Government of Canada invests $10 million in Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, accompanied by Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, and Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada today announced the Government's support for the Drug Prevention Strategy for Canada's Youth, which is an initiative that will help to steer youth away from using illicit drugs and is part of the Government's new National Anti-Drug Strategy.

The strategy, which is supported by a Government of Canada investment of $10 million, will be developed and implemented by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).

“The Government of Canada is very concerned about the damage and pain that illicit drugs cause families and our communities,” said Minister Clement. “We take this issue seriously and are proud to partner with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse to take action in discouraging youth from using illicit drugs and informing them of the harmful effects of illicit drug use.”

The goal of the CCSA's project is to reduce illicit drug use among Canadian youth between the ages of 10 and 24, including high-risk youth, focusing on risk and protective factors before drug use begins. The project will initiate the development of national standards for drug prevention programs and will support families, schools, communities, and individuals across Canada with the tools and information they need when confronted with illicit drugs.

“Our Government recognizes that illegal drugs destroy lives, rob young people of their futures and endanger our communities,” said the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety. “This is why we are firmly determined to help people overcome addictions, prevent others from falling prey to this terrible problem and crack down on those who profit from this suffering through the production and sale of drugs.”

Also in attendance was Michel Perron, Chief Executive Officer of the CCSA: “The National Anti-Drug Strategy has allowed the CCSA to launch a new national drug prevention partnership for youth, to initiate the development of national standards for drug prevention programs in schools and communities across Canada, and to create a communication platform through a newly formed media consortium aimed at capitalizing on public and private sector expertise to reach youth across Canada," said Mr. Perron. "This work, aimed at supporting families, schools, communities and individuals across Canada, will equip young people and their parents with the tools and information they need when confronted with illicit drugs."

“I am pleased that our Government is working with partners like the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse,” said Minister Nicholson. “Through this collaboration, we will discourage youth from using illicit drugs and inform them of the harmful effects of illicit drug use.”

Minister Clement also took the opportunity to remind Canadians of the upcoming deadline for the call for proposals under the Drug Strategy Community Initiatives Fund. The Government has invested over $7 million to fund important initiatives that will address illicit drug use among youth and the underlying factors that contribute to the use of illicit drugs. The Community Initiatives Fund will enable communities to develop the tools they need to tackle the increasing challenge of drug use among our young people. The deadline for proposals is February 29, 2008.

The new National Anti-Drug Strategy focuses on preventing illegal drug use in young people, treating people who have drug addictions and fighting illegal drug crime.

source: Health Canada


Vaccine for drug addiction could offer hope to users

In a search for what could be the ultimate cure for drug addiction, scientists have developed a vaccine which prevents the body from getting high.

The hope is that it can stop people from falling back into a spiral of addiction if they have a relapse.

The most promising results so far have been with cocaine, but researchers hope it could also one day be used to cure addiction to methamphetamine, heroin and even cigarettes.

"The vaccine slowly decreases the amount of cocaine that reaches the brain," said Thomas Kosten, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who has been working on the vaccine since 1995.

"It's a slow process, and patients do not go through any significant withdrawal symptoms."

The vaccine works by getting the body's immune system to recognize the drug as foreign and attack it in the blood stream.

It does so by injecting an altered version of the drug into the body which has been attached to a protein that the body will recognize as a threat.

"The body then says, 'This is a foreign article. I should start making antibodies to it,'" Kosten said in a telephone interview.

The cocaine molecules eventually pass through the kidneys and are excreted through the urine.

That stops the drug from reaching the brain and producing a sought-after high.

Use of the vaccine would lead to a gradual tapering of dependence, Kosten said.

"Gradually, antibody levels would rise. If you kept using (cocaine), you'd get less and less of an effect."

Of all the drugs tested, cocaine is the easiest one for which to develop a vaccine because of an enzyme in the bloodstream, cholinesterase, that helps break it down, Kosten said.

He has also begun to test vaccines for methamphetamine and heroin in animal studies, and hopes to eventually add nicotine to the list.

"That's going to be the moneymaker," he said.

The injections are designed for therapeutic -- not for preventative -- use, and are meant for those already suffering from addiction.

That, however, does not rule out other possible future uses, Kosten said.

"You could potentially inject pregnant cocaine users with the vaccine to prevent their fetuses from becoming contaminated," he explained.

Other uses could include administering the vaccine to high-risk adolescents in order to prevent them from becoming addicted early on, he said, while acknowledging that this would raise serious ethical and legal questions.

Testing for the cocaine vaccine has included a series of five injections over a period of three months, Kosten said.

The vaccine has one more large scale human study scheduled before it is ready for the federal Food and Drug Administration approval process.

A similar nicotine vaccine is also in the early stages of testing by several groups of European researchers. Kosten hopes to have the vaccine on the market in two to three years.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.


For more and more women, booze offers the only escape

Why do women drink themselves to death? Twice as many do, compared to 15 years ago. They vomit alone in their bathrooms, throwing up their self-disgust. In 1991, 7.2 women aged 35-54 per 100,000 died of alcohol-related diseases; today it is 14.8. Some will die of cirrhosis of the liver, or of the drugs they take when they are drunk. Some will die in alcohol-related accidents and some of despair - they will simply kill themselves. The question is, why are more women becoming alcoholics today?

As a recovering alcoholic, I know why I tried to drink myself to death. I was lonely and angry, and I felt worthless. I started drinking when I was 13, a middle-class teenager from the most suburban of suburbs, who came home from school for a quick nip of vodka from an old blue mug. Alcohol was a lover who changed my feelings - I became less angry, and less lonely. Then he swallowed me back, and took everything. By the time that I knew I was an alcoholic, it seemed too late to do anything about it. I washed up in AA at 27, with everything broken.

Nobody knows exactly what causes alcoholism. I believe it is genetic, but triggered by trauma. A person born with an inbred disposition to alcoholism may never develop it if they grow up in a healthy and stable environment. All the recovering alcoholics I know say the same thing - they felt different, even as children. They didn't feel safe.

Alcoholism has little to do with alcohol, just as bulimia has nothing to do with food; it is a disease of the soul, a system of self-harming thought, which the alcoholic treats with alcohol. The drinking is merely the final, fatal symptom. And what matters for binge-drinking girls is this - not everyone who drinks heavily will develop alcoholism. But to develop alcoholism you have to drink heavily. You have to put the hours in at the pub.

The modern childhood is a kindergarten for alcoholics. All the external criteria are in place to ease the maybe-baby alcoholic into full-blown unto-the-gates-of-hell drunk. Alcohol has never been so cheap. The supermarkets and the happy hours and the clubs can't stuff it down our throats cheaply enough or fast enough or long enough; some supermarkets sell it at less than cost, to draw the shoppers in. They don't treat it as a dangerous drug, but as a commodity that is great for business. The more units they sell, the more alcoholics there will be. And the more alcoholics there are, the more units they will sell. Sainsbury's is now selling cider, the drink of choice for 13-year-olds, for 26 pence a pint.

There are wonderful new ways to make young women feel worthless. Sparkling advertisements and whispering editorials encourage them to aspire to an ever-receding fantasy. You can never be beautiful or thin enough for the fashion magazines of 2008. You can never be sexy enough for MTV, or pornography. You can never be famous enough for Heat. The message is clear and simple and lucrative - be someone else. And that is the tiny voice inside every alcoholic's head.

But now it is a shriek from a billboard, and young women respond with bulimia and anorexia and compulsive eating and chronic debt - and booze. If Cinderella were rewritten for the 21st century, the prince would say: "Have your pubic hair waxed off. And starve down to size zero. Perhaps some breast implants? Don't you feel like a better woman now, Cinders?"

Alcoholism is a disease of unreality, and of fantasy. That is why so few recover - you cannot see the gutter to crawl out. The alcoholic lies to herself on a daily basis. And when society lies too - be Britney Spears! Be Posh Spice! You too can be thin and happy! - more will fall. Alcoholism used to be called a "family disease", in which every family member played a part. The alcoholic was the bad child, the mother or father the caretaker or abuser, the sibling the good child. Now it has become a social disease, and there are "bad children" everywhere.

And how do we respond to this burgeoning mental illness in young women? We treat it with a disgust that will send the alcoholic spiralling ever downwards, or as a comedy, which is almost worse. We watch Britney Spears shaving her hair off and running around Los Angeles, half-dressed or strapped to a stretcher, and wait for her to die. We watch Amy Winehouse crawling on the ground towards her front door. We mouth "Isn't it terrible?" with a terrible smile and what we really think is, What is the end of the story? Will Princess Britney, the most Googled woman on the planet, be buried in a pink coffin with a Disney Channel logo, before the credits roll? Will Amy pay for her talent with her life, and be immortalised in death, Janis Joplin part two?

Denial is the best friend of alcoholism - and now we all collude. These women are punching themselves in the face, and dying, not dancing, in the streets. And that's entertainment. As for what's really going on inside her - who cares?
author: Tanya Gold,
source: The Guardian


Uncharted Waters

It’s very hard to gauge the scale of unregulated
therapies being offered for addiction issues, but
a quick trawl of the internet will throw up endless
options. Those in the field may know almost at a
glance which are reliable, respectable and
effective but members of the public may well not.

They may also be in a desperate situation and willing
to try anything for themselves or their loved ones.
‘There needs to be some kind of mechanism for
a member of the general public to look at a website
and know whether something has safeguards and
guarantees,’ says Kevin Flemen of KFx. ‘The wider
public don’t know the differences between all the
different organisations and treatments. Compare a
new age clinic and a hypnotherapist both doing
smoking cessation, for example. It may be a very
good and responsible hypnotherapist, and regulated
by various industry bodies, but how does a member
of the public differentiate between those two
practitioners, neither of whom are doing nicotine
replacement therapy or NHS work? They’re both
private. If I’m not offering a regulated therapy then
there is simply no governance.’

At the moment, private clinics are regulated by
the Healthcare Commission under the Care
Standards Act 2000, but only when they are GP-led
and issuing prescriptions. A nurse-led clinic is not
subject to regulation. ‘Anybody who wants to set up
a service that’s not GP-led can do so,’ says chief
executive of FDAP, Simon Shepherd. ‘Private
healthcare services are regulated by the Healthcare
Commission, but what constitutes a healthcare
service is quite interesting – you would assume it
was anything that offers healthcare, including
clinics, but it’s not. You can run a nurse-led clinic for
drugs and alcohol in the private sector and there’s
no way of quality-assuring it. There’s no way of
knowing the scale of the problem, but it’s big
enough that something needs to be done. The
alternative to regulation is whistle blowing – as a
field, we draw attention to things we’re concerned
with – but the problem with that is it doesn’t get out
to the wider public.’

Residential services are regulated, as, clearly,
are NHS services, while day care and non-residential
services run by the voluntary sector are effectively
quality assured by the commissioning teams. ‘If
they don’t think the services are good enough they
can put them out to tender again, so mainstream
drug and alcohol treatment provision is broadly
overseen to make sure that the system on offer is
appropriate and offered at a reasonable level of
quality,’ says Shepherd. ‘Some of these systems
are by no means perfect but at least if you know
there’s something absolutely outrageous going on
there’s a way of pulling the plug on it. If a street
agency is offering a below par service, ultimately the
commissioners of the service will pick that up. The
bit that falls through the gap is any service that
doesn’t seek government funding.’

One lever is that trading standards departments
and the Advertising Standards Authority (AAA) can
investigate to make sure spurious claims are not
being made about the services on offer. ‘This only
provides limited protection for the public,’ says
Shepherd. ‘Trading standards are local authority
departments, so if you’re offering a national service
who’s responsible for that? And you have to convince
advertising standards that it’s worth investigating
because they get thousands of complaints. At the
end of the day, they’re not experts in this field and not
really in a position to make effective judgements.’
Counselling, meanwhile, is unregulated but
counsellors should be accredited, and the AAA does
not allow addiction counsellors to advertise their
services in directories such as the Yellow Pages and, on the basis that there is no recognised
body quality-assuring their work. ‘There are really tight
restrictions on what counsellors can claim to offer,
particularly around drugs and alcohol,’ says
Shepherd. ‘Yet if you set up a nurse-led private clinic
and say you’re offering quasi-medical care then that
appears to be OK. We would want to see only
counsellors who have had proper training around
substance misuse being able to provide private
counselling services around these issues, but there
are counsellors who are not accredited by a
recognised body providing services.’

But isn’t there an argument that there may be
lots of new, innovative and exciting treatments out
there and they should be given an opportunity? ‘We
cannot allow people providing services that fly in the
face of available evidence to continue to operate
unchallenged,’ he says. ‘We can allow free innovation
and services that don’t have an evidence base
to underpin them, provided there’s a strong
theoretical base or rationale and that they are then
subject to thorough examination. They should only
be offered for a trial period while they’re being
investigated, and offered as unproven services, not
treatments. You can allow for innovation through that
process – you can trial stuff but the public needs to
be aware it’s a trial.’

The danger, of course, is not just that people are
fleeced by perhaps unscrupulous and unqualified
practitioners; it is also the very real health risks
associated with such a vulnerable clientele. If people
withdraw from opiates or alcohol without the
prescription of any substitutes in order to rely on an
‘alternative’ therapy, then they could be at great risk.
‘The cost of getting it wrong for this client group is
immense,’ says Simon Shepherd, ‘for the client, their
family and for wider society. And there are very real
dangers with this client group of getting it
catastrophically wrong – if you try and encourage
someone with a long history of alcohol dependency
to stop drinking overnight, they will die, simple as
that. Nobody should be working with alcoholics
unless they’re fully aware of the medical realities, so
it’s critical that we have some form of control.’
‘The biggest thing in all of this is that if there’s an
evidence base then you can prove it, and if you can
prove it then that’s fine,’ says Sharon Carson, chief
executive of EATA. ‘But if there’s no evidence base
then it’s a big problem. The question is around what
we are doing in the sector to regulate what is
happening and make sure that people accessing the
treatment are getting treatment of the best quality.

We have an accreditation programme which we
encourage our members to apply for because we can
guarantee a level of quality in service delivery that
way, but we’re not a regulatory body. At the moment
there are a few things in place but there’s no
regulated collective checklist and nothing that all
types of treatment organisations have to
demonstrate that they’ve complied with. It definitely
needs to be raised on the agenda.
‘What we do as an organisation is to try work
with central bodies to say we need to improve the
quality of treatment,’ she continues. ‘There are
things that can be done as a sector to ensure we
have the appropriate treatment and we need to start
working on those – it’s been on the agenda but it’s
not been particularly high on the agenda and that’s
got to change. In any treatment sector, you have
huge amounts of regulation and standards, and
drugs and alcohol is falling behind.’
‘Encouraging membership of voluntary schemes
is not a solution,’ says Kevin Flemen. ‘As long as
other practitioners can practise regardless of these
schemes, then the voluntary system is meaningless.
Rather than just having a competency framework,
there should be some benchmarking for the general
public which allows them to establish if the service
meets basic minimum standards. This would allow
any member of the public to visit a website and see,
via some simple authentication system, that it is a
legitimate service with, say, a bronze, silver or gold
status or something like that. We need a threshold to
say that basic minimum standards are being met by
this organisation, which doesn’t necessarily vouch for
the effectiveness of the therapy but works on the
basis that it’s a therapy that is at least recognised by
the drugs field rather than being some Mickey Mouse
quackery, and that criminal record checks and things
like that have been carried out.

‘If I want to be FDAP approved there’s a regulatory
framework in place, but if I don’t want to be approved
then there’s no strategy for stopping me practising
and I find that astonishing,’ he continues. ‘It’s a
bigger issue than just drugs, it’s the huge
unregulated alternative practices market, everything
from allergies to cancer treatment. But I think
ultimately the Department of Health should regulate
the field – I don’t think it should be up to the field
itself to regulate, and I don’t think it’s about DANOS
competencies. I do think there needs to be a clear
licensing system, but it’s a huge thing to take on, and
the Department of Health doesn’t see it as their role
– I find it amazing that no one sees it as their role.
We can spend five years lobbying for strategic
change, but during that time thousands of people are
going to be ripped off by rogue traders.’

source: Drink and Drug News U.K


Depression Treatment In Drug Rehab

It is not uncommon to see a person with depression struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Such a co-occurring problem can actually magnify the difficulties with both depression and addiction.To counter this, the Cirque Lodge drug rehab program has instituted a dual diagnosis service to address both problems at hand. Therapy services are engineered to look at the disorder and address the problem as it presents itself.

Depression can be the reason behind the addiction. People who develop depression are often times more recluse and can turn to drugs and alcohol to satisfy their condition. Depression can also present itself in forms of pain throughout the body. With this condition, an individual can turn to narcotic prescription drugs to end the pain, and develop an addiction to these drugs. These addictive substances are taken to suppress the depression. The development is an addiction and a greatly compounded depression issue.

Depression increases the risk of developing addiction. The central nervous system of someone struggling with depression is more susceptible to the influences of drugs and alcohol. Recent studies have shown that within people who have been diagnosed with depression that over 50% were dependent on drugs, 37% abused alcohol, and 25% were struggling with both drugs and alcohol abuse. Some therapy officials feel that the very same thing that causes depression is the thing that increases the risk of addiction.

