The Two Pillars of Recovery®

In the United States, an estimated 20 million people have problems with alcohol or other drugs.  Many of these individuals attempt to get sober, but remain stuck using addictive substances because they try to fix things their own way—and berate themselves when nothing changes—unaware they are working against the laws of nature.  Much like drivers who hit the gas but go nowhere when their car is stuck in snow, they keep using alcohol and other drugs because they don’t understand why they are stuck or how to work with the laws of nature—laws that govern human behavior, addiction, and recovery from addiction—to cope with their problems.

Behavior is everything we can observe an organism do.  Examples of human behavior include talking, eating, driving, dancing, breathing, and body language.  Human behavior originates in the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord.

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Marijuana – A Country Divided

People in the United States don’t shrink from passionate expressions of opposing views.  Whigs vs. Tories, Republicans vs. Democrats, and Red Sox fans vs. Yankees fans are just a few cases in point.  People’s views on marijuana are no less passionate and no less polarized.  During treatment for addiction to opioids a man in his early twenties said, “Marijuana is an herb; it’s natural.  It relaxes me; I’m not addicted to it; and I’m going to smoke it when I get out of here.”  In the same room, a man in his early thirties also in treatment for addiction to opioids said, “People disagree whether marijuana is a gateway drug.  It is for me.  If I never smoked marijuana I never would have gotten hooked on harder drugs.  And if I hadn’t tried to smoke it again after my first treatment, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

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Five Ways You Can Reduce Stigma

Too often society is unfair to people with addiction—a fact that disturbs most people with active addiction, most people who are recovering from addiction, and most people who advocate for those groups.  Fortunately we can do something about it.  Don’t be daunted—small steps can have a powerful impact. Continue reading

The Prevention of Substance Use Disorders: Part Three – Evidence-Based Practices

Written with Michael Ballue CADC II, BSBA

This series has advocated that society make disease prevention a priority—especially the prevention of substance use disorders—while recognizing that the prevention of substance use disorders (SUDs) is already a priority for some providers and agencies.  Before organizers of SUD prevention services present an intervention to a target population, they like to be confident that their efforts will result in healthy change.  Also, before funding sources contribute to SUD prevention services, they like to be confident that their investment will produce worthwhile results.  For both these reasons, organizers of SUD prevention services prefer to deliver prevention approaches that are evidence-based.  That is, organizers like to replicate programs that were shown to be effective when they were presented before. Continue reading

The Prevention of Substance Use Disorders: Part Two – Preventing Alcohol Problems

Written with Michael Ballue CADC II, BSBA

The harmful use of alcohol is the third leading risk factor for poor health worldwide and the estimated costs of alcohol abuse in the United States, which encompass lost productivity as well as medical problems, top $220 billion per year.  There’s a lot to be done.  Fortunately, a lot is being done.  April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a fitting time to acknowledge creative and effective prevention approaches that are reducing risk now—we’ve come a long way from the ineffective and sometimes harmful information-only scare tactics of the 1950s and 1960s. Continue reading

The Prevention of Substance Use Disorders: Part One – Overview and Terminology

Written with Michael Ballue CADC II, BSBA

Our society pays far more attention to disease treatment than disease prevention.  And some of the reasons for this are understandable.  When medical-scientific technology saves lives, for example, the outcomes often generate hype because they are dramatic.  When prevention works, however, nothing happens.  The resulting non-events attract little if any attention—even though the number of people saved may be larger than the number who benefit from seemingly miraculous disease treatment.  In addition, preventive interventions reduce the occurrence of other dangerous and unpleasant situations—assaults, for example, are reduced by training young people in coping skills even if the stated objective of the training is to prevent substance abuse— Continue reading

Sedative-Hypnotic Medications: Nothing to be Relaxed About

Sedative-hypnotic medications are not good choices for individuals with addiction.  Even those with vulnerability to addiction due to, for example, a family history of alcohol dependence, run a higher risk of developing problems.  Nevertheless, some medical practitioners are quick to prescribe these drugs when patients complain of anxiety or insomnia.  The prescribers aim to be helpful, but too often these prescriptions end up harming the patient and possibly others. Continue reading

Healthcare Reform — Now is the Time to Make It About You!

Confused about healthcare financing and where it’s headed?  What about future access to addiction treatment?  These days it’s hard not to be confused; the experts can’t even agree on what’s happening now, never mind on what will happen next.  For example, analysts concur that the United Statesspends far more on healthcare—dollars per capita and percent of gross domestic product—than 12 other industrialized countries.  But beyond that, they disagree on which statistics are appropriate to measure the return on that investment and whether the money is well spent.  Some say the United States has tens of millions of people without health insurance; others say those numbers are misleading, a myth. Continue reading

Hope & Caution – for Happy Holidays

As we approach the holiday season—the time of year from Thanksgiving through New Years when “joy” is the word but not necessarily the reality—it’s worth reflecting on ways we can protect ourselves and those we care about from inconvenience and tragedy due to use of alcohol or other mood-changing substances. Start by believing that some measure of holiday joy and fulfillment, provided we are open to it, is available to us all. But stay mindful that if we are not cautious about the use of mood-changing substances, we leave ourselves open to indelible regret. Continue reading

DSM-5 – Coming May 2013

Addiction treatment and other mental health professionals are accustomed to applying the diagnostic criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in the 1994 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) and the 2000 “Text Revision” version of the same compendium (DSM-IV-TR), which updated the narrative material but kept the same diagnostic criteria. Criteria in the substance-related disorders section of DSM-IV are all the more familiar to veterans in the addiction field because they were barely changed from the criteria in the previous DSM, the 1987 “Revision” of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Version III (DSM-III-R). Continue reading

Falling Dominoes: Or, Why You Can’t Have “Just One”

Search the Internet or type in “falling dominoes” on YouTube and you will be deluged with opportunities to watch videos, often set to music, of vast numbers of colorful rectangles knocking one another over. These productions are extravagant examples of the original “domino effect.” They show domino tiles arranged in both straight lines and intricate patterns, each tile balanced on a narrow end with its rear flat facing the front flat of the next. As long as the distances between the tiles are shorter than their length, once the first domino is toppled, all the rest must fall. Or more accurately, all the rest usually fall; once in a while a chain reaction jams, the audience sighs, and the videographer cuts to dominoes thatare falling. Continue reading

Bath Salts: Devastation from Addictive “Thinking”

The phenomenon of “bath salts” abuse and dependence is hard to believe. Nevertheless, since late 2010 young people and adults have been swallowing, smoking, sniffing, and injecting dangerous white or colored powders that they purchase from head shops, convenience stores, or the Internet.[NIDA Message] Colorful packages with catchy names such as Arctic Blast, Cloud 9, Ivory Wave, Snow Leopard, Vanilla Sky, and White Lightning may contain 50 milligrams or more of powder and sell for $25-50. They are labeled as bath additives (or glass cleaner or plant food) that are “not intended for human consumption.” How this can be happening? Continue reading