Category Archives: Recovery Support

How Well Do Diversion Programs Work for DUI Offenders?

Tiger Woods entered a guilty plea in court on Friday to a charge of reckless driving, a less severe offense than Driving Under the Influence (DUI). According to reports, part of his plea agreement includes the golfer entering a diversion program for intoxicated drivers.

DUI diversion programs exist in a number of other states, such as Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Georgia. Rules vary, depending on the program. Some states, such as Florida, allow local officials to decide whether to offer the program.

High Success Rates Observed

In the past four years this program has graduated close to 2,500 first-time offenders in Palm Beach County, FL. According to Deputy State Attorney Richard Clausi, the official who oversees misdemeanor prosecutions, stated recently that less than one percent of diversion program participants have reoffended.

Mr. Clausi went on to say that the key to this high success rate is having the participants take responsibility for their actions. The diversion program accomplishes this goal without requiring the participants to go to trial. Instead, they must complete the diversion programs.

How the Diversion Program Works

Woods will spend one year on probation. He will also be ordered to pay a $250.00 fine plus court costs. Woods must also meet the following requirements:

• Attend DUI school
• Perform 20 hours of community service
• Attend a workshop where he will learn how victims of impaired drivers’ lives have changed

Woods will also undergo regular drug tests, since prescription drugs and marijuana were found in his system when he was arrested.

Once he completes the program, Woods can request that the court expunge his reckless driving conviction. If he is ever charged again, Woods is not eligible for the diversion program a second time. As a repeat offender, he would be facing stiffer penalties, including a possible jail sentence, a more expensive fine and a license suspension (mandatory).

One of the greatest golfers in history is attempting to make yet another comeback, as he just announced a tournament he’ll play in this November. Hopefully the diversion and rehabilitation program as well as his surgery will help to have him on track to avoid the self-medicating trap of addiction he was stuck in.

Sober Dorms Provide Support for College Students in Recovery

The college years are a time when young people are exploring and finding out who they are, in addition to furthering their education. For many of them, this process includes spending time partying with friends and making decisions about drinking and using drugs.

The results of a 2016 report compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) found that 1.2 million full-time college students consume alcohol. The same report also revealed that more than 700,000 students smoke marijuana on a typical day.

Binge Drinking Common on College Campuses

Binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks in two hours for men and more drinks in two hours for women) is a common occurrence on college campuses, according to figures released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Students who arrive on campus can expect that there will be a certain level of drinking and drug use going on. For young people with a history of substance abuse or addiction, this level of exposure may not be helpful for them.

Significant Percentage of College Students Have History of Substance Abuse

According to Lisa Laitman, the director of Alcohol & Other Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) at Rutgers University, up to 30 percent of college students have a history of substance use disorders. Research has also shown that substance abuse rates are higher for college students than for peers of the same age who are not enrolled in classes.

More Collegiate Recovery Programs Now Include Sober Dorms

Colleges are responding by offering “collegiate recovery programs” (CRPs) to provide help to students stay sober and stay enrolled in school. These programs include:

• Mental health counseling
• Substance abuse counseling
• Peer-to-peer support
• Recovery support group meetings
• Sober social activities and programs

A number of programs include sober dorms where no drugs or alcohol are permitted. These are environments where students support each other’s sobriety.

Transforming Youth Recovery, a non-profit organization, says the number of CRPs has grown from 35 to over 150 over the past five years. Approximately 50 have sober living residences for students.

In the wake of the biggest overdose epidemic in American history, it would be great to see every college and university campus to start creating sober dorms in recognition and support for the students who need ongoing help.

Research Continues on Cocaine Addiction Vaccine

Dr. Ron Crystal, a researcher at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, is working on a vaccine to treat cocaine addiction. The inspiration for the project came to Dr. Crystal in an unusual way: As he was walking by a new stand, he happened to see a copy of the magazine, “Newsweek,” with the words, “addiction vaccine” printed on its cover.

The idea took hold with Dr. Crystal. He started thinking about the possibility of linking an addictive molecule, such as cocaine, to a cold virus or certain parts of a cold virus. If successful, he thought, there was a potential to “trick the immune system” into thinking that the addictive molecule was a cold virus. The body would respond by developing an immunity to the cocaine.

How the Vaccine Works

The vaccine induces antibodies in the body. When someone snorts cocaine, the antibodies bind it up and prevent it from reaching the brain. As a result, the user doesn’t experience the “rush” or sense of euphoria associated with cocaine use.

The vaccine would render cocaine ineffective as a way to get high. Without the physical and psychological rewards associated with cocaine use, it may be easier to stop using the drug.

Cocaine Vaccine Wouldn’t Stop Cravings

The cocaine vaccine wouldn’t stop cravings that an addict experiences. A person would still need to undergo addiction treatment to learn strategies for coping with them.

Human Trial Starting Soon

The cocaine vaccine has already been successful in animal trials. Dr. Crystal commented recently that experimental animals can be given a shot of cocaine “and it doesn’t touch them at all.”

Dr. Crystal and his research team are currently recruiting people for a human clinical trial, which will involve 30 participants. This part of Dr. Crystal’s research is expected to be completed next year. If the first human trial proves successful, it will still be a number of years before a vaccine for cocaine addiction is available on the market.

Simple Resource from NIDA Helping Criminal Offenders Avoid Relapse

avoid relapseThe National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has developed a new, low-tech tool to help prevent relapse for at-risk offenders leaving prison. The Drugs and the Brain Wallet Card (DBWC) is a resource for former drug users who were incarcerated and are now returning to society. It can also be used by those in early recovery in a number of other settings as well. Clients who have participated in a residential treatment program are at risk of relapse when they return home as well, and the threat of overdose upon relapse is very high.

Card Serves as a Resource Guide

The DBWC is a 2-inch x 3.5-inch trifold card. It’s small enough to be kept in a pocket, purse, wallet or a cell phone case. Someone who is in the process of transitioning into society after being incarcerated or after being treated in a residential program can carry it with them.

One of the panels of the card has a space where the addict or their counselor can fill in individual triggers leading to temptations to use or drink. These may include specific places where the person used to go to drink or use drugs. Other triggers may include certain sights or sounds, such as the neon lights from a bar or glasses clinking and people or situations that are not good for them.

The space on the card can also be used to fill in local resources that can be accessed if the person feels they need help. These resources may include a counselor, a sponsor or a helpline. They would include any person or agency that a person who feels they are at risk of a relapse could reach out to for help quickly.

Community Re-entry Means Increased Risk for Relapse

Anyone who is re-entering the community is at a higher risk for relapse. They don’t have the structure of residential treatment program or the correctional institution in this early phase of their recovery, and it takes time to adjust.

The DBWC is meant to be used in tandem with ongoing addiction treatment. More than 90,000 cards have been distributed since it was introduced last December. In addition to the drug information and resources on the card, for many people having a physical reminder with them of their commitment to sobriety can be much more effective than an app on their phone or another similar tool.

Turning Off Stress-Induced Relapse

Stress-Induced RelapseSobriety can be an elusive thing for many recovering drug addicts. Oftentimes addicts will undergo a period of treatment or abstinence and then seemingly out of nowhere, a relapse occurs. These sometimes-frequent spells of returning to drug use can plague an addict and their loved ones until long-lasting sobriety is hopefully achieved. What is it that causes these relapses? And do they have to be part of recovery?

In order to answer these questions, a team of researchers at Brown University and the University of Wyoming created a study that would examine the biology of a relapse. They began by focusing on the kappa opioid receptors (kORs). These receptors are located on the surface of the brain and are the ultimate target of opioids when they enter the body.

Next, researchers moved to a different part of the brain – the ventral tegmental area. This area of the brain reinforces behaviors related to fulfilling basic needs. Basic needs can include eating and sleeping. But in the brain of the addict, this basic need also can include drugs. Through extensive research, the scientists were able to see that stress can induce this part of the brain to excite the kappa opioid receptors, thus causing the person to seek out drugs.

So, while stress is oftentimes a precursor to relapse, there may be hope. That is because these scientists expanded their experiment to show what happens when certain medications are administered to a person who is experiencing stress. After administering norBNI to rats that were abstinent from opioids for some time but in the midst of experiencing stress, the researchers observed that the kappa opioid receptors were disengaged, no longer producing a craving within the rats.

While this research is still new, it does confirm previous studies that have showed that stress is a problem for maintaining sobriety, but these researchers have taken it a step further with the introduction of a potential medicine for treatment. “Ours is the first demonstration of experience-induced changes in constitutive activity of these receptors,” explained the authors of the study.

