As we know, a key part of effective substance abuse treatment can include emotional or cognitive therapies – helping people manage parts of their lives that just might be at the center of their addition challenges.

How effective can these approaches be? A 2017 research study offers useful insights.

The study is titled “Psychosocial interventions for cocaine and psychostimulant amphetamines related disorders,” and is part of theNational Drugs Library, an Ireland-based “information resource for researchers, policy makers, and people working in the areas of drug or alcohol use and addiction, or related fields.”

The authors note: “Psychostimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine are used, at least in part, because of their effects on mood, cognition and behavior. People who abuse or are dependent on them often have a long history of repeated periods of intoxication and of withdrawal and after long-term use they can develop a stereotyped behavior, paranoia, and aggressive behavior.”

To evaluate the effectiveness of various treatment efforts, the researchers “identified 27 randomized controlled studies involving 3663 participants who were dependent on cocaine (crack or intravenous) in all but one Australian trial where oral amphetamine was the psychostimulant used. The other trials took place in the US.” The trials ranged from 12 weeks to nine months in duration.

How did the cognitive approaches work?  The behavioral approaches seemed to make a difference:

  • “Overall, cognitive behavioral interventions reduced dropouts from treatment and use of cocaine when compared with drug counseling.”
  • “Behavioral interventions also clearly performed better than clinical management (psychotherapy sessions attended), usual care (lower rates of cocaine users at 1 and 3 months), information and referral (non-attendance).“
  • “A multimodal intensive intervention was more effective than non-intensive delivery and cognitive behavioral treatments with some form of contingency management (involving the incentive of vouchers that are exchangeable for retail items) also showed benefits.”

The bottom line: Effective substance abuse treatment can include cognitive behavioral approaches



What is outpatient drug treatment?

Outpatient drug rehabilitation takes place when a person does not live in a facility for treatment, but comes to a facility for classes, visits with specialists or group meetings. Outpatient drug rehabilitation centers are more long-term and patients can attend programs for as long as they need to. A variety of techniques and program intensity levels are used to achieve this goal.

Intensive day treatment can be as effective as live-in treatment facilities, and is ideal for people that have a strong support system at home. However, severe addictions may require inpatient and/or more intense treatment.

Most outpatient programs are still fairly intense, however.  But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, some outpatient programs offer only education and some counseling. These types of outpatient programs can be a perfect fit for people who do not have severe addictions.

Outpatient programs, like live-in residential programs often include an analysis of the individual to discover the underlying problems that may be causing substance abuse or destructive behaviors. After evaluation, an individual will then be given a plan based on their history of use and the type of drug abuse. For example, users of differing types of drugs often require a different type of treatment than users abusing other types of drugs.

There are many services available to those undergoing outpatient drug rehabilitation.  Examples of these include: behavioral counseling, mental health attention, job searching help, support groups, psychiatrist meetings, educational classes on drugs and how they affect a person, and regular visits with a counselor to discuss progress and revise the plan if it is not working.

Frequently, outpatient services are suggested for people after they undergo a live-in (inpatient) treatment. Through outpatient services, most individuals are able to begin working their way back into the community, but still have the support of those who counseled and helped them while they were in rehabilitation. However outpatient services are used, the main goal of outpatient services is to help the individual achieve a life that does not depend on drugs or alcohol.

While we often hear the term “alcohol abuse,” sometimes people who enter alcohol rehab programs think they’re the only ones with the problem.

On the other hand, others may feel that alcohol is a “safe” drug – able to be controlled with little serious risks.

Both concepts are wildly wrong, and a new World Health Organization report highlights the numbers:

“More than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016, according a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) today. This represents 1 in 20 deaths. More than three quarters of these deaths were among men. Overall, the harmful use of alcohol causes more than 5% of the global disease burden.”

“WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2018 presents a comprehensive picture of alcohol consumption and the disease burden attributable to alcohol worldwide. It also describes what countries are doing to reduce this burden.”

Said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO: “Far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke. It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies.”

Indeed, of the data show that alcohol abuse can result in a variety of negative outcomes.

