Supporting The Red Ribbon Campaign

Recently, recovery advocates in our own backyard of Santa Clarita got together to show their support for the national Red Ribbon Campaign. Certainly there are plenty of organizations who make it their mission to battle addiction, but this one is especially unique. Red Ribbon makes a point to highlight the violence that can accompany drug dependencies and, as they put it, the “destructiveness” and collateral damage that using can actually cause.

 

This mission was launched over 30 years and has drawn the support of some very notable figures (including former First Lady Nancy Reagan). After the 1985 murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, Red Ribbon came together to honor victims who have lost their lives to drug and alcohol related violence. The simple gesture of wearing a pin captured the attention of the nation and, just like week, drew dozens of people to the Action Family Counseling Center on Soledad Canyon Road.

 

As we’ve reported before, Santa Clarita has had its struggles with addiction and overdoses. At one point, our city received national attention after an overflow of drug-related emergency room visits. So, the community continues to band together to raise awareness and support sobriety.

 

“This most recent event was held to bring awareness and education to drug usage in and around our community,”  organizer Scott Quashen told reporters from the local Signal newspaper.

 

This particular Santa Clarita event drew former heroin addicts, social workers, police officials and counselors; all of whom spoke about their experiences with addiction. Proving what a tight-knit group of neighbors we have, SCV Sheriff Station Captain Paul Becker appeared in person and explained how he’s taken the city’s addiction fight down to a personal level.

 

At the event, Captain Becker went over their station’s Juvenile Team program, which goes to local high schools to speak about drug and alcohol abuse. He also talked about the special “house calls” they make, which work as follow ups for those who have had addiction incidents in the past.

 

“Rather than arresting, we understand that intervention is a more solution orientated approach to drug usage,” Becker explained to The Signal. “We certainly encourage our officers to take this approach when dealing with certain situations.”

 

But, as we mentioned before, the primary focus of this meeting was Red Ribbon and honoring those who are no longer with us. Taking a page from their official site, reps shared details about the unique pledge this organization abides by.

 

  1. As parents and citizens, we will talk to our children and the children in our lives about the dangers of drug abuse.
  2. We will set clear rules for our children about not using drugs.
  3. We will set a good example for our children by not using illegal drugs or medicine without a prescription.
  4. We will monitor our children’s behavior and enforce appropriate consequences, so that our rules are respected.
  5. We will encourage family and friends to follow the same guidelines to keep children safe from substance abuse.

 

You can learn more about Red Ribbon and their pledge, by clicking here.

 

The Emotions Behind Alcoholic Beverages

Leave it to Forbes to produce yet another in-depth addiction study. You might not think of the money mag as a destination for informative drug and alcohol articles, but they continue to put out thoughtful content that explores areas of dependency others have yet to touch. This week, their researchers looked into alcoholism and the effect that different drinks can have on someone’s emotional state. We found it to be incredibly insightful and definitely worth sharing.

 

For their piece, the Forbes writers singled out wine, beer and hard liquor and their unique influences on the psyche. The study in question focused on 30,000 people aged 18 to 34. Some claimed to be dependent on alcohol, while others did not. They all, interestingly enough, saw tangible changes to their personalities after consuming particular drinks.

 

Starting with red wine, the researchers noted more depressant chemicals coming into play. People who regularly consume this beverage tended to show signs of lethargy or tiredness. It slows the body down and can make a person become more withdrawn.

 

Beer was next on the list and showed similar characteristics to those of red wine. Again sleepiness and even laziness were associated with various brews, with leanings toward a lack in confidence. Depression (or “tearfulness” as they described it) was also more common among beer drinkers.

 

The most dangerous of the bunch was clearly hard liquor. People who regularly drink shots of tequila, vodka and what have you showed clear-cut signs of aggression. In fact, 30 percent of those surveyed said they felt “angrier” and more hostile after drinking heavy cocktails. “Confidence”(aka liquid courage) was another term associated with HL, but as we all know that is a very fleeting emotion among alcoholics.

 

Those who chose hard liquor as their preferred beverage were also five times more likely to develop serious alcoholism issues. Mark Bellis, a researcher who contributed to the article, shared his thoughts on the dangers of heavy booze.

 

“For centuries, the history of rum, gin, vodka and other spirits has been laced with violence,” he explained to Forbes. “This global study suggests even today consuming spirits is more likely to result in feelings of aggression than other drinks.”

 

Interestingly, one big takeaway from the study kind of fed into the chicken vs. the egg scenario. Bellis went on to say that hard liquor isn’t necessarily the cause of aggressive behavior and, perhaps, aggressive personalities may be more drawn to it in the first place.

 

Either way, he described it as a vicious cycle and one that can be just as prominent among wine and beer drinkers.

 

“Our results suggest that especially people who are heavier drinkers may be expecting or perhaps even relying on certain drinks for energy and confidence, but heavier drinkers are much more likely to report negative emotions as well,” Bellis added. “This risks a dangerous spiral where drinking can be seen as solution to emotional problems it is actually aggravating.”

 

 

Conquering A 50-Year Addiction

If you follow the VRC blogs, then you’re well aware of our Spotlight Series; where we highlight inspirational recovery advocates and the work they’re doing to promote sobriety. Sometimes it’s a politician, sometimes it’s a celebrity and other times, it’s an everyday person who has an extraordinary story to share. This week’s profile happens to fall in the latter category.

 

Clinton Lanier’s road to recovery is important on many levels. A Vietnam War veteran, he battled addiction for 50 years and, at the age of 70, made a conscious choice to get clean. Now he’s become a vocal advocate of sober living, speaking with the press and showing seniors that it is possible to beat addiction at any age.

 

It’s extremely rare to come across someone who has dealt with substance abuse for over five decades. Tragically, for many, addiction can claim their life much sooner than that. But, like Clinton, there are others who suffer in silence and continue to function, despite a crippling abuse cycle.

 

Drugs happened to be Clinton’s vice and they first got a grip on him in 1966. Back then, he was an 18-year-old private serving in Southeast Asia. While overseas, he was introduced to illicit substances and was never able to let them go until last year.

 

Amazingly, Clinton was able to hide his 50-year habit from both family and friends…Not that it wasn’t serious, of course.

 

“When I’d get high, I’d say, ‘God, please, don’t let me do this anymore,’ and wake up the next morning and go buy more dope,” he told The Savannah Morning News“My family actually never knew. I never really hit bottom. My bottom was mental, not physical.”

 

But he does admit that his habit cost him a lot of things in life. Though Clinton was able to hold a job and provide for his family, he claimed to have spent up to $2,000 a week on cocaine. Admittedly he could have gone a lot further with his career, had drugs not gotten in the way.

 

When the time came to make a change, Clinton used his military support system to help see him through. Through his local VA clinic, Clinton was able to get into treatment and ultimately kick his habit. Now, he’s using his notoriety to help seniors and, particularly, older veterans who are using to cope with the trauma of war.

 

“A lot of vets, they need the program,” he added. “They need recovery, but they don’t want it. They want the pain to stop, but they don’t want to put in the work. We have a disease. It doesn’t make us crazy and it doesn’t make us bad people.”

 

We applaud Clinton and the great work he’s doing to promote sobriety from age 70 and beyond.

 

White House Puts $504B Price Tag On Opioid Crisis

Ever wonder how much America’s opioid epidemic equates to in dollars and cents? Measuring things like hospital visits, incarcerations, rehabilitations and what have you, Donald Trump’s reps from the White House gave it a whopping $504 billion price tag. And that just accounts for 2015! According to their recent report, the cost is expected to increase drastically before the end of the decade.

 

The Guardian recently published a lengthy story about the Trump administration’s cost analysis. Coming in at roughly half a trillion dollars, the Council of Economic Advisers says the number is more than six times higher than initial estimates. According to their auditors, a bulk of that total was attributed to healthcare, criminal justice spending and lost productivity at the workplace.

 

Though previous fiscal estimates have been issued in the past, the council felt like this one is by far the most accurate. Theirs apparently went much deeper into the “unseen costs,” addressing things like fatality expenditures and crimes related to illicit opioids.

 

“Previous estimates of the economic cost of the opioid crisis greatly underestimate it by undervaluing the most important component of the loss – fatalities resulting from overdoses,” the report writers opened with.

 

Indeed, this is another very visible step that the Commander-in-Chief has taken to address the opioid epidemic. Last month, President Trump declared a “national health emergency” and vowed to put even more federally funded resources together to combat the crisis.

 

As we reported earlier, many still feel that the president isn’t doing enough to fight the problem. Though he vowed to make changes, Trump has yet to actually request dollars beyond the nation’s public health emergency fund to fight the epidemic. And, for the record, that fund’s balance sits at a meager $57,000, per Forbes Magazine.

 

With news breaking about the half a trillion figure, we expect many more critics to rise up and push to increase that budget. But with the current climate of tax reform and budget cuts, it doesn’t look likely that Mr. Trump will set aside any major stipends for this anytime soon.

 

All in all, we believe that the release of the $504 billion figures is a good thing. It is certain to grab headlines and it will show Americans just how devastating this crisis actually is. If anything, our hope is that it will at least get some Washington politicians moving faster to find some governmental solutions.

