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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Dug and Heidi McGuirk answer “Should I Drink in Front of My Loved One in Recovery?”
Author: Shernide Delva
Dug and Heidi McGuirk, who run the Revolutionary Family program for Palm Healthcare, recently answered, “Should I drink in front of my loved one in recovery?” in their latest video. This question was submitted by a parent with a son in recovery.
My husband and I love craft beers and he’s making a wine right now at home and while we don’t drink around our son or mention it, we were wondering if he moves back to town, although he won’t be living with us, does that mean we have to stop drinking for his sobriety, or just not drink around him? It seems strange to pretend that we have given up drinking. I also ask because when we were visiting, my dad drank right in front of him, and he didn’t say anything, but I was nervous since he’s still new to recovery. I thought other parents might have the same question. I don’t want to treat him differently than any others, but I also don’t want to hurt his sobriety.
This is a common question that many parents and loved one’s of addicts ask especially in the early stages of recovery.
To start off, Dug McGuirk answers that it is important to have an initial awareness of your behaviors around your recovering loved one.
“My initial thoughts are that it’s great that you’re considering it, that you’re being aware, and you have some sensory acuity,” Dug McGuirk affirms. “It’s also fantastic that right now, in early recovery, you’re not necessary drinking in front of him, that’s probably fine. That’s a great decision if you believe in it.”
Still, it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for your loved one relapsing. Your loved one can still relapse regardless of whether you have alcohol around the house or not. Alcohol is everywhere, and eventually, they are going to have to deal with that reality.
“At some point, he’s going to be exposed to alcohol, so what are you going to do? Be co-dependent?” Dug McGuirk asks.
“Being exposed to stimulus doesn’t necessarily make somebody drink,” Heidi McGuirk says. “Your loved one is going to be exposed to the stimulus all the time, and that’s part of life.”
“You could go your whole life and not drink a drop of alcohol in front of somebody, or not have any alcohol in the home around them and they still could relapse,” Heidi McGuirk continues.
Decide What You Believe In:
Ultimately, Heidi McGuirk says it comes down to doing what you believe in. It is important to keep that in mind when making these types of decisions.
“Everybody’s going to be different,” she says. “Don’t do what you think is going to keep somebody sober. Do what you believe in instead.”
You may decide that not drinking around your loved one is a small sacrifice to make. That decision may give you some peace of mind when they are around. You have to determine that for yourself depending on the circumstances.
For Heidi McGuirk, she says if her father, who wrestled with addiction, were still alive, she likely would not feel comfortable drinking around him.
“If he were still here and he was still in recovery, we would not have alcohol around him. I just– I don’t believe in that. I wouldn’t want that for him,” she admits. “Me, not drinking anyway, it’s irrelevant, but if he were staying in my house, I would just do what I believe in. which is not having any alcohol around.”
Heidi McGuirk says her decision would come from a loving place. She compares it to the way she would behave around someone struggling with managing their weight.
“Just for the same reason that if I knew somebody who was managing their weight and they had a gastric bypass, I wouldn’t sit down to a four-course meal of desserts in front of them because I would find them kind of rude, but that’s me! Could I be a little codependent there? Probably. But that’s how I love,“ she explains.
Everyone is Different:
Heidi McGuirk explains how these decisions may simply come from a place of love for your addicted loved one. However, it also good to note how your loved one feels about it. They may feel offended by your decision to not drink or have alcohol around.
“In my own life, I wouldn’t want for one second for somebody not to drink around me,” she admits. “I have lots of friends, lots of family, who drink in front of me all the time, and I don’t take offense to it, and I wouldn’t want them to change their lifestyle. So again, it’s not about keeping somebody sober, it’s finding what you believe in and then practicing what you believe in from a place of your heart versus your mind on what you think is going to keep somebody well.”
“The simple answer is that whether you drink or not is not going to make someone relapse,” Dug McGuirk says. “Cause if someone relapses, it has nothing to do with what they’re exposed to. It has everything to do with: Are they working their recovery?”
Insights From My Relationship
Personally, I related to this question a lot, and agree with the answer Dug and Heidi McGuirk gave. My boyfriend was five years sober when we first got together nearly two years ago. However, I am not in recovery from drugs or alcohol. In the beginning of the relationship, I wanted to ensure he was okay with seeing me consume alcohol.
It turns out; drinking in front of my boyfriend did not bother him at all. In fact, he felt more comfortable when I did not alter my behavior due to his recovery. However, his drug of choice was never alcohol, so drinking was never a trigger for him to begin with.
If needed, I would have abstained from alcohol while he was around, simply from a place of love. Fortunately, I never needed to make that decision. As you can see, these situations really vary from person to person.
Still, whether or not to drink in front of a loved one is a multifaceted question. Communication is essential. In early recovery, drinking or having alcohol around the house might not be a good idea. Later on, it may become less of an issue. Overall, if you have any uncertainty about your loved one’s sobriety, please reach out. We can help. Call now.
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
We know how devastatingly common alcohol-related car accidents are, but what about drug-related accidents? Turns out, drug-related accidents are becoming more common than those involving alcohol.
For the first time, drug use is topping booze in fatal U.S crashes. Recent U.S data reveals that drivers killed in crashes were more likely to be on drugs than drunk. Furthermore, marijuana was involved in more than a third of fatal accidents in 2015, according to a study released on Wednesday.
Among driver fatalities, 36.5 percent used marijuana followed by amphetamines at 9.3 percent, the study confirms. The study was based on the most recent U.S state data reported to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA)
“People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability,” said Jim Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who wrote the report. “If you’re on a drug that does so, you shouldn’t be driving.”
The study included any substance that can impair driving including:
In 2013, alcohol and drug traffic fatalities were at about 40 percent, with alcohol slightly higher, stated Hedlund.
Since 2005, the drug fatality levels have risen steadily. Before 2005, alcohol was detected in 41 percent of traffic deaths and drugs in 28 percent. Hedlund said he was unable to find a direct link between the increased U.S. drug users, such as the opioid epidemic, to the rise in drugged drivers.
The number of U.S. deaths from opioids has massively quadrupled since 1999, with more than 33, 000 deaths in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Palm Beach County, a recent report from medical examiners stated a person died from an overdose fatality every 15 hours.
The increase in drug-related driving fatalities also coincides with marijuana legalization. In the United States, 29 out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia allow medical or recreational marijuana use. The reports state that marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado increased by 28 percent after the state legalized recreational use of the drug.
However, Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, questions the correlation. Because marijuana can linger in the body for weeks, a driver might not actually be intoxicated when being tested, he said.
“I think you really need to take these kind of analyses with a pinch of salt,” he said in a phone interview with U.S. News
The report cautions that the data varies widely on how many drivers are tested and how they were tested.
What the Future Holds
Overall, the study brings up some important points. With the opioid epidemic hitting tragic numbers, and marijuana legalization increasing throughout the states, it is likely that drivers will have more than booze in their system.
Therefore, driving under the influence encompasses a lot more than just alcohol. Mixing alcohol with other substances is a major concern as this further impairs a person’s ability to drive. It also increases the risk of an accident and not only puts the driver at risk but also other drivers on the road. What do you believe should be done about this?
Driving under the influence of any major drug is a huge no-no. Please reach out for help if you are having trouble controlling your substance use. Do not wait. You are not alone. Call now. We want to 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 opioid epidemic is a complicated manner with a myriad of potential plans of action. Throughout the country, different strategies are being implemented to reduce the number of deaths
Florida Governor Rick Scott believes community workshops are a part of the solution. Palm Beach County will be the first of four counties next month to host community workshops as part of Governor Scott’s plan to combat the opioid crisis.
The first “community workshop” is set for May 1, according to the Department of children and families.
Monday, May 1, 2017 – 15:00 to 16:30
West Palm Beach Police Department Community Room
West Palm Beach Florida 33401
Two counties will also have the workshops on May 2—Manatee and Orange counties and Duval County’s workshop will be May 3.
Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the workshops on Tuesday. The state Department of Health and the Florida Development of Law Enforcement will host the conferences, and believe the conferences are a good step moving forward.
“Similar to many communities across the nation, Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval, and Orange counties are facing an increase in opioid-related deaths,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in an email sent to local officials.
“Community workshops will provide important opportunities for DCF, DOH, and FDLE to directly hear the specific needs of affected communities as well as provide information on existing resources, best practices, and grant opportunities.”
Will These Workshops Help Fight Opioid Epidemic?
The opioid epidemic in Florida has reached number unheard of in previous years. The main cause for the increase in overdose deaths is related to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is nearly 50 times stronger than heroin, while carfentanil—another controlled substance— is strong enough to tranquilize an elephant!
These powerful opioids get cut into the heroin supply tremendously increasing the risk of overdose fatalities. A recent report stated every 15 hours; someone dies from an opioid overdose in Florida. This does not include drug overdoses from alcohol or other non-opioid drugs.
Governor Rick Scott says the issue is personal for him.
“I had a family member dealing with drug abuse and he struggled with drug abuse his entire life, and I can tell you wish I had known exactly what to do for him,” said Scott.
“I can just tell you it was devastating. His life has been devastated, and it also had a dramatic impact on my mom’s life. And, she died a few years ago, and I can tell you what bothered her the most is that she could not change my brother’s life.”
In addition to contributing to reducing heroin abuse, Gov. Rick Scott says he is eager to hosting community workshops across the state. Law enforcement agencies are also contributing to the effort.
Scott stated in a news conference that he is directing these state organizations to hold workshops:
- Florida Department of Children and Families
- Department of Health
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
If you are in Palm Beach, Duval, Manatee or Orange country, please check with your local agency on the location and time for the next workshop.
Do you think these workshops will be effective in generating ideas on how to fight the opioid epidemic? Clearly, it is a complex problem with a myriad of solutions. Furthermore, if you are struggling, we have professionals waiting to guide you. Do not wait. Call toll-free today.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Every once in a while there is that daunting cliché you may hear in the recovery community; that relapse is a part of recovery. It may come from someone who has experienced a relapse themselves, or it may come from someone trying to reassure an individual who has relapsed that they still have a place in recovery. It is never meant to be harmful or frightening. In fact it is typically a phrase used to comfort people who have tried to get clean and sober but sadly found themselves again using substances.
It is an idea used to remind those who slip and fall on the path to recovery that they are still in the fight; that they still have a chance. A lot of people do experience relapse in their journey to get off drugs or alcohol. So, is it true? Is relapse a part of recovery?
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: What is Relapse?
When looking at the basic definition or relapse, we can break it down a little to show some depth.
- In general – a relapse is to suffer deterioration after a period of improvement.
- In medicine– relapse, also referred to as recidivism,is a return of a past condition.
- With the context of drug use (yes, including alcohol) – relapse is a reinstatement of drug use and drug-seeking behavior. It is the recurrence of pathological drug use after a period of
So the common thread here is that a relapse is when someone:
- Is able to start a period of improvement…
- Is healing from a previous condition…
- Has a period of abstinence… THEN… they use drugs or drink, which ends their period of abstinence and they fall back into drug-seeking behavior and using; activating their condition which can undo their overall improvement.
While some people might have a drink or take a pill and call it a “slip” it is essentially a relapse. Some would say having “recovery” means making improvements to behavior beyond just abstinence, so they might say the real relapse actually starts before you even use drugs; when your behavior regresses to the old destructive or compulsive patterns.
Whether you believe the relapse is the behavior or the actual physical manifestation while getting high, it may determine what your views are on the question is relapse a part of recovery.
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: What is Recovery?
Before we have discussed that some people will define recovery differently. We will note that in general, recovery is:
- a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administraion (SAMHSA) there are 12 “Guiding Principles of Recovery” stating recovery:
- There are many pathways to recovery
- Is self-directed and empowering
- Involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation
- Recovery is holistic
- Has cultural dimensions
- Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness
- It’s supported by peers and allies
- Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude
- Involves a process of healing and self-redefinition
- Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma
- It involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community
- Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen
All these definitions emphasize the fact that recovery is about healing, and some even concede that there are many paths to recovery and many different beliefs around how people can successfully recover. Now some people may not like it, but hear me out.
Relapse is not a part of recovery.
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: Why Not?
Now before anyone gets upset and drops a few choice words in the comments, let me explain.
This answer isn’t so black and white. It is just one way to look at the question and try to answer in a supportive and logical way. Because when we say “is relapse a part of recovery” we are not asking about the general concept of recovery as a whole, but about the definition, and specifically the requirements for “recovery”.
To elaborate; relapse is an option. Relapse is a reality many of us face. I have been sober over 3 years myself… after I had a relapse. My opinion is not meant to exclude people who have relapsed. I do not intend to say they weren’t in recovery. I don’t intend to say they aren’t recovering now. What I am saying is that relapse is not a requirement for recovery. While it may be a part of my recovery, it is not a defining feature of recovery. Recovery can exist without relapse.
Let’s say I have a car. If the car has a sun-roof, then of course the sun-roof is a part of that car. It adds a new element to the experience that not every car has… but if the car doesn’t have the sun-roof… does that make it any less of a car? Is the car considered incomplete without it? Some cars come with accessories and features that not all cars have, while having wheels and a gas pedal is a standard. And that is what this whole conversation is about; setting standards.
A relapse is a similar concept. Plenty of people in the world of recovery from drugs and alcohol have never relapsed. Hopefully they never will. They are recovering the same as the man or woman who has relapsed countless times.
Is Relapse a Part of Recovery: Make it Count
The point of all this is to put forth the idea that maybe we shouldn’t put forth the idea that relapse is part of the recovery process. Surely it is a possibility for everyone, and surely some will consider a relapse one of the most critical moments in their recovery, but that does not mean people should minimalize or “normalize” the idea that relapses are the standard.
Setting higher standards is crucial to lasting change. We don’t want to kick anyone while they are down or fault them for their relapse(s)… however we also don’t want someone who has never tried to get clean before thinking they are going to relapse because it is “part of the plan” and everyone is doing it.
This is especially important because a lot of people have died because of relapsing after periods of abstinence. When the body goes without such potent drugs for longer periods the body is no longer as tolerant to them, and when people relapse and don’t realize their threshold has dropped they often overdose and die. If we let people assume they will have to relapse eventually in order to really get it right, they might never get the chance to get it right again.
We should stop telling people relapse is part of recovery. We should continue to tell them there is recovery after a relapse, but once you stop you never have to start again.
Have you completed treatment but went back to using drugs and alcohol? Have you relapsed more than once, maybe even been labelled a “chronic relapser?” If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135