‘Music Heals’ Radio Show Highlights Celebrity Sobriety

We love to hear about the recovery message making its way onto new formats. And up in Seattle Washington, stories of hope and survival have become popular on drivetime radio. Local station KEXP recently launched a new auditory series called “Music Heals,” which brings on famous musicians who have fought and won their addiction battles.


Since going live, “Music Heals” has already hosted the likes of Macklemore, Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and guitarist Peter Buck from R.E.M. All of these successful artists spoke very openly about their past struggles and the joys of being clean.


“I hate that word ‘sober.’ Sober as a judge,” Buck told “Heals” host Kevin Cole in the studio. “I’d rather call it focused. Ultimately, I decided that I was in a place in my life where I needed to focus on the things that were really important. I kind of looked around and decided. ‘Well, what is important in my life?’ And alcohol and drugs or whatever weren’t on the list. It’s family, friends, music. That’s it.”


Macklemore (who happens to have Seattle roots) has already become well known for his recovery advocacy. He previously partnered with President Barack Obama to bring awareness to the opioid epidemic, back when it first began to receive national attention.


“I never had moderation.” Macklemore explained during his stint on the show. “I couldn’t get enough, every time that I drank or used drugs. It wasn’t until I finally went to rehab, that I got the tools and opened up to a world of recovery that I didn’t know existed.”


Each celebrity guest then delves into the process that brought them to sobriety. For Macklemore, it was 12-step meetings and a strong sense of faith. “Music Heals” host Kevin Cole also speaks openly about the addiction struggles he had during his young life. Episodes often include his real life accounts of nearly overdosing on cocaine and heroin.


As Cole explained to his listeners, recovery can be a positive experience and one that is much more common than people think.


“It wasn’t always easy, but it wasn’t always hard either,” Cole recently said. “I learned to take care of my body and mind, to recognize I had so much to live for, to see the good in everyone, including myself, to ask for help, and to let love be my drug of choice.”


Treating Addiction On College Campuses

There is no denying that college is an atmosphere where lots of addictive habits can form. Gaining newfound independence, turning 21 years old, getting invited to all night frat parties…these are the ingredients that often welcome substances like marijuana and alcohol. And while experimentation has been around since the dawn of time; having a proclivity to use may overpower many students, thanks to genetic predispositions. To combat this, more and more universities are bringing recovery programs onto their campuses.


NBC News happened to profile the story this month, singling out schools like Augsburg U over in Minneapolis. There, a program called Step Up has been put in place; offering options like substance-free housing for students who are recovering. There are also coaches on hand and mental health services to help anyone who is struggling.


As National Mental Health and Substance Abuse Administration director Christopher M. Jones told the site, these types of offerings set undergrads up for success in more ways than one.


“Bringing recovery supports onto the college campus can be a key part of an individual’s academic success and the success of their overall recovery,” he explained. “No one should have to choose between recovery and a college education.”


Another interesting component of programs like these is the incorporation of fellow students as counselors. Recovering alumni work to encourage sobriety through a peer-to-peer support network.


As the article correctly pointed out, partying isn’t the only gateway into using during this time of life. For many students, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to get good grades or keep up with their peers. Stimulants can also lead to addiction, as undergrads pull all night study sessions to keep up with their exams.


And with the nation’s opioid crisis in full swing, alarming numbers are emerging profiling young users. According to the NBC article, 5.3 million young people between the ages of 18 to 25 (the prime college demographic) have some sort of dependency.


Our hope is that more colleges across the country adopt the approach that Augsburg is taking. Their aggressive stance has helped the campus earn a 93 percent graduation rate and less that 10 relapses each year.


Recent Augsburg grad Neil King was also interviewed for the piece and praised the work of Step Up. He, himself, successfully went through the program and was quickly able to turn his life around.


“I got a second chance at life,” King told NBC. “I wouldn’t be here without all the great Step Up people who have helped me up over the last four years. I’m just really grateful for it.”


West Covina Mayor Steps Down Over Addiction

Local addiction stories often pique our interest because they bring this issue home and show people just how close problems like the opioid crisis truly are. Case in point: the abrupt resignation of West Covina Mayor Mike Spence, who saw a promising political career ruined by a dark dependency.


