Blog

 

If shorter days and shifts in weather zap your energy and make you feel blue, you’ve got classic symptoms of a seasonal mood disorder. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of seasonal depression triggered by the change in seasons that occurs primarily in winter. Why do some people get SAD? Experts aren’t certain, but some think that seasonal changes disrupt the circadian rhythm: the 24-hour clock that regulates how we function during sleeping and waking hours, causing us to feel energized and alert sometimes and drowsy at other times.

EVERYDAY HEALTH WRITES

Another theory is that the changing seasons disrupt hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well-being. About 4 to 6 percent of U.S. residents suffer from SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and as many as 20 percent may have a mild form of it that starts when days get shorter and colder. Women and young people are more likely to experience SAD, as are those who live farther away from the equator. People with a family history or diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder may be particularly susceptible.

“It is important to treat SAD, because all forms of depression limit people’s ability to live their lives to the fullest, to enjoy their families, and to function well at work,” says Deborah Pierce, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York. Here are a few SAD treatment options you might want to consider.

Try Light From a Box

Light therapy boxes give off light that mimics sunshine and can help in the recovery from seasonal affective disorder. The light from the therapy boxes is significantly brighter than that of regular light bulbs, and it’s provided in different wavelengths.

Typically, if you have SAD, you sit in front of a light box for about 30 minutes a day. This will stimulate your body’s circadian rhythms and suppress its natural release of melatonin. Most people find light therapy to be most effective if used when they first get up in the morning, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Depression Center in Ann Arbor.

A study published in 2014 in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that one week of light therapy may be as effective as two, though most people continue light therapy throughout the entire season that they’re affected.

Use Dawn Simulators

Dawn simulators can help some people with seasonal affective disorder. These devices are alarm clocks, but rather than waking you abruptly with loud music or beeping, they produce light that gradually increases in intensity, just like the sun.Different models of dawn simulators are available, but the best ones use full-spectrum light, which is closest to natural sunlight. Russian researchers found that dawn simulators were as effective as light therapy for people with mild SAD, according to a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

 

Talk With Your Doctor

Talk With Your Doctor

Because SAD is a form of depression, it’s best diagnosed by talking with a mental health professional. “There are a number of screening questions that can help determine if someone is depressed,” Dr. Pierce says. “Your doctor will be able to sort out whether you have SAD as opposed to some other form of depression.”

If you have SAD, therapy can help you work through it. About 12 years ago, Arlene Malinowski, PhD, 58, recognized she had SAD when she read about the symptoms in a magazine article.

“I would notice a drop in how I felt and perceived the world in the winter,” the Chicago resident recalls. The psychiatrist she had been seeing for depression confirmed it.

 

Consider Antidepressants

If light therapy or psychotherapy does not sufficiently boost your mood, prescription antidepressants may help you overcome seasonal depression. But avoid medications that might make you sleepy, advises the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Some people think it’s only necessary to take antidepressants during the winters when they’re feeling the blues, but they must do so every winter, the organization says.

It’s important to recognize when the symptoms of SAD start, and to see your doctor for a prescription before they escalate, says Ani Kalayjian, doctor of education and adjunct professor of psychology at Columbia University in New York City, who specializes in traumatic stress.

 

Add Aromatherapy

Add Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy may also help those with seasonal disorder. The essential oils can influence the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite, Dr. Kalayjian says.

You can add a few drops of essential oils to your bath at night to help you relax. Essential oils from the poplar tree in particular were found to help depressive disorders in a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Natural Medicines.

 

Get Moving

Get Moving

As it does with other forms of depression, exercise can help alleviate seasonal affective disorder, too. Outdoor exercise would be most helpful. But if you can’t exercise outside because it’s cold or snowy, choose a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine close to a window at the gym.

Exercise can also help offset the weight gain that is common with seasonal affective disorder, Kalayjian says. Malinowski says she’s more vigilant about sticking with her exercise and yoga routine in the dead of winter.

 

 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy.

Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

Symptoms

In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Causes

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Take signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to problems if it’s not treated. These can include:

  • Social withdrawal
  • School or work problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Other mental health disorders such as anxiety or eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get bad.

MORE

 

SALT LAKE CITY — The Drug Enforcement Administration, local law enforcement officials and others involved in fighting the illicit use and distribution of opioids are bringing the DEA’s “360 Strategy” to Utah.

“This strategy has been developed to specifically address this vicious, this deadly heroin and opioid epidemic that is burgeoning across the great state of Utah and many other parts of the country,” said Brian Besser, DEA District Agent in Charge for Utah.

The DEA’s 360 Strategy has been deployed in several pilot cities throughout the country, but the program’s implementation in Utah marks the first time the strategy is applied to an entire state. Roughly 30 Utahns die each month due to heroin or prescription painkiller overdoses.

According to the DEA, the strategy is an “innovative, three-pronged approach to combating heroin/opiod use.” It includes coordinated law enforcement actions against drug trafficking, enforcement actions against pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies and practitioners operating outside of the law and community outreach efforts.

MORE

 

SAMHSA writes

Prescription drug misuse and abuse is the intentional or unintentional use of medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed, or for the experience or feeling it causes. Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF | 3.4 MB) indicate that about 15 million people aged 12 or older used prescription drugs non-medically in the past year, and 6.5 million did so in the past month. This issue is a growing national problem in the United States. Prescription drugs are misused and abused more often than any other drug, except marijuana and alcohol. This growth is fueled by misperceptions about prescription drug safety, and increasing availability. A 2011 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that opioid analgesic (pain reliever) sales increased nearly four-fold between 1999 and 2010; this was paralleled by an almost four-fold increase in opioid (narcotic pain medication) overdose deaths and substance abuse treatment admissions almost six times the rate during the same time period.

Prescription drug abuse-related emergency department visits and treatment admissions have risen significantly in recent years. Other negative outcomes that may result from prescription drug misuse and abuse include overdose and death, falls and fractures in older adults, and, for some, initiating injection drug use with resulting risk for infections such as hepatitis C and HIV. According to results from the 2014 NSDUH report, 12.7% of new illicit drug users began with prescription pain relievers.

2008 report by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (PDF | 2.3 MB)(link is external) estimates that the abuse of opioid analgesics results in more than $72 billion in medical costs alone each year. This is comparable to costs related to other chronic diseases such as asthma(link is external) and HIV.

The problem of prescription drug abuse and overdose is complex, involving insufficient oversight to curb inappropriate prescribing, insurance and pharmacy benefit policies, and a belief by many people that prescription drugs are not dangerous. The 2014 National Drug Control Strategy (PDF | 1.5 MB) serves as the blueprint for reducing drug use and its consequences in the United States. The new strategy reviews the progress made over the past four years and looks ahead to continuing efforts to reform, rebalance, and renew the national drug control policy to address the public health and safety challenges of the 21st century.

Learn more about:

MORE

 

President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, headed by Chris Christie, met this afternoon and announced their final plans for combatting the opioid crisis. They are urging for the establishment of drug courts in all federal districts and to expand access to rehabilitation programs for addicts. But they have not requested more than the $57,000 left in the Public Health Emergency Fund from Congress nor addressed health insurance expansion.

Axios writes

Why it matters: Public health experts have estimated that it would take $183 billion to effectively address the opioid crisis over the next 10 years, and while the panel admitted that the lack of funding is an obstacle, they didn’t provide an estimate or specify where the funding should come from.

The plan details:

  • Expand access to medication-assisted therapies as well as addiction treatment and recovery programs.
  • Make it easier for first responders to administer the overdose reversal drug, naloxone.
  • Funding for a national media campaign.
  • The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare to look at policies that make it easier for doctors to prescribe opioids instead of non-opioid alternatives.
  • A simpler process for states to receive federal funding to combat the opioid crisis.
  • Tougher requirements from the DEA for prescribers.
  • More research funding.
  • Better data from medical examiners.

MORE

12345...