Uniting Faiths To Fight Addiction

We recently ran across an article that we found to be incredibly inspiring. U.S. News and World Reports published a piece from Rhode Island, which highlighted a special anti-addiction event involving several different religious leaders. Held at a Baptist Church in Providence, the gathering is set to include representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Mormon faiths (among others) in a movement to build awareness about the city’s drug and alcohol issues.


Titled United: An Evening of Hope and Remembrance, the special service will allow each of religious representatives to speak and share how addiction has affected their community. The event also intends to highlight acceptance, with the hope of comforting people who are experiencing shame.


Another portion of the ceremony will include naming parishioners from each faith who have succumbed to an overdose or alcohol-related death. Resources will be given out beforehand and all attendees will have the opportunity to speak with representatives from their religious organization.


“The drug war and inadequate access to treatment continue to disproportionately destroy the lives of the poor,” Catholic representative, Rev. Dr. Don Anderson, told the Providence Journal in a statement. “All faith traditions are called by their higher Wisdoms to address preventable suffering with compassion and ingenuity.”


One of the reasons we were so moved by this piece is because of its honesty. The truth is, addiction affects people of all faiths. It doesn’t matter what your spiritual beliefs are, a serious opioid dependency (for example) is often times beyond your physical and mental control.


We know that deeply religious people may have a hard time turning to recovery. And we know that, in some people’s eyes, admitting to an addiction may seem like a shameful act or a “sin.” Well it most certainly IS NOT. And it’s great to hear that these Rhode Island religious leaders are validating that.


For the record, Valley Recovery Center has always been a non-denominational treatment facility. We have the utmost respect for all faiths and understand how important spirituality can be during the recovery process. We, ourselves, are closely connected to multiple spiritual leaders throughout the community and can offer referrals during treatment, if someone feels the need to speak with someone from their faith.


The most important thing of all (as the above leaders referenced) is healing and wellness. This Rhode Island gathering is meant to be a sign of inclusion, which is what we emphasize as well. Don’t be in fear that an addiction goes against your religious beliefs. Accept what is happening, get treatment and use your experience to help others.


What The Future May Hold For The Opioid Epidemic

There is no denying that we have hit full-blown crisis mode with America’s opioid addiction issues. But just how long can this crisis last and how bad can it actually get? Those are definitely questions worth looking into and recently, several prominent public health experts have voiced their thoughts about a potential future state.


According to StatNews.com, the country’s opioid problem will get worse before it gets better. The research site gathered its info from experts at 10 different universities and the forecasting did not look positive. Per the consensus, by 2027 we could be losing 250 people a day to heroin and painkiller overdoses. That is more than double the number we stand at currently, which is also extremely troublesome.


To break that out in actual numbers, the 2027 scenario would create a total of nearly 100,000 U.S. opioid deaths in just that year alone. Comparatively, 2015’s fatality count measured at about 33,000.


“It took us about 30 years to get into this mess,” University of Colorado-Denver’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences professor Robert Valuck, told the outlet. “I don’t think we’re going to get out of it in two or three.”


This future state has more concerning details as well. Currently it is estimated that opioid-related health issues cost the American economy nearly $80 billion per year. Now imagine the impact if the number of people addicted more than doubles.


Several of those surveyed by Stat have offered personal solutions to help steer the crisis in the opposite direction. One important factor is, of course, education about the dangers of these painkillers. Harvard Health Policy and Management professor Dr. Michael Barnett told them that he believes the entire perception of opioids needs to change….and quick.


“It’s like cigarettes in the ’50s,” he explained. “We look back at the way people smoked and promoted cigarettes as laughably backwards — magazine ads with doctors saying, ‘Physicians prefer Camels.’ We have the same thing now — Oxycontin ads in medical journals where doctors would say, ‘Opioids are good for treating pain. They don’t have addictive potential.’ It’s possible 20 years from now, we’re going to look back and say, ‘I cannot believe we promoted these dangerous, addictive medications that are only marginally more effective.’”


Those interviewed also warned of future threats, such as street versions of the drug that become more economical and more accessible.


Though it’s hard to hear, we do have to agree with these findings. America’s opioid crisis continues to get worse, which is why we’re continuing to educate our audience and open our doors to ANYONE who needs help. 866-986-2486.



Spotlight On Moms Fighting Addiction Stigma

If you’ve been following our blogs, you’re probably aware of the Spotlight Feature we publish from time to time. That section is usually reserved for high-profile people making a difference in the fight against addiction. Well, we also think it’s important to highlight the unsung heroes fighting the good fight. The everyday people who are making their voices heard. That’s why this week, we wanted to call out Ohio-based moms Tonda DaRe and Marcie Miller.


Tonda and Marcie are by no means household names and they are not headlining music arenas or blockbuster summer movies. They are, in fact, everyday parents who have been personally affected by addiction. And they have made a point to alert others about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, with a 20-city tour across the U.S.


Beginning this Thursday, Tonda and Marcie will be representing Holly’s Song of Hope, a support group named for DaRe’s daughter. Tragically, Holly DaRe succumbed to an overdose back in 2012. Miller’s daughter, thankfully, survived her addiction, but struggled with a serious drug dependency for over six years.


So to alert other parents and local leaders about the dangers of teen addiction, the moms have orchestrated an awareness campaign across 13 states. Tonda and Marcie plan to stop at local schools, churches, libraries and more, in the hopes of making their message go viral. At each stop, they’ll be showcasing Addiction 101, a presentation they created which highlights warning signs and aims to de-stigmatize what they call, “a terrible disease.”


“If we get people to understand this disease, then we can make a real difference in what’s happening,” Tonda told the local press. “We are just two moms trying to make a difference in an epidemic that many believe has nothing to do with them.”


To their credit, Holly’s Song of Hope has already gotten the attention of several prominent politicians across the mid-west. Tonda and Marcie have appeared on local television with Ohio Senator Rob Portman and received acknowledgment form the state’s governor, John Kasich.


“We have no idea where this will lead us,” Miller added in a recent interview.  “But if we save one life on this journey or bring comfort to someone in need, then it will be worth it.”


We encourage everyone to follow Tonda and Marcie’s campaign on their official Facebook page. Hopefully their message will inspire others and, perhaps, get more local parents to stand up and spread the word about the stigma of addiction.



Meth Lollipops Becoming New Trend

There’s nothing worse than taking a dangerous narcotic and disguising it as something harmless and fun. That, of course, is the intention behind the sudden rise of meth lollipops, which have been making headlines across the U.S. These dangerous candies are incredibly potent (and incredibly addictive). They also have an allure that could even target children, with colorful shapes and characters.


Meth, as we know, is one of the most harmful drugs in America. It has been responsible for countless deaths and its addictive nature continues to ruin lives; taking productive people and transforming them into shells of their former selves. It has been known to wreak havoc on the body and the mind, as evidenced by the gruesome “Before and After” mug shot galleries regularly published by police.


The lollipop versions got some added attention this month after Texas authorities seized more than 600 pounds of candy-shaped drugs from home laboratory in Harris County. There police discovered a humongous array of decorated pops, using the likeness of characters like Batman, Hello Kitty and Yoda from Star Wars. 


Police actually stumbled on the stash after getting tipped off about a burglary call. Once inside the dealer’s home, a treasure trove was found. Every lollipop was meticulously labeled and brought out to a seizure van. Cops also got hold of the resident’s cooking materials, which proved that he had concocted the entire stash in his personal kitchen.


Though an escape attempt was made, the suspect’s giant supply wound up being his undoing.


“They had so many narcotics in their vehicle they couldn’t close the back hatch of the car they were trying to flee in,” local police lieutenant Ruben Diaz told news outlets.


After a more thorough investigation, it was determined that this particular stash may have been targeting local high schoolers. And with chemical mixtures and unknown potency levels, these disguised drugs can be especially dangerous for teens.


It’s also interesting to note that meth lollipops have a strong appeal among adults. As senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, Bill Piper, told The Washington Post, a less-threatening appearance can make people more eager to experiment with the drug.


“It’s easy for people to fall for this marketing to children because there’s this misconception that drug dealers are standing on the street corner handing out free drugs,” he told The Post. “Adults don’t want nasty-tasting stuff either. We especially find in the flavored meth, a lot of that turned out to be flavoring for adults.”


This is something to definitely be on the lookout for in our own communities. And we advise everyone to avoid unknown chemical blends (no matter how cutely disguised) AT ALL COSTS.


New Tech Hopes To Bring Recovery To The Workplace

Imagine if there was an online service (provided by the company you work for) that could instantly connect you to a recovery program tailored to your needs. If it’s alcoholism, a few phone swipes could customize your eventual healing process. If it’s pills or narcotics, a real life therapist could chat with you via messenger. It’s all very exciting stuff and it’s hoping to become more of a reality, thanks to the new startup WorkIt Health.


Calling itself a digital addiction treatment platform, WorkIt aims to connect people with reputable recovery programs and is available (via phone or computer) 24 hours a day. Forbes recently did a profile on the new system and its co-founders, Lisa McLaughlin and Robin McIntosh. Both women describe themselves as “techies” and as recovering addicts themselves.


“We saw firsthand how difficult it can be to access technology when you have an addiction – there is nothing helpful out there,” McLaughlin told the online site. “We had people we knew and lost simply due to drop-offs in communication,” McLaughlin shares.”


So the two of them devised a unique app that targets companies and their employees. The WorkIt platform is completely confidential and operates through a business’s H.R. network. Through touch button menus, users denote what addictions they’re battling and are sent to personalized microsites which include multiple modules.


The system not only connects the employees with recovery specialists, it monitors their movements for the next 90 days. Push reminders and emails are all part of the process and WorkIt makes a point to offer support for up to two years after treatment.


McLaughlin went on to explain, ““With other health conditions, you have options to choose from across a number of therapies and places to go. With addiction, you have rehab and that’s it. We want to build a new narrative and new modality of care that is holistic from offline to online offerings to show people there’s another way.”


One other interesting feature is focused solely on the employers. WorkIt offers a wealth of content for them to use to educate their workers on the importance of recovery. Programs can be acclimated to a company’s website, newsletter and email system.


McIntosh, in particular, has seen the corporate component of WorkIt become extremely effective, by giving supervisors and human resources reps the tools they need to handle addiction.


“We see big corporations with established cultures begin to make a shift in thinking that is mindful of employees who might be struggling with addiction,” she added. “They are now really starting to focus on how they can help their people sooner through great workplace design.”


To learn more about WorkIt Health, click here.



Bad Diets May Contribute To Addiction

Health is one of the things we stress most during the recovery process. Emotional health is key to conquering a dependency and so is the physical component. That’s part of the reason why Valley Recovery Center employs certified dieticians on staff. To ensure that the body is cleansed with nutrients and non-toxic substances. That being said, a new study has actually affirmed the importance of good eating when it comes to combating an addiction, particularly during childhood years.


eNeuro, a site devoted to science and research, recently published some important findings about the consumption of fatty foods. Their study showed that, in children, consumption of greasy meals (like burgers, fried chicken and the like) can actually affect dopamine receptors. Dopamine, as we all know, is one of the key triggers in addiction, with stimulatory sensations that cause people to want to continually use.


Testing young laboratory rats as a control group, authors of the report found that dopamine sensations were indeed triggered when high-fat foods were fed. As the rats grew older, they were fed narcotics such as amphetamines. Those who had the greasy diets when they were young, had a much stronger reaction to the drugs.


“Researchers found that upon a second exposure to amphetamine, the rats who had been fed a high-fat diet showed more locomotor behavior, which suggests that they had been sensitized to the substance,” the author wrote. “This difference also appeared in the dopamine function of cells in other areas in the rats’ brains—specifically in regions known to play a role in addiction, the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens.”


Of course, further testing will be necessary to draw definitive conclusions. But, like many other studies, laboratory rat behaviors tend to mirror things we see in humans. Perhaps bad foods during a person’s formative years could impact whether they’re drawn to use later in life.


An even deeper insight could relate to addiction and poverty. It is common knowledge that alcoholism and drug use are quite prominent in low-income neighborhoods. And we all know how much more economical it is to feed a family with $5 meal deals than it is with organic greens. So it is possible to see a correlation there (if, of course, the data is proven).


Regardless, we have always emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle. It is something that is ingrained in our treatment regimen and we believe in it for people who have never touched a bottle or a pill. But this groundbreaking work certainly sheds some insight into the precursors of addiction and we believe it should be shared with parents and families in our community.



Addiction And The Affordable Care Act

There have certainly been some heated exchanges in Washington D.C. the past few months, as Republicans and Democrats battle it out over the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare“).  And in the midst of that, many notable news outlets are reporting that recovery coverage hangs in the balance.


There is no denying that health insurance plays a big role in whether people choose to seek out treatment for their addictions. It makes the process much more affordable and, according to several lawmakers, is the difference between life and death. So, as The Los Angeles Times puts it, repealing Obamacare could lead to a drastic increase in drug and alcohol-related fatalities.


Truth be told, millions of Americans would be impacted if changes happen to the current coverage plans; particularly those with low incomes. And tragically, addiction does take a heavy toll on people’s fortunes, driving middle class citizens into dire financial situations.


Greg Moody was interviewed by The Times and works as the head of Ohio’s Office of Health Transformation. He has been a very vocal proponent for keeping Obamacare alive, particularly the services it offers through Medicare.


“It just makes more sense to do this through coverage because you can connect people to the full array of services they need to deal with substance abuse,” he explained.


Dr. Shawn Ryan, another interviewee, runs the BrightView Health treatment clinics in Cincinnati. His recovery center currently accepts ACA coverage, but would not be able to continue if changes were made to Medicaid.


“It would be catastrophic,” he told the outlet. “We have never before had a sustained effort to confront substance abuse. We are just beginning to get some momentum to change the whole paradigm for patients.… Without Medicaid coverage, we couldn’t continue.”


The Times also made a point to call out the nation’s growing opioid crisis and how it cost the lives of tens of thousands of Americans last year. With this growing epidemic and a potential shift in coverage availability, there is a strong chance that overdose numbers could increase.


We certainly do not like to take sides when it comes to political issues. Our concern first and foremost is taking care of those struggling with addiction. But The Times certainly makes a compelling argument and we, ourselves, have seen how instrumental proper insurance coverage can be when it comes to people choosing recovery.


So please, do your due diligence when it comes to insurance and look into exactly how this legislation may impact your family’s coverage. Because the last thing you would need during an addiction issue, is to be caught off guard with finances.


Virtual Reality May Be Used To Battle Gambling Addictions

We love profiling innovative new recovery treatments and this week, a very unique approach is being tested that may help people struggling with gambling addictions. Virtual Reality happens to be one of the hottest technologies on the market, with video games and “second life” worlds available at the click of a button. And now researchers are also testing its ability to curb betting temptations, which is how it may work with people in treatment.


In case you’re unaware, virtual reality (or “V.R.” for short) involves putting on a special pair of glasses, then controlling your movements in an entirely simulated environment. Much like the movie Avatar, the worlds people enter can range from exotic distant planets, to local theme parks and beyond.


In the case of gambling addicts, programmers can also simulate Las Vegas casinos and the tempting environments where people may face slot machines, card tables and sports bookies. To help those in recovery face their demons, University of Quebec staffers are testing patients in these simulated scenarios.


Stephane Bouchard is one of the lead researchers on the project. He explained how the gambling V.R. world could also potentially extend to an environment for those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.


“If a patient is addicted to cocaine, I can talk with the patient forever, but what really matters is how he or she deals with the situation when cocaine is in front of that person,” Bouchard told The Fix.com. “The best thing I would like to do in therapy is to actually offer cocaine to the patient—but that obviously is not possible.”


He added that for gamblers a situation like that actually is possible, thanks to virtual reality. He believes that V.R. would give recovery professionals insight into how their patients may react to a real-life betting scenario. Unlike letting them loose in a casino on the strip, V.R. gives the therapist true control over what their patients are experiencing. Virtual tech can allow these worlds to be changed or turned off in an instant.


And that could be very comforting news for the over two million Americans currently suffering from this issue. Bouchard has already spent several months researching V.R. and firmly believes that these devices can be a powerful tool in lowering that number.


Do you have a loved one who is battling a gambling problem? Valley Recovery Center has several programs that can help them push through this crippling addiction. Call us today at 866-986-2486.



Tiger Woods Arrest Highlights Medicated Driving

This past Memorial Day, one of the biggest stories to hit the news sites was Tiger Woods’ DUI arrest. Plastered across magazines and sports blogs, was the mug shot of one of golf’s most celebrated athletes. The interesting twist to this story, however, was Tiger’s immediate admission to not having alcohol in his bloodstream. His claim was that prescription meds were behind the impaired driving.


That, of course, brought a lot more attention to a little known fact. Prescription pill takers (and opioid abusers) can be just as deadly behind the wheel as someone who drinks too much. And there are some pretty compelling stats to prove that. According to The Atlanticprescription drugs are found in the bodies of fatally-injured drivers about 43 percent of the time. Alcohol, on the other hand, was found in just 37 percent of DOA drivers. That means that meds have SURPASSED drinking in regards to deadly crashes.


The article went on to explain that those numbers are rising at an alarming rate. Prescription med driving fatalities are nearly double what they used to be back in 2005. One scary rationale for this is the mistaken “green light” medicated drivers believe they get from their doctors. In many of their minds, according to Atlantic interviewee and Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Scott M. Davis, these drivers feel that type of behavior is ok.


“We see that all the time with prescription drugs, and they think, ‘Oh, my doctor gave it to me, it’s okay to drive,’” he explained. “When in reality they’re actually more of a danger than somebody under influence of alcohol.”


Another issue lies in the fact that it’s difficult to gauge what the legal limit of intoxicated medication driving should be. These types of pills act differently on the body than alcohol does and authorities are having an increasingly hard time understanding how much is too much.


For the record, Tiger has denied fighting any addiction at the moment. His excuse for the DUI was recovery from a recent surgery. And while we’ll have to take his word for it (for now), there is no denying that painkiller abuse is at an all-time-high. And it’s only natural to think that a decent fraction of those abusers are getting medicated and hitting the road.


It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for everyone to know just how dangerous it is to drive under any type of impairment. And not just for the person behind the wheel. Other drivers and pedestrians can easily be put in harm’s way too. If you know anyone who is struggling with this issue, we urge you to get them help immediately. 866-986-2486