Addiction Treatment Expanding in the States

Officials and treatment centers take action


Every once in a while there’s some good news about treatment options for people suffering from addiction: their treatment options are expanded. At the beginning of August, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that will require “health insurers to cover up to two weeks of inpatient treatment for people battling drug addiction,” in response to the state’s “soaring rates of opioid drug abuse.”

If addicts can detox and start treatment, we can hope they will continue. At least it gives them more time to find funding options for further treatment because two weeks is a drop in the bucket. I imagine that was the purpose—to have someone start. The governor also said that the law “puts Massachusetts on the leading edge of access to addiction treatment and recovery services” and that "Those battling the effects of addiction should never face barriers to treatment."  (I posted about barriers to treatment on the Brentwood House blog in April 2014.)

The good news went further, however. Patrick also called a meeting with four governors from the northeast to find ways for the states to “work together on fighting addiction.”

Sometimes you have to look for pockets of hope. A couple of months ago, my local paper reported that Daytop, a treatment facility in southern Jersey was expanding. I believe there are not a lot of treatment options in my neck of the woods, but this article said that teens can enter residential treatment immediately but adults often have to wait nine to 12 months. I assume that’s for this center only.

Imagine this:

About 500 teens go through Daytop's programs each year across the state. Virtually all of the teens in the Pittsgrove (NJ) facility come from the seven southern counties. When insurance runs out, the facility uses state grants or private funds to keep patients in treatment as long as they need it.”

I liked this article because it told two stories. First, NJ Governor Christie (love him or hate him) told of losing a law school classmate addicted to Percocet. Christie tried to help him, but the man was unsuccessful after 12 trips to rehab. He was found dead, although the article didn’t say whether it was suicide or an accidental overdose. He was found in a motel room with an empty Percocet container and an empty quart of vodka. The second story involved a troubled teen who finally got sober after attending Daytop. His father said he had anxiety from a young age and started taking drugs in eighth grade. Soon he was shooting up between his toes so that his parents wouldn’t know. It was only when he had to face going to jail that he agreed to enter rehab.

This part reminds me of the tragic stories we have heard from from many mothers:

“Indeed, it seems most parents seek help after their children are already young adults and deep into their addictions, explained Kass Foster and Susan Buonomo, founding members of the group Parent-to-Parent. Both women lost sons to addiction and have sought to help other families fighting addiction.”

Although addiction treatment is expanding, it can still be difficult for those who are desperately trying to find treatment for someone in the throes of addiction. This is a step in the right direction, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.




Taking Action in the Battle Against Addiction--Vermont, Funeral Homes, Churches, Companies and Music Festivals

governor Shumlin.jpgTo many people, Vermont conjures an image of bucolic towns sporting church steeples, and great mountains for skiing. But like all states – addiction is a major problem there. In response, the governor gave a historic state-of-the-state speech in January, issuing a call to arms.  Treatment Magazine called it pioneering, saying that Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted the entire address to the topic (which it said is rarely done), especially because of the surge in heroin abuse in the state.

It’s time to stop averting our eyes, the governor said, and stop fighting against having treatment facilities in our towns. He was referring to the criticism that Vermont’s  Maple Leaf Farms Treatment Center received from some residents when the treatment center considered expanding its facility last year to offer more beds. (On a similar note, in a wealthy town near me in NJ, residents are fighting against having Oxford House, a sober living house, in its environs, after two residents overdosed on heroin. This is not the first time Oxford House has been criticized in my state—I wrote about the lack of support it receives from many residents [the NIMBY attitude] several years ago in an oped published in my local paper.)

It’s heartening to note the efforts that some organizations and companies are doing (whateverThumbnail image for pills in a bowl.jpgthey can) to raise awareness and lend a hand to fight addiction. A few months ago, the prosecutor’s office in Ocean County, NJ, where heroin overdoses are also sky high, started distributing “warning cards” through funeral homes, according to my local paper. The office hopes to “alert grieving family members and loved ones of the dangers of unused prescription medications.”  On first reading this, I wondered if mourners might not feel this is a slap in the face if their loved one died of an overdose, but it seems their intent was to urge people to clear the deceased’s house of leftover prescription pills so no one else would get them.

Of course, churches have long been proactive in helping communities. A local church in Pennsylvania, Bethany Wesleyan Church, has a program called Family Wellness Program, Understanding Addiction and Recovery, offered by an executive from a nearby treatment center. Mickey Rowe was an executive at IB when he was fired years ago due to alcoholism. (Now here’s a question. Could that happen today?)  Rowe entered treatment and afterward started pilot programs for families at two companies. Now his son, the executive at the treatment center, carries on his work.

Even the organizers of last October’s Tomorrow World, a music festival held in Atlanta, seem to be trying to help.

In including a non-profit called DanceSafe, they were trying to avoid the drug-related deaths that took place at other music festivals such as Electric Zoo in NYC, the New York Times noted. Members were set to roam the crowd distributing information on how to avoid overdoses, and a lounge was planned, where they would offer counseling.

This is common practice in Europe, the article said, but not everyone agrees this is an effective measure. A police official  in the article said this seems to condone taking drugs, and the President of The Partnership at said it plays down the threat of MDMA.

Finally, in December several media outlets, including WKYT in Kentucky,  spread the news that the Pill Guard company has designed a container that it says is designed to combat prescription drug abuse by preventing a person from taking too many pills at one time. HealthCare Packaging magazine seemed to have the most in-depth coverage.  The container is called PillSafe, and it’s currently being distributed in a pilot program. The container idea is attributed to a doctor who had a patient die from a drug overdose. Here’s what I learned:

“To dispense the drug, the patient pushes a button, and an internal timer keeps track of when the last pill was dispensed. If the button is pressed before the prescribed interval, the container will not release the medication. Should an individual attempt to force the mechanism or penetrate the bottle, a reactant next to the tablets will incinerate the contents in a matter of seconds.”

The company has to test for safety regarding the ingredients incinerate the contents.


Photo (above left):  Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin


September is Recovery Month

happy group.jpgWhether or not an addict enters recovery as a result of an intervention, a court mandate, or a personal choice, the important thing is that they get there, right? So started the post that appeared on the Malibu Beach Recovery Blog on October 10, 2010.

And so begins this post, also, to mark the beginning of Recovery Month 2013, in which the recovery community stops to recognize all those who have recovered and to draw attention to the help available.  Calling attention to the month also keeps the topic of substance abuse in the public eye and hopefully leads to discussions on how we can educate people about the drug epidemic sweeping the country and educate the current generation on the perils of substance abuse.

Or, in the words of the campaign, “Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.”

In the 2010 post, I wrote about MRBC alumna Elizabeth, who took the first step for a better life by agreeing to treatment. Joan, too, has written about alumni, including Krissie Bergo and others that chose to walk through the door and do the hard work. In December 2011, Joan’s post about Julia (not her real name) who enrolled in MBRC courtesy of her Starbuck’s health insurance, was especially memorable.

While some MBRC alumni self-identified — especially at least two who accompanied Joan when she testified in front of governmental committees — but several clients chose to use a pseudonym, which speaks to the stigma associated with addiction,  another  reason to continue marking this month every year. Anyone can become addicted, yet many people cast harsh aspersions on those who do.

The SAMHSA site promoting Recovery Month has a wealth of information on activities and events

samhsa.jpegtaking place all over. You can learn about Recovery walks (the one in my state is highly publicized every year), there are banners and logos to add to personal websites and those of organizations, and there’s information on addiction and recovery, of course. I entered Malibu’s zipcode on one page to search for events, and seven came up. There’s a talk on the science of addiction treatment and another on how addiction affects the family, both by addiction experts. There was an open forum on the evolution of addiction treatment, and a walk for overdose awareness. (Unfortunately, both of the last two, and one other event, were pre-September, which is a problem.) The L.A. Dodgers will be marking the month during a game on September 10, which seems like a highlight. That’s part of what I saw just from entering one zipcode, and just to look for events. There is so much more on the site.

The campaign is truly comprehensive; there’s even a link to content in Spanish. (That’s so timely when The Partnership at recently released information that “Hispanic teens are using drugs at alarmingly higher levels when compared to teens from other ethnic groups.”

For anyone who has had a family member embroiled in addiction, the topic is never far from mind. As I write, my leg is killing me. I have no idea what I did, I think it may be the result of yard work and bending the wrong way. When I think of muscle relaxers or pain pills, I decide to live with the pain for awhile longer. I’m not afraid I’ll get addicted, but just knowing the danger is enough of a deterrent. I don’t like the thought of drugs even though I know they can provide relief. I wonder how many people will cross that line today and start down the wrong path. Trying to keep even one person from doing that is also what Recovery Month is about.

Welcome and Good Luck to the Breathe Life Healing Center

As the press release from the Breathe Life Healing Center says, some all-stars in the addiction and recovery field have come together to offer two treatment centers, one in NY and another in L.A. They offer a sober living environment offering spiritual and life skills development, along with a trauma healing track. The New York location  is open now, and the one in L.A. will open in September. The centers focuses on a range of clients—those with chemical dependency, anxiety and/or depression, and obesity-related recovery.  (Note that the centers accept clients after acute detox for chemical dependency.)

lamm.jpgBrad Lamm, a board-registered interventionist who has worn several hats in his career, designed the program with cofounder Rev. Michael Ingersoll (the program is not faith-based, however), and then recruited Tian Dayton, Ph.D., as Director of Clinical Programming. Lamm has appeared on The Today Show and the Dr. Oz Show, and is known for inspiring people to make life changes. He created and produced an  8-part series, “Addicted to Food”, for Oprah’s network and has written several books on subjects relating to changing one’s life.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that everyone in the addiction and recovery field knows Dayton and the type of work she does. She’s written 15 books on addiction and recovery and trauma, and is a board certified trainer in psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy.  Dayton has been associated with several renowned treatment organizations and has been a guest expert on NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Montel, Rikki Lake, John Walsh, Geraldo.  She and Lamm make a caring team, and Rev. Ingersall adds a spiritual dynamic that encourages a deeper discovery of “the spiritual force.” Even simply visiting Dayton’s site can inspire people. I perused it for background material for this post and left feeling uplifted!

Kathy Willis, former MBRC executive director, now works for Brad and has personal experience with the Breathe concepts. Here’s  the inside lowdown on Brad and Tian:Kathy_Leigh_Willis.jpg

“Brad is a very dynamic, charismatic and imaginative person.  He has great vision of how to approach addictions of all types and help people towards better lives. His inspiration for the original Breathe LHC in Manhattan was based on what he saw as the need for good transitional living in NYC.  However, he soon realized he wanted to do something different and came up with the idea of having a series of focused workshops and a base of spirituality.  

The spirituality does not put people off at all.  We had an open house in March 2013, and within three weeks, all the beds were full.  Brad  then leased an apartment around the corner for stage 4 people, those who have done 90 days and need something longer but with less structure.  The guests really enjoy the total involvement of the staff, the schedules set up for them and the spiritual involvement.  Breathe has yoga and meditation every day as well.  There is no staff person who sleeps at the house, the staff is 24/7 and always awake.  With no bed or bedroom for a staff person to sleep in, they are always on duty if a guest wakes and needs to talk.

"One of Brad's focuses is on food and weight.  He is particularly interested in binge eating disorder and has reserved two beds at Breathe, Manhattan for these clients.  For Breathe, LA, he has three houses, one of which is totally for these interests.

"Brad has had a working relationship as well as a friendship with Tian for awhile, and when he spoke with her about wanting to open a clinic for trauma work for people with addiction and/or life problems, she was very interested in using her long expertise and experience with psycho-drama as a base for this work.  Brad is opening a second clinic here in LA on W. Sunset in W. Hollywood.

"Tian is training several of us who have some background in Psycho-Drama and I have written a 5-day family program that we will be doing at the clinic once every 3-4 weeks.  (In NY, it will be every 6 weeks.)  With all the newer information regarding neuro-physiology, trauma and addiction, something experiential as opposed to standard education and process is extremely exciting.  Psycho-drama seems to be a way to bring to the surface otherwise defended emotional material that often leads to relapse. 

"Because of her long history, Tian will be training everyone who works in the clinic on psycho-drama, but we will also be using other methods to deal with addiction and trauma.”

Again, best of luck to Brad, Rev. Ingersall, and Tian.




Living Clean and Sober: It's Not the Town

no alcohol street sign.jpgDid you ever read an article and think “That’s really reaching for a topic”? You know what I mean—the information is something so well-known, or the topic seems so unnecessary, that you wonder how it ever made it to print. I just read one like that. It had a title similar to others I’ve seen, such as Top Cities to Retire In, or Top Cities for Singles, only this one, in USA Weekend, was Choose Health: Top Cities for Living Clean and Sober.

The writer interviewed the editorial director of addiction and recovery site The Fix, which I’ve written about before on the MBRC blog. What the director said was correct—“[when recovering,] having a community and support around you is vital,” but to name actual “top” cities that are good for living clean and sober seems a reach, at best. Every large city has bars, and even smaller towns have liquor stores. (For the record, L.A., Delray Beach, Fla., and NYC were the three top cities mentioned in the article. L.A. was lauded for its high number of treatment centers and focus on healthy activities, and the Florida city was cited for retirees that “energize this recovery community” (?) and for a recovery motorcycle club. NYC offers the most AA meetings and a big recovery population.)

These are large, well-known cities, and I would agree that there are probably lots of self-help meetings and treatment centers in cities as opposed to small towns. But just as temptation is everywhere, those in recovery, or wanting to recover, and reach out anywhere. There are online meetings, and organizations such as hospitals and churches and the like offer programs for substance abusers.

I have wondered if kids who live in rural areas turn to drugs more frequently than others (especially those where meth labs are prevalent?), and those who don’t have much hope of making a good living. But what about all the wealthy kids who are in the news for their substance abuse? sobriety freeway exit.jpg

No, it’s not the city you live in that determines whether you take drugs or get – and/or stay – clean and sober. If you know anything about substance abuse, you know that it affects all socioeconomic levels, and all areas of the country, and as I hope you’re finding out the other countries I’m writing about, it affects our world. Many things affect recovery: whether you get help handling trauma, if that’s been a major problem, and don’t turn to drugs to self-medicate, or whether you can get into a (good) treatment program, and whether you stay away from triggers and the addicts you were associating with when it all started, to name a few.

Just ask Cheryl Debow, of Middletown, Ohio, whose Army veteran son died of a drug overdose while waiting for a spot in an addiction program in 2010: A Veteran’s Death, the Nation’s Shame

Or, on a more positive note, ask Antonio Lambert of Smyrna, Delaware, a 41-year-old mental health educator with a dual diagnosis: mood disorder with drug addiction – one of “the scariest in drug addiction” who was featured in: “After Drugs and Dark Times, Helping Others to Stand Back Up.” He grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia without much supervision and became an alcoholic at a young age. He was sexually abused, got into gunfights, and was sent to prison. When he was released his mood disorder kicked in big time and he began using cocaine. Finally he entered a Christian-based recovery program, which made all the difference. He now works as a peer supporter.

Substance abuse has a wide reach, from the largest town to the smallest city. But so does recovery and those who care about helping.


Is Sober the New Black? Some in Recovery Say "Get Real."

woman in black.jpgA past issue of Details magazine was largely devoted to addiction and recovery, and I was drawn to it.  First, someone compiled a timeline of moments in sobriety. It’s riveting. Do you remember when warning labels first started appearing on alcoholic beverages? How about the first celebrity to publicly enter rehab?  The year Cocaine Anonymous was founded? (Answers at bottom.)

Especially interesting is the partial history surrounding alcoholism. For those who don’t remember, the first AA meeting was held in 1935. Alcoholism was declared a personality disorder by the APA in 1952. In 1956 it was classified as an illness, and 10 years later, as a disease. In 1979 a World Health Organization recommended the phrase “alcohol dependence syndrome.”

Another article in the issue asks “Do You have a Case of Recovery Envy?” The author is quick to say he doesn’t abuse drugs but that like others he knows, he has “recovery envy.” OK, it’s a tongue-in-cheek, novel approach to talking about sobriety. He quotes one person who says that being able to say you’re a recovering alcoholic is cool.

You can argue that in one sense it’s cool if you mean that it’s smart. It’s choosing health, and life, and sanity. (The writer also points out how the media readily pounces on a story of debauchery, but I’d argue that just as many writers look to write about stories of recovery.) And I suppose you could argue that it diminishes the hard work of recovery to attach a label like “cool” to sobriety, meaning that it’s fashionable or trendy. But if, within reason, a headline calls attention to the topic, it’s actually helpful.

Some substance abusers in recovery who commented on the article were not pleased with the author:

As an addict, my family and friends do look up to me now that I've trudged through hell and came back. It takes, time, though and it shouldn't be talked about in a joking matter. I take my sobriety very seriously.


This was just another article written with the lack of knowledge or consideration to obtain suchThumbnail image for elizabeth taylor star on Sunset Blvd.jpgknowledge which glamorizes addiction and recovery. Addiction is a deadly disease, not a game. Recovery is a lifeline that some of us are lucky enough to be able to hold on to and pull our lives out of the gutter. Be homeless, go hungry, be sick because you haven't had a fix, sell your body to be able to buy said fix, steal from those you "love", and wind up in a prison/mental facility then tell me how glamorous and trendy it is. Do some (*&^% -- censored by Pat) research and write an article with some substance about how devastating addiction is and then maybe the public won't be so jealous.

One comment was so graphic and vulgar I couldn’t include it.

And finally, a third article I’ve chosen from the issue is the one alluded to in the title of this post: Sober is the New Black.  It begins by introducing the third annual California REEL Recovery Film Festival and mentions numerous recovery films, like Down to the Bone. Then it lists several actors who have recovered after some serious drug use, all of which everyone has undoubtedly read about. A college professor is quoted as saying, “The recovering alcoholic is sort of the paradigm of the model citizen." And then, the author of this article says, “sobriety actually bestows social cachet in certain quarters.” As the two people who commented on the previous article might say, Recovery is hard work. And once you’re on the other side, you’re probably not going to be feeling trendy. Happy and relieved, yes. Proud, surely.  But a certain cachet? Not likely.


Answers: 1990, Bela Lugosi, 1982

Naloxone and Overdose Rescue Kits and Hangover Helpers

When I first saw the headline, “Overdose Rescue Kits”, I thought it was a joke, a takeoff on articles about overdose rescue kit.jpghangover remedies. But it wasn’t a joke. (FYI, since that day, the “New York Times” has changed the headline to “Kits Using Naloxone Revive Addicts After Opiate Overdose”. They make those changes occasionally.) I knew about oral activated charcoal used for drug overdoses, but this was different.

Last October I posted about states passing legislation to help those who overdose by removing the fear of being arrested if someone calls 911 to get the person help. This article is about helping people in other countries who overdose on drugs like heroin and Oxycontin.

In Europe, someone dies from a drug overdose every hour, the article says. (I wonder what the figure is in this country.) With naloxone (or Narcan, the brand name), which blocks opiate receptors, the person may be revived. I don’t know if it’s possible in every case, but it’s been “shown to work” and “has been used for decades by surgeons and paramedics.” Naloxone is “a secondary chemical in the drug Suboxone”, according to Wikipedia.

The article mentioned there’s a question about how legal it is to distribute these kits the way other countries do it, but there are groups in Central Asia and in Europe hard at work. In China, if you call a hotline, someone on a motorcycle will deliver the kit to you. In Afghanistan, however, the person who gave you a heroin injection may also provide the Naloxone shot. L

Now the cost. Roughly between  25 cents and $2.00 in other countries, in contrast to about $6 or $9 in the U.S, depending on what article you read.

Be sure and check out the photo of the kit in the article. It looks very professional, like a first aid kit you might buy for your house. A nasal spray is available as well. I wonder why I never heard of these kits before.

In a 2009 article in Time magazine, addiction writer Maia SzalavitzMaia Szalavitz.bmp wrote about programs in Chicago and North Carolina in this country.  I also found mention of the kits by a Canadian blogger. Here’s an article from the Harm Reduction Journal on a government site about a study of a program in New York City. The conclusions seemed pretty positive. Finally, NPR has had a story on the kits, too.

As the New York Times writer mentions, if someone is revived with this kit, it may send him or her back to rehab. On the other hand, Szalavitz notes a problem with these programs: could drug users also think that if this is something that can resuscitate them they can continue using drugs with impunity? Which, as we know, is playing Russian roulette with your life.

About hangover remedies…there’s news on that front as well. Just before New Year’s, several new products hit the news. Enterprising entrepreneurs have been busy.

One product, a patch, goes on an area like a forearm 45 minutes before drinking and should be worn for eight hours after the last drink. It contains B and other vitamins, Acai berry, and folic and pantothenic acid. But even the doctor that helped produce the patch said that nothing will help those who drink a lot, so doesn’t this appear senseless?

Another supposed remedy is a pill that is a blend of aspirin, an antacid, and caffeine, and yet another is a mix of vitamin B and C, magnesium and cysteine. It seems to me there are so many more productive things to be doing with one’s time, and so many better things to invent for mankind.

Update from Joan Borsten:

Fifteen minutes after we published Pat's article, the phone rang.  A woman had already read it and wanted to know where to get a Naloxone kit.  She said she wanted to have one on hand in case her brother, a heroin addict, overdosed.   While researching this article, Pat had looked without luck for a manufacturer of these kits.  She tried again and discovered that kits require a prescription and the local pharmacy may or may not have a kit on hand, but there are apparently 200 naloxone distribution programs around the country.  There is a large program in New York directed by Sharon Stancliff with the Harm Reduction Coalition.  To find one in your area, type into your search engine and enter a zip code into the program locator.


News in the Addiction and Recovery Field

Recently Malibu Beach Recovery Center CEO Joan Borsten and I were talking about some dramatic news.brain reward site.jpg

First, last year the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) introduced a new definition of addiction that “knocks the psychological element off centre stage, redefining addiction as a chronic neurological disorder and an imbalance in the brain’s ‘reward’ circuitry.” (That’s from an editorial in a nutrition and mental health newsletter from the International Schizophrenia Foundation.) Joan applauded ASAM for finally recognizing what scientists like Dr. Kenneth Blum and NIDA chief Dr. Nora Volkow have known for decades -- that addiction is a chronic brain disease. Remember her Dopamine for Dummies article?

Second, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) has announced a working definition of “recovery,” (from mental disorders and substance abuse disorders). The group worked with people from behavioral health care, among others, to detail the essential, common experiences of those recovering from these conditions. They offer this statement:

“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

And these components that support a life in recovery:

  • Health: Overcoming or managing one's disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way.
  • Home: A stable and safe place to live.
  • Purpose: Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.
  • Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Here’s what I see: Every field needs a vocabulary people can agree on. It drives the work and indicates what the field is about. It supports the members and the experts, and it’s important.

We are still at the start of this New Year.  I’m thinking of all the people in recovery and wishing them well. I’m thankful for all the recovery centers around the country helping them to improve their life and reach their new potential.



Drug Treatment for Addicts with Limited Money, Medicare

For many people, finding the right treatment program is not always easy. Not only do program offerings vary, but programs can be costly.  Some centers are strictly private pay and over many people’s budget. Or if programs do take insurance, they don’t take your insurance. Maybe you don’t even have insurance. outreach services2.jpg

If you’re a family member looking for treatment for a loved one, the search can seem overwhelming.  Entering “Addiction treatment” or “Treatment center” and the name of your state into an internet search engine turns up numerous choices. What do you do?

Consider a web-based company that refers you to centers according to your specific needs and ability to pay. Drug and Alcohol Rehab Services ( in California is one such site.


Founder Debra Norton calls her nationwide referral service a “1-stop shop” that helps people find treatment programs in line with their budget. She started the website to “offer direction to people so they weren’t having to call 1,000 phone numbers and end up with only high-end services.” Indeed, Norton provided a wealth of information when I interviewed her recently.

For example, there are a number of centers that accept insurance. She explained that some accept Medicare, the federal insurance program for those 65 and older and others who are disabled. Similarly, she said, some accept TRICARE, the insurance program for military personnel and veterans.outreach services.jpg

Financing is another option if you have decent credit, Norton said. She knows of treatment programs that work with finance companies to help clients, and she has heard of payments as low as $200 per month.  “Maybe you’ve asked for help and your father has said he will help pay,” she said. Financing may be especially helpful in that case.  Norton takes the time to talk to those seeking treatment.

There are also sliding-fee programs. But one of the first questions Norton asks is whether you’re willing and able to travel, because not all programs exist in every state. In addition, you may be placed on a waiting list for some state-funded programs.

