Archive for February, 2017

Are recreational marijuana and opioid addiction linked?

Posted on: February 27th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Updated 1:05 PM ET, Fri February 24, 2017

(CNN) As White House press secretary Sean Spicer spoke Thursday about “greater enforcement” of federal marijuana laws, he seemed to link recreational pot use to a different type of drug: opioids.

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. There’s still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational use marijuana and other drugs of that nature,” Spicer said in a White House press briefing, while being careful to distinguish between use of medical and recreational marijuana.

Yet when it comes to recreational marijuana and opioid addiction, many experts say there’s no definitive evidence to support an exclusive connection between them. Factors fueling the opioid crisis have been identified — and none is related to marijuana use.

“We know why there’s an opioid addiction epidemic. … I don’t think there is really debate,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

“It’s because we have overexposed the population to prescription opioids,” he said. “The driver behind that increase in opioid addiction has been an overprescribing of pain medicine, overexposing the population to a highly addictive drug.”

Some patients experiencing pain thrive and find solace through prescription opioids. But there has been a 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Along with the increased use of prescription pain medications, there are other factors fueling the opioid addiction crisis, wrote Dr. David Fiellin, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine who conducts research on opioid treatment strategies, in an email.

“There are a variety of factors contributing to the current situation including increased prescribing of opioids for pain, the increased purity and lower costs of heroin and other illicit opioids, and increased availability of high potency opioids including fentanyl. Economic, psychiatric and social factors including changing norms regarding substance use have also contributed,” Fiellin wrote.

About 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids and heroin. More than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdose in 2015 alone.

Recently, the opioid epidemic has become as much of a political issue as it is a public health one — and experts tend to see recreational marijuana use and the opioid crisis as two separate issues.

“You have both sides of the marijuana debate pointing to the opioid crisis and trying to use the opioid crisis to make an argument to support their position,” Kolodny said. “You have the anti-marijuana group saying it’s a gateway drug. … You have the pro-marijuana camp saying it’s the answer to the opioid crisis.”

For instance, some experts argue that medical marijuana could be used for pain relief in place of prescription opioids.

States that have legalized medical marijuana for managing chronic pain have significantly fewer deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses each year, according to a 2014 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Yet when marijuana is used recreationally, “the very heavy marijuana smoking among adolescents and young adults is a problem,” Kolodny said. “Marijuana is safer than opioids, it’s less addictive than opioids, but it’s not a benign drug.”

Fiellin weighed in on whether there is a link between recreational marijuana use and opioid addiction.

“There is some evidence of an association between previous use of marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes in individuals who experiment with prescription opioids and heroin. To date, however, there is no definitive evidence of an exclusive causal link for marijuana,” he said, adding, “Given the overwhelming evidence supporting the biologic basis of substance use and addiction, I would encourage a primary medical response to these challenges and evidence-based legal efforts that support prevention and treatment.”



Addiction Treatment Vulnerable as Obamacare Repeal Looms in Horizon

Posted on: February 24th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

February 22, 2017, 2:54 PM

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. — While the Affordable Care Act has brought health coverage to millions of Americans, the effects have been profound, even lifesaving, for some of those caught up in the nation’s opioid-addiction crisis.

In Kentucky, which has been ravaged worse than almost any other state by fentanyl, heroin and other drugs, Tyler Witten went into rehab at Medicaid’s expense after the state expanded the program under a provision of the act. Until then, he had been addicted to painkillers for more than a decade.

“It saved my life,” he said.

Addicts and mentally ill people who gained access to treatment programs for the first time are worried about how that might change as President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress try to make good on their promise to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

Repeal could end coverage for 1.8 million people who have undergone addiction or mental health treatment and could cut $5.5 billion in spending on such services, said Richard Frank, a health economist at Harvard Medical School.

Some GOP governors insist addicts have nothing to fear from repeal because, they say, Medicaid will continue to pay for treatment. But Democrats and others are dubious.

Currently the federal government covers a certain percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs, however high they might go. As part of the plan to junk Obamacare, the Trump administration has expressed support instead for giving states a fixed amount of money for Medicaid and letting them design their own programs.

But Raymond Castro, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank, said these block grants are likely to come with less money. And that could force states to cut benefits.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has made the opioid crisis his top priority in his final year in office, said he would support a shift to block grants because of the flexibility they give states. But he said the people receiving treatment through the Medicaid expansion now shouldn’t be forgotten.

“Whatever changes are made to the ACA should be made with those people in mind, because we don’t help ourselves by kicking those people off coverage,” Christie said.

In areas overwhelmed by the opioid crisis, the uncertainty is worrisome to people receiving treatment.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 63,000 newly eligible Medicaid enrollees received drug and alcohol treatment in 2015, the first year of the state’s expansion.

One of them was 44-year-old Pittsburgh restaurant hostess Erika Lindgren, who credits the health care law with quickly getting her into a 26-day rehab program in 2015 and covering the daily medications she takes to fight opioid cravings.

When she was uninsured, getting into rehab involved waiting lists and daily phone calls to see if a publicly funded bed had opened up. With coverage under the Affordable Care Act, “I was able to pack my bag at that moment,” she said. “I was in an in-patient rehab within an hour and a half of making that call.”

“I am scared to death to lose my coverage,” she added. “It saves my life every day.”

In Wildwood, New Jersey, Ashley Grant, a 30-year-old recovering heroin addict who has been sober since June, is hoping to regain custody of her three children. She has signed up for Medicaid under the health law expansion and is waiting to be approved so she can afford weekly counseling. A county program helps pay for a monthly anti-relapse shot.

“They should make it easier for people with addiction to get insurance,” she said.

Care for mental illness, too, expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

Marquitta Nelson, a 60-year-old homeless Chicagoan with severe depression, is getting psychiatric care and treatment for asthma, arthritis and other conditions since she obtained Medicaid coverage under the health law expansion. She is waiting to be assigned to a shelter and staying with a friend.

“Am I expected not to take my medications and wig out and be walking up and down the street, not coherent?” Nelson said.

While the law expanded coverage, it did not always translate into more treatment.

For those buying insurance in the marketplace, many plans still exclude or limit residential treatment and clinics that dispense methadone, which is used to treat addictions to heroin and painkillers. Deductibles for some plans are so high that people still cannot afford help.

Despite those hurdles, the health care law was beginning to shift the system and giving hope to many, said Samuel Ball, chief executive of the nonprofit National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse in New York.

“At a point where we feel we’re turning a corner, to have the whole rug pulled out from under us is very concerning,” he said.

Americorps to start new efforts with opioid addiction recovery

Posted on: February 24th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

By Karen Scullin posted February 22, 2017

T.PAUL, Minn. (KMSP)– Americorps is joining the fight against opioid addiction. On Wednesday, Minnesota hosted a national eventto include those addicted to opioids as a vital resource to Americorps.

There are 80,000 Americorps members in the nation – 21,000 in Minnesota alone.  They do service work at non-profits, schools, public agencies and faith-based groups. Now, Americorps is adding the recovery community to that list.

“We feel like we have a big part to play in the whole recovery process,” said Audrey Suker of Serve MN and Americorps.

The plan is to design new Americorps programming for opioid addiction recovery, but also to offer opportunities to those in the recovery community.

“We’re just learning this morning a chance for someone in recovery to show up every day and feel loved and valued is critical in the recovery process and is life-changing,” said Suker.

In Minnesota, opioid addiction is gripping the state like never before.

“There’s still an increasing number of people using opioids across the country, but particularly here in Minnesota, the numbers from the first quarter 2015 to the first quarter 2016 kept rising, opioid overdose deaths kept rising here in Minnesota,” said Dr. Marvin Seppala, Chief Medical Officer at Hazelden Betty Ford. “Part of that has been a switch from prescription opioids to heroin.”

While there is no easy path to recovering from opioid addiction or any addiction, it is important to remember there are success stories. Samantha St. John, who struggled with alcohol addiction, believes Americorps was part of recovery success.

“Having a sense of meaning and purpose in doing this work, which I definitely felt I had when I worked,” said Samantha St. John. “I was proud to go to work every day I loved coming to my job.”

Americorps is not wasting a lot of time. They hope to begin their new efforts in the recovery community in the fall.


China’s move to ban fentanyl could help curb drug addiction crisis in US

Posted on: February 24th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

By Elizabeth Llorente

Published February 20, 2017

 The Chinese government’s recent decision to ban the manufacture and sale of four types of the synthetic drug fentanyl next month came too late for Carlos Castellanos.

The 23-year-old Pennsylvania man had been off drugs for 10 months when he was found dead in a car parked by a train station. Castellanos looked happy and healthy when he walked his mother, Pam Garozzo, down the aisle at her wedding on Dec. 3. But on Dec. 23 Castellanos relapsed, overdosing on a drug apparently laced with fentanyl.

“It took us by total shock,” Garozzo said of her son’s death. “He was very happy, healthy, he had a girlfriend, he had plans to go back to college, he wanted to be an engineer, he was facilitating meetings to help other people in drug recovery. But the drugs are toxic and they’re everywhere.”

China announced Wednesday night that it will ban carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl, acrylfentanyl and valeryl fentanyl from being manufactured there – a move that U.S. officials at the federal and state levels say is significant and likely to be felt in communities across the country.

Manufacturers and organized crime groups in China are the source of the bulk of fentanyl that is upending U.S. lives, and killing more than 700 people each year. It is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. People whose skin accidently has come in contact with it have become addicted.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials see tighter fentanyl controls by China as a game-changer. When it got tougher about regulating 100 synthetic chemicals in 2015, the global supply of those substances plummeted, some as much as 60 percent, according to the DEA.

“The DEA views China’s actions to be four giant steps in the right direction, steps that will ultimately lead to the reduction of numerous overdoses that have occurred throughout the United States, especially the last couple of years,” DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson told Fox News of the new fentanyl controls.

Patterson said that rigorous regulation of fentanyl in China should make it vastly easier for U.S. investigators to trace fentanyl and drugs laced with the deadly substance back to the illicit sources. Until now, China had been an exasperatingly indecipherable key piece of the puzzle in the fight against fentanyl trafficking and catching those aggravating the worst addiction crisis to hit the United States.

While other countries tightened their control over fentanyl, China did not, despite years of urging from the United States.

Dealers discovered in the last two or so years that vast profits could be made by cutting fentanyl into illicit drugs. In fiscal year 2014, U.S. authorities seized just 8.1 pounds of fentanyl. By the first half of last year, they seized 295 pounds, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Overdose rates have been skyrocketing.

In 2016, the U.S. lost more than 52,000 — enough to fill a major league baseball stadium — to drug overdose, 33,000 of which were from opioids.

About 10 years ago, gun-related deaths outnumbered opioid-related death by more than 5-to-1. Today, more people die from opioid-related deaths than from gun homicides and traffic accidents combined.

On on average day, 144 people in the U.S. die from a drug overdose, the majority are from pharmaceutical opioids or heroin or fentanyl.

Every day, nearly 600 people try heroin for the first time.

Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

“In every community it’s a concern now,” said New Jersey state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, one of the legislature’s most vocal proponents of assertive measures to address the addiction crisis. “I cannot be too dramatic about this. This scourge knows no socioeconomic or ethnic or geographic bounds.”

China’s decision, finally, to do its part to make fentanyl harder to access “is heartening,” O’Scanlon said.

Just days ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed the toughest law in the country regarding opioid prescriptions and insurance coverage of addiction treatment.

Like many other states, New Jersey has been hard hit by the addiction crisis.

The toll of opioid addiction is being seen by families, police, hospital emergency staff, teenagers and millennials who have attended funerals – sometimes several – for current or former classmates.

Paula DeJohn owns the Silverton Memorial Funeral Home in Toms River, a New Jersey shore community where 40 percent of the population has an annual household income between $75,000 and $200,000.

In the last couple of years, as the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic intensified – to a large extent because of fentanyl — DeJohn has handled more funerals than she ever has for people who never got to brush gray hair.

“Everything runs down to us,” DeJohn said. “We’ve been seeing a lot of kids, it’s unbelievable. It’s primarily high school kids, but also young people in their 20s and 30s. Before it was rare to see a young person. Now it’s constant.”

In one 10-day stretch last year the bodies of three young people were brought to the Silverton funeral home.

“I have friends affected by this, and kids who are addicted who I saw grow up,” she said. “The parents tried everything to break the cycle.”

New Jersey Attorney General Chris Porrino, a key figure in the state’s war on opioids and whose mission it is to expand treatment for addiction, said he welcomes China’s decision to join the global move toward tightening control over fentanyl.

But he is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

“It’s a big development,” Porrino said of China’s announcement. “We’re optimistic that this will make a difference. Fentanyl takes a bad situation [regarding drug addiction] and makes it so much worse.”

Echoing many experts on the subject, Porrino said he doesn’t understand why China waited until now to do what so many others nations began doing years ago.

“It’s an epidemic and a disease and it’s spreading,” he said.

Which is why the DEA, lawmakers and law enforcers say the solution is multi-pronged and goes beyond cutting off supply.

“Part of the epidemic isn’t about illicit supply,” David Shirk, a global fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Fox News. “China’s regulations will make illicit production harder to access. For so many people addicted to opium, it starts with legal access to prescription medicines, which [later] is abused.”

“A lot of the problems, at the end of the day, contributing to addiction are social and psychological,” Shirk said, “and the fact that we don’t have a strong support system to help people deal with it.”

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for, and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on


FOX25 Investigates: Growing concerns about nurses struggling with addiction

Posted on: February 16th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Updated: Feb 15, 2017 – 4:09 AM


BOSTON – The opioid epidemic is impacting those responsible for our healthcare and it’s costing more and more nurses their jobs.

Nurses have dangerous, high stress jobs. When injured, a simple prescription from their doctor can quickly lead to problems that can be exacerbated by their easy access to addictive pain killers.

One nurse’s story

Dara, who didn’t want us to use her full name, says she became a nurse to help people. In 2006 she had some medical issues that left her in need of help. She was 36 years old when she got a prescription from her doctor that would change her life.

“I was given prescriptions for Percocet and Vicodin,” she said. “The first time I received the narcotics it was an instant love for it. An immediate rush came over me.”

As a nurse in the ER, it was hard for Dara to escape the source of her addiction. A year after her first pill, the hospital began to notice discrepancies in how she administered medication.

“At this point I knew I had an illness that had become out of control” she said.

Dara says that was the moment she knew she had lost control. She immediately asked for help.

A growing problem

Dara’s story is not unique. In 2016, 73 nurses in Massachusetts surrendered their licenses for substance abuse or diverting a controlled substance, nearly three times as many as in 2015, according to data from the Department of Public Health.

“The number one risk for nurses is the risk for injury. That’s where we see the majority of nurses getting into the issues of addiction,” said Carol Malia with Massachusetts Nurses Association.  “I think the more we tear down the shame and the guilt and get out and explore and let people know that the resources are there.”

Mallia works with the union’s peer assistance program which tries to help nurses struggling with addiction before things get out of control.  She said that addiction is not a new problem for the profession and affects between 8 and 10 percent of nurses, which is on par with the general population.

“We need to except that nurses are vulnerable too,” said Mallia.

Looking deeper into the data

FOX 25 Investigates examined state data that showed reports of a nurse stealing powerful drugs, like fentanyl, from their patients.

Another was found overdosing in their car.

Registered nurse Marjorie Taylor had her license suspended in February of 2015. She plead guilty in January of this year to 35 counts of writing false prescriptions for thousands of pills of OxyContin.  She received three years of probation and is actively seeking help for recovery.

A long road to recovery

Dara tells us she misses nursing and is working to get back to her work of helping others. She says it’s been a long journey as she learns how to best help herself.

“A lot of things I thought I couldn’t handle, I learned I can handle.  I don’t need substances to get through it.  That’s a lot of what I’m learning in this process of healing,” she said.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association has a free and confidential hotline that struggling nurses can call 800-882-2056 extension 755.

They estimate between 200 and 250 nurses are currently in the state’s Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program or SARP.  It’s a rigorous five-year recovery program that must be completed in order for nurses to be able to go back to work.

Some hospitals have increased security of powerful narcotics. For example, Mass General tells us since 2013, they’ve had a team dedicated to drug diversion or medication stolen on the job. They’re using enhanced surveillance, daily auditing, and training.

Young People and Addiction

Posted on: February 13th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

By Africa Jackson 02/12/17

The scary thing about addiction in young people is that our bodies are going through so many transitions, it’s difficult to recognize warning signs.

You can get addicted to anything—including weed.

I know what you’re thinking. Marijuana has all these medical and mental health benefits. No one ever died from an overdose of weed. Chronic saved my friend’s life. The list of arguments is infinite, but trust me—under the right conditions, a person can get addicted to weed.

Being young and being impatient go together like peanut butter and jelly. We want to know/do everything and many of us feel invincible. At least half of all youth have tried an illegal substance. I couldn’t wait to get married to the love of my life when I was younger. My only gripe was that he smoked weed. I smoked once in the eighth grade, but I was grossed out when one of the people in the circle coughed right before taking a huge toke. That turned me off. It wasn’t until I met this guy who I really love spending time with, that I considered smoking weed again.

I don’t remember a full week without him smoking while we were together. He was supportive and fun to be around, though. Whenever the subject of addiction came up, he cited academic journal articles, famous musicians, and even the Bible. The nuances of each discussion were different, but they all had the same theme: he was not an addict because you can’t get addicted to marijuana.

At the time, it made sense. I come from a family of addicts and the things I saw them do for their fixes were extreme compared to what a pot head would do. You don’t really see anyone selling their body in the streets for weed. No one is stealing their mother’s flatscreen to get a hit. Plus, when I smoked, it felt great. All my issues evaporated into thin air when I smoked with my fiancé. We would lay around for hours talking about nothing and everything. It helped me deal with my anxiety. Smoking became like breathing for me. Most addicts went through withdrawal when they didn’t have it for a while, but I just pleasantly looked forward to the next hit. It’s like I was walking around in a cloud of lazy bliss.

A few months before we were supposed to get married, I got a job offer. The final part of the application process required a drug test. I knew that going in, so I stopped smoking. I got the job and my new supervisor mentioned that I was one of only a few qualified candidates. He asked if I knew anyone who was looking for work. My eyes lit up because my fiancé had just graduated from a certification program. He’d be in a different building as a case manager, but I knew it would make him happy. I got home from the first day and told him the good news. He was excited until he realized that he’d have to stop smoking for a while. I convinced him that it would be okay.

He submitted the online application and smoked to celebrate.

My supervisor sent him a confirmation email and offered several interview dates and times. He picked one that was a week away—plenty of time to stop smoking and let it get out of his system. He didn’t stop until two days before. We went to an eccentric health store for a drink that supposedly cleaned your system for drug tests. The night before his scheduled interview, I was happy about everything. I fell asleep watching Netflix. At some point I woke up to him in the kitchen screaming “F—!”

He yelled and threw the phone at the microwave. When I went to see what happened, he was visibly angry. He just kept cursing and punching stuff. He never hit me, but I was scared. He told me that my supervisor sent an email saying his wife had gone into labor and he needed to reschedule. I was a bit confused because that seemed like a really minor issue. What he hadn’t told me was that he got fired from his job a few days before. I assured him we’d be fine with bills until the interview was rescheduled. He was unmoved and stormed out. When he came back the next morning, his clothes reeked. I was disgusted, the same way I had been the first time I smoked. He replied to the email and let my supervisor know he could meet the following week.

He smoked the rest of the week and slowly went back to his laid back self. I shrugged it off. The day of the interview, we left the house together. I went to my desk and he went to his interview. He sent me a text saying the interview was cancelled and he couldn’t pick me up from work. I was confused, but there was too much work, so I finished up and called him during my lunch break. I couldn’t get him on the line. I went back to work confused. We didn’t really talk about it, but he kept smoking so I figured the interview was a while away. After two weeks, my supervisor came back from paternity leave and asked why my fiancé hadn’t followed up. I told him he was wrapping up a project at work—clearly a lie, but I was embarrassed. I confronted my fiancé, but he brushed it off and said he didn’t want the job anymore. I was so irritated, but before I could express that, someone came to our door. He answered and slid the guy something without introducing him. I stood there for a second.

We hadn’t had trouble paying bills, even without the second income. He lost his job and didn’t get the position with the company I worked for. He also kept groceries in the house and had money to smoke. Reality hit me like a ton of bricks. The next week was a roller coaster between my passive aggressiveness and his recurring outbursts. Love became insufficient. I abruptly terminated our lease a few weeks before we were supposed to get married. I hear he just sells weed now. He tried to keep in contact for a while, but I’ve seen addiction before and wanted no part.

Addiction in young people is harder to determine sometimes. I couldn’t recognize the signs because I was already dealing with so much. The scary thing about addiction in young people is that our bodies are going through so many transitions, it’s difficult to recognize warning signs. How do we tell the difference between a substance being consumed regularly for health or recreational reasons and misuse or addiction?

Here are some tips to recognize addiction in young adults early on:

  • They stop keeping up their personal appearance to their usual standards; fingers/nails are often inexplicably dirty or seem burned
  • Frequent smell of smoke, locked doors, suspicious behavior, cash flow problems, secretive phone calls
  • Bloodshot eyes regardless of adequate sleep, inappropriately small or large pupils
  • Unstable, unpredictable mood changes, long disappearances, inability to focus. Truancy, unnaturally declining interest in school or work, failure to meet obligations. Impaired coordination, injuries/accidents/bruises that they won’t or can’t tell you about; they don’t know how they got hurt.

What can you do if a young person you love is showing signs of addiction?

Talking is one of the best things you can do. Keep the lines of communication open without judgement. Remember, you’re competing with peer pressure and the media’s glorification, so don’t be discouraged if the first few interactions are rocky. Remain vigilant and open. Treatment works, but before a young person can be treated, you may need to find out more about what they’re struggling with. What makes them happy? What makes them nervous? What has changed in their lives recently? Do they feel supported? Are they trying to escape something? This background information will be essential in the recovery process. Students need motivation to change behavior. They will need coping strategies and support. Addiction among teens is directly linked to the lack of impulse control prevalent during adolescence.

There is a thin line between the behaviors of a regular moody teenager and signs of a young addict. If you suspect a young person may be dealing with substance abuse, educate yourself about warning signsteen depressionaction plans, and coping mechanisms. You could save a life.



Men recovering from drug addiction turn to horse therapy

Posted on: February 8th, 2017 by sobrietyresources



CICERO, Ind. – A new program is helping men recover from drug addiction by interacting with horses. The 16-week program pushes the men to get out of their comfort zones and helps them realize what they can achieve, as they try to restart their lives.

Each Saturday, nine men from Progress House head to the Agape arena in Cicero. Progress House is one of Indianapolis’ oldest drug addiction recovery centers. The men were chosen because they were considered “at risk.” The participants go through exercises that help them realize the external and internal resources available to them as they fight their addictions. The goal is to teach them how to lead a horse.

Scott Lyons is among those in the class.

“You can’t hide anything from these animals,” Lyons said. “It helps you get out of yourself and zone in on what I need to work on.”

Lyons said he struggled with drugs and bad behavior in the past. Now, he says he wants to lead a lawful, healthy life.

“There’s no judgment, we’re all on the same page,” Lyons said. “We are all here with one common goal and that’s to better ourselves to get reintegrated back into society.”

The men have little experience with horses. But, the regular interaction with the animals, and even the roadblocks, make the program work.

“They’re working through their addiction and working through their recovery,” said Linda Hazzard, program director. “And, they don’t know how to do that. Right now, they don’t know how to work with horses really well, so that’s the metaphor.”

Throughout the course of the 16-week program, the men begin to feel more and more comfortable around the horses. According to Hazzard, they start to see that they are capable of overcoming an obstacle and succeeding at a task.

“Those are the same exact skills these guys need in their lives to get rid of their addictions,” Hazzard said.

Dennis Norris is the executive director at Progress House. He said he knows the power of equestrian therapy first-hand. Norris tells FOX59 he turned to this form of therapy after his time serving in Afghanistan. This year, he wanted to bring that experience to the men at Progress House.

“They learn impulse control and they take that back to the house,” Norris said. “This is really behavior training here at Agape and this supplements what we are trying to do.”

Norris said Progress House hopes to continue to the partnership with Agape through the rest of the year and potentially even longer.



7 Truths If Someone You Love Is Addicted

Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

There are no easy answers, but there is hope.

Posted Jan 31, 2017 David Sack M.D. Where Science Meets the Steps

If someone you care about is using drugs or alcohol in a way that’s threatening their health, relationships, finances, career, and perhaps even their life, you no doubt feel overwhelmed and desperate to help them come to their senses.

But in order to truly help those who have lost control, it’s important to understand some of the realities of addiction:

  1. It’s not about you.It can be tough for loved ones, especially parents and significant others, not to take addiction personally. It’s not unusual to think something you did caused them to use drugs or that you could’ve spared them from harm if only you did things differently. But their addiction is not about you. Guilt isn’t productive for anyone’s healing, but your involvement in their treatment and recovery can give them much-needed strength and support. Practice forgiveness and let go of the past so you can have that new beginning you have all worked toward.
  2. Detox does not equal treatment.It’s a common misconception that all an addict needs is to detox and get the substance out of their system, and then they’ll be able to stop using. Addiction is a disorder of the brain’s reward circuitry that erodes the person’s self-control and ability to make decisions in their own best interest. This isn’t a change that can be reversed overnight. It takes time and repeated effort for new thought and behavioral patterns to replace the old. Being aware of this up front can help all of you summon the patience you will need to travel the path toward recovery.
  3. No one expects to become addicted.Addiction starts with a choice — a choice to use a drug or take a drink. But that’s a choice many of us have made without becoming addicted. In fact, about five out of six people who try a drug will not get hooked on it. So why does substance use become a problem for some people and not for others? There is no easy, single answer, but researchers believe it comes down to a combination of geneticstrauma from childhood, and other psychiatric problems, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. By the time a person is addicted, their behaviors are conditioned, and the brain changes that have happened make stopping seem like an impossibility.
  4. The fact that someone has started treatment does not mean they have decided to quit.No one wakes up in the morning thinking that today would be a good day to quit. Usually they are brought to treatment because of the consequences of their addiction. They lost their job. Their spouse left or is threatening divorce. They overdosed or are facing a medical crisis. Even with these storms brewing, someone with an addiction has to believe that their life will be better off of drugs than on them to start down the difficult path of recovery.

The first goal of treatment is to help people find their own motivation to make the changes needed. The commitment to change is not an all-or-nothing process. The person will likely do a lot of bargaining with themselves and everyone else: I don’t really have an addiction. I lost my job because my boss was unfair. I don’t have to quit, I can just use less. If your loved one could just choose not to use, they wouldn’t need treatment.

  1. Deceit goes with the territory.Your loved one is going to lie to you, and you will want to believe them. They might actually believe it themselves. But what they are doing is protecting their illness, because their substance has come to seem as vital to them as air. This isn’t to say that you should excuse lying, only that you should understand where it’s coming from so you can take it a little less personally and avoid getting sidetracked by pain and resentment. Instead, keep the lines of communication open, but set clear boundaries that protect you and them, and that encourage a turn toward treatment.
  2. People relapse for a reason.In many cases, substance use starts as a way of self-medicating distressing feelings brought on by conditions such as depression, anxiety, or trauma. These co-occurring disorders, as they are called, are common, and when someone with addiction suffers from depression, anxiety, or insomnia, they are much more likely to relapse. About a third of people with a diagnosable mental health condition, and about half of those with a severe mental health condition, have some form of substance use disorder, research shows us. Treating the whole person is critical to success.

The good news is that a variety of techniques and therapies can help — cognitive behavioral therapyEMDR, which uses eye movement to stimulate the brain into processing negative emotions, and medications such as antidepressants, among others. The key thing to remember is that in order for your loved one to deal with one issue, they must deal with the other.

  1. You can’t do it for them.There’s nothing more painful than seeing someone you love hurt themselves and those around them. Your natural reaction will be to shield them from the negative consequences of their actions. But picking up the pieces sometimes delays healing and extends the suffering for all of you. Instead, help them want to help themselves. For example, you can make it clear you won’t support them financially, but you will be ready at a moment’s notice to get them to the treatment they need. You can also:
  • Speak with an addiction professional. Their guidance can reduce your pain and strengthen your resolve.


  • Look after yourself. It does no one any good if your loved one’s battle with drugs or alcohol takes you down as well. Support groups such asAl-Anon and Codependency Anonymous provide a place where you can learn from others who have walked in your shoes.


  • Don’t give up hope. A recent Surgeon General’sreport on alcohol, drugs, and health noted that there are approximately 25 million people in active remission from addiction in the U.S. Addiction can be terrifying, but it can also be overcome.


David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. As chief medical officer of Elements Behavioral Health, he oversees a network of addiction treatment programs that includes The Right Step in Texas and Clarity Way drug rehab in Pennsylvania.


ACA Repeal Seen Thwarting State Addiction Efforts

Posted on: February 6th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

In the midst of a raging opioid epidemic, states are urging Congress not to pull the plug on the Affordable Care Act, particularly Medicaid expansion. Without it, states say they would be unable to provide enough addiction treatment for the growing number of people who need it.

02/06/2017 10:00 am ET | Updated 3 hours ago

By Christine Vestal


In the three years since the Affordable Care Act took effect, its federally funded expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults has become the states’ most powerful weapon in the battle against the nation’s worsening opioid epidemic.

Now, as Congress and President Donald Trump debate potential replacements for the law, governors, health care professionals and advocates for the poor are cautioning that any cut in federal funding for addiction treatment could reverse much of the progress states have made.

“The current plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would cut health care for our most vulnerable residents, including children, seniors and individuals suffering from opioid and heroin addiction,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania said last month. “This will have a devastating impact for many Pennsylvanians.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offered states the ability for the first time to provide Medicaid coverage to adults without children, with the federal government paying most of the bill. That change, and the law’s mandate that all insurers cover addiction treatment at the same level as medical and surgical procedures, has allowed states to ensure that low-income people can get the care they need, said Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents nonprofit addiction treatment organizations.

Since 2014, an estimated 1.6 million uninsured people with addictions have gained Medicaid coverage in the 31 states plus the District of Columbia that opted to expand the federal-state health care program under the ACA. Not all of the newly insured have sought help for their addictions, but treatment providers are reporting a surge in new patients since the law took effect.

In addition, the ACA has provided financial incentives for states to test new models for treatment that streamline care and improve outcomes.

Although a plan for replacing the federal health law has yet to be announced, House Republicans and Trump have proposed shifting Medicaid to a block grant, in which a capped amount of money would be allocated to each state to provide low-income health care services. By putting more of the cost burden on states, the shift is projected to save the federal government $1 trillion over 10 years.

But most states would be unable to come up with the extra money and would have to scale back efforts to get more people into treatment, said Lisa Clemans-Cope, a researcher with the Urban Institute, which analyzes health care policy.

Because addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease, a cut in Medicaid funding would stymy states’ efforts to reduce the number of people who are addicted to heroin and other opioids and at risk for drug overdoses. Not only would low-income adults already in treatment be in jeopardy of losing coverage for their continuing care, but budget-strapped states likely would be unable to help others get out of homeless shelters and jails and into treatment.

“Because addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease, a cut in Medicaid funding would stymy states’ efforts to reduce the number of people who are addicted to heroin and other opioids and at risk for drug overdoses.”


Escalating Epidemic

More than 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015, a nearly 16 percent increase over 2014. Since 1999, the number of fatal overdoses of prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, as well as heroin and other illicit drugs, has more than quadrupled.

And the crisis is still raging. Every day 91 people die from an opioid overdose, 3,900 begin abusing prescription painkillers, and 580 people start using heroin.

The ACA and the expansion of Medicaid was a game changer for addiction treatment, Rosenberg said, because it enabled states to reach thousands of new addicts and provide better treatment for them.

Taking it away would be a major setback that could cause the opioid epidemic to worsen, Rosenberg said. “We already have a shortage of trained addiction professionals. Who will want to enter the field if funding is cut?”

“Every day 91 people die from an opioid overdose, 3,900 begin abusing prescription painkillers, and 580 people start using heroin.”

Under the ACA, states could expand their Medicaid programs to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line ($16,394 for an individual). The federal government paid all of the costs to cover newly eligible adults in the first two years. Starting this year, the federal share dips to 95 percent of the roughly $53 billion annual price tag for the states that have expanded. If left unchanged, the federal share would decline to 90 percent in 2020.

In 19 states, Republican governors and legislatures have chosen not to expand Medicaid. And many Republican-led states that have expanded Medicaid have customized their programs to reflect conservative values by adding small monthly premiums and copayments to encourage personal responsibility for health care.

In states that have not expanded Medicaid, support for addiction treatment is limited to state and local funds, and federal block grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Better Treatment

National data on the number of people who have received addiction treatment under the Medicaid expansion are not available. But treatment providers in some states that expanded Medicaid report a substantial surge in patients, with most receiving a combination of medications and counseling, an approach that has proven at least twice as effective as treatment that does not include medications.

In Arizona, for example, where Medicaid was expanded in 2014 by then-Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, Kurt Sheppard, CEO of Valle del Sol community health centers, said he’s seen a 35 percent increase in the number of patients receiving medication-assisted treatment and counseling for opioid addictions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three opioid addiction medications — methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Most state Medicaid programs pay for all three medications, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and rarely pay for extended residential treatment. In contrast, commercial providers may not be required by the ACA to pay for all three available addiction medications and often limit access to the drugs. They also are the largest payer of costly residential services.

By providing more effective therapies, Medicaid — the single largest payer of addiction treatment, footing the bill for more than 20 percent of all costs — has been responsible for improving the overall cost-effectiveness of treatment, Rosenberg said.

The ACA also has rewarded states for developing innovative models for treatment that have resulted in even more effective and cost-efficient outcomes, the Urban Institute’s Clemans-Cope said.

Maryland, Rhode Island and Vermont, for example, have taken advantage of federal money to create what are known as health homes for people with drug addiction, in which their treatment is combined with medical care for related diseases such as hepatitis C, as well as mental health and social services.

Overall, the proportion of hospitalizations for substance abuse and mental illness that were uninsured fell from 20 to 6 percent between 2013 and the end of 2014 in states that expanded Medicaid.

More Treatment

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of 11 Republican governors who decided to expand Medicaid, recently justified his decision in part as a means to help a spiraling number of Ohio residents with drug addictions.

“Thank God we expanded Medicaid because that Medicaid money is helping to rehab people,” Kasich said earlier this month as he signed a bill expanding access to the overdose rescue drug naloxone.

Ohio added 700,000 new Medicaid recipients under its expanded program. Roughly a third were diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, according to a recent analysis by the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

In West Virginia, which has the highest opioid overdose death rate in the nation, Medicaid expansion added 173,000 adults to the Medicaid program, bringing total enrollment to 573,000 people, about a third of the state’s population.

In 2015, the first year of West Virginia’s expansion, the number of people in treatment for substance abuse shot from 16,000 to 27,000, according to Mark Drennan, director of the West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association. He said the biggest beneficiaries were adult men who previously had no coverage.

Nationwide, states have used expanded Medicaid eligibility to cover previously incarcerated men, allowing them to seek treatment for the addictions that landed them in prison, Rosenberg said. In many places, the coverage has been credited with reducing recidivism rates for people incarcerated for drug-related crimes, she said.

Bipartisan Support

Because the opioid epidemic has spread to every corner of the country, most federal and state politicians know someone who has struggled with addiction or have a family member who has experienced a loss to drug overdose. That helps explain the unusual bipartisan support for treatment funding and other efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, experts say.

Last year, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 and the 21st Century Cures Act, which provide limited federal funding for prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.

In addition, states have been enacting laws to restrict the prescribing of opioid painkillers, make treatment more available, and increase the use of the overdose rescue drug naloxone.

Repealing Medicaid expansion has been suggested by some Republicans as partial replacement for the ACA. They also have suggested shifting federal payment for all of Medicaid to block grants to the states. Both proposals aim to substantially reduce the federal government’s cost.

But treatment advocates argue that skimping on federal dollars to fight the opioid epidemic could cost the country more. According to a 2016 report on drugs, alcohol and health by the U.S. Surgeon General, every dollar spent on addiction treatment saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.

And advocates for keeping the ACA’s Medicaid expansion argue it would not only save lives but ultimately reduce overall health care costs, a clear priority of the Trump administration.



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