Adversely, alcohol and drug addiction can be the cause of the depression. The make up of some drugs can create a sense of depression within the individual. This can depend on the extent, the amount, and type of drug or alcohol that is abused. Drug rehab programs will usually stop the abuse of alcohol and drugs to see if the depression begins to fade. If the symptoms of depression begin to disappear, most likely it was brought on by the addiction itself.

Depression, Addiction Treatment and Diagnosis

In looking for a drug rehab program for you or a loved one, it is advantageous to seek an addiction treatment center that offers a dual diagnosis service. Dual diagnosis works with many types of psychiatric disorder, beyond depression. An effective dual diagnosis drug rehab can bring a halt to addiction and then address the issue of depression. This provides a proper recovery for both of the problems at hand.

source: Information provided by Cirque Lodge a private alcohol and drug rehab program in Sundance Utah.


My life as a heroin addict

I am 19 and I am a heroin addict. I’ve been through drug programs four times and have been clean since October.

I’m very together at the moment, so these are not just the ramblings of a doped-up junkie.

Firstly, heroin has been a big problem in Cape Town for a long time. I cannot imagine that people are only starting to notice it now. It has been targeted at people a lot younger than in their twenties. In fact, my friends and I have been doing drugs from about the ages of 12 – 15.

Detox not for the fainthearted
Getting off the stuff is not easy - detox plans in South Africa are revolting. During my first detox in a treatment centre, I was simply locked in a room for three days. After a while, I started having epileptic fits and foaming at the mouth. This happens to many people who are mainliners (those who inject drugs intravenously). The staff held me down on a bed and told me to think happy thoughts. There was no appropriate detoxification medication available.

I was clean for 9 months before I relapsed and overdosed. My sister found me dying and took me to hospital.

Hospital care not very caring
I must say that I don’t think the hospitals have any time for people like us. The next day the doctor came and just looked at me and without saying a word, signed my release forms. I had to spend the night, because my heart had stopped. I was in withdrawal, but that didn’t stop them from simply kicking me out of the hospital.

Is it my own fault that I am this way? Would anyone choose this willingly? Many people don’t seem to understand that we cannot help who we are and that we never asked to be like this. Yes, we do know that we made a choice, the consequences of which we live with every day, but that doesn’t mean we are any less human.

The places in South Africa that are equipped to deal with heroin addiction are few and far between. And some of them are very expensive. So what happens if you’re not a member of a medical scheme? But wherever you go, the sacrifice is worth it. After all, you get your life back.



Marijuana Smokers Face Rapid Lung Destruction - As Much As 20 Years Ahead Of Tobacco Smokers

A study in a Wiley-Blackwell journal - Respirology - finds that the development of bullous lung disease occurs in marijuana smokers approximately 20 years earlier than tobacco smokers.

A condition often caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, bullous lung disease (also known as bullae) is a condition where air trapped in the lungs causes obstruction to breathing and eventual destruction of the lungs.

At present, about 10% of young adults and 1% of the adult population smoke marijuana regularly. Researchers find that the mean age of marijuana-smoking patients with lung problems was 41, as opposed to the average age of 65 years for tobacco-smoking patients.

The study "Bullous Lung Disease due to Marijuana" also finds that the bullous lung disease can easily go undetected as patients suffering from the disease may show normal chest X-rays and lung functions. High-resolution CT scans revealed severe asymmetrical, variably sized bullae in the patients studied. However, chest X-rays and lung functions were normal in half of them.

Lead author Dr. Matthew Naughton says, "What is outstanding about this study is the relatively young ages of the lung disease patients, as well as the lack of abnormality on chest X-rays and lung functions in nearly half of the patients we tested."

He added, "Marijuana is inhaled as extremely hot fumes to the peak inspiration and held for as long as possible before slow exhalation. This predisposes to greater damage to the lungs and makes marijuana smokers are more prone to bullous disease as compared to cigarette smokers."

Patients who smoke marijuana inhale more and hold their breath four times longer than cigarette smokers. It is the breathing manoeuvres of marijuana smokers that serve to increase the concentration and pulmonary deposition of inhaled particulate matter - resulting in greater and more rapid lung destruction.

This paper is published in the January 2008 issue of Respirology.



It's surf, sun, sand and -- sobriety?

Newport Beach seeks to rein in unlicensed 'sober-living' homes for recovering addicts, but faces suits from the firms and their foes.

The company's brochure features an aerial shot of the Balboa Peninsula and describes its 90-day drug and alcohol recovery program as "located in the warm, healing climate of Southern California."

It's that kind of promise -- in this case from Sober Living by the Sea -- that has made Newport Beach an unlikely capital for drug- and alcohol-free homes. There are at least 76 such facilities in Newport, according to a city survey, a number that has rocked sensibilities in a town where a premium is put on fun, sun and the good life.

"There has been an institutionalization of our streets and a taking of our neighborhoods that does not serve the residents or the addicts, only the for-profit operators," said Cindy Koller, a member of Concerned Citizens of Newport Beach, a group formed to fight the proliferation. She and other community activists say the heavy concentration of sober-living group homes, where recovering drug and alcohol users live several months at a time, has turned their neighborhoods into quasi-hospitals.

Tonight, the City Council is expected to pass one of California's most extensive ordinances regulating sober-living homes. Operators of the homes have threatened to go to court to block the law. The debate here is being watched closely by communities up and down the coast as a test of how far local governments can go in reining in a largely unregulated cottage industry.

Newport's fight mirrors tensions in beach cities throughout California. In 2000, San Clemente residents pushed with little success for state legislators to regulate sober-living homes. A few years earlier, San Pedro tried to limit "special needs" homes, which include sober-living facilities, without success.

Residents of Malibu, famed for its high-end rehab centers catering to the rich and famous, have begun to mobilize against the recovery homes popping up in their canyon neighborhoods. The homes number at least two dozen, city officials said.

"It's this daisy-chain effect that we're concerned about," said Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings. "At some point, instead of living in a residential neighborhood you begin to live in something like a hospital zone."

Newport's ordinance would require unlicensed group homes of any size to apply for city permits. It would also subject unlicensed homes that share staff -- so-called integral facilities -- to city regulation. New group homes would be limited to areas zoned for multi-family residences -- about 1,000 acres of the city. Some activists insist that the city go further, but city lawyers say additional restrictions could be discriminatory.

Critics say the owners of the homes, mostly for-profit companies, market themselves to recovering substance-abusers who pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend rehabilitation programs in a beach town.

"These are businesses that are being operated in residential neighborhoods," said Lori Morris, an activist with Concerned Citizens of Newport Beach. "It's not the rehab homes we're against; it's the over-concentration." The bulk of the facilities in Newport are in two pockets on the Balboa Peninsula.

Opponents of the homes also argue that the peninsula -- home to about 11,000 people and swelling seasonally with vacationers and college students -- is the wrong place for rehabilitation facilities. The peninsula is known for its night life and raucous Fourth of July partying. According to Newport Beach police, 75 establishments sell liquor in the 2-square-mile strip.

"Why do they send rehab kids to the worst place to stay sober other than Tijuana?" wondered resident Ken Kuhlman, a retired salesman.

Sober-living providers say they are offering a much-needed public service and call Newport's proposed ordinance illegal and discriminatory.

Their patients are not the cursing, incessantly smoking nuisances neighbors make them out to be, said John Peloquin, a vice president of operations for CRC Health, the company that owns Sober Living by the Sea, the city's largest provider of recovery homes.

"They've portrayed our homes as nothing but flophouses," said Bill Swiney, Sober Living by the Sea's executive director. "These are professionally run, tranquil and peaceful facilities."

Swiney said his programs aim to give a realistic experience of life without chemical dependency, and that Newport is as good a location as any.

"We can't hide them behind the oleanders of Betty Ford [Center] any longer," he said. "We're trying to give them a support system so they can live in any environment. We want them to be able to walk right by the bars."

Newport Beach's 76 sober-living homes provide more than 500 beds, according to a survey done by Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff. Only 28 of the facilities are licensed by the state. The survey showed that Newport Beach has four times the number of licensed sober-living homes than it would have if they were distributed evenly per capita statewide.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs requires licenses only for homes that provide treatment on-site. Since many sober-living homes merely offer an alcohol- and drug-free environment, they are not licensed.

Cities may regulate group homes only if they have more than six residents. Under state and federal law, homes with six or fewer people must be treated like any other residence and are not subject to local control.

It's that lack of regulation, critics say, that has allowed the homes to spread through the city unchecked. The operators can lease multiple homes, house fewer than seven patients in each, then treat them off-site at a central facility.

