Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Catching up...and succession planning

Hi everyone, it's been entirely too long.

I've spent the time in the last few months that I haven't been blogging doing lots of interesting things. I've attended a bunch of conferences (NAATP, West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders, and the Moment of Change Conference, to name three), visited a number of treatment centers, and met a lot of new professionals in the field. I've gotten to see a new addiction news and culture website launch (www.thefix.com) and another of my favorites (www.allaboutaddiction.com, run by Dr. Adi Jaffe) gain some steam as a solid research-based blog.

Mostly, I've spent my time thinking about the future of the field of addictive services. At all of these conferences, the number of clinicians and administrators in the addiction field under 35 is frighteningly low. Personally, I'm concerned about this, and at the West Coast Symposium (mentioned above) there was a concerted effort to bring together the wisdom of the current leaders to the newer members of the field. A mentoring lunch was held, with tables featuring such leaders as Rob Waggener, CEO of Foundations Recovery Network and Dr. Andrea Barthwell, former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy and currently the owner and director of Two Dreams Outer Banks, as well as other researchers and clinicians.

In my experience, this has been the first true effort by the addiction treatment community to spread their thought leadership to the next generation of treatment providers. A good idea all around, as the field needs that wisdom to continue moving the work forward. As a young leader in the field, I almost feel partially responsible for helping this message get to my generation of addiction professionals. Thanks to C4 Recovery Services for taking the bull by the horns and helping to get the process started. If anyone has any ideas on how to continue our work, suggestions are welcome.

For something funny, check this out:

Follow me on Twitter, and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of my blog or my company on Facebook. And see you later this week.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Social Network

After finally seeing "The Social Network" today (and yes, I know this makes me a "late adopter"), it really got me thinking. How different has our culture become since the launch of Facebook in 2004? For those of you who've read my blog in the past, you'll know that I'm relatively plugged in to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The interesting thing is the level of connectivity. Back in 2007, Alice Mathias wrote an opinion article lamenting the "Facebook generation" and the general lack of connectivity and how things are changing as a result of the constant online exposure. "Facebook purports to be a place for human connectivity, but it’s made us more wary of real human confrontation," Mathias says in the article. And now with the Blackberry, iPhone, etc., people are in more constant contact and connected all the time. Is this really a good thing? On one level, those who work in high-pressure jobs that require realtime responses and crisis-level action (i.e. pagers for doctors) it seems like a smart concept. But for those who simply like to have access to their network at all times, this can actually be a problem. In the New York Times this summer, an article appeared talking about teens that had serious academic consequences as a result of their compulsive behavior around Facebook. From the article, "As many as 1 in 8 Americans suffer from problematic Internet use, according to researchers at Stanford University in California." Those are crazy high numbers, although if we look at general addiction stats, those seem to fall in line.

So what to do? I know I personally check Facebook a couple of times a day, not to mention Twitter and LinkedIn and the constant vibration of texts and emails. My coworkers and I joke about "phantom vibrations," or when you think you feel the vibration of your phone and your phone isn't even in your pocket. We call this a joke, but it's not really that funny. How connected is TOO connected? That's for you to decide. If your workplace has started the migration to social media, you may already be responsible for being responsive 24/7. Another exercise in boundaries, I suppose. It will be very intriguing in the next few years to see what kind of consequences arise from compulsive access. How do you match up?

And now, here's something funny.

Be sure to check out my company, Ferguson Behavioral Health Consulting.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:S Barrington Ave,Los Angeles,United States

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Updates and Upcoming Posts

Thanks for sticking around, for those of you who still follow the blog, love the old content, and like the things we've written. In 2010, a lot has happened in the addiction and recovery field that we need to comment on, and due to some new twists and turns, the posting has (to say the least) fallen off a little bit. We'll be back with a vengeance, and with some new features. So here we go.

In February of this year, I launched a new company, Ferguson Behavioral Health Consulting. After working in the field for the last few years, I decided it was about time for me to take a little risk and go out on my own. Needless to say, it's been a lot of work. So, with the support of a few key people (namely Jaywalker Lodge, PCH Treatment Center, and Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women), I was able to incorporate my love for seeing people get to the appropriate treatment provider as well as branding and outreach relations. You can also follow my new company on Twitter and be a fan on Facebook.

So this year, along with commentary on what's happening in the news of addiction (look for a post regarding our friend Lindsay Lohan over the weekend), I'll also be writing about events I attend, interesting speakers, and revolutions in the industry. As part of the broader scope of addiction recovery, I hope that together we can continue changing lives and helping people get better. Let me know if you have any suggestions about anything you'd like to see or see more written about.

