Addiction Treatment Ads Return To Google

If you’ve been following our blogs, then you’re probably aware of the issues Google has been taking with the recovery industry. Clearly their intentions were good; but due to fraudulent clinics and deceptive ads, they had halted the promotion of treatment centers in their searches. Well this week, that policy appears to have changed with the platform now opening its doors to digital recovery advertising.


First, let’s go back with a little history lesson on the whole situation. Thanks to articles on sites like The Vergescams were uncovered where so-called “body brokers” hunted online for vulnerable victims to send them money for fake recovery centers. Clearly that was an awful practice that deserved to be exposed. But due to the embarrassing nature of it all, Google took action by pulling all addiction treatment search ads in the United States. This happened right at the end of last year and continued as such for the past several months.


Now, however, new parameters are in place which allow reputable clinics to begin resuming their online promotions. It is still a slower process, which requires proper vetting from a third Google party called LegitScript. This online security org set up specific criteria, which any recovery advertiser must meet before launching a campaign. Everything from criminal background checks, to license verifications were enacted, which ensured that all “body brokers” would be scared away.


The good news is, the process appears to be working. This month, more than 100 addiction treatment centers have been cleared to use Google’s AdWords service. LegitScript rep, David Khalaf, praised the efforts and feels very confident that this will ultimately work to serve those who really need help.


“As we began vetting applicants with many closely related facilities that shared a website, we developed ways in which we could streamline the process to make it more efficient,” he explained.


And as (the site that broke the news) went on to say, this new chapter will start to let “the good guys win.” Doug Tieman, another digital security rep who spoke to the article writer, explained that this will ultimately help legitimate recovery businesses. But more importantly, it will help people who are sincerely seeking out addiction treatment.


“Unethical marketing practices in the addiction treatment industry have become common,” Tieman added. “Yet prohibiting all treatment facilities from advertising is not a viable option for anyone—Google, treatment centers or consumers.”


As mentioned above, over 100 businesses have been cleared thus far with many more on the way. And once that happens, everyone who advertises properly will receive a special certification that they can proudly display on their website.


New Animation Campaign Promotes Addiction Awareness

With Comic-Con still fresh on people’s minds, now actually seems like a good time to bring an innovative, adult-oriented animation campaign to the forefront. And a Illinois-based advertising agency is doing just that, with a twist. Their cartoon shorts are actually focused on addiction and building awareness about treatment and recovery.


The Chicago Tribune recently covered this viral series of vignettes in their Editorial Section, highlighting how they’re already helping to move the needle on social networks like YouTube. The campaign itself is simply titled “Addiction” and will consist of four episodes aimed at educating the public. Two have already been released and focus on specific themes.


Episode 1, titled “The Hijacker,”  uses dark imagery to convey how addiction can change a person’s brain function. You can watch it in its entirety below…


Episode 2 was just released this week and covers the risk factors for developing a substance abuse disorder. You can watch “Whirpools of Risk” below…


All of them were created with input from The Addiction Policy Forum, a Washington D.C.-based partnership of advocates who are personally invested in the cause. Policy president, Jessica Hulsey Nickel (who lost her parents to addiction) spoke to The Tribune about the intent behind the videos.


“There’s so much misinformation about this disease, everything from this being a choice and not a disease, the misunderstanding about how treatment works, misunderstandings about medications, about lengths of treatment and recovery support, how you develop this disease in the first place,” she explained. “We are surrounded and drowning in misinformation and myths. This series is a way to reach a wide group of people — those struggling with addiction, their family members and anyone who could better understand the issue.”


And Hulsey Nickel added that there is a calculated strategy at play. Many of the data and messages behind the campaigns can be hard for everyday people to digest. But, as she puts it, separating them into accessible, animated “bite-sized chunks” can do a much better job of conveying the message. And the Policy Forum made sure of that, by working with test groups and hiring talented animators whose work can capture people’s attention.


The group behind the “Addiction” series hope that this is the start of many good things to come. They plan to continue releasing content and eventually hold screenings in theaters throughout the country. They’ve also developed a website with links to helpful treatment resources and hope to build custom hashtags and social media movements to keep the momentum going.


Demi Lovato’s ‘Heartbreaking’ Relapse

Celebrity news outlets were buzzing this week with some disturbing news about recovery advocate Demi Lovato. Just months after publicly celebrating her sixth year of sobriety, the famed pop singer was discovered unconscious this week; apparently due to a heroin overdose. The good news is that several cited sources are claiming that she is now “stable” and recovering, but hearing about her relapse is both saddening and an honest truth about the difficulties of remaining clean.


Demi’s sobriety post from this past March…

What makes Demi’s relapse even more tragic is the fact that she openly spoke of conquering addiction and worked with several recovery organizations. There had been indicators though, the she had been struggling in recent weeks. One telling sign was the release of her latest single, “Sober,” this past June. Looking back on it now, the track’s lyrics are eerily prophetic.


“Mama, I’m so sorry I’m not sober anymore/ And daddy please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor,” Lovato sang. “To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down this road before/ I’m so sorry/ I’m not sober anymore.”


There is no word yet (and we certainly don’t want to speculate) on whether there was a particular trigger that may haven driven her to use again. Up until this point, it had been business as usual for the star. She had recently filmed an episode of the Fox series Beat Shazam, which was scheduled to air this month. She also had a series of summer concert dates scheduled in Atlantic City, New Jersey.


Not surprisingly, the outpouring of support for Lovato has been tremendous. Celebs ranging from Missy Elliott to Brad Paisley have been sending encouraging messages via social media. There was even a hashtag created in her honor, titled #PrayForDemi.


For the record, Lovato’s first public addiction struggles occurred back in 2010. During that period, the then 17-year-old entered a treatment program for a cocaine dependency, bulimia and self-mutilation. Rather than try and cover up the experience, Demi was open and honest about the emotional turmoil she was going through. She even authored a recovery support book titled, Falling With Wings.


Lovato’s family has continued to support her through it all and, according to reports, are at her hospital bedside following the incident. Her mother, Dianne De La Garza, has yet to release a current statement, but this past Spring praised her daughter’s strength and advocacy.


“I used to think that Demi’s thing in life was going to be young girls looking up to her because she’s such a great singer,” she told People Magazine. “But her purpose is so much bigger. I’m proud Demi is an advocate for sobriety, mental health and positive body image — she’s a role model because of what she’s been through and where she is today.”



New Coffee Campaign Promotes Recovery

Recently, an independent coffee brand called Sober Joe began grinding beans for a very good cause. Launched and distributed by a former alcoholic, it has gone on to serve two important purposes. One is to deliver a quality product that can help people get through long days. The other is to promote the message of recovery, with profits going directly to treatment centers and sobriety programs.


We were very excited to see a company like this begin to generate headlines. Its founder, Frank Kerker, has become an outspoken advocate for people struggling with addiction and has now made it his mission to help the cause. Kerker is a 25-year vet of the beverage business, doing sales and advertising for several national brands. But when it came time to launch something of his own, he knew exactly what his mission should be.


“This was the perfect intersection for me: beverages and recovery,” Kerker explained in an interview with The  “I don’t know why there is that connection, but there is. Coffee is mentioned a half a dozen times in The Big Book and 12 & 12. It’s the beverage of choice for 12-step meetings everywhere. It’s ubiquitous, part of the culture. Making coffee is even suggested as a way to perform service work.”


Kerker openly admitted that his own sobriety occurred back in 2005, after years of struggling with a drinking dependency. He also correctly pointed out that coffee has had a long history with recovery, working as a successful tool during 12-step meetings.


Working with collaborators from his bev biz days, Kerker was able to put together a winning brew formula. He then began structuring a charitable strategy that would make each Sober Joe purchase especially meaningful. Since its launch last September, the brand has been funding a scholarship to Courage to Change Sober Living; a local halfway house adjacent to company headquarters. So far, the donations have totaled several thousand dollars with much more expected before the end of the year.


Sober Joe is is also partnering with Compassion4Addiction, which works to change perceptions and stigmas when it comes to dependencies. As the company grows nationally, Kerker plans to shift even more profits toward the organization. And he told TheFix that he doesn’t plan to stop there.


“Virtually everyone is touched directly by addiction and people want to help but don’t know how,” he added. “Buying a product that you use everyday is an easy way to help. Plus, it’s really good coffee.”


You can do your part to support Sober Joe by visiting their official website.


More Young Alcoholics Diagnosed With Liver Disease

Typically when we think of an alcoholic succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver, it is after decades of abuse. But some newly released data is pointing to a change in that statistic. Apparently liver disease is becoming much more common for chronic drinkers in their 30’s, which is an alarming stat that we think is worth sharing. published a telling piece on this latest research and the trends that many doctors are seeing when it comes to cirrhosis. The stats were published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and covered a period from 1999 to 2016. Within that timeframe, chronic liver disease as a whole saw a drastic increase; but its the death tolls among young people that have been raising the most alarms.


In blunt terms, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds who have died each year from alcohol-related liver disease almost tripled between 1999 and 2016. The annual increase rate has now hit around 10 percent; with an initial total of 259 deaths in 1999 and a much higher total of 767 deaths in 2016.


University of Michigan assistant professor of medicine (and liver specialist), Dr. Elliot Tapper, spoke with NPR’s writers and shared his personal firsthand accounts of what he’s been seeing.


“What’s happening with young people is dismaying to say the least,” he told the site. “A young man I’ve been recently seeing, his whole body was yellow. He could hardly move. It was difficult for him to breathe, and he wasn’t eating anything. We had long, tearful conversations, but he continued to struggle with alcohol addiction.”


Not surprisingly, these new findings have led to a lot of speculations as to the causes of the spike. Another medical professional interviewed for the article, Dr. Vijay Shah who works at the Mayo Clinic, felt that outside global factors may be contributing to the rise in 30-something chronic alcoholism.


“It correlates with the global financial crisis,” he explained. “We hypothesize that there may be a loss of opportunity, and the psychological burden that comes with that may have driven some of those patients to abusive drinking.”


Regardless, these issues are raising much concern. Particularly because of how fast-acting these liver disease cases have become. Typically, cirrhosis occurs after 30-plus years of heavy drinking. The fact that it’s happening to people in their 20’s and 30’s certainly merits further investigations.


The only possible good news, is that modern medicine is helping to reduce the amount of deaths related to this problem. Thankfully, this condition can be treated and overall, liver disease only accounts for 1.4 percent of total deaths for people aged 25-34.


The Power Of Recovery Mountain Expeditions

There is certainly a sense of accomplishment and serenity that occurs when you trek to the top of a steep mountain. And interestingly enough, a recovery program in Colorado is using those practices to help steer people away from drugs and alcohol. recently profiled a program called 2xtreme, which challenges its newly-sober members with 10 months of rigorous hike training. It all culminates with the climb of a 20,000 foot mountain.


As the group’s participants explained on the site, the program works because it combines several essential recovery elements. There’s the physical component, which requires discipline and focus (channeling one’s energies away from using). Then there’s the mental preparations, which include confidence building and an emphasis on self-esteem. Finally the teamwork factor comes into play, teaching members to build trust with each other and assume accountability when it comes to training exercises.


Several 2xtreme climbers spoke to TheFix, emphasizing how this unique approach to sobriety changed their lives.


“Ten months ago I was really heavy into drugs. I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents and they sought out to find a program that could turn my life around,” a participant who goes by “Luke” told the site. “Through 2xtreme, I learned a lot of life lessons about being a man, taking responsibility, dealing with guilt and failure, and celebrating my successes.”


Naturally, you would think the Colorado setting would have these members scaling local trails in the Rockies. But no. True to its name, 2xtreme takes its participants far beyond that. After the 10 months of training is complete, these groups have tackled historic peaks like Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.


The program is actually catered to young men and makes a point to only include fully capable members on these challenging trails. For those who still want to be part of the experience, 2xtreme offers other physical outlets at their facility. These include everything from sports athletics, to indoor climbing, to biking and skateboarding.


And one other very notable point about this org is their charitable work. When visiting exotic locations in Africa and South America, members partake in local community service activities (which included a recent visit to an orphanage in Peru).


“The sobriety this program brought me has really allowed me to mature,”another member named Nelson explained. “I’ve met incredible people. I’ve had incredible experiences and now I’m going to be halfway across the world hiking building relationships with people that I’m going to have the rest of my life.”


You can watch a segment on the powerful work being done with 2xtreme below…


Tennessee Governor Claims To Have Cut State’s Meth Problem ‘In Half’

When looking for solutions to conquer addiction, we often turn to the national news and headlines that illustrate how other regions are tackling the problem. With that in mind, we were very interested when we saw a story that claimed that former Tennessee Governor Phil Bresden cut his state’s meth problem in half. Is it true? The Washington Post did a nice job of laying out both sides of the argument. And in the end, it did illustrate how political leaders can make a serious dent in the country’s dependency problem.


Bresden left office back in the late 2000’s and is now running for a Democratic Senate seat. He said that his tenure as Tennessee governor brought about sweeping addiction change. A big reason for that was the signing of the state’s Meth-Free Act in 2005. This core provision required pharmacies to heavily guard any cold or sinus medication that could be used to manufacture meth. That meant that anyone looking to purchase something like Sudafed would have to get it from the counter and follow a screening process.


Truth be told, after that measure had passed the state did see a significant drop in meth lab incidents. In fact, they declined from 2,341 in 2004 to 599 in 2007 (a 74 percent decrease when you crunch the numbers). And that actually is quite notable, as Tennessee was among the top three states with meth lab arrests from 2003 to 2005.


But sure enough, those numbers began creeping up again after Bresden left office. Researchers discovered that dealers simply found new ways to create the narcotic, such as buying ingredients from different vicinities. There was also a recorded rise in international meth smuggling, primarily from Mexican drug cartels.


Recently, Bresden acknowledged the rise in Tennessee drug cases over the past several years. He described the war on meth as a “moving target” and, if elected to the Senate, vowed to continue the fight, with a particular emphasis on America’s opioid crisis.


“I am very proud that Tennessee worked with law enforcement to cut in half the number of illegal meth lab seizures in the immediate aftermath of the Meth-Free Tennessee Act,” he explained to The Post. “Unfortunately, as law enforcement officials on the front lines have always said, addicts would find other ways to satisfy their fix, and much of the meth in Tennessee is now coming from Mexico This war will continue to be a ‘moving target’ that will require a coordinated commitment from the federal, state and local governments.”


Grandparents: The ‘Unsung Heroes’ Of Opioid Crisis

Over the past year, we’ve published several articles about how the opioid addiction crisis is ripping American families apart. And within all that turmoil, there has been one segment of the population that has consistently (and quietly) come to the rescue. We’re talking about grandparents,who (according to a new article on are now taking in their children’s kids following arrests, treatment stints and even fatal overdoses.


The tragic story that we touched on earlier concerned children of addicts who are forced into foster care. But for every kid that accounts for that statistic, there are 18 to 20 more who have been taken in by grandparents or other family members.


This is all a very noble effort, though it is creating more financial hardships across the U.S. Most of the seniors now caring for grandchildren are retired and living on small fixed incomes. Having to cover food, lodging and care for new family members can be devastating for their bank accounts. In fact, 20 percent of grandparents raising grandchildren are now living below the poverty line.


But these loved ones are still showing no hesitation when it comes to helping out. Donna Butts, an executive director of the advocacy org Generations United, has called out these relatives as American heroes.


“With the opioid epidemic, it seems so much more severe and, in some ways, more hopeless,” she explained. “Which is why I think the grandparents and other relatives that are stepping forward are playing such a critical role because the hope is with the children.”


But, the article goes on to say that many of these seniors are walking in to volatile situations. For the kids, having to watch their parent overdose, go to jail or even die is extremely traumatic. This can leave deep emotional scars, which certain grandparents aren’t always equipped to deal with. In the case with teens, this could lead to rebelliousness or even young ones using themselves.


The advice here, is to educate seniors about the resources available to them when it comes to trauma.


“What these grandparents really need is to understand the impact of trauma on the children and try to help support them as they deal with that,” Butts added. “Also, they need to have access to trauma-informed services, the services that can really help them to overcome what they’ve experienced.”


So while this is a very honorable effort, it is one that shouldn’t be handled alone.


CNN Profiles Recovery Success Story

With so much bad news circulating about overdoses and the opioid epidemic, we were happy to see a major outlet take time out to share some positivity. CNN offered a little inspiration this week, by profiling a formerly addicted mother who has turned her life around and discovered sobriety. Crystal Champ made headlines back in 2017 after a police officer adopted her baby following a drug arrest. Now she is seven months clean and serving as a beacon of hope to others impacted by the crisis.


When cameras first caught Champ last September, she was near death and homeless on the streets of Albuquerque. Dependent on both heroin and crystal meth; she was not only putting her life in danger, she was jeopardizing the survival of her unborn child.


Champ’s story really took off thanks to the heroics of local New Mexico police officer Ryan Holets. Holets became her “guardian angel,” helping to get her into recovery and offering to care for the newborn. Baby Hope was born in October and (true to his word) Officer Holets took her in and is raising her as his own.


In the meantime Champ did go forward with recovery, entering a local treatment facility and getting clean against all odds.


“Crystal was completely hopeless,” recovery rep Kat McLaughlin told CNN. “She was at the deep end of the spectrum. Using the hardest drugs in the most extreme ways. Now I am so proud of her. She left everything in her old life behind, and she’s started completely fresh. Not many people have the strength to do that”


Today, Champ is seven months clean and speaks to the Holets family regularly. She has not yet seen her daughter, but in time plans to stage a full-fledged reunion. Thankfully, little Hope is developing at a healthy pace (which is quite miraculous, when you consider that her mother was shooting up while pregnant).


Crystal openly admits that there is still a long road ahead and she currently resides in sober-living home. But, with a picture of Hope and the Holets family in her bedroom, she is inspired each day to become stronger and healthier.


Holets too, is excited to see Champ make a full recovery.


“I, deep down, kind of wished upon a star that something like this could happen,” he explained. “But this kind of stuff only happens in movies and books with happy endings. Usually, in real life, you don’t see stuff like this.”


You can watch the full story of Crystal’s journey via this CNN clip below…


New Plan May Allow Inmates To Receive Recovery Treatment

It is a well known fact that addictions run rampant throughout the nation’s prison system. Many times, drugs and using are what put people behind bars in the first place. Well over in Massachusetts, a radical new plan is coming into play that may allow inmates to receive treatment and recovery help while serving time.


The legislation comes from Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker and has already gotten approval votes from the state House of Representatives. It is also backed by a coalition of 26 health care groups, who continue to publicly show support. Currently, however, it is just a provision. But it could make its way to becoming a law if the Senate agrees. At its essence, this new program will offer anti-addiction medications to qualified prisoners and to people civilly committed for treatment.


As of right now, most jails and prisons deny access to these types of meds (primarily identified as methadone and buprenorphine). Doing that, leaves the addicted inmates at a very high risk of OD’ing when released for their minor crimes.


The “pilot” program that was approved would focus on six Massachusetts prisons (not publicly identified) and be run by the Department of Corrections. If prisoners were in treatment before their arrest and already taking buprenorphine or methadone to wean off of an addiction, they would still get access to those medications.


Inmates who were not in treatment but volunteer on the inside would be evaluated by the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center, then potentially brought into the program. Addictions specialists would also be on hand, to measure progress and monitor the recovery steps.


The move is not without its critics, of course. One of the primary issues that has come up with this legislation has to do with cost. Certain politicians brought up financial figures when debating the measure. According to their estimations, the program could cost as much as $125 per week per participant and as much as $22.5 million annually.


Clearly an initiative like this won’t be a completely easy sell, but many believe (ourselves included) that the pros far outweigh the cons. Local Department of Corrections director Patricia Coyne-Fague has seen overdoses skyrocket in the prisons that she oversees and wrote an impassioned letter urging legislators to take action.


“We are constantly vigilant for any diversion of medications, and yes, we have had to educate staff about the benefits of (medication-assisted treatment) in order to achieve their buy-in,” she wrote. “But we believe the challenges are not insurmountable, and that the benefits to this program far outweigh the difficulties.”


More Brain Injuries Linked To Alcohol Abuse

Now here is some research worth spreading around. According to new data coming out of Scotland, brain damage related to drinking is at all-time high. Now the interesting thing here is that it does not relate to prolonged brain cell destruction after years of alcohol abuse (which is also a very real stat). This study analyzed injuries to the cranial region caused by reckless boozing.


Though not discussed much, drinking most certainly leads to physical abuse. Sometimes it’s stumbling over and causing an injury. Sometimes it’s a life threatening car crash. And, in the case of the Scottish research, it can be rowdy fights and concussions. Whatever the reason, these are points worth bringing out to the public.


The data from the study showed that 36,000 hospital inpatient stays happened because of alcohol misuse. There were also dozens of fatalities and over 660 brain damage cases. And in Scotland, for example (where soccer rowdiness is at an all-time high thanks to the World Cup), there are currently 22 deaths each week attributed to reckless drinking.


Certain recommendations that accompanied this research included implementing more alcohol education programs and raising the prices of booze. But local advocacy groups like Alcohol Focus feel that may just be a band aid for a bigger problem.


“Increases in preventable conditions like alcohol-related brain damage are devastating consequences of the high levels of alcohol consumption we see,” Alcohol Focus rep Alison Douglas told The Daily Mail. “This is all driven by widespread availability, low prices and heavy marketing of alcohol. Minimum unit pricing will save hundreds of lives, but it is not sufficient to turn the tide of alcohol harm.”


Certainly these types of issues are just as common in the states. Binge drinking continues to be a popular pastime (particularly among college students) and it has been shown to lead to aggression and bad decisions.


The research also showed that inebriated brains may be more susceptible to injury. Alcohol-related brain damage (or ARBD as it is labeled) is quite common with over-drinkers, particularly because of swelling and dehydration. It is also said that the body cannot absorb nutrients as easily when it is intoxicated.


All of figures definitely deserve an awareness campaign. Though many don’t realize it, one night out of reckless drinking could lead to serious physical damage. If you or someone you know partakes in regular binge drinking, make sure they are fully aware of the consequences and have access to the tools that can get them help.


Addiction PSA’s Featured In Popular New Shows

By the looks of things, addiction is becoming a hot topic within the Hollywood backlots. Several new shows across networks like HBO and Netflix are touching upon the issue, with dramatic hard-hitting stories. But to their credit, they are also issuing Public Service Announcements from series stars that urge viewers in need to seek help.


On the HBO front, the new mini-series Sharp Objects is addressing alcoholism and self-harm. Praised by critics, the mystery drama stars Amy Adams as an investigative reporter with a severe drinking problem and a penchant for cutting herself. It is definitely not for the faint of heart (the plot involves murder and violence), but it is boldly going into territories that many movies and shows aren’t willing to address.


After each of the series’ 12 episodes, a title card has been appearing. In it, viewers are shown a PSA along with a toll-free phone number for a substance abuse and mental health services hotline. There is also a web page on HBO’s Sharp Objects site that links to Shatterproof, an organization dedicated to servicing families impacted by addiction.


Netflix is taking a similar approach with their controversial series, 13 Reasons WhyThis is another dark show that touches upon suicide, depression and addiction. Truth be told, 13 Reasons is not without its critics. Many have taken aim at the series for its graphic, “sensationalized” depiction of teens killing themselves. Producers have addressed the controversy and are airing their own PSA’s before each episode.


In these public service announcements, the show’s stars speak into the camera about the tough topics covered in each episode. They also include a resource card, driving people to a site where they can learn more about recovery and mental health support.


13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide and more, the actors explain in the PSA. “By shedding a light on these difficult topics we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation. But if you struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you, or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult.”


You can take a glimpse of the 13 Reasons clip below…

‘Recovery Van’ Offers Mobile Treatment On The East Coast

You’ve probably heard of “pop up” stores before. The concept is pretty basic; vendors set up shops for short periods of time in various malls and public venues across a big city. Now imagine applying that business model to the world of addiction treatment. Interestingly enough that is exactly what’s happening in areas around New Jersey and the northeast U.S., thanks to the HOPE One mobile recovery access unit.


Launched this past Spring, the fully stocked van is aiming to help people battling dependencies (particularly those impacted by the opioid crisis). Items inside include narcan antidotes, treatment resources, educational pamphlets, first aid kits and even HIV/AIDS testing equipment. HOPE One is also staffed with recovery technicians, social workers and judicial experts.


Several organizations were involved in this program’s inception, including the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, the South Jersey Regional Medical Center, the local AIDS Alliance chapter and Christians United for Recovery (CURE). As local prosecutor rep Lt. Joseph Landis explained, the goal is to help those who have trouble locating treatment facilities.


“It’s hard to get people to come out to presentations or events,” he explained The Atlantic City Press. “They’re busy, they’ve worked all day, they have kids. So we really need to go to them. In doing this, we’ve already got to more people than we ever did with other events.”


The unit will be crisscrossing several regions over the summer, including New Jersey’s famed Atlantic City. The hope there, is to assist vacationers who are struggling and (with casinos and nightclubs galore) anyone who may be tempted to give into an addiction.


So far, HOPE One is getting a major push from local news outlets and social media. The van itself is extremely recognizable (an intentional move), with a large purple ribbon plastered on its front, back and sides. It also has its own Twitter page, which designates where the unit is located and heading throughout the week.


