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Pediatricians Can Do More to Prevent & Reduce Adolescent Substance Use

Adolescent substance use has begun to boil over in many parts of the country. Concerned parents, spurred-on by tragic stories from the opioid epidemic, are desperate to turn down the heat and protect adolescents from harm.

Among the adults searching for answers is one important group who can do more to prevent and reduce adolescent substance use: Primary care physicians and, more specifically, pediatricians.

Pediatricians routinely see patients for annual checkups, often treating the same children from birth to high school graduation. During these regular visits, they have both the opportunity to talk with adolescents and an existing relationship with them that can make conversations about substance use seem natural and easy. As such, adolescents can feel comfortable talking to pediatricians about drinking and drug use because anything they say is just between them and their doctor (unless the patient is in imminent danger).

During such confidential discussions, pediatricians have an invaluable opportunity to give their young patients information about drinking and drug use, and how it can affect their health. A quick chat about the effect of alcohol and drugs on the developing adolescent brain can greatly influence teenage decisions to either abstain or seek help if substance use is an emerging problem. In those cases, pediatricians can immediately refer them any help they need, such as putting them in touch with a mental health professional or treatment provider.

Research shows that these types of conversations between pediatricians and young people are an effective means of reducing substance-use rates. The Council on Recovery strongly supports making it standard practice for pediatricians to discuss substance use with their adolescent patients.

The Council on Recovery provides a wide range prevention and education resources aimed reducing substance use, especially among adolescents and young adults. For more information about The Council’s Prevention & Education Programs , please call 713-942-4100, email education@councilonrecovery.org  or contact us online.

Infographic: 11 Myths About Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Here are some of the popular misconceptions about NA that contribute to a lack of attention to the organization as a recovery support resource:

The Council on Recovery believes that Twelve-Step programs, patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), play a vital role in the recovery process. We strongly recommend attendance of Twelve-Step meetings to our clients. However, the meetings and groups themselves are entirely autonomous and are not affiliated with The Council beyond our provision of space for them to hold their meetings.

For a complete listing of Twelve-Step meetings held each week at The Council, including Narcotics Anonymous, click here:

If you or a loved one has an alcohol or drug problem, and need help, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

E-cig Use Associated with Cardiovascular Disease & Other Medical Conditions

Ever since E-Cigarettes (E-cigs) were first introduced in 2007, their use (also known as “vaping”) has been advertised as a safer alternative to smoking. However, new research by the University of Kansas School of Medicine shows that E-cig use, like smoking, delivers ultra-small aerosol particles which may be associated with cardiovascular disease and other medical problems.

The Study

The study, based on a review from the National Health Interview Surveys, analyzed health outcomes for E-cig users vs. non-E-cig users and smokers vs. non-smokers for a variety of medical conditions. These included myocardial infarction, hypertension, diabetes, depression/anxiety/emotional problems, circulatory problems, and stroke.

The Results

Though E-cig users had a lower mean age than non-E-Cig-users (33 vs. 40), E-cig users still had higher odds of having myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke. Depression/anxiety/emotional problems and circulatory problems also appeared higher in the study. E-cig users had lower odds of having diabetes and there was no significant difference between the two groups on the odds of hypertension.

The Conclusion

As one of the more recent studies on the health effects of E-cig use, this research supports the need greater public awareness about the higher odds of myocardial infarction, stroke, depression/anxiety/emotional problems, and circulatory problems facing those who vape. Both the study’s author and the American College of Cardiology recommend additional research to better establish causation linkage between E-cig use and these serious medical problems.

With a 14-fold increase in sales of E-cigs over the past ten years, the use of and addiction to vaping is rapidly becoming a major public health concern. Read the U.S. Surgeon General’s report about E-cigarette use here.

When combined with the misuse of alcohol or drugs, the consequences of vaping can turn deadly. If you or someone you know needs help, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us on-line.

8 Shocking Statistics About Underage Drinking

Whether or not parents and educators want to admit it, underage drinking is rampant. Although the statistics are disturbing, it is imperative for parents to educate themselves on this pressing matter. Often, parents look toward outward signs such as grades, extracurricular activities, and other factors as reassurance their children are not partaking in alcohol in their free time. Yet recent data from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  show otherwise:

  • By the age of 15 approximately 33% of teens had at least one drink and by age of 18 the number jumps to 60%
  • Even though the legal drinking age is 21, individuals from the age of 12 to 20 account for 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. and, more shocking, 90% is consumed through binge drinking
  • 3 million teens stated they indulged in binge drinking on five or more days and occasions over the past month
  • 8% of youth drove after consuming alcohol and 20% rode with a driver who had consumed alcohol
  • Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to experience issues at school, including failing grades and higher absence rates, and these teens may also abuse other drugs and experience memory problems
  • Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths per year among underage drinkers
  • Alcohol use during the teenage years can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and can also contribute to grave consequences due to impaired judgment, such as sexual assaults, injuries, and death
  • Individuals who began drinking before the age of 15 are more apt to abuse alcohol or develop alcohol dependence later in life than those who abstained from drinking until the age of 21

Awareness and understanding of the causes of underage drinking is the first step in prevention. Warning signs of underage drinking include, but are not limited to: Changes in mood (i.e. anger, irritability), problems concentrating or remembering, changing of friend groups, rebelliousness, less interest in self-care or activities, and academic or behavioral issues in school. Through education, parents and teachers can gain knowledge, discuss this issue with their youth, and in turn possibly prevent underage drinking.

If you or a loved one has an alcohol or drug problem, and need help, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 50

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 50 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

The 2018 film, A Star is Born, is the fourth remake of an original 1937 film about an aging star and a young new prodigy.  This one stars Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, a famous C& W singer, and Lady Gaga, as Ally, a struggling lounge singer whom Jackson takes to stardom.  The story is impeccably done by Cooper and Gaga; its power is in the truly profound impact it seems to have on many of us in recovery.  This recent version also tracks almost precisely with two prior ones, a 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, and a 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

In this version, Jackson is a serious alcoholic and addict who stumbles into a back-street drag bar, desperately needing a drink between gigs;  he  finds Ally as a waitress who also sings in the small club venue.  The connection, both in the acting and in the energy Cooper and Gaga bring to the roles, is mesmerizing.  Predictably, and in line with its predecessors, they form a bond and perform together.  The bond leads to an affair of the heart.  Soon Ally’s career begins to take off while Jackson’s is continuing a drunken downward spiral.   

While Ally remains fully committed to Jackson, he becomes a major liability to her career.  He vacillates between loving attention to her and mean-spirited comments and abuse. Her manager does everything he can to try to keep Jackson away from Ally in various phases of her development and touring.  But Jackson’s drinking and drugging just keeps getting worse.  At the Grammy’s, when Ally goes up to accept the Award of Best New Artist, a falling down drunk Jackson goes up with her and, on stage, he wets himself and passes out.

Jackson does rehab and seems to be recovering, but the damage he believes he has done to Ally’s career and the constant pull of the disease lead him to a deep state of remorse and regret.  While Ally is singing at a major concert at which Jackson was to be present, he hangs himself in their garage.

It is interesting that this story seems to have a basic fundamental power…it has been told and retold in the span of generations over the last 80 years…with the players having the same general presence in their generations as Gaga and Cooper do here.  While, to this alcoholic, the option of suicide is never a valid one, there are untold examples where the bottom reached in a drinking life seems to present no other recourse to the sufferer.  It is a sad, sad, tragic reality.

How wonderful it is that many of us have been able to move beyond that point of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization” and put the probability of such a tragedy well behind us.  

Guide: 11 Indicators of Quality Addiction Treatment

How to identify high-quality addiction treatment programs.

The Council on Recovery recommends the following guide published by the Recovery Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. We suggest using it to evaluate addiction treatment options for you or your loved ones. [The Council meets/exceeds all 11 quality indicators.]

Intro

With thousands of programs and rehabs to choose from, it can be challenging to assess which addiction treatment programs offer the highest quality of care.

Finding the right treatment facility is all too important, given the time, money, and energy that substance use disorder treatment and recovery requires of not only the individual, but the entire family.

The 11 Indicators of Quality Addiction Treatment:

Research has identified elements that quality substance use disorder treatment facilities should possess. These range from personalized treatments, to national accreditation, to assertive linkages to continuing care.

The experts at the Recovery Research Institute have compiled a comprehensive list of 11 indicators of effective treatment, as a blueprint to help guide you or your loved one to high-quality addiction treatment, maximizing your recovery success.

1. Assessment and Treatment Matching (Identify)

Finding effective help for an alcohol or other drug use disorder begins with reliable and valid screening for a range of substance use disorders and related conditions, as well as any physical or mental health conditions. This is followed by more comprehensive assessment of substance use history and related disorders, medical history, psychiatric history, individual’s family and social networks, and assessment of available recovery resources (“recovery capital”). These endeavors help uncover the many interrelated factors affecting the patient’s functioning and life and assess a patient’s readiness to change. This careful and comprehensive assessment can help prevent missing aspects or minimizing important aspects of a person’s life, such as trauma or chronic pain, inattention to which could compromise recovery success.

2. Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment Approach (Treat)

As discussed above, patients in treatment may have co-occurring psychiatric disorders, like depression and anxiety, as well as other medical problems like hepatitis C, alcoholic liver disease, or sexually transmitted diseases. Programs should incorporate comprehensive approaches that directly address these additional concerns, or otherwise assertively link patients to needed services. Treating the whole patient, will improve the likelihood of substance use disorder recovery and remission.

3. Emphasis and Assertive Linkage to Subsequent Phases of Treatment and Recovery Support          

Continuing care is defined as the ‘ongoing care of patients suffering from chronic incapacitating illness or disease.’ Ongoing care provides essential recovery-specific social support and necessary recovery support services after the patient leaves or transitions away from the initial phase of treatment. Programs that strongly emphasize this continuing care aspect will provide more than just phone numbers or a list of people to call, but instead, will provide assertive linkages to community resources, on-going health care providers, peer-support groups, and recovery residences. This ‘warm hand-off’ or personalized introduction to potential peers and resources in the recovery community, produces substantially better outcomes.

4. A Dignified and Respectful Environment

The treatment program should possess at least the same type of quality environment as one might see in other medical environments (e.g., oncology or diabetes care). You don’t need palm trees and luxury mattresses, but you should expect a clean, bright, cheerful, and comfortable facility. It is important that the program treats substance use disorders with the same professionalism and allocates similar resources for patient care as other chronic conditions. Creating a respectful and dignified environment may be particularly important for addiction patients, because those suffering from substance use disorders often feel as if they’ve lost their self-respect and dignity. A respectful environment helps them regain it.

5. Significant Other and/or Family Involvement in Treatment

Engaging significant others and loved ones in treatment increases the likelihood that the patient will stay in treatment and that treatment gains will be sustained after treatment has ended. Techniques to clarify family roles, reframe behavior, teach management skills, encourage monitoring and boundary setting, re-intervention plans, and help them access community services all help strengthen the entire family system and help family members cope with, and adapt to, the family system changes that occur in recovery.

