Instagram Now Offers Addiction Support

For millions of people across the country, the social media app Instagram is the place where you can share pictures, tell Stories and keep up with the happenings of family and friends. But now, the Facebook-owned brand is adding one more feature to its toolkit: Recovery Assistance. That’s right, starting this week the site will offer pop up push notifications if you begin searching addiction-related topics.

 

The Verge actually helped bring this story to the mainstream, sharing an article and details from Instagram’s admins. Reps who keep track of searches and hashtag clicks on the app were noticing a sharp increase in addiction inquiries. This ranged from people seeking out recovery help, to those looking for illegal drug dealers. As a response, they installed an update that halts users when type or click specific terms.

 

From now on, if you were to click a hashtag like #opioids, you may see a notification like the picture below.

 

 

The message will remain constant and reads, “If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid or substance misuse, find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance abuse, prevention, and recovery.

 

Then with the touch of a finger, users can opt in to receive recovery services. The choice is not mandatory, but will continue as you search these terms. The hope is that eventually people in need will click. And for the record, this movement utilized some of Facebook’s most high-powered connections. The “Support” program includes input from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and The Partnership for Drug Free Kids.

 

Additionally, there have been discussions to block sensitive search queries and hashtags from people who they suspect to be dealing. Reps from the company have openly said that they are adamantly against their platforms being used in this way.

 

Facebook too, is rolling out a similar program. People who search specific terms there (such as “buy Xanax”) will receive a support box pop-up. Other illicit drug search terms have been blocked from the platform entirely.

 

To us, this all sounds very promising. It is encouraging to see big corporations like Facebook take a stand for recovery on their digital platforms. And though some have argued that this movement is too little too late, it is certainly better than nothing at all.

 

‘Fast Company’ Profiles Innovative Recovery App

There is certainly no shortage of online services that claim to help people battling an addiction. But when your app is getting praise from famed startup mag Fast Companythat is certainly something worth noting. The tech company Data Cubed is behind the hot new iPhone download, which goes by the name ResQ.

 

ResQ is actually based on psychological assessments and utilizes a person’s network of family and friends. It is also targeted specifically toward the opioid crisis, which has earned its fair share of recent headlines. Neurobiologist Paul Glimcher is part of the team who put the app together and made a point to emphasize its scientific elements.

 

“The vast majority of recovery apps out there, and there are hundreds of them, have almost no science behind them,” Glimcher explained to Fast Company. “ResQ translates the assessments that I and other practitioners use in clinics to mobile games. The development team includes both game designers and researchers who have studied opioid addiction under National Institutes of Health grants.”

 

ResQ does implement a wide variety of techniques to assess a person’s penchant to relapse. They range from simple “lottery game” trivia questions, to touch button surveys, to deeper measurements of cravings and loneliness.

 

The app also lets struggling users add contacts from their support network. The peer groups can then view and track their loved one’s progress over time. And this works with both warning alerts, as well as rewards when a person has stayed clean for a significant amount of time. In fact, those in the network receive push notifications to send congratulatory emojis if a sobriety milestone is met.

 

As mentioned above, ResQ was designed by leading professionals in the field. This can be extremely beneficial for the friends and family of a struggling loved one. If the time has come to reach out, trained coaches can tell the networkers what to say and how to handle a potential relapse risk. This also works for counselors and medical professionals, who can monitor progress and potentially adjust something like a methadone dosage, if a high risk user is showing warning signs.

 

One thing that also caught our attention about ResQ was its complete user friendliness. Though these are complicated and difficult topics, the app makes a point to display data in a way that’s easily digestible. It’s also very colorful and upbeat, which can be very welcome for someone battling a dark addiction.

 

To find out more about ResQ, we recommend visiting the app’s official site.

 

‘Wearables’ Cannot Prevent An Overdose

Modern technology can serve many purposes. And one of the more surprising uses we’ve been hearing about concerns popular “wearable” devices, such as the Apple Watch or the Fitbit. Apparently these gadgets are gaining popularity among heavy drug users, as a way to monitor heart rates during cocaine binges. Clearly this is far from their intended purpose and doctors are warning that they shouldn’t be used as guides to prevent an overdose.

 

This latest trend actually came to light on the social media network, Reddit (which we’ve covered in previous blogs). An anonymous online forum where users can express themselves freely, Reddit has been overflowing with message boards covering this particular topic. So much in fact, that the popular news site CNBC covered the story on their homepage.

 

The way the wearables trend works is, users begin indulging in stimulants (such as cocaine) while synchronizing their Apple Watch or Fitbit. Heart rates are then monitored throughout the night and if the number rises above 150, they know it’s time to abruptly stop.

 

While “in theory” that sounds like a saving grace for those who are addicted to stimulants, these wearables are often inaccurate and should not be held accountable for keeping your heart rate in check. As several medical professionals told the site, this type of behavior is dangerous and can create a false sense of security. It also may lead people to increase their habit.

 

“Taking drugs is always a risk, whether you’re monitoring a tracker or not,” UC San Francisco cardiologist Ethan Weiss told CNBC. “It’s possible this is leading people to do more cocaine.”

 

Indeed, heart attacks are a common link with cocaine overdoses. Per CNBC’s data, the drug is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths each year.

 

Several anonymous Reddit users were also interviewed for the piece and still feel confident in letting their wearables be their guide. A user by the name of Owen told the site that Fitbit is his tool of choice. He added that, via Google, he was able to get accurate reads of what normal heart rates should be and which numbers are the most alarming.

 

“If someone says, ‘Let’s do a line,’ I’ll look at my watch,” Owen explained. “If I see I’m at 150 or 160, I’ll say, ‘I’m good.’ That’s totally fine. Nobody gives you a hard time.”

 

We, for one, side strongly with the medical professionals. While it is somewhat admirable to be thinking about your heart rate before indulging into an addiction, these wearables are not the answer. Their inaccuracies can be extremely dangerous (and potentially deadly). Our recommendation has always been To Seek Help First.

 

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 Behavioral.net (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.

 

Facebook Launches New Feature To Help Combat Addiction

Technology can certainly be a powerful tool in the fight against addiction. And this week, social media giant Facebook took a big step forward; by taking their data science and applying it in the direction of treatment. Several news outlets have been reporting on the site’s newest feature; a Search function that autopopulates recovery options when people type in dependency-related keywords.

 

In case you’re unfamiliar, “autopopulation” concerns those quick choices you get in your Search bar when you’re Googling a topic. In the new Facebook experience, anyone typing in the words “addiction,” “treatment” or something close to it, would automatically receive an autopopulated recovery hotline link.

 

The digital rollout is being done in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as well as several addiction advocacy nonprofit organizations. Facebook policy programs manager, Avra Siegel, made a press announcement to several news companies about the move.

 

“We look at this as one of a number of steps that we’ve taken and will be taking to find ways to connect the community on Facebook with the resources they need,” Siegel told The Hill.

 

She also said the social site would be taking more proactive steps to remove dangerous Groups and click ads driving to unregulated treatment centers. Siegel emphasized that Facebook has strict standards and has hired new teams to patrol and clean up news feeds.

 

“Every time we’re made aware of content on our platform that violates these standards and if Facebook is in any way facilitating activity like drug sales, we remove it,” she added. “We have a number of ways that we’ve tried to prevent the opportunity for that to occur. I think what’s really important is we have a very proactive, iterative process.”

 

SAMHSA will be closely involved in all of these processes too. Their name will also autopopulate in the addiction-related Facebook searches, guiding users to their national help page which has around-the-clock admins available for online chats and phone calls. Both will be involved in an upcoming one-day opioid summit put together by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Siegel emphasized that Facebook is eager to partner with any and all organizations working to combat the opioid crisis.

 

“We’re willing and eagerly want to work with the FDA, SAMHSA and whomever to figure out how we make progress here because it’s going to take all of us,” she concluded.

 

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.

 

Google Begins Regulating Treatment Ads

In the modern world, one of the most effective ways of advertising is through the Google search engine. Billions of people use it daily and, through its unique marketing features, anyone who types in a term can see related ads that accompany it. But now, the web giant is aiming to heavily regulate all of the paid treatment messages you see, due to some high-profile scams happening in our industry.

 

Apparently, it was a 2017 article from TheVerge.com that spurred this recent decision. In the piece, writer Cat Ferguson profiled a series of crooked recovery ads that began appearing during “recovery” Google searches. This, in turn, led to people getting scammed out of savings and receiving less than satisfactory treatment.

 

Google’s immediate reaction was to ban the majority of treatment ads (including legitimate ones) throughout its search engine. This began happening late last year in the U.S., followed by similar actions this January in the U.K. This week, however, they announced an update to this policy and a new partnership with the Oregon-based certification program LegitScript.

 

Via LegitScript, Google will now be able to, in their own terms, “vet” addiction treatment centers and differentiate legitimate practices from those it deems as unsatisfactory. LegitScript announced that they will assess facilities based on 15 criteria; including criminal background checks, license verifications and insurance check ups. The company also claims that all advertisers will have to provide “written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices.”

 

Google senior product director David Graff spoke out publicly about the partnership, highlighting the importance of proper advertiser vetting (particularly when it comes to addiction recovery).

 

“We work to help healthcare providers — from doctors to hospitals and treatment centers — get online and connect with people who need their help,” Graff said in a press release. “Substance abuse is a growing crisis and has led to deceptive practices by bad actors. This is a complex issue but we believe our partnership with LegitScript is a great first step in the US to help better connect people with the treatment they need.”

 

We, for one, agree with the move and applaud Google for getting a policy in place when recovery clinics choose to advertise. That being said, we are also glad that all previous bans have been lifted because for all of the bad practices that exist, there are plenty of legitimate ones willing to offer help and support.

 

 

‘WIRED’ Explores Tech And Recovery

WIRED isn’t a magazine you initially think of when it comes to addiction and recovery. The famed tech publication is much more famous for delivering stories about Google or programatic algorithms. But interestingly enough, this month they did do an expose on substance abuse and the popular smartphone apps that are helping millennials get clean.

 

Truth be told, the WIRED piece does take a hard stance against traditional recovery methods (something we happen to disagree with). But, read a little deeper and there are some insightful nuggets about the downloadable content that can help people through difficult addictions; particularly when it comes to opioid abuse.

 

Classifying these types of smartphone downloads in one general category, WIRED writer Zachary Siegel pointed out what is being called the “mHealth” movement. Short for mobile health, this section of the app store is focused on technology-based treatment methods that utilize everything from Skype to daily alarm reminders. Siegel also points out that a majority of these programs are designed by clinical researchers and based off scientific evidence.

 

He broke down his basic philosophy on mHealth below…

 

The premise of mobile treatment apps is that there’s nothing magical about treating addiction,” Siegel writes. “There’s no moment when the clouds part and a spiritual awakening takes hold. Curbing addiction is much like stopping a bad habit or shifting any deeply ingrained behavior; it takes time, support, and constant effort to change. You’re on your phone all day, the apps suggest, why not curb a harmful behavior, without missing work for three months? They allow for time and room for the messy process of addiction to slowly untangle: You don’t need to wait until the problem gets worse, they suggest, you can get help now.

 

Apps he chose to focus on in the article include Annum and Ria Health, which focus specifically on alcoholism. These particular downloads remove the human element of recovery and operate via push notifications, alerts and texts. Siegel lumped these into the “less severe addiction” category, highlighting them for people struggling and still able to hold a job.

 

Other apps featured include WeConnect, Sober Grid and Triggr Health, which use “machine learning” to predict when a patient may be headed for a relapse. Siegel did admit that this world can be quite overwhelming, with more than 10,000 downloads competing in the mHealth space. But if they are able to make a difference in someone’s day-to-day life, more power to them.

 

We, of course, prefer the old fashioned method of recovery.

 

Certain Video Games May Lead To Gambling Addiction

There has always been a debate about how dangerous video games may be when it comes to addiction. On the one hand, there have been links to obsessive behavior and dependencies on the programs themselves. But more recently, a new alarming detail has been uncovered. One that lets online players bet and lays the seeds for a dangerous gambling addiction.

 

The Guardian recently published a telling expose on the world of video game betting and the damage it is causing to players around the world. One such program, titled Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius (FFBE), is available as a “free” download for iPhones. But it has been shown to come with a dangerous cost, as real dollars are spent within the game.

 

FFBE, for example, comes with a “loot box” system, which charges players money through their credit cards and allows them to wager on items within the Final Fantasy universe. It recreates the same kind of randomness and “excitement” as a roulette wheel and can offer a big in-game reward if the loot works in your favor. But just like real gambling, the loot can always work against you; creating the itch to deposit even more money for another spin.

 

Though the game makers adamantly deny links between their product and gambling, Guardian scribe Alex Hern feels otherwise. As he writes in his article, titles like FFBE use many of the same tricks as a common slot machine.

 

“The system is a sort of weaponized behavioral psychology, perfectly pitched to exploit all the cognitive weaknesses that make people so susceptible to addiction and compulsion,” Hern said. “They pull all the standard strings of problem gambling: the desire for one more go, the misplaced belief that an unlucky streak must come to an end, the hope that continuing to bet will reverse the losses already incurred.”

 

Many of these games come with a hook as well, designed to entice new players to spend. For example, the first few FFBE loot box experiences are free; giving newbies a taste of virtual excitement. Just enough artificial money is dispersed to get the appetite whet, then, as Hern explained, “the spigot is turned off” and players need to whip out their credit cards for more thrills.

 

Even worse, many of these games are geared towards children and teens (who often use parents’ charge cards without their permission). From what we can see, this is laying the groundwork for dangerous addictive behavior and we certainly hope more regulations are put in place to prevent future downward spirals.