Spence actually made national headlines this month, after opening up about his drug battles and the stigma that many addicts receive. Speaking in front of the city council and several congregants, he officially stepped down from his position and had harsh words for those who publicly shamed him.


“First of all, I want to apologize for the distraction that my personal feelings have had on the city,” Spence told the crowd. “At this point, I want to announce I’m resigning as mayor of West Covina But before I do, I want to call out that there are people in this community that are mean and bigoted towards people that have addiction.”


Spence then became emotional and received a round of jeers for his behavior on the stage. Many actually applauded when he announced he was resigning and openly criticized him for being high on the job.


Part of the reason that Spence made the choice to step down had to do with an overdose incident that occurred in a local hotel room on May 4. 911 calls claimed he nearly died after using heroin. This followed a string of negative publicity, including a DUI crash back in 2016.


Many were upset with Spence’s behavior, primarily because of his consistent denials. Following the May overdose, he refused to acknowledge any drug use until his speech last week. Though it is admirable that he is speaking out about recovery now, some felt it was too little, too late.


“He really disappointed not only the City Council but the residents of West Covina,” City Councilman Tony Wu said regarding Spence’s consistent denials. “I hope he gets more help and I hope his family still supports him in getting through this problem.”


Even worse, Spence was regarded as a strong politician before his addictive behavior began taking center stage. Now the city of West Covina is without a mayor and a reputation is tarnished. The lesson may ultimately be to seek treatment immediately after noticing addiction signals. Not only will it salvage your health and well-being, it will improve your livelihood as well.


You can watch Mike Spence’s full resignation speech by clicking below…


ADHD Drug Overdoses Are On The Rise

At their core, prescription medications are meant to help and heal. But, as we’ve seen with the recent opioid crisis, there are often times when they can be abused and lead to full blown addictions. For children and teens, this can be a harsh reality too; as more reports surface of issues with ADHD meds.


These particular prescriptions are linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which many young people struggle with. But, as a new CNN report suggests, there may be overexposure at play; with hundreds of thousands of U.S. kids getting too much access to these drugs.


Worse yet, there are increases in the overdose statistics relating to ADHD meds. CNN reports that calls to U.S. poison centers involving these prescriptions have increased by more than 60 percent in the past 15 years.


Research has shown that some of these OD situations were accidental, but a good portion were intentional. Dr. Gary Smith, who helped gather the data, spoke out about his alarming findings.


“What we found is that, overall, from 2000 to 2014, there was a drastic increase in the number of individuals exposed and calls reported to poison control centers regarding these medications,” he explained. “We looked at approximately 156,000 poison center calls over the 15-year period, finding that about 82% of the calls were unintentional exposures while the remaining 18% were intentional.”


The most recent research showed a total of 11,486 ADHD drug overdose cases. Thankfully a majority were not fatal, but that doesn’t lessen the risk of overexposure to these particular meds.


CNN went on to report that ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders among kids and adolescents. In fact, 14 percent of all U.S. children were deemed to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 2014 (versus 6.8 percent in 2005).


And, as we mentioned before, as well intentioned as these prescriptions are, they are ultimately classified as stimulants. Taking too many ADHD drugs in one sitting is said to produce euphoric effects, similar to drugs like cocaine and speed.


“At the end of the day, these are stimulants, and they’re used by teens for various reasons,” Dr. Smith concluded. “Students, for example, might take it to get through a final exam. But like other stimulants, they might also take it because it gives them a high.”


The key, CNN reporter Mark Lieber explained, is to make sure these types of meds are stored safely away from vulnerable children. He also encouraged proper disposal techniques, to ensure that unnecessary prescriptions like these aren’t lying around the house.


“Unfortunately, just as with opioids, these medicines are far too accessible in bathrooms and bedrooms and kitchen cabinets all over the country,” he wrote. “There are increasing numbers of pharmacies and hospitals and health systems that are building take-back programs for individuals seeking to dispose of these medicines. So I think we’ll see more of these in the coming years.”



Warning Issued About Facebook Recovery Groups

Going on social media can be a very polarizing experience. On the one hand, you may find new contacts who can encourage you and offer support (such as the case on Reddit’s treatment topics). But just as easily, you can find yourself amid angry trolls or, even worse, predators looking to take advantage of your vulnerabilities. Such is the case with a series of new Facebook Recovery Groups, which recently received a profile on TheVerge.com.


Verge writer Cat Ferguson went deep into the world of online Facebook Groups centered around addiction. Her report singled massively large entities (like the 70,000 plus Affected by Addiction Support hub endorsed by Mark Zuckerberg), as well as small “trusting” communities; all of which have been known to be less than honest.


Larger national Groups have been flagged as a haven for crooked recovery marketers, who use the guise of peer support to pitch their clinics. The smaller ones have been accused of even worse crimes, like using actual drug dealers to solicit new clientele.


Recovery Research Institute associate director Brandon Bergman was interviewed for the piece and issued a stern warning about unverified Groups.


“There’s a very long history of people going to [12-step] meetings and being taken advantage of by drug dealers,” he explained. “Early recovery is a very vulnerable time, and people are desperate for help. It’s easy to use that for profit, including by convincing somebody to go to a specific treatment center. It doesn’t surprise me this is going on online because there’s nothing special about the online space.”


The now defunct Group Recovery Resource was also profiled, as was its former administrator Howard James Fowler. Advertised as a “safe space,” it was proven to be an undercover haven for patient brokering; where Fowler would solicit vulnerable members to PayPal money for crooked recovery services. The situation became so bad, according to Verge, that Fowler was ultimately arrested and charged with multiple felonies.


Facebook administrators have recently begun taking more measures to prevent these types of issues, seeking out and shutting down nefarious “addiction support” Groups. Though they declined to give a direct statement to The Verge, a spokesperson did offer a boilerplate response.


“We have seen that Facebook products and tools, including Groups, can complement work on prevention, education, de-stigmatization, addiction support and awareness, and we continue to support community leaders that use our platform for good,” they stated. “Most of what we see in Groups is positive and meaningful to people and their communities, and we are committed to increasing the good and minimizing the bad across Facebook.”


Indeed, we strongly echo Cat Ferguson’s sentiment and urge everyone reading this to do thorough research before committing to an unknown Facebook recovery Group.


Articles Profile Chefs And Addiction

We all know that addiction can touch every type of occupation. But it’s interesting to point out the impact it has had among professional chefs. In a recent article on TheFix.comseveral high-profile culinary pros shared their struggles with various dependencies. They also pointed out, as a high-pressure industry, how easy it is to for those in the kitchen to fall victim to the trappings of drugs and alcohol.


Bringing the topic to the forefront, TheFix pointed out several celebrity chefs who have openly fought addiction. Food Network star Anthony Bourdain, for example, struggled with a pill dependency for much of his life. As a young restauranteur, he apparently dealt with many demons.


“As a young chef, I was a complete asshole,” Bourdain explained. “Selfish, larcenous, druggy, loud, stupid, insensitive and someone you would not want to have known. I would have robbed your medicine cabinet had I been invited to your house.”


Andrew Zimmern is another popular Food Network star who openly overcame addiction. He too rose to the top of the culinary ranks, but fought some tough battles along the way. As Zimmern told People Magazine earlier this year, there were times his drug dependencies led to incarcerations and even homelessness. He recently celebrated his 26th year of sobriety, but went into detail about how career pressures influenced his using.


“These pressures [coupled with childhood pain] led me to crash and burn in a very, very, very even more deeply traumatic way,” Zimmern explained. “I found marijuana and alcohol in the first couple of years of high school. Eventually I was a daily pill addict, a daily cocaine addict.”


One other famous face from the industry is Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio. He echoed that sentiment as well and even went on to speak about how people who work in kitchens tend to be drawn toward addictive substances.


“We’re always looking for some form of intensity,” he told TheFix. “There’s this need to apply this energy to something, and I think chefs, all chefs, have this innate ability to have more energy than anyone else.”


As mentioned above, that may be part of the reason that cocaine has risen in popularity among this sect. Stimulants can be a popular substance in a fast-paced kitchen, where orders fly in deep into the night.


Voltaggio actually offered a little advice as well, encouraging chefs with these types of personalities to channel their energies into more positive outlets.


“Find other ways to distract yourself,” he said. “I think once you’re an addict or once you’re addicted or you have an addictive personality, you’re always going to be addicted to something, so find something positive to be addicted to.”