The group homes are also moneymakers for the homeowners who lease to them. Because the operators can rent to as many as six people in each dwelling and charge a premium, renting to them is more lucrative than renting to vacationers, college students or families.

There's little doubt that Newport Beach will be sued if the council approves the regulations. Sober Living by the Sea plans to file suit once the ordinance passes, as does Concerned Citizens of Newport Beach if the city's ordinance lacks the teeth to substantially limit the group homes.

The state attorney general's office said in an opinion issued last month that neither state nor local government has the authority to limit substance-abuse treatment facilities, even if the community has more than enough to meet the local need. The opinion came at the request of state Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach), who made a failed attempt this month to give cities more rights to regulate recovery homes.

Backers of Newport's ordinance, however, contend that the city is being unfairly burdened. Newport has the highest number per capita of sober-living facilities in the state, they say, although no comprehensive statewide statistics exist. The state keeps track of only the 910 licensed residential programs, which have a total bed capacity of 21,000.

Michael Cunningham, chief deputy director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, said California does not want a limit on recovery facilities. "We actually need more treatment facilities in the state, not less," he said.

Cunningham said he didn't believe there was an over-concentration of such homes along the coast -- though no such statistics are kept -- but acknowledged that that was where most complaints had come from.

The anticipated legal fight has turned cities throughout the state into avid spectators, said Laguna Beach City Manager Ken Frank.

"We definitely have group homes in residential neighborhoods; we definitely get complaints about it, and we definitely can't do anything about it," he said. "As you might suspect, we'll be watching this."

source: Los Angeles Times


Struggling With Those 2008 Resolutions? DailyStrength's "Goals" Program Makes Them Stick

Millions of people have proclaimed their resolutions for the new year and have likely started off strong, hitting the gym, eating more healthfully and staying away from alcohol, to name a few. Statistics show, however, that of those who set a New Year's resolution at least 50% abandon it by the end of January and up to 90% by the end of March. There's now a better way to stick with and reach one's goals: DailyStrength, the Internet's fastest growing health-focused social network, has unveiled its new Goals feature. "Goals" provides members with measurement and tracking tools to keep them focused, and harnesses the power of online support groups ( to keep them on the right path.

Free and available now on DailyStrength, the Goals feature is fun and easy to use, whether one's desire is to lose weight, nurture a relationship, stay sober, or simply cut out soda. The Goals interface walks each member through the process, providing options for receiving e-mail encouragement from friends, for tracking progress, for setting start and end dates, and for adding a badge to a MySpace page or blog. Goals can be made private or public, viewable only to one's DailyStrength friends, or viewable to all. When members input their goals, they are connected to others with similar goals, and encouraged to chat with and support one another.

Goals is already a hit with DailyStrength's members: just three weeks since it became available on the site, 10,180 goals have been set by nearly 7,000 members, with more than 7,600 "encouragement" e-mails sent to the goal-setters. To see some goals in action, visit the Depression Forum ( or the Alcoholism Forum ( and click on "goals" in the upper right corner.

"I am very excited about our DailyStrength Goals feature," said Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross, a licensed psychotherapist and DailyStrength Advisory Board member. "Setting goals that you can see and track is an extremely effective way of achieving them. In my private practice, I routinely set goals with my clients and check in regularly to keep them on track. Having others bear witness to your progress, offer support and encouragement, and share their own experience with you helps to motivate individuals to stick to their program. DailyStrength's Goals offers a supportive and positive venue for members to achieve the goals they have set for themselves."

Helping over 400,000 users every month in more than 600 Community Support Groups (, DailyStrength has become the "go to" destination for people facing health and life issues. Beyond support and encouragement, DailyStrength offers detailed information on more than 3,000 different treatments, so users can find and talk with others about their real-world experience using the same therapies. This valuable information can help a patient make more informed decisions when considering treatment options. DailyStrength also offers live news feeds tailored to each community, so members can read relevant news about their topics of concern as it happens.

About DailyStrength

DailyStrength offers hundreds of free online support groups ( for people seeking information, advice, and inspiration from others facing similar challenges, be it depression, divorce, grief, weight loss, breast cancer, parenting, HIV, or hundreds of other issues. Community members share experiences with thousands of treatments, recommend doctors, explore local support resources, post photos and videos, maintain wellness journals and send each other virtual hugs. In the words of one depression support group member, "This is what the Internet should be used for. A real global community, supporting and caring for our fellow beings. Absolutely inspired and inspiring."

DailyStrength is headquartered in Los Angeles and is backed by Redpoint Ventures.



"The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace"

I am an avid reader. I always have been. There is nothing more delightful to me than spending hours in a book store. It is not unusual for me to buy as many books as my budget will allow and I chose books that I think will bring me to a better understanding of myself. Okay! It sounds like that same old self-help stuff we used to buy to try to get well because we would not admit we were addicted to anything, right? Not really. The self-help material I read today supports my recovery and I now find joy in reading spiritually-based books without feeling any hypocrisy.

There is a special book I would like to share with all of you. This is not a book review but what I call a book appreciation. A “review” in someway indicates that someone is critiquing a publication by both positive and negative comments. Trust me. There is absolutely nothing negative about this book. “The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace” by Jack Kornfield is like a friend. It has helped me through my most difficult times; the times when I felt alone and afraid; the times when I had to focus on prayer and meditation because I needed to rid myself of the pain.

Mr. Kornfield is a Buddhist monk but please do not believe that he is writing as a religious leader. I am not a Buddhist but if you are in a 12 Step Recovery program and work the steps, you will find that many of the principles of recovery reflect Buddhist beliefs; i.e. the title of this book. Actually, the principles that are written about in this book are based on a spiritual way of life for all people. There are no words written about recovery, addiction, or relapse but the book reminded me of the Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous because it offers an opportunity to find that peace and serenity that sometimes seems to elude us.

This book is a “treasury of insights from many spiritual traditions, together with modern stories and time-honored meditations”. Each quotation or story has a message that will touch your heart, mind and soul and in some way, you will find a relevance to you, your life and your recovery.

Step Eleven suggests that prayer and meditation will help us improve our conscious contact with God. If you are trying to find a good subject for meditation and even need direction to meditate, you will not be disappointed. Every page could be a prayer but there are specific meditations on forgiveness, letting go, grief, and reconciliation. These are the meditations that I practice over and over again because they have worked for me and instill tranquility and calmness that I do not feel most times.

There are also meditations on lovingkindness, compassion, gratitude and joy. The book ends with a meditation focusing on peace followed by additional meditations that support this quality of peace. Even if you find meditation difficult, I think you will be quite eager to follow these to heal, to find peace, or to move into a more spiritual self.

“The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace” has become one of my favorite and most valued books. I keep it close at hand. There are times when I just want to sit quietly and read or meditate and there are those times when I so desperately need the hope it offers. It is a “new way to meet life’s greatest challenges with acceptance, joy and hope”.

I want to leave you with the very first quotation of the book: “You hold in your hand an invitation: To remember the transforming power of forgiveness and lovingkindness. To remember that no matter where you are and what you face, within your heart peace is possible.” I not only invite you but urge you to read the beautiful messages this book delivers. There is no doubt that you will understand why I could not review but could only appreciate this book.

Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

(“The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace” by Jack Kornfield, is published by Bantam Books)



Wake up to rehabilitation

SEASIDE - Helping people clear the "cobwebs" 12 steps at a time.

That is the mission of Awakenings by the Sea, a rehabilitation facility that has opened its doors in Seaside.

The state of Oregon is ranked 47th in available addiction treatment in the country and ranked fourth in need for addiction treatment, according to Jim Arnold, chief executive officer of Awakenings by the Sea.

"Our goal is to help restore the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health to these individuals, so they can be productive members of society," said Arnold. "Unfortunately, many of these people have more than one addiction," said Arnold. The programs are 30, 60 and 90 days with the first 30 days costing patients $7,500 and declining by $500 increments from there.

In defense of the cost, Arnold said a $21,000 price tag for a 90-day round of treatment in the Awakenings facility is what some facilities elsewhere charge for 30 days. In comparison, the Betty Ford Center charges $24,000 for a 30-day inpatient treatment program, according to the Web site.

"(For the cost) people are hopefully getting well," said Arnold. "What kind of price tag can you put on that. The cost also covers individual and group treatments, room and board, family visitations on Saturdays and aftercare. "There is also a discovery of the disease process and hopefully the tools to lead a happy, healthy, normal life."

Aftercare is for those patients who need additional support after completing the program.

"It's not unlike out-patient care. If they have issues with life on life's terms, they can come back for additional counseling," said Arnold.

He also said that initially the plan for the facility had been to provide care for "high-end" clients, working professionals, but realized that "we were kind of missing the point."

"White collar, blue collar, no collar, we're here to help," said Arnold. "We didn't expect to get rich off of this."

Arnold says that while Awakenings is a business, it is also a service to the community and that the facility has taken on eight patients in the last three months who could not pay for the care they received. Those patients who received care without being billed were locals referred to the facility by LifeWorks and individuals seeking treatment for their addiction.

According to LifeWorks Director Michel Meiffren, it would be "advantageous to the recovering community here" for Awakenings to be certified to receive clients who are without insurance. The uninsured would be covered by the Oregon Health Plan under indigent care. Awakenings is in the process of being OHP certified.

"We have referred four clients to Awakenings and they took one in," said Meiffren. "To their credit, they opened two beds for indigent care."

Meiffren says the most important part of the recovery and care process is to have a continuum of care that follows through from a 12-step program to inpatient care to detox to aftercare to the 12-steps again.

"The more that continuum of care is established, the better for the community, and Awakenings is part of that continuum," said Meiffren.

The facility is licensed to care for 15 patients in a residential treatment program, during which patients are allowed to have supervised walks and are escorted to two Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week outside the facility.

"Individuals spend 98 percent of their time confined to the building," said Arnold.

Those in treatment are free to leave, if they wish, but for the duration of their stay in the facility, they must participate in group activities and are either supervised by staff or self-supervised in groups of no fewer than three patients.

Patients are examined by an "on-call physician" when they initially check in to the facility, undergoing a basic physical and an inspection of all medications they may be taking to ensure that "what's in the bottle matches what's on the label." The patient's state of addiction is measured by standards created by the American Psychiatric Association, thus placing that diagnosis in the hands of physicians and councilors rather than in the hands of family members, as would occur in a traditional treatment program.

Internally, Awakenings has round-the-clock care on hand for those in residence and also provides in-house counseling that is supervised by Kris Hansen.

Hansen used to be employed by LifeWorks and according to Meiffren, the staff at LifeWorks has "the highest regard for her."

Hansen says the program uses a combination of the Minnesota Model which, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is "typically characterized by a thorough and ongoing assessment of all aspects of the client and of the multimodal therapeutic approaches," and is employed by Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar recovery programs.

Hansen says she has been working in recovery treatment since the early 1990s, including in- and out-patient treatments.

"I prefer the intensity of residential treatment programs," said Hansen. She said that she "had a career change sort of midlife" from business management to psychology.

"I realized I wanted to help people," said Hansen.

The level of addiction assessment also determines the length of stay for a patient.

In the long-term, Awakenings will be comprised of three facilities - the Seaside site, a site in Bend and a site in Portland. The proposed Bend and Portland facilities are still in the theoretical stages at this point.

The building housing Awakenings, at 1325 N. Holladay Dr., Seaside, is a renovated church but is far removed from its roots as such. It was purchased by other owners as a potential home and then purchased by Arnold and his investors. According to Arnold, the community as much as the building helped him make the decision to locate the facility here. Annually, Seaside plays host to conventions for those in recovery and that, says Arnold, was one of those important community factors.

"Clearly, the community here is supportive of people trying to better themselves and get well," he said.

Arnold said the venture was a first-time effort for him and that his group of investors are all private investors who are in recovery.

"This is an avenue to give back," said Arnold.

The facility is unique, according to Arnold, in the features provided by Awakenings. There are bedrooms that are two or three beds to a room, several bathrooms, two sets of stairways that connect each floor of the house and a feeling of a large home.

'Feeling of home'

"Every client here or that has come through, said we have given them the feeling of home," said Arnold. "One man said this facility had done in 30 days what another hadn't done in 90. That bodes well for the treatment modality."

Arnold praised local business owners and the neighborhood around Awakenings for being supportive and understanding the economic and social impacts of addiction upon a community.

"All the neighbors are elated that we've improved the look of the neighborhood and increased their property values," said Arnold. He said neighbors were most concerned about the possible increase in traffic through their neighborhood but said their fears were eased when it was explained that the facility encourages patients to be driven to the facility, rather than driving themselves.

"We are not a lock-down facility and we believe it's better not to have extra cars sitting around outside," said Arnold.

When a patient completes a treatment program, they are given a party of sorts that includes their fellow recoverers as well as their families.

"People are so grateful to get their loved ones back," said Arnold.

source: Daily Astorian


Podcast promotes 'life after alcoholism'

For many years, Westwood native Dan Sullivan struggled with alcoholism that started with experimental drinking as a youth and escalated into more serious drinking as a young man.

Now the 43-year-old, recently of Franklin, who in December celebrated 17 years of sobriety, is using the Internet to help others going through the same struggle.

Sullivan's podcast, "Just For Today," is the No. 1 sobriety program on iTunes, according to the show's production company, Hipfire Productions, based in Melrose.

"Our first show aired on Jan. 1 of 2007. We posted 103 shows in 12 months," Sullivan said, noting that his top downloaded sober podcast,, gets about 18,000 hits each month.

Reaching thousands of recovering alcoholics with the message of staying sober "one day at a time," Sullivan began recording his podcast - a kind of program available for downloading from the Internet - from the basement of his Franklin home; now he creates the program from a new home in Rhode Island, to which he moved in December. He talks with others dealing with alcoholism, and conducts interviews with authors and other professionals also helping alcoholics recover.

"I just want to be a voice in the wilderness that's willing to talk to you about my pain and stupidity in alcoholism and that there is life afterwards. This isn't a lifelong sentence. You didn't come out of the womb drinking a beer or a scotch ... you had a time in your life where you lived without alcohol and you probably lived pretty good," Sullivan said.

The former radio sports show broadcaster who now holds two jobs - one as a sales representative for a computer services company in Rhode Island and one as a part-time karaoke host - says his goal is simple.

"I don't want to make any money from this. I just want to help other people get sober," he said. "My goal is, if I help one person, I'll be happy, and everything else will just be gravy."

Sullivan decided he wanted to help others like himself about 14 years into becoming involved with Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I'd gotten so much from the program, I was trying to figure out a way to give back," he said.

One day, while trolling, he came upon an ad looking for ideas for podcasts. He called the number and suggested podcasts about marriage and sobriety. The company that placed the ad, Hipfire, told Sullivan to work on the sobriety podcast idea.

"They said to put together a pilot show and they'd decide whether it was something they might want to start up," Sullivan said.

"A podcast is like an on-demand radio talk show," executive producer Rick Schettino, of Hipfire Productions, explained. "This content is not commercial enough for a radio station to take on, but the Internet makes that a moot point because you don't have to be in range of the radio station nor even in the same country. And you don't have to be available at the time that they broadcast the show to listen in. It's at your fingertips on your computer or on your iPod 24/7."

After answering the Hipfire ad, Sullivan cranked up his recording equipment and "just started talking" about his struggles with alcoholism and about sobriety. "And an hour later I was still talking, so I shut it down, and put a beginning and an ending on it," he said.

"When Dan contacted us about doing a sobriety podcast, we realized that there's a huge need to enable people like Dan to do their thing," said Schettino. "There are plenty of challenges that we all face. It's hard to care much about topics like global warming when your own life is in shambles. We need a healthy population if we're going to solve the problems that we all share."

The first week, Sullivan said, he got an e-mail from a man who said "this is great. It's helped me a lot." Now, Sullivan said, he gets e-mails from all over the nation and the world, including Australia and South America.

Sullivan is known only as Dan on his podcast - he withholds his last name in keeping with the philosophy of AA. He stresses that his podcast is not meant to be a replacement for professional help or AA meetings. The show is not affiliated with AA.

"Basically, it's a bridge. It's not a substitute for a meeting, it's a bridge," Sullivan said.

He doesn't present himself as a professional, Sullivan said, but rather as a voice of someone who has gone through it.

"I'm just telling you (on the podcast) from my experience what's worked (to stay sober) for 17 years," he said.

Sullivan revealed that he had his first drink when he was in sixth grade. "Nothing serious, but as I got into my middle to late teens it got more serious," he said. "I drank from about 16 to 27, when I got off the train."

During his struggle, he said, "I lost the respect of family and friends, lost jobs, and money... I had no emotion, nothing but doom, death and despair in my life. I didn't know what I was going to do."

"I got to the end and I was dying and I said 'I don't want to check out at 27 years old,' " he said.

While he has been sober for 17 years, Sullivan admits it remains a struggle, which is the reason the premise for his show - one day at a time - is so significant not only for him, but for others like him.

"I have one responsibility today and that is to not take a drink today. All I've got to do is not drink today. It's getting into that mindset of making the most of every single day that you have and making sure that you don't screw up by having a drink."

To speak with Schettino or Sullivan about or, contact Schettino at 781-665-0433 or email him at; or email Sullivan at (this e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, so JavaScript must be enabled to view it).



