‘NY Times’ Op-Ed Piece Delves Into Addiction

If you happen to subscribe to The New York Times, you’re well aware of the insightful op-ed pieces they publish every weekend. And most recently, they put out a brutally honest article from writer Maia Szalavitz. In it, she lays out the fundamentals of addiction and why it is so difficult to “kick a habit.”


“I SHOT heroin and cocaine while attending Columbia in the 1980s,” she begins with. From there, Szalavitz explains the damage her addiction had on her schooling, her family and her young life. We profiled Maia after her book, Unbroken Brain, came out. This latest article re-emphasizes its points, particularly how chemicals impact the brain.


Szalavitz also delves into the emotional components of addiction and how her habits helped to fill a void. She believes it to be a disease, yet one that can include free will.


“Addiction skews choice,” she writes. “But doesn’t completely eliminate free will. After all, no one injects drugs in front of the police. This means that addicts can learn to take actions to improve our health, like using clean syringes, as I did.”


Maia goes on to praise the modern recovery methods used to treat people struggling. In her mind, therapy and emotional support are just as important as the physical rehabilitations people ravaged by drug use go through.


She concludes with, “Once we understand that addiction is neither a sin nor a progressive disease, just different brain wiring, we can stop persisting in policies that don’t work, and start teaching proper recovery.”


To read Szalavitz’ complete article, click here.

Addiction-Related Children’s Book Pulled From Shelves

We know that addiction can be a touchy subject, especially when it comes to kids. But we also know that is present in many families and, sadly, many adolescents are exposed to it at an early age. That was the concept behind children’s author Kate Messner’s new book The Seventh Wish, which was just recently pulled from several shelves.


Messner is actually very accomplished in the field of children’s writing. She has written more than two dozen stories for kids and teens, though this is her first foray into the topic of addiction.


For the record, The Seventh Wish isn’t graphic by any means and uses symbolism to illustrate a heroin habit within a young girl’s family. But censors across Messner’s region of South Burlington Vermont were staunchly against it, blocking it from shelves and pushing to cancel Messner’s public appearances.


“I’m shocked. I didn’t expect this,” she told a local outlet. “I’m not that author who writes books that get censored. It’s just stunning to me. It’s a sad, strange place to be.”


Messner went on to explain that the book was based on real life experiences and has gotten praise from many other circles across the U.S. The children’s outlet Kirkus Reviews called it “hopeful, empathetic and enlightening.”


We, for one, admire Kate’s bravery and for handling a sensitive children’s topic in a tasteful and respectful way.


You can find out more about The Seventh Wish by clicking here.

U.S. Heroin Use Reaches 20-Year High

This week, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its World Drug Report and the statistics were not good. According to their data, heroin use within the United States is at its highest point in over two decades.


Their research shows that the U.S. has about one million chronic heroin users. This is up three times since 2004 and five times since 2000. The study went on to call these figures “alarming.”


One important component of the study delved into the reasons behind the drastic increase. Not surprisingly, there are ties to the country’s opioid epidemic.


“There have been a lot theories about why heroin use is going up,” a rep told CBS News. “The biggest theory is that the crackdown on prescription drugs, like Vicodin and OxyContin were being overprescribed and as prescribers slowed down the prescriptions of these drugs, heroin use went up.”


For the record, heroin is classified as an opioid and is often the end result of Vicodin and OxyContin addictions. It has impacted users of all ages and from all walks of life. According to the UN Office, it is also running rampant in America’s prison system; leading to thousands of overdoses each year.


We wish there was an easy solution for this epidemic, but sadly there is not. In our opinion, the first step needs to be education. We salute CBS News for pushing this story to the forefront and hope more major news outlets give it the attention it deserves.


Remembering The Addiction Struggles Of Len Bias

People can go on indefinitely discussing the topic of “could have been.” And when it comes to 80’s basketball phenom Len Bias, those are the words fans most often use. Tragically, 30 years ago this month the NBA’s #2 draft pick succumbed to a cocaine addiction.


Sports blogs were running rampant last week with stories about Bias. Referencing June 19 1986, writers acknowledged his incredible talents and the addiction that took his life. Len was just 22 when he overdosed, having just been chosen to be a starter for the Boston Celtics.


As a college athlete, Bias led the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in scoring and was named their Player of the Year. HBO’s Bill Simmons wrote gushingly about his talents in a recent commemorative article.


“He always reminded me of a more physical James Worthy, but with Michael Jordan’s leaping ability,” Simmons said.


Tragically amidst the praise and admiration, Bias held a dark secret. An addiction to crack cocaine. Shortly after being drafted to the Celtics, he returned to his hometown and overdosed after a night of partying. As expected, the basketball community was devastated.


Simmons, perhaps, summed it up best at the end of his article. With his parting thoughts, he wrote, ““His death truly hurt our sport. Above and beyond the loss of life, we never got to see one of those truly great ones become great.”

‘US News And World Report’ Outlines Addiction Family History

We are always pleased to see the topic of addiction appear in esteemed outlets like U.S. News and World Report. The famed magazine recently published an article about genetics and substance abuse, outlining key factors to help people break bad habits in their family.


U.S. News was quick to point that half of a person’s vulnerability to addiction stems from biological factors. So to “break the cycle,” they advise to first Build a Knowledge Base. This includes recognizing the problem in your family and making yourself aware of local recovery groups in case a problem arises.


Next they recommend Scrutinizing Behaviors, which means paying close attention to your own habits and being cognizant if things go too far. Understanding Risk Factors is their next point. This includes staying away from negative peers and toxic family members.


U.S. News lists Prevention as step number four. Their example is avoiding all forms of experimentation, especially if you know your family has a proclivity towards addiction. Finally, they advise to Lead By Example. This point emphasizes openness and honesty, particularly when you start a family of your own. Perhaps you may have beaten a family addiction, but it is important to educate the next generation…in case new temptations arise.

Alcoholic Soda Consumption Is On The Rise

Have you been seeing more billboards for products like Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Not Your Father’s Root Beer? It’s no coincidence. Brands like these are becoming big business, specifically because they package alcohol with sugary soda-like formulas.


Recently Motley Fool money analysts Vincent Shen and Asit Sharma discussed the boom of booze-laden sodas in their Industry Focus: Consumer Goods podcast. Having previously held a popular discussion on the craft beer business, the guys expanded their findings to include sales figures for NYFRB.


“Not Your Father’s Root Beer was released just a few years ago,” Shen explained. “I think a lot of industry insiders were shocked by how successful they were. It’s really launched this new category of alcoholic root beers — alcoholic sodas, in general.”


Sharma went on to say that the alcoholic soda category reached sales of $92 million last year. He added that big competitor brands like Coca-Cola are taking notice and, perhaps, eager to jump into the market themselves.


“I’m going to make a totally unscientific prediction that this market of alcoholic sodas is going to double within the next five years,” he said. “That sounds like, maybe, a bold prediction, but we have to consider … right now, it’s only just over $100 million. If a few big players do indeed step in and scale distribution, it’s not that big a goal to actually achieve.”


It’s not hard to imagine power players like Coke and Pepsi soon entering the space. But it is important to note that these sodas pose real threats for potential alcoholics and often can lead to underage drinking. If the category does soon expand, let’s hope it gets heavily regulated.


Opioid Crisis Impacting Mormon Communities

There is no denying that opioid abuse is running rampant in this country. And interestingly enough, one of the hardest hit states happens to be Utah. According to recent stats, their population (which is 65% Mormon) experienced a 400% increase in prescription overdose deaths within the past decade.


Several members from the church spoke to news outlets about the epidemic and how it is ravaging their community. Local parishioner Mindy Vincent explained the damage it caused to her sister.


“[My sister] was a firm believer that because the doctor prescribed the pills it was OK,” she explained. “She didn’t see any shame in it. She didn’t think she was an addict. It wasn’t like taking drugs. But she was on the painkillers for 15 years until they wouldn’t give her any more. She eventually ended up getting some heroin because she couldn’t get any more pills. My sister used heroin one time and she died.”


Vincent went on to add that her father and brother were also victims of prescription painkiller addiction. One local Mormon leader, Dan Snarr, revealed that his son fatally overdosed on pills at age 25.


“We have a catastrophe now in Utah with opiate overdoses,” he said.  “Sometimes it’s difficult for the church to admit there’s a problem, but they need to recognize there’s something they need to do.”



Podcast Star Marc Maron Opens Up About Addiction

Addiction touches every industry, from high-powered doctors to blue collar construction workers. And in the Podcast world, one outspoken proponent of recovery happens to be comedian Marc Maron. Throughout his weekly WTF iTunes show, he often brings up his prior battles with addiction.


Speaking with NPR, Maron discussed his 16 years of sobriety and his ongoing fears of relapsing. According to Maron, it was love that ultimately steered him away from drugs and alcohol.


“The last bottom I guess I hit, I was using cocaine and drinking..just really wanting to die,” he candidly explained. “That was … ’98, ’99 — I’m coming up on 17 years. I met somebody — a woman who just happened to be beautiful and stunning and sober and a fan — who kind of reached out and said, “I can get you to meetings. I can get you help.” I don’t know if I really wanted to get sober, but I wanted to be with her. So it worked out, kind of.”


Despite his real-life sobriety, Maron has shown the darker side of relapsing on his IFC TV show (titled simply Maron). In it, his character finds himself hooked on opioids after years of being clean. It’s certainly a relevant topic for today’s times and one that he’s glad his series is addressing.


“[Opioids are] a very real problem and a very real fear of mine,” he added. “I’m glad it happened in fiction and not in real life.”


You can listen to Marc’s WTF Podcast on iTunes and tune in to his show on the IFC Channel.

‘LA Weekly’ Profiles Recovery Gone Wrong

We are extremely proud to be in the recovery business, continuing a tradition of health and wellness. But, as with any industry, there are always bad apples that take advantage of the clients they service. Such is the case with Community Recovery founder Chris Bathum, who (according to the LA Weekly) has done much more harm than good.


In a lengthy feature story, the outlet described Bathum’s rise to the top of a multi-million dollar business, servicing addicted clients in the lush surroundings of Malibu Beach. It also offered dark testimonials from former patients who accused him of sexual abuse.


The article goes on to reveal that Bathum is not a licensed drug counselor or therapist and is, in fact, a convicted felon. There are also accusations of drug dealing, poor facility conditions and fraud. Bathum did allow himself to be quoted for the piece, staunchly defending his practices.


“Our community is a little bit character-disordered,” he said. “It’s like this interesting, wildly gossipy, salacious weirdness. I mean, if I had a nickel for every time I was accused of something.”


Whether Bathum is guilty or not remains to be seen. But accusations like this (if true) can be tremendously troubling. We thrive on building honest, compassionate relationships with our clients. And the worst thing anyone in our industry can do, is take that trust and violate it.

‘Sober Saturday Night’ Shoots Up The Music Charts

People say country music has some of the most expressive lyrics of any format. Typical tracks cover topics like divorce, depression and economic hardships. Rising artist Chris Young took his words one step further, crafting an anthem of recovery with his new single Sober Saturday Night.


Already a viral smash, Sober features Chris’ powerful vocals and guitar, along with country legend Vince Gill. Throughout its three-and-a-half minutes, the emotional track spews out lyrics like “I’m not out there getting high.” It also profiles the narrator’s struggle, with a chorus that goes, “I’m just getting over another sober Saturday night.”


The single has already cracked the Top 40 Country Charts in the U.S. and is even making a dent in countries like Australia.


As Young explained to TheBoot.com, Sober is quite personal to him and writing it came very easily,


“One of the guys sat at a piano and started playing these chords, and we started writing the song, and it just fell out. From the day we wrote it, it’s been one of my favorites. I’m really glad it’s a single.”


We’re hopeful songs like this can inspire others to embrace Sober Saturday Nights. You can hear the track in its entirety below.


Alcoholism Pushed Front And Center In Stanford Rape Case

There have certainly been some tragic stories this summer. And one that continues to grab headlines is the so-called “Stanford Rape Incident,” which involves the sexual assault of a female coed on the school’s campus. The accused, student Brock Turner, claims that alcoholism was to blame for his vicious actions, which has stirred up even more controversy for the case.


In a letter from his attorney, Turner wrote,


“I have been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school. I want to demolish the assumption that drinking and partying are what make up a college lifestyle I made a mistake, I drank too much, and my decisions hurt someone.”


Not surprisingly, that letter sparked an outrage. Several news outlets publicly shamed Turner for shunning the blame of his actions.


The Washington Post, in particular, replied with,


“There is one way alcohol is a problem, and it’s that it makes it easier to overpower drunk targets. Alcohol may be used as a weapon, or an excuse for aggressive behavior. But the only thing necessary for a rape to happen is the presence of a rapist.”


We, for one, happen to agree. While alcoholism is a disease and can certainly cause damage to the person abusing it, it is no excuse for assault (or any crime for that matter). One of the first key components of recovery is taking responsibility for your own actions…Something Brock Turner has yet to do.

Sober Bars May Be On The Rise

Recently, an Illinois establishment called The Other Side began grabbing major headlines across the U.S. The reason? Its “sober bar” setup, which gives recovering alcoholics a sanctuary for mingling and discussing their addictions.


Started in 2013 by the nonprofit New Directions Addiction Recovery Services (NDARS) org, it serves 100 percent alcohol-free beverages and allows for typical “bar” activities like pool, darts and sports games. It also has become a hot spot for socializing, letting newly sober patrons find friends and singles with similar backgrounds.


“It’s a good, healthy environment,” NDARS president Chris Reed told The Huffington Post. “You get that family-type feeling.”


The Other Side also offers monthly memberships, which allow patrons to use the venue for 12-step meetings and support groups. Notable Illinois speakers tend to pop in as well, for inspiration and sobriety conversations.


Continuing with the Huffington Post conversation, psychiatrist Dr. Keith Humphreys praised The Other Side as a tool for maintaining recovery. He told the site that isolation can be a major issue for people in recovery (which we happen to agree with).


In his words, “I recommend that people in early recovery find new activities and new people not centered on substance use. This dry bar could meet the need for some people in recovery.”


Let’s hope that concept carries over to the west coast as well.

New Details Emerge About Whitney Houston’s Drug Battle

In terms of celebrity addiction tragedies, Whitney Houston’s story has to be one of the worst. Not only did she lose her own life to drug use back in 2012, many believe it led to her daughter’s demise as well. This month, members of Whitney’s family have spoken out to the press; remembering her and opening up about her battles with narcotics.


Houston’s mother Cissy recently released a book about the issue, titled Remembering Whitney. In it, she describes coming face to face with “someone she didn’t know.” “I knew she was in grave danger, even back in 2005,” she confessed.


On the anniversary of her death, anonymous friends have spoken out as well. In a People Magazine expose, one former confident revealed, “[Drugs became] her rebellion against the industry.  She did them to escape her pain.”


It is worth noting that Whitney tried several times to rid herself of the habit, even going so far as to enter a treatment program. But the struggle would continue (which friends revealed included several hard, addictive drugs), ultimately leading to an accidental bathtub drowning when she was just 48 years old.


One more anonymous music exec confessed to People, “Whitney was in pain from all the pressure she was facing. She was doing ridiculous amounts of hard drugs and sacrificed her God-given talents.”

Santa Clarita Honors Orlando Victims

Every now and then, we like sharing positive stories about our amazing community. We are so proud to live in Santa Clarita and feel it’s important to highlight the good work happening in our city. One major event worth mentioning, was the gathering of dozens of residents last Sunday to recognize the victims of the deadly Orlando shooting. This was an unspeakable tragedy and we proudly stand beside our neighbors in honoring those slain.


The Santa Clarity Valley Signal was also on-hand for the event, photographing peace flags, prayer vigils and residents (young and old) who came to show their support.


“It’s just really great to see this turnout after the tragedy; it really gives us hope,” resident Kathy Toomey told the outlet. “When these tragedies strike we always come together as a community and just kind of unite together.”


Anyone watching the news, will continue to see this story dominating the headlines. We, of course, have been strong supporters of LGBT rights and (like most Americans) were devastated by the news. Our hearts go out to the hundreds of Orlando residents impacted during this time of grief and sorrow.


Certain Lawmakers Look To Toughen Fentanyl Sentences

Republican New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte has been facing some tough criticism this month, after trying to push through tougher penalties for fentanyl abusers. If all goes according to her plan, any person caught with two or more grams of the drug could face a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. As we’ve reported before, many in Washington (and the public at large) oppose stricter drug laws since they do little to curb addiction.


TheFix.com recently published a telling article on the situation, comparing the new fentanyl initiative to the crack cocaine sentences of the past several decades. In those instances, five or less grams of crack carried the same penalty as 500 grams of powder cocaine. This, in turn, led to a drastic increase in incarcerations, particularly among the African-American and Hispanic communities.


Writer Scott Shackford (who TheFix.com quoted) offered some choice words about how these new laws could impact addicts.


“Dropping the thresholds increases the likelihood that the law will be misused to imprison those who are actually just addicts, or just low-level people in the chain,” he explained. “This is not an amendment about finding new ways to catch drug kingpins.”


Interestingly enough, many of Ayotte’s fellow Republicans are against the measure as well; since the increase in prisoners could impact tax paying voters.

Spotlight On ‘Connections In Recovery’ Co-Founder, Lauren Arborio

Lately, we’ve been getting tons of positive feedback on our ongoing Spotlight Series; which profiles important people in the recovery world. So to keep the momentum going, we’re sharing our conversation with another leader in the field, Connections In Recovery co-founder, Lauren Arborio.


Lauren started her organization over five years ago and has seen it grow to include a talented staff of interventionists, case managers and clinicians. The purpose of Connections In Recovery is to personalize the treatment process, helping to guide those battling addiction and their family members.


“I consider us a consulting company for people who have loved ones battling addiction,” she explained. “We guide them on how to find help and where to go to get it.”


Lauren openly shares that she, herself, is a survivor, with 17 years of sobriety under her belt. She is also a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and has a background in behavioral health. Some of the services her team provides are interventions, safe transports and crisis management. They also have a successful sober companion program, to help with emotional stability and relapse prevention.


“We have one-on-one counselors that can help with any crisis,” she added. “Our clients count on us to get them whatever help they need.”


When asked about the state of the industry, Lauren admitted that there is an increased number of challenges.


“I hate to say it, but I don’t feel like the number of addiction clients is declining. Right now, it’s not getting better. But, the good news is that there’s more help than ever for people who need it.”


And Connections In Recovery is definitely a good place to turn to, if you have a loved one in need. As Lauren pointed out to us, they make themselves available after the recovery process as well; for check ups and counseling sessions.


To find out more about Lauren and her business, visit the official Connections In Recovery web page.

Is Addiction A Disease? New Article Says No

We’ve always considered ourselves open minded people. Before immediately shooting down an argument, we’ll give writers the benefit of the doubt and judge their opinions based on the facts. Such is the case with Guardian scribe Marc Lewis, who has come out against calling addiction a disease.


In a new article, Lewis argues with statements made by the National Institute of Drug Abuse; specifically that “addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease and should be treated as such.” In his piece, the writer points out addiction can be beaten by willpower; which differs from treatments needed for ailments like cancer and malaria.


Lewis also believe that the “disease” stigma can create more harm than good, particularly for people who have overcome their habits.


“Recovered addicts want to feel that they have developed beyond their addiction and become better people as a result,” he writes. “Many would prefer respect for that achievement over the pity bequeathed by the disease definition.”


While his argument is compelling, we still believe there’s validity to labeling addiction as an illness. For one thing, it has proven to be genetic. It also doesn’t incite “pity” in our opinion. If anything, it gives people an understanding that outside help and treatment may be necessary to conquer uncontrollable cravings (much more than common “willpower,” as he writes).


But we respect Marc for stirring up conversation and keeping the addiction topic front and center for Guardian readers.

Casinos Test ‘Responsible’ Gaming Systems

We’ve mentioned many times how the country’s gambling addiction is growing at an alarming rate. Well to help curb the problem, one Boston casino is testing new slot machine technology, which reportedly incorporates “Responsible Gaming” features.


Titled Play My Way, these new machines will offer on-screen notifications when players reach a certain spending limit. The Plainridge Park racing track intends to install them this month, with the full support of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG).


Reps were quick to point out that these slots are still in the testing phase and the Play My Way feature is currently voluntary.


“It’s truly a prevention tool,” said MCCG executive director Marlene Warner. “We want people to keep gambling in a way that’s healthy and safe for them, so that it doesn’t rise to that problematic level. It’s just a tool to make that person aware of what’s happening and the decisions they’re making.”


The notifications will hope to do just that, halting bettors in the middle of their games after continuous losses. If successful, Massachusetts’ gambling commission is considering implementing the machines in more casinos throughout the state. Let’s hope cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City get the message too.

New Documentary Chronicles The Addiction Journey Of DJ AM

Back in the early 2000’s, DJ AM (aka Adam Goldstein) became a groundbreaking turntable maestro, performing for millions of music fans and gaining worldwide recognition. But tragically, by the end of the decade he was gone; a victim of addiction and drug abuse. This summer, however, AM’s legacy is being brought back to forefront, with a brutally honest documentary titled, As I AM.


Authorized by the Goldstein estate, As I AM tracks the entire life of the troubled artist. Fans are able to relive his difficult childhood, his rise to success and the deadly cravings that led to his demise.


Director Kevin Kerslake (who helmed previous docs on Nirvana and The Ramones) described the film as emotional and eye-opening, particularly when it comes to AM’s drug use.


“As someone who has spent so much of my youth and adult life in and around the music world, I was drawn to that part of AM’s story,” he said. “Adam’s will to succeed and ability to overcome the challenges and adversities of his young life are the classic elements of an underdog  story  and  at  the  same  time,  his  continued  struggles  with  dependency  and loss  are  an  all  too  common  side  effect  of  fame  and  success.  I think  anyone  can relate  to the  story  of  an  underdog  prevailing against all odds.”


The critics certainly agree with that statement. So far, As I AM has received rave reviews from outlets like Rolling Stone and Billboard.


For showtimes (and more details on the film) visit the doc’s official site.

Mom’s Addiction Essay Goes Viral

You can never predict which types of blogs “go viral” with the masses. Every now then, a certain story can touch the nerve of America and spark an online sensation. This past week that story belonged to stay-at-home mom  Jen Simon, who candidly discussed her battle with opioid addiction.


“My life as a stay-at-home mom was the perfect disguise,” she wrote in her essay. “There are millions of us addicts disguised as regular people. We’re not all rock stars: We’re your neighbor or you sister. We’re in the pickup line, waiting for our kids. We’re on the PTA.”


Though happy on the surface, Jen detailed a crippling addiction that began after the birth of her first child. Dealing with physical pain and postpartum depression, she was  able to get a Percocet prescription from her family physician.


Eventually Jen began abusing the painkillers and saw her habit escalate. At its worst, she described, Simon began pilfering friends’ medicine cabinets for any sort of fix.  That’s when she confided in her husband and sought out professional help.


“Addiction is often isolating and secretive and it’s hard to get help if you can’t break the silence,” she concluded in her post. “I hope this piece can be used as a launching point for someone to say to a friend, ‘I’m worried about you,’ or for someone to take a closer look at herself and her interactions with drugs or alcohol.”


Clearly Jen’s writings have struck a nerve, as US Magazine and countless major outlets can attest to.