Author: Justin McKibben
Some believe that in order to combat addiction, there is a far greater solution than what has been seen in the past of punishment. Many believe you should build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world, because that is more likely to inspire them to abandon their addictions and change their lives.
Almost 15 years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. Reportedly 1% of the population was addicted to heroin. That may not seem like a big average, but were are talking 1% of a whole country. Over the years, Portugal made every attempt to combat the mounting heroin epidemic, including throwing mounds of money at the problem trying to enforce their drug policy.
A New Tactic: Portugal Setting Example by Putting Addicts in Therapy Not Jail
Portugal’s war on drugs failed time and time again. The epidemic continued to thrive, and ultimately the people were left with an increasing number of users. Then Joao Figueira, a top drug cop in Portugal warned in 2000 that more crime would be reflected by more addicts, and he began to drive for a fundamentally different methodology.
Finally Portugal’s government made a drastic move and decriminalized all drugs. The government resolved to transfer all the money they had been wasting on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spent it instead on reconnecting them to themselves and the world. Instead of incarceration addicts were given the opportunity to experience various ways to bond together and to care for one another.
Definitely one of the most important realizations they had come to in this process of reform was that the aspect of an individual’s environment is essential to their growth, and so their plan was to give addicts secure housing and subsidized jobs. One group of addicts was even given a loan to set up a removals firm, which seemed to suddenly bonded the group, to each other and to the society.
This action provided recovering addicts with a purpose in their lives, and the idea was to create some motivation to put down the needle, alongside the offered treatment programs.
How’s It Working Out?
So far the result of this dramatic shift in the way Portugal addresses the issue of drug abuse and addiction has been an exceptionally positive impact. According to a study conducted by the British Journal of Criminology, researchers discovered that Portugal’s drug problem and addiction epidemic has decreased nearly 50%!
Levels of drug consumption in Portugal are now among the lowest in the European Union, and decriminalizing low-level drug possession has created a dramatic decline in drug arrests:
- From more than 14,000 per year to approximately 6,000
The percentage of drug-related offenders in Portuguese prisons decreased as well:
- From 44% in 1999 to under 21% in 2012.
HIV infection is an area where the results are clear. Before the law, more than half of Portugal’s HIV-infected residents were drug addicts. Each year brought 3,000 new diagnoses of HIV among addicts. Today, addicts consist of only 20 percent of HIV-infected patients.
That is an incredible difference that was achieved once the country started treating their addicts instead of punishing and imprisoning them. In fact, the initiative has been such a success that according to sources very few citizens even have a desire to return to the old system.
With the new wave of reforms, especially after the midterm elections last November, the decriminalization of marijuana in America either medical marijuana or else recreational has already begun. Let us not get ahead of ourselves though, because the complete decriminalization of all drugs is probably not something that will happen anytime soon in America. That being said, adopting the same attitude of offering greater care and support towards addicts would absolutely be a tremendous change that could make a very real impact on the drug using population.
President Obama has already spoken up about changing out drug policy for nonviolent drug users, and many have stood in support of that. In fact in April of 2014 a poll revealed some surprising statsitics about the way our countries focus is shifting in relation to drug policies. According to that survey:
- 2 out of 3 Americans believe people shouldn’t be prosecuted for drug possession
- 63% support eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing
- 54% support full marijuana legalization
With the speculation that the times are a-changing and 2015 is suspected to be a big year for harm reduction strategies, we may begin to see more and more done to eliminate the stigma associated with drug addiction, and see more efforts made to treat addicts, and not punish them.
Laws are being reformed, drug policies are being revisited and the focus is being shifted from an arduous and combative strategy to one build on the idea of supporting those who struggle and providing effective and educational treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
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.
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.
The disease of Alcoholism/Addiction is one that is cunning, baffling and powerful. It is frequently described as the only allergy that deliberately tricks you into thinking you don’t have it, and causes you to crave more of the substance that is hurting you. In the end it is not up to anyone to diagnose you as a “Real Deal” alcoholic/addict (according to 12 Step fellowships) except you. There are ways you can diagnose yourself. These are, in my own experience, a few ways to see if you can identify yourself as the “Real Deal”.
- Do You Crave The Substance
One obvious effect of excessive drug use and/or drinking is the physical withdrawal, but the craving acquired in the “Real Deal” is a different type of abnormality. It is a crippling that occurs when a “Real Deal” takes the first drink or drug, and has no control over the obsession to use or drink more, and have no control over how much they take in. If 9 out of 10 people have a certain reaction to something and 1 out of 10 people have a different reaction, then the reaction of the 1 out of 10 is defined as abnormal. The effect of using alcohol or drugs on a “Real Deal” is a manifestation of the allergy described. It is explained in 12 Step literatures that the phenomenon of craving is exclusive to this class and NEVER occurs in the average drinker/drug user, and that these allergic types who develop the craving can NEVER safely use any form of drugs or alcohol.
- Do You Find Life Unmanageable (With or Without The Substance)
The first part of a program of action includes identifying the issues created in your life by your condition as an alcoholic and/or addict. One clear symptom of a “Real Deal” can be how nearly every aspect of life seems intolerable or incomplete, with or without the drink or drug. In my experience in recovery if I cannot accept the people and circumstances of my life as they are, and I cannot find any peace or happiness in life, I am living in the sickness and not in the solution. It won’t even matter how drunk or high I get, I can find no peace or freedom in my life and I try drinking and using to block out the pain of my unmanageability.
- Do You Take Serious Risks For The Substance
There have been plenty of times in my personal experience where consequences related to my health, both mental and physical, were presented to me due to my using and drinking. I have been a breath away from death, lost all sorts of sanity, and hurt a lot of loved ones with my active alcoholism/addiction. A “Real Deal” can be presented with situations that put their health, family, security, and sanity at risk if they do not stop drinking and/or using drugs and still they do not stop. Even when they want to stop for a sufficient reason, they cannot. They will use/drink themselves back into hospitals, out of homes, jobs, and relationships, or even to death.
- You Cannot Give It Up On Your Own
“Real Deal” alcoholics and addicts are typically incapable of doing this at all. Any time you find yourself unable to stay abstinent from a substance, it is a pretty good indication you are in the grips of a serious illness. Moderate or even hard drinkers/drug users can still stop when they want to or need to. They can remain clean for extended periods of time without using drugs or drinking and are able to cope with life, and maybe moderate again safely. The “Real Deal” cannot do this. It is suggested in most 12 Step Programs if you truly want to test yourself, try to remain abstinent for up to 1 year. It will become very clear in short enough time, and if this is not possible for you it’s probably safe to assume you are a “Real Deal” and it will take a lot of work, and some outside influence to protect you from the allergy of alcoholism/addiction.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
As an alcoholic (and addict), I am one of those all-or-nothing, black-and-white-no-shades-of-grey types. But, when I first came to the rooms, I thought, “There’s gotta be a way that I can moderate my drinking.” After all, plenty of other (normal types) can do it – no problem. Even before I realized I had a drinking problem, I had heard about alcoholics who, after some time abstaining from the drink, could go back to drinking socially. I was determined to be like them.
So, when things got really bad while I was out there drinking and using, I finally decided to get help. Yet, I always had that reservation that someday I could drink again. When I got to the rooms, however, I heard people talking about how they couldn’t drink or use anything lest it lead them back down that road of addiction, through the floor of their last ‘bottom,’ and down into an even deeper, darker place. They were saying complete abstinence was the key. And I was determined to prove them wrong. I’ll tell you how this alcoholic learned to moderate.
The kind of moderation I learned is probably not what you’re thinking, however. I am clean and sober today from mood- and mind-altering substances but, as a recovering alcoholic, I have to practice moderation with everything else because, let’s face it, we alcoholic/addict types like to overdo things…amirite?
Before getting acquainted with a program of recovery, I used everything (not just alcohol and other drugs) – food, relationships, sex, work, exercise – to try to feel better about myself and be comfortable in my own skin. And none of it worked. Once I began my process of recovery, I got to take a look at those behaviors – and the obsessive thoughts that accompanied them – and that’s when I knew – I really knew that I could never drink or drug again because there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to substances.
When it comes to all the other things in life – the things that are important for living and thriving, such as food, exercise, and well, sex – I need to figure out how to moderate because I can’t abstain completely from them.
Being conservative with my food intake is one area that takes a lot of tool-using. I have a tendency to eat emotionally, that is, when I want to avoid my feelings. I might eat because I’m happy or because I’m stressed or upset. It’s hard for me to understand the concept of food as fuel rather than food as reward. What supports me is practicing mindful eating: making healthy choices and planning meals ahead of time so that I don’t give in to temptation for the fatty and fried foods. I also practice yoga and meditation, both of which help me in being self-aware and mindful.
Moderating exercise isn’t as difficult for me because, quite simply, I don’t like to exercise. I do it, though, because it supports me in my recovery. For one, it helps to manage PAWS symptoms when they crop up by relieving and releasing stress. I feel better physically and mentally by working out. For some, however, the good feelings they get from exercising might have them over-exercising, which is a real thing. Just like before, when it came to substances, we can become obsessive and compulsive when it comes to working out. Practicing moderation with our exercise routine is just as important as with anything else.
Finally, when it comes to work, relationships, and sex, it’s all about moderation. I have become much better at being aware of what drives me when I notice that I’m seeking something out. Talking about it with my therapist as well as sober supports and sharing in meetings helps me. And again, I get a lot from my yoga and meditation practices. Basically, these activities help me with getting in touch with my Higher Power as well as my intuition. Feeling a close connection to my spirituality helps me tremendously in learning and practicing moderation.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Being the alcoholic I am, I know for certain that I can’t drink safely and I have all the experience in the world to back that statement up. It is funny though my mind will still try to tell me sometimes that maybe I could learn to drink safely, but then I just look at my past and see that I have nothing to base that on. There is nothing in my drinking that tells me I would be able to drink safely. And thank God for that.
Not everyone feels like me though. According to a program called moderation management you can learn to drink safely, just as long as you aren’t an alcoholic. And that is probably the scariest thing about this program; no alcoholic really believes they are; initially.
So what is the program moderation management?
Moderation management is a recovery program and national support group founded by Audrey Kishline, for people who want to reduce their drinking and make other positive lifestyle changes. Moderation management makes itself very clear that it is a program not for alcoholics nor is it for chronic drinkers or anyone trying to stay abstinent.
Moderation management is a program for problem drinkers who have experienced some light consequences to their drinking. Moderation management program even goes into detail about what a moderate drinker is:
- Considers an occasional drink to be a small, though enjoyable, part of life.
- Has hobbies, interests, and other ways to relax and enjoy life that do not involve alcohol.
- Usually has friends who are moderate drinkers or nondrinkers.
- Generally has something to eat before, during, or soon after drinking.
- Usually does not drink for longer than an hour or two on any particular occasion.
- Usually does not drink faster than one drink per half-hour.
- Usually does not exceed the .055% BAC moderate drinking limit.
- Feels comfortable with his or her use of alcohol (never drinks secretly and does not spend a lot of time thinking about drinking or planning to drink).
Moderation management even has “steps”; nine of them.
1. Attend meetings or on-line groups and learn about the program of Moderation Management.
2. Abstain from alcoholic beverages for 30 days and complete steps three through six during this time.
3. Examine how drinking has affected your life.
4. Write down your life priorities.
5. Take a look at how much, how often, and under what circumstances you had been drinking.
6. Learn the MM guidelines and limits for moderate drinking.
7. Set moderate drinking limits and start weekly “small steps” toward balance and moderation in other areas of your life.
8. Review your progress and update your goals.
9. Continue to make positive lifestyle changes and attend meetings whenever you need ongoing support or would like to help newcomers.
But here is the big question: Can you learn to drink safely with moderation management?
Let’s look at the Audrey Kishline’s story for the answer to that one because she is the founder and attempted moderation and drinking “safely”.
Audrey Kishline found alcohol when she was 16. Alcohol became a problem for her pretty quickly. And as a young woman later on, getting ready to get married she decided to herself into a treatment center. In her interview with Dateline NBC here is what she had to say about her experience in rehab:
“Course after I had been there for about a month I said, “There’s no way I’m as bad as these people. They’ve lost their homes, their jobs, their this, and their that. I’m not that bad. I’ve been mislabeled.”
She checked out of rehab after a month long stay and stayed sober; but not for long. After about two or three months she started secretly drinking. For the next few years this is what she did; she secretly drank. She was married now and her husband would be away on business trips so it was easy. She had two kids Lindsay and Samuel and that was when she got a “handle” on the booze.
And, here’s where my experiment with this told me in my mind then, “I’m no alcoholic. I could quit drinking through the pregnancies. I could drink when he was gone and not get hung over. I could control it.”
She still thought she needed to cut down even though she was controlling and this is when she decided to create a support group for people she believed were just like her: problem drinkers who just needed to reduce their drinking. She called it “MM” for moderation management.
So how does the story end?
Moderation management got a lot of press and groups started popping up. But for Audrey things didn’t look so good. Audrey’s story ends with another bout in detox and soon after getting out, driving drunk and killing a 12 year old girl and her dad on their way to mom’s house, while she was driving the wrong way down the freeway in Washington State. She went to jail for three and a half years after pleading guilty. She lost her marriage. Got out on parole and drank again and ended up back in jail for another 42 days. She now lives alone in Portland, Oregon. And when asked now if she believes a person can be a moderate controlled drinker here is what she had to say:
“As long as they’re not truly an alcoholic.”
The Belief in Moderation within Rehabs
There is one treatment center that opened up about learning to moderate to The Fix that believes in teaching moderation to its clients. In fact some of the practices in the rehab may stun you. They take you to a bar, and sit with you while you have a drink. Of course there’s more to it than that. In the initial abstinence phase, the doctor does “exposure work” with each client—the techniques of which come from methods used to combat anxiety or phobias. This means exposing the client to progressively more and more realistic representations of things which are troubling to them. An example of this exposure therapy explained in an article by The Fix talks about a young girl Erin.
“For Erin, who liked to smoke heroin in her car, that meant Dr. Jaffe going with her to her car, bringing tin foil with him, and sitting in the vehicle and having her handle the foil. They discussed the feelings that arose, to aid in the extinction process of associating her car with smoking dope. Later, Jaffe and Erin went to her home and repeated the exercise.”
Now whether or not this works, I have no idea. I know for myself I wouldn’t want to find out.
So can you learn to drink safely? In my opinion. . .
I believe that if you have to learn how to drink safely your best bet is probably not to drink at all. Someone who isn’t an alcoholic, in my own personal opinion, doesn’t need to “learn” how to drink, it either is or isn’t a problem for them and if it is a problem they don’t need a program to cut it out. And to me the fact that moderation management was basically created by someone who couldn’t moderate says a lot about the success of such a program.
If you aren’t an alcoholic you don’t need a moderation management program and if you are an alcoholic then you can’t moderate as much as you wish you could. Learning to moderate, once again in my opinion, is only an idea someone who should probably be abstinent would come up with. In my mind; you can’t learn to drink safely. You either do or you don’t. But then again what do I know about alcohol? My perception on it is definitely skewed in some manner that is part of what makes me what I am, and I am an alcoholic.
If you or someone you know is in need of alcohol abuse treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.