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Program looks at relationship between mental illness, addiction

Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]

A clinical director of addiction services presented a program recently at the Elizabeth branch of the Harrison County Public Library that addressed mental illness and addiction as co-occurring.

Dr. Chris Tuell, who grew up in Elizabeth, graduating from there in 1942, was more than happy to share what he’s learned in more than 35 years in his field. He called it a sometimes “distorted view” of those with an addiction or who suffer from a mental illness.

“Eighty-three percent of those with substance abuse problems also suffer with some type of mental health issue,” he said.

The program centered around a study conducted by Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, Ohio, where Tuell is an assistant professor, which had three objectives: to gain a better awareness of the relationship between mental illness and addiction, to develop an understanding of the addicted brain and to develop an understanding of the CUBIS model and how it provides a template for the understanding and treatment of the co-occurrence of mental illness and addiction.

CUBIS stands for chemical imbalance, unresolved issue(s), belief (which is distorted), inability to cope and stimulus-response relationship.

“Addictions are as common as being left handed,” said Tuell.

The word addiction is derived from addicere, which means to be a slave to something or be bound to something.

Tuell defined an addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry” breaking down more simply as a loss of control, compulsion, continued use despite negative consequences and obsession.

Behavioral addictions generally fall into one of six categories: sexual, gaming, gambling, spending, socializing and information gathering.

Of these, Tuell said the suicide rate is highest among those who suffer from gaming addiction.

Society generally views those with an addiction as weak, bad, a failure, lacking morals and/or willpower, criminal, dangerous and hopeless.

Continuing with the CUBIS model, Tuell outlined various treatments. Medication management generally works for those with a chemical imbalance, while psychotherapy can aid with unresolved issues. Those whose beliefs are distorted — for example, they think they’re worthless, not good enough or have trust issues — can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, helping one develop new skills can assist with someone’s inability to cope and education works on stimulus-response relationships.

“Cutting” is often not about wanting to commit suicide, Tuell said, but rather a way of coping.

Tuell described a study of rats, with one group being kept in solitary confinement in tiny cages and the other in a multi-level structure with access to obstacles (think exercise wheel, etc.). Both groups were given the option of pure water and drug-laced water. Tuell said the confined rats preferred the drug-laced water, while all the rats in the more elaborate living environment chose the pure water.

“Maybe the opposite of addiction is not sobriety,” Tuell said. “Maybe the opposite is connection.”

While on the subject of connection, Tuell talked how one’s number of close friends has dwindled since the 1950s and how society is lacking connections.

“I think our technology has done some of that,” he said while addressing “the good, the bad and the ugly of the internet.”

“It’s a global problem,” Tuell said, one that the United States is behind in addressing compared to other countries.

“For many years, the suicide rate was stable,” he said, “until 2007. That’s when social media hit.”

For those who may be concerned about a young person, Tuell suggested looking at their “balance” between communicating with real people versus their time spent on social media and playing video games.

“I don’t want to come across as the internet Nazi,” he said. “I just want to make you aware of what can happen.

“Kids want structure in their life,” Tuell added. “Don’t be afraid to set limits. Encourage them to get outside and play.”

Tuell believes rural life, such as that in Harrison County, has much to offer.

“You have something very special here,” he said. “I still feel that connection. I don’t see a lot of hustle and bustle. You know there will be people who will check up on you and support you.”

And for those who have a relapse with their addiction, Tuell said that doesn’t necessarily indicate failure on the person’s part, but rather treatments should be reinstated or adjusted until the addict has fully recovered.

For more information about the presentation or to request a program for a group, contact Tuell at 1-513-536-0640 or by email at [email protected]

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