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Ethan “Affluenza Defense” Couch Sentenced to 2 Years

Ethan “Affluenza Defense” Couch Sentenced to 2 Years

Author: Justin Mckibben

On a few separate occasions we have touch on the ridiculous story of Ethan Couch, the 19-year-old teen who drove drunk back in June of 2013 and caused an accident that killed 4 people, and his infamous Affluenza Defense presented by his attorneys. Couch’s drunk-driving case sparked national outrage after his affluenza defense was actually successful in his initial court case, and the spectacle made some serious headlines.

Wednesday the country was in a new uproar as Ethan “Affluenza Defense” Couch was ordered by a judge to spend the next two years in a county jail for violating the terms of his probation.

4 Terms of Imprisonment

Early news reports explained that State District Judge Wayne Salvant imposed four consecutive 180-day jail terms on Couch for his probation violations; one term for each of the four people who lost their lives when Couch recklessly drove drunk years ago and “almost” got away with it.

Although, even though he was a minor (16 years old at the time of the accident) a lot of people felt like he had pretty much got away with killing four people after he was originally only sentenced to 10 years’ probation. He was also sent to an isolated home near Newport Beach, CA for intensive therapy, which people felt even more upset about because his punishment seemed more like a vacation.

Breanna Mitchell, Brian Jennings, and Holly and Shelby Boyles were all run down by the teen that was discovered to have Valium and a high level of alcohol in his blood. The prosecutors trying to charge the teen with the deaths wanted the boy to be sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he received 10 years of probation with the affluenza defense.

What is the “Affluenza Defense?”

The term “affluenza” was made popular in the late 1990s by Jessie O’Neill who wrote the book “The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence.”

Since giving life to the word, it has been used to describe a condition in which children (typically from richer families) grow up with a sense of privilege that makes them experience other hindrances such as:

  • Being irresponsible
  • Making justifications for poor behavior
  • Experiment in drugs and alcohol

Just reading this makes me outraged! It is absolutely astonishing and downright offensive that the affluenza defense even exists!

Basically, to my understanding, this is saying that Ethan Couch should be let off the hook because he has been so predisposed to getting his way and being over-privileged that he just didn’t know any better and has a tough time understanding why the rules apply to him…

Awwwwe, the poor little guy!

I want to see a case where a kid from a place like where I grew up is acquitted of murdering four people with a vehicle because of the “Section 8 Defense”- because he is so poor and ill-equipped to live. We make excuses and let the rich kid get away with multiple homicides because he was too rich NOT to try drugs, but the kids who grow up in drug-dealing neighborhoods should be held to higher standards?

Don’t get me wrong- he was only 13 and should not spend the rest of his life in prison for something he can’t comprehend, but if we are going to start argue in his defense it should not be on the grounds that he’s just too spoiled and we have to let it slide.

Couch squandered his opportunity to avoid jail time and his probation was violated after a video of him playing an underage game of beer-pong surfaced online last December. Judge Salvant gave Couch’s diabolical defense team two weeks to gather evidence for a possible reconsideration of his sentence, and he told Couch outright,

“You’re not getting out of jail today.”

This recent appearance marked the first time Ethan Couch was in an adult court since his case was transferred out of the juvenile system after he turned 19 earlier this week.

While the affluenza defense may be a pretty good indication Ethan Couch could use some treatment and therapy, most people still feel like some real-life repercussions for his completely unconscionable and ultimately lethal actions should be imposed. Some are just content to see him serving any time for what he has done. Two years may not do justice to the deaths of four innocent people, but it’s a start and maybe it will teach Couch something.

Sometimes it takes something terrible to happen before people will make the choice that changes everything, but it doesn’t have to be like that. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.

Should Convicted Drug Dealers Be Denied Welfare Forever?

 there is already a lot being done in defense of nonviolent drug offenders to reform the way we reprimand them.

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

Author: Justin Mckibben

Drug dealing is not as glorified or malicious as it often seems made out to be in music videos and movies, and the stereotypical drug dealer archetype is not always what you see when you have actually been there and done that.

I sold some drugs in my day, and some of my main suppliers were suburban house moms often supporting a few children close to my age at the time. That is the opposite of what stigma will tell you, and while it does not matter how different our race or age or upbringings were, we faced a lot of the same struggles, including addiction.

Taking all this into account, along with several other elements I will get into later, the idea of denying all convicted drug dealers access to welfare benefits on top of their prison sentencing seems a little intense… and a little unconscionable. There is already a lot being done in defense of nonviolent drug offenders to reform the way the system reprimands them, yet it appears some politicians feel it is necessary to deny welfare to convicted drug dealers, and they may soon make it a law.

Yes. This is probably my next ‘flag ship article’ in the war against addiction stigma. Shall we?

Looking at the Legislation

Republican State Representative Mike Regan sponsored this new legislation in Pennsylvania designed to make it so individuals convicted of drug distribution crimes would be restricted from qualifying for welfare… indefinitely!

Now this isn’t for every drug offense. Drug dealers convicted of felony offenses are the primary target, while summary or misdemeanor crimes would not constitute the same restrictions.

Mr. Regan said.

“This legislation, I’m not trying to be hardhearted. I’m trying to preserve the funds that are not infinite for those that are truly in need.”

Some are worried the qualifying amount of drugs is low; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) notes that if you sell 2 pounds of marijuana it constitutes a felony with incarceration of up to a year and a $5,000 fine.

2 pounds is a lot, but to anyone who has seen 2 pounds of marijuana in real life they know it doesn’t exactly put you at Escobar levels. It is definitely enough to assume you are a dealer, but I’ve known high school kids to keep more than that in their mom’s basement.

When taking a closer look this is not necessarily a huge step from what the current policy already is, which many insist is enough to deter people from taking advantage of the system. The Department of Human Services already requires welfare seekers who have been convicted of drug felony charges to comply with drug testing to be eligible for these benefits. Florida Governor Rick Scott had tried to implement a similar restriction, but eventually gave it up for results that did not justify its budget.

Regan did say he is not opposed to amending his proposal. Replacing the lifetime ban from welfare assistance with a 15-20 year ban is not completely off the table, and other negotiation can probably be made before signing it into law.

The debate is coming to a head sooner than later, since the bill already passed the House Health Committee with bipartisan support. Now, the Republican Party is hoping for a victory as the bill heads to the House floor, perhaps as early as this week!

Adamant Opposition

Opposition stands strong as Democrats and outside organizations have voiced several concerns, most driven out of the fear the bill could have counterproductive and adverse effects on recovery efforts, not just for individual offenders but the recovery of the system as a whole.

Though Regan is trying to sell this one in terms of fiscal responsibility – and there’s an argument there. The financial questions are important, such as:

“What should be the limits of the public’s generosity?”

“In a time of diminished resources what should be the parameters for those resources for public assistance?”

Half the people reading this might say,

“Why should law-abiding citizens pay to take care of convicted criminals?”

The intent of Regan’s proposal here may be to target major drug dealers. But in my personal experience and opinion, considering a lot of drug dealers have evolved from an individual with their own addictions or a desperate need to supplement income (or both) this would only further exacerbate and perpetuate the destructive cycle of prisons, poverty and drug abuse.

Sure, not every drug dealer does it for these exact reasons, but plenty do, and this kind of law will leave them little alternatives for hope.

Lack of education and opportunity in some communities often becomes a motive, and some say these circumstances in some areas have only gotten worse due to the war on drugs. If someone is caught and sent to prison it’s hard enough already to find honest and stable work. Add a criminal record and forcing them to forgo their welfare assistance seems like it would only create more of a need to revert to dealing again.

Like breaking someone’s legs and telling them to move a mile… without using their arms.

Why would we need to keep kicking someone while their down, especially when we toss them back out into society and tell them to pick themselves up again?

Is it practical to keep punishing people while expecting them to reform themselves? Is it effective to drag people in and out of the criminal justice and prison system to “teach them a lesson?”

Has it worked for us so far?

That is all this writer’s opinion, but in all honestly I think most would agree that a better answer would involve actively treating and supporting the rehabilitation of individuals with drug issues. If we can’t show compassion, we can’t expect any change.

With the toll of the war on drugs being costly on both sides of the fight, how can we improve upon the ideals set forth to fight addiction and drug abuse? We all have a roll in this war, and as part of this culture we all have a chance to help this nation survive this fight. For some it is as simple as choosing to recover rather than suffer, and Palm Partners is a place to begin that transformation. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Maryland Program Treating Heroin Addicted Prisoners

Maryland Program Treating Heroin Addicted Prisoners

Author: Justin Mckibben

Last September I wrote about how the city of Baltimore, Maryland was being labeled the “Heroin Capital of the United States” and was suffering from a community crushing crisis as Government agencies estimate that as many as one in 10 of the residents of the city of Baltimore are addicted to heroin. So it is a true inspiration to see a program being established to help heroin addicts already pulled into the prison system by drugs being treated before released.

Demand for Intervention

Last year alone in Maryland there were 578 deaths due to heroin overdose. That is an astounding 25% increase from 2013, and more than double the number of deaths from heroin in 2010. Maryland suffered many losses due to overdose:

  • Baltimore City ranked first for heroin deaths last year- 303 deaths
  • Baltimore County-170 deaths
  • Anne Arundel- 101 deaths
  • Montgomery- 65 deaths

The Hogan Attack on Heroin

Some time ago Republican Governor Larry had declared a “state of emergency” concerning the increasing rate of heroin related deaths, acknowledging the opiate epidemic as a nationwide crisis.

At a news conference in February he even revealed his cousin had died of a heroin overdose, and said he was committed to an approach emphasizing compassion and treatment.

It appears now more than ever with this new initiative that he is holding true to that ideal.

He later formed a “coordinating council” of state officials, and he established an emergency task force of elected officials and substance-abuse experts to hold summits throughout Maryland and provide recommendations on how to tackle the epidemic.

This Tuesday the Hogan administration announced the plans to initiate the treatment of heroin addicts in 8 county jails and detention centers throughout Maryland in hopes of keeping inmates out of jail once they make it back to their neighborhoods.

This is the first program of its kind to be initiated by  Hogan, and the treatment for the prisoners is designed to be paid for by a $500,000 federal grant.

Hogan himself made a statement saying the program would be a long-term money-saver for Maryland, saying it will reduce the costs of drug-related crime and recidivism on Maryland’s state and local governments.

New Policies for Prisoners

The key ingredient to these new programs policies is naltrexone, which is a nonnarcotic and non-addictive substance designed to block the euphoric effects of heroin and other opiates. The program provides that inmate receive a monthly injection of this possibly life-saving drug.

The system being set in place is to create some level of support once the prisoners are reinserted into society. For inmates to be eligible to enter the treatment program they must be housed at a county detention center and be within 3 months of release. During this time they will receive the initial naltrexone shots before being released, and after that they have the option to receive follow-up injections from county health departments.

The state goes even further by providing continued support, including:

  • Enrolling them in Medicaid or other health-insurance plans to pay for the anti-addiction drug
  • Post-release support services such as housing
  • Mental-health counseling
  • Education
  • Employment

Each jurisdiction that receives grant money must develop a program to monitor ex-offenders’ progress, compliance, recidivism and lingering substance abuse.

Hogan insisted the state needs to provide ex-offenders with “the tools to live sober, healthy, and productive lives.”

He went on to say,

“Addiction is a disease, and we will not be able to just arrest our way out of this crisis.”

Treatment advocates applauded the governor’s efforts, and understandably so. His supporters have rallied behind him with a feel that he is delivering on a promise he made to meet this disease head-on with effective and proactive treatment plans.

Leaps and Bounds

The plan may not yet be perfect, but it is a definite leap in the right direction. So far the Hogan administration granted funding to 8 county agencies. At this time Baltimore City has not received any state treatment funding yet, but according to the governor’s office it is developing a program to qualify for assistance.

Addiction and death as products of heroin abuse has risen dramatically in recent years. With this matter becoming such a widespread and horrifying reality for Americans, the whole concept of drug policy is under constant debate as more and more seek hope in the advancement and application of reforms to our drug laws and the way we address nonviolent drug offenses.

Hopefully as this program grows, as long as it is effective other states are bound to take notice and follow suit, especially considering that the death rate is only rising at this juncture, and is presumed to be fixed to do so for some time. Let us hope that active pursuit of these revolutionary ideas for improving the quality of life for addicts can keep inspiring further change.

While Maryland fights the heroin epidemic on its streets and in its prisons, thousands upon thousands of Americans fight the same fight in their homes and in themselves. Prison is not the only alternative, there is a whole community of individuals dedicated to recovery and we are waiting for you to reach out for that helping hand. 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.

Virginia Bans the Box on Job Applications

 Virginia Bans the Box on Job Applications

By Cheryl Steinberg

Many people feel that all-too-familiar dread when they are on the job hunt: not only is filling out the job application exhaustive and sometimes a bit daunting; for those with criminal records, seeing a question on the app that asks whether they’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime tends to cause anxiety and discouragement. “If they’re going to ask such a question,” one might think – one with a spotty legal background – “then why even bother?”

It’s long since been known – and criticized – how difficult it is for ex-cons to be able to acclimate into civilized society, with getting work a major stumbling block.

Well now, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is doing something about that. Last Friday, he recently signed an executive order that would remove all questions regarding criminal history from applications for state government jobs.

It should be mentioned that hiring agencies can still do a criminal background check on a job applicant but, only after considering them qualified for the position. This way, everyone gets a ‘fair shake’ at the position in question. And, once an applicant is considered a viable candidate for the position, the background check can be conducted but, that’s doesn’t make it a deal breaker.

By changing the application process in this way, an applicant gets to show off their abilities, skills, and training for said position without being immediately dismissed once the interviewee looks down at ‘the box’ – you know, the one that contains those anxiety-inducing sweats – about criminal history.

Virginia Bans the Box on Job Applications

The Virginia Governor spoke at a local Goodwill store in Richmond, Virginia, and said that the Easter holiday played an important role in his decision; McAuliffe emphasized how the holiday focuses on turning over a new leaf.

“We should not seal the fate of every man and woman with a criminal record based on a hasty verdict,” he said. “If they are eager to make a clean start and build new lives in their communities, they deserve a fair chance at employment.”

This is no small or insignificant feat. Studies have found that, among those returning from jail or prison, the unemployment rate 60 to 75%. Difficulty securing a job is a major reason so many ex-convicts end up committing another crime and subsequently return to prison.

Furthermore, The National Employment Law Project estimates 70 million American adults have arrests or convictions in their past that can make it difficult for them to be employed.

McAuliffe also spoke to how there are consequences of “checking the box” on a job application and disclosing a past criminal conviction especially for people of color. In fact, this practice has a disproportionate impact on the Virginia’s workers who are people of color.

“We all know that this box has an unequal impact on our minority families,” he said. “One study found that 34 percent of white job applicants without a record received a callback, while only 17 percent of those with a criminal record did. Among African Americans, 14 percent without a criminal record received a call back while only 5 percent of those with a record heard back from a potential employer.”

The order also encourages, but does not require, private employers in Virginia to ‘ban the box’ as well — and praises employers such as Target, WalMart and Home Depot that have already done so.

Similar laws have already been passed in Georgia, Nebraska, the District of Columbia, and a handful of others states as well as in order to offset hiring discrimination against workers with criminal records.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and have court cases as a result, seeking help in the form of drug and alcohol treatment can help. Palm Partners offers holistic and traditional methods as well as treatment for dual diagnosis – those with substance abuse and mental illness. We have several different services and methods meant to specifically handle each client’s specific situation with care and ease. Case management, for one, allows you to meet with a case worker who can help you address your legal issues while you’re in treatment, getting the healing help you need. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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