 

Using Facebook Live As A Recovery Tool

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fingerprint Tech May Be Used For Drug Testing

Gadget fans are well aware of Apple’s exciting new iPhone X announcement, where mobile devices can unlock via facial feature recognition. Now imagine if that same type of tech could be used for drug testing; specifically using people’s fingerprints to determine whether they’re on cocaine or other narcotics. Well according to a new article on TheFix.com, that may be very possible in the near future.

 

Apparently, researchers in the Netherlands have developed a non-invasive drug testing that that they claim is 99 percent accurate. Dubbed Paper Spray Mass Spectrometry, the app analyzes molecules in people’s fingerprints and can work even after a person has washed their hands.

 

The Netherlands Forensic Institute takes credit for the tech, with help from the private company, Intelligent Fingerprinting. Rep Dr. Melanie Bailey shared the exciting news with the site, particularly praising the test’s speed and accuracy.

 

“This is a real breakthrough in our work to bring a real time, non-invasive drug-testing method to the market that will provide a definitive result in a matter of minutes,” she claimed. “By the nature of the test, the identity of the subject, and their drug use, is all captured within the sample itself. We are already working on a 30-second method.”

 

Bailey then went on to describe the test in detail. Apparently as the body metabolizes drugs, it excretes a specific type of molecule that can be detected through the fingers. And it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just Purelled or not, the molecules will show up regardless and be present in the analysis (making it very difficult to “cheat”).

 

The article went on to say how this type of technology can benefit society on many levels. For police and law enforcement, this could be used to check for intoxicated drivers; avoiding invasive techniques like mouth swabbing and blood drawing. For medical personnel it could be a vital improvement as well, allowing emergency responders to immediately recognize the type of narcotic a patient may have overdosed from.

 

We’re sure many others will get use out of this tool as well. Families can use it to see if a loved one is under the influence of drugs and even recovery facilities like ours can incorporate into their practice during the early stages of treatment.

 

As we mentioned above, however, these tests still have some ways to go. Currently, it cannot be used to measure alcohol levels or marijuana use. But Dr. Bailey insists that those advancements are not far away. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting technology, which should hopefully be available on smartphones very soon.

 

Self-Driving Cars May Lead To Spike In Alcoholism

Here’s an interesting correlation. Try and imagine how something techy like the self-driving car could be possibly be tied to an increase in American alcohol consumption. It’s actually not that far-fetched says the financial firm Morgan Stanley. Their analysts are now predicting a spike in booze sales because of the potential drinking and driving risks this product will alleviate.

 

Believe it or not, a lot of research went into this prediction and it is certainly making waves on Wall Street. CNBC made a point to cover the story, reporting that Morgan Stanley reps see an addition of 80 basis points to alcoholic beverage sales growth within the next 10 years.

 

“Shared and autonomous vehicles could expand the total addressable market of alcoholic beverages while reducing the incidence of traffic fatalities and accidents,” firm rep Adam Jonas wrote in their report. “This type of technology could help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants. [It is a] significant growth opportunity for alcoholic beverage firms, particularly on-trade, premium and beer.”

 

And though it wasn’t specifically referenced, clearly this type of prediction could see a rise in alcohol abuse as well. Later in the report it was noted that self-driving cars can free up drinkers to consume one incremental alcoholic beverage per week on average. Their thorough research estimated that 600 billion passenger hours are spent in automobiles and 380 billion hours spend drinking booze.

 

“There will be “more opportunities to drink before getting in the car,” Jonas concluded. “[And] more opportunities to drink while in the car.”

 

And which mega-alcohol brands will benefit the most from the modern cars? Morgan Stanley’s report singled out Constellation Brands (Corona and Modelo, specifically), Anheuser Busch (Budweiser) and Brown Forman (makers of Jack Daniels) as the “best positioned” for this new era of drinking and non-driving.

 

Honestly, in our opinion, this is truly a double-edged sword. Yes, on one hand self-driving cars will make the highways much safer and hopefully lessen the amount of drunk drivers on the road. But this could also be seen as an exercise in enabling, giving people more freedom to drink at any and all hours of the day.

 

Our hope is that whatever happens, lawmakers are aware of all of these scenarios and continue to enforce strict laws against automotive alcoholism (passenger or not). The world is changing quickly around us and so are the doorways to addiction. We need to make sure people are educated and continuing to use good judgment no matter what exciting prospects the tech world offers.

 

Magnetic Pulses Used To Treat Cocaine Addiction

Imagine being able to use electromagnetic pulses as a tool to conquer a devastating cocaine addiction. As far fetched as that may seem, scientists in Maryland are working to make it a reality and are seeing encouraging results (so says Science Magazine).

 

The popular tech journal recently did a profile of Baltimore-based neuroscientists Antonello Bonci and Billy Chen, who are in the midst of some interesting recovery experiments at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Their work initially began on rats, who developed cocaine addictions and began receiving electric shock treatment to curb their habits.

 

“These animals were so powerfully addicted that they tolerated repeated electric shocks to their feet to get their fixes,” Bonci told Science. “The rats had also been genetically engineered so that their neurons could be controlled with light. When we stimulated their’ brains in an area that regulates impulse control, they essentially kicked their habit. They would almost instantaneously stop searching for cocaine.”

 

Bonci and Chen’s initial work began back in 2013. Now their methods are being adopted by clinics throughout the world. The Villa Maria Clinic in Padua, Italy was also profiled in the piece, thanks to their incredible success with this practice on human beings.

 

Villa Maria’s work is officially categorized as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS, for short) and, so far, has been successfully able to treat more than 300 addicted patients. Their techniques are completely non-invasive and involve targeted stimulation of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. It simply involves wearing a helmet that triggers neural activity.

 

An example of the device was shared on Science’s website and is pictured below.

 

For the record, TMS is already an approved therapy for issues like depression, post-traumatic stress disorders and stroke recoveries. It has also been praised by several notable institutions, including Harvard Medical School. Michael Fox, a physician at that university, told Science that it offers “a huge amount of promise.”

 

Many of the scientists interviewed for the piece do define TMS as a “work in progress.” Currently the success rate is high for this type of treatment, but there are still many trials to come. For example; several institutes vary on how many pulses to deliver when patients wear the equipment. There are also differing thoughts on frequency levels and the length of treatment.

 

“Basic science research in drug abuse in the last 3 to 5 years has told us, ‘Look, there is a potential for a treatment here,’” Bonci added. “Imagine that this does become the first approved neurobiological treatment for cocaine addiction. It’s a big deal, a game-changing therapy.”

 

We are very excited to follow this story and will make sure to keep everyone updated on the future of TMS.

 

r/opiates Forum Becomes A Reddit Phenomenon

There is no denying that we are now in the midst of the digital age. Back in the day, crisis hotlines were where people turned to if they were battling severe addictions. Now, however, that destination appears to be Reddit.com, thanks to a particular message board focusing on painkiller abuse.

 

The r/opiates destination within Reddit now boasts more than 37,000 subscribers and has become somewhat of a safe haven for those looking to talk about their addictions. The Guardian recently did a profile piece on this modern-day phenomenon, outlining the success the board has had helping people find treatment.

 

One major appeal of the Reddit experience is complete anonymity. On this site, no one discloses their actual name and there is no personal registration required. The r/opiates forum is also completely uncensored, which means it can be raw, it can be emotional and it can even bee quite explicit.

 

For many this board works as a sort of confessional, where they can freely express the pain and pleasure that comes from using.

 

“I remember when I first tried it,” Reddit user Aaron21 said. “I snuck into my parents’ bathroom, broke one up into four pieces and ate one. About five minutes later, I was in pure bliss. Warm waves flooded my body. I decided to take another piece and then I nodded off.”

 

Other users quickly responded to Aaron’s statements, offering encouragement and letting him know that it was ok to feel those feelings. As trust within his Reddit community grew, Aaron explained to The Guardian that he learned of the dangerous path this drug can take you on. Others accepted his feelings, yet shared their own stories of emergency room visits, jail time and permanent body damage.

 

Users like Aaron also become educated about treatment programs and drugs like naloxone,which work to combat the effects of opioids.  Interestingly enough, even medical professionals have participate in the r/opiates board; offering professional opinions and support for those who need it.

 

One other bitter truth expressed on r/opiates is a featured “obituary” section, which profiles those who have succumbed to painkiller abuse. Family, friends and other users share their personal stories of loss and the ongoing ravages this addiction has caused. Virtual condolences are mainstay of the forum, giving this crisis even more of a personal  connection.

 

We actually recommend visiting the forum, whether you are impacted by this issue or not. And we certainly encourage lawmakers and public officials to do the same. r/opiates offers an honest and unapologetic glimpse into an addiction crisis that is ripping this country apart.

 

 

Venmo App Being Used For Drug Purchases

As much as we love technology, we understand that it can have a downside. For every positive app touting recovery and sobriety, there are countless others that can enable people to use. And though the mobile transaction service Venmo has become very helpful for people making online payments, it has also seen a sharp spike in illicit drug spending.

 

For the record, Venmo has been hailed as the future of PayPal. Through your phone or tablet, the downloadable program allows you to send and receive bank account money transfers. It has become extremely popular among the millennial crowd, who often use it for loans between friends, services rendered or splitting checks at restaurants. But a recent report showed that Venmo has become a powerful tool among drug dealers, bringing their businesses into the 21st century.

 

A survey from Quartz.com added some fuel to that fire when, after interviewing thousands of millennials across the country, they found that 68 percent had used the Venmo app to purchase drugs. Their research also found that a large portion of young people were using it for sports betting, furthering potential gambling addictions.

 

Now to their credit, Venmo’s spokespeople have addressed the situation and were even quoted in the Quartz article.

 

“We take compliance with the law seriously,” a rep told the site. “And using the service for gambling or drug payments violates our terms of service. If there is ever a situation where evidence of gambling or other illegal activity is brought to our attention, the Venmo team works quickly to take appropriate action.”

 

So yes, it is not the company’s fault that their app has been embraced by bookies and illicit drug dealers. But that doesn’t stop the fact that it’s happening and needs to be addressed. $17.6 billion in payments were passed between users of the app in 2016.  Venmo’s audience amounts to tens of millions of people. So it’s obvious that the company cannot keep tabs on all of the illegal transactions taking place.

 

Our recommendation (which was echoed in the article) would be to visit the site, Vicemo.com. Set up independently, it is a public feed that tracks illicit transactions occurring on the app. This is particularly useful, if you have a young one at home who you may suspect is using.

 

As we mentioned before, millennials are the ones who are embracing this app the most. So if you are noticing a younger loved one showing signs of addiction and being more protective of their phone, understand that there could be a very good reason. Yes, this app can be very beneficial to millions of people. But it’s just as important to understand its potential dangers.

 

 

New Tech Hopes To Bring Recovery To The Workplace

Imagine if there was an online service (provided by the company you work for) that could instantly connect you to a recovery program tailored to your needs. If it’s alcoholism, a few phone swipes could customize your eventual healing process. If it’s pills or narcotics, a real life therapist could chat with you via messenger. It’s all very exciting stuff and it’s hoping to become more of a reality, thanks to the new startup WorkIt Health.

 

Calling itself a digital addiction treatment platform, WorkIt aims to connect people with reputable recovery programs and is available (via phone or computer) 24 hours a day. Forbes recently did a profile on the new system and its co-founders, Lisa McLaughlin and Robin McIntosh. Both women describe themselves as “techies” and as recovering addicts themselves.

 

“We saw firsthand how difficult it can be to access technology when you have an addiction – there is nothing helpful out there,” McLaughlin told the online site. “We had people we knew and lost simply due to drop-offs in communication,” McLaughlin shares.”

 

So the two of them devised a unique app that targets companies and their employees. The WorkIt platform is completely confidential and operates through a business’s H.R. network. Through touch button menus, users denote what addictions they’re battling and are sent to personalized microsites which include multiple modules.

 

The system not only connects the employees with recovery specialists, it monitors their movements for the next 90 days. Push reminders and emails are all part of the process and WorkIt makes a point to offer support for up to two years after treatment.

 

McLaughlin went on to explain, ““With other health conditions, you have options to choose from across a number of therapies and places to go. With addiction, you have rehab and that’s it. We want to build a new narrative and new modality of care that is holistic from offline to online offerings to show people there’s another way.”

 

One other interesting feature is focused solely on the employers. WorkIt offers a wealth of content for them to use to educate their workers on the importance of recovery. Programs can be acclimated to a company’s website, newsletter and email system.

 

McIntosh, in particular, has seen the corporate component of WorkIt become extremely effective, by giving supervisors and human resources reps the tools they need to handle addiction.

 

“We see big corporations with established cultures begin to make a shift in thinking that is mindful of employees who might be struggling with addiction,” she added. “They are now really starting to focus on how they can help their people sooner through great workplace design.”

 

To learn more about WorkIt Health, click here.

 

 

Virtual Reality May Be Used To Battle Gambling Addictions

We love profiling innovative new recovery treatments and this week, a very unique approach is being tested that may help people struggling with gambling addictions. Virtual Reality happens to be one of the hottest technologies on the market, with video games and “second life” worlds available at the click of a button. And now researchers are also testing its ability to curb betting temptations, which is how it may work with people in treatment.

 

In case you’re unaware, virtual reality (or “V.R.” for short) involves putting on a special pair of glasses, then controlling your movements in an entirely simulated environment. Much like the movie Avatar, the worlds people enter can range from exotic distant planets, to local theme parks and beyond.

 

In the case of gambling addicts, programmers can also simulate Las Vegas casinos and the tempting environments where people may face slot machines, card tables and sports bookies. To help those in recovery face their demons, University of Quebec staffers are testing patients in these simulated scenarios.

 

Stephane Bouchard is one of the lead researchers on the project. He explained how the gambling V.R. world could also potentially extend to an environment for those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.

 

“If a patient is addicted to cocaine, I can talk with the patient forever, but what really matters is how he or she deals with the situation when cocaine is in front of that person,” Bouchard told The Fix.com. “The best thing I would like to do in therapy is to actually offer cocaine to the patient—but that obviously is not possible.”

 

He added that for gamblers a situation like that actually is possible, thanks to virtual reality. He believes that V.R. would give recovery professionals insight into how their patients may react to a real-life betting scenario. Unlike letting them loose in a casino on the strip, V.R. gives the therapist true control over what their patients are experiencing. Virtual tech can allow these worlds to be changed or turned off in an instant.

 

And that could be very comforting news for the over two million Americans currently suffering from this issue. Bouchard has already spent several months researching V.R. and firmly believes that these devices can be a powerful tool in lowering that number.

 

Do you have a loved one who is battling a gambling problem? Valley Recovery Center has several programs that can help them push through this crippling addiction. Call us today at 866-986-2486.

 

 

Using Tech To Combat Addiction

Everybody knows that the internet and social media have changed our world forever. But it’s interesting to note that these tech tools are having an impact on the recovery industry as well. CNN recently posted an interesting article about algorithms and addiction, illustrating how advocates from Silicon Valley are helping to combat issues like alcoholism and the opioid crisis.

 

Listing the stat of 22.7 million addicted Americans, the CNN piece delves into one-on-one interviews with entrepreneurs hoping to make a dent. Tech investor Sam Frons made a point to call out Alcoholics Anonymous specifically and the “archaic” nature of the popular program.

 

“[It] makes no sense that we’re using the same [Alcoholics Anonymous] model from 1935,” she told the site.

 

A recovering addict herself, Frons has created a startup called Addicaid, which, as she puts, takes a more “data-centric approach to dependency.” The Addicaid app is currently free in the iTunes Store and focuses on alcoholism, drugs and gambling issues. Using artificial intelligence and clinical research, it can reportedly send out warnings when users find themselves in a vulnerable state. As Frons explained, it’s almost like an intervention device for your phone.

 

“We’re pretty comprehensive and innovative in our wheelhouse of common triggers and promising interventions,” she told CNN. “But the thing about behavioral health is that we simply don’t have a clear picture of every pattern that dictates consequential decisions. This is where the machine learning comes in.”

 

Addicaid also offers rewards for goal setting and includes an online support community, in case users need to chat or express their feelings. According to CNN, the app is already off to a promising start; with a 100% retention rate among its participants for the first month and a 75% retention rate three months later.

 

Another recovery-based startup mentioned in the piece was WorkIt, which focuses more on prevention. This app is designed as a 10-week interactive course meant to be used before an addiction reaches its critical state. WorkIt has already established partnerships with key insurance carriers and runs approximately $168 per month (a steep hike from Addicaid). This too uses advanced algorithms to study the behaviors and search queries of its users.

 

WorkIt co-founder Robin McIntosh emphasized that a personal experience was also the catalyst for her building the program. “[My partner and I] were tired of watching our friends die,” she said. “Technology enables human beings to treat [addicts] better.”

 

We’ve certainly seen the benefits that technology has offered our field. From social networking sites like Reddit, to emergency distress apps which can be used to contact medical professionals during an overdose. As time marches on, we are hopeful that more analytical engineers will explore ways to use digital media to educate and support those in need. And you can bet that we will do everything possible to champion (and include) successful innovative tools in our treatment programs.

 

 

Addiction Article Recap: Week of Oct 24

As you can imagine, recovery related articles never seem to slow down. Every week, legislators, celebrities, scientists and researchers enter news feeds with important updates about the state of addiction. And while it may be hard for the average headline junkie to keep up, we at Valley Recovery Center keep a close eye on everything. This week, we’ve pulled together even more stories that shine a light on our industry. Everything from social media, to new narcotics, to scary stats about alcoholism. These are all very important and we hope you can spread the word, just like we do.

 

And as always; if you have story ideas that you think we missed, shoot us an email at valleyrecoverycenter@gmail.com. We’ll make sure to include it in the next Recap.

 

Headline #1: The Dangerous Potency of ‘Pink’

Every few years, a new “trendy” drug seems to enter the marketplace, captivating young users and amplifying the nation’s addiction epidemic. This year “Pink” appears to be the narcotic of choice, which consists of a variety of synthetic opioids. Drugs like carfentanil, ifentanyl and furanyl fentanyl make up Pink’s DNA, creating a sensation that authorities describe as “similar to morphine and heroin.” The other scary stat about Pink is that it’s incredibly inexpensive, costing just $5 a bag. As you can imagine, a cocktail like that can easily wreak havoc among Americans already addicted and it most certainly has. Since January Pink has been responsible for at least 80 deaths, with some victims as young as 13. Worst of all, because it’s so new; Pink is only illegal in four states. Right now, regions across the heartland have been impacted most; but we are certain, if not properly contained, Pink could lead to major OD issues on our home turf as well.

 

Headline #2: Social Media And Substance Abuse

We all know social media can create addiction issues to smartphones and tablets, but now there is scientific data illustrating its links to alcohol and drug abuse. A new survey from Project Now delved into platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and discovered that 70 percent of teens who regularly use social channels have a tendency toward underage drinking. 2,000 high schoolers were included in the research, which also found strong links between active networkers and marijuana. When asked, the teens revealed that followers and friends online added more pressure to use. The group also vastly overestimated the amount of peers engaging in underage drinking, justifying (in their minds) its acceptability. Clearly social media will continue to be part of our lives; but if you have teens at home, do your best to monitor their usage and make sure that they’re “Friending” positive influences.

 

Headline #3: Female Alcoholism Is On The Rise

Though most of the beer commercials we see on TV are geared towards men, don’t be fooled. According to a new BBC study, alcoholism among women has been steadily rising for the past several decades. In the early to mid 1900’s, men were shown to be twice as likely to drink alcohol than women. But currently that gap has closed to just 1.1. times more likely. Scientists behind the study found these stats very troubling and voiced their opinions about educating more women about the dangers of drinking. “The present study suggests that young women, in particular, should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms,” researcher Mark Petticrew explained. “Health professionals need to help the public – both men and women – to understand the health risks of alcohol consumption, and how to reduce those risks.” We couldn’t agree more.

 

 

Addiction Article Recap: Week Of Oct 17

It certainly has been an interesting week for addiction headlines. Stories relating to drugs, alcohol and recovery tend to get buried amid the political scandals, but we feel they’re more important than ever. That’s why we continue to gather important news items for our Addiction Article Recap. This week centers around some disconcerning California stats, a technological approach to recovery and music that spreads the message of sobriety.

 

Dive in to these latest headlines and remember, if you have your own article to share; send it our way via email.

 

Headline #1: California Leads The Country In Opioid Deaths

Definitely not a statistic to be proud of. This week, the Senate Committee on Finance revealed that California had more opioid-related deaths than any other state in the nation. Their report also claims that the number of opioid overdoses has quadrupled within the past 17 years. Translation: roughly 78 deaths each day! But we know what you’re thinking. What is happening in our home state? Well, the study claims that most of our 4,521 annual opioid fatalities occur in rural regions; particularly in the north. It also said that the reason for the deaths had to do with treatment availability. The Committee found that 91 percent of Californians in need of treatment were unable to access proper services. Their recommendation was for the state to receive better funding to allow more hospital beds and trained facilitators. We think they make a very good case and are hopeful that Congress answers the call.

 

Headline #2: Bioelectronics And Recovery

It’s not often you hear an addiction recovery story in the tech section of USA Today, but this one made the front page. Apparently, a new trend in our industry centers around bioelectronics. Researchers have claimed that small bioelectronic devices can help stimulate nerves and literally “shock” an addiction out of you. Obviously this sounds quite skeptical, as electroshock therapy proved to be a disastrous method for “curing” mental illness decades ago. This new technology, however, claims to be much gentler and more scientific. Used as implants, they supposedly tap into the vagus nerve; which is a calming agent in the brain. From there, researchers allege that they can “coax the brain” to stop wanting to use. The scientists point to success stories in the realm of depression and anxiety and even were able to get the FDA to take notice. But it is still very much in the startup phase, with companies feverishly working on developing the technology. This is one we’ll have to see to believe. In our opinion, recovery takes a lot more than the flick of a switch.

 

Headline #3: New Korn Sobriety Song

We already told you how the band Korn helped launch an amazing recovery initiative. Well now they’re continuing to spread the message of sobriety with their new song, “Take Me.” Written by frontman Jonathan Davis, it includes insightful lyrics that are told from the perspective of a drug itself. He said he was inspired by previous recovery songs, including Brad Paisley’s “Alcohol.” Regardless of your musical tastes, “Take Me” is certainly worth a listen and can be heard in its entirety below.