Below are a few examples of the messages going out on its viral channels…




Lt. Landis added that the model is continuing to be refined, with computers and technology hoping to be incorporated in the coming week.


“The big thing is to try and get people who are addicted to approach us,” he added. “On the spot, we’ll soon have computers that we’ll use to help people find insurance, housing, a treatment bed. The real goal is to try and get people off the street before they wind up in jail, in a hospital or worse.”


Let’s hope a concept like this can make its way to the west coast soon.


New Doc Addresses Fraudulent Recovery Clinics

As a recovery facility that holds itself to the highest standards, we are truly appalled when we see crooked characters come in and tarnish our industry. And sadly, that trend is becoming more commonplace as the opioid crisis leaves more Americans addicted. It is during this vulnerable time that fraudulent treatment centers and “body brokers,” as they are called, come swooping in, making false sobriety claims and bilking millions in the process. Well now CNBC is bringing this negative trend to the forefront, with an American Greed docu-special titled The Road To Retox. did a nice job summarizing what the special entails. Basically, over the course of 60 minutes viewers are taken on a brutally honesty journey profiling human trafficking and recovery scams. The episode will also focus on Kenny Chatman, a notorious con man who used fake sober living homes to collect insurance money, bamboozle families and set up prostitution rings.


“Kenny Chatman saw an opportunity, saw a chance to make a lot of money, and didn’t care who he hurt to make that happen,” Florida attorney Maria Villafana explained in the American Greed teaser clip “These types of facilities encouraged, rather than prohibited, drug use to perpetuate the cycle of ‘treatment’ and keep millions of dollars’ worth of insurance payments coming in.”


Indeed, the promos for the Retox episode are alarming and eye-opening. One example below, illustrates how Florida’s “body brokering” industry became a lucrative practice. It also delves into the nefarious practices of Chatman, who used intimidation to control and bilk his “clients.”


Another preview clips details how the fraudulent billing practices took place and the crooked doctors who also participate in these scams. Worse yet, it illustrates how much wealth a person like Chatman was able to accumulate pulling these types of schemes. According to the clip below, Chatman was earning as much as a $100,000 a week because of these fraudulent recovery practices.


The good news (at least in this case) is that Chatman was ultimately arrested and convicted for his crimes. This past May, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison after pleading guilty to health care fraud. This actually led to a spiral effect in Florida, with 50 additional arrests tied to mismanaged sober living homes.


Now thankfully there is much more good than bad out there when it comes to the recovery industry. But we do highly recommend doing your homework before choosing treatment and always seeking out facilities that are properly licensed and accredited.


L.A. Warning Issued About Contaminated Heroin

The opioid epidemic is continuing to wreak havoc across the country, which has led to several red alerts in our own backyard. One important one that arose this week came from Los Angeles County Public Health officials, who issued a stern warning about black tar heroin strains that are being dealt throughout the city. This particular batch is reportedly contaminated with bacteria, which has led to wound botulism and, in several cases, death.


Our own local outlet, The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, plastered the warning on the front pages of their site. Sadly, this community has experienced a large share of ER visits and arrests related to the opioid crisis. And nationally, heroin use has been a major contributor to the problem. According to recent stats, it has now surpassed gun homicides as a leading cause of U.S. deaths.


In regards to the bacteria, the alert is primarily focused on intravenous users. Injecting the drug has shown the greatest risk for wound botulism, particularly if needles are inserted into people’s muscles. It is also worth noting that the contaminated batches look exactly like regular ones and “cooking” the drug will not kill the germ. Apparently the infections are not contagious between people, but if multiple users tap into the same batch, there is a high likelihood that botulism will occur.


The Department of Public Health also detailed the logistics related to these infections. At its core, botulism is a toxin which attack’s the body’s nerves; leading to muscle weakness. The primary warning signs to look out for are drooping eyelids, blurred vision, difficulty speaking, swallowing issues, shortness of breath and severe coughs. Often times, these symptoms can be mistaken for a drug overdose and may occur within days or weeks of injecting a contaminated batch.


San Diego, our neighbor to the south, recently suffered their own outbreak of this epidemic. It is thought that the contaminated heroin batches are related to shipments that came through that city.


