Junk Virus

Heroin needles and trash on soil

Public Health Problem Number One

The stories are endless: violence, burglaries, robberies, overdoses and deaths. Heroin has penetrated almost every street corner in the US; the new neighbor on the block is not here to play. It chews you up and spits you out; you’re lucky if you come back out fresh enough to survive.

The junk virus made its grand appearance after its synthetic army was unleashed by the medical community: the opioids. These include demerol, methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, percocet, percodan, vicodin and many more. Once the army was sprinkled onto society and its pricey tag maintained, heroin was slowly whispered into the addicts’ ears.

There was no malicious agenda by the medical community to unleash opioids onto the masses. There was simply a poor regulatory system and overwatch by the federal government. Physicians prescribed the medications based on professional opinion, but they were not quick enough to realize the enormous addictive potential they had.

Once physicians realized that patients were returning for multiple prescriptions, they began to turn them down. So patients began to window-shop for new physicians, juggling multiple at a time for that extra Rx. This lasted for some time until patients came to the realization of the expense of their new addiction.

And that’s when hurricane heroin hit the U.S. by storm: stronger, better, easier to obtain and cheaper! Call it the drug dealers’ economic boom but the recession of the people. Addicts were happy but also suffering: the high was great but the withdrawal and expense hellish.

And junk virus officially became an epidemic with no promising cure and no treatments successful enough to make a dent. Addicts were simply transitioned from an opiate to an opioid: heroin to methadone. Some addicts were switched successfully, others continued to use both and some just returned back to heroin.

Today, junk virus is still active and strong abut a new parasite has entered the market: meet furious fentanyl. 100x more potent than morphine, fentanyl is taking over cities like the great plague: heroin is vanishing from cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore and being replaced with fentanyl.

Addicts no longer know what they are getting. But they are quick to suspect their batch to be fentanyl if they are getting much higher than expected. Even if they want to stop, they can’t for two main reasons: they’re hooked and their drug dealers no longer have heroin. So the epidemic persists.

Public health problem number one is also public enemy number one: synthetic army + hurricane heroin + furious fentanyl. When you have such a deadly epidemic killing our people, it is fair to say that we are in the midst of fighting a domestic terror war. Are you ready to reclaim your mind?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

HIV-Associated Dementia

Silhouette photo of woman infected with HIV standing beside window curtains

Attacked By The Human Immunodeficiency Virus

It is important for people to be educated on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Many of these infections cause symptoms that are not well known to everybody. Staying educated is the first step in preventing infections and knowing what to expect when they do occur.

HIV can spread to the brain and cause encephalopathy, resulting in dementia. When HIV has reached this stage, patients may start to experience loss of memory, cognitive impairment, lack of interest in activities, reduced coordination and swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal column.

It is believed that HIV promotes inflammation in the brain and damages neurons. As the symptoms mentioned above become apparent, patients may also begin to experience depression, psychosis, mania and seizures. Imagine how devastating this must be to a patient who already is miserable from having acquired the infection in the first place!

Once HIV has progressed to HIV-associated dementia, there is no reversal. HAART therapy can help prevent or slow down the process, but HIV-associated dementia is a progressive condition; it gets worse over time. The key to avoiding HIV-associated dementia is to start HAART therapy as soon as possible.

And the key to avoiding HIV is to be smart with your sexual encounters. If you ever suspect a partner to have an STD, they probably do! Trust your intuition and do not take the risk engaging in sexual activity with them. It only takes one exposure with contaminated fluids to become infected with HIV.

Your quality of life is more important than 20 minutes of pleasure. Be smart and respect yourself!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Fire In Your Heart

Silhouette of motivated and excited person jumping under tree

Never Giving Up

Motivation is the drive behind passion, perseverance and resilience; it keeps you hungry even when all options have been exhausted. It’s the fuel that helps you get up early in the morning and strive for success. It’s pumped by your two heart ventricles all around your body and keeps you pushing for more.

Never giving up is easier said than done. Many people give up everyday when faced with challenges that they can’t seem to overcome. They fall on their knees exhausted, leak out many tears and give up the ghost. But giving up should never be permanent.

We all feel like giving up sometimes; life just becomes too painful and exhausting. Sometimes we try so hard and see no results; we feel defeated and ashamed. But the most important action is to take the rest of the day off and wake up the next morning with that fire in your heart; the drive to get back at it and shoot for success!

There is not one person in this world who has or will experience a perfect life; it doesn’t exist. Even wealthy people who are cruising on their millionaire-dollar yachts while you’re at work are suffering. Everyone is battling something, whether it’s self-esteem issues, depression, lack of motivation or pain.

Wealth has nothing to do with drive; they are independent factors. Some people are wealthy and never had drive; they inherited everything. Some people are wealthy and had drive from the beginning. Some people are poor because they never had drive. Some people are poor even though they have drive.

It’s not your success that counts but the fire in your heart! Are you willing to maintain a respectable character and give it your all despite going against the odds?

If your answer is yes, then welcome to The DSM Ready Movement!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

How Marijuana Is Addicting

Chocolate chip marijuana cookies and big green bud

Forget Sixty-Nine When On Cloud Nine

For many adolescents, when marijuana is first tried, they do not feel anything. Often times, it takes 3-5 attempts until a new user feels the high. But when that first high kicks in, it becomes memorable for life. There is nothing like experiencing the first high; of any drug that is.

For many users, the first high from marijuana is extremely pleasant: the perception of time is slowed, appetite is increased, the surroundings become more intriguing to the senses, music is enhanced, touching and feeling are heightened, humor is increased and sexual pleasure is amazing.

Video games and music go together like peanut butter and jelly: you become focused; you feel as if you’re in the game; nothing can distract you and you feel tuned in and in the zone. You enter another world that you don’t want to leave; especially when playing with your close friends and passing joints all night!

Spending time with the opposite sex feels amazing: you become more intimate; more observant of their words and behavior; touching and feeling are enhanced and sexual pleasure is intensified. You sometimes feel like you are one with them and never want to emotionally and physically let go. Forget sixty-nine; you are truly on cloud nine.

Movies under the influence of marijuana make you feel like you are connected with the story: you analyze details that you never would have noticed when sober; you pay attention to the actors’ words and body language in different ways and you sometimes feel like you are part of the movie.

Listening to music can truly be magical while high on marijuana: sounds are enhanced and your connection with the artist is turned up by a notch or two. You don’t want to put your headphones down; the tunes are massaging your ears. Your brain feels so relaxed that you start to feel paralyzed on your couch. Sometimes you may even replay one song 3-5 times in a row. You are in wonderland.

Eating is like a mouth orgasm: your taste buds are on overdrive; every bit of detail from the food entering your mouth is tremendously appreciated; the taste is greatly enhanced and your guilt floats away on a comfy cloud far far away. You become one with the kitchen; it’s your new friend in the house.

As you can see, marijuana is very enjoyable in many domains and it can become very easy for many adolescents and adults to become psychologically addicted. Who wouldn’t appreciate the experiences described above? But they come with a price tag. And that price tag can cost you your mental health.

Many people who experience the above activities while under the influence of marijuana have a hard time coming back down to reality; everything feels less intense and more dull. So they toke up again in order to re-experience the enhanced activities which ultimately brighten their life in the moment.

There is no question about it that marijuana can take you on an orgasmic rollercoaster ride. But are you willing to take the chance and potentially lose your mental health in the process?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Mental Illness Genetic?

Colorful abstract illustration

Genetically Programmed To Experience Mental Illness

Researchers are in the process of learning more about how genetics play a role in the development of mental illness. We already know that many mental illnesses are genetically tied: major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many more.

But we do not know how or why genes play such a large role in the development of mental illness. It most likely relies on similar reasoning as to why physical disorders are tied to genetics: a manifested disorder modifies the genetic code of the parent and the parent passes those modified genes onto his or her offspring.

Many argue that the future of medicine lies in the field of genetics. DNA is the carrier of genetic information: units of heredity which are transferred from parent to offspring and are held to determine some characteristic or trait of the offspring. When someone tells you “you resemble your dad or you have his temperament”, they are indirectly addressing your genetic makeup.

This does not mean that we are doomed because genetics is tied to mental illness. On the contrary, researchers are very optimistic to learn more about this subject in order to attempt to identify the exact genes responsible for various mental illnesses. With identification of the exact genes, the goal becomes to study them and see if there is any way that future generations can avoid them.

Some genes that are tied to mental illnesses or physical disorders are responsible for the malfunctioning of certain enzymes in the human body. With the replacement of those enzymes, theoretically, we have a chance of better treating a mental illness. Therefore, genes may provide us with more information on the pathophysiology of mental disorders.

Genes may contain our genetic makeup but do not contain our soul!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Homosexuality A Mental Illness?

The shadow of two homosexual men holding hands

Preference For The Same Sex

The American Psychiatric Association’s first edition of the DSM classified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1952. It was regarded as “sociopathic personality disturbance.” Due to cultural changes and protests, homosexuality was removed from the DSM.

