A Tribute To Recovery Pioneer Herbert Kleber

Sadly, the recent news of Dr. Herbert D. Kleber’s passing did not make the front page headlines like it deserved. Yet in his 84 years of life, Dr. Kleber undisputedly did more to help humankind that any music celebrity or sports star. As The New York Times properly stated, he was “a pioneer in researching the pathology of addiction and in developing treatments to help those in recovery.”


Dating back to the 1970’s, Dr. Kleber’s work helped increase clinical interest and research funding for those battling alcoholism and substance abuse. His prestigious reputation as a Yale professor helped add credibility to the cause, eventually capturing the attention of President George H. W. Bush. In fact, by 1989 Dr. Kleber had been named as the nation’s first drug czar; lending a legitimate voice to the war on addiction.


As his colleague, Columbia University Medical Center director Dr. Frances R. Levin told The Times, Dr. Kleber was able to successfully bring addiction into the scientific communities, helping to reduce its previous stigmas.


“He was at the vanguard of bringing scientific rigor to the area of addiction,” Dr. Levin explained. ““Things were actually tested. There were placebo control trials. He wasn’t the only one, but he was among the first to give credibility to the field.”


Beyond that, Dr. Kleber co-founded the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which helped train generations of professionals and recovery specialists from across the country. He also had a prominent stint at Columbia University, helping to establish the school’s division on substance use disorder. Eventually that would become one of the largest and most successful research programs of its kind in the country. And never one to rest on his laurels, Dr. Kleber remained on staff there until his sudden passing.


The other defining trait of Dr. Kleber that was continuously referenced in his obituary was his unflinching optimism. Despite enduring several challenges in his mission to de-stigmatize addiction, Dr. Kleber was said to have always remained upbeat and undaunted.


One of his most famous quotes occurred during his Senate confirmation hearing to become U.S. Deputy Drug Czar. When asked how he could remain so positive after decades of working with severe addicts, he simply responded…


“The day is short. The task is difficult. It is not our duty to finish it, but we are forbidden not to try.”


Rest In Peace, Dr. Kleber.


Addictions And Tragedies Chronicled In Podcast


We all know that addiction is not a pretty subject. And over the summer it got a lot more personal for thousands of podcast listeners, after the unexpected overdose death of a popular host named “Chris.” Chris helmed the recovery series Dopey Podcast for several years, until his demons got the best of him.


Though the tragedy happened in July, VICE.com has brought it back to the forefront with a powerful expose they published this month. In it, there are interviews with Chris’ co-host “Dave” and an interesting followup that chronicles Dopey’s recent rise in popularity.


It may be easy to say that the drastic rise in Dopey downloads had to do with curiosity surrounding Chris’ OD. But the level of popularity has continued to increase and the overall focus has now shifted; addressing grief and life after recovery.


Dave has vowed to carry the mission on, while still making a constant effort to honor and recognize his fallen friend.


“Chris loved being sober and he loved Dopey,” Dave told the podcast audience. “His death is such a huge loss. His was a great success story—especially after so many years of chronic relapses. This is a real tragedy.”


Prior to his overdose, Chris had a two-year record of sobriety. He openly discussed his struggles and temptations on the air, building a very loyal following along the way. In the fall of last year, Dopey actually hit a landmark of sorts; reaching 100 downloadable episodes.


Right before he died, Chris sounded very hopeful about what the future held for Dopey. His relapse and overdose apparently took everyone by surprise; including his girlfriend and those closest to him.


Some speculation has been put into the cause of the OD, with Dave and others theorizing that it may have to do with a recent painkiller prescription Chris received for a torn ligament. Regardless, he ultimately was found unresponsive by his girlfriend on July 24 and laid to rest the following month.


This very real tragedy quickly went viral and gave Dopey the kind of exposure it always deserved. Celebrity guests like Dr. Drew Pinsky soon began calling in and it is now topping the charts on Apple’s Podcast Download List.


As mentioned above, Dave is promising to continue the work and will be leaving Chris’ seat empty for the time being. We certainly encourage our fans to give The Dopey Podcast a listen for an honest and sometimes difficult expose on addiction.


When First Responders Become Addicts

On the surface, it may seem a little counterintuitive to hear about addiction among first responders. After all, they are usually on site to help people struggling with dependencies and have devoted their lives to safety and wellness. Well, it is actually not that uncommon for paramedics, firemen and police officers to fall prey to substance abuse; signaling once again that this disease knows no bounds.


The Philly Voice recently published an expose on this growing problem, outlining both high ranking and entry level first responders who are now overcoming their addictions. Newly released stats have shown that opioid dependencies have now taken over alcoholism as the primary dependency among this set. Clare Seletsky, director of the First Responders program at Recovery Centers of America, spoke to the outlet about increased challenges paramedics, correctional officers and fire personnel face.


“Alcohol addiction was once the preeminent reason first responders would seek treatment, but narcotics has caught up,” Seletsky explained. “Just this year it’s getting equal to alcohol. Six, seven years ago alcohol far surpassed other drugs.”


Seletsky also touted a new recovery initiative her organization has put together specifically tailored for first responders. The Valor with Integrity Program for Emergency Responders (also known as VIPER) program offers a safe and supportive environment for drug and alcohol treatment. It also makes a point to address issues commonly associated with these types of jobs, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), crime scene trauma and physical ailments tied to the daily demands of this type of work.


Seletsky also emphasized the “trust issue” many people in these professions face while in recovery. Sitting alongside alumni they may have arrested or resuscitated can create awkward or uncomfortable feelings. It can also impact the progress of others in treatment, knowing that they may not be fully honest knowing that there is a law enforcement officer sitting next to them. As Seletsky put it, keeping these types of groups separated improves progress on both sides.


The rise in opioid dependencies is something else to consider among this group. The truth of the matter is, people in these fields are often putting their bodies at risk and are much more prone to receiving an injury on the job. Once that occurs and painkillers enter the equation, it is not difficult to slide down the slippery slope into addiction.


We have always tipped our hats to the amazing work that first responders do. There is absolutely no shame in there being a rise in addiction among this group and we want to make ourselves just as available to them as we would to anyone else battling a dependency.


In-N-Out Burger Joins The Addiction Fight

In our home state, In-N-Out Burger reigns supreme when it comes to signature California cuisine. And recently the local fast food giant took a major step in the addiction fight, launching a site and foundation dedicated to supporting people battling alcohol and drug dependencies. Beyond that, for the month of October In-N-Out will match customer donations by three to one!


Slave 2 Nothing is the name of the org that the chain set up to spread the message. Divided into two segments, it exists to support people dealing with dependencies, as well as those impacted by human trafficking. The main In-N-Out site links out to the Slave web page, which proudly proclaims its mission statement the second people click through.

“The Slave 2 Nothing Foundation’s mission is to help those throughout our country who are enslaved by any person or substance, by empowering them to live free,” the page reads. “We fulfill our mission by providing financial support to organizations in our communities that assist individuals and their families to gain freedom and healing from substance abuse. We also work to create, educate, and assist with solutions to eliminate human trafficking.”


The burger chain has also been in the midst of a heavy social media push, sending messages across its Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages to bring awareness to the cause. Physical locations have been part of the movement too, with in-store posters and placemats that highlight the Slave 2 Nothing message.


Visitors to the Slave site are also privy to a wealth of resources and metrics related to the country’s addiction crisis. One heavily highlighted stat revealed that 8.3 million U.S. children under the age of 18 live with a substance-abusing parent. The is also a chart highlighting three key pillars to fighting dependencies. Component one is Prevention, as in stopping more young people from using. Component two is Treatment for those who are suffering and in need of recovery. And component three is Support, which emphasizes the continued assistance for those who have overcome their addictions.


We, for one, applaud In-N-Out for taking such an aggressive stance. It’s no secret that millions of Angelenos (and tourists) pass through their doors and drive-thrus every years. Putting this message front and center can hopefully make a significant difference. And the 3-to-1 donation matching of up to $250,000 is simply icing on the cake!


Recovery Scams Targeted In Orange County

Often times, we talk about scientific breakthroughs happening in the world of recovery. And while they are certainly exciting to hear about, they should NEVER be released to the public without proper testing and regulatory approvals. Sadly many fraudulent sobriety clinics prey upon that hope, offering fake “miracle cures” that lack proper vetting and could be entirely made up. Over in our nearby region of Orange County, scams like that were apparently afoot; leading to a task force crackdown by local police.


Multiple recovery operators were charged with felony counts for taking money from patients in exchange for an “opioid-blocking surgery.” In some cases it was just a set of false promises, but in others (shockingly) real operations were performed.


Most of these followed an M.O. that our readers are familiar with. Recovery “body brokers” were sent out, targeting real users in need. They would ask for several thousand dollars in exchange for surgical implants. Questionable doctors would then allegedly perform these operations, which would insert a so-called opioid blocker named Naltrexone into the patients’ bodies.


The county’s top prosecutors clearly stated that this surgery is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Regardless, the crooked doctors would wind up billing insurance companies as much as $40,000 for each operation. Many victims in these cases underwent procedures which did nothing to improve their addictions and actually put their health in jeopardy.


“This is entirely experimental,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told NBC Los Angeles. “There’s no study as to the efficacy of this procedure. And worst of all, some of the patients developed serious side effects following their surgeries.”


NBC went on to report that Orange County has now become a “Rehab Riviera” and a prime hunting ground for body brokers. Several of the region’s sober living homes now recruit most of their patients from out of state and they often refuse to follow city regulations.


According to the latest reports, four acting OC physicians have been charged with fraud, as well as four local body brokers. An administrator of the noted treatment center SoberLife USA was also charged, with felonies ranging from medical insurance fraud to unauthorized practice of medicine.


We, for one, are happy these illegitimate practices are getting shut down. Performing experimental and unethical surgeries is definitely one of the lowest points we’ve seen when it comes to recovery scams. As we’ve said many times before, PLEASE always do thorough research before choosing a treatment for you or a loved one.


A 2,500 Mile Walk For Addiction Awareness

We always applaud people who find new and unique ways to bring attention to addiction. And over in Maine, 26-year-old Jessie Grieb is helping to spread the word by setting off on a 2,575 mile trek from the east coast all the way to Key West, Florida. Dubbed her “Overdose Awareness Walk,” it is on an ongoing viral journey that is designed to raise funds for a recovery charity called Freedom To Grow.


A former heroin addict herself, Jessie successful conquered her dependency; but lost several close friends along the way. Tragically her brother Brian succumbed to his dependencies, which inspired her walk all the more.


As Jessie mentioned in her various blog posts, there is a very clear and calculated purpose to this mission. And she is recruiting people to join her along the way.


“Every mile that I walk, two people in this country will have died from an overdose, eight people every hour, over 115 a day,’’ Grieb explained on her Facebook page.  “If you are going to join us, you will have to keep up!”


So far, Grieb has made it as far as Connecticut and has assured her followers that she is taking many precautions along this route. There are elongated breaks, packs of food and constant communication with friends and loved ones. She’s even got a helpful push cart (dubbed “Lt. Dan” after the Forrest Gump character), which houses additional supplies.


The cart was actually donated by one of Jessie’s mentors. Recovery advocate Brett Bramble broke the ground on this type of movement, walking 5,700 miles for recovery back in 2016. His journey took him from Delaware to San Francisco and generated a ton of publicity for the cause. In fact (bringing things full circle), Freedom To Grow happens to be Bramble’s charity; which he started after completing his trek.


“I am so ecstatic and so proud of Jessie for doing this,’’ Bramble explained to The Palm Beach Post. “It is certainly not easy, She’s gotten blisters. The sun is excruciating and there is never a perfect day. But Jessie has not complained one time. She could have quit. She wanted to quit at times, but she knows the good it is doing for her.’’


We, of course, are extremely proud of Jessie’s mission as well and encourage our followers to keep track of her adventures (and lend support) by visiting her fundraising page.


Celebrating National Recovery Month

For the past 29 years, September has held a special significance for people celebrating sobriety milestones. From the 1st through the 30th, advocates across the country honor accomplishments and raise awareness through a movement called National Recovery Month. Every year new themes are introduced and viral hashtags get posted, which recognize the millions of people whose lives have been transformed from treatment.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (aka SAMHSA) spearheads this initiative and they have released a flurry of new media content to spread the message. One big push for 2018 includes a new online series entitled Road To Recovery. Broadcast via webisodes and podcasts, these insightful pieces aim to educate people on key addiction topics. A recent YouTube chat dealt with insurance coverage and how a person’s job can be impacted when they enter treatment. You can watch it below…



There is also a new batch of Public Service Announcements aimed toward opening up dialogues between parents and children. Titled Talk. They Hear You.these clips offer helpful “Discussion Starters” for kids of any age. Covering difficult topics like alcoholism and drug use, the PSA’s are actually quite inspiring and encourage moms, dads and educators not to fear these types of conversations. One of their most viewed videos is below…



Now granted, issues like substance abuse can be difficult to cope with. But that is not the point of Recovery Month. In fact, as one of their recent blogs explained, this is actually meant to be a time of celebration and hope. It is now when we honor those who have successfully beaten their addictions and inspire others to live a cleaner lifestyle.


“This September, we celebrate the millions of Americans who are living their lives in recovery from mental and substance use disorders and honor those who work to make recovery possible,” SAMHSA rep Chideha M. Ohuouha wrote on the site. “Recovery Month serves to educate Americans about the benefits of treatment and recovery services. It also promotes three key messages: Prevention works. Treatment is effective. People can and do recover.”


Another key component of Recovery Month is community involvement. The official site offers a wealth of materials that can be used to build awareness. Everything from social media logos, to posters, to fact-based one sheets. All are downloadable and meant to be shared with people’s followers and friends. We invite our network to do the same, by clicking here and spreading the word about this very important initiative.


A West Hollywood Sobriety Milestone

As we’ve mentioned many times before, we love recovery stories with a local flair. And not far from our Santa Clarita facility sits a historic sobriety shop, centered (believe it or not) amid the party block of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. We, of course, are talking about the legendary My 12 Step Store, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary.


R.J. Holguin is the mastermind behind the famed shop, serving as its Founder, CEO and Director of Marketing. He recently spoke to the local outlet Los Angeles Blade about the milestone, which will be marked by an alcohol-free mixer this month; in partnership with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and The WeHo Times.


As he told The Blade, starting this store was a very personal mission and one he put together because he, himself, had successfully overcome addiction.


“I saw this as a way to give back to a community that I was a part of, both as a resident and as a person in recovery myself,” Holguin explained.  “So, I opened a boutique-style store that would be welcoming and exciting to people who are clean and sober.”


Indeed, the My 12 Step Store offers an endless supply of resources for people in recovery. There are special treatment books, as well as sobriety chips and medallions. The shop also supplies empowering fashion lines and inspirational gifts, jewelry and greeting cards.


Throughout its past 15 years the store has built a very loyal following, both from leaders in the recovery community and sober celebrities. Stars like Lindsay Lohan and Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack have publicly lent support, as well as famed Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler (whose autographed shirt proudly hangs on its wall).


Being centered in West Hollywood, the store has also become a sobriety beacon for the LGBTQ community; supporting various charities and events. Though, as Holguin points out, the prime clientele is actually straight women.


“Our average customer is a woman not in the LQBTQ community,” he added.  “I don’t identify us as a store for LGBTQ, I identify us as store that’s very supportive for LGBTQ and welcomes you.  We are a gift store.  If you are gift-giver you most likely will support us by buying gifts for friends and loved ones in recovery.”


Best of all, in the modern era the My 12 Step Store has now developed an online presence too. Now, people from across the country can purchase its inspiring items and spread the word of sobriety on a much larger scale.


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.


RIP: Recovery Advocate Christopher Lawford

This week, pop culture fans got a dose of saddening news with the passing of actor and Kennedy cousin Christopher Lawford. While he will undoubtedly be remembered for his famous familial ties, Christopher is also being acknowledged for the tremendous work he did to publicize sobriety and the challenges of addiction.


Lawford, who was 63, passed away from a heart attack in Vancouver, Canada; where he had been living with a girlfriend. As expected, the social media tributes began pouring out. While of course they praised Christopher for his character and giving nature, they also strongly emphasized the contributions he made for the recovery community.


His cousin Patrick J. Kennedy (son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy), called out his continuous advocacy.



As did cousin Bobby Shriver (brother of Maria Shriver).



Sobriety spokesperson Jennifer Gimenez also quickly took to Twitter to praise Lawford’s work.



The truth of the matter is, Christopher (like many celebrity offspring) publicly faced a very difficult addiction battle. But rather than hide from it or shun the publicity, he bravely faced his demons and was very open about his struggles. In 2005, he wrote a bestselling memoir that tackled these topics titled Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption. Later, he published another book titled Voices From the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery, which featured essays from celebrity survivors such as Tom Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis. His most recent book, What Addicts Know, was another bestseller.


Lawford basically devoted the later part of his life to lecturing about substance abuse, raising funds for treatment centers and bringing the cause to the political stage.


“I was the product of an addictive perfect storm,” he told Parade Magazine in 2015. “We had an entirely different culture in 1969 when I first used drugs. Experimentation, permissiveness and, frankly, ignorance of what this disease is. Addiction is a brain illness, and it’s not limited to one demographic or another. You can be an alcoholic in the White House or in the poor house.”


Ironically, Christopher had moved to Vancouver over to launch a new recovery facility in the area. Today, we send our deepest condolences to the Lawford family and thank him for all of his inspirational work.


‘Rock To Recovery’ Concert Returns This September

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since we discussed the charity-driven Rock To Recovery concert. Now the event is coming back for a third time and with a bigger lineup than ever before. Music icons like Moby and the metal group Steel Panther will be part of this September’s concert, which is donating all ticket funds to treatment services for people in need.


September 15th is the official date of Rock To Recovery III. The benefit show will take place (as it had years before) at the historic Fonda Theatre in Hollywood and include both live music and celebrity speakers. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bryan Fogel will be handling 2018 MC duties, with Steel Panther taking headliner status and Moby listed as the night’s big honoree.


Additionally, musician Tommu Vext from the band Bad Wolves will be recognized for his recovery advocacy and there are several exciting sets planned from some surprise musical guests. Wes Geer deserves the big credit for this year’s event (as he has in years’ past). The former Korn guitarist is also the founder of Rock To Recovery and recently spoke to TheFix.com about its ongoing mission.


“By having an event where we can all share not only our darkness, but our strength and solution, and celebrate through live music and dancing and even mosh pits, is quite a healing form of expression,” he explained. “I heard recently that the opposite of addiction is connection. For all the people this event supports, these are all issues of feeling lost and disconnected and not having a place in the world.”


Geer went on to emphasize that this show isn’t just for people who have completed treatment, it is also for those who are pushing through it and looking for inspiration. He added that half of the concert’s attendees will be people who are still in a recovery program.


“Imagine being in treatment and getting to experience a sober concert with known musicians, many of whom are also in recovery,” Geer added. “I go back to what my mindset was when I was newly in recovery, which is once you get sober life is over and boring. These concerts prove that mindset wrong. When you come see such an elaborate event supported by so many amazing humans, that is 100% sober and 100% rad, it is absolutely magical.”


For anyone else interested in this important event, tickets are still available. We certainly recommend keeping the date open on the calendar and “rocking out” with some true musical heroes.


Inspiring ‘Recovery Restaurant’ Opens In Kentucky

Here’s a note to take down: The next time you happen to visit Lexington, Kentucky, set aside some time to enjoy a home cooked meal at DV8 Kitchen. Not only is the acclaimed eatery (with 185 five-star Yelp reviews) serving customers top-notch food, it is also going out of its way to promote the message of recovery.


For starters, DV8 has filled its entire staff with people who have beaten a substance abuse disorder. And owner Rob Perez doesn’t just advocate for recovery, he himself has proudly gone through treatment and is now 28 years sober.


DV8 also maneuvers its operating hours so that staff members can attend meetings or participate in their treatment programs. Tips are split evenly and added to paychecks, to avoid quick cash exchanges and help the entire team as a whole.


The restaurant also hosts regular guest speaker nights, where community members come in and discuss issues like health, finances, teamwork and responsibility. Rideshares are also available to assist employees who may have lost their licenses or need transportation for court appointments.


As Perez explained to TheFix.com, the unique business model of DV8 Kitchen is attracting a lot of positive attention.


“I think that the customers see a different face of recovery. It is about helping the folks that work here,” he explained. “But it’s also about helping the general public understand that the recovery community is worth a shot. The recovery community can perform good work.”


Perez also firmly believes that the fundamentals of a restaurant service job closely align with treatment and recovery goals.


“When you do a job with quality, you build self respect, self-esteem and pride in a craft you’re developing,” he added. “In recovery, we need a support system and an accountability system. And the camaraderie you get out of a job when you have common interests, backgrounds and circumstances, is pretty powerful.”


And let’s not forget the restaurant’s primary claim to fame. They proudly carry over the message of health onto every menu item. As their website proclaims, DV8 provides all-natural, delicious food which is always made to order.


We are certainly thrilled to spread the word about this inspirational new eatery. And it makes us even more excited to hear that a business model such as this can not only succeed, but thrive! Let’s hope more entrepreneurs in our home state of California take notice and follow suit.


‘Recovery On Demand’ Is Gaining Notoriety

Up in the northern part of California, an interesting movement is taking place. Oakland-based Highland Hospital has been garnering national headlines for its revolutionary approach to treating people battling opioid addictions. Executives at that medical facility have decided to implement a “Recovery On Demand” approach for people in need, opening up their emergency room for immediate treatment and prescriptions.


One big hurdle that they are helping addicts overcome is providing around-the-clock access to buprenorphine. This particular prescription has been shown to immediately slow down cravings and stabilize people who may be in crisis mode.


“With a single E.R. visit we can provide 24 to 48 hours of withdrawal suppression, as well as suppression of cravings,” Highland emergency medicine specialist, Dr. Andrew Herring, told The New York Times. “It can be this revelatory moment for people — even in the depth of crisis, in the middle of the night. It shows them there’s a pathway back to feeling normal.”


Typically, addiction meds like buprenorphine are challenging to receive on a quick basis. There are insurance challenges, multiple doctor visits and delays in availability. The team at Highland is hoping to change that by offering quick referrals for people they believe to be in danger. Their goal is to avoid overdoses and relapses at all costs.


And per the NYT article, buprenorphine has led to several success stories. A study they shared showed that addicted patients who were given the med in an emergency room were twice as likely to be in treatment within a month (vs. those who got it with an informational pamphlet from a doctor’s office).


Other Highland physicians associated with the movement shared their thoughts with the Times as well. As Dr. Kelly Pfeifer explained, a big part of this work is being done to de-stigmatize the concept of addiction; particularly when it comes to the opioid epidemic.


“We don’t think twice about someone having a heart attack, getting stabilized in the emergency department, and then getting ongoing care from the cardiologist,” she added. “And the risk of death within a year after an overdose is greater than it is for a heart attack.”


The Highland program has been in effect since the beginning of last year. Over the past 12 months, their data has shown that two-thirds of the 375 E.R. patients who were treated for a dependency accepted the buprenorphine prescription and moved towards entering treatment.


There is no denying that the faces and cravings of addiction are changing. And we applaud organizations like Highland Hospital for continuing to be fluid and seeking out new ways to implement recovery.


Why ‘Tough Love’ Doesn’t Always Work With Addiction

Being the loved one of a person battling an addiction can be devastating. One the hand, you want to do everything in your power to “rescue them” from their destructive habits. But then again there is always the risk of enabling, which leads many to turn turn their backs and institute “tough love.” Interestingly that latter approach may do more harm than good, per a new NPR article. According to their research, compassion leads to more successful resolutions.


For the record, the NPR piece focuses specifically on those who have been impacted by the opioid crisis. Speaking to parents, spouses and close friends, they shared several positive examples of the power of empathy. They also cited data from The U.S. National Library of Medicine, illustrating that a compassionate approach is the most effective way to engage drug users in recovery and keep them alive.


Nora Volkow, a director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also spoke to the outlet and urged relatives (particularly parents) to intervene, even if the loved one is continuing to rebel.


“The concept of letting their children hit bottom is not the best strategy,” she explained to NPR. “Because in hitting bottom they may die.”


One big component of the piece discussed shifting the perception of addiction. We all know how dependencies tend to be stigmatized and users often feel embarrassed or ashamed. But more professionals in the scientific community are speaking out and labeling it how is should be called: a chronic medical condition.


That is particularly where the compassion comes in. Once loved ones understand that this is a problem that the addicted person simply can’t control, they should approach it like they would any other medical issue.


“If a child had cancer, parents wouldn’t disengage with them or be angry with them,” Volkow added in the article. “So I do think it aligns our scientific understanding that addiction is a disease and not a moral failure.”


Of course, we all understand how every situation is unique and sometimes there are dangers associated with addicted family members. An example was used about potential violence when a person is under the influence, or concern if there are younger children in the home. Safety is obviously of the utmost concern, but kicking that loved one out in the streets can be a hasty solution.


We too believe in a compassionate approach to addiction. If there are worries that this is something you, as a loved one, cannot tackle alone, please reach out and let the trained professionals at Valley Recovery Center be your guide.


Exercise Being Used As Tool To Beat Cocaine Addiction

There is no denying that every dependency is entirely unique and should be fought off using different methods. Cocaine, for example, is a highly addictive stimulant which many researchers have analyzed and “tried to crack” when it comes to treatment. Now, a group of scientists at Albany Medical College claim to have found an effective relapse prevention tool for those who have battled this addiction. The answer? Exercise.


As mentioned above, “science” is playing a critical role in this assessment. What study co-author Lisa Robison, Ph.D gathered in her research was a deeper analysis of brain functions and how a drug like cocaine impacts them. One well-known side effect of using involves increased levels of dopamine (the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers). This, Dr. Robison found, relates to cranial stress, and overt symptoms where addicted people experience anxiety and hyperactivity. It was noted that when someone tries to quit the drug, outside stressors can become a trigger mechanism for a relapse.


Dr. Robison’s research then delved into the physiological effects of exercise and how it can potentially fill the void that former cocaine users may experience.


“There has been great work done in human studies showing that physiological and psychological reactions to stress can predict a person’s likelihood to relapse,” Robison explained to Inverse.com. “We also know that exercise relieves stress and anxiety in humans. So putting this together, in addition to our findings in animal studies, it suggests that reducing stress responses in people with substance use disorders with something like exercise should result in lower relapse rates.”


One of the key components of the study focused on the reward pathway associated with raised dopamine levels. Dr. Robison’s work has shown that exercise can potentially alter that pathway and repair the damage done by drug use. Using test rats, her team monitored behaviors of subjects that had halted their cocaine use and become sedentary. That group quickly sought out cocaine whenever it was presented to them. The alternate rats, however, who were also prior users but now regularly exercising, were much less inclined to take the drug again.


Dr. Robison found this result to be exciting for multiple reasons. For one, it seems to be clear progress in helping win the battle over cocaine addiction. Secondly, she felt that exercise was an easy, inexpensive solution that many former users can take advantage of.


“What’s great about exercise is that it’s a two-for-one deal!” she concluded. “Exercise has been shown to both improve the functioning of the reward pathway and reduce stress responses. Exercise presents a natural and cost-effective means of combating substance abuse, and has a multitude of other benefits for physical and psychological health.”


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.


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.


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 Fix.com.  “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.


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. TheFix.com 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…


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…