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Friday, February 27, 2015


Marijuana has many names. Mary Jane. Pot. Weed. Swag. Ganja - are just some of the old classics. To the addiction treatment community, those who understand the progression of the disease, it's often referred to as "The Gateway Drug."

It's no mystery that marijuana is a starting point for young people. Experimentation stage's clear drug of choice. The addictive qualities or potential dependence on marijuana has been debated for years. Most agree that marijuana is a lower threat than most drugs, especially physically - however psychologically, it is common for users to become highly dependent. So although we don't see many admissions for marijuana addiction, we have learned that it plays a major role in various stages of addiction.

For adolescents, heavy use of cannabis can have serious long term effects on the brain. Thinking and memory suffer and the effects can last a long time or even be permanent. According to drugabuse.gov, a recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38. Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.

Despite this, marijuana is regarded by many as relatively harmless when compared to other "hardcore" drugs. And it is extremely easy to acquire, even by kids. Easy to get and regarded as safe, non-addictive; no big deal. Brothers introduce pot to their little sisters. Moms and dads share a joint with their older offspring.

And now, several states are moving towards legalization. Colorado has implemented the plan and has reaped the benefits of a state revenue increase. Furthermore, there hasn't been an increase in crime rate. It is up for debate as to whether these two facts point to ultimate success for legalization.

Communication surrounding marijuana is more disarming than ever, and now there is an even easier to get, seemingly safer, synthetic version of marijuana. It's available in smoke shops, bodegas, and convenient stores. The package reads "natural and safe," and it is available for purchase to anyone, virtually anywhere.

It goes by the name of "Spice." And although it is more accessible than the real MJ, it is potentially more dangerous.

Synthetic cannabis comes in many forms. Liquid eye drops, vaporizing devices, e-cigarettes and the traditional smokable substance that resembles actual marijuana. It's being purchased - mainly by teens, and it is leading to ER visits across the country.

Numerous hospitalizations in Michigan prompted the Macomb County Health Department to issue an emergency warning and ban on the sale of these drugs, which are reported to cause hallucinations, aggressive behavior, racing heartbeat, drowsiness, and vomiting.

Synthetic cannabis use has recently resulted in over 150 hospital visits in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA in October, prompting the governor to ban the drug in that state. It is reported to cause severe agitation, anxiety, and paranoia; raised heartbeat and blood pressure; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors; intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes, including suicidal fixations and other harmful thoughts.

Similarly in New Hampshire, Governor Maggie Hassan declared a State of Emergency as a result of overdoses from synthetic cannaboid. So too has the Health Department in New York after a spike in ER visits.

Unlike the real mccoy, "Spice" masquerades as a safer, non-narcotic version of marijuana. In reality, many of the makers lie to its consumers - who are usually unsuspecting adolescents. In fact, with the DEA constantly attempting to pinpoint which chemicals to ban, the makers of the drug, have had to become clever with ever-changing combinations to stay off the agency's list.

Makers of designer drugs that are chemically similar to marijuana’s active ingredient THC—called synthetic cannabinoids or colloquially “synthetic marijuana” or “synthetic pot”—are constantly creating new products to evade legal bans on older compounds. Despite the similarity on the molecular level, these drugs are much more dangerous than marijuana, and have resulted in very serious health consequences including overdoses and aggressive or suicidal behavior in users.

Labels on Spice products often claim that they contain "natural" psycho-active material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products do contain dried plant material, but chemical analyses show that their active ingredients are synthetic (or designer) cannabinoid compounds.

Marijuana is heading towards legalization in many states. This, coupled with the argument that it is less harmful than alcohol and other prescribed medications, communicates a confusing message to our youth. It's legal so it must be safe? No way. But they don't know this. 

When young people see what's labeled as an even safer version of pot, what will they do? Variety can be the spice of life, yes. But this variety... of imposter chemical compounds and designer drugs is a far more dangerous concoction than it's original model.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015


There are some people who believe that certain psychological disorders are bogus.

Some believe that we are an overdiagnosed society of excuse- makers, enabled by quacks who make up disorders comprised of catchy buzz-worthy jargon... Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dyslexia, Bipolar Disorder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), to name a few.

"I can't study. I like, think I have ADD." 
"Don't screw with me today, you know that I'm totally bipolar."   

The way people casually utter these terms, self- diagnosing very serious conditions is disturbing. It often leads to the dismissal of the disorder by those who only hear about it in this sort of everyday speak. It leads to an eye-roll reaction whenever such disorders arise in conversation.

Part of this misconception is a lack of understanding. Part of it is the lexicon of society.

Of course the fact that certain folks ignorantly describe a simple mood change as bipolar, or a simple distraction as ADD, doesn't mean that they are actually afflicted by the disorder. It certainly doesn't warrant taking them seriously.

However, nor does it mean that these disorders aren't real - because they are very real. If you have ever witnessed bipolar disease first-hand, you'd understand it in a hurry. Seasonal Addictive Disorder (SAD) is another example. No, it isn't just the "winter blues." Most people probably experience a dip in mood. SAD can be much more and for those in recovery, the winter months can be the most trying time of year.

SAD is especially dangerous for people in drug or alcohol addiction recovery. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that drug and alcohol abuse is a common problem among patients who are diagnosed with depressive disorders like SAD, reporting that more than 20-percent of patients diagnosed with any mood disorder are also living with a substance abuse problem. Additionally, NIDA found that more than 20-percent of those diagnosed with a depression disorder abused drugs and alcohol.

What is especially dangerous to those new in recovery, is that they may not be aware of what's triggering their depression. SAD can cause for a strong desire to self-medicate - a temporary fix, that can lead to a recovery relapse. Relapses in recovery can either pose a one-time set-back, lead to a new extended period of abuse, or can very often be fatal.

Overwhelming sadness, numbness, isolation, sleep disorders, feelings of hopelessness, are all symptoms of SAD. It is tempting, if medications are not being prescribed or used properly, for people suffering from SAD and addiction to turn to their old friend - their drug of choice.

SAD and self-medication is a deadly concoction for anyone and most of all, the addict in recovery. Temporary relief of the symptoms leads to a sinking depression once the alcohol or drugs leave the body. This withdrawal is only worsened with SAD and each time an abused substance wears off, the negative feelings are exacerbated, triggering you guessed it - more abuse. It's what we know as "the vicious cycle," and SAD only provides fuel to it.

When those in recovery, especially those new to the lifestyle - lose hope or joy in sobriety, they naturally will miss their addiction and develop strong cravings.

We all feel a little blue when we don't get enough sunlight. It happens every winter and we know it's coming. However, SAD is a real disorder that can trigger a major setback in the recovery process. The good news is, that once the problem is identified, and SAD is diagnosed, it is almost always possible to bring the depression and addiction under control. Light therapy, medication, and other forms of treatment are available. It is imperative for everyone, and especially those in recovery - to be self-aware of the symptoms of SAD.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

Some of the possible causes for seasonal affective disorder include:
- Lack of sunlight may lead to a drop in serotonin levels, an important neurotransmitter that is important for managing mood.

- Melatonin levels can also be affected by seasonal changes. This compound is found in the body and affects sleep patterns as well as mood.

- The lengthening and shortening of days can affect people’s biological clock, or circadian rhythm. This can lead to problems with sleeping, which in turn triggers depressive symptoms.

- There may be a genetic predisposition towards developing SAD. It has also been noted that women tend to be more susceptible to it than men.

The symptoms of SAD can include:
- A noticeable drop in energy levels

- Depression

- Weight gain, which is often due to an increased desire to eat foods high in carbohydrates

-  Difficulty with concentration

- Feelings of anxiety

- A desire to seek isolation from other people

- Loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable

- Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning

- Inability to sleep (summer onset SAD)

- Increased libido (summer onset SAD)

It is important to consider that once people experience these symptoms, medical advice should be sought right away.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015


The US drug culture has a renewed romance and the name of its muse is Molly. She has been courted by many for many years, and seemed to have gone into hiding for awhile. But now she has new suitors all over the country. She is no longer exclusive to the rave kids. She is no longer discriminated against. All man and womankind are her type.

Christopher Griffith, DETAILS, 2012
Molly used to go by the names of Ecstasy, MDMA, Adam or more scientifically - 3,4 methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine. She is more popular than ever. Back in the 70's, when Molly first made news as a medication given by psychotherapists to get patients to open up, she was wholesome and pure. Not anymore. In fact, Molly isn't at all the girl we knew growing up. Although some believe that the new Molly is safer, purer, and socially acceptable, going out with Molly is always a blind date.

As blind dates often go, you can't always recognize Molly by the description given. 

In the late 80's, Molly was known as ecstasy or XTC or Adam. It was popular in the New York City nightclubs. By the early and mid nineties, everyone in the Big Apple was using it. Rave party-goers, Wall Street traders, and art gallerinas (art gallery assistants). Once this chic new drug known for feelings of euphoria and sensuality, spread from the Big Apple to the rest of the country, demand increased. With this arrived more dealers and more ways to adulterate the drug to produce it cheaply. MDMA was being cut with caffeine, speed, ephedrine, ketamine, LSD, talcum powder and aspirin, to name a few. Not long after, around the new millenium, Molly's reputation landed her fewer and fewer dates. For awhile she ashamedly went into hiding.

Back then, Molly wasn't known as "Molly." She was known as ecstasy, XTC, Adam, or MDMA. Part of the drug's recent comeback is the name. It has been re-invented as something purer; something cleaner. The name is derived from molecule. Molecules make up the ocean and the atmosphere. What is more natural than that? So Molly is back because she tricked naive prospects into thinking she's pure again. Hippies love her. The Electronic Dance Music (EDM) crowd and ravers are back in her arms, and even the hip hop community has invited her into the crew. She used to be a tablet. Now she's a powder. Many seem to think the powder form equals purer. But can we trust her again? How do we know this isn't one of her many veils?

The truth is, unless the user is extremely savvy or the source is undeniably trustworthy, you never know what you're getting with Molly. That's where she becomes dangerous.

Supposedly pure “Molly” sometimes actually contains other drugs instead or in addition. Those may include ephedrine (a stimulant), dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant), ketamine, caffeine, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even, most recently, synthetic cathinones (the psychoactive ingredients in “bath salts”).

"The No. 1 risk with MDMA is drug substitution," says Julie Holland, a New York University psychiatry professor who has run trials investigating MDMA's therapeutic potential. "Out on the street, you can never be sure of what you're getting."

Robert Glatter, an emergency-room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, reported in a 2013 New York Times Article that he used to go months without hearing about Molly; now, he sees about four patients a month exhibiting its common side effects, which include teeth grinding, dehydration, anxiety, insomnia, fever and loss of appetite. (More dangerous ones include hyperthermia, uncontrollable seizures, high blood pressure and depression caused by a sudden drop in serotonin levels in the days after use, nicknamed Suicide Tuesdays.)

Nationally, the Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that the number of MDMA-related emergency-room visits have doubled since 2004. It is possible to overdose on MDMA, though when taken by itself, the drug rarely leads to death, Dr. Glatter said.

Before the "purification" and unveiling of this seemingly safer Molly, mainstream culture ignored the drug. Now it seems popular musicians are singing about it at every turn. From bubblegum pop singers like Miley Cyrus to legendary diva Madonna, and even Rap Moguls Jay-Z and Rick Ross. Everyone wants to serenade the new girl on the block. Jay-Z, whose lyrics deliver, "I don't pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford (an expensive fashion label)", is the only of these examples not promoting or glorifying the drug's use. But still he recognizes its pervasiveness and contributes to it.

Let's examine others' examples and their possible effects...

Miley Cyrus - an idol to millions of adolescent girls across the world - sings in her song entitled, We Can't Stop: "So la da da di we like to party/Dancing with Molly/Doing whatever we want." Teens attend her concerts in droves.

Madonna named her 2012 EDM-charged album MDNA. On stage at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami that same year, she asked the crowd: "Has anyone seen Molly?" She later claimed it was simply a song about a girl named Molly. Ok, Madonna.

Rapper Rick Ross belts out: "Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it."

Rick Ross is nicknamed "The Boss." I hope no one actually follows his orders. He should add a G to his surname and alter his first, because that lyric is Sick Gross.

Because its thought to be purer, natural, and with the "in" crowd, Molly is back and more popular among a variety of groups, from 15-49. Its not just for the ravers and club kids these days. Artists, hipsters, urbanites and even professionals - of all ages, are using Molly. And they think its safe.

“Typically in the past we’d see rave kids, but now we’re seeing more people into their 30s and 40s experimenting with it,” said Dr. Glatter. “MDMA use has increased dramatically. It’s really a global phenomenon now.”

The world once turned its back on MDMA, XTC, ecstasy, or Adam. Molly under those names was unveiled as as risky - often impure, unsafe and therefore unpopular. Maybe its time to recognize that the new Molly is just the same old perpetrator with new lipstick.

After all blind dates rarely go well, don't they?

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Friday, December 12, 2014


For millions, it is the happiest time of the year. The holiday season is a time when Americans spend time with family and loved ones showing appreciation, gratitude, and love through gatherings and gift giving.

It is also the time of countless parties and excessive consumption. For most, it is an impossible task to fulfill every party invitation. The obligations are plentiful and calendar overlap often occurs. Some take priority. Some are even mandatory. So you pick and choose. Sounds like a problem hardly worth complaining.

However, for the addiction recovery community, the holiday season is a loaded gun. In fact, it's more like a minefield. And the first leg of this deadly obstacle course is Thanksgiving.

"Turkey Day" is so high-risk for over-indulgence in alcohol that it has been named as the single highest alcohol-consumption day of the year. But Thanksgiving is only the first in a series of potentially high-risk situations the the addict must face. Shortly after comes the holiday work party, then the party of a friend. As Christmas Day approaches, more social gatherings - most of which serving alcohol - fill the calendar.

"Around the holidays, alcohol abounds at parties and family gatherings," said David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "Being around alcohol and others who might be 'old drinking buddies' could drive temptation higher."

Not only is the socially-accepted abundance of alcoholic beverages during the season presenting a high-risk situation, but so can the prospect of seeing family members.

"Some people may be estranged from family and friends, leading to a sense of loneliness," said Buys, who is also a researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. "If families are together but have strained relationships, arguments and underlying stress may cause people to drink at unhealthy levels," explains Buys.

The time of year isn't only risky for relapse, it is also responsible for far too many deaths.

According to the CDC, excessive drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year; 3,700 of those deaths were linked to alcohol dependence. The holiday season is the superbowl of excessive drinking.

For all of these reasons, the addict must enter the season with a plan.

"A person in recovery from an alcohol use disorder should avoid situations where alcohol is present," says Kim Kavalsky, a licensed professional counselor and coordinator of mental health outreach at Mississippi State University. "If one can't avoid a party with alcohol, plan to leave early before the drinking begins or attend with others who do not drink or who also are in recovery. It is also a good idea for those in recovery to talk with a member of their support system before and after attending an event where alcohol is present."

Other ways to manage holiday stressors include observing quiet time to reflect on self-care and recovery, spending more time with a support group or therapist, creating new ways to celebrate, finding a spiritual base in the holidays and volunteering.

History has shown that this time of the year is dangerous and even deadly for many. Our thoughts and prayers this holiday season are with all of those struggling with the disease of addiction.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014


From the the TV Series Mad Men 
The world of advertising, marketing and public relations have been criticized for years for being deceptive. It's depicted in television and movies. Always the same. The adman is a sleazy character, selling lies to the public to push product. He smokes in his office, drinks old timey cocktails and charms his clients with deception. To an extent, the dubious labels are warranted - persuasive messages are indeed, often developed and disseminated based on appealing to human emotions -
often insecurities, and fears.

I used to think that the Recovery Community was somewhat immune to this. We are dealing with overcoming a disease - a winnable one, and so our messages are of hope, courage, and restoring the family unit. There really isn't much room for deception (for the most part).

But then, along came the Internet and search engine rankings. Everyone wants to be at the top of Google's search and companies will do just about anything to do it. Even if it's highly unethical.

A recent Addiction Professional article entitled,"Accusations of unfair play: Utah center attacks bait-and-switch marketing,"tells the story of Cirque Lodge director Gary Fisher.

From the article:
"Twice learning in recent months that his facility's name was being used to divert consumers to information about others' nationally prominent treatment chains, Fisher decided he had had enough. Last week he shared his frustration via e-mail with a number of his peers, including leaders at the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) who have debated how aggressively they should work to enforce the association's code of ethics for member treatment centers."
It takes a lot for an individual or a family to come forward and admit that there is a problem - one which requires professional help. When someone in need seeks help for something this important, this sensitive, they most likely spend a good amount of time researching their options and program choices. The fact that facilities are deceiving these people is downright egregious.

According to Fisher, when searching for "Cirque Lodge" on Google, the top results led to an advertisement that when clicked revealed an 800 number for a well-known national treatment center, not Cirque Lodge.
“When our person [who placed the call] said he thought they were calling Cirque Lodge, they said, 'No, this is [Other Treatment Center], we are much better than Cirque Lodge,'” Fisher wrote in an Oct. 28 e-mail to the NAATP. He went on to say: “Capitalizing on someone else's brand is wrong. I don't think there is any debate about this.”
Couldn't agree more. 

The center in question's response was to cancel the contract of the marketing firm they claimed was responsible. I suppose certain search engine optimization companies do not make their clients aware of the tactics they're using to achieve results? Most would obviously have their doubts.
“They all want to say they have nothing to do with it,” Fisher says of his peers in treatment administration. “But we all know how these companies harvest beds—there is always some kind of sleight of hand, some bait and switch.
Eventually the tactic was traced to a marketing consultancy by the name of Recovery Brands, which operates directory sites such as Rehabs.com. He said Cirque Lodge contacted Recovery Brands' co-founder, Abhilash Patel, who replied that he would fix the problem. But after several weeks had passed with no action taken, Fisher said he went directly to the CEO and the problem was ultimately resolved.

A couple of weeks later, a Cirque Lodge Google search led to an advertisement called "rehab-review." That link led to, you guessed it - the same well-known national treatment provider. I guess it's time for them to blame another vendor and cancel another contract.

When these types of practices exist and are not being policed, families in need are suffering. These people are distressed at the time they place the call - it's a time when all they want is for the lying, deception, and manipulation in their own lives and of their families' to end.

When the call they place is a bait and switch - another lie, another manipulation... in a time when what they really need is courage, hope and the truth - we are not practicing ethics. We not being responsible to our patients and to the recovery community as a whole.  

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014


NANCY WAITE-O'BRIEN, Ph.D., OF WIND HORSE CROSSING, INC., has been named the 2014 Joseph L. Galletta “Spirit of Recovery” Award winner. Nancy received multiple, heartfelt nominations for the esteemed, fifth annual award.

Formerly Vice President of Clinical Services at the Betty Ford Center, Nancy directed inpatient, residential, day treatment, outpatient, and family programs - as well as training programs for professionals and medical students countrywide. She currently owns and oversees Wind Horse Crossing, Inc., devoted to providing training and therapeutic experience to individuals and groups wanting to increase self-awareness through the practice of equine-assisted psychotherapy.