 

Crack Cocaine Use Is On The Rise

Back in the 1980’s, much of the “Just Say No” campaign centered around the use of crack cocaine. Known for its highly addictive qualities and low street price, it was an easy way to hook underprivileged Americans into drug use and took thousands of lives. Thankfully crack hasn’t made headlines in a while and appeared to be on the decline. But according to a recent Business Insider article, that is not the case anymore. It claims that the narcotic’s popularity is surging again, thanks to issues like unemployment and increased availability.

 

Using the headline “Crack Is Back“, BI outlined some scary statistics; chronicling its rise and its newer, more potent formula. To better understand this drug, we thought we’d outline its accessible nature. Part of the reason that crack is so inexpensive is because it is “cooked” from batches of cocaine. A small bag of coke can contribute to a large supply of crack, making it, as BI says, much more “economical” for low income users. It was for this reason, that U.S. lawmakers passed the “100-1 Rule,” which equivocated one gram of crack to 100 grams of powdered coke (for jail and sentencing terms). Many argued that this helped slow its widespread use, but also led to a surplus of incarcerations and overpopulation in the prison system.

 

Crack is typically smoked (or free based), but more modern cases have seen it become a popular injectable drug. For the record, it is much more potent than coke and has been shown to cause long-term neurological and neuropsychiatric issues after frequent usage. It also causes severe damage to the heart and lungs and its risk of dependence is three times greater than that of cocaine.

 

These days crack is more affordable than ever, with a price drop of 13 percent since 2007 (per BI). Its usage has reportedly increased by 10 percent this decade, with numbers rising every year. And that rise is attributed mostly to younger demographics. Though the average age of crack addicts entering treatment is 35, there is a 30 percent increase in people under 25 who are being picked up for using.

 

So the question becomes, what’s causing the latest surge? BI does a solid job of laying out some hypotheses. Unemployment was the major factor that they called out, particularly among 20-somethings and college grads. There is no denying that it’s getting tougher for young people to break into the workforce. Whether it’s depression, boredom or just an inexpensive way to get high, this drug appears to be much more attractive to that set nowadays.

 

If you or anyone you know is facing an issue with crack cocaine, we urge you to seek out help immediately. As mentioned above, this drug can do long-term damage at an alarming rate. Don’t wait until it gets too late. 

 

Pets Become The Latest Casualty In The Opioid Crisis

When you are in the throws of addiction, there is no telling how far you will go to score. Amazingly when it comes to America’s opioid crisis, people are willing to put their pets’ health on the line; using their beloved animals to get painkillers from veterinarians.

 

Though it may sound hard to believe, vets are now (unknowingly) one of the leading sources of opioid prescriptions. Just like doctors, they have the power to issue painkiller drugs which they believe are for needy cats and dogs. In reality it’s the owners who are ingesting the pet meds, furthering the depths of their dependencies.

 

Pennsylvania affiliate KABC 27 recently covered the story and the growing epidemic of addicted pet owners. Kristin Varner, a rep from the RASE (Recovery, Advocacy, Service, Empowerment) Project, spoke to the outlet and emphasized that, in most cases, these are actual animal lovers whose cravings have pushed them too far.

 

“Opioids which affect the brain in such a fundamental way and in such a different way than other drugs,” she explained. “They attach to brain receptors, forcing those addicted to go to any length to get drugs. We’ve seen people use different aliases. One guy would go to different veterinarians and go vet shopping, which is like going doctor shopping, and would rotate until he finally did get caught by police.”

 

Clearly taking drugs intended for your pet is bad enough, but where the problem really gets bad is when owners begin implementing a cycle of abuse. As awful as it sounds, those severely addicted to opioids have been to known to intentionally harm their animals in the hopes of getting more painkiller meds.

 

KABC went on to report that veterinarians aren’t monitored as closely as doctors when it comes to these types of prescriptions. They also have access to an especially potent painkiller. Tramadol is commonly sought out by addicted pet owners. Just like opioids, it is an oral medication that can easily be consumed by humans.

 

Ed Stuber, another prominent Pennsylvania treatment counselor and recovery advocate, spoke with KABC as well; emphasizing the danger this new trend is taking.

 

“These vets are not trained to understand the mind of an addict,” Stuber told the local reporter. “And people are going these clinics to get their animals treated, not to be interrogated and not to be analyzed themselves. It’s truly become an awful practice. There have even been cases in which people cut their dogs with razors.”

 

We definitely advise all local veterinarians to be on the lookout for pet owners looking for painkillers (especially Tramadol). You can learn more by watching the full KABC report below…

 

 

Alcoholism Issues Increasing For Retirees

On the surface, it seems like the concept of retirement would be extremely uplifting. And, for the most part it is. The idea of not having a 9 to 5 job, being able to travel and, most importantly, opening your schedule to endless free time. But for many that comes with a cost and, as recent studies have shown, a possible tendency to drink more and abuse alcohol.

