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With upwards of 15,000 substance abuse treatment facilities in the U.S., it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you or a loved one. One of the best ways to choose the right treatment program is to consider the facilities certifications. A seal of approval from the Joint Commission (JCAHO) is considered the highest award available


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As addicts, drugs and alcohol take over our actions, as well as our thoughts. The “great obsession” of using liquefies any desire to pursue interests that we either used to love or might find enriching to our lives. Refreshed and renewed, many of us feel the overwhelming need to replenish our desires with healthy actions. And this is where the concept of a new #drugofchoice is formulated.


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February 23, 2016 Marissa ObrienAddiction

New Hampshire has been at the forefront of US headlines illustrating the efforts to fight America’s heroin epidemic. It’s not because they have the most overdose deaths amongst the other US states. It’s because their legislation is doing an incredible job, arguably better than any other state’s, at exploiting the issue and proposing and appointing measures to help combat the struggle with the growing epidemic



February 10, 2016 Marissa ObrienAddiction

As we probe states across the country that have been hit particularly hard with today’s modern heroin epidemic, one leads the way on many fronts: Massachusetts. In highlighting some of the more recent headlines, we hope to reveal the devastating, and crippling effects heroin, and other illicit drugs, are having on the residents and small towns in the commonwealth state, as well as to share what they are doing about the situation to help those affected.


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February 3, 2016 Marissa ObrienAddiction

In recent years, a rapid increase in the use, distribution and fatalities linked to heroin have skyrocketed. In a several-part series, we are taking a closer look into the emergence of areas labeled “Herointowns”, which are popping up across the country. These typically suburban and rural areas have, in the past, lay dormant to inflated drug use and activity – or were unnoticed until recently.



November 13, 2015 Marissa ObrienAddiction

Did you know that prescription medications are responsible for more overdose deaths in the United States than all other drug overdoses combined? That statistic takes into account both prescribed and illicit drugs.  If that figure startles you, you are not alone. Most people have no idea of the dangers of prescription medication. The potential for abuse, addiction and even death from pharmacy derived drugs is at an all-time high due to a number of contributing factors, many of which have simply not been revealed to most. If you or someone you love is showing signs of prescription drug abuse, the evidence in this article may save a life.

The most dangerous prescription medications generally fall into 2 major categories: pain and anti-anxiety medications. There is an altered societal perception of prescription drugs versus their illicit counterparts. But take this into consideration: most prescription drugs essentially work the same as illicit drugs. For instance, opioids, like OxyContin, target the same receptors as heroin, producing very similar effects when taken in improper doses. Many medical experts agree that prescription pain medications are in fact the gateway drug for heroin. Also, ADHD medications, like Adderall and Ritalin, stimulate the brain in the same way cocaine does.

So how do so many fall victim to prescription medication addiction? Doctors have become more likely in recent decades to prescribe pain and anxiety medications to people seeking solace from their physical and emotional ailments. In 2013, 207 million prescriptions were written for opioid pain medication alone. There is a notion of safety associated with doctor-prescribed medication that, when coupled with the fact that the prescription is administered by a well-meaning physician, leads to a false sense of safety for the end user.

The reality is, pain medications are among the most highly addictive substances on the market, both of the legal an illicit variety. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an organization that tracks statistical data on drug and alcohol use in America, estimates that prescription drugs are the 3rd most commonly abused drugs in America, behind marijuana and alcohol. The most recent statistical data (2013) shows that over 22,000 overdose deaths happened as a result of misusing prescription drugs. The major contributing factor in most cases was due to mixing prescription medication with other drugs and/or alcohol; a highly lethal combination causing accidental overdose.

Many of us don’t realize that while we believe we are visiting a doctor for a “quick fix”, we may actually be triggering a dormant addiction. A large number of these victims may have unaddressed physical and emotional disorders too that can predicate addictive behaviors. These include abuse, self-esteem problems, anxiety and depression. Coupled with the “that won’t happen to me” mentality, and the fact that pain and anxiety medications are physically and emotionally addictive, it is easy to see how anyone has the potential fall victim to prescription drug abuse by following a physician’s advice. Furthermore, many people don’t even recognize they have a problem until it’s too late, as addictive behaviors typically manifest over time, modestly escalating, blurring the distinction between management and abuse.

There is also a stigma about addiction in our culture: that it affects only those who choose to use drugs and alcohol to suppress physical and emotional issues, as opposed to those who are prescribed them. Another presumption is that addiction largely affects those in certain socio-economical classes: the poor, uneducated or young. But upon closer scrutiny, the prescription addiction epidemic has appeared to target a much different group. The NIDA estimated that in 2013, the most overdose deaths from prescription medications was overwhelmingly those between the ages of 45-54, which was 3 times higher than that for those between the ages of 15-24.