Here's a video from one of my consulting clients, Jaywalker Lodge:

Here's something funny:

What I've been reading: Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

What I've been watching: Louis C.K.: Chewed Up

What I've been listening to: State Radio- Us Against The Crown

As per usual, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you next week- I promise.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

British consider alcohol price increase

In this week's edition of The Economist, one of the standout articles was about a parliamentary health committee convening to discuss raising the prices on low-end alcohol. According to the article, many of the low-end alcoholic beverages are sold at incredibly low prices, as well as significantly discounted when purchased in bulk. From the article: "Using research from Sheffield University, the committee argued that a floor of 40p for a 10ml unit of alcohol—enough to push the Sainsbury’s cider up to £3.36—would save 1,100 lives per year. A floor of 50p would save 3,000, it said. Medical associations and the police all want to see drink get more expensive too."

As we've touched on before, the British have a long history of binge drinking, especially among the younger adults. British cases of cirrhosis are on the rise, while all over the rest of Western Europe cases of cirrhosis are on the decline. What's interesting to see is the fact that, per-capita, their consumption is the eighth-highest in Europe; however, according to the World Health Organization, a whopping 12% of the British population are non-drinkers.

Now normally, a bill like this would get a lot of negative feedback from the already-struggling pub industry; however, a raise in the low-end liquor industry wouldn't directly affect them as most drinks served in bars aren't THAT low end. So hopefully we'll see a stabilzation in the low-end market, helping slow alcohol consumption in the lower-end markets. Scotland, on the other hand, is working to introduce a "social responsibility" fee for bars and other liquor sales places, presumably to put those funds toward treatment and education programs. I hope that we see an uptick in this area; alcohol sales tax SHOULD go towards rehabilitation services for those in need- after all, their legal drug causes all sorts of damage to individuals and families. Perhaps a price increase will slow consumption of liquor in the UK; at any rate, it's a start, and one can hope that treatment options are made more readily available to those in need.

In other news, TLC announced today that they would be premiering a new series called "Addicted" this March, featuring interventionist Kristina Wandzilak of Full Circle Intervention and author of the book, "The Lost Years." I'm excited for this show- I know that the journey through addiction will be presented well, and can only increase awareness to the help available out there. I'm happy that this seems not only to focus on intervention, but also on the "life stuff" that follows the exit from a treatment center. Once again, the more awareness of resources available, the better- if this show helps one person seek treatment, then I qualify it as a success.

Here's a video of Ms. Wandzilak from ABC:

Here's something funny.

As per usual, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back for 2010

After a much-needed two-month writing sabbatical (due to work reasons, writers block, etc.), it's good to be back in 2010. Lots of stories to cover this year. First and foremost, thanks so much to AllTreatment.com for naming my blog one of the best of 2009! (Congrats as well to my friend Adi Jaffe at All About Addiction who also had his blog listed as one of the best). Had a great end to 2009, helping a number of people find their way to treatment and start the journey of getting well, and spent much needed time with family and friends over the holidays. One can only hope the holiday experience was as relaxing for everyone else. As we know, the holidays can be a difficult time for families that have been ravaged by addiction; for those of you who need help, please ask for it! Asking for helping is the only way to get it.

One of my new favorite reads during the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 is Joe Schrank's Core Company blog, covering lots of different topics around addiction. Schrank isn't afraid to share his opinion, which can seem grating to some but we at Addiction Tomorrow find it fairly refreshing to see someone speak their mind. His 2009 recap column brought up a number of different issues, mostly documenting the numerous "celebrity" drug and alcohol deaths, which seemed to be higher this year than in years past. Although, it may just be that the 24/7 news/gossip channels and blogs have been paying more attention this year. Obviously, Michael Jackson's death in June sparked the greatest awareness (We blogged about it numerous times, starting here.) Jackson's overdose brought to light the abusive natures of overprescribing doctors, enabling family members, and what fame can do when left unchecked. A tragic end for one of the most interesting figures of my lifetime.

For current events, the healthcare debate has been raging all year and preliminary voting looks like things are in for a change. But we will see; as with all things government, time will tell how much reform is actually put in play.

A very interesting article on the Americanization of mental illness was in the New York Times this weekend. Check it out; some interesting perspectives on how mental illness is diagnosed around the world. One of the most interesting segments of the article spoke about a specific form of anorexia that occurred in Hong Kong; Dr. Sing Lee, a psychiatrist in Hong Kong saw a few patients who simply expressed that their stomachs always felt bloated, instead of the usual Western diagnosis of fat phobia. What Lee saw after the death of one of his patients was what made it very interesting- it seemed that his patients who suffered from disordered eating patterns turned their OWN SYMPTOMS into the more widely-accepted Western views. “Culture shapes the way general psychopathology is going to be translated partially or completely into specific psychopathology,” Lee says. “When there is a cultural atmosphere in which professionals, the media, schools, doctors, psychologists all recognize and endorse and talk about and publicize eating disorders, then people can be triggered to consciously or unconsciously pick eating-disorder pathology as a way to express that conflict.” This is definitely worth a read.

Here's one of my favorite videos, from Dr. Kevin McCauley:

Here's a great video on healthcare reform from Robert Reich, professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and former Labor Secretary under the Clinton administration:

Here's something funny.

As always, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you later this week (I promise!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Len Bias and the War on Drugs

After watching the amazing ESPN documentary series' "30 for 30"'s latest episode, "Without Bias," I was struck by the impact Len Bias' death had on awareness of the dangers of cocaine, and on the drug laws. For those of you who don't know, Bias was a standout basketball player for the University of Maryland (check out highlight footage here). Bias was often compared to Michael Jordan, who we all know is the best basketball player that we've seen- his potential was through the roof. In fact,Celtics scout Ed Badger told the press at the time, "Len Bias is the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out in a long time." Bias was drafted number two overall by the Boston Celtics at the 1986 NBA draft, and the following day went and signed a 1.6 million dollar deal with Reebok shoe company for an endorsement. That evening, Bias returned to the Maryland campus to spend time with his former teammates- and started to use cocaine. Around 6 AM that following morning, Bias started to have trouble breathing and went into seizure. After paramedics were called, Bias eventually succumbed to a cocaine overdose.

A month later, a Maryland grand jury returned indictments against Bias's friend Brian Tribble for possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and Bias's Maryland teammates Terry Long (possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice) and David Gregg (possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice). All were found not guilty, although Tribble was later convicted of an unrelated cocaine trafficking charge.

The aftermath of Bias' death stretched out into the legal system. The Narcotics Penalties and Enforcement Act was supported by both parties and enforced stronger prison sentences for smaller amounts of drugs. From a Washington Post article: "From 1954 to 1976, it fluctuated between 20,000 and 24,000. By 1986 it had grown to 36,000. Today it exceeds 190,000 prisoners, up 527 percent in 20 years. More than half this population is made up of drug offenders, most of whom are serving sentences created in the weeks after Len Bias died. "

So is Bias to blame for our current terrible prison and "War on Drugs" situation? The laws that were passed in the wake of his death have bled into a terrible problem in their own right. PBS Frontline did a great timeline on the War on Drugs, talking in specifics about the consequences of Bias' death. We can only hope that the mandatory minimum sentences that were established can be replaced by addiction rehab options for people who are struggling with addiction. Bias also brought a new level of awareness to the dangers of cocaine- in a way, he may have saved some lives with his example. That, we can hope, will be his legacy.

Here's a preview of the 30 for 30 episode. Check your local listings for the full show.

Click here for something funny.

Sorry for the prolonged absence! But it's good to be back. Come and connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And we'll see you shortly.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A cocaine vaccine?

A Time Magazine article this past week spoke about the success of early trials of a cocaine vaccine. The results, although only mildly successful, seemed to point towards the idea that a vaccination against addiction could be something viable in the fight to get people well. ABC news posted a video talking with Dr. Marvin Seppela, medical director of Hazelden, about the potential effects of something like this happening. The vaccination is built to damper the "high" users obtain from using cocaine, and therefore, scale back the level of craving.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (or NIDA), has mentioned that vaccinations against addiction are one of the institutes "...top priorities." NIDA is also working on a similar vaccination towards nicotine addiction. However, an interesting fact in the article: "About 25% of the study participants did not produce cocaine antibodies when vaccinated. In about half of these cases, researchers think smoking crack was the problem." This seems interesting, since it looks as though the vaccination would only alter the affects of powder cocaine users. As is widely known, crack cocaine causes far more severe effects among addicts, so it will be interesting to see if they find a way to combat the effects of crack addiction.

One of the more interesting points, made near the end of the article, was that the vaccine would need a number of consistent "booster" shots to keep up the effects of the vaccination. Dr. Volkow says that more than likely, the best use for the vaccine would be as a mode of relapse prevention, as opposed to a new method of abstinence. Since most addicts do require a form of aftercare, such as a 12-step group, this can be used as an additional tool to help support recovery and sobriety. In the spirit of the blog, being named Addiction Tomorrow after all, we're looking forward to seeing additional research and options for addicts to get well. This is encouraging, and hopefully we can get another tool in the toolbox to fight this battle.

Here's a great video about the myths of addiction.

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.