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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pot Activists Filed A Ballot Measure On Tuesday In Oakland

pot activists

The Marijuana battle continues in California, making huge strides yesterday towards legalization. Pot activists filed a ballot measure on Tuesday in Oakland, California in support of taxation of medical marijuana. If passed this would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot. According to the Associated Press, "homeowners could grow marijuana for personal use on garden plots up to 25 square feet." Oakland is a microcosm of the larger picture in California, where earlier this year a Field Poll found that 56 percent of California voters supported legalizing and taxing marijuana. The debate over the pros and cons of legalization has been going on for a long time and it seems that recession was the missing ingredient to the marijuana activists' potential success. How this will work out and whether or not this is going to do more good than harm is very difficult to determine; both sides have shown great arguments to support their cause.

"It's one more pretty amazing element in the momentum toward ending statewide prohibition," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance. The statewide measure needs nearly 434,000 signatures to make the November 2010 ballot. This would be two years earlier than planned, but, as far as they are concerned the earlier the better. Two weeks ago several Northern California criminal defense lawyers filed an initiative, the "Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010," that would set no specific limits on the amount of pot adults could possess or grow for personal use. The measure would repeal all local and state marijuana laws and clear the criminal record of anyone convicted of a pot-related offense. Basically this would make marijuana legal for everyone - medically or not! On the other side of the coin, El Cerrito Police Chief Scott Kirkland believes the health costs of increased statewide substance abuse would overpower the financial gain from legalization.

This is a very difficult subject where both sides seem to have very valid points to support their causes. I feel like the drug trafficking industry would not be inclined to pay any tax if marijuana were legalized since they have been getting away with it for so long. Obviously, the increased tax revenue in the state of California would do a lot of good, but we have to imagine that legalization will only bring the state more problems that cannot be controlled. I am interested in your thoughts on this subject, whether or not this would do more good than harm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alcohol's Side-Effects Are Extremely Dangerous

Alcohol is the most widely used depressant in the world, and has been for thousands of years. More alcohol is consumed than any other drug on the planet, which accounts for so many fatalities every year. Alcohol's side-effects are extremely dangerous and excessive drinking will speed up the process. We saw what happened to Bret with his esophageal cancer and we witnessed alcohol strip young Gary of life with cirrhosis. I believe that alcohol consumption has become so commonplace throughout society that people either ignore or fail to take the time to understand the devastating consequences that comes along with excessive drinking.

Direct and indirect causes of death include: drunken driving, cirrhosis of the liver, falls, cancer, and stroke. Millions of Americans meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders and alcohol is one of the only substances that can cause death if one stops without medical supervision. Delirium tremens or the "DTs", is caused after a long period of drinking, stopping abruptly and experiencing withdrawal. According to Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia: Delirium Tremens "It is most common in people who have a history of alcohol withdrawal, especially in those who drink the equivalent of 7 - 8 pints of beer (or 1 pint of "hard" alcohol) every day for several months. Delirium tremens also commonly affects those with a history of habitual alcohol use or alcoholism that has existed for more than 10 years."

Withdrawal from other drugs such as: opiates, marijuana, cocaine, etc. do not have major medical complications and withdrawal is therefore not life threatening. It seems strange that alcohol, a legal drug, does more damage to one's heath than illicit drugs. Many people who start drinking at a young age, like Gary, rarely have a clue as to how bad alcohol is for them; ultimately, this leads to severe medical problems which there may not be any help for. Sadly, by the time the problem is discovered it can be too late to receive help or one may be denied help based on a history of alcoholism. Every year billions of dollars are made from a substance that causes so much injury and it appears that little, if any, change ever comes of it. Bret and Gary are perfect examples of why more needs to be done, Bret and Gary exemplify both sides of the spectrum; alcohol related deaths affect all age groups.

I encourage you to watch this short video of the cause of cirrhosis. Please send me your thoughts about this subject and what we might be able to do differently to avoid premature death.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alcoholic Gary Reinbach Dead at 22 After Transplant Refused

Alcoholic Gary Reinbach Transplant Refused

So sad, the news that came my way this morning, a 22 year-old's plea for a transplant was refused. Alcoholic Gary Reinbach dead at 22 after transplant refused while at University College Hospital in London. This is a troubling story, which I read on Times Online, of the ethics in the health care system on a global level; unfortunately, this is not a new story, nor one that we will not hear again. How a 22 year kid could be refused a liver transplant, despite his alcoholism, has to make you wonder: Is the donor organ system flawed?

Gary Reinbach started drinking at a very young age, a product of a broken home in Essex, England. Nine years later he would be diagnosed and admitted to the hospital for an alcohol related illness for the first time. He was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver which is a fatal disorder that requires a liver transplant. The catch 22 is that in order for an alcoholic to receive a transplant they must demonstrate that the have been sober for 6 months; an impossible feat for a patient that does not have 6 months to live. Gary's doctors and his family went public making an appeal for the rules to be waived. But, despite their appeal Reinbach died less than 48 hours after it was issued; he died only 10 weeks after being admitted. This is unacceptable on multiple fronts for the fact is that people who suffer from the disease of alcoholism get less of an opportunity to receive proper health care than other diseases; do they make obese people swear they will stop overeating before they are given an insulin pump? Alcoholism is a disease that is far from understood by the masses of people who believe that alcoholics simply lack will power and that is why they continue to drink.

It is fair to say that if Gary were granted the transplant he would have had the opportunity to re-evaluate things and at least had one second chance to better his life. Sadly, this is not the case and the rules for donor organs do not leave room for exceptions; cutting people's lives short because people do not understand the disease concept of addiction. It is understandable that a repeat offender, someone in and out of hospitals for multiple years, does not receive a transplant; but, Gary was not one of those people, nor was he given the chance to prove that to be true.

My deepest sympathy and compassion goes out to Gary Reinbach's family. My greatest hope is that he did not die in vain and that his story will convince policy makers that a change needs to be made. Please share your thoughts with me on this subject as I will be glad to hear other's opinions. This story deeply pains my heart!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Should Young Children be Involved in a Parent's Intervention?


I hope by now most of my readers have had a chance to watch Bret's story. There has been a lot written about Bret and his intervention involving his children. Should young children be involved in a parent's intervention? Obviously, every case is different and that needs to be taken into account by all interventionists attempting to help families of alcoholics.

Bret's teenage daughter Kelsey and younger son Kyle were present at Bret's televised intervention on A&E. The family and the interventionist agreed that having the children present could be very persuasive in helping Bret make the decision to go to treatment. Unfortunately, the children's pleas were relatively ineffective leaving them both angry and in tears. Many people watching this episode may feel like the children's involvement in the intervention was unnecessary and damaging to the children. However, children of alcoholics who are at a cognizant age are not strangers to the pain and suffering at the hands of their addicted parent. Kelsey and Kyle have dealt and are still dealing with the years of pain; unfortunately the children of addicts need to confront their parent in order to explain how their drinking deeply affects them. This is a sad but true reality, one that is rarely pretty but indeed necessary.

Without a doubt no one wants to see a child suffering and seeing a show that deals with the sickness of drug and alcohol addiction is never pleasant to watch. We need to keep in mind that the interventionists, like Ken Seeley, know what they are doing and if there was ever a point where the children's safety was in jeopardy they would have been pulled away from danger. Interventions can be a trial and error event; many different avenues of techniques need to be attempted when trying to convince someone they need treatment. Ultimately, it was not Bret's children that got him into treatment; but, I believe the children's role was ever so crucial, not only for Bret but also the children. Kelsey and Kyle are two very strong children who wanted and were allowed to participate in their father's intervention that relieved Bret of his dependency long enough for him to die a sober individual. Those last days that they were able to spend with their Dad were ever so precious and probably worth a hundred interventions.

I encourage you to comment on whether children should be present at an intervention. If you are struggling with questions of how to do an intervention for your loved one, call Hope by the Sea...

P.S. A Jury recommended a sentence of life in prison for Jesse James Hollywood.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A&E TV's Intervention Covered Bret and how his Alcoholism Destroyed his Family

A & E's Intervention

A&E TV's Intervention covered Bret and how Alcoholism destroyed his family. Before Bret's alcoholism progressed out of control he was a successful real estate mortgage broker, but that all changed when alcohol started to take its toll. Two years ago Bret's family attempted to offer him the opportunity of treatment via an Intervention which he accepted only to end up relapsing. Everything in Bret's life spiraled out of control after his relapse; he lost his wife, kids, and his career in the grips of his severe alcoholism. His family decided that they would give an Intervention one more shot before they turned their backs on him out of love.

Bret's story is not too dissimilar to every alcoholic's or drug addict's story, the circumstances are different for sure, but where every addict ends up is generally the same - jails, institutions, and death! Bret's disease told him that nothing would work and until he was mentally ready to rid alcohol from his life he would continue to drink. His relapse in a way reaffirmed the belief that an alcoholic can get better on their own, saying the same thing that many who try working a program of recovery say, "I tried that, but it didn't work and I won't put myself through that again". When a program of recovery does not work for someone it is usually because they did not let it work and they let their disease continue to influence the choices they make. When this happens, a relapse is only a matter of time and where they pick up is usually a lot worse than where they left off.

