Stem Cell Therapy Sought Out As Potential Alcoholism ‘Cure’

It’s easy to get skeptical when you see the words “alcoholism” and “cure” in the same sentence. But scientists are continuing to pursue new ways to curb people’s drinking habits and are now putting a lot of faith in stem cell therapy research. According to new data coming out of Chile, these types of treatments have shown some very positive effects in laboratory rats and may soon be applied to humans.

 

Led by Dr. Yedy Israel, the Chilean team of researchers started their experiments by feeding rodents the equivalent of one bottle of vodka a day. Naturally, addictive tendencies began to weigh in on the animals and eventually they began preferring alcohol to water. The liquor diet continued for a total of 17 weeks, then dropped off entirely; forcing the rats to go cold turkey.

 

At this point, things began to get interesting. Dr. Israel’s team removed all alcohol from the rats for a total of two weeks. Then they were injected with mesenchymal stem cells and re-introduced to the vodka samples, now for just 60 minutes a day. It was at this point, as the researchers put it, that “miraculous behaviors” began occurring.

 

‘Typically, the animals would engage in binge-like drinking during this short period, consuming the human equivalent of about eight standard drinks,” Dr. Israel told The Daily Mail.  “Animals that had received the small-sized mesenchymal stem cells treatment consumed much less, levels comparable to that of a social drinker.”

 

Their research showed that the injected rats always preferred water to vodka and dropped their alcoholic urges by up to 90 percent. Further studies showed that each treatment was effective for up to four weeks without any visible sign of a relapse.

 

Dr. Israel believed there was a scientific explanation for this that had to do with neurons in the brain. In binge drinkers, they argued, molecules called reactive oxygen species emerge and directly damage certain cranial functions (also causing inflammation). They believe that the brain adapts to this behavior by building proteins, which leads one to seek out alcohol to maintain the “toxic environment.”

 

“Brain inflammation and oxidative stress are known to self-perpetuate each other,” Dr. Israel concluded. “Creating conditions which promote alcoholism and a long-lasting relapse risk.”

 

All signs point to stem cells as a way to alleviate that risk. But, this report was quick to point out that no human testing has been performed yet. Let’s hope that’s on the horizon and, if this is an effective treatment, it gets implemented sooner than later.

 

San Diego Commits $125 Million To Fight Addiction

We love publishing positive stories from our home state. And this week, our neighbors from the south in San Diego made an important move in the battle against addiction. The Board of Supervisors from that county have voted unanimously to increase treatment programs for their residents, with a budget boost of $125 million to help low-income citizens battling addictions.

 

Titled the Drug Medi-Cal Organized Delivery System, the initiative will provide a “continuum of care” for those who cannot afford treatment. The millions in new funding will be partially paid for by the insurance provider Medi-Cal. Their budgets will cover approximately 42.6 percent of the costs, which totals out to roughly $77 million.

 

It will also bring some new changes in how San Diego County treats addiction. For example, officials plan to introduce medication-assisted addiction treatment for the low-income residents who qualify. This could include the use of methadone. Supervisors like Kristin Gaspar and Dianne Jacob were quick to point out that everything will be closely monitored and specialized, depending on the needs of the individual.

 

They did feel, however, that this can make a positive dent in curbing overdoses and even the county’s growing homelessness problem. As Gaspar put it, they hope it will create a ripple effect that gets citizens back on their feet and away from addictive substances.

 

“San Diego is about to become a leader today in the state, and I would be so bold as to say across the entire country,” she emphasized. “It’s significant. With more tools in the toolbox and better connections between providers, this means clients will experience more effective services and a better chance at recovery.”

 

Local District Attorney Summer Stephan also participated in the new movement, going so far as to add a full-time mental health and drug coordinator to help facilitate those who are in need of assistance.

 

Interestingly enough, the opioid crisis was not the primary reason that officials felt the need to move this forward. In San Diego, methamphetamines have become a much bigger problem among the residents and is considered a large contributor to people living on the streets. SD’s Health and Human Services Agency director Alfredo Aguirre spoke out about the growing epidemic and how this new program aims to make a difference.

 

“Sadly, in San Diego number of methamphetamine deaths that could exceed the opioids and heroin.” he told local radio station KPBS. “It is dramatic. It is increasing. The timing is right to initiate this important initiative, to increase our capacity to serve people with addictions and build a system of care for those individuals.”

 

Mandatory Opioid Education Proposed For Parents Of New Grads

Ok so we’re not quite into graduation season just yet, but it’s still an appropriate time to think about how students and parents can help prepare for the journey ahead. And sadly, in today’s times, that journey may include addiction temptations; particularly when it comes to painkillers and opioids. Schools in New Jersey are already processing that scenario and proposing a radical new step that can help families understand the risks each graduating class can face. Middlesex County school superintendent David Cittadino is behind the movement, which would force parents of middle schoolers to participate in an addiction seminar in exchange for commencement tickets.

 

Not surprisingly, some people in the community are opposed to the measure, feeling that mandatory measure is unnecessary.

 

“You shouldn’t be obligated to attend any seminar that needs to happen in order for the parent or guardian to attend a graduation,” local parent Jairo Collantes told New Jersey’s WCBS-TV outlet.

 

But, there is actually a strong sense of support for it too. Middlesex, in particular, has a very personal connection the country’s opioid crisis. Several parents from that same middle school region have publicly battled addiction and one passed away from an overdose within the past year. Cittadino also pointed out that the seminar that he is pushing for is only an hour long and highly interactive.

 

Titled Hidden In Plain Sight, the discussion would include a Q&A with a former DEA official, overdose life saving techniques and activities that highlight the warning signs of addiction. It also has the full support of the local PTA.

 

“I don’t know the signs,”Middle School PTA presidents Francine Miraglia told WCBS. “I think it’s a great thing that they’re having the meeting. I wish they would have had this last year, when my son graduated. I was very naïve in middle school that all this was really even happening.”

 

Eighth grade happens to be a crucial time in many young lives as well. The journey into high school can include many new peer pressures and the opportunity to fall into the trappings of addiction. Getting parents up to speed on certain signals and response techniques is critical, particularly since this is a newer epidemic that many 3o and 40-somethings haven’t had much experience with.

 

Cittadino made sure to get the last word with reporters, emphasizing the firsthand dangers he has experienced with the crisis.

 

“The bottom line is, I have to do something drastic,” he said. “I find myself attending funeral services for students that I was their principal in middle school and high school, and each one takes more and more of a toll on me.”

 

Non-Opioid Painkillers May Be Coming Soon

America’s addiction crisis got some positive news this week after federal officials revealed that they are working to get non-opioid painkillers onto the market in the very near future. As we all know, these prescribed drugs have been wreaking havoc and leading to tens of thousands of overdoses across the country. Now though, National Institute of Health director Francis Collins explained that true progress was being made.

 

“We are learning a tremendous amount about what the neurobiology of pain is all about,” Collins told USA Today. “So many people are dying, there is clearly an urgency to improving the tools that we have to help them.”

 

As the USA article explains, there is a real science behind this approach. One of the big keys of the concept would be creating prescription drugs that do not have to be used as frequently to treat pain. Some researchers believe that there can be painkillers developed that only need to be taken monthly (a lot less frequently than common opioid treatments like OxyContin).

 

But in the current state of things, finding that perfect reliever is proving to be a big challenge. For ongoing sufferers, over-the-counter meds like Aspiring simply don’t solve the issue. And it is important to note that nearly 100 million U.S. adults claim to be living with chronic pain.

 

Huffington Post writer Janna Wagner (who herself suffers from chronic pain) explained in her recent article how the existing alternate treatments have done little good.

 

“Few good treatment options exist for chronic pain patients ― believe me, I’ve tried my share,” Wagner explained. “Knee braces. Canes. Anti-inflammatories. Steroids. Acupuncture. Infusions and shots in my knees. (Yes, in my knees.) Once a skeptic of alternative therapies, I even went vegan, slopped on some arnica and capsaicin cream, digested turmeric and completed a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. Twice. Many of these alternative treatments are prohibitively costly and not covered by insurance, limiting services for the uninsured or those who are on a fixed or limited income.”

 

 

Our sincere hope is that the feds take that non-opioid discussion seriously. This crisis continues to worsen as the decade goes on and there still doesn’t seem to be any clear cut solutions in sight. Approaching it from a scientific perspective could offer some very positive benefits. Let’s just hope they have the resources and the will to carry that promise out.

 

Gambling Addiction On The Rise Among Veterans

Dependencies on gambling are currently running rampant throughout the country. But one sect of the population that has not gotten a lot of attention are people who are in the military and finding themselves yearning for casinos and sports betting. Delaware State News recently shed light on this problem in a new article, which illustrated just how severe this addiction has become for those who have gone through active service.

 

According to their research, an estimated 10 percent of all U.S. military cadets and veterans are currently battling a gambling addiction. The situation has gotten so prominent that conferences have now been set up to assist armed service members who have lost everything to a roll of the dice.

 

Service Members, Veterans and Gambling Addiction was the name of the Delaware event covered by the State News. Featuring recovery advocates, motivational speakers and even casino representatives, it served as a forum where military personnel could share their stories and receive help.

 

“This is an event where we try to focus on something that is within our mission which is problem gambling, but we’re focusing on a particular population — the military veterans population,” organizer Jeff Wasserman told the outlet. “The reason why we are doing that is because they are a high at-risk population. Not only are we providing the general information on how to get treated for or how to prevent the addiction, but we’re really tailoring it towards the veteran community”

 

Several prominent speakers attended this latest event, including author Dave Yeager, who recently published the book Journeys Through Trauma, Addiction, Rock-Bottom and Recovery. Noted physician and recovery specialist Dr. Heather Chapman was another keynote speaker, who provided some alarming stats about this particular community.

 

“Active duty alone, the latest statistic I saw, showed that 56,000 active-duty service members have a problem with gambling,” Dr. Chapman explained to the crowd. “That’s alarming, not only because of the impact it has on themselves and their families, but it becomes a national security issue in some cases because people who have gambling problems might be more vulnerable because of their obsession and compulsion to get money to gamble.”

 

One of the final speakers, Delaware Council on Gambling Problems executive director Arlene Simon, summed up the situation quite well, emphasizing that these types of personnel should be sympathized with amid this crisis.

 

“Members of the military are seen as strong, courageous, highly disciplined and almost invincible individuals,” she explained. “Consequently, I think their susceptibility to addiction gets overlooked. Because in reality, active military and veterans are human like everyone else — and frequently they experience the trauma, substance addictions and mental health challenges that can give rise to problem gambling.”

 

New Sober Dating Site Gains Momentum

These days, if you’re looking for love online there are plenty of avenues to explore. Matchmaking sites can focus on everything from race, to religion, to sexual orientations. But what about a dating destination where sober singles can meet up and make a connection? Well now there’s a destination for that too, thanks to SingleAndSober.com.

 

Built specifically for people who have gone through recovery or abstain from drugs and alcohol, it’s become a major online hit. Just this month, the site touted a membership number of 7,000 and an expansion plan for people in Europe. They’ve even incorporated Pay-Pal into their monthly subscription package, which makes it easier for online users.

 

We, for one, fully support the concept behind this site. As they wrote in a recent press release, dating can be a real challenge for someone who is looking to avoid substances.

 

“Dating in sobriety can prove to be a struggle at times,” Single and Sober reps wrote on their recent news announcement. “Many first dates involve alcohol – whether its dinner and drinks or a group of friends heading out to the bar for the evening, dating for people who don’t drink can be challenging to say the least. Single and Sober is now making it even easier than ever for sober singles to meet and build meaningful relationships.”

 

As part of their most recent push, S & S even put out an animated promo (which has been receiving quite a bit of attention on YouTube).

 

You can watch it below…

 

Beyond that, the site has garnered over 8,000 social media followers and publishes a regular romance blog. We certainly applaud them on the way they structure the web experience as well. Included on the menu page are a list of sober dating tips, recovery success stories, a message forum and direct links to addiction treatment facilities.

 

It’s sad to say, but there are many things about dating that involve cocktails, parties, wine bars and what have you. For someone who is recently out of treatment, these types of temptations can be excruciating. For many, the choice is to maintain their sobriety and avoid these social situations altogether. And while that is certainly a smart decision, it can limit opportunities to meet people and find love.

 

Connecting with someone else who is newly sober helps alleviate that stress. Not only that, there is much more common ground and a better opportunity to make a connection. As we mentioned before, we are all for this type of program and recommend anyone looking for love to visit Single and Sober!

 

‘Forbes’ Explores Addiction And Gender

This March, Forbes Magazine offered a different twist to the stories emerging about Women’s History Month. Their focus was on addiction and how it can just as easily happen to a woman as it can to a man. More interestingly, the famed outlet delved into some of the unique characteristics each gender experiences when battling a dependency.

 

Stats gathered by magazine researchers and U.S. physicians showed that men are indeed more likely to develop an addiction. But, their data showed that women find it harder to quit a dependency and are more vulnerable to relapses.

 

Dr. Lipi Roy authored the telling piece, which shared some little known facts about women and opioid crisis. For starters, according to The American Journal of Public Health females are more likely to be prescribed painkillers than males. The usage behaviors were rather interesting as well. Apparently women tend to misuse opioids because of emotional issues, while men do it because of legal, work or behavioral problems.

 

The alcohol stats Dr. Roy chronicled were alarming as well. Her research showed that drinking kills more women in the U.S. than painkiller overdoses. Habits can also happen much faster for the female gender, due to smaller frames and different biological structures. Not only that, alcoholism can increase the risk of breast cancer by 5 to 9 percent.

 

Pregnancy and addiction (a sad subject we touched upon last week) was covered as well, illustrating the extremely high birth complication risks and the rise in postpartum depression. Forbes went on illustrate how an addiction often leads to unplanned pregnancies (80 percent of all of them, to be exact) and the increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

 

Dr. Roy went on to defend women across the U.S. who find themselves dependent on substances (and rightly so).

