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A Closer Look at What Addiction Does to Families

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 13, 2017 10:43:26 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Interventions, Treatment, Family

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When discussing addiction and its impact, brief and superficial lip-service is often paid to damage it creates within the family unit. We hear common tropes like how substance abuse takes its tolls on families first and how it’s often addicts’ loved ones who suffer the hardest; but what does that really look like close up? The reality is that over 20 million Americans currently suffer from some sort of substance use disorder and a large majority of these people have a whole group of families, friends and loved ones that suffer right alongside them. While the impact on the family is different, there are some common problems that manifest when drug and alcohol abuse invades a home.

For one thing, it’s not uncommon for the affected family member’s addiction to dominate the household. The nature of addiction is so urgent and pervasive that families very often have little time or energy to tend to their own lives and needs. Each possible overdose, each addiction-related crime, each family altercation forces families to mobilize to try and mitigate the fallout. After a while, regardless of how close a family may have been prior to combatting addiction together, this all-consuming problem can breed powerful resentment and frustration that spills over into other relationships in the family (parents, siblings or both).  

Addiction and substance abuse also correlates closely with domestic violence. The United States Justice Department reports that over 60 percent of all domestic abusers suffer from substance use disorder and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that two thirds of all domestic violence incidents involve alcohol in some form. Nearly 90 percent of domestic violence program directors agree that risk increases when alcohol or drugs are involved. Nearly 80% of all child-abuse cases involve the presence of drugs and/or alcohol. Children who experience domestic violence either directly or passively are at a much higher risk of developing substance abuse problems of their own.

When we discuss the impact that addiction has on the family unit, it’s important to understand exactly what that means and what it looks like. This kind of strain is what makes the intervention process so difficult. It’s also important to remember, however, that addiction is a disease that transforms the brain chemistry and forces people to seek drugs or alcohol beyond logic, reason and regarding for themselves and others. We have to remember that the vibrant, loving and caring person we love is still in there somewhere, no matter how hopeless or desperate we think the situation may be, and we can begin the process of getting our loved ones back by guiding them toward addiction treatment.



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UT Austin-Led Coalition Seeks Better Pharmaceutical Treatment for Alcoholism

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 6, 2017 12:16:09 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Alcoholism, University of Texas, Research

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Are there better clinical ways to treat alcohol addiction? The National Institutes of Health seem to think so and they’re giving nearly $30 million to an organization led by the University of Texas at Austin to prove it. The University itself will receive $8.5 million dollars to explore better pharmaceutical treatments of alcohol use disorder (AUD). The rest of the funds will be dispersed through other areas of what has been dubbed the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism-Neuroimmune consortium. This will be one of the most comprehensive research efforts in recent history regarding the treatment of alcohol abuse and addiction.

The consortium’s mission spans many areas of alcoholism research, not the least significant of which includes mapping the differences in gene expression between alcoholics and non-alcoholics’ brains. In 2014, Adron Harris, a neuroscience professor at UT Austin who also directs the Waggoner Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research found that, as a person becomes dependent on alcohol, thousands of genes in their brains are turned up or down, like a dimmer switch on a lightbulb, compared with the same genes in a healthy person's brain. He and fellow scientists are now working to find drugs that can essentially reset the alcoholic brain to its original settings and turn it back to a non-alcoholic brain.

The consortium has actually been active since 2001, but moved its administrative core to the University of Texas’ Austin campus. The boost in funding is part of an overall effort from the National Institutes of Health to combat what has become one of the most pervasive addiction threats in the United States. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that over 17.6 million people suffer from alcohol use disorder. While opioid and marijuana addiction are the two most dominant drug threats, alcohol continues to be the most dominant addiction issue, overall.

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How Will Trump-Era Foreign Policy Impact International Drug Trafficking Cooperation?

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 1, 2017 9:49:17 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Donald Trump, Drug Trafficking

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The Trump Administration’s clear and distinct departure from decades-old foreign policy protocol has been the subject of headlines across the globe for the past two weeks. Regardless of where one may fall on the political spectrum, it’s fair to say that many world leaders are re-examining their relationship with the United States and wondering what the next four years might bring. In the flurry of stories on trade deals, military presence, protection agreements and immigration policy, one area of international relations has been noticeably left out of the conversation: the current cooperation of other countries to curtail over-the-border drug trafficking.

With globalization now a permanent reality, despite what some might still believe, we live in a world where a drug epidemic in one country can very easily spill over into its neighbor’s borders. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) readily admits that cooperation with international law enforcement agencies is critical to its overall mission of curtailing drug abuse and addiction in the United States. For over 68 years, since the days of the DEA’s predecessor, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, these relationships have been vital to controlling international drug distribution. Although the problem still certainly persists, it would be compounded exponentially without the assistance from the countries where these drugs very often originate.

The DEA now operates in nearly 60 countries, including Mexico, with whom the United States may well be heading toward a more strained relationship amid current political tensions. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reports that Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 and $29 billion annually from US drug sales. As alarming as this figure may be, imagine how much larger it would be without ongoing cooperation between the United States and our southern neighbors. A 2011 congressional report showed that more than 70 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities, and submitted to the ATF for tracing, are shown to have originated in the United States. The report covers 29,284 firearms submitted in 2009 and 2010.

The reality is that seizures of certain types of drugs at the Mexican border have declined in recent years. While this is due, in some part, to increasingly lax marijuana regulations and a few other factors, cocaine seizures have declined considerably as well, going down by nearly half. US Customs and Border Protection estimates that over the last five years, cocaine seizures at the US-Mexico border have steadily decreased from 8,763 pounds in 2011 to 4,924 in 2015 Marijuana seizures have decreased from 2,518, 211 to 1,536,499 in that same period. It’s hard to discount the role that international cooperation plays in these declines.

There is, however, a great deal more work to be done, and this work relies heavily on cooperation, not just from Mexico; but all over the world. Last year, the amount of heroin seized at Mexican borders from totaled 8,237 ounces, a dramatic increase from the 6,191 ounces seized five years prior. Meth seizures have also increased, totaling 6,429 pounds in 2015 compared to 1,838 in 2011. The world is perhaps more connected than ever when it comes to drug addiction. Despite the global community continuing to fight an uphill battle against drug trafficking and subsequent addiction, it’s worth pointing out the immense progress that has been made, and that such progress could not have been made by any one nation acting alone.

It is unclear how foreign policy will change and evolve throughout the Trump presidency. What is clear, however, is that drug addiction is a complex global public health issue that requires collaboration and partnership between vulnerable nations. What is also clear is that in 2017, every nation is vulnerable.

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Can Ketamine Be Used to Cure Alcohol Addiction?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 30, 2017 9:00:26 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction Treatment, Alcoholism, Ketamine

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It’s been demonstrably effective in the treatment of depression; but can the tranquilizer ketamine be effective in the treatment alcohol addiction? Researchers at University College London believe so and are moving forward in an effort to prove it. Project leader Ravi Das and fellow researchers are working to determine whether or not ketamine can rewrite memories in order to reduce cravings and diminish the chance of relapse. Ketamine blocks a receptor in the brain that is instrumental in the formation of memories. Das and his colleagues are testing ketamine’s applicability in the treatment alcohol use disorder (AUD) by creating memories and then blocking them.

The point of the exercise is to rewrite memories that are tied to alcohol consumption and then block them. The University College London study will feature about 90 participants who are heavy drinkers. Researchers will trigger an alcohol memory by placing a beer in front of participants and then surprising them in order to interrupt the memory. Participants will then be given either a high dose of ketamine or a placebo, and monitored for a year to see if there are any changes in drinking patterns. Above all, they are hoping this technique can help mitigate relapse for alcoholism, which some studies indicate are as high as 90 percent.

Despite a sound basis for further investigation, Das and company are expecting pushback from detractors of ketamine due to its long-standing reputation as a recreational drug. Although medication-assisted treatment is gaining more and more ground in the recovery communities, ketamine is still a controversial and, for many facilities, a non-starter. Research into memory-based addiction treatment has also made its way across the pond to the University of South Carolina, where researchers are looking into it for tobacco smokers. Clinical uses for ketamine include the treatment chronic pain, anesthesia, sedation in intensive care and memory loss.

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Recovery Unplugged Featured in El Paso Inc. Article

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 24, 2017 9:04:17 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery Unplugged, Music Therapy, Addiction Treatment, El Paso Inc.

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elpasoinclogo.png Recovery Unplugged had the honor of being featured on the popular Texas News and Lifestyle website last week. The piece highlighted the Recovery Unplugged treatment approach and the positive impact of music in addiction treatment. It also included first-hand insight from some of our very own staff and former patients. Recovery Unplugged was honored and grateful to be featured in the piece, and we look forward to illustrating the innumerable benefits of music in addiction care when and wherever possible and appropriate. As pioneers of music-based treatment, we welcome any and all opportunities to further discuss its successes, evolution and future.

One of the most important and pertinent aspects of the piece was the idea that music-based healing is for everyone, regardless of their musical background. Each person has their own special relationship with music, whether it’s simply enjoying or being moved by their favorite song, or writing and performing songs of their own. Music therapy is an ideal and clinically proven way to harness the healing powers of this art-form to break down emotional barriers and facilitate healing on a deep level, where simple conversation very often falls short. The article also discussed the critical importance of customized addiction treatment for every type of patient, whether they seek music-based care or any other type of modality.

More and more treatment facilities are utilizing deeper levels of music therapy as part of their rehab programs. Whether their patients are suffering from anxiety, depression or any other type of co-occurring mental health issue, music has proven to be an effective relief agent in many cases. The Recovery Unplugged team remains committed to the growth and innovation of the music-treatment paradigm, as we help more and more patients to heal in their own way through this amazing therapy.

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The Voice of Experience: Recovering Addict Warns of Escalating Meth Problem in Texas

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 19, 2017 11:56:05 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Methamphetamine

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Earlier this week, authorities in East Texas seized guns and drugs from two locations in the latest battle in the war to curb trafficking, distribution and subsequent addiction within the region. The raid drew mixed reactions from members of the community, law enforcement, prevention advocates and clinicians. It failed; however, to surprise Marine Corps veteran and recovering methamphetamine addict Christopher Rodden of Longview. In a recent interview with a local ABC affiliate, Rodden discussed his own personal journey, the strong hold that meth takes on addicts and his take on the increasingly urgent drug problem facing all areas of the Lone Star state.

Methamphetamine has become such a problem in Texas, in part, because it’s easier to make, cheaper and more accessible than heroin and prescription opioids. Data from the University of Texas at Austin reports that an eight-ball of meth that cost $400 in the summer of 2014 was selling for $225 in the beginning of 2015. The University also reports that in 2015, 91 percent of methamphetamine tested in forensic laboratories in the U.S. was made with phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) from Mexico. Because of the demand in the U.S., the kilogram amount seized at the Mexico border increased 37 percent between 2010 and 2015. Last year, the Dallas and Houston DEA divisions ranked methamphetamine among the top two drug threats in their areas, similar to Atlanta and Los Angeles.

As a whole, methamphetamine now outranks cocaine on Texas’ list of drug threats, placing it second in the rankings behind marijuana. The problem is particularly severe in cities like Houston, Austin and San Antonio. In March of 2015, Authorities in Austin made the first-ever liquid meth bust in the area, seizing approximately $3 million worth of product. Two years later and the problem hasn’t gotten any better. Just five days ago, Brownwood police, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Early Police Department collaborated on the largest-ever bust in the City of Brownwood. The bottom line is that the problem is everywhere.

With the explosion of methamphetamine addiction in Texas has come widespread deterioration of lives, families and communities. In a climate in which marijuana is thought to present less and less of a threat, methamphetamine may officially be Texas’ most dominant public health issue, and it’s only slated to get worse without the proper combination of interventions from all community stakeholders. We simply can’t afford to wait for the problem to get worse.

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Gregg County Perfectly Represents Texas’ Diverse Addiction Problem

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 17, 2017 1:41:26 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Rehab, Gregg County, Drug Crimes

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Gregg County Sherriff Maxey recently spoke before members of the Longview Griggton Rotary Club about the multi-pronged addiction threat facing Gregg County and the rest of the lone star state. The talk provided illuminating insight into the pervasive and devastating public health issue that addiction represents in Texas, as well as its impact on communities across the state. Cerliano highlighted the most urgent drug threats in the area and the conditions that lead to and sustain abuse on an individual and community level. Gregg County has experienced a steady methamphetamine problem for years, mostly because it is easy to make and it’s cheaper than heroin and cocaine, which are also readily available in the area.

The sherriff also spoke extensively of the impact that addiction was having on the county’s jail. In 2016, there were a total of 9,171 bookings at the Gregg County Jail, 2,924 of which were for possession charges. This doesn’t include arrests for drug-motivated crimes, which experts speculate can push the percentage of drug-related bookings up to 80 percent. Opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone represented about 60 percent of prescription-related arrests last year, which tallied nearly 930. One of the primary aims of Cerliano’s talk was to mobilize and empower the Gregg County community to take action against addiction whenever possible.

Although Gregg County lies about five hours northeast of Austin, it’s hard not to look at the area’s drug problem as a microcosm of the entire state of Texas. It’s also important to remember the swift and immediate nature of drug trafficking and that what happens in a town like Tyler can, and often does, easily happen in Austin or San Antonio. In a time when drug threats are only getting more diverse and sophisticated, and Texas remains ever vulnerable to international trafficking, we must all remain vigilant and committed to protecting ourselves and the people around us. This means recognizing when a loved one is vulnerable to addiction and working to guide them toward help.

Prevention activism can also mean getting involved in the formation of public policy, holding awareness events within our own communities or simply learning about the physical and behavioral pathology of each drug so we know what to look for. Although state and municipal governments are finally allocating more resources toward address collective drug addiction, it will ultimately take a certain level of community will and action in order to eradicate it.

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Dropkick Murphys’ New Album Tackles Addiction and Substance Abuse

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 16, 2017 1:54:39 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Treatment, Dropkick Murphys

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It’s called 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory and it’s the ninth album from Quincy, MA punk legends Dropkick Murphys. The record was made right here in Texas and was deeply inspired by the Massachusetts opioid epidemic that claimed an estimated 1,747 residents in 2015. Like many other areas of the country, the synthetic drug fentanyl has led to a significant increase or overdose deaths (nearly 13 percent) throughout the state. The band, who have a documented history of advocacy and community activism, has felt the effects of opioid addiction first-hand, with members losing loved ones to the disease.

The deeply poignant 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory was released on January 6th and will be supported by a European tour followed by a trek across the US, which will start in Bethlehem, PA on February 11th and conclude in their hometown of Boston on March 19th. Along the way, the band will be making a stop at Revolution Live, just three miles from RU’s flagship location in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

One of the more personal cuts off the record is a cover of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, a song that heard spoke to singer Ken Casey after leaving one of many wakes he has attended since his friends and family started to falling to addiction. Casey’s commitment to drug prevention goes back years. In 2009, he and his DM cohorts established the Claddagh Fund to raise funds for and broaden impact on worthy, underfunded non-profits that support the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

During 2015, a year that saw a collective redoubling of efforts from lawmakers, police officers, clinicians and prevention advocates alike, the United States saw record opioid overdoses. Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have been taken by these drugs. Despite advocacy and prevention efforts from all over, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. 

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Causey and Effect: Talking with Songwriter Buddy Causey

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 9, 2017 10:33:52 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Music Therapy, Addiction, Treatment, Music Treatment

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If you’ve never heard of Tuscaloosa singer/songwriter Buddy Causey, take a closer look at the canon of southern rock music over the past few decades. If that doesn’t work, check this year’s Grammys. A veteran of the music business, Causey started recording at Alabama’s legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio when he was just 19 years old. He parlayed his passion and talent into a career that saw record deals on such labels as United Artists, Capitol, Roulette and Warner Bros. He also wrote thousands of jingles for companies like McDonald’s, Miller Beer and Betty Crocker. Along the way, however, the reflective and deeply spiritual Causey fought a decades-long battle with substance abuse and addiction: “I got involved with everything you shouldn’t be involved with, hand over fist.” His primary drugs of choice were pills and marijuana.

Fate intervened in 2007 when Causey suffered an “extremely unusual” stroke that left him reliant on a walker, temporary visually impaired and with nerve damage to one of his vocal cords: “That changed my life. I promised God that if he ever let me sing again, I wouldn’t be selfish and sing to sell a bunch of records; I’d sing for him.” For the past five years, and after making a full recovery, Causey has been better than his word, traveling his self-designated route, spreading his version of the gospel. Since his recovery, all accept for one song (which just happens to be a Grammy-nominated collaboration with fellow Muscle Shoals alumni Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham), has been about his newly reinvigorated relationship with God.