Intervention did a great job painting a picture of the pain that Bret was inflicting on his family and friends. Tears and anger are common themes in most families plagued by alcohol; the feeling of helplessness is present in everything. Intervention, with the help of Ken Seeley, a professional interventionist, gave Bret's family the tools to help Bret make the decision to change his life. I'm glad to report that they were successful in their endeavor to get Bret into treatment at Hope by the Sea in Laguna Niguel, California. Unfortunately, the years of drinking had done its damage to Bret's body and after 80 days of treatment he had become very sick and was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer. With 104 days sober, cancer spread throughout his body, Bret passed away this summer on June 19th, 2009.

Bret's 104 days of sobriety was a major achievement for him and he was able to give his family back the husband and father they had known. As sick as he was he made a point of being emotionally available to those who love him right up until the end of his days. Bret was able to make amends to those he had hurt before he died, giving his friends and family the ability to remember Bret for who he really was. I invite everyone to watch the show and the memoriam on A&E and send me your thoughts so that next week we can discuss this more...

Bret's Story
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Bret's Memoriam

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jesse James Hollywood is Now a Convicted Murderer

Jesse James Hollywood

Jesse James Hollywood is now a convicted murderer after four days of jury deliberation. Last Wednesday, a jury decided that Jesse James was indeed guilty of the murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz. Hikers found Nicholas buried in a shallow grave at a place called Lizard’s Mouth in the mountains above Santa Barbara on August 12, 2000. After 9 years the Nicholas' family finally has some closure and sentencing will start this morning.

Jesse James Hollywood is eligible for the death penalty because the conviction comes with a special circumstance enhancement due to the fact that the murder was committed during a kidnapping. "Prosecutors believed Hollywood and friends kidnapped Markowitz as the result of a $1,200 drug debt Markowitz’s older brother, Ben, a former marijuana dealer friend of Hollywood’s, owed. An ongoing feud escalated over time. One day, as Hollywood was looking for Ben Markowitz, he instead came across Nick and threw him in a van. Less than three days later, Nick Markowitz was shot nine times and killed by Hollywood’s friend Ryan Hoyt."

Whenever drugs and alcohol are involved with acts of crime bad things are sure to happen to those involved. Decision making is obscured and people make rash choices as seen in Jesse James Hollywood's case. No matter the sentence Jesse receives, his life is ruined and a young boy was killed; we can't help but say, "for what", how could any of this be worth it? Nicholas' family may have some closure in this case but they no longer have a son; and they also have to live with the fact that their other son Ben was directly involved with the string of circumstances that led up to his brother's kidnapping and ultimately his murder.

It will be interesting to see if Hollywood receives the death penalty or life in prison. Let me know what your thoughts are on the conviction?

P.S. Don't forget to tune in to A&E tonight for Intervention to see Bret's Story. I will be back on Wednesday to talk about Bret's story.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Emmy Nominated Intervention has been Changing Peoples Lives

The Emmy nominated Intervention has been changing peoples' lives, chronicling individuals in the grips of addiction. Every episode ends with the friends and family of the suffering addict taking part in an intervention to help convince them that they need treatment. The intervention part of recovery is perhaps the most important aspect, one that can be delicate and should be done a certain way with a professional mediator - the interventionist.

Intervention lets people know what options they have regarding treatment when they feel like they have nowhere to turn. Not only has this A & E program helped the people seen on the show but also the viewers who may be less informed about the recovery process. Success with recovery is never guaranteed; however, once the seed of recovery has been planted then the addict's chances exponentially increase. The friends and families of addicts are given tools necessary to confront the suffering individual and help them walk through the doors of treatment.

I encourage everyone to watch Intervention Monday evening, July 13 to see Bret's story. “Now 43, Bret once had a promising career in real estate. But the stress to make more money to provide for his family took its toll, and Bret became an alcoholic. Two years ago, Bret's family held an intervention and sent him to rehab programs, but he relapsed. His wife finally divorced him, he lost his job, and he continues to be totally focused on drinking. Having already tried an intervention, Bret's family must understand what they did wrong the last time in order to save his life this time around.”

If you are struggling with addiction, I hope that you will be able to watch this show with the expectation that you might take something from it that may guide you towards recovery. Recovery starts with the individual, but if success is to be achieved, both friends and family need to work and be a part of the recovery process, whether it is in the intervention itself or the family program at a drug treatment facility. To assist our patients and their families, Hope by the Sea has a family group program every Saturday from 9:30am to 11:30am and can also schedule for an individual session with our clinical director.

I will look forward to watching this episode. Let me know if you will be tuning in.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Prescription Drugs are Killing American Teens

Prescription drugs are killing American teens at an alarming rate and no one seems to understand why this is happening. People are becoming addicted more to the prescribed medicine than llegal drugs for multiple reasons. First, most doctors do not fully understand the disease model of addiction; nor do they thoroughly check a patient's background before prescribing drugs that have addictive qualities. Unfortunately, the effects and side-effects of Adderall and Oxycontin are only slightly different than their "street" counterparts, Methamphetamine and Heroin. Sadly, obtaining Adderall and Oxycontin is much easier than their illegal "brothers". As long as doctors continue to prescribe these medicines without understanding that most of these prescription narcotics are going to be abused, then America's youth and young adults will continue to overdose.

Doctors are not the only problem with the prescription drug epidemic because one can acquire prescription narcotics from just about every household in America. Parents are not always fully informed about the contents of their medicine cabinet. In most communities the youth of America receives a crash course on prescription drugs upon entering middle-school with DARE and by the time they reach high-school the damage might be already done. DARE in many ways can draw a curious child closer to drugs, as opposed to discouraging interest. And a curious child in a sea of drugs (the home medicine cabinet) is bound to experiment.

In my eyes, in today's America, the biggest drug pushers may likely be medical doctors. Why hit the streets for drugs when you can go to your family doctor? I will reiterate what I have said in previous posts: Without serious reform in our health care system this problem will continue. I am not sure what the solution to this problem is and how we work towards it, but, my opinion is that we need to educate our youth more about the serious dangers that accompany prescription medication.

Here is a NBC Nightly News video that talks about this problem in one county in America. Watch and let me know what you think.

P.S. Jury is still out on Jesse James Hollywood

P.S.S. Mark your calendar to watch A & E's Intervention on Monday evening, July 13. Hope by the Sea will be the featured treatment center. (Check your local listings)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Celebrity Addiction always seems to get more Attention than Family Substance Abuse

Celebrity addiction always seems to get more attention than family substance abuse. I often read news articles about celebrities getting in trouble with drugs and alcohol. The whole world is shocked to find out that one of their favorite stars, to everyone's surprise, has a drug problem. Everyone asks how can this be? Why would somebody who has everything need to get caught up in the drug world? The answer is that there is more to drug addiction than how much money somebody has or how famous they are. Addiction rears its ugly head in every family and in every society because addiction is a disease that can be passed down to a person through their blood line. No amount of stature, wealth, or prestige has the power to make an individual immune to the disease of addiction.

Anywhere you look, whether it's downstairs sitting in front of the T.V. or in the bedroom your older brother sleeps in, the possibility for addiction exists. I believe that it is fair to say that there is not one person on this planet who does not know of an addict in their own life. A friend, relative, or even your doctor could, as we speak, be abusing drugs and alcohol. Even if you are not currently aware of it, I am sure this is taking place right under your nose. You see the drug addict and alcoholic have developed over a number of years of practice skills necessary to fool even their closest loved ones into believing that nothing is going on; or if it is going on that the problem is under their control.

However, over time signs start to appear that make you feel like something is not right with your friend or family member. At first, many people brush off signs like disorganization, lack of responsibility, and frequent mood swings. Maybe they are having a bad day, week, month, or year and there is no reason to be alarmed. When it comes to family and friends we sometimes will ignore these traits because on a subconscious level we don't want to believe the truth in order to protect ourselves and that it is easier to continue on living our "happy little lives". This is completely understandable behavior because of the idea that the less we think we know hurts less than the pain of finding out the truth.

But, at a certain point in every one's addiction, one starts to approach their "bottom"; a bottom so filled with pain and despair that few are ever able to pull themselves out of without the proper kind of help. This is when the friends and family, of the suspected addict, come together to discuss what should be done. Treatment is usually the first idea and the most effective idea when trying to get help for those that you care about. Passing off the signs as opposed to addressing them immediately is the worst thing you can do for the one you care about. When you notice a pattern of behavior that appears to be unhealthy, probably means that it is unhealthy. The quicker you move towards addressing these problems, the quicker the sick individual can get help, ignoring the writing on the wall will only allow an addict more time to makes things worse.

Intervention is one way to address the problem, Hope by the Sea is proud to be a featured treatment center on A & E's highly rated, Emmy Nominated series, INTERVENTION. Check back next week when I will post the airtime for the next INTERVENTION episode that features Hope by the Sea.

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