America has had “drug czars” — someone who directs the nation’s drug policy — in place since the 1930s. We didn’t start using the term “czar” until a little more recently.
Seventeen people have held the position since its inception, but today we’re going to discuss the current drug czar, Michael Botticelli.
Why are we focusing on him? It’s because of his recent appearance on Politico’s “Pulse Check” podcast, in which Boticelli discussed– among other topics — his own addiction and recovery, showing that sober coaching reaches far into the highest realms of our nation.
“It’s tremendously important for me, as a representative of the administration’s drug policy, to be in recovery,” Botticelli told Politico, pointing out that he had been sober for almost three decades after almost going to jail following a DUI crash. “To give people hope that there is a life on the other side of addiction.”
In the interview, Boticelli spoke of his wish to approach his job from a public health perspective. Drug overdoses in 2014 killed more than 47,000 Americans. The nation’s drug crisis led Congress to approve the nation’s first comprehensive opioid law.
But while some might read about heroin deaths and immediately think “We need tougher laws, harsher sentences,” Botticelli argues that a police crackdown on addicts would do no good.
“I’ve talked to law enforcement officers across the country,” Botticelli said. “One of the things I’ve heard echoes across is that we can’t arrest our way out of the problem.”
After decades in the field, he thinks it’s a “really miraculous turnaround for police” and argues the government needs to move forward to try to fix the damage the drug war has caused.
Instead of more policing, Boticelli says he wants his focus to be on access, recovery and reduced stigma for addicts. He’s trying to connect to other departments in the Obama administration, and held a series of cross-country heroin awareness week events in September with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other officials.
Politico notes that it’s a reversal from the “war on drugs” policies of past administrations.
“With opioid and heroin-related deaths rising, it’s clear that aggressive prosecution and military-style interventions didn’t win the drug war. Instead, it discouraged treatment, and it helped contribute to simmering tensions in the African-American community over whether police target them unfairly,” Politico writes.
Boticelli agrees that past policies had “a disproportionate impact” on people of color.
“We need to acknowledge that, and we now have an opportunity on drug policy reform and this epidemic to undo that.”
And while this is an election year, Boticelli says whoever takes over for Obama doesn’t move drug policy backwards.
“I hope we set a trajectory that outlives this administration and continues into the next,” Botticelli said. “This approach of a much more public health focuses of criminal justice reform.”
From Botticelli’s example, we can see how much recovery and sober coaching can turn peoples’ lives around, no matter what position they hold.
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There’s a thin line between social drinking, alcohol abuse and alcoholism, writes DeAnna Jordan in the U.S. News and World Report.
Jordan is the clinical director of a California treatment center, and writes that there’s no “Ah ha!” moment for when a drinker crosses these lines.
“Generally, the drinker doesn’t consciously understands that alcohol has become a problem until he or she is a few miles past the last line,” Jordan says. “If the drinker ever felt a slight inclination that the habit developed into full-force alcoholism, he or she probably shrugged it off in denial.”
Is there a way to tell you’re an alcoholic? It isn’t as easy as saying something like “As long as I don’t drink alone, I’m OK.”
Jordan says a more important question to ask people who struggle with accepting alcoholism is “How often are you thinking about drinking?”
From there, she asks things like:
Do you frequently feel compelled to drink?
Does alcohol, the thought of alcohol or the planning of your next drink occupy most of your energy and focus?
Have you wanted to stop drinking, but find yourself with a drink in hand just a short time later?
Have you sacrificed other activities that you enjoy because you plan to drink or were drinking?
Do you find that you need to consume more alcohol to get the same effects you once had?
Asking these questions can spark a discussion about alcoholism and the behaviors commonly connected with dependency on alcohol. They address the mental, emotional and physical state of drinking. They provide valuable insight into addiction education for alcoholics.
“The general rule of thumb when it comes to labeling oneself as an alcoholic is: If alcohol causes or has caused mental, physical or emotional distress in your life, alcohol has ceased to be a luxury and has entered the realm of necessity,” Jordan writes.
Remember that alcoholism usually runs in families. If you have relatives who have struggled with alcoholism or addiction, you’re at a great risk for becoming addicted yourself. Anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder also put people at a higher risk.
If you’re still wondering, Jordan suggests asking these questions:
Does your drinking typically make you feel guilty?
Do you feel the need to lie about your drinking?
Have family or friends expressed concern about your drinking habits?
Do you frequently drink more than had planned?
Do you black out while drinking?
Do you feel that you need alcohol to feel more relaxed or otherwise better?
Do you ever wake from a night of drinking with anxiety, sweating or shaking that only alcohol or medication can fix?
Are you uncomfortable in places where alcohol is unavailable?
Do people who can drink without consequences make you jealous?
Have you ever tried to control your drinking?
Has drinking led to problems at home, school or work?
Do you ever think your life would be better if you didn’t drink?
Answering yes to at least three of these questions means you may be mildly abusing alcohol. Saying yes to four to seven of these questions means you show signs of alcoholism and should seek help for dependence. If you said yes to eight to 12 of those questions, you show signs of severe alcoholism and should seek treatment.
Jordan cautions that this isn’t an official, medically approved test, but rather a guide to give people an idea of the questions to ask when considering how much you drink.
“If you take an honest survey of yourself and your drinking habits, you can determine whether you have reached the point of alcoholism and only then can you get the help you need,” she writes. ”Doing so will teach you how to move through life without the aid of alcohol, allowing you to reconnect with your loved ones and to rekindle your desire to live another day.”
Regardless, a doctor should review any suspicion of alcoholism. For further information about the nuances of alcohol, see one of our earlier blogs here.
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Drug addiction doesn’t care where it strikes.
It might hit someone in a major metropolitan area with access to a wealth of medical resources. But it’s just as likely to affect someone in a rural area without access to proper treatment services.
Fortunately there’s new hope for people in that second category, at least in one part of the country. According to Kaiser Health News, a new federal program is using telemedicine to connect patients with doctors who know how to treat addiction.
The $1.4 million pilot program — targeting areas in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee comes at a time when prescription painkiller addiction is reaching epidemic heights.
“This is an obvious potential direction to move in,” said Colleen Barry, a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University and co-director of its Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research, told KHN. “There are some real opportunities — and some pretty significant challenges.”
States like Virginia are prime targets for the program. Nearly 5 percent of the state’s population abused prescription opioids last year, and the state marked 600 deaths connected to the drugs between 2015 and 2016.
And some of those deaths happened in counties with little counseling options, which is why telemedicine can be so vital.
So far, patients have welcomed the service, although it’s not without both logistical and regulatory obstacles, KHN says.
“For starters, the meds needed to treat opioid addiction require complex in-person procedures and regular follow-up, limiting what can be done remotely,” said Dr. Richard Merkel, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral science at the University of Virginia, one of the pilot sites.
Prescribing and monitoring medications has to happen face to face, by a doctor licensed by the DEA. The university is considering regional centers where patients can go to get the medications they need as they come off opioids.
Another challenge is payment. While the federal funding covers technology, it doesn’t pay for the treatment itself, leading hospitals to work with different insurers to make sure the telemedicine is covered. This can leave a lot of patients paying out of pocket for their care. Many are uninsured to begin with.
“We’re trying to hire more faculty and advanced nurses, but unless there’s reimbursement at some level, we just can’t do that,” Merkel said. “All of this becomes just a nice idea.”
For those in post recovery and in need of counseling, Recovery Care Partner provides video chat resources for sober companions.
Addiction can sometimes be a tricky thing to treat. Medication is often prescribed to assist an addict going through withdrawal symptoms. However, with varying kinds of drugs and levels of dependency, it can be unclear as to the right amount of (if any) medication should be prescribed to people battling addiction. For the benefit of a patient’s addiction education, we’ve chosen to focus on a controversial prescription drug known as Suboxone.
One of the most debated medications for treatment is Suboxone. A mixture between buprenorphine and naloxone, Suboxone is an FDA approved drug known for treating opiate addiction. The problem with the drug is that, depending on how addicted someone is to an opiate, Suboxone can itself be abused. It works as another drug that replaces the current one, and in some cases can even make thing worse. But is that true for everyone? What do we know about Suboxone, and how can we determine if it is the right medication for us? Ultimately, the decision to take suboxone has to be made with your doctor, but to help better understand the nature of the drug, please take a look at the following information for your addiction education.
The nature of Suboxone
Suboxone is used as a replacement drug that connects to the receptors of the brain that once craved the opiates. Once the chemicals in Suboxone attach themselves to the receptors, they act as a blocking system that prevents any of the opiates from attaching themselves to the brain. This has proven to be very effective at keeping users off other drugs.
However, those who are not previously addicted to a drug can easily abuse Suboxone. Suboxone offers a unique high for those who are not at all addicted to opiates or pain medications. This becomes dangerous, especially when Suboxone is taken with Alcohol.
However, even those who were prescribed Suboxone can become addicted to it. The goal of any treatment is to get clean off a harmful addiction. Suboxone is ultimately meant to get someone off addiction; but it can still lead to another habitual cycle.
So how do I know if I should take Suboxone or not? Well, your doctor and those who understand the nature of your addiction ultimately determine that. Suboxone should not be abused, but it definitely should not be feared if it is a necessary treatment. Follow your doctor’s instructions as to how and when you should take your Suboxone medication. However, if Suboxone is not for you, there are many more treatments available here at Recovery Care Partner that are just as effective. Your doctors and Recovery Care counselors will provide the proper level of addiction education for whatever concerns you may have.
See one of our earlier blogs for further addiction education on other prescription medications.Learn More
Another process just as important as the in-patient recovery period is post-treatment. This is when the patient moves on and has to re-enter the world with the skills and treatment they gained while in the facility. This is a very crucial period since many people tend to relapse within 90 days after treatment. However, this does not have to be your story, since having a sober companion post-treatment can be the natural support you need. With one of Recovery Care Partner’s sober companions by your side, you can learn to hold your ground much easier against the fears, temptations, and struggles of life.
Increased social skills
One of the most common temptations when dealing with the aches of recovery is to just lock yourself in and not talk to anybody. Sometimes we don’t want to deal with answering questions from certain people who remind us of our past troubles. These can include family, friends, coworkers, or anybody else with complicated history. But with a sober companion, they can help build up your confidence to be socially open again. They can help you hold together when adjusting to your life once again.
One of the benefits about having a sober companion through the recovery process is that they can help keep you accountable. We often experience anxiety, depression, and other problems as we try to re-enter the world. At least in the beginning, it is extremely difficult to make it through to full recovery by going at it alone. Most patients end up relapsing by staying solitary, but those chances decrease significantly once you have someone by your side. By learning to open yourself up about your real concerns and thoughts, you will grow stronger and more in control as a result. The support of someone else grants a therapeutic opportunity for you to better understand the heart of your own struggles and character.
At the end of the day, recovery is a journey. Battles will be won and lost along the way, but what is important is to never give up the fight to recovery. The best way to keep you on top is to stay accountable with someone else. Addiction is a battle of the mind as well as the body. That is why it is important to keep your mind clear with a sober companion when you both set out to reclaim the world. Addiction might have taken many things away, but now you will have so much more than you ever could imagine. Besides, you might just find a lasting friendship at the end of it.Learn More
What we hope for makes a big difference as to how we live our lives and especially for how we overcome our addiction. Here at Recovery Care Partner, our sober coaching department believes in everyone’s capability to succeed. And that starts with believing your recovery is possible. Once we have a true sense of confidence, will be more willing to make it through recovery. However, if we ultimately don’t have faith in the future, we will grow more comfortable with defeat. We will rationalize our own addictive nature to relapse. Although faith makes a big difference, it is near impossible to “just believe” and then move forward. How do we get to a sense of confidence with the constant threat of our compulsions?
Hope from the Outside
We’ve heard it a million times, and we all know that we cannot get through addiction on our own. The reason for that is because addiction manipulates our mind and body with urgent dependency. Before recovery, dependency is at its most problematic and we can barely control ourselves. After a certain point, it is hard to believe in any hope on our own ability. But once we receive help from someone outside (i.e. our sober coaching mentors, counselors, and companions) then solutions begin to appear tangible. This lesson is one of the foundations of Recovery Care Partner: support that can make you strong enough to live your life addiction free.
How Sober Coaching Nurtures Self Reliance
At Recovery Care Partner, we offer you much needed moral, physical, medical, and relational support. You will meet counselors, companions and friends that will coach and guide you on your journey to recovery. However, the goal of our support is not only to keep you stable, but also to offer you the self-discipline to fight addiction yourself. Post recovery, you won’t always have our support to keep you stable. That is why we offer you the sober coaching skills and disciplines to eventually stand on your own two feet against addiction. Addiction is a disease that abuses our capacity to support ourselves; so our philosophy is that Hope for healthy living comes not only from outside support, but from internal support as well. At that point, you will be able to see that hope come to fruition. It is both greater than any troubles, and manifested through our love and support.Learn More
There are plenty of professional aids for assisting one’s recovery. One of those aids is prescribed medication, mostly to help one move through their withdrawal symptoms. However, if taken improperly, there is a chance of abusing the medication. Abuse or misuse of the medication can result in an all-new dependency, or even death. Now, this is not meant to scare anyone considering prescription medication for his or her condition. Medication is both safe and necessary when prescribed properly by professional doctors and addiction counselors. It is a good thing, and can only become a problem if taken outside of the instructed dosage. In order to better appreciate the power of prescription medication, here are a few potentially addictive medications for your addiction education. The more addiction education skills we have, the better we can understand our current condition and rise above it.
Meant to treat panic and anxiety disorders, Xanax is a popular drug that strengthens GABA, which is a naturally calming chemical in the brain. Xanax is a highly addictive medication if taken outside of the proper prescription instructions. Usually a change in dosage should be gradual; any extreme change in dosage could result in side effects. If there is an apparent risk of side effects or dependency, your doctor will make safe adjustments accordingly. Our addiction doctors keep special focus on what the patient needs as their body adapts throughout the recovery process.
Oxycodone is an opioid pain reliever meant for extreme pain. It is effective only if the patient seriously requires it. Its proper usage is on a regularly scheduled basis, not whenever someone feels pain. Any recreational use can result in addiction. Oxycodone should be taken strictly as prescribed, which is why Recovery Care doctors choose the best schedule for patients to take the drug if they require it. Oxycodone should never be given to anyone without the proper prescription and addiction education. Misuse of Oxycodone could result in dangerous long term side effects, including potential death. Such misuses include: taking it if you have asthma or breathing problems, allergies to Oxycodone, and/or stomach blockage.
Like Xanax, Valium is meant for people suffering from anxiety disorders, but can also treat muscle spasms and seizures. It allows for the brain and nervous system to calm down during such episodes. It is often prescribed for someone going through alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Before taking Valium, be sure to inform your doctor if you have any of the following conditions: sleep apnea, myasthenia gravis, liver disease, glaucoma, epilepsy, alcoholism, and/or breathing problems.
Amphetamines are stimulants for your central nervous system meant to control hyperactivity, particularly Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They can also be used to treat narcolepsy. However, certain side effects can result either from not being compatible with amphetamines, or taking amphetamines improperly. Before taking amphetamines, be sure to inform your doctor if you have any allergies, anxiety, overactive thyroid, high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease and/or sudden death, and any other conditions that might have an affect on your prescription use.
Ritalin is another stimulant used to treat ADHD, and works by readjusting the chemicals in the brain and nerves. It is often recommended for increasing focus, controlling behavior and treating narcolepsy. Also like Amphetamines, side effects can occur if they are taken improperly. Before taking Ritalin, be sure to inform your doctor if you have allergies, glaucoma, muscle twitches, high blood pressure, congenital heart defect, a family history of heart disease and/or sudden death, or any other biologic factors that could affect Ritalin use.
Despite the potentially dangerous side effects of these various drugs, they are perfectly safe when taken according to your doctor’s instructions. Recovery Care doctors would never prescribe a medication to anyone if there were a risk of dangerous side effects. They are also sure to provide the patient with any needed addiction education on their specific substance. Even if abuse begins to appear, it is just as treatable as other addictions. Recovery is a journey of adjustments, and we at Recovery Care Partner are here to adapt to your needs no matter what arises.Learn More
Addiction was for the longest time seen as a moral choice. People looked down upon those who were “addicts” as if they were both selfish and self-destructive. There was a moral condemnation for those suffering from addiction. But when it became apparent that addiction is a disease (a circumstance that manipulates the person rather than being controlled by the person) the public began to understand the nature of it all. People who were addicted were given more in depth levels of assistance with the illness. However, one has to ask, why is it considered an illness in the first place? What makes Addiction a disease?
The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as:
“… a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.”
Although the first exposure to a particular drug is usually voluntary, continued use is usually involuntary. Addiction ends up reworking the brain’s needs to become dependent on a substance, with little-to-no intentional control on the person. The person becomes an addict because the brain becomes dependent on the drug in order to properly function. It is not merely something that we can switch on and off. Also like other diseases, addiction can be fatal if left untreated. That not only goes for continued usage, but also for withdrawal as well. Withdrawals should always be conducted with both medical consultation and help from a friend. One’s mind and body grows sick by the lack of the substance, and therefore needs proper control and assistance in order to get through the withdrawal symptoms.
Unlike other diseases, Addiction is an illness that can be successfully treated. It requires care, discipline, and occasionally strict medication. Unfortunately the addiction cannot always be 100% ridden out of a person; what this means is that a person might always have the capability of loosing control if they ever touch the substance again. They will always have the biological potential to become an addict. However, that doesn’t mean that it will always control them. But they can be treated to move on and no longer desire that substance and have a free life again. Recovery is achieved not when someone doesn’t take a drink, but it is achieved when someone no longer desires to have a drink in the first place.
Please see here for more information on our addiction recovery services.
Please see here to learn more about those who have successfully recovered from addiction with Recovery Care Partner.
For those of us returning to our lives after in-patient treatment, some environments can seem daunting to return to. School can often be one of the most challenging areas, since it contains many different influences on our physical and emotional wellbeing. But like all areas of our lives, we do not need to be afraid of returning to our education. Once we successfully do that, we can learn to adapt to any environment for our recovery living. Here are a few tips to avoid relapse in a school or college environment.
Surround yourself with positivity
A sad truth of most school environments is that negativity tends to travel fast. Whether it is finals, teachers, or relationships, tense emotional situations can arise and therefore make the urge to relapse stronger. To help avoid this, it is best to keep together one or multiple friends who can help keep you motivated and accountable. We need friends to encourage us, whether they are old friends, new friends, or teachers who can be our friend when no one else can. A sad fact for many students dealing with addiction is judgment and ostracization from their peers. Some of these peers might even have been former friends. The important thing to remember is that you are not blameworthy or a bad person, no matter what someone tells you. It hurts to be seen negatively, but it is okay to be hurt; you don’t have to hold it in, because that builds up anxiety that can lead to a possible relapse. What you really need is at least one good friend to believe in you. One person who is there with you and can understand that the addiction is not your fault and that you are working to get better. With just one person by your side, student or teacher, you will have already won half the battle.
Take precautions to avoid high-risk scenarios
As mentioned before, Schooling often creates stressful situations. Some of those situations could be emotional, while others could be brought on by the stress of your studies. Recovery is a journey to overcoming substance abuse through readjusting to your previous life, not staying absent from your life. One thing to do is to regularly participate in stress-relieving activities, such as sports or art programs during or after class. Another thing we suggest is to make a trust-worthy teacher or administrator aware of your concerns, and how you might need to receive certain accommodations and assistance for your work. That way they can help the school’s administration understand where you are coming from. These can be small things like extra time on homework, or reminding your teachers to not bring on any stressful triggers.
If you require any further assistance with adjusting to your school or college environment, please give Recovery Care Partner’s sober companion services a call. We are always here for your sober-living needs.Learn More
The “G” word. The thing that always accompanies addiction at one point or another. Guilt is the dreaded reminder of what we’ve done and how wrong we know it was to do. But although we need guilt for life guidance, certain lies can accompany guilt, especially when we are dealing with the disease of addiction. In such confusion, we need anyone or thing that can remind us of our inherent worth and value. When we learn to stand against improper guilt, we make a huge leap to recovery
Know guilt and know your worth
Guilt is a sign of our conscience. It is a good thing and a natural emotion. We shouldn’t try to live life ignorant of guilt. Having said that, our guilt can often be mixed with lies and exaggerations on our self worth and identity. With the struggle of addiction, our self-respect is based on how much we resist said addiction. If we resist for a long period, we feel good, but when we give in we are a “terrible person”. That’s how our brain works under that lie. But in order to overcome these lies, we need to understand our self worth. People and events can tell us that we are awful and worthless, but that is an abusive lie from their own personal distortion. You and everyone else carry inherent self worth since you were born. You are a human being who is meant to be loved and appreciated. The addiction is a disease that tries to destroy your capability of living such a life. Despite any decision in the past, the horrible cycle of addiction is not your fault. You need help not because you are unworthy, but because you are worthy.
Spot the Lies
It is extremely hard to believe truth when lies feel so real. But when we are going through recovery, the one thing we always need is reassurance. We need to be reminded that we are worthy of help and that recovery is a reality. Our lies often take the form of discouragement and cynicism through the fear of failure and pain. These lies don’t hold up under scrutiny once we speak them out-loud to someone who can understand. There is something strange about how we can tell ourselves an encouragement, but we don’t fully believe it unless someone else says it.
A Push Forward
Guilt can be a troubling and even destructive emotion when taken out of its proper context. But once we separate the lies form the truth, we can start to see not only our true worth, but our true problem as well. If guilt should tell us anything, it should be that we do in fact need help and cannot stay stuck in this vicious cycle. We have to be brave enough to reach out to the person we know loves us enough to stick by and lead us to recovery. But if there is ever a reason we can’t, then there is still Recovery Care Partner to talk, understand, and offer help when we need it most.
If you need to talk to anyone, please contact us at 855-727-2887Learn More