How can you determine if you or a loved one may have a prescription addiction problem? If you are noticing any of these behaviors, they are already demonstrating harmful patterns:

  1. Taking more medication that what is prescribed.
  2. Taking medication for reasons other than what it is intended for.
  3. Using someone else’s prescription medication.

As with most all drug and alcohol addictions, prescription pain and anti-anxiety medication abuse should be treated professionally as it is both physically and mentally crippling. Take the first step toward recovery immediately by contacting an accredited treatment facility, monitored by the care of trained addiction professionals. No one has to become a statistic of prescription medication addiction if you take the step today by choosing the path toward recovery.



Women and Addiction

As the stigma of addiction begins to lessen, more studies and stories are being released explaining the reasons for addiction in our culture. In specific, women have unique realities – both physiologically and societally – that differ from men, which researchers have been identifying lead them to addiction.

Overall, studies still show that more men in the United States are dependent on drugs and alcohol than women, about 20% of men suffering versus between 7% and 12% of women.

However, the dangers of addiction have been shown to be significantly greater for women primarily because of their physiology. Women weigh less than men, which means that alcohol affects them quicker and with more severity. In addition, women typically store more fatty tissue, where alcohol is retained while it is filtered from the system. Finally, two enzymes which help to break down alcohol – alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase – are lower in women, leading to more absorption into the bloodstream. Hormonal differences in women are also highly influential on the potential negative side effects of substance abuse. Hormones have also been shown to affect relapse rates in women as it affects their emotions, urges and will-power during abstinence.

Experts have concluded that women develop dependency and physical deterioration much more rapidly than men do too, leading to earlier onset problems like brain atrophy and liver damage. In addition, a theory known as “telescoping” identifies that women appear to more rapidly accelerate from the first drink or drug to full-blown dependency than their male counterparts.

Women also are more susceptible to emotional or physical trauma, which if experienced, makes them highly susceptible to substance abuse and addiction as a means to self-medicate. Some of these experiences include violence, sexual abuse, trauma and low self-esteem, just to name a few. In a recent study, 74% percent of addicted women reported sexual abuse and 52% percent reported physical abuse in their personal histories. Addiction is similarly apparent in women suffering with a co-occurring disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or bipolar disorder.

But increasingly, substance abuse has unquestionably become a mainstream affliction – not just affecting women who are genetically disposed to addiction or those with a history of emotional trauma. Stay-at-home-moms, sorority girls and high-functioning professional women have become the latest wave of sufferers of substance abuse. The number of DUI arrests of women rose 30% between 1998 and 2007, helping support the claim that with a rise in equality, expectation and responsibility, modern-day -women are, like never before, increasingly more at risk of addiction.

Some Societal Reasons for Increased Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Women are being introduced early-on in high school and college to prescription stimulants and painkillers, as well as alcohol and illicit drugs such as marijuana to alter their mood, paving the way for a future of potential dependence.

Modern day medicines like Adderall and Ritalin, which are commonly prescribed as ADHD medication, are readily available and have become widely acceptable stimulants for students and professionals alike. Glamour magazine reported just this month (September 2015) that “Women using them are trying to sculpt their best selves—the smartest, the most productive, the thinnest, the most social.”

Needless to say, adolescent women are binge drinking earlier and with more frequency than ever. However, studies have shown a dramatic increase of professional women binge drinking on a regular basis. In fact, one study showed that professional women are 19% more likely to binge drink at home than non-professional women. Overall, it is believed twice as many professional women binge drink regularly than the general female population. Some of this is believed to be due in part to rising responsibility and stress in the workplace, in addition to opportunities to indulge with co-workers after hours.

And on the home front, it is not uncommon for mothers to fall into the grips of loneliness, monotony, boredom, depression and a loss of self. Many turn to alcohol or prescription drugs to quell their emotions, or stimulants to increase productivity. As these behaviors become more accepted, especially when shared between similar social groups, it can easily lead to a loss of control and dependency.

And the false safety of prescription drugs are also contributing to an alarming rise in overdoses and hospital visits. Chemically speaking, Adderall and Ritalin are practically identical to cocaine. When mixed with alcohol, this combination can easily result in death. “Every day, nearly 400 people visit the emergency room after mixing drugs and alcohol”, Glamour reports. Many women are not aware of the uncontrollable effects of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol, and unwittingly self-administer combinations that can cause blackouts and overdose.

Rehabilitation Programs for Women

Most professionals agree that both women and men stand the same likelihood of rehabilitation regardless of undergoing a gender-specific program. Comfortability should first be addressed, and if a gender-specific program feels safer for the individual, it would certainly benefit them to enroll in a program that caters to females only.

