Council Podcast Launched!

The Council on Recovery Podcast with Howard Lester

The Council on Recovery Podcast, with host Howard Lester, explores the diseases of alcoholism, drug abuse, other addictions, and co-occurring mental health disorders by looking at prevention, education, treatment, and recovery. Through deep and meaningful interviews, we cover every point of view by talking with doctors, educators, researchers, therapists, judges, policymakers, clergy, law enforcement, rehab and mental health professionals, the media, and most importantly, people in recovery.  This long-needed approach brings everyone together for frank discussion of the problems and the sharing of realistic, viable solutions that inspire optimism and hope.

Episode 1 | One Father’s Nightmare: His Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Addiction

Howard interviews Bob C. who shares his extraordinary story of a father’s incredible efforts to save his daughter’s life during her 15 year odyssey with drug addiction and mental illness. At times, he thought he’d lost her. But he also realized that desperately trying to save his daughter might just kill him. With other family tragedies swirling around him at the same time, he somehow found the solutions for staying alive and helping his daughter survive. One man’s quest for the answers that parents all over are searching for.

Episode 2 | Unspoken Legacy: Claudia Black on the Destructive Impact of Trauma and Addiction within the Family

Howard’s sits down with Dr. Claudia Black, a senior fellow at Meadows Behavioral Healthcare. Claudia is a Ph.D. in Social Psychology who is internationally known and respected for her pioneering and contemporary work with family systems and addictive disorders. Claudia’s cutting-edge work was instrumental in creating the solid foundation for the entire field of codependency. Since the mid-1970s, she’s been a passionate leader in the field of addiction and has helped the world gain a greater understanding of the impact of family trauma and its connection with addiction. Claudia designs and presents training workshops and seminars to professional audiences in the field of family service, mental health, and addictive disorders. She has authored fifteen books, most notably Intimate Treason, It Will Never Happen to Me, and her latest, Unspoken Legacy. Claudia is also Clinical Architect for the Claudia Black Young Adult Center at The Meadows Treatment Center in Arizona.

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Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Require Warning Labels on Addictive Prescription Opioids & Mandate Education for Opioid Prescribers

In a rare bipartisan effort, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced two bills last week aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. The first first piece of legislation is called Lessening Addiction By Enhancing Labeling (LABEL) Opioids Act. The bill calls for labeling prescription opioid bottles with a consistent, clear, and concise warnings that opioids may cause dependence, addiction, or overdose.

The second bill, entitled the Safe Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act, requires any prescriber of opioid medication to undergo mandatory education on safe prescribing practices. Specifically, it mandates that all prescribers, who are applying for a federal license to prescribe controlled substances, must complete mandatory education to help encourage responsible prescribing practices.

Nearly 50 percent of opioid dependence originates with prescribed opioid painkillers. The two pieces of legislation seek to make sure patients and prescribers understand the dangers and full impact those prescriptions may have on the life of a patient.

Specifically, the LABEL Opioids Act would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue regulations providing for a warning label to be affixed directly to the opioid prescription bottle handed to the patient by the pharmacist. Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii have passed state laws requiring labeling of prescription opioids, and legislation has been introduced in several other states. Last year, Canada issued regulations to require opioid labeling nationally. Congressman Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Safe Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act mandates education for prescribers that focuses on best practices for pain management and alternative non-opioid therapies for pain. Such education includes methods for diagnosing and treating a substance use disorder, linking patients to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders, and tools to manage adherence and diversion of controlled substances. The legislation also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor and evaluate the impact this new education requirement has on prescribing patterns.

The Council on Recovery supports these bipartisan efforts by the U.S. Congress to address the opioid epidemic.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction or any substance use disorder, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

How Does Spirituality Change the Brain?

The following article by Dr. Mark Gold, recently published on the Addiction Policy Forum Blog, explores the growing body of research about what regions of the brain are changed during a person’s spiritual practice. It presents compelling ideas for how fellowship and treatment programs can empower individuals in recovery to use spirituality as a proven tool to improve their mental health.

Spirituality can be an important component of recovery from addiction, as it can be a key way for a person seeking recovery to connect to something outside themselves – spiritual practices have long been cornerstones of mutual aid groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Recently, researchers and those looking at trends have concluded that Americans are becoming less religious but at the same time identify as more spiritual. Spiritual engagement can be a way to find, as the authors in the study write, a “sense of union with something larger than oneself.” In a recent study of the brain done at Yale directed by Dr. Mark Potenza, Neural Correlates of Spiritual Experiences, scientists used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine exactly how spirituality activated or deactivated, certain regions of the brain, changing how people perceive and interact with the world around them.

Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, defines spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Importantly, the authors of the study encouraged diverse, personally-motivated definitions of spiritual experience, examples of which included participation in a religious service at a house of worship, connection with nature, mindfulness meditation, and contemplative prayer.

How do we Measure the Effect of Spirituality?

Spirituality and religious practices are a key part of many people’s lives – 81% of U.S. adults describe themselves as spiritual, religious, or both. Despite the majority of American adults engaging in some form of spiritual practice, little is known about what happens in certain parts of the brain during these spiritual experiences. Although studies have linked specific brain measures to aspects of spirituality, none have sought to directly examine spiritual experiences, particularly when using a broader, modern definition of spirituality that may be independent of religiousness. This study used a special kind of brain imaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to examine neural structures and systems that are activated when we engage in spiritual practice. By detecting changes in blood flow to certain regions of the brain, the fMRI is able to detect activity in the brain when participants were asked to recall spiritual experiences.

Methodology

A potential challenge in this study is the wide variety of spiritual experiences that individuals can find personally meaningful. The authors of the study sought to address this by using a personalized guided-imagery fMRI procedure in which participants were asked to describe a situation in which they felt “a strong connection with a higher power or a spiritual presence.” Their accounts were turned into a script, which was recorded and played back to the participant during fMRI. The brain activation measured during the participant’s recall of a spiritual moment was compared to measurements taken while participants listened to narrations of their neutral and stressful experiences.

Key to this study was that the accounts were completely self-directed by the participants — which enabled the researchers to identify commonalities in brain activity among diverse spiritual experiences.

How Does Spirituality Change the Brain?

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The area highlighted in blue is the Inferior Parietal Lobe, which is associated with perceptual processing

Spiritual experiences were associated with lower levels of activity in certain parts of the brain:

  • The inferior parietal lobe (IPL), the part of the brain associated with perceptual processing, relating to the concept of self in time and space
  • The thalamus and striatum, the parts of the brain associated with emotional and sensory processing

This study furthers a growing body of research about spirituality and its connection to brain processing. These findings tell us that spiritual experiences shift perception, and can moderate the effects of stress on mental health. This study saw decreased activation in the parts of the brain responsible for stress and increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for connection with others. A sense of union with someone or something outside of oneself and community engagement have been found to support a robust recovery from substance use disorders as well as other behavioral health issues. 

Looking to the Future

Marc Potenza, MD, PhD is an expert in Psychiatry, Behavioral Addictions, and his work at Yale in this important area is a welcome addition to the investigators working in this field. Neural Correlates of Spiritual Experiences has positive implications for instituting spiritual engagement in prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use disorders. Importantly, participants were scanned while they recalled their own, individualized spiritual experience, but the results were consistent between participants. This means that a person does not have to participate in a certain type of spiritual practice to see the benefits, but can engage in whatever version of engagement is most compatible with their personal beliefs. This encourages treatment and recovery programs to encourage patients to pursue diverse means of spiritual engagement.

This study found a way to measure and visualize what many recovery and treatment communities have understood for years—that spirituality can reduce stress and create feelings of connectedness. By understanding what regions of the brain are changed during a person’s spiritual practice, fellowship and treatment programs can empower individuals in recovery to use spirituality as a proven tool to improve their mental health.

References:

  1. Smith, G., Van Capellen, P., (2018, March 7) Rising Spirituality in America [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/rising-spirituality-in-america.
  2. Lipka, M., Gecewicz, C., (2017, September 6). More Americans now say they’re spiritual but not religious. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/

Rx Take Back Day at The Council Nets 400 Pounds of Unused & Expired Prescription Drugs

The Council’s drive-through Rx Take Back site made Rx med disposal quick & convenient
DEA agents collected over 400 lbs. of unused & expired Rx prescriptions for disposal

The Council on Recovery was a busy collection site for the DEA’s 16th National Rx Take Back Day this past Saturday. Nearly 100 people stopped by The Council’s drive-in location on Jackson Hill Street to dispose of their unused and expired prescription medications. By the end of the four-hour collection period, DEA agents had collected more than 400 pounds of Rx drugs.

This is the first time The Council has participated in the DEA’s National Take Back Day. The national initiative was launched after Congress enacted the Disposal Act in 2014, which amended the Controlled Substances Act, that gave the DEA authority to collect unused pharmaceutical controlled substances for disposal in a safe and effective manner.

The Council views unused or expired prescription medications as a public safety issue that contributes to potential accidental poisoning, misuse, and overdose. Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and protects the environment. As a Rx Take Back Day collection site, The Council provided a secure, convenient, and anonymous way for its constituency to clear their homes of old or unneeded Rx medications in a responsible manner.

As one of nearly 350 collection sites across the state, The Council provided an easily accessible and central location for residents in the Heights, Rice Military, Montrose, River Oaks, Midtown, and near-Downtown areas to dispose of their medications. During the last Rx Take Back Day in October, over 67,000 pounds of Rx prescriptions were collected in Texas, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Division. The Council on Recovery is pleased to contribute 400 pounds to this Spring’s total haul and plans to participate in future Rx Take Back events.

If you missed Rx Take Back Day at The Council, you can still dispose of unused or expired prescriptions at DEA authorized collection sites, many of which are located within national and local pharmacies. To search the DEA’s website for a collection site near you, click here.

The Council Taking Back Unwanted Prescription Drugs Saturday, April 27

On Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Council on Recovery and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will give the public its 17th opportunity in nine years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.

Bring your pills for disposal to The Council at 303 Jackson Hill Street in Houston. (We cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches). This drive up/drop-off service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. The Council’s drive-through covered portico will keep everyone dry in the event of rain. Additional security personnel will also assure the safety of everyone who participates in the event.

Last fall Americans turned in nearly 460 tons (more than 900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,800 sites operated by the DEA and almost 4,800 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 16 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in almost 11 million pounds—nearly 5,500 tons—of pills.

This Take Back initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows year after year that the majority of misused and abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends. These include someone else’s medication being stolen from the home medicine cabinet.

In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about the April 27 Take Back Day event, go to www.DEATakeBack.com or call The Council at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

Andrew McCarthy Captivates Supporters at The Council on Recovery’s 36th Waggoner’s Foundation Speaker Series Luncheon

Andrew McCarthy at Council Luncheon
Andrew McCarthy captivates The Council’s 2019 Spring Luncheon

The excited buzz among the crowd after The Council on Recovery’s Spring Luncheon confirmed it: Andrew McCarthy was one the best speakers The Council has ever had! Speaking on Friday, April 12th, the actor, director, producer, and an award winning travel writer opened up about his personal struggle with alcohol and drugs, as well as the many gifts of his 27 years of sobriety.

Andrew was preceded on the stage by Luncheon Co-chairs, Bob Candito and Amanda Polich, each of whom shared their own personal stories of hope and recovery. Their heartfelt remarks were followed by an exuberant introduction by Jerri Duddlesten-Moore, who spoke of Andrew McCarthy’s decades of achievement and fame. From his iconic films Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Less Than Zero to his work as an actor and director of some of today’s most popular and acclaimed television shows to his award-winning writing as a travel journalist, Andrew’s trajectory of success is of inspiration to all.

Bounding to the stage, Andrew immediately thanked and praised The Council, saying, “… it obviously does some amazing work for the community. The Council is such a solid, strong, dependable, in-the-fiber-of-the-community place, that it’s a real cornerstone. It’s impossible to measure actually what The Council does…or really know how many people The Council is really helping. But, it would be hard to imagine if it wasn’t.”

Andrew then proceeded to captivate the audience of 900+ people with an intimate and revelatory story of his experience with alcohol and drugs from the age of 17 until he became sober at age 29. He related the highs and lows of a life that was dominated by alcoholism until a defining moment in 1992 when he finally asked for help. At the time, he was directed to an organization in New York City that he likened to The Council.

“That’s why I say The Council being there is so great. Because when that moment comes, there has to be somewhere to catch us,” Andrew said, “otherwise we fall.”

In early recovery, Andrew said he did exactly what he was told, including going to support groups. Within a couple of years…”my life started to get better”, he said, “…95% of my seemingly unrelated problems had disappeared by simply showing up, doing what’s in front of me that day, and then going to bed. And waking up and then doing what’s in front of me the next day.”

“In sobriety,” Andrew said, “I was able to find out that if I do the next right thing in front of me, I can have the opportunity to be who I am.”

Andrew’s inspiring message of hope, experience, and strength received a standing ovation from the audience who were clearly touched by his invaluable words of grateful recovery.

Read more about the Waggoner’s Foundation Speaker Series here and scroll through the galaxy of celebrities who have spoken at The Council’s Luncheons.