6. Employ Strategies to Help Engage and Retain Patients in Treatment

Dropout from addiction within the first month of care is around 50% nationally. Dropout leads to worse outcomes, so it is vital to employ strategies to enhance engagement and retention. These include creating an atmosphere of mutual trust through clear communication and transparency of program rules, regulations, and expectations. Treatment programs can also work to retain patients by providing client-centered, empathic, counseling that works to build strong patient-provider relationships. They also can use motivational incentives to reward patients for continued attendance and abstinence.

7. Use of Evidence-based and Evidence-informed Practices

Programs that deliver services founded on scientific research and principles and that are delivering the available “best practices” tend to have better outcomes. In addition to psychological interventions, these should include accessibility to FDA approved medications for addiction (e.g., buprenorphine/naloxone, methadone, naltrexone/depot naltrexone, acomprosate) as well as psychotropic medication for other types of psychiatric conditions (e.g., SSRIs etc.). This is typically combined with qualified staff (see below).

8. Qualified Staff, Ongoing Training, and Adequate Staff Supervision

Having multi-disciplinary staff (e.g., addiction, medicine, psychiatry, spirituality) can help patients uncover and address a broad array of needs that can aid addiction recovery and improve functioning and psychological wellbeing. Staff with graduate degrees, and adequate licensing or board certification in these specialty areas are indicators of higher quality programs. In addition, clinical supervision and team meetings should take place at least once or twice a week for outpatient programs and three to five times a week for residential and inpatient programs.

9. Personalized Approaches that Include Specialized Populations, Gender, and Cultural Competence

Stemming from individualized comprehensive screening and assessment, programs should treat all patients as individuals attending to their needs accordingly. One size does not fit all, and neither does one treatment approach work for every individual. High-quality treatment programs identify the potentially different needs of men and women, adolescents versus adults, and those from different minority communities (e.g. LGBT) or cultural backgrounds, creating in turn, treatment and recovery plans that address their specific needs and acknowledge their available strengths and recovery resources.

10. Measurement of Program Performance Including During-treatment “Outcomes”

A further indicator of quality treatment is having reliable, valid measurement systems in place to track patients’ response to treatment. Similar to regular assessment of blood pressure at each check-up in treating hypertension, addiction treatment programs should collect “addiction and mental health vital signs” in order to monitor the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the individualized treatment plan and adjust it accordingly when needed. Without any kind of standardized metrics, it is difficult to document and demonstrate patients’ progress.

11. External Accreditation from Nationally Recognized Quality Monitoring Agencies                            

Accreditation from external regulatory organizations such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare organizations (JCAHO; aka “the Joint Commission”), the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and the Council on Accreditation (COA); and other programs licensed by the state are required to offer minimum levels of evidence-based care. These licensing and accreditation requirements serve as quality assurance that the treatment program is incorporating a certain level of evidence-based care in its model and is open to random audit of its clinical care.

New Study Finds Distressing Increase in E-cigarette Use by Middle and High School Youth

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), battery-powered devices that provide nicotine and other additives to the user in the form of an aerosol, have become the most popular form of tobacco use among middle and high school youth. The recent National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011-2018 found a distressing increase in the use of e-cigarettes, also known as “vaping“, that far surpassed the rate of use of conventional cigarettes during survey period.

What’s more, concurrent studies by both the Center for Tobacco Products at the Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control point to a rapidly escalating problem. High school students currently using e-cigarettes increased from 1.5% in 2011 to 20.8% 2018. During 2017–2018 alone, e-cigarette use increased by 78% (from 11.7% to 20.8%).

At the same time, among middle school students, e-cigarette use increased from 0.6% in 2011 to 4.9% in 2018. During 2017–2018, current e-cigarette use increased by 48% (from 3.3% to 4.9%).

Percentage of middle and high school students who currently use e-cigarettes and any tobacco product

The studies also showed that, while current use of any tobacco product among high school students grew from 24.2% in 2011 to 27.1% in 2018, the use of e-cigarettes continued to increase at rates not seen in previous surveys.

This sharp rise in e-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students during 2017–2018 is likely because of the recent popularity of e-cigarettes shaped like a USB flash drive, such as JUUL. These products can be used discreetly, have a high nicotine content, and come in flavors that appeal to youth.

Although e-cigarettes can be of potential benefit to adult smokers as a complete substitute for smoking tobacco, adolescent use of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, is considered unsafe. The Surgeon General has concluded that “e-cigarette use among youths and young adults is of public health concern; exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain”.

The Council on Recovery provides a wide range prevention and education programs aimed reducing tobacco use, especially among adolescents and young adults. These programs are provided at area schools, churches, community centers, employers, and health fairs. For more information about The Council’s Prevention & Education Programs , please call 713-942-4100, email education@councilonrecovery.org  or contact us online.

Baby Boomers and the Alarming Increase in Alcohol Use Disorders

Baby Boomers are the fastest growing segment of the population. They’re also the group with the most dramatic increase in harmful alcohol use. According to a research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, increases in alcohol use, high risk drinking, and alcohol use disorders (AUD) among adults 65 years and older were substantially higher relative to earlier surveys.

The most alarming findings indicated that the number of adults 65 years and older who drank has risen higher than the national average by about 23 percent. And the average number of adults 65 and older suffering from alcohol abuse had risen by nearly 107 percent.

The study also reconfirmed the well-known correlation between alcohol use and the higher risk for disability, morbidity, and death from many alcohol-related chronic diseases. According to the National Institute on Aging, drinking too much alcohol over a long time can:

In addition to the medical risks are the many safety risks that alcohol creates for older adults. Drinking can impair a person’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. This increases the risk of falls, household accidents, and car crashes.

In the midst of the medical and safety risks, the increase in both binge drinking and AUD among older adults has created a new urgency for doctors to screen for and identify unhealthy alcohol use by their older patients. Physicians are ideally positioned to discuss the risks of continued use and the options available to stop drinking for those with the problem. To support this effort, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), offers multiple online resources for providers, such as brochures, fact sheets, alert bulletins, classroom resources, and videocasts. NIAAA’s website also provides the general public with information related to alcohol abuse among older adults.

In Houston, The Council on Recovery’s Wellderly program provides information and resources to help older adults, their family members, caregivers, and service providers identify and address alcohol and substance use and/or misuse. The Wellderly program’s unique suite of services include:

  • Community education and outreach to older adults and service providers
  • Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)
  • Case management
  • Specific help and guidance in talking with an older adult who has questions about their own substance use or a friend’s use of substances
  • Education and support for family members
  • Educational materials that aid older adults in taking better care of themselves

The Wellderly Program is supported by funding from The United Way of Greater Houston. For more information about the Wellderly Program please call 281.200.9109, email wellderly@councilonrecovery.org, or contact us online.

How Pornography Affects the Teenage Brain – An Infographic

Pornography addiction is an adolescent high-risk behavior that is escalating across all segments of the teenage population. By viewing sexually pornographic material, adolescents may face potential emotional, psychological, social, and physiological disorders and issues. The Infographic below, designed by helpyourteennow.com, illustrates the effects that pornography can have on developing adolescent brains. It can help you understand the problem and start important dialogue with your teen about viewing sexually explicit material.

Mindful Choices is the Center for Recovering Families’ adolescent high-risk behavior course that covers pornography addiction and 14 other risky behaviors. For teenagers and their parents, the course addresses these problems in the early, treatable stages. For more information, call 713-914-0556email CRF@councilonrecovery.orgor contact us online.

#192aDay Campaign Launches to Remember those Lost to Addiction

This week, Addiction Policy Forum launched the #192aDay awareness campaign to honor those lost to drug overdose and other complications of substance use. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s 2017 data revealed that more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses — 192 a day — making it the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, more than deaths from gun violence or car accidents. The campaign features 192 letters from the family members who have lost a loved one to addiction.

Excerpts from the campaign:

Cassidy C 192aDay
Cassidy

“She was our sunshine, our beautiful and bright angel. But to shine some light on an illness that is taking the lives of far too many, if we allow shame, guilt or embarrassment to cause this illness to become a dark family secret, hiding in the shadows, everyone loses.”-Cassidy’s mom, Charla

Anthony F 192
Anthony

“The disease of addiction is a merciless, non-discriminatory devil. The loss of my big brother has created a sore on my heart that will never heal. We must fight to end this epidemic.”-Anthony’s brother, Gino

Justice 192aDay
Justice

“Heroin took my daughter. She was 21 years old. She had barely lived. Justice never owned her own car; she never traveled the world; she never married or had children; she won’t see her brothers grow to be good men, or meet her future nieces or nephews. My daughter will never dance again. She will never see an amazing sunset, or feel the warmth of the sun on her beautiful face. I will never hear my daughter’s beautiful voice again or hear her call me mom. Heroin took that all away. We all failed my daughter. All those times she reached out for help and was denied, we failed her. I have to live with this for the rest of my life. Justice was my only daughter. She was my girl, she was my dream, she was my everything.” -Justice’s mom, Jennifer

Emmett  192
Emmett

“Emmett was the average American teen; he loved video games and BMX biking. He was a caring, funny, smart young man with the potential for greatness. He was the adored older brother to Zachary and Alice . He had a smile and charm that could light up a room – but heroin stole that from him.”-Emmett’s mom, Aimee

“It’s far past time we recognize addiction for the disease that it is and move beyond the stigma that enshrouds substance use disorders,” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, founder of the Addiction Policy Forum. “192 a Day helps shine a bright light on the beautiful lives lost to addiction and gives voice to the families that have been affected. We encourage those who have lost someone to share their stories through the campaign so we can show local, state and national leaders the very real impact addiction has on our communities.”

Please read the stories and get involved at 192aDay.org and watch @AddictionPolicy‘s PSA  #192aDay featuring those lost to #addiction at https://bit.ly/2RlhOct .

Call The Council
If you, a loved one, or friend have a problem with drugs or any substance use disorder, call The Council on Recovery at 713-941-4200 or contact us online. We are Houston’s leading non-profit provider of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services. We can help!

Millennials, Social Media, and Depression

[From a Jan. 10, 2019 article by Kristen Monaco, Staff Writer, MedPage Today]

Facebook “addiction” — not only spending lots of time on Facebook but also seeing negative social impacts from it, yet craving it and trying unsuccessfully to cut down — was associated with impaired decision-making in one study and with self-perceived physical ill health in another.

In the first, researchers gave 71 participants recruited from a German university 100 tries each at the computerized Iowa Gambling Task, in which players should learn from prior rewards and punishments to make better bets — in other words, a test of value-based decision-making.

Higher scores on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale were significantly correlated with worse performance in the final 20 game trials (r=-0.31, P<0.01), found Dar Meshi, PhD, assistant professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and colleagues. Their study was published online in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

This finding, that Facebook “addicts” made riskier decisions than non-addicts as the game went on, implies that they were more likely to ignore the potential for losses, the investigators said. Notably, there was no such association between Facebook addiction and decision-making earlier in the game.

The study “further supports a parallel between individuals with problematic, excessive SNS [social networking site] use and individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders,” they concluded. Research published earlier this week also found an association with depression.

Excessive social networking can seep into other aspects of users’ lives as they build up tolerance to sites’ social rewards, Meshi and colleagues said, just as opioid users require increasing doses over time to achieve the same effects. “These excessive SNS users also experience conflict with others because of their use, and when attempting to quit, they display withdrawal symptoms and often relapse,” the researchers wrote.

While many in the mental health field have come to accept online behaviors as potentially addictive, the American Psychiatric Association has not formally recognized any. The closest it has come is designating “internet gaming disorder” in its current diagnostic manual, DSM-5, as a possible condition warranting further study. Addictions to other online activities such as social media are not mentioned at all.

And that aside, one specialist contacted by MedPage Today urged caution in interpreting the current study owing to its design.

“While this area of research is intriguing and it is possible that excessive digital media use may have adverse effects on cognitive functioning, this particular study does not provide strong support one way or another of whether decision making dysfunction may actually be a consequence of excessive digital media use,” commented Adam Leventhal, PhD, director of the University of Southern California’s Health, Emotion, & Addiction Laboratory in Los Angeles, who was not part of the study.

“Because of the study design, we cannot determine whether the risky decision making patterns preceded or followed excessive Facebook use in the participants. It is possible that people who make risky decisions are more drawn to highly-stimulating digital activities like social networking platforms because it suits their sensation-seeking personality styles,” he said.

Facebook and Physical Illness

In a separate study conducted by Bridget Dibb, MSc, PhD, of the University of Surrey in England, Facebook users who reported feeling inspired by friends they perceived as better off tended to feel more sick themselves.

From a survey of 165 Facebook users, the one specific type of social comparison linked to more physical symptoms was the positive feeling of seeing someone better off, Dibb reported online in Heliyon.

“The positive upward comparison relationship in this study shows that the participants were feeling hopeful and inspired but at the same time were aware of worse physical health,” she wrote. “It is also possible that those who had more physical symptoms tended to engage in more positive upward comparison to be more like the better-off target. This may be a coping strategy and would account for why those engaging in upward comparison would also be more aware of their symptoms.”

In contrast, negative feelings after seeing the better-off person (“I could never be like him or her”) weren’t significantly associated with physical health, nor were the negative feelings (“What if I become like him or her?”) or positive feelings (“At least I’m not like that”) after encountering somebody comparably worse off.

Moreover, the more survey respondents said they felt that Facebook was part of their lives, the more physical ailments they perceived personally.

Dibb acknowledged that the study design precluded any causal links between physical health and Facebook use; she suggested a longitudinal study to show whether social comparison leads to perceptions of ill health or if those who experience worse health are inherently more likely to seek inspiration from peers. The experiment by Meshi and colleagues also only documented an association, not a causal relationship.

Moreover, neither study accounted for use of other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

Sobering Facts About Holiday Drunk Driving

alcohol impaired driving

This is the season for celebrating with family and friends. But, when it comes to drunk driving, this most joyous time of year is also the deadliest. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every holiday season, hundreds of lives are lost due to drunk drivers.

Drunk driving facts

Over the past five years, an average of 300 people nationally died in drunk driving crashes during the Christmas through New Year’s holiday period. From 2012-2016, in the month of December, the NHTSA reported 14,472 people lost their lives in traffic accidents. Of those December deaths, 28%, or 3,995, people died in drunk-driving crashes.

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 of higher). In every State, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, yet one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 50 minutes in the United States in 2016.

In 2016, the NHTSA reported 10,497 people killed in these preventable crashes. What’s more, over the 10-year period from 2006-2016, an average of more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes.

Steps to Prevent drunk driving

At this time of year, the NHTSA suggests the following steps to prevent drunk driving:

  • If you will be drinking, plan on not driving.
  • Plan your safe ride home before you start the party.
  • Designate a sober driver ahead of time.
  • If you drink, do not drive for any reason.
  • Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation, etc.
  • Download NHTSA’s SaferRide app from Google Play or the iTunes Store which helps you identify your location and call a taxi or friend to pick you up.
  • If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. Your actions could help save someone’s life.

Call The Council

If you, a loved one, or friend have a problem with alcohol, call The Council on Recovery at 713-941-4200 or contact us online. We are Houston’s leading non-profit provider of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services. We can help!

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 45

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 45 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the aftermath of the fall of Rome in the 5th century and the loss of its literary and cultural majesty, the European continent became widely diverse and generally devoid of scholarship. The Church was the only institution of wide-spread power. In this environment, which lasted almost 600 years, there were a number of mythic systems which emerge. One was the great Celtic legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. A host of stories emerged out of this system, about kings, queens, knights and ladies, who pursue glorious quests in search of physical, psychical and spiritual treasures.

The most prominent of these quests is the search for the “Holy Grail,” which is the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper and which Joseph of Arimathea used to capture some of Christ’s blood as he was lowered from the Cross. Joseph was portrayed as part of a group that then fled Palestine, traveling West with the Cup to found an order in the Celtic lands charged with keeping the Cup. The Arthurian Knights that sought the Grail were on quests for spiritual enlightenment and ascension, which they achieve by coming into the presence of the Grail.

Those of us on the journeys into lives of sobriety are on similar quests…quests to achieve a sense of freedom, peace and serenity. Having made the decision to commit ourselves to the journey, we must do the work to recover with a sense of determination and rigor. We must explore the dark and frightening elements of our past in all its dimensions and find a conscious contact with our Higher Power so we can repair the harm we may have done in our disease and develop a saner mode of life.

Finally, we fully commit ourselves to a life of service, to mankind and to the cosmos. In relatively short order, we find ourselves in a place just as glorious as those the Arthurian Knights achieved in the presence of the Grail.

Alarming Increase in Adolescent Vaping and Nicotine Use in 2018

teenage vaping

An alarming increase in the prevalence of vaping among adolescents has raised public health concern, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Research into vaping among teens was conducted by the University of Michigan. It indicated a sharp increase in the prevalence of nicotine vaping: 10% among 12th-graders, 7.9% among 10th-graders, and 2.6% among 8th-graders. These percentages mean 1.3 million additional adolescents engaged in nicotine vaping in 2018, as compared with 2017.

The study’s authors suggest that policies in place in the 2017–2018 school year were not sufficient to stop the spread of nicotine vaping. Additionally, rapid growth of new vaping devices, such as the Juul, will require modified strategies to keep adolescents from vaping and its associated negative health effects.

The Center for Recovering Families’ Adolescent Services department is carefully tracking and responding to the increase in teen vaping.  Through Mindful Choices, our High-Risk Behavior course, as well as prevention, parent education, and counseling services, the Center for Recovering Families is in the vanguard of local efforts to stem the tide of teenage substance abuse in our community.

If you or a loved one needs help to stop vaping, call the Center for Recovering Families at 713-914-0556, contact us online, or download our brochure. We can help. Start here.

Debunking the Myths About Holiday Drinking & Driving

drinking&driving2018Celebrating the spirit of the holidays often includes drinking holiday spirits. Most people celebrate responsibly. But during the holiday season, people are more likely to drink beyond a safe limit than at other times of year. And when driving is involved, the resulting consequences can be tragic. Despite all the evidence of the dangers, myths around drinking and driving still abound. Some of them can prove fatal.

Myths & Facts

Myth: Your decision-making abilities and driving skills are not impaired until intoxication occurs.

Fact: Even a few drinks can diminish your decision-making, including the decision of whether or not to drive. So your driving skills may be compromised well before physical signs of intoxication. Though you may initially feel stimulated by a drink or two, alcohol consumption can rapidly decrease good judgment and reaction times. And while you may not feel or appear drunk, the sharpness needed for good decisions and responsible driving can be dulled by even a small amounts of alcohol.

Myth: If you’re not slurring your words or feeling inebriated, it’s okay to drive.

Fact: Coordination needed for safe driving diminishes long before the signs of intoxication occur. Additionally, the sedative effects of alcohol increase your risk of losing attention or falling asleep behind the wheel.

Myth: After drinking all evening, it’s okay to drive after “sobering up.”

Fact: After finishing drinking, you may misjudge how long alcohol will affect your driving abilities. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol’s effect on the body and brain may persist long after the final drink. Despite a cup of coffee or cold-shower, alcohol in the bloodstream can continue to impair your judgment and coordination for many hours.

Myth: A couple of cups of coffee will sober you up.

Fact: Though caffeine may help avert drowsiness, it doesn’t affect the alcohol that’s still in your bloodstream impairing judgment or coordination. It may take hours for your body to return to normal after metabolizing alcohol. In this way, time without additional alcohol provides you the only way to sober up. And sober is the only truly safe way to drive.

A simple message

Though there are many myths about drinking, driving, and other behaviors, the facts readily dispel each one of them. According the CDC, every day, 29 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. The Council on Recovery wants everyone in our community to be safe during this season and recommends adherence to the old adage, “Don’t Drink and Drive”.

If you must travel after drinking

If you must travel after drinking, ride with a designated sober driver. Or call a cab, Uber, or Lyft. Some of these offer free or discounted rides during the holidays. METRO offers free rides on local bus, rail, and lift services from 6 p.m. December 31 until 6 a.m. on January 1. AAA-Texas offers free “Tipsy Tow” service on New Year’s Eve, providing a one-way ride up to 10 miles for the driver and vehicle to the driver’s home. However you get home, just get there safely.

We can help

At this season, if you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviors, call The Council at 713-941-4200 or contact us online. Recovery can be the sweetest gift you give yourself or a loved one this year. Start at The Council. We can help!

9th Annual Run for Recovery Raises Money for The Council on Recovery

2018 Run for Recovery runners & walkers on Memorial Drive

The 9th Annual Run for Recovery took place Sunday, November 2nd. One of Houston’s largest recovery events, the race attracted more than 400 people of all ages. Runners, walkers, and other supporters of recovery participated in the 5K run/walk (timed and untimed) and Kids Race along scenic Memorial Drive next to Buffalo Bayou. Post-race festivities and activities were also held for children at Cleveland Park, adjacent to The Council’s campus on Jackson Hill.

Monies raised by the Run for Recovery go to recovery-based scholarships benefiting program participants at Santa Maria Hostel, STAR Drug Court, and The Council on Recovery. These programs provide substance use treatment and recovery support services for those who are unable to afford such services.

For race results, click here.

For additional information on the 2018 Run for Recovery, visit www.HoustonRunforRecovery.com

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 43

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 43 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In the multi-season show, Stargate SG – 1 and its offshoot, Stargate Atlantis, there is a force to be reckoned with called the Replicators, which are antagonistic self-replicating machines that are driven to replicate themselves by consuming both alloys and technologies of the nearest most advanced civilizations. They grow to destroy the societies which spawned them.  Their original beginnings were a mistake of an earlier species and they prove very difficult to eradicate.

It occurs to me that there is an interesting parallel here with the recurring incidence of the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction in families.  The disease seems to replicate itself in strange ways…it consumes us and our families across generations and among siblings and cousins. Sometimes it skips people in generations or in extended sibling or cousin relationships, but when it does strike, it can be as deadly as it was for the original sufferer.

In the Stargate Atlantis story, the Replicators are finally controlled by the development of a “disruptor gun” which breaks down the electromagnetic bonds inherent in the replicator machinery and causes them to disintegrate. My parallel with the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction and the replicator menace as told in these stories provides an interesting twist here.

We break down the replication of our disease in family structures by getting sober, by developing and maintaining a life of committed sobriety and service, which begins to model new, healthy behavior patterns.  These create a psychological and spiritual force which disrupts the development of the disease in our loved ones, thus breaking down the elements of the disease in the family structures and the tendencies for it to replicate.  Our loved ones absorb these patterns of recovery and service into their psyches and, in time, that helps them deal with their own latent or initiatory tendencies; they can thus avoid the patterns that could lead to future development of the disease.

In 1995, Pete Hamill, a journalist in New York, published a memoir called A Drinking Life.  It is the story of his Irish family’s drinking history, his own early life consumed with alcohol abuse, and his career associated with a community of people of some renown where the one defining constant was alcohol.  He hit a bottom one day and, recalling his familial history with alcohol, he said to himself: “The madness must stop.  The madness stops here,” and he stopped drinking forever.

In our own commitment to sobriety and to a life of service, we help to eradicate the replication of the disease for all future generations.

New Study: Hangovers Impair Thoughts & Performance Even After Alcohol Leaves the Bloodstream

According to a recent study, the effects of a hangover from heavy drinking on our thoughts and performance may last longer than originally thought.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, indicates that impairments in cognition observed in drunk individuals still occur the day after a session of heavy drinking, when little to no alcohol present in the bloodstream.

The researchers behind the study at the University of Bath, found that hungover individuals have poorer attention, memory and coordination than when sober. Impairment of psychomotor skills can also occur during a hangover when compared to sober.

The researchers suggest their findings have important implications when it comes to activities performed when hungover, including driving.

For example, while hungover, individuals might assume there’s little to no alcohol left in their system and get behind the wheel of a car. This study suggests there may still be impairment of the cognitive processes necessary for safe driving, even after alcohol is no longer in the bloodstream.

Researchers also warn that such impairments can show up at the workplace. Though most American workplaces have policies regarding intoxication at work, few have policies impairment from hangovers. The study’s authors suggest that employers consider revising those policies for worker safety.

A new report from the Center for Disease Control finds that excessive drinking costs the U.S. economy nearly $250 billion annually. The most significant cost was the lost productivity of hungover workers who either showed up for work barely able to function, or who were unable to show up at all, which cost nearly $90 billion. In total, all forms of lost productivity accounted for about $179 billion of alcohol-related costs.

Craig Gunn of the Department of Psychology and lead author of the study at the University of Bath said, “In our review of 19 studies we found that hangover impaired psychomotor speed, short and long term memory, and sustained attention. Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times the day after an evening of heavy drinking. Our review also indicated limited and inconsistent research on alcohol hangover and the need for future studies in the field.”

Senior author Dr Sally Adams added: “Our findings demonstrate that hangover can have serious consequences for the performance of everyday activities such as driving and workplace skills such as concentration and memory.

“These findings also highlight that there is a need for further research in this field where alcohol hangover has implications at the individual level in terms of health and well-being, but also more widely at the national level for safety and the economy,” Adams said.

The researchers are currently examining the true health and economic costs of hangover and associated risks with the next day effects of heavy drinking.

 

The Council’s Speakers Series Luncheons 2000-2018 – A Galaxy of Stars

The Council’s Fall & Spring Luncheon Speakers 2000-2018 [Click for larger images]
The Council on Recovery’s 2018 Fall Luncheon with Alice Cooper was the 36th Luncheon  in the The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series. Since 2000, the Waggoners Foundation along with, more recently, the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation, have underwritten the production of a Spring and Fall Luncheons. These luncheons have raised millions of dollars over the past 18 years. The Luncheon have been headlined by some of the biggest celebrities of their era, each of whom has entertained and inspired thousands with their recovery stories.

On The Council’s website, we proudly present the complete Galaxy of Stars who have helped us raise awareness and funds over the years. View the list here and enjoy the reminiscence!

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 42

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 42 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In an earlier note, I talked about the Greek experience of hieros gamos, the idea of a sacred marriage between an archetypal feminine and masculine.  I likened it to the union of our ego, our conscious being, and our authentic self, the deep elements of who we really are. It is the union that we begin to achieve as we pursue a life of committed sobriety and service to others, that process that comes by working the Steps and connecting with the Fellowship of recovery.  But there is another way to look at the idea of hieros gamos in our individual conscious beings.

Regardless of whether we are woman or man, we have archetypal elements of both genders in each of our individual psyches. Carl Jung spent a good part of his analysis of the human psyche on this, naming that the masculine elements of the feminine psyche as the “animus,” and the feminine aspects of the masculine as the “anima.”  Jung saw these elements as largely part of the unconscious but they are clearly elements that we are to strive to keep  in balance to achieve a level of wholeness in Jungian terms.

The masculine elements can be seen as those qualities of physical and emotional strength, accountability and responsibility, and the propensity for heroic acts. The feminine can be seen as those qualities of tenderness, compassion, sensitivity and loving nurturing. It is not to be inferred that either gender lacks what the other exhibits, by any means; it is only that the ones mentioned tend to be dominant for the particular gender.

In the alcoholic or drug addicted personality, the feminine or masculine elements of the representative gender can be grossly outsized, so much so that the individual is dysfunctional as a man or a woman…too aggressive and domineering or completely wimpy and ineffective…no matter what the gender.  Our pursuit to sobriety is meant to find the right balance so that we can be of service in any and all ways that might be needed by the societies and communities to which we serve. We need to find a true marriage of the masculine and feminine parts of us to achieve the fully committed life of service that we crave and that puts us in the place we were meant to be.

Rock Legend Alice Cooper Helps The Council on Recovery Raise $495K to Fund Addiction Prevention, Education, & Treatment Programs

Rock legend Alice Cooper shares his story at the Fall Luncheon

Alice Cooper, the Godfather of Shock-Rock and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer thrilled an audience of more than 1100 with his personal story of recovery from alcoholism and  addiction this past Thursday at the Hilton Americas-Houston. In the process, he helped The Council on Recovery raise more than $495,000 to provide addiction prevention, education, and treatment services in the Greater Houston area.

The total funds raised are expected to rise after on-site green card donations are tabulated.

Alice Cooper in conversation with KPRC’s Frank Billingsly

Alice was the keynote speaker at the 36th Annual Fall Luncheon in The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series presented by the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation.

The Luncheon was chaired by Council board members Dennis Robinson

Luncheon Co-Chair Dennis Robinson

and Tony Valadez, each of whom related their own personal experience with recovery

Luncheon Co-Chair Tony Valadez

[Read Dennis’ story; read Tony’s story].

With preceding remarks from The Council’s President/CEO, Mel Taylor and Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Newhouse, a heartfelt introduction by Jerri Duddlesten-Moore brought Alice Cooper to the stage.

Jerri Duddlesten-Moore introduces Alice

In an intimate interview conducted by KPRC/Channel 2’s Frank Billingsly, Alice opened up about his illustrious career in rock & roll that spanned the last fifty years. Like many rockers of the late 60’s and early 70’s, Alice’s trajectory into stardom was initially fueled by drugs and alcohol.

“I was never a drunk ‘drunk’, but I never got sober,” Cooper said. “I used to like to drink, but then I got to the point where I hated it.”

In his late twenties, after performing his “Welcome to My Nightmare” show in 65 cities over 72 days, exhaustion and drinking had finally taken their toll.

“I got up and threw up blood, that’s probably a bad sign,” Cooper said. “My wife [Sheryl], we’ve been married 43 years…, she’s the one who said, ‘Hey, superstar, party’s over.’ I was hospitalized…in 1977…for about three months.”

Asked about that experience, Cooper said, “The crazy thing about my sobriety was…no one is ever a cured alcoholic, but I’m a healed alcoholic. I came out of the hospital and I was the classic alcoholic. I went right to a bar, sat down with a Coca Col,a and waited for the craving to come. And it didn’t come…it never came. Thirty-five years later and it never came. Even the doctors said it was a biblical miracle.”

Cooper did use cocaine after he stopped drinking, but quit after a couple of years. He recalled, “I had enough of that and said ‘that’s it’ and, boom, it was done. There was nothing else, I was done.”

Sober more than 35 years, Alice Cooper admits to doing it without a twelve-step program. Speaking of two fellow rock stars, Joe P. and Steven T., Cooper said, “Now, there are two guys…who went through very heavy drug and alcohol [use]… and they are in AA every day. I applaud them for doing that, too, because it means that much to them…two guys that probably should have been dead in the early 70’s are still making records and still out there doing it.”

Relating his role as a sober rock star and the new generation of younger fans, Cooper reminisced about Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, and Janis Joplin who were brilliant in their field, but never stopped using and all died at 27. “Kids [today] look at us that got sober and they’re smart enough to go ‘ah’, that’s what I’m looking at. It’s not that cool to be high anymore,” Cooper said. “In my lyrics in my songs you’re going to find a lot of warning about drugs and alcohol…some people pick up on it which is good. People [tell me], ‘that one song saved my life’. A simple song can affect somebody enough that they don’t either commit suicide or they get the picture that drugs or alcohol are gonna kill you.”

When asked what he would say to people who are on-the-fence about having a problem with drugs or alcohol, Cooper said, “When you face that realization, and want to go on, you have to face that problem. It took me getting sick before I got control of it. If you think you’re an alcoholic, go two weeks without it and see if it’s part of your body, if it’s an everyday thing.”

Alice Cooper recently finished 190 shows in 17 countries on five continents. “I’m the only one not breathing hard,” Cooper quipped, “and I play golf six days a week [with a 4-handicap].”

Cooper is well-known for helping to support other musicians who struggle with addiction, and has even opened a nonprofit program, Solid Rock, dedicated to helping vulnerable teenagers make healthy choices.

Check our Blog in comings days for additional Luncheon photos!

Video Links:

Senator John Cornyn Visits The Council to Host Roundtable Discussion on Opioid Addiction in Houston

Council CEO Mel Taylor welcomes Senator and Mrs. John Cornyn to The Council on Recovery

Senator Cornyn leads roundtable discussion

U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) visited The Council on Recovery on October 30th to host a roundtable discussion on opioid addiction in Houston. The discussion came a week after the President signed into law legislation that was originally introduced by Cornyn and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). The new law, called the Substance Abuse Prevention Act, will help local groups in Houston combat substance abuse.

Participating in the roundtable were representatives from The Council on Recovery; Addiction Policy Forum; the Success Through Addiction Recovery (STAR) Drug Court Program; Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA); both the Fort Bend Community and Southeast Harris Prevention Coalitions; and law enforcement leaders from Houston, Galveston, Harris County, Victoria County, and Fort Bend County.

CEO Taylor describes The Council’s efforts to treat addiction

The discussion focused efforts to fight Southeast Texas’ illegal drug supply, divert those with substance abuse problems to treatment and recovery programs, and work with local communities to prevent illegal drug use.

The group was also given a demonstration of how to use a Naloxone overdose kit to revive an opioid overdose victim. During the meeting, more than 100 overdose kits were distributed to law enforcement officials attending the roundtable.

CEO Taylor addresses media questions

The Substance Abuse Prevention Act, part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, reauthorizes critical programs to reduce demand for narcotics, provides assistance to law enforcement and service providers so they can better combat opioid addiction, and supports those recovering from substance use disorders.

The Council on Recovery is Houston’s oldest and largest non-profit provider of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services for individuals and their families affected by substance use disorders. The Council and its Center for Recovering Families are tirelessly at work battling opioid epidemic on a daily basis. If you or a loved one needs help, call The Council at (713) 942-4100 or contact us online.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 41

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 41 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

There is a literary device that was originated in classical literature and theatre known in Latin as in medias res. It denotes that literary device of starting a story in the middle, “in the middle of things,” as the Latin might be translated.  We all know many stories, in literature, theater and movies that utilize this device; it is usually accompanied by multiple flashbacks and “jumping forwards” as a complex story is revealed. The Odyssey, which we keep talking about as a classic “hero’s Journey” story, uses this device; the story of Odysseus’ long journey home starts in the middle and is told in many, seemingly disjointed, subplots from different parts and different times in the overall story.

If we look at the lives of all of us in addiction and in the long journeys of recovery, this device might seem like a constant for us.  We really do start our recovery “in the middle of things,” usually somewhere in the middle of our lives.  The long story from our early days in the disease, into our descent to the darkest of moments, maybe many such moments, then the excruciating crawl to complete abstinence and the purposeful pursuit of the steps and tools…it is all a long, long story with the critical, pivotal elements appearing “in the middle.”

Odysseus has been traveling around the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas on a 10 year journey trying to find his way home after the Trojan War.  His story, the Odyssey, begins in the ninth year of this journey with his 20 year old son, Telemachus, whom Odysseus hasn’t seen since his infancy, setting out to visit his father’s fellow Greek warriors to gain some news of his father’s possible fates.  Meanwhile Odysseus has landed on the island of Scheria, having lost everything – all his ships, all his possessions, all his men, and any scrap of clothing he may have had on.  Naked, drawn and exhausted, he is at a real bottom.  He is encouraged to tell his story and he does so starting at the beginning after the sack of Troy.  The story unfolds with Telemachus and him finally landing back on Ithaca, Odysseus’ kingdom, and progressing through the process of regaining his rightful place as King.

After we gain some semblance of sobriety and begin to work the steps, the critical element is in telling our story, in recognizing the harm we have done in our disease, and using our new found serenity to repair the harm done to so many.  We work from the middle, back through the past, and then into the future, finally beginning to bask in the sunlight of recovery that a future in fully committed sobriety gives us.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Takes Place Oct. 27, 10A – 2P

Don't Be a DealerSemi-Annual event provides safe, convenient, and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration is hosting the semi-annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, Oct. 27. The goal of the event is to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.  For a list of local drug collection sites, click here.

The Council on Recovery urges you to check your medicine cabinets, drawers, purses, and glove boxes for unused and/or expired Rx prescriptions. Dispose of them safely and immediately. Drug Take Back day is an ideal time to assure that dangerous, addictive, and potentially deadly prescriptions do not fall into the wrong hands.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a problem with Rx drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors, contact The Council. We can help!

Methamphetamine Abuse: The Other Drug Epidemic

crystal meth
Crystsal Meth

While the opioid epidemic continues to dominate the national headlines, methamphetamine addiction has emerged as a major crisis in Texas.

A big problem

Methamphetamine, known as “meth”, killed 715 Texans in 2016 compared to 539 heroin deaths. During the same period, U.S-Mexican border agents seized seven times more meth than heroin. Over 8,200 meth users were admitted to Texas health department-funded treatment programs, nearly 20% of all admissions.

Dangerous connection with Mexico

According to the DEA, methamphetamine is a major threat to Texas. Though pseudoephedrine (a key to meth production) plummeted after purchase restriction laws were implemented, production of meth simply shifted to south of the border. As Mexico filled the increasing demand, a new production technique, called the “nitrostyrene method”, also created more potent meth. It’s now the predominant form of the drug entering Texas. It is also one of the cheapest, selling for $5 a hit.

A deadly mix

Even more troubling is the uptick in fatalities from the mixing of crystal meth with heroin.  In 2016, 17% of the deaths in Texas attributed to meth also involved heroin. So, as the opioid crisis grows, this mixing and the concurrent increase in meth usage have created an even greater health crisis for the state.

Link to STD increases

The Texas meth epidemic is also being linked with an increases in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, according to a recent report from the University of Texas at Austin. A CDC survey in Dallas sited in the report indicated that the proportion of homosexual men who reported non-injection use of meth went from 9% in 2008 to 45% in 2014. Recent HIV trends show that use of crystal meth has more than doubled HIV risk factors.

The Council’s response

In facing the methamphetamine epidemic, The Council on Recovery has redoubled its efforts to address the problem with robust prevention and education programs. The Council’s Center for Recovering Families has also become a vital outpatient destination for individuals affected by crystal meth addiction. We provide substance use assessments, counseling, and Healing Choices, our intensive outpatient treatment program. We also work with family members and loved ones impacted by substance use disorders. For more information, call the Center for Recovering Families at 713-914-0556 or contact us here.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 40

In the parlance of long-running, multi-season TV shows, the term “jump the shark” denotes that point at which the series popularity begins to decline.  It usually cites a particular show in which the characters in the show do something a bit absurd, maybe so much beyond the mythos of the show that it begins to destroy that mythos and, maybe, the TV audience’s love affair with the themes and the characters.  Jumping the Shark

The term got its name, “jump the shark” from the 1970’s TV series “Happy Days,” about a mid-western family and their friends.  Happy Days “jumped the shark,” began to decline in popularity, when one of the characters, Arthur Fonzarelli, aka, Fonzie or The Fonz, in an episode in the later stretch of the series run, pulled off an outlandish water-skiing stunt by jumping a shark pit.

This idea has been linked to virtually all multi-season shows, as well as some other situations, in a 2002 book of the same name by Jon Hein, a magazine writer of some renown.  Hein analyzes nearly 300 TV shows, sports organizations, music groups, celebrities and political careers in the same vein.  This type event seems to be signaling a major inflection point in the history of organizations, events and people and it occurs to me that we could look at our own lives in addiction in just the same way.  We could see such an event, first, as that event in our drinking history when our behavior was so bad, when an event of absolute insanity occurred, in front of a large gathering of our family, friends, and communities, that it absolutely confirmed our descent into insanity in the larger cosmos. For this alcoholic, it happened at the end of a Texas high school football championship game when, before 20,000 people (family, friends, business acquaintances, and just people) in the Astrodome, I took off across an empty field chasing the referee to complain of a bad call that cost us the game.

Or, from a different perspective, it could be that point at which, in our efforts to recovery, we finally got it, when we finally grasped the idea of “doing what it takes.”  Stopping the drinking and using, going to meetings, working the steps, listening intently to our Fellows, it occurs to us one day, almost out of the blue, that we could do this.  That the scourge of alcohol and drugs and debilitating behaviors was being lifted.

We had to, we have to keep working the program, but the realization that recovery had begun, in earnest, was truly at hand.  What a great day…

Senate Passes Broad Opioid Package to Address National Crisis

Senate passes opioid package

The Council on Recovery applauds the U.S. Senate’s passage of the final version of a sweeping opioids package Wednesday. Passed with rare bipartisan support by a vote of 98-1, the bill will be sent it to the White House for expected signature.

The bill represents Congressional response to the opioid epidemic, a growing public health crisis that resulted in 72,000 drug-overdose deaths last year. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week. It combines dozens of smaller proposals, from both sides of the aisle, that affect every federal agency. The bill is aimed at addressing different aspects of the opioid crisis, including prevention, treatment and recovery.

Major Provisions

Among major provisions, the legislation creates a grant program for comprehensive recovery centers that include housing and job training, as well as mental and physical health care. It also increases access to medication-assisted treatment to help people with substance abuse disorders safely detox from the opioids.

Another portion of the bill changes a prohibition that limited Medicaid from covering patients with substance abuse disorders who were receiving treatment in a mental health facility with more than 16 beds. The bill lifts that rule to allow for 30 days of residential treatment coverage.

The bill also gives Medicare beneficiaries more information on alternative pain treatments, and expands treatment options for enrollees who are addicted to opioids.

Funding in the Bill

Congress has appropriated $8.5 billion this year for opioid-related programs, but has not guaranteed funding for subsequent years. Some members of Congress have proposed committing at least $100 billion over ten years to fight the opioid epidemic.

The Council on Recovery

The Council on Recovery is in the vanguard of local efforts to stem the opioid epidemic with a broad array of prevention, education, treatment, and recovery programs. The Council also recently hosted the 2018 Houston Opioid Summit. For more information about our services, contact us today.

Yale Study: Genes May Explain Why Alcohol Detox is Particularly Hard for Some People

Detox
Yale Study Explains Why Detox Symptoms are Worse for Some, Not Others

New findings published in journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Some heavy drinkers suffer intense withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking — some, less so.  A new Yale-led international study of individuals with alcohol dependence has identified gene variants that may help explain why “detox” from alcohol is particularly difficult for some people. The researchers report their findings September 25 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the official journal of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Alcohol takes more lives in the United States every year than opioids, but there are few effective treatments to help people who have an alcohol use disorder,” said Andrew H. Smith, lead author of the study and a research affiliate in the laboratory of senior author Joel Gelernter, Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neuroscience. “For people who experience intense withdrawal symptoms, that’s one more barrier they have to face while trying to reduce unhealthy alcohol use.”

Those physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are much worse than any hangover. Sudden cessation of alcohol consumption can lead to shakes, nausea, headaches, anxiety, fluctuations in blood pressure, and in the most serious cases, seizures.

The American team and collaborators in Denmark linked variants in the SORCS2 gene to the severity of alcohol withdrawal in people who have European ancestry, about one in ten of whom carry the variants. No such connection was found in African Americans. Intriguingly, the SORCS2 gene is important for activation of brain areas which respond to changes in the environment. The gene variants identified in the study may impinge on the ability of heavy drinkers to adapt to the sudden absence of alcohol, researchers speculate.

Better understanding of the many genes likely to be involved in withdrawal symptoms could ultimately lead to new medications that moderate these symptoms, which could help with the discontinuation of habitual alcohol use,” Gelernter said.

The research was primarily funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.


The Council on Recovery does not provide medical detox services, but does refer out to detox facilities in the Houston area. The Council provides outpatient services for people battling alcoholism, including Healing Choices, our intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP). Call 713.914.0556 for more information.

How Drugs Alter Brain Development and Affect Teens

Changes in Brain Development and Function From Drug Abuse

Most kids grow dramatically during the adolescent and teen years. Their young brains, particularly the prefrontal cortex that is used to make decisions, are growing and developing, until their mid-20’s.

Long-term drug use causes brain changes that can set people up for addiction and other problems. Once a young person is addicted, his or her brain changes so that drugs are now the top priority. He or she will compulsively seek and use drugs even though doing so brings devastating consequences to his or her life, and for those who care about him.

(See moreStudy: Regularly Using Marijuana as a Teen Slows Brain Development)

Alcohol can interfere with developmental processes occurring in the brain. For weeks or months after a teen stops drinking heavily, parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. Drinking at a young age is also associated with the development of alcohol dependence later in life.

What is Addiction?