However, the most important factor when reviewing a facility is understanding the therapy programs available, which can include specializations such as trauma, eating disorders, psychiatric programs, PTSD and family services, to name a few. Facilities that offer specialized therapy for co-occurring disorders, together with addiction rehabilitation, offer the best opportunity for sustained recovery.



Discover Your Character Traits, Goals & Purpose

Our 12-step fellowship provides a roadmap to uncover the reasons for our addiction. In our 4th step, we list with complete abandon an inventory of our resentments, fears and defects of character, connecting the dots between our pattern of behavior and our addiction. This self-cleanse allows us to bear witness to all of our deepest ailments and then enables us to let them go and work on our defects in the future. It takes courage to dig into our disease and let that become a part of our growth. Recovering addicts are given strength through their vulnerability when they admit their personal faults and actively work on them.

This process relieves us of the things that are holding us back from discovering our true passions. Now, with a renewed sense of self and clarity, there is no better time to discover your true potential. In reading through a number of books on life, awareness and happiness, I realized that many of them encouraged positive personal identification, which included things like skills, natural born talents, character traits and passions. I found myself surprised that I there was no worksheet on taking a positive inventory to identify personal qualities, outlining how one could offer their gifts to the world and pursue their passions in life.

This notion struck a nerve because I believe many of us identify, both prior to and after getting sober, with a fear of the future. In truth, how exactly can we have energy and optimism for the future if we have not identified a path to walk toward it?

You may ask yourself: What is my calling? What are my dreams? How can I ever achieve them? How do I deal with life now? We’ve won the lottery by finding recovery. In many ways we have been “reborn”. We’ve also been granted time and mental space to work on what we most desire. Think about how much better your sobriety will be if you put energy into your dreams and goals? Now that is a great way to create a positive foundation in recovery.

You owe it to yourself to discover your passion and purpose. You can start today with an exercise I’ll call a “Reverse 4th Step”. List the personal attributes you value which strengthen your character and what you can offer the world. Start by making lists of these qualities by following this simple guide:

  1. List the talents you are born with (your natural abilities, aptitudes)
  2. List skills that you have developed or mastered (sports, technologies, art, singing)
  3. List your education & experiences that have made you uniquely specialized (training, travel, etc.)
  4. List your character traits of the spirit (courageous, empathetic, optimistic, grace under pressure)
  5. List your top, most memorable accomplishments (winning a race, best-in-class)
  6. List your values (family, honesty, freedom)

Next, discover your passion and purpose. Most people don’t know what their passion and purpose is because they have never tried to figure it out. You can begin reaching your dreams by first writing them down. According to Dave Kohn, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, people who regularly write down their goals earn 9x as much over their lifetimes as the people who don’t. Make this list positive, specific and measurable. You would be amazed at how attainable your dreams are if you take the time to identify your ambitions.

By connecting your natural abilities and character traits with the things you are passionate about, you can pursue goals in your life that align with your real purpose. For example, if you are a naturally gifted skier and have a high level of patience, perhaps becoming a ski instructor would be a well suited job for you. Maybe you are extremely good under pressure and love high-energy. You might want to consider a profession in an emergency room or trauma center. If travel is a passion of yours and you’re an excellent writer, decide to embark on a travel blog and share your experiences with the world.

If you follow your passion money and success will naturally follow, not the other way around. The same goes for your journey in sobriety. While identifying our character defects helps us work on being better people in the future, focusing on our character traits can help us pursue the dreams of our innermost soul. Think of your life ahead as an empty canvas: visualize life’s coming attractions by identifying your unique traits and by setting goals because possibilities, adventure, accomplishment, contribution and happiness are waiting.



Reinvigorating Your Spiritual Foundation in Recovery

When I was early in sobriety, I once heard a man share at a meeting that he “would give up his 30 years for anyone’s 3 months.” At the time I can’t say I really understood what he meant because I so envied his achievement. But today, that message was loud, clear and on point.

He was referring to the “Pink Cloud” stage that many people reach in sobriety. Its’ a multifaceted state of mind when the drugs and alcohol have left you for long enough that you can feel again and are beginning to really connect with other sober supports. At this phase, the Big Book starts to really make sense and more than likely your relationship with yourself and your loved ones is improving after years, or maybe even decades of neglect.

It’s similar to the felling you get when you’re first in love or have reached a lifelong goal. You have a sense of peace, accomplishment, security and blind faith in this beginning phase of real recovery. But like love, the feelings fade over time and moments of enlightenment become less frequent. Perhaps you’ve noticed yourself pulling away from regular meetings you used to attend, or are calling your sponsor less or maybe you’re just feeling more disconnected from your program.

