The Promising Work of Recovery Communities

August 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


Sobriety is not the same as recovery. Similar to referring a cancer-survivor as “in remission” