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All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

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Update: Bobbi Kristina Brown and Nick Gordon Both Barely Hanging On

Update: Bobbi Kristina Brown and Nick Gordon Both Barely Hanging On

Author: Justin Mckibben

It’s never a good feeling to have to follow-up on a story that appears to be making some decisive progress with another headline of bad news.

Back at the end of April we had reported on the progression of Nick Gordon, boyfriend of Bobbi Kristina Brown, and his release from rehab earlier that month. At the time of the last update a source from Gordon’s family had reported his positive improvement, claiming he was doing awesome. Now in recent developments it appears things may not be going as well for him, and Bobbi Kristina’s condition is also looking worse.

Bobbi Kristina: The Recap

Months ago in January Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22 year old daughter of singers Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Huston, was found unresponsive in her Georgia home face down in a bathtub. She had been placed in a medically induced coma. Much of the incident has been speculated to be drug related, and initial sources reported brain swelling and diminished brain function.

At one point some speculated she was showing signs of opening her eyes, causing the family to hope for a recovery they said they expected to be a long hard road ahead.

It has been only 5 days since Bobbi Kristina was moved from her hospital bed to Atlanta, where she is now being cared for in Hospice. The young woman had been in the medically induced coma for close to six months, and some say that the family is preparing for the worst.

Bobbi Kristina was removed from her life support last week before being transferred, and reports allege that medics anticipate her death could be coming in mere days, which would put even more heat on Nick Gordon.

Drugs and Abuse

According to a friend of the couple, Bobbi Kristina and Nick Gordon battled a very severe drug addiction. During an interview one source who had known Bobbi since high school explained his knowledge of drug abuse in the home, indicating they were actively using several drugs on a daily basis, including illicit and prescription substances such as:

Other sources attest to Nick Gordon’s explosive temper and elude to a history of domestic violence between the two, which in light of these tragic events has authorities looking at Gordon as a possible murder suspect.

Nick Gordon: The Relapse

Nick Gordon, age 25, ended up in drug and alcohol treatment after a much publicized intervention with Dr. Phil and his mother, where he was reportedly drunk and violent in an Atlanta hotel room during filming. According to his mother Nick Gordon had been extremely depressed, even threatening suicide leading up to the intervention.

Now anonymous sources are saying he is attempting to portray himself as a good person struggling with recovery, but they also claim in reality he is a liar and master manipulator with a very dangerous temper.

Apparently the young man has been spotted falling-down-drunk in the seemingly constant company of a female friend while isolating himself in a duplex in Orlando, Florida. Hanging out in a hot-tub and drinking heavily, sources say he is anything but a man on a road to redemption in recovery.

Nick Gordon has thus far been banned from Bobbi Kristina’s bedside, and is now the subject of an alleged $40 million lawsuit courtesy of Bobbi Kristina’s legal conservator. Some have accused Nick Gordon of stealing up to $11,000 from the hospitalized Bobbi Kristina Brown while she was in her coma, and police have expressed renewed interest in Nick Gordon as a suspect in the events leading up to her current state.

So far the family, including artist Bobby Brown have tried to remain hopeful and continue to monitor Bobbi Kristina’s condition. All the speculation and controversy surrounding this story has created a whirlwind of drama and inquiry as to how these two young people got lost on such a dark and demoralizing path. It is truly sad to see the lives of not one but two young people we ripped apart and demolished by addiction, especially at such a public level and with such deadly results.

Even sadder, this kind of story unfolds every day all over the country. We may not view it as intensely because without the cameras and the media it seems so much less theatrical, but to those who suffer the pain is vivid and consistent, and escape may seem impossible, but there is always hope.

Not every addict is exposed through the media, and not every addict is doomed to die from this disease, and there are so many out there ready and willing to help you make a change that could save your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

Alabama Allowing Welfare to Drug Felons

Alabama Allowing Welfare to Drug Felons

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

The question has been presented more than once in the past year as to if drug felons should be denied the possibility of receiving welfare from the government. The subject is categorically one that fuels debate and sparks a serious separation between people who may normally agree on political policies, always coming down to what people feel is a proper definition of justice and how it should be served.

Drug policy is changing. The way we see addicts is evolving, somewhat due to the overdose epidemic revealing the stigma being unfounded expectations and stereotypes, which has inspired a renewed compassion for those struggling.

Almost two decades has gone by with convicted drug felons in Alabama not being eligible for access to welfare benefits, but now they people will have a better shot at a second chance, and an easier time getting back on their feet.

