Monthly Archives: November 2014

The New Face of Heroin Addiction: White, Middle Class

Mason Police Chief John Stressman came across a video featuring a study about heroin addiction.  His secretary, Eileen Northrup, sent it to all the members of the Mason Capital Area Prescription Drug Task Force – of which I am the newest member – and I felt a strong urge to share it with all of you.

The video is a short segment that was featured on Fox News with a highly respected doctor, Dr. Marc Siegel, talking about a study that was just completed showing that 90 percent of heroin users are white, middle class users from the suburbs.

Siegel also talks about how prescription drug use contributes to a lot of people getting hooked on heroin.  This is something that personally happened to me.  I started abusing vicodin and oxycontin when I was 16 and eventually, when my supply started running out and I realized that heroin was a much cheaper alternative, well, you know the story…

I really wanted you all to watch this video.  It gives a lot of insight and is a very important topic!  Let me know what you think by commenting below!

Gender Specific Addiction Treatment Programs

Written by: Alyssa Craig

When considering an addiction treatment program, there are many options to consider. One that should be at the forefront of your choices is a gender specific program. There is evidence to show that those who approach addiction recovery through a gender specific treatment program have a high rate of success. Such programs allow for gender differences to be addressed on multiple levels and give each individual the information they will need as they encounter gender specific challenges along the way.

Similar but Different

It goes without saying that men and women are different and this statement is not exclusive to the arena of addiction and addiction recovery. Up until recently, most addiction treatment research had been focused on men, so the need for separate treatment programs was unknown and the varying issues experienced by women went unaddressed. While men and women develop addiction similarly at the physiological level in that addiction changes chemicals and processes in the brain, the manifestation of the addiction, the risk, incidence, relapse, as well as the reasons for entering into treatment are all different.

Here are some quick facts on how addiction and addiction recovery vary between the genders:

  • Men have cited entering treatment for employment and legal issues.
  • Women have cited health and family issues as their reason for entering treatment.
  • Women become dependent faster and at lower levels than men.
  • Men are less likely than women to feel shame for needing treatment.
  • Women are more likely to relapse.
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to become addicts, though women tend to progress more quickly through the addiction process.

Treatment Benefits

It stands to reason that if the addiction is a different experience for each gender, the treatment program needs to be different as well. There are a few key benefits of gender specific treatment that may make this the best option for you or your loved one.

More Willing to Share: A common feature of treatment programs includes group therapy. During this time, it has been found individuals are more willing to express their emotions and struggles in groups that only contain their own gender. Because relapse can occur when emotions are held in and not properly addressed, creating an environment that fosters full communication is essential to a successful recovery.

Gender Specific Issues: As stated above, there are many differences in reasons men and women enter into addiction treatment. By having separate treatment programs, it allows each program to address those particular issues, as presented in this article. This is especially important for women, as the recovery process has long been geared toward men, making the more generic treatment programs lacking in addressing all that women face in recovery. This ensures each gender is receiving exactly the attention they need for a full and successful recovery.

Removes Distraction: Occasionally, those who have been addicts will replace their addiction of one substance with something else. A perk of separating the genders is the removal of sexual and intimate distractions throughout the treatment process. This allows the individuals to focus on themselves and their recovery rather than filling the void left by the addiction with a new relationship.


As already mentioned, women have a higher chance of relapsing than men, but for both genders, relapse is a very real possibility. But even in this instance, there are stark differences in why relapse occurs for men and women.

While men are more likely to relapse for intrapersonal issues, such as anxiety or depression, the relapse risk for women increases with premorbid social skills, visual spatial memory, and self efficacy in high risk situations. Having the knowledge of these situations and each gender’s propensity for relapse, gender specific treatment programs can address these issues before they happen and prepare the person affected, as well as their family and loved ones, for warning signs of relapse. This in turn helps to ensure a much more successful recovery process.
The recovery process is difficult and will require specific attention to the needs of the individual. However, not all treatment programs are able to provide this kind of assistance. Through a gender specific addiction treatment program, individuals can find the help they need to not only let go of the addiction but embrace an addiction free life with little fear of relapse.

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Methadone As A Treatment Option

Writing a blog on addiction and recovery, it is my objective to not only do my best to spread hope by sharing my personal story of beating heroin addiction, but to also educate my readers on the wide range of topics associated with addiction and recovery.  Within the last month or so, I have posted articles on Narcan (a drug that reverses opiate overdoses), interventions, and a list of facts about addicts and alcoholics.

There has been another very important topic that I have been thinking about and want to share facts and my opinion on.  It is a topic that holds very close to my story of recovery and is something that helped me get and stay clean.  It is also a subject that is widely debated within the addiction/recovery field: methadone.

Methadone is a synthetic narcotic analgesic that is used to treat individuals with opiate addictions (heroin, painkillers).  It is prescribed to people trying to get off opiates and find recovery and blocks withdrawal symptoms from manifesting.  When given properly, it is supposed to be given over an extended period of time on a daily basis and enables opiate addicts to stabilize their lives.  Methadone is usually given to people for an average of six months to three years.

It has helped thousands of people get off drugs and find recovery but is widely debated because it basically tricks your brain into thinking it is getting opiods, thus stopping withdrawal and giving the user the chance to live a life free of addiction.  When dispensed properly and at the right dose, it also blocks the users cravings to get high, a significant reason addicts relapse so frequently.  Though some call it a wonder drug and that it gives addicts a second chance at life, others call it “substituting one drug for another.”  It is important to note that methadone can be addicting if it is not dispensed and used properly with frequent check-ups with a caring doctor.

That is where I want to give my personal opinion and share my experience.  I can say with a lot of confidence that methadone has been a huge factor in me finding recovery.  I got on methadone over two years ago after trying numerous rehabilitation centers, counselors, jails and many other remedies.  None of it worked.  After getting on methadone, it took away my withdrawals and when I got on the right dose, it took away my cravings to get high.

Let me add this: I have never, not once, felt any type of high or buzz or sensation from this drug.  There is a stereotype within the recovery community that a lot of people get on methadone only for a cheap buzz, but that is unfair and untrue.  A methadone clinic that really cares about the people they are treating starts their patients on minimal doses and works their way up to find the right dose that fits that individual.  Yes, there are many people that go far beyond their limits so that the methadone gives them a buzz, but it is flat out unfair to judge everybody that takes methadone because of the ones that do take it incorrectly.

It is very important to know that methadone is just one small part of the recovery equation.  Recovery is an individualized approach that one can only obtain by determining what will work best for them.  There are many options out there that work for many different people, and it is highly recommended that methadone patients also get involved with a counselor or a therapy group.  I not only took methadone, but I also saw two different counselors, went to a group therapy class that was offered at my clinic, got a recovery coach to work with me, and got involved with 12-Step groups.  This approach allowed me to gather all the pieces of the pie and put them together, and it worked FOR ME.

My approach may not work for somebody else, that is why it is crucial for the addict to try out different things to figure out what is best for them.  But methadone was never intended to do the trick alone.

Once I found the right approach for me, all of this contributed to me stabilizing my life to eventually enroll in college, rebuild my relationships with my family, find an amazing girlfriend, and get a job that’s perfect for me.  I finally did it, and I have to give a lot of credit to methadone and the counselors at the methadone clinic (Victory Clinic in Lansing) who worked with me to find the right dose and approach.

I found an article written by some of the most well known doctors and scientists in the United States that talks about methadone maintenance.  It was posted in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and was given to me by one of my doctors.  The authors performed a lengthy study on different approaches of treating addiction and found that methadone maintenance significantly cuts down on overdose rates, drug related HIV and Hepatitis C infections, needle use, criminal activity, and high risk behaviors.  They also found that evidence clearly shows that methadone maintenance has a better retention rate and track record of decreasing illicit drug use than any other method they have tried. (1)

I have read many other articles by highly respected doctors and scientists that says that methadone, when used correctly, is a highly effective treatment method.  I am not in any way saying that you should use methadone, but I am writing to say that I believe methadone is a treatment option that should be discussed and considered by somebody that can’t stop using opiates.  Once again, it is not to be used without other approaches like counseling, but it should not be stereotyped like it has been by many for years.

Methadone had a huge impact on my recovery and it’s time that the recovery community starts recognizing it as a successful evidence-based treatment option.

(1) Here is a link to the article that was posted in JAMA talking about methadone and its proven track record of successfully treating opiate addicts. 

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10 Things Everyone Should Know About Substance Abuse

Hello readers, a friend emailed me an article the other day that I thought would be great for you to read.  In it, the author lists ten things every American should know about substance abuse.  It is a good read and has tons of helpful information about addiction!  I really recommend reading it!