No one plans to become addicted to a drug. Instead, it begins with a single use, which can lead to abuse, which can lead to addiction.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as:

A chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Addiction is a brain disease because drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and lead to harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

The good news is that addiction is treatable. The treatment approach to substance abuse depends on several factors, including a child’s temperament and willingness to change. It may take several attempts at treatment before a child remains drug-free. For those teens who are treated for addiction, there is hope for a life of recovery.

The Council on Recovery’s Center for Recovering Families has a broad spectrum of outpatient services for adolescents, including individual therapy, group therapy, high-risk behavior classes, and other education and treatment programs. For information, call 713-914-0556.

(Source: Get Smart About Drugs, a DEA Resource for Parents, Educators, & Caregivers)

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 39

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 39 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In Greek mythology, the heiros gamos is a holy ritual, a sacred marriage of a god and goddess, or of an archetypal masculine and feminine, that results in a perfect union of certain key elements of the human experience. It appears in many other systems – mythological, spiritual and psychological – in the same context, a glorified union of the key elements of both genders of humanity.

It occurs to me, though, that we might see just such a phenomenon in the evolution of our own individual selves in the recovery process from addictions.

In broad psychoanalytic terms, the two key elements of the human psyche could be seen as the ego, the conscious element of ourselves – how and what we see of ourselves – and the self – that part of us that is who we truly are, at the core of our beings. The ego is what is crafted from the earliest times, formed by how we fit into the world in which we are raised.  In time it may be cloaked by a certain persona that we want (or are taught) the world to see. This may or may not be akin to our authentic selves. The self, on the other hand, is who and what we are at the core, from our earliest consciousness, regardless of how we were raised, or what happened to us over our lives.  It is the self that will ultimately define us.

For those of us inflicted with the diseases of alcoholism or addiction, our egos became the ruling elements of our psyche. Maybe we strove to achieve, working hard against all odds, and built a view of ourselves that was at best majestic, at worst massively grandiose. This view fed our alcoholism, both to elevate its absurdity as well as to medicate the hidden anxiety that it created.  When it got to be too painful to perpetuate, we crashed, monumentally. We hit that point at which there had to be another way to live in the world or the grim reaper of death would become our only companion in a descent to oblivion.

The journey to recovery thus begun also became a slow and developing process to rewire our own brains.  For this alcoholic, it signaled a journey of discovery to find myself, the core of who and what I am. The last stages of this journey, for me, is becoming a heiros gamos, a marriage of my ego and my self. The ego is still important to me, to us; it is the warrior part of us, that part infused with a healthy narcissism, enabling me/us to face the world without a debilitating fear that needs medication.  But the self, that core of who and what we are, must come forward, must rise up in stature to form a true union of equals with our ego.

The union thus created by my own heiros gamos, this spectacular sensation of finally feeling, fully and completely, who and what I am and what I can be, is a gift of grace of unimaginable magnitude.  More on this in a later note….

CNN Reports Nearly 30% of All Opioid Prescriptions Lack Medical Explanation

Nearly 30% of All Opioid Prescriptions Lack Medical Explanation [Click to watch CNN report]
This CNN story reported findings of a recent study by the Annals of Internal Medicine that indicated nearly 30% of all opioid prescriptions lack medical explanation:

(CNN) How large a role do doctors play in the opioid crisis? Nearly 30% of all opioids prescribed in US clinics or doctors’ offices lack a documented reason — such as severe back pain — to justify a script for these addictive drugs, new research finds.

In total, opioids were prescribed in almost 809 million outpatient visits over a 10-year period, with 66.4% of these prescriptions intended to treat non-cancer pain and 5.1% for cancer-related pain, according to a study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

However, for the remaining 28.5% of prescriptions — about three out of every 10 patients — there was no record of either pain symptoms or a pain-related condition, the Harvard Medical School and RAND Corp. researchers say.

‘Inappropriate prescribing’

“For these visits, it is unclear why a physician chose to prescribe an opioid or whether opioid therapy is justified,” said Dr. Tisamarie B. Sherry, lead author of the study and an associate physician policy researcher at RAND. “The reasons for this could be truly inappropriate prescribing of opioids or merely lax documentation.”

Sherry and her colleagues, who analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for 2006 through 2015, say the most common diagnoses at doctor visits that lacked medical justification were high blood pressure, high cholesterol, opioid dependence and “other follow-up examination.”

Opioid dependence, which accounted for only 2.2% of these diagnoses, cannot explain why a doctor failed to give an adequate reason for prescribing addictive painkillers.

“If a doctor does not document a medical reason for prescribing an opioid, it could mean that the prescription is not clinically appropriate,” Sherry said. “But it could also mean that the doctor simply missed recording the medical justification for an opioid, perhaps due to time constraints, clinic workflows or complicated documentation systems.”

We cannot assume that poor record-keeping “indicates a nefarious purpose on the part of the doctor,” she added.

Social media’s contribution

Tim K. Mackey, an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Global Health Policy Institute, described the new study as “an important analysis,” with the findings highlighting “gaps in our understanding of why clinicians prescribed opioids.”

Mackey, who did not participate in the research, believes that the study could lead to stricter prescribing guidelines, which in turn could give rise to “unforeseen consequences.” For example, if new guidelines and initiatives make it harder for people to access opioids from hospitals and clinics, “this could shift demand to more accessible platforms, including the internet,” he wrote in an email.

“The public health danger of sales of opioids online has been well recognized by the US government, with a US General Accounting Office report from as early as 2004 warning about pain medications available online without a prescription,” he said.

Mackey’s own research highlights how online pharmacies use social media to sell controlled substances while drug dealers use Twitter to sell opioids by including their phone or email information.
Someone may start by getting medication for a legitimate “pain” diagnosis, but once they become addicted, their health provider may no longer be willing to write scripts, Mackey said.

“After exhausting friends, relatives and other personal contacts, many may go to illicit channels, including street buys no longer confined to the ‘street’ but digitized on social media,” he said. Some turn to internet pharmacies despite concerns about fraud and identify theft.

“Either way, this dangerous progression of different access points that continues to enable the opioid epidemic is not well understood,” Mackey said.

With more data needed to make sense of this public health crisis, technology companies, regulators, law enforcement and researchers need to come together to share ideas, innovations and research, he said.
“Unfortunately, some of this needed collaboration may be elusive,” he said. He explained that researchers who use machine-learning and Twitter’s public application programming interface to detect illicit online activity are prevented from sharing their findings with law enforcement due to Twitter’s terms of use.

“This leaves regulators like the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Justice in the dark about how they can cut off this dangerous channel of access that may continue to fuel the opioid crisis even after we make strides in other areas, such as physician prescribing,” Mackey said.

Sherry said another key finding of her study was that “physicians were especially lax at documenting their medical reasons for continuing chronic opioid prescriptions” despite government guidelines from 2016 recommending “periodic formal re-evaluation” in cases of long-term opioid treatment.

“It is now more important than ever for physicians to transparently and accurately document their justification for using an opioid so that we can identify and rectify problematic prescribing behavior,” Sherry said. “Our findings indicate that we still have a long way to go to reach this goal.”

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 38

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 38 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In Herman Melville’s classic, Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab was near mortally wounded by a powerful albino sperm whale named Moby Dick.  He became obsessed with the need to kill Moby Dick and, in a subsequent whaling voyage aboard the whale ship Pequod, he hijacks the vessel and crew and sets out on this murderous quest.  The whale is too powerful, however, and, in the end, the whale destroys the Pequod killing Ahab and all the ship’s hands in the process, all the men except Ishmael, one of the seamen who is also the narrator of the book.

In the description of Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick early in the book, Ishmael (Melville) describes it as follows: “The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. [….] All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

In our days steeped in alcohol and drugs, we may have experienced serious incidents of trauma, not unlike Ahab’s initial encounter with Moby Dick, situations which became monstrous resentments, resentments which we medicated ad nauseam with alcohol and drugs. When we got sober, these “demonisms of life” didn’t go away; we just lost the mechanisms to medicate the feelings. We soon learned that dealing with these situations and events, these deep seated resentments, without the medicating effects of alcohol and drugs required a new set of tools and a connection to a power greater than ourselves. Meetings, reading the literature, rigorously working the Steps with a sponsor, and staying close to multiple friends in the Fellowship became a daily process to handle the issues that arise from those feelings and resentments that continually show up in different forms in our daily lives.

The power of these recurring resentments can become debilitating at times, but we learn to deal with them. For, to give them power, to allow them to control us as his hatred of Moby Dick controlled Ahab, would be to insure our ultimate demise in much the same way, and perhaps as ultimately dramatic, as was Ahab’s.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 37

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 37 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

The story of Homer’s Odyssey, to which we keep returning as a classic Hero’s Journey, ends with Odysseus finally back in Ithaca reunited with his family.  He has traveled all over the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas in a ten year quest to get here, suffering all kinds of ills, some incredibly gruesome, but many of his own making.  His long journey to get home has caused many to believe that he is dead and, as a result, his Kingdom on Ithaca has been overrun by young men seeking to convince his wife, Penelope, to recognize that as fact and marry one of them, so that he could become King.

These men, called the Suitors in the Story, occupy a significant part of the Tale.  Their activities in Odysseus’ Palace over the last year of the Story, begin to turn ugly as they abuse the hospitality of Penelope and engage in long bouts of consumptive behavior with food, wine and the handmaidens of the Palace.  Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, in the final elements of the Story, leads him to plan and then execute a complete slaughter of these Suitors to regain his rightful place as King.

The place of these Suitors has always intrigued me. What might they symbolize, mythologically, in the Story? It seems that they represent much of what was unacceptable in the ethos of ancient Greece of the time.  They lacked a fundamental sense of right behavior, abusing the hospitality of Penelope and her household, consuming her goods and possessions beyond any sense of decorum, and abusing the members of her household ad infinitum. They were just really bad actors, maybe not unlike all of us as we acted out in the heights of our disease.

I have come to believe that, to get sober, something inside of us has to die, at least metaphorically speaking.  Some element of our addictive selves must come to a decisive end, for us to gain Sobriety and maintain a sober state in our ongoing life. So maybe this is what we can capture from this part of the Odyssey, the need for Odysseus to engage in a brutal battle with all the elements of the wicked side of his Kingdom is mirroring what we must do in our pursuit of Sobriety.  It easily conveys to many of us the need to control, maybe destroy, through a rigorous working of the Steps, those parts of us that could re-ignite the worst elements of our disease.  Our future in the Sunlight of the Spirit only happens, and stays alive then, when the “suitors” in us are long since dead.

Time to cut back on drinking? Here’s how…

Written by Felice J. Freyer & published by The Boston Globe, the following article provides excellent tips to those who drink. Timely information for those who use, misuse, or abuse alcohol.

Alcohol is deeply ingrained in American life, central to our habits of socializing, celebrating, and relaxing. But the pleasure of these routines can keep you from noticing when drinking has become a problem.

You can drink too much without necessarily being addicted to alcohol. Although some people who drink excessively find they must abstain, many others can just cut back — and moderation often makes their lives better.

How do you know when it’s time to reassess your drinking? And if you want to drink less, how do you do it?

The Globe asked for tips from experts in alcohol use at Harvard Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine, the VA Boston Healthcare System, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Here’s what they said.