Redefining Justice

Just last week Alabama officials confirmed convicted drug felons will now be able to receive food stamps and temporary cash payments. These individuals have been barred from receiving such assistance due to a 1996 federal law that reformed the welfare system, and nearly 20 years later lawmakers decided it was time to redefine doing justice to these citizens.

Many states had already overridden the bill, but Alabama was one of a handful of states which had yet to do so. Then during the 2015 legislative session a comprehensive prison reform bill passed finally rectified this issue. Carol Gundlach, Alabama Arise policy analyst spoke out about this new change, expressing the injustice he felt the policy was based on,

“We saw it as a justice issue. You can commit welfare fraud and homicide and still get welfare. That seemed fundamentally unfair and not the best for reforming our corrections system.”

Alabama Arise is a non-profit organization that works to research and advocate for low-income families in the area. Recently they noted:

  • Estimated 1/3 of Alabama’s prison population (11,000 people) throughout the state were incarcerated for drug offenses in 2011
  • About 3,700 were released that same year

Out of all those released, it has so far been unable to determine how many of these people were drug felons who ended up being denied welfare benefits due to their prior convictions.

Many are very excited about this new development, even though the welfare provision and other measures in the reform bill can’t go into effect until next year.

A Family Affair

One of the most influential ways this new revision can create a positive impact on the community is it could be life-changing for single mothers, according to Gundlach who said women have told her stories about eating out of garbage cans, shoplifting or prostituting themselves in a desperate attempt to feed their families. This kind of tragic outcome is not all too rare for drug felons and their families.

“They have to support those children. It is a really difficult thing to do that and stay drug free and rebuild your life when you have absolutely no support.”

This is probably one of the better arguments I have heard over time in regards to if convicted drug felons should be allowed to have government assistance. Even if you argue the point of someone making bad decisions and if they deserve a second chance or not, their children and families shouldn’t be denied a chance at all. If a parent is banned from getting the assistance, it may be detrimental to an entire household, and ultimately everyone suffers and nothing gets better.

Then again, spokesman for Alabama Department of Human Resources Barry Spear clarified recently the children of felony drug offenders were never directly affected by the welfare ban. According to Spear convicted drug felons could still receive benefits for their minor children, but it would be a lower amount since they couldn’t be counted in the equation.

This makes the point of protecting the rights of the children seem a little less powerful, but still to deprive the household of additional assistance can still be detrimental to the families whether intended to or not. The fact is, giving second chances to citizens who have committed nonviolent drug crimes isn’t the wrong thing to do, it should be the only thing to do. We can’t possibly hope to change the pattern if we don’t break the cycle of punishment and poverty. At least, that’s just an opinion.

Second chances aren’t always easy, but they are possible. Drugs and alcohol can destroy your life in more ways than one, but there are plenty of resources to recover. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Can Synthetic Cannabis Cause Cancer?

Can Synthetic Cannabis Cause Cancer?

Author: Justin Mckibben

New synthetic psychoactive drugs are hitting the streets and congesting the underground market somewhere every day, many of which can even be ordered legally and with great ease over the internet under the guise of incense blends or other ‘natural’ herbs or supplements. Others have been passed off as bath salts or plant fertilizers.

Synthetic cannabinoids are very deadly, but they are also increasingly difficult to identify chemically, especially with the smallest piece of the formula being altered frequently. Therefore investigating all the possible unwanted toxic effects that can occur following their consumption has barely been an exact science.

Between 2005 and 2012, the European Union’s early warning system established:

  • Just under 240 new psychoactive substances
  • Around 140 of them contained synthetic cannabinoids

All this and more have fueled a synthetic epidemic that has started to gain more and more recognition as the damage being done becomes progressively visible.

Now, new research is suggesting some disturbing ideas on how these dangerous compounds could actually contribute to cancer.

SPICE I and II Seeking Signs of Damage

SPICE I and SPICE II Plus are international cooperation projects at EU level that have been led by the Institute of Medical Jurisprudence at the University Hospital of Freiburg (Prof. Volker Auwärter) and which have also involved the MedUni Vienna and the Goethe University of Frankfurt, the University of Helsinki, the Institute of Therapy Research in Munich, as well as input from partners such as the Federal Criminal Office of Wiesbaden.

As part of the international the European Union (EU) project “SPICE II Plus” teams of scientists from the MedUni Vienna’s Institute for Cancer Research have reportedly found evidence synthetic substances do serious damage to human cell’s DNA, which therefore means there is a possibility synthetic drugs have an impact fundamentally cancer-causing.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. It is also the ingredient synthetic cannabinoids mimic when binding to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, triggering similar neurophysiological effects.

Siegfried Knasmüller from the Institute for Cancer Research at the MedUni Vienna warns,

“The substances are directly active, in other words they are not activated via enzymes that metabolise foreign substances. The respiratory organs and the digestive tract especially are subjected to increased concentrations of these drugs.”

Knasmüller goes on to explain his times investigations on human cell lines in the laboratory have demonstrated synthetic cannabinoids are likely to trigger damage to the DNA that may have significant consequences for the consumers of such substances. This especially relevant in the high concentrations found in cells in the oral cavity or in the lungs.

Again, what points to their impact on developing cancer is that they damage chromosomes, which is directly associated with cancer.

Difficult Differences in Dangers

A huge hurdle to try and overcome when comparing and connecting these drugs and their effects to the symptoms and signs of cancer is most synthetic cannabinoids bind very differently and some have different but profound effects even in very small quantities.

Consumers have absolutely no information about the varying levels of effect thanks to the devious efforts made by manufacturing entities, making people purchasing these products unaware of the detailed composition of unnaturally chemical drugs.

As we had mentioned before, even with “known” products the makers will change the type and quantity of ingredients added constantly to slip through loopholes in the system. The risk of an unwanted overdose is congruently great, with an increasing number of deaths being credited to overdoses of synthetic drugs.

With the added possibility that synthetic drugs could be causing cancer these is no doubt more will be done to combat this issue. Still, with such a growing popularity and being so difficult to track it could take a long time to prove which chemicals are causing cancer. What is even more disheartening is will it even matter to the producers or consumers?

One thing is for sure, with all the detrimental side-effects already known, adding that these drugs destroy your DNA at a cellular level should be more than enough.

Legal or not, synthetic or ‘designer’ drugs are much more lethal than far too many people give credit. Although they are relatively new and not all details are understood, there are still effective rehabilitation programs built to help. If your or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality Therapy Treating Alcohol Abuse

Virtual Reality Therapy Treating Alcohol Abuse

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

If you were tapped into the matrix could it actually help treat your alcoholism? I mean who wouldn’t want Morpheus to be their sponsor?

All jokes aside, in the age of new and improved technology designed to change the way we learn, connect and communicate there is no wonder the graphics of the gaming and entertainment world have done their very best to stay up to date with the times. And as the evolution of the virtual world encodes itself in the mainframe of history, it seems to offer some new upgrades for the way we treat alcoholism.

Virtual reality therapy (VRT) has been used to successfully in the mental health field to treat phobias and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now researchers from Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea say a similar strategy may be the key to treating alcohol dependency.

In a recent small-scale study proved alcoholic participants experienced a reduction in their cravings for a drink, following detox and virtual reality therapy.

How VR Rehab Works?

It’s all about exposure.

The fundamental philosophy backing this treatment tactic is the idea of recurring exposure to whatever is painful or difficult helps reduce its power to cause distress. So basically instead of the subject hiding from something, they are challenged to face the issue head-on.

Virtual reality treatments are most commonly used for patients with anxiety disorders, and the concept of exposure is tested through repeated contact with situations or stimuli that usually trigger fear and dread.

Of course thanks to the virtual reality these contacts are always made in a safe and controlled environment and through the contact to the fear or situation patients have learned how to better manage real-life encounters with anxiety-producing conditions.

Studying the Strategy

Senior researcher Dr. Doug Hyun Han, MD, PhD, of Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, and his colleagues developed their study on the use of virtual reality exposure therapy for alcoholics by recruiting 12 patients already in treatment programs.

Initially all patients were given a series of scans so the researchers could study their respective brain metabolism, including

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan

The initial shock came then when they were compared to healthy volunteers.

The brains’ limbic circuit in alcohol dependent patients demonstrated a faster metabolism, and according to Dr. Han this discovery alone indicates a heightened sensitivity to stimuli (including drugs and alcohol).

12 study participants were given a week long detox period from alcohol and other substances, after which they each submitted to 10 sessions of virtual-reality therapy. The sessions were administered two times a week, and consisted of three dissimilar virtual scenes:

  • A relaxing environment
  • A high-risk situation
  • An aversive setting

The high risk environment was represented as a restaurant where other people were drinking alcohol.

In the aversive setting patients found themselves surrounded by symptoms of people getting sick from drinking too much alcohol, including:

  • Sights
  • Sounds
  • Smells

After 5 five weeks of virtual-reality therapy, the participants returned for another brain scan.

The results of this scan is where things got interesting, because each individual’s fast-paced brain metabolism had slowed down after the treatment program.

Calculating Conclusions

Dr. Han suggests this represents a diminished craving for alcohol. However, he has not gone as far as to say this proves beyond all doubt the digital treatment program is foolproof. Dr. Han does insist a larger study is needed to verify these results.

