Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Smoking and Recovery

Columbia University recently published a study saying that adults who grew up around second hand smoke have lungs that look different than those with non-smoking households. Actually, the lungs have holes that look similar to the ones of people who suffer from emphysema. Is this shocking? Not really. We've been hearing about the detriments of smoking for years. And yet we see smokers day in and day out, huddled in small masses near heaters during winter and shunned to the street corners during summer. Now, don't get me wrong- I was a heavy smoker until this past year, despite the consequences. And I also believe in the freedom of choice- that individuals should be able to decide their own fate. However, tobacco kills about 438,000 people per year, according to the Virginia Department of Health. So my question is this: why do we allow smoking in addiction treatment centers?

In 2008, New York State banned smoking in their all public and private treatment programs. Their government-funded programs have been smoke-free since 1998. So why aren't other programs dealing with this? I know that in my experience, I smoked MUCH more in treatment than I did before- the only fix I had left! But for most of the people in an addiction treatment program, this was the only time they would take 30 days out of their lives to work on their addictions. Why not push for anti-smoking as well? If someone is going to deal with difficult withdrawals, why not deal with them in an ADDICTION TREATMENT CENTER???

I don't have a solution for this, nor am I completely pushing for the change. I'm just wondering what the therapeutic value of smoking has in the treatment world. Looking forward to your feedback.

Here's a TheTruth.com anti-smoking ad:

Here's a video on the facts of smoking.

Here's something funny.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sober in the Animal House

A blog in the Well section of the New York Times spoke about a 19-year-old college student, Owen Jennings, at Dartmouth with liver disease. This was not caused by drinking, but as a result, he is unable to drink in order to save his liver. His blog talked about his experience, i.e. "Sober in the Animal House," as he was a pledge at the same fraternity that was the focus of the infamous movie. Here's my favorite quote from the article:

"If I hadn’t been diagnosed with liver disease, I would probably be a part of this insane and inane drinking lifestyle. But I’ve come to realize that while I might feel left out at a party or a bar today, maybe I’m lucky. I will graduate from college without ever having woken up on a bathroom floor, wondering how I got there; without ever having to play hide-and-go-seek with the police."

I find this connection similar to being a sober alcoholic in a crazy environment (however, most sober alcoholics have woken up on bathroom floors and run from police). The part that I love about being sober when around people partying is the fact that I can observe the behaviors I used to engage in, and find a new sense of gratitude about my sobriety. The other part that Jennings

What this also touches on is the pressure to drink in a college environment. Jennings talks about turning down cigarettes and marijuana and feeling no pressure. But when someone offers him a drink, they ask again and again if he wants one. "When I decline alcohol, the response is almost always, 'Why not?'" It seems that drinking, even underage, has become not only a social pressure but the social norm. To deny this is almost criminal. We hear stories every day of 18 and 19 year old college students suffering from alcohol poisoning, abusive drinking, and reckless behavior. The new found freedom can almost be too much. How do we prevent this or encourage safer habits? That, my friends, is the big question.

With more and more college age students entering substance abuse treatment, we as a country need to address this growing problem. The Harvard School of Public Health did a national study that showed 42% of college students had engaged in binge drinking over the past year. That is crazy- and why aren't we providing accurate education on this? I can remember being told not to drink in school, but never any education on what to do when you drink too much. Perhaps improving our education and information around this would actually create some change.

Here's a video on college binge drinking:

And here's a public service ad about binge drinking:

Here's something funny.

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And please support me in my quest to raise money for cancer research! I'm riding a century on August 15th in Ventura and would love your support. Even $5 helps. Check out the link here. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eating Disorder Books

A post in the New York Times yesterday in the Books section touched on new stories coming out regarding girls and eating disorders. The title, "The Troubling Allure of Eating Disorder Books," says it all. There are a number of pro-anorexia websites all over the web, and this disturbing trend is pushed by things like Amazon book lists posted by individuals who encourage anorexia. One of the quotes by this particular reviewer was innately disturbing: "I couldn’t put this book down. The main character Kessa had one of the most extreme cases of anorexia. I admired her strength in never giving into food no matter how strong her carnal desires were (and she was severely emaciated so they were very strong)." The thinking here is obviously pretty sick.

What's difficult about eating disorders compared to other disorders is that you can't abstain. Unlike drugs and alcohol or even gambling, one can't quit and then work through personal issues. An individual struggling with anorexia or bulimia needs all the help they can get. There's a number of programs around the country available for help. An individual or family who is being affected can go through the International Association of Eating Disorder Providers to find a therapist or outpatient program in their area. Programs like Rosewood Ranch in Wickenburg, AZ and The Victorian in Newport Beach offer residential care for clients that need the help. A number of these individuals also have a history of significant trauma in their lives, and finding a way to work through that with new coping mechanisms can be a challenging process.

And of course, what we REALLY need is additional awareness. As with all compulsive disorders, a stigma created by society exists. Celebrities in the media almost flaunt their skinniness and potential anorexia, providing poor role models for young girls. One can open any US Weekly or click on Perez Hilton to see women pushed by the pressures of society to be too thin. The National Eating Disorders Association is working to destroy this image by providing education to parents, families, and educational institutions. The best combatant we have against this deadly disease is information and action. We can always hope for the best, but providing help for a friend or family member in need is the easiest way to make a difference.

Here's the Eating Disorder Awareness video:

Here's another video on eating disorders.

Here's something funny.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and add me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cyber Millenials and their drinking habits

A study being published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, along with the Center for Disease Control, used audience segmentation as the basis. The "cyber millenials," or those tech-savvy young people living in an urban area, tend to be the biggest high risk drinkers. Most were on the West Coast or in the Mid West, and tended to be well-educated as well as ethnically mixed.

What's interesting about this segment is that outside of binge drinking, they are relatively healthy- lower smoking rates, lots of exercise, and eating organic foods- but yet seem not to recognize the danger that binge drinking presents. Also, this segment tends to have significant financial resources which allow for multiple drinks in one sitting.

Now what's mentioned near the end of the article is what truly interests me: that clinicians "tend to be more blasé with younger, healthier patients, and might not even ask them about their level of alcohol consumption or screen them for alcohol problems." That is the problem. I can remember from my college days, going to see the school psychologist to talk about my depression 2 days a week for 3 months- and we talked once about drinking habits. In seeing a therapist after I'd left school and had developed a significant drug and alcohol problem, we talked about drug use and abuse only twice in 6 months. This is horrendous. Without proper education, we can't expect clinicians to learn how to recognize and treat the disease. A marriage and family therapist averages around 10 hours of mandatory study directly related to addiction while gaining their degree. In contrast, the average drug and alcohol counselor (not a master's degree, by the way), will do at least 3,000 hours of practicum directly related to addiction. So it seems that we should probably provide some additional education around addiction and alcoholism to our therapist community, as most people will see them prior to seeing a drug and alcohol counselor.

It falls back again to the stigma around this disease- the fact that 1 out of 10 people here struggle with drugs or alcohol (not to mention all of the families that are directly affected by one's behavior) means we need to get this out of the dark. When affluent, well-educated young people are binge drinking more than any other segment of the population, we need to be prepared for when they go overboard. Parents, educators, and clinicians need to be well-versed in dealing with alcohol and drug abuse for this new generation. The Millenials are going to need all the help they can get.

Here's a British show about binge drinking there:

Here's something funny.

As per usual, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. Check out Sober Living By The Sea. And be sure to support my advertisers. See you tomorrow!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sex and Internet Addiction

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this morning talked quite a bit about sex addictions and internet addictions going hand in hand. Dr. David Greenfield, an expert in the sex addiction world, said he had never seen a case like Greenwich, CT resident Stephen Dent, who spent, in at least one case, up to $200,000 on women for casual sex.

A quote that is interesting to me is this: Dr. Greenfield stated, "We can't really talk about sex addiction today without talking about the Internet." With all of the dating sites like match.com and even getting into the adult "friend finder"-type sites, the ability for an individual to engage in sex addiction. The internet, as with any other addiction, has made access to addictive substances much much easier. There are websites almost specifically tailored to feed sex addiction. Also, online pharmacies have created the ability for individuals to easily manipulate the system and acquire addictive medications from different doctors. There has been a study done showing that teen pill use has TRIPLED in the last 10 years, almost all as a result of the internet.

Bottom line is, we need to provide resources and education for parents and families around all of this. The education on how to recognize sex addiction and the compulsive behaviors around that are huge. Most families aren't able to recognize it until it's too late to salvage relationships. We NEED to bring this to light. Although there has been progress, we need to continue to educate the public about the resources available for help, as well as signs and symptoms.

Here's a video from CBS talking about sex addiction:

Here's a link to a video talking about internet addiction.

And here's something funny.

As always, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become a fan of Addiction Tomorrow on Facebook. Check out Sober Living By The Sea. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Athletes and PEDs

After hearing the devastating news that Manny Ramirez tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) this morning, I once again found myself disappointed in the lengths that pro athletes will go to continue their previous successes. What makes me sad is that I LOVED Manny. I loved watching him play, I loved his enthusiasm for the game (and sometimes, his lack thereof), and the joy he brought to the field. Now, being confronted by this, I have to reconsider my feelings around sports. How many other athletes are using steroids? Who can we trust anymore?

When Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens vehemently denied their steroid use and then were caught later in life, I figured it was a coincidence. Barry Bonds was proof of the fraud present in the era. And Alex Rodriguez's confession wasn't even really a confession. Manny makes it sold for me- the last 10 years of Major League Baseball are completely contaminated by cheating- and it did it to itself. Without a rigorous testing process and stiffer bans- like a year suspension without pay for the first positive test or a ban for life- then athletes will always find away around those drug tests.

I'm fairly certain that without change, there can't be any change! Unless there's a move either way- either allow steroids totally or institute tougher penalties- then baseball will become a joke. The history of baseball is really the most important part, and when records are broken by athletes who use PEDs, baseball loses fans and purists. It's up to them to save their game.

What's the MOST interesting thing about this are the athletes who get caught. On occasion, you'll see a minor leaguer trying to get a little better with the use of steroids. With players like Bonds, Clemens and Ramirez, this seems more like a last grasp for greatness. Taking a huge gamble on suspensions, ruining their legacy, and turning fans against them, they STILL chose the risk in hopes of achieving their previous greatness. It's sad that we've allowed this to happen- the fans, the media and Major League Baseball. Now our only hope for something different is true CHANGE.

Using PEDs is no different than using other drugs- ingesting a substance with the hope of achieving a different state of mind and body. So when will we start to see athletes entering rehab and treatment for their steroid addictions? What I can only hope is that the help is available- and we're their to receive it without judgement. When athletes start to slip and are considering PEDs, we need sports teams to intervene- or they risk ruining the sport for everyone. Constant vigilance is the only solution. Here's hoping it gets better and the black eye on Major League Baseball starts to heal.

Make sure to check out Bill Simmons' article on this.

Buster Olney wrote a great piece as well.

And one more from Bill Plaschke.

Here's video on teen steroid abuse:

And here's something funny.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Treatment moving forward

I read an interesting blog post in the New York Times this morning by Dr. Mark Willenbring. Here's the question and answer that piqued my interest:

"Q: Why aren’t patients being told of the medical options available to them in addition to AA/rehab? Is it ignorance of doctors? Lingering stigma that alcoholics are somehow “bad” and their only solution is to admit their powerlessness and find a higher power? No other disease relies on meetings in church basements for its primary treatment. I’m a recovering alcoholic who attends AA meetings and takes Campral. Not one AA’er I’ve met thus far has heard of Campral. It has been a tremendous help to me and it’s too bad that it’s not being used more, especially as it relates to reducing relapses. Cew5x


The type of treatment offered at more than 90 percent of treatment programs in the United States consists of group counseling and referral to community support groups provided by non-medical staff. This treatment model was developed about 50 years ago, and it represented a real advance at the time.

However, the treatment field has not kept up with scientific advances in either behavioral or medication treatment. For example, it is about as difficult to obtain high quality cognitive-behavioral therapy for alcohol dependence as it is medication therapy. This is likely to change eventually, but for the time being, people seeking treatment for themselves or loved ones need to be informed “consumers.” Insisting on access to high-quality, scientifically-based care is one way to help drive system change."

What I find interesting about this are a number of things. First and foremost, why haven't we, as an addiction treatment field, continued with the progress seen in other areas of medicine? Since addiction is recognized as a disease, we should be taking advantage of all scientific advantages availed to us. I find it interesting that we are so resistant to change, and that for 50 years we've done basically the same thing in treatment. What is ALSO very interesting is the RESISTANCE to change. It's hard to find a treatment program that is consistent in adopting new methodologies for addressing the brain and medical issues associated with addiction. Within the industry, there is almost a stigma associated with medication in the treatment process.

Why aren't we using every tool available to combat a disease that directly affects 10 percent of our population and countless numbers of family members?

The other point is that a 12-step program works, when instituted and practiced diligently. However, what we've seen with alcoholics and addicts is that a relapse can often completely derail the recovery train. With the help of certain medications and medical knowledge, combined with therapy, support network and 12 step work, our chances of seeing a full and complete recovery should vastly improve. I can only hope that we start to see this before we lose more people.

Here's a video of Dr. Mark Hillenbring:

Here's something funny.

As always, find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Also, become a fan of my blog on Facebook! See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

High-functioning alcoholics?

An article in the New York Times today spoke in depth about a segment of the population not often talked about- the high-functioning alcoholic. Sarah Allen Benton has recently published a book called "Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic" which can be found on Amazon here. Her basic premise is that this special type of alcoholic is able to somehow manage a job, family, friends and yet mask their problem drinking, sometimes for years. Many of these people are able to maintain a semblance of a normal life while covering up the massive wreckage that alcoholics routinely suffer.

What's interesting about this segment of the population is that it has existed in almost secret for hundreds of years. Employees, customers, and family members are often willing to overlook out-of-control drinking since their loved one or boss can maintain their job performance. The three martini lunch, popular up through the early 90s, was almost a right of passage for high-performing executives. They looked at alcohol as a reward for their hard work.

For many of these high-performing people, the major consequence for them is the fact that the one aspect of their lives that they can't control is their alcohol intake. They've avoided many consequences- loss of job, loss of family, financial ruin, etc. The other interesting thing is that there is an entire segment of the treatment world devoted to treating this population. Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta functioned for years by simply treating doctors. Hazelden Springbrook in Newburg, OR has a program dedicated to helping healthcare professionals. And programs such as The Landing, Promises, and other high end facilities specialize in treating high-functioning alcoholics- basing treatment tracks on the assumption that clients their don't need a complete overhaul of their lives, just around their relationship with alcohol and/or drugs.

What can be troubling about this segment of the population is relapse. When high-functioning alcoholics, who are used to perfection in all aspects of their lives, have trouble with sobriety, they can run into trouble when relapse happens. They can often move downhill fast. Luckily, there are resources available. Places such as Sunrise Recovery Ranch, Mayflower Center, and Jaywalker Lodge provide programs for chronic reluctant-to-recover patients, and can work together with the job and family to insure a smooth transition back into life.

It will be interesting to see how much this article and book bring awareness to this issue. People suffer in silence daily due to the ignorance of their friends and family members about the signs of out-of-control drinking. I can only hope that this article can help bring things to light about the secret lives of high-functioning alcoholics.

In other news, my friend Rick Ohrstrom over at Sober Bulldog just returned from the Gaza Strip working on addiction and trauma. Make sure to check out his website and stay tuned for a new blog about his experiences overseas.

Here's Anderson Cooper's breakdown of doctors in treatment:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. See you tomorrow.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Addiction and young adults

In Milwaukee this week, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to Community Advocates, Inc. to support the Milwaukee Addiction Treatment Initiative.

The Milwaukee Treatment Initiative is a great project- they are working to close the gap in providing treatment services to those who need it. According to research, almost 21% of those between 18-25 in Wisconsin fit the criteria for a need of addiction treatment, compared to 17% nationally. This project shows good initiative for a grassroots movement to improve addiction treatment.

As someone who got sober at a young age, I am in full support of this. One of the biggest problems is the myth that college is a place to go crazy for four years and then adjust to the real world. The truth is, many kids go to college without proper preparation for the struggles they will face. Addiction and alcoholism go hand-in-hand with the feelings of uncomfortability and uncertainty, and those are feelings that run rampant in college students. The resources available on college campuses are woeful at best, and it's hard for college students to find the help they need without family help. When families aren't educated about the signs of addiction and depression, a kid can get in deep trouble on a college campus.

Milwaukee is taking a lot of steps to improve this, and I applaud them for it. We always need more resources available, and it's good to see foundations stepping up to support further resources and research.

Make sure to check out this video about where I work, Sober Living By The Sea. Thanks to Michael Hurst, our web designer, for posting this video and managing our blog.

Here's an interesting video regarding Erin Brockovich and her daughter's struggles with addiction:

As usual, here's something funny.

Come and find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, make sure to check out my friends over at 12 Angels and their research project. See you this week.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hi everyone,

I'm posting this as a favor to my friends over at 12 Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people in early recovery to get jobs and foster entrepreneurship. Check out the links below, and please take the surveys! I'll have a new blog up at the beginning of this week about educational consulting.


Are you or have you ever been in a 12 step program to help you overcome your alcoholism or addictions? Would you be willing to help other recovering alcoholics or addicts reintegrate into the professional world by spending just 3-5 minutes of your time? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, then now is your opportunity to make a difference by participating in a completely anonymous survey to help design a revolutionary online application for the benefit of the recovery community.

12 Angels is a nonprofit organization that fosters social entrepreneurship in the recovery community. The organization’s goal is to create and implement programs that will counteract the economic damage caused by alcoholism and addiction.

Thank you for your willingness to participate in our survey. Please complete only one of the two surveys presented below. Select the one you feel most accurately fits your background and experience.

Survey 1 - Sponsor: If you are, or have been, a sponsor in a 12 step program:

Survey 2 - Sponsee: If you are, or have been, a sponsee (but never a sponsor) in a 12 step program: