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Saturday, August 18, 2018

War On Drugs Opponent Passes Away

A recent article from VICE takes a close look at the role of the United States in shaping global drug policy; and, whatever people’s views are on the subject of prohibition, it is hard to deny that America has led the way going back to the 19th Century. Just following the turn of the 20th Century, the "idea of international control of the drug trade had been born, the brainchild of the openly racist Episcopal bishop of the Philippines," Charles H Brent. In 1905, Brent was able to create America’s first prohibition regime in the Philippines, after we conquered the island nation during the Spanish–American War. Brent called opium use an "evil and immoral" habit.

History tells us that prohibition and international drug control policy – criminalizing drug use and addiction – has more to do with racism than the public well-being. America was behind the first International Commission on Opium in Shanghai, and one of our representatives was none other than Charles H Brent. For the next 100 years, American pressure and influence would be the force behind practically every international conference and commission on drug control.

Fast forward, most Americans living today understand, to at least some degree, that the American war on drugs does far more harm than it helps. In our country, we imprison more people than any other nation by far; and, not surprisingly, the majority of individuals serving time are nonviolent drug offenders. Since the people who spearheaded efforts to criminalize drugs relied on hate, prejudice, fear mongering, and rhetoric propaganda to get the public on board with the idea throughout history, it’s not surprising that there is a massive racial disparity in prison demographics.


Stigmatizing Addiction

“[Global drug] policy, moreover, derived from some of the ugliest and most shameful threads in US history itself,” writes JS Rafaeli, author of the VICE article.

war on drugs
The VICE article was published earlier this week, and its author couldn’t have predicted that one of the loudest critics of the global war on drugs would pass away today, August 18, 2018. Kofi Annan, a diplomat from Ghana, who served as the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations, "passed away peacefully on Saturday after a short illness," the Kofi Annan Foundation announced. The first black African to become UN secretary-general, was 80 years old when he died in Switzerland.

In honor of Annan’s tireless effort to end the stigma and criminalization of drug use and addiction around the world, we felt it important to share some of the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s ideas about the war on drugs. In 2016, the progressive thinker wrote an op-ed published in Der Spiegel. The former secretaries-general wrote, “The tendency in many parts of the world to stigmatize and incarcerate drug users has prevented many from seeking medical treatment.”

He called for four critical steps to refocus the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs’ mission:
  1. We must decriminalize personal drug use. The use of drugs is harmful and reducing those harms is a task for the public health system, not the courts. This must be coupled with the strengthening of treatment services, especially in middle and low-income countries.
  2. We need to accept that a drug-free world is an illusion. We must focus instead on ensuring that drugs cause the least possible harm. Harm reduction measures, such as needle exchange programs, can make a real difference.
  3. We have to look at regulation and public education rather than the total suppression of drugs, which we know will not work. The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption (a very powerful and damaging addiction) show what can be achieved. It is regulation and education, not the threat of prison, which has cut the number of smokers in many countries. Higher taxes, restrictions on sale and effective anti-smoking campaigns have delivered the right results.
  4. Recognize that drugs must be regulated precisely because they are risky. It is time to acknowledge that drugs are infinitely more dangerous if they are left solely in the hands of criminals who have no concerns about health and safety. Legal regulation protects health …. The most risky drugs should never be available "over the counter" but only via medical prescription for people registered as dependent users, as is already happening in Switzerland.
At Hope By The Sea, we would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Annan's wife and three children.


Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol or substance use disorder, please reach out to Hope By The Sea to discuss treatment options. Our team of addiction medicine professionals can help break the cycle of addiction and provide the tools for leading a life in recovery. The miracle of recovery can be yours too.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Working for Your Recovery

One facet of staying on track in early recovery is to stay as busy as possible. Idle time is rarely a good thing for anyone's life; but, for people in recovery, unoccupied time is often disastrous. Those who establish a routine after treatment are exceedingly more likely to continue on the path of progress and healing.

For most people who go through treatment, counselors impress upon them the importance of both accountability and responsibility. In many respects, such mentors of early recovery are referring to attending meetings, working with a guide like a sponsor, and keeping in close contact with support group peers. Regular phone call check-ins and being present at meetings are two ways of staying accountable to someone other than yourself. In recovery, lasting progress depends on being answerable to other people. The people in your support network will share with you how to strengthen your program or tell you if it seems like you are losing sight of the mission.

recoveryWhile recovery work is vital to your daily routine and making long-term progress, no one can be at a meeting every waking hour. Calling your sponsor and recovery peers will take up some time, but there are many available hours in every day. A significant number of individuals working a program of recovery get out of treatment and are encouraged to find employment. While some people will go back to their previous job, many were unemployed, or they have to get out of the line of work they were in previously. Having a job will not only put money in your pocket, but it will also help fill up a significant chunk of time that would have otherwise been spent idle.


Working for Recovery

In early recovery, the first job you find is preferably one that is low stress. Tension and strain aren’t good for anyone’s program, so if you are looking for employment consider the particular impact lines of work might have on your sobriety. Hopefully, your counselors gave you some guidance before you left treatment; many treatment centers include vocational training in their core curriculum. Those who stay local after rehab may get job placement assistance. You may even find a job working with others in the program, a bonus to be sure. You can work your shift and then hit a meeting with your co-workers afterward.

There are even some employers around the country that are dedicated to hiring people in recovery. Such businesses understand that those climbing out of the depths of addiction need support, they also know that sober people can actually be more punctual and attentive than those not in recovery. One example of the above is the DV8 Kitchen in Lexington, Kentucky. It turns out that all 25 employees working at DV8 are in recovery, The Daytona Daily News reports. Restaurant purveyors, Rob and Diane Perez, contend that securing employment for recovering addicts is vital for the community.

“The message that we have for business people is, ‘Hey we’ve gone out there. We’ve hired people in recovery. We’re having really great success,’” said Perez. “Why don’t you hire just one person?’ Perez adds that, “Nothing is going to change unless people and commerce start to try to figure out how to be part of the solution.” 

Other aspects of DV8 that are unique include:
  • They don’t do dinner service, so employees can get to recovery meetings.
  • Employee tips are not paid in cash but are added to paychecks instead.
  • Each Tuesday, guest speakers share with employees about prioritizing health and wellness, financial responsibility, teamwork, and mindfulness.


Substance Use Disorder Treatment

At Hope By The Sea, we place significant emphasis on vocational and life skills and furthering one’s education. We understand that clients having options after treatment is of the utmost importance. Please contact us today to understand better how we prepare clients for maintaining a program of recovery after treatment, and learn how the miracle of recovery can be yours too.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Cost Effective Alcohol Use Prevention

Last month, new research brought to light concerning data regarding young people and liver disease; notably, since 1999, deaths from cirrhosis of the liver rose by 65 percent in the United States. Raising awareness about the inherent dangers associated with alcohol use must be a top priority in America. The number of people under the age of 35 developing deadly health conditions is rising; and, as the liver specialist, Dr. Haripriya Maddur points out: 10 years of heavy drinking can lead to cirrhosis.

In the past, we have highlighted how the ubiquity of alcohol in the U.S. is a contributing factor to 88,000 alcohol-related deaths each year. People can acquire alcohol with relative ease, any day of the week; beer, wine, and liquor – for the most part – is inexpensive. Just $20 spent each night can do a whole lot of damage to the mind, body, and spirit. With some 17 million Americans meeting the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, taking severe measures to curb excessive alcohol use amongst the general population is long overdue.

In the United States, experts and lawmakers implement several strategies to curb heavy consumption; such efforts include advertising restrictions, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) laws, restricting alcohol sales hours, primary care physician problematic drinking screens, and taxes. It’s important to know which alcohol prevention policies are most effective, and which do not pay off, to better inform policymaking.

Higher Alcohol Taxes in America

alcohol use disorder
Researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and colleagues set out to determine which of the five alcohol control strategies from above are cost-effective public health policy in the mission to prevent alcohol-related injury and death, Science Daily reports. The findings – appearing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs – shows that hiking alcohol taxes is an extremely cost-effective means of preventing excessive drinking.

"Tax increases may not sound the most attractive of policy options but are the single most cost-effective way of diminishing demand and reining back consumption," says lead researcher Dan Chisholm, Ph.D., of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the WHO. 

The researchers found that:
  • A 50 percent hike in alcohol excise taxes would cost less than $100 for each healthy year of life gained in the overall population, and add 500 healthy years of life for every 1 million people.
  • Hours of operation and advertising restrictions would also cost less than $100 per healthy year of life gained, and add up to 350 healthy life years for every 1 million people.
  • Ramping up blood alcohol concentration laws was less cost-effective, costing up to $3,000 per healthy year of life saved, adding no more than 100 years of healthy life per 1 million.
  • Screenings primary care doctors costs up to $1,434 per year of healthy life gained, but it would result in up to 1,000 years of healthy life per 1 million people.
The authors highlight the fact that attempts at raising excise taxes are met with staunch resistance from the alcohol industry, according to the article. Nevertheless, they are hopeful that this new data will lead to changes in policy.

"Implementation of these effective public health strategies is actively fought by the alcohol industry, often with threats of lost jobs and/or revenue for countries," the authors write. But, the authors add that they’d like to see their study "guide decision makers toward a more rational and targeted use of available resources . . . for addressing the substantial and still growing burden of disease attributable to alcohol use."


Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Please contact Hope By The Sea if you are struggling with alcohol use disorder. We offer many innovative programs tailored to the specific needs of each client. The miracle of recovery can be yours too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hookah Isn't Good For the Heart or Your Recovery

Leading a healthier existence is critical to bringing about long-term addiction recovery. In place of old, unhealthy behaviors, people working a program are encouraged to make an effort to eat better and exercise. What’s more, experts strongly recommend giving up tobacco products for two reasons: nicotine isn't good for you and smoking is associated with heightened relapse risk.

Many people who start a journey of recovery give up cigarettes in treatment, which makes sense; if a person is going to quit one bad habit, why not nip them all in the bud. In theory, abstaining from all harmful behaviors is sound, but in practice doing so isn’t always straightforward. Committing to giving up drugs and alcohol is an enormous feat, and some individuals find treatment and early recovery a less than ideal time to consider smoking cessation.

As a result, a good many people in recovery still use tobacco products, vape pens, and hookah. In fact, a significant number of young people in recovery will get a group together to go to hookah bars after meetings, especially those living in cities. There are some who would argue that smoking hookah – a multi-stemmed instrument for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco – is safer than more common methods of nicotine intake. The less-harmful mindset may be the result of thinking that the water chamber in the hookah cleans the smoke from harmful toxins. However, new research suggests that hookah carries health risks of which users should be made aware.


Unsafe Past Times in Recovery

People in recovery that don’t smoke cigarettes have been known to smoke hookah with their peers after a meeting. The activity, compared to past behaviors during one’s using tenure, may seem benign on the surface. But, nicotine and other toxins are being absorbed into the body from the tobacco, and a new study shows that hookah is harmful to the heart. Research appearing in the American Journal of Cardiology shows that a half-hour of hookah smoking led to the development of cardiovascular risk factors similar to traditional cigarette smoking, Science Daily reports. Participants who smoked hookah had faster heart rates, higher blood pressure, and increased measures of arterial stiffness.

"Our findings challenge the concept that fruit-flavored hookah tobacco smoking is a healthier tobacco alternative. It is not," said Mary Rezk-Hanna, an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and lead author of the study. She adds, “We know that flavored tobacco products are frequently the first kind of tobacco product used by youth." 

In California, there are 2,000 shops selling hookah products and 175 hookah lounges and cafes (mostly in the Los Angeles area), according to the article. If you are in recovery and are committed to living healthily and mitigating the risk of relapse, spending time in hookah lounges is probably not conducive to achieving your goals.


Addiction Treatment

At Hope By The Sea, we offer clients several different levels of care, including detox, residential, outpatient, extended care, and sober living. Our team of professionals has the expertise to help you or a loved one bring about lasting changes and long-term recovery. Please contact us to learn more about our unique addiction treatment programs.

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