Township might force sober house to close

For some Dalton Township officials, the house at 3071 Second is a zoning problem -- a boardinghouse in a single-family residential district, struggling to meet the legal requirements to remain in business.

For Ken Brink, it's a whole lot more.

It started out as a safe refuge when he left prison -- a quiet, structured environment where he could nurture his newfound sobriety.

Sixteen months later, it's become his permanent home. And he's become the lighthouse keeper for other substance abusers seeking recovery under the same roof.

"It's a plus to be a role model and example for other residents, but I also learn from the people who come here right off the street," said Brink, 51, the live-in manager of Serenity Springs Sober House, Muskegon County's only boardinghouse for men who are recovering from addictions.

"They remind me of where I came from, remind me not to get too complacent. There's no cure for this disease. It's a one day at a time process," he said.

But Brink and his housemates could be dealt a blow Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Dalton Township Hall, when the Zoning Board of Appeals considers granting Serenity Shores variances for several issues, mostly involving parking.

If the variances are granted, the township board will grant the sober house a special use permit to remain in business. If it's not, the boardinghouse will be closed soon.

That would be a shame, according to Joel Kruszynski, the owner of the house.

While he said he would probably try to find another location for the sober house, that would take time. And the people who need what the house has to offer might be out of luck in the meantime.

"There are some people who are clean and sober today who wouldn't be without that place," Kruszynski said. "It has done some good."

Relating to a need

At first glance Kruszynski, doesn't seem like he would be champion for men like Brink.

He's the owner of several successful businesses and rental properties, and spends a good deal of time traveling, fishing and otherwise relaxing.

But Kruszynski also is a recovering alcoholic with more than two decades of sobriety, so he understands what it takes to get and stay clean.

"I remember one of the things I noticed were people trying to recover, but getting thrown back into the same environment and circumstances," said Kruszynski, 55, who grew up in Holton and lives in Whitehall. "They go back to the same spouse, same friends, doing all the things they used to do. It makes recovery difficult."

As the years went by, Kruszynski's time was swallowed up by family and business concerns. But his interest in helping recovering addicts remained, and his chance to act came about two years ago.

That's when a friend who was struggling to stay sober needed a roof. Kruszynski let him use an open apartment in the upper level of the rental house he owned just a few yards from Twin Lake County Park. Eventually, another recovering alcoholic needed shelter and moved in.

A few months later, in the summer of 2006, Serenity Shores was born.

It's not a treatment center. It's simply a quiet residence reserved for men who are trying to maintain their sobriety.

There are rules for residency. Applicants are screened to determine their interest in staying sober. Rent is $450 per month, but residents don't necessarily have to be employed, or pay rent, during the early part of their stay.

"Most of the people we see have burned up all their assists," Kruszynski said. "Their families and friends have usually tossed in the towel. A lot of times they have nothing left."

Until recently, the house, which has three apartments, averaged six to eight residents at a time, Kruszynski said. The average stay is about 60 days, although some stay longer, he said.

The majority of residents make it through their stay without reverting to alcohol or drug use, Kruszynski said. If they use, they have to leave.

Even with the rental income, the house costs Kruszynski approximately $10,000 to $15,000 a year to operate.

While he would like to see the house become self-supporting, Kruszynski said he doesn't mind the expense.

"It's important that I go out of my way to give something back, and I think this is an extremely important thing that needs to be done," Kruszynski said.

Mark Apman, program director for West Michigan Therapy Inc., agrees.

Apman said the Muskegon area lacks an in-patient substance abuse recovery program for men. That makes residential programs like Serenity Shores, with its sober environment and strict lifestyle, crucial for some recovering addicts, he said.

"I think it definitely fills a niche," Apman said. "I'm familiar with a couple of men who stayed there, and it definitely helped to support their recovery."

Rules of residency

Residents of the sober house are forced to live a very structured lifestyle.

Rules include: a 10 p.m. curfew; no sleeping late; spending at least 25 hours per week working or going to school; doing volunteer work or a combination of all three.

Daily Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings are mandatory. Rooms must be kept clean, household chores must be performed and overnight guests are limited to residents' children.

Most importantly, no drugs, alcohol or drug paraphernalia are allowed on the premises. Prescription drugs must be kept in locked drawers. Residents are encouraged to observe their neighbors and turn in violators.

The manager has the right to administer a drug or sobriety test at any time.
The daily rules of the sober house may sound rigid, but they provide the type of structured lifestyle the residents say they need to stay sober.

Brink is a good example.

He once was the owner of a successful used car lot, and lived with his wife and five children in a beautiful home on Bear Lake.

But then alcohol and drugs started playing bigger roles in his life. He lost his wife and business. He was convicted for possession of narcotics. He became desperate and moved to Arizona, in violation of his probation before moving back six years later.

The law caught up with him quickly and he was sentenced to prison. By that time, he had decided to get sober and started working the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program during his incarceration.

Afterward, he moved in to Serenity Shores.

"I was afraid when I got out that I would end up in a bad environment," Brink said. "I didn't want to take any chances."

source: The Muskegon Chronicle

IF YOU NEED HELP AND SUPPORT NOW PLEASE VISIT US AT The Sober Village or Sober Musicians where we care, understand and have been there!!


20 Super Brain Foods

Great article on foods that enhance neuron firing and cross-linking in the brain. The foods mentioned in the article help you increase memory, concentrate, speed up reaction times, and even control stress.

read more | digg story


Fun Filled Online Community

Dynamic and growing forum dedicated to celebrating music and recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism. Numerous features such as blogs, a gaming arcade, streaming audio from around the world, member file uploading, and much more!

read more | digg story


Worsening drug toll prompts huge study

THE biggest study of heroin and cocaine abuse in years has been launched amid new indications that Scotland's drugs crisis is now worse than ever.
The Scotsman understands that the number of people who died from drug overdoses last year is likely to be well over 400, and could be the highest ever.

There were 421 drug-related deaths recorded in 2006, a record figure that compared with 336 the previous year.

The need for toxicology reports to confirm causes of death means the final 2007 figure will not be known for some months. But The Scotsman understands that by the beginning of October the figure was about 20 higher than that for the same period the previous year.

It had been hoped that the unusually high number of drug deaths in 2006 would turn out to be a blip, but the indication that the number of deaths last year is likely to be even higher has raised serious concern that it could be part of a trend.

The Scottish Government has now commissioned a massive study into the number of heroin and cocaine users.

The study, which is costing about £175,000 and will be led by Dr Gordon Hay, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow University, is the first of its kind since 2003.

That research concluded that there were 50,000 serious drug users in Scotland – about 1 per cent of the population.

But nobody knows what the current scale of class A drug use is. Experts say this is hampering action to tackle a drugs problem that is among the highest in western Europe.

Dr Neil McKeganey, the centre's director, yesterday called for an independent review of drug misuse.

"If the drug death figures show an increase on the previous year, or are even on a par with 2006, it really must generate a very detailed review of the thrust of our drug treatment services in Scotland," he said.

Tom Wood, chairman of the association of drug action teams in Scotland, warned it would take years to turn around the number of drug deaths.

"It's going to be difficult to envisage a great reduction in drug deaths in the next year or so because the people who are dying are dying at the end of a substantial career of drugs use. The typical profile is a 38-year-old man who has a ten year history of drug and alcohol abuse.

"They're usually not dying because of what they did yesterday, they're dying because of what they did for the last ten years."

A spokesman for the Scottis
h Government said: "We are determined to ensure better quality data and recording systems to monitor and evaluate best practice in treatment.

"We also want to see the development of a more robust national evidence base."


THE sister of a man who died from a heroin overdose called yesterday for more support for addicts.

Kevin Morgan, 30, was found dead in the toilets of a McDonald's in Edinburgh last September, days after he was released from a short prison sentence for stealing to fund his habit.

Tracey Johnston, 36, of Gifford, East Lothian, said her brother's life had spiralled downwards following the death of their mother. She said: "The prisons are getting better at stopping drugs getting in, but I don't think there's enough support when they come out. He was just a lost soul. He had a heart of gold when he wasn't on drugs."

source: The Scotsman


Shelter more than 1 warm night

Guest House offers 5-step plan off streets

Richard Johnson no longer calls the Guest House a homeless shelter. "It's an anti-homeless shelter," he says.

For the last 14 years, he's drifted in and out of shelters and slept on park benches or in empty cars as he battled the ups and downs of alcoholism, drug abuse and failed recovery efforts. But today he's hopeful and enthusiastic about rebuilding his life one step at a time.

In the last 10 weeks as part of new program at the Guest House, he's been involved in treatment and counseling for his substance abuse, developed a rsum that he's submitted to three employers and received his driver's permit. He hopes to get his license in two weeks.

At 45, he's looking forward to getting a job, his own apartment and a new, secure, sober and stable life. He's not there yet, but he's hopeful.

He's not alone.

Once considered a revolving door where a homeless person could get a warm place to sleep for the night and then move on once daylight dawned, the Guest House and other homeless shelters here and across the country are moving to make permanent housing a priority for the people who come to their doors, says Cindy Krahenbuhl, the new executive director of the Guest House. Krahenbuhl, 50, formerly was director of human services at the Milwaukee Center for Independence. Before that she worked at the Curative Care Network and the Mental Health Association.

"I like getting up to go to work every day and know that I'm making a difference, not only in the system, but in the individual lives of those here," she says. "It's all about the guys."

Last year the Guest House, which has annual budget of $3 million, provided shelter and services to 487 homeless men. Of those, 48% stayed and participated in transitional programming. Almost 60% of those then left and moved into permanent housing, according to agency statistics.

Krahenbuhl replaces Andrew DeFranza, who left after two years of shaking up the system and working to create more permanent housing for the homeless.

"He really laid the groundwork for the new model that's evolving and we're going to continue to build on that," says Krahenbuhl.

In partnership with Heartland Properties of Chicago, the Guest House plans to build 24 new, affordable housing units at 1218 W. Highland Ave. Half of the units will be reserved for those who are homeless or have disabilities.

Other affordable housing projects also are under development by other groups, including a 48-unit project under construction at N. 26th and W. Center streets, and the proposed renovation of the former Johnson Community Health Center at 1230 W. Grant St., which would provide 89 housing units.

The projects all were developed in reaction to a series of stories in the Journal Sentinel about the abysmal housing conditions for those who are homeless and suffer from mental illness.

In addition to housing, homeless people need supportive services, Krahenbuhl says.

The Guest House has developed a new program called LEADS, for Launch, Explore, Achieve, Discover and Succeed. Each stage comes with a certain list of criteria needed to move to the next stage, and a set of privileges, such as extended curfew and increased recreational activities.

Each person gets a case worker and a series of services to help him move through the stages into a job and a home.

Each stage corresponds to a letter in the acronym that are hooked on a keychain. Each participant must complete all five parts of the program, which includes following shelter rules, clean alcohol and drug tests, getting a job, and saving money. When all stages are successfully completed, the man gets a key to an apartment that he can put on the chain.

Johnson has completed the first two stages. He's having a hard time finding a job because of his run-ins with the criminal justice system, he says.

But he believes in the program. "This works better because it's not just talk. There's coaching and you see other men going to work, saving money and moving out," he says.

Tim Matthias, 41, now a resident service manager at the shelter, was homeless when he came to the Guest House because of drug and alcoholic problems, chronic depression and anxiety. He went through a different program at the shelter - a classroom approach that preceded LEADS - but found it worked for him. He's now completely independent, paying rent and thinking about the future.

"I was always a blue collar worker, but now I'm seriously considering going back to school and maybe work in the social service field," he says.

source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Court strikes down regulation limiting growers of medical marijuana

Canadians who are prescribed marijuana to treat their illnesses will no longer be forced to rely on the federal government as a supplier following a Federal Court ruling that struck down a key restriction in Ottawa's controversial medical marijuana program.

The decision by Judge Barry Strayer, released late Thursday, essentially grants medical marijuana users more freedom in picking their own grower and allows growers to supply the drug to more than one patient.

It's also another blow to the federal government, whose attempts to tightly control access to medical marijuana have prompted numerous court challenges.

Currently, medical users can grow their own pot but growers can't supply the drug to more than one user at a time.

Lawyers for medical users argued that restriction effectively established Health Canada as the country's sole legal provider of medical marijuana.

They also said the restriction was unfair, and that it prevented seriously ill Canadians from obtaining the drug they needed to treat their debilitating illnesses.

In his decision, Strayer called the provision unconstitutional and arbitrary, as it "caused individuals a major difficulty with access…"

Ottawa must also reconsider requests made by a group of medical users who brought the matter to court to have a single outside supplier as their designated producer, Strayer said in his 23-page decision.

While the government has argued that medical users who can't grow their own marijuana can obtain it from its contract manufacturer, fewer than 20 per cent of patients actually use the government's supply, Strayer wrote.

"In my view it is not tenable for the government, consistently with the right established in other courts for qualified medical users to have reasonable access to marijuana, to force them either to buy from the government contractor, grow their own or be limited to the unnecessarily restrictive system of designated producers," he wrote.

Ron Marzel, a Toronto lawyer representing the group of medical users who brought the matter before the Federal Court, called the decision a "great remedy" for his clients.

"All this means is that the limit — the one-to-one ratio — it's the last nail in the coffin for that ratio," he said in an interview.

"The court has said, 'Look, unequivocally, this is unconstitutional, it's arbitrary. All the reasons you've provided us with so far for this one-to-one ratio, they don't pass muster. We don't buy it, we don't accept it."'

The provision had been struck down by the courts before, but was reinstated by the government who contracted Prairie Plant Systems Inc. in Flin Flon, Man., to provide the drug to patients.

source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


Alcohol abuse affects all facets of life

Drinking heavily, craving alcohol, inability to limit the number of drinks one has, a dependence on alcohol and the need to drink more and more to get a ‘‘buzz” — these are the classic symptoms of alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease. It lasts a lifetime and follows a predictable course. It is incurable, and it can be fatal. But it can be treated.

The negative effects of too much alcohol on a person’s health are widely known. Liver disease, circulatory problems, accidents, and for women who abuse alcohol while pregnant, a host of health problems for their unborn child can occur. The social problems associated with alcoholism and alcohol abuse are generally well known, too. Violence, poverty, homelessness, crime and neglect head the list.

Alcoholism has no regard for gender, race, nationality, social status, education, or wealth. An estimated one out of every 13 adult Americans may be an alcoholic.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious health and social issues. They are also matters that have a profound effect on the workplace. Research suggests that alcohol misuse decreases workplace productivity and increases injuries and absenteeism.

Furthermore, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sheds some interesting light on perceptions about alcohol abuse in the work environment.

The study found that many business people believe:

  • That alcohol related work performance problems are caused by a few problem drinkers. The finding is that the majority of the problems are caused by non-dependent workers.

  • That drinking while on the job is the core issue. The finding is that drinking the night before or immediately before work are just as problematic.

  • That drinking problems are generally confined to unskilled and hourly workers. The finding is that managers and supervisors are actually more likely to drink during the work day.

  • That current company policies toward drinking are effective and the company has little influence on employee drinking away from the workplace. The findings suggest that company policies are often not well-implemented and that the company’s culture can influence drinking away from work.

The Maryland Affiliate, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Maryland Chapter, provides education, information, and help in the fight against alcoholism by focusing on prevention, intervention, research and treatment.

source: The Gazette


Addiction on the Brain

New research suggests that therapy based on brain activity could help alleviate chronic alcoholism and other addictions.

Would you prefer $18 right now, or $20 next month? The way the human brain makes such decisions varies significantly from person to person, according to a just-published study that provides new insights into the neurological basis of drug addiction.

The brain activity of individuals who tend to act on impulse is strikingly different from that of people who are choose to delay gratification, according to behavioral neuroscientist Charlotte Boettiger of the University of North Carolina. She goes on to report that alcoholics overwhelmingly fall on the impulsive side of the spectrum — a finding that suggests an ingrained pattern of brain activity may lead to a greater likelihood of addiction.

“Taking action without regard to long-term consequences is a diagnostic characteristic of alcoholism and other addictive disorders,” said Boettiger, who led the research project at the University of California, San Francisco. “Despite the clinical importance of this kind of impulsive behavior, little is known about how the brain either generates or suppresses impulsive decision-making. This study was designed to try to shed light on that issue.”

Using functional MRI technology, Boettiger and her colleagues scanned the brains of nine recovering alcoholics and 10 people with no history of substance abuse. The subjects were asked a series of questions that involved choosing between immediate gratification and a greater reward at a later date.

“Alcoholics were much more likely to take the immediate reward,” she reported. “There’s a range within each group, but the groups were significantly different from one another.”

As were their brain scans.

Boettiger was particularly interested in the activity of the lateral orbital frontal cortex, which she described as “the part of our brain right above our eye sockets. It’s an area that many studies have identified as being abnormal in some way or other in addicts.

“We found that people who showed very high activity in that area tended to be willing to wait for a delayed reward. People with low activity there during decision-making tended to not be willing to wait for a reward. One possibility is that this area might be necessary for creating strong mental representations of the long-term consequences of our actions.”

