Tag Archives: Addiction Treatment

Can I force my loved one into rehab for their addiction? 

After 10 years of working in the field of addiction treatment I have seen and learned a lot. Every day I receive phone calls from all types of people including many who have a loved one who is spiraling out of control, caught in the cycle of an addiction. An addiction to alcohol, prescription medications, heroin, methamphetamines and other drugs including marijuana. Although now legal in CA and some other states marijuana these days is stronger than ever and the number of reported cases where an individual is delusional, paranoid and hallucinating is skyrocketing. Most people minimize marijuana but let me tell you, the weed these days is no joke. At the end of the day, the substance isn’t really the most important factor. If an individual is using any type of substance and causing damage to their bodies, their families, their work life, the bottom line is that they need professional help. But what do you do if you try talking to this person and desperately try to beg and plead with them to get help but they just wont?

The simple truth is that your loved one with the addiction is unlikely to change or go into rehab until they feel some serious pain from their own consequences.

Addicts and any of us for that matter usually don’t want to change until they are faced with the harsh reality that their behavior and choices are beginning to cause the loss of  any or all of the relationships, income, possessions, their job, food and any other items of value in their life. Most often times the loved ones in their lives can see clearly what is happening and take on all the negative emotions and consequences that the addict should be dealing with themselves.

The only way an addiction treatment center can help someone change is if an individual truly wants to change. They don’t always need to be fully excited about going into treatment. I mean who really dreams about going to rehab but you can help a loved one find their willingness to change and accept help for their drug and alcohol addiction. When a loved one rescues their addict out of the consequences of their addiction the addict really hasn’t felt the full magnitude of their own choices and behavior. You see an addict has an impaired brain and their brain and ability to make good decisions has been damaged. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of our brain that provides us with the ability to have good judgement is being damaged. When this is impaired humans lose the ability to clearly understand how their addiction is not only ruining their lives but also greatly affecting their loved ones. So, where most people can see that getting a DUI and getting arrested will cost substantial time and money and hardship which will likely cause them to make a different choice the next time they are faced with choosing to drink and drive or call an Uber the next time, the addict may minimize the incident if mom or dad is taking out loans to bail their son out of jail and pay for an attorney to help him reduce the penalties associated with the DUI. Consequences and clear boundaries are what make all the difference in the world when it comes to an addict finding their willingness to receive help.

For about the last year I have received a phone call every few months from the same woman with a son who is in his 40’s. She calls frantically looking for help for her son usually after something bad has just happened. She is often exhausted and overwhelmed and has been begging her son to go to a treatment center for help.  He has now been charged with 4 DUI’s and is facing prison and she is beside herself with worry and fear. She has spent a great deal of energy and money hiring attorneys to try and help him out of his situation including calling many different treatment centers to try and get him into a facility. Yet her son has never called us once to do the over the phone assessment we need to do. The willingness to even talk to a counselor about how he can begin to change is not there. It looks like prison is the likely path for him. The best thing she can do is seek support and help for herself because the worry is literally killing her. This is so so sad because she is suffering so much but she could learn how to step back and focus on taking care of herself instead of putting so much energy into someone who is unwilling to change. This would likely help her son wake up and call us or another treatment center and ask for help. She could simply hand him the number and say I hope you get help and leave the number with him. He is capable of dialing the number. We will answer and all he has to do is say I need help. Some people just won’t ever seek help but that doesn’t mean that 2 people or a whole family have to suffer because 1 person is unwilling to change. Many years ago when I was caught In the codependency cycle myself and my own life was sinking because I was so focused on my significant other who had a raging alcohol addiction that I thought I could change, someone helped me by shining a light on my situation and gave me this analogy. They said, “He’s the Titanic and you are holding on to a sinking ship and he is taking you down with him. You can’t control it. “ At that moment, it clicked for me because at that time I was completely exhausted, emotionally, physically, my work was suffering, my health was suffering and I was completely obsessed to the point of totally neglecting myself in every way. I was going down too and I had to stop or I was going to end up worse off than he was. My happiness was my own responsibility but I was giving all my power away to someone else and not taking responsibility for my own life.

Addicts will take out everyone and everything in their path as long as they are allowed to. So here is where things can change…..

What about having an intervention? Will this help someone into recovery?

Many times per week I also receive phone calls from people who call up saying, “I have a son and our family is going to have an intervention tomorrow, we want to know if you have a bed in your facility?” This is where I want to say “WAIT! STOP RIGHT THERE, Is there a professional leading the intervention?”

Addiction is a highly complicated brain disorder that causes the brain of an addict to become hijacked. Which in turn causes the individual with the addiction to lie, cheat, steal and focus solely on one thing, getting more of their drug of choice and to stop at nothing until they do. Dealing with an addict requires highly skilled professionals who know what the hell they are doing. It requires a great deal of education and understanding. An intervention done by the family without a professional usually ends in a worse disaster. If you are reading this and considering doing your own intervention….. PLEASE do not do it. Stop and get some professional guidance. What is most likely to happen is a huge family argument and lots of emotions being spilled out all over the place, threats, physical fights and in the end? The addict runs off faster and harder to their first love, their drug of choice to numb the pain and sink deeper into their addiction and isolate themselves from their loved ones ever more than before. Basically a home made intervention done with inexperienced individuals will almost always cause a greater disaster than where you began. This will push your addict deeper into their addiction.

What a trained interventionist provides is a great deal of education and leadership on how to most effectively change the direction of the entire family dynamics and to help the loved ones learn what is enabling the addiction to continue and how to set proper boundaries with the addict . An interventionist will educate and walk you through the process and be there for you every step of the way. An interventionist also provides an emotionally detached person who cannot be manipulated by the addict when it comes times for the actual intervention. They are your quarterback. Don’t do it alone.

When 3 or 4 people who are close to the addict all get on the same page and simultaneously begin to get clear on what is helping and what is harming and start to say no I will no longer help you until you get some help for your addiction, then the addict loses the power to be able to manipulate their loved ones and the addict will begin to become more concerned with human survival than scoring more heroin or running off to the liquor store.

When you let a loved one move into your house and provide them food and money to keep their cell phone working, insurance covered, car payment covered, you are enabling their addiction to survive and thrive. This is harming them. It is not helping them at all.

Most people do not by any means intentionally try to bring harm to their loved one. They usually are providing for their addicts basic human needs while worrying themselves sick, secretly hoping they can control or coerce their loved one into getting help.

All while begging, pleading, criticizing, arguing and telling their loved one how much they need to get help and how hard all of this is and how they are spending all their money on trying to help them. Trying to guilt and shame them into getting help almost never works.

So how do you help a loved one find their willingness to seek treatment for their addiction? Clear boundaries and follow through works almost every time

Here is a simple statement that you can use for guidance.

I love you and it’s become clear that I cannot help you get past this addiction. You need help from experts who know about your illness. I can no longer provide any help to you financially, emotionally or in any way until you are willing to seek help for your addiction. I am not willing to help support you financially and/or emotionally until you decide to seek help. Until then I will no longer provide any help financially and/ or emotionally and I will no longer allow you to live in my home, buy you food, pay for anything at all for you because it is not helping you and the stress is causing harm to me.

Now, the most important part of speaking these type of words is making 100% sure that you can and will follow through on what you speak. NEVER set a boundary and then allow anyone and especially the person who is addicted to violate the boundary. If you speak it and then don’t follow through you render yourself powerless and the addiction will gain more power over you and your loved one.

Most loved ones need help and support to actually be able to do this. It’s not easy for a parent to actually cut off any type of support and contact with their adult child who is actively destroying their life. It is natural for us all to attach to those we love and it can be excruciatingly difficult to have your adult kid begging for food or money. Excruciatingly painful to kick them out of the house and know that they are living outside in harsh conditions and not feel extreme anxiety and worried about them. These emotions are difficult and you need support from qualified people to get through this. However if you provide your loved one with the choice to either choose help or choose addiction then the choice has become theirs. It is necessary and healthy to give your loved one a choice. Choose to become healthy or choose to stay in addiction. By stepping out of the chaos and taking care of yourself by seeking support and guidance through this extremely complicated time you are helping your loved one find the survival skills within them to fight for their own life. Addiction is no joke and it takes lives every day. The drugs these days are harder and stronger than ever and if you want to help your loved one you need to seek help and put on your own oxygen mask for yourself first. Hand the consequences back to your loved one and let them deal with their life themselves. By helping them pay their bills, provide them food, provide them shelter, hire them an attorney to minimize consequences you are helping them avoid the very crisis they need to wake up and accept help.

Sacramento California Alcohol And Drug Abuse Rates And Statistics

Sacramento California Alcohol And Drug Abuse Rates And StatisticsSubstance abuse has become prevalent across the country. Heavily populated and urban areas, such as Sacramento, have seen a marked increase in usage rates in the past decade. In 2007, 29.7 percent of adults in California participated in binge drinking. Sacramento, meanwhile, showed a rate of 30.2 percent.

Fortunately, these numbers are beginning to fall for the first time. Sacramento has seen 29 percent fewer drug- and alcohol-related hospital admissions since 2012. This may be seen as a sign that prevention and treatment methods are working, but it does not mean that the danger in Sacramento has passed.

Indicators Of Sacramento California Alcohol And Drug Abuse Issues

There are two ways that information is gathered about drug and alcohol use. The first is through admission rates from treatment centers and hospitals. Additional statistics typically come from surveys conducted through medical facilities, schools, employers and other sources.

There are five major indicators that are used to gauge substance abuse:

  • Admissions to treatment facilities
  • Arrests in drug- and alcohol-related crimes
  • Motor vehicle accidents that happen under the influence
  • Hospitalization
  • Deaths

Admission Rates To Alcohol And Drug Treatment Centers

Admission rates are a reliable source of information, but they may not show the whole picture. According to estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, only a fraction of addicts seek help. In 2009, 2.6 million individuals across the country received treatment at a specialized facility. This is out of 23.5 million people who reportedly needed treatment for substance abuse – meaning that only 11 percent were finding help.

A Growing Trend Of Addiction Treatment


The number of individuals seeking treatment has been climbing for many years, and experts attribute the lower overall usage rates to the fact that more users are finding help. After all, it can be difficult or even impossible to overcome addiction without professional assistance and support.

In 2000, only 5,708 people in Sacramento were admitted to treatment facilities for substance abuse. More than half of those patients, or 3,092, were female. By 2008, that overall number had grown to 8,756 and treatment was more prevalent among men. In fact, men have consistently been admitted more frequently to treatment programs since 2002.

Methamphetamine abuse was the most common reason for seeking treatment in Sacramento for several years, but in 2012, marijuana overtook the No.1 spot. Both of these are slightly surprising considering alcohol is the most prevalent cause in the rest of the country.

Back in 2000, 26.2 percent of total admissions in Sacramento were related to methamphetamine. The rest were:

  • 6% heroin
  • 2% alcohol
  • 4% cocaine
  • 1% marijuana
  • 5% other drugs

Substance Abuse Patterns In Age And Race

Substance abuse does not discriminate: Anyone can be drawn into the use of drugs and alcohol. That said, Caucasian patients make up most of the recorded cases at 45.6 percent. African Americans and Hispanics comprise 24.3 and 21.5 percent, respectively. All other racial groups comprise the remaining 8.6 percent.

Nearly half of the admissions (45.2 percent) came from adults aged 25 to 44 years in 2008. The second largest group is 17 and younger, with the smallest number of admissions coming from seniors 65 years and older.

Arrests Related To Drugs And Alcohol

sacramento-arrests-related-to-drugs-and-alcoholThe initial harm from substance abuse is to the user and his immediate family. The rest of the population begins to feel the effects when addiction results in crime – most notably, violent crime. An effective way to track drug-related crime is to examine the number of corresponding arrests.

The number of arrests in Sacramento has actually dropped since 2000 (when it was 9,720), although it peaked in 2006 at 10,931. These numbers include both felonies and misdemeanors. Drug-related crime rates in Sacramento are comparable to the rest of California, but remain slightly lower.

A majority of the arrests involve male culprits. From 2000 to 2008, an average of 76 percent of these arrests involved boys and men, ages 10 to 69. However, only 68 percent of treatment admissions were male, hinting that women may be more likely to seek help.

Motor Vehicle Accidents Involving Alcohol And Drugs

Another way to measure the impact of substance use is by examining the number of related motor vehicle accidents. Intoxicated drivers are involved in more than 57 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in California. More than 3,700 individuals were killed in single-vehicle incidents in 2004 alone.

There were more than 180,000 arrests for DUI in the same year, equaling 1 in every 121 licensed drivers throughout the United States. Thousands of people were killed in traffic crashes, and another 2,000 pedestrians and cyclists were struck by an impaired driver.

fatal-accidents-involving-drugs-and-alcohol-in-sacramento-californiaMost of these cases involve alcohol rather than other drugs. There also is a noticeable pattern of convicted individuals. Almost 75 percent of these offenders are regular heavy drinkers or full-fledged alcoholics, which leads many experts to believe that these people regularly drive while intoxicated.

The number of fatalities caused by DUI motor vehicle accidents has been steadily declining. There are two reasons attributed to this trend: newer vehicles have better safety engineering, and fewer people are drinking and driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (or IIHS) has been awarding crash-test ratings for many years, and new technologies have emerged that help compartmentalize the vehicle, provide increased support for the heads of occupants and more effectively restrain bodies during a crash.

Fewer people are involved in accidents involving impaired driving. From 1988 to 1998, the number of fatalities dropped an impressive 57.3 percent and has continued to steadily fall. In 1988, there were 18,503 deadly crashes involving alcohol. By 2014, there were only 9,967. The number is still too high, but the improvement is encouraging.

Hospitalization As A Result Of Substance Abuse

Sacramento HospitalizationThe Sacramento area also shows a lower rate of hospitalizations due to drugs and alcohol. In 2007, there were 205 cases for every 100,000 people statewide. Sacramento County, though, showed just 169 per 100,000. This equated to approximately 2,300 instances. The statistics include overdoses, but also take other accidents into account, such as falls or infections (as long as they were linked to substance abuse).

In 25 percent of hospitalizations, the gender was unspecified on the report, but the known cases show little difference between men and women: 38 percent were male and 36 were female, while the rest were unspecified.

Alcohol And Drug-Related Deaths

Death, of course, is the most serious potential danger of substance abuse. Cause of death reports are a sobering yet reliable way to gather information about those affected. Sacramento County showed fewer hospitalizations than the state average, but it has consistently seen a higher mortality rate. In 2002, there were 25.4 deaths per 100,000 people in the county, as compared to 20.1 per 100,000 in the state. By 2005, those numbers were 31.8 and 21.4, respectively.

There has been a noticeable decrease in deaths in the county since then. The state number was unchanged in 2007, yet Sacramento County saw its rate fall to 27.05. Of these deaths, 64 percent were male.

The Biggest Killers

Accidental drug poisoning is the most common cause of drug- and alcohol-related death. Out of 387 cases in Sacramento, 157 of them were related to overdoses. Alcoholic liver disease is a close second with 126 confirmed cases. Psychosis, dependence, myopathy, intentional overdoses and alcohol poisoning are some of the remaining causes.

Hope For The Future

Despite the growing national numbers, Sacramento County appears to be on the path to decreasing drug- and alcohol-related tragedies. Increased access to information and treatment centers likely contributed to the favorable statistics, but only time will tell how far they’ll drop and if such tactics can be deployed across the nation.

At Pathways Recovery, We Are Striving to Help the Sacramento Community Deal with the Problem of Substance Abuse in a Positive Manner, through Outreach and Therapeutic Treatment.

Contact Pathways Recovery

Here at Pathways Recovery, we pride ourselves on the services we provide for those seeking to heal from any drug and alcohol addiction. Weather yourself or a loved one, we provide the best treatment for any drug and alcohol addiction one might be experiencing. Our services include, but not limited to, drug and alcohol addiction treatment, outpatient treatment, and holistic services depending on each special individual’s needs. Our medical staff are well versed in the world of drug and alcohol addiction and have years of experience with helping many people through addiction. Here at Pathways Recovery, we are equipped to help with the difficulties of addiction and want to be part of your journey to a better you.

Call us, to speak with one of our well-informed associates to see how we can help you today on the journey of recovery.

Will Congress’ Recent Efforts On How To Prevent Drug Abuse Have A Substantial Impact On The Addiction Treatment Field?

Congress How To Prevent Drug Abuse

On March 10, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation intended to combat the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States. This landmark legislation is known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and it is the largest congressional action to date intended to fight America’s ongoing abuse of and addiction to opioids.

CARA also intends to open new avenues of treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. While still needing to be passed by the House of Representatives, CARA secured a 94-to-1 vote in the Senate, which sends a strong message that Congress is serious about taking on opioid abuse and addiction treatment.

What Will The Opioid Legislation Do, If Signed Into Law?

If passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president, CARA will provide the following:

  • Expanded access to addiction treatment resources, including medication-assisted addiction treatment for heroin and opioid dependence
  • Funding for substance use prevention efforts and addiction recovery programs
  • New opportunities for addicts to receive drug treatment in lieu of jail time
  • Stronger prescription drug-monitoring programs to help states track prescription drug diversions and to help at-risk individuals access addiction treatment resources
  • Expanded addiction recovery support for students in high school and colleges
  • Wider availability of Naloxone (which reverses the effects of opioid medication) to police and other first responders so they can administer it to more patients who need it
  • More disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications, which will help keep them out of the hands of children and young adults

What Has Prompted This Recent Legislation?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. Also, since 1999, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses has nearly quadrupled. Between 2000 and 2014, nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. As of 2016, an average of 78 Americans are dying every day from opioid overdose.

Since 1999, the volume of opioid-based prescription pain medications sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, while at the same time, there has not been a significant increase in the amount of pain that Americans are reporting. Deaths from prescription opioids (drugs like hydrocodone, methadone and oxycodone) have similarly quadrupled since 1999. Clearly, many of the opioid painkillers being prescribed in the U.S. are being diverted to recreational users and opioid addicts.

How Does Opioid Addiction Develop?

Evolving from a legitimate prescription painkiller user to someone who is addicted can often happen by accident. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription opioid pain medication and heroin affect the brain through the same mechanism. Opioids (both prescribed and illegal) reduce the perception of pain by binding to opioid receptors in the brain cells as well as other places in the body. As opioid use continues, one’s tolerance to the drug increases, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect.

For someone in legitimate pain, this can be a dangerous path, as they need more of their pain medication to get relief. For someone using opioid-based pain medications for recreational purposes, this can be a deadly path, because most recreational users alter the medication to achieve quicker euphoric effects. For both the legitimate user and the recreational user, they can become physically dependent on opioids before they know it. The combination of dependence and higher tolerance quickly leads to an opioid addiction.

Once addicted, acquiring enough opioid-based prescription medication can be difficult and very costly. With limitations on the amount they can get from their primary care doctor or pain management physician, most opioid addicts turn to illegal ways to acquire enough of the drug to achieve the euphoric state they have become accustomed to. This can be done by buying pain medication on the street or turning to illegal drugs like heroin.

The street price for opioid medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone, however, is much higher than what they were paying at their local pharmacy. Suddenly, the opioid addict is in a desperate situation where he or she can no longer afford the drug of choice. As a result of the higher availability and lower cost of heroin in many communities, many opioid addicts transition to using heroin.

Seeking Treatment For Opioid Addiction

Opioid Addiction TreatmentFor people who are addicted to opioids and trying to seek proper treatment, many roadblocks are present. According to NIDA, less than 12 percent of the 21.5 million Americans suffering from drug addiction in 2014 received substance abuse treatment.

Furthermore, many addiction treatment programs do not utilize evidence-based treatment methods. As an example, less than half of the addiction treatment programs surveyed by NIDA offered medically assisted treatment for opioid addicts. Proven addiction treatment medications such as Suboxone and buprenorphine do not appear to be widely used in the addiction treatment field, as of 2014.

According to NIDA, providing evidence-based treatment for addicts offers the best chance at interrupting the drug use-criminal justice cycle for many drug addicts. Viewing drug addiction as a disease instead of a crime seems to be critical to reducing the heavy load on our criminal justice system caused by addicts who result to criminal behavior to support their addiction.

Addiction treatment has proved over the years to reduce the costs related to addiction resulting in terms of lost productivity, crime and incarceration. NIDA has suggested several ways that addiction treatment can be implemented into a criminal justice environment, including the following:

  • Addiction treatment as a condition of probation
  • Drug courts that combine judicial monitoring and sanctions with addiction treatment
  • Addiction treatment in prison followed up by community based treatment after release
  • Addiction treatment under parole or probation supervision

How To Prevent Drug Abuse On A National Level

So, will the recent Congressional action have a significant impact on addiction treatment in the United States, specifically as it relates to opioid addiction? Recognizing the seriousness of the epidemic and the growing problems it is creating was a monumental first step by Congress.

For CARA to be implemented, however, it must next pass in the House of Representatives. You can help make this happen by lobbying your Congressional representative.

As for the legislation’s impact on the addiction treatment field, Norma Cordero, Outreach Coordinator at Pathways Recovery and a veteran of the addiction treatment industry, has this to say: “Passage of the bill will continue a philosophical shift toward treating addiction not as a crime, but as a chronic disease. Hopefully, it will establish new rules and policies for prevention and treatment of addiction.”

Debunking Myths About Substance Abuse

Pathways -- Debunking Myths About Substance Abuse -- 08-23-16Common Myths About Substance Abuse and Addiction

Ever since Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” started over 40 years ago and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign began in the 1980’s, addiction treatment professionals have been fighting an uphill battle against myths and stereotypes related to substance abuse and addiction treatment.  Considering that substance abuse and addiction treatment cost this country about $600 billion per year in medical, criminal, social, and economic costs, it is high time (no pun intended) to debunk some of these myths and stereotypes.  This article attempts to do so by providing a brief summary of some of the myths and stereotypes and talking about the realities of substance abuse and addiction treatment.

Myth #1:  It’s impossible to prevent substance abuse.  People who are going to use drugs are going to use drugs.

This myth is supported by the scare tactics, fear, and hyperbole surrounding substance abuse.  Instead of looking into the reasons that people decide to abuse drugs, the “war on drugs” has turned substance abuse into a criminal and moral issue where people requiring addiction treatment have weak character or bad morals.  The reality is that several risk factors are very good indicators of an individual’s likelihood to abuse drugs.  These include environmental factors like growing up in poverty or in a dangerous neighborhood, living in an alcoholic household while growing up, losing parents at an early age either through death or divorce, and mental and emotional factors like learning disabilities and mental disorders.  When we begin to address these risk factors,  then we will begin to prevent substance abuse and leave the “Just Say No” mythology behind.

Myth #2: Addiction is a voluntary behavior.

While it may be true that many people start out as recreational drug users or social drinkers, the progressive nature of addiction eventually leads addicts to a point where choice is no longer an option.  Over time continued drug abuse and heavy drinking will change the addict’s or alcoholic’s brain in such a manner that compulsive and uncontrollable substance abuse becomes their reality.  No matter how much will power they may have, their physical and psychological dependence on drugs and alcohol makes get clean and sober almost impossible without some form of addiction treatment program where a workable solution for staying off of drugs and alcohol is attainable.

Myth #3: Marijuana is not addictive and it’s not a gateway drug.

While many people who use marijuana recreationally have no major consequences, other people do develop dependence on the drug and you would be hard pressed to find a hardcore drug user who didn’t have some amount of marijuana use in their drug use history.  Certainly the same thing can be said about alcohol which is legal.  So this is not an argument one way or the other for the legalization of marijuana.  Rather this is a statement that addiction is a personal issue and any form of mind altering substance can contribute to the progression of the disease of addiction.  So, for anyone who has addiction as part of their make-up marijuana should be avoided.

Myth #4: Someone has to want to pursue addiction treatment for it to be effective.

Many people enter into addiction treatment programs against their will by either a court order or through family pressure.  This does not mean that the treatment for their addiction that they receive while they are in the program will be ineffective.  In fact, many studies have shown that people who enter into addiction treatment programs unwillingly do better than average in their addiction treatment efforts.

Myth #5: Substance abuse treatment should be a one shot deal.

addiction treatmentLike many chronic diseases addiction may require more than one treatment.  Certainly it is common for people with diabetes to undergo continuous treatment to keep it under control, and it is not uncommon for people with diseases like cancer to undergo more than one treatment when their disease returns.  Certainly many people with substance abuse problems have quit “cold turkey”, but the majority of people requiring addiction treatment will require longer term treatment or in many cases repeated stays at addiction treatment facilities.

 Myth #6 Addiction treatment doesn’t work.

With the growing acceptance that addiction is a disease, substance abuse programs have changed their treatment methodologies accordingly with the understanding that there is no “magic bullet” for addiction treatment.  The reasons why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol vary.  So it is important to provide a variety of addiction treatment methods which can address the needs of the individual addict.  By improving the way addiction treatment is applied and working on the reasons why people got involved with substance abuse in the first place, the success rate for addiction treatment has shown drastic improvements.  Recent studies have shown that addiction treatment reduced drug use by 40 to 60 percent.  There are also side benefits demonstrated by effective addiction treatment including a reduction in crime and HIV infection and improvements in addict’s ability to become gainfully employed after treatment.

This is certainly not a complete list of the myths and stereotypes surrounding addiction treatment and substance abuse.  The bottom line is that knowledge is the most important asset one can have when seeking help for themselves or a loved one.  The road of recovery from substance abuse is usually a long one, but the destination is worth the effort.  Especially when you consider the consequences of untreated addiction.  Addiction is a disease, and diseases kill people.  Or at a minimum they make their quality of life so poor that life just isn’t worth living anymore.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and is seeking answers about addiction treatment, contact a professional in the field of addiction treatment.  Unless your family doctor is a specialist in addiction medicine don’t trust their advice without doing research on your own.  The knowledge you acquire through doing the work yourself may be the difference between life and death.

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Drug Overdose Deaths Continue To Rise Due To Prescription Drug Abuse

Drug Overdose Deaths Continue to RiseThe United States is experiencing an alarming increase in overdoses of prescription drugs – many of which are leading to death. Disturbingly, fatalities and sales related to prescription drugs have more than quadrupled since 1999. More than half of the overdose deaths in the nation are related to a prescription painkiller in the opiate family.

Prescription drug abuse incidents are even more common than those involving illicit drugs. In the past, many prevention tactics focused on heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. However, drugs that were prescribed weren’t given the same attention, leaving room for addictions, overdoses, and deaths from prescriptions like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Xanax.

The Dangers Of Prescription Drug Abuse

There are many dangers inherent in drug use, but the deadliest situations occur when people mix different drug varieties. Mixing two prescriptions can have sudden and unpredictable effects. In fact, 77% of drug abuse deaths involving benzodiazepines also involved an opioid painkiller. Taking different drugs at the same time will often either amplify or block the effects of one of the substances. Though physicians can usually explain drug interactions, these medications are often taken illegally. It can be impossible to tell exactly how the two substances will interact in general because individuals often experience different symptoms depending on the chemistry of their bodies.

When an interaction like this occurs, one drug can remain in your system too long or in a concentration that’s too high. This can trigger drug poisoning, even if the dosages of both medications are independently within a normally prescribed range.

Mixing prescription drugs has a chance of exacerbating negative side effects as well. If a potential symptom of each substance is nausea, a combination of the two could potentially cause vomiting and extreme vertigo. More serious effects, like immune system suppression and thinned blood compound, can lead to incredibly dangerous and unexpected health problems.

Preventing Overdoses And Deaths

Studies have shown that less than 20% of prescription drug-related deaths are intentional, and mixing different prescriptions causes most of the accidental deaths—sometimes even when taken as directed. Doing research on potential drug interactions is a smart habit to develop. It’s also very important that your doctor be fully aware of prescription drugs you’re taking, even if you’re doing so without a prescription.

Another way to prevent overdoses and deaths is to seek help for friends or family members that are affected. Spotting the signs of drug abuse in friends or family can be life-saving. Early intervention could prevent overdoses and deaths. Some individuals can use drugs as they need, and then put them away with no consequences. Others, however, quickly become addicted.

Determining whether someone you love has a drug problem can be complicated. The first step is to look for signs associated with misuse. Physical symptoms can be easy to notice if you spend time in close proximity with them. Keep an eye out for things such as:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Unsteady walking
  • Elevated temperature
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety

Many addicts will experience a complete shift in their priorities, neglecting important duties like their job or caring for a child. This is another crucial sign to look out for. They’re also likely to exhibit suspicious behaviors. If you notice things disappearing, a consistent loss of prescriptions, or visiting more than one doctor, there’s cause for concern.

Why Treatment Is Crucial

Long-term use of prescription drugs changes the chemistry in the body. When someone becomes accustomed to the presence of the chemical, sudden removal can be dangerous—or even deadly. Withdrawal offers nasty symptoms, ranging from dizziness to strong hallucinations and even seizures. Some medications are worse than others, but all are cause for caution.

Getting professional help is the best way to ensure a safe and feasibly comfortable detoxification. Inpatient and outpatient facilities both offer help and work along these three steps: evaluation, stabilization, and treatment transitioning. Medical and holistic approaches provide a secure environment to ride out this tough change.

Aside from the immediate dangers of quitting a medication, treatment centers are important because they help prepare the user for a drug-free future. Many facilities teach coping methods and accountability to reduce the chance of relapse.

Addiction In The Elderly

Addiction in the ElderlyProblems with addiction can affect people of all ages. Unfortunately, senior citizens face an increased risk of complications and mortality as the result of substance abuse. Learning more about elderly substance abuse can help those senior citizens affected find help, hope, and a better quality of life during the late stages of life.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., 2.5 million seniors have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Almost half of all nursing home residents have alcohol abuse problems, and physicians hand out around 17 million prescriptions for potentially addictive sedatives and painkillers. Benzodiazepines top the list for prescription substance abuse across all ages.

Why Senior Citizens Abuse Substances

Senior citizens who abused substances at an earlier age may continue to engage in self-abusive behaviors later in life. These individuals are long-term drug abusers who now fall into the category of elder substance abusers.

Like substance abuse in younger people and adults, late-onset elderly substance abuse begins with unhappiness, loneliness, boredom, or a desire to change. Instead of seeking support and help from others, many seniors turn to alcohol or prescription drugs.

Some senior citizens may develop a substance abuse problem unintentionally. They may forget when they took their last pills or accidentally take the wrong dose. Physicians can also prescribe potentially addictive pain relief substances without asking about or being told about other prescriptions. Seniors may avoid telling physicians about one prescription or another, and within a period of months, they experience the signs of addiction.

The Importance Of Substance Abuse Recovery In Elderly Individuals

Addiction is unhealthy at any age, but it presents particular risks for elders. Senior citizens don’t have the same metabolisms as younger people, and their brains may react more easily to certain substances and to lower dosages.

Over time, physicians may diagnose side effects as other health complications, including diabetes and depression. An addicted person’s health will continue to decline due to overmedication and a failure to address the root cause. Without treatment, addicted seniors can face an increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, fractures, and other potentially serious health conditions. At any age, substance abuse contributes to an increased risk of death.

With substance abuse help, seniors can take steps to overcome withdrawal and regain a previous quality of life. Those who recover may experience improved energy levels, better mood stability, and more meaningful connections with loved ones.

Signs Of Addiction In The Elderly

Loved ones often play an important role in substance abuse identification and recovery. Family members and close friends can watch out for the following symptoms as red flags of a potentially harmful situation:

  • Memory problems not associated with a diagnosed medical condition
  • Unexplained bruises or broken bones
  • Complaints of chronic pain
  • A desire to spend an inordinate amount of time alone
  • Failing to maintain basic hygiene
  • Loss of interest in life or relationships
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought an elderly person joy
  • Overeating or not eating enough

Many of these symptoms are also warning signs for other medical conditions or even elder abuse, making substance abuse somewhat difficult to spot. Someone close to an elderly individual who understands the person’s lifestyle, habits, preexisting health conditions, and medication regimen may have a better opportunity to recognize potential warning signs of substance abuse.

What To Do If You Suspect Substance Abuse

If you notice any symptoms of substance abuse, consider checking prescriptions for appropriate dosing. For alcohol abuse, you may find evidence of consumption in hidden areas around the home or in the trash. Take the time to discuss a possible problem with alcohol or prescription medications.

Avoid using an accusatory tone or language. Instead, you can offer to help. Seniors who abuse substances will likely need help from a qualified recovery support center. Talk with possible recovery programs about the intervention and recovery process. Elderly individuals often need specialized care to detox and recover from substance abuse without experiencing serious health complications.

Awareness can improve response to substance abuse in seniors. Instead of ignoring the situation, family members and loved ones must take an active role in understanding, preventing, and addressing elder substance abuse.

Are You An Enabler? | A Simple Questionnaire

Pathways-- Are You An Enabler -- 08-23-16To understand if you might possibly be enabling someone’s substance abuse and preventing them from seeking the addiction treatment they need, answer these questions with a “yes” or a “no”:

Are You An Enabler? : A Simple Questionnaire

  1. Do you call in sick for your loved one because they were too hung over to go to work or school?
  2. Have you ever told a lie to someone to cover up for your loved one’s substance abuse?
  3. Have you had to pay bills for your loved one that they were responsible for?
  4. Have you ever done someone else’s work for them because they failed  to complete it as a result of their substance abuse?
  5. Have you ever paid legal fees for your loved one or bailed him or her out of jail?
  6. Do you avoid talking you your loved one about their substance abuse because you are afraid of how they will react?
  7. Have you threatened to leave your loved one because of their substance abuse and then did not follow through on it?

Yes or No Addiciton Enabling SurveyIf you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it is quite possible you are enabling someone’s substance abuse problem and standing in the way of them seeking the addiction treatment they need.  Addiction is a family disease and denial is a large part of it.  Denial of a substance abuse problem happens for both the addict and their loved ones when the issue is not confronted.

Enabling creates an environment in which an addict can comfortably continue to engage in negative and risky behavior without consequences.  “Helping” someone means we are doing something for someone who is incapable of doing it for themselves.  “Enabling” is doing something for someone when they should have done it for themselves.  This will prevent change and a desire to seek addiction treatment.

While enabling is a behavior that loved ones learn for their own emotional survival, it also prolongs the problem of substance abuse.  Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution and help your loved one seek out the addiction treatment they need.


Social Model Opiate Detox

Pathways -- Social Model Opiate Detox -- 08-23-16A Therapeutic Approach To Opiate Detox

For the 10% of the general population thought to regularly use opiates, many of them will become physically dependent on opiates-AKA addicted.  So, when they decide to get clean and rid their body of opiates they must go through what is commonly referred to as “opiate detox”.  For someone physically dependent upon opiates, an opiate detox can lead to a wide range of adverse symptoms.  Both the physical symptoms of opiate detox and the mental symptoms of opiate detox can be severe although rarely are they life threatening.

Physical symptoms of opiate detox:

  • Body Aches and Joint PainAnatomy Physical Symptoms of Opiate Detox
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Increased Tearing
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach Cramping

If the person has been abusing opiates for an extended period, then the mental symptoms associated with opiate detox can include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation

Types Of Opiate Detox

In some detox programs, usually referred to as rapid opiate detox, the addict is completely sedated during the opiate detox so that they don’t have to feel the ill effects of their opiate detox.  This is accomplished in a hospital setting where the opiate addict is closely monitored by doctors and nurses.  While the effectiveness of rapid opiate detox programs for keeping opiate addicts clean for long periods of time is still up in the air, what is certain is that they are a very expensive and very quick way to get your opiate detox over with.

Medical Opiate DetoxIn more traditional opiate detox programs mild sedatives are used to treat the mental symptoms of opiate detox and other medications are used to treat the physical symptoms of the opiate detox.  Usually these programs are referred to as social model detox programs, or “non-medical” detox even though mild detox medications are prescribed to the clients.  The emphasis in these opiate detox programs is to seek more of a long term solution to the opiate addiction, and the programs don’t just focus on a medicinal approach but also incorporate therapeutic activities during the opiate detox like counseling and meditation to help treat the addiction.  Some of these opiate detox programs even employ therapeutic methods such as immersion in hot water to treat the body aches associated with opiate detox.  Generally a spa is made available to the addicts going through opiate detox, and this has been shown to dramatically reduce the body aches and joint pain associated with opiate detox without the need for additional narcotics used to treat pain.

Because social model opiate detox programs rely on a more long term approach to treating the opiate addiction, they don’t view opiate detox as a cure.  Instead, they almost always stress additional treatment for their clients after detox such as outpatient counseling, additional inpatient treatment, or possibly attendance at 12 step meetings.

Social model opiate detox is a cost effective way to get clean and sober and begin a life free from opiate addiction.


Opiate Addiction Treatment With Vivitrol

Pathways-- Opiate Addiction Treatment With Vivitrol -- 08-23-16Opiate Addiction Addiction Treatment (Updated)

Back in October of last year (2010), the FDA approved the use of Vivitrol for treatment of opiate addiction. After opiate detox treatment (usually 7 to 10 days), the person struggling with opiate addiction is provided Vivitrol on a once monthly schedule with an intramuscular injection to help prevent relapse and a slip back into their addiction.

Vivitrol For Opiate Addiction Treatment

As of today, Vivitrol is the only non-narcotic medication approved for the prevention of relapse and a return to opiate addiction. After a period of abstinence usually following opiate detox treatment, Vivitrol is administered once per month by a healthcare professional through an intramuscular injection. Being non-narcotic, Vivitrol is the only non-addictive, non-scheduled opiate antagonist that blocks the euphoric effects of opiates that people seek when they are active in their opiate addiction. While it is not a cure-all for opiate addiction, it is believe that Vivitrol can help opiate addicts maintain their abstinence when implemented with counseling and other non-professional recovery work such as regular attendance at 12 step meetings.

Approval of Vivitrol by the FDA

Approval of Vivitrol by the FDA represents an important step forward in the treatment of opiate addiction because it is the first non-addictive, non-scheduled, opiate antagonist available for the treatment of opiate addiction. Previously only other forms of scheduled narcotics such as Methadone and Buprenorphine (Suboxone and Subutex) were available for treatment of opiate addiction. Historical data has shown that many opiate addicts treated with these other narcotic regimens for opiate addiction ended up exchanging one addiction for another or bouncing back and forth between their prescribed treatment narcotic (Methadone, Buprenorphine, etc.) and the drug of choice for their opiate addiction (Heroin, OxyCodone, etc).

In addition to opiate addiction, Vivitrol may be suitable for the treatment of alcohol dependence. As with opiate addicts, the patient will need to abstain from alcohol prior to initiation of treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opiate addiction, contact us today to discuss your options for opiate detox treatment as well as longer term opiate addiction treatment including the potential use of Vivitrol.

How COWS Can Help Assess Opiate Withdrawals

Pathways-- How COWS Can Help Assess Opiate Withdrawals -- 08-23-16Clinical Opiate Withdrawals Scale (COWS)

The clinical opiate withdrawals scale (COWS) is a pen and paper instrument that rates eleven common opiate withdrawals symptoms.  Once the score for all of the opiate withdrawals symptoms are summed up, the counselor or physician can determine the level of physical dependence on opioids as well as determine what stage of opiate withdrawals the client is in.  For each of the symptoms that are assessed, the rating is based solely on the relationship to the opiate withdrawals.  For instance, if the client was jogging prior to the test then their heart rate must be given a chance to return to normal prior to the test.

Clinical Test For Rating Withdrawal Intensity

Here is a brief summary of the COWS test for opiate withdrawal:

  1. Resting Pulse Rate: a score of 0 is given for a heart rate 80 or below while a score of 4 is given for a heart rate above 120.  There are various scores for heart rates in between these readings which can indicate the severity of the opiate withdrawals.
  2. GI Upset: a score of 0 is given if there have been no symptoms of GI upset over the last ½ hour while a score of 5 is given if there have been  multiple episodes of diarrhea and vomiting over the last ½ hour.  Again there are scores provided for GI symptoms in between these.
  3. Sweating (over the last ½ hour not caused by room temperature or patient activity): a zero is given is there is no reports of chills or flushing while a 4 is given if the opiate withdrawals are causing sweat to stream off of the face.  Other scores for symptoms in between these are also provided.
  4. Tremor: with outstretched hands if the client shows no indication of tremors or shakes then a score of 0 is given.  If the opiate withdrawals are causing gross tremors or muscle twitching then a score of 4 is given.  Other scores are given for symptoms in between.
  5. Restlessness: if during the assessment the client is able to sit still, then a score of 0 is give.  On the other hand, if the client is unable to sit still for more than a few seconds then they are given a score of 5 with other scores in between these based on their level of opiate withdrawals.
  6. Yawning: if during the assessment the patient doesn’t yawn, then a score of 0 is appropriate.  If, however they are yawning several times per minute then a score of 4 is given with other scores for symptoms in between.
  7. Pupil Size: 0 is given if the client’s pupils are pinned or normal for the ambient light.  A score of 5 is given if the opiate withdrawals are causing the client’s pupils to be so dilated that only the rim of the iris is visible.
  8. Anxiety or Irritability: 0 for none and 4 if the patient is so irritable or anxious that participation in the opiate withdrawals assessment is difficult.
  9. Bone or Joint Aches: if there is additional pain which wasn’t present prior to the onset of opiate withdrawals, the client is given a score of 4 if they are rubbing joints or muscles and unable to sit still because of the additional discomfort.  A score of 0 is given for no additional pain.  There are scores in between based on symptoms.
  10. Gooseflesh Skin: if the client’s skin is smooth, then a score of 0 is given.  If on the other hand, the opiate withdrawals are causing the client’s skin to have goose bumps and their arm hair is standing up, then a score of 5 is appropriate.
  11. Runny Nose or Tearing: if the client doesn’t have a cold or allergies, but their nose is constantly running or there are tears running down their cheeks then they warrant a score of 4 for their opiate withdrawals.  0 is appropriate if these symptoms are not present.

Once each criteria has been assessed then all of the scores are summed up to get a total.  The following scale is then applied to determine the level of opiate withdrawals: 5-12 mild; 13-24 moderate; 25-36 moderately severe; more than 36 severe opiate withdrawals.

The COWS assessment should be given only by a trained professional, but if you believe you or a loved one is undergoing opiate withdrawals then it would be beneficial to know the signs to look for. 

Get a Downloadable Version of the COWS Test HERE >>