U.N. Conference Examines International Drug Policy

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blue flag of the UN United Nations OrganisationThe United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs recently ended its 57th session. The UN member states met in Vienna, Austria, where they engaged in a week of heated discussion where, ultimately, eleven resolutions were adapted. Many of the these address issues such as addiction, recently created psychoactive substances, and the need for infrastructure to provide adequate treatment for drug addicts.

Prison Is Not the Answer

Yury Fedotov, who serves as Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, advocated for humanitarian treatment of drug addicts calling or alternatives to prison sentencing.

William R. Brownfield, who serves as Assistant Secretary of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, also advocated for preventive measures over penalization, saying “Historic neuroscience advances prove addiction is a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. We must look at what drives individuals to use drugs before it begins, and expand access to treatment.”

Adhering to the Plan of Action

In 2009, The Commission adopted the Political Declaration and Plan of Action, which had three primary goals:

  • the wholesale reduction of the demand for illicit substances
  • the wholesale reduction of the supply of illicit substances
  • curbing money-laundering

Fedotov discussed the global communities successes and failures in terms of realizing those three goals and said that, globally, the cocaine market has diminished in size, the delivery of treatment is now more efficient, and in general terms, state-to-state cooperation is stronger.

Fedotov went on to acknowledge that there have been setbacks: Opium poppy farming has increased, particularly in Afghanistan, where it is said to have reached unprecedented levels last year; there are several new psychoactive substances that have been created, and there is an ever expanding market for synthetic stimulants.

What Lies Ahead…

A recurring theme over the course of the week long conference was finding sustainable, compassionate solutions to the many societal problems which stem from drug abuse. These ideas look marvelous on paper—but how will the UN set about actually realizing any of this? It behooves society to produce the infrastructure to minimize drug problems, and filling jails with non-violent criminals has, historically, done little to solve the underlying problems which lead to substance abuse patterns in the first place—never mind the injustice of any system which penalizes nonviolent criminals so severely.

Hopefully, the UN finds ways of effectively counteracting these issues. Making addiction treatment more universally accessible, especially to people with lower income, is imperative. There could be a case made for criminalizing softer drugs like marijuana, in the interest of minimizing the crime that results from the illegal drug trade. Whatever the long term solutions might be, it is encouraging is that the the U.N. is taking the position that society mustn’t shun addicts, but should instead strive to help them.


Brandon Engel writes about everything from science fiction tropes, to classic cinema, to drugs. Drugs are of particular interest to Brandon, partially because of the politics surrounding them, and partially because he has experimented with them somewhat liberally. Although he has struggled with substance abuse in the past—alcoholism especially—Brandon is making an effort every day to stay clean and is eager to help others find peace within sobriety.

Nonviolent Drug Offenders and Prison

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prisonerLast week, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight nonviolent drug offenders, all who had already served more than 15 years in prison. These prisoners were convicted before the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act was passed which reduced nonviolent drug-related penalties. President Obama’s actions resulted from his outspoken belief that many nonviolent offenders do not belong in federal prison.

The State of Prisons Today

The U.S. federal prison population has increased 800% over the last three decades leading the facilities to be about 40% above capacity. Nearly half of the current inmates are serving drug sentences. There are about 24,000 federal drug offenders serving time in prison. Two-thirds of those offenders were given a mandatory minimum sentence. The cost linked to such imprisonment is staggering. In California, the cost to incarcerate one offender for one year is about $49,000.

President Obama has also expressed his support for the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would allow some drug offenders convicted before 2009 to seek out shorter prison sentences.

Changing Opinions

Current drug associated laws assign nonviolent drug offenders long prison terms with no constructive or rehabilitation treatment while in prison. After serving time, they are released from prison with no job or education opportunity. Without support or treatment, often they return to their previous drug involvement.

Organizations such as the nonprofit Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) advocate “smarter sentencing laws,” and this sentiment is becoming more widespread. This week, actor Matthew Perry, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic himself, gave a speech in London hosted by the think-tank, Policy Exchange, advocating rehabilitation and not prison time for nonviolent drug offenders. Earlier this year,  Perry converted his own home into Perry House, a men’s only drug and alcohol treatment center.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Life on the Outside, Blog 8

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family-sillhouetteSince leaving Axis, I’ve had good days and bad days, fluctuations which I’ve now learned to accept as part of the ebb and flow of life…and my newfound recovery. In the beginning, when I left the facility, I was on a total high (no pun intended). I had all the confidence in the world I could get through the days, weeks, months, and years ahead without slipping and drinking again. I didn’t know it at the time, but they actually call that syndrome the “pink cloud”—a kind of euphoria that comes in the wake of early sobriety. Luckily, even though my pink cloud has lifted, I haven’t broken yet, but I have been tempted.

When you leave rehab you want to feel normal again, which for me meant socializing with family and friends. While Jenny is very supportive and has chosen not to drink around me (she doesn’t even keep any booze in the house anymore), I can’t really say the same for most of my old friends. It’s definitely when I’m hanging with old buddies that I find I’m faced with the most temptation. You see, most of my colleagues deal with constant stress. Not only is alcohol one way to relieve the duress, it’s also been our primary way of bonding over the years. So naturally, when I went to catch up with old my friends the other night, they ordered a round of drinks, and it quickly became clear they really didn’t get “the whole rehab thing.”

“I’m sure you can have one drink,” my friends cajoled. And for a moment there, I was tempted. Maybe I could just have one and stop? Maybe I was cured? Maybe I could drink like a gentleman after all? As these thoughts raced through my mind, thank God Jenny and Ryder popped into my head as well, reminding me about how I got into rehab in the first place. Drinking just one could open that door and take me back to the place where my addiction was in control. Where my son was scared of me and my wife couldn’t even stand to sleep in our bed. I thought of what I’d put them through and the disappointment they’d both feel if they knew I drank again. On the one hand, I don’t know if I could handle another drink; on the other, I don’t know if my family could either. The time I spent at Axis would be for nothing; my drinking could spiral out of control again and then have to start from scratch. Only this time possibly without the support of my family.

Thinking back, one drink was never enough for me. There’s a lyric from a Grateful Dead song that pretty much sums up my approach to drinking: “It takes dynamite to get me off…Too much of everything is just enough!” The only problem was, too much of everything wound up making me feel lousy. Drinking led to prescription meds, which led to more drinking, ad infinitum. I would get drunk/high and then return home in a foul mood, either angry or wanting to be alone. I learned in rehab that sometimes living in recovery means letting go of people in your life if they don’t understand or support you; relationships can change. Some might strengthen, some might break. Sitting in the restaurant with my pals the other night, I realized just how relevant that lesson was.

Returning to the table from the excursion with my racing mind, I didn’t fold to temptation. I just got up and said, “Hey guys, I gotta run—I’ll catch you later.” They ragged on me about it, but I didn’t care. I knew I had to remove myself from that situation. Instead of going straight home, I sat in my car for a while and called my sponsor. I felt weak for being tempted, but he made me realize that I had a choice and that the choice I made was spot-on. I had reached a milestone in my recovery and didn’t even know it. For a moment, I felt like I deserved an award of some kind, a medal at least. I allowed myself a smile. The fact that I’d made a choice that confirmed my commitment to living a better life was reward in itself.

From the moment I left rehab, I have been going to regular AA meetings. I welcome the reinforcement and additional support. It feels good to be around people who understand my struggle and who have words of encouragement I can relate to. It’s good to hear how others deal with temptation, and the occasional slip. It’s very valuable for me to see these “slippers” welcomed back with opens arms and to hear them express their regret for having tried once again to take control of their lives, rather than turning them over to a higher power..

Back home, I told Jenny what had happened. I thought she’d be angry that I put myself in that situation, but instead she smiled and told me how proud she was. She truly is my champion. I felt a huge burden lift off of my chest. It’s amazing how much better life can be when you’re not running around trying to hide everything from those who love you most.

To keep from falling back into my old patterns, I know it’s crucial that I use the aftercare resources given to me by Axis, including reaching out to my sponsor, attending meetings back at the facility that are geared towards alumni, and meeting with my therapist regularly.

Being around people who are drinking and using is not an environment that is set up for me to win. Who knows? Maybe after some time passes, it will be easier for me to be nonchalant about it. But right now, I don’t want to risk putting myself in that situation. I know this now. I have to continue to stay focused, and that means continuing to engage in alcohol-free activities like golf, hiking, and going to the theater/bookstore. It means spending more time with my family and friends from rehab, or friends who understand my situation. It means playing catch with Ryder, NOT playing dice with my future!

When all is said and done, I’ve had more highs than lows after getting out of rehab. Whenever I think I have to stay sober for the rest of my life, I get overwhelmed and panicky. But the cliché is true: If I take it one day at a time, it actually seems manageable. And that’s how, little by little…slowly but surely…calling upon all the gratitude, grace, and compassion I can muster…I really have gotten my life back together, and I feel happier and healthier than ever before. I’m looking forward to my future.

Related:

Blog 7: Graduation!

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Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Graduation! Blog 7

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heart-coinHard to believe that I’m coming up on 45 days at Axis now. Looking back, it seems like a lot longer since I made that first call and spoke with Greg, the Axis admissions specialist whose own story of recovery offered the first sliver of hope I’d had in a long time. I remember him saying he’d been clean for six years and thinking at the time I’d be lucky if I could stay clean for six minutes. But here I am, nearly a month and a half clean and sober and feeling better than ever.

Not that it’s been easy. I remember sweating on the phone call, but once I got to rehab, that’s when the real hard work began. From day one, the adjustment was severe and challenging—from filling out extensive paperwork and putting all my addictive tendencies on the table, to the mental and physical hell of detox, which included body aches, chills, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, and crazy mood swings that had me questioning my sanity. Literally. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget giving up my freedom to come and go as I please, and being told when to eat and when to attend therapy sessions. More than one time, I questioned whether or not rehab was for me. But then I’d talk to my family and remember how much I had to lose if I didn’t get better. And how much I had to gain if I did. (I think my family is as big a reason as any why I agreed to stay an extra 15 days here… I couldn’t wait to see Ryder and Jenny again, but I wanted to make sure I was further along the road of recovery before going home.)

Now it’s here. My last day. It’s definitely been filled with bittersweet moments. No matter how badly I wanted to get out of here, the truth is I have come to really feel fondness for the people I’ve met. Regardless of our differences, we’ve bonded because of our addictions and have leaned on one another for support. I’ve become close to the staff at Axis too. I know I couldn’t have made as many gains as I have without the staff and all the tough but real love I received here.

During the completion ceremony I got choked up—I shouldn’t have been surprised at my rising emotion, but I was. I am so used to having a stoic veneer in my everyday life. But I was so proud that I made it through this, that I can hold my completion certificate high; it’s more than a recovery milestone, it’s a milestone in my life. Getting over an addiction is one of the hardest things a person can do—I know that now.

Everyone in our last group session coined me out. It was the perfect good-bye. They each take a coin and as they pass it around everyone says something personal about you, what you meant to them, and how you contributed to their recovery experience.  Cindy, my young meth pal, and sister from another mother, said she never would’ve lasted here without my friendship and support. (Hence the aforementioned choking up.) I had no idea how much of an impact I had on my new friends and how much my devotion to my family and this program has inspired them. Inspirational sayings are also on the coin. My favorite is: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” That really hit home because it reminds me that there is still more work to be done after I leave here and I have to be up to the task.

I notice now that my graduation is also accompanied by fear. And self doubts. Will I slip back into my addiction? Can I maintain my sobriety on my own without 24-hour support? What will I do when I feel weak? Despite having great tools in place—my family’s support, AA meetings, sponsors, new friends, relapse prevention strategies, therapy, a nutritional regimen, and an exercise plan—I still wonder if I am ready to leave the safe confines of Axis and begin the next chapter of my recovery… and my life. Dillon reminds me that these doubts are normal and, in fact, healthy, because leaving rehab with too much confidence often sets someone up for failure. He’s seen it before. Bottom line is, I know I’m as ready as I ever will be. Hopeful and excited, too. As Apollo Creed said at the end of Rocky, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.” I’m determined to make this the last time I face-off with my disease—for me and my family. From now on, if troubles surface (as they always do), I will breathe, say the serenity prayer, and go to a meeting. Take that, alcoholism. Ain’t gonna be no rematch, indeed!

Related:

Blog 6: Family Support Helps

Blog 8: Life on the Outside

Follow us on twitter for updates.

Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Family Support Helps, Blog 6

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family-togetherLuckily, my family gets to visit me here at Axis pretty frequently; even more luckily, they want to! I’ve reached the stage in my recovery now where they are encouraged to come see me as often as they can. It’s been great because I am using the communication skills Shay has been teaching me, and I really feel like it’s making a difference in my relationship with them.

Growing up, I was taught that men don’t really talk about their feelings and emotions—that doing so makes a man appear weak or feminine (back where I come from they were the same thing). I’m finding this is far from the truth. Being able to express how I feel is strengthening my relationship with Jenny, and making me a better husband, and a better man. Instead of being stoic and cold, I am able to tell her if I’m having a bad day and why. This has made a world of difference between us because she is now able to understand where I’m coming from and why I used to feel compelled to use, and that empathy helps a lot. She also no longer feels shut out and removed from my life. And I love seeing Ryder run into my arms now without a hint of fear or trepidation.  He isn’t wary of me anymore since he sees me consistently acting calmer with him and his mom.

On Sundays, we usually have a long visit and spend a good block of the day together. Since I am now able to leave the facility, we’ll do things like go to the park for a picnic or catch a movie. Yesterday, we let Ryder pick the movie and we wound up at some crappy action thriller.  It didn’t matter though… I couldn’t have been happier.  Put Ryder and Jenny on either side of me and I would’ve been happy watching paint peel.  Some of the other people here can’t leave the facility yet because they are still considered at risk.  Also, some people here don’t have supportive families or friends so their main support is their sponsors.  Kenny’s parents are paying for him to come here, but they don’t want to see him until he’s been sober for a year.  I feel bad for him because I know now hard it is to go through this alone; it makes me feel even more grateful for still having my family.

Jenny has been my biggest supporter and is becoming really involved in my exit strategy (my aftercare plan). She is enthusiastic about helping me find healthy ways to handle my addiction triggers and has a list of AA meetings I can attend when I get back home.  We’re committed to taking time out of every day to talk about what’s going on and how each of us is doing. Our communication has never been so open, which in turn has honestly brought us closer together than ever before.

When I am experiencing anxiety and feeling myself being sucked into a dark place, all I have to do now is look at the pictures of my family on the nightstand to feel centered again.  These pictures remind me of the gifts of sobriety that await if I continue to throw myself into the program of recovery here at Axis.  I know I can’t do this for anyone else but me.  I have to put my sobriety first, ahead of everything else in my life – work, money, even my family.  But ironically, by doing so, I know I’ll be able to show up for my family in ways I never could’ve imagined.  I’m not sure I can explain this to them yet; but I’m not sure I have to either.  I know they’ll appreciate having their father and husband back and better than ever.

Related:

Blog 5: Importance of Therapy

Blog 7: Graduation!

Follow us on twitter for updates.

Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Importance of Therapy, Blog 5

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therapist-couchTherapy. It’s a part of every rehab experience, although I hear most don’t offer the degree or amount of hands-on, counseling care I’m receiving at Axis.  I see someone twice a week here, and if the need for more shrinking arises, more shrinking will be provided. Still, I have to admit there are a few times when I just don’t feel like going. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to delve into my personal life—my desires, fears, feelings. But when I get like that, my therapist, Shay, reminds me why I’m here and stresses the positives of rehab and what I’ve achieved so far.  After all, I used to cope with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings by drowning them with scotch.  Today I’m learning, one day at a time, to look at these thoughts and feelings as what my pal Kenny calls, “AFGO’s” (i.e., Another F%#@ing Growth Opportunity!” (Kenny, btw, is a 19-year-old meth addict and one of my best friends here.  An example of how our disease makes equals of us all, and how our shared recovery can bind people of all stripes and colors.)

Shay and I talk about coming up with a practical plan of action, one that is solution-oriented rather than problem-oriented. The best thing about this addiction recovery therapy is I’m not just spinning my wheels here; I am devising a blueprint that will reinforce my goal to remain sober after treatment. I’m also learning about my triggers—what makes me want to use—and how to handle myself when they get pushed. It’s usually when I’m super stressed—clients and pressures at work get to me. But it can also be the social times—when I’m hanging with my friends and everyone’s drinking. I don’t want to stop (I can’t) at just one or two. In the past it was an easy and fast solution to turn to alcohol and meds. But I realize now that using was just a Band-Aid. It didn’t ease my stress effectively—just alleviated it temporarily, but always with major negative long-term repercussions.

At Axis, I go twice a week to Shay for an hour. During that time I am taught communication skills and other ways to express, and handle, my stress and anxiety. I can’t wait to try them out with Jenny and Ryder. Before coming here, things were pretty bad between us—I was pretty bad. I had a short fuse and would snap over the tiniest things. I was angry, stressed, and often took that out on both of them. Ryder has looked at me in fear more than once, and that is a horrible feeling. And Jenny refused to sleep in the same room as me when we’d argue and would say I was turning into a monster. After I’d yell at them, I would feel bad, but that remorse was fleeting and I kept doing it—it’s like I couldn’t help it. (The same way I couldn’t stop the drinking even long after I knew it wasn’t working for me anymore.)  But I knew that if I kept treating them this way, I would lose them. Why would they stay and take that? I don’t want my son to look at me in fear. I don’t want my wife to turn away in anger. Drugs and alcohol let me ignore their feelings and hurt, as much as it allowed me to ignore my own pain.  I was numb and self-absorbed, but it’s clear to me now how much damage I caused.

My therapy at Axis has been an essential part of my recovery, and has helped me realize I not only have to stop using, I have to change my behavior.  I’m just grateful that my family is still around—that it’s not too late to change.  I’ve heard people say it’s never too late to change, but I have no interest in putting that theory to the test!

Related:

Blog 4: Stepping out into the Real World

Blog 6: Family Support Helps

Follow us on twitter for updates.

Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Mingling with Others, Blog 3

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group-therapyWhen I first get out of detox, I keep to myself and mainly stay in my room. I feel out of sorts, not knowing how I should act. I’m glad they only have private rooms here; I can’t imagine having a roommate while I’m feeling this way.  It is only when I go for meals or for group sessions that I mix with other people here.  I have to admit, if it weren’t for these forced encounters, I feel like I’d never get to know anyone.  But now that I have, I feel blessed and grateful.  And humble.

Before I got to Axis Residential, I considered drug addicts losers—weak people who became the dregs of society because they were too lazy to try and help themselves.  But listening to other people’s stories and getting to know them better, I realize that everyone is someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, son. These people are “normal,” just like me…normal addicts and alcoholics anyway. They love their families as much as I do; they feel guilty about ruining their lives; they want desperately to overcome the addictions that have caused them, and their loved ones, so much pain.  I feel ashamed for being so judgmental. I hear their stories and can understand how certain events led to their addiction, or maybe exacerbated their condition. Others seem to have been born this way, genetically predisposed to coping with the troubles of life by shoving drugs and alcohol into their systems.  I also see that because of rehab, people do turn their lives around. They do get better.  It gives me real hope.

I feel like I am making real friends here. Regardless of social status and upbringing, we understand each other and are empathetic and supportive.  My closest friend is a young meth addict named Carl who in the space of one short week has become like a brother to me.  I’m also beginning to realize in listening to other people’s stories, my desire for drugs and alcohol may never go away. I’m coming to grips with that and learning different coping skills on how to deal with it.  But having supportive people around who understand what I’m going through helps a lot. I see people who make it—who continue to make it—and that continues to fill me with hope.  Maybe someday somebody will be able to look at me and see that I’ve made it too!

Related:

Blog 2: Checking In

Blog 4: Stepping out into the Real World

Follow us on twitter for updates.

Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Checking In, Blog 2

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The road to recoveryWalking into Axis Residential Treatment for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I might get some stares, but instead I’m greeted by Amy and Tiffany with warm smiles and hugs.  My intake counselor, Dillon, was really friendly too and put me at ease right away—I don’t feel judged at all as I had feared.

I gotta admit the process of filling out extensive paperwork isn’t my idea of a good time, but I guess it’s par for the course. It also helps take my mind off the withdrawal I can feel starting to kick in.  Next, I meet with the resident doctor—laying my addictive tendencies out on the table so that a detox treatment plan can be devised. The thought of checking into rehab and going through detox for two legal substances—alcohol and prescription pills—seems rather minor considering there are people in here for hardcore illegal drugs—meth, crack, and cocaine. Still, I have no choice. I know I have to be here – for Jenny and Ryder, for my career, and mostly for me.

The first few days of detox are mental and physical hell. For 72 hours I go through what they call “a blackout period,” which means I have no contact with anyone inside or outside of rehab. The withdrawal symptoms—body aches, chills, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, loss of appetite, mood swings—are agonizing. I feel them all. As I’m going through this, the resident doctor wants to learn more about me. We talk about my family history, my family, friends, education, what I want to accomplish in rehab. This must be what speed dating feels like, minus the nausea and chills.

Honestly, I feel awful and I’m tired of being grilled with personal questions. On top of that, they’ve put me on a strict schedule. I have to take doctor-prescribed medication (the irony), participate in one-on-one therapy sessions, sit and share feelings with addicts, etc.—my day is planned out for me. I begin to wonder if I really should be here.  I didn’t realize that checking into rehab would mean losing my freedom and control.

About the time when I’m wavering about staying, Dillon calls my family and puts me on the phone.  Good move.  Jenny tells me she loves me and how proud of me she is that I’ve had the courage to take this important step.  She only wants me to get better—her genuine concern is evident by the pain and hope I hear in her voice.  Then Ryder gets on and starts telling me all about Yasiel Puig, his favorite ballplayer.  I don’t know how much he knows about Axis or why I’m here; he just wants his dad back.  I almost start crying, reminded of why I am here in the first place.  Realizing I’ve put them through hell as well (it isn’t just all about me) strikes a chord.  It’s starting to dawn on me that rehab is something that can honestly help me…it’s not just a painful experience I have to tolerate—but a real way my life can get better.  My addictions were a form of prison, so really I haven’t lost my freedom, after all.  With the help of Axis Residential Treatment, I’m now on the road to recovering a truly free life.

Related:

Blog 1: Hitting Rock Bottom

Blog 3: Mingling with Others

Follow us on twitter for updates.

Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

Prescription Painkiller Labels Are Changing

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prescription-labelsProven addictive opioid pain medications—such as oxycontin, morphine, and fentanyl—prescribed for their long-term effects on managing pain are being relabeled due to their high risk for abuse, dependence and overdose. This new FDA ruling targets specific drugs in an attempt to curb abuse and addiction will take affect by the end of this year. These new label regulations also serve to remind physicians of the dangers prescribing these medications to patients who suffer from low to moderate pain or short-term pain.

How the New Labels Are Different

Current language on these prescriptions indicate usage for moderate to severe pain. The change in prescription labels will indicate use for only those patients who need treatment of long-term, severe and chronic pain. This will reduce the number of patients being treated with these medications, which were originally developed for treatment of cancer and other end-stage diseases where dependence and/or overdose issues were not concerns.

In the past, trying to regulating prescriptive use of long-acting painkillers has had little effect on the numbers of addicts who have either abused or overdosed on these medications. Physicians continued to prescribe these analgesic painkillers and they continued to contribute to the overdose deaths of increasing numbers of patients. Research indicates that the rate of overdose in women by prescription painkillers from 1999 to 2010 rose over 400% from the previous period, to over 48,000 deaths. Men overdosed during this same period at a rate of 265% and still rank higher than women.

New label changes should reduce the number of oxycontin prescriptions. Meanwhile, further educating physicians who treat chronic pain is important. Those who abuse painkillers are inclined to experience pain differently than others. Some have used analgesics for years to mask emotional pain and are addicted to the medication for day-to-day existence. These persons may have physical injuries that indicate need for medications, but cannot separate symptoms of pain from withdrawal symptoms. Professionals in treatment for pain medication addiction can provide treatment and education to both the addicted and their physicians, who may not recognize symptoms of addiction.

This attempt by the FDA to control the growing problems of pain management and addiction to prescription painkillers is one step that may assist in that process. However, the problem has many facets to be considered; and many facets of solution will need to be employed. Use and abuse of prescription painkillers is going to be an issue to address at many levels.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

A Day in Rehab at Axis: Hitting Rock Bottom, Blog 1

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drinking-man-by-phoneFirst, a little background: My name is Peter T.  For more than a decade, I have been a successful lawyer—a trial attorney to be exact. I’ve brought in more cases than anyone else in the firm, have defended and won several complicated, high-profile litigations, and as recently as two months ago, was on the verge of being made partner.  Oh yeah, and I have a beautiful, loving wife (Jenny) and a 10-year-old son (Ryder) who worships me.  To the outside world, I had it made.  But inside, I was slowly dying.  Or maybe I should say slowly killing myself due to my long-standing dependence on alcohol and prescription meds. I never really worried about how much I drank. I mean, I drank a lot in college (didn’t everybody?), and the habit just carried over when I became a “professional.” But without realizing it, drinking went from being a social activity to becoming a necessary way to relax after a stressful day. I drank every night, some nights more than others, depending on the day’s events. Alcohol provided a release and allowed my thoughts to be temporarily silenced. After a skiing accident last Christmas, I got a prescription for vicodin and discovered I loved the way it helped calm me down.  Especially when combined with the booze.  Let’s just say, my leg has taken a LOOOOOONG time to recover from that accident.

Where I’m at now: Lately, I’ve been needing more alcohol and meds—I have built up a tolerance—and I see it’s finally taking a toll. On everything.  I have been arriving late to court, have missed some appointments with clients, and the talk about being made partner has quieted way down.  But worse, I’ve been taking out my stress on my wife and son. I feel so anxious all the time and I know I become angry and mean. I have a short fuse and snap and yell over little things. I feel horrified and ashamed afterwards and will apologize to my family. But then it happens again where I just lose it—I can’t help it—and later feel miserable about my behavior.  Which of course only makes me drink more.  It’s a vicious cycle of self-destruction. This week during an argument with Jenny, I punched the wall and left a big gaping hole.  Ryder was so scared he ran upstairs.  Jenny just shook her head. She doesn’t know what to do about my anger and said that if I don’t get help, she and Ryder will have to leave. I’ve thought about this and I don’t blame her. I know she’s right. I don’t want to keep acting this way. I use alcohol and drugs to help me manage my anxiety but now they are no longer working—they’re making me worse. I plead with her to give me a chance to make things better.

What’s next: After not sleeping all night – Jenny slept in our son’s room – I made the call to Axis Residential this morning. I was nervous and embarrassed but was reassured after I spoke to Greg, one of their admissions specialists.  Greg’s a recovering executive himself, five years clean and sober from cocaine and alcohol, and he helped me realize I don’t have to do this on my own.  They checked my Blue Cross insurance coverage and I was thrilled by how much of 30 days of rehab they cover. There is no real excuse not to go. I don’t want to lose my family—I know I keep hurting them. Rehab seems like a major undertaking, but I don’t know what else to do. So I cleared off my calendar and check in tomorrow.  After all, what do I have to lose?

Blog 1 of a series. Follow us on twitter for updates.

Blog 2: Checking In

Disclaimer:  This is a fictitious depiction of a patient’s experience undergoing treatment for addiction. It is written on behalf of and sponsored by Axis Residential.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Experiences associated with addiction treatment can vary widely and this post may not reflect all such experiences. To learn more about the process of being treated for addiction, please contact Axis Residential.

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