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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adult Children Of Alcoholics Include U.S. Presidents

English: In January 2009, President of the Uni...
English: In January 2009, President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you ever hear someone say that they were raised in a dysfunctional family?  It is a term that people use often, sometimes jokingly, but most times people will sadly admit that they spent their entire childhood and teenage years in a dysfunctional family. Many people will say they thought their family was "normal", because they witnessed the same behaviors when they visited their friends' homes. If you "Google" the term dysfunctional family in the news, you will find many headlines. It has become almost a catch-all explanatory phrase that will quickly sum up a headline and give the reader a quick preview of the family dynamic involved in the news.

A Wikipedia article defines "dysfunctional family" as such:

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal. Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of co-dependent adults, and may also be affected by addictions, such as substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.).

So what becomes of someone who was raised in a dysfunctional family? The counseling center at the University of Illinois provides one take on this question:

"Many people hope that once they leave home, they will leave their family and childhood problems behind. However, many find that they experience similar problems, as well as similar feelings and relationship patterns, long after they have left the family environment...Children growing up in such families are likely to develop low self esteem and feel that their needs are not important or perhaps should not be taken seriously by others."

Often people who were raised in a dysfunctional family will look for support groups. If the dysfunctional aspect of the family dynamic included an alcoholic parent or parents, then the "survivor" might seek out Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA or ACOA). ACA or ACOA is an anonymous Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition program of women and men who grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes.

You might be wondering why today we are featuring adult children of alcoholics; the reason is twofold:
  1. Recovery is important for every member of the family, not just the one who suffers from the disease of alcoholism or addiction.
  2. A new memoir by Ann Miketa has just been published that deals with growing up in an alcoholic family and the role this pathology plays in one's life.
 The Ms. Miketa's memoir is "Formerly Known At Tank" and according to a PRNewsChannel:

"A dark humored memoir, “Formerly Known as Tank” paints a realistic portrait of life under the haze of alcoholism and addiction. Miketa offers readers hilarious anecdotes alongside serious thoughts about addiction that exemplify survival under the most challenging circumstances."

If you have some time for yourself this summer, you might also like to read Olympian Leah Pell's "Not About The Medal."   Ms. Pell's memoir was published this past April and she wrote to deliver a message of hope to all children and adults who were or are being raised by an alcoholic.

One final note: we often have the misconception that adult children of alcoholics cannot possibly lead successful lives or never quite find happiness, but as The Miami Herald's Frida Ghitis points out when  reviewing David Maraniss' new book Barack Obama: The Story...

In the background of all but one American president in the last 30 years, alcoholism has figured prominently, usually as the poisonous potion that helped destroy father-son bonds. Perhaps it worked by creating effort to replace those missing bonds, or maybe to impress the ghost of the absent father. Or maybe it was the product of strong maternal figures that helped raise confident young men who then grew up with the belief and the emotional strength to take the top job in the world’s most powerful nation.

Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., the Kenyan student who traveled to Hawaii and met Stanley Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, promptly disappeared from his son’s life and eventually destroyed his own, dying in a car crash in a haze of alcoholism.

Bill Clinton’s father, William Jefferson Blythe, also died after a crash three months before his son was born. The young Bill inherited his first and middle name, but took the last name of the man his mother later married, another alcoholic who abused Bill’s mother.

Ronald Reagan’s father, Jack, as his mother Nelled explained to him as a child, had a “sickness,” Reagan wrote, that’s “why my father sometimes disappeared.” That sickness was “an addiction to alcohol.”

 Adult Children of Alcoholics can and do find recovery and support. Start your summer reading list!

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/24/2863798/hidden-stories-tell-us-about-our.html#storylink=cpy

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Should Sobriety Be Prerequisite To Receive A Liver Transplant?

The New England Journal of Medicine
The New England Journal of Medicine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Should sobriety be a prerequisite for a person to receive a liver transplant? Unless you or a loved one is in need of a life-saving liver transplant this probably is not a question that you have considered. The reason we are talking about this question today is that once again a young person's inability to stay sober has been the deciding factor for rejecting him to receive a liver transplant.

The latest article also comes from the United Kingdom. The headline reads "Man dies from binge-drinking at age of just 22, three years after he's rejected for transplant."  His name was Gareth Anderson; his liver failure began when he was 19. His devastated father explains how out of control Gareth's life has been for the last three years: kidney failure, jail, intensive care, binge-drinking, arrested for assault. Two weeks ago, Gareth died in hospital surrounded by his family. According to the article: "Gareth Anderson is thought to be one of the youngest victims of chronic alcohol abuse in the U.K."

In November 2011 the Huffington Post reported on a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was conducted in France and found:

"...the vast majority of the patients who got a liver without the wait stopped drinking after their surgery and were sober years later. The study involved patients who were suffering from alcohol-related hepatitis so severe that they were unlikely to survive a six-month delay."

This is a heated debate. Those involved include the very sick in need of a liver transplant (both alcoholics and non-alcoholics), the medical community, the medical research community, affected families, insurance companies...the list goes on. As Dr. Robert S. Brown Jr., transplant director of New York -Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center while agreeing it may be time to reconsider the six-month rule he went on to tell the Huffington Post:

 "The challenge of this paper [French study] is to come up with better ways, both to treat alcoholism as a disease and to predict who will succeed with transplantation."

Not all liver transplant applicants are alcoholics, many suffer from liver disease stemming from obesity, drug use, hepatitis C resulting from reasons other than drug use. But it would appear that only alcoholics must meet a "special" life style change prerequisite in order to qualify for a transplant. 

Your comments are welcome.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bath Salts: Just The Latest Designer Drug

The public, medical experts, addiction treatment professionals, news agencies, law enforcement agencies and legislators are all concerned about "Bath Salts", the latest designer drug. The operative word here is latest. The truth is designer drugs are not new or news; they are substances that are created to avoid existing drug laws. The term "designer drugs" was first coined by law enforcement in the 1980's. But how long have designer drugs been part of our culture? You might be surprised by a Wikipedia article that states:

"...the first appearance of what would now be termed designer drugs occurred well before this [1980], in the 1920s. Following the passage of the second International Opium Convention in 1925, which specifically banned morphine, the diacetyl ester of morphine, heroin, and a number of alternative esters of morphine quickly started to be manufactured and sold. The most notable of these were dibenzoylmorphine and acetylpropionylmorphine, which have virtually identical effects to heroin but were not covered by the Opium Convention. This then led the Health Committee of the League of Nations to pass several resolutions attempting to bring these new drugs under control, ultimately leading in 1930 to the first broad analogues provisions extending legal control to all esters of morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone. Another early example of what could loosely be termed designer drug use, was during the Prohibition era in the 1930s, when diethyl ether was sold and used as an alternative to illegal alcoholic beverages in a number of countries."

It is probably pretty safe to assume that few of our readers were alive in the 1920s or even the 1930s, but what about the 1970s? Do you remember "poppers"? Yes, "poppers" is a designer drug name for such chemical compounds as amyl nitrite and it has been sold with labels that include names like Rush, Locker Room, Snappers and Liquid Gold. So now it is 2012 and the latest designer drug Bath Salts can be purchased at convenience stores, gas stations, head shops with enticing labels such as Bloom, Cotton Cloud, Gold Rush, Ivory Fresh, White Knight and Zoom, just to name a few.

Experts like Dr. Oz call bath salts "highly hallucinogenic, potentially lethal"...and in some places throughout the United States still legal.  Most of us have seen the gory headlines stemming from cannibalistic attacks acted out by people considered to be under the influence of bath salts. So now what do we do about this latest designer drug that is impacting people's own lives and others? As we scramble to pen new laws, amend statutes, the first line of defense is to stay informed. Ask questions?  Don't assume that when your teenager says they are going to take a bath that it won't include "bath salts!"

This week NBC San Diego ran this story: "Do Bath Salts Cause 'Zombie' Behavior?" You can watch the report here. 




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Monday, June 18, 2012

Smoking and Drinking Go Hand In Hand

English: Marlboro cigarette in pack. Marlboro cigarette in pack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Do you ever come across a really old family photo, perhaps taken during a holiday event or special occasion? If you look closely, you might notice one or all of the adults enjoying a cocktail with cigarette in hand. We could say it is just the way it was and leave it at that, but the truth is this: It really was that way in most American households prior to the 1964 Surgeon General's notice about the dangers of smoking.

In fact, smoking was commonplace in the workplace up until the very late 1980's when companies started banning smoking inside office buildings. And drinking, too, was not out of the ordinary at office events or even in the C-level suites of corporate offices. Many fans of the television show Mad Men wonder if people really did smoke and drink to such excess while working. It will be interesting to see if in the next season of Mad Men which is approaching the mid-sixties time-frame whether they will deal with the Surgeon General's report or even openly deal with alcoholism to the point of "treatment."

We have written often over the past few years about smoking and tobacco abuse. Many people who enter treatment for alcoholism and substance abuse also smoke. Many treatment professionals try to encourage clients/patients to stop all addictions when people agree to go to treatment. But the fact is quitting smoking can be more difficult than quitting drinking and abusing drugs, both legal and illegal.

On June 15, 2012, ABC News reported on a new study that was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers at Yale University decided to review 88,479 callers' survey answers to the New York State Smoker's Quitline. Amazingly, they discovered that almost 25% of the callers reported hazardous drinking habits along with their smoking issues.  According to the report:

"Once people start drinking, there is a trigger to start smoking," said study author Benjamin Toll, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and director of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven’s Smoking Cessation Service. "They lose their inhibition to tobacco."

So now the question is this: What do researchers and treatment professionals do with these findings? The findings seem logical and almost obvious, but if the person calls a quitline and the survey responder's results indicate a drinking problem, then should the quitline employee take the next step and try to refer the interviewee for more help to quit drinking? One expert thinks so.

"Someone identified as an unhealthy alcohol user should be referred to medical treatment for a comprehensive evaluation," said Dr. Edwin Salsitz, director of the Methadone Medical Maintenance Program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "There could be a very valuable role for quitlines… to help alcoholics, after they have been properly assessed."

The History Channel (History.com) offers this educational video History Rocks: Smoking is Hazardous.



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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Derek Boogaard Death Researched - A Father's Quest For Answers

On May 13, 2011, Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment. His death was ultimately ruled an accidental overdose resulting from mixing oxycodone and alcohol. This past week news stories carried reports of his father Len Boogaard's search for answers. Essentially Mr. Boogaard has been on a mission to learn the who, what, where, when and why of his son's death. The New York Times article states:

"But Boogaard’s father, Len, wanted to know more. He has been a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for most of 30 years, much of it as a small-town street cop. He set out on a hunt for documentation of his son’s life and the care he received as things went from bad to worse to unthinkable in Derek’s final years."

Based on his 30 years of investigative pursuits, Mr. Boogaard knew how to proceed with his search. Perhaps all family members whose loved one suffers from addiction or subsequently loses one to the disease of addiction want to understand the why, but time is a precious commodity, mourning takes over and learned coping skills nudge us to move on. So in this regard, Len Boogaard's search and ultimately his findings are a gift to all families, because he has raised questions for parents, family members, doctors, treatment professionals, addict's peers, and specifically professional sports teams to consider.

Take the time to read the entire New York Times article. A link is provided below in the related articles section. Mr. Boogaard's search, his quest, could be described as relentless. Did he find an answer to why his son's life was cut short by the disease of addiction?  Perhaps not, but he certainly learned how it happened.

Listen here to a part of Minnesota Public Radio's interview with Len Boogaard.



As we ready to celebrate Father's Day this coming Sunday, we express our gratitude to Len Boogaard for his efforts to teach us about disease of addiction and its impact on families. We remember also that the relationship between fathers and their sons can be difficult, albeit strong and moving. And so we share a song written long ago by Cat Stevens Fathers and Sons.



If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Family Programs and Addiction Recovery

A person's family history plays a big role in one's own addiction and recovery. We often see it discussed in the award winning A & E series INTERVENTION™. Usually the interventionist will explain how family history is an integral part of approaching the addict to acknowledge a problem and seek treatment, simply because everyone in the family is impacted by an individual's addiction.

But here's the reality of what a family initially feels when their loved finally gets into a treatment program. RELIEF! Their loved one is safe. Safe from the streets, sleeping in a safe place and getting the care (medical and psychological) they need. But often the family (parents, siblings, spouses, children, extended family) don't realize how important it is for them to also participate in a program of recovery. The truth is family members really don't know what they don't know. They only know what they have seen and what they fear. For example, they know they have witnessed their loved one's life diminish in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally, legally, financially and spiritually. They fear the next phone call, the next knock on the door, the next mail delivery...because it can only be bad news. What they often fail to understand is the full impact of addiction on them as individuals. They don't know how to start to get better, how to take care of themselves. They almost fear knowledge, because as human beings we tend to think "what we don't know won't hurt us."

We know, because we hear it said, addiction is a disease. But unlike most diseases, when a loved one is diagnosed as suffering from the disease of addiction, family members don't reach out to friends and family. They don't call their close neighbors to seek advice or consolation. Instead the family retreats, embarrassed and frightened about what the next step will be. Think about this: let's say your teenager or young adult child is diagnosed with cancer or diabetes. Naturally, almost instinctively, you call your family and friends to seek comfort, support and advice; however, if the diagnosis is addiction your natural reaction is to pull back from those with whom you would normally want to surround yourself.

Fortunately, most treatment professionals and recovery centers offer a family program as a strategic part of their treatment programs. Family programs allow the addict's loved ones to focus not just on the addict's recovery, but what they need to learn about themselves and how they need to start their own recovery. Usually, many families participate together. Yes, you meet other families and you share the start of your recovery with your peers

The goals of our Family Program are:

  • Learn about addiction as a disease concept
  • Identify family roles in addiction
  • Recognize and prevent enabling addictive behaviors
  • Move past denial, shame, guilt and fear
  • Define and conceptualize co-dependence
  • Practice healthy methods of conflict resolution
  • Establish healthy boundary systems
  • Create a relapse prevention plan
  • Practice Al-Anon recovery principles
  • Promote ongoing recovery and healing
When family members participate in a family program they begin their own recovery. They begin to let go of their worst fears and guilt. They begin to understand that groups like Al-Anon will be a source of support and knowledge where they can feel safe sharing their story. Recovery is a process not an event.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Celebrities "All Rise" To Promote Drug Courts

Actor Matthew Perry with NADCP CEO West HuddlestonActor Matthew Perry with NADCP CEO West Huddleston (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)Have you ever been to court for any reason? Maybe you needed to appear for a traffic ticket, custody hearing, divorce proceeding, or probate hearing. Perhaps you've been summoned for jury duty. It is probably fair to say that many of us have been in a courtroom for one reason or another and, if not, there is a good chance that you have watched television shows like Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown or The People's Court. What do all judicial proceedings have in common? Each proceeding is officially opened when the court clerk or marshal utters the simple, albeit powerful, phrase "All Rise!"

You might think that the phrase "All Rise" is all about showing respect for the Judge, but really it is more about showing respect for the judicial process and all participants: the judge, jury, defense counsel, prosecutors, defendant(s), witnesses, family members, court personnel, and the courtroom observers. For many in attendance it connotes a new beginning...perhaps the first day of the rest of their life.

Earlier this week we wrote about the importance of understanding drug court. We talked about the availability throughout the United States. Sometimes the average citizen (defendant) facing sentencing for a drug offense or DUI/DWI might be under the misconception that drug court sentencing is only available for the rich and famous. On the contrary, if drug court is offered in your jurisdiction and the nature of your offense provides an opportunity for you to participate in drug court, then listen to your counsel. You don't have to be rich and famous, only willing.

The good news is this: the rich and famous who have experienced drug court for themselves or for a family member or friend can be your advocate. Perhaps their advocacy is most striking in their work with the NADCP's public service announcements most appropriately named "All Rise!"


Take a few minutes to watch this NADCP Public Service Announcement. It might just change your life or the life of your loved one...celebrities "all rise" to promote drug courts.


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Monday, June 4, 2012

Understanding Drug Court: Could It Work For You?

Drug court is often featured in the news. You will see below some recent related articles about the efficacy of drug court and we've talked about drug court before always attempting to share useful information for our readers. Sometimes the hardest thing for those arrested on drug charges, including DWI or DUI, is to try to understand what drug court is and whether or not it is a feasible opportunity for one's particular case.

There is an organization that can help one understand drug court. It is the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). You might think that their website might only serve those who are drug court professionals; however, if you visit their site, you will find a lot of useful information including a map to search to find a drug court in your state.

Here are some statistics that may interest you. These facts have been gathered over the past 20 years since drug court was introduced as a viable alternative to jail or prison time. According to the NADCP website:

Drug Courts Reduce Crime
  • FACT: Nationwide, 75% of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving the program.
  • FACT: Rigorous studies examining long-term outcomes of individual Drug Courts have found that reductions in crime last at least 3 years and can endure for over 14 years.
  • FACT: The most rigorous and conservative scientific “meta-analyses” have all concluded that Drug Courts significantly reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options.
Drug Courts Save Money
  • FACT: Nationwide, for every $1.00 invested in Drug Court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone.
  • FACT: When considering other cost offsets such as savings from reduced victimization and healthcare service utilization, studies have shown benefits range up to $27 for every $1 invested.
  • FACT: Drug Courts produce cost savings ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per client. These cost savings reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.
  • FACT: In 2007, for every Federal dollar invested in Drug Court, $9.00 was leveraged in state funding.
Drug Courts Ensure Compliance
  • FACT: Unless substance abusing/addicted offenders are regularly supervised by a judge and held accountable, 70% drop out of treatment prematurely.
  • FACT: Drug Courts provide more comprehensive and closer supervision than other community-based supervision programs.
  • FACT: Drug Courts are six times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better.
Drug Courts Combat meth addiction
  • FACT: For methamphetamine-addicted people, Drug Courts increase treatment program graduation rates by nearly 80%.
  • FACT: When compared to eight other programs, Drug Courts quadrupled the length of abstinence from methamphetamine.
  • FACT: Drug Courts reduce methamphetamine use by more than 50% compared to outpatient treatment alone.
Drug Courts Restore Families
  • FACT: Parents in Family Drug Court are twice as likely to go to treatment and complete it.
  • FACT: Children of Family Drug Court participants spend significantly less time in out-of-home placements such as foster care.
  • FACT: Family re-unification rates are 50% higher for Family Drug Court participants.
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Sometimes watching a video of someone speaking about their own experience with drug court can be a better teaching tool for those considering drug court as an alternative. Watch Trey Anastasio (PHISH) as he speaks at the 17th Annual Drug Court Training Conference last fall in Washington, DC.




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