She found the same lowered activity in the orbital frontal context in the more impulsive non-addicts — but did not find it in the one alcoholic (out of the group of nine) who was more deliberate in his decision-making. This suggests the brain-activity patterns are probably not caused by the drug use, but rather that some people are programmed to act more impulsively, which puts them at greater risk of becoming addicts.

In light of these new insights, “It will be interesting to study various sorts of therapeutic interventions,” she said. “If we could find a drug that would elevate activity in the orbital frontal cortex during decision-making, it’s possible that could be a good candidate for supportive medical treatment for addicts. There are a lot of drugs currently available that I think would be worth testing.

“It hasn’t been very popular within the pharmaceutical industry to pursue medications for addiction,” she added. “I’m hopeful that will change. I think there’s a misconception within the pharmaceutical industry that this is not a profitable market. I think there’s a large market out there looking for help.”

Another finding that intrigued Boettiger — and may entice the drug industry — involves the level of dopamine in the brains of alcoholics. The research subjects who tended to choose immediate gratification were more likely to have a specific gene mutation that leads to lower levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate emotions.

“The alcoholics in our study who have that low-dopamine (mutation) were the most impulsive choosers in our group,” she reported. “Our data suggests that having low dopamine there makes (certain areas of the brain) process calculations inefficiently.” That inefficiency, she added, may help explain why addicts have such difficulty focusing on how their present-day behavior will manifest in the future.

Boettiger calls this mixture of reduced frontal cortex activity and lower dopamine levels “a double whammy.” But the dopamine part of the equation also offers hope for a new type of treatment. “Elevating dopamine may end up being a great supportive therapy,” she said. “I would like to see that happen. I would like to test whether medications that elevate dopamine change behavior. Our data strongly predicts that it would.”

Boettiger plans to follow up this research with pharmacological studies, as well as by looking at brain-activity patterns of people who have a family history of alcoholism, but have yet to show any symptoms. That study could show whether impulse-oriented brain-activity patterns are hereditary. “I would hope to do that in the next year,” she said.

If that research proves her hypothesis, Boettiger can envision a day when we routinely scan the brains of children born into families where addictions are common. “I think it’s important for kids to be warned early that they are at risk,” she said. “This may be another tool.”

In addition to such early warnings and potential drug treatments, Boettiger believes these findings could help refine talk therapy for addictions. “A lot of behavioral therapies used to treat addicts today focus on helping people strengthen their mental representations of the long-term consequences of drinking or drug abuse,” she noted. “It would be interesting to see whether that therapy changes brain-activity patterns.

“I know (Alcoholics Anonymous) has helped many people, but it was designed in the 1930s,” she added. “I think we have learned some things that we didn’t know then.”

source: Miller-McCune


Club helps alcoholics overcome their addiction

Carolyn Dean is smoking again. A decade off tobacco proved not long enough.

Addictions are big nasty bears, of course.

They know all about that where Dean hangs out, where she lights up without being treated like a leper. It is the Floyd County Token Club, a one-time auto-parts store in New Albany's downtown that is home to 12-step meetings, about 20 each week.

Alcoholics come to listen, to talk. They need the support they hopefully want. "I just like to think I'm one drink away from a drunk," said Dean, a 67-year-old former social worker who says she turned to alcohol at 14 and turned away at 36.

"This is life and death, for me."

Like it is for others there, if not for all. The afternoon I met Dean at the club, news spread of a former member who had lost her struggle and had died. Members were to eulogize, to be confronted surely by their own demons.

They also have reason to celebrate, however. The 19-year-old club has just paid off its mortgage, through hat passing and other fundraising. An organization not always on anything close to sure footing counts on remaining for the 500 or so Dean figures show up sometime during each week.

"It's a safe place," she said.

Denny Sims, its president, is a 59-year-old factory retiree who said he has been sober 12 years. The words differ each meeting, Sims said, but the message is basically the same. In speeches and discussions, the moral of the stories remains vital no matter how familiar. Sims said by helping himself, he helps others.

"We just have to be sure we don't put the first drink in us," he said.

The club is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Meetings are both mornings and evenings. Some people, like Sims, show up voluntarily. Others are sent by courts and by treatment centers. They are teenagers and they are grandparents. They attend routinely, or occasionally. "When you come back," Sims said, "you're welcome just like you've never left."

If they expect magic, they quickly learn otherwise. If they acknowledge their problem and are finally fed up with it, they are on their way to change. Sims said he attended two or three meetings each day, for quite awhile. "They know down deep it doesn't come overnight," he said.

"Denial is so strong," said Dean, a charter member who has been active off and on.

Come once and receive a white token -- akin to a poker chip -- that validates a day of sobriety. Return and trade it in for other-colored tokens that reflect ongoing progress. After one year, the token is bronze. It is typically kept handy for reassurance, a symbol of an important, maybe unlikely goal met. "It's a big deal to people who come around here," Sims said.

Sims drank for years yet somehow dodged legal consequences. Dean was not so lucky; she said she lost custody of her children.

When they were ready for better, they did better. Dean even led the establishment of Our Place, a center in Floyd County that counsels people with drug and alcohol issues.

Dean likens alcoholism to an elevator she wishes she had got off much sooner. "We get sober when we get sober," she said.

The club is in a rambling, old building with a roof and heating and cooling systems replaced not too long ago by a grant from the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County. A card game often goes on, and the pool tables stay pretty busy. There are Token Club dances and bowling teams. The club kitchen is operated by a contractor; otherwise, management is volunteer. The club receives no aid from the government or United Way, and Dean seeks broader backing.

"It's just like this disease," she said. "I'm chipping away at a rock."

"We're doing well, as far as helping people," Sims said.

To help, send checks to the Floyd County Token Club, 506 Pearl St., New Albany, IN 47150. Its telephone number is 945-4563. A Token Club also operates in Jeffersonville, at 511 Indiana Ave.



Woman successfully sues drug dealer

A woman who overdosed on crystal methamphetamine in rural Saskatchewan has successfully sued the man who gave her the drug, likely making it the first court win of its kind in the country.

"It was frustrating not having anything done through the criminal system," said 23-year-old Sandy Bergen, who has been drug- and alcohol-free since the incident in her hometown of Biggar in 2004.

"Financially, I'm not really going to gain from it. But it's a way of holding him responsible."

Bergen and her parents, Stan and Georgina, launched the negligence suit against Clinton Davey in 2005, asking for more than $50,000 in medical costs and other damages.

Bergen suffered a heart attack during the overdose and spent 11 days in a coma.

Now living in Saskatoon, she does public speaking events at high schools about the dangers of crystal meth.

Last Friday, a Court of Queen's Bench Judge in Saskatoon agreed to strike Davey's statement of defence in the case, which basically finds him in default. A hearing will now be scheduled to determine what amount the court will award.

Bergen learned about the win Monday from her lawyer.

"It means we've effectively won. We proceed as if we were never opposed," said Bergen's lawyer, Stuart Busse.

Busse says he could not find another such decision in his research.

"To my knowledge, it's the first case that's gone anywhere against a drug dealer," he said.

Busse asked the court to strike Davey's statement of defence and find him in contempt of court for not answering questions about where he got his drugs.

The unknown drug supplier, John Doe, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In court documents, Davey said he could not remember the name of his drug supplier, although he could recall other details about the night of Bergen's overdose.

Busse said he believes Davey received threats, so he was likely fearing for his safety when he refused to answer questions about his drug supplier.

"As a general rule, you don't rat," said Busse.

Davey did admit he gave Bergen crystal meth -- but said the cash she gave him was for cigarettes, not the drug.

Bergen said that's not the case. She gave him $40 for the meth even though the cost was $30. Already suffering from the sweats and hand pain of a heart attack, she was feeling too ill to demand the change.

An addict since 18, Bergen said she hadn't smoked meth for about eight months when Davey offered her the drug that night. She was weak and upset about having to testify in an upcoming sexual assault trial.

Davey's grandmother, Dalis Davey, was also named in the civil suit because the overdose happened in her home. But Busse said he's considering dropping her as a defendant.

He said if the drug supplier is identified in the future, he can still be held liable.

Davey, with no current address, may not have much money, said Busse. But his assets can be seized.

"The point is he caused this problem, and he should have to pay," Busse said.

Bergen said she doesn't expect much money but hopes to get enough to cover her legal expenses.

The purpose of the suit was to hold Davey accountable, she said, and put some fear into the drug trade.

"If you can take the financial gain away from them, drug dealing is not going to be that appealing."

The case could pave the way for similar lawsuits across Canada.

Busse said he has already spoken to a woman from Nova Scotia who wants sue the drug dealer responsible for her son's overdose.

There have already been similar cases in the United States, where more than a dozen states have passed a Drug Dealer Liability Act.

source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix