Where Is The Opioid Crisis Heading In 2018?

As we close the chapter on 2017, there are certainly a lot of things to reflect upon regarding the state of addiction in the United States. Though many have a hard time admitting it, this has been one of the most devastating years in recent history; with tens of thousands of lives lost to overdoses. Of course it’s the national Opioid Crisis that deserves most of the blame (though there were increases in alcoholism and other dependencies as well). So with that being said, what can we expect in the next 12 months?


Sadly, things may get worse before they get better. President Donald Trump did make news around the world by declaring a “national emergency” this past fall, but many have argued that his administration still isn’t taking drastic enough measures. As the writers from TIME explained, it’s been “big talk, but little action.”


“To be clear, the President’s declaration of a public health emergency was an overdue recognition of the reality of the opioid epidemic in our cities and across the country,” TIME staffer Mary T. Bassett wrote. “But it was definitely short from the much anticipated declaration of national emergency the President had promised, and without much-needed resources to expand effective interventions it has proven to be largely symbolic.”


And as far as last year’s stats go, 2o17 saw a dramatic increase in the amount of drug-related deaths. 23 percent, to be exact. States like West Virginia felt the biggest blow, with 36 out of every 100,000 residents succumbing to overdoses.


That is truly alarming and the fact that President Trump hasn’t taken more swift action is raising the flag for many (as the writers from U.S. News and World Report highlighted in a very informative article). In fact, Trump’s recent Tax Plan has many thinking that the problem could get worse in the coming months. The sweeping changes may have big implications for Obamacare and Medicaid, which limits the amount of treatment many suffering from addiction can receive.


There are also troublesome stats about the increase in fentanyl use and synthetic, more potent painkillers. And it is worth noting that those who feel unaffected by the crisis have a lot to worry about too. Even if no one in your inner circle is struggling with this type of addiction (which is rare), expect to see an impact on the markets and the economy. Last year, the opioid crisis cost the country $504 billion and, with no solutions in sight, you can expect that number to spike up even higher in 2018.


Hugh Hefner Sets Example With ‘Addiction-Free’ Trust

For many, the late Hugh Hefner exemplified excess and a life of indulgences. But he actually became a staunch recovery advocate throughout his later years, publicly speaking out against the dangers of addiction. And, interestingly enough, he demonstrated that stance even more after his passing; with particular stipulations in his will that forbid his heirs from abusing drugs and alcohol.


Details of the Playboy founder’s trust were recently made public and they are drawing some big headlines from the recovery community. We, for one, think it is an innovative and effective stance; particularly for parents of wealth. Too often, children who come into large sums of money tend to take their lifestyle to the extreme. Partying could easily be a coping mechanism, which, more likely than not, can lead to using dangerous substances.


Entertainment Tonight broke this particular story, printing excerpts from Hefner’s lengthy trust papers.


If the trustees reasonably believe that a beneficiary of any trust routinely or frequently uses or consumes any illegal substance so as to be physically or psychologically dependent upon that substance, or is clinically dependent upon the use or consumption of alcohol or any other legal drug or chemical substance that is not prescribed by a board certified medical doctor or psychiatrist in a current program of treatment supervised by such doctor or psychiatrist, and if the Trustees reasonably believe that as a result the beneficiary is unable to care for himself or herself, or is unable to manage his or her financial affairs, all mandatory distributions to the beneficiary, all the beneficiary’s withdrawal rights, and all of the beneficiary’s rights to participate in decisions concerning the removal and appointment of Trustees will be suspended,” it read.


Translated into more manageable terms, it singles each of Hefner’s four children and allows for any one of them to be cut out of their inheritance if they fail drug tests initiated by the estate’s executors. And that can mean a major financial loss, as Hefner’s fortune was reported to be around $26 million.


Many parents are unaware that stipulations like these can be included in their will documentation. For those who fear enablement after their passing, it may be a good idea to consult an attorney to ensure that heirs do not use any funds to further bad habits. Choosing a trusted executor is also very important, as they can represent an unbiased party and ensure that all final wishes are carried out properly.


Can Raising Prices Help Curb Alcoholism?

In the past few decades, we’ve seen a significant drop in cigarette use thanks (in part) to a change in public opinion and higher carton prices. Now that same logic may be applied to alcohol, with government officials discussing raising the price of booze nationwide.


Interestingly enough, it was President Donald Trump’s recent tax plan that stirred up the conversation. The new laws actually cut the federal excise tax on alcohol by around 16 percent. In the wake of that, economists are proposing a second policy that could be used to raise the price of beer, wine and liquor. Taking a cue from Canada and the UK (who already have initiatives like this in place), this would actually become more targeted than a tax and create a minimum price point for all booze.


In a lengthy article published by Voxthe concept was explored in further detail. Their reporting showed that 88,000 U.S. fatalities are linked to alcohol each year, making it the third leading cause of preventable death. It also showed that the number is increasing and blamed “cheap booze” as the culprit.


Indeed, alcohol is one of America’s more affordable vices. Inexpensive beer and liquor bottles are readily available and (according to Vox) are the products most closely tied to U.S. deaths. It’s not the fine wine connoisseurs who are drinking themselves to death, it’s often low income alcoholics with little or no medical coverage.


So how would a minimum price raise work? Based on the models other countries use, it would be based on a percentage. Canada, for example, added a 10% increase to its alcoholic beverages and has since seen a 8% reduction in consumption, a 9% reduction in hospital admissions and a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol caused deaths. Impressive stats, if you ask us.


Vox’s German Lopez explained the concept in further detail in his article, which made a point in differentiating it from a broader national tax.


“An alcohol tax affects all alcoholic beverages,” he wrote. “But a minimum price hits a smaller pool of cheaper products. In doing this, the minimum price targets excessive drinkers, because they tend to be, according to the research, bargain shoppers, while moderate drinkers are less likely to hunt down the lowest prices.”


The piece went on to illustrate some compelling data on how something as simple as a 50 cent hike on Bud Light six packs could save thousands of lives a year. We encourage all of our readers to look deeper into the research and support new measures that will not only lower addiction rates, but also save lives.


Links Identified Between Addiction And Dental Surgery

In our ongoing analysis of America’s opioid crisis, we often reference doctors and pharmacists who have been singled out for overprescribing painkillers. But a new report has surfaced which is bringing the dental profession into the equation. Believe it or not, dentists and oral surgeons are one of the leading prescribers of opioids; particularly for teens and adolescents.


Stats released by TheFix.com and The Daily Beast revealed that dentists prescribe nearly 10 percent of all opioids nationally, primarily for wisdom teeth procedures. Vicodin was singled out as the drug of choice, since it is a potent way to treat oral pain after surgery.


And although the intentions are usually good, it’s drugs like these that are contributing to the U.S. opioid epidemic. Currently, the crisis is claiming 91 American lives per day and (as we all know) it is continuing to receive national attention.


The true scary stat to come out of the report concerned America’s younger set and the addiction risks that these types of dental procedures can have on children. According to the data, dentists and oral surgeons are the number one prescribers of opioids for adolescents aged 10 to 19.


Psychologist Andrew Kolodny was interviewed by The Beast and had some strong words about the stats. “There are studies that show that children who are exposed to opioids… after their wisdom teeth come out are much more likely to use opioids non-medically—basically recreationally,” he said. “And that can lead to abuse later in life.”


And of that set, it was shown that children exposed to opioids before the end of high school were 33 percent more likely to form an addiction. There are also even greater hazards for children who abuse, as their brains are still not fully formed and may be at risk for permanent damage.


Are there solutions? According to the article, yes. Research has shown that there are sufficient alternatives to opioids for people who have gone through wisdom teeth procedures. Exparel, for example, was listed as a less addictive painkiller, as were aspirin and ibuprofen combinations (such as Advil and Tylenol).


The big takeaway was that many in the dental field weren’t even aware of these stats. The article did not try to portray those professionals negatively or with malicious intent. It just went on to illustrate that every person in the medical field should be aware of the crisis and act accordingly when it comes to treating pain.


Opioid Crisis Is Lowering U.S. Life Expectancy

If you think the opioid crisis isn’t having a drastic affect on the U.S. as a whole, it’s time to think again. This week, it was announced that the nation’s life expectancy was on the decline thanks, for the most part, to overdoses attributed to painkillers. Today the average American is expected to live to the age of 78.6, dropping for the second straight year.


The Washington Post published a telling article on the topic, zeroing in on the drug crisis that is tearing lives apart. Their research from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a 21 percent increase in fatal overdose this year. And, when averaged in, they held back longevity from U.S. citizens as a whole.


The truly startling fact is that this is the second year U.S. life expectancy has declined. The last time there was a two year decrease like this was back in 1962 and 1963, during an influenza crisis. Even the rise of diseases like AIDS never led to these types of numbers.


“I think we should take it very seriously,” National Center for Health Statistics chief Bob Anderson told The Post. “If you look at the other developed countries in the world, they’re not seeing this kind of thing. Life expectancy is going up.”