It was believed that by considering homosexuality to be a mental illness, society was dividing humans into sheep and goats, rather than one nation under god. As of present day, homosexuality is not listed in the DSM-V and is no longer considered a mental illness.

Besides some structural differences in the brains of homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals, there has been no evidence or collective agreement to consider homosexuality as a mental illness. Rather, it is viewed as a sexual orientation or preference.

But the stigma towards homosexuality lives on in the underground and in mainstream society. Many people still view the act of homosexuality as unnatural and a “crime against nature.” No matter how prevalent and open it has become, many people are still not accepting of it.

Many religious groups view homosexuality as distasteful. In the bible, for instance, it states that a man sleeping with another man shall both be put to death. Many religions still consider homosexuality a sin; an act against god. Many religious groups believe that homosexuality goes against the pureness of nature and what god had planned from the beginning: woman made out of man’s rib to bring thy two together for procreation.

Regardless of differing opinions, the medical community has not been able to conclude that homosexuality is a mental illness. But what exactly constitutes a mental illness? Besides changes in emotions, behavior or thinking, a mental illness is usually associated with distress or problems with functioning in social, family or work activities.

Many homosexuals live their life as indistinguishable from heterosexuals: they go to work, have friends and even start a family. And many heterosexuals also have problems with functioning in social, family or work activities; therefore, it cannot be concluded that homosexuality is a mental illness based on functionality.

Many argue that since most homosexuals knew from a young age of their sexual preference, they must have been born with “a disease.” But just because a very large segment of the population is born as homosexual, does not mean that homosexuality has ground to be considered a mental illness.

On the contrary, because so many people are born as homosexual, it is likely not a mental illness, but an evolutionary trait passed down from many generations ago. Some are begging to ask, “what in the world is the significance of this trait in regards to procreation and the survival of our species?”

There is no clear answer to that question. Perhaps not every human has been intended to further the human race and there should be nothing wrong with that. Many heterosexuals choose not to have children, so do they not fall in the same boat as homosexuals?

Whatever your beliefs may be, the medical community does not presently view homosexuality as a mental illness.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Racism A Mental Illness?

One brown game piece versus seven orange game pieces

Divided By Skin Color

Racism is a learned behavior. Children do not initially go to school with racist beliefs, unless they were taught by their parents. Many children of different colors get along very well: you see them playing together, hugging each other and sharing stories with one another.

But as a child matures and is exposed to various opinions and beliefs circulating in society, he starts to form his own opinion. And if his opinion centers around racism, this is usually because he was influenced by someone with racist beliefs. He learns to apply racism as a form of defense; it makes him feel good that he’s not part of that population.

Racism applies all ways: whites against blacks, blacks against whites, browns against blacks, blacks against browns, etc. Many times, a family has an impact on the development of racist beliefs in children and adolescents. If children constantly hear racist remarks and jokes while growing up in the household, they will slowly start to identify with them.

Racism is not a mental illness. There is nothing chemically or structurally wrong with the human brain when someone is racist. Racism is a choice based on learned behavior. It’s as easy way to blame and stigmatize others while boosting your self-esteem. Racism exists because humans have found it easier to blame other people who look different.

Racism can also develop out of anger, but anger is not a mental illness. This does not mean that some people with mental illness are not racist. Racism has no boundaries. It simply is a learned behavior introduced to us by society; no one is born racist. Even schools teach us about racism: learning about slaves exposes children to the concept of racism.

There is no escaping racism; it’s not a mental illness that can be defeated with medication or electroshock treatment. It’s a choice. The only way racism will ever be defeated is when our Lord Jesus Christ will return on Judgment Day. Until then, we must do our best to come together and love each other for who we are.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Why We Act The Way We Do

Multiple faces arranged in a circle filled with orange, yellow and green colors

Hidden Meanings From The Past

Sometimes we just can’t seem to understand why we think, act or behave in a certain way; we scratch our head with no avail. This often leads to frustration and negative chatter within our mind. And it gets worse when the pattern repeats itself; eventually we give in and no longer care how we act.

That is when relationship problems arise; we dig our hole even deeper. Others become pissed at us. Now we scratch our soul, “what the hell is going on with me!” We can’t seem to figure it out. We start overanalyzing our thoughts, “can it be this or that?” We fall deeper down the rabbit hole.

Another day, week or month passes by and we’re still puzzled by our behavior. Unfortunately, some turn to alcohol use to relieve the stress; that’s another rabbit hole altogether. Others enter therapy hoping to find the answer, while others give up and accept themselves for who they are.

