Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Monitoring the Future Survey On Drug Use

drug use
Preventing teenage drug and alcohol use is, and should be, a top priority among lawmakers and health experts in the United States. It is no easy task, but the mental health community knows that the longer one can refrain from using mind altering substances during the developmental stage of life, the less risk they have of battling addiction down the road. Naturally, there are always exceptions. A person can make it to their later years without abusing drugs or alcohol; only to have an injury, be prescribed opioid painkillers and develop a dependence/addiction.

There isn’t a formula for determining how or when a person will develop an addiction. To be sure, research can show us who is at greatest risk giving an indication of targets for prevention efforts. However, it is well known that addiction has the propensity to shine on anyone, regardless of age, race or gender. And it is the young people who are the greatest risks of forming an unhealthy relationship with drugs and/or alcohol.

With America in the throes of an opioid epidemic, it is easy to become fearful about what young people are experimenting with, as many drugs can lead to an overdose. However, opioids are taking lives every day of the week, it would seem young people are responding to education and prevention efforts. Researchers at the University of Michigan have released this year’s survey on teen substance use, with some encouraging findings.

Monitoring the Future

Every year, about this time, the Monitoring the Future survey is published, effectively opening a window on the mindset of young people regarding drug and alcohol use. The findings this year indicate adolescent drug and alcohol use rates have dropped dramatically, numbers that have not been seen since the early 1990’s, The Washington Post reports. Teenage cigarette, alcohol and illicit drug use are at historic lows—unparalleled since the pinnacle of the 90’s “war on drugs.”

In 2016, only 28 percent of high school seniors reported using cigarettes in their lifetime, compared to 63 percent in 1991, according to the article. The findings regarding alcohol use were just as promising, with a little more than 36 percent of high school students drinking alcohol in the previous year, compared to 67 percent in 1991. Illicit drug use (excluding marijuana) this year was low as well, with:
  • 5 percent of 8th graders reporting use.
  • 10 percent of 10th graders.
  • 14 percent of high school seniors.



Americans against the changing tides of marijuana acceptance in this country have long argued that legalization would lead to increased teen use. Which, when you think about it, seems to make some sense. However, the Monitoring the Future survey paints a different picture than you might expect. The findings indicate that teen marijuana use has stayed fairly level, despite legalization efforts, the article reports. Naturally, some experts are scratching their heads.

“We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up,” said Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “But it hasn’t gone up.”


Moving Forward

The data mined by researchers this year is great sign. Hopefully, the mindset of the 50,000 students who were interviewed for the survey holds course. It is also important to keep in mind that many teenagers are already struggling with addiction, a mental illness that will follow them into adulthood. It is paramount that young people living with addiction seek treatment and find recovery.

If you have a young adult child who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our young adult program is centered on the various need needs and sensitivities of the emerging adult.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


aging and substance abuseBy Louise Stanger, Ed.D, LCSW, CIP and Roger Porter

Like the Snow White parable, sometimes we look in the mirror and hope to see the fairest of them all. Instead, aging takes its toll and we see a wrinkly face and lines around our eyes. I know inside I feel like 35, yet the clock hands tell an older story…

Even though scientists claim 60 is the new 40 in part because of healthy living and medical breakthroughs, aging turns us from a well-oiled Corvette to a Model T Ford with creaks and groans. According to the Census Bureau, the baby boomer population - 78 million strong - will be over the age of 65 by the middle of the century. This means that 1 in 5 Americans will be a senior citizen - the largest group of older citizens in American history. With such a turn in demographics, it poses a challenging question for policymakers and behavioral health care professionals: how to take care of the aging population. More importantly, this population of aging Americans in particular are experiencing upward trends in substance abuse disorders. Alcohol is the most widely abused substance for Americans over the age of 50 while illicit and prescription drug use has spiked in recent years. In fact, elderly adults are hospitalized for alcohol problems as often as they are for heart attacks, according to the Champion Center - a treatment center for the elderly. These two forces - the greying of baby boomers and an increase in alcohol and other drugs amongst this group - are merging together and creating one of the fastest growing problems in our country.

There are a number of cultural trends, human behaviors, and gaps in the healthcare system that have contributed to the rise of alcohol and other drug abuse amongst the greying population. Aging adults experience life changes (sudden and otherwise) such as children growing up and moving away, death and loss of loved ones, and physical health issues (chronic pain, hip/knee replacements, etc.) that compound over time. If movement and change are the precursors to growing old, it’s no surprise the aging population is vulnerable to addiction.

However, it must be noted that the majority of the aging baby boomers who are admitted to treatment centers for substance abuse have been using illicit substances since their 20s and 30s. Now that they are in their 50s and 60s, they can no longer physically and mentally handle the effects of the substances on their bodies and must seek out treatment. First responders noticed this trend during medical emergencies because up to 14% of elderly emergency room admissions are due to alcohol or drug issues. “I think there is a tremendous denial that life is impermanent and we’re not going to be here forever. So we [baby boomers] continue to live like we’re in our 40s when we’re definitely not,” writes Patrick Arbore, the founder and director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention and Grief Related Services at the Institute on Aging based in San Francisco.

The effects of illicit drugs and alcohol on aging individuals are particularly harmful because they can interfere with other common ailments like diabetes and depression, injuries can be much more severe, and these substances can cause problems when taken with other medications. With such complications, healthcare providers may be less inclined to encourage treatment options. For example, an older patient who can no longer drive or walk up-stairs may not be encouraged to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. These issues raise questions about proper methods of treatment and efficacy in this population. And with 50% of people in nursing homes having alcohol-related issues, this is clearly an issue that is not going away.

Another issue that has contributed to this emerging epidemic is misdiagnosis. There are many reasons misdiagnosis occurs in this population, but perhaps the root cause is ageism. Since research is still being done on this growing issue, doctors and health experts can sometimes overlook the signs that an aging person is experiencing a substance abuse disorder. After all, it is believed the patient just wants to get “well” and giving pain medication as they heal is appropriate. As we have learned with the opioid crisis, many overlook that the health care system helped facilitate dependency due to over prescribing medications and the older adult keeps taking more and more medication because “my doctor prescribed it for me.” When they do diagnose correctly and advise treatment, some doctors and even family members believe quality of life will remain poor for the older individual because of their age or see it as futile because “they won’t be around much longer anyway.” Ageism can also be seen in the interpersonal level - in the elderly person’s family and friends. Many assumptions are made, including the assumption that there is no urgency to seek care for an aging loved one because it’s not seen as a severe problem the same way it is in younger adults because many believe that’s “just the way grandma is.”

Shame and stigma play a role - relatives of aging individuals with a substance abuse disorder often times avoid the issue or dismiss it with a different quality of life standard for older individuals. “Grandmother’s cocktails are the only thing that makes her happy,” is a common way of explaining the problem according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. These same assumptions and trends even affect elderly individuals who are experiencing death and loss, whether it be a spouse or friend or other close family member. In fact, widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcohol addiction in the United States. And some - clinicians and families alike - even see treatment for addiction in the aging population as a waste of resources. This issue has come forth in the treatment facility community. For instance, entering a quick search for treatment facilities in your area will yield very few results for services that specialize in treatment for an individual over the age of sixty.

Even though there is evidence showing upward trends of substance abuse in the aging population, the issue remains largely invisible and goes underdiagnosed and undertreated, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information on Substance Abuse Among Older Adults. The issue remains invisible because of the aforementioned misdiagnoses and cultural assumptions, as well as a lack of awareness. For example, a patient with a knee or hip replacement will take prescription opioids and could potentially develop an addiction. What started as a genuine pain management plan - compounded by life changes, other bodily ailments, genetic predisposition, etc. - turns into a serious problem. Add in the spiking opioid addiction problem due to overprescribing - 30% of prescriptions are for people 65 years of age and older - and it becomes clear this is an issue affecting millions of aging Americans.

Lastly, social workers, doctors, behavioral health care professionals and caregivers may shy away from asking elderly patients if they use alcohol and illicit substances. “I don’t think service providers are used to asking someone age 65 if they’re using illicit drugs. We need to make sure they are trained to ask,” says Patrick Arbore. There’s an assumption that aging Americans have passed this stage in their life. However, the only way light is shed on this issue is when caregivers are properly trained in this area so that direct and honest care is given.

One of the key ways to highlight the issues surrounding the aging population and substance abuse is through teams of trained medical professionals. Social workers in particular with their person-in-environment ecological approach are well suited to take the lead in designing interdisciplinary multi-modal teams trained in reducing the risks associated with aging and substance abuse disorders. Additionally, social workers can educate patients and clients as well as provide guidance to care providers on a wide variety of treatment options to serve the growing need.

Treatment facilities, likewise, need to be visionary and vocal in the healthcare community about expanding resources and treatment options available to this population. If you or an elderly loved one is experiencing addiction, it starts with recognizing this as a problem and seeking out the proper help. Treatment centers offer general support groups for all ages as well as peer groups for age-specific treatment options tailored to address many of the issues discussed above with the aging population. There are also Self-Help and 12- Step age-specific groups available, which help prevent relapse and play an integral part in support for long-term recovery.

Dr. Louise Stanger received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh, her Masters in Social Work from San Diego State College and her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of San Diego. Her book Falling Up: A Memoir of Renewal is available on Amazon and Learn to Thrive - An Intervention Guidebook is available on her website

Roger Porter has two Bachelor degrees, film and marketing, from the University of Texas at Austin. He works in the entertainment industry, writes screen plays and coverage.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Newcomers Road to Long Term Recovery

People who are new to the rooms of recovery, may at times feel like they are on a different planet than they were before. In a room with a group of people who share a common experience, stories of both their life in addiction and in recovery are revealed. For over 80 years, people have worked with each other to abstain from alcohol or any other mind altering substance that has the power to ruin lives.

If you are in your first thirty days of sobriety, hopefully you have gone to the front of the meeting room to collect a “newcomer” chip. The newcomer chip may seem unimportant when compared to yearly anniversary chips, and some people in early sobriety may opt out or walking to the front to get an under 30-day sober chip. However, some would argue, and they would be right in doing so, the newcomer chip is the most important as it could be considered one’s first introduction to humility.

It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a group of relative strangers, and identify as a newcomer. It is an action that says you are willing to put ego and every other potential shortcoming aside, declaring that you are in fact an alcoholic and/or addict. It says that you are ready to surrender, that your way isn’t working and that you are ready to do whatever it takes to be free from the bondage of self.

Perhaps you have witnessed someone pick up an anniversary or sobriety birthday chip, and maybe they were given a chip that acknowledges decades of abstinence. If so, you may have found yourself in awe. With your inner voice saying, “How?” The answer to that question, to the puzzle of how someone can abstain from drink or drug for multiple decades, is simple; you just keep coming back and don’t use drugs or alcohol no matter what.

Recovery is a gift that is given freely, but one that requires continued vigilance against the snares of addiction to hold onto. One manages to work a successful program of recovery by following in the footsteps of those who have walked the road before you. Those who have managed to acquire significant time in the program are fully aware of the fact that they cannot keep what they have unless they give it away. If you don’t have a sponsor, find someone with significant “time,” a person whose words resonate with you.

Long term sobriety is possible, and by continuing to practice the principles of recovery in all your affairs, you too may one day find yourself walking to the front of your homegroup to collect a chip acknowledging decades of recovery. You may find yourself in front of newcomers who are thinking exactly what you were thinking all those years ago. Recovery has the power to take a fragile newcomer and turn them into an inspiration to a new generation of recovering addicts and alcoholics.

But for now, next time you are at a meeting take stock of all the years of collective recovery in the room. People with decades, like Jeanne McAlister who just celebrated 60 years of sobriety, taking her last drink in 1956, The CW6 reports. She, like many with significant time, chose to use her recovery to help others, founding an addiction treatment center in San Diego in 1977.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we would like to honor Jeanne McAlister steadfast dedication to helping others find the gifts of recovery.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Facing Addiction in America

Addiction is a clinically accepted form of mental illness, a debilitating disease of the brain that can steal everything good from you—even your life. Certainly, people have been dying from alcohol and tobacco related complications for millennia, even though those substances are typically legal for adult consumption in today’s world. When that occurs, it is not uncommon for members of the general public to think that they died from a character flaw that they were unable to change. It is a line of thinking that could not be further from the truth, a veritably “flawed” line of reasoning, to be sure.

For nearly twenty years, Americans have been battling with opioid addiction. Rampant over-prescribing of opioid painkillers resulted in over two million people developing an opioid use disorder. Efforts to alter prescribing practices in America, via putting ceilings on the number of pills that can be prescribed and the duration of a prescription, did manage to reduce prescription opioid abuse in the United States. However, making it more difficult for Americans to acquire opioid painkillers, resulted in the creation of a vacuum, which in turn led to a scourge of heroin abuse and the importation of even more deadly opioids.

The Great Lengths of Addiction


Attempts at curbing the American opioid epidemic, in some ways, is analogous to playing a game of Whack-o-Mole—only with a darker outcome. Making it harder to get prescription opioids, only served to create a larger demand for heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. In many cases people with an opioid use disorder traded deadly drugs for even more deadly narcotics. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 80 times stronger than medical grade heroin. Law enforcement officials and medical professionals have seen a surge in fentanyl abuse and subsequent overdose deaths.

If fentanyl weren’t scary enough, it turns out that there are even more deadly opioid narcotics that can be acquired with ease and in some cases, legally over the Internet. The drug we are referring to is carfentanil, which is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and should only be used for sedating large animals, such as elephants. Yet, Americans are ordering the fentanyl-analog online to be used by humans.

The behaviors being exhibited is nothing short of mind-boggling. Just a pinhead sized amount of carfentanil touching the skin can be lethal, nevertheless people are still taking the risk. It just goes to show that you make it next to impossible for an addict to get their hands on a particular mind altering substance, and they will find a way to maintain their addiction. Risk of life is seemingly of little consequence. With such great stakes at risk, it is hard to view addiction as being a mere character flaw, rather than a mental illness or disease of the mind. People will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid opioid withdrawal symptoms. Which is why we need to put more emphasis on treating addiction, rather than making it harder to get drugs or punishing those who are afflicted by the disease.

Viewing Addiction Differently


Addiction is a disability that affects millions of Americans each year, thousands of which will not live to see the end of the year. Instead of looking at or talking about addiction as being a moral failing or a character flaw, we need to look at addiction the same way we would any potentially fatal disease. Just like a diabetic requires insulin maintenance to live, an addict requires treatment, followed by a lifelong course of spiritual maintenance.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a report on addiction: A call to action that demands we look at addiction as what it really is—a mental illness. In "Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health," Murthy points out that for every dollar spent on addiction treatment services, saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs every year, according to USA Today. The Surgeon General's report calls for a paradigm shift regarding how society looks at addiction. Murthy would like to see the end of stigma and discrimination—seeing fewer prisoners and more patients.

“We have to recognize (addiction) isn't evidence of a character flaw or a moral failing,” Murthy said. “It’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion that any other chronic illness does, like diabetes or heart disease.” 

Please take a few minutes to watch the video below:

If you are having trouble watching the video clip, please click here.

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Children Dying of Opioid Overdoses

Parents who use drugs and/or alcohol in unhealthy ways are at risk of seriously impacting their children. Setting aside the fact that addiction often runs in the family (that is, there is a heredity factor to consider), exposure to unhealthy behaviors can lead children to adopting such behaviors themselves. Young people are extremely impressionable; if they see something, then they are more likely to want to try it, too. It is a tendency that can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

There are some other issues to keep in mind when active addiction occurs in the household. People who are under the influence of mind altering substances are not always fully aware of what is happening around them, i.e. what their kids are getting into. Teenagers who sneak a drink of alcohol, here or there, may not be cause for concern; but, when it comes to drugs like prescription opioids, the stakes are exponentially higher.

The American opioid epidemic has been deadly to say the least. And, while the death toll associated with opioid use is usually referenced with regard to adult overdose deaths, it is important to point out that the adolescent death toll in recent years has sharply increased. Children across the country have been dying from accidental poisonings, overdoses and overdose suicides. What’s more, they are getting their hands on prescription opioids primarily at home.

Opioids In The House

A new study, conducted by researchers from the Yale School of Medicine, showed that the number of children who received emergency care for a drug overdose more than doubled between 1997 and 2012, NBC News reports. The research team found that the incidence of hospitalizations every year for opioid poisonings per 100,000 children aged 1 to 19 years, increased from 1.40 to 3.71 (165 percent). The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Pediatrics.

The study found that older adolescents were hospitalized the most, but the largest increase in opioid hospitalization rates were among toddlers and preschoolers, according to the article. The researchers write:

“During the course of 16 years, hospitalizations attributed to opioid poisonings rose nearly 2-fold in the pediatric population. Hospitalizations increased across all age groups, yet young children and older adolescents were most vulnerable to the risks of opioid exposure. Mitigating these risks will require comprehensive strategies that target opioid storage, packaging, and misuse.” 

Protecting Children

Whether you are taking prescription opioids for pain, as prescribed, or are abusing them, it is vital that your prescription narcotics can’t be accessed by your children—regardless of age. As is evident by the death rates, opioids can easily lead to an overdose. If you have an opioid use disorder, recovery may not only save your life, but the life of a child as well. Together we can, and do recover from the disease of addiction.

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Friday, October 28, 2016


You might scoff at the idea. Being addicted to the Internet? That's not a thing. That's like telling your loved one he or she is a workaholic, just because you miss them, right? It's just another tiresome example of a generational gap difference.

"Would it kill you to put down your phone for a minute to talk your dear old dad?"

"When I was a kid... yada yada yada." Right?

Well, NO. Sacrificing quality human interaction for work is a problem for many and the same is true for spending too much time browsing the web. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is real, it's here, and it's growing at an alarming rate. It's prevalent in our young people. 1-in-4 children are addicted to the Internet. Children. They really shouldn't be addicts of anything.

In today's wired world, a restaurant providing free WiFi is as or more important to some, than the quality of service or food. Internet obsessed patrons do not notice the actual rat scurrying out from the kitchen because they're glued to a digital device streaming the movie, Ratatouille.

Just take a look around at younger folks in your favorite eatery next time you're dining out (they won't notice). First course of action isn't perusing the menu for tasty offerings. It's pulling out the smart phone and plugging into cyberspace. Why? They may have missed a few virtual "likes" on the filtered photo they posted just before that annoying 5-minute walk from the car to the entrance. Damn actual time and space, forcing us to monitor our own steps.

So, OK. It's a little annoying for a server forced to revisit the table several times due to Internet obsessed diners. But what are the real issues with our children, teens, and young adults craving constant connection? Well actually, there are several.

But let's look at two important, yet suffering, issues to start: relationships and sleep.

In Japan, it is said that some 500,000 teenagers are addicted to the Internet. It has recently been added to the DSM-5, with a request for additional research. Psychologists can already point to direct negative affects.

Nomura Kazataka, a therapist working in one a Yokohama cyber detox clinic, described how internet addiction can impact lives. ‘In the worst cases, kids drop out of school and are not able to catch up with school curriculum.’

Many experts also attribute social anxiety issues to Internet compulsion. Kids just aren't connecting face-to-face as much. This of course, can lead to a poor social life and unhealthy relationships with friends and family members.

In fact, the problem is so ubiquitous in Japan that online detox retreat centers are popping up all over the island nation. One such program is the Kushunada Co. which offers a “digital detox” vacation package in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture (Japan).

“We want our travelers to experience something that is not part of their usual routine. By turning off their mobile phones, we want people to appreciate the moment and realize things which are often ignored when our digital devices are there,” said Mirei Eguchi, the organization's Chief Executive Officer.

Here at home - and in Europe - the trend is catching on, with digital detox retreats such as Camp Grounded in the woods of northern California and programs at resorts, such as the Westin Dublin Hotel in Ireland have been drawing crowds for “unplugged” holidays.

The concept isn't purely that these devices are bad for us, but like anything else... best in moderation.

“It is not that we want people to totally abandon going digital but rather, we want them to realize how important items such as mobile phones are in our lives and have a healthy relationship with these electronic devices,” Eguchi, 31, said.

The potential physical affects on one's health can be detrimental as well. Not getting the proper rest leads to sleep deprivation and additional stress.

"Even on weekends, when you are meant to be resting, if you are connected online you are not really resting," he says. "People need to take time away from their digital gadgets, disconnect, then you can nurture imagination and encourage face to face communication, said Yoneda Tomohiko, who has written a book on his battle with Internet Addiction."

So maybe the next time someone from an older generation takes issue with you being on your phone at the family holiday party, you shouldn't respond with a roll of the eyes. Maybe they just want you to unplug and listen.

It might just be healthy for you both.

HVRCHemet 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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gambling Disorder and Older Americans

When we speak on the topic of addiction, it is typically with regard to drugs and alcohol. Yet, there are a number of other addictions that can disrupt the course of one’s life that do not involve mind altering substances. One such addiction is that of gambling, and it is not uncommon for people to sacrifice everything with the hopes of hitting it big, just once, on the casino floor. It is a dream that can lead to the loss of savings, home and family. And in the grips of despair, many gambling addicts will choose to take their own life—considering that to be their only option.

Gambling addiction is a condition which on the surface appears to be benign, when compared to substance use disorder, but it can actually be just as insidious. Millions of Americans meet the criteria for gambling disorders, the National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 2 million adults in the United States meet the criteria for "pathological gambling," and 4 to 6 million are considered "problem gamblers."

Gambling Disorder

There are a many labels that have been placed on people whose gambling has gotten out of control, such as problem, compulsive and pathological. The American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) calls the most severe form of the problem—"gambling disorder." While the problem can affect people from all walks of life, the most susceptible demographic is people in their later years.

In fact, casino data indicates that of the 101 million American casino visitors in 2014, about half were ages 50 or older, AARP Bulletin reports. There was time when the only places in America one could gamble were Atlantic City, NJ and Las Vegas, NV. Today, people need not travel far to find a casino, with Indian casinos dotting the landscape across the country. You can just hop in the car and be at a casino in no time at all, which can appear to be low lying fruit for older Americans that have the time and the money to spend. A costly illusion.

Casinos are spending a lot of money and time luring older Americans through their doors. They offer up enticing promotional deals, such as free food, booze and accommodations. And as long as one keeps the ante coming and the slot machines singing, casinos will do whatever they can to keep one in a trance. In 2014, the American casino industry reported racking in $66 billion in gambling revenue, according to the article. Seeing as nearly half of the gamblers are people over the age of 50, it is safe to assume that a lot of that money was spent by people who could ill-afford to spend it. Spending Social Security (SSA) checks, cashing in 401-Ks and mortgaging homes in order to keep playing, are not uncommon.

Gambling Disorder Treatment 

Hopefully, one’s gambling problem can be addressed before the situation gets any worse. Like with any addiction, those who are suffering are often in denial about the problem. It can be hard for someone to make the decision to seek help, and it can be hard for loved one’s to recognize that there is in fact, a problem. The DSM-V lists a number of signs that can indicate that someone has a gambling disorder, including:
  • Unable to cut back or control.
  • Irritable or restless when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Risks more money to reach desired level of excitement.
  • Gambles to escape problems or depressed mood.
  • “Chases" losses
  • Lies to family and others about gambling.
  • Risks or loses relationships or job because of gambling.
  • Relies on others for financial needs caused by gambling.
In the AARP Bulletin it is reported:
'Slots are also the most addictive form of casino gambling, with the machines designed to maximize your "time on device" until you're out of money. A 2001 study by psychiatrist Hans Breiter, then of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, confirmed that the machine's nickname—"electronic crack"—is an apt one. Using MRI scanners, he found that in subjects playing slots, the brain's neural circuits fired in a way that was similar to those using cocaine.' 

Seeking help for yourself or a loved one...

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Older Adult Addiction Treatment, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Smoking Cessation for Recovery

smoking cessation
Tobacco is a plant that is used to make a number of addictive products, such as cigarettes, cigars and “chew” or “dip.” The chemical that makes tobacco products both pleasurable and addictive is nicotine. For those working a program of recovery, tobacco products are typically the last habit to kick, yet in many ways they are the deadliest.

While the nation and its lawmakers continue to direct the main focus regarding mind altering substances towards opioids, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of the overall picture of addiction. Cigarettes, and their ilk, are rarely associated with loss of family, friends and/or employment—yet smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On top of that, nearly 6 million Americans lose their life to tobacco use every year, the equivalent of 1 in 5.

Smoking cessation is important to the longevity of anyone's life, yet for those in addiction recovery the stakes could be considered to be even higher. Those working a program of recovery who smoke cigarettes are found to be at an increased risk of relapse.

Smoking Cessation for Recovery 

In the field of addiction recovery, there has long been two different mindsets. In one camp, the belief is that when entering addiction treatment, a concerted effort should be made to cease the use of all mind altering substances. Whereas the other camp, while acknowledging that tobacco is both addictive and bad for you, it is best to tackle one issue at a time—focusing on smoking cessation down the road. The latter mindset, is not necessarily without merit, however, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that:
  • The majority of research indicates that smoking cessation is unlikely to compromise alcohol use outcomes (cf. Fogg and Borody 2001).
  • Participation in smoking cessation efforts while engaged in other substance abuse treatment has been associated with a 25 percent greater likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and other drugs (Prochaska et al. 2004).
  • Data indirectly suggest that continued smoking increases the risk of alcohol relapse among alcohol-dependent smokers (Taylor et al. 2000).

Quitting Smoking 

It is likely every American adult has no illusions about the dangers of smoking, yet even with smoking cessation treatments, success rates are fairly low. The options available for smokers today, include:
  • Gums
  • Patches
  • Inhalers
  • Medications (Chantix or Wellbutrin)
Those who use one of those treatments, in conjunction cognitive behavioral therapy, can and do manage to quit. Which is great! Yet, there are a number of people who cannot manage to abstain from smoking for long periods of time even with the aforementioned options, which is why researchers continue to look for innovative solutions.

Researchers have found a protein in the brain that could lead to smoking cessation treatments in the future, MNT reports. The research team found a way to crystalize the alpha-4-beta-2 (α4β2) nicotinic receptor, which helps them identify how nicotine works in the brain and could eventually lead to further breakthroughs. The findings were published in Nature.

"It's going to require a huge team of people and a pharmaceutical company to study the protein and develop the drugs, but I think this is the first major stepping stone to making that happen," said study co-author Dr. Ryan Hibbs, assistant professor of neuroscience and biophysics with the O'Donnell Brain Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. 

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2016

mental illness
At the beginning of the month we wrote about the importance of National Recovery Month with regard to breaking the stigma of addiction, encouraging people to seek addiction treatment and recognizing the achievements made by those in recovery. Those who are actively working a program, and have been for some time, are fully aware of the gifts of recovery—without their program nothing they have today would be possible.

Addiction is a debilitating, life threatening mental illness. Left untreated, and without a continued program of spiritual maintenance, addiction will continue to drag you down into the depths of despair. Every year people’s lives are cut short because of their addiction, which is why it is so important that we continue to spread the message that: together we can, and do recover from this insidious disease of the mind.

Blurring the Lines of Mental Illness

In the field of addiction medicine, it is not rare for people living with a substance use disorder to also have another form of mental illness at play, such as depression. When that is the case, such patients are referred to as having a co-occurring disorder. It is not all that important whether a person happens to have both addiction and another form of mental health disorder, or they developed a substance use disorder as a result of using drugs and alcohol to cope with the symptoms of their untreated mental illness. What is important for ensuring a successful recovery is that both the addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorder be treated at the same time, failure to treat one and not the other can be disastrous—leading to a relapse.

The stakes are exceptionally high, mental illness is a matter of life and death. People who use drugs and alcohol to cope with conditions like depression or bipolar disorder, put themselves at risk of overdose. Mental health conditions that are not treated can lead people to make rash decisions out of despair. After living with the uphill battle of mental illness for years—whether it be addiction, depression or both—many choose to take their own life. It is paramount that people who need help, get the assistance they desperately require.

A Permanent Solution… 

In the field of mental health, suicide is commonly referred to as finding a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But with aid of treatment, such finality can be avoided. In addition to September being National Recovery Month, it is also the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) would like to use the month of September to “promote resources and awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, how you can help others and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.”

The organization points out just how serious suicide prevention is, drawing from a number of statistics:
  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Of the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, often spurred on by mental health symptoms.
NAMI is asking that everyone do their part to help promote awareness of suicide prevention resources and promote discussion of suicide prevention awareness. If you’d like, you can share the image below on social media, using #suicideprevention or #StigmaFree.

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Helping Others Find Recovery

National Recovery Month
In any given city or town in the United States, one can find a 12-Step meeting of recovery. Behind the closed doors, recovering addicts and alcoholics form circles and share their experience, strength and hope with one another. They do so anonymously, without fears of judgement or scrutiny. While everyone’s story is unique in its own way, people in recovery share many similarities with one another. There is hardly a thing that can be shared by one that will shock the other people in the circle.

Those who actively work a program find both comfort and strength through a common understanding that we are all in this together. Individual recovery depends upon working together with others who are trudging the road to a happy destiny—free from the vice-like grip of drugs and alcohol. A loose translation of the South African idea known as Ubuntu is as follows, ‘I am, because of you.’ It would seem that the 12-Steps of recovery have a lot in common with the “human-ness” concept of Ubuntu. And, just as all humans are connected through a universal bond, so too are the people who make a choice every day to better their lives in recovery. Only by helping others recover from substance use disorder, can you keep your own recovery.

Addiction Into The Light

The major reason for the anonymous aspect of 12-Step programs is the stigma which has long accompanied addiction. Verily, most people have little knowledge of the nature of addiction. It is an ignorance that perpetuates the need for anonymity. Even in recovery, addicts and alcoholics can be subject to reproach by the peers. Most people struggle to understand why you can’t drink like the rest, or why you would need to sit in a circle for an hour every day in order to abstain from using mind altering substances.

Fortunately, there are people all over the world who have made it their mission to break the stigma of addiction, with the hope that everyone who needs help will seek it. Many addicts and alcoholics prolong their chemical tenure because they do not want to be seen by others as having a problem that is beyond their control. Those working in the field of addiction know all too well that the longer one puts off recovery, the greater the chances that their disease will cut their life short. It is paramount that those who are active in their addiction find encouragement, not just from friends and family, but from society—to seek help and find recovery.

Join The Voices of Recovery 

In September we observe National Recovery Month. It is an important time of the year for everyone working a program and working in the field of addiction medicine. For 27 years, the month has been dedicated to raising awareness about addiction and other forms of debilitating mental health disorders. What’s more, National Recovery Month is about breaking the stigma of addiction, letting people know that recovery is possible and how to achieve it.

The theme this year is, Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery! Both people working a program and their families are being encouraged to share their story, with the hope that it will inspire millions of people to seek addiction treatment services. Addiction recovery should not have to exist in the shadows any longer, the stakes are too high. If you would like to share your personal story and successes in order to encourage others, please click here.

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

College Students Drink More Alcohol

alcohol use
One’s adolescent and teenage years can easily be characterized as a time for experiencing new people, places and things. There is a plethora of changes that occur in people’s behaviors and social interactions, all while one is developing both inside and out. Young people often feel the need to fit in with their peers, and some are willing to go to extreme lengths to accomplish the goal of acceptance. It is a trend that often involves the use of drugs and alcohol.

While experimenting with mind altering substances can be viewed as being a part of a young person’s life, for others it can be the start of a dangerous road towards addiction. Sure, for the majority of young people, alcohol and drug use is just a passing phase that will be traversed without a problem, a reality which almost allows older people to be OK with endorsing such behavior. However, in light of the tragedy that befalls many young people every day due to substance use and abuse—it is vital that preventative measures be taken with regard to alcohol use by young adults.

College Drinking

In the United States, there is a common misconception that teenagers who go off to college are less likely to engage in risky behavior, compared to their non-academic peers. There is an idea that those who are keeping up their grades and attending class can have a pass when it comes to weekend use of mind altering substances. As is evident by how pervasive weekend parties are, in and around college campuses. Some people may even think that college students drink and drug less than young adults who are not working to advance their education. It is a line of thinking that is made in error.

In fact, new research suggests that college students actually drink more alcohol than those of the same age who are not attending an institute of higher learning, HealthDay reports. The research showed that college students are also more likely to binge drink than 18- to 22-year-olds who are not in school. Binge drinking is a dangerous behavior commonly defined as having 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women, in a two-hour period. Despite being in college, students often carry on a surreptitious affair with alcohol—a relationship that can result in an alcohol use disorder.

Target Audience

The findings come from a survey released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), according to the article. The data indicates that 60 percent of full-time college students are current drinkers, compared with 51.5 percent of other adults in the same age group. The survey showed that 38 percent of college students reported having had a binge-drinking episode at least once in the past month, compared with 33.5 percent of their peers not attending university.

Fran Harding, who directs the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), says the findings could help with efforts to tailor college substance use, "so that we can better target prevention programming to young adults from all walks of life with vital information on substance use disorder prevention and treatment."

Alcohol Use Disorder and Recovery

Our Young Adult Program at Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat focuses on the particular needs and sensitivities of the emerging adult. The use of alcohol and drugs during the developmental years can inhibit the necessary skills and abilities necessary to manage emotions, communicate thoughts and feelings, and problem-solve effectively.

At HVRC, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center, 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Addiction Stigma: Shifting Cultural Perception

addiction stigma
Ending the American opioid epidemic, arguably, starts with killing the stigma that has long accompanied people living with substance use disorders. For centuries those suffering from addiction we considered to have a moral failing and a weak constitution. And because of which, the few treatments available up until recent decades were both harsh and ineffective.

Even after there were treatment centers available that utilized effective science based methods, acknowledging the disease model of addiction; lawmakers continue to stick to their guns in support of draconian drug laws for punishing illicit substance users.

Today, there scores of studies available which support the disease model of addiction, and much of the American population now views addiction as a sickness rather than a shortcoming. Part of the reason for the paradigm shift in thinking is due to the opioid problem in America, practically every adult has a connection to someone who has or is dependent to opioids. What’s more, this particular epidemic is unprecedented in a number of ways, and unlike the previous drug epidemics we have faced, this one primarily affects:
  • Caucasians
  • All Socioeconomic Tiers
  • Residents of Suburban and Rural America
Keeping that in mind, many lawmakers who were traditionally in favor of locking up addicts for non-violent drug offenses, are now singing a different tune. While the change is welcomed in the addiction community, there is still much work to be done—especially when it comes to stigma. It is a sad truth that many opioid addicts fail to seek help because of fears of being branded a failure by their peers. Naturally, consternation about seeking help can be deadly, as is evident by the 78 opioid overdose deaths in this country everyday.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy met with The Huffington Post’s Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington to discuss the addiction crisis in America. While Murthy agrees that we need to change prescribing practices and train doctors how to spot addiction with patients so they can get the help they need, he said we need to “change how our country sees addiction.”

“For far too many people living with addiction, they feel that they are living with stigma,” said Murthy. “Many people see addiction, still, as a character flaw or a bad choice. They don’t recognize that addiction is in fact a chronic disease of the brain.” 

Please take a moment to watch a short video below:

If you are having trouble watching the video, please click here.

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Alcohol Affects Marriage

alcohol use
It is quite common for people in committed relationships to engage in the same leisure activities. Part of what attracts one person to another is having similar interests, such interests when pursued together can serve to strengthen a relationship. Sometimes a couple's leisure activities can include the consumption of alcohol. Naturally, couples who drink alcohol together and in similar ways can be OK for a relationship, if done in moderation; however, many many marriages have ended on account of one or the other's drinking habits. Alcohol is an insidious substance that can wreak havoc on a relationship, especially one that is co-dependent in nature.

Research has shown that many “baby boomers” are consuming alcohol at alarming rates. In fact, the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the rate of binge drinking among people ages 65 and older was 8.2 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking was 2 percent. The researchers estimated that 5.7 million people over the age of 50 will need substance use disorder treatment by 2020.

Alcohol and Marriage 

Given the fact that many older adults are engaging in heavy alcohol use, it would stand to reason that it is having an impact on people’s marriage. A group of researchers set to determine how alcohol affects the quality of marriage among older adults. Interestingly, the research didn’t focus as much on how much spouses were drinking, but rather whether spousal drinking patterns were concordant. The researchers found that the amount one’s spouse drank wasn’t as much as a factor in having a satisfied marriage as was whether or not both partners consumed alcohol the same way, Reuters reports. The findings were published in Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological Sciences.

Study author, Dr. Kira Birditt of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues came to their findings by analyzing survey responses from 4,864 married participants, according to the article. The findings indicated that in more than half of the couples, both partners consumed alcohol. Wives only reported marital dissatisfaction when only one partner drank alcohol.

“The study shows that it’s not about how much they’re drinking, it’s about whether they drink at all,” said Birditt.


Concerning Alcohol Use

At people approach or reach retirement age, they often find themselves with more time on their hands than they know what to do with. Idle time can lead one spouse or the other to turn to alcohol as a way to fill the day. It is a behavior which can quickly become a slippery slope that potentially leads to an alcohol use disorder. The research showed that 20 percent of men and 6 percent of women had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol which could be characterized as having a drinking problem.

“Problem drinkers are a whole different kettle of fish,” said Dr. Fred Blow, also at the University of Michigan. “Serious heavy drinkers have disruptive relationships with people, particularly their partners. That’s an important issue that should be looked at going forward.” 

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, our Older Adult Addiction Treatment Program is tailored to meet the varying needs and special circumstances the older adult faces. Patients flourish in an intimate, age specific, non-confrontational group of peers.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Monday, July 18, 2016


The following Op-Ed was published on Monday, July 11th.


Editor's Note - Chris Johnson is an emergency medicine physician who practices in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. He is chair of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Opioid Prescribing Work Group and serves on the Board of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, as well as the Board of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

(From CNN): So the recent report from the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office made it official -- Prince Rogers Nelson died in his residence April 21, 2016, from an accidental overdose of the prescribed opioid, fentanyl. He was 57.

In the aftermath of the death of such an iconic figure we are experiencing a flurry of political activity as our elected leaders, both Republican and Democrat, hurry to pass some form of legislation that will help stem the tide of opioid-related death that claimed the lives of some 165,000 Americans from 2000-2014.

Most of the proposals debated last week in Washington -- including the compromise package the House approved Friday -- aim at improving access to treatment for those who are already addicted.

Medications such as Suboxone (buprenorphine) are proven effective in helping those who are addicted to opioids avoid relapse. Narcan, the opiate reversal agent, can save the life of someone who is acutely overdosing and needs to be in the hands of first responders everywhere.

Improving affordability and access to these and other proven treatments is a must and I am in full support of those measures. But that alone will not stop this epidemic nor turn back this tide of misery.

Because missing in these conversations is an even more necessary and urgent discussion -- one that takes a long hard look at the medical industry itself. Where has the "healing" profession been in all this? It is very important to understand how and why this epidemic happened so that meaningful change can occur.

To convey that understanding, I am forced to paint an unflattering picture of the industry that I have been a part of for the last 15 years. I wish I could tell you that this epidemic was due to an honest mistake. That the science was unclear or had mixed results that only later became evident. But I can't.

There was never good science that these medicines worked effectively in the long term. I also wish I could tell you that the only reason the problem persists is a "lack of physician awareness." But I won't. The reason this opioid problem started and the reason it continues is sadly for the most American reason there is -- business.

Prior to the 1990s, doctors in the United States had prescribed opioids, such as Percocet or Vicodin, for pretty much the same reasons that doctors in most countries did -- for pain resulting from acute injuries such as fractures, and for pain from the tissue damage caused by cancer

But that all changed in 1996 when Purdue Pharma introduced its new, extended release oxycodone preparation -- OxyContin. Instead of just focusing on patients with chronic pain from cancer, Purdue Pharma sought a much bigger market -- patients who suffered chronic pain from everyday conditions, such as back and joint pain.

To do this, they recruited and paid experts in the field of pain medicine to spread the message that these medicines were not as addictive as previously thought. This effort was enormously successful and thus was born campaigns such as "Pain as the 5th Vital Sign." As a physician in training, I remember being told that the risk of addiction for patients taking opioids for pain was "less than one percent."

What I was not told was that there was no good science to suggest rates of addiction were really that low. That "less than one percent" statistic came from a five-sentence paragraph in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980. It has come to be known as the Porter and Jick study. However, it was not really a study. It was a letter to the editor; more like a tweet. You can read the whole thing in 90 seconds.

All the authors said was that among the many hospitalized patients who were given a dose of opioid for their acute injury, very few developed addiction. That is all it said. It said nothing about what happens to patients who take these medicines indefinitely.

Yet those few sentences got transformed by relentless marketing into "opiates are not addictive." Which was as crazy as saying "tobacco is not addictive," if someone smoked four cigarettes and did not become a chain-smoker. It was blatantly irresponsible medicine. But it worked. Prescriptions soared.

By now, you know that the U.S. consumes 80% of the world's opioid painkillers while comprising just 5% of the world's population. And as the sales have increased, so, too, have the overdose deaths and the rates of admission to addiction treatment centers. In 1999, 4,030 Americans lost their lives to accidental opiate overdose. In 2014, that number had increased to 18,893. That is more than six World Trade Centers.

Some of you no doubt are asking: Where have the good doctors been in all this? Aren't they supposed to be watching out for our safety? The answer to that question is very discouraging, but I can reach no other conclusion after studying and fighting this problem for the last 10 years. The answer is we are right where we have always been -- minding the register.

The values currently prioritized by medicine were made explicit to me several years ago. During my annual performance review, my medical director told me: "You know, we are so proud of you for all the work you are doing fighting the opiate prescription problem. But it is such a fine line between increasing the risk of addiction and HCAHPS scores."

Wow. Every health care professional reading this knows exactly what I am talking about. HCAHPS stands for Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. These are "patient satisfaction" surveys and they talk about pain management specifically. Hospitals are required to participate in these surveys and reimbursement is tied to how well they do. Hence, every hospital administrator and department chair is acutely aware of their "score."

The buzzword in the industry right now is the "patient experience." This is simply the notion of "customer experience" as applied to health care. Notice that the focus is not on "patient outcome." Physicians are under enormous pressure to move quickly and generate that positive experience, often with just 12 to 15 minutes to complete a visit.

In such a system, it is no wonder that the prescription pad is used as the solution. There is no time to do anything else.

To solve the opiate crisis therefore requires more than telling doctors to simply "stop prescribing." The prescription is just the final "output" of a care delivery system that has multiple inputs at multiple levels. These inputs must be addressed if we are going to solve this.

We must change the system that creates the pressures that result in such bad medicine. Time with the patient should actually be valued. And the long-term health of the patient should matter more than "throughput" and "relative value units per hour."

If this sounds too fuzzy and "Kumbaya" for you, I would point out that this exact sentiment is expressed in the Hippocratic oath. The 1964 version (which I recited in medical school) admonishes us to remember "that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."

In America, we are far too heavy on the knives and drugs, and far too light on the warmth and sympathy.

I realize that making these fundamental changes to our health care delivery system will be very difficult. There are a lot of powerful interests with very little to gain by changing the current system. But change must happen. Because the yearly body count due to the opiate epidemic is simply not acceptable.

I believe we can do better. For the memory of Prince and the thousands of others whom we have lost too soon.

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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Discrimination and Alcohol Abuse

Discrimination and disenfranchisement is something that occurs every day in the United States despite America being the land of the free. While we have come a long way since the 1960’s and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, a number of minorities in the United States are still subject to discrimination. A sad reality that is likely to continue.

As you might imagine being discriminated against can cause insidious harm, dramatically affecting the course of one’s life. The effects of prejudice don't just have an impact on individuals, it takes its toll on society. Those who feel the burn of one-sidedness can cause severe stress. Without the proper tools to cope with such stressors, people are likely to turn to unhealthy methods of survival.

Discrimination and Drinking

It is not hard to imagine that those who experience the pressure of prejudice would turn to drugs or alcohol to dull the stings of existence. However, until recently there had never been a review of all the existing evidence supporting such a postulation. Researchers have long known that those who experience significant physical or emotional trauma are more likely to have unhealthy relationships with drugs and/or alcohol—often resulting in addiction.

At the University of Iowa, a team of researchers may have found a link between discrimination and alcohol abuse, ScienceDaily reports. The findings of the study: "Discrimination and Drinking: A Systematic Review of the Evidence," were published in Social Science & Medicine.

"We've had this idea that discrimination is associated with heavier drinking and drinking-related problems, but we didn't have a clear understanding of the evidence underneath that," said study lead author, Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the UI College of Public Health. "I wanted to uncover what we know and how we know it. What does the science actually say?"

Discriminating Research

Gilbert and his colleagues looked at 1,200 scientific studies that dealt with alcohol use and discrimination, according to the article. Of the 1,200, they focused on 97 peer-reviewed published research papers that identified a connection between discrimination and alcohol misuse or abuse. Seventy-one studies focused on racial discrimination, the remaining centered around sexual orientation and gender discrimination.

"The basic knowledge is now there," says Gilbert. "The next step to advance science is to say what specific groups are involved, what specific type of discrimination are they experiencing, and what specifically were the alcohol outcomes. Was it just heavier drinking, or was it heavy drinking that led to dependence--or is it alcohol-related problems like getting in a car crash or work and family problems?"

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mandatory Addiction Treatment Can Be Ineffective

addiction recovery
In the circles of addiction recovery around the globe, it is often said that people with substance use disorder need to want to get better in order to do so—often times a “rock bottom” experience is required for such a desire to arise. The friends and families of addicts and alcoholics know all too well that there is an element of truth to that idea. No matter how much you want someone to seek help and recover, the onus falls on the afflicted to accomplish the feat.

Naturally, there are exceptions, but most people with long term recovery would probably agree that they had to want sobriety—and did whatever it took to maintain it—before recovery came to fruition. It is no secret that relapse is quite common, being a part of many an addict or alcoholic’s story. Putting down the drink or drug can sometimes happen with ease, managing to not pick drugs or alcohol again is the hard part.

Recovery for the Wrong Reasons

People living with the disease of addiction will often find their way to treatment and/or 12-Step meetings on account of wanting to please someone close to them. And, while their intentions are no doubt good, the reality is that drug and alcohol use is merely a symptom of the mental health disorder known as addiction. Breaking free from the disease requires not only steadfast dedication to a new way of thinking and living, but also eternal vigilance.

Those who seek recovery to appease others will often “cherry pick” their way through the process, failing to see the forest for the trees. Another common saying in recovery is: “the only thing you need to change is everything.” The people who are willing to go the distance are typically those who want recovery for themselves; life had become so unmanageable that a paradigm shift was required.

Involuntary Recovery

In the United States, and in a number of other countries where illicit drug use is illegal, it has become more and more common to offer addiction treatment to those who would otherwise be sent to jail for a criminal charge like possession. While there is little doubt that treatment is certainly the preferable punishment, it is rare that those who complete required treatment will stay sober and live a life in recovery.

In prisons and jails across the country, the majority of people serving time were incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses. This the byproduct of fighting a war on drugs for nearly half a century. Naturally, as we continue to face an unprecedented opioid epidemic, we cannot continue to arrest away the scourge of addiction. Offering access to treatment over jail is certainly the lesser of two evils, and may actually help people with a substance use disorder find recovery, said addicts will actually need to want recovery. We know that involuntary addiction treatment is not the most effective.

Mandatory Treatment

New research suggests that mandatory treatment for people with substance use disorders is not effective in reducing their drug use, BMJ reports. A global data analysis conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine found that most countries “often lack the capacity to treat substance use disorders.” What’s more, they found that treatments often fail to utilize effective treatment modalities.

"The evidence presented in this article provides additional argumentation supporting the position of all UN organizations that mandatory treatment settings do not represent a favorable or effective environment for the treatment of drug dependence," said Fabienne Hariga, MD, MPH, senior adviser to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime during the recent meeting in New York. "The United Nations therefore calls on States to transition from mandatory drug treatment and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community.'' 

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

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

American Opioid Epidemic Angel Programs

opioid epidemic
An unprecedented epidemic requires novel approaches, if the United States is ever going to rein in the prescription opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic that has brought hundreds of thousands Americans to their knees in despair—and thousands to their death. In 2014, 18,893 people lost their lives due to prescription opioid overdoses, and another 10,574 overdose deaths were linked to heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With such staggering statistics it may come as little surprise that overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. In that same year, over two million Americans met the criteria for having an opioid use disorder.

There are two sides to the American opioid epidemic. On one hand it is crucial that researchers and addiction experts pinpoint the causes that led to the opioid problem that became so dire; while on the other hand it is crucial that addiction professionals continue to do the good work they have done for decades in helping those in the grips of addiction and seeking recovery.

It is no secret that the opioid scourge has been driven largely by over a decade of over-reliance and overprescribing of opioid pain medications. Subsequent efforts to combat rampant over prescribing and widespread unused medication diversion throughout the country, by way of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and prescription drug take-back campaigns had an unintended, albeit hardly unsurprising, consequence in the form of heroin use.


Unintended Consequences

Here’s the rub, both lawmakers and doctors can make it next to impossible to acquire prescription opioids, and people will still find a way to get their hands on an opioid of some kind—such as heroin. If steps are not taken to advance and expand addiction treatment resources, simply making it harder to acquire a drug does not mean that the dependence and addiction will fade away. Opioid withdrawal is extremely unpleasant; most addicts will do whatever it takes to avoid the symptoms that accompany it—even if that means doing a drug that that one often says they would never use.

Over the last few years the nation has seen a dramatic rise in heroin use among people from all walks of life, the opioid epidemic has shown us that everyone is eligible. Historically, the idea that we could arrest our way out of addiction has been the status quo, despite the fact that it is widely accepted that incarceration does little to stifle addiction. Unlike the crack epidemic in the 1980’s and the heroin scourge in New York in the late 1960’s which affected people of ethnic descent or those on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum—today’s prescription painkiller and heroin crisis in the United States crosses the stereotypical boundaries of previous drug epidemics in this country.

The majority of today’s heroin users began down the perilous road of opioid addiction with prescription pain medications. People from all age groups, ethnic background and various social strata have turned to heroin for three reasons, the drug is:
  • Easier to Acquire
  • Less Expensive
  • Often Times More Potent
Heroin is Schedule I narcotic, meaning, it is a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Unlike, drugs like OxyContin (oxycodone), which are classified as Schedule II and are legal to have with a prescription, heroin is illegal across the board. Those caught with heroin, at least traditionally, were at risk of jail time. Thus beginning a cycle of drug use, incarceration, release, relapse and recidivism. In the wake of the opioid epidemic we face, both lawmakers and law enforcement understand that how they once handled addiction did not work and thinking outside the box is required for stemming the tide of opioid addiction in this country.


Surrender Salvation

Just over a year ago, a police chief in Massachusetts started a program in Gloucester that encouraged those who were addicted to opioids to go to a police station and surrender their drugs; in return, they would be given access to substance use disorder treatment services instead of handcuffs, NPR reports. Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello’s Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), or so-called “Angel Program,” has made multiple headlines and has been widely hailed as a success. Now, a year later, 400 people have taken advantage of the program, and more than 100 police departments in the U.S. have developed similar programs modeled on of the Angel Program. “We had to stop trying to arrest our way out of this problem,” said Campanello.

“We’re an entity that — right, wrong or indifferent — has a very loud voice in this right now and that people seem to be paying attention. Our job is to lend that voice to people who are suffering from this disease and their support groups.”


Recovery is Not Impossible, It’s Necessary

Opioid addiction is deadly disease that claims over 70 lives a day in the United States alone. Failing to access addiction treatment services, usually results in dire outcomes. Those who want to break the cycle of addiction and are willing to take certain steps to bring that to fruition, can do so with the guidance of those who walked the path before them. Recovery begins with reaching out out for help. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact HVRC & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


If you follow this blog, by now you are familiar with the story of my friend Chris. It is not unlike many of your stories. Chris fell into a bad cycle with drug use. The drug of choice: One of the scariest - crystal meth. He tried to kick the habit on his own, toiling in the throes of addiction for over a year and a half. He became desperate, started blowing off friends and family, and eventually hit rock bottom. Bottom for Chris was sitting for over a week in a psychiatric ward of a Pennsylvania hospital - skin lacerated by incessant scratching, rotting teeth - a shell of himself, lost both mentally and emotionally. It was a living hell for all of us.

That was his breaking point. For many, it gets worse. Some never make it back to sanity. Many see the inside of a jail cell. Too many die.

Luckily Chris has a network of friends who really care for him. He swallowed his pride and confided in some of us. We recognized the severity of his addiction and brainstormed about how we can help. We were willing to pool our resources together to do whatever was necessary for our friend, but our funds were limited. Especially when a reputable inpatient addiction program costs anywhere from $20-thousand to $60-thousand.

By the grace of a higher power, a friend in the industry read my first blog about Chris and asked how she might help. A few brief phone calls later, Chris was cleared to receive a scholarship to a wonderful program at Champion Center in Lompoc, CA for nominal costs. He worked the program for 30 days, updated us when he could and we began to recognize the friend we had temporarily lost to this disease.

But as we all know, addiction doesn't just disappear and neither do the underlying issues that often causes someone to turn back to a drug of choice. Naturally, there was concern upon his return to the environment he left. The setting for all which turned sour in his life. The place where he lost his way and succumbed to his disease. The house which shelters so many nightmares and horrific memories.

Well the good news is that Chris is celebrating his three month anniversary today. He decided to share something with his group of friends our of gratitude.

Here it is:
On the date of three solid months of recovery, I wanted to send a comprehensive update to the group.  
Heartfelt Thanks
First and foremost, I wouldn’t have made this milestone without the love and support from each and every one of you on this distribution list. There are a few add-on’s to the list – but for this group, it doesn’t matter when you got added – all of you have showed up – every time, faithfully.   It is often heard that a run like mine makes you no better or no less than anyone else in the recovery group.
While that is true, I am reminded daily that this is a support group like no other.
In addition to making the 90 day mark, I also grateful to mark one month of my return home from California.  It has not been without it’s challenges.
When I walked into Alder Street on March 11th – it looked, and smelled exactly as I had left it in the dark days of January.  That, combined with items literally unmoved for two months left me with crippling and vivid nightmares of the past two years.  I had almost resolved myself to the fact that every time I would close my eyes, I would wake up, panicked, that I had gone on a 4 or 5 day run.   While this wasn’t unique to the house (it started the last week in California), I was prepared by the team in CA to be ready for it – and use coping skills to move through it.
The house has since been cleaned from top to bottom, pictures on the walls have been changed, and while I am still plagued by vivid recall, it has reduced considerably in the last two weeks. 
I worked with Dr. Todd, the Champion Center trauma specialist on dealing with the memories and experiences of the last two years within these four walls.  Dr. Todd was insistent that I correct the problem “the way Chris P. would correct the problem” - not run from it – but simply stand up and fix it.  It has been a struggle every day to have the courage to stand up and wade through the tornado that I allowed to almost take me out.  I am so grateful to at least have a roof over my head – and yet, these are tough days – I am rebuilding life, one step at a time – and this has been a challenge like no other. 
I was able to gain strength and clarity in California, and being the eternal planner and armed with a solid game plan, my first few days home were intentionally scheduled. 
The Return to Alder Street
Joe M. was the first person to come meet me for dinner and a night out on my return – and while I almost had him bring his bottle of backup holy water, dinner and Mass was the best possible way to come home.  If there was anything I needed to do – it was to be “of thanks” for coming out of this with my mind.   
Soon after, I invited my friends Brian and Jeff over for my first “home cooked meal” - and that was an intentional invite.  While many of you don’t know Brian and Jeff yet, you will, soon.  If anyone was going to help me make a fresh start at this kitchen table, it was going to be the two of them.   Without a doubt, we chased a lot of demons out of this kitchen that night over chicken cutlets, and it was the best possible way to reopen this kitchen to life.  
Since then, I’ve tried to see and talk to as many of you as possible. Brian, Fred, Daniel and I traveled to literally the top of Liberty One.  Kevin, Maddie and I walked through Rittenhouse.  Meg and I have gotten back into our routine of meals together. Doyle and I have shared coffee together, and I got to welcome Gonz home from California.  Most importantly, I’ve gotten lots of needed love from the Beck and Saffici girls (and a high five from John Patrick).  Next week, I’ll finally get to meet Cece, give Tosti a long overdue hug, and hopefully, find a table at Paesano’s for me and Flocco and have a long overdue “Paesano” and a very cold RC Cola. 
The days are not without strife.  While the accomplishments seem insignificant on the surface – they are exponentially hard to execute.  Not because of the complexity of task – but more so for the recognition that every time something is crossed off the list, I have to recognize and realize the dramatic devastation that I allowed into my life that brought me to my knees – and know that I have to work so much harder to secure things that I’ve had in place since I was 14.  To me, it seems almost catastrophic – and I have to allow myself a fixed time to grieve, and then simply move forward.  Not moving forward keeps me in place, and I have never been one to sit still. 
Since 14, I’ve had a checking and savings account.  I’ve had to live off of a “Greendot” card with “valued customer” on the front since January.  I walked into the PNC Bank at 10th and South on Tuesday, with 150.00 in checks and started again, from scratch.   The task to open the account was easy – the recognition that I was starting with less than what I did when I was 14 was not.
This goes for every task, every transaction, every interaction.   Without an SSRI, or tranquilizer or sedative, I have to work through this on my own, and put myself to bed at night, on my own.   When I left California, I really felt like I had gotten my groove back – but it has become abundantly clear that my groove is still a ways off.   I need to celebrate each day, rebuilding on a better foundation than when I started at 14 and continue to put one foot in front of the other. 
I laugh a lot more these days, and sometimes I even surprise myself at the tone in which the words come out.  There are days when I don’t even recognize myself – because I haven’t heard that kind of hope in my voice since late nights at St. Cassian Hall – thinking about all the things that could be.
And then there are days when you want to cry, but I’ve cried enough, so I might as well just laugh. 
Continuum of Care
I cannot express enough to this group how grateful I am that you all rallied to send me to the Champion Center. 
Someone asked me at CMA where I went to rehab.  I started telling them about my experience, and they responded:  "Wow dude.  My rehab was in Chester, and it was infested with Bed Bugs." 
There are simply no words.  The care was and continues to be extraordinary. 
I’ve had the ability to reach out to two of my favorite counselors - Roberta (Bob) Russell and Gina Phelps and I credit them for stepping up to the plate and answering every question I asked – related to recovery and life.  I cannot adequately describe how much they have helped me through this entire ordeal. They faithfully save time for me – even with their current inpatient load.  I know that the Holy Spirit worked through them. 
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t include my friend Geoff H. in this list, who I met through the program. Bob said to me right before I left that he would be my solid link to recovery, and she was right.  Geoff and I talk weekly, and he’s making a trip out to Philly in May. I was completely broken by the time I had arrived to Lompoc, and Geoff was the first person to hear my “story” with no filter, and he didn’t blink.  If I had hoped for anyone to be in the foxhole with – it was him – and I am excited for all of you to meet him in person.  He’s an amazing and dear friend – and I know he’s a phone call away. 
Just for Today
It doesn’t really matter that I have 90 days under my belt.  What matters is today.  And today, I’m grateful. 
Today was a full day.  My friends in California would joke that I would come out of classes and proclaim “I’m DONE” and wave my hands over my head.  By the time I left, my fellow classmates would just look at me and say “DONE – I’M DONE!”.  That’s how I feel about today.
But tomorrow, God willing – I’ll start again. 
In May of 1999, I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt when she said that “we gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience where we look fear in the face, and did something we thought we could not do.”  That’s so true – today. 
Tomorrow morning, I’m starting the day with Doyle, over coffee, and not celebrate 90 days, just celebrate today – and being one day closer to a better, more genuine, authentic me.  I have to have faith that the rest will all fall into place. 
Love you all more -
PS:  While I’m giving you a first hand account, I wanted to pass along this article that’s making the rounds.  It’s spot on, and worth the read.

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.