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Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better? A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part IV
Thursday, April 25th, 2013

When it comes to addiction treatment, too often there is a disconnect between what people with an addiction need and what they get. Combine that with the stigma, desperation and fear that accompany the disease of addiction, time and again, present seemingly insurmountable odds for the addicted person to overcome. In this, the final installment in a four-part series of my Q&A with award-winning journalist Maia Szalavitz, Ms. Szalavitz weighs in on “Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better?”

JERRY OTERO: Most of the media stories about addiction are often tied to something sensational, like a celebrity death. What will motivate journalists to pay more attention to this issue and, in turn, create more awareness and education among their readers/viewers? What kinds of stories would you like to see?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Hard to say how to get more attention to this (if I knew how, I’d do it!), but I would like to see reporters who cover this area question their own ingrained beliefs and not just assume that traditional treatment is the only way to recovery, that police are any kind of experts on the effects of drugs, that treatment providers are impartial experts (use academic sources who know the data; you wouldn’t go to a pharmaceutical company for unbiased perspective on its own products) or that current policies are the most effective way to deal with problem.

JERRY OTERO: What’s your biggest wish for change in the addictions field?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: That addiction be seen as a health problem and truly treated that way, with evidence-based treatment in which the traditional harsh approach would be as unacceptable as it would be for doctors to treat cancer patients as immoral malingerers.

JERRY OTERO: Anything parents can do to bring about this change?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Advocate for evidence-based treatment and policy change that recognizes that addiction problems cannot be solved by the criminal justice system and treat people with addiction with compassion.

This concludes our Q&A with Maia Szalavitz. I want to thank Ms. Szalavitz for sharing her insights with our readers, and for weighing in on topics that are important for parents and other caregivers.

Are you a parent or caregiver of a teen or young adult struggling with a substance abuse problem? Please visit the online community at The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Time To Get Help.

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com and writes about addiction-related issues for The Fix.com . Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. She is co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010), The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007), and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, Finding Treatment, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: 1



Medication-Assisted Treatment and Other Changes in the Addiction Field: A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part III
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Opioids (heroin and prescription pain relievers) are powerful drugs that act on specific receptors in the brain that are important in regulating pain. While prescription opioids can be highly beneficial if used as prescribed, as a class of drug, they have a high potential for abuse. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that 1.9 million people in the U.S. were addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2010 and 359,000 were addicted to heroin.

Medication-assisted treatment for opiate dependence generally refers to the use of the medications buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone to treat opiate dependence, in combination with counseling and recovery support services.  

In this, Part 3 of a 4-part series of my Q&A with award winning journalist Maia Szalavitz, Ms. Szalavitz shares her views on the dominance and effectiveness of traditional AA/12 Step based rehab programs, as well as the changes she has seen in the addiction field with a special emphasis on medication-assisted treatment for those struggling with opioid dependency.

JERRY OTERO: What’s been the biggest change in the addictions and treatment field since your book, Recovery Options  publication in 2000? What are the implications for teenagers?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: The biggest change is the widespread use of buprenorphine for opioid addiction treatment and the acceptance of the need for maintenance medication in some cases by abstinence-focused providers like Hazelden.  There has also been a decline in harsh and confrontational treatment, but unfortunately, some is still out there.

I wish there had been more changes though:  it’s still hard to get care that doesn’t present the idea that the 12-steps are the best way and that really meets people’s needs.

Teen treatment is unfortunately still very problematic, particularly in programs that sell themselves as “troubled teen” programs, i.e., emotional growth boarding schools, boot camps, therapeutic boarding schools, behavior modification programs and wilderness programs.  None of these have any controlled evidence supporting their effectiveness for addictions or other teen drug problems and yet lots of teens with drug problems are sent to them.  These programs tend to use tough, harsh tactics that are known to be harmful.

JERRY OTERO: What are your thoughts on medicated-assisted treatment (such as methadone, suboxone, vivitrol) for patients with opioid addictions? What are things parents should know about this treatment for their older teens/young adults?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: For opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment is the safest and best option, the one most likely to preserve life and health.  It’s trickiest to determine when it should be used with young people:  obviously, it’s preferable not to have to be on lifelong maintenance of anything, whether blood pressure medication or buprenorphine.  So, young people should be aiming for abstinence at first, but maintenance should not be ruled out or seen as failure and parents should not pressure kids who are doing well on maintenance to come off, simply because they feel that drug-free is better.

Stay tuned next week for Part lV of our Q&A “How Can We Makes Things Better?”

To learn more about prescription medicine abuse, please visit The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s The Medicine Abuse Project.

And look for The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s free Medication-Assisted Treatment e-book coming out next month.

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com and writes about addiction-related issues for The Fix.com. Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. She is co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010), The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007), and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under 12-Step, Addiction, Books about addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, getting help, Heroin, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Twelve Step, Uncategorized, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



Finding Addiction Treatment for Your Child: A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part II
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013


Recognizing that your child needs substance abuse treatment can be emotional and overwhelming; and you may feel that your child’s addiction has taken over your family’s life. Here, we present Part 2 of a 4-part series of my Q & A with award-winning journalist, Maia Szalvitz. Today, Ms. Szalavitz shares some advice on how parents can find the right addiction treatment for their teens and young adults — and what they should avoid.

JERRY OTERO: What do parents need to know about the differences between girls and boys when dealing with substance abuse issues?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Mainly that everyone has individual needs and some of them relate to gender, like the fact that girls may be more likely to be depressed or that they may feel uncomfortable discussing issues of sexuality in mixed gender groups.  Mostly, it’s critical for everyone to be thoroughly evaluated before treatment is sought so that an independent assessment of these needs can be done by someone who doesn’t have a particular treatment in mind.  Note:  independent assessment should be done by a psychiatrist or psychologist, not an educational consultant who refers people to residential care.

JERRY OTERO: What should parents be cautious of when looking for the right treatment for their child? What about programs that “whip kids into shape?” And, is there a difference between boot camps and wilderness programs?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Any treatment that wants to cut off or control communication between parent and child (outside of obvious abusive parents) for longer than a week or two should be viewed with extreme skepticism.  There is no therapeutic reason for this: love and support from family help treatment, they do not hinder it.

Any program that tells parents to expect bizarre complaints or reports of abuse and ignore them should be avoided.  A program that goes on about children being manipulative liars is not safe because health complaints will be ignored and this can and has been deadly.

Programs that require 12-step work for teens— admissions of addiction and powerlessness— are not the best; programs which suggest and support them are fine.

Programs that use physical punishment or restraint or isolation should be avoided; you can’t whip someone with heart disease into a cure, nor can you do this with addiction.

Wilderness programs are different from boot camps in that the harsh treatment takes place in the woods or wilds rather than in a more military style but both have had serious abuses and there is no evidence supporting the idea that they are better than safer alternatives.  If a child likes the woods, a voluntary Outward Bound program may be healing, but forcing someone into camping and hiking isn’t addiction treatment.  If a child goes to a wilderness camp for normal teens, he also will be believed when he has a health complaint — but in “troubled teen” programs the complaints are dismissed so callously that it has lead to dozens of deaths.  They’re also either unregulated or not well regulated.

JERRY OTERO: Thank you so much, for your insights, Maia.

Readers, for more information about adolescent and young-adult alcohol and other drug abuse treatment and how to find the most appropriate care for your child and family, download The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Treatment e-book. This e-book will provide helpful and realistic information and advice to aid you in steering your child — and your family — toward recovery. Here, you will learn what alcohol and drug abuse treatment is, how to find the right type of treatment for your child, how to pay for treatment and the importance of taking care of yourself and your family.

Stay tuned next week for Part III of our Q&A“Changes in the Field, including Medication-Assisted Treatement”

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com and writes about addiction-related issues for The Fix.com . Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. She is co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010), The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007), and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

 

 

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under 12-Step, Addiction, Assessment, Finding Treatment, getting help, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



Cuisinart-Head: My Mom Was Spinning from My Brother’s Drug Addiction
Friday, February 15th, 2013

Like so many, my family has been touched by addiction. Our heads constantly spun for years as we tried to find the way to fix the addicts we love so dearly. Cuisinart-head is a term borrowed from a family addictions consultant – it perfectly described my mom’s mentality in the midst of my brother Chris’s addiction. Her head swirled with the familiar stew of questions parents of addicts will know all too well:

  • How does this facility compare to that one?
  • Where did Jane say she sent her son to? Did he like it?
  • Will Chris like Dr. Jones?
  • Why is Dr. Jones prescribing Lithium? What will it do to Chris?

Meds. Rehabs. The detox world tour. How can a mother desperate to help her son possibly make sense of all of this? Well, Mom tried. A discussion with one person would lead to another contact, and mom filled five notebooks with information. Chris may have gone through 12 facilities, but mom kept extensive notes on 25. She logged the 30 medications he was on over seven years and their associated side effects, along with notes from 28 providers she trusted. She called on any resource – published authors, researchers, psychiatrists, parents of other addicted children.

Mom was the super-case manager, addicted to Chris’s addiction and the quest to find the right program, therapist, coach, approach that would save him.  And Chris stood still, waiting for the next placement, or professional to meet with, seemingly unaware or unimpressed by Mom’s frantic efforts to keep him alive. We want to expect different behavior from an addict in response to an outpouring of loving effort, but those who have experienced this ride know that that rarely happens. Cuisinart-head can’t move an unwilling addict.

Addiction often causes this dynamic – a family consumed with information and plans for the addict and the addict unwilling/uninterested/unmotivated to change his or her behavior. For mom, research distracted her from her anger toward Chris, disappointment in his choices and frustration that he couldn’t just “stop using and return toward a normal life.” Instead of confronting uncomfortable emotions, it was easier to obsess over how to solve the problem. This thought stew can become at least a coping mechanism if not an outright addiction unto itself.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, Mom’s mental “spinning” didn’t solve Chris’s addiction. It made her feel as though she was “doing something,” and it did generate options but also created a lot of anxiety and second-guessing. Mom’s hyper-focus on the details obscured the real loss she mourned: her dreams for her son’s future.  But we now know that distress over a loved one’s future as a non-addict can consume the family’s present with little result.

Thankfully, our story has a happy ending, and my brother is leading a productive, happy life in recovery.

Families often ask “What did it?” and the truth is there are probably a lot of factors – Chris was older, “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” financial support was cut off, his last treatment center was a good match with a strong young person’s AA community and focus on yoga and meditation.

Mom no longer spends her time in Cuisinart-head spells trying to fix him. A couple of years into the madness, my mom stepped back and realized this process could continue for years and went into individual therapy. She had a place with an impartial observer to share her fears for Chris’ future, discuss her anger toward him and relay her concerns for my father’s health, which had been impacted throughout Chris’ journey.  My mom’s therapist gave her the confidence to remain clear-headed in crisis and helped her manage her emotions in a healthy way, which improved her interactions with Chris and thoughts related to his care.

For those who struggle with Cuisinart-head now, I would encourage you to prioritize your physical and emotional health. My mom’s research and calls weren’t incorrect actions, but in isolation, they created an unhealthy obsession and belief that she could fix Chris’ addiction by finding the perfect option for him.  In her case, a therapist was able to provide guidance and a space for her to discuss what happens if none of her efforts worked.

I hope that you can find some hope in our story and that you call on resources in your local area. Share your story below, talk with a therapist or coach, attend Al-Anon or another peer support group, call The Partnership at Drugfree.org toll-free Parent Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) – seek out guidance from others to stop the spinning.

Posted by Arden O'Connor  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Family Therapy, Finding Treatment, getting help, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



Be Cautious of Boot Camps and Wilderness Programs for Your Addicted Teen
Monday, January 28th, 2013

Earlier this month a few of us attended a Lunch ‘n’ Learn event at CASAColumbia with Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She discussed the theme of her book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), an exposé of the “tough love” business.

The talk prompted us to revisit and share what we at The Partnership at Drugfree.org know about boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled and/or addicted teens.

First, it is important to note that boot camps and wilderness programs are not included among the levels of care defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Although you may have heard success stories or read about the benefits of boot camps, we strongly suggest you look very carefully into any boot camp or wilderness program before sending your teen for substance abuse treatment.

According to a government report, these programs are not subjected to federal oversight, and there have been thousands of reports of neglect and abuse at privately owned and operated boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled youth.

Ms. Szalavitz explained that a person with the disease of addiction is already in a lot of pain. To get better, that person doesn’t need more pain and abuse, but rather a kind and supportive approach to treatment. One that’s comprehensive, respectfully addressing the individual’s physical, emotional and social issues. One that makes the person feel better.

We suggest that if you are seriously considering a boot camp or wilderness program, you check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the program. You should also call the program and ask a lot of questions, including:

1) What specific substance abuse and mental health licensing and accreditation does the program have? (If the providers are not licensed, do NOT send your child to the program.)
2) Has a child in the care of the program ever died, and if so, why?
3) What specific training (particularly survival skills training for outdoor programs) do the counselors have?
4) Have there have been any complaints of abuse or neglect at the camp?
5) Can you put me in touch with a few families that have a child who have completed the program so that I can hear about their experience?
6) Who is responsible for medical care? (It should be a licensed medical doctor.)

Remember, addiction is a serious health issue and requires appropriate treatment by licensed professionals so that addicted persons can learn how to manage drug and alcohol problems, how to handle relapse and how to live a life free of drugs and alcohol.

For more questions to ask programs when looking for treatment for your child, here are some helpful resources:

To find the best assistance option for your child with an alcohol or drug problem, see our Treatment e-book.

To connect with other parents about your child’s drug and alcohol problem, join our online support community at TimeToGetHelp.drugfree.org.

To speak to a trained specialist, call our toll-free helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).

Have you sent or considered sending your child to a boot camp or wilderness program? Comment below to share your thoughts or experiences.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Books about addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, parenting, Scare tactics, tough love, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



12-Step Programs: Working Toward Freedom from Addiction
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Our libraries and book stores are filled with books on addiction and treatment centers have materialized in cities across the globe; addiction has touched the lives of most people.

Therapists’ phones are ringing off the hook because addiction is causing incredible pain in many families across the nation.  Books, treatment centers and doctors all have a role to play in the process of recovery. The disheartening truth is that all the education in the world will not eliminate the obsession of the user. Self knowledge alone will not keep us clean nor will it help the family member to find solace in their quest for healing.

However, most these avenues of treatment will introduce the client to the 12-Step programs. In my first blog I talked about the programs of Alanon and Naranon. These programs are essential for family members and friends of the addict. I want to emphasize to parents the importance of embracing the 12-Steps into your own lives.

Intervention and rehab centers are important components in the treatment of addiction and can be important stepping stones in the pursuit of finding freedom from addiction, but they do not equal recovery. They are external support systems; the steps will be the channel to internalize this important information. There is a saying in the 12-Step arena that the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.

Today, there are hundreds of 12-Step programs based on the original 12-Step concept launched by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The steps are basically the same for each of these programs, except for the first step, which begins with, “We are powerless over….”

You can fill in the blank with “drugs,” “alcohol,” “food,” “gambling,” etc. I use the word “addiction” when referring to this step, because it encompasses all unhealthy obsessions.

The experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

Sponsorship is highly suggested in all 12-Step programs. When asking someone to be your sponsor, you look for someone who reflects in life what you are seeking. This person will guide you through the step process—someone you can call in a time of confusion, someone who you trust spiritually.

Each of the steps contains certain spiritual principles. Some 12-Step literature emphasizes the HOW of the program. This acronym refers to three basic principles: Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness. There is a deliberate order and harmony in the way that each principle is placed, practiced, and ultimately lived within the 12-Step process. As we work these steps, our lives begin to change. We are transformed by these principles from the “inside out,” and as our spirits heal and grow our material lives are positively changed.

The serenity that is spoken of so highly in 12-Step fellowships flows outward, attracting others who seek it out. We write out each step, identifying what the step means to us and how it applies to our lives today. This process is like when a Zen master gives his student a Koan to figure out, and solve in their life. The most famous example of these playful, mystical riddles would surely be, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The student then meditates on this phrase (or step) to come up with what this means personally and spiritually in their present life.

Since our spiritual journey involves constant change, we continue to grow by working the steps over and over again, each time on a different issue and at a deeper level. The journey of the steps mirrors our lives, and their meanings change with us over time. The principles that occur as we work and live the steps are quite simply directions. Like points on a compass, they tell us where to go, directing our lives into a place of wholeness and fulfillment. I believe this profound personality change has to be ongoing. To assure our transformation continues, I suggest to the people I sponsor to keep their practice of the steps ongoing. The steps save our lives, and then they change our lives. We, in turn, show the next person how we did it. Ideally, this process of spiritual growth never ends.

When addiction enters our lives, either through our own use or that of a family member, it can cause enormous confusion and pain and turn life as we know it upside down. The spiritual path of the 12-Steps is not always easy, but the willingness to practice the steps will begin to soften our attitude toward addiction.  Compassion and understanding will begin to fill the void that anger and resentment used to occupy.

As we begin to witness our lives and those around us change, we come to see that our greatest challenges are often the introduction to a deeper compassion, engendering our view of life with a new sense of vision.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Hope, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more



Addiction as a Gift: Our Call to a Deep Spiritual Practice
Monday, March 26th, 2012

“I’m Tom, a grateful recovering addict.”

I have identified myself in this way in meetings and conventions for over 40 years. My intention is to put a new interpretation on the insidious disease of addiction. We all know the nightmares that accompany addiction. I invite you to move beyond the traditional ways addiction is looked upon, revealing the seemingly hopeless disease of addiction as an enlightening dilemma. I hope to introduce you to the revolutionary belief that for some individuals a life fraught with sickening addiction can quite possibly become a misunderstood gift and a blessing in disguise.

Currently there are countless studies and books written on the field of addiction and the vast and growing research on what is now termed “addictionology.” Though it is a fascinating area of contemporary and compassion-based health care, it is also encompassed within the realm of clinical rehabilitation centers, some of which are rife with discouraging statistics and sterile data. I speak from my heart and own experience.  I was once a hopeless addict whose life has been interrupted by a Higher Power.  My life was transformed by surrendering to the principles of The 12-Steps, which has led to a life that is devoted to the practice of meditation and service to others.

Addiction touches everyone. When an individual, his or her family member, or a close friend struggles with the malady, it eventually affects the lives of every member of society. In every country around the world, people have found a way out of their addiction. On a daily basis there are millions of people attending 12-Step meetings in almost every country on this planet. Be assured you are not alone.

The idea that the disease of addiction can only be treated by a spiritual transformation has been the motivating idea from the beginning. In the early 1930s, a hopeless alcoholic sought help from Carl Jung, a well known psychiatrist. The patient had resigned himself to the tormented reality that he suffered from the chronic inability to stop drinking. In those days, such people often ended up in jail or a mental institution and many lost everything that had been dear to them, including family, friends, careers and ultimately life itself. Addiction was viewed as a lapse in morality and had not yet been recognized as a medical disease.

This man came to Dr. Jung and asked for help. The psychiatrist frankly told him that although he was unable to help him, he had—on a few rare occasions—seen someone in the grips of alcoholism go through a profound personality change brought on by an intense spiritual experience. This visit to Dr. Jung set the foundation for other drunks to stay sober by helping each other and in turn practicing the spiritually-driven 12-Steps of recovery. The steps were designed to achieve the ongoing spiritual experiences that brought on the deep personality changes in our lives. One could argue that the steps were “given” to addicts by a higher spiritual realm, and Jung was as much a conduit as a cornerstone for the recovery movement. In his later years, Jung would be asked if he believed in God. Without hesitation Jung answered, “I know there is a God.” Yet the experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

I would not dismiss anyone’s pain caused by the disease of addiction.  If you are a family member or a close friend, let the experience be a calling card for your own spiritual practice. The programs of Alanon and Naranon can be your refuge, a sanctuary where you find understanding.  You may suddenly realize you’re not alone in this pain. This can be the beginning of a great adventure within, bringing to your attention that addiction is just one of many countless challenges we are called upon to face in life.

Kahil Gibran put it so eloquently in his book, “The Prophet”:  “Your Children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

Gibran was speaking the language of Alanon and Naranon long before their inception.  We must learn to detach and to love unconditionally. Once we start practicing spiritual principles we learn we can’t manipulate life to fit the conditions we believe will ensure our happiness. Instead we tend to each moment without judgment or criticism; acceptance of what is becomes our offering.

The 12-Step programs have been proclaimed as one of the most powerful spiritual movements of the twentieth century.  These programs provide support and guidance to offer hope where all hope was lost.  May loving kindness fill your hearts.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Forgiveness, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more



3 Ways to Address Teenage Motivation to Drink that Don’t Involve Scare Tactics
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

=Ways to Address Teen Motivation to Drink without Scare TacticsWhen someone – including a teenager – gets treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, it is standard practice to identify some of the reasons why they started using and the benefits they feel they get from these substances.   This helps them reduce shame and best identify their triggers and areas to focus on. Among the research, most reasons for using alcohol fall into a few broad categories such as mood or personality enhancement, social reasons, and coping reasons. Reviewing personal motivations for using alcohol is often an “ah-ha” experience for the person seeking help but it needs to be handled with care as there is the potential in such a discussion to make alcohol use seem more appealing.

Nowhere is this concern greater than when attempting to prevent alcohol use in teens as many parents have a justified fear that such a discussion will promote alcohol use in kids who may not have otherwise been aware of the potential short-term “benefits” of alcohol. This fear has often caused parents and caregivers to avoid the topic, focus only on the consequences of drinking or minimize the reasons why people drink – especially with younger children. While reinforcing the consequences of underage drinking is always recommended, understanding teen’s motivations can also be useful to parents as a point for both prevention and early intervention of teenage drinking. Below are a few tips on using teen motivations to intervene and connect with your children.

A useful strategy is to ask teens about what they “expect” to get from drinking. Along with perceived risk, your teen’s alcohol use can be predicted by the expectation that one will feel a certain way when they drink. These expectations are reinforced by the media and by your teen’s peers. Expectations are essentially motivating (I want to relax and I will drink because I expect that it will help me relax). The first step is to identify what your teens think about drinking’s benefits or what drinking may give them. If you can identify the reasons they think people drink (or they drink), it is a point of intervention.

Tailor Your Strategy: Based on the motivations or expectations your teen mentions reports there are several options to continue the conversation.

1.  Identify myths about the effects of alcohol: Teens may think that alcohol will help them achieve a particular outcome when in fact the opposite is true in the research. For example, if a teen says he drinks to relax, you can counter that alcohol only has temporary relaxing qualities (and only in moderation) and drinking actually reduces sleep quality which then causes stress. When teens understand that alcohol in fact may not actually give them what they want – they might think twice about drinking for a specific reason.

2. Once you have identified your child’s reason for drinking, encourage him or her to find other activities that will achieve the same outcome without alcohol. This is called “counter conditioning.” So using the above example you can identify other ways that are significantly more effective than alcohol in helping them relax (e.g. exercise, music, yoga). This is important because you will be teaching your teen a valuable coping skill that might prevent them from developing problems later on in life.

3. Lastly, point out that much of the “effect” they get from alcohol is simply based on what they expect they will get when they drink. This is especially effective for the “I want to have fun” motivation. My favorite way to talk about this is to discuss the numerous experiments done on placebo alcohol – yes – that’s right, studies where there was fake beer or tonic water alone and people thought it was actual alcohol. Individuals in these studies reported everything from being more social/sexual to being more confident to even having memory loss. In other words – you get what you expect. So simply being primed and thinking positively will give you what you need without the alcohol. These results are not unique to alcohol either – the placebo effect whether it be through fake surgery or a pill is extremely powerful. Studies even show that people who receive placebos have actual changes in their brain chemistry based simply on the expectation that they are getting what they need to achieve their goals. More importantly, some studies also reveal that people taking a placebo attribute their changes to themselves and not an external substance.

What I have found when I discuss alcohol motivations with teens is that they appreciate hearing a more rounded view of drinking. Teens are smart – they understand that people drink for a reason and if we ignore the reasons for drinking we are going to lose credibility with our teens. Discussions about expectancies and motivation typically also bring up much broader discussions of internal vs. external control. When I was working with college students who were referred to me for binge or excessive drinking – I would ask them to “pretend” they were drunk the next time they went to a party. It was a powerful experience for them to just hold a tonic water and pretend that it was a real drink. It helped them recognize the internal power they have over their actions and to feel more confident and secure. When teens begin to realize that they are in control of their actions they can begin to master the world around them to achieve their goals without a pill or drink.

Related Links:
What Got Me into Treatment? Drug Intervention
Teens Only Listen to One Person…Themselves:  How a Child’s Own Reasons for Change Lead to the Most Success
How to Prepare for a Drug Intervention with Your Teenager

Posted by Frederick Muench, PhD  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, getting help, parenting, Scare tactics, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: more



A Trip Inside The Mind Of An Addicted Teen
Friday, March 11th, 2011

I saw and experienced more than I was able to handle as a child. My father was an alcoholic which resulted in chaos in our family including physical and verbal abuse in my parents’ marriage. By the time I was a teenager I was lonely, hurt, and angry. All of which I believe played a huge role in why I developed poor decision making skills and no self-worth I couldn’t count on my father to play an active part in my life which left me with a void that I didn’t know how to fill.

I was five-years-old when my parents divorced. My mother was a hard-working single mom who worked an insane amount of hours in order to support the family. This left me with a lot of unsupervised time by myself. I lacked structure and activities. I never received any encouragement to try out for sports or after school activities, and because of this,  I never really thought that I could do it. I think that without a parent’s support and encouragement it’s hard for a teen to magically set up structure for themselves. Had I experienced the gentle nudges of my parents to get out there and spread my wings and try new things, I think I would have been able to learn how to build confidence, friendships, team work and good decision-making skills.

But that was not my reality. Reality was that I fell in with the wrong crowd. I made some bad choices with friends and ultimately became a follower. Since I didn’t have much to keep me busy after school or on the weekends, I found myself looking for stimulation in all the wrong places. As I met more people who partied, the amount of drugs and alcohol that I had access to grew. Before I knew it, all I cared about was how I was going to get high. I blamed my mom because she was the one who was there. The drugs were finally filling the void that my parents left. I figured that one day I would grow up and put all the partying behind me. Before that could happen I found myself in a place where I couldn’t stop using on my own.

My mom was angry and let me know how much I was letting her down but I didn’t know how to stop and I couldn’t picture my life without the drugs. I became mean and sneaky to protect my using at any cost. Ultimately, we lost all trust in each other. I was angry at her because it seemed as if, before my using inconvenienced her life, I was not important to her. She wanted so badly for me to change my behavior and I wanted so badly for our family life to have turned out differently. But neither of us knew how to fix it and I couldn’t get past playing the victim.

The one thing about my mom was that she did not give up. If it wasn’t for that fight in her I don’t know if I would have ever gotten sober on my own. I desperately needed treatment to fight my addiction, but also to help me process all the baggage that I had been carrying around for years. Professionals were able to help us heal together. They were able to help my mom learn how to set boundaries, how to push me when I needed it, communicate with an angry teenager and become my biggest cheerleader.

We didn’t take the route that most mothers and daughters take in life, but we are proof that addiction doesn’t have to tear a family apart forever.

Posted by Lauren King  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Finding Treatment, Recovery, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more



Acceptance Doesn’t Mean Condoning a Loved One’s Addiction
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

It is difficult to recognize what acceptance is in this context. I went through this with my family for the past two decades – going back and forth about what it mean to accept that my child has a problem with drugs.

The initial reaction to drug abuse is often resistance and disgust. Parents and teens can dance a pattern of cause, effect and reaction; again and again, not realizing what they are dealing with until it is too late. In doing this, we lose opportunities for early intervention [download the Intervention e-Book]. We are too eager to believe our kid’s half-hearted contrition’s and resume the illusion of “normalcy.”

That’s the trap.  It is important to notice behavior in a teen and consider drug tests (Note: While home drug tests can be unreliable, having a doctor perform a drug test can be a helpful tool; Although be aware that teens find all sorts of ways to beat these tests and even professional tests can be inaccurate) to determine if a positive result should lead to intervention. If the result is oxy’s, heroin, meth, or anything like that, then, YES!  Accept it and map out some solutions. And in the process, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Unfortunately, our communities offer too little assistance and are quick to toss young addicts in jail for their petty drug-related crimes. Drug addiction in anyone’s family is a big cross to bear and helping an addict is not an easy path. Acceptance helps.

Acceptance and courage are old attributes. In life, we all get a chance to test these qualities; like the farmer watching his crops flood alongside an overflowing river.  His first reaction is denial! After accepting the urgency of the condition, the farmer would build sandbag levees. That is acceptance and transformation of agony into  courage and action. A parent building the levees of preparation for intervention or treatment for a teen bitten by addiction is like stepping into a vision that recovery and redemption are entirely possible. Acceptance in that context does not mean condoning drug addiction.

A parent can be tempted to believe that their child has ruined his life, but that person still needs to be accepted and feel hope. Addiction has a path of its own, and can trump what you do, so be prepared.

Have a plan without feeling a need to force it (download the Treatment e-Book). Look hard into the condition you are faced with. Be intentional, but don’t try and be God. When an opportunity arises, you will be ready to take action.

Even with all the money or support in the world, it simply is not a parent’s sole responsibility to solve this problem for their child; your loved one has to choose recovery and believe they can succeed.  At the end of the day, we are often left feeling powerless, but that doesn’t equal “giving up” or “rejecting an ugly condition”; it is a stark recognition of what one does not control. That is what acceptance feels like.

Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Finding Treatment, Recovery & Relapse, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more






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