 

“Let’s first make sure we’re on the same page as far as the definition of addiction,” she wrote. “This is a chronic medical disease, a relapsing and remitting disease of the brain, that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual using and to those around him or her. It is NOT a sign of moral weakness or failure.”

 

Dr. Roy concluded her piece with a call to action to study more of the gender differences among addicted Americans. One of her parting notes was that up until the 1990’s, most substance abuse research focused solely on men. That isn’t the case today; but as the data clearly illustrates, there are many more biological and scientific gender statistics worthy of exploration.

 

 

How Native American Tribes Are Addressing Addiction

Recently, we ran across a story on VICE.com that attracted our attention. In a homepage expose, the news site shared a video and opinion piece about the Native American Penobscot Nation and how they are taking a unique approach to recovery. Amid the devastating opioid crisis, many of their tribal members have found themselves addicted and even arrested for various drug charges. To help combat the issue, elders within that group are going back to ancient rituals and finding some impactful results.

 

The article focused specifically on Gabe Stewart, a member of the nation and a victim of the crisis. His dependencies on opioids and heroin led to him facing felony charges in court. Stewart stole money, possessed dangerous narcotics and, initially, brought shame to his entire family. But thanks to his association with Penobscot, he was able to take part in a unique recovery probation program. One that ultimately rid him of his addiction and got his case dismissed.

 

Gabe’s path to sobriety came via the Healing To Wellness Court, which is associated with Penobscot. By agreeing to this program, he allowed representatives to perform regular unplanned drug tests and committed to bi-monthly check ins with a case manager. More interestingly, however, Stewart agreed to take part in special tribal rituals meant to heal him of his dependencies.

 

Gabe’s tribal recovery regimen included everything from sweetgrass picking, to basket making, to traditional sweat lodge ceremonies. He also took part in special healing rituals built upon fundamental Penobscot beliefs. Cultural advisors were present for the entire portion of this journey and documented Stewart’s success.

 

“The support of the tribe and their acceptance of all of the stuff that I was going through, it was incredible,” Gabe told VICE in an online interview. “No matter how pissed off I got during this, they all still stayed by my side. It was amazing. I really haven’t had a lot of that in my life.”

 

Sadly, Native American tribes represent some of the people hardest hit by America’s opioid epidemic. To put it in perspective, overdose deaths from rural American Indians rose by 519 percent over the past 15 years. That’s more than double the increase nationally.

 

Thankfully, Penobscot is hardly the first tribe to implement this type of recovery practice. Many more across the country and blending rituals into their addiction healing programs and seeing great success.

 

For a closer look at this rising trend and the positive outcome it’s having, take a look at VICE’s mini expose below…

 

Dentists Warned About Overdose Risks

In previous blogs, we shared some alarming stats about opioid addictions and the dental industry. Though doctors get most of the attention when it comes to painkiller prescriptions, it is important to note that dentists and oral surgeons are the number one prescribers of opioids for adolescents aged 10 to 19. And on the heels of that, new information has shown that more and more OD’s are occurring in DDS offices. The problem has actually gotten so out of hand that at the west coast’s recent Pacific Dental Conference, educators were on hand to demonstrate how to react to an overdose.

 

It’s certainly hard to fathom a person losing their life in a dental chair, but it happens more often than you realize. Apparently, a new trend is for patients to get high or take “street painkillers” (usually fentanyl) prior to oral surgery. Then when the anesthetic is introduced, a potential overdose goes into full swing.

 

14,000 attendees were lectured on the topic at the conference through a session entitled, “Street Drug Awareness For Dental Professionals.” Also available online, the seminar delved into the pre-warning signs of someone who has used before an appointment. This can include everything from drowsiness, to agitation, to euphoria. The topic then went into overdose signals, such as seizures, slow heartbeats and low blood pressure. Even “slang” terms were introduced (like White 80’s, Fading, and Phantom 100) to get the dentists up-to-date on conversations that may be happening in their office.

 

More importantly, the firefighter lecturers went into life saving procedures and the proper way to react to an OD. Things like CPR, chest stimulation and the usage of naloxone were all covered and well received.

 

“Until three years ago we never talked about fentanyl, and now basically that’s one of the prime focuses,” event organizer Peter Kearney told a local outlet.  “But the reality is the potential is there for it to happen. We have to be prepared to deal with medical emergencies and crises in the office. Part of what you want to do is be prepared ahead of time knowing who your patient is, what their background is, [and] possible complications with what they’ve been taking.”

 

We certainly tip our hat to the conference for being proactive and bringing this crisis to the forefront. Though it may not be extremely common today, the risk of medical office overdoses are always there; particularly when anesthesia and surgery is involved. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…Education is one of the crucial first steps in conquering this crisis.