 

The Sun Sentinel news outlet recently ran an interesting story on the topic, highlighting the addiction problems facing recent retirees. The emphasis specifically focused on seniors and those who have altered their regular lifestyle after giving up work.

 

What the Sun did, was break apart addicted American seniors into three categories.  The first consisted of individuals who begin drinking too much to cope with the stresses of aging. This is not an uncommon reaction, as depression is also a signature sign in older Americans. Having to deal with more medical issues, losses of peers or parents and the financial hardships of no steady paycheck can be daunting. The Sun highlighted it as a red flag for the spiral into alcoholism.

 

 
The final category is the one that certainly set off an alarm for us. These are the “new alcoholics” or retirees who turn to drinking sometimes out of sheer boredom. Without the structure of a workplace, many seniors no longer feel the need to hold back on pouring wine and beer in the afternoon. Loneliness can play into this too, as these people no longer have the camaraderie of their co-workers and are looking for a way to “escape” their new lives, which may (surprisingly) turn out to be more depressing.

 

Truth be told, Drinking among seniors has increased at a faster rate than that of any other age group. Currently,  55 percent of Americans aged 55 and above reported overindulging in alcohol within the past year. And there is another danger to note as well. Many older Americans also have regular pill and medication regimens. Adding alcohol into that equation can create serious health issues and, in some cases, be fatal.

 

If you or someone you love fits this scenario, we urge you to reach out to us immediately. Life only becomes more fragile as we get older and no one should be spending their golden years with a bottle in their hand. (866) 986-2486

 

FDA Issues Warning Against Using Kratom For Opioid Addiction

By now, we’ve all become aware of the ravages that opioid addiction is causing this country. And within that fight, many have turned to the botanical substance Kratom as a combatant; particularly during the withdrawal stage. Though many advocates are saying that kratom can help ease pain and reduce symptoms when someone is overcoming a painkiller dependency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (aka the FDA) believes otherwise and has issued a strict warning against using it.

 

Before we get into the details about kratom’s potential dangers, it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. Grown in parts of Asia, this natural green plant has already been established in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. It is extremely popular in Far East countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, and even gained recognition in Australia, Sweden and Germany.

 

Patients simply chew the leaves and, after certain enzymes are released, begin to feel comfort following chronic pain or seizures. Extracts of the plant have also been used in cough medicines and heartburn remedies. And this certainly isn’t a new practice. Kratom’s healing history dates all the way back into the 1800’s.

 

But for all of its positives, the FDA has found some serious issues with the effects of kratom. Their reports have shown that kratom can also be very addictive and has been attributed to at least 36 overdose deaths across the U.S. They have noted a “black market” for the plant as well, with large loads of illegal kratom shipments coming into the country. Since 2012, U.S. Marshals have seized thousands of pounds of raw kratom at various border states.

 

“At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic, the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.

 

The FDA went on to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 Drug. This “officially” puts in the same level as heroin and singles it out as a drug with a high potential for abuse.

 

Not everyone, however, agrees with the FDA’s classification. Many recovery advocates have pushed back against the warning. They believe kratom, when handled properly in a recovery environment, can be a powerful tool for someone overcoming opioid abuse. They also believe the 36 fatal overdose number is questionable and lacks true data that can associate it with kratom. According to CNBC, the last fatal OD happened back in 2014 and kratom has been in widespread use since then. They also point out that opioids have taken hundreds of thousands of lives and any remedy possible is needed to combat the crisis.

 

It is certainly a stirring debate and one we intend to follow closely in the weeks to come.

 

The Army May Become More Flexible With Formerly Addicted Recruits

For decades, the U.S. Army has followed strict regulations when it comes to enlisting recruits. And one of those guidelines included rejecting people who have had prior battles with addiction. Now, however, the service may be changing its tune as it looks for more applicants and recognizes the importance of treatment.

 

TheFix.com recently published a very telling article about the U.S. Army and its potential move to lift previous recruitment bans. This not only includes people who have suffered from addiction, it also opens the door to previously rejected candidates who have shown suicidal tendencies or dealt with mental health conditions.

 

In a broad statement to the press,  Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor said, “With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant’s physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant’s ability to complete training and finish an Army career. This decision was based on  increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available, allowing Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”

 

Previous disqualifying factors have included everything from ADHD, to insomnia, to speech impediments. Clearly that is limiting a large potential pool of applicants, who by all accounts are eager to serve their country. And that goes for those have gone through recovery as well. Many times we have written about the stigmas that follow people after beating their addictions. It has certainly been a shame that organizations like the Army were unwilling to look beyond that…at least until now.

 

Now the story appears to be changing. But, as we mentioned above, logistics played a large part in this decision too. The Army has continued to see a decline in recruits, partially because of these strict enlistment guidelines. The goal for 2018, however, hopes to change that; with some ambitious numbers thrown out to the press. Lt. Col. Taylor went on to say that the Army hopes to recruit 80,000 new soldiers within the next 10 months.

 

For anyone looking to take advantage of these new guidelines, the instructions are pretty straightforward. According to TheFix, eligible applicants must now provide “appropriate documentation,” which includes a statement from the applicant themselves, along with their medical records, photos, a psychiatric evaluation, recovery history and other paperwork depending on the nature of their health issue.

 

Health Insurance Companies Unite To Combat Opioid Crisis

It’s hard to imagine the amount of people covered by insurance giants like United Health Group, Aetna and Cigna (well into the hundreds of millions, we’re sure). But if you do happen to have one of those names as a provider, you certainly have something to feel good about. These carriers, as well as smaller local companies like WellCare and Horizon, are now taking a major stand against the nation’s opioid crisis; combining their purchasing power to reward proven, evidence-based treatments to painkiller addiction. And, according to all of the major news outlets, this is a step that could dramatically improve the quality of care available.

 

The big statement issued compared opioid addiction to the same urgency level as cancer or diabetes; labeling it as a “chronic disease that requires long-term treatment and monitoring.”

 

“The goal here is to make sure future patients aren’t forced to cycle in and out of treatment, wondering why they don’t work,” representative Gary Mendell told reporters at a recent New Jersey press conference. “Research has proven that addiction is not a character flaw, but a chronic disease of the brain.”

 

Executives from the Horizon insurance company were also on hand to pledge their support to the cause. Mary Ann Christopher, Horizon’s vice president of clinical operations and transformation, echoed Mendell’s statement and vowed to use all of their resources to help make a difference.

 

“Opioid addiction is a public health crisis,” she emphasized. “Horizon is trying to get a lot of things on the ground quickly as this crisis escalates and adopting a flexible approach.” Christopher also put her focus on New Jersey and the importance of localization when it comes to receiving adequate treatment. “”This is a chronic illness,” she added. “And ultimately you have to make that recovery in the place where you live.”

 

Horizon has already been taking steps to support those impacted by the crisis. Currently they are funding peer recovery counselors who visit patients in hospital emergency rooms after an overdose, working to get them into treatment. So far, their new coverage initiative has led to several local success stories, particularly at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center outside of Elizabeth, NJ.

 

There is no doubt that recovery costs have been one of the biggest hurdles for Americans looking to beat their opioid addictions. Research presented at the conference showed that only 1 in 10 of the 21 million people who suffer from painkiller dependencies is in treatment. It also showed that families seeking out recovery facilities for a loved one continue to face roadblocks when it comes to coverage and reimbursement. And this primarily has to do with the fact that addiction isn’t viewed on the same “disease” level as cancer or diabetes.

 

Hopefully this unification of the larger carriers will work to change all that and give people the courage and confidence to fight their addictions.

 

TV Figures Crack Down On Crooked Recovery Clinics

It’s a terrible fact, but in our recovery industry (just like all others) there are unscrupulous characters concerned more about profits than actually helping people. And as the opioid crisis continues to plague the country, more and more of these crooked facilities are popping up, offering to “heal” but doing nothing of the sort. The situation has gotten so bad, that media figures like Dr. Mehmet Oz are making a habit of exposing them.

 

Oz’s The Dr. Oz Show, which airs daily in syndication, recently devoted an entire episode to “shady rehab centers” (as they put it). Oz specifically singled out Florida, labeling it “America’s rehab capital.” Indeed many of the most horrific recovery scams do appear to come out of that state, particularly within the southern region.

 

The pattern appears to follow a general facade of a recovery facility, complete with staff and treatment regimens. But in reality many have turned out to be drug dens, enabling the bad habits and pulling deceitful insurance scams to collect money. Often times patients are sent by their parents or loved ones, only to find themselves worsening their habits and, in several instances, suffering fatal overdoses.

 

“What is popping up now, is taking an individual and reducing them to a dollar figure,”Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg told Dr. Oz. “It’s just sick. Parents will too often send their children down here to get help, and then the only time they leave is in a body bag.”

 

Incredibly, the people who run many of these facilities encourage their patients to use and fail drug tests. Due to specific loopholes they’ve figured out, failed drug tests can translate to longer stays and more insurance payouts. The testing itself can be a mini cash cow for the facilitators and has been shown to be one of the leading profit sources for crooked sober living homes.

 

In a particularly emotional moment, Dr. Oz brought on a parent who lost her child in one of these facilities. Jennifer Flory’s 24-year-old daughter overdosed in the bedroom of her treatment center after a night of partying with staff members. And to make matters even worse, no one from the home bothered to contact Jennifer after the fatality and, according to her, still aren’t providing answers to today.