I can tell you almost everyone at some point “loses the magic”, if you ever achieved it at all. If you’re left looking back longingly on the days when your spiritual connection was thriving, here are some ways to reignite the passion for your program.

1. Go To A Meet You’ve Never Been To Before
Typically our regular meetings, like all routines, start to feel redundant. But with thousands of meeting going on every day throughout the country, there is always a new group to introduce yourself to and to be inspired by. One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a new city is to make it to at least 1 meeting while I’m there. Each new meeting is an opportunity to network and hear an inspirational message. It’s also a great way to expand on your support network. And today, finding a meeting close by has never been easier. Download the Meeting Finder app onto your phone to locate a meeting anywhere in the world based on your location. Intergroup will also provide you with the latest meeting information. Visit http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-aa-resources for information to contact your local intergroup office.

2. Raise Your Hand To Be A Sponsor
The whole sponsor relationship thing is a little daunting, for both sponsors and sponsees. Overcoming your fear to ask someone to sponsor you takes motivation and courage. To raise your hand and offer your help to someone newly sober also takes guts. But the reward is profound. Do you remember what it felt like in early sobriety to have someone answer your daily phone call, meet with you to go over your steps and give you support and advice when you just didn’t know what to do? The spiritual reward of helping someone else early in sobriety will open so many doors back into your own journey early on, and allow you to freely share the gift you’ve been given. It’s our fellowships way of paying it forward. Sponsoring other men or women will help you grow further in your program, helping elevate you to a new “Pink Cloud” of your own.

3. Read Through Your 4th Step Again
You spent weeks or months writing a 4th step. This list of character defects, resentments and people you may have harmed is like your very own golden diary. In your 5th step you were able to release all of these fears that were holding you back from transcending to the next level of acceptance and change. Over time, we’re taught to quell these defects by practicing steps 10 and 11 on a daily basis. But if you’ve noticed that some of your defects begin popping up now and then, don’t be frustrated. We’re naturally apt to revert back to our instinctual nature. Take an evening to read through your 4th step. Remember, these moments or traits were part of a larger pattern. Take the lessons you discovered in your 5th step and try and make those adjustments on a daily basis. This will undoubtedly help bring you back to a more enlightened stage as you live vicariously through your step-work, connecting the feelings you had then with the growth you have now.

4. Go To A National Convention
When you attend a national convention of any sort, whether it’s work or hobby related, you’re making an investment in your understanding and growth in that area. When you attend a 12-step fellowship gathering, you’re making an investment also in your spiritual bank account. Thousands of people join together for a few days of saturated learning where guests have the unique experience of hearing inspirational stories, attending specifically designed workshops in addition to enjoying fun networking events. It is almost guaranteed you will leave reinvigorated. There are a number of conferences held around the country, and around the world every year. Start by checking out the events calendar at www.aagrapevine.org (the International Journal of AA). If you’re young and in recovery, The International Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous (ICYPAA) is an excellent event for you, bringing young AA members together from around the country. The conference will be holding it’s 57th gathering this September in Miami. Visit www.icypaa.org for more details. For more events, Young People in Recovery has chapters throughout the country (who meet weekly) and host regional conferences. Find out about your local chapter and upcoming events at www.youngpeopleinrecovery.org.

5. Commit to a 90 in 90
When I first got sober (for good) I made a commitment to attend 90 meetings in 90 days because that’s what I was told helped countless people get started on their journey in sobriety. What happened was I made a powerful foundation for my own program. When you make a commitment to attend a meeting a day, you get to experience a variety of different meeting formats in different areas, each of which are made up of different people. The gift in this commitment is that you just have to show up, and the miracle is given to you. On any occasion, you are present to hear an enriching story, or connection with a new member. Over time, you create accountability with people and build on your sober support network. If you’ve been in recovery for a while, it’s an excellent way to get back to your foundational roots especially because at each meeting, there is a new message or be heard or a re triggering of one you’ve long since forgotten about.

You certainly aren’t going to adopt each of these suggestions in 1 day but it’s a great roadmap to begin working on in the year ahead. So break out your 4th step, plan to hit a meeting you’ve never been to before, check out some upcoming conventions and get ready to jump back on that pink cloud!


The Hope Center

The Hope Center for Rehabilitation offers a full range of services both leading up to, during and following treatment, including professional interventions, a luxury, medically assisted detox program, inpatient rehabilitation (30-90 days), intensive out-patient rehabilitation and out-patient services. Each of our clients become a part of our alumni program at the completion of their treatment to help foster a continued community of recovery.

Copyright by The Hope Center 2016. All rights reserved.