Put into raw numbers, there were 42,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the opioid crisis in 2016 alone. And many of those struck down were younger Americans, greatly skewing the national average.


Heart disease and cancer are still the leading causes of American deaths, but in the Washington Post chart below you’ll see a spike in the Unintentional Injuries category. That, of course, represents drug-related overdoses and it is clearly on the rise.



It also worth noting that men, in particular, appear to be the most affected. Their life expectancy dropped to 76.1 years, which is below the national average.


Now for the scariest part of all. This actually only accounts for the year 2016. According to The Post writer, 2017 has been even more devastating and once this year is over we can expect to see an even sharper expectancy decline.


“It’s even worse than it looks,” Stanford University addiction specialist Keith Humphreys told the site. “We could easily be at 50,000 opioid deaths this year. That means that even if you ignored deaths from all other drugs, the opioid epidemic alone is deadlier than the AIDS epidemic at its peak. My guess is that when all of the data is in that the [2017] trend line will be even steeper than 2016.”


Eminem Addresses Addiction And Recovery On New Album

Love him or hate him, Eminem has always been one to speak the honest truth. Whether it’s about his difficult upbringing, his problems in the music business or (most recently) his battle with addiction, the iconic rapper isn’t afraid to shy away from painful topics. His latest album, Revivaltackles drugs head-on with a dark set of lyrics addressing his near fatal overdose.


Revival hit record stores this month and it’s the explicit track “Arose” that’s gaining attention within the recovery community. Eminem (born Marshall Mathers) creates a vivid scenario of blacking out after using methadone. He soon finds himself in a hospital bed and drifting away from his body after attempts to resuscitate him are unsuccessful.


“They’re unplugging me, and it’s your birthday. Jade, I’m missing your birthday,” he raps in the song. “Baby girl, I’m sorry/I fucking hate when you hurt, hey Nurses lean over the bed, pulling tubes out. Then the sheet over my head, shut the room down.”


Not surprisingly, “Arose” has brought up many questions during Eminem’s recent publicity tour. Honest as ever, the rapper admits that it’s based on his real experiences; particularly a night in 2007 when he was rushed to the E.R.


Speaking candidly about the O.D., Eminem told Rolling Stone, “My whole month of December leading up to [the overdose], I don’t remember sh*t. All I remember was hitting the bathroom floor and waking up in the hospital. The doctors told me I’d done the equivalent of four bags of heroin. They said I was about two hours from dying.”


But as the “Arose” lyrics (and title) clearly illustrate, that night was also a major turning point in his life. Eminem went on tell RS that he made a choice from that hospital bed. A choice to live and get clean. He brought up his daughter Hallie as a key inspiration and went on to openly discuss his new recovery regimen.


Eminem revealed that he meets with a rehab counselor once a week and uses jogging as a new outlet to help keep him focused. He also said that legendary singer Elton John is one of his unofficial sponsors and plays a huge part in his sobriety.


And to his fans, Eminem made sure that his “Arose” single does conclude with a happy ending. After the darkness of the OD, he finishes the track with these lyrics, “I’m tryna rewind time like a tape, find an escape. Make a beeline, try and awake from this dream, I need to re-find my inner strength to remind me. Even if a steep climb I must take to rewrite a mistake. I’m rewinding the tape.”


When Shooting Up Leads To Murder

This week, the website Mother Jones published a very telling piece about the realities of overdosing and what potential criminal charges can go along with it. Though many may not realize it, sharing a drug like heroin could actually lead to a murder conviction. As Mother Jones illustrates; it happened in Louisiana back in 2013, when a user shared his stash and his friend fatally OD’d.


Jarret McCasland was picked up by the Baton Rouge police department for what he thought was a minor traffic violation. In reality, cops were informed that his friend, Flavia Cardenas, died from a heroin overdose that was supplied by him. Before he knew it, Jarret was facing life in prison for Flavia’s murder.


Interestingly enough, this isn’t a new occurrence and now 20 U.S. states are allowing cases like this to move forward. The first round of OD murder charges stem back to the 1980’s and the rise of crack cocaine. Now, according to Mother Jones, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing cases like this again and nine more states are considering applying the law.


As Mother Jones staffer Jessica Pishko writes, “Prosecutors are increasingly using a 1987 law to charge people who provide or dispense the drugs in fatal overdoses with second-­degree murder, triggering an automatic life­without-parole sentence, without regard to intent. Though it’s hard to track how often the law is used, data from the Drug Policy Institute suggests prosecutions have skyrocketed over the last five years.”


