 in 5 Americans has a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. While more attention is given to mental illness, many of the 46 million Americans who face these struggles aren’t receiving the necessary resources to manage their disorders.
According to a Seattle-based research group, government reimbursements for mental and behavioral health services are between 19 and 22 percent less than payments for conventional medical or surgical care. The research group said that this gap can lead to health care providers hesitating to offer mental health services to people in need. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Less Time on Social Media Results in Improved Mental Health
University of Pennsylvania researchers studied the effects of social media on mental health and now suggest limiting time on social media websites or apps to 30 minutes a day.
The scientists’ work, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, includes two separate trials and examined the social media use of 143 people ages 18–22. The study examined three platforms: Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. Some of the participants continued their normal use of these social media channels and others were instructed to limit their daily use to 10 minutes per channel.
The participants who reduced the time spent on social media to half an hour each day enjoyed improved mental health, including reduced loneliness and feelings of depression. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Lady Gaga Pleads for More Mental Health Programs
Lady Gaga spoke at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s annual fundraiser Patron of the Artists Awards about the lacking mental health services in the United States.
“We are losing a generation of young people who do not believe that their voices are worth hearing,” Gaga said. “The need in this world for kindness is paralyzing.”
Gaga has been linked to this topic recently. She is featured in the blockbuster hit “A Star is Born” with Bradley Cooper, the latter of which plays a musician struggling with addiction and mental health. However, the pop singer-turned-actress revealed to the audience her early career struggles, ones that millions of Americans haven’t seen in a movie theater. Gaga said that she had symptoms of dissociation and PTSD, which resulted in panic attacks, acute trauma responses and mental spirals that included suicidal ideation.
“I’m telling you this because for me it was too late,” Gaga said of receiving mental health care at as a teenager and young adult. “I wish I had mental health resources then.” [USA Today]
Future Doctor Visits May Include Screenings for Alcohol Use
The United States Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that all American adults receive alcohol use screenings when they go to the doctor, even for a regular checkup. If a patient is recognized as drinking more than the recommended limit, their primary care physician should provide brief counseling to help reduce their drinking.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has set recommendations on how many drinks men and women should have per day and per week. For men between the ages of 21 and 64, the limit is four drinks in a day and 14 drinks in a week. For women of all ages, and elderly men, the limit is three drinks per day and seven drinks per week.
The proposal for alcohol screenings at doctor visits focuses on adults, not teens. The task force did not make a recommendation for or against alcohol screening and counseling for patients under the age of 18. [CNN]
How the U.S. Prescription Drug Market Changed in the 1990s
A new study from the New York Times details how the United States pharmaceutical consumer market has changed since the 1980s when America was comparable to other first-world countries in drug spending.
In the 1990s, spending in the U.S. dramatically increased and tripled between 1997 and 2007. By 2015, annual spending on prescription drugs reached approximately $1,000 per American. The Commonwealth Fund compared that figure with other wealthy nations: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain. Among those, Switzerland was the highest, $783 spent per person. [New York Times]
Living in Colder Climate Leads to More Alcohol Consumption
A new study found that drops in temperature result in increased alcohol use. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Division of Gastroenterology revealed that people living in colder regions of the United States drink more alcohol than people in warmer climates. Colder climates also get less sunlight than warmer climates, another likely contributing factor of higher alcohol consumption.
Author Ramon Bataller, chief of hepatology at UPMC and professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said that the point of the study was to scientifically explain the cold weather-alcohol link widely believed for decades.
“Why do people in Russia drink so much? Why in Wisconsin?” he asked rhetorically. “Everybody assumes that’s because it’s cold.”
The explanation is that alcohol is a vasodilator, which increases the flow of warm blood to the skin. Since the skin has temperature sensors, drinking alcohol increases feelings of warmth. [MedicalXPress]
Hepatitis A Infections Linked to Drug Use
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report that connects the rise of acute hepatitis A virus infections with intravenous drug use.
The rise in some states is due to person-to-person transmissions commonly linked to homelessness and injection drug use. Once a hepatitis A vaccine was introduced in the United States, the number of people affected by the disease decreased before eventually stabilizing at approximately 1,600 cases per year. According to the CDC report, there were 1,521 cases among California, Kentucky, Michigan and Utah. [Pharmacy Times]
Ohio Teen Opioid Use on the Decline
The survey involved close to 33,000 students between grades 7 and 12 in the Cincinnati area. Around 2.4 percent of the survey participants reported using a prescription drug in the 30 days prior to the survey, and 0.3 percent reported using heroin during the same timeframe. In 2012, these figures were 6.5 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively. [Cincinnati Enquirer]