 

“They allow drug use, just as long as you attend your treatment sessions and they can continue to make money off of you,” she said. “It’s all about greed and money, not helping people. I actually have never heard from the facility themselves or the sober home operator. A friend of hers that was there, that got high with her that night, called me the next day and said that she had overdosed and died.”

 

You can watch some of the more emotional moments from the episode below.

And please, if you or a loved one are considering entering treatment, make sure to seek out a qualified and accredited facility.

 

 

‘Time’ Offers In-Depth Profile Of Life After Addiction

About a year ago, a YouTube video went viral which documented a real life couple in the midst of an opioid overdose. To many, this moment was seen as the catalyst for bringing painkiller dependencies to national stage. Thankfully, the featured “stars,” Ron and Carla Hiers survived their ordeal (though just barely) and today, they have shared their journey with Time Magazine in an insightful piece titled “Life After Addiction.”

 

After it was initially published in October 2016, over three million people shared the Hiers’ video. The aftermath included EMT resuscitation, a jail stint for Carla and infamy across the internet. It may just have been a life saver as well, with Ron admitting to Time that those moments forced him to re-evaluate his life and his dependency problems.

 

“That’s what drugs and alcohol will do to you,” he told the mag in a video on their site. “It’ll take you places you can’t imagine.”

 

The Memphis native first discussed the actual dosages they took that put them over the edge. Apparently, it was a morning that started with Xanax pills and ended up with heroin injections in the stall of a public park restroom. From there the couple ended up in the street virtually lifeless, with Ron stretched out on a sidewalk and Carla collapsing in the middle of the crosswalk.

 

Ron describes the next several weeks as a blur, but admitted that with the help and support of his family he was able to make a positive change. Time documented his entire recovery experience (which Ron still freely admits is a “struggle”), including his admission into the Turning Point treatment facility. After attending meetings and eventually reuniting with Carla, he began to delve into the reasons behind dependency.

 

“After nearly a month of sober living, I woke up one morning and asked myself two questions,” Ron explained. “Are you honestly happy? And Do you want to kill yourself? I couldn’t answer the first with a yes. But I also realized I honestly no longer wanted to kill myself.”

 

He then discussed the inner turmoils that had plagued him since childhood (including issues like bullying and low self-esteem) and how using helped to bury those difficult feelings.

 

“I was most afraid of finding out who I was because I never knew,” he added. “I was scared to find out. I was scared to find out that I was probably not as tough as I thought I was. I was probably not as handsome as I thought I was. I was probably not as well-liked as I thought I was. I was scared to discover the truth about me.”

 

Thankfully, the recovery journey has helped him push through his emotional hurdles and both he and Carla have gone to on to share their experiences with others.  For a better look at the complete story, we highly recommend watching Time’s video with the Hiers’ below.

 

 

Native Americans Heavily Impacted By The Opioid Crisis

It’s a sad fact, but statistics have often shown that the U.S. Native American population has a very high rate of addiction. Alcoholism has plagued tribes throughout the country and now it appears as though the opioid crisis is taking a serious toll as well. According to a new article on TheFix.com, Native Americans living on reservations have the highest overdose rate among all U.S. minorities.

 

Sharing some truly alarming stats from the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTheFix is reporting that painkiller-related fatalities on reservations have risen more than 500 percent in the last two years. That is nearly double the amount attributed to white Americans (which happens to 325 percent, still an incredibly disturbing number).

 

Their writers spoke with several leaders from various Native American communities. They are all acknowledging the danger and pleading with reps from the mainstream press to share their story. Tragically, this community is vastly underrepresented in the media and many are unaware of the crippling addiction issues that they are facing.

 

“I know our population suffers immensely,”Rosebud Sioux and Oglala Sioux Tribe representative Leon Leader Charge told TheFix . “We have people dying because they are abusing opioids, alcohol and methamphetamines. Their bodies can’t take all of that, so they just shut down.”

 

Leader Charge and others like him have been working hard to get their message to Washington D.C. Back in 2016, many tribal leaders met with reps from the Department of Justice for a series of discussions about Native American addiction issues.

 

That meeting (which took place under President Barack Obama’s tenure) led to a formal announcement of new strategies to expand Native American-geared recovery programs. But, in more recent times with President Trump in office, the movement has staggered.

 

Trump did issue a national health emergency concerning the opioid crisis last week, but did not address some of the unique challenges minorities like Native Americans face. Leader Charge made a point to bring up the current Commander-in-Chief during his talks with TheFix. 

 

The tribal leader found Trump’s solutions less than satisfactory, specifically pointing out the lack long term sober living care. “Prevention centers save more money than treatment,” he added. “And it’s hard for our people to complete 30-day treatment and then go back to the same tribal communities. Chances of recovery are slim or lower if you don’t have long-term, sober living facilities.”