McCasland was ultimately found guilty on the count of second-degree murder, particularly because he was present when Cardenas died. Now he sits in Louisiana State Penitentiary with a 99-year sentence.


Since Jarret’s conviction in 2013, Louisiana prosecutors have charged two more people with similar crimes. Their circumstances were slightly different, but led to manslaughter convictions and 10 years behind bars.


Several attorneys have argued that this type of harsh sentencing is unfair and goes against the intent of the original law. Stephen Singer, a Louisiana lawyer who spoke to Mother Jones, believes that it was initially enacted to target dealers and not necessarily the companions of people who OD.


“This is not what the Legislature had in mind when passing this statute,” he told the site. “I think they meant to go after real dealers, not end users sharing.”


McCasland’s defenders agree with that sentiment and believe the jury was swayed because he was portrayed as a dealer. Whatever the reason, it is certainly important that people battling addiction are aware of these consequences. Shooting up is incredibly dangerous. Not only does it put your life in jeopardy, it can also cost you your freedom.


How America’s Opioid Crisis Is Affecting Children

There is no doubt that addiction can have a major ripple effect. Sure it causes tremendous damage to the person using, but overindulging in drugs like opioids have consequences that extend much further. The Associated Press zeroed in on that a bit further this week, releasing some alarming stats on how America’s prescription painkiller crisis is affecting young children.


The AP piece started off by going straight to the data. One major stat that got our attention was the amount of children being put into foster care. With addicted parents overdosing, getting arrested and losing the ability to keep with their responsibilities, it does make sense that their kids would need to be removed from the home. And in 2016, it was reported that 92,000 children were put in foster care due to drug issues at home. That accounts for more than one third of all U.S. foster cases and represents a 32 percent spike in drug-related foster cases within the past year.


According to the article, that number is expected to go up dramatically by the end of this year. And as AP writer Matt Sedensky explained, it’s something that national leaders should be very concerned about.


“Drugs have always been a major driver of children into the foster care system, but officials haven’t seen something of this magnitude since the wave of crack cocaine use in the 1980s,” Sedensky wrote. “Today’s opioid epidemic is the deadliest surge of drug use in the country’s history. That fact alone leads many to believe it could also amount to the most significant impact the country’s foster care system has ever seen.”


He noted that the increasing amount of foster children could weigh heavily on state and local programs, particularly because there may not be enough foster families to sustain the growth. Spill over could lead to housing children at emergency shelters and hiring many new workers at U.S. child welfare agencies. There is no doubt that issues like this could impact taxpayers and have serious repercussions on the national economy.


Sedensky’s article went on to profile the children who appear to be most at risk. His research showed that while kids of all ages are entering the foster programs, it’s those who are three and younger who make up the lion’s share of applicants. That includes infants and babies as well, which makes for some truly tragic scenarios (particularly when it comes to newborns).


“Babies exposed to opioids by their mother’s use during pregnancy are often born with a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome and can go through an agonizing withdrawal,” he added.  “Hospitals around the U.S. have begun testing newborns for drug exposure, and authorities are routinely involved when babies test positive. In many cases, they enter the foster care system in their very first days.”


A Year In Review

Well, here we are again Valley Recovery Center friends. In just a few short weeks, we will be in the midst of a new year and many exciting changes. But before that happens, we wanted to take a look back and appreciate all of the important moments that we were part of in 2017. These past 12 months brought about exciting events, new social media alignments, staff additions to the VRC family and much, much more.


First off, we are all extremely grateful for the continued support we have received from our friends and colleagues (many of whom were featured in this year’s blogs). Looking back, we had the opportunity to have deep conversations with recovery advocates like Kristen Johnson, MPH from Breathe Life Healing Centers. She offered incredible insights into the approach of her facility.


We also spoke with Authentic Recovery Center COO Hadas Zies and learned about the unique recovery approaches from her two facilities. One of our industry’s most respected advocates, she told us, “When we say authentic, we mean it. The core essence of our program is acting with integrity. And that goes from the business aspect to the clinical aspect.”


And let’s not forget our conversation with Michael Lynch, founder of Stairway Recovery Homes. His facilities have done tremendous work for those battling addiction and cater to people living in the San Fernando Valley.



Then there was our interview with Dr. Reza Nabavi, PhD, who runs Resolutions Therapeutic Services. His work is has been centered on the west side of L.A. and helped countless professional adults build a strong alumni network as they move on from their treatment.