He does have a firm belief virtual reality treatments similar to the program designed for this study may help patients remain abstinent and even could help recovering alcoholics avoid relapses, and also that it may be especially effective for patients with alcohol troubles because the technology places them in a real-life context and then requires their active participation.

Is this possible?

Could facing the situation in a controlled environment help condition recovering alcoholics face their temptations in real life?

There are probably plenty of people out there who adamantly believe there is no substitute for the real thing, and the idea of using a virtual walk-through to build resilience to drinking is a lot less effective than an active program of rigorous action.

Either way, it may be this new treatment is helping to expand our options for treatment. While these anti-drinking simulations are probably not a reliable recovery plan in themselves, they could soon become part of treatment plans to help build the foundation, and that is probably not a bad thing.

While the future promises to offer new technology that could revolutionize treatment even further, today there are innovative and progressive treatment programs for helping an alcoholic find a way out. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-851-6135. We want to help, you are not alone.

Is Empathy the Future of Our Evolution?

Is Empathy the Future of Our Evolution?

Author: Justin Mckibben

What exactly is empathy?

Empathy is defined in a broad range of emotions, and most common is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is the capacity to identify with what someone else is feeling through their frame of reference, and to actually care and have a desire to help.

To credit that description empathy is an incredible thing for the heart and soul, and some are now suggesting it has physical effects on the brain. One question these findings lead me to ask is, is empathy the future of our evolution?

New research has determined certain types of empathy can be predicted by looking at physical differences in the brain, cultivating a fascinating possibility of empathy being able to be increased by training, or that it might be possible for people to lose their empathy over time.

Another inspiring implication is it may be possible to develop our brains by utilizing our capacity to empathize.

Shades of Grey… Empathy?

“Affective empathy” was described by a team of researchers at Monash University as someone having a strong emotional response to what someone might be feeling or thinking.

The researchers found that people who have “affective” empathy have denser grey matter in a certain region of the brain compared with those who have “cognitive” empathy, which was defined as people who have a more logical response to another’s emotional state. Co-author of the study Robert Eres commented on the findings saying:

“People who are high on “affective” empathy are often those who get quite fearful when watching a scary movie, or start crying during a sad scene. Those who have high cognitive empathy are those who are more rational, for example a clinical psychologist counselling a client.”

So what else can be learned from these shades of grey in the brain created by empathy?

“Voxel-based morphometry” is a neuroimaging technique which analyzes the density of a type of brain tissue called grey matter.

Using 176 people and data from the voxel-based morphometry the team searched to find out whether they could predict of how people would score on a test that rated them on a scale of affective to cognitive empathy based on the grey matter.

The survey found people with high affective empathy also had denser grey matter in a region folded into the center of the brain called the “insular cortex.”

Conversely, they found that people who scored highly for cognitive empathy had denser grey matter in the “midcingulate cortex,” a region found just above the connection between the two hemispheres.

Brain Changer

The researchers published their paper in the journal NeuroImage, and in this document they claim these results provide validation for empathy being a multi-component construct, which suggests affective empathy and cognitive empathy are differentially represented in brain morphometry.

Additionally, the authors say this could be used as evidence to support the concept of empathy being represented by different structures and brain cell populations. So we may be closer to finding out which different segments of the brain control how we connect to the feelings of others.

So if empathy can be linked to differences in the brain’s physiology it can lead us to question if changes in those regions alter people’s capacity to understand how others feel. So can changes in our brains structure make us more or less compassionate and understanding?

If these areas of our brain aren’t exercised and expanded, will our ability to identify with the emotions of those around us be lost? Can we teach our brain to feel one way or the other just by using it differently?

Can damage to these brain structures, as a result of a stroke for example, lead to impairments in empathy?

On the flip side, can training people on empathy related tasks lead to changes in these brain structures?

Can we develop our brains to elevated functioning in specific areas simply by practicing empathy?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to learn we can become wiser, smarter and mentally stimulated simply by identifying with one another? The concept probably doesn’t sound too abstract, but it opens the imagination to other amazing possibilities, like maybe even being able to treat mental health and promote mental growth simply by being compassionate.

In active recovery we see a lot of this altruistic idea of becoming better by helping others and practicing selflessness and other principles to promote well-being in others.

What if the key to our evolution lies in our ability to care about each other?

Mental health and addiction have a lot of stigma attached to them both, but compassion in a lot of ways is key to changing the stigma and finding new ways for recovery to be possible. There are thousands of men and women out there who want to be part of that journey, and yours can begin with a decision to make a change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

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