 

 

New Warning Issued For Opioid Addicted Moms-To-Be

We have always known that addiction can be extremely dangerous for women who are pregnant. But now, some new statistics have been released that hammer home that fact even more. Tying these issues into today’s devastating opioid crisis, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center revealed that newborns who require treatment for painkiller withdrawal are at a much higher risk for developmental delays.

 

The study (which was released this week) followed 87 children who had been treated at the hospital’s Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Clinic. All had been born to mothers addicted to opioids and heroin. Following them for two years, the researchers concluded that developmental issues were extremely common within the grouping.

 

“These children are at risk for developmental delay,” Dr. Stephanie Merhar, a neonatologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told a local outlet. “Our study found that the test scores of these toddlers were significantly lower than national averages.”

 

Dr. Merhar went on to say that there is still a possibility that these children’s intelligence and academic performance may improve later on, but that is not guaranteed. Another trend noted in the study was the large percentage of opioid addicted newborns with strabismus, or crossed eyes.

 

Another component of this research explored how the babies were ultimately raised. Though not surprising to hear, the stats showed that children who were taken away from their biological parents and raised in foster care had higher cognitive scores. It can be deduced that those who stayed with their addicted mothers faced continued neglect due to their devastating habits.

 

Dr. Merhar emphasized that this study does not suggest that all addicted infants be removed from their biological families, but rather the importance of monitoring development and getting parents the help that they need. She concluded that early screenings and recovery support are essential to pregnant mothers.

 

“We encourage close medical follow up and screening early-on for delays,” Dr. Merhar  added. “What this study ultimately shows is that babies who were exposed in utero to opioids should be monitored closely and provided with medical intervention as needed as they grow.”

 

Of course we all must think to ourselves, what kind of mother would choose to use while carrying a child? Tragically, opioid addictions like these can cloud the judgement of even the most caring individuals. These are biological cravings that are often out of their control. If you or someone you know is pregnant and dealing with a dependency like this, we strongly urge you to seek out help immediately.

 

The Death Penalty For Drug Traffickers?

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is becoming one of history’s most controversial presidents when it comes to addiction. Elected amid the devastating opioid epidemic, he has faced his fair share of critics for his response to the crisis and his failure to act. Now Trump has taken his bold words one step further, by suggesting that drug traffickers get punished with the death penalty.

 

Speaking at a White House opioid summit last week, the Commander-in-Chief certainly shocked the crowd with his statement. But he offered his own rationale on why people who sell narcotics should face capital punishment.

 

“You know, if you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them,” President Trump said, referring to drug dealers. “Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty. And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump continued. “So we’re going to have to be very strong on penalties.”

 

Many believe that the country Trump was referring to was the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a political war on drugs. Duterte’s harsh enforcement tactics have led to between 5,000 and 20,000 ordered executions, with no proof that usage has actually decreased (per several news outlets).

 

Trump echoed Duterte’ sentiment, though, from the research that we’ve seen, his ideas don’t hold much merit. For starters, classifying addiction as a criminal problem vs. a health problem does nothing to deter to root of these dependencies. Opioid cravings, for example, don’t begin with a drug dealer, they begin with a doctor’s prescription and a pharmacy. Sending dealers to the gas chamber seems counterintuitive to that entire argument.

 

Sanho Tree, program director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, has even more data to combat Trump’s latest proposal. From the research his firm has seen, enforcing harsher sentences on dealers could actually worsen addiction issues in this country.

 

“The types of people we typically capture when we keep escalating the drug war this way are the people who are dumb enough to get caught,” Tree told Refinery 29. “We’ve had a Darwinian evolution of the drug trade at a spectacular velocity because we keep thinning out the herd. They thrive because we’ve done two things to help them: number one, we’ve picked off their competition for them, thereby opening up that economic space. Number two, by trying to restrict the supply of drugs on the street, the demand remains constant, thereby driving up their prices and profits.”

 

So we will give President Trump credit for at least addressing the crisis. But we are very concerned that he is approaching it from the entirely wrong direction.

 

More Alarming Opioid Stats Released

Nobody likes to hear bad news, but sometimes it’s important because it can offer a reality check and alert people to a legitimate problem. Now we all know that the opioid crisis is a serious national concern and, unfortunately, statistics released this month revealed that is not getting any better.

 

According to NPR, overdoses from opioids jumped by an alarming 30 percent last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the data, which showed OD’s now in the high hundreds of thousands.

 

Breaking apart the stats by region, the report showed that our area of the western United States saw a sharp increase in overdoses toward the end of last year. A 40 percent jump to be exact, aligning us with the OD counts of America’s Midwest and Northeast regions.

 

As the chart below illustrates, our OD rate is now one of the highest in the U.S.

 

 

“We have an emergency on our hands,” acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat told the radio site. “The fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic continues and is accelerating. We saw, sadly, that in every region, in every age group of adults, in both men and women, overdoses from opioids are increasing”

 

The silver lining, for us optimists, is that most of these overdoses were not fatal. Thankfully, this data was based off emergency room data (91 million cases, to be exact) and the majority of those recorded were saved thanks tofast-acting medical professionals working all hours of the day.

 

Nevertheless, as the chart above shows, the Midwestern United States saw a 70 percent increase in opioid overdoses over that 12-month period. Wisconsin, the researchers revealed, accounted for the biggest bump in that region, with a 109 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

 

One other interesting note is that these numbers don’t necessarily align with the opioid addiction stats over the same timeframe. The epidemic, it seems, isn’t moving at as fast of a pace, but the telling reveal is that the drugs themselves may now be more potent. In other words, the overdoses are rising because of stronger strains of painkillers.

 

“We think that the number of people addicted to opioids is more stable than this,” Schuchat added. “But the substances are more dangerous than five years ago. The margin of error for taking one of these substances is small now and people may not know what they have.”

 

Very true words, especially when you consider fentanyl and other “street versions” of opioids making their way into public consumption. Our advice is to keep up with all of these facts and reach out if you are close to someone battling this type of addiction.

 

New Penalties May Be Coming For Marijuana Impaired Drivers

California is known for having some pretty harsh DUI laws, and rightfully so. Drinking and driving can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, a stint in jail and the immediate suspension of your license. But what about those who now legally smoke marijuana then get behind the wheel? If State Senator Jerry Hill has his way, there could be harsh punishments for that too, particularly if drivers are under the age of 21.

 

This past February Hill introduced the SB 1273 Bill, which would implement field sobriety tests for drivers believed to be under the influence of marijuana. Those 21 and under would immediately have their licenses revoked for a year and face court time.

 

Interestingly enough, California does not currently have an accurate field tests to measure the amount of weed (or THC) in an intoxicated driver. Breathalyzers, which are typically used for alcohol testing, cannot measure marijuana levels, but other tools reportedly can. Senator Hill has pushed to use oral swabs as an accurate way to gauge THC levels. He also proposed that the concentration would have to be 0.01% or higher to make an arrest.

 

“In my opinion, this would do a lot of good,” Hill told the press last month. “The SB 1273 bill would save lives by making it illegal for drivers under age 21 to drive under the influence of marijuana, just like current law for alcohol.”

 

Since this year’s adjustment of California’s marijuana laws, smoking has become much more commonplace. Though many more freedoms have been enacted, the state has made it illegal for individuals 21 and younger to possess or use cannabis products. Hill’s bill would further that message, by hammering down on teens and young adults who use before driving.

 

Still, SB 1273 would not carry the same levity as California’s alcohol DUI laws. Currently, when a driver is found to be over the drinking limit he or she is immediately put in a squad car and taken to jail. With the marijuana law, the individual would not be taken in, but rather given the option to call a family a member or taxi service. If a sober passenger is with the accused, they can legally drive the person home.

 

Marijuana advocates have already spoken out, however. Many (including the popular online site High Timesclaim that field swab tests are not completely accurate and marijuana can remain in a person’s system for up to 30 days. With that in mind, SB 1273 may have somewhat of an uphill battle; but it is certainly making a point to address the new normal in California.

 

For a full glimpse of Senator Hill’s proposal, click here.

 

The Dangerous Link Between Addiction And Sex Trafficking

There are many upsetting stories happening right now in the world of addiction. Stories that people may not like to face, but are still important to broadcast to the world. One such story has to do with the rise of U.S. Sex Trafficking and how dependencies have helped fuel this dangerous trend. This week several news outlets and U.S. politicians have helped bring this issue to the forefront, which we wholeheartedly support.

 

Research has recently shown that drugs were involved in nearly 40 percent of U.S. child sex trafficking cases. It’s an awful scenario to consider, but it’s happening every day as young girls find themselves hooked on substances and lured into prostitution.

 

According to a 2016 Human Trafficking Report, the majority of these girls are between the ages of 15 to 17. But these types of addiction cases can start as early as age nine, per the data. One of the more disturbing findings was that their traffickers (or “buyers”) keep the money they pimp the victims out for. In the end, the girls are rewarded with hard drugs to further their dependencies and mentally abused into continuing the lifestyle. Addicted teen runaways are also prime targets for the traffickers.

 

Several survivors of this abuse have been speaking with the press. They openly admitted that it was their addictions that drew them into the trafficking underworld. Thankfully police have begun into intervene much more frequently and now, many of the young women who have escaped are becoming recovery advocates and warning others.

 

“Our lives matter too,” addiction and trafficking survivor Angela Renfro told Ohio outlet WCPO.  “And we’re not bad people. We just got in a bad situation.”

 

Speaking of Ohio, that happens to be a region where America’s opioid crisis is wreaking the most havoc. In more recent months, there have been more stats pointing to painkiller addictions and their role in the state’s growing sex trafficking cases. Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman have decided to speak out about the epidemic and are sponsoring a new bill which hopes to make a difference.

 

The Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking, or PROTECT Act, aims to add additional drug charges to buyers caught prostituting victims. Harsher sentences would potentially be imposed as well; keeping these traffickers off the streets for a longer period of time, while also addressing the addiction component.

 

“It’s a terrible mix of addiction and human trafficking and sale of drugs and sale of human beings,” Senator Brown told the media. “I am working on a bipartisan bill to deal with this terrible intersection of of sex trafficking and opioid addiction.”

 

 

Santa Barbara Reportedly Sees Nine Overdoses In One Night

If you think America’s opioid epidemic isn’t a California problem, think again. Last Thursday, our backyard neighbor Santa Barbara saw a tremendous spike in overdose admissions at their local hospitals. Nine college age youths were treated for symptoms after attending a party near the local university.

 

By all accounts, OxyContin appeared to be the primary culprit behind this string of OD’s. Several 20-somethings at the scene claimed that their friends had been creating a dangerous mix of pain pills and alcohol.

 

The first reported case came early in the night and involved a young man unconscious in the back seat of his car. As the night went on, others were discovered passed out in homes near the campus. Amazingly no deaths occurred, thanks primarily to the reversal drug naloxone (which was administered at the scene).

 

As of this week, only one of the nine men remains hospitalized. The others were treated, released and ordered to give statements about their activities that night.

 

If you ask us, a story like this illustrates both the best and the worst when it comes to America’s opioid epidemic. On the one hand, it is a shining example of how trained responders can save lives when they can encounter an overdose.

 

Not only is arming them with the proper tools essential (like naloxone and the Narcan spray, which was also used to aid victims), giving them training to administer these agents is critical too. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department was extremely swift in their actions and knew just the right steps to take to save nine young lives.

 

“While deputies and officers were still on-scene, they learned that one of the victims had stopped breathing,” SB Sheriff’s Dept rep Kelly Hoover told a local outlet. “A sheriff’s deputy quickly sprung into action and administered a dose of his department issued naloxone nasal spray. The core mission of the Sheriff’s Office is to protect life, and the opportunity for our sheriff’s deputies to deploy naloxone within our local communities is directly saving lives.”

 

Now for the worst of the crisis. Hearing a story like this so close to home is truly alarming. What’s worse is how younger college students are now beginning to incorporate painkillers like OxyContin into their “party lifestyle.”

 

Mixing opioids with alcohol is an incredibly dangerous combination and a trend that we do not want to see gain notoriety. The deadly nature of these drugs needs to be publicized more, so naive, “experimental” young people don’t continue to put themselves in harm’s way.

 

The Continued Downfall Of Christopher Bathum

A while back, we did a blog expose on California “Rehab Mogul” Christopher Bathum and his fall from grace amid scandalous accusations and poor recovery practices.  Well, one of our industry’s most notorious scam artists has apparently gotten himself into more trouble and now stands convicted on 31 counts of rape and sexual exploitation (all allegedly taking place at his treatment clinics). Not surprisingly, his downfall has captured national headlines and illustrates just how dangerous a crooked recovery facility can be.

 

At his peak, Bathum ran 20 treatment facilities throughout the southland. His Community Recovery Los Angeles chain assisted patients battling every form of addiction and, initially, proved to be very successful. Luxury was a particular selling point of Bathum’s clinics, with typical establishments including amenities like Olympic-sized swimming pools, private hot tubs, five star chefs and more. But behind the facade, illegal business practices and immoral behavior apparently ran rampant.

 

Proving to be one of the worst types of victimizers, Bathum allegedly preyed on his female patients and even used intoxicants to solicit sex.

 

“Bathum made vulnerable young women feel special, showering them with ‘internships’ and access to company cars and iPhones,” Washington Post scribe Samantha Schmidt wrote. “But he also used their weaknesses — the addictions he was supposed to help them overcome — to lure the women with drugs, get them high, and then sexually assault them.”

 

According to prosecutors, many of Bathum’s crimes occurred on the premises of his facilities. Back when we wrote about him, not all of these crimes had come to light. But L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller has been working hard since then to gather evidence and build a compelling case.

 

Bathum’s trial ended late last month and quickly saw a unanimous guilty verdict. Now he faces up to 65 years in prison for his crimes. And, as The Post is reporting, Bathum’s high-profile conviction could open up the floodgates to more charges against shady recovery clinics. Their research showed that the number one complaint from clients involving the rehab industry is sexual misconduct. Currently, as many as 78 facilities nationwide are under investigation for similar matters.

 

We certainly support the crackdown of any and all inappropriate recovery clinics operating throughout the U.S. Taking advantage of a client in a vulnerable state is an absolute travesty and we strongly encourage anyone seeking treatment to do diligent research before choosing a facility. Make sure they are accredited, licensed and have a strong reputation that can back up whatever stats are being plastered on their website.

 

Alcoholism Linked To Early Onset Dementia

Like all of us, you’ve probably heard that alcohol can destroy brain cells and do long-term permanent damage to the body. But now, there is scientific evidence that takes those findings even further. According to new research, people who drink heavily throughout their lifetime have a much higher risk of contracting Early Onset Dementia.

 

These latest stats were published in The Guardian and are based on a study that included over million dementia sufferers. Within that grouping, 38 percent of the diagnoses were directly related to alcohol. When the researchers finished their tally, they concluded that heavy drinkers were three times as likely to develop dementia or memory loss than those who abstain.

 

Previously researchers did have evidence of alcohol’s impact on brain functioning, but they believe this latest study solidifies that fact even more.

 

“We have long known that alcohol is directly neurotoxic, thiamine deficiency in alcoholics devastates memory, alcohol-related conditions such as cirrhosis and epilepsy can damage the brain and that vascular brain damage is accelerated by alcohol,” University College of London researcher Robert Howard told The Guardian. “Surprisingly, we’ve not traditionally considered alcohol and its misuse as an important risk factor for dementia and we were clearly wrong not to have done so.”

 

Many of those involved in the study were quick to point out that even moderate drinking can carry severe risks on the brain. Though there wasn’t definitive evidence that “weekend alcoholics” are at risk for dementia, several signals appeared to point in that direction (based on the research).

 

“Previous research has indicated that even moderate drinking may have a negative impact on brain health and people shouldn’t be under the impression that only drinking to the point of hospitalization carries a risk,” researcher Dr. Sara Imarisio added.

 

And regardless of the brain damage, Imarisio warned of the numerous other health dangers associated with alcohol.

 

“Alcohol is a devastating problem, whatever the organ,” she concluded. “Now we can add the brain to the list of liver, kidney and heart… A variety of measures are needed, such as reducing availability, increasing taxation, and banning advertising and marketing of alcohol, alongside early detection and treatment of alcohol use disorders.”

 

In summary, the researchers felt that education and more available treatment programs were essential to curb future alcohol-related dementia cases. It’s a sad fact, but issues like memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease do seem to be much more prominent today than in previous generations. And if proper recovery tools can help lessen that number, why not spread the word and give people the long-term health that they deserve?

 

Rocker Flea Gives Personal Account Of Addiction

L.A. natives are well aware of the work of Flea. The famed Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist has sold millions of albums and been honored with dozens of accolades. He also is a recovering addict and very transparent about his battles with alcoholism and drug abuse. What is less known about Flea is the more recent struggle he faced with Oxycontin and how it nearly led to him being another victim of America’s opioid crisis. In a bravely written op-ed for Time Magazine, the legendary rocker shared his story.

 

Taking readers back to his childhood, Flea delved into the beginnings of his addiction problems (dating back to age 11). In middle school he began smoking marijuana, which later led to snorting coke, shooting up and nearly losing his life. His piece also delves into the friends he saw succumb to their habits and the catalyst that led him to sobriety.

 

“I saw three of my dearest friends die from drugs before they turned 26, and had some close calls myself,” Flea wrote. “It was a powerful yearning to be a good father that eventually inspired a sense of self-preservation, and in 1993 at the age of 30 I finally got that drugs were destructive and robbing my life force. I cut them out forever.”

 

And though he successfully cut ties with his demons, Flea admittedly still struggled with the urge to use. In his own words, he described anxiety and music stress as trigger points and ones that were quite challenging to overcome.

 

Flash forward to earlier this decade and Flea openly admitted to using again. But this wasn’t a heroin needle nor a bottle of vodka. It was a “harmless bottle of pills” prescribed by a medical professional.

 

After a snowboarding accident, Flea underwent surgery and ultimately received Oxycontin during his recovery period. Without knowing it, he began experience a “high” all over again and a potential slippery slope back into addiction.

 

“The Oxy bottle said to take four each day,” he wrote. “I was high as hell when I took those things. It not only quelled my physical pain, but all my emotions as well. I was not present for my kids, my creative spirit went into decline and I became depressed.”

 

Thankfully this struggle was short lived, but it helped Flea realize his mission to spread awareness about dangerous painkiller addictions.

 

“There is obviously a time when painkillers should be prescribed,” Flea concluded. “But medical professions should be more discerning. It’s also equally obvious that part of any opioid prescription should include follow-up, monitoring and a clear solution and path to rehabilitation if anyone becomes addicted. Big pharma could pay for this with a percentage of their huge profits. Addiction is a cruel disease, and the medical community, together with the government, should offer help to all of those who need it.”