“We really have seen some incredible results,” Reza told us back in July. “Whether its sobriety, trauma resolution, or mental illness remission, our former clients continue to have long-term success. We also do a lot for our alumni. Everything from getting them jobs, to going back to school, to re-establishing their careers. It’s been really rewarding and it’s really nice to see.”


But this year went way beyond just informative blog profiles. We also launched an exciting new Facebook Group called I Work In Treatment And I Love It, which is catered to professionals in our field and provides a valuable online resource. As the description reads, The purpose of this group is to create a safe and encouraging environment for ethical professionals to be a part of something greater. And we can thankfully say, in the past six months it has accomplished what it set out to do.

And of course, let’s not forget all of the fantastic people who have joined the VRC family this year! From Clinical Director Amy Spahr, to Admissions Coordinator Kori Francisco, to Substance Abuse Counselor Colin Dassler and beyond, we are beyond thrilled to have so many talented new people on our team.


So from all of us, THANK YOU for making 2017 such a fantastic year. Let us all reflect on our successes from the past 12 months, learn from our mistakes and look onward and upward to 2018!


Addressing Alcohol At Holiday Work Parties

‘Tis the season as the say. The season for giving gifts, enjoying ugly sweaters and (unfortunately) gaining exposure to free flowing booze cups at corporate holiday parties. To their credit though, many major companies this year are looking to ban alcohol from their festive workplace events.


Interestingly enough, the recent harassment claims against celebs like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer may actually be the catalyst for this. “Workplace sexual misconduct” (as it is officially labeled) appears to be on the rise, or better said, the reporting of workplace sexual misconduct appears to be on the rise. And we, for one, are happy it is getting exposed. Of course employees should behave themselves in a respectable manor and not put co-workers in uncomfortable situations. So banning alcohol has become a popular first step to alleviate these liabilities.


Vox Media is one of the first major businesses to usher the “no booze” mandate. Their chief editorial director was fired this past October for sexual misconduct and, as a result, holiday party open bars are no more there. As their company memo told the staff, “we plan to ramp up the food and cut off the drinks.”


The research firm Challenger & Gray conducted a survey for The Boston Globe this month and discovered that 50 percent of all major Fortune 500 companies are no longer serving alcohol at their holiday parties this year. And of those who are, 62 percent are cutting back on the amount of booze that they buy.


Many companies are also switching their party times to the afternoon or mid-day. And of the ones who are still including alcohol, the cocktail open bar rule is no more. Now it is strictly beer and wine, which employees are expected to pay for with cash (in the hopes of discouraging overindulgences).


For many businesses, as The Globe reports, these new policies are helpful on many levels. Not only are the executives able to avoid excess drunkenness, they are saving a substantial amount of money by removing expensive wine and liquor bottles from the equation.


While we are all for the concept of removing booze due to harassment concerns, we also support it for an entirely different reason. Having alcohol readily available in front of employees can also be extremely insensitive, particularly for people in recovery. These types of temptations make it very difficult for those hoping to avoid addictive situations. And having drunken coworkers in your face makes the resistance that much harder.


So yes, of course removing alcohol from workplace events is a fantastic idea. Our hope is that the remainder of the “open bar” corporations take the hint and soon follow suit.


‘Street Soccer’ Aims To Help Those Battling Addiction

We’ve always believed that sports and outdoor activities can be used as a powerful recovery tool. In our Valley Recovery Center regimen we regularly incorporate things like hiking and team building. But over in Sacramento, former soccer star Lisa Wrightsman is taking things to a whole other level. Her influential Street Soccer USA league doesn’t just help those overcoming addiction, it focuses on people who have lost their homes.


Local ABC outlet KOAT recently did a profile on Lisa and the inspiring work that’s happening on her sports team. After getting a full soccer scholarship to Sacramento State University, Lisa went pro and traveled all over the world as a renowned lady striker. Tragically though, a dependency on methamphetamines soon got the best of her and she ultimately lost everything she worked so hard for.


“I really hit rock bottom in 2009,” Wrightsman revealed to KOAT reporters. “I was in jail. I was arrested for the last time. Six months after using methamphetamines I went pretty crazy.”


But at her lowest point, Lisa reached a pivotal turning point. Rebuilding her life and her career, Lisa decided to form Street Soccer USA. The specialized league catered specifically to northern California’s homeless population, aiming to help former addicts find an outlet and get back on their feet.


In the past seven years, Street Soccer USA (or SSUSA, for short) has grown by leaps and bounds. Several former Sacramento athletes have found comfort in the weekly games and built a strong support system among the recovery advocates. As each player overcomes their addiction, they work to “pay it forward” and mentor other younger players who are struggling to kick their habits.


29-year-old SSUSA player Sarah Chambers was also profiled, openly discussing her experiences as a user and a dealer. Chambers (who now coaches new SSUSA teams) described herself as a “functioning addict” who eventually lost her job, spouse and friends to drugs. Thankfully, the organized games and camaraderie turned things around; providing Sarah with structure and a sense of hope.


“I had no real direction before street soccer,” she explained. “My whole life (was) surrounded around being high and street soccer taught me the importance of showing up because anyone who knows me knows I am always late and can’t be held accountable.”


One other positive foot note to the story was the success these player have been having on the field. This year, the Sacramento SSUSA team traveled all the way to Brazil to compete in an international championship. It is truly an inspirational accomplishment and one that deserves to be recognized.



Photo Chronicling ‘600 Days of Sobriety’ Goes Viral

Sometimes inspiring moments happen in our own backyard. And sometimes they happen halfway around the world. Australia native John DeCaux got the recovery world buzzing this week with an impressive viral photo that chronicled his “600 Days of Sobriety.” Highlighting a dramatic before-and-after pic, John’s inspirational message has now reached millions of people across the globe.


In John’s case, the demon he successfully slayed was alcoholism. After a tumultuous drinking battle which consumed his teens and 20’s, John made a point to go cold turkey; a choice he said was inspired by his new wife.


“My final-straw moment for me was when my wife approached me and showed me how much alcohol I was consuming and said enough was enough,” the 27-year-old told Yahoo News.


John initially took his message to the social media network Reddit (which we have profiled numerous times in our blogs). Creating a subreddit folder titled “600 days ago I quit drinking and life has never been better!,” John detailed the positive changes that have happened since he drank his last drop back on April 16, 2016.


His dramatic “selfie” gallery (pictured above) shows the former John as an overweight, unkempt and unhealthy young man. In contrast, his December 2017 pic shows a clean shaven, lean and beaming recovery advocate who literally looks like he’s shaved years off his life.


John credits his wife Lydia as the catalyst for the change. Her devotion to his sobriety included removing all alcoholic beverages from their home and becoming a true support system during his hours of doubt. As John emotionally explained on his Reddit page, it was the loss of his brother that initially led him to turn to the bottle.


His motivating words have driven thousands of comments and led to heartfelt Reddit dialogues about overcoming addiction. As he proudly put on his page, John is now channeling his downtime into other interests and has found several positive outlets.


“Since I have stopped drinking I have regained time and energy that I have put toward working on a passion project, an online cooking show [and a] documentary series with my dad,” he wrote. “My wife and I have also bought a house. I have lost about over 38 pounds so far, and I’m now going to the gym at least 3 days a week.”


In regards to his newfound viral fame, John is incredibly proud of his ability to inspire others.


“This experience highlighted that alcohol was no longer controlling my life; I am now back in charge of my own decisions,” he added. “I’m really enjoying where I am in life at the moment and have no desire to ever return to drinking.”


Addiction-Related Movies Are At An All-Time High

You know something has officially hit the mainstream when Hollywood comes calling. And with the opioid crisis front-and-center in today’s headlines, it’s no surprise that movie and television studios are rushing to bring more stories about it to the masses. Everything from documentaries, to heavy dramas, to Netflix binge shows are being produced at a rapid pace in the hopes of piquing public interest.


MarketWatch.com put out an interesting article that kind of sums up this latest trend. They noted that Hollywood has visited addiction many times over the decades, with the 1980’s being a particularly prolific period (highlighting famous films like Less Than Zero, Bright Lights Big City and Clean and Sober).


Now, however, another wave is being ushered in. This year alone saw the release of movies like The Glass Castle (featuring Oscar-winner Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson), Stronger (with Jake Gyllenhaal), Smalltown Crime and the upcoming The Tribes of Palos Verdes featuring Jennifer Garner and Alicia Silverstone. All touch upon drugs, painkillers and alcoholism in a significant way.


On the documentary front, Marketwatch has pointed out two films which particularly focus on opioids. HBO’s Meth Storm follows users in working class neighborhoods and points out the “endless cycle of addiction, poverty and incarceration.”  We’ve actually seen it already and highly recommend setting aside time for a viewing.

The complete Meth Storm trailer is below.


Another doc called Heroin(e) has already arrived on Netflix and illustrates the deadliness of shooting up. Offering an intimate glimpse of real first responders and recovery patients, it does provide some home amid the disparity of the crisis. You can watch that trailer below as well.