How The Opioid Crisis Is Wrecking Economies

If you want to get a closer look at just how damaging America’s opioid crisis is, you need look no further than the community of Long Island, New York. In a recent report from Newsday, the working class region was shown to have taken an incredible economic hit due to addictions and lost jobs. The report estimates that construction businesses have lost tens of millions because of the opioid crisis with no end in sight.


The issues often tied to these losses include firings, lawsuits and (worst of all) fatal overdoses of employees. As a whole, the opioid epidemic is costing the American economy over $40 billion each year. As Newsday put it, the crisis is causing areas like Long Island to have a “traumatized workforce.”


“The opioid epidemic is not only ruining the lives of young people and families on Long Island… but also our business community,” business leader Jeffrey Capazzi told the site. “We had certain people being sent to rehab. We’ve had people that we’ve lost through overdoses.  And it’s not just the young people, although on Long Island our kids are really being impacted terribly. It’s men in their 40s, women in their 40s. It doesn’t discriminate because it starts with a prescription.”


Long Island was singled out because they listed 600 opioid-related deaths in the past year alone. It is certainly one of the most hardest hit cities in the country. Long Island is also a major hub for small independent businesses. According to Newsday, 90 percent of its 97,400 businesses have no more than 20 employees. And that is certainly something to keep under consideration, when it comes to corporate treatment programs and such. Small companies like this cannot afford to help staffers and they take a much harder hit when someone succumbs to their addiction.


Though many areas in our own state weren’t mentioned in the piece, Southern California has its share of “Long Island” style communities as well. Many regions of Newhall, the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley, for instance, include small working class companies facing the same issues as what’s happening on the east coast.


For now, many Long Island business owners are taking smaller measures to help employees who are caught up in the struggle. Local construction CEO Greg Demetriou added some final thoughts, which is how he chooses to address the problem with his team.


“I do everything I can to mention it, to talk about it,” he said. “I don’t know the mentality of business owners who don’t want to speak about it… If we don’t get the coordination and the help from the business community, we will never be successful in the fight.”



Recovery Fitness Regimens

If you think about it, recovery is built around the fundamental theme of health. Cleansing the body of toxins, rejuvenating your inner being and, truth be told, getting your physique back into fighting shape. At Valley Recovery Center, exercise is an essential component of that process; which is why we were excited to see that message go viral. Earlier this month, SELF Magazine published a well received article which highlighted fitness, sobriety and the journey of one brave recovery advocate.


Louise Green authored the piece and delved deep into her battles with drugs and alcohol. But more importantly, she chronicled her path to healing and how simple regimens like running steered her toward success.

But perhaps what Louise found most rewarding about these new fitness experiences was the sense of accountability that accompanied them.


“When I made the decision to get sober, I sought the help of a recovery program,” Louise wrote. “Then a year into my sobriety, I started running. I found a positive, healthy community where I began to feel accepted and confident. With every run, I left behind pieces of shame and believed in myself just a little bit more. I had found my new high.”


Green went on to write about her 10k marathons and her eventual choice to become a personal trainer; all sparked by a new sober lifestyle. But perhaps what really made her article catch fire, was the helpful list of how fitness can turn a recovery graduate’s life around.


Number one on Louise’s list of exercise benefits was the new communities that it can open up. Surrounding yourself with health-conscious people can be extremely beneficial and reduce the urge to use. Green also described the incredible support system that arose from her new circle of running friends.


Self-esteem was also at the top of her list. As Louise began challenging herself with harder runs, her confidence began to grow in both her personal and professional life. She also described how exercise gave her a new sense of purpose.

“Before, in my drinking days, I really didn’t have any direction—so this was new and exciting,” she wrote. “I started to take on an identity of someone who had ambition, which was all new to me. Running gave me something constructive to focus on.”


But perhaps what Louise found most rewarding about these new fitness experiences was the sense of accountability that accompanied them. These types of regimens require precise start and stop times. There are also group activities, where teammates depend on each other. Adhering to those types of rules literally changed Green’s life and we’re confident it can do the same for many others.


Six States File Suit Against Purdue Pharma

If you’ve been following our blogs, then you’re certainly aware of Purdue Pharma and the OxyContin drugs that get manufactured out of their Connecticut plant. Well now, several attorney generals are hoping to put a dent in their big business dealings with six state lawsuits. Texas, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee have all filed legal actions, calling out the company’s “deceptive trade practices.”


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has become one of more vocal figures in the suit. “[Purdue Pharma] knows their drugs are potentially dangerous and that their use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” he said at a press conference. “As they got rich from sales of their opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses.”


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi echoed that sentiment, emphasizing that her state has been one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. “We are in the midst of a national opioid crisis claiming 175 lives a day nationally and 15 lives a day in Florida,” she told reporters. “This company is profiting from the pain and suffering of Floridians.”


On paper, Purdue was called out for a laundry list of inexcusable actions. Everything from failing to disclose the risk of addiction to their products to falsely representing to doctors that signs of addiction are actually signs the patient needs a higher dose of opioids. In dollars and cents, these types of violations could cost the company millions to every state.


Earlier this year, Purdue did try to do some damage control; slashing their sales staff and working to stop promoting OxyContin to health care professionals. They have also already responded to the new allegations, denying any wrongdoing.


“We are disappointed that after months of good-faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help states address the opioid crisis, these attorney generals have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” Purdue rep Robert Josephson said in a prepared statement. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”


It certainly will be interesting to see how a pharmaceutical giant like Purdue chooses to defend itself. It is worth noting that back in 2007, they wound up paying  $19.5 million to settle lawsuits with multiple states after being accused of aggressively marketing their OxyContin products. In this scenario, we can foresee the consequences being much more hefty.


Supreme Court Overturns Sports Gambling Ban

It’s not often that we turn to the pages of Sports Illustrated for our blog source material, but this week we feel it is important and appropriate. Why? Because The Supreme Court made a major move in the world of gambling, choosing to overturn a previous federal ruling that banned professional sports betting. Now this can mean different things in different states, but in our home turf of California there are important facts to remember.


First, a little bit of background. As we have often covered in our blogs before, gambling addictions can be incredibly dangerous (they also happen to be something we treat at VRC). And truth be told, sports are often the gateway into serious dependencies.


Living in a state like California, where casinos aren’t necessarily easily accessible, the easiest way to feed these cravings is with bookies and online wagers on NFL, NBA and MLB teams. So opening up the floodgates to legalized bets on games, spreads and fantasy leagues could have some serious repercussions.


Based on the ruling, however, it looks like CA still hasn’t quite got the freedom to allow hardcore wagers (though are neighboring states like Oregon and Arizona have much more liberties now). But with this major hurdle out of the way, actions are already taking place to propose new bills that allow it.


SI revealed that California state assemblyman Adam Gray is moving forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would make sports gambling completely legal in our region. According to their insiders, it aims to get in front of the Assembly Committee before the Legislature’s summer recess. And what does that mean? If it were able to pass both houses (with an emphasis on revenue it could generate for the state, no doubt), the proposal would go to a vote and potentially be enacted by as early as November.


How possible that may be remains to be seen. SI writer Jeremy Fuchs still has strong feelings that such a movement would get struck down. “A dispute and a looming lawsuit between tribes and the legislature makes a sports betting bill unlikely,” he wrote. “Bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced in session since 2015, though they have yet to make significant progress.”


So while Fuchs believes it to be “unlikely,” it is obvious that several state representatives are eager to see sports gambling become a reality in our state. It is certainly a concerning topic and one that has the potential to fuel many more addictions in the coming years. We advise everyone to follow this story closely.


Channeling Pain Into Music

Over the years, we’ve shared numerous ways that families across the country have honored loved ones who have succumbed to addiction. And one recent story caught our attention, as well as the writers from USA Today. In an article that is now going viral, the famed newspaper site profiled Dan and Cindy Blom; two parents who have channeled the loss of their son into a powerful and inspiring charity.


In a unique twist, the Blom family is using music to help others battling dependencies. Their organization, titled E.B. Rooster Guitars, sells custom instruments and donates profits to recovery facilities across the country. It was built to honor their son Erik, who died of a heroin overdose back in 2014.


Raised in a happy family based in Tennessee, Erik was (by all accounts) not the type of child people would expect to get hooked on heavy drugs. His parents discussed Erik’s passion for art, his creativity and the shock they felt when he began going down a dark path.


“Erik was simultaneously grateful and hopeless,” Erik’s father Dan told the site. “He used heroin for the first time one week before his 26th birthday. He told me that when he used that day, he felt no pain for the first time since he could remember. He would go on to chase that feeling for three years. He never found it again. Instead, he found an addiction that brought him to homelessness, got him work as a confidential informant, landed him in jail, lost him friends and, at times, his family, caused unthinkable trauma and ultimately death.”


Throughout his battles, Erik did find solace in music; which was part of the reason his parents launched E.B. Rooster. After dealing with the excruciating pain of his death, Dan and Cindy took action to help the families of others dealing with these types of issues.


His mom became a Certified Professional Recovery Coach, working with local facilities throughout Tennessee. And his dad, who already had a musical background, laid the groundwork for E.B. Rooster. Their custom guitars are sold in shops throughout the state and online across the country.


All products are dedicated to Erik’s memory and 10 percent of proceeds from every guitar sold goes to support recovery. Other E.B. merchandise, such as shirts, takes 100 percent of the profits and applies it to sober facilities.


“We want to help others and their families the way our friends helped us care for our son,” Cindy added. “We hope to remove the stigma so people who are battling (addiction) illnesses that are trying to kill them will not have to fight the stigma, too.”


Walmart Takes Stand Against Opioid Addiction

As one of the biggest pharmacy chains in the country, Walmart has often been put under fire for not taking a harsher stance against the opioid crisis (as competitors like CVS recently have). Well, now the retail giant is hoping to change perception with a new policy that limits refills and first time prescriptions of prescription painkillers.


In a recent announcement, Walmart revealed on its site that both its primary brand and its Sam’s Club offshoot will be restricting opioid fill limits to up to seven days nationwide. Within the next 60 days, all locations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico will roll out the program (which aims to curb habits from forming by limiting initial use).


Beyond that, they also will begin phasing out written prescriptions for controlled substances. Instead, the site says, they require e-prescriptions only; which are said to be less prone to errors and cannot be altered or copied.


“We are taking action in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic,” Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Walmart Health & Wellness and Consumables, said in a statement. “And we are proud to implement these policies and initiatives as we work to create solutions that address this critical issue facing the patients and communities we serve.”


The site page goes into many more plans of action to help address the crisis. For one, the company claims to be conducting new trainings with its pharmacists and prescription fillers. The goal is better educate them about opioid abuse and provide naloxone recommendations to assist with any customer who may be prone to an overdose.


Apparently, Walmart is also aligning with the recent Drug Take-Back Day mission that happened last month. To help promote the disposal of medications, they will begin offering DisposeRx, which is a powder that can combined with water and pills to safely destroy leftover prescriptions.


And in case you were wondering, a move like this could actually make a pretty big difference across the country. Walmart serves nearly 270 million customers each week and has over 11,700 stores throughout the greater U.S. Aligning them with an anti-addiction strategy could impact a large percentage of the population.


As they concluded on their site, Walmart aims to make its biggest dent via addiction education.


“We believe education on prescription drug abuse is a key part of the solution,” the site says. “Walmart helps sponsor youth-based curriculums on the risks associated with prescription drug abuse, including Prescription for Life with EverFi. These programs are educational tools that empower students with information and skills to address the opioid epidemic, should they face it in their community.”


How Effective Are Anti-Addiction Ads?

For generations now, TV watchers have had the opportunity to see anti-addiction PSA’s flash across their small screens. Whether it was the D.A.R.E. campaign of the 1980’s or the frying egg which has been brought back this decade, these messages have been hard to escape. But the question is, are they effective? Or could anti-addiction dollars be put to better use?


Local Cheyenne, Wyoming outlet KGWN recently addressed that thought in an effective piece that shared insights from politicians, viewers and advertising agencies. Ohio senator Sherrod Brown was quoted in the article. His belief was that these types of commercials can make a difference, if they are executed properly. In his opinion, a PSA series like “Just Say No” failed in many respects. But Brown believes that years of anti-smoking ads have had a positive effect.


“We can all agree that ‘Just Say No’ didn’t work very well,” Brown explained to reporters. “But when there was a real focus and when communities and government listened to the experts on anti-smoking we were able in a whole lot of ways to dramatically drop the rate of smoking in this country.”


Advertising agency rep Wendy Melillo also spoke with the outlet and agreed that “Just Say No” missed the mark. Bringing a little history into that campaign, she explained that it initially tested quite well with adults. But its teenage target audience was not impressed with the message.


