Malissa's Blog

Gambling and Substance Use Disorder

Last week, January 22-25th was National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW). Area schools and groups held contests, activities, and informational meetings about facts surrounding substance use and misuse. A coalition member, The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ), wrote an informative article that showed more facets of addiction studies as part of NDAFW. We are grateful for our many wonderful and active coalition members that give us insight and support. Please read the below guest blog entry from Olubukunola Oyedele, MPH, Public Health Specialist from the CCGNJ.

Studies have repeatedly shown that Substance Use Disorder and Gambling addiction are an especially dangerous combination that can cause significant harm to the afflicted individual and his or her family. The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) is dedicated to joining the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in educating parents, educators and teens themselves during the National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) in shattering the myths about alcohol or drug misuse including vaping and gambling. While substance addictions are ingested, gambling is an addiction to an activity. With Teens, gambling is not limited to just brick and mortar casinos, but through video games, online casinos and other social games, as well as fantasy sports contests. Teens engage in these activities, even though a few of these avenues are restricted for teens under 18 (fantasy sports and online casinos). In addition, adults gifting lottery tickets to teens (even though they are not allowed to buy one themselves until they are 18), is a huge indication that gambling in teenagers is more pervasive than we would like to admit. In a study by Colin et.al both parents and adolescents report gambling as less concerning compared to alcohol and drug usage (Colin et.al. 2011).

Unfortunately, this perception is why there is a lack of recognition of the signs of increased gambling problems amongst teenagers. This perception has also caused confusion when what appear to be signs of drug/alcohol usage are instead early signs of a gambling/gaming addiction. While substance addiction has visible physical clues, gambling can remain a hidden addiction. However, there are some similarities which include; isolation, dramatic mood swings, abnormal eating or sleeping, dropped grades, preoccupation, change in activity level, weight loss or weight gain, lying or hiding actions or behaviors in order to cover up the addiction and the inability to stop or control the addictive behavior regardless of the consequences or previous outcomes.

The council wants to encourage every parent and educator to become aware of the signs and risk of problem gambling and educate their teenagers. In addition, please remember that help is available. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 800-GAMBLER. We offer support, treatment, and hope and remain just a phone call or click away. Olubukunola Oyedele, MPH

 

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PCMC Holiday Breakfast: Accomplishments and Changes

Holiday-Breakfast-2018-pic1 The Author, Susan Stahley (Rider), Barbara Sprechman, Incoming Chairman- Joe Hadge (TCNJ), and out-going Chairwoman, Justine Frank

     On Wednesday, December 12, our coalition hosted a holiday breakfast to review our year and to announce some big changes in our leadership. Our coalition members had an opportunity to catch up, introduce themselves to others, network and socialize over a nice breakfast of breakfast sandwiches, bagels, pastries, fruit and more. As the meeting portion began, our guests introduced themselves, their organization, and for fun, their Elf Names!(Mine was Merry Glitter Cheeks if you were wondering!)

     We had the opportunity to introduce our coalition to our many guests and describe a bit of what we do and the accomplishments we made during 2018. Some of those accomplishments include an extension of our Drug Free Communities funding for the next five years, a forum held on marijuana legalization, the launch of our “Tackling Opioids through Prevention for Athletes” program, and many opportunities where we were active in our Mercer County communities, such as the National Night Outs, Community fairs and much, much more.

     Many of our coalition activities involved our accomplished chair-woman, Justine Frank. Justine has served in the addiction and prevention communities for several years, and we have been honored to have her as our voluntary leader for the last 6 years. Her devotion to keeping our communities healthy and safe have been magnified by her planning amazing events such as three annual International Overdose Awareness Day fairs, several outreach events, where she spoke to hundreds of parents and families, and using her creativity to offer hope to those in need. We celebrated her service to the coalition and thanked her for her dedication. While she stepped down from the leadership of the coalition for health reasons, we know her heart and passion will still be with us!

     Our new Coalition Chairman is Joe Hadge, who is currently the Assistant Director of the College of New Jersey’s Alcohol and Drug Education Program (ADEP). We look forward to serving with additional leadership in the coalition as well with Judith Aptaker-Shine as our Vice Chairwoman, and an executive council. After a brief introduction, Joe took an opportunity to review our Logic Models and what we hoped to continue to achieve as a coalition and shared a parable for us to ponder and to inspire us to work as a team and support each other’s efforts. (See the parable here Do we have as much sense as a Goose? ) The Coalition has worked with Joe since its very beginning, and members of the coalition have worked with Joe at TCNJ in various programs, projects, and initiatives and we know he will continue to bring his passion and dedication to the leadership of the coalition!

