Apex Rehab: Only Facility in San Diego with Joint Commission Accreditation

apex rehab joint commission san diegoApex Rehab is located on Camino del Rio in gorgeous San Diego, California. Apex recently received accreditation for behavioral health from the Joint Commission, which is “America’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care,” according to their website . This makes Apex Rehab the first and only current rehabilitation facility with accreditation from the Joint Commission.

This article will explain why this is so important.

Behavioral health is a complicated term. Preferred nowadays to the term ‘mental health,’ it’s the science of emotion, behavior and mental health all in one. According to Psychology Today, “Behavioral health includes not only ways of promoting well-being by preventing or intervening in mental illness such as depression or anxiety, but also has as an aim preventing or intervening in substance abuse or other addictions.”

In the world of substance addiction recovery, this is a goldmine, because literally about half of American drug addicts and/or alcoholics also suffer from some type of mental disorder. It’s become no secret to the healthcare industry that substance abuse and mental disorders are linked. So, in a way, a rehabilitation facility that offers behavioral health therapy is offering help for a dual diagnosis.

This is a critical component for a rehab facility to have during today’s times, when heroin and prescription pills and alcohol are ravaging our nation. The current drug epidemic knows no borders, and every state in the US is suffering horribly. It would make sense then that the state with the highest population, California, is suffering pretty particularly horribly.

Californian Addiction

Approximately 5 million residents of California are either drug addicts or alcoholics. That’s nearly 20% of the entire population of the golden state. According to California’s own Department of Public Health, about eleven people die every single day in the state due to fatal drug overdoses. We are talking over 4,000 people a year. Plus, literally tens of thousands of trips to the emergency room in California are drug-related every year, (40,000 in the last three years), and that does NOT include alcohol-related ER visits.

Ten years ago, only two of the 58 counties in California experienced an annual fatal overdose rate of 20 people per every 100,000 people. Today, nineteen of the counties qualify for this horrifying statistic.

California has a lot of guns. A lot of states do, but CA’s population is huge compared to most other states, so naturally there are lots of firearms. In fact, among premature deaths, guns cause the fifth most in the state. The following information pertains solely to premature deaths.

California has some seriously violent areas. There are maximum security prisons and gangs are very real. Every day you can read about someone killing someone else on the west coast. Homicide, in fact, is the fourth most prevalent cause of death in the state.

People don’t just kill other people, though. Very sadly, sometimes people end their own lives, and in California, suicide is actually third among leading causes of death. Perhaps this too is a statistic altered by the fact that so many people live in California. Also, so many people drive in California. This writer has a friend who works in L.A. who once said, “People get out of their cars on the highway and grill burgers sometimes when it’s real bad.” Unfortunately, car accidents cause the second most deaths in the state.

You may have guessed by now where this is going. Even if you have indeed figured it out, you cannot read the following sentence without feeling some sort of shock and awe. In a state known somewhat for its violence, and for its insane driving, the single most prevalent cause of death in California is drug abuse turned fatal. Perhaps even worse is how few Californians are seeking professional help.

Not Getting the Help they Need

For every one hundred Californian drug/alcohol addicts, only 15 of them will ever receive any kind of treatment. This means over 4 million of the state’s population are untreated addicts. At this point in time it’s well-known that addiction is a disease of the brain. This is not a good scenario.

Alarmingly, this trend is nationwide. Take a look at the graphic below. Believe it or not, California, at 15% as stated above, is actually ahead of the national average (11%) for percentage of addicts that have received or are receiving treatment.

people who have received treatment vs not receieve treatment

So, for every 100 Americans struggling with their addictions, barely ten will seek the help they need. Is this true for any other disease?!?!? Since it couldn’t be worded any better, bear in mind how few addicts in this country receive the help they need as you read this from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

The substance use recovery process is highly personal and occurs via many pathways. For many Americans, this recovery process includes access to and use of substance use treatment at specialty facilities, such as a hospital (only as an inpatient), a drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility (as an inpatient or an outpatient), or a mental health center. Having access to substance use treatment and supportive services to address various needs associated with substance use disorders is critical for those who are in need of treatment.”

Now, let’s get real. The chances are that if you’re reading this, either you are an addict or someone you know and love is an addict. Also, there’s a decent chance you’re reading this from somewhere in California. The fact of the matter is that the services of a professional rehabilitation facility are definitely needed. Do not be like the majority and ignore the disease. Let’s talk about not only why rehab is a necessity for addicts, but which one is the best in California.

Note: Obviously, if you or someone you love is indeed an addict, reading this article should be low on your priority list. Seek help immediately, especially if any level of danger exists.

Why Behavioral Health Rehabilitation is a Must for Addicts

Addiction is not an easy thing to treat. It’s nothing that can be fixed with an antibiotic or some good exercise, (although the latter may help a little). According to CRC Health Group, “Because addiction has so many dimensions and disrupts so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment for this illness is never simple. Drug rehabs must help the individual stop using drugs and maintain a drug-free lifestyle, while achieving productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society.”

So, obviously the main goal is to stop use of the drug or of alcohol altogether. However, rehab does much more than that. The quote from CRC Health goes on to say, “Effective drug abuse and drug rehab treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences.”

It’s not only about sobriety. Rehabilitation will also:

  • Remove you from the stresses of your everyday life
  • Provide therapy for all stressful aspects
  • Medicate you as necessary to ensure a safe process
  • Offer outdoor activities and extracurriculars
  • Improve living habits
  • Possibly create bonds that are lifelong

Behavioral health rehabilitation is the ultimate form of recovery for a substance addict. As discussed, this type of rehab focuses both of the substance addiction and any concurrent mental disorders. The location of the rehab you choose is important, and should be somewhere calm and with weather you enjoy. In the state of California, perhaps no better city for behavioral health rehab exists than San Diego.

And perhaps no better rehab exists in California than Apex Rehab.

Why Apex Rehab should be the Number One Choice

As mentioned, Apex is the only rehab accredited by the Joint Commission in all of San Diego. This is a huge deal. Since 1972, the Joint Commission has been issuing accreditation to behavior health rehabs, and approximately 2,500 organizations are accredited as of today. It’s the single most stringent accreditation organization in the country. You don’t just pay for it and get it.

Accreditation from the Joint Commission “concentrates on operational systems critical to the safety and quality of care, treatment or services provided to the individual,” as per their website. The requirements for qualification are developed by a team consisting of health care experts, health care providers, measurement experts, and also people who have been in rehabilitation. This ensures a well-rounded point of view.

Now, consider this. Apex Rehab not only met the stringent requirements for accreditation; it exceeded the requirements and was given behavioral health home certification. According to the Joint Commission:

“Behavioral Health Home Certification is an optional certification to recognize organizations that coordinate and integrate all health care needs of a population served. The optional certification goes above and beyond what is required for accreditation and provides additional recognition as a health home.”

Better than the Rest

There are two main reasons Joint Commission accreditation makes Apex Rehab the best in San Diego. One is obvious. The facility is so top-notch that it was accredited in the first place. Second is the benefit of having accreditation from the Joint Commission. Patient safety is strengthened, risk management is improved, surveyors are on-hand for expert advice and/or education, and much more. For a complete list of Joint Commission accreditation benefits, click here.

With a stay at Apex Rehab, you can expect:

  • Reduced Drug Use
  • Improved Mental Health
  • Improved Overall Health
  • Healthier Relationships
  • Better Employment Opportunities
  • A safe, secure, professional environment

Of course, there is never a guarantee that rehabilitation will work for every single person every single time. The fact is that when it comes to inpatient treatment, 73% of those who enter a program complete the program, and 21% of those who enter a program remain sober for at least the next five years. Before you go thinking that these numbers are not exactly favorable, consider this…

Among those who enter into a treatment program for Type I Diabetes, about 40% experience a relapse of symptoms. For asthma, the number is as high as 70%. Addiction, like diabetes or asthma, is a disease, so one can take comfort in knowing that the relapse rates for substance addicts are similar to those of other common diseases.

Again, to quote CRC Health, because they are the nation’s leading provider of treatment and educational programs: “Three decades of scientific research and clinical practice have yielded a variety of effective approaches to drug addiction treatment. Extensive data document that drug addiction treatment is as effective as are treatments for most other similarly chronic medical conditions.”

In Conclusion

So there you have it. Rehab works, it’s a necessity, not nearly enough who need it actually go, and Apex Rehab may just be one of if not the best one in California. Apex is at least the best in San Diego, which may indeed be the single best location for recovery in the entire nation.

Apex Rehab offers detoxification services, residential treatment, partial hospitalization, inpatient rehab & outpatient rehab – all of which are accredited by the Joint Commission. You’d be a fool to go anywhere else, really, so contact them today.

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How to Prepare for Rehab | Getting Started

The first step in preparing yourself for recovery is to take a deep breath and recognize that you have made a healthy decision for your future.  Now that you’ve come this far, here are the next steps you should take before entering recovery.

The most important thing to remember when preparing for rehab is to keep it simple. It is important that you take care of any work, family or financial obligations.  Because while you are in treatment, your entire focus should ideally be on yourself and your recovery.

how to prepare for rehab

Spend positive time with loved ones.

The decision to go into treatment has likely come with encouragement and motivation from close family and friends. Before treatment, spend time with loved ones — this will help keep you strong in your decision to get sober.

Get the proper rest.

Take care of yourself before you go to drug and alcohol rehab. Get some rest, and try to eat right. You’ll get more of this when you go to drug rehab, but the initial detox period can be physically taxing so it doesn’t hurt to start out with a full tank.

Be positive and patient.

Going into rehab with a positive attitude is essential to getting the most out of your detox experience and maintaining a healthy outlook on life. Don’t get discouraged if results aren’t seen right away.