The Marketwatch piece made a point to interview a few industry insiders as well; as a way to understand the increase in addiction-related media content. Though studios certainly have the bottom dollar in mind, analyst Paul Dergarabedian believes the trend is driving an artistic creative need as well.


“Filmmakers like to reflect on, and be inspired by, what’s going on around them and with the opioid crisis affecting so many people, it’s no wonder they’re attracted to this subject in increasing number,” Dergarabedian told the site. “Addiction is rife with cinematic and humanistic sensibilities.”


And interestingly enough, this topic is also becoming more prominent in the theatre world. Over in New York, more and more Broadway shows are beginning to tackle addiction. Plays like Downtown Race Riot (featuring Chloe Sevigny) and People, Places and Things are receiving rave reviews and drawing in big crowds.


If stories like these offer heartfelt interpretations and bring more attention to the crisis, then we support them wholeheartedly.


‘Makeovers’ Used To Help Those In Recovery

They say that sometimes you need to “look good to feel good.” And if that’s the case, more power to those people. Interestingly enough, one recovery facility in Cincinnati is seeing some clear results from that philosophy by offering special beauty makeovers for clients who are overcoming addiction.


The city’s Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Abuse Outreach Program (also known as UMADAOP) was recently profiled on the local news for their inspiring “beautification” techniques. Offering everything from haircuts, to facials, to manicures and pedicures, stylists working in conjunction with UMADAOP have offered free touch ups to help encourage recovery and boost confidence.


“It’s important to build self-esteem and to allow other people to see that treatment really does work,” Dr. Kamaria Tyehimba, the president and CEO of UMADAOP of Cincinnati told the local ABC outlet. “We want to turn around perceptions and show our clients that there really is hope.”


Recovering opioid abuser Deborah Corey was also profiled in the segment and allowed cameras to showcase some glamorous “before” and “after” shots. She admitted that once her addiction took hold, she lost interest in keeping up her appearance and hadn’t even used makeup in over a decade.


After getting spruced up, Deborah was shown to be happy and optimistic about her drug-free future.


“This whole makeover felt kind of good, really,” she told the reporter. “I feel like I’ve been given a second chance.”


And Dr. Tyehimba was quick to point out that although the news segment featured women, they have happily offering makeovers to male clients too. The results have been just as promising, with men finding new confidence in their improved appearance. One other interesting note was that Dr. Tyehimba’s clientele was primarily African-American. That is something she openly acknowledged and vowed to turn around. She said she was hopeful that tactics like these makeovers will help other minorities see the hope that recovery can provide.


“We do have a lot African-Americans using opioid-based drugs in this community,” Dr. Tyehimba said. “And we’re not necessarily proud of that. It just is.”


We were definitely inspired by Dr. Tyehimba’s optimism and the shining happiness coming from Deborah after her stint in the makeup chair. To get a full glimpse of this interesting treatment tactic, we encourage you to watch the full ABC segment below. And please feel free share it with anyone looking for a little positive encouragement.



‘Addiction Obituaries’ Go Viral

This month, USA Today put out a powerful article that delves deep into the family dynamics that surround an addiction. In particular, they zeroed in on overdoses and the fatalities that issues like the opioid crisis have caused Americans. When a loved one dies because of their dependency, it is a devastating experience. And parents certainly have the freedom to be as open or private about it as they please. But a recent movement has been encouraging families to call out the drug and alcohol battles that have taken their loved ones in what are deemed “Addiction Obituaries.”


The USA Today piece started out by highlighting the Ballesty family and, in particular, their matriarch, Dianne. A retired New York schoolteacher, Dianne lost her son to heroin back in 2013 and, out of shame and embarrassment, initially chose not to reveal his cause of death in his obituary. But as the time came closer to go to print, she had a change of heart and called out the dependency that claimed his life.


Her son Peter’s write up was certainly not all doom and gloom. Dianne made a point to celebrate his life, but also rightfully called out the “disease” that took him away at just 32 years old.


“This disease shouldn’t be something that nobody talks about,” she told the outlet. “It needs to be addressed asap so there aren’t more stories like this. It’s the most horrifying epidemic. We wanted people to know that we were never ashamed of Pete. He had a physical illness; addiction is not a character flaw and unless we are open about it there will never be a public dialogue regarding its cause or cure.”


Dianne’s brave gesture got the attention of local media and, ultimately, USA Today. They rightfully called out the fact that in New York, 2,175 drug-related deaths occurred in 2013. Yet only 45 obituaries referenced that fact in the same 12 month span.


The attention the Ballesty family received, though, helped to change those numbers. The local Journal News outlet pushed through an effort that led to a database including search terms for “addiction” in obituaries statewide. As a result, other families have found each other for support and also shared their loved one’s struggles in their obits.