“Telling teens what to do is a good way to get them to do the opposite,” Melillo added. “And anti-drug campaigners need to keep that in mind. Something like the McGruff Crime Dog proved to be effective because its service announcement stems from its ability to point the audience to a next step.”


Melillo also chimed in on the success of many anti-smoking PSA campaigns. She explained that a good commercial needs to capture an audience’s attention and keep it. Indeed, many of the stop smoking ads have included jarring images of people in hospitals and zipped up in body bags. Shocking for sure but, in Melillio’s opinion, also very effective.


When it comes to modern day addictions and the opioid crisis, Melillo believes there are ways to make the message stick.


“Newer ads should make it clear that help is available, and recovery is possible,” she concluded. “The message most likely to get a user into recovery is simple, ‘there is hope, in that we can and do recover from alcohol and drug addiction’.”


Addiction-Related Suicides Are On The Rise

We’ve always known that there are links between addiction and suicide. Depression, in particular, is often an offshoot of a dependency (particularly when it relates to alcoholism). But did you know that there is actually a term for this type of behavior? It’s called “Deaths of Despair” and it’s on the rise in states across the country.


Technically, the term “deaths of despair” means any suicide that is tied alcohol or drug use. These aren’t necessarily overdoses, per se, but rather self-inflicted fatalities following some type of substance abuse. The scary thing, according to TheFix.com, is that these types of deaths have shot up by 50 percent over the past ten years.


According to the data released by State Health System Performance Report, West Virginia is the area where this behavior has hit its peak. Their “death of despair” mortality rate has reached 83 per every 100,000 residents (compared to the national average of 35) in the last year.


Our home state of California was listed 22nd when it came to “deaths of despair” across the nation. Though not as bad of some of the middle-America regions, our ranking does raise concern. The high cost of living has certainly contributed to increased depression counts, particularly when you think about Los Angeles’ rising homeless crisis. That coupled with addiction is seen a great contributor to the rise of suicides in our state.


Publishers of the study have already spoken out, urging for more health care and therapy options for people who may be suffering. We know firsthand how important counseling can be during the recovery process.


“This scorecard shows us that all states have the opportunity to improve, including those at the top,” Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said in statement. “Moving forward, we should continue to evaluate states’ progress and support effective policies that are making it easier for people to get and afford the health care they need.”


Another condition that has been said to contribute to the “despair” tally is obesity and the hopelessness that people feel when confronted with drastic weight gains. States like New Mexico, Ohio and Kentucky were all listed as areas where this problem is seen as a primary factor.


It is also important to note that “deaths of despair” have actually lowered the nation’s life expectancy (much like the opioid crisis has). Obviously this is a very serious issue and one that can be improved upon, with the proper recovery tools in place.


Former NBA Star Becomes Outspoken Recovery Advocate

Though he played amazingly for teams like the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets, former NBA star Chris Herren may actually leave a bigger legacy for his outstanding recovery work. Since his retirement from professional sports, Chris has spearheaded a growing movement to get people clean and help families impacted by addiction.


His recovery based Herren Project has now helped hundreds of thousands of Americans turn their lives around and, in the last few months, it’s been getting a large amount of viral attention. CNN recently did a piece on Chris and his inspirational story.


Never one to shy away from harsh realities, Herren opened up to the site about the depths of his addictions and how they nearly ruined his career. He discussed forming a cocaine dependency back in his early teens and carrying it throughout college and during his time in the NBA. Chris described regularly getting high before games and, at his lowest point, overdosing in the front seat of his car.


Ultimately it was one of his famous teammates who set him on the right path. NBA alumnus Chris Mullin and his wife Liz came Herren’s rescue during those darkest hours.


“Liz and Chris Mullin reached out to me and gave me the greatest gift any family could give someone, a chance to get well,” Herren told CNN. “This crisis doesn’t discriminate. It’s in every community. It’s in every neighborhood. After that incident, my whole purpose became to break that stigma … and eliminate the rock bottoms.”


So, Chris went on to launch The Herren Project in 2011. The program recruits social workers to match addicts with the support that they need. Services include regular coaching sessions and financial assistance throughout the recovery process.


CNN went on to profile several individuals who were able to benefit from the Project. They all later became advocates themselves and proceeded to pay it forward. 885,000 people in all have been part of the program and that number continues to grow.


More recently, Chris has launched Project Purple which focuses on students who are struggling. This particular sect puts an emphasis on education and preventative tactics for teens and twenty-somethings across the country.


“It’s all about creating awareness, support, and community,” Herren concluded. “The scariest thing about kids, the scariest thing about addiction, is nobody knows who has it.”


To find out more about Chris’ inspirational Herren Project, click here.


New Recovery Site Named For Chris Cornell

Losing someone to addiction is one of the worst experiences a family member can go through. And if you’re in the public eye, the pain can often feel even more intensified. But to the credit of Chris Cornell’s widow Vicky, that pain has now been channeled into a powerful resource that aims to help others who are dealing with dependencies.


Chris, of course, was the famed frontman of the band Soundgarden and lost his life to suicide back in May 2017. He openly struggled with addiction and it is believed that it may have contributed to his final actions.


To help avoid that scenario for others, Vicky Cornell has now set up the Addiction Resource Center for Chris (also known as ARC).  It is an online resource where individuals and families struggling can reach out and connect with clinicians and recovery advocates.


She also has backed an Addiction Resource Line (ARL), which is a special phone number available for people in need. The goal is to not only steer people away from addiction, but also the negative suicidal thoughts that may go along with it.


“Addiction is a preventable and treatable disease,” Vicky explained in a statement.”While it’s too late to bring Chris back, it’s not too late for millions of other people who are struggling with addiction. These resources are designed to connect people to the help they need—help that is often way too difficult to find—in the hope that other families are spared the loss that my family is experiencing. There is no better way to honor to Chris than by saving lives.”


Though it’s not commonly stated, there have been many links discovered between suicide and addiction. Chris, himself, was found with several drugs in system when he made the decision to end his life.


ARC and ARL co-founder Jessica Nickel echoed Vicky’s sentiment, emphasizing the primary purpose of this movement is to save lives (whether it’s from an overdose or a suicidal action).


“Only 11% of those with substance use disorder receive treatment. The ARC and the ARL are designed to change that,” Nickel added. “By giving individuals with substance use disorder, and their families, a website to go to and trained professionals to talk to, we believe we can connect people to the help they need and save lives.”


You can click here to visit the official ARC website, or if you feel the need to reach out by phone, the toll-free ARL line is 1-833-301-HELP.


Simi Drug Summit Set For This Week

If you happen to be in the Ventura County area this Thursday (or want to lend your voice in the fight against the opioid crisis), we recommend putting the Simi Prescription Drug Addiction Summit on your radar. The free event happens May 3 from 7-9 pm at the Ronald Reagan Library and promises to be “an educational and provocative discussion” on the dangers of dependencies.


One major selling point of the event is featured speaker Robert Patterson. Patterson happens to be the appointed acting administrator the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and will be sharing a keynote address with all attendees.


This topic is certain to hit home with a lot of local residents. In the past two years alone, opioid deaths in Ventura County rose by more than 25 percent. Worse yet, overdoses from fentanyl more than tripled during that same time span.


Simi, in particular, saw a sharp spike in drug activity. According to recent stats, local police responded to 146 calls involving heroin last year (and over 30 in the first four months of 2018).


Simi police chief David Livingstone will also be a speaker at the event and is encouraging everyone from the community to attend.


“I’ve never seen overdose deaths at the point where they are now,” Livingstone told The Ventura County Star. “They get addicted to opiate-based prescriptions. They turn to the cheaper alternative, which is heroin.”


Interestingly enough, it was a local Simi businessman who first got the ball rolling for the summit. Fred Thomas also happens to be a local DEA volunteer and brought his concerns to the mayor and other elected officials. Now, the summit has the full support of the Simi Police Department, the Reagan Library, the DEA and the FBI (all of whom will have members participating). Local filmmakers and recovery advocates will also be part of the agenda.


“I think a lot of people in our community are in a state of denial over it,” Livingstone explained. “They think overdose and addiction happens to other people. “


The hope is that with this impressive gathering of influential figures, stigma conversations will begin to change. The summit is already receiving a large amount of press and our hope is that it leads other local L.A. communities to hold similar types of events.


Space is still available for the Thursday night lecture. We recommend visiting the registration site and reserving a seat soon (whether you live in Ventura County or not). It is an important occasion that is worth putting on the agenda.