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Day of Remembrance- IOAD Event

One of my first assignments at Mercer Council was the 2nd Annual International Overdose event, held last year in Hamilton. I received all of the registration calls, and with those calls, came stories of questioning, heartbreak, and hope.  I heard stories of sons and daughters taken too soon; of a young father leaving behind 2 and 4-year-old sons; a young girl experimenting for the first and last time, and some families who were hoping to never see their loved one overdose, but were worried and wanted support.This year, the township of Robbinsville hosted this event, and they took care of the registration.  I was disconnected from some of the stories, but they still made their way to me.  A son of a businessman gone, leaving his father to fight to educate others so they would never experience a loss like he did; a talented artist who, after his own recovery journey, is fighting to keep his daughter alive through her addictions, and many more.  On Tuesday, August 28th at this year’s event, Mark Manning, father of the late Christopher Manning, spoke about being part of “a club no one ever wants to be a part of”- the club of parents and family members left behind when their loved one dies of an overdose. Director Pedro Medina of the Trenton Police Department touched everyone in the audience with his perspective- both as part of the law enforcement community, and as a part of the “club”.  Director Medina spoke personally about the loss of his son and the impact on his life and family that this loss caused.  His son’s addiction started by using legally prescribed pain medication after a surgery.  This led to finding street drugs to feed his addiction, which eventually took his life- and breaking the hearts of those he left behind.  Adrienne Petta, a recovery warrior, and now Certified Peer Recovery Specialist spoke about her journey to recovery and her efforts to help others onto this path.  In addition to this year’s personal speakers, this event brought many powerful and influential policymakers and law enforcers.  Among the speakers were Congressman Chris Smith, the Prosecutor of Mercer County, Angelo Onofri, the Mayor of Robbinsville Dave Fried, NJ Senator Linda Greenstein, and Robbinsville Police Chief Chris Nitti. These speakers discussed what their role is in combatting substance abuse in the community- whether making laws to prevent the spread of dangerous substances or assisting those that have patterns of drug misuse find treatment instead of going straight to criminal proceedings.     In regards to helping stop the flow of people with addiction to prison, Chief Nitti stated that we can no longer “arrest our way out of this epidemic”.  Mayor Fried went into greater detail, describing the CARES program that began in Robbinsville, and now is available in all municipalities of Mercer County. This program offers alternatives to arrest through treatment and recovery. After the speakers, the group lit candles and followed a path lit by luminaries to a circle of remembrance.  Here loved ones could share their stories and remember those they love and lost. Family members, friends, and loved ones entered the circle of luminaries and expressed their experiences and feelings, while others reflected on the many emotions evoked by this evening.  The vigil ended with singing Amazing Grace.

This event was informative, moving and motivating. While the observation of International Overdose Awareness day offers hope, healing and encouragement, one of the most important things brought forward at this event is that those who have died from overdose were so much more than their death: these were children, husbands, and wives, who had talents, relationships, passions and experiences before their death was defined by overdose.  Events like these can only remind all of us of the individuals who are struggling with the disease of addiction, and help shatter the stigmas that are often placed on them.  

 

The official International Overdose Awareness day is August 31st. Mercer Council, the Prevention Coalition of Mercer County and the Prosecutor’s office have sponsored 3 annual observances under the One Voice Initiative.  These observances are held during the last week of August and will be in different municipalities every year.  This event includes many vendors in the addiction services and related fields that offer information and services to attendees.  

 New Jersey Strong released a video on our event- Further coverage was provided by WBCB News http://www.wbcbnews.com/blog/community-park-in-robbinsville-hosts-overdose-awareness-day/  We are also grateful to Brian McCarthy for his photo and video coverage of the event.  The Prevention Coalition and the Mercer Council are also providing a free Narcan (naloxone) training where one can be trained on the use of Narcan, and receive a dosing kit of this opioid reversal drug.   For more information, please contact Malissa Arnold at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and please follow the Prevention Coalition on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PCoMC  and subscribe to our blog at https://www.mercercouncil.org/news/blogger to learn more about several programs, classes, and events that we host monthly.  
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