Written by Amber Brubaker

According to Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap (CATG), 23 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and only about 10 percent of them are receiving treatment. Accompanying this information are terrifying and widespread stereotypes, statistics, and so-called facts about substance abusers. Much of this information is true, but much of it is not, and the alarming information could be the reason many Americans are afraid to address substance abuse at all.

 The purpose of this article is not to throw out statistics or scare tactics to spur you into action in the campaign against substance addiction. Instead, we would like to offer 10 facts to help the populace better understand substance addiction and how it affects those suffering from it. We hope that this will increase public understanding, which will in-turn increase the percentage of those receiving help for their addictions.

1. Substance Addiction Causes a Chemical Change in the Brain

Drug and alcohol use physically alters the communication system within the brain. The brain functions by sending neurons back and forth to communicate information to the body. Drugs and alcohol fool their way into the brain and take control of some of those neurons. As a result, the information the neurons are supposed to send is replaced by signals to demand more of the substance. This is why many addicts struggle to do basic things, such as eating, showering, and sleeping, and also why most are unable to simply quit the substance cold turkey.

2. Substance Addiction Usually Begins in Teens

The most common age for teen drug, alcohol, or cigarette use is 13, with repeated uses for years to come. According to the CDC, over 70 percent of high school students have dabbled in substance abuse, and 1 in 5 of them are considered to be addicts, a disease that most often stays with them well into their adult years.

3. Substance Addiction Is Often Associated with Mental Illness

Substance abuse can be a form of self-medicating for those suffering from mental illness. It is also known to lead to the onset of symptoms of illnesses such as paranoia, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder among others. Unfortunately, these symptoms can have a lasting effect even after the user beats the addiction.

4. Substance Addiction Results Because the Abuser Wants to Change Aspects of His/Her Life

Generally, substance addiction begins because the abuser is trying to escape bullying, peer pressure, dissatisfaction at work, depression, issues at home, or any number of distressing circumstances.

5. Substance Addiction Affects Men and Women Differently

Men and women generally seek very different things when it comes to comfort, which is why the process of addiction recovery is so much different for men and women. Women feel the need to connect with others in order to overcome their addiction, while men are often more focused on working on their unique problem. Women should seek out treatment that is unique to their needs. For more information, read the article “Addiction Healing for Women.”

6. Substance Addiction Does Not Make Someone Bad

It’s true that people are often a product of their choices. However, addiction is not a choice. The user may have made one or two bad choices when they decided to try the substance in the first place, but those choices turned into a chemical change in the brain, over which the user has very little power. Those suffering from substance abuse are not bad people. They are simply sick and doing the only thing they know will relieve the pain and suffering for awhile.

7. Substance Addicts Do Not Always Fit a Stereotype

When you think of substance abusers, you probably think of people staying in the bar from sun up to sun down, or hanging out in deserted alleyways. However, that is not the case for all users. Many addicts may hold a full-time job and dress respectably with a nice home and family. Likewise, not all those spending time in alleys are addicted to a substance. The only way to really tell if someone is addicted is to look at their behavior, rather than their appearance.

8. Substance Addicts Respond Well to Positive Feedback

Negativity of all kinds is addiction’s greatest ally. It feeds the shame and depression that drives many addicts to seek out their substance of choice. When working with an addict, the best thing you can do is be positive, patient, and loving. Your positivity can help addicts remove themselves from the negative mindset that comes with addiction and focus on ways to get better.

9. Relapses Are Common during the Recovery Process

Because of the severe changes that happen within an addict’s mind and body, it will be nearly impossible for an addict to quit the behavior altogether. Relapses are likely. It’s important for addicts to stay positive and recognize that the amount of time between relapses is a victory, and that each day they stay away from the substance is one step closer to being clean.

10. Addiction Recovery Programs Work

Although one recovery program didn’t work for an addict seeking help, there is likely another one out there that will. Recovery programs have helped millions, and they continue to do so with new and varied techniques. They are known to dramatically reduce criminal activity and the spread of intravenous diseases during and after the treatment has taken effect. It’s worth it for every user to search for the right program for him/her.

Our hope is that this information will help make it clear how important it is for all Americans to do their part. Just remember that the majority of substance abusers are not bad people who don’t want to get better. They are victims of a disease that needs treating, and they need our help.

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