When Detox Turns Deadly

Detox, also known as detoxification or withdrawal, occurs when one abruptly stops or reduces heavy, long-term use of alcohol or drugs. Detox happens when toxic substances leave the body over hours, days, or weeks, and may include a variety of non-life-threatening symptoms, such as distress or discomfort. But, sometimes detox can turn deadly.

In the case of opioids, benzodiazapines, and alcohol, detox can cause serious complications and even death. Most people are not aware of the dangers of detoxing off off these addictive substances, nor the importance of seeking medical care during the withdrawal process. Here are the facts:

Continue reading “When Detox Turns Deadly”

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, The Council on Recovery encourages you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much.

In Texas alone, there have been 1,024 drunk driving fatalities over the past year. Of these deaths, nearly half were fatalities to people other than the drunk driver, including passengers, pedestrians, and people in other vehicles. The devastating impact of driving under the influence spreads far beyond the driver alone.

During Alcohol Awareness Month, The Council on Recovery urges everyone to take a look at their own use of alcohol and what it means to drink responsibly. Especially, don’t drink and drive.

If you or a loved one are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:

  • Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Keep track of how much you drink.
  • Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
  • Don’t drink when you are upset.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
  • Avoid places where people drink a lot.
  • Make a list of reasons not to drink.

If you are concerned about someone else’s drinking, offer to help.

If you or a loved one wants to stop drinking, The Council on Recovery offers many effective outpatient treatment options, including intensive outpatient treatment (IOP), individual counseling, and group therapy. We also facilitate interventions and offer many prevention and education programs related to alcohol and substance use disorders.


For more information, call The Council on Recovery at 713-942-4100 or contact us online.

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.

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.

Drug-Impaired Driving

Feel Different – Drive Different: The NHTSA’s National Campaign Shines Light on Drug-Impaired Driving

Overview

You can’t drive safely if you’re impaired. That’s why it’s illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, opioids, methamphetamines, or any potentially impairing drug–prescribed or over the counter. Driving while impaired by any substance—legal or illegal—puts you and others in harm’s way. Learn the latest research on drug-impaired driving, misconceptions about marijuana use, and what you can do to make smarter choices to drive safely.

The Issues

Many Substances Can Impair Driving

Many substances can impair driving, including alcohol, some over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and illegal drugs.

  • Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs impair the ability to drive because they slow coordination, judgment, and reaction times.
  • Cocaine and methamphetamine can make drivers more aggressive and reckless.
  • Using two or more drugs at the same time, including alcohol, can amplify the impairing effects of each drug a person has consumed.
  • Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. Read and follow all warning labels before driving, and note that warnings against “operating heavy machinery” include driving a vehicle.

Impaired drivers can’t accurately assess their own impairment – which is why no one should drive after using any impairing substances. Remember: If you feel different, you drive different.

Marijuana Impairs

There are many misconceptions about marijuana use, including rumors that marijuana can’t impair you or that marijuana use can actually make you a safer driver.

Several scientific studies indicate that this is false. Research shows that marijuana impairs motor skills, lane tracking and cognitive functions (Robbe et al., 1993; Moskowitz, 1995; Hartman & Huestis, 2013). A 2015 study on driving after smoking cannabis stated that THC in marijuana also hurts a driver’s ability to multitask, a critical skill needed behind the wheel. 

NHTSA continues to conduct research to better understand the relationship between marijuana impairment and increased crash risk. NHTSA’s Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk Study found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in crashes. However, the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be young men, who are generally at a higher risk of crashes. 

While evidence shows that drug-impaired driving is dangerous, we still have more to learn about the extent of the problem and how best to address it. In January 2018, NHTSA launched a new initiative to address drug-impaired driving. NHTSA’s National Drug-Impaired Driving Initiative brings together experts, including law enforcement officials, prosecutors, substance abuse experts and others, to discuss strategies that can reduce drug-impaired driving.

Responsible Behavior

We can all save lives by making smarter choices.

  • If you use an impairing drug, designate a sober driver, call a cab, or use a ride-hailing service.
  • Don’t let friends get behind the wheel if they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Download NHTSA’s SaferRide app from Google Play or the iTunes Store to help you call a friend or taxi, pinpoint your location, and arrange to be picked up.
  • If you’re hosting a party where alcohol or other substances will be used, it’s your job to make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
  • Always wear your seat belt—it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.

[Article source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]

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

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.