Dr. O'Brien is also a founding director of Shaky Acres; a half-way house in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, and former faculty member of Prescott College’s Master’s Degree program in Equine Assisted Therapy. Currently, along with operating Wind Horse Crossing, she has a private practice in Palm Desert, CA and is a consulting psychologist at the Betty Ford Center, a part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Waite-O'Brien began her association with the Betty Ford Center in 1989 and played a pivotal role in the design of the center's unique women's program. She is a frequent lecturer on issues related to women's recovery.
"Nancy's willingness to help, no matter the situation or capacity, reflects her professionalism and genuine interest in the field. She is a champion for women, showing great compassion and insight," explains Joan Connor Clark, editor, Betty Ford Center. "I have known Nancy since her internship at Betty Ford Center over 20 years ago, and she still radiates the same aura of comfort and willingness to help."
Waite-O'Brien has more than 20 years of experience in addiction treatment both in the United States and in the Caribbean. She has co-authored articles on adolescent treatment and women's treatment issues, taught at Chapman University and published research on shame and depression in early recovery.
"Nancy is one of the most honored and respected women in the field of addiction and recovery, " said Juliana Weed, Director of Operations, Desert Palms. "Nancy has an impeccable reputation. She personally and professionally appears from a place of integrity and honesty and upholds high ethics and standards."
Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat named Nancy Waite O'Brien, Ph. D., as its recipient of the 2014 Spirit of Recovery Award because she embodies the spirit of the award’s namesake, the late Dr. Joseph Galletta. Like Dr. Joe, Nancy is a noted, respected, trained professional in the field of addiction and has assisted and touched thousands of people over the years, helping them find the courage to recover.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Friday, October 3, 2014


Below is the full article from the October 3rd, 2014 edition of the New York Times. 

More Older Adults Are Struggling With Substance Abuse
By Abby Ellin Oct. 3, 2014
Sylvia Dobrow, 81, now works as a counselor at the rehabilitation center in Hermet Valley, Calif., where she was treated for alcohol abuse. CreditJ. Emilio Flores for The New York Times
Before her drinking spiraled out of control, Sylvia Dobrow “drank like a lady,” as she put it, matching her wine to her sandwiches: “Tuna and chardonnay, roast beef and rosé.” But soon she was “drinking around the clock,” downing glasses of vodka and skim milk.

“When you try to hide your drinking from your grandchildren, you do whatever you can,” said Ms. Dobrow, 81, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother living in Stockton, Calif.

A former hospital educator, Ms. Dobrow’s alcohol consumption became unmanageable after she lost her job and subsequently “lost my identity,” she said.

One night in early 2007, after a particularly excessive alcohol binge, Ms. Dobrow fell out of bed and suffered a black eye. That was when her two daughters, one of whom was a nurse, took her to Hemet Valley, a recovery facility in Hemet Valley, Calif., that caters to adults age 55 and older. Ms. Dobrow, who was 73 at the time, stayed for 30 days, which cost roughly $20,000, about $13,000 of which was covered by insurance. When she returned home, she continued with a 12-step program. She has been sober ever since.

An estimated 2.8 million older adults in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, and this number is expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, according to a study in the journal “Addiction.” In 2008, 231,200 people over 50 sought treatment for substance abuse, up from 102,700 in 1992, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency.

While alcohol is typically the substance of choice, a 2013 report found that the rate of illicit drug use among adults 50 to 64 increased from 2.7 percent in 2002 to 6.0 percent in 2013.

“As we get older, it takes longer for our bodies to metabolize alcohol and drugs,” said D. John Dyben, the director of older adult treatment services for the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Someone might say, ‘I could have two or three glasses of wine and I was fine, and now that I’m in my late 60s, it’s becoming a problem.’ That’s because the body can’t handle it.”

Many, although certainly not all, of these older individuals with alcohol problems are retired.

Over the course of 10 years, Peter A. Bamberger and Samuel B. Bacharach, co-authors of “Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic,” conducted a study funded by the National Institutes of Health on substance abuse in older adults. They found that the impact of retirement on substance abuse was “anything but clear cut, with the conditions leading to retirement, and the economic and social nature of the retirement itself, having a far greater impact on substance use than simple retirement itself,” said Mr. Bamberger, who is also research director of the Smithers Institute at Cornell University.

But events that arise in later life often require coping skills older adults may not possess. Some retirees are lonely and depressed, and turn to alcohol or drugs to quell their anxieties. Others may drink to deal with late-life losses of spouses, friends, careers and purpose.

“In retirement there can be depression, divorce, death of a spouse, moving from a big residence into a small residence,” said Steven Wollman, a substance abuse counselor in New York, . “For anyone who’s an addict, boredom’s the No. 1 trigger.”

Sandra D., 58, who works in the financial services industry in Toronto, said that her father’s drinking increased so much after he retired that she often took the car keys away from him.

“He and his friends meet for cocktails at about 3 or 4 and then he passes out, which he calls a ‘nap,’ ” said Ms. D., who asked that her full last name not be used. “My dad didn’t plan out his retirement well. My mom was very ill for many years before she passed away, and my dad was a caregiver. He was pretty well looking after the house and taking care of her. When she passed away, there was a very big void for him.”

Ms. D. said her father, an 82-year-old former maintenance worker, doesn’t believe he drinks too much, a common perception among many seniors.

“People are really good at redefining things,” said Stephan Arndt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and director of the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation. “They say, ‘I don’t have a problem, I just like to drink.’ Or, ‘I’m a big guy, I can handle it.’ In the case of prescription drugs, it’s, ‘Well, I got it from my doctor, and it’s for my pain. It’s medication.’ Consequently, they don’t seek help.”

Physicians often aren’t trained to talk to their older patients about chemical dependency — or, perhaps more pointedly in an era of managed care, they often don’t have the time to thoroughly screen a patient. Also, many signs of chemical dependence like memory loss and disorientation resemble normal symptoms of aging. “Is this person confused because they’re messing up their meds, or is it dementia?” said Brenda J. Iliff, the executive director of Hazelden, a residential treatment center in Naples, Fla., that offers special programming baby boomers and older adults for about $21,000 a month. “Is their diabetes out of control, or did they fall and break their hip because they were woozy from Atavan?”

Another misconception is that older adults don’t benefit from treatment. “There’s this lore, this belief, that as people get older they become less treatable,” said Paul Sacco, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, who researches aging and addiction. “But there’s a large body of literature saying that the outcomes are as good with older adults. They’re not hopeless. This may be just the time to get them treatment.”

Pamela Noffze was 58 when she arrived at Hazelden‘s center in Naples for treatment. At her worst, she was drinking a case of light beer a day, but she didn’t think she had an issue until her daughter threatened to ban her from seeing her grandsons again unless she sought help. “That’s when I knew I had to do something,” said Ms. Noffze.

On her first night at Hazelden, she discovered that she was also addicted to Klonopin, an anti-anxiety medication that her psychiatrist had prescribed in 2009 to help her cope with a divorce. Weaning herself off prescription medications was harder than stopping drinking, she said. Still, she has not had a sip of alcohol or any pills since rehab.

Ms. Noffze, now 61, who lives in Naples and is unemployed, regularly attends 12-step meetings. She said she was astonished at the number of people who “have their cocktails every night, and the next thing they know they find themselves addicted because some doctor gave them Ambien to sleep or they were on pain pills for arthritis or whatever,” she said. “You put those two together and you put yourself over the edge.”

As for Ms. Dobrow, she was so emboldened by her recovery that in 2010 she went back to school to get a credential as a substance abuse counselor. She now works part time counseling older adults at Hemet Valley.

“Losing your purpose in life is the singular thing that hurts people,” said Ms. Dobrow. “We involve so much of our ego in our career, but these last seven and a half years have been the most fulfilling of my life, because I can help people. What is when people used to wear a sandwich board and walk around in a commercial? I feel that mine says ’Hope’ on the front and on the back.”


Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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