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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



Kind Love vs. Tough Love – What’s A Parent To Do? A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part I
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013


Maia Szalavitz is an award-winning journalist who covers the addiction field, health, science and public policy. She is co-author (with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD) of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Szalavitz about her work. Following is the first in a four-part series. Here, Ms. Szalavitz shares her insights into how parents can better deal with their teens’ and young adults’ drug and alcohol abuse problems.

***

JERRY OTERO: In your latest book, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered ,you explore empathy’s startling importance in human evolution and its significance for our children and our society. Why is empathy essential, and how can parents help to instill it in their children? Are there any lessons here to learn for parents who are struggling to make sense of their teenagers and young adult children’s drug abuse issues?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Empathy is critical for having a happy, healthy life because it affects all of our relationships and our health — physical and mental — to an enormous degree is determined by our ability to form strong bonds with others.  The best way to teach empathy is to behave kindly:  as one expert put it, empathy can’t be taught, but it can be caught.  However, kids need to learn to understand their own feelings well before they can understand those of others:  good ways of helping them learn this are reading to them and asking them explicit questions about their own and other people’s thoughts and feelings in various situations.

Empathy is also important for preventing and treating drug problems.  In terms of prevention, schools with warm atmospheres where kids feel part of a community have less drug use and less bullying, for one.

Also, part of the reason I got interested in the subject was that I saw how unkind so many counselors and treatment programs were to people with addictions.  And there are all kinds of people out there advocating that being cruel is the only way to help.  The data just doesn’t support that — empathetic treatment is the most effective.  And harsh treatment drives people away from seeking help.

JERRY OTERO:  “Kind Love” vs. “Tough Love”, what’s a parent to do about a teenager’s or young adult’s substance use?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: There is no evidence that “tough love” does anything useful.  Of course, you shouldn’t buy drugs for your children or do things that will help them use easily and if they are a danger to you or your other children, you may have to have them live elsewhere — but don’t put a child on the street with the aim of helping him stop using.  It might do that — but it also might make a temporary problem into a permanent one by entrenching the street lifestyle and putting the child at greater risk for overdose, suicide and disease.  If you need to cut a child out of your life, in other words, do it to protect yourself or others, not to help them.  There’s no evidence that it does help and all of the evidence on treatment and intervention shows that kind, supportive, gradual approaches are more effective than abrupt, harsh, confrontational ones.

This goes back to empathy:  if you want to help your child quit, you need to understand why they use and help them find other ways of getting those needs met.  If the child believes you are on their side and will not place them in an awful place they can’t escape and want them to feel good, not control them, you will be much more successful in motivating change.  It’s a lot easier for a kid to say yes to treatment if he knows his parents will back him up if it’s not right for him; a trial of antidepressants is much more easily done if the teen sees this as a way for her to feel better, not a way for her to be made compliant.

Check back next week for Part 2 of our Q&A, “Finding Treatment for Your Teen.”

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.  In addition to the books mentioned above, Ms. Szalavitz previously co-authored 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).

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under Books about addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, getting help, parenting, Substance Abuse, tough love, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



5 Things You Need to Know About Relapse
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

People in recovery and their families are often terrified of relapse. Understanding the following 5 points may help.

1. Relapse is common. Although relapses are not inevitable, they are common. Many people have one or more relapses before achieving long-lasting sobriety or abstinence. This does not mean the end of efforts toward abstinence and recovery. The person needs to get back into treatment and the family needs to continue attending a support group, professional counseling, or both.

2. Work together to prevent relapse. People in recovery may have frequent urges to drink or use drugs, and feel guilty about it, even though these urges are a normal part of recovery. It’s important to work together to anticipate high-risk situations (such as a party where alcohol will be served) and plan ways to prevent them.

3. Relapse can happen during good times, too. Sometimes relapse occurs when the person is doing well with their recovery. He or she feels healthy, confident, and/or “cured” and believes that he or she is ready to go back to casual, regular or “controlled” use of drugs or alcohol. The person may remember the honeymoon period of their use (even though it may have been long ago) — where his or her use didn’t cause problems — and may want to return to that place. But this is often impossible since addiction changes the physical makeup of the brain and the person is recovery is no longer able to use drugs or alcohol in a controlled fashion.

4. If relapse occurs. Medical professionals, particularly those who specialize in substance use disorders, are an extremely important asset during a time of relapse. They can help the person learn techniques for containing feelings, focusing on the present, and making use of support from others. Relying on group support from Twelve Step programs, engaging in prayer or meditation, and finding other ways to stay on an even keel can also be extremely helpful.

5. Learn from relapse. Experts have found that a relapse can serve as an important opportunity for the recovering person and other family members to identify what triggered the relapse in the first place — and find ways to avoid it in the future.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Drugs, Family Therapy, getting help, parenting, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse, relapse, Substance Abuse, Twelve Step, 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



The Mindful Addict: Tom Catton’s Spiritual Road to Long-Term Drug Recovery
Friday, March 9th, 2012

The Partnership is excited to introduce our new blogger, Tom Catton. Tom has been in long-term recovery since October 20, 1971 is the author of The Mindful Addict: A Memoir of the Awakening of a Spirit, which highlights Tom’s relationship with meditation in combating his addictions. Tom is on the advisory board at the Buddhist Recovery Network and is trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

The following excerpt from my book “The Mindful Addict” gives a hint of the adventures that occurred during forty years of placing recovery above all else and learning to follow my heart through the practice of meditation each morning. If “The Mindful Addict” were summed up in a few words, I would say it is a miraculous adventure story about what can occur when meditation is coupled with service to others.

I used alcohol and drugs from 1959 until October 20,1971. I always say that I’m a blessed addict because I did all my using in the 60’s.

Growing up in Southern California and traveling to Hawaii as a teenager in 1962 to further my surfing endeavors seemed like that natural movement of the times. I lived the lifestyle that invited the use of drugs and alcohol. We were summoned by Tim Leary to turn on, tune in and drop out.

I went from drinking alcohol to sniffing glue, experimenting with LSD and other mind expanding drugs. Soon I was using needles to inject any substance for a quicker response. If a drug could be dissolved in a spoon, I used it.  

I went to my first 12- Step recovery programs meeting on the North Shore of Oahu in 1968.   I proceeded to bounce in and out of recovery for three years until I was sick of being “sick and tired.” The gift of recovery often waits for this opportune time to enter our lives when we see our own best thinking brought us to a veritable skid row in our mind, body and soul.

Excerpt from The Mindful Addict:
3:45 a.m., February 10, 1968, Kaneohe, Hawaii. A tall, thin woman looking much older than her fifty-two years sits up in bed meditating. A cup of coffee rests on her nightstand, and a cigarette glows in the dark. She listens, in silence, to the small voice within, her shadow standing guard as she sits in the stillness, becoming one with the calm. Flobird meditates for several hours every morning, a habit she picked up in 1960 while getting into recovery in twelve-step programs.

She lives each day by the spiritual guidance she receives during meditation and diligently records the messages in her journal. Writing becomes automatic, a prayer in ink, and the spirit guiding her pen to identify her next assignment. At times her dialogue with God is intense, and at times she questions the assignment; but, she always steps into the unknown and does exactly as spirit guides her.

On this particular early morning, Flobird’s meditation leads her to the North Shore of Oahu, about 40 miles from Kaneohe. She hops into “Redbird,” her Fiat, and drives to the Sunset Beach area, just as she has been directed in meditation. Here, she finds a four-bedroom, completely furnished; wood-framed home nestled under the trees right on the oceanfront. Guided by an inner direction, she reaches above the doorjamb, locates the key, unlocks the door, and enters. Coincidentally, I lived next door to this house.

During the winter months, the waves on the North Shore are huge. This is the only time they break with gigantic force and must be at least twenty feet high before they are considered surfable by the locals. The energy from just one such a large wave, as it comes crashing down, is breathtaking, and the salt spray can be seen in the air for miles.

At night, the roaring waves sound like thunder, or an enormous gong echoing across the oceans from some unknown temple. Often they become so enormous they wash over the highway. Sometimes these monster waves can even level houses in their wake.
The North Shore community is relatively small, and everyone knows one another. Back in the 1960s, Haleiwa, the main village, had only two grocery stores and a bank. Today, it is a bustling town sought out by tourists from all over the world to watch or surf the killer waves.

This time and place was magical for those of us fortunate enough to live there. The community was dominated by surfers from around the world who competed in riding the giant waves at the world’s most famous surf spots dotting this five-mile stretch of coastline. There were also many so-called hippies searching for enlightenment through the use of drugs, including LSD and hashish, which were believed to lead to spiritual illumination. Some of these drug-using hippies were in both categories: they surfed, took a lot of drugs, but were ultimately looking for something greater. That was me.