Leaving Children for Treatment

If you have children, talk to them one-on-one. Kids do not need to know every detail of addiction, but they can understand being sick. Explain that just like they see a doctor when they are sick, you too are getting help for something that is making you sick. Allow your children to ask questions.

Prepare your home for your absence.

If you live alone, pay any bills you might have ahead of time, and have your mail and newspapers held.  If you have pets, ask a family member or friend to take care of them while you’re away or line up their stay at a kennel.  You might also want to have a neighbor, friend, or family member check on your home periodically while you’re away.

Tie up any Loose Ends Before Going into Treatment

Before entering rehab, there are several steps you may need to take to prepare. In general, it is important that you take care of any work, family or financial obligations.  Because while you are in treatment, your entire focus should ideally be on yourself and your recovery.  If you are stressing about your life outside of treatment it will be difficult to maintain that focus. Additionally, if you return to a chaotic situation upon completing treatment, you may be more prone to relapse. After all, stress is a major relapse trigger.

Keep an Open Mind.

Keeping an open mind is an essential part to getting the most out of recovery. It is not easy to go into treatment without expectations and preconceived ideas but the more you can be open to the process, the more you will be able to benefit from it. Notice when you have expectations about yourself or your treatment program, and try to surrender them.

If you have made the decision to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, then you have taken the first step towards a healthier, happier, more mindful life.  Sometimes, just making the decision to address your addiction is the most difficult part of the process.  For many people, it can take a series of hardships to arrive at this point, like the loss of relationships, deteriorating health, financial problems, and more.  Even if it might not seem like it right at this moment, your circumstances can only improve upon freeing yourself from addiction.  Yes, the process is challenging, but the rewards are more than worth it.

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San Diego Scientist Receives Grant for Addiction Medicine

Heroin. Cocaine. Meth. Nicotine. These drugs have more in common than you may know. Yes, they’re all dangerous, all addictive, and all far too prevalent in American society. But did you know they all basically work the same way? Someone who did know that, and acted on it, is Nicholas Cosford, a professor with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego.

Cosford has come up with a compound that could possibly end addiction to all of the above-named substances. This makes sense, because in addition to being a professor, Cosford is the co-founder and head of Drug Discovery at Camino Pharma.

He recently received a $10.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA), because it seems to be working. His idea is not original, just a tweak on a previously-established school of thought. Still, this brilliant professor from beautiful San Diego, California might have just cured drug addiction. We will explain how, but first let’s discuss how addiction workbiologically, and what the previous ideas for ending addiction were.

san diego scientist receives grant addiction medicine

Glutamate + Dopamine = Addiction

Put extremely basically, for this writer is no scientist, here is how shooting heroin, sniffing coke, smoking meth, and even smoking a cigarette, are all essentially doing the same thing to your brain. There are receptors all over the brain, which are tiny portals for neurotransmitters to go through. A neurotransmitter is what you may remember from high school as being called ‘a messenger.’ There are several different neurotransmitters, and they call carry different messages. The two most important in drug use are glutamate and dopamine.

Glutamate is known as an excitatory neurotransmitter because it stimulates the brain. At normal levels, it’s responsible for learning and memory in humans. It’s actually the most prevalent excitatory neurotransmitter in the whole nervous system.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure we feel when we engage in reward-motivated behavior. For example, it feels good to eat a candy bar, right? Have you ever wondered why? It’s because the sweetness of the candy is releasing dopamine into your brain’s receptors, causing you to feel joy from the behavior you engaged in – snacking on a Snickers.

Here’s where it gets tricky. When someone does a drug, say something strong like heroin, the brain gets absolutely flooded with dopamine and it feels good – it’s what we call a high or a buzz. At the same time, glutamate is also being produced at abnormally high levels. This causes the brain to basically remember how good the drug use felt, store that information, and then cause a desire for that drug again whenever a memory of using it is recalled.

OK that might be a lot of words. Here’s the true layman version: Doing drugs causes the brain to make the body feel really good, but it also causes the body to want to feel that same pleasure whenever drugs are around or thought of. This is why addicts have cravings, and this explains triggers, or things that cause cravings.

Here’s an example. Say Peter used heroin for years with his best friend Alice, but he quit last month. Chances are that every time he sees Alice, or even a picture of her, that his brain is going to associate her with the memory of feeling good (glutamate), and if he does use heroin again, the pleasure will return (dopamine) and again be remembered as a rewarding behavior (glutamate again).

It’s called addiction, and it’s a vicious cycle. The physical way to kill addiction is to simply not use the drug. This is nearly impossible for an addict. The physiological way to kill addiction is to enter into a treatment facility and take advantage of the medical professionalism. The psychological way to kill addiction is to attend therapy. Biology is concerned only with the actual body and brain.

Blocking Dopamine? Too dangerous.

In the past, the biological answer to addiction has been to block the dopamine receptors. The brain can release all the dopamine it wants, but if that dopamine is not received, no high, right? And if there’s no high, then why do the drug at all? Voila – addiction over.

That may seem good and dandy, but blocking dopamine receptors can cause some seriously horrible side effects. After all, it is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that when at healthy levels is essential in our day-to-day function as people. Here are just some of the possible side effects of using a dopamine antagonist, a drug that blocks dopamine receptors:

  • Tardive dyskinesia (involuntary body movements)
  • Impotence and/or loss of libido in men
  • Menstrual dysfunction in women
  • Galactorrhea (spontaneous milk-flow from breasts) in both sexes
  • Parkinsonism
  • Irregular heartbeat

In the more recent past, it has been discussed to block glutamate receptors. This way, the learning and the memory associated with drug use is tampered down and possibly could prevent compulsive drug use and ultimately addiction. In fact, in 2015, a study was published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience that specifically dealt with glutamate and drug addiction. The findings serve as the perfect precursor to the current work of Nicholas Cosford.

Blocking Glutamate? A 2015 Study.

When it comes to the brain, there are two types of reward: natural and drug. A natural reward is critical to our lives, something such as how we feel when we drink water when thirsty. A drug reward is not critical, and is only “…consumed for [its] ability to produce pleasure and euphoria.”

The idea of the study was to explore three things in general: the effects that glutamate has on drug reward, the then-current status of using glutamate antagonists to combat drug addiction, and, in their words, to “…discuss future studies needed to address currently unanswered gaps in knowledge, which will further elucidate the role of glutamate in the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse.” In short, they reinforced the knowledge that glutamate plays a crucial role in drug addiction. They also warned of how dangerous blocking glutamate receptors can be.

“Significantly, blockade of glutamate transmission… attenuates the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Further, blocking glutamate transmission in brain regions associated with reward… likewise attenuates drug reward.”

Translation Into Layman’s Terms: The author of the study is saying that blocking glutamate receptors not only decreases the actual amount of pleasure (dopamine), but that it also reduces the tendency of the brain to remember and learn that drug abuse is rewarding. So, where dopamine blocking only reduces pleasure, glutamate blocking reduces both pleasure and desire. What could go wrong?

This next section, a bit of a longer quote directly from the study, explains what could go wrong. Don’t worry; there will be another translation!

“The ubiquitous distribution of glutamate makes targeting glutamate transmission to decrease the reinforcing effects of drug rewards very challenging. Further, it must be emphasized here that glutamate transmission is involved in many other physiological functions such as learning, memory, regulation of normal behavior and reinforcing effects of natural rewards. Hence, there is a need to develop medications that selectively attenuate the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse without affecting other physiological functions.”

Translation Into Layman’s Terms: Because there is just so much glutamate produced by the body, and for so many different functions, simply blocking its receptors would cause some serious problems. These problems could include complications in essential functions such as learning and/or ‘regulation of normal behavior,’ which frankly is terrifying. Therefore, it’s a must that some kind of medication or compound be made that only blocks those glutamate receptors associated with ‘the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse’.

These words were published only two years ago. Professor Nicholas Cosford may very well have found that compound – one that blocks all the right receptors, and doesn’t affect those that help us live normally.

Professor Cosford and the SBP Compound

“Our institute is very good at doing basic biology,” said Cosford to the San Diego Tribune, linked above. He was not lying. He and his partners recently developed a compound called SBP-0069330. According to the wordage of the SD Tribune, it “…regulates certain receptors on brain cells for the neurotransmitter glutamate.” What the compound actually scientifically does is “…target the metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGlu2),” according to Cosford.

Again, using layman’s terms, the compound manages to focus on blocking those glutamate receptors most associated with addiction to heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and nicotine. SBP-0069330 has even been proven successful in rats, creatures which believe it or not are over 90% identical genetically to human beings. (This is why they’ve been used in such experiments for such a long time).

The ultimate goal is obviously testing the compound on people. Before that happens, a lot of work needs to be done. Toxicity tests have to be performed. Much more volume has to be created. These are just two of many things that need to be accomplished before it’s tested on humans. That’s where a nice and handy $10.8 million from NIDA comes into play.

The Grant

Three more years of preclinical work: that is what the grant is funding. Toxicity tests and volume increases and all of the other extremely important work that needs to be done before this compound enters a human being will hopefully be paid for by this grant. Obviously multimillion dollar grants are not tossed around on a regular basis, so NIDA, one of if not the leading institute on substance abuse, truly believes in Cosford’s compound.

An ulterior motive of the grant being given was also to quicken the process of getting the compound from research-level to an actual product, able to marketed. Cosford said to the SD Tribune that they have “…the ability to do very early-stage drug discovery that gets to the in vivo proof of concept stage.” (This means the tests on rats were successful and proved that the compound works in live animals). “What we don’t have is the ability to move things from the in vivo concept into the clinic.”

Nearly eleven million big ones ought to be a great start, which is wonderful news. Consider the implications of a drug that actually cures heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, meth addiction, and even cigarette addiction, which is the single largest preventable killer worldwide. It’s almost a shame that three more years are needed, but it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to medicine.

In Conclusion

The process is not over yet, and surely something could go wrong and compound SBP-0069330 might be canned for all time. Or, after three years, the compound might be perfected into a medicine and then made available to the public. Whichever drug company decides to endorse the end product will be delivering a significant punch in the battle against the drug epidemic that’s all but swept our nation.

It definitely helps that Professor Cosford is also the head of a pharmaceutical company. However, they are a start-up at this point, and they focus more on cancer therapies. It’s likely a different pharma company would have to endorse, but it seems rather likely one will.

In the conclusion of the Frontiers in Neuroscience study discussed earlier, it says that “…the FDA has approved several medications that attenuate glutamate transmission…” but that these medications are on route to become treatments for central nervous system disorders. While addiction may fall under that category, Cosford’s compound is apparently the first to be able to be able to target specific glutamate receptors associated with drug reward, and therefore with addiction. This is truly some exciting stuff.

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Trump, the Opioid Crisis, and the Current Status of America

The opioid epidemic is far from over. The entire nation is being ravaged every single day by drug addiction, but especially by heroin and prescription pill addictions. The number of American deaths from drug overdoses continues to increase, and has been rising since 1999, back when Bill Clinton still had two years as our president.

Now, three presidents later, it’s a complete warzone out there, a full-blown opioid epidemic. In early August, Donald Trump, our current commander in chief, held another media briefing on the epidemic. The gist of what he said was that the problem is still out of control, and that the government is indeed working on slowing and stopping the epidemic. Unfortunately, one thing not mentioned was progress.

During his campaign for presidency, Trump acknowledged the depth of the American drug problem, and promised strongly that he and his administration would combat the opioid epidemic with an iron fist. Eight months into his presidency, during last month’s briefing, he basically said the same thing.

The Media Briefing

“Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities… everybody is threatened,” said the president early in the discussion. He is absolutely correct. Unlike in the past, there is no demographic for today’s heroin or pill addict. The availability is widespread, and with the outrageous over-prescription issue in this country, more people than ever are becoming hooked on pills such as OxyContin or Vicodin. The problem is that once these pills run out, heroin becomes the easier-to-acquire replacement.

America hasn’t been throwing any white towels, either. Virtually every state in the country has implemented new programs and/or laws to help combat the epidemic over the past decade or so. Former president Barack Obama was responsible for enormous effort, especially with his 21st Century Cures Act, which garnered a billion dollars for the good fight. [In a dire attempt to remain apolitical, we still must share this with you: According to New York Magazine, in the beginning of Trump’s presidency he pledged an ‘additional’ $500 million to fight the opioid epidemic, but in reality that money was the second of two installments guaranteed by Obama’s 21st Century Cures Act].

However, it seems that the epidemic rages on regardless of how many dollars are spent, at least for now. During the recent briefing, Trump hinted at perhaps having new ways to combat the crisis:

“Today I’m pleased to receive a briefing from our team on ways we can help our communities fight this absolutely terrible epidemic, and keep youth from going down this deadly path.” No more was mentioned on the team’s briefing, and a full report is due to be published next month in October.  The president did speak at length on how we are fortifying the southern border of the US more than perhaps ever in history, and that part of why is to prevent illicit drugs from entering our country from Mexico, a country with many drug cartels that profit off of American addiction. He also mentioned that we are still negotiating with China regarding the shipment of illicit chemicals to the US.

Sadly, this is old news. We as a country have been aware of the Mexican-Chinese drug infiltration for over a year at least. It was last August when Vancouver police seized enough carfentanil to wipe out 50 million people. It was snail-mailed from China. Getting drug into America from Mexico is even easier.

The main focus of Trump’s recent briefing was that there has been a decline in federal drug prosecution. “At the end of 2016, there were 23 percent fewer federal prosecutions than in 2011…” said Trump, noting that the former administration “…looked at this scourge and they let it go by.” Whether that’s true or not, and whether you approve of Trump or not, there may be some credit in saying that we need to pump up law enforcement. It might be the only weapon left to try and use against the opioid crisis.

The War on Drugs

This writer is over thirty years old and has known about this term for at least twenty of them. By now it almost seems that America is in a perpetual war on drugs, and is perpetually losing. Sadly, the number goes up every so often, but currently 91 Americans die every day from either heroin or opioid prescription overdoses. Please let that soak in. Every single hour, nearly four people meet their end because of a drug. Six out of ten fatal overdoses are from opioids. Every three weeks, the same number of people die from opioids as died total in the tragedy of September 11th. Heroin officially has killed more people than AIDS. There are 100 ways to put it but one absolute truth: The opioid epidemic is in full effect.

We will have to wait another month to see what Trump and his administration have come up with as the next maneuver in the war, but so far here’s what’s going on right now. The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, (CCDAOC), last month “…made a series of recommendations on the topic focused on treatment to combat addiction and regulating prescriptions to prevent abuse,” as reported by ABC News. The commission also recommended Trump declares a national emergency.

Around the same time, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutors in America. The first sentence of the second paragraph says it all: “First, it is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.” The attorney general makes it clear that this includes mandatory minimum sentences, something Obama was starkly against.

Again, it is not our job to judge the politics of this country. Our job is to report on the status of the opioid epidemic, and ultimately to offer help to anyone who is struggling with any type of addiction. That being said, one can only hope that this boost in law enforcement will help. However, simply sending anyone who is in possession of any amount of an illicit substance to jail for as long as possible does not seem like the best way to combat what is essentially a personal problem that so happens to affect millions of persons. Thankfully, to this, Attorney General Sessions said:

“If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way. We will not be willfully blind to your conduct. We are talking about a kilogram of heroin–that is 10,000 doses, five kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. These are not low-level offenders. These are drug dealers. And you’re going to prison.”

The CCDAOC (and Governor Christie)

There really isn’t a single state in America that hasn’t been hammered by the heavy hand of opioid addiction, but some states have it worse than others. One of the more affected states is New Jersey, home state to over 1,900 victims of opioid overdose last year. Remember how 91 US citizens die every day this way? In NJ, the number is 5.2 when rounded. If as many people died in every other state as in New Jersey, this country would see 260 people die from ODs every day – an increase of almost 300%.

NJ Governor Chris Christie has truly been one of the five-star generals in the war on the epidemic. He is, after all, head of the aforementioned CCDAOC, and actually has had two people close to him die from opioids. He has a dog in the fight, so to speak. Perhaps that’s why earlier this year in February he implemented perhaps the ‘harshest’ of all current drug laws: changing the supply of opioid prescriptions from thirty days’ worth to five days’ worth.  After all, it’s become apparent that the opioid epidemic began (and could end) at the doctor’s office.

This, recently, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

“The amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet there had not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported. Deaths from prescription opioids, drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, have more than quadrupled since 1999.”

This writer, for one, does not find it coincidental that both the pill count and the death toll quadrupled over the same period of time. One hopes that other states will take influence from Christie’s law. One also hopes that the New Jersey governor’s newest move will have a positive impact.

On September 17th it was reported that Gov. Christie will soon pledge $200 million to help those who are ‘underserved’ during this time of crisis. This will include those without health insurance, those on Medicaid, and families with babies born into addiction. Also, about a sixth of the money will be spent to provide housing and treatment for current addicts. The governor hopes ultimately for sustained sobriety, not just a quick fix.

Trump and the Future of the Epidemic

Governor Christie has been praised for his hard-nosed efforts in combating the opioid crisis. Trump, however, has not. In fact, add onto the pile of criticism the fact that Pres. Trump truly has been rather quiet about the epidemic. During his campaign, the opioid epidemic was a focal point. As of now, not much more than briefings and a continuation of Obama’s previous efforts has been done on a federal level. The increase of southern border security has an obvious ulterior motive, as does negotiating with China. (Again – not politicians – but a quick Google search ought to show you why this is true.)

Yet, whether or not Trump is sincere in fighting the crisis, two of his fellow Republicans definitely are sincere: Attorney General Sessions and NJ Governor Christie. One may be a little more old-school than the other, but at this point the general consensus has to be one of ‘whatever works’.

“The average sentence for a convicted federal drug offender decreased 20 percent from 2009 to 2016,” said Trump during last month’s briefing, adding that he promised indeed to fight this battle back during his campaign. Perhaps more law enforcement is what we need. Time will tell.

There is another thing Trump said at the briefing, something poignant and absolutely true. It may have been a line written for him, and he may not have fully embraced the meaning behind it, but the truth of the statement is inarguable, especially now. He said it about the war on the drug epidemic, and he said:

“We have to win. We have no alternative. We have to win for our youth.”

Yes, Mr. President, yes we do, especially since the largest increase in heroin use has been among those aged 18 to 25 – the future of this nation.

In Conclusion

Much evidence exists pointing toward the daily death toll being much larger than 91 per day. In fact, the same CCDAOC report that asked Trump to declare a national state of emergency also claimed 142 deaths a day due to opioids. Governor Christie it seems is a definite warrior of the drug war. His efforts lead the way in a country ravaged by drugs. As for Trump, let us have faith in the words Christie spoke about him:

“I’m convinced that the president is committed to this. I look forward to his and his administration’s reaction to the draft report [coming later this year], and I look forward to continuing to work with the members of the commission to make sure that we’re giving the president and his administration the very best information we can to deal with this crisis.”

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Fentanyl: Not Worth the Risk

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s almost a relief to find just heroin or just cocaine or just crack.”? Have you ever heard a police officer say how relieved they are they only found any of those three drugs during a drug bust? The above quote comes from East Liverpool, Ohio Police Officer, Chris Grant, who inadvertently overdosed on fentanyl by simply brushing it off the back of his shirt.

The report states that within two minutes Green crashed to the floor and woke up in the hospital to learn he had overdosed. No, he didn’t snort or ingest the drug in any way. He touched it with his hand. Some may say that’s impossible and the statistics of fentanyl overdoses don’t lie.

Fentanyl acts on the same receptors in the brain as opioids except it can be 50 to 100 times stronger than its predecessors: heroin, methadone, oxycodone and the like. Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that had found its way into the black market over the last four to five years. The drug has become an advantageous pursuit for drug dealers because of the strength of the drug, which mirrors the same pursuit of the user to find the next, more exhilarating high, often ignoring the potential pitfalls such as…death. The number of overdoses has been increasing at an alarming rate over the last four years.

  • The death rate of synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl, increased by 72.2% from 2014 to 2015
  • The number of states reporting large numbers of fentanyl encounters substantially increased from 2014 to 2015, with 8 states reporting more than 500 encounters in 2015 compared to 2 states in 2014 and zero states in 2013
  • The following states reported over 500 fentanyl encounters in 2015: Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts New Jersey and Florida

fentanyl outbreak

Regional Problem

As indicated in the aforementioned statistics, it appears fentanyl has become a regional problem, mainly concentrated in the Midwestern and Northeastern Regions of the United States, with one outlier being Florida. As we may be learning during our current President’s seemingly fruitless attempt to keep coal as a hot commodity, many of the aforementioned states have a large concentration of physically taxing occupations such as timbering, agriculture and, wait for it, coal mining!

The current prescription and illicit opioid epidemic originated from the prescription pain killer epidemic. Heavy prescription of painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone began in the late 1990s and has become a public health epidemic, resulting in a quadrupling of prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2015. Prescribing of opioid pain killers has increased at a similar rate over the same time period. Go figure.

So, how did we get here?

Like any business, a drug company will attempt to market their business in areas that will have the largest prediction for success. For example, if you go to Texas and California, you’re going to find that there are a lot more Hispanic food restaurants and food options per capita as compared to Oregon. The reason for this is the fact that Texas and California border Mexico and have the two highest Hispanic populations in the United States.

When prescription opioid pain killer companies were developing their marketing plans in the mid-to-late 1990s they compiled a list of physicians that treated people for chronic pain disorders. The database revealed that states such as Virginia had a higher rate of chronic pain patients and any dunce looking at the map of results would say, ‘why don’t we sell our drugs there’.  In addition to identifying where to send the pharmaceutical representatives, the company that sold OxyContin had lucrative sales bonuses for their employees, which only increased their reps’ desire to sell more drugs.

It’s possible that liking money is not exclusive to Dax Shepard’s character, Frito, of the movie Idiocracy.

All jokes aside, it’s pretty scary that drug companies used such deceptive marketing tactics as they have been will be gummed up in several lawsuits for several years for their marketing of “non-addictive” pain killers. Most recently, the state of Ohio decided to sue 6 pharmaceutical companies, most notably Purdue Pharma. Not so ironically, Purdue Pharma was on the forefront of marketing of OxyContin to vulnerable areas in the mid-1990s. Ohio’s lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma:

  • Overstated the benefits of chronic opioid pain therapy
  • Targeted susceptible prescribers and vulnerable patient populations such as veterans and elderly patients
  • Violated state anti-fraud and consumer protection laws

Can Chronic Pain be Managed?

What’s wrong with a physician wanting to assist a patient with managing his or her chronic pain? There is a consensus that using opioids for acute or severe cancer related pain can be useful and improve physical functioning and quality of life for over short periods of time. That’s something that cannot be denied. However, the use of opioid pain killers for non-cancer related pain for long-term relief has not proven to be efficacious in improving the patient’s overall functioning beyond short-term relief.  To extend the point, long-term use of opioid pain killers can result in the following:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Inconsistent improvement in functioning
  • Opioid-induced hyperalgesia
  • Adverse hormonal and immune effects of long-term opioid treatment
  • A high incidence of prescription opioid abuse behaviors
  • An ill-defined and unclarified risk of iatrogenic addiction

On May 10, 2007, Purdue Frederick Company Inc., an affiliate of Purdue Pharma, along with 3 company executives, pled guilty to criminal charges of misbranding OxyContin by claiming that it was less addictive and less subject to abuse and diversion than other opioids, and will pay $634 million in fines. It’s interesting to see Purdue Pharma named in the Ohio lawsuit ten years later for similar allegations.

Can Fentanyl Be Useful?

Fentanyl was originally meant for cancer patients that were experiencing significant chronic pain that affected their lives enough to make it seem unlivable. The introduction of the fentanyl patch at least made their days more bearable and they were able to eat more regularly and have a higher quality of life. For cancer patients that are experiencing chronic pain, fentanyl patches have proven to be effective in certain case studies, suggesting controlled administration of the patch could be beneficial to a patient even if it is only for the last few weeks of his or her life. The introduction of the patch has eliminated the need to take several doses of opioids orally on a daily basis, which can have undesirable side effects.

Back to the Bad Side of Fentanyl

On June 1st, 2017 New York City issued an advisory for recreational drug users to be leery of purchasing cocaine. The advisory has been issued for good reason as New York City statistics show that 37% of overdose deaths in 2016 involved cocaine and fentanyl without heroin, which is up from 11% in 2015. That’s a sharp increase and it’s not just the addicts that are at risk anymore due to the strength of fentanyl. Don’t forget a police officer, who’s presumably drug tested on a regular basis, nearly died just from touching fentanyl let alone ingesting the drug. In cases where fentanyl labs have been busted the criminals have warned law enforcement of touching the powder without gloves due to the high potency of fentanyl. The occasional cocaine users, who won’t have a high tolerance for fentanyl, can die from one dose.

Buyer Beware

Fentanyl has become a hot alternative to heroin and other opioids because of the increased restrictions around opioid prescriptions therefore limiting its availability and creating a balloon effect.  A balloon effect often happens when enforcement agencies begin cracking down on one drug epidemic only to see a new one rise from the ashes just when they think they’re winning the war on drugs.

Just like drug companies saw an opportunity in states with chronic pain patients, drug dealers are constantly looking for new opportunities to market and sell their drugs, especially if they can make more money in the process and even make the drug themselves. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that one kilogram of fentanyl can be purchased from China for $3,000 to $5,000 and sold on the black market for a profit of approximately $1.5 million dollars. The acting US attorney for the northern district of Ohio Cleveland, Carole Rendon, is quoted saying “we have seen an influx of fentanyl directly from China” and that “it’s being shipped by carrier. It’s hugely concerning because fentanyl is so incredibly deadly”.

As most of us know, the famous singer Prince died from a fentanyl overdose which was masked as counterfeit hydrocodone. That’s exactly what the state of Ohio and other states near Ohio are seeing. They are finding fentanyl in counterfeit pain killers and benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax). There have been strings of reports over the last couple of years across the country that entail busting drug dealers selling counterfeit pain killers and benzodiazepines and home-based labs producing counterfeit drugs that contain fentanyl.

The Newest War on Drugs

Who do we target to stop the newest drug epidemic? China, Mexico, pharmaceutical companies, dealers, labs, users, politicians, employers of physically taxing jobs or physicians? There’s no clear answer of who or what the drug enforcement agencies, local law enforcement agencies, lawyers, substance abuse clinics, centers for disease control and prevention and food and drug administration officials should put in their crosshairs. What’s becoming clearer is that it actually isn’t crazy to say that it’s relieving when a drug bust only involves crack, cocaine or heroin.

With fentanyl essentially becoming an invisible killer due to its presence in recreational drugs that formerly didn’t have such a high death rates, the path to extinguishing or at least mitigating the epidemic remains unclear. Sure, some users knowingly purchase fentanyl because it possesses the most bang for the buck, being 50 to 100 times stronger than opioids. The irony of it all is that the chronic fentanyl and opioid users are actually at lower risk of death because of the tolerance they’ve created over time. At the end of the day, we know it’s an addiction problem that afflicts millions of Americans that should be addressed with comprehensive and longer-term treatment programs that involve behavioral and pharmacological interventions.

A researcher for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sums up the current progress in stating, “We’re trying to get a better handle on how widespread it is and where it is”. We clearly have a long way to go and we should not let it overtake this country much like the opioid epidemic has for the last 20 years.

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Addiction, The Threat That Needs to be Taken More Seriously

As a country we have seen a long period of growth and prosperity. The advances we have made in both technology and medicine have helped not only increase longevity of life, but also quality. As a result, we saw a decrease in deaths around the United States for many years; but as of late, the death toll has been rising dramatically each year.

It seems as though we are taking steps backwards instead of forwards. What is the cause of this sudden increase in death frequency? The answer is simpler than it seems: drugs. Opioids have started to tear through the country and are taking lives left and right; but are people taking this threat serious enough?

addiction-is-a-disease

Addiction is a Disease

The first issue with our society is the fact that addicts are continuously looked at in a bad light. Addiction is “a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences”. The first step in acknowledging that there is a problem is to understand the problem itself. When you hear that someone is struggling with a disease the first thing you want to do is get them the help they need. Addicts need help. It is not a choice to suffer from addiction and it is very difficult to overcome.

People become addicted to drugs for many different reasons. There are those that never will; but because there are so many outside factors that influence addiction and dependency, it is important to understand what triggers them.

Genetics

One of the most influential factors in addiction is genetics. Biological makeup can hold a great deal of influence over someone’s tendency towards addiction and recovery. Genes are passed down from our parents. We see this happen a lot with alcohol dependency. Children who have an alcoholic in their immediate family are 4 to 10 times more likely to become alcoholics than children who do not. The same idea applies to those with family members who have suffered from any type of addiction. It tends to be passed down, and the vulnerability to addiction becomes greater. Withdrawal symptoms and relapse probability can also increase due to genetic factors.

Development

When a person suffers from addiction, so does their health. Those who start early in life can be greatly affected by this. When you think of puberty and growing up, physical growth is the first thing that pops into your head. Growing taller and developing according to your gender are typical facets of growing up. The ones that lies underneath the surface, however, are just as important; if not more so. The development of our brain can affect us the rest of our lives, which is why those who start drinking or doing drugs at a young age, even recreationally, are more likely to develop a dependency later in life. Also the prospect of messing with one’s brain development can be a very scary prospect. Your brain helps in your decision-making, judgment, and self-control.

Environment

The age old argument of nature verses nurture. People are starting to realize that it is a bit of both. Environment and our surroundings can influence our decision making. The “Just say no” to drugs campaign is a good example. As easy as that sounds, peer pressure makes it very difficult. I’m sure you have heard your mother say “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” This may seem simple enough but when you have all of your friends doing something and you don’t want to disappoint them it becomes very difficult to say no.

Stress can also have a great impact on your tendency to develop a drug dependency. School, economic factors, and quality of life can drive a person to use. Being a part of a generation that almost always needs a college degree to get a good job can be very stressful. Not only trying to keep a good grade point average, but also participating in extracurricular activities to get accepted into college. Once you have been accepted, the stress doesn’t end there. You need to do well in order to get a good job to pay off the debt from college if you didn’t receive a scholarship. It is an endless cycle that could get to anyone.

The Epidemic

The understanding of addiction can aid in acknowledgement that there is a problem. People are suffering from this disease which has led to epidemic proportions throughout the United States. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50. In 2016 alone, at least 59,000 people died from drug overdose; 33,000 of these due to opioid overdose. Deaths rose 19 percent from the previous year. Experts fully expect the problem to only get worse over the next year. With more and more data being compiled, we should find out for sure how many deaths occurred from overdose in 2016.

One of the main issues is that opioids are being overprescribed. In 2016 there were more than 236 million prescriptions written for opioids in the United States. That would supply every American adult with one bottle of opioids. The Center for Disease Control recommends that there be a 3 day limit for opioids if it can be helped. This is in order to avoid addiction. A study done by the National Safety Council found out that 99 percent of doctors surveyed were prescribing highly addictive opioids for longer than the recommended 3 days. Prescriptions for opioids have quadrupled since 1999. They are being prescribed at a higher rate than ever.

But why are doctors giving them out so lightly? There are those being handed out after surgery, for back pain, dental pain, and for helping patients through cancer treatment. The CDC recommends opioids be handed out for short periods of time, unless they are being prescribed for cancer, palliative and end-of-life care. This is not what is happening around the United States and it is part of a bigger issue. The National Safety Council survey found that 1 in 5 doctors prescribed opioids for 30 day periods on a regular basis. These are drugs that the American Academy of Neurology finds inappropriate.

Once doctors have given opioids to patients, they fail to recognize the signs that their patients need help. Only 38 percent of doctors surveyed said that they refer their patients to drug treatment. The doctors need to learn to recognize the signs of addiction and treat them if they are going to supply unnecessary opioids. Doctors need to be asking themselves if the benefits outweigh the risks. The longer you prescribe opioids, the higher the risk of addiction is.

We are using far more opioids than necessary. The United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population. We are consuming at least 80 percent of opioids across the globe. The U.N. reported specifically that Americans consume more than 99 percent of the world’s supply of hydrocodone. If other countries are able to live without overprescribing opioids, the United States can make that adjustment as well.

Who is Helping?

While doctors need to adjust the way that they go about treating pain, there are other people who can make just as much of an impact. There are a lot of feelings circulating around the United States right now dealing with politics and how best to help our people. We need to figure out the best approach to curb this opioid epidemic.

One important step that has been taken was the creation of a commission.  The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis was created to find some answers. Made up of people of different backgrounds and political beliefs, the commission was made to approach a problem that all Americans can agree on: the opioid crisis. The commission itself will not create measures or take action, but provide advice for a logical and effective approach to handle this crisis. They are set to publish their findings by October 1st, 2017. With their help we may be able to come up with a plan of action.

While the commission is a step in the right direction, there are many backwards steps being taken. The proposed health care bill would cut Medicare and Medicaid funding dramatically. These are programs that help provide healthcare to millions of Americans. By defunding these programs the government will be denying treatment to Americans struggling with addiction. The new health care bill is said to put up to 24 million Americans without health insurance. This is not the right way to fix our health care system and those who need help the most will not be able to get it.

The Best Approach

So how can we handle something that seems so great and so intimidating? There are several approaches to handling this enormous problem that plagues our country. Several people lean toward harsher punishments and more boarder security, while others want to focus on treatment and preventative measures. What is the right answer? There is none. Maybe the answer is everything. This issue has not been taken seriously enough.

A combination effort is the key. The first step should be to cut off the supply. By tightening boarder security we can insure that drugs aren’t crossing our boarders; especially from Mexico and other cartels down south. In addition to boarder security we need to make sure that punishments are being administered correctly and fairly. We need to strike a balance with being merciful and showing leniency to give people second chances. If people have nothing to look forward to in the future and their records are ruined than they will continue to make the same mistakes with nothing left to lose. By saving someone’s record and reputation, you may deter them from committing another crime.

The other element includes preventative measures. This starts with education. By educating adults and youth we can see a change. Youth should be learning about the side effects and longevity of issues that result from using drugs, especially opioids which are a large portion of deaths that occur each year for those under the age of 50. Adults may not think they need to learn about addiction and recovery but it is just as important for them as it is for the younger generation. By learning themselves, they can in turn educate their children and recognize signs of substance abuse.

Treatment and recovery are the most important steps in combatting drug abuse. Instead of sending someone to jail if the offense was not violent, we should look toward treatment; so that people can re-enter the world and contribute to society. Recovery is a long process and may be a continuous part of your life but it is of the utmost importance that we focus on rehabilitating our community and country.

Time to take it Seriously

As a whole, our country needs to realize just how big the problem is. The issue may seem like it has been addressed, but not enough of an effort is being made. Even if you think you are not in a community plagued with drug abuse, do everything you can to help make the country and your community a better place so that it does not spread further. More and more deaths are occurring each year from something that is very preventable. It is time we take a genuine stand against this epidemic.

If your or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to call us. We are available 24/7 to take your call.

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The Impact of Addiction on the Family

how addiction effects familyHave you ever heard someone say about you and a sibling, parent or child that you act in similar ways? Have your mannerisms ever been compared to a member of the family to which you are close and have been for years?

Stephen Curry is an NBA star despite the absence of the daunting height and weight of most NBA stars. Stephen Curry grew up watching his father, Dell Curry, play in the NBA. Go figure.

Johnny is an alcoholic and, despite his intelligence and health, he drinks alcohol after work to cope with stress. Johnny grew up watching his father drink to cope with stress. Go figure.

Had Curry not spent so much time in gyms and basketball arenas, watching his role model and primary caregiver play basketball, he may have never considered or pursued a career in sports. Had Johnny not grown up in a home where alcohol was a coping mechanism, he may have never considered that relationship between alcohol and stress. You might rebuttal that making it to the NBA has a lot do with genes and one would say you are correct and quip that genes play a role in addiction in addition to environment.

Like Father, Like Son

Addiction, beyond alcohol, can be passed through generations due to the presence of a genetic predisposition and simply being in the presence of addiction. Researchers have found that the inhibitory control of a substance abuser can be passed from one generation to the next. Inhibitory control refers to one’s ability to control impulses in the face of a potentially damaging desire (i.e. alcohol) and researchers have found that adults with a substance use disorder and their children have low levels of inhibitory control. In a study conducted on inhibitory control and alcohol dependence it was found that behavioral under control accounted for 40% of the genetic variation for risk of dependence. Additional studies have shown that sons of male alcoholics struggle to control their impulsive behavior, including with illicit drugs or alcohol. The effect of addiction within a family has several effects on child rearing as well. For a parent is a substance abuser, their discipline skills are likely to suffer in ways such as:

  • Coercive control
  • Lack of follow through on discipline
  • Poor implementation of discipline strategies
  • Financial issues
  • Low quality interactions
    • Low engagement
    • Low positivity
    • Lack of synchrony

The list could go on and on and the fact of the matter is that substance abuse has a negative effect on a parent, their spouse, their children, their extended family, their friends and even their co-workers and their other loved ones. The fact that substance abuse can permeate into other peoples’ lives is both scary and amazing.

Suppose Johnny’s father doesn’t show up to work, instead he’s home fighting with his spouse in front of Johnny about how he can go to work with a “buzz” and, when he doesn’t make it, his co-workers are working extra hours to make up for his absence, cursing him, and returning home too late to spend quality time with their loved ones. Something like substance abuse can affect work morale, work productivity, quality of in-home relationships and, if someone drives to work buzzed on alcohol, the safety of innocent civilians.

Yes, the same argument can be made about criminal behavior, deforesting, economic hardships, oil drilling and everything else under the sun in that the effects will reverberate to infinity because every action has an equal reaction and in this case, substance abuse can impact not only the abuser but everything he or she directly or indirectly touches. That includes something as random as car insurance because the substance abuser wrecked his or her car in another person’s zip code thereby heightening the risk of other local drivers prompting the insurance companies to raise rates.

Substance abuse is like a blender on the highest setting, without a top, whipping a strawberry milkshake all over the kitchen. After your substance abusing loved one squanders all the mortgage money, sending your house into foreclosure, while cleaning the empty house, you’ll find strawberry ice cream stains in spots you never thought to even look at in your kitchen. If relapses and binges were predictable, the efficacy of treatment would sky rocket. No scientist can determine exactly where every bit of strawberry ice cream is going to land.

The Enablers

While there is dependency on illicit substances a secondary dependency can occur within a family system. When someone’s spouse is an alcoholic, they’re at risk of enabling their spouse to continue the cycle in the following ways:

  • Excusing his or her behavior
  • An enabler’s self-worth can be tied to the drug or alcohol dependent person
  • Growing feelings of guilt, embarrassment and anger

Think about that for a second. If you’re involved with an alcoholic, whether you are a spouse, friend, family member, partner, co-worker or the like, aren’t you going to make excuses for that person to avoid negative feelings such as guilt and embarrassment?

Enabling doesn’t happen out of thin air. Enabling follows a subtle progression.

  • Stage One – Protection: Small tasks are completed for the dependent such as calling in sick, going to court with them or paying their attorney’s fees.
  • Stage Two – Controlling: Taking over finances, paying extra to maintain housing or trying to control the dependent’s substance use.
  • Stage Three – Super People or Martyr: Enabler receives feedback for “being so strong” or “standing by his or her side”. At this juncture, the enabler has become accustomed to the role.

Why do people enable a substance abuser in their family? It’s possible that taking care of someone’s issues can mask an enabler’s co-dependency because, according to their equally blind or enabling loved ones, they are “fighting a good fight” for their spouse, mother, brother, father, what have you. Maybe the enabler’s father was an alcoholic and the caretaker role is what was asked of the enabler growing up, setting the framework for involvement with another person that needs caretaking in the future. Enabling can become a lifetime role.

This isn’t a referendum on the enabler’s though. What’s going on with the substance abusers and what are they affecting in their path?

Effects of Substance Abuse on the Family

According to Drugabuse.gov the following social problems are occurring due to substance abusers:

  • Drugged Driving: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drugs are used by approximately 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes, often in combination with alcohol.
  • Violence: At least half of the individuals arrested for major crimes including homicide, theft, and assault were under the influence of illicit drugs around the time of their arrest.13
  • Stress: Exposure to stress is one of the most powerful triggers of substance abuse in vulnerable individuals and of relapse in former addicts.
  • Child Abuse: At least two-thirds of patients in drug abuse treatment centers say they were physically or sexually abused as children. Approximately 50% to 80% of all child abuse and neglect cases substantiated by child protective services involve some degree of substance abuse by the child’s parents

The overarching concern is that substance abuse does not occur in a vacuum and it can become a family disease. Substance use can push family members to their breaking point, impact the stability of the home and hinder the physical and mental health of the family. There are some helpful programs that can assist a family with breaking the cycle of abuse in a home.

Just Stop It, Okay?

There are times that a family will use an intervention in an attempt to get through to their loved one. An intervention is a professionally guided process that has a basic framework with several individualized variables depending on the substance of choice, severity and length of use and the strength and willingness of the support system in place. An intervention specialist is hired to do a job and it’s up to the family on how far they’re willing to take it until they feel like they should claim defeat. When they give up the care usually falls in the hands of local hospitals and the justice system.

Should a family choose to use an intervention specialist and their loved one agrees to get help, cautious optimism is warranted because the work is just starting. There are times that someone’s substance abuse has gotten to a point where it requires a multimodal intervention that can come in the form of medication, individual therapy, family therapy, vocational rehabilitation, social services involvement and many other possibilities to help support the abuser and prevent a full-blown relapse.

For starters, when withdrawing from substance abuse a person, depending on the chronicity, severity and length of abuse may experience mood swings, restlessness, depression, anxiety and physical discomfort. Some drugs used to treat withdrawal effects are:

  • Opioid Addiction
    • Methadone
    • Buprenorphine
    • Naltrexone
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction
    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram
    • Acamprosate

Let’s Talk About Your Feelings

In addition to drugs to ease the withdrawal effects it is recommended that the recovering abuser engage in behavioral therapy to increase the effects of the medical intervention. Therapy can assist a recovering substance abuser with modifying their attitudes toward substance use and expanding their responses to stress and triggers to include healthy coping skills that have often led to substance abuse. Some of the modes of therapy are listed below:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.
  • Contingency Management uses positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drug free, for attending and participating in counseling sessions, or for taking treatment medications as prescribed.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy uses strategies to evoke rapid and internally motivated behavior change to stop drug use and facilitate treatment entry.
  • Family Therapy (especially for youth) approaches a person’s drug problems in the context of family interactions and dynamics that may contribute to drug use and other risky behaviors.

The Beginning of the End

It’s unfortunate that, even from birth, certain people are already at risk for substance abuse and it seems unfair that some people have to work harder than others to achieve the same goals. It’s important to be aware of your family history before you start drinking socially with friends even when experimenting with drugs or alcohol in high school. An illicit substance can easily take place of healthy coping skills that are often a cornerstone of someone’s success in life.

It’s possible Stephen Curry was going to be an NBA star no matter what and I’m willing to bet Johnny was going to be the same but his dad fell asleep in the recliner after his fourth Jack on the rocks and won’t wake up to bring Johnny to basketball practice.

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Staying Sober on Summer Days

Summer fun usually means long days, relaxing with friends and family. For a lot of people, relaxing on the beach, garden parties, pool parties and barbecues often involve ice cold alcoholic beverages. For those “on the wagon” the equation of fun and good times with alcohol can be uncomfortable to say the least. For many recovering alcoholics summer can be a very difficult time, especially when it comes to maintaining your sobriety.

staying sober on summer days

Not only is summer drinking dangerous because of the combination of physical and mental impairment with many summer activities; but it can also be particularly tempting when participating in fun, outdoor activities as you are constantly surrounded by social cues to drink. Sober individuals will benefit from having a summer sobriety plan to help them stay strong and maintain their alcohol abstinence through all the summer holidays, graduations, weddings, vacations and fair-weather outings. There are a variety of tips available online to help you create a sobriety plan but there are key elements necessary to be sure you can follow through effectively.

There seems to be an obvious connection to seasonal drinking in the winter around family holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The connections between the summer and drinking is often over-looked. Statistics show that while most people report alcohol use in winter months, the actual highest level of alcohol use is reported in the summer. While there are numerous factors affecting the collection and analysis of alcohol consumption data, some trends are very apparent. One of those is the increase in underage and binge-drinking in summer months.

Sober in the Summer

Knowing these trends in advance is one of the first steps toward being ready for summer. For some people, the only way to handle staying sober during the summer months is to avoid social outings all-together. The temptation of succumbing to alcohol use to help relax and enjoy time away from the stiffness and constraints of your normal routine can be very strong. Avoidance of social gatherings themselves, relaxation, fun, is not necessary to guarantee the avoidance of alcohol. Instead come up with a plan that includes the four key elements for staying sober on summer days; have an exit strategy, stay hydrated, keep your status to yourself, and don’t be afraid to turn down invitations.

Even though we all know that alcohol is not necessary in order to have a good time, it doesn’t change the fact that the two are often connected. There will come a time when you are surrounded by others who are drinking while they are enjoying themselves. You can’t expect people to stay sober around you because you would prefer it. You can however have an exit strategy for when you begin to feel uncomfortable. If you drive yourself be sure to park where you won’t be blocked in, so that you can leave easily whenever you are ready to. If you carpool with someone else, give them a head’s up that you may be interested in leaving early. Have a phone number for a cab or an app for a ride service on you as well as cash for the fare. Be aware of what public transportation is in the immediate area of your outing and be prepared to use it. This isn’t to say that you will definitely feel uncomfortable and need to leave early, but knowing you have an exit strategy can go a long way toward helping you feel comfortable and relaxed in the meantime.

Eating and drinking also go hand in hand with social activities. It is rare to arrive at a planned outing and not find food and beverages supplied by your host. A good host will always provide a variety of options.

Drink Water!

As soon as you arrive grab yourself a non-alcoholic drink, especially something that will keep you hydrated in the summer sun, like water. Keep your drink in your hand or readily accessible to stave off the temptation of picking up an alcoholic drink. It also prevents others from trying to offer and even at times force a drink on you that may or may not contain alcohol. It puts you in control and keeps you in control, again contributing to a more comfortable and relaxed feeling. Remember that part of staying in control is choosing and making your own drink and so keeping your hands or an eye on your drink at social events involving alcohol is very important. Many a set-back story begins with “I picked up someone else’s drink by accident”.

When alcohol is in fast supply you need to be sure that you don’t put yourself at risk for accidental consumption. In the unlikely event that a non-alcoholic beverage is not available you might want to stash a few of your favorite non-alcoholic beverages in a cooler in your car or backpack in advance. You never know, you may wind up turning your friends onto some new, refreshing non-alcoholic drink they will enjoy as well. Also, be prepared to ask for a non-alcoholic option. There is no reason it should be a big deal, hosts are aware that people are driving, or have other responsibilities that require them to stay sober. Anyone who might give you a hard time is probably someone you don’t want to spend too much extended time with anyway. Another good tip is to carry a water bottle with you.

As people are becoming more and more health conscious the idea of good hydration has led to the commonplace activity of carrying around water bottles to ensure you stay healthy. It is very likely that not only will you not be alone, you may draw another person’s attention to how important and easy it can be to stay properly hydrated. There are so many options available in the stores and online today, your water bottle can run the gamut from completely unnoticeable to fashion statement. It also lends an air of eco-responsibility to your character.

It’s Your Decision

Just because you have chosen to abstain from alcohol it doesn’t mean it is anyone else’s business. While you can of course feel free to share as much or as little as you like, it is not necessary to explain your choices. A social event is not a meeting and not a counseling session. Not only can you not expect the same kind of understanding and support for your choice to abstain from alcohol that you might find at a meeting or in therapy; you may actually be confronted by the fact that most people don’t care at all. A social event is not the place to look for accolades or pats on the head for maintaining your sobriety, regardless of what that sobriety might mean to you and your life. You may even find some people more hesitant to socialize with you as your sobriety might actually make them feel uncomfortable. Some might expect you to bring everyone down and ruin their good time.

A big reason why most twelve step programs end in “anonymous” is because the process is not meant for general public consumption. Alcoholics Anonymous maintains that anonymity is their spiritual foundation because it reminds members that principles need to come before personality when it comes to staying sober. The organization maintains that there needs to be an aspect of humility to recovery. You should often find that you are not the only person abstaining at social events but if you find that you are often the only sober person in the room, you may want to seriously rethink who you are socializing with. No one needs to know whether your choice to abstain is because you are in recovery any more than they need to know the intimate details of your sex life. Keeping your anonymity and not allowing your drinking choices to be put on center stage can only add to that comfortable and relaxing social environment you are looking for.

In Conclusion

No one wants to be a social hermit and stay home from every event because there might be a remote possibility that there is alcohol present or that they might feel tempted. At the same time, you must keep in mind what your sobriety means to you. If your sobriety is not more important than your current social status perhaps you are not ready to be in recovery just yet. You should not be afraid to turn down some invitations, especially those that are highly associated with alcohol consumption. School and church events, kids’ birthday parties and teenagers’ graduations are probably fairly safe environments for recovering alcoholics. While barbecues, family reunions and work picnics might be a little tougher, it should be obvious that it is a good idea to turn down invitations to “booze cruises” or “kegs and eggs” events. Know your hosts, know your options, have a back-up plan, and when in doubt, stay home. You also have the option of planning and hosting your own non-alcoholic events. As the party planner/host you can provide a variety of refreshing virgin drinks for your guests. You might even plan some physically and mentally challenging games or activities that would discourage alcohol use in general. The association between alcohol and fun is made through experience and can be broken the same way. As human we are conditioned to associate behaviors with consequences. We need to have more experiences for people that not only allow them to relax and have fun without alcohol but that do so in a way that challenges previous associations.

Summer fun does not have to mean social hibernation for those in recovery. While it can no doubt be a difficult, uncomfortable and very tempting time you can stay in control and maintain your sobriety despite the pressures to do otherwise. Don’t be a hermit. Go out, have a good time. See your friends. But, have that summer sobriety plan in place. Remember those four essential elements and anyone can have a fun, exciting, sober social life.

  • Have an exit strategy, don’t wait until you get to a party and feel it out to decide you want to leave early only to learn your car is blocked in or the person you came with doesn’t want to leave and there are no public or private transportation options available to you.
  • Stay hydrated, keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hands at all times (when not in your hands- keep it in your eyeline) to avoid temptation or accidental alcohol ingestion.
  • Stay anonymous; don’t worry about defending your drinking choices or expecting others to respect them. Your sobriety is yours and yours alone, no one else needs to know in order for you to have an enjoyable time.
  • And lastly, don’t ever be afraid to turn down an invitation. Missing a party or two is not the end of your social life. Be judicious when choosing which events to attend and which are better off skipped. Be sure to make an appearance at events that are low-risk for alcohol consumption and be inconspicuously otherwise engaged when it comes to events that are high-risk.

Remembering these four things will help you stay safe, sober and in control in the summer months to come.

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older-women-binge-drinkingBlog

Binge Drinking: Who said the older you get the less you drank?

Alcohol plays a very big role in our society. Almost everyone you encounter drinks or has drank in their lifetime. It is common to see this activity in young adults at college or later in their twenties. However, studies have shown lately that people are drinking more and more as they get older. Not only are they drinking, but they are binge drinking. This had become extremely popular with women over the age of sixty. This trend is becoming an issue. If the mass binge drinking doesn’t let up then people are going to see deterioration in their health.

What is binge drinking?

According to the CDC binge drinking is consuming 4 or more drinks for women, 5 or more drinks for men, over the course of 2 hours. This may not seem extreme but it is enough to put you over a .08 BAC. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a drink as: one 12-oz. beer, one 5-oz. glass of wine, one 1.5 oz. shot of distilled spirits. While the CDC may describe binge drinking as consuming 4 or 5 drinks, more often than not, more alcohol is involved.

This does not always occur every day. Even if you only binge drink on weekends it does not change the definition of the word. This is probably the most common form of binge drinking which is why it is not recognized by those who participate. National surveys say that one in six adults consumes eight or more drinks about four times a month. This substantiates the weekend theory that people like to overindulge on their day off.

The scary truth is that binge drinking is responsible for the consumption of half the alcohol drank in the United States. Within the past 30 days, 92% of adults in the United States will have binge drank at least once. Whether it is just to have fun, because you’re upset and want a distraction, because you want to rebel or because you are peer pressured, this high rate is an excessive problem.

Binge drinking and alcoholism

To truly understand binge drinking you first need to understand that it does not always coincide with alcoholism. The two are not necessarily one in the same. Alcoholics can be binge drinkers and binge drinkers can be alcoholics but the two do not always coexist. Alcoholism is a dependency on alcohol; the inability or struggle to go a day without drinking. It does not mean that they consistently drink a lot at once in a high volume.

This is a characteristic of a binge drinker. While binge drinking may not start out as alcoholism it definitely can lead you in that direction if it becomes a habit. Young adults or minors that binge drink earlier in life are 3 times more likely to develop alcoholism. While you may not think youth are drinking heavily, 90% of the alcohol consumed by those under the legal drinking age is in the form of binge drinking. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden of the CDC states that:

“At least 80 percent of binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent. Yet binge drinking accounts for most deaths from alcohol…Alcoholism is a very insidious disease in that it can creep up on you if you’re not vigilant. So this level of binge drinking if it’s left unchecked, for a lot of people, could lead to alcoholism.”

How binge drinking affects your heath

This high rate of binge drinking can lead to many complications, especially when it comes to one’s health. You may think that this problem would only affect alcoholics who drink far more often; however, complications can arise just as easily in those that binge drink. There are those effects that are temporary like coordination impairment and bad decision making while drunk. And those that affect you the day after like dehydration, shakiness, and nausea from a hangover, and memory loss from drinking too much.

The long term affects are overlooked because people assume if they don’t drink everyday these are not occurring. However, over time, issues like heart problems, liver disease, cancer, strokes, and brain damage, can be just as prevalent in binge drinkers as they are in alcoholics. We are all affected by drinking differently depending on gender, lifestyle, family history, and physical characteristics.

The most sever and permanent of all physical complications that can be a result of binge drinking is death. A shocking 88,000 deaths occur as a result of alcohol consumption every year. Of these 88,000 deaths, 50% are a consequence of binge drinking. One in ten people between the ages of 20-64 die from this annually.

Binge drinking and mental well being

Health doesn’t always have to mean physical wellbeing; it can mean mental as well. Alcohol can put us in a bad state of mind. This as many of us know, or have experienced once or twice in your life, can lead to bad decision making. Most of the time these decisions are harmless like making a phone call or waking up somewhere you shouldn’t. But sometimes they can be more severe.

The most common of these is driving under the influence. It seems nowadays almost everyone knows someone who has been arrested for driving under the influence. Even though people know law enforcement is cracking down they still make the decision to get behind the wheel after one to many. While binge drinking is most common among those with household incomes of 75,000 or more, they still choose to drive instead of taking a taxi. In the long run this would save more money than legal bills and the stain on your record.

Driving isn’t the only bad decision, just among the most common. Another would be sleeping with someone. This can be mostly harmless if you take proper precautions but under the influence some people don’t. This can lead to pregnancy and or sexually transmitted infections. Some of these have long term effects on not only you but people around you. If you make the decision to put a roofie in someone’s drink than you are hurting both of your mental wellbeing’s.

Lastly drinking is known to make people violent. You often see fights break out around this activity. People lose the ability to control their emotions and keep them in check. Sometimes this leads to minor consequences like suspicion from school or getting kicked out of bar, but there can be more serious results. Violence can lead us to do things that you can’t come back from; actions that may just land you in prison. A staggering 40% of prisoners convicted of violent crimes committed these acts under the influence of alcohol. This not only affects you but affects the people you hurt physically and even those you didn’t but are still involved with you or the victim.

The older you get the more you drink

Wait is that true? Surprisingly, binge drinking is most common in adults 26 and older. You would expect that college is the place where more drinking is observed generally. Studies show that this older group accounts for 70% of all binge occurrences.  When people leave college they have been choosing to continue and further develop the drinking habits they accrued while there.

A spike in drinking in American’s over the age of 60 has been observed recently as reported by CNN. Both man and women increased over the past 20 years. Men rose from 54% to 59.9%. This is a large increase. However, we saw an even bigger increase in women who rose from 37.8% to 47.5%. This is just the trend in casual drinking.

The trend in binge drinking has also increased in men and women as well. Within a 17 year gap we saw men rise from 19.9% to 22.5%. The fact that we see this many people binge drinking over the age of 60 is startling. While this may seem surprising, what will shock you even more is the increase in binge drinking in women over the age of 60.

Women over the age of 60: The new “it” group

This high occurrence of binge drinking is becoming more and more common in women over the age of 60. A new study conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that an astonishing 7.5% of women over the age of 60 confess to binge drinking. The study, conducted over a 17 year period, surveyed the drinking habits 145,000 men and women. While men stayed fairly consistent in their drinking habits, binge drinking in women increased by almost 4 percent.older-women-binge-drinking

What is the causing this sudden increase? Many blame it on a lifestyle that just hasn’t changed over time. The baby boomer era started this binge drinking at a young age. Women who were once supposed to be seen as perfect role models gained the freedom to be judged a little less. It is possible that they just never evolved the habits they participated in at a younger age.

Another probable reason is boredom. Most people retire around the age of 60 or so. If they don’t have outside interests or hobbies, this opens a huge time gap. It is possible they choose to fill it with binge drinking. While not a very productive use of time, it does the job.

So what can we do?

The problem with binge drinking once a week is that there is no recognition that it is an actual problem. People look at this as normal. In reality it is detrimental to our health. Everyone has occasionally overindulged from time to time but the consistency in which binge drinking is occurring is a scary reality. Once we get out of college and get a job and start a family, what is thought of as “being an adult;” we need to start taking our health more seriously as well. That is the next step in being an adult.

Instead of binge drinking once a week, start limiting yourself to once every two weeks, then maybe once a month. You can still treat yourself to a glass of wine or a beer, but there is a difference between casual drinking and binge drinking. Try to pick up a new hobby to distract yourself and kill free time.

If you recognize someone around you has this problem reach out and help in any way you can. Be gentle in your approach. This may be through offering some emotional support or pointing them in the direction of a professional that may be able to assist. There are medications you can take to curb cravings as well. As with any medication, make sure you speak with a doctor before taking anything.

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Alaskan Gov’t Shutdown Crisis Barely Averted

In order for the federal government to continue funding each state throughout the country, legislation must be passed first. This writer claims no extensive knowledge of politics, but basically it seems to go like this… By the end of each fiscal year, something called an appropriations bill must be made into law. This bill is essentially a budget plan for all government-funded departments, agencies, and programs.

If for whatever reason this bill is not made into law by the end of each fiscal year, a whole lot of budgets are cut-off, either substantially or completely. According to Clinton T. Brass, analyst in government organization in management, “Programs that are funded by laws other than annual appropriations acts (like Social Security) also may be affected by a funding gap, if program execution relies on activities that receive annually appropriated funding.”

The state of Alaska was approaching a state of crisis in this regard. The current date of the next appropriations bill that must be made into law and signed off on by President Trump is July 1st. If ink hadn’t touched paper by then, countless organizations, facilities, programs, and even 2.5 million fish could have all met their peril.

So too would have most of the state’s mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities.

Luckily for all, a plan was reached and approved on Thursday the 22nd of June. Still, the entire statewide population of both recovering addicts and those seeking help was about a week away from having all of their resources taken away.

Let’s talk about that plan, how and why a crisis had to be barely averted, and where the state of Alaska sits in the American opioid epidemic.

If the Government were to have Shut Down

The following list is incomplete. This is a mere example of the multitude of budget cuts the state would have experienced, had an emergency budget plan not been put together at the last minute. The cuts would have somehow negatively affected:

  • Mental health treatment facilities
  • Drug and alcohol abuse treatment facilities
  • The statewide ferry system
  • Department of Motor Vehicles operations
  • Park rangers
  • State visitor centers
  • Unemployment insurance claims
  • Road construction
  • Timber sales
  • Birth/Marriage certificate production
  • The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, from Anchorage to Whittier
  • The state crime lab
  • The sex offender registry
  • Background checks for employment
  • Concealed weapon permits
  • Walrus and bear viewing areas
  • Shooting ranges
  • Low-income preschool programs
  • Food programs for children
  • Child support casework
  • The 2.5 million fish in the state’s hatcheries
  • The billion-dollar Bristol Bay salmon fishery

What an incredible amount of impact that could have come from simply not getting a budget approved on time! It goes to show just how much we rely on the federal government for everyday services. Also, when the decision is made to utilize government funding as opposed to direct self-funding, possible shutdown is one of the risks taken.

Such was and still is the case with many of Alaska’s mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities. As reported by Alaska Dispatch News, “Years ago, the state made the decision to contract with private, nonprofit treatment providers instead of providing health care services directly.”

What could have Happened to Treatment Services

The majority of treatment facilities for both mental health issues and substance addictions are private nonprofit businesses. This means much reliance on federal grants and not much of a monetary surplus. If the federal funding were to be stopped, these facilities would not have much money to wait it out. Therefore, sacrifices are made – everything from laying people off to suspending certain services.

In early June, when it was already getting down to the wire, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release. It explained a portion of the possible effects of a government shutdown. Included in the press release were “services provided through private organizations and businesses that receive DHSS grant funding.”

By default, this includes the majority of Alaska’s facilities. This is quite bad news for a state that consistently ranks in the top ten for opioid abuse and for alcohol consumed.

Alaska’s Substance Problem at a Glance

It’s booze, it’s heroin, it’s pills, and it’s much more. Alaska has a serious drug problem.

Alaskan residents consume a significant amount of each of the following: alcohol, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, prescription drugs and cocaine. In 2013, the year before America set records for opioid deaths, approximately 100,000 Alaska residents reported having abused one of these substances within the last thirty days. That year, less than 750,000 people resided in-state.

Nearly 15% of the state population abuses drugs. And this was the year before America got completely out of hand.alaska heroin use

Hundreds of pounds of illicit substances are seized every year. Thousands of arrests are made. Alaska is the only state left with a widespread bootlegging operation for alcohol. Over 100 dry communities exist, where people will pay up to $300 for a ten-dollar bottle of junky liquor. Prescription pills are cheaper there than almost anywhere else in the continental US, selling for about a dollar a milligram. This is cheaper than heroin, which is nearly never the case. In fact, one of the main reasons pill abusers switch to heroin is to save money.

As of lately, things are honestly not much better, if not worse. In February of this year, Alaska Governor Bill Walker declared a public health disaster in his state. The opioid death rate in Alaska has quadrupled over the last four years. In 2016, of all drug-related deaths in the state, an overwhelming 74% of them were caused by opioids.

The last thing the state would have needed at this point is a government shutdown.

Budget Passed at the Last Minute

For a fiscal year beginning July 1st, lawmakers normally propose a budget by the end of April. This year it was proposed during the second half of June. It was only approved last Thursday. This year’s appropriations bill was rushed, so much to the point that at least one legislator actually missed the Senate vote.

As reported by US News, “Several members who were out of town hustled back for the vote. Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who missed the Senate vote, said he did not understand why the vote needed to be rushed and expressed frustration with a lack of communication on the issue.” It was not even just that the decision got rushed because of the upcoming deadline. According to fellow Alaskan Senator Dennis Egan, the budget was laced with problems. Still, Egan voted yes in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Surely he wasn’t the only one.

The budget was passed 16-1 by the Senate and 31-8 by the House. On paper, this seems as if the budget plan is general favorable. Such is not the case according to House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, who put it rather bluntly: “I wouldn’t say it’s satisfying at all.” The fact is that the plan was proposed two months later than usual, and mere days before an actual government shutdown. Common sense suggests that more people than just Sen. Egan voted yes but in reality did not approve.

What We Know about the Budget

Upon heavy searching, it seems that the actual budget plan for the fiscal year ending July 1 is not yet available for online viewing. However, the above-linked US News article offers the following information, highlighting the main focuses of the budget:

“The proposal, advanced by budget negotiators and passed by the House and Senate, would continue to draw from savings to help fill the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit, something Gov. Bill Walker had hoped to avoid.

“It also would fully fund K-12 education, provide $57 million for oil and gas tax credits and limit to $1,100 the size of this year’s dividend check Alaskans receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the permanent fund.”

Alaska is a very oil-driven territory, and the full funding of K-12 is wonderful news in the world of addiction recovery, since education is the key to prevention. However, the best news, regardless of the quality of the budget overall, came in the next line written in the US News article:

“A three-quarter vote was needed in each chamber to take money from the constitutional budget reserve to help fund government services, thresholds that were met.”

Since the majority of Alaskan substance abuse recovery and mental health support centers are government-funded, they qualify as government services, and for at least one more fiscal year are protected. This is excellent news for the many recovering addicts living in the last frontier who rely on such facilities.

There is a flipside to this. Those in charge of the Alaskan budget nearly failed to secure the money necessary to keep countless programs and services going. This is clear evidence that it’s possible an actual shutdown could happen in Alaska, or in ANY other state – and soon. The deficit for Alaska is currently somewhere around $2.5 billion. Head south a couple thousand miles to California, and the deficit is somewhere around $1.6 billion…

If a Shutdown Occurs in California’s Future

If every government-funded recovery center in your home state were to lose funding, all residents in recovery would need a plan. They would need somewhere to go in order to continue the journey toward a sober life. It couldn’t be in-state, and international travel is highly unlikely when seeking a new facility. If you live on or near the west coast, the answer is easy.

Just head to California’s leading recovery facility, located in the city with arguably the best weather on the planet.

Apex Recovery can be found in San Diego, less than ten miles from the ocean. The facility offers state of the art treatment, care, and residential services. As written on their website, “Our rehab therapy is diverse and includes many models that have been studied for effectiveness with addicted individuals.” What else would you expect from a center built by a former addict and led by one of California’s most decorated doctors?

Founded by Fred Bowen, a former addict of many drugs, is now 12 years sober and his “passion lies in helping others to achieve the same personal freedom I’ve experienced through the elimination of drugs and alcohol. Apex Recovery CEO is Dr. Matthew Bruhin, Ph.D, LMFT, RAS, a licensed marriage & family therapist, as well as an addiction specialist.

Sometimes a little claim to fame matters, and as stated on the site, Dr. Bruhin “has worked with clients from A&E’s hit TV show Intervention, as well as the Tyra Show.” He also frequently appears on television to educate the public on the dangers of addiction.

An incredibly multi-faceted facility, Apex offers:

  • Chemical Detoxification
  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Benzo
  • Prescription Drug

Chemical Dependency Therapy

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Xanax & other Prescription Drug
  • Cocaine
  • Meth

Dual Diagnosis Therapy

  • Depression
  • Bi-Polar
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep Disturbance

Other Various Therapies

  • Cognitive-Behavioral
  • Holistic Healing
  • Dialectical Behavior
  • Marriage & Family
  • LGBT

In Conclusion

The bottom line is that no government body is perfect, and a budget can fail to go through, and the majority of treatment centers in your state can shut down. If you or a loved one is among the millions of Americans who suffer from either a substance addiction or mental health issues, a government shutdown could spell disaster.

Apex Recovery is a surefire solution for anyone even remotely near the west coast in the event of shutdown. However, to be frank, Apex is the number one choice with or without one. No other facility is going to offer such a lavish residential stay, complete with a multitude of evidence-based programs, extracurricular activities, and an affordable price to boot.

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