The stroke also prevented Causey from any further drug use. After struggling to sing for four years, he was contacted by members of Celebrate Recovery. After initial reluctance to embrace recovery, it was only a matter of time before Causey started listening to the message: “I thought ‘Hey I’m a miracle, man. I could sing. I don’t need any of this mess.’ I was a fool. I needed it more than anybody. After I went through the step-study, I realized I kept making the same mistakes over and over.” Causey counts letting his temper get the better of him and taking the easy way out whenever possible among these dominant, lifelong mistakes.

These days the 70-year-old Causey is more interested in spreading his musical message to those who he feels truly need to hear it: “All I do now is go to churches, Celebrate Recovery [events], halfway houses, jails and prisons.” While the compensation may not be what he was used to from his days of writing and performing full-time, it’s no longer about money for Causey: “I make way more than money by going.” Causey started his current mission in November of 2011, after taking four years to recover from his life-changing stroke, and has been relentless in its pursuit ever since.

Although he might be slowing down his performance schedule, Causey remains active in the studio. He recently recorded a Christian record entitled Well Done My Son, which features collaborations with members of Toto, and Michael McDonald’s band and was co-produced by Blue Miller, a regular collaborator with India Arie. Well Done My Son is a self-funded effort and was put out by Causey himself on his Brother Man Records label. Despite a superlative musical career and his inspiring work helping others, Causey admits to being the occasional prisoner of the past: “I used to say that I wasted so much of my life; but if I hadn’t done what I’d done, I couldn’t talk to these people. They wouldn’t believe me. People that I talk to are people just like me.” Causey might be in error, however, to believe that anyone is truly like him.

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Fentanyl Rapidly Becoming Nation’s Most Urgent Drug Threat

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 5, 2017 3:37:14 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, opioids, Fentanyl, Fentanyl Addiction

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It’s a drug that many believe will be the dominant substance abuse threat of 2017. It has already contributed to a prodigious rise in the already staggering rates of heroin and opioid overdose in the United States. It’s one of the most powerful opioid narcotics known to clinicians, law enforcement and prevention advocates. It was present in Prince’s highly publicized autopsy. It’s called fentanyl, and it’s claiming the lives of more and more Americans each month. Over the past few years, fentanyl has emerged as an increasingly urgent drug threat and its effects have been reported more and more by local and national media outlets as its bodycount increases.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid narcotic used in the treatment of severe chronic and post-operative pain. It is reported to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and extremely addictive. Common brand names of fentanyl include Duragesic, Abstral, Subsys, Lonsys and Sublimaze. Fentanyl is often used to treat patients with chronic pain who are tolerant of other opioids. In cases of recreational use, users often don’t even realize they’re taking the drug and wind up overdosing as a result. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash. The drug is coming into the United States largely from Mexico and China, and is considerably cheaper and easier to produce than pure heroin.

Fentanyl deaths have spiked all across the country, including New York City and Long Island, where the drug has officially replaced heroin as the dominant opioid amidst record overdose rates; Illinois, where deaths are up 42 percent in certain counties; and Oregon, where deaths have nearly doubled since 2014. New Hampshire has become a sort of incubator for fentanyl, in addition to being plagued by other opioids. Perhaps the most tragic and alarming aspect of the American fentanyl outbreak is that experts see no real end in sight, or even a tipping point at which the epidemic will start to wane.

According to a government report released last August, the number of fatal fentanyl overdoses jumped 79 percent in 27 states from 2013 to 2014, while law enforcement seizures of the drug increased 426 percent in eight of those 27 states. States that were most affected of the 27 included Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina. Fentanyl is resistant to the anti-overdose drug Narcan and should not be handled with bare hands or even breathed in. Law enforcement officers are forced to wear oxygen tanks and protective suits when in a fentanyl manufacturing facility and they can only wear them for 15-20 minutes at a time.

Treatment for fentanyl is the same as that of other drugs; however, detox may even be more difficult. As clinicians, lawmakers, police and prevention advocates brace for an even tougher battle against drug abuse and addiction, they would do well to put fentanyl at the top of their list of priorities. This drug has taken the already pervasive and deadly opioid epidemic to the next level, and shows no signs of slowing down.

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