 

Our hope is that this conversation continues. And it is certainly important for any California tribe members struggling to know that help is available and certainly much more accessible than they may realize.

 

 

An Inspirational Recovery Story From World Series 2017

Last week, there was obviously a ton of media coverage around the baseball battle between the Astros and the Dodgers. But lost within the Game 7 drama and “I’m going to Disneyland” headlines, there was actually a very poignant recovery story coming out of Houston. New World Series champ Evan Gattis overcame some tremendous obstacles to achieve his ring, including an addiction that nearly cost him his life.

 

Speaking with reporters after the Game 7 victory, Gattis was all smiles and particularly emotional about the win. “It’s what you dream about as a kid, you come this far, let’s just win the thing,” he tearfully said from the field.

 

But Gattis’ rise to the top included multiple rehab stints, a career as a janitor and homelessness after drug abuse led him into the streets. To his credit Evan has spoken about all of it very openly, in the hopes that his recovery story will work to inspire others.

 

Gattis’ dependency issues began during childhood. In interviews, he claimed to have first experienced depression while in middle school and quickly found solace in substances like marijuana and alcohol.

 

“I was a scared kid that smoked too much pot, a 17-year-old,” he told the FanSided site. “I never really gave myself a chance to fail, so really the big thing was coming back and playing and kind of go face these fears and kind of march back into it. At least if I fail, I’ll be a success just to go do it instead of chickening out or just being afraid.”

 

Despite being an incredibly talented baseball player at a young age, Gattis’ demons got the best of him; costing him scholarships and a chance to play in the majors. Multiple rehab stints followed, then came janitor work, odd jobs and ultimately a life on the streets of New York.

 

But, as last week showed, this story certainly has a silver lining. After a final recovery stint, Gattis began piecing back his life and focusing on his baseball passions. Through some family connections, he was able to try out and land a spot in the minors. Then, after some big success, Houston came calling.

 

Today, Evan has become an advocate for people battling addiction and mental illness. He also works hard to encourage his fans to follow their dreams. And, as expected, his inspirational story has now touched millions following the World Series (as evidenced in the tweet below).

 

 

Congrats Evan on a job well done!

 

 

Exploring The Science Behind ‘Gateway Drugs’

We’ve all heard the term “gateway drug” before. Often times it is associated with things like marijuana or even cigarettes. The meaning, of course, correlates to the entryway into addiction and how one “less harmful” substance can quickly lead the way into dangerous narcotics. Well now, scientists are hoping to prove that point, singling out alcohol and cocaine as two examples.

 

The Los Angeles Times actually published the research this week (which was taken from the National Institute on Drug Abuse). In it, rats were subjected to a series of tests which showed that both alcohol and nicotine made them more susceptible to cocaine addiction.

 

To help prove this point, scientists allowed the rat test subjects to drink alcohol every day for nearly two weeks. Then, they were given a dose of cocaine and quickly became engaged in aggressive drug-seeking behavior. The urges were so strong, apparently, that the animals were barely deterred by painful electric shocks.

 

Similar tests were conducted with nicotine and (to a lesser extent) the results were very similar. The real clincher was comparing these subjects to rats who only had access to cocaine. Though both sets showed signs of addiction, the alcohol and nicotine subjects withstood far more painful shocks for their urges.

 

“We certainly suspected that both alcohol and nicotine were implicated in addiction to illegal drugs, population studies have clearly suggested as much,” institute director Dr. Nora Volkow told The Times. “But the finding of this common gateway pathway between nicotine and alcohol opens up new avenues in prevention research.”

 

Interestingly enough, researchers at Columbia University conducted some similar tests and got very similar results. Their experiments involved levers pressed by rats. The rodents’ actions dictated the amount of substances dispensed. Rats with no alcohol history averaged 310 lever presses for cocaine portions. But those who were exposed to alcohol pressed their levels an average of 563 times.

 

Part of the reason for these studies is the continuing rise in underage drinking and potential cocaine risks that could accompany that. The L.A. Times reports that 33 percent of high school students say they’ve consumed alcohol at least once in the last month. Additionally, 18 percent admitted to binge drinking within the same time period.

 

Teens are certainly most vulnerable to the gateway experience, since those are the years where substances are first introduced. And if the rats in question prove anything, it’s that one addiction can quickly escalate into another.

 

Columbia scientist John Dani went on to emphasize that the rat results easily parallel what we see in ourselves.

 

“A rat is not necessarily a good model for the behavior of a human, but their neurons do things very similar to our neurons,” he said. “We have those same enzymes and same epigenetic processes in our neurons, and that’s where this has real value. At this molecular level, they’re very similar to us.”

