The Early Years by Jason S

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Early years trauma … compulsive eating … gamblingàfull blown addiction

I was a 5-year-old little boy playing happily when one day there was a knock at the door, it was the police. They asked if they could come in, next thing I remember was my mum lay on the floor screaming hammer fisting the floor over and over. I don’t remember the bit in between but I was carted off the neighbors house while the police consoled my mum. My dad had been in an accident and had died. I didn’t know what this meant, what would happen, when he would come back, or where he would go, 5 years old is supposed to be a magical time for children so how would I cope.

I didn’t show any emotions (apparently) in hindsight and with an insight into people these days I know my mum was left alone, angry, confused full of grief but at the time, all I knew as a little boy was, she left me also. The abandonment of losing both parents and having no one to help me make sense of grief left me scarred for life.

Food became my friend, it comforted me and gave me something to look forward to, my mum was a workaholic to deal with her grief and loss and I was left to my own devices. I gained weight at the rate of around 1 stone a year (14lbs)

This brought a whole new angle to growing up. Ridiculed at school, kids can be so cruel, I sunk further into myself, eating more and more to deal with the shame, the loss, loneliness, isolation and rejection I experienced daily, I can see how this viscous cycle was forming itself.

What is addiction?

I’ve often said addiction is like a cancer of the emotions; it eats away at anything good in your life, it affects your emotional well being negatively, its progressive and its fatal.

You can see from the above that no one roll modeled me a healthy way to deal with grief, no one helped me make sense of loss in fact quite the opposite happened. As I grew up an angry mother criticized me at most opportunities so I withdrew and lived in fantasy with food as a comfort.

I was sent to ‘psychiatrists’ and specialists?  To see ‘what was wrong with me’ I was put on anti depressants at 9 years old. This was back in the 80s and I’ve got to say looking at the medical reports which I have done recently those people had no clue about children who suffer trauma! I am glad our psychological and emotional understanding of development has come on these days.

Gambling became my next thing, I would steal money to gamble and get away from life as I knew it, the misery of being fat, and the loneliness of just being me.

See at this time, I really didn’t understand what trauma was, or addiction or anything to that matter. All I knew was I was depressed, unhappy, overweight, didn’t really want to live, I didn’t think much about my dad but probably because it was so painful.

Trauma is described as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, and its only relevant to the person who experiences it. I’ve heard many a time people saying ‘it wasn’t that bad’ or ‘ah pull your socks up’ or ‘get over it’ if you have experienced something that was traumatic to you, don’t let anyone else tell you differently, if its traumatic to you then that’s enough, other peoples job is only to understand that.

Progressive, fatal, incurable?

By the time I was a teenager there really was only one way I was heading, from gambling to co-dependency to alcohol to drugs. I went through the progression of addictions till I found heroin, it was the solution to all my problems. You see addiction is not about drugs, or alcohol or any substance for that fact, the substance or process is the solution to the problem, the problem is the internal condition, the misery, the loneliness, the isolation, misery, depression that I used the substance to fix. So really, it just adds another layer of problems on top of your problems.

I don’t expect anyone to read and find a logical solution from my writing, as nothing about addiction is logical, if only it was that simple. People used to say to me, get a job, go to college, lose some weight you’ll be happy then.  But they really didn’t get it. Soon as I put the drugs down, I had that big list above to contend with, the drugs were the lesser painful option on how to live.

Sure enough the consequences of drug use, jail and institutions became too much after many years and I had had enough, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sure enough when I did stop, I was that anxious, lonely, overweight little boy who had never grown emotionally.

Recovery from addiction and trauma without medication is possible

Luckily at that time there were other people I met in recovery who showed me the way, who guided me and helped me find a way to deal with my emotions, how to be a productive member of society. I learned to live life without the use of drugs or addictions to cope with emotions, I was finally learning who I was.

It wasn’t till later in my recovery many years clean and sober till I started to look at grief and trauma. What I realize was it was my reaction to the situations that happened that contributed to my addiction, it wasn’t the situations. I started to open up about my childhood and went through some deep seated grief and got the support I needed to make sense of some things, but to this day, it has not gone and still haunts me from time to time, I just deal with it differently today.

Today as a psychotherapist I use my experience to help me understand others, and to help them help themselves. No one could direct me, or help me until I wanted to help myself. I still feel so strongly about that time in my life as a traumatized child but with some compassion and sadness when I think about it.

Jason S

Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist

22 years of addiction recovery

Proud dad

https://www.recovery.org.uk

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

U.S. Surgeon General’s Message; Addiction Prevention Programs Work

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Among the most welcome for mental health professionals, policy makers and parents to hear as they battle the escalating social and personal tragedies of drug and alcohol abuse is this:

There is now a new national policy commitment to preventing abuse of alcohol and addictive substances, and with it, emerging new approaches to preventing youthful experimentation and dabbling in mind-altering substances from progressing into mental health crises.

Public Health Approach: Prevention

The new muscle behind the prevention/intervention message comes from the first-ever U.S. Surgeon General’s report on Alcohol, Drug and Health, Facing Addiction in America. It not only declares preventing use from escalating to abuse to be the mission—it emphasizes prevention works. “Evidence based programs have a 40% – 60%” success rate in terms of reducing the onset of addiction and associated behaviors,” says A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., the renowned addiction scientist who helped co-author the report, speaking at the landmark Facing Addiction in America conference in fall 2016. Dr. McLellan is chair of the board and co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Reason 1 Prevention Works: Tested Scientific Model

In the U.S., the public health prevention model has more than 100 years of study, data and positive outcomes of widespread improvements to the health of Americans. Diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella are among the public health victories of the 20th Century.

“The public health-based approach called for in this Report aims to address the broad individual, environmental, and societal factors that influence substance misuse and its consequences, to improve the health, safety, and well-being of the entire population,” Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. Vice Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service Surgeon General explains in his November address and elaborates on The Surgeon General’s web site.

Reason 2 Prevention Works: Brain Science

In the past ten years, the medical and technological advances that yield insights into the brain on drugs – the emerging discipline of neurocognition and the biology of addiction—are yielding a level of proof never before available. And it’s persuasive.

Now, with the advent of technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other lower-radiation imaging studies safer to use on youth, researchers can observe brain tissue responding to drugs, map the molecular pathways that are activated or shut down by drugs and alcohol – and at last understand cause and effect.

The brain can be hacked by drugs; neurotransmission systems that normally regulate healthy behaviors such as judgment, motivation, decision-making and well-being can be negatively impacted by the disruptive input of chemical modulators that drugs and alcohol bring.  This is especially true for teens where their brains are not fully developed.  Brain science now shows that that use of addictive substances hacks and hijacks the brain’s functioning, while excessive and continual use can rewire the developing brains of teenagers in a damaging way.

Helping the Developing Brain

Making prevention a national mental health priority is exactly the right public health move. We believe that not every teenager who experiments with drugs or alcohol needs treatment—they need tools and a guide to navigate the new world of possibilities.

By promoting a conservative prevention/intervention mindset, which includes addressing substance use that has already started the goal is to help correct missteps that developmentally can be a natural part of adolescence—risk taking, including experimenting with mind-altering substances.

This is why we developed Gobi, a set of online tools, surveys, exercises, scripts, prescribed excises—such as parent or care-giver and youth going for a focused walk discussing prescribed questions—Gobi encourages reflection and connection to self and family. Available via a smartphone or other device, Gobi can help support, clarify, reconnect, redirect.

We are encouraged by the response to the early testing of the Gobi tool set. Our research shows there is ample evidence that young brains really are at risk—and no one sets out to make that happen when they crack their first beer. So yes, we’re out to save brains—and kids and families with them. That’s what Gobi’s about.

Contact Gobi: http://www.gobi.support/

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

My Story of Recovery 1000 – Meet Randy Anderson

Through my work with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to get acquainted with board member Randy Anderson. Here,  he shares his story of recovery with gems for parents, treatment pros and young people. Way to go, Randy, for being such a wonderful voice and inspiration! MWM

My name is Randy Anderson and I’m a person in long term recovery. What that means to me is I haven’t had to use drugs or alcohol or any mind or mood altering substance since January 9th 2005. Because of my recovery I’m able to be a husband, a son, an uncle, a brother. I’m able to own a home, vote, have a job that I love, go to school, and even pay taxes. Today I’m able to live life on life’s terms and to be present every day in my own life.

My “rock bottom” occurred in 2004 when my home was raided by a DEA drug task force and I was arrested for selling drugs to support a drug habit that had become so enormous and all-consuming, selling drugs was the only option I felt I had left. After spending a short time in jail I was offered a lifesaving procedure for my disease and that procedure was affordable, effective treatment for my substance use disorder.

After taking nearly 10 months to complete a 60-day treatment program and finding a life of recovery, I had to face the consequences for my criminal activity. Nothing could prepare me for what would happen next. On July 6, 2005, I would be sentenced to 87 months in federal prison. As a first-time non-violent drug offender who was now on the path of recovery, I never imagined such a lengthy prison term would be given to me, even though my very expensive private attorney continually warned me that I was looking at a multiple year sentence. Even if I had not yet found recovery, more time in treatment is what I would have needed, not prison. I can’t believe our country incarcerates someone for so long with no consideration for the positive changes made in one’s life. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why me? I didn’t burglarize anyone, I didn’t assault or kill anyone, I didn’t steal from any person or businesses to support my habit and I was even paying my taxes.” On August 17, 2005, the worst day of my life, two of my dear friends drove me to Waseca Minnesota so I could self-surrendered to federal prison and begin serving my prison term.

felon-shirt

I did serve out my time and was eventually released in 2009. I maintained my recovery throughout my incarceration because I truly believed my life would be better without the use of any mind or mood altering substances. Upon release, like many that get out of prison, I was required to be supervised, for me that was to be a period of 48 months. Because I decided long ago to do whatever it takes to get my life back, I did absolutely everything that was required of me and because of that I was released after only 20 months of supervision.

By this time, I was working full time as a home improvement sales person. I did that for a few years and then, after becoming unemployed, I decided maybe it was time for a career change. With great trepidation and the GED I earned in federal prison, I enrolled in college at 43 years old, with the encouragement and support of my brilliant wife. I often refer to my first day of college as the second scariest day of my life, with the first being self-surrendering to federal prison. I enrolled in college to become an addiction counselor; something that was a dream of mine since receiving the gift of recovery.

Through the journey of college and becoming an addiction counselor, I found so many causes that I felt compelled to become involved with. One that I’m most proud of is becoming a Steering Committee member for the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. As a member of that coalition, I had several opportunities to testify in front of a variety of Minnesota legislators and legislative committees to change the drug sentencing guidelines in the state of Minnesota. I truly believe that what had happened to me should never happen to someone else and partly because of my testimony Minnesota did in fact change the drug sentencing guidelines and approximately 700 individuals in Minnesota will not go to prison each year.  There are many more details to the drug sentencing reform that I could probably write two more pages, those changes took effect August 1st 2016. Another major achievement that I’m extremely proud of was being ask to sit on the board of directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation(SRHF). Working with SRHF has provided me countless opportunities to tell my story of recovery. I’m also responsible for training and educated individuals, including law enforcement and non-ems first responders, about the life saving opioid reversal medication Naloxone. I’m also a volunteer for serval organizations including Minnesota Recovery Connection(MRC), Fed Up Coalition, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). I did complete college and receive my Associates of Science degree in Addiction counseling and now work as a full time alcohol and drug counselor at the very same facility where I found recovery nearly 12 years ago.

I never imagined the life I live today would ever be possible. I often ask myself when will I wake up from this dream? Well, the fact is this is no dream – it’s the life that I live and it’s only possible because of my recovery.

I saw the movie “The Equalizer” with Denzel Washington, not too shabby I might add, at the beginning of that movie it displayed a quote which I connected with and will forever hold close to my heart. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain. Now I know why…

About this week’s guest blogger: Randy Anderson, ADC-T

Randy Anderson.jpgMy name is Randy Anderson and I’m a person in long term recovery from the disease of addiction. After receiving the life-saving gifts of treatment and recovery, I completed my A.S. degree in addiction counseling at Minneapolis Community & Technical College in 2015. I now work as a full-time alcohol and drug counselor at RS EDEN/Eden House – the very same treatment facility where I was once a client. A passionate advocate for recovery and reform, I serve as a member of the MN Second Chance Coalition Steering Committee and I am actively involved in the MN Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). I’m on the Board of Directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, the organization responsible for passing Steve’s Law in 2014. One of my main duties with the foundation is overdose prevention, my responsibilities include training law enforcement, non-EMS, the public and anyone who wants to carry and know how to administer Naloxone, the medication to reverse an opioid overdose. People can and do recover from addiction. I’m living proof. I am currently pursuing my B.A. degree in human services at Bethel University and live with my wife, dog, and cat in Golden Valley, MN. #WeDoRecover #RecoveryWorks

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Navigating Addiction during the Holidays

With Thanksgiving 2016 one week away, the holiday season kicks off. This can be a particularly challenging time for families whose loved ones are using drugs and alcohol. Today’s guest blogger is Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.  She share first-hand experience as well as professional guidance to help families, and was one of our panel speakers at our conference this past year. Thank you, Sherry, for your blog post!

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Oh, the holidays!  When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads!  Snow!  Family!  Food!  Togetherness!  Traditions, old and new!  Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together.  Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.

When Our Young Addicts asked me to write a blog post on how to navigate the holidays when addiction is present, my first thought was “Yes!  What a great topic!  This will be so helpful!”  As I thought about it more, the task became a little more overwhelming.

As someone who works with family members in the addiction recovery field, as well as being a family member myself, I know there is no right or wrong way to navigate the holidays when addiction is present.  But, there may be a way that’s right for you, which is what I hope to address.

My husband and I live in a different states than our families, and we make it a point to be with them over the holidays.  For a number of years, we would get caught off guard by the ups and downs of addiction.  Each year we would start out with our vision of the holiday and prepare for it.  We’d ask for Christmas lists, and go shopping for the perfect presents.  We’d be in contact with everyone in advance to make sure we could all get together.  We would plan festive menus, and listen to holiday music on our drive across the Midwest.  We wanted to experience what so many of us want to experience: family.  We wanted to be in the midst of the love and connection, and thought if we could just plan far enough in advance that we’d get exactly that.

Unfortunately, the addiction in our family wasn’t playing along.  Although there are a few in our family who have struggled with alcoholism and addiction, when I think about the holidays, I often think of my step-son, who is a meth addict.

We would embark into our greeting-card-worthy vision of the holiday, but addiction would stand in our way.  There would be times when we’d reach out to him, and not hear back.  There would be times when he would come, and show up despondent.  There were other times when he would show up and would be angry at the world.  There were times when he left on an evening saying that he’d be back tomorrow, and we didn’t see him again for the rest of the time that we were there (we once found out later that he ended up in jail for a while).  There were visits that ended in loud arguments.  And, then there were the times that he showed up as his incredibly witty, big-hearted, intelligent self – and the family would try to figure out how we had magically set the stage for this to happen so we could be sure to recreate it again, and again.  Of course, we were always confused when we tried to reenact the situation at another time, only to have a completely different, and often heart-breaking, outcome.

One of the things we needed to do as a family was to know what we were up against.  Sometimes the fact that someone is struggling with addiction becomes apparent during the holidays, especially since we usually see each other more at this time than other times throughout the year.

At times families fall into the trap of thinking that someone who is struggling with addiction is just behaving badly.  It’s helpful to know the signs of addiction and alcoholism.

Both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (www.ncadd.org) have helpful information.   Educating yourself allows you the opportunity to know what you’re dealing with, and will be helpful in understanding what to do next.

As a family member, I have found that getting support for myself has been imperative.

There is no way that you can watch someone become entangled with alcoholism and addiction without being affected.  Family members often feel that if they love someone enough, and say and do the right things, they’ll be able to fix their loved one so they no longer have the struggles that they have.  To be around others who have had a similar experience in their reactions, and who have found a way to cope with it, helps to break the shame and stigma we often carry where addiction is concerned.  The easiest and most accessible way to find support from others who have been there, too, is through Al-Anon (www.al-anon.org) or Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org).  So many family members keep the addiction in their family a secret.  Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide safe places to talk about it.

Talking about the holidays was important for our family, as well.  We needed to decide what we wanted our holiday to look like, and be focused on what was realistic.  If your loved one is actively using, what is realistic may be different than at other times.

Some families decide that they need to set some clear boundaries: that their loved one is only invited if the can be clean and sober during the gathering.  They also need to have a plan in place on how they’ll honor that boundary if it’s not met.

Some find that they want their loved one included in everything regardless, so that they know that they are in a safe place.

Some families decide to change how they will celebrate so that they can all meet at a place where anyone can easily leave from if they feel uncomfortable.

As I stated before, there is no right or wrong in deciding this.  There is only what is best for you and for your family.  These decisions are more easily made with an understanding of addiction, and remembering that the person you love is still the person you love, even though their disease may bring unwanted attitudes or behavior.  These decisions are also more easily made when you have support.

Families have choices, and they get to make them – including during the holiday season.

Our family feels blessed that we have received the gift that so many of us hope and pray for, the gift of my step-son’s recovery.  He’s been clean with the help of Narcotics Anonymous for more than three years, and we love watching his life unfold.  That witty, big-hearted, intelligent guy shows up most of the time, and even when he shows up occasionally as someone who’s going through a difficult time for whatever situation is happening in his life, we trust that he will navigate in whatever way that he needs to with the support of his people in his recovery circle.  And, yet, we may have gotten a little too excited when our first holiday came around and we thought “Finally!  We get to have our ideal holiday!  There will be SO much togetherness!  We’ll be a Norman Rockwell painting!”

We found that going through the holiday in early recovery was going to take some navigation, as well.

My step-son did a great job of talking to us about what he needed, which wasn’t non-stop family time.  For many folks, the holidays can trigger or exacerbate addiction.  My step-son needed to find his own balance.  His primary focus was to continue to build the foundation of recovery, and we needed to honor that.  We listened, and we trusted that he would show up for what was important for him, and that he would do what he needed to support himself when he needed to do so.  And, we stayed focused on taking care of ourselves, and being grateful for the time we got to have with this wonderful, clean, clear-eyed young man.

Even if the gift of recovery hasn’t happened in your family, my hope for each of you is that you’ll find moments of peace and joy.  I believe that they are there and accessible to all of us, even if our loved one is actively struggling.  Remember to learn what you are up against, find support for yourself, talk about it – and listen.  Be gentle with yourself and your loved one.  I believe that we are all doing the best that we can with the tools that we have, and I’m hopeful that these new tools will be helpful to you as you embark on this holiday season.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

College Culture and Substance Use

College is supposed to be a transition from teenage years to adulthood, but often the culture creates challenges – and consequences – that result from alcohol and drugs. This week’s guest blogger provides a candid overview of what’s going on, including some valuable sources for more information. Thank you, Sonia! MWM

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College is a time of change and new experiences. College freshmen, being away from their families, tend to latch onto their newfound relationships for support and guidance. While peers are important during the transition from living at home to living on campus, this time in a person’s life leaves room for peer influence.

Peer pressure is a key factor in the development of risky behaviors. Peers may be negative influences, encouraging risky behaviors, supplying dangerous items or introducing their friends to questionable new activities. Many college students, being vulnerable and impressionable, begin modelling these behaviors and regard the abuse of substances as a positive and socially acceptable experience.

A 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported that college students smoked marijuana more often than they drank alcohol on a daily basis.

From 1994 to 2014, daily alcohol use among college students increased from 3.7 percent to 4.3 percent, while daily marijuana consumption increased from 1.8 percent to 5.9 percent. Although Adderall use is decreasing among college students, cocaine use increased from 2.7 percent in 2013 to 4.4 percent in 2014.

Alcohol use is higher among college students than among their non-college peers. An article published in the NYU Applied Psychology OPUS attributes this factor to the social identity theory, which states that an individual’s self-concept is based on the groups they associate with.

Because they want to be socially accepted, students think they must mingle with a certain group. If that group consists of substance-using individuals, it is likely that the college students end up using drugs or alcohol to fit in. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, college freshmen are the most vulnerable to substance abuse influences during the first six weeks of college.

The Three Dimensions of Peer Pressure

College students experience three dimensions of peer pressure:

  • Direct influence
  • Modeling other people’s habits
  • Perceived habits

Active offers of drugs and alcohol to college students make up direct influence. It can be in the form of a simple suggestion to continual encouragement to use substances in order to fit in the group. While the individual has no intention of consuming drugs or alcohol, they usually cave from the peer pressure.

Contrary to the first dimension of peer pressure, the second dimension is an indirect influence, which the NYU article defines as a temporary imitation of peers’ habits. The article mentioned that college students were more susceptible to consuming more alcohol if they were exposed to heavy-drinking models, as opposed to lighter or no models. College freshmen tend to be candidates for heavy alcohol consumption, but the article noted that this behavior decreases by the time they graduate.

Stemming from a misconception by the individual, perceived habits — the third dimension of peer pressure — is arguably the most dangerous. Perceived drinking norms influence college students through the observation and comparison of their peers’ drinking levels. Students typically end up overestimating the amount of alcohol their peers are drinking, thus engaging in hazardous drinking practices.

The NIAAA’s College Fact Sheet mentions that students attending schools with core Greek systems and prominent athletic programs are more likely to drink more than students who attend other schools. Similarly, alcohol consumption is higher among students living in Greek houses than among those living at home with their families.

However, research revealed that students whose parents previously discussed the dangers of drugs and alcohol with them had a lower incidence of frequent drinking. This reinforces that parental guidance has a great role to play in college students’ substance using behaviors.

Aside from parental support, colleges should implement awareness and prevention strategies that target at-risk students, including freshmen, student athletes and members of Greek life. These strategies should aim to prevent and reduce incidences of substance abuse by educating the students and changing their perceptions about drugs and alcohol.

Colleges should also look into implementing collegiate recovery communities to help current student struggling with substance use disorders through their recovery journey.

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015, September). College-Age & Young Adults. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/college-age-young-adults

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2015, December). College Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/CollegeFactSheet/CollegeFactSheet.pdf

Palmeri, J.M. (n.d.). Peer Pressure and Alcohol Use amongst College Students. Retrieved from http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/appsych/opus/issues/2011/fall/peer

By Sonia Tagliareni

sonia-imageSonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Study Drugs & Students

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The pressure that is put on students these days is pretty overwhelming. There is a drive to be perfect and competition is incredibly high. They have to get straight A’s, get college credit while in High School, get graduate credit while in undergrad, finish early, and be the best, and if they can’t manage this they are deemed failures. We push and push our children and in the process we create a culture that permits unhealthy habits in order to get a competitive edge.

This culture can be seen on just about every American college campus where students are taking study drugs, such as Ritalin or Adderall, in order to study longer and retain information better. Many of these students are not prescribed these drugs, but rather take them when they need to cram for a test or sit down and write a paper.  Prescription pills rank #5 as the world’s most dangerous drugs and Adderall and Ritalin are prescription drugs to further the concern consider the following information.  One recent study showed that usage of study drugs is so prevalent that 61.8% of college students surveyed had been offered these drugs over the past two years. Of those surveyed 31.0% had actually taken drugs, that they were not prescribed, to study, which means that almost 1 in 3 college students have used narcotics in order to study in the past two years.

The same can be seen in high schools all across the country although the numbers aren’t as high. A 2013 study found that 7.4% of 12th graders had used non-prescribed Adderall within the previous year. While 7.4% may not seem like it is very high, Adderall was the most widely abused prescription drug among this age group, and only marijuana and alcohol were abused at higher rates.

Many of these students are unaware of the addictive properties of these drugs or the effects that they can have on their body, and most feel in the moment that getting a good grade is more important than their general wellbeing.

Adderall and other such drugs are powerful central nervous stimulants. The psychoactive chemical in Adderall is dextroamphetamine, which is very similar to the chemical makeup of methamphetamine. While methamphetamine is widely known to have devastating effects on the body, the effects that Adderall and other study drugs have is not as well known. This is in part because these drugs are legal and widely prescribed, so people believe that they are safe to take, but Adderall and other study drugs can have extremely negative effects on a person. Some of which are:

A suppression of the appetite and unhealthy weight loss

Like their stimulant counterparts, many study drugs are known to suppress the appetite of the person taking them, which over an extended period of time can lead to an unhealthy drop in weight. This occurs because dextroamphetamine and amphetamine increase the amount of dopamine released in the brain, which tells the body that it is satisfied. By doing this the body then is unaware that it is hungry.

Trouble Sleeping

This side effect is partially why college students use Adderall and other such drugs to study. The stimulant effect allows them to stay awake for long periods of time without the need for sleep, but without sleep a person can experience all sorts of negative side effects, such as hallucinations, heightened emotionality, and a breakdown in decision making.

Potential for dangerous cardiac issues

Since study drugs are stimulants they are known to raise blood pressure, body temperature and in certain cases can even result in sudden cardiac arrest. This does not necessarily only come about from extended use but can occur after only one usage. If you are taking a study drug that is not prescribed to you then you may run a higher risk of experiencing one of these side effects since a doctor didn’t perform a check-up before giving you the medication. It is important to understand that these are powerful drugs and so their effects on the body can be dramatic.

A Decreased Ability to Concentrate

One of the side effects of taking study drugs for a prolonged period of time is actually a decrease in ability to focus. This is interesting because many of these drugs are taken so that the person can concentrate for longer, but studies have shown that prolonged usage of these drugs actually have the adverse effect.

Addiction

Like all stimulants study drugs have the potential to lead a person into addiction. No one starts out using drugs believing that they are going to be addicted, but in 2012 116,000 people entered into drug treatment for Adderall addiction. Many people who start using this drug to study are unaware if they are predisposed to drug addiction and even if they are not, they could find themselves physically addicted to the drug before they even know what is happening.

So while the pressures of modern living continue to increase, we have to be conscious of the message that we are sending our children. If that message is that you have to succeed at any and all costs, then the number of students who abuse study drugs will continue to increase. These are powerful drugs and many people are unaware of the effects that they can have on the body, and while there are legitimate medical reasons for their usage, educating the youth on what these drugs can do to them is important. Getting them to understand that staying up all night with the help of narcotics in order to study is not a rite of passage and as a society we shouldn’t be putting this type of pressure on our children.

About Rose Lockinger, guest blogger

Rose Lockinger - Guest Blogger - Parent.jpgRose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

Teens Speak Their Truth in New Online Pilot of Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program

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What’s something you don’t usually tell people about yourself?

What’s more important, money or happiness?

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had, without using drugs or alcohol?

There’s more—the homework assignment:

Schedule a walk with your parents or guardians and tell them three things you like about them.

Perform one good deed, even if no one notices. What was your good deed?  How did it make you feel?

Welcome to the novel approach of Gobi. It’s a new online drug and alcohol prevention program that we were inspired to develop because so many parents found their children using and couldn’t find a useful resource. Teaming up with academic specialists in addiction, education experts at sober schools and teens; we created Gobi.

What Kids Are Saying

To test the online concept and willingness of teens to engage, our team conducted a pilot evaluation for several months in 2015-2016.

The teens in the pilot provided insights about the program that is both revealing and empowering.

  • 50% reported they are around drugs and alcohol 1 to 3 times a week and that their motivation to use is to relax or deal with stress, fewer than 10% self-report using 3-7 times a week.
  • Peer pressure affects only a small percentage of respondents’ using behavior, yet approximately 70% of respondents reported they did things for another’s approval they did not want to, including “a mean prank,” “sleep at a boy’s house,” “smoke weed,” “drink whiskey.”
  • The majority of teens—approximately 80%–trust their friends—but some cautiously so. “Only one person. I’ve tried trusting more, but then they backstab you.” “Yes. But I’m a very closed off person, so they don’t know EVERYTHING. Cause you never know what could happen.” And “yes, because they don’t use.”
  • About 80 percent of respondents said happiness is more important than money. Their reasons: “money is something that comes and goes and not being happy is a waste of life.” “Because it’s the only thing money can’t buy.” Those who chose money say, “Money brings stability and without stability you can’t be happy.” “Everything depends on money.”
  • Most reported meeting a weekly goal they set—such as keeping a room clean, doing homework, helping parents with housework—and described this accomplishment as, “felt good, and it helped my relationship with my family,” “felt stronger mentally and physically because I did not think I could do it,” and “happy when we didn’t fight as much.” Those who missed making their goals described the feeling as “Disappointed,” “I feel dumb that I missed it,” and “Unsatisfied. Disappointed.”

By the end of the program, most teens said that they were now thinking differently about their using and had either stopped or significantly cut back on their drinking, as one teen said “because it’s a matter of my life.”  Both parents and teens reported that the walks had been very helpful in getting communication going again. Post-program survey comments attest to this, noting feeling “less stressed, more connected with my mom”, “My relationship with my family wasn’t as good as it is now, because I have been given tools to help communicate with my parents better.”

We are encouraged by these early results. They show teens are not only willing to change—but looking to change. They want help in doing so, and they find the online/mobile phone platform convenient, familiar, easy to use, and helpful. They trust it.

Most impressive to us was the fact that a great deal of honesty came through in the responses—and that’s key. As we know so well, trust and honesty are the foundation for getting teens and parents connected, and for getting right with the world. And there’s no better feeling than that.

About the Author:

Judson (Kim) Bemis is a Minneapolis entrepreneur, recovery advocate, and gratefully sober husband and parent for 28 years.  More information on Gobi can be found at gobi.support.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

Game On! Athletics, mental health and substance use.

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Student Athletes at Risk of Mental Health and Substance-Use Disorders

Guest Blog Post by Grace McLaughlin, Recovery Brands.

While most students enjoyed a three-month break over the summer, a select group was busy preparing for what might be the most important time in their life. A group whose need to do well in school isn’t just a benefit, but a necessity. A group that is seen as “too tough” for mental health to be an issue. This group is our student athletes.

These students spent their summers participating in two-a-day practices, running countless miles and dreaming of becoming an honorary MVP of their team. They have dreams of graduating high school with a full ride scholarship to college with the chance at the big leagues. However, many people forget these aspirations come with an immense amount of pressure and stress. On top of teaching them to be physically strong and focus on their sport, we should be educating them on the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

Although we have made great strides to break down the stigma associated with mental health, it’s still largely prevalent in 2016. Society has created a certain stereotype associated with student athletes, and it is one where mental illness isn’t allowed. Between the need to excel in school and athletics, it is no surprise that this group of young adults run the risk of developing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even substance abuse. Student athletes have to show up to practice, no matter what is going on in their personal lives. If their grades are down, they risk being kicked off the team, or worse, losing their scholarship. On top of all this, they only get one day off a week to catch up with friends and be a “normal kid”. When it comes down to it, student athletes never truly get a break.

One group trying to tackle this issue is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). They conducted a study in 2014 that found “…about 30 percent of the 195,000 respondents to a recent American College Health Association (ACHA) survey reported having felt depressed in the last 12 months, and 50 percent reported having felt overwhelming anxiety during the same period.“ To combat this, the NCAA has created guides to help coaches and their athletes manage mental health issues. These guides highlight the fact that, although student athletes main focus is physical health, mental health is just as important. In order to be at your peak physical state, your mind must be healthy as well.

These guides also shed light on the potential for substance abuse among student athletes. Many people turn to substances as an escape from reality. With all this added pressure to young adults, it is no surprise that student athletes may be looking for a way to cope.

There are many steps that people can take to ensure mental health is a priority. Student athletes have an immense amount of added pressure on them, but they also have their coaches and teammates looking out for their best interests. As a coach, it’s imperative to have open communication with athletes and set the precedent that they should never be ashamed to reach out for help. When it comes down to it, seeking help and addressing mental health as a priority reveals an incredible sense of strength and bravery.

The first step to breaking down the stigma and getting people the help they need is by reaching out and discussing it.

About Grace McLaughlin

grace-mclaughlin Grace is a social media specialist at Recovery Brands. Through a portfolio of authoritative web properties such as Rehabs.com and Recovery.org, Recovery Brands helps connect individuals in need of addiction treatment with facilities that can provide care. The company’s sites equip consumers with valuable resources to make informed treatment decisions, and also allow treatment providers to connect with individuals seeking care by showcasing key facility offerings through robust profile listings. Complete with comprehensive online directories, facility ratings and reviews, forums and professional communities, site visitors can more efficiently compare and select the treatment options that best meet their recovery needs. For more information, visit RecoveryBrands.com or follow @RecoveryBrands.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Five Ways to Prevent Substance Abuse in Your Teenager

Substance-use prevention is a year-round necessity, but it’s particularly timely during the first month of kids being back at school. This week’s guest blogger, Allison Walsh, offers tips for parents of teens. MWM

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Let’s make no bones about it: parenting a teenager is tough. If you’re the parent of a teenager, your own adolescence likely didn’t involve cell phones, the internet or Pokemon Go. Today, our kids face a whole new set of challenges and benefits, since they have unprecedented access to information, opportunities, and unfortunately, drugs.

The good news is that you can take tangible steps to steer your child away from substance abuse. Even if it feels like you are the last person your teenager wants to emulate, studies continually show that teens are far less likely to engage in substance abuse if their parents have healthy conversations with them on the matter. Here are some tried and true tips for helping your teen stay sober and healthy:

  1. Don’t Confront, but Converse – There’s a right way and a wrong way to talk to your teenager about drug use. Avoid making accusations — try to open up the lines of communication via a conversation. Ask questions; really listen to what your child is saying. Even if it feels awkward at first, you may want to begin by asking your teen about their opinion on drugs and alcohol. If they admit that they have engaged in substance use, don’t get angry. Instead, keep asking open-ended questions and strive to understand the reasons why they made those choices.
  2. Be Involved in Your Child’s Social Life – No, I don’t mean that you should tag along to the laser tag arena with your 16-year-old and their friends. Rather, simply keep your finger on the pulse of your teen’s social circle. Invite their friends into your home so you can get to know them. This will give you a better understanding of the environment in which your teen is immersed every day. Also, it’s smart to get acquainted with the parents of your child’s friends, who most likely share your goal of keeping your kids safe and sober. After all, it takes a village, right?
  3. Know the Signs of Substance Use – If you can nip it in the bud, substance abuse is less likely to cause major or continuous problems in your teen’s life. Learn about the signs of drug addiction and drug abuse, and keep an eye out for them in your teen.
  4. Talk to Your Teen About the Consequences of Substance Abuse – You don’t have to show a bunch of gruesome images of suffering drug addicts, but you should ensure that your teen understands the effects of drug abuse and the risks associated with using mind-altering substances. Too many times, teens start using because it seems fun, yet they do not consider the long-term physical and emotional consequences.
  5. Lead by Example – Plain and simple, if you or another adult in your home is abusing substances, that sends the message to your teen that this behavior is okay. If you are struggling with substance issues, you need to get help for yourself if you are to set a positive example for your child. Oftentimes, children who witness their parents abuse substances grow up to do the same thing, creating a perpetual cycle.

Parenting teens is not always easy, but your hard work pays off as you watch your child grow into a healthy, happy young adult. Do everything in your power to keep your teen away from drugs and alcohol. For more detailed information on talking to your child about substance abuse and teen drug rehab, check out this resource on talking to your kids about substance abuse. It’s a quick read, and chock full of concrete communicative steps you can take.

If you find that your child is already abusing substances, now is the time to get teen drug rehab. For free, confidential guidance, visit TeenRehabCenter.org.

About Allison Walsh

Allison Walsh - Guest BloggerAllison Walsh has personal experience with professional treatment. During her teenage years, she sought treatment for the life-threatening eating disorders bulimia and anorexia. Treatment saved her life, and she has dedicated her career to helping others receive the professional help that they need. Today, Allison serves as Vice President of Business Development and Branding at Advanced Recovery Systems, a network of substance abuse recovery programs, including free web resources like TeenRehabCenter.org. Check out Teen Rehab Center on Facebook for inspiration, advice and news about teen substance abuse.

[sources]

https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/growing-up-drug-free.pdf

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

Is Your Child or Loved One Using Drugs?

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Drug testing. Parents have a lot of questions about drug testing, so one of our twitter contacts offered up the following guest blog post. As a first step, many families wonder about drug tests you can purchase at a pharmacy or a reputable online source. More sophisticated and accurate testing can be done by labs that specialize in working with treatment programs. In addition, check out #AddictionChat from August 24, 2016, with expert Q&A with Burlington Labs. MWM

So… Are you once again sitting at the kitchen table and staring off into space wondering where your kid is and what drugs they are doing right now?  What’s it going to be like when they come home?  Are they even going to make it home?  The way things are today, there are many moms in this same position day in and day out just praying for a change.  Knowing for sure where you stand is one way to get this ball rolling in the right direction.  Drug testing your children or loved one at home or at a medical facility will make certain a number of things.

Drug Testing Solutions

You will now know within 99.7% accuracy what drugs, and in some tests the number of drugs in their system.  The conversation becomes difficult, especially as a parent, to talk about not only the use of drugs but having your child admit they are addicted.  An addict will minimize and lie to avoid the confrontation.  They will animatedly deny they are using or down play the use of heroin as just smoking pot. Many addicts are masters at manipulation, but being armed with the knowledge of the disease of addiction will assist you in holding your ground. No more enabling your child to continue using by being in denial or exhibiting co-dependent behaviors. It’s time to take action.

The easiest, most private, and fastest way to get to the bottom and have sound answers for once is an instant 12 panel drug test.  A panel refers to a drug class.  So that means there will be 12 drugs tested.  The tests come in several options, but the 12 panel will give you a broader determination of the drugs being abused.  Theses test kits can be bought at most pharmacies or even ordered online, but make sure it’s a reputable site. Online drug testing solutions offer both the standard urine test cup and the all new saliva test. The saliva test is a revolutionary oral swab that provides instant and accurate results. I recommend the saliva test because there is less chance of altering the results.

What a number of parents do, and what I recommend, is having the test on the same kitchen table you were sitting at one point feeling hopeless.  Then your child knows the gig is up.  Expect resistance and a song and dance but hold to you guns. This is the time to be proactive.  Make this happen.  Be level and straight up.  Tell them how you feel and do not falter.  Let them know no matter what you love them and it will be OK!

They may pull all types of tricks.  They will try and alter the test.  They may dip it in the toilet and use that water.  Catch them off guard so they are not prepared or expect the drug test.  Drug addicts are slick.  Don’t let anything get passed you.  They will be ready after the first time when they come home with clean pee in a bottle, or have dried bleach on their fingers to alter the tests.  Just remember the whole purpose is the knowledge.  The facts.  No more guessing, no more not trusting or disbelief.

Having a supply of cups at home at all times will work great as a deterrent.  If your loved one or child knows every day they come home and there is a test on the table… you mean business.  Continual drug use does not get better and life will only get progressively worse.  No matter how hard or how uncomfortable, a great first step to helping your child, who you think is abusing drugs, is to know for sure and that knowledge comes with a drug test.

About The Author

Dana Kippel is a case manager at Oceans Medical Centers (www.oceansmedicalcenters.com) a full spectrum mental health and substance abuse facility in always sunny Boynton Beach, Florida.  She has a passion for families and their struggle in addiction and wants to share her real world experience with others. Phone: (561) 376-8130 Email: info@oceansmedicalcenters.com

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

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Recovery is a lot more than just not using drugs or alcohol. This week’s guest blogger offers a professional’s perspective on the key physical and psychological aspects that help people find success in recovery. MWM

My name is Jesse Sandler, and I am an addiction therapist. In working with people in recovery, I have seen that the ones who do better are those that actively tend to both their physical and mental (psychological) wellbeing.

 

The Physical

Taking care of your body is so important to maintaining your recovery. When you do, you feel better not only physically but emotionally as well. I advise my clients to pay particular attention to four aspects of their physical wellbeing: intake, action, upkeep, and rest.

 

Your intake includes everything you do and don’t put into your body: food, drink, and medicine. If you fuel yourself regularly and nutritiously, you will feel more energized. Staying hydrated makes you feel better too. Further, taking your medications as prescribed can help keep you stabilized and keep you on track.

 

Similarly, regular exercise not only helps you establish healthy routines, but also relieves stress and releases endorphins to keep you feeling your best. If you’re not used to working out, it can be tough to get into the swing of it, but it’s worth it. Try out a variety of workouts until you find something that doesn’t feel so much like work—maybe you’re not a gym person but hiking outside puts a smile on your face. Whatever you do, make sure you move everyday. Both your body and your mind will thank you.

 

In addition to fueling and moving your body well, you also need to rest your body well. Getting on a regular sleep schedule and making sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep per night will give you more energy. Good sleep hygiene also makes it easier to deal with tough times, since getting enough sleep can help you focus more on the positive and fixate less on the negative. Since you’re more likely to relapse when you’re feeling negative, this is especially important for people in recovery. So try to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning, only use your bed for sleep and sex, and get off that computer or phone screen at least an hour before bedtime.

 

The final aspect of physical wellbeing that I think is particularly important is upkeep. By this, I mean showering regularly, brushing your teeth, and wearing clean clothes each day. This may sound obvious or silly, but I have seen time and time again that my clients tend to feel better when they are clean and wearing fresh clothes. Developing this good habit, like the others discussed above, can make you feel better physically and mentally, and give you the right mindset to face the day.

 

The Psychological

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention not only to what you can see, but also what you can’t. As you probably know, emotional and mental wellbeing are huge components of the recovery process. They work in tandem with the physical to keep you on your path. While there are many components to psychological wellbeing, I advise my clients to focus on a few in particular: staying social and avoiding isolation. While these may sound like the same thing, they are in fact distinct, and each is important in its own right.

 

Stay Social

Human beings are social creatures. We thrive when we feel accepted by and connected to other people. But not just any people. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, understand you, and support your recovery. Build a strong support network of people committed to a clean lifestyle. Avoid your old toxic “friends,” and your old toxic hangouts. Go to meetings. Find fun activities that don’t involve alcohol, drugs, or whatever your triggers are. Whatever feels good, positive, and helpful for you.

 

Don’t Isolate

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, I literally just read about this point above.” But you’d be wrong. Avoiding isolation does not necessarily mean being social. While having a strong, supportive social network is important, you don’t always need to surround yourself with other people. Alone time can be important for thought and restoration. Just make sure you know the difference between being alone and isolating, and only do the former. Being alone is restorative, calming, and recharging. It doesn’t make you feel lonely. Isolating, on the other hand, is draining and depleting. You likely do it to avoid dealing with upsetting feelings or situations, and when you isolate, you may find yourself ruminating on negative thoughts and feeling lonely. This creates the perfect conditions for relapse: you, your negative thoughts, and no one around to pull you out of them or give you perspective. So make sure that if you are opting to spend time alone, you are doing for the right reasons, and that if you find yourself alone for the wrong ones, you reach out to someone in your support network who can remind you of all the reasons you got clean and want to stay clean.

 

Conclusion

Recovery isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Staying mindful of taking care of yourself, both physically and psychologically, can make the journey a little bit easier.

 

 

Bio:

jesseJesse Sandler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for people in addiction recovery. He works at a dual-diagnosis intensive outpatient program and has a small private practice in Los Angeles. Most recently, Jesse is working to address another aspect of recovery: people’s living environments. After watching his clients and loved ones struggle and grow frustrated trying to find sober roommates, Jesse and co-founder Emily Churg created www.MySoberRoommate.com, an online community for people committed to living a clean lifestyle to search, match, and message with potential roommates. Jesse believes that through hard work, commitment, and hope, people can and do get better, and he hopes that MySoberRoommate will provide people in recovery with another tool to help them to do just that.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

10 Tips for Raising a Successful Child

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This week’s guest blogger is Joronda Montaño from notMYkid. She shares some good reminders for parents, especially when it comes to communication, honestly and consistency, which lay the foundation for healthy decisions about substance use.

From the day our children are born, as parents, we ask ourselves a million questions. How do I make sure my kid lives a healthy life? How do I make sure he or she is making the right decisions? It becomes a never-ending self-interrogation.

It’s every parent’s goal to raise a successful child. As difficult as it may seem at times, this is not impossible. There are numerous books and studies that give us tips on how to raise successful kids, but I’ve included a few of my own below:

  1. Define what you want – What is your vision for your child? As they get older, be sure to include their own vision in regular discussions about where they are going and how they will get there. Before you know it, they will be implementing everything they have practiced with you as their coach.

 

  1. Know your values – What values are important to you? Share them with your kids and let them share their own values with you. These values may change as your child gets older. Keep talking about them along the journey to adulthood so they are constantly reminded about what’s important.

 

  1. Communication – Teach your child to speak up for what they want and need. Like the old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” support their ability to use their voice. You should also regularly speak up for what you want from your kids. Have the conversations, even the difficult ones.

 

  1. Allow Honesty – Give your child the space to share their ideas, wants, needs and fears. Most parents are unaware that the average age for first-time drug experimentation is 13 for example, and when a child starts using drugs, it is typically two years before parents realize there is a problem. Knowing that honest communication is acceptable can preempt difficult situations they sometimes find themselves in.

 

  1. Be Consistent – Kids will play the game the way you want IF they know the rules. Changing the rules in the middle of the game creates uncertainty so make sure you are consistent with rewards, consequences and ways that you let them know about both.

 

  1. High (achievable) Expectations – Expect them to do what they set out to do. Expect that they will follow your instructions. Expect that they can achieve their goals AND encourage them to believe in their own abilities.

 

  1. Encourage Positivity – Being positive is about making sure kids are tapped into the part of themselves that encourages and supports their thoughts, ideas and actions. This includes positive self-talk, and positive talk to others.

 

  1. Take Responsibility – We always have a choice so teaching kids to take responsibility for every action can help prepare them for thinking before they act or react.

 

  1. Build Skills – Whatever they want to be successful at will require some skill building. This is the ultimate preparation for the goal.

 

  1. Forgiveness – Being successful requires a tremendous amount of learning. Teaching kids to allow for learning and possible mistakes on the way is a healthy way to be prepared for bumps and more importantly to keep pressing on despite the bumps.

 I do not mean to make these tips sound easy, as so many adults know, being a parent can be the toughest job on earth. We do the best we can to prepare our kids for the real world and all of its harsh realities, but it is up to them to implement what we teach them.

About Joronda Montaño:

Montaño works as a program director at notMYkid, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating individuals and communities about the consequences of destructive youth behaviors such as substance abuse. First Check Diagnostics, the leader in high-quality home diagnostic test kits, supports notMYkid by providing drug tests kits to thousands of families in an effort to discourage kids from experimenting with drugs.

Montaño is a master level Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer (ASIST). She is also an Arizona Credentialed Prevention Professional Level 4 (ACPP IV) and is a two-time graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting and a Master’s of Public Administration. Montaño is a mom of four beautiful children.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Building Community in Recovery

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In a local coffee shop, I took a few minutes to check the OYA twitter feed and noticed an interesting chat taking place – #CADAChat. That was a couple of years ago and whenever I have a some free time on Thursday afternoons, I gladly join the tweet chat making amazing connections with others who share a similar commitment to the recovery community. Today’s guest blogger is the #CADAChat creator, Mary Mangione. Learn more about the community she is building! Without a doubt, Mary is one of the most welcoming voices for the recovery community; I am grateful to know her! MWM

As a social media specialist at Recovery Brands, my primary job is to interact with people in the recovery space to build a sense of community around our brand. Prior to being hired, I had my own perception of addiction, a perception that was based upon friends, family, the media, and, unfortunately, the stigma that is so often associated with chemical dependency.

In hopes of changing my perception, I spent hours reading articles about addiction — substances, signs and symptoms, underlying issues, and treatment models. While many differed in their specifics, they all stemmed from a theme of stigma and lack of support. And in that moment, it finally hit me: as a society, we have the power to bring an end to the shame and disgrace of addiction by sharing our stories with others.

As I continued to hone my social media skills and knowledge of addiction, I developed a sense of purpose in this space. Not only was my job to share our various informational resources, but I also had a duty to bring people together – to collectively build a community of hope.

In February of 2014, I launched a weekly Twitter chat series, #CADAChat, via our account @DrugAbuse. I remember being incredibly nervous because I had never hosted a chat and had no idea if anyone would even show up! The topic was “The Dangers of Meth” and, to my surprise, not only did people show up, they actively participated.

Fast forward two years, and I’ve hosted over 65 editions of #CADAChat. It’s been one of my greatest tools of growth in the digital space and has allowed me to make meaningful connections with so many amazing people — including MWM. Each week, we delve into the many facets of addiction and share life-saving recovery tips with one another. I find it to be a great source of information and hope, in an often hopeless space.

Through these chats, we’ve created an ongoing discussion on the ways we can combat stigma and encourage people to actively choose recovery. I’ve found that the more people come together, the stronger and louder our conversation becomes. The #CADAChat community is built on the idea that, when we share our stories, we truly give recovery a voice.

As members of a community, we’re less likely to feel alone because we’re included in and supported by a group of like-minded people. The concept of inclusion is huge in staying accountable, feeling worthy, and promoting an overall sense of happiness in recovery.

About Mary Mangione:

Mary is a social media specialist at Recovery Brands. Through a portfolio of authoritative web properties such as Rehabs.com and Recovery.org, Recovery Brands helps connect individuals in need of addiction treatment with facilities that can provide care. The company’s sites equip consumers with valuable resources to make informed treatment decisions, and also allow treatment providers to connect with individuals seeking care by showcasing key facility offerings through robust profile listings. Complete with comprehensive online directories, facility ratings and reviews, forums and professional communities, site visitors can more efficiently compare and select the treatment options that best meet their recovery needs. For more information, visit RecoveryBrands.com or follow @RecoveryBrands.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Prevention, Perceptions, and…Puppies – Oh my!

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Prevention is an important public health initiative and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Minnesota’s Regional Prevention Coordinator Lindsey Smith this past year. She’s been key to our events with Anoka-Hennepin Schools and was a panelist for our conference, From Statistics to Solutions. As this week’s guest blogger, Lindsey offers distinctions between reality and perception when it comes to young people and substance use … along with effective actions we can take to curtail this.

“Isn’t it inevitable that youth will use alcohol and drugs in high school?” “If only we could do a better job of educating everyone about the dangers.” These are things I hear on a regular basis in my work as a substance use prevention specialist. My response to both is: not quite.

(Mis)Perception of Youth Use

Perception is our reality, as the familiar saying goes. What we believe to be true is influenced by a number of factors. The way information is reported to us through the media and by word of mouth are great examples. Both communication vehicles look for compelling stories to tell, which often emphasize extremes. Gossip isn’t interesting if it is about a mundane trip to the grocery store. It is interesting if a car went crashing through the front door though. I should expect to see a car in the produce section the next time I stop at Cub, right?

The more unusual, extreme, or concerning something is, the more likely we are to hear widespread conversation about it. This also happens with youth substance use. Students who used over the weekend tend to talk about it more than students who spent their time babysitting or watching movies. Media coverage of substance use related stories tend to focus on teen use, not on teens who choose to abstain. We are inundated with messages about teens using substances, so it is not surprising the common perception of youth substance use is it’s “typical” and, thus, a somewhat acceptable norm.

Here lies the difficulty: our perceptions are inaccurate. The majority of youth are making positive, healthy choices about substance use. For instance:

  • According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 34.7 percent of 15-year-olds report they have had at least 1 drink in their lives. By default, this statistic also means 3 percent of 15 year olds surveyed report having never consumed alcohol.
  • The NSDUH also found 22.8 percent of 12-20 year olds reported drinking alcohol in the past month. This also means2 percent did not drink alcohol in the past month.

The use rates shared above are nothing to ignore. The concern over this information should not overshadow the hope we find in the other side of each statistic, however. We need to do a better job of highlighting the truly typical choices our youth are making. Let’s remind young people, parents, and community members that it is not abnormal to choose health and safety. Everyone looks for opportunities to feel connected and a part of a common experience. Let’s not allow misperception of what that experience is to fool us into a mindset which is both inaccurate and detrimental.

A Community View of Prevention

Breaking down misperceptions about substance use to fuel new community norms is one example of a prevention strategy. Educating youth, parents, and other caring adults about the harms of substance use is another, but is often mistaken as the only option. Prevention strategies can also include a change in business practice such as checking IDs or community policies which limit youth access and exposure to substances.

Whether you think of these as system changes, environmental strategies, or work that takes a really long time, you may wonder why public health professionals bother with them. I think the answer is best understood through analogy, a dog analogy to be specific.

In my household, the family member most often at the doctor is our dog, Brooks. This poor guy has had quite the battle with allergies, torn ACLs, etc. These issues do not stop him from being a young dog who wants to play and run though! After his first ACL surgery, the vet told us he should not run, jump, or fuss with the wound on his knee (which is like telling a fish not to swim). How did my husband and I try to prevent these things from happening? At first we focused our energy on scolding him each time he tried to jump on the couch or started licking his wound. I’m convinced Brooks started to think we changed his name to “No” because we used the word so often.

After a couple of days, we got smarter. Brooks loves to jump on our bed, so we shut the door to our room anytime we were away. We had Brooks wear a cone to make his wound inaccessible. We even went so far as to leash him every time we went outside so he wouldn’t chase after rabbits. Instead of continuing to tell Brooks to change his behavior, we created environments for him which prevented the risky behavior from happening at all.

This is what we do in public health. We work to create environments which inherently promote health and prevent risky behavior from happening. Rather than relying solely on education to stop youth from using alcohol and drugs, we use strategies that impact the entire community in which youth live.

Concepts into Action

What might you do to put these concepts into action? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Think critically. Question information you receive that suggests it is normal for youth to use alcohol and drugs. Know that you have the majority on your side.
  • Talk to youth about misperceptions. What do they believe the norm is? Why? Remember that youth do care about what their parents think, even if they try to convince you otherwise. Find talking points and conversation starters at samhsa.gov/underage-drinking or www.drugfree.org.
  • Ask the same of adults. What do they believe is normal and why? Empower parents and caring adults to express their concerns about substance use for the young people in their lives.
  • Find confidence in your healthy choices. It can be uncomfortable for both youth and adults to be open about their belief youth substance use is unhealthy. Be an example of the majority who believes this too. Find inspiration from others who already have at myonereason.com and www.abovetheinfluence.com.
  • Find local data to learn what this looks like in your community. For those in Minnesota, sumn.org is a wonderful resource to locate this information.
  • Get involved! Join a neighborhood group, a community coalition, or another effort working to promote youth health. Community collaboration has shown to be one of the most successful ways to change the environment and reduce substance use. For more information, visit cadca.org or www.rpcmn.org.

Bio

Lindsey Smith Lindsey Smith is the Regional Alcohol, Tobacco, & Other Drug Prevention Coordinator, serving Minnesota’s seven county metro area. In this role, she supports local communities working to prevent substance abuse by providing resources, training, assistance, and consultation. By engaging multiple sectors of the community and using public health principles as a guide, she assists community collaboratives in reaching their goals.

http://www.rpcmn.org

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

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By Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.

Thank you, Sherry, for being part of #fsts16. We are pleased to have you elaborate on many of the points from the panel discussion that took place at From Statistics to Solutions: Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. MWM

When parents arrive at our Family Program, they are typically experiencing a variety of different emotions.  Some of them arrive feeling desperate, as they are tremendously fearful for the well-being of their child, and are out of ideas about what to do.  Some of them arrive confused, as it makes no sense that they have raised this beautiful child with their best efforts and values, and, yet, the disease of addiction is still present.  Some of them arrive angry, because it’s really frustrating to deal with the behaviors that happen when someone is actively using.  And, some of them are just exhausted, because standing guard over your child’s life is all-consuming.

To say it’s not easy to be a parent of a child who struggles with alcoholism or addiction is an extreme understatement.  When the dreams and aspirations for the person you love are side-tracked by addiction, what is left behind is the stuff most parental nightmares are made of.

Our society doesn’t help with these nightmares.  In fact, someone outside of the situation who hasn’t had firsthand experience with alcoholism or addiction may easily make judgements.  It’s a common belief that if a child is “good” or “bad” it has to do with how they have been parented.  Most people look at alcoholism and addiction as a moral failing, rather than a disease or disorder.  There is much stigma placed on families who are impacted by addiction, even though alcoholism was first declared a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956, and, addiction has been placed in this category, as well.  This information alone doesn’t seem to stop the judgements, or stop a parent from taking their child’s addiction personally.

I know it was something my husband took personally.  Even though he understood the disease of addiction better than most because he is in long-term recovery himself, understanding what to do as two out of three of his children struggled with their own addictions, and the consequences that surrounded them, escaped him.  I took it personally, as well, thinking that if I had a different role in their lives, or maybe if his prior marriage was still intact, something would be different for these two.

Despite the stories we create in our heads about all of this, the facts remain the same.

Good parenting doesn’t stop addiction.  There is no amount of loving someone that can change their physiology or propensity for alcoholism or addiction.  Bad parenting doesn’t create addiction. 

There are many who have survived less than ideal childhoods who have grown up to live happy, productive lives without the cloud of addiction.

And, yet, most of us still want to blame something or someone for this issue.  I was recently involved in a conversation where a question was posed: What are some of the road blocks and challenges that hinder collaboration with working with youth struggling with addiction?  With so many obstacles that stand in the way, I was looking forward to the answers, so we could start addressing them!  I was surprised to hear that one of the people involved believed the major obstacle was parents.

As she explained, I understood her standpoint.  Sometimes parents, in their confusion around the situation, get caught up in denial.  They want to believe that their beloved child would know better.  They want to believe that addiction couldn’t possibly touch their family.  They want to believe that it’s just a phase.  They don’t want to live in the embarrassment and shame associated with alcoholism or addiction, and who can blame them, really?

But, sometimes we still blame.  It’s fairly common in the world today that when something goes “awry” we want answers and to know who is responsible.  If it’s a child, then the parent must be at fault.  Even those of us working in the addiction recovery field we hear the comments about the parents that are more of a problem than their child.  We may have even made those comments.

The truth of the situation is that parents are doing the best they can with the information that they have.  They are doing their very best.  They want the very best for their child.  The assumption should not be that they are to blame.  The assumption should always be that they are loving their child as much as they possibly can.

The question for those of us who work with these parents is: How do we help families from blaming themselves?

In my experience, the best place to start is creating a safe place for them to talk.  Isolation is a key symptom of addiction, and is present on both sides of the disease.  Parents who have a child struggling with addiction often isolate themselves trying to protect their child and their reputation, not realizing this is also blocking them from receiving help.  If a parent starts talking, they will share information on how we can best help them.  They’ll talk about their fears, their confusion, their hopes and their plans.  The best thing anyone can do is listen.

When we listen, we will hear when a parent is ready to learn more.  The next important thing we can do for a parent is help them to really understand addiction.  Education around chemical dependency, how it happens and what it looks like, can help to clear up some of the confusion families have.  Although families typically understand addiction on an intellectual basis, their emotions haven’t always caught up yet, and these emotions add to their underlying reactions.  In my experience, when families have the opportunity to really learn about addiction, and have the questions that they have answered, it helps them to navigate the situation better.

However, as stated earlier, education isn’t enough.  Although it’s extremely helpful, it doesn’t answer the question most parents want answered “So, now what do I do?”  How do I get my loved one into recovery?  How am I supposed to be as they navigate early recovery?  How am I supposed to show up if my loved one relapses?

Typically, parents with a child who is actively using have one major fear: their child will not stop using and won’t be able to find recovery. 

Often times that fear continues after a child is getting help, but it turns to fear that their child may not be able to maintain their recovery.  Although their child may be doing everything they had hoped that they would do, parents may still be having the same reactions as they did when their child was using.  It is imperative families find support for themselves, as well.

A study by Laudet, Morgen, and White, (The Role of Social Supports) states “Support, in particular, recovery-oriented support, is likely to be critical to alcohol and other drug users, especially early on…”  It would stand to reason that recovery-oriented support would be helpful for parents and families, as well.  In fact, John Kelly, Ph.D. and Director of the Recovery Research Institute, was recently quoted to have said “Social support is good, but recovery specific social support is more important.”,  which also can be interpreted that a parent’s love is good, but a parent’s love with the support of recovery is more important.

The greatest gift I’ve received is something that can be passed along to others: the gift of family recovery. 

Recovery is community.  It is the support of other people who know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction.  Recovery offers ideas and resources based on the experience of others.  Recovery offers a common language to talk about addiction, and the communication skills to reconnect with each other.  Recovery offers opportunity for healing.  Recovery offers hope.  The same process that helps our children recover can help other family members, too.  Family recovery offers answers to the question, “So, now what do I do?”

When my husband’s son started his recovery journey from his meth use, we were cautiously optimistic.  He was doing better than we’d seen him do in recent years, but we weren’t sure it would last.  We understand that this disease is chronic and can be fatal.  Through recovery, we also knew that placing our fears on him would not be helpful.  We also knew that the time that he spent in a facility was just the beginning of the journey.  The real work would happen for him in his own recovery community.

Three years later, we get to see the gifts of recovery turn into a full blown miracle.  We’ve watched him walk through the highs and lows of early recovery.  We’ve watched him take ownership.  We’ve watched him make decisions, good and bad.  We’ve watched that he’s let us know what’s going on in his world.  He did it in his own time, with his own support around him.  And, we needed our support around us.

Parents don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone.  Learn more about addiction.  Find others who understand addiction who can support you in this process.  And, please, remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have, including you.

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart is the Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has worked with The Retreat’s Family Program since its inception. Sherry is a certified spiritual director and has been an active participant in Twelve-Step recovery since 1999.  In addition to her work at The Retreat, she has lead spiritual retreats and is a meditation teacher.  She is also involved in the Kids’ Programming at The Retreat, for children aged 7-12 years old who are growing up in families affected by chemical dependency.

Side note: The Retreat offers a generous scholarship program to help defray the cost of participation in its programs.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Taking an AND instead of OR perspective: The Minnesota Model 2.0

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Melrose Center, an eating-disorder specialty clinic in the Twin Cities, was a generous sponsor for our addiction-prevention conference in May 2016. Today’s guest blogger is Jason Reed, one of our panel experts who addressed solutions to co-occurring disorders, which are common among young people with addiction.He’s prepared an encouraging and thought-provoking perspective on why we need to find the best approaches to treatment rather than being pressured into a rigid acceptance of just one way. MWM

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and some would say, the land of 10,000 substance abuse treatment centers. The actual number of treatment centers is actually more like 500. Regardless, Minnesota put addiction treatment on the map by developing the very first formal treatment approach for alcoholism and other substance use disorders. It’s called The Minnesota Model and has been replicated across the world and has helped millions of people. The 12-step philosophy of AA and NA is an integral component of the Minnesota Model.

As a psychologist working primarily in the area of addiction, I often hear 12-step programs pitted against evidence based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

It’s as if as a clinician, I have to somehow choose a side, and then stick to it. It’s 12-steps or CBT.

At this point in my career, I’ve grown weary of the word or. In CBT the tendency to think in either/or terms is called “black and white” or “dichotomous” thinking. This can lead to a lot of mental and emotional suffering. Modern American society is full of examples of headline-driven questions that make us feel forced to chose a side: do guns kill or do people kill? Are you a Republican or Democrat? We get put in an either/or dilemma.

Most rational and reasonable people would likely concede that when trying to understand a phenomenon, it’s best to take an approach that can account for multiple variables and potential influences. However, we as humans seem to have a natural tendency or desire to align ourselves with a particular side or “camp”.

In the field of psychology, our camps are based on different theories of the mind and human behavior. Theories are useful and necessary, and serve as a framework for trying to understand these things.

However, holding onto a particular theory too tightly can sometimes cause us to miss the forest for the trees.

The field of psychology has also at times fallen victim to dichotomous thinking when trying to understand the origins and treatment of human suffering. This has led to questions such as: is it nature or nurture? is early attachment or temperament more important? Are mental health problems best described in categories of symptoms or better understood on a continuum? Is it the technique or the skill level of the clinician that produces change? The list goes on and on. Intuitively we know the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but we still feel pressure to cling to one particular camp.

 

During graduate school I felt pressure, mostly from myself, to come up with my own unique theory of human behavior and treating mental health disorders. And I thought I had it figured out by the end of my training. Now over a decade into my career, I’m realizing that I know much less now than I did back then. My theory is much less clear. And I think that’s a good thing.

I now teach at the school I graduated from. For one of the courses I teach, Counseling and Personality Theories, I intentionally start the semester off by discussing some of the existing research that indicates the theoretical principle you pick makes less difference than other variables such as the therapeutic relationship and client factors.This forces students to sit with the frustration of not having a simple, clear answer, and to instead appreciate the complexity of human behavior and the process of change.

Addiction, and in particular the behaviors that arise from addictions, are among the most complex and confusing of all human phenomenon.

The addiction field has to grapple with some of its own often befuddling questions:

Is addiction a chronic, progressive disease that requires intervention or do most people get better on their own, without treatment?

Are substance use disorders caused by genetic factors (biomedical model) or are they the result of trying to cope with difficulties in life (self-medication model)

Is complete abstinence necessary for full recovery or can people live a quality life while still using substances?

Should family members detach and protect themselves as not to enable the addiction, or can they influence the behavior of their addicted loved one?

Do you need a personal history of struggling with addiction to be able to understand and treat it, or do you need a high degree of training and professional licensure?

We have some big questions facing the addiction field and how we are going to evolve our understanding, prevention and treatment of addiction. Perhaps the least helpful response to this profound conundrum would be to fall back into black and white thinking and look for simple answers and then divide into camps.

In many ways there is still a lot we don’t understand about addiction. Most experts can’t even agree on a shared definition of addiction. And there are many, many different pathways to addiction.

One of the greatest advances in behavior therapy over the last several decades has been Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Created by Marsha Linehan and now disseminated and used all over the world, DBT has been shown to be effective for a variety of difficult to treat conditions. The philosophy of the approach is based largely on the idea of a “dialectic”, which assumes everything has its contradictions or opposing forces. In essence it involves the art of holding two opposing ideas in mind; specifically with DBT, balancing change with acceptance. Approaches like DBT have taught us the importance of balance, and the power of the word and.

The ultimate dialectic in addiction treatment may be that you need to treat the addiction as a primary disorder and the underlying factors that drive it to keep going. When we can’t prevent it, people suffering from addiction deserve the best possible treatment we have available. And we will only arrive at the most effective treatments by bringing everyone together from all the various camps and disciplines.

It may be time to take a step back from what we think we know about addiction, and come together to better understand it.

We will need to have some difficult conversations and we will need to bring people together who have very different ideas about addiction and how to treat it. Going through this process will be a good thing for the addiction field, but more importantly, for the individuals and families at risk for, or currently struggling with addiction. We owe it to future generations to put in this difficult, messy work, so we can come out with something even better.

Then, from our combined efforts, we can build a truly integrated treatment approach and we can call it The Minnesota Model 2.0.

Dr. Jason Reed is an Addiction Psychologist, Adjunct Professor and founder of the Minnesota Integrative Treatment and Recovery Enterprise (MinCARE). MinCARE is a consulting, training and advocacy organization committed to improving the quality of care and outcomes for all individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders in the state of Minnesota.

www.mincare.com

info@mincare.com

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: A Solution to the Statistics?

A three-part series by Guest Blogger Gloria Englund, MA

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Part III

The availability and use of Suboxone is very different now than when Aaron’s final attempt at recovery took place. Then, health insurance paid for Suboxone only when it was administered through an in-patient treatment facility. It was used mainly as a detox tool, not a recovery treatment tool as it is now. Many addiction specialists now recommend that patients with an opioid addiction may be best served with indefinite MAT therapy.  There were not many treatment centers licensed to dispense it and very few doctors licensed to prescribe it. This continues to be a challenge in the treatment world. Many physicians still choose not to seek licensure to dispense Suboxone because they don’t want to deal with the population of people ill with a substance use disorder. Another way the stigma and discrimination still play into the availability of MAT.

True Recovery

I used to think complete abstinence from methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), or naltrexone used in MAT, was the only marker for true recovery.

Everything I have learned about SUD and recovery since Aaron’s death tells me that I had a very narrow and uneducated view of what may be necessary to keep the person with an opioid use disorder alive so recovery can happen.

The more options available for MAT to those with SUDs who seek recovery, the better are their chances of remission and the more lives we save.

Since Aaron’s death, I have seen and heard many testaments to the effectiveness of all three of these medications when they are used as recovery tools. But the availability, cost and insurance coverage needs to align in support of these life-saving medications that can prevent overdose deaths.

Evidence-Based Treatment

It’s imperative to remember that MAT programs are evidence-based treatment (EBT) protocols. This means there’s scientific research to back up the practice of medication-assisted treatment as a viable treatment option. In general, the research proves that people on MAT have fewer relapses, live longer and stay in recovery longer than those who do not use it. This is especially true for those with opioid use disorder.

We Need More Education & Information

I believe lack of education about addiction being a brain illness and the public not being properly informed about the life saving properties of MAT is what killed Prince along with the additional 128 people who died of a drug overdose on April 21, 2016. Chronic pain might have brought him to where he was with his illness, but in my opinion, ignorance and stigma kept Prince and those close to him from asking for the right kind of the help, at the right time.

This is the third of a three-part series. We are posting the full series in the Resource section of Our Young Addicts.

Saving the lives of those who are ill from this disease will only happen when the general public becomes educated and demands that the people who suffer from these disorders, deserve the same medical treatment and compassion as does anyone suffering from a chronic illness.

About our Guest Blogger: Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

Addiction Science: The Teenage Brain and a New Online Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program

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Guest Blogger, Kim Bemis, founder of Gobi.

Every human culture has its intoxicating substances—and in each culture there is a subset of users who become addicted.

In the U.S., 21st century addiction problems are appearing earlier in life[1], according to the latest scientific data revealed in May by the nation’s foremost addiction experts at a New York conference I attended.

Addiction science reveals that abuse and addiction occurring in the biologically sensitive period of adolescence can harm a vulnerable brain—so much so that abusers’ and addicts’ brains may not reach their full potential or function normally. This is because repeated and chronic use of substances targets the paired system governing behavior: the brain’s reward center (nucleus accumbens) and the impulse-control center (prefrontal cortex). As the keynote speaker, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, put it: “Addiction and drugs attack the reward centers we need to survive. They hijack that system” by radically disrupting the neurochemical signals to produce constant reward-seeking behavior with no checks or balances from the impulse control center. “When executive function is decreased you are at risk of seeking rewards without sound judgment.”

Dr. Volkow also emphasized that the prefrontal cortex—that brain capacity so critical to making executive decisions in the person’s and society’s best interests—is not fully developed until age 25. Yet in our society, we have 15-year-olds—and younger—at risk of jeopardizing their developing brains with excessive use of drugs and alcohol. Not only do these chemicals have the power, over time, to change the circuitry of the developing adolescent brain, but extensive or continued use robs adolescents of normal and necessary growth experiences central to identity formation, positive affiliation, family/community connection and a sense of purpose.

This concerns me because I am an entrepreneur who has spent the last 11 years working in the drug and alcohol recovery field—and the scientific insights my background gives me suggest we are, as a society, at risk of creating a culture that promotes access to substances in a way that leads to easy use, frequent overuse and, too often, to abuse.

Of course, addiction doesn’t happen overnight; one drink won’t hurt. But the science suggests it is essential to educate the public to understand that teen substance use is a public health problem and that addiction is a complex brain disease that, in most cases, originates in adolescence. Our health systems must work to prevent or delay the onset of substance use through effective public health measures.[2] I want to do all I can to help prevent teens from abuse and addiction, to help them make better decisions. Here’s who I am and what I do:

  • A gratefully sober man for over 27 years, able to enjoy the blessings of family and friends because of my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction
  • A former executive of an internationally renowned treatment center helping people get sober, stay sober and reconnect with life
  • Now, the CEO of Gobi, a new, accessible and affordable approach to intervening to help teens who might be in trouble because of their substance use. Gobi (gobi.support) is a novel online tool for teens and their family members. It is science-based and developed by expert clinicians in addiction science, parents and teens, Gobi is intended to reach digital natives in their own space—online, with social media follow-up and support. At the same time, Gobi also supports parents, with research on adolescent substance use and tips on communicating effectively with teenagers. Figures 1, 2, and 3 convey sample findings from our recent user survey during the 60-day course of Gobi online programing.

Figure 1: Fig1_Gobi connects

Figure 2:Fig2_Gobi offers keys to change

Figure 3: Fig3_Gobi results

In May 2016 I had breakthrough experiences at two tremendous addiction conferences: “From Statistics to Solutions Prevention Summit: Addressing Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Abuse,” in the Twin Cities, with sponsors and partners including Know the Truth, Our Young Addicts, Minnesota Teen Challenge, and more, and “The Addicted Brain and New Treatment Frontiers: Sixth Annual Aspen Brain Forum,” sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Aspen Brain Forum in New York City.

Below, I share several key messages from the New York summit. In my next post, I’ll elaborate on my Minnesota conference aha moments, and the tremendously encouraging things happening.

  • Over time and frequent use, substance-induced changes to the brain impair a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while sending intense impulses to continue to use—just to feel “normal.”
  • Our brains develop from the bottom to the top and from the back to the front until approximately age 25. Brain circuitry during this developmental stage is particularly vulnerable to substances of abuse.
  • Data show that teenagers are more likely than adults to experiment with alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal/prescription drugs, and also have a higher rate of addiction: Among addicted Americans, 1 in 4 began using before age 18, which compares to 1 in 25 who started using at age 21 or later[3].
  • Underlying youth addiction is a complex network and interplay of neurobiology, psychology, social and family dynamics and genetics.
  • Brains do recover! Never lose sight of this.

Early detection and intervention in teen substance use, with the explicit goal of preventing the progression to abuse and addiction, is really where we need innovative approaches and programs to help youth and families.

My goal with Gobi is to foster better communication in families and to help teens make better decisions around using drugs and alcohol before the “brain hijacking” occurs. I look forward to sharing some preliminary user data that suggests despite worrisome trends in adolescent drug and alcohol use, there is also encouraging news, hope and help.

[1] In my next post, I will share demographics from our early research with teens participating in the program we designed to prevent early experimentation from leading to abuse and addiction.

[2] This is a stance I share with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. http://www.centeronaddiction.org/

[3] Data from a national survey of use patterns, Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem.

http://www.centeronaddiction.org/newsroom/press-releases/national-study-reveals-teen-substance-use-americas-1-public-health-problem

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: A Solution to the Statistics?

A three-part series by Guest Blogger Gloria Englund, MA. New Protocols, Addiction as a Progressive Brain Disease.

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Part II

Old-school Perception & Protocol – the 1990s

My history with MAT goes back to the 1990s when most people considered substance use disorders a character flaw, and/or lack of will power and motivation. Although the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized alcoholism as disease in 1956 which allowed it to be viewed as a diagnosable condition for which insurance reimbursement was possible, most treatment focused on it being a psychological/behavior disorder. This was the treatment protocol I learned in graduate school in the early ‘90s.

Addiction Recognized as a Progressive Brain Disease

Aaron died in 2007.  It wasn’t until 2011 that The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) first stated that addiction is a progressive brain disease that is fatal without intervention.

This meant both of us went through our 20-year struggle with his SUD without knowledge of addiction being a brain disease – as I suspect many have. It was a wake-up call for me to learn that this illness is about underlying neurology, not outward actions.

The NIDA soon after stated that addiction is “a chronic relapsing …brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”  It was so hard for me to grasp that my son’s was ill not only with a physical dependence – but also a psychological compulsion that would create drug seeking behavior no matter what the consequences.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in a specific priority. Physiological needs such breathing, food and water are at the bottom the hierarchy. In other words – a human’s first priority is sustaining life. The hierarchy culminates in self-actualization at the top. The compulsion that is characteristic of SUD precludes those basic physiological needs.

This is why many need MAT to get their cravings quelled. If the cravings aren’t under control, they can’t even think about meeting those basic needs of life – so they can go on to recovering their life.

Tapering Off or Long-term Maintenance?

In 2007, most people on MAT methadone programs were encouraged to start tapering off the medication once they had been stabilized for weeks or a few months. The yo-yo effect of trying to taper and failing to find the correct dosage created constant turmoil for Aaron as well as frequent relapses. At that time, both of us attended recovery support groups which promoted that if you were on medication-assisted treatment you weren’t really in recovery because you were still using an opioid medication. And this continues to happen today.

Very few supportive services were offered along with Aaron’s MAT program – which I now know is very important to recovery. You can’t just take a pill or get an injection and recover from this illness. Although behavior and psychological issues may not be a CAUSE of this illness, they do result as we try to SURVIVE the illness.

That’s why MAT needs to be offered along with individual or group therapy, peer recovery support groups, classes on exercise, nutrition – basic life skills – keeping a budget and learning how to seek employment.

Minnesota Recovery Connection, like many other recovery community organizations (RCO) in other states – offer many of these resources on their website and support all pathways to recovery.

Note to readers: Part III will run on Thursday, June 30. We will post the full three-part series in our Resource section.

About our Guest Blogger: Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: A Solution to the Statistics?

A three-part series by Guest Blogger Gloria Englund, MA. Suboxone, Naltrexone, Methadone

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Part I

I was very uneducated about medications that are affective for substance use disorder (SUD), especially opioid use disorder when my son, Aaron, was still alive. Although he was familiar with Suboxone and methadone, now I believe both of us could have been better informed about how to use methadone along with other support tools that were needed in order to make the treatment the more effective.

Prince’s death has brought the use of Suboxone, a medication that is used to treat opioid use disorder, and the idea of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders to the forefront of the opioid overdose epidemic. The latest statistic from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is that 129 people are dying every day in the United States from drug overdose; 80 of those deaths involve the use of an opioid.

I believe the stigma and discrimination that accompany substance use disorders, also accompanies the medications that can be used to quell withdrawals symptoms and lesson cravings for those with substance use disorders as they seek recovery.

MAT can greatly reduce the possibility of relapse which often lead to drug overdose that can result in death.

Suboxone

Suboxone, the MAT treatment that didn’t get in Prince’s body soon enough, is one of these medications that is often used to quell withdrawal and cravings for opioids. What exactly is Suboxone? It’s referred to as a partial agonist because it doesn’t bind to the opioid sites as does a full agonist so it produces much fewer endorphins. Because of its “partial” nature, it is much easier to withdraw from than a full agonist like methadone. Suboxone is the commercial name for buprenorphine (partial agonist) combined with naloxone, an opioid antagonist which is very effective at blocking euphoria when combined with the buprenorphine.  Used alone, naloxone (Narcan®) is used to reverse an opioid overdose if administered in a timely manner. Suboxone is also available as a film which is dissolved under the tongue thereby lessening the potential for abuse even more. In May of 2016 the FDA approved a buprenorphine body implant that will dispense medication for up to 6 months but has not stated when in will be available for use.

Methadone

Other readily used medications are methadone (mentioned above) and naltrexone. Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist medication that is very effective in treating heroin and prescription pain medication addiction. It can only be distributed at specifically licensed clinics. Initially it needs to be dispensed every day requiring the user to make daily trips to the clinic. When the specific dose is determined that stabilizes the patient, then patients can begin to lessen their visits by receiving seven days of doses divided between two or three days a week and eventually, only coming in once a week to receive all seven days for the next week. This daily commitment combined with the difficulty many have in tapering off the medication (and its potential abuse as a full agonist that can be sedating) often outweighs, for some, the positives of its effectiveness in quelling withdrawal and cravings. Methadone is also much less costly than Suboxone if the user needs to pay out of pocket.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is another MAT drug, but is an antagonist. This means it blocks any opioids from connecting to the receptor sites and can only be used after a patient has completed detoxification from all opioids and all opioid medications like Suboxone or methadone. If a patient uses it while any opioids are in the body, they will go in the immediate withdrawal. Naltrexone is not addictive or sedating and does not result in physical dependence as does Suboxone or methadone. However, poor patient compliance with the daily tablets has limited its effectiveness. A long-acting form of naltrexone called Vivitrol® is now available in a once per month injection eliminating the need for daily use which improves patient compliance. Unlike methadone or Suboxone, anyone licensed to dispense medications can prescribe naltrexone, but the cost may be prohibitive for many.

Note to readers: Part II will run on Thursday, June23, and Part III will run on Thursday, June 30. We will post the full three-part series in our Resource section.

About our Guest Blogger: Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.