Author: Justin Mckibben
I came across an article the other day that asked a very interesting question- what if the media covered alcohol the way it does other drugs. To be clear, I’m not writing this to shame people who drink alcohol. This is all about perspective.
More recently the conversation about the drug epidemic in America has been focused on opioid abuse and addiction, of course with good reason. The rate at which opioid abuse, opioid overdoses and related deaths have risen immensely in the last few years. The alarming numbers prove that both prescription opioids and illicit opioid drugs are a very real threat. Thousands of people die every day, and experts see no sign that it will not get worse before it gets better.
And yet, similar statistics associated with alcohol are nothing short of staggering if you look at them the way we look at heroin or methamphetamine.
So, let us imagine for a moment a world where we treated alcohol like the drug it truly is. What if we treated drinkers like we do addicts?
Alcohol Drug Addiction
For decades a devastating and potentially fatal drug has wreaked havoc across the country, ending countless lives and altering countless others. This insidious substance can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in America. You can find it on almost every street corner, and the overwhelming majority of adults have consumed this substance at least once.
Alcohol has many aliases, include:
- Giggle Water
The drug comes packaged in a long list of names, with a variety of mixes that can be more or less potent depending on the source. Some use massive labs to concoct their drinks, while others brew out of secret unregulated areas in their homes.
The Alcohol Epidemic
No matter where you go, there will be a prominent presence of alcohol users. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):
- 4% of people 18 or older report to have drank this dangerous drug at some point in their life
- 1% of people report to have consuming this substance in the last year
- 0% of people admit to have taken the drug in the last month
Looking closer at the drug, we see that many users go from recreational consumption to excessive use. The NSDUH shows:
- 0% report to heavy use in the past month
- 9% of people 18 or older admit to binge drinking in the past month
As with most other drugs, this substance also leads to sometimes debilitating addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). NSDUH reports:
- 1 million Adults age 18 or older suffered from AUD in 2015
- 8 million of them were men
- 3 million were women
- 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years old had AUD
All 50 states in America have been hit hard by the alcohol epidemic at some point or another. One reason the outbreak of this drug has been so tragic is because in so many places it has become social acceptable for people to consume alcohol!
In fact, many have minimized the use of alcohol or even celebrated it! In several communities around the country there are all-out events where drug use is actually publicly promoted! Events like “Craft Beer Fest” or the infamous “Oktoberfest” have become hotbeds for excessive abuse of this incredibly hazardous substance. Young adults often talk about getting “wasted”, “tipsy” or “turnt” as slang for ingesting such high levels of the drug they are inebriated.
Alcohol Related Deaths
According to data collected by the federal government, alcohol is the second deadliest drug in America. If you combine:
- Heroin- connected to almost 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015
- Prescription opioids– 15,000 overdose deaths
You still have less than half of the deaths of alcohol. In fact, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes every single year!
Because of binge drinking and other risk behaviors, mild to moderate alcohol overdose has almost become far too common. Beyond that, there are numerous ways this deadly drug has contributed to an inordinate number of deaths over hundreds of years! On a global scale, the alcohol drug is the leading risk factor in premature death and disability.
- In 2012, 3.3 million deaths in the whole world were alcohol related
- 2013, 45.8% of liver disease deaths for individuals 12 and older were alcohol related
- In 2013, 47.9% of all cirrhosis deaths were alcohol related
The health effects of the alcohol epidemic are very real.
Alcohol Epidemic Hurts Others
It isn’t just the people who use this lethal drug that suffer from the adverse effects of the alcohol epidemic. Even the people are the users are often put in serious danger. For example, driving while under the influence of the alcoholic drug has been a very severe problem for a long time.
- In 2014, over 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related- 9,967 deaths
Also, public health officials from all over America have stood up to expose other terrible effects of alcohol use. Alcohol use also has a great deal of influence on:
- Domestic abuse
- Sexual assault
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both.
To that point, in 2010 sources indicated that more than 4.6 million emergency room visits were alcohol related.
- 40% of violent crime is alcohol related.
- 37% of current convicted offenders in jails admit to being on alcohol during their arrest
The War on Alcohol?
So with such glaring instances of the impacts of alcohol use on Americans, and young people in particular, surely drug policy officials and politicians are aggressively pursuing legislation to engage in a full on War on Alcohol, like they have with the War on Drugs, right?
Well… not so much.
It may come as a shock, but U.S. federal and state officials seem to think banning alcohol is out of the question! Citing the past attempts at alcohol prohibition as a major failure that instigated higher crime rates, while also claiming the vital part alcohol production and sales play in the economy, lawmakers seem content with allowing the drug to remain in circulation.
Thankfully officials are still willing to provide emergency response services to individuals who have overdosed on alcohol or been injured in alcohol-related accidents. While city officials are fighting for the option to deny the overdose antidote Narcan to opioid users who overdose multiple times, none of these officials seem to believe alcohol related illness or drunk driving accidents should be ignored the same way.
Drunk driving in many areas on multiple occasions does constitute jail time, but it seems being in possession of one of the deadliest drugs in America still doesn’t come with a mandatory minimum sentence. The Alcohol epidemic seems to have avoided a lot of the stigma that other drugs are held to, yet experts insist more should be done to decrease the astonishing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.
Alcohol may be legal, and it may be more mainstream than most drugs, the alcohol epidemic in this nation is still a very real threat. The fact it is legal and easily accessible makes the problem so much more serious. This article isn’t meant to demonize alcohol, but it is meant to point out the severity of alcohol use and the damage that comes with it. Maybe this kind of perspective can also diminish the stigma attached to other illicit addictions, if we are willing to acknowledge the similarities.
Alcohol is more dangerous than people give it credit, and alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
This past Tuesday, Academy Award-winning actor, screenwriter and producer Ben Affleck made a powerful and inspiring announcement to his fans and friends via social media. Since then the internet has lit up with articles and insights on how this public admission could be seen as a heroic moment to so many people all over the country.
Ben Affleck has the honor of being the new face of Bruce Wayne, bringing the Batman to life in the most recent installments to DC’s feature films. So he is no stranger to the role of a hero with a dark past.
Being open and honest with the world Affleck publicized he had completed treatment for alcoholism, and so many in the recovery community and advocates for addiction have found it as a beacon… or “BAT SIGNAL” if you will… (I will)… for all those struggling to overcome the stigma and see they are not alone.
In an emotionally-charged note to his fans, Ben posted on Facebook stating:
“I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront. I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step. I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent, Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do. This was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery.”
This is also not the first time Affleck has done battle with alcoholism. The 44-year-old actor has faced his own alcohol addiction in the past, while his childhood was also impacted by the influence of alcoholism on his father.
Alcoholism in the Family
In 2012 Ben Affleck did an interview with Barbra Walters discussing his parent’s divorce when he was 12 years old. During the interview Affleck stated:
“[My father] was an alcoholic… I did know that as a child. He drank a lot. My father was a — what did they call him — a real alcoholic. He, you know, drank all day, drank every day, and to his credit, he got sober ultimately,”
“He’s been sober for several decades, which I think is pretty impressive.”
At this time he credited his brother and his closest friends, including Matt Damon, of helping him through a difficult childhood. After Ben Affleck earned his place in Hollywood for his work with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting in 1997, he gave up drinking at 24-years-old.
Ben Affleck’s First Time in Rehab
In July of 2001, Ben Affleck completed a 30-day residential rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse. But this experience didn’t seem to convince Affleck at the time he was in danger of real alcoholism. In a 2012 statement, he had said,
“I went to rehab for being 29 and partying too much and not having a lot of boundaries and to clear my head and try to get some idea of who I wanted to be.”
Not saying it wasn’t an important experience, but this statement seems to lean closer to the ‘I’m not as bad as some people’ line.
In 2004, Ben Affleck married Jennifer Garner, his co-star from another comic hero film Daredevil. Sources at the time said Affleck’s new married put a halt on all the hard partying. Batfleck began to settle down and start up a family. The two were later blessed with 3 children: Violet, age 11, Seraphina, age 8, and Sam, age 5. Affleck says,
“I think becoming a father makes you see the world differently and it’s good.”
However, Jennifer and Ben did eventually split in 2015. Still, early reports are indicating Jennifer is an important part of Ben’s current path to sobriety.
While Ben Affleck has been more private about his time in rehab this time around, speculation began when Batfleck was spotted with woman while out and about in Los Angeles that a source later told ET was actually a sober coach Ben had been working with named Elizabeth Weaver.
Other sources have indicated to ET reporters that while Affleck no longer works with Weaver, he was supported by another sober companion while showing up to the 2017 Oscars to support his brother Casey Affleck who won Best Actor.
Looking forward a bit, it’s interesting that the next Batman solo movie starring Ben Affleck is also set to star Joe Manganiello as the infamous villain Deathstroke. Joe Manganiello has also had his struggles with alcohol. In a past interview Manganiello stated,
“My life was ruined. I was homeless, careless and broke with no career.”
The former “Magic Mike” and “True Blood” star has been sober over twelve years! In a 2015 interview Joe Manganiello said his sobriety was “very close to [his] heart.” With him starring as a rival assassin and all out bad mofo in the next Batman against Affleck, one has to wonder if a sober bro-mance might blossom between the two Hollywood action heroes.
Heroes and Alcoholism
One inspiring aspect of all this is that it not only gives us a reason to see past the stigma of alcoholism and addiction, but it also makes those who suffer feel more connected to the people who they may look up to; more connected to their heroes.
In fact, I remember watching Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne in the recent Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. In one scene Bruce Wayne wakes up, fighting back his nightmares, and reaches to a nightstand cluttered by wine bottles to get a bottle of pills. Moments later his butler Alfred Pennyworth, played by the amazing Jeremy Iron, even comments on hoping:
“- the next generation of Waynes won’t inherit an empty wine cellar.”
I related in a big way to the idea even Batman is drinking and popping pills to escape. As a recovering alcoholic and lifelong Batman buff, I felt connected to a feeling I believe is unspoken but relevant to the character, the actor, and the reality of addiction.
It’s almost ironic to me, looking back. To see a well-known and highly celebrated actor like Ben Affleck play my lifelong hero, and in the midst of critical divisiveness over his recent projects still have the strength to speak out about his hardship with alcoholism and the love of his family getting him through, it’s an interesting sense of empathy. Again, when his post says,
“… I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step…”
That is a strong statement. Batfleck has put himself out there with solidarity and compassion for those who are struggling with alcoholism and addiction. He may not be the first, but he is still a pretty prominent voice in Hollywood today, and that means something. He wants his own kids, and everyone else, to know they should never be afraid to ask for help.
A big piece of this we can all appreciate is that when successful professionals, artists or family-oriented individuals take a public approach to acknowledging addiction, it gives us all another perspective. Those on the outside looking in can see it in the men and women they admire. Their peers can be inspired to take a similar stand on self-improvement and raising awareness. Batman himself has said,
“I have one power. I never give up.”
Bruce Wayne is a man who dedicated himself to being a symbol. Ben Affleck is a man who has struggles and is choosing to have a voice. If more of us chose to have a voice, to take a stance and not give up, we could help others still who don’t know there is a choice.
It can be surprising to see so many successful people are recovering alcoholics and addicts. Sometimes we don’t realize our favorite artists and actors have dealt with something so difficult to get through. The more heroes we have every day that step up and share their message of hope, the more hope we may have that people seek the help they desperately need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Estimates show that in America roughly 10% of the population is addicted to alcohol or drugs. At first you might think 10% doesn’t sound like a lot. How does 33 million people sound? And if overdose and death rates have taught us anything, it’s that this problem is a serious and lethal one. But not only do we see the pain and turmoil of those who struggle, but we have to see what the families go through. The individual suffers deeply, but we cannot forget the children of alcoholics.
These numbers show that millions of parents, spouses and children are destructively impacted as they live with a person suffering from addiction.
National Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week started on February 12th and went to the 18th. This observation is to help spread public awareness about the impact of alcohol and drugs on children and families. While the official week of observation has ended, we encourage people to take the chance this month to continue the conversation. We don’t just acknowledge the issue for 7 days a year, right?
The Truth about Children of Alcoholics
Alcoholism is a chronic disease with a far-reaching impact.
- In America, experts estimate 6.6 million children under 18 live with at least one alcoholic parent
- One in four children in the U.S. are witness to alcoholism or addiction to drugs regularly
According to The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), children of alcoholics experience many hardships that have a profound impact on their futures. Children of alcoholics typically:
- Have poorer language skills
- Have more absences from school
- Are more at risk for mental health disorders
- Higher risk of physical health issues
- Are at a significantly higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves when they grow up
How to Help Children of Alcoholics
Most people have the knee-jerk reaction to insist a child should be removed from a detrimental environment. To many it makes sense that if the child is put in danger, they should be taken from their home to be kept safe. If we can’t always help the alcoholics, at least the children of alcoholics should be protected, right? The idea is the children of alcoholics can then have a stable environment while the parent gets treatment.
However, others would argue against such an approach, saying it not only breaks up the family unit, but it could also create a more instability. Removing the children of alcoholics from their homes and putting them in unfamiliar environments might only make things worse. Sometimes this process can create new stress and fear in a child, and ultimately be counterproductive.
So the unique difficulty in helping children of alcoholics is finding a way to maintain stability while still addressing the issues in the home, specifically those connected with the addiction.
Family Programs Part of Holistic Healing
Thankfully, complete removal from the recovery process is not the way it has to be for the families of those who struggle. Newer, more holistic treatment modalities make it a point to incorporate the children of alcoholics and their families in the treatment process.
