Author: Justin Mckibben
Around the country there is a wave a new and progressive initiatives changing the relationship between law enforcement and drug users. Government officials now lobby in support of such programs, and millions of dollars are being allocated to similar responses to a nationwide addiction epidemic. Probably one of the most famous of these revolutionary programs is one of the first; the PAARI program.
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) encourages police departments to abandon the old model of arresting and prosecuting people struggling with substance use disorder. Instead, the program encourages police to help people struggling with addiction seek help.
Now we have the first annual report from the PAARI program, and the numbers are pretty impressive.
Taking Pride in PAARI Program Progress
In the PAARI program first year report the numbers include detailed financial inventory. The 501(c)3 non-profit believes in the transparency of their progress, and is proud of the success to far. Of course, with such a groundbreaking and inspirational initiative, who wouldn’t want to show off?
To update anyone who doesn’t know- the PAARI began in Gloucester, Massachusetts, after the local police department announced on June 1, 2015 that anyone who walked into the police department and turned in either drugs or paraphernalia would not be arrested. The announcement told the citizens that instead any individual willing to seek help would be sent to treatment. This is the response from law enforcement in the wake of a spike in overdose rates in the area.
The report now boasts an amazing impact on the community. In the first year of the PAARI program, just Gloucester Police Department alone helped more than 400 people enter treatment!
Spreading the Message
That 400+ count doesn’t even scratch the thousands more being helped across the country due to the establishment of similar programs. The initial response from the Gloucester community was incredibly enthusiastic. This helped spread the concept of the PAARI program, as they moved to help other police departments implement similar programs. According to the report, the PAARI program helped train 143 police departments in 27 states.
- Augusta, Maine began training volunteers last November before implementing their own program.
- This summer Newark, Ohio, began its program. Officials said they felt driven to try something new once they were receiving at least one overdose call per day.
- According to the report, the PAARI program has partnered with 300 treatment centers in 20 states
- The PAARI program also secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to help people access the treatment they need.
- Distributed more than 5,000 doses of nasal Naloxone, the opiate overdose antidote.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this progressive approach. Some still believe that criminal justice is an appropriate response to drug use. Cape Cod, Massachusetts police department chose not to implement their own program because they didn’t agree with diverting the focus away from criminalizing active users. Some still think that shifting this perspective is somehow promoting drug use or giving permission.
Reinventing Police Intervention
Last April the Obama administration praised the Angel Program and PAARI program, siting that they reduced “crime and costs associated with substance use disorders in Gloucester” and rebuilding “trust between the police and the community.”
The first annual report makes a very exciting statement, saying:
“Communities that have joined PAARI have observed as much as a 25% reduction in crimes associated with addiction, cost savings by diverting people into treatment rather than triggering the criminal justice system, as well as an enormous increase in trust from their communities.”
Participants in the program speak in heavy praise of its methods and compassion for those it exists to assist. Even insurance companies contribute to the progress in the direction of compassionate and effective change.
Without question, these numbers are a new hope to so many. Over 400 lives in just one area over a year may have been saved thanks to PAARI. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the point; to protect and to serve all lives? The hope is that more programs like this can shatter the stigma of addiction, while simultaneously bridging the gap between the disenfranchised and the established authority to create a community that is better and brighter for both sides.
Drugs and alcohol have torn apart too many communities. Now the time has come for better treatment options and more compassionate health care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, do not wait. Please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Social media and online networking are such a relevant aspect of our world today. With entire enterprises rising from online marketing, and children carrying smartphones, technology continues to be integrated into all areas of life by leaps and bounds. So with social media being utilized for basically every purpose, from personal to business, it is no surprise that some forward thinkers continue to find ways to put these all-encompassing outlets to good use.
Though stunning selfies full of filters, scenes of nature with inspiring quotes, and aesthetically perfect pictures of food dominate the Instagram app, the social media site isn’t void of some damaging content. Instagram is still used as a platform for some questionable photos, like pro-anorexia and pro-self-harm posts.
To fight back Instagram is now launching a new tool that allows users to issues. But they don’t stop there. The Instagram app also steps in to offer intervention options.
Instagram App VS Eating Disorders
The Instagram app already actively takes a stand on promoting positive mental health in some areas. It tried in 2012 to put a stop to pro-eating disorder posts. Often hashtags like #thinspiration and #ana are attached to these posts, so to prevent these tags from attracting admiration, the Instagram app tried to make these tags unsearchable. They also disabled accounts and added content advisories.
Some hashtags are banned completely, such as:
- #thinspo, short for the pro-anorexia phrase “thinspiration”
- #proana, another pro-anorexia phrase
Still, other potentially problematic tags fall into a gray area and are still allowed. The Instagram app had to witness the issue head-on when researchers examined 2.5 million posts between 2011 and 2014, also analyzing 15 pro-eating disorder hashtags that were banned or moderated. What they found was truly disheartening. For each banned/moderated hashtag, there was an average of 40 spin-off hashtags.
- #anorexia, as banned, there were 99 variations of the hashtag, such as- #anorexique or #anoexica
- #thighgap had variations of #thygap and #thigh gap
- #bulimia would be transformed into #bulimiah
According to the study, these variations even boasted more comments and more “likes” than the originals. So when the Instagram app tried to shut down the pro-eating disorder exploitation of their forum, users found loop-holes. Spin-off hashtags are also noted to exhibit a higher focus of self-harm related posts.
The Instagram app was trying to make a difference, but the fight evolved with their efforts. It is time to implement new strategies.
Now the Instagram app is putting some of the power to act in the hands of other users. Users can now anonymously flag posts about self-harm or other mental health issues, and Instagram will step in.
But Instagram isn’t militantly and automatically shutting down every post that gets flagged. Instead, the Instagram app is taking a compassionate and proactive approach. Once a picture is flagged, the user who put up the image will see a message offering help:
“Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”
Then, the app will offer to connect them with a helpline, assistance in talking to a friend or getting tips. If Instagram app users search any of those questionable tags, they’ll also be directed to the same support page.
Instagram developed the new tool in dexterity by uniting with a variety of resources, including:
- National Eating Disorders Association
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
They even reached out to real people who have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thoughts personally to come up with the most effective and compassionate message. Instagram COO Marne Levine said in a recent interview that,
“We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress. At the same time, we understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out,”
“These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.”
In this writer’s opinion, this is an awesome innovation. This doesn’t attack the individual making the post, but instead offers support and displays concern in a positive light. Not to say there is anything wrong with banning hashtags or other methods of regulating social media. This just seems like it does not isolate the individual as much, and instead shows someone who may be suffering care and kindness. Instead of silencing a cry for help or sweeping it under the rug, it puts a solution on the table.
This kind of intervention by the Instagram app not only tries to protect those who may be susceptible to the negative impact of these images, it also promotes mental health solutions through positive outreach.
Well done Instagram.
Eating disorders and other mental health disorders are often co-occurring with addiction or substance abuse. Understanding dual diagnosis and providing holistic treatment can be very essential for effective and lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please don’t wait. Call toll-free and find out how to get help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
The list of talented people who have struggled with addiction is incredibly long. It would take way too much time to list them all. Do creativity and addiction correlate with one another? Are creative individuals more likely to be addicts? That controversial question has been debated for decades.
For the most part, researchers have concluded that people whose abuse substances are not more creative or more successful as a result. Neuroscientist, David Linden of Johns Hopkins University, declared in an interview that there was not a connection between creativity and addiction. He stated that suggesting otherwise confuses coincidence with cause.
Addiction is a disease, not a shortcut to success. When looking at famous writers who were alcoholics, like Fitzgerald or Hemmingway, it is easy to assume that alcohol helped fuel their creative process. However, this is just a perception. Creativity does not stem from substance abuse, nor should substances be the source of your creativity.
Substance Abuse = Source of Creativity?
Dependence on drugs and alcohol should not be the source of your creativity. We should not glorify substance abuse as a means to creativity. In the book, “The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent and IQ,” author, David Shenk states extraordinary talent and achievement come from “the combined consequence of early exposure, exceptional instruction, constant practice, family nurturance, and a child’s intense will to learn.” Essentially, your creativity and intelligence come from your inner will to succeed along with the role models and guidance you have in your life. Behind every successful talent is a teacher, coach or motivator pushing them along.
The problem is highly creative people find their minds are overwhelmed with data streaming in and out of their consciousness. The average person has a cognitive filter that filters this information as a means to survival. The creative person, however, does not have this filter. Highly creative people let more of this data in their mind. Therefore, they need to process and organize the increased information flow in untypical ways.
Unfortunately, because creative people think outside of the box and look at the world differently, they look at rules differently. The term for this trait is cognitive disinhibition which an article describes as “the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival.”
The “rules are meant to be broken” mentality both produces creativity and creates destructiveness. Creativity can result in risky behavior. It is risky because creative people justify their creative behavior when they create while using substances.
“Mind Expanding” Substances
Famous artists were thought to be more brilliant because of their liberal use of “mind expanding substances.” However, time and time again, it has been proven that creative people are able to maintain their creativity without substances. Those in recovery find that their mind is clearer, making them more able to follow through on their natural creative impulses.
On the contrary, long-term substance abuse can permanently damage creativity. Extended drug use can affect the brain damaging it in ways that may not even be recoverable even after years of sobriety. Scary, isn’t it?
The first time a creative person abuses drugs or alcohol, they may find they can express themselves better. This may cause them to believe they “need” these substances to be creative. However, reactions like this are temporary. Also, creative people may be using substances to self-medicate mental health issues they have not addressed professionally.
Why Are Creativity and Addiction So Prevalent?
Now that we know there is not a direct link between substance abuse and creativity, why do so many creative geniuses deal with addiction? Most of this has to do with the genetics and traits that make someone predisposed to addiction. Those same traits are a prerequisite for creativity.
Studies reveal that 40 percent of addiction is genetically predetermined. While family history is no guarantee that someone will have a problem, there is a strong connection between the two. There are several genes involved in addiction risk. Experts have not identified them all, however, the ones we are currently aware of affect the release of the happy chemical dopamine.
Addicts tend to feel pleasure weaker than the average person. Because of this, addicts abuse substances in an attempt to achieve the same level of happiness that others feel natural. There may not be a direct link between drug addiction or mental illness and creativity, but science hints at a connection between substance abuse and traits that are a prerequisite for creativity. A low-functioning dopamine system can make a person more likely to misuse substance and engage in risk-taking, novelty-seeking compulsions.
This same low-functioning dopamine system relates to creativity. Individuals who have struggled with releasing happy chemicals their whole life may latch on to creative outlets like music, art, and writing to help re-generate that dopamine and process information better.
Overall, your risk for addiction is up to you. You have a choice to use healthier outlets to compensate for genetic factors that may put you at risk for substance abuse. Creativity should not have to be fueled by addiction. You have the ability to be a creative person without the use of drugs and alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to addiction and, especially recovery from addiction. One school is driven by the belief that complete abstinence from mood- and mind-altering substances is essential to recovery – the whole idea of “once an addict, always an addict. This is the foundation of such recovery programs as the 12-Step philosophy.
The other school of thought regarding recovery from drug addiction calls for what’s known as Harm Reduction strategies, such as clean needle exchanges and the use of medication.
As it stands, it seems that the approach to recovery is polarized with arguments that it can only be one way (abstinence) or the other (harm reduction i.e. allowing the use of certain drugs).
But it doesn’t have to be so black-and-white. If people could come together with the same mission: that of saving lives, then perhaps the whole opiate epidemic could be stopped in its tracks.
Here are 9 ways to fix the opioid addiction crisis.
#1. Make overdose reversal drugs accessible
Drugs like Naloxone can instantly reverse an opiate overdose, saving many lives. With the heroin epidemic in the north and Midwest, more and more first responders – such as EMTs and police officers, are carrying the drug. It should be made as widely available as possible.
#2. Good Samaritan laws
These laws, which are being accepted more widely, work to protect people from criminal prosecution when they call 911 because somebody is overdosing, leading to the saving of lives. This approach should be the law of the land, rather than only existing in some pockets of the country.
#3. Syringe exchange programs
As mentioned above, a tactic of the harm reduction movement is to provide clean needle exchange programs as well as safe injection sites. This might sound a bit too pro-drug use for some people but, when you consider that IV drug use is a public health concern, it should become clear that these types of programs and services can be a proactive way to approach the opioid addiction epidemic.
#4. Access to evidence-based addiction medicine interventions
This means making sure that all substance abusers seeking help have access to the evidence-based, addiction medicine interventions, referring to such programs as methadone maintenance and Suboxone maintenance. As it stands now, most people who are opioid-dependent are not receiving these kinds of treatment.
This approach is at odds with the abstinence approach of 12 step philosophy but, according to Mark Willenbring, MD., “The main deficiency of current actions to address opioid addiction is the lack of access to prompt, professional opioid maintenance treatment with buprenorphine or methadone. Opioid maintenance therapy is the only proven effective treatment for established opioid addiction, but government and mainstream healthcare organizations have not mobilized to make this life-saving and cost-effective treatment widely accessible and affordable.”
#5. Better training for physicians
Another of the 9 ways to fix the opioid addiction crisis is to improve training for physicians so that they become more adept at screening for, recognizing and treating addiction with the purpose of interrupting the development of an opiate addiction. In this way, the focus is on prevention.
#6. Nationwide Database
Making sure that all physicians with prescribing privileges have access to Prescription Monitoring Programs and that they use them. Although most states now have some type of electronic database that prescribers can consult prior to prescribing opiate painkillers, not all states make it a requirement that they do so.
#7. Make pills difficult to crush
Opioid pain medications should be made in such a way that they cannot be used in ways other than the ways they were intended or prescribed. As examples, we could stop approval of any new opioid painkillers that are not clearly safer than existing ones and remove from the market all high dose opioid analgesics that are easily crushed.
#8. Educate the public
Again, drug abuse and addiction is really a public health concern and thus the public needs to be educated about the risks of prescription pain medications. Young people, especially, begin their opiate drug use by harvesting these types of drugs from their parents’ and/or their grandparents’ medicine cabinets.
#9. Increased access to treatment
Lastly, and certainly of equal importance is that we need to make drug and alcohol treatment more easily accessible so that people suffering from opioid addiction, as with other forms of addiction, have access to the kind of evidence-based psychotherapy that is so conducive to ongoing recovery.
If you or someone you know is abusing prescription painkillers or has turned to heroin because it is a cheaper, more easily accessible form of opiate, help is available. It is important to reach out and call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. Opioid addiction all too often ends with fatal overdose. Please call today.
Eternal Sunshine of an Addicted Mind
When I came across an article on thefix.com called, “Erasing Your Traumas,” I was intrigued. I also immediately thought of the 2004 Oscar-winning movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The basic premise (don’t worry, no spoilers) is that there’s this procedure you can have done which will erase certain memories, and, in the case of our two main characters – played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, specifically those memories which were related to a relationship-gone-sour.
Although it might seem like a tempting thing to do, without experiences and memories of those experiences, how can we ever learn life’s lessons and grow?
So, I wonder…If you could erase your past, would you?
For many recovering addicts and alcoholics, revisiting their past “people, places, and things,” which remind them of their days spent in active addiction, brings on the strongest cravings. Research has shown that repeated exposure to these cues, known as ‘triggers’— and then not being able to use —may temporarily ease cravings, but the association eventually returns.
And, for the majority of addicts, cravings equal relapse – especially within their first year of sobriety.
“Dealing with cravings is a major obstacle to recovery,” says Michael Saladin of the Medical University of South Carolina, “so it’s a natural target” for treating addiction. Saladin is one of a few clinical researchers looking into ways to interrupt cravings on the molecular level, in other words, investigating ways to erase these emotional memories.
Erasing Memories in Theory
Considerable evidence exists showing the memory can be obstructed during the initial consolidation period, when a memory is being formed by the use of both drugs that block protein synthesis in the brain and electroconvulsive shock. These can disrupt the actual formation of memories. In the late 1990s, researchers began really looking into the process of reconsolidation, the term given to memories when they are re-activated (recalled) after they have been put into long-term storage.
In fact, recent research reveals that memories are actually able to be updated or changed during a short period of time, known as the “reconsolidation window” – after they have been recalled. The concept of the reconsolidation window has recently become of interest of specialists in the field of addiction treatment, as a way to interfere with—and possibly “erase”—craving-related memories attached to “people, places, things.”
Scientists have turned to drugs like propranolol, an FDA-approved beta-blocker that is used to treat hypertension and stage fright. It works by lowering levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which can also interfere with memory reconsolidation.
Researchers at UC Irvine, back in the late ‘90s, showed that propranolol could affect a memory’s emotional salience, meaning that, although it can’t erase a memory, it can make it less emotionally-charged. More recently, the drug’s application has been used in studies involving patients with PTSD; it might help trauma survivors to dissociate their emotional memory from triggers that remind them of their traumatic experience(s).
Saladin led a study that looked at treating cocaine addicts with propranolol during the reconsolidation window in order to reduce cravings and therefore relapse. The study’s results showed that it worked: subjects who received an injection of propranolol after being exposed to a trigger “had greatly reduced craving response to [subsequent] cues” when they were exposed to the following day, when compared to addicts receiving the placebo.
There are those who say that reducing fear memories could be effected by psychological means, instead of using drugs.
Opponents to the use of drugs for memory interruption and re-formation say that psychological intervention is something that can and should be focused on instead of using chemical interventions, such as propranolol. They point to messy data that has mostly been conducted on rodents and not humans. Importantly, memory reconsolidation is a natural process, one that’s happening whether or not we manipulate memories in the lab. “This is how your brain works,” she says. “The purpose of reconsolidation is to strengthen memories over time, and the second may be to update memories with new information at the time of memory retrieval—by understanding [this], we can take advantage of that [process].”
Have you found it difficult to stay away from triggers, such as people, places, and things? Does everything seem to kick off your cravings? Have you recently relapsed? Treatment can offer you new ways of coping and give you the tools to stay clean and sober. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.