The report states: “Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28% were due to injuries, such as those from traffic crashes, self-harm and interpersonal violence; 21% due to digestive disorders; 19% due to cardiovascular diseases, and the remainder due to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions.”

Often, drug addiction or alcohol consumption or smoking is depicted in the media in either a watered-down “no big deal format” or an exaggerated manner. Sitcoms often portray someone who is deemed “a total loser” by viewers hitting rock bottom or a completely ordinary family laughing at someones serious addiction problem.  In the real world, people fighting addiction experience  the battle very different than it is portrayed in the media. Watching a scene on TV with emotion due to alcohol or drugs can be captivating and entertaining.  In reality, the emotions experienced by individuals dealing with addiction can be stressful or embarrassing.  Viewers turn on a movie or a TV show for entertainment, not for reality or accuracy in most cases. Further, one cannot watch any type of sports programming without being bombarded by alcohol advertisements.

The data characterizing the impact that visual representation of drugs and alcohol in the media has on spectators is shocking. Due to the $25 billion per year that is spent by advertisements for alcohol products, on average —every 22 minutes— someone is shown on television consuming alcohol. In conjunction with that statistic, regarding the $8.9 billion being spent on the promotion of tobacco products each year, it was shown that 90% of rated R movies have smoking scenes. Most often, the individuals portrayed smoking in those shows are generally intelligent, successful, beautiful and handsome people. Thus, many media viewers are impacted by the portrayal of addiction in such a way that they believe smoking and drinking are a great way to become, successful, beautiful, and interesting, neglecting the less attractive hard truth of addiction.

Drugs, TV Shows & The Media and Addiction Portrayal

It’s important to maintain a philosophy around substance abuse and recovery.

Indeed, the Council on Communications and Media of the American Academy of Pediatrics writes: “Although parents, schools, and the federal government are trying to get children and teenagers to ‘just say no’ to drugs, more than $25 billion worth of cigarette, alcohol, and prescription drug advertising is effectively working to get them to “just say yes” to smoking, drinking, and other drugs. In addition, television programs and movies contain appreciable amounts of substance use. Unlike traditional advertising, media depictions of legal drugs are generally positive and invite no criticism, because they are not viewed as advertising.The result is that young people receive mixed messages about substance use, and the media contribute significantly to the risk that young people will engage in substance use.”

It continues: “The contribution of the media to adolescent substance use is only recently becoming fully recognized and appreciated…  the evidence supports strong actions aimed at the entertainment industry about media depictions of tobacco use and strong actions aimed at motivating and assisting parents of children and young teenagers to restrict access to adult media venues with excessive substance use exposure.”

Recent studies show that across all demographics, genders, and generations drug use is on the rise in the United States.  The use of drugs in the US has reached alarming levels—whether it be heroin use, marijuana use, prescription drugs or other substances.  Interestingly, the media has taken ahold of the rise in drug abuse and is constantly publicizing awful outcomes, yet US society seems not to notice or to be changing their behaviors in response to these preventative tactics.

Although drugs are illegal and a lot of drug use is unreported, there are some factual statistics that prove that the drug problem is increasing in the US.  For instance, Quest Diagnostics, a provider of employee drug testing, “reported in September of 2015 that the percentage of employees testing positive for drugs had reached a 10-year high. This was based on an analysis of nearly 11 million drug test results, in which 4 percent of urine tests were positive, an increase of 2.6 percent from 2014. In oral drug testing, there was a positive test increase of 47 percent over the previous three years, and positive urine tests for heroin have increased 146 percent since 2011. (Further), in 2014, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that an estimated 24.6 million Americans over the age of 12 had used an illicit drug during the last month. This accounted for 9.4 percent of the demographic, which is an increase from 8.3 percent in 2002. (Also), according to the U.N.’s World Drug Report 2016, the amount of heroin users in the United States hit a 20-year high. The number of heroin users in the U.S. reached near one million in 2014, representing a three-fold increase from 2003.  Heroin-related deaths have increased five-fold since 2000. (And last,) since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S. has quadrupled, totaling over a half a million fatalities during that period” (

It seems that the US is somewhat feeling defeated in the fight against drugs when examining all of the statistical data.  Although some new programs in prevention and treatment are being utilized, there seems to be so much more to solving this problem.  Hopefully with increased research efforts, development of improved counseling and prevention tactics, and overall fighting back against addiction, the US can begin to see things turn around and start to win the fight against drugs.







Is Spice Marijuana?

With the legalization of marijuana in some states, and many people claiming to take “legal” marijuana to help them sleep at night or for common ailments, many people are wondering about the different types of marijuana and what is safe and what isn’t.  One of the types of marijuana that is often discussed is spice. Simply put, spice is synthetic marijuana.  It is not a safe form of marijuana, although some are led to believe otherwise.  It is the second most commonly abused drug among high school students.  It is composed of several “herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana.  Further, spice is sold under names such as K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and is often labeled “not for human consumption”.  Spice contains dried, shredded plant material as well as chemical additives that are responsible for psychoactive (mind-altering) effects. A disturbing finding is that spice is being marketed to buyers as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana.” (

Further, also reports that, “Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana. (They are more popular among boys than girls (recently) nearly twice as many male 12th graders reported past-year use of synthetic marijuana as females in the same age group.) Easy access and the misperception that spice products are “natural” and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their popularity. Another selling point is that the chemicals used in spice are not easily detected in standard drug tests.”

Because spice is made synthetically and the ingredients change to allude law enforcement, the actual effects of spice are not officially understood or documented.  However, many spice abusers report confusion, vomiting, agitation, hallucinations and rapid heart rate.  Spice has also been shown to raise blood pressure and reduce blood supply to the heart.  Regular spice users also report withdrawal and addiction symptoms as well.

Because of the unknown factors of spice, the actual effects remain mysterious.  But reports that, “one public health concern is that there may be harmful heavy metal residues in Spice mixtures.”  The bottom line is that abusing spice is especially dangerous due to the many unknown factors of exact make up of each package of spice as well as the unknown effects of abusing spice.  If you are an individual looking to explore various types of marijuana and are wondering what forms are “safe”, spice is definitely one to avoid and steer clear of.

What is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often joked about in society.  Someone who like to have their hands meticulously clean, or someone who likes their spices alphabetized int eh pantry may be accused lightly of having OCD.  In fact, OCD is a mental anxiety disorder where a person has intrusive, distressing and often irrational thoughts or engages in repetitive, compulsive behaviors that literally consume their lives.

Considered by many experts to be a life long mental disorder, OCD is split into two categories: obsessions and compulsions.


Obsessions can be defined as uncontrollable, involuntary, and often disturbing or alarming thoughts, images or impulses that flood an individual’s mind. For instance, someone with OCD may not be able to shake the thought of a loved one dying in a plane crash or of their child getting lost at Disneyland. Their worst fears are played out for hours in their mind, sometimes constantly—all day.


Compulsions are more ritualistic— meaning *****, and individuals with OCD conduct these actions over and over—repeatedly. Individuals suffering from OCD might check to see make sure the front door is locked or that their curling iron is unplugged over and over again in a short period of time or all throughout the day.  They may scrub their hands until they are raw over and over—never feeling completely germ free. These individuals often feel forced to continually perform tasks over and over, with incredible attention to small details.  Often, they are unable to break free from these actions or thoughts.

Sadly, to cope with the stress of OCD, many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol.  Studies dhow that nearly 25 % of people seeking treatment for OCD also are struggling with a substance abuse disorder.


Drug Related Car Crashes on Rise in Uta

A recent report in a Salt Lake City newspaper indicated that drug-related fatal car crashes are on the rise in Utah again.  The report indicates that 108 individuals from Utah were killed in incidents where someone chose to drink or use drugs before getting behind the wheel in a one year period. Also during that year, the amount of deadly collisions where a driver tested positive for drug use rose 7 percent— from 67% to 72 %.  Within the past decade, these fatalities account for more than a quarter of all fatal crashes within Utah during the 1 year period that was examined.

The report further indicated that most often, marijuana, meth, depressants and narcotics were found within the driver’s system. Perhaps this prompted Utah lawmakers to recently pass a bill which dropped the legal blood alcohol content for driving to .05 percent – making Utah the lowest in the nation.

The DUI report also indicated the following statistics:

  • 81% of drivers arrested for DUI had a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.
  • 12% of those arrested were under the legal drinking age of 21, with 14 being the youngest.
  • The average blood alcohol content for those arrested was .15%, with the highest being .42%.

Although the recent bill to lower the legal blood alcohol content for driving is significant, more needs to be done to lower the rate of drug related car crashes in Utah.

Source: Desert News, Heather Miller, DUI/Alcohol-Related Crashes Fatalities in Utah, DUI/Alcohol-Related Crashes Fatalities in Utah

Helping Others in Recovery While Still Taking Care of Yourself

It’s easy to focus all of our time and attention on helping our loved ones through drug addiction recovery.  In fact, sometimes we forget about taking care of ourselves because we spend so much time and energy supporting our their process.  But taking care of yourself while helping others through recovery is very important.  Too often, those taking care of an individual in recovery allow themselves to fall to the bottom of their list of priorities.

Sometimes, people think they will take care of things regarding themselves once their loved one is done with recovery.  Supporting loved ones in recovery takes a lot of time and effort and emotional energy.  But, thinking that you’ll handle things in your own life once your loved one recovers often causes individuals to be reactive, frustrated, and/or unnecessarily anxious.  If you prioritize your time to include some self care while helping your loved one through recovery, it is likely you will feel less stress, be more positive and encouraging, and be more calm and caring.

A great example of this is the safety announcement on airplanes.  The flight attendant ask us to put our oxygen mask on first and then to place the mask on those who cannot do so for themselves.  This example illustrates just how important it is for us to take care of ourselves when trying to help another individual.  Doing things to uplift and enhance your life can help you cope and deal with the addiction of your loved one.  Often, individuals feel selfish doing things they did before they were involved in helping someone through recovery like attending movies or going shopping.  They seem to think they don’t deserve to have fun since their loved one may be suffering.  Further, parents of children in recovery may feel guilt— feeling they should have done more to prevent the addiction— and cannot allow themselves to live a normal fulfilled life while their child recovers.  These feelings of not allowing oneself to continue normally will only impede your loved one.  Continuing to foster other friendships is also key— not allowing yourself to become completely consumed with your loved ones’s recovery.  Finding joy and self fulfillment can hep you to be more stable as you aid your loved one in navigating through recovery.

Knowing that you are happy and healthy can help your loved one want the same thing for themselves. The path of recovery may be longer than you planned on and taking care of yourself along the way while helping your loved one sets an important example and is essential to your well being too.

NSS-2 Bridge: A New Device Approved to Aid in Opioid Withdrawals

The innovative NSS-2 Bridge is a new de vice recently approved by the FDA to aid in opioid withdrawal pain.  For many this is very exciting news!  The bridge looks similar in size to a hearing aid.  It fits behind the ear with attached wires that connect to brain nervous.  Originally created to lessen chronic pain, epilepsy, and surgery soreness, the NSS-2 Bridge has now been approved for opioid withdrawal pain as well.

This is a breakthrough for many individuals who have feared the painful withdrawal from addictive opioids.  Developed by Dr. Arturo Taca, a certified addictionologist in Missouri, it costs between $500-600.  The Bridge sends electrical impulses to the brain and branches of nerves.

Many individuals have unsuccessfully attempted to battle opioid addictions but the pain of withdrawal often stops the process.  People report withdrawal symptoms that are extremely intense and have nausea, shakes, chills, and anxiety as well.  Reports of the device usage indicate that within only 30 minutes of withdrawal symptoms forming, the NSS-2 Bridge through the electrical impulses, lowers heart rate, lessens or erases anxiety symptoms, and lessens nausea.  Although the drug remains in the individual’s systems until complete withdrawal is over, the symptoms are extremely lessens or are simply not felt due to the device.

Some individuals report that the device has allowed them to feel hop for the first time since becoming addicted to opioids, although it will not prevent relapse.  Being able to work through the physical symptoms of withdrawal much easier also gives individuals who have become addicted to opioids energy to work through the emotional and mental side of recovery due to the use of the new NSS-2 Bridge.

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