In the early morning hours of this day, I was startled awake by the sound of a car on our street. With a new clarity entirely unfamiliar to me in the breaking dawn, I gazed out the window and saw a tiny red Fiat pull up to the vacant house next door. I watched curiously as a strange woman got out and walked calmly up to the house as if she indisputably belonged, as if placed there by mystical entitlement. I had no idea that this event would change my life forever.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Books about addiction, getting help, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Uncategorized, Writing About Addiction  /  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



Part II: How I Learned to Forgive: Lessons for Family and Friends of an Addict
Thursday, October 6th, 2011

ForgivenessMaybe you have spent countless hours blaming yourself for what you did or did not do to help your loved one. Maybe you feel that you gave up on them. You will drive yourself crazy if you constantly question yourself when any attempt you make really won’t change the situation.

It is very painful to have drug addiction take over the life of someone you love. Being angry is understandable, but be angry at the disease not your loved one. Learn to separate the person from the affliction and trust that forgiveness will benefit you in many ways.

I have compiled a list of things that have served as lessons for me in the art of forgiveness. I hope that they will help you in your journey.

  1. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a journey.  As we grow older we learn more about ourselves and our ability to heal. Growing up in an addiction-tainted household does not always provide one with the necessary skills to forgive in a healthy way. These skills will need to be learned by educating yourself through counseling, positive peer relationships, and/or self-help books. A great start would be reading, “The Art of Forgiving” by Lewis Smedes. He wrote other books on forgiveness but for me, this one taught me the true meaning of it and how it would set my spirit free.
  2. Let go of resentments, they will eat you alive. This was a huge roadblock for me. No matter how hard I thought I was trying to let go of my anger toward my family the more it would rise from the shadows and influence everything going on around me. The deeper the hurt, the harder to let go. Anger is so detrimental to our emotional well-being. It leaves our past unresolved and prevents us from moving forward. We must work through the pain and anger because there is nothing powerful enough to erase it forever. You will be amazed by the way you feel when you have finally released the negativity. Be patient.
  3. Send them on their way with a smile. I have had friends who seriously screwed up at great moments because they repeatedly drank too much or used drugs. At first it may seem funny or cool, but it gets old real fast. Watching your friend ruin his life is quite painful and you will usually catch some of the blow back from their behavior which only adds to an already tragic situation. When you reach that moment of needing to put yourself first, don’t feel bad about it! You owe it to yourself to be surrounded by positive influences. There is a saying I live by that goes like this: “An addict will take you down way faster than you can pull them up!” It’s sad but true. Cut the ties that bind you and wish your buddy all the best. There is no harm in loving yourself more than their disease. Oh yeah, remember that just because you forgive the person, it does not mean you have to bring the relationship back into your life. Some things are better left alone. Please do not mistake this step as uncaring. Loyalty is important, but you first have to be loyal to yourself.
  4. Don’t play the waiting game. If you’re waiting for your loved one to feel bad about hurting you, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. “Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us,” writes Smedes. The disease of addiction erases a person’s conscience. Most of the time they will never realize what they did wrong and will go on leaving your broken heart in the dust. You would be amazed at what addiction justifies in a person’s mind. This person you no longer recognize will quite literally do whatever it takes to protect their disease. Realize that how and when they heal is entirely up to them. There is no threat, promise, material item, or amount of time you allot them that will save them. Ultimately, they have to save themselves when they are ready.
  5. Forgiveness breeds happiness. Aside from the physical benefits of learning to forgive, the positive emotions that forgiveness brings are some of the greatest feelings I have experienced. Once I felt that I had succeeded in letting go of my past, many people wondered what I had done to myself because I had a new glow about me. I noticed that I smiled as I passed strangers and they smiled back. I no longer felt like an outcast and it was so nice to be positive about life. These positives were new and frightening for me in the beginning, but I had faith in the process. Nothing else I had tried before seemed to work and repeating the same tired steps and expecting new results is the definition of insanity. I definitely had enough insanity in life; it was time to let it go once and for all.

I think the person we tend to be hardest on is ourselves.  Sp remember to forgive yourself because you have the ability to and you are worthy of it.

Read Part I of my journey to forgiveness.

Related Links:
Part I: Forgiveness: My Struggles to Make Amends with Myself and My Addict
Addiction is a Chronic Medical Disease
Dealing with Feelings: 5 Ways I Cope with My Young Adult’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Online Community and Support Group for Parents of an Addict

Posted by Michelle A. Woycitzky  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Family members, Forgiveness, getting help  /  Comments: more



A Welcomed Trend: Sober Campus Living
Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Sober Campus LivingThere are a growing number of services aimed at helping college students who are in recovery or struggling with a drug or alcohol problem. It’s no surprise since the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that Americans aged 18-24 are the fastest growing demographic group seeking treatment for substance abuse. SAMSHA data also indicates that the rate of heavy alcohol use is highest among Americans aged 20-22 and of that group, college student consumption is heaviest.

In an effort to accommodate the college student subset seeking treatment, we’re beginning to see more campuses support alcohol-free lifestyles.  As of today, 20 colleges have collaborated to form the Association for Recovery in Higher Education and welcome sober students.  Some of the participating schools include:

  • Texas Tech University boasts a Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery with about 80 members in its “collegiate recovery community” which provides study-pods, recreational activities and campus 12-step meetings.
  • The University of Michigan’s Collegiate Recovery Program offers recovery courses, counseling and drug- and alcohol-free activities.
  • Penn State has allotted campus space and staff to its new student recovery program.
  • Kennesaw State University in Georgia — one of the Association’s founding members — has a community of 50 members, up from just three students in 2008.

Students at Texas Tech, for example, are proof that sober programs work.  Tech’s Center students have a 10-year graduation rate of 80% and a cumulative GPA of 3.34.

Campus sobriety is a privilege granted to those students willing to do the hard work of earning their degrees AND taking care of the precious commodity of living sober.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Does your son or daughter attend a school that supports an alcohol-free lifestyle?  Please add to our list of schools and share which sober living aspects you like most.

Related Links:
10 Important Questions to Ask Sober High Schools
How to Help Your Teen Cope with New-School-Year Stress
Celebrating with Alcohol: A Reward for a Job Well Done?
My Thoughts on “How NOT to Raise a College Binge Drinker”

Posted by Beth Wilson  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, getting help, Recovery, Sober High Schools, Treatment  /  Comments: 1



Teens Only Listen to One Person…Themselves: How a Child’s Own Reasons for Change Lead to the Most Success
Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Beautiful Teen Girl In Hospital Gown Crying

This guest post is by Dr. Michael Pantalon, author of “Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything–Fast” (Little, Brown and Company).

Imagine you are in the Emergency Department (ED) with your 16-year-old daughter who was brought in for her second episode of alcohol poisoning in six months.  The doctor is about to discharge her because, medically, she’s fine, but you know she’s going to go right back to heavy drinking, if you don’t do something.  You and your husband feel you’ve tried everything to help your daughter, but you also believe that there has to be some way to take advantage of this dire emergency to motivate her to get into treatment and to stop drinking.

I’ve seen hundreds of families in this very situation and their dilemma is always the same: they all want to influence their child to get on a better path, but they don’t know that there is a quick, easy and scientifically-proven way of getting the job done.  The approach I’m referring to is called “Instant Influence.”  It’s based on Motivational Interviewing, which in its briefest form, has been shown to reduce substance use among adolescents and young adults seen in the ED, as well as, my 20 years of experience motivating some of the most resistant to change substance abusing children and adults in a wide variety of settings.

People tend to only listen to one person — themselves.  And, as a result, they’re only influenced by one person …again — themselves.  So, as frustrating as this may be for a parent who would like to sternly say, “You have to stop!” and to have that be enough, the real trick to motivating someone is to get them to convince themselves to make a change for their own good reasons.

But how do you do this?  How might the mom in the example above motivate her daughter to finally accept treatment for her drinking problem?

The two most important things to do are:

1)    STOP trying to motivate your child by telling her about your feelings, thoughts or reasons for change, such as, “You’re worrying me to death!” “I think you HAVE to go to rehab right from the hospital” or “The best reason for you to stop drinking is for your health.”

2)    START asking your child questions that are specially-designed to evoke her own good reasons for change.

To help you remember what things you should vs. should NOT say, I’ve devised two simple lists for parents to follow:

DON’T…

Express your anger. Of course, as a parent, you are feeling angry, but expressing it doesn’t motivate your daughter.  Your anger is very likely legitimate, but if we stick to the idea that kids change when they hear themselves argue in favor of the change, yelling will NOT evoke such reasons – it may even make it harder for her to come up with good reasons to change.

Blame. It’s not a time to figure out who’s responsible for allowing the situation to get so bad, but instead, to garner some motivation to move forward with a better plan.

Confront her with admonitions to stop. Of course she knows you want her to stop drinking!  She doesn’t need to hear that, nor will it be motivating.  I know it feels almost irresponsible NOT to say that she HAS to stop drinking, but because of “reverse psychology,” it could be demotivating.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Michael Pantalon, PhD  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, getting help, Motivational Interviewing, tough love, Treatment  /  Comments: more






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