Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bridge To Recovery

For those of you who are avid readers, I apologize for the lack of posting for the last couple of weeks. I've been on the road for work and haven't had access to wireless internet. Here's the first of a few updates.

I spent a long weekend in Bowling Green, KY doing a referent weekend at The Bridge to Recovery, a residential treatment center with a focus on codependency. With tracks starting a 14 days and going up through 90, The Bridge can do treatment like I've never seen, focusing almost solely on family members of addicts as well as addicts themselves. Carol Cannon, one of the founders and a pioneer in the field of codependence (and published a couple of books, most notably "Hooked on Unhappiness") provided one of the best definitions of codependence I've ever heard:

“Codependence is the pain in adulthood that comes from being wounded in childhood, which leads to a high probability of relationship problems and addictive disorders in later life.”

With a huge focus on trauma and codependency, I was really impressed with The Bridge. This was also an amazing weekend to be there, as it was both the 35th anniversary of The Bridge AND the retirement celebration for the founders, Paul and Carol Cannon. I got the opportunity to meet and speak with alumni from all the back in the late 80s, and really got a feel for the work that they were doing. In addition, Dr. Stephen Grinstead of Addiction Free Pain Management , who also works with Terry Gorski doing Relapse Prevention training, told his story and lead a workshop on "Identifying and Managing the Inner Saboteur." He took the clients through his workshop, as well as the visitors (like myself), staff, and alumni. A really powerful experience to do some difficult group work and look at how denial manifests in our daily lives. Also got the opportunity to hear stories from Josie Ramirez-Herndon and Dr. Jeff Seat over the weekend, a truly great experience.

Overall, a fantastic visit. I wouldn't hesitate to send a family member to treatment at the Bridge, and I'm looking forward to doing some work with them in the future. Such a diamond in the rough; it's weird to think that they've been around for 35 years and yet are not really known about on the West Coast. Hopefully we can spread the word; long term treatment for family members of addicts can only provide a healthier, more supportive network for people trying to maintain their recovery.

Here's a video about The Bridge to Recovery:

In the next blog: my trip to Nashville.

Here's something funny, Will Ferrell's video about health insurance.

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

How are Mexico's drug laws affecting us?

As I mentioned in a recent post, drug violence in Mexico has been escalating to a disturbing degree, from affecting tourism numbers to actually seeing hitmen invade a Mexican treatment center and brutally kill people trying to get well. This does not bode well for the Mexican-American border, nor for the Mexican citizens as well. An article in the New York Times today talked about the new laws decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and harder drugs in Mexico. Good questions brought up here- will US citizens go across the border for easier access to drugs? How will the Obama administration react? And how will this policy affect the Mexican citizens?

A variety of experts chimed in on this. One, Tony Payan (a political science professor at University of Texas-El Paso) mentioned that the new law was designed simply to combat the rampant police corruption- i.e. police demanding bribes to let people off for small possession charges- and NOT to curb violence. However, I really liked his viewpoint on this, quoted here: "it is a solid first step to pave the way for 1) distinguishing between drug use and drug abuse 2) paving the way for fully medicalizing abuse, that is, reinforcing the idea that we should treat drug addicts much as alcoholics and offer them help instead of prison time, and 3) focusing state resources on the production, trafficking and distribution networks." This is what we, vocal opponents of the US drug war, have been saying for years- that we should be going after the big drug kingpins and allow users better, and more comprehensive, access to drug treatment as opposed to putting them in jail.

I was, however, disappointed to see the response from Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation. She states: "Drug users are not innocent. They support the vicious drug cartels. Without their demand for drugs, the supply side has no purpose." However, this has been the response of government entities for the last 30 years, and we've made almost no progress. This is like comparing abstinence only education vs. comprehensive sex education. There will ALWAYS be demand for drugs- addiction will not go away if we someone slam the channels of drugs shut. People will find something new to be mind-altering- maybe even the internet- to fill the void. So we should be focusing more on the education of "what-happens-if" instead of "just say no."

Here's a breakdown of the new decriminalization laws:

Here's something funny.