Signs that you might be drinking too much

  • It’s starting to worry you or other people. Friends or relatives comment on your drinking.
  • You’re drinking more frequently and alcohol is starting to take a bigger role in your life.
  • You suffer from poor judgment while drinking, doing or saying things you regret when sober.
  • You find that you’re drinking more than you planned.
  • You can’t control how much you drink once you start.

Other reasons to cut back

Even if you’re not experiencing any of the problems listed above, it might be worth reducing your drinking if any of these apply to you:

  • You’re not getting any younger. At some point after age 55, your body’s ability to process alcohol slows down, and you may get drunk or sick with amounts of alcohol that didn’t faze you in your youth.
  • You have diabetes. Most alcoholic drinks pack a lot of carbohydrates.
  • You have high blood pressure. Alcohol makes it worse.
  • You’re overweight. Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories.
  • You suffer from a mental illness, such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol can bring temporary relief but can make symptoms worse over time.
  • You’re concerned about the health risks. John F. Kelly, Harvard Medical School professor of addiction medicine, lists the hazards: addiction can occur at any time; intoxication leads to accidents and injuries; and alcohol raises the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer, and damages the liver.

Time to cut back? Here are some ways to do that.

Track your drinking and set a goal

  • Learn what is a standard drink size. Twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits all have the same amount of alcohol. One martini is equal to 2½ standard drinks.
  • Make a note every time you take a drink, advises Amy Rubin, a research psychologist with VA Boston Healthcare. Writing it down will reduce your drinking because you’ll be paying attention, and it’s also the best way to get an accurate tally.
  • Then, decide how much you want to be drinking. One possible goal: the federal guidelines. These define low-risk drinking as having up to seven drinks per week with no more than three on any one day for women, or up to 14 drinks per week with no more than four on any one day for men.

Slow down

  • Make sure to eat before and during drinking to slow absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Start drinking later in the evening, to reduce the amount of time you have for drinking (but don’t drink close to bedtime or you’ll disrupt your sleep).
  • Intersperse every alcoholic drink with a nonalcoholic one. Take small sips. Put the drink down between each sip.
  • Choose drinks with lower alcohol content. Or dilute your drinks with ice cubes or seltzer.

Do something else

  • “Ask yourself, why are you drinking? Try to find other things that meet those needs,” said Aaron White, senior scientific adviser to the NIAAA director. If you drink to relax, for example, try a yoga class or a swim instead.
  • Change your routines. Perhaps go for a walk, or see a movie during the time you would normally be drinking.
  • Avoid places where you expect to see a lot of drinking. Even if you go to a bar, get up and play a game of pool or do something other than sitting there drinking.

Take a break

  • Try abstaining for 30 days. You’ll find other ways to spend your time and money and get a sense  of what it feels like to be alcohol-free. For many that means better sleep, more energy, and better memory. And your tolerance for alcohol will go down, so when you resume drinking you can get the same effect with less.
  • If you don’t want to take a month off, try taking a day off here and there. Make sure there are some alcohol-free days each week.

Be kind to yourself

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed at first. It’s hard to break habits, and few succeed on the first try. Try different methods or set different goals.

“It’s a trial-and-error process,” said Justin L. Enggasser, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. “The people that are most successful are the ones who keep trying and keep it as learning process.”

Face facts

If you still can’t reach your goals, no matter what you do, your drinking problem might be more serious than you realized. The NIAAA ( https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders ) offers a helpful description of alcohol use disorder and a “navigator”to help you find treatment.

The Council on Recovery provides prevention, education, and treatment programs for individuals and their families dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Start at The Council. We can help. Call 713-942-4100 for more information or contact us online.

As School Starts, Know the Facts About College Drinking

As students start the Fall Semester at college, The Council on Recovery urges parents and students to consider the facts about college drinking from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States.

Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem. According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same time-frame.

Consequences of Harmful and Underage College Drinking

Many college alcohol problems are related to “binge drinking”. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. Drinking this way can pose serious health and safety risks, including car crashes, drunk-driving arrests, sexual assaults, and injuries. Over the long term, frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs.

Drinking affects college students, their families, and college communities at large. Researchers estimate that each year:

  • Death: About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
  • Assault: About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • Sexual Assault: About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Academic Problems: About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. In a national survey of college students, binge drinkers who consumed alcohol at least 3 times per week were roughly 6 times more likely than those who drank but never binged to perform poorly on a test or project as a result of drinking (40 percent vs. 7 percent) and 5 times more likely to have missed a class (64 percent vs. 12 percent). Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) About 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an AUD.
  • Other Consequences: These include suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sex, and driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the police.

Factors Affecting Student Drinking

Although the majority of students come to college already having some experience with alcohol, certain aspects of college life, such as unstructured time, the widespread availability of alcohol, inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, and limited interactions with parents and other adults, can intensify the problem. In fact, college students have higher binge-drinking rates and a higher incidence of driving under the influence of alcohol than their non-college peers.

The first 6 weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year.

Factors related to specific college environments also are significant. Students attending schools with strong Greek systems and with prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other types of schools. In terms of living arrangements, alcohol consumption is highest among students living in fraternities and sororities and lowest among commuting students who live with their families.

An often-overlooked preventive factor involves the continuing influence of parents. Research shows that students who choose not to drink often do so because their parents discussed alcohol use and its adverse consequences with them.

Addressing College Drinking

Ongoing research continues to improve our understanding of how to address the persistent and costly problem of harmful and underage student drinking. Successful efforts typically involve a mix of strategies that target individual students, the student body as a whole, and the broader college community.

Strategies Targeting Individual Students – Individual-level interventions target students, including those in higher-risk groups such as first-year students, student athletes, members of Greek organizations, and mandated students. They are designed to change students’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol so that they drink less, take fewer risks, and experience fewer harmful consequences. Categories of individual-level interventions include:

  • Education and awareness programs
  • Cognitive–behavioral skills-based approaches
  • Motivation and feedback-related approaches
  • Behavioral interventions by health professionals

Strategies Targeting the Campus and Surrounding Community – Environmental-level strategies target the campus community and student body as a whole, and are designed to change the campus and community environments in which student drinking occurs. Often, a major goal is to reduce the availability of alcohol, because research shows that reducing alcohol availability cuts consumption and harmful consequences on campuses as well as in the general population.

For more information on individual- and environmental-level strategies, the NIAAA CollegeAIM guide (and interactive Web site) rates nearly 60 alcohol interventions in terms of effectiveness, costs, and other factors—and presents the information in a user-friendly and accessible way. For more information, visit www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeAIM.

The Council on Recovery provides prevention, education, and treatment programs for individuals and their families dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Start at The Council. We can help. Call 713-942-4100 for more information.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 36

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 36 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

In 1993, comedian Bill Murray stared in a film called Groundhog Day. It is about a fictitious Pittsburgh TV weatherman, Phil Conners, who is sent to cover the events of Groundhog Day, Feb 2, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh.  Punxsutawney is the actual site of an annual event where a real-live groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil either sees his shadow or doesn’t on that day, an event which signals the remaining duration of winter. Conners is a crass, self-absorbed, obnoxious character whom no one likes and who resents horribly that he has to perform such a mundane task as traveling to Punxsutawney and covering the Groundhog Day Festival.

In the process of performing his duties, he insults and abuses everyone and tries to flee the town as fast as he can after the Festival.  A snowstorm makes that impossible so he must stay over.  But he wakes up the next day to find that it is still Feb 2…and he proceeds to re-live that same day over and over and over…every day being Feb 2 with the same things happening, and  he, and only he, being conscious of the repetition.  As it sinks in what is happening, he realizes that there are no repercussions to whatever he does because all the tomorrows will never come. He can do whatever suits him, even things that would otherwise have severe consequences.  He seduces women, steals money, and disrupts the festival.  Despair sets in and he kills himself, over and over.  Each event in such behavior just keeps happening and he wakes up each day starting completely over.  In typical Bill Murray madcap fashion, it is also hilariously funny…but, for this alcoholic it also conjures up a life in the diseases of addiction, doing the same ugly things over and over fantasying that somehow there will be different outcomes.

Finally, the pathos of some of the things Conners experiences, the trauma he sees in some people’s lives and his inability to fix some fundamental wrongs, has a startling effect…he begins to change.  He uses the fact of his recurring Feb 2 to adopt a new view and an alternative pattern of behavior.  He begins to care and the profound changes in his attitude and behavior have some startling impacts on the community.  After a particularly poignant evening, he wakes up the next day and it is finally Feb 3.  He is overcome with joy.

For me this story conveys much of what we experience in our life in our diseases and our dramatic shift to sobriety.  Once we realize what is happening, once we accept the uselessness of our constant bad behavior, once we surrender to the presence of a higher power in our lives, things begin to change…and our future suddenly takes on a brightness that is profoundly joyful.

Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin) Remain a Popular Hallucinogen

Among the hallucinogens abused by those who have a substance use disorder (SUD), psilocybin mushrooms are still a popular source of getting high.

Similar to other hallucinogens, such as mescaline and peyote, and known on the street as “magic mushrooms”, they contain the hallucinogenic chemical psilocybin and are found throughout the U.S. and Mexico. Fresh or dried, these fungi have long, slender stems topped by caps with dark gills on the underside. Fresh mushrooms have white or whitish-gray stems; the caps are dark brown around the edges and light brown or white in the center. Dried mushrooms are usually rusty brown with isolated areas of off-white.

Psilocybin mushrooms are abused by being eaten or brewed as tea, or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. Their effect on the body may include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and lack of coordination. The psychological consequences of psilocybin use include hallucinations and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Panic reactions and psychosis also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a large dose.

Effects of a psilocybin overdose include a longer, more intense “trip” experience, psychosis, and possible death. Abuse of psilocybin mushrooms can also lead to immediate poisoning if one of the many varieties of poisonous mushrooms is incorrectly identified and ingested.

Psilocybin is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse. There is no currently accepted use  in medical treatment in the United States and no level of accepted safe use under medical supervision.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder as a result of psilocybin mushrooms or any other addictive substance, The Council on Recovery can help. Call us today at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

2018 Houston Opioid Summit Creates Vital Awareness and Cooperation in the Battle Against Opioid Addiction

 

Opening Session Panel view

For two full days last week, nearly 250 leaders from across Harris County gathered  at The Council on Recovery’s first Opioid Summit.

In keynote addresses, topical breakout sessions, panel discussions, round-table discussions, and interpersonal networking, people on the front-line in battling the opioid crisis exchanged ideas, information, and experience to develop understanding and viable solutions for dealing with the problem.

Judge Denise Bradley speech

Unlike other opioid conferences that focus on individual or narrow aspects of the problem, the 2018 Houston Opioid Summit brought together all of the major sectors dealing with the issue. These included experts from the medical, legal, prevention, treatment, legislative, law enforcement and media communities who shared their perspectives of the opioid epidemic and explored ways to work together to stem opioid overdoses, currently the leading cause of accidental death.

Media Panel Discussion chat

Among the unique perspectives discussed at the Opioid Summit were the role and responsibility of media in the local and national dialogue, and the role of the faith-based community addressing the opioid epidemic.

Dr Joy Alonzo speaks

In-depth discourse on the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and the role of specialty medical care in managing substance use disorder shed new light on treatment opportunities and challenges.