What is really happening to us stems from our unconscious mind: every bit of recorded information since our birth has been stored deep inside the mind’s labyrinth. This is where the broth is cooking. Our unconscious mind controls how we think, act and behave in the present moment.

Without undergoing psychoanalysis, meditation or careful self-analysis on a weekly basis, it becomes very difficult to learn more about your unconscious mind. This is the place where hidden meanings from your past are stored: every single event in your life has been connected by dots.

These imaginary dots have formed connections between memories and thoughts; a never-ending spider web of highways takes place in your unconscious mind. Along some of these connections are many errors which are encountered; thousands of them. These errors have an influence on your thoughts and behavior.

The goal of accessing the unconscious mind is to discover the errors and fix them. To do this requires a set of goggles and a bathing suit sturdy enough to get you steady for the wet, whacky and wobbly roads of the unconscious mind. Once you dive in, you will slowly start to realize what has been influencing you all along.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Adult Peer Pressure To Use Drugs

Group of junkies and drug users standing and feeling good

How To Avoid Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is not a thing of the past; it does not only target children and adolescents. It finds its way in the adult population just as easily; especially the peer pressure to use drugs. The effect of drugs on the human psyche is so powerful that it motivates the users to have those around them experience the same pleasure.

Not all drug-taking is a selfish act; group members often attempt to influence outsiders to join their group and take a hit. This occurs for various reasons:

  • To bond
  • To gain money
  • To influence others
  • To gain respect
  • To share the drug experience and pleasure

A group is often run by a leader who takes charge and calls the shots. But in this case, the leader is often the drug. Drugs are influencing the behavior of a group; they are making the group perform the act of peer pressure in order to attract new users. Drugs have a very deadly way of spreading.

Avoiding peer pressure is not always easy. Many people complain of feeling very anxious when in a situation involving peer pressure; especially related to drug consumption. They are afraid that by saying no, the group will become upset with them or may even try to fight them.

The worst thing that you can do is to cave and try the drug. When you give in to peer pressure, you are essentially saying to the group, “you have defeated me, I am now yours.” What will most likely happen is that you will like the feeling from the drug and will rationalize in your mind that “this is not so bad.”

That is when you undergo metamorphosis into a new persona; the drugs are rewiring your brain and your perception of yourself and the environment. You are becoming the drug. And guess what? It all feels good. You feel transformed, empowered, unleashed and vibrant; you are a new person.

Until the drug takes over and you become hooked. And life is never the same ever again. So how do you avoid peer pressure in the first place? It takes a strong inner core where you feel comfortable with who you are as a person and your place in society. You have to be in a state of mind where you have learned how to minimize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths.

Rejecting peer pressure should not affect you; meaning, it should not make you feel bad that you rejected others’ offers. You know what your path is, therefore, you have no problem avoiding peer pressure. You are also a good anticipator: you can visualize the consequences of falling for peer pressure and starting drugs.

In the end, it’s not the peer pressure that captures your heart and mind; it’s the leader of the group, which in every case is the drug.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Understanding Psychiatric Patients

Psychiatric office with sofas, white pillows and lamps

Understanding Where One Comes From

Sometimes psychiatric patients have absolutely no logical explanation for their behavior. They may say one thing and do something completely different. They may be functioning well today and be catatonic tomorrow. They may attend groups this afternoon with good participation and defecate on themselves in the evening.

Mental illness works in unexpected ways; treating it is an art and science. You have to carefully listen to your patients every day; new emerging details can provide new meanings behind their illness. Sometimes it may become frustrating to listen to them; especially when they demonstrate no progress.

But patience is key to better understanding the mind of a psychiatric patient. You have to put in the time and effort to listen to every word and attempt to understand their behaviors. Sometimes it all makes sense, while at other times, you become lost in a puzzle.

Many times, psychiatric patients will have explanations and reasons that do not make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to them. You have to validate their explanations even if you do not agree with them. This is because you have to show them that their way of viewing things is relatable.

Building rapport is very important if you want to get anywhere with a psychiatric patient. Why would they waste their time sharing their world with you if you cannot establish rapport? In order to establish rapport, you must demonstrate careful listening skills and a genuine desire to learn more about them.

And when you think that you may have hit a roadblock, the last thing that you want to do is to give up on your patient. What you need to do is to continue talking to them with the intent on helping them overcome their problems. It may not happen today or tomorrow.

But with a genuine and gentle approach, you may one day help them overcome their illness and help them live a more peaceful life.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)