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Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

Alcohol Killing Americans in Record Numbers

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

Author: Shernide Delva 

There has been an influx of media attention on the heroin and painkiller epidemic which is now at record numbers. The focus in the media has been on the rise in overdose fatalities from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdoses have more than tripled in the last decade and the numbers continues to rise at alarming rates. While raising awareness of the opioid epidemic is necessary and much needed, we still cannot take our attention away from the drug killing Americans the most: alcohol.

The biggest threat to Americans remains to be alcohol. Americans are dying from alcohol abuse at numbers that exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 35 years. The CDC estimates that in just the last year, over 30,700 people died from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver.

In a little over a decade, the number of Americans who have died from alcohol have risen by 37 percent.  In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from painkillers and heroin combined, says the CDC.

If you think these numbers are high due to alcohol-related accidents, you are wrong. These numbers do not even include deaths caused by alcohol like drunken driving incidences, and murders committed under the influence. If we were to count those deaths, the death toll would be up to 90,000.

Why do these numbers continue to climb? Researchers conclude it is simply because Americans are drinking more. The statistics prove this conclusion:

  • Americans who drink at least once a month rose from 54.9% to 56.9%.
  • 51.9% of women reported drinking at least monthly in 2014, up from 47.9% in 2002.
  • Binge drinking by women is up to 17.4% from 15.7% in 2002.

All in all, binge drinking is the major culprit. People who drink the most are at the highest risk for alcohol-related death. According to past research by Cook, the top 10% of American drinkers consume close to 74 drinks a week on average. Drinking at this rate is linked to a range of health complications, including cirrhosis, cancer, brain damage, drunk driving and other accident fatalities.

For more moderate drinkers, the health effects of alcohol remain less clear. The research and data from moderate drinking has been all over the place. Some data suggests moderate alcohol consumption; around one-to-two drinks per day may actually be healthy.

However, there is a gray line when it comes to moderate to harmful drinking. A recent study revealed that when used alone, alcohol was the deadliest recreational substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. For this reason, many are urging public health officials to shift focus away from the dangers of drugs like pot and LSD and focus more on educating people about the dangers of drinking.

Alcohol is a dangerous substance that when used in excess, can cause serious health consequences.  However, since alcohol remains more accessible than any other drug, it increases the risk of abuse. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and has played a role in our culture for so long that many do not even realize they have a problem until it is too late.

Alcoholism is a serious disease and if you feel your drinking is getting out of control, do not wait to be a statistic, get treatment today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

10 Surprising Drug Myths Busted

 10 Surprising Drug Myths Busted

By Cheryl Steinberg

This is in no way an endorsement to go out and do some drugs. We just think it’s important for people to know what’s up before having discussions about drugs. Below are common misconceptions about drugs that seem to stand the test of time. Get ready to have your mind blown; even I was surprised by some of these. Here are 10 surprising drug myths busted!

Ecstasy Eats Holes in Your Brain.

Around 2000, MTV and Oprah Winfrey took to the air to make this erroneous claim. Apparently, this myth was based on a brain scan of an ecstasy user that was misinterpreted; the scan showed what appeared to be ‘holes’ in the brain tissue, however, this was the result if how a computer coded the image. The areas that were thought to holes were in fact areas of decreased blood flow.

Yet, the following year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) continued to allege that ecstasy caused permanent brain damage. But, a decade later, NIDA reversed its position and issued a study concluding that ecstasy may not cause harm to the brain at all.

Most Crackheads are Black.

Despite media and news reports that like to perpetuate this one and despite the popularity of depicting crackheads as Black (think Dave Chappelle’s character Tyrone Biggums), a 1991 NIDA study reported that 52% of crack users were white. Furthermore, in 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 62% of adults who had smoked crack in the past year were white; only 27.9% were black.

As far as overall drug use, some data shows that whites have a higher rate of drug use than blacks, even though there is a greater percentage of a blacks incarcerated for drug-related crimes.

There is a ‘Crack Baby’ Epidemic.

The many early studies declaring the emergence of a new social problem: the crack baby had failed to account for the effects of poverty and insufficient prenatal care as other factors leading to the birth defects and developmental problems that were occurring. To be sure, it’s not a good idea to smoke crack while pregnant (or at all) but, crack just isn’t quite as bad as initially thought.

Barry Lester, the Brown University professor who directed the Maternal Lifestyle Study, told The New York Times, that, when comparing the babies of crack smokers to those of non-crack smokers, “Are there differences? Yes. Are they reliable and persistent? Yes. Are they big? No.”

And, in fact, some experts now say drinking alcohol during pregnancy leads to more pronounced and devastating effects on the baby than does smoking crack.

Doing Heroin One Time Will Get You Addicted.

Yes, heroin makes you feel good. And yes, if you do it long enough, you will go into nasty withdrawals. But, doing heroin once does not mean that you will wake up a full-blown junkie the next day. In actuality, only 23% of people who try heroin go on to become dependent on it. And, although that’s still a pretty high number, it just doesn’t support this drug myth. And, in case you need something to compare it to: 32% of those who try tobacco go on to become dependent. Therefore, cigarettes are more addictive than heroin.

The War on Drugs Is Working.

If you read our blog, then you already know that this one’s a big fat lie. But, for those who aren’t in “the know,” the war on drugs has been an utter failure, causing more harm than good. Despite costing a lot of money – $1 trillion since 1971 when Nixon declared war on illicit drugs, the only thing to come out of the war on drugs is having the world’s largest prison population. Not really anything to brag about. As for any lasting result? Furthermore, The Wire reported that the overall drug addiction rate has remained fairly constant – around 1.3%, since the 1970s.

Heroin Overdoses Are Common.

This one came as a surprise to me. Especially since we’ve been experiencing a heroin and overdose epidemic in this country as of late. As it turns out, not all heroin overdoses are really heroin overdoses. The cause of a so-called heroin overdose is more likely attributed to the mixing of drugs: many heroin users concurrently take tranquilizers, alcohol, and cocaine and are therefore at greater risk for sudden death. Likewise, in a 2014 article in The Daily Beast explained how regular heroin users can appear to overdose: “In many cases, what causes a daily, well-tolerated occurrence to suddenly result in an unexpected death is the mixture of substances, such as alcohol or sedatives.”

Heroin is More Dangerous Than Alcohol.

Again, this is something we have written about on a couple of different occasions. You may recall the name Professor Nutt who, in 2010, developed a rating system that ranked 20 drugs based on the 16 different types of harm they might cause, e.g. to self and community. Alcohol ranked the highest in several of the categories, including accidents and suicide, health risk, rate of addiction, injury, family adversities, and economic cost to the community. And, overall, alcohol had the highest score, meaning that it had the highest level of danger associated to it. Just for reference, alcohol rated a 72, while heroin was in a far second place with a 55, followed by crack at 54. Things that make you go “Hmmm.”

Crack Makes You Skinny.

Although crack is an appetite suppressant, it is not a very strong one. There are other drugs out there, like amphetamines that have both a stronger appetite-suppressing effect as well as a longer half-life. It’s true that many crack smokers experience some weight loss and weight loss is even considered one of the symptoms of an addiction to crack cocaine addiction. However, that weight loss could be a result of other reasons, such as a lack of concern about nutrition and an the tendency to spend all available funds on drugs rather than food.

Marijuana is a Gateway Drug.

This one is more about coincidence rather than cause-and-effect. Although it’s been found that someone who smokes pot is 104 times more likely to try cocaine, it’s important to remember that correlation between marijuana use and hard drug use does not necessarily mean causation. Al Arkowitz and Scott Lilienfeld wrote in Scientific American, “Many studies have found that most people who used other illicit drugs had, in fact, used marijuana first. Although results such as these are consistent with the gateway hypothesis, they do not prove that using marijuana causes the use of other drugs.”

And besides, how many people who went on to using hard drugs used alcohol and cigarettes first? I bet it’s more than those who smoked pot first.

Prison Keeps People Sober.

Some people seem to be under the impression that going to jail will help them ‘kick’ their addiction but, that just isn’t the case. Drugs are smuggled into prisons all the time, either by an inmate’s visitor, eve by some of the guards, or else by other inmates returning from their work-release assignments or from a furlough. And, in recent years, there have even been some stories of people attempting to smuggle in drugs using drones.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, it can be hard to find answers – even in the vast universe of the internet. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist – someone who can answer your questions and talk to you about substance use disorder, addiction, and the signs to look for. We can also talk to you about your options on handling the situation.

Does the Secret Service Have a Drinking Problem?

Does the Secret Service Have a Drinking Problem?

By Cheryl Steinberg

By now you’ve probably heard about the two senior Secret Service agents who crashed a government-issued car into a White House barricade last week after allegedly drinking all night. Not surprisingly, they are currently under investigation. This story has a wider reach than just this incident and just these two agents: officials announced Wednesday that a new inquiry is being launched into personal misconduct by Secret Service agents. This has been a long time coming, as the law enforcement agency has been widely criticized for some time now.

Does the Secret Service Have a Drinking Problem?

There was the prostitution scandal in 2012, when as many as a dozen Secret Service agents were caught up in a scandal after being caught with prostitutes. It had also been uncovered that they had been drinking in the days leading to a presidential summit meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.

Then, last year, two agents were dismissed and sent home from a presidential trip in Europe after one of the agents was found passed out in a hotel hallway from a night of drinking. The assignment took place in the Netherlands, and involved members of the Secret Service’s elite Counter-Assault Team (CAT) who was not only drunk, he was falling-down drunk. And several of his fellow CAT members were drunk, too. And no one thought to say, at some point during the evening, “Hey guys, maybe we should call it a night.”

And, last fall a man climbed over the White House fence and made it well into the mansion before he was finally tackled by agents, presumably off their game due to drinking the night prior to the incident. As a result of this serious embarrassment, the agency’s director, Julia A. Pierson, resigned under pressure.

The drinking problem among agents is more widespread than any other problems you might imagine would be rampant among an elite, mostly white, male group; sexism and the other -isms that have been associated with the agency since the prostitution scandal in Colombia still don’t out-rank the apparent alcoholism.

In fact, it’s something that every White House journalist already *kind of* knows if they’ve ever experienced traveling with the president. One former White House clerk said that, although reporters regularly witnessed agents drinking heavily before shifts, “we just assumed they could control themselves. After all, they were the ones who were the most responsible of all of us.”

It seems that, for the most part, the Secret Service agents are fine the day after one of these drinking benders and none is the wiser. It’s a stressful job and there’s been plenty of research to show that high-stress jobs tend to coincide with increased alcohol consumption rates.

But when you consider the string of incidents, many of which we don’t even know about – alcohol is the common denominator. It’s not only a problem with the drink; it’s a problem of peer pressure and the drinking culture that pervade the Secret Service. No agent is going to tell another agent that they’re cut off; it’s more likely that the other agent will join in.

If you or someone you love has a drinking problem, there are ways to get help. If you’re not sure if it’s a drinking problem, alcohol dependence, or full-fledged alcoholism, we can help you figure it out. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.

Party Drug to Curb Binge Drinking?

Party Drug to Curb Binge Drinking?

By Cheryl Steinberg

Is the solution to stopping binge drinking alcohol (a drug) the taking of another drug?

According to a couple of key players in the debate, the answer to this question is ‘yes.’

Recently, a patent has been filed for a drug that seems to curb alcohol intake while producing some of the euphoric effects of the club drug ecstasy, also known as MDMA.

Some Statistics on Alcohol

In 2012, there were 3.3 million deaths worldwide in which alcohol played a part. And campaigns aimed at awareness and prevention have done little to nothing in reducing the amount that people are imbibing overall; alcohol consumption has remained steady and has even increased on the global stage.

These sorts of alarming statistics and the  of alcohol and the overall scale of the alcohol problem has led some people, like David Nutt, who is the Edmund J Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and Head of the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology and Molecular Imaging at Imperial College London. It was Dr. Nutt who created a scale that ranked drugs from most dangerous to least dangerous and came to the conclusion that, of all drugs, alcohol ranks as the most dangerous in the world, with heroin and then crack being a distant second- and third-place, respectively.

Professor Nutt was once the government chief drugs adviser in the UK and was fired from his official post because these findings didn’t support the general attitude that alcohol is socially acceptable. Nutt refused to leave the debate on drugs alone and even staked his reputation on his findings, even putting his job on the line, which he eventually lost because he refused to back down.

Party Drug to Curb Binge Drinking?

So, why are we talking about a professor in the UK? Because he has come to play an important role in this latest harm reduction attempt.

Last month, an application for a patent was filed for a drug that is supposed to give people a pleasant intoxication while limiting the amount they drink.

Why would an Ecstasy-like drug be better than alcohol? Is it the lesser of two, more-or-less equal evils?

Well, actually, according to Professor Nutt’s scale, ecstasy ranks quite low on his harms scale, in both effect on the individual (i.e. health) and the community (i.e. on others).

The drug designer behind mephedrone, a now widely-banned chemical that has caused at least one death and has been implicated in 13 others in the UK, referred to by his pseudonym, Dr. Z, initially intended his new creation to be sold as a legal high, in and of itself. But after having meeting and talking with Nutt and trying it on himself, Dr. Z plans to gift the patent to Nutt’s charitable research group DrugScience, with the hope it will be used as a “binge mitigation agent.”

The efficacy of the drug, called “chaperone,” will depend on the results of extensive testing – including how quickly it is absorbed and how it mixes with alcohol.

The concerns

Party-goers might look to chaperone as something to do as a sort of tail-gating activity, to kick off the night or they might add it to each drink as a way of increasing their buzz.

There are also the unpredictable effects. From the little testing that has been done, the effects of chaperone varied, with some of the experimenters reporting that they lost the desire to drink. Another unpredictable aspect of the drug is the time it takes to kick in. The effects don’t kick in immediately and can take up to 2 hours to hit. Then, it might take as long as 5 hours before the user has the desired effect of not wanting to drink. By then, the chaperone user could have already imbibed quite a bit of alcohol.

Dr. Z says that this isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as people taking the drug know these things in advance.

Nutt admits that “you need scientific tests. Anecdotal evidence isn’t enough.” These would involve finding out what receptors it binds to and figuring out a safe dosage, for example, before raising funds to conduct clinical trials to see whether chaperone really does reduce alcohol intake.

Most cultures around the world use drugs for pleasure, so a drug like chaperon could be a “win-win” situation, he says, acting both as a binge mitigator and providing some of its desirable effects.

If you or someone you love has a drinking problem or seems to be a problem drinker, they may have the disease of alcoholism. These issues often “look like” one another and it can be difficult to know what’s really going on. But, you can call an Addiction Specialist toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to answer your questions and help you figure out what course of action to take.

6 Signs Your College Binge Drinking is Not “Just a Phase”

6 Signs Your College Binge Drinking is Not "Just a Phase"

Now pay attention, this will be on the final. Binge drinking is defined as “the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time”. This is an activity well known on any college campus. Students will attend a party, drink as much as they can as quickly as possible and recent studies show it happens quite frequently. Approximately two of every five college students of all ages—more than 40 percent— report engaging in binge drinking at least once in a 2 week period. It is no secret that college students drink a lot, and society tends to shrug it off as “just part of the experience”. But there may come a time when you realize this isn’t a habit you will out-grow. Consider the 6 signs your college binge drinking is not “just a phase”.

  1. You Drink More than Your Peers

Sure it’s fun to be the life of the party, and some students like to take advantage of any social event. The problem here is when you make it a point to out-drink everyone on every occasion. And if you find yourself attending more parties than your peers to drink more frequently, that’s also a pretty good indicator.

  1. You Binge Drink Alone

Have you ever won a beer-pong tournament- against yourself? You may want to think about an early retirement from your professional drinking career. Binge drinking can easily develop into a serious drinking problem, especially if you find yourself doing it alone. Needing to get intoxicated quickly and on your own shows a lack of ability to deal with life. It can be due to stress from school work, social anxiety, or serious personal issues that attribute to your drinking problem.

  1. Blacking Out

One minute you were chugging drinks with a study group, the next you’re waking up on your dorm roof with sharpie tattoos an hour late to class. Some may think that’s another side-effect of college partying, but really if this type of black-out binge is reoccurring than it is a serious sign that you are avoiding the true nature of your drinking.

  1. Getting the Shakes

Detoxing is not just for drugs. If you binge drink long enough you will develop a physical dependency on alcohol. Not everyone even realizes this is what the shakes are. I remember for me I thought my shakes were from anxiety. It ended up being some of the early signs of tremors- a physical symptom of withdrawal from alcohol. If you’re getting the shakes this could be a warning.

  1. Emotional Confusion

If a student is binge drinking often enough, and he is finding it hard to manage his emotions and mood swings, this is another sign of suffering from alcohol dependency. Once someone has lost the ability to truly relate their feelings to their actions, and finds themselves more emotional confused, especially when not drinking, they might have moved even further into alcohol dependency.

  1. Loss of Focus

Not being able to concentrate on school work or needing to drink in order to get through your daily schedule is a more obvious sign that you are progressing out of “a phase” and into active alcohol addiction. If you have to take a flask to a lecture to tolerate the professor, and continue drinking through the day just to keep focused, you should definitely consider treatment.

This is just a short list of red flags for anyone out there who is pursuing an education and spends more time in the party scene than they do in the study hall. Binge drinking is not safe as it is, there are many deaths and illnesses in college students attributed to people who go to parties, or even just a night with the frat house and overindulge in alcohol. It is important to know the disease of alcoholism is not “just a phase” so keep close attention to how binge drinking is affecting your life, and do your best to stay ahead of the learning curve.

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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