Judge Brock Thomas edited

Exploration of innovative criminal justice approaches and therapeutic treatment courts, and a report on narcotics law enforcement efforts, instilled vital understanding of recent legal trends.

Terry ORourke and Dan Downey

An examination of the Harris County Opioid Litigation against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids by lawyers from the County Attorney’s office provided a glimpse of how the opioid crisis may be impacted by future court decisions.

Karen Palombo teaching

The individual and family effects of the opioid epidemic were also central to the Opioid Summit as breakout sessions covered addiction treatment modalities and prevention and education programs for children and families.

John Cates speech

Advocacy, another front in the war on opioids was keynoted by John Cates. Frank discussions were held on using technology and other therapeutic tools to promote recovery, as well as community efforts to help addicted pregnant women and deal with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), an increasingly alarming problem in delivery rooms across the Houston area.

Four Person Panel

A poignant and powerful closing keynote session focused on the personal perspectives of three individuals whose lives were forever touched by the opioid crisis. Moderated by KPRC’s Khambrel Marshall, the intimate conversation with Maureen Wittels, Randy Grimes, and Jim Hood drove home the devastating impact of substance use disorder. Maureen lost her son, Harris, to an opioid overdose in 2015, cutting short his 30-year old life as a rising star in Hollywood. Randy, a retired NFL player, suffered for 20 years with opioid addiction, that grew out of treating the pain of his football injuries, before getting sober nine years ago. Jim’s son, Austin, died at the age of 21 from an opioid overdose six years ago and prompted Jim to co-found a national organization, Facing Addiction with NCADD, to fight the opioid addiction with the same fervor of campaigns that have battled cancer and other deadly diseases for years.

The Council on Recovery is leading our community in the effort to find solutions to the opioid epidemic. Your support of The Council is greatly appreciated! For more information, click here.

More Photos from the 2018 Houston Opioid Summit:

Vanessa Ayala teaching

Traci-Gauen

Randy Grimes

Peter Mott speaking

Mireille Milfort

Howard Lester

Harry Wiland

Faith Panel

Doug Thornton

Christian Thrasher, Clinton Health Matters Initiative
Christian Thrasher, Clinton Health Matters Initiative

Carol Alvarado
Texas state representative Carol Alvarado

 

CDC Report: Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Women’s Health

Recently reported data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are shedding new light on the links between excessive alcohol use by women and the increasing risks to female health. Here are vital the facts from the CDC.

Although men are more likely to drink alcohol and drink in larger amounts, gender differences in body structure and chemistry cause women to absorb more alcohol, and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies (i.e., to metabolize it). In other words, upon drinking equal amounts, women have higher alcohol levels in their blood than men, and the immediate effects of alcohol occur more quickly and last longer in women than men. These differences also make it more likely that drinking will cause long-term health problems in women than men.

Drinking Levels among Women

  • Approximately 46% of adult women report drinking alcohol in the last 30 days.
  • Approximately 12% of adult women report binge drinking 3 times a month, averaging 5 drinks per binge.
  • Most (90%) people who binge drink are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent.
  • About 2.5% of women and 4.5% of men met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence in the past year.

Reproductive Health Outcomes

  • National surveys show that about 1 in 2 women of child-bearing age (i.e., aged 18–44 years) drink alcohol, and 18% of women who drink alcohol in this age group binge drink.
  • Excessive drinkingmay disrupt the menstrual cycle and increase the risk of infertility.
  • Women who binge drinkare more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners. These activities increase the risks of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Pregnancy Outcomes

  • About 10% of pregnant women drink alcohol.
  • Women who drink alcohol while pregnant increase their risk of having a baby with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The most severe form is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes mental retardation and birth defects.
  • FASDare completely preventable if a woman does not drink while pregnant or while she may become pregnant. It is not safe to drink at any time during pregnancy.
  • Excessive drinking increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery.
  • Women who drink alcohol while pregnant are also more likely to have a baby die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This risk substantially increases if a woman binge drinksduring her first trimester of pregnancy.

Other Health Concerns

  • Liver Disease: The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
  • Impact on the Brain: Excessive drinking may result in memory loss and shrinkage of the brain. Research suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to the brain damaging effects of excessive alcohol use, and the damage tends to appear with shorter periods of excessive drinking for women than for men.
  • Impact on the Heart: Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men even for women drinking at lower levels.
  • Cancer: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast among women. The risk of breast cancer increases as alcohol use increases.
  • Sexual Assault: Binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault, especially among young women in college settings. Each year, about 1 in 20 college women are sexually assaulted. Research suggests that there is an increase in the risk of rape or sexual assault when both the attacker and victim have used alcohol prior to the attack.

The Council on Recovery offers prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services for women experiencing alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact The Council today to get help.

The Lifelong Quest For Sobriety…The Ultimate Hero’s Journey—Part 51

Guest Blogger and long-time Council friend, Bob W. presents Part 51 of a series dealing with Alcoholism and Addiction from a Mystical, Mythological Perspective, reflecting Bob’s scholarly work as a Ph.D. in mythological studies.

There is a 1964 British war film about an 1879 battle between a British contingent of 150 men at Rorke’s Drift in the Natal Colony of South Africa and an army of 4000 Zulu Warriors.  It is set at the height of the British Empire under the reign of Queen Victoria at a time when the Sun truly never set on Great Britain.  In South Africa, the Zulu Nation was challenging Britain’s domination, and had defeated a major British force at Isandlwana just a week prior. The stories of these engagements as told on film were largely true and the defeat at Isandlwana was not only one of the worst in British history but a major embarrassment for the high command in London.

The British contingent at Rorke’s Drift was commanded by Lt John Chard, played in the film by Stanley Baker, and Lt Gonville Bromhead, played by Michael Caine.  It was Caine’s first major role.  Chard was a very practical, experienced engineering officer and Bromhead was an insufferable public school snob who resented that Chard was his superior, the result of the fact that Chard’s commission was just a few months earlier in time than was Bromhead’s. 

The battle lasted days, with multiple instances of near defeat for the British.  But the overall defense was brilliantly organized and commanded by Chard and courageously executed by all the men.  After a massive final assault by the Zulus and a long and intense barrage by the British which just kept beating back hordes of Zulu warriors, the Zulus just quit suddenly and left the region.  After a few hours, as the British were clearly away all the bodies, the entire Zulu force returned and, standing on the ridge overlooking the encampment, they voiced a chant of praise for the valiant British warriors.

The movie’s introduction, of the events at Isandlwana, and the summation of the achievements of the Rorke’s Drift defenders at the end, were beautifully narrated by Richard Burton, as only Burton can do.  The Rorke’s Drift success was cast as a truly bright shining moment in the history of British warfare.

But what strikes me most in this story, and its presentation on the screen, is the parallel I see with those of us who are achieving success in our ongoing battles with the scourge inherent in our addictive psyches. The initial efforts to stop the insane patterns of consumptive behavior were bad enough, but many of us also faced, and may still be facing, constant challenges to our sobriety, challenges that require a fiery vigilance and a deep resolve to repulse.  We are much like the soldiers at Rorke’s drift fighting so bravely and steadfastly to defend ourselves.

While there is no final victory over alcoholism or drug abuse for most of us, the cheering of our compatriots in our small daily victories and in our constant milestones in sobriety sound much like the Zulus in the praise and resonant esteem of their chants from the ridge at the film’s conclusion.

Meth’s Resurgence Spotlights Lack of Meds to Combat the Addiction

crystal meth

[By Carmen Heredia Rodriguez of Kaiser Health News, republished by permission.]

In 2016, news reports warned the public of an opioid epidemic gripping the nation.

But Madeline Vaughn, then a lead clinical intake coordinator at the Houston-based addiction treatment organization Council on Recovery, sensed something different was going on with the patients she checked in from the street.

Their behavior, marked by twitchy suspicion, a poor memory and the feeling that someone was following them, signaled that the people coming through the center’s doors were increasingly hooked on a different drug: methamphetamine.

“When you’re in the boots on the ground,” Vaughn said, “what you see may surprise you, because it’s not in the headlines.”

In the time since, it’s become increasingly clear that, even as the opioid epidemic continues, the toll of methamphetamine use, also known as meth or crystal meth, is on the rise, too.

The rate of overdose deaths involving the stimulant more than tripled from 2011 to 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

But unlike the opioid epidemic — for which medications exist to help combat addiction — medical providers have few such tools to help methamphetamine users survive and recover. A drug such as naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose, does not exist for meth. And there are no drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration that can treat a meth addiction.

“We’re realizing that we don’t have everything we might wish we had to address these different kinds of drugs,” said Dr. Margaret Jarvis, a psychiatrist and distinguished fellow for the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Meth revs up the human body, causing euphoria, elevated blood pressure and energy that enables users to go for days without sleeping or eating. In some cases, long-term use alters the user’s brain and causes psychotic symptoms that can take up to one year after the person has stopped using it to dissipate.

Overdosing can trigger heart attacks, strokes and seizures, which can make pinpointing the drug’s involvement difficult.

Meth users also tend to abuse other substances, which complicates first responders’ efforts to treat a patient in the event of an overdose, said Dr. David Persse, EMS physician director for Houston. With multiple drugs in a patient’s system, overdose symptoms may not neatly fit under the description for one substance.

“If we had five or six miracle drugs,” Persse said, to use immediately on the scene of the overdose, “it’s still gonna be difficult to know which one that patient needs.”

Research is underway to develop a medication that helps those with methamphetamine addiction overcome their condition. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network is testing a combination of naltrexone, a medication typically used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders, and an antidepressant called bupropion.

And a team from the Universities of Kentucky and Arkansas created a molecule called lobeline that shows promise in blocking meth’s effects in the brain.

For now, though, existing treatments, such as the Matrix Model, a drug counseling technique, and contingency management, which offers patients incentives to stay away from drugs, are key options for what appears to be a meth resurgence, said Jarvis.

Illegal drugs never disappear from the street, she said. Their popularity waxes and wanes with demand. And as the demand for methamphetamine use increases, the gaps in treatment become more apparent.

Persse said he hasn’t seen a rise in the number of calls related to methamphetamine overdoses in his area. However, the death toll in Texas from meth now exceeds that of heroin.

Provisional death counts for 2017 showed methamphetamine claimed 813 lives in the Lone Star State. By comparison, 591 people died due to heroin.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported that the price of meth is the lowest the agency has seen in years. It is increasingly available in the eastern region of the United States. Primary suppliers are Mexican drug cartels. And the meth on the streets is now more than 90 percent pure.

“The new methods [of making methamphetamine] have really altered the potency,” said Jane Maxwell, research professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s social work school. “So, the meth we’re looking at today is much more potent than it was 10 years ago.”

For Vaughn, who works as an outpatient therapist and treatment coordinator, these variables are a regular part of her daily challenge. So until the research arms her with something new, her go-to strategy is to use the available tools to tackle her patients’ methamphetamine addiction in layers.

She starts with writing assignments, then coping skills until they are capable of unpacking their trauma. Addiction is rarely the sole demon patients wrestle with, Vaughn said.

“Substance use is often a symptom for what’s really going on with someone,” she said.