Be sure to check out Writers in Treatment, a great new nonprofit organization in Los Angeles looking to help struggling artists get well. They'll be hosting an event here in LA co-sponsored by Hazelden; as more details emerge I'll post them. A great cause, and we're glad to see someone supporting them.

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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Internet Addiction and Treatment

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about internet addiction and treatment. The Chicago Tribune posted an article this morning about reSTART, an internet addiction treatment center in Seattle. The website talks about different signs and symptoms associated with internet addiction, such as neglecting friends and family, obsessing over the computer and internet, and failed attempts to control behavior. Although internet addiction isn't classified in the DSM as of yet, there are well-chronicled tales of people with addiction to games such as World of Warcraft. In Chicago, Linda Lewaniak, director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Hoffman Estates, said that while research on the subject is scant, "we've had steady growth in this area. We're now seeing enough people to have its own group."

So what's the deal? Are people TRULY addicted to the internet? I think when we start to see consequences such as lack of social activity, lowered productivity in the workplace, and feelings of craving for the internet, we may actually have a real problem on our hands. I'm glad to see someone addressing this; Dr. Hilary Cash, the executive director at reSTART, has been doing research in this field for years, and sees a huge developing problem among our youth. She has helped lead the research and bringing about a 12-step program for internet gaming addicts. This will be an interesting field moving forward; I'm interested to see where this leads, as we're just at the beginning stages of research- and at the problem.

From the Tribune article:
At Rush University Medical Center, which also treats patients at its Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction, Dr. Louis Kraus said it's important to recognize that these activities are often intertwined with other underlying issues, such as depression and social anxiety.

"It's great that people are looking at this and the impact it's having," the child psychiatrist said, "but we still don't have clear scientific basis for what kind of treatment approach will offer the best outcome."

In other news, Pfizer, the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company, was recently slapped with a $2.3 billion fine for falsely advertising and marketing drugs for purposes they weren't intended for. They were slapped with the fine following a guilty plea towards one felony count to settle federal criminal and civil charges that it illegally promoted its Bextra painkiller and other drugs. What hasn't been brought to light is that this is Pfizer's FOURTH settlement over false advertising. We need to reign in these companies before they start to do more harm than good. Hopefully the health care reform will lay out some rules and regulations that will impose stiffer penalties on companies that promote products illegally.

Here's a video by Dr. Hilary Cash talking about internet addiction:

Here's a GREAT video from Robert Reich talking about health care reform. Please be sure to take the 2 minutes to watch this one:

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.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hitmen Murder Rehab Patients

On Wednesday night, approximately a dozen hitmen swarmed into a drug rehab center in the city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Execution style, they lined up the patients and killed 17 of them. This treatment center, on the Mexican and U.S. border, seems to be an attempt to send a message to the two governments that the crackdown on Mexican drug trafficking isn't going to work. Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced in 2006 that he'd be going directly after the cartels- who haven't exactly responded well.

In a little-covered aspect of the story, the drug cartels have been specifically targeting drug treatment centers. The cartels seem to be hunting down their rivals, or looking for new recruits to join in the fray. Over a thousand people in Ciudad Juarez have died this year as a result of drug-related violence. Even with thousands of police and federal agents swarming the city, these cartels are obviously still able to function relatively successfully, albeit with a large amount of bloodshed.

Bottom line here: War on Drugs: FAILING. Need a new solution. We may not be able to fix Mexico's problem, but by putting more treatment resources in the hands of our citizens. Without creating a police state in Mexico, we can't really help them. So how do we help ourselves? By putting plans in place to help people struggling with drugs, and getting rid of laws that force non-violent drug offenders into jail instead of treatment, we can provide an on-the-ground solution here at home. I've posted this before, but Walter Kronkite posted a great article about the failure of the war on drugs here in the US. If we want to export help to other countries, it needs to be a message of help, not a punitive message. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Let's not forget that we're here to be a safe haven.

Drugs are a threat that make all borders meld together, a scourge that we can't take care of on our own. Latin America, and ESPECIALLY Mexico, absolutely need to develop some workable communication between themselves, the United States and the European Union. We need a workable solution to the war on drugs. As the lives of 17 drug addicts trying to get well can attest, the current strategy isn't working.

Here's a video of the story:

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.

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