 

Silicon Valley Companies Work To Curb Office Drinking

Northern California’s Silicon Valley has built a reputation for creating amazingly innovative businesses and adhering to a somewhat unconventional workplace lifestyle. That has come to include everything from casual dress, to pets in the cubicle, to free flowing beer in kitchen areas. Well more recently tech company leaders are changing their stance on that, starting with Salesforce’s Marc Benioff who is pushing a movement to curb office drinking.

 

Issuing a stern memo to his 25,000 employees this week, Benioff mandated an order to remove all kegs and alcoholic drinks from the Salesforce campus.

 

“I want to remind everyone that we have a no alcohol policy at Salesforce,” he wrote in an office blog post that was later shared on CNBC. “Alcohol is a drug and having alcohol on a Salesforce premise is simply unfair to the Ohana who either do not want it or are intolerant of it.”

 

Benioff used the word Ohana an affectionate term for his “family” of workers (it literally translates to family in Hawaiian). He also shared a picture of a full keg placed on the floor of the office lounge.

 

 

Benioff (who has never publicly dealt with alcoholism or any type of addiction) began coming down hard on drinking about a year ago. At Salesforce’s annual meeting, he discussed the new policy openly saying “there is no room for alcohol or drugs in a start up of tech culture.”

 

Not long after, several other emerging Silicon Valley companies began following suit. The start-up Zenefits put their ban in place at the end of last year; stating it contributed to a “party-like work culture.” Jet.com also got on the no booze bandwagon, enforcing a zero tolerance policy in 2017. CNBC claims Uber may be next in line; as they are pulling back on office parties and working to clean up their image after some recent bad press.

 

And as much as we would like to think that these moves are happening because Silicon Valley cares about sobriety, there are many legal benefits as well. Liability is a big concern for growing companies and there have been proven cases where companies were held responsible for alcohol-related accidents and harassment charges.

 

“Employers are rightly concerned about legal liability for actions that their employees take either at work or after hours when they have been drinking alcohol provided by the employer,” Wharton Business School professor Peter Cappelli told CNBC. “If I’m injured by a drunk employee, I’m likely to sue their employer because the employer has more money.”

 

Whether that’s the real reason or not, we applaud all businesses that take a hard stance against enabling employees with substances that may prove addictive.

 

Senior Pharma Exec Arrested In Opioid Bribery Case

Ever since President Donald Trump’s declaration of a U.S. “health emergency,” more and more headlines are being generated about the nation’s opioid crisis. Yesterday, it was in reference to former President Bill Clinton and his impassioned speech at a recovery summit. And today, it involves the high-profile arrest of a pharmaceutical titan. John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics has been put into the hot seat after accusations of a bribery scheme to get doctors to prescribe more painkillers.

 

This particular story is interesting because it’s one of the first to take the crisis into the criminal justice system; specifically targeting one of the leaders in the prescription business. Kapoor’s company is publicly traded and primarily known for producing fentanyl sprays that seek to relieve pain in cancer patients.

 

Well, we all know how controversial anything related to fentanyl can be. Considered one of the leading synthetic opioids, fentanyl has been flagged as a major contributor to the crisis and is seen as highly addictive. Kapoor’s alleged crimes speak to those facts, particularly because he is being accused of pressuring clinics to unnecessarily prescribe it.

 

After the arrest Kapoor immediately resigned from his role at Insys, but refused to admit any guilt. “I am confident that I have committed no crimes and believe I will be fully vindicated after trial,” he went on to say in a statement.

 

The spray in question is called Subsys and had been under investigation for a period of months. Apparently recent profits from the drug have shot up to the hundreds of millions, getting onto the radar of the U.S. Justice Department.

 

Kapoor was indicted along with several other Insys executives, including Chief Executive, Michael Babich and senior board member, Patrick Fourteau (both of whom have also resigned). Kapoor was booked this week and later released on a $1 million bond.

 

His crimes, if proven true, are quite alarming and could signal the start of more criminal investigations into leading pharmaceutical companies. Apparently, doctors with the power to prescribe the drug were treated with lavish dinners, entertainment expenses and wads of cash…all on Insys’ dime.

 

The return favors included unnecessary prescriptions to patients who were not even stricken with cancer (contradicting the drug’s true purpose). This obviously opened the door to many new addictions and a drastic spike in America’s opioid epidemic.

 

Prosecutors intend to go after Kapoor and his cohorts hard for the crimes, which Boston FBI agent Harold Shaw emphasized to Business Day online. “Selling a highly addictive opioid-cancer pain drug to patients who did not have cancer makes them no better than street-level drug dealers,” he said.

 

We will certainly be watching to see if this is the start of more indictments to come.