Since the movement began, the stats have changed dramatically. In 2014, the obituary search returned 87 hits. There were 89 in 2015 and within the past 12 months, 144 obituaries mentioned addiction; all detailing how the disease cut short the lives of promising young men and women. We completely understand how this choice may not be for everyone. But by the looks of things, it is helping to fuel support systems and educate families about the true dangers of drugs and alcohol.


Using Facebook Live As A Recovery Tool

We’ve always been interested in innovative ways to conquer an addiction. Whether it’s virtual reality or unique apps, any modern tool possible is always worth exploring. And, interestingly enough, this past month, we discovered how important Facebook Live has become in that battle. Of course we all know about the power of social media when it comes to recovery support, but this interesting feature takes things a little further. The example we’re speaking of comes from advocate Anna David and the live stream she held with attorney Lisa F. Smith.


Now both Lisa and Anna have been part of our Spotlight series before and both have extremely inspirational sobriety journeys. Anna, for example, has previously used the power of the pen to document her experiences. As an author, she has written some incredibly moving books and even teaches creative workshops to help people in treatment express themselves.


Lisa is an accomplished lawyer and uses her story of “having it all and losing it to addiction” to great effect. Though she appeared to be the perfect career woman for a time, she hid a scary bout with alcoholism which nearly cost her her career.


Both have made it to the other side with grace and confidence, which is what made their Facebook Live experience so captivating. This particular session was held on November 21 and ran for roughly 30 minutes. In it, Anna and Lisa chat, take questions and discuss the all too familiar scenarios of addiction. The tone is light and uplifting, meant to be viewed both live and after the fact.


Facebook comments were also part of the experience, with Anna happily participating and voicing support for all of her followers. Nearly two thousand people viewed the chat, which offered Lisa’s extremely personal stories that we’re sure many functioning users could identify with.


“I feel so fortunate to have survived this,” Lisa explained in the chat. “I think helping to give a face to the struggle that lawyers face and how common it can be for a professional to become addicted.”


It is not surprising to see just how “viral” this conversation has become. And, for the record, it is something that Anna has done many times before and will continue to do in the coming year. We encourage all of our followers to take a look at her official Facebook page and participate in the ongoing conversations that she is hosting. Open dialogues are so important in this journey and, as Anna puts it, sometimes you need to “share your dark to find your light.”


The Importance of Amy’s Place

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost seven years since powerhouse singer Amy Winehouse succumbed to her addictions. At just 27-years-old, the British pop star lost her life from what was determined to be alcohol poisoning. But in an inspirational twist of fate, she has become a hugely influential recovery advocate in the years since; thanks to the diligent work that’s being done by her family and her estate.


Just this week, the UK press published an important story about Amy’s Place, a London-based housing community that uses her name and legacy to help others battling addiction. Catering specifically in women under the age of 30 (like Amy was), it bridges the gap between rehabilitation and completely independent living and its concept is gaining influence here in the states.


After Winehouse’s passing her parents set up The Amy Winehouse Foundation, using the funds she earned while alive as a singer. For five years, it was responsible for addiction education, charity benefits and support for people needing recovery. But interestingly enough, it was in 2016 when the actual Amy’s Place sober living facility was built.


Its purpose was to help women who are not only fighting addiction, but also dealing with trauma and abusive relationships. So far, it has changed hundreds of lives and saw a 25 percent increase in admissions within the last year.


“It’s not about women needing a different treatment service to men,” staffer Eytan Alexander told the UK outlet. “It’s about women being confident and comfortable enough to admit they have a problem and then being able to be looked after in a way that works for them, taking into account things like childcare and careers. We must provide better education on the dangers of drug addiction as well as help those who are dependent to recover.”


The article, from iNews UK, went to profile current residents (anonymously) and the impact Amy’s House is having on their lives.


“I grew up around addicts,” resident Chantelle told the outlet. “Seeing the life they led […] it’s given me more fight inside to go no – I’m not going back to that. At times I’d get using thoughts and look at a bottle of wine and think I’ve got to pick it up. But no, not a chance.”


We, at Valley Recovery Center, are firm believers in specialized tailor-made recovery care. Our facility, for instance, caters strictly to men and has a dedicated team equipped to deal with their particular needs.


Despite that, we have deep connections to several L.A.-based treatment centers focused on female clientele. If you or a woman you care about is dealing with this, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We can most certainly set you up for success within a treatment community catered to your needs. (866) 986-2486