As of right now, the biggest call to action is to visit the Substance Abuse Prevention and Control website or call their toll-free number at 844-804-7500 if you know someone experiencing symptoms, There are also educational resources about botulism that can be found via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. We urge everyone to spread the word about this and work to get heroin-addicted loved ones into treatment immediately.


Alcoholism Becoming More Prominent Among Seniors

This past week, we ran across an alarming headline in The Wall Street Journal. The famed financial paper took some time out to address a growing problem happening in this country. Though many are not aware of it, U.S. senior citizens have been seeing a sharp increase in alcohol abuse.


According to WSJ, over 3 million U.S. adults aged 65 and older are currently alcoholics. And worse yet, that stat is expected to nearly double by the year 2020.


Studies have uncovered a myriad of reasons as to why older Americans are falling prey to this addiction. Excuses often used are the “empty nest” syndrome, where parents feel lonely after their children leave home. It is also true that seniors have to deal with chronic pain more frequently and turn to drinking as a way to cope.


Worse yet, are the reactions this population receives when confronted with this problem. For starters, many family members may not even notice the symptoms. Issues like shaky hands, forgetfulness or stumbling may get associated with aging, when they are in fact signs of inebriation.


Additionally, it is said that family members are often uncomfortable bringing up the issue. Per the WSJ data, 22 percent of adult children fear angering their parents. One in five say they don’t even know how to address alcoholism with a parent.


Several examples were provided within the article, outlining high-functioning seniors who secretly consumed beer and wine away from family members. One 64-year-old neglected her babysitting duties because of her addiction, which led to a very close call with a young granddaughter.


One positive thing to come out the article was a breakout of discussion tips related to addicted older parents. Ideas listed included…


Stick to things you know can be verified, versus taking an accusatory approach or making an assumption. Avoid words like ‘alcoholic.’


Focus on the impact of substances on a loved one’s behavior and ability to function, as well as the relationships they care most about, including their grandchildren.


Write down talking points, including responses to parents’ objections. If a parent says drinking helps them relax, say there are healthier ways to relax, like taking a walk or reading. If they suggest it makes them feel better, note that alcohol is a depressant.


Be patient. If a parent gets angry or defensive, step back and bring up the conversation later.


Be respectful. Treat a parent as an adult.


Seek out help. If you do suspect a substance-abuse problem, contact the parent’s health-care provider and discuss the best approach to getting appropriate treatment. 


‘Surf Therapy’ Used To Treat Addiction

We are all certainly blessed to live close to the beautiful SoCal Pacific Ocean. But what if the water was more than just a gorgeous tourist attraction? What if it could actually help heal people battling an addiction? That concept is starting to gain traction as counselors and treatment experts have begun incorporating Surf Therapy into their recovery regimens.


The site Surfer Today wrote up a piece on this unique treatment. In their article, they described the many benefits that accompany a day in the waves. They also profiled some success stories; sharing some actual testimonials from people who have used their boards to help beat addiction.


For the record, surf therapy has already been incorporated into treatment plans for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and even traumatic brain injuries. Several war veterans have found it to be a soothing exercise as well, bringing clarity and serenity to darker feelings they may have experienced.


Part of the reason surfing works so well with addiction treatment is because it uses both mental and physical traits. Mastering the currents requires balance and strength, creating a physical discipline for the body. There is also a large emotional component that revolves around focus, determination and synchronicity with the water. Not surprisingly, all of those qualities can be utilized in the recovery journey (particularly the “reward” element that goes along with catching a spectacular wave).


Other benefits that have been listed alongside surf therapy include confidence building, mindfulness and natural elations (as opposed to those that come from substance abuse). It has even been touted as a relief from insomnia (something many people in treatment suffer from), as a day in the water can tire anybody out.


One former addict turned surf instructor is Darryl Virostko, who was featured in the article. He finds the practice to be incredibly therapeutic and has turned to helping others with his unique recovery classes.


“I recovered from alcohol and drug addiction and chose the ocean to help me get through the process,” he explained. “I fell into the trap of substance abuse, but now have gained control over my life and am completely sober. The high I used to get from taking drugs has now been completely replaced with the rush of these strenuous physical activities.”


Indeed, at Valley Recovery Center we embrace all of these innovative treatment practices. Not only do we support surf therapy, we also have regiments that incorporate horses, archery and wolf sanctuary work. Click here to learn more.