In addition to treatments like the one above, many more people are also opting for different approaches to dealing with stress in recovery. One growing movement is rooted in mindfulness-based practices, where there are many forms of exercises and meditations that help people become more consciously aware moment to moment, thus having greater control over their actions.

Alcohol Consumption Continues to Increase for Older Women

Alcohol Consumption WomenBinge drinking is a phenomenon most often seen among college students and younger adults. It is usually classified as having 5 or more drinks in a single setting for men, and 4 or more drinks for women. It is extremely dangerous as it increases the chances of alcohol poisoning and risky decision making, which can have a very wide array of consequences, including death.

Now a new study suggests that older women are increasingly participating in binge drinking behavior and are now at a greater risk of developing a dependence on alcohol and suffering from alcohol-related disorders.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at data collected between 1997 and 2014. They found that men consumed alcohol at much the same rate throughout these seven years. However, the amount of alcohol consumed by women increased roughly 4% each year. They also found that older women were more likely to increase their alcohol consumption.

This is especially troubling because of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol use among women. “We know that, overall, women are more sensitive to the negative health consequences of alcohol than men. These consequences include liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and cognitive impairment – serious problems – and addiction to alcohol is possible as well,” commented Dr. J.C. Garbutt, medical director of the University of North Carolina Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program.

While there isn’t a reason that has been given for this increased consumption by older women, it uncovers a hole in alcoholism prevention that shows additional populations that need to be reached. There should be no end to the help for substance abusers, from prevention and intervention to treatment and aftercare support. This study shows that we cannot assume that it is only younger people who have binge drinking problems.

If you are wondering if you have a drinking problem, make a confidential call to speak with a counselor at Desert Cove Recovery today.

Good News for People Who Stop Using Cocaine

In addition to psychosis, intense cravings, risky decision making, paranoia and depression, cocaine has been shown to greatly increase the risk of coronary artery disease. But, a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine shows that reducing or abstaining from cocaine use can likely reverse the disease. Although some people feel that much of the damage caused by drug use is irreversible, this seems to validate that our bodies have an innate ability to heal many maladies over time.

Oftentimes when it comes to addiction, the gravity of health, money and family problems looming in the future make it difficult for addicts to remain sober. But, research like this shows that life can get better when cocaine is not in the picture.

“In the past, there hhas been excellent work to uncover the consequences of drug use However, few studies have revealed what happens after drug use stops. Studies of this kind give people hope for a healthier life after stopping drug use,” reported Dr. Shenghan Lai of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Coronary artery disease, or coronary artherosclerosis, occurs when the arteries harden. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. This condition occurs over many years, and is prevalent among long-term cocaine users. Researchers found that in subjects who significantly reduced or stopped cocaine use altogether, levels of the protein ET-1 began to subside. ET-1 is a causes inflammation and subsequently artherosclerosis. In this long-term study, researchers witnessed the reduction of this protein in all heavy cocaine addicts who stopped consuming the drug.

Research like this is positive news for someone who has struggled with a cocaine addiction and is facing continued health problems because of the drug. Improving the outcome of someone’s dire health prognosis can be an effective way of helping them maintain sobriety. You can read about this and other studies in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

If you have a loved one who is in need of treatment for cocaine addiction or any other kind of substance abuse, contact Desert Cove today to find out more about our services.

Study Suggests Routine Drug Screening Should be Part of Primary Health Care

A new study by researchers at UCLA is calling for routine drug screenings to be held in primary care settings in areas where drug misuse may be of concern. The researchers found that nearly 20 percent of respondents who answered a computerized, self-administered survey in community clinics in East Los Angeles said that they were involved in moderate-to-high rates of drug use. In Tijuana, Mexico, when a similar survey was conducted, the number was only around six percent. Both survey results were much higher than household surveys that were conducted in the same areas.

Patient Counseling Can Help Reduce Drug Abuse and Addiction

The study results were published in Substance Use and Misuse, a peer-reviewed journal. They were part of a larger study of an intervention that showed how counseling in primary care settings could help to reduce drug abuse and addiction for patients.

A total of 2,507 adult patients in Los Angeles and 2,890 in Tijuana participated in the study. The participants, who were eligible for the World Health Organization’s Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test, used a computer tablet with a touch screen to anonymously fill out the survey while in the clinic waiting room. They were also asked questions about chronic illness, healthy eating and exercise as well as drug and alcohol use.

Drug Use was Higher than Expected Among Study Participants

Researchers had expected that alcohol would be a bigger problem for patients in this population group and that drug use would be lower, according to Dr. Lillian Gelberg, the study’s lead investigator. Dr. Gelberg is a professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She noted that the problem with drug use was “very similar to problem alcohol use.”

The results of the study found that moderate-to-high alcohol use was over 15 percent in East Los Angeles. In Tijuana, it was less than 7 percent. Moderate-to-high tobacco use was 20 percent in East Los Angeles, and slightly lower in Tijuana at 16 percent.

Studies like this help to get a more rounded picture of the amount and types of substances being used in among various populations. In a time when we are losing record numbers of people to overdoses, we need all the help we can get, especially at primary care physicians.

Gene Variant May Lessen Desire to Drink Alcohol: New Study Finds

Scientists have long been aware that drinking habits tend to be inherited from one generation to the next, both through genetic predisposition as well as learned behavior. Very few genes have been identified with alcohol use, though. A group of researchers have conducted a study with more than 105,000 participants who were light and heavy social drinkers. The researchers didn’t include alcoholics in their representative sample.

The study participants all provided genetic samples. They were also asked to complete questionnaires about their drinking habits.

Light and Heavy Drinking Defined

Light or moderate drinking is defined as up to 14 drinks per week for men and seven drinks for women. Heavy drinking is more than 14 drinks per week for women and 21 drinks per week for men. A “drink” is generally the equivalent of one beer or a glass of wine.

Gene Variation Linked to Lower Thirst for Alcohol

The study was able to identify a gene variation that is linked to a lower desire to drink alcohol. This variant, nicknamed the “teetotaler gene,” was seen in approximately 40 percent of the study participants.

Alcohol abuse is a major public health issue that is responsible for than three million deaths annually, according to Steven Kliewer, professor of molecular biology and pharmacology at UT Southwestern and the study’s co-corresponding author. He stated in a university news release that much of the research on alcohol consumption has centered on the issue of addiction.

Professor Kliewer points out that public health issues associated with drinking encompass more than just alcohol addiction. To fully appreciate the problem, the spectrum must include the total amount of alcohol being consumed. The researchers pointed out that having people reduce the amount they drink weekly from the “Heavy Drinking” category to “Moderate” could lower their risk of developing heart disease or high blood pressure.

The researchers said that their discovery of the gene variant may eventually lead to the development of drugs that could control the amount of alcohol that a person consumes. These medications could be used to help problem drinkers in the future.

Early Trauma Can Have Long-Lasting Effects on Drug Abuse

Journal of Substance Abuse TreatmentResearchers at the University of Illinois have found yet another reason why childhood trauma can have disastrous effects on a person. According to the new study that was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, children who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are 67% more likely to require drug and alcohol treatment as adults.

There are all sorts of traumatic instances that can cause a child to have PTSD. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, witnessing violence and death can all contribute to this lifelong emotional issue. The researchers were not focused on the causes of the disorder for this study, as they were looking at ways to intervene upon children before they require drug and alcohol treatment or incarceration. So, when they determined that such a large group of children will end up in treatment after being diagnosed with PTSD, it was clear that they had discovered an entry point for early intervention.

When a child is diagnosed with PTSD this may be the time to introduce various treatments and intervention techniques. This could include education, screening for potential drug and alcohol misuse, or parental education. However, there is more than just a PTSD diagnosis that increases these children’s chances of needing drug treatment in the future. Researchers also found that associating with peers who are troubled and children who have social-emotional difficulties are also more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol in the future, indicating that there are social effects as well that go beyond their initial diagnosis.

Additionally, while early intervention methods are important in helping these kids, aftercare is also important for those that have and need alcohol and drug treatment. This may be a different sort of aftercare regimen than for those who do not have PTSD.

“Traditionally, once we get people into treatment, we put them through the program, then wish them good luck and send them out on their own. However, someone with chronic trauma and substance use problems is probably going to need ongoing care that re-evaluates their treatment plan at regular intervals and addresses issues such as mental health problems or housing and connects them with resources,” remarked Jordan Davis, a doctoral student in social work at the University of Illinois.

Isolating incidents that can increase or decrease a child’s risk of alcohol or drug abuse is crucial when it comes to minimizing the dangerous societal effects of drugs and alcohol. Research like this highlights the importance of early intervention and keeping up to date on potential risk factors.