RU Texas The Beat

Rebuilding: The Importance of Perseverance in Addiction Recovery

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 10, 2017 1:02:16 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Rebuilding, Tornado

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Recovery Unplugged Texas was recently impacted by a tornado that left us temporarily unable to fully provide the unmatched level of care our patients deserve, and have come to expect. While none of us can control the weather, and we were able to rebuild after only half a day, we were dismayed to be hindered in our mission even for that short amount of time. As conditions quickly improved, and we were able to once again provide comprehensive, evidence-based, music-focused treatment to our client community, the experience reminded Recovery Unplugged about the importance of perspective and perseverance in addiction recovery, and that adversity, in any form, is only temporary.

When a person or family is affected by addiction, it’s often as though a metaphorical storm has blown through their individual and collective lives. The time it takes to rebuild a life that has been affected by the fallout of substance abuse may far exceed that of any superficial structure or building; but it can and must be done. Much like putting a house, a building or even a town back together; however, it takes help from the people around us and it takes perseverance on our own part. It’s easy to just let a structure burn or crumble without doing what it takes to save it. In the end, however, we will only find ourselves without a home or sense of place.

Even when addiction seems to have blown our lives or our loved ones’ lives apart, we can rebuild with a solid and reliable foundation of self-awareness, perspective and perseverance. We can weather any storm in our lives if we believe that our lives are worth saving and preserving. Recovery Unplugged wants to remind all past, present and future patients of their innate strength and character, and that they can rebuild their lives after addiction, just as we were able to do so after the recent tornado. Thank you so much for your continued, and entirely reciprocated, faith in our mission, and for letting us help you or your loved one overcome addiction. It has been, and will continue to be, our pleasure and calling to provide care to those that need it, no matter what obstacles life may throw at us. We are stronger than the adversity in our lives, no matter how overwhelming it may seem to us now.

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Is the Substance Abuse Gender Gap Narrowing?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 2, 2017 3:01:48 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Alcoholism, Gender, Women

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As long as such factors have been clinically evaluated, men have generally been at a higher risk for substance abuse and chemical dependency than women. While women face their own gender-specific issues that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, the numbers have always been higher among the male population. New data suggests that this established phenomenon might be on the verge of being upended. A recent Australian study endeavored to reevaluate the current epidemiology of alcoholism and found that it may be changing from just a few decades ago, affecting more and more women in the process. At particular risk are women born in the late 1900’s.

Researchers analyzed 68 alcohol-use studies, the oldest of which dated back to the mid-1900s. The studied included male and female participants across three distinct age groups. After thorough analysis, they found a marked decline over time in the sex ratio of all three age groups. The widest gap was among the oldest age group with man being 2.2 times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction than women. By the time they got to the young-adult group, that figure was cut in half. The findings represent a definitive cultural shift in American alcohol consumption. Researchers assert that the findings mandate closer tracking of both and female drinkers as they enter their 30s and 40s.

This is not, however, the first study to mark this change. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health illustrates a ten-year narrowing from 2002-2012. One of the things to consider in this collective increase is the relative size of women compared to men and their increased susceptibility to the effects of alcohol by virtue of their mere physiology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that women who engage in long-term alcohol consumption are more likely than men who drink to develop breast cancer, alcoholic hepatitis and certain heart problems.

While it should come as little surprise that women are increasing their alcohol consumption amid the dissipation of antiquated gender norms, identifying this shifting pattern can be helpful in tailoring treatment to a gender-specific model. The fact is that gender, itself, can play a key role in the means by which a person develops substance abuse. Whether it’s the simple pressure of living up to cultural expectations, the increased likelihood of women over men in experiencing domestic violence or other forms of assault, or a variety of other factors, these issues can be key to the further refinement and customization of treatment programs.

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Are Recovery Schools the Wave of the Future for Juvenile Addicts?

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 21, 2017 11:21:10 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Children, Rehab, Education, Recovery Schools

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Addiction has many casualties. Depending upon when, in one’s life, substance abuse takes hold, it can take away any sense of normalcy that so many of us take for granted, including a decent education. Many parents of young addicts are forced to choose between their children’s education and their recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 32 percent of high school dropouts use illicit drugs and nearly 42 percent abuse alcohol. The agency also reports that dropouts are at increased risk of substance abuse once they leave school and move on to the next phase of their lives.

When we examine the long-term implications of this correlation, the picture gets even grimmer. Dropouts obviously face markedly increased difficulty finding quality employment that provides health insurance and a living wage. These conditions can easily put them in an economic class that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is three times as likely as higher-earning Americans to abuse dangerous drugs like heroin, which has become one of the nation’s dominant public health issues. Once this poverty-related addiction takes hold, finding a job with healthcare that can pay for treatment while your employer holds your job for you, is a virtual impossibility without the right education.

That’s the problem and more and more states are coalescing behind what they feel is the solution: recovery schools. These schools are specialized, drug-free facilities where adolescents in recovery can receive a quality education through individualized instruction; a flexible curriculum that allows for addiction and mental health treatment; participation in peer support groups; and an environment that caters to sober living. Some have been built as standalone facilities and some are programs within existing high schools. The National Association of Recovery Schools reports that there are nearly 40 recovery schools planned or currently in operation in 20 states across the country. The schools provide a targeted balance between instruction and treatment according to each student’s individual needs and are designed to ensure that even those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction can get an education.

New York is the latest state to offer recovery schools, with Governor Cuomo announcing plans for two this year. Other states that have adopted the recovery school model include Washington, Nevada, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma and right here in Texas. Additional schools are planned for the aforementioned New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin. The National Association of Recovery Schools offers a clearly outlined roadmap to accreditation. Currently only five schools are accredited; however, this process is not mandatory for operation. Accreditation merely offers an established set of standards and practices that better ensure quality control.

Perhaps one of the primary advantages of recovery schools is that they represent an additional, and potentially critical, safety net for students who go from a standard treatment program right back into their old community. Some data suggests that as much as 85 percent of adolescents who receive treatment start using again within six months to a year. Recovery schools may provide the insulation needed to give teenagers time to heal while completing the education that will be critical in overcoming the fallout of their substance abuse and furthering their lives. These schools serve as a reminder that addiction is not only a medical issue, but an economic and education issue, as well.

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Louisville Overdose Spike Reignites Treatment Versus Enforcement Conversation

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 16, 2017 12:49:00 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Opioid

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A city that has been at the forefront of the American opioid epidemic since its start, Louisville, Kentucky recently experienced an even higher-than-usual increase in overdoses this past week. The city’s Metro Emergency Medical Services reported 151 overdose calls in less than seven days. Concerned that these spikes are no longer mere anomalies-but rather the new normal as the rest of the state and the entire country continues to contend with an increasingly pervasive and sophisticated opioid problem-Louisville has pledged to hire 150 new police officers to crack down on dealers. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also plans to collaborate with the DEA on overdose death investigations to get heroin dealers off our streets, and forming a task force with other agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the US Attorney, Kentucky State Police and the State Attorney General's Office, to pursue, arrest and prosecute violent offenders.

Other Louisville officials-namely Dr. Joann Schulte, who heads the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness-have a different approach to combatting the statewide public health issue. In a recent apparent indictment of Louisville’s attitude toward medication-assisted treatment, Schulte told council members that Louisville needs to “grow up” and bolster medication-assisted treatment resources, as abstinence doesn’t work for everyone. Schulte forecasted a dim and prolonged battle with drug addiction in the city that saw 695 overdoses in the first month of 2017 alone. She lamented programs that don’t offer medications like methadone or buprenorphine-based drugs due to fears that patients will be replacing one drug with another. Proponents of mediation-assisted treatment claim that abstinence-based care doesn’t work for every patient.

While there is certainly wisdom in bulking up prevention and enforcement resources in the area, little has been said about Louisville’s plans to expand treatment to its sizable population of opioid addicts. Officials at Louisville’s Norton Audobon Hospital report that more overdoses are being treated at the hospital and the patients require larger amounts of the anti-overdose drug Narcan. They cite a significant spike in ER admissions and that more patients are needing to admitted for prolonged periods, rather than just being treated and released. Hospitals alone can’t offer the comprehensive treatment resources of a high-level treatment facility with medically supervised detox and rehab. While the situation in Louisville is unique in its own right, it also paints a larger picture of the ongoing battle between treatment and enforcement-first approaches when it comes to addiction.

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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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Kroger to Sell Narcan at Pharmacies in 105 East Texas Locations

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 9, 2017 7:27:56 PM / by Sample HubSpot User posted in Recovery, Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Narcan, Opioid, Kroger

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With the state of Texas battling a fierce and pervasive heroin and opioid problem, lawmakers, police, recovery advocates and ordinary residents alike are banding together to come up with more and more solutions to curtail overdose. Most recently, the statewide prevention effort gained a new ally: Kroger Supermarkets. The national grocery chain as partnered with the Texas Pharmacy Association to offer the anti-overdose drug Narcan in the pharmacies at all 105 of their East Texas stores. NARCAN® (naloxone HCl) Nasal Spray delivers a 4mg concentrated dose of naloxone, which is simple, ready-to-use, and needle free. NARCAN® can be easily administered to someone who is actively overdosing on an opioid.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 2,600 Texans died from drug overdose. Marlene Stewart, president of Kroger’s Houston division, has stated the company’s intention to be part of Texas’ initiative to decrease heroin and opioid overdoses across the state. In 2016, Texas SB 1462 took effect, which allows authorized medical professionals to prescribe naloxone through a standing order. Kroger pharmacists have received special training and education as part of the program. They are now educated and empowered to teach patients or third-party deployment agents to properly administer the drug in the event of an overdose.

Texas’ relationship with Narcan has evolved considerably over the past few years. In 2016, more and more police departments across the state were mandated to carry the drug amidst escalating overdose fatalities. Kroger is the latest company to offer the much-needed Narcan. In 2015, Walgreens started offering the drug in its 715 stores throughout the state. As the rate of opioid-related deaths continues to rise throughout Texas, increased access to Narcan in vulnerable areas is just one of a few proactive measures communities can take to protect themselves against losing a loved one.

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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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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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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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