Monday, February 23, 2009

The Genetic Link

Thanks to Adi Jaffe over at All About Addiction for bringing up a great topic. Genetics and addiction have been talked about for decades; it was often brought up in people's stories of have a long lineage of alcoholic parents, grandparents, cousins, nephews, etc. and now has been proven to have a genetic link. The University of Utah did a great study on the genetics of addiction, even though they used incorrect grammar on the heading of their website!

One of my favorite phrases is, "Genetics load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger." The basic gist of the research shows people with a certain gene have a tendency towards being unable to quit once they have started drinking or using. However, should an individual have a great support system, education, and concept of a family history, then addiction is preventable. Basically, for families with a long line of addiction, one needs not even QUESTION if the gene is prevalent; families simply need to prepare and educate the next generation on the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Once armed the the powerful tools of education and awareness, a family can work towards prevention.

For something interesting about addiction and genes, watch this:

For something hilarious, click here.

As always, find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Addiction and Insurance

I found an article on the PBS website talking about health insurance and the coverage for addiction. Even with the Wellstone and Domenci Parity bill passing, there still is a lot of room to grow in this world. Having dealt with this with a number of clients, insurance companies are still hesitant to pay for residential care, even when that is a clinical recommendation. Insurance companies, in general, want someone to FAIL in outpatient care before they are willing to pay, or look at paying for, residential treatment.
A quote from the PBS article: "We know that alcohol and drug addiction is a disease, yet we still have not integrated it into the health insurance system in a way that is meaningful," says William McColl, director of government relations for the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.

We're in a tough spot. More people than ever need treatment, and still we have to fight daily to even have the disease of addiction recognized as something more than a weakness of willpower.

As we've seen with the AIDS movement and the GLBT movement in the last 20 years, equal rights and appropriate healthcare legislation can be passed when enough people are behind it. That's why I always push for advocacy; show the world that recovery works! To join the fight openly, check out Faces and Voices of Recovery. A good organization that needs more exposure and more members!

Last night I got the opportunity to record an online radio show with The Afflicted and Affected. Be sure to check them not; not quite sure when this will be posted, but I'll update when I know.

Here's an excerpt from the HBO special on addiction; the whole show is available through various clips on YouTube or on DVD.

Here's something funny.

As always, find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Have a great day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Johnson Institute

The Johnson Institute in Minneapolis is an advocacy group who really brings the truth out about addictions. The institute used to train interventionists, and now focuses on advocacy around the disease of alcoholism and addiction. One of the best articles I've found on the web is here, featured on the Johnson Institute website. In this article, they talk about the seven policies necessary to create a solution for the huge problem of addiction. First and foremost, family members and people in recovery MUST make themselves available to the general public. WE are the best voice and the proof that recovery works! They also talk about creating early awareness and early intervention as a solution; teaching social institutions that addiction is not a stigma but a treatable illness, and educating the general public on the options available.

A great article, make sure to check it out.

Hope you all had a good weekend. For something REALLY interesting, a podcast featuring a great researcher in the addiction field, click here.

For something funny, click here.

As always, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Advocacy and Treatment

A new Hazelden survey showed that over 8 out of 10 people sampled said first-time drug offenders should go to treatment and not prison. It also showed that 79% of those polled that the War on Drugs was a failure. However, this survey was a small sampling-- it only reviewed the opinions of 1,000 people. The opinions do represent a step in the right direction. It seems the stigma is getting washed off at least a little bit, that the general public can recognize that addicts need treatment and not jail.

For a history of the War on Drugs, check this out. NPR lays out a brief history, starting, of course, with Nixon declaring war on drugs in the early 70s do to a rising in arrests for both street crime and drug possession. In 1994, there were reports that the War on Drugs was responsible for putting 1 million people behind bars per year. In the 80s, with Reagan's policies around drugs kicking in, arrests for general crime rose 28%, while drug related arrests rose 126%. That's a huge, huge jump. And by not diverting people arrested for drug possession to treatment, we create a toxic prison environment soaked in drugs and more crime, as well as high recidivism rates.

How do we fix it? Support the Wellstone act. Vote for measures that allow tax dollars to be put towards treatment. For those of you who are more worried about what pubic services your tax dollars fund, push for those that support rehabilitation, as that will put more money back in the private secotr in the long run, as people who get adequate rehabilitation instead of a prison term are more likely to become productive citizens.

For folks who do a great job advocating recovery, click here, here, or here.

Here's a breakdown of the economic factors that addiction causes:

And here's Bill Maher's take on the war on drugs:

For something funny, click here.

As always, find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Have a great day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Drug PSAs...are they effective?

This is an ad from the Montana Meth campaign. These brutally honest ads were a part of The Meth Project, a "large scale prevention project aimed at reducing first time meth use." The ads depict a number of scenarios, from losing hair and teeth, whoring oneself for money, and influencing younger siblings.

The New York Times recently published a study which estimated meth's yearly societal cost at $23.4 billion. That's a huge number-- and it gets worse. According to a 2005 study by SAMHSA, approximately $276 billion was spent or lost on health care, lost productivity, crime, auto accidents, and premature death as a result of drug and alcohol addiction. Yet we, as an industry, receive only $1 billion in federal funding for research. Absolutely ridiculous.

Do PSA's make an impact? Montana Meth reports that numbers are down across the board-- teen use has dropped by 45% and adult use dropped by 72%. There is no proof, however, that any of this is DIRECTLY related to the ad campaign, but it has to be assumed that it had at least a small effect.

All we really need to know is that the system doesn't work. Sending people to jail for years at a time for possession-related crimes instead of treatment doesn't rehabilitate people. Treatment works, especially when consequences have already been provided and more exist should one not complete treatment. We'll see what unfolds down the line. The Mental Health Parity Act is a good start, but that won't directly effect people who can't afford health insurance or those in jail. Keep advocating, and make sure to let your community know the you're not afraid to speak up as a person in recovery.

Here's an ad that didn't seem to make much of an impact.

Here's ALL of the Montana Meth ads put together in a montage. Don't watch this if you have a sensitive stomach.

For a great website, check out The Afflicted and Affected.

For something funny, click here.

As always, find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. Have a great day!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Addiction Cure?

While watching CNN over the weekend, I couldn't help but notice repeated ads from Passages Malibu marketing "The Addiction Cure." Curious, I browsed the website and also Amazon for the book "The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure." I couldn't help but wonder if this was detrimental to the recovery process that we've worked so long and hard to develop in this country. With a blatant disregard to the 12-step model and the disease concept, it seems as though the two founders are trying a completely different approach. Now, don't get me wrong-- I haven't read the book, nor have I visited the center itself. They may be doing great work there; the problem is, how do people continue their recovery when they leave a place that does 60+ individual sessions a month? My personal experience, and the experience of many others I know in recovery, show that a combination of individual therapy, 12-step work, and service are the keys to better living. I have trouble believing that one could be "cured" of alcoholism.

On the other hand, what if they have it right and the rest of us are wrong? Or is this another "easier, softer way?" Only time will tell. For now, I just hope they aren't doing more damage than good.

Here's a video of Chris Prentess, the founder of Passages.

For a different viewpoint, here's a video of Father Martin's "chalk talk."

Let me know what you think!

Here's something funny.

As always, find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. See you tomorrow.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Great NY Times Article

I recently stumbled upon a New York Times article by Jim Atkinson which talks about getting and staying sober with a spiritual program. Most importantly though, he says, "While the image of those of us who manage to sober up has improved quite a bit since the temperance movement, we continue to be considered “lesser” for having had the problem in the first place."

And that right there folks, is the bottom line. There are countless members of society who are sober and doing well; I think the image of the skid-row drunk still crosses the mind of anyone who is not familiar with the treatment process or isn't open to the idea of not drinking.

I always find it interesting whenever I'm in a social situation and other people are uncomfortable with me NOT drinking. I was always pretty sure it would be the reverse. However, not everyone has been exposed to a sober alcoholic; there are, however, plenty of people who have been exposed to ACTIVE alcoholism, and the fact that there are sober people present could bring up a lot of emotion around that.

A study done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 2004 showed that nearly 17 million Americans fit the criteria for alcohol abuse. That means one out of every eleven people you meet is either struggling, or has struggled, with alcohol. That's a CRAZY amount for there still to be this kind of stigma around alcoholism and sobriety.

Get the word out! Become an advocate for recovery! And make sure to support measures that provide funding for treatment- not everyone can afford Hazelden or Sober Living By The Sea. As members of a sober community, we have a responsibility to get the message out that hope is available. Try to keep that message strong in your every day life.

For something interesting, check this

Here's a New Jersey PSA about recovery from NCADD-NJ.

"Addiction is a treatable, preventable disease, not a moral failing." Well put.

Have a great weekend. Something funny here.

As always, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Celebrity" Rehab

The first time I watched "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" I was pretty much appalled. I was wondering what would possess someone who has done a great deal to take away the stigma of addiction and worked in all areas of the field to expose fallen stars during their most vulnerable moments. I still have trouble with this, but I think Dr. Drew Pinsky has his heart in the right place. From day one, the show was overhyped, with commercials about relapse, people in treatment going crazy and getting angry during detox, and baring their soul on national television. I guess, in many ways, it's no different that the Real World on MTV EXCEPT for the fact that the people on "Celebrity Rehab' have a life-threatening addiction.

I'm more worried that the people who want to participate in shows like this (or the offshoot, "Sober House") may be more in this for the last grasp of fame.

I mean, with TMZ and Perez Hilton and the like, we see pictures, blurbs, and information about celebrities entering treatment all the time. For a while, it seemed almost cool to go to treatment.

I'm worried that all of this exposure will water down the treatment industry; there's a few programs out there that do a REALLY good job with addiction, and a LOT that are mediocre at best. I'm hoping that this glut of media coverage and reality TV doesn't inspire people who just want to make money and see a market available to open a treatment facility. That's where people get more hurt and traumatized, which I've seen with some former clients.

When you're treating people with the disease of addiction, make sure your heart is in the right place. Dr. Drew, you do a good job with this forum, and I hope you're in it for the right reasons.

Here's an interview with Dr. Drew.

Here's something funny.

As usual, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

8 gold medals and one bong

You know, I'd love to say I'm shocked by the fact that an 8-time Olympic gold medalist was caught smoking marijuana at a college party. Considering a study published by the University of Michigan, 47% of high school seniors had tried an illegal substance. And as those kids go to college and experience life without parental supervision, that type of using can get out of control. Michael Phelps, I don't blame you. I think he made a decision and is paying the consequences. As we all know, consequences create change...although he did receive a DUI in 2004. So Michael, time to do some hard thinking. We all get that your life is hard-- according to research done in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, on average, people with GREAT success require around 10,000 hours of practice, which means Phelps has crammed all of that in before his 23rd birthday. That kind of pressure can create problems and seeking a release, which is probably all he was looking for. But Mr. Phelps, remember you're in the public eye and a role model. Represent yourself that way. If you have a problem, get help. If you don't, keep it out of the public eye!

For someone else who has admitted to smoking marijuana, watch this:

Today is World Cancer Day, click here to find out how to get involved.

For something funny, click here.

For something good to listen to, check out Ohtis.

As always, find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ritalin: The new cocaine?

Recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Addiction published a study which shows that Ritalin produces similar effects on the brain as cocaine. Not really shocking, considering the high level of Ritalin abuse we've started to hear about in the last couple of years. I can remember in college when people would trade medications and use Ritalin either to stay up late to study, or to get nice and speedy before going out. The fact that it's taken almost 10 years since that time for a study to come out is a shame. Here's a quote from the lead researcher, Yong Kim: "Methylphenidate, which is thought to be a fairly innocuous compound, can have structural and biochemical effects in some regions of the brain that can be even greater than those of cocaine." Just another sneaky way to get addicted, if you ask me. Basically, this proves to me that we need to keep a better watch on what medications we give to our children, and especially if they show signs of abuse or addiction, make sure to put solutions in the hands of the parents who need them.

Here's a report from Fox News in Atlanta on students using Ritalin as a "brain steroid." Interesting stuff.

For something fun, click here.

As always, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. See you tomorrow.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Continuing Care

The Hazelden Foundation published a study in December regarding results of a research project about the importance of continuing care (you can find the study here.) The study shows a marked improvement when individuals in treatment follow their aftercare recommendation (specifically, this study is around outpatient and 12-step meetings). The basic underlying fact, and my experience, is this: the more engaged we can keep clients for the first year, the easier it is for them to achieve, or at least get on the road to, a successful recovery. If they go out on their own, are detached from their initial peer group and/or treatment center, and don't follow the recommended aftercare plan, their chances of success are slim. We, as an industry, need to do a better job recommending and enforcing aftercare recommendations; too many people are still under the impression that a person can go to treatment for 28 days and be "fixed." Once again, another stigma we have to break through!

Here's a PSA ad I found interesting and hadn't seen before:

Here's my favorite Super Bowl commercial from last night:

Here's something entertaining. Click here for some amazing art. Or here.

As always, find me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Thanks!