An effective family program, such as the Palm Healthcare Family Program, can help to support the spouses, parents or children of alcoholics and addicts in many ways. Communicating with families and involving them in the recovery plan tends to make the living environment less dysfunctional.
A key element to assisting the family and children of alcoholics is education. Understanding the individual’s difficulties, they are able to provide an elevated level of support to the patient from home. These kinds of family involved programs can help the children of alcoholics get a better perspective on their parent’s behavior. At the same time, it gives families a chance to heal in tandem with their loved one.
We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
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The Family for the Future
As innovation and education provide lasting results, treatment is beginning to grow in ways that have a stronger impact. Even elected officials and policy makers are now focusing on the impact of the family of the person addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The reality is, every person suffering from addiction issues eventually has to return home. Taking children away from their parents does not solve the issues, because eventually we want the individual to be able to live in their home environment. Recovery is about to reuniting families, not tearing them further apart. A more supportive family environment will go a long way in helping people in recovery maintain lasting sobriety.
This is why welcoming the family is good for the future. Programs like Palm Partners Recovery Center believe in keeping the spouses, parents and children of alcoholics and addicts connected to the person who needs their support the most. Overcoming the isolation and having love and connection in your corner can change the game. So even though National Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week ended, we still want to challenge everyone to bring their kids or their parents closer together.
Thousands of people everywhere are growing and changing their lives through programs of recovery. Along with them, thousands of families are rebuilding and sharing their strength and hope. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call. We want to help. You are not alone.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Alcoholism is a term that has been around for quite a long time, but over the generations it has been understood and treated in a variety of ways. Perhaps as the world and society evolves, so does the average alcoholic.
Either way you look at it, alcoholism is a very real threat. National surveys of recent years indicate:
- Nearly 19 million people in the US abuse alcohol, or have an addiction to it.
- In Europe, it’s estimated that 23 million people are dependent on alcohol
- Estimates say more than two million deaths resulting from alcohol consumption a year internationally
History of Alcoholism
The term “alcoholism” was first used by a Swedish professor of medicine, Magnus Huss (1807-1890). Huss turned the phrase in 1849, to mean poisoning by alcohol. While today “alcohol poisoning” is a more direct classification, alcohol-ism is still a poison in the lives of those who is touches.
Huss distinguished between two types of alcoholism:
Huss’s definition says this is the result of the temporary effects of alcohol taken within a short period of time, such as intoxication. Basically, it is having too much to drink.
This Huss calls a pathological condition through the habitual use of alcoholic beverages in poisonous amounts over a long period of time. A pretty innovative idea, and something that would be debated for over a century.
Since 1849, the definition has changed endlessly.
Establishing a definitive “alcoholism” definition is difficult as there is little unanimity on the subject. The reason for such a variety of definitions is the different opinions each authority holds, and the year the definition was formed. We have the strictest definition the dictionary provides:
- An addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol
We also have the concept presented by the book Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which gives stories of struggle and strength, experience and hope; the lives of many alcoholics who developed a manner of living through a plan of action rooted in 12 Steps. Here alcoholism is often described as a “physical compulsion coupled with a mental obsession”. The disease model of alcoholism has evolved overtime.
Early on 12 Step fellowships like AA were cautious about trying to label the medical nature of alcoholism. However, many members believe alcoholism is a disease. In 1960 Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, explained why they had refrained from using the term “disease,” stating:
“We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.”
These days, the classification of disease is commonly applied to alcoholism or addiction. Some have called them brain disorders. While some dispute the disease label, many believe it is the truest portrayal of alcohol addiction in the most severe form. The idea of alcoholism being a disease has been around since as early as the 18th century.
Many of the more up-to-date medical definitions do describe it as a disease. These definitions say the alcohol problem is influenced by:
- Social factors
Treatment of Alcoholism
When asking how treatment for alcoholism is important, there are a few specifically important elements to consider. When it comes to health risks of trying to quit cold turkey, it can be a lot more painful or dangerous than you think. Also, lasting recovery has a lot more to do with learning new coping skills and behaviors than just giving up the substance.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when the central nervous system (CNS) becomes overly excited. Alcohol suppressing the activity in the CNS, so the abrupt absence of alcohol causes the CNS to jump into overdrive. In essence, your system starts overcompensating.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms include:
The severity of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome can range from mild to very severe and even life-threatening.
Most treatment programs understand the importance of therapy at different levels. Group therapy helps people fighting addiction receive peer support. Individual therapy lets you work more intimately on these issues with a professional.
Holistic programs such as Palm Partners Treatment Program help you develop a personalized recovery plan to guide you in your treatment, setting benchmarks and goals while you are in treatment.
Some groups are more educationally-structured in order to teach you very important aspects for understanding the nature alcoholism, as well as ways to make major lifestyle changes. Holistic recovery is about more than surviving your struggle, but actually outlining a way you can thrive and move forward with healthy life skills. Finding the right treatment option can make all the difference in how you define your alcoholism, versus how you let it define you.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
First, I have to make it clear that any amount of treatment has the potential to make a difference. Every opportunity to take action in the right direction means something. So making the most out of our time is what is so crucial. Still, I want to look at why a month in rehab has become most insurers’ answer to the addiction issue.
Because different people progress through treatment at different paces there is no perfectly predetermined length of treatment. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. However, research shows that clearly good outcomes are contingent on adequate length of time in treatment. Arguably a treatment program of less than 90 days will show limited effectiveness in comparison to longer programs. Many recommend longer lasting treatment for maintaining positive outcomes. Yet, just around a month’s stay can be pretty typical among people who go to an inpatient facility.
So, who came up with the 28 days later standard of treatment? Why do most people only get this amount of time in treatment?
28 Days Later Routine
Kimberly Johnson is director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA. This federal agency studies addiction treatment services. Johnson says,
“As far as I know, there’s nothing magical about 28 days,”
Anne Fletcher, author of the book Inside Rehab, agrees. Fletcher states,
“It certainly is not scientifically based. I live in Minnesota where the model was developed and a lot of treatment across the country really stemmed from that.”
According to Fletcher, the late Daniel Anderson was one of the primary architects of what has been called the “Minnesota model.” This methodology became the prevailing treatment protocol for addiction specialists a long time ago, but how?
The story starts in the 1950’s at a state hospital in Minnesota. Daniel Anderson attended to alcoholics living in locked wards, leaving only to be put to work on a farm. Anderson came up with the 28-day model to find a path for his patients to get sober and leave the hospital. Back then, it was innovative.
Marvin Ventrell, executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, has studied the model’s history. Ventrell says the month-long method comes from the belief that when-
“someone is suffering from addiction — and in the days that this began, we’re pretty much talking about alcoholism — it made sense to people that it took about four weeks to stabilize somebody.”
Ventrell went on to explain this is the norm because the insurance industry became willing to pay for a 28 day period of time. While many treatment providers believe we must adapt with the times, it would seem insurance companies aren’t so sure.
The early form of this 28 day model was designed for alcoholism. One big issue today is the model is used to treat opioid addiction. It is such a problem because recovering from addiction to powerful narcotic drugs just might be different than recovering from alcohol abuse. Therefore, it may require a different method. Yet, many still want to use the 28 day model as a cookie-cutter standard.
Now, to be fair Ventrell admits there isn’t enough research to prove the exact effective length for inpatient opioid addiction treatment. As we said, different individuals may have a different experience and require a different treatment plan. This is one reason why personalized recovery plans are so important.
Fletcher advocates it is incredibly important for treatment to move away from the default month-long model. 28 days is not going to work for everyone, and it would seem one of the biggest hurdles for those in the addiction treatment industry is convincing the insurance industry that the old “Minnesota model” isn’t always enough. 28 days may be enough for some people to make a beginning, but long-term recovery can be seriously influenced by more time learning about factors such as:
There are so many facets of recovery, it makes sense that the more time you have to learn them the more confident you can be in your ability to manage your recovery.
Make Time for Recovery
Besides the fact that giving people more time in a controlled environment can give them more time to focus on their recovery plan, there is also the element of dual diagnosis. While the 28 days model of treatment may have helped back in the 1950’s, we’ve learned a lot in the past 60+ years about addiction and other issues that co-exist.
Many people struggling with addiction are also having to battle with conditions pertaining to mental health disorders. Knowing what we know now, we see mental health disorders and addiction should be addressed simultaneously. If you ignore one, it can cause a relapse into the other later on. Various forms of mental illness can exist along with an addiction, including:
So for some, establishing a full diagnosis and then effectively engaging in the recovery process can take more time.
In the end, we should be making more time for individuals in need of treatment. Unfortunately, it can be an uphill battle with insurance companies. Some programs do exist that are extended inpatient programs, but these facilities still face resistance from insurers. At this point, it is about making the most out of the time you can get. Holistic drug treatment programs like Palm Partners emphasize the importance of exploring every area of recovery in detail, and design personalized recovery plans to make the time most efficient. Insurance companies may try to limit the opportunity, but the opportunity is still a real chance at real change.
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