Norton suggests going to, which will bring you to SAMHSA, a government site on which you can find various facilities. However, be careful when looking for referral sites, Norton advises. Some sites portray themselves as such (“Find Treatment Now”), but are actually treatment centers and may refer you to their three facilities, for example.

You can contact Norton at 800-515-3277, or by filling out the form on the DARS site. Her other is site is Outreach Services (, 866-418-1397), which includes quite a bit of information on addiction.




Heroin and Portland, Oregon

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend I was channel surfing while on an exercise bike. A documentary on MSNBC called "The Runaways" about the thousands of homeless kids throughout the U.S. stopped me in my tracks (The program was first shown in 2001, so it’s puzzling why it’s still appearing. I did check for current information, which I’ll get to.) Many of these kids were flocking to Portland because of the ease of obtaining heroin -- the narrator said the city had an influx of 100 kids a month. He also called the city the heroin capital of the Westportland ORegon.jpg.

It was hard to watch. “Chris’s” story was jaw-dropping. Now 21, he had been on the street since age 16. He was panhandling, hoping for $40 a day to feed his habit. At one point he made a copy at Kinkos to be able to use the restroom (to shoot up, I think.). “Jesse” spoke of the group of homeless kids he hung around with as his “street family” and said that they beat up other kids when necessary, such as when someone owed them money.

Portland had a lot going for it. The business community was supportive, even building a center for the many teens on the street and the police, too, were compassionate. The town’s needle exchange program was held up as both progressive, but it was also controversial.

Anyone who noticed that the documentary was 10 years old might be curious about what’s happening now, so I checked for updated information. In mid-May, an Oregon TV station broadcast the bad news: Portland is still known for easy access to heroin. Also disturbing is that there are “newer, younger users” in town, some of whom started with prescription pill abuse.

The documentary spoke of one kid in the group who had died, and one who hadn’t been successful in rehab. So many young lives devastated. 

Marijuana, the Most Commonly Used Drug

I’ve been writing about alcohol and prescription pill abuse so often that I haven’t given marijuana its duemarijuana.jpg.

As NIDA reports, it’s “the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States.” It’s not that I haven’t been hearing about pot (or weed, skunk, Acapulco gold, tea, reefer, or any of the other terms it’s known by).  This MSN video reported that pot use is up among baby boomers these days.  

I occasionally discuss marijuana use with other parents since I have a 21-year-old. Although statistics say the numbers have been decreasing, pot smoking seems to be popular with the younger crowd in my area. Opinions among parents I’ve polled seem to run the gamut from “Everyone does it at that age. They’ll grow out of it” to true concern.

A counselor recently told me that today's pot is different from what the flower children of the 1960’s smoked. For one thing, it’s stronger today, which led her to believe it really does qualify as a “gateway” drug. She said that who are experimenting often think, “Wow, if I feel so good on this stuff, I wonder what a different drug might get me.” I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s scary.

Then there’s the standard body of thought that daily use can lead to “suboptimal functioning,” to quote NIDA again. The organization also holds that long-term use can lead to addiction, or at least to increased anxiety and depression.

In my local paper today, a 20-year-old  that attended high school with my son was arrested along with his parents for having a large cache of marijuana. The man’s brother, in a nearby town, was also arrested and charged with intent to distribute and other crimes. He had a number of guns in his house and $15,000. The 20-year-old and his parents could get seven years in prison, the article said. The 27-year-old brother, who had already been jailed for distributing pot, was expected to get up to 26 years.

Pot can decimate lives, too.




Addiction - An Equal Opportunity Disease Or, Meet David Carr

I love hearing about people in recovery. Some people’s stories – actually many people’s stories -- stay with you. If you didn’t know it from the start, sometimes it’s hard to believe that the person you know now as sober, once sunk so low. Then you realize that there but for the grace of God is you.david carr.jpg

All of which is to introduce David Carr, a columnist for The New York Times. I know Malibu is L.A. Times territory, but with the documentary  Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times out now, I have the perfect opportunity to write about a journalist’s story of recovery. He’s in the movie, by the way.

I adore Carr’s writing. He makes writing seem so easy, and he just knows a lot about everything. I remember hearing him interviewed on the radio about his book The Night of the Gun and his life as I was pulling into a shopping mall. I was so mesmerized listening to him that I sat in the car and listened to the rest of the interview.

I’ve never met David, although I freelance for the paper. Every time I read one of his NYT columns or an article he wrote for another publication, I think about how lucky he is that the paper took a chance on him and gave him a job. In his earlier years he drank a lot, he was smoking crack, he beat up his girlfriend, and was not exactly a nice guy. But he has redeemed himself and that was then and this is now.

To write his book, Carr went back to his hometown, Minneapolis, and asked people for their recollections about those horrible years. After graduating from college, he becomes a reporter but is doing cocaine in the evenings. He eventually gets fired. His girlfriend becomes addicted to crack like he does, and gives birth to twin daughters who are crack babies. She loses custody and he raises the girls. Once, he locks them in the car and leaves them alone while he buys drugs. And yes, there was a gun, but luckily nothing happened.

It takes Carr four tries at rehab. He overcomes cancer, remarries, and is a good father and husband, if he does say so himself. Those are the basic facts. He elaborates on them in 300 pages. But to know all the mistakes he made, and where he is now, almost takes my breath away.



12 Questions to Ask When Considering a Treatment Provider

These questions, and the advice in the paragraph that precedes them, are courtesy of the CSAT site (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment), part of SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) in The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The link on the CSAT site where I found them is no longer active, and I couldn’t find a page they had been moved to, either. It’s unfortunate because the information seems extremely helpful. Sometimes the best questions are the ones you wouldn’t think to ask.

group therapy 2.jpgIf you or someone you care for is dependent on alcohol or drugs and needs treatment, it is important to know that no single treatment approach is appropriate for all individuals. Finding the right treatment program involves careful consideration of such things as the setting, length of care, philosophical approach and your or your loved one's needs.

Here are 12 questions to consider when selecting a treatment program:


Does the program accept your insurance? If not, will they work with you on a payment plan or find other means of support for you?


Is the program run by state-accredited, licensed and/or trained professionals?


Is the facility clean, organized and well-run?


Does the program encompass the full range of needs of the individual (medical: including infectious diseases; psychological: including co-occurring mental illness; social; vocational; legal; etc.)?


Does the treatment program also address sexual orientation and physical disabilities as well as provide age, gender and culturally appropriate treatment services?


Is long-term aftercare support and/or guidance encouraged, provided and maintained?


Is there ongoing assessment of an individual's treatment plan to ensure it meets changing needs?


Does the program employ strategies to engage and keep individuals in longer-term treatment, increasing the likelihood of success?


Does the program offer counseling (individual or group) and other behavioral therapies to enhance the individual's ability to function in the family/community?


Does the program offer medication as part of the treatment regimen, if appropriate?


Is there ongoing monitoring of possible relapse to help guide patients back to abstinence?


Are services or referrals offered to family members to ensure they understand addiction and the recovery process to help them support the recovering individual?



You Oughta Be in Pictures

You’ve heard about The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, right? The non-profit program that educates about substance abuse and tries to raise awareness? It’s recently been renamed The Partnership at and has redone its website. I happen to follow this group because I’ve found it helpful—especially when my son hit the teenage years and I wanted to know more about how to talk to him about drugs.

They’re offering the chance for you writers out there to have your say (albeit a short one), post your photo, and support their efforts.  Collagefore-alert (1).jpg

A recent email from the organization told of this Facebook Photo Campaign: “Share Why You Believe in Drug and Alcohol Prevention.” They’ve done a really nice job.   

Here’s part of the email:

Help us share reasons why Prevention of Drug & Alcohol Abuse Is Important to You! Take a photo with your answer on this PDF and post it to our Facebook page. Don’t forget to tag yourself and spread the word!

The Personal TWIBBON Campaign:

Help The Partnership at by wearing your own virtual ribbon. Add our Twibbon sticker to your facebook page or tweet your support.   


In other words, if you click on the link above, or go here: there’s a file you can download and use to answer why you think that preventing drug and alcohol abuse is important. (Then you post it to their Faceebook page.)You’ll see that those of you who Tweet can help in that way as well. By the way, here’s their Website: