A blog for parents concerned about their teens alcohol and drug use

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Do You Think She’s an Addict?
Friday, August 28th, 2009

“I found Lisa* sitting on the couch, asleep I guess or maybe passed out, with a half-eaten apple in her hand.  She looked awful.  I saw her purse on the floor and rummaged through it to see if I could figure out what she was using.  That’s when I found these little baggies labeled ‘Friends of the Night.’  I woke Lisa up and asked her what they were.  She told me they were vitamins and I sort of believed her, but I flushed them down the toilet anyway,” Marcie* explained, her voice marked with raw pain as she concluded her long and tortured story about her daughter Lisa’s drug-related adventures. 

Marcie had called me at the direction of our pastor who was familiar with our own journey in through this nightmare.

“Do you think she’s an addict?” Marcie asked me anxiously.  I knew this question so well as it was one that I wrestled with as we began to peel back the layers of our son’s drug use.  Is it really possible that the child you raised with so much love and self-sacrifice could actually be an addict?

Personally I dislike the term “addict” — for me it conjures up the picture of an anorexic-like figure slumped in a garbage-strewn gutter with a needle plunged into a vein, escaping into the euphoria of heroin.  That certainly was not the picture of our son, who, when using was occasionally glassy-eyed, but to the uninformed, was the picture of health. 

When used in conjunction with dessert or a sports team, the word addiction takes on more passionate overtones, as people gush about their chocolate cravings or the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.  In contrast, addiction paired with substance abuse evokes so many negative images and emotions.  Although a convenient label, the term addict does not begin to describe the level of use, its impact on the user and his or her family, and underlying issues that may have contributed to the problem.  

Early in my son’s recovery I attended an AA meeting with him where one of the speakers joked, “I love to drink but every time I have a beer I have an allergic reaction – I break out in handcuffs.”  I think he was on to something – some can tolerate substance use (like the occasional glass of wine or a beer), while even the smallest amounts can be toxic for others, as with any other kind of allergy.

I told Marcie that I was not in a position to label her daughter— it was up to Lisa to make that determination.  Instead I asked her to focus on Lisa’s behaviors – the loss of interest in her favorite activities, failing her college classes, her erratic sleep patterns, the missing money and checks, her new friends, the many car accidents, unexplained absences from home, not wanting to be with family, etc.  All of Lisa’s behaviors added up to a level of substance use that required treatment.  Given what Marcie had disclosed, I suggested that she explore various levels of intervention with a professional substance abuse counselor or interventionist. Getting help was paramount – not the label.

*not her real name

Posted by Pat Aussem  /  Filed under Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, Treatment, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more

Finding a Treatment Center
Thursday, August 20th, 2009

When making a decision that dramatically impacts the life of a loved one, we sometimes act in a very irrational way.  In the beginning, I was jumping without a parachute, reacting on impulse and intuition.  We were frantic, looking for a quick fix, anything to get our daughter back.  In hindsight, while some of my decisions and gut reactions helped save my stepdaughter Katherine’s life, others could have been handled better. 

Now that I’ve gone through the process as a parent and have talked with so many people in recovery, I’d like to share some fundamental processes that may help those searching for the first time for a treatment center that works for them.
Below are my personal recommendations that may help you to navigate through the maze of in-patient treatment centers:

1. Because addiction is still somewhat considered an “unacceptable disease” we found it extremely hard to open up and reach out to friends, outside family or others for help and treatment center recommendations.  Due to my experiences and the experience of others, I am making great strides to raise awareness for the disease in hopes of ridding its stigma and making it a part of our nation’s dialogue.  But my mission starts with people like you.  I urge you to demand information from local health professionals, to share your experiences with others facing similar afflictions — in your local communities, schools, places of worship and on this blog.  Talk with community leaders and school counselors and discuss treatment centers in your area that have proven to be successful.  Then approach the ones that seem to fit your needs.

2. Do your own research online but be prepared to weed through an enormous amount of material – some informative, some self-promoting.  There is a wealth of information regarding various treatment modalities as well as questions for you to consider before picking up the phone to make the first call.
3. Once you have narrowed down your search, ask every conceivable question about the treatment center, questions such as:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, Treatment  /  Comments: 1

A New Hope For Addiction Treatment
Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Hello everyone. As a guest blogger on Intervene I will share my ideas for bringing the latest scientific findings and treatments into the everyday clinical practice of alcohol and drug addiction treatment in this country. I will share my knowledge and expertise on the very important topic of how you can best position yourself andor your loved ones for optimal treatment success with long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. My goal is to inspire hope and confidence in patients and their families that they can have an enjoyable drug-free life over time. To this end, I have worked hard with many creative, very bright people to build a variety of treatment resources that educate and support patients and their families through this process.  The two primary tools that I have helped to create are my new book, Healing the Addicted Brain, and a patient friendly website An excerpt from the book’s first chapter can give you a better understanding of what I am trying to accomplish here with the help of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America:

From Introduction, Healing the Addicted Brain

If you’re a member of an addict’s family, or perhaps a close sober friend, you feel as if you’ve heard too many failed promises to sober up, covered up too much bad behavior, watched the family be pulled apart and the finances drained, and stood by helplessly as dreams were shattered and the life of the addict slowly slipped away. You’ve been through the emotional wringer too many times and seen the latest “guaranteed treatment” fail repeatedly. Sometimes you wish you could just walk away from it all—but you know you can’t and feel absolutely stuck.

Through it all, whether you’re the addict or the family member, you’ve wondered if there is any point to treatment. Why have your hopes been dashed over and over again? Why not just accept the obvious fact that an addict is an addict, and addiction is ultimately untreatable?

Before they came to me for help, many of my patients and their families feel that way, with good reason. Traditionally, the success rate for addiction treatment was abysmally low. A few of the medicines we had available were effective, but their use was limited or restricted for various reasons. The treatment most health experts pinned their hopes on, talking therapy, was not very successful. As a result, most addicts, their families, and friends were repeatedly disappointed. Understandably, many simply gave up.

I’m here to tell you that you no longer have to feel helpless and hopeless. There is hope, new hope that stems from a new scientific understanding of the nature of addiction plus novel medicines that finally allow us to control cravings and fix the physical damage to the brain caused by addiction. We now know that addiction is a chronic brain disease, that brain damage interferes with the addict’s ability to respond to talking therapy, and that once the physical brain damage has been repaired, talking therapy and other elements of traditional treatment can be very successful.

We’re at the beginning of a new era in addiction medicine, armed with a fresh view of the disease plus high-tech medicines and other treatments that will allow success for up to 90 percent of those who seek help. This is not just a tremendous improvement in the treatment rate; it represents a paradigm shift that will help us to turn the understanding of addiction from a shameful habit that destroys lives into a treatable illness.

As you can see from this excerpt, you as a parent or patient have your work cut out for you if you want to get excellent alcohol and drug treatment. I assure you though that it can be done, and I believe that it will be worth your time to invest in learning more about how to accomplish this success.

I plan to post at least weekly on this site, but in the interim all of my thoughts and knowledge on the topic have been poured into the above two resources — my book and the website, so you can get started right away with the learning process. What you need to learn as a parent is not “rocket science,” rather, you just need to understand a variety of easily understood issues and then do your best to ensure that you or your child is receiving services in these areas. If not, ask about what you are not getting and work to figure out a way to get it.

Please feel free to share your questions.  I am here to help you in this process.  Thanks for reading.

Posted by Harold C. Urschel III, MD, MMA  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, Treatment, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more


About this blog
Welcome to Intervene. We are a community of experts, parents and caring adults concerned about our teens’ alcohol and drug use and have come together to share our insights, inspiration, guidance and help.

A free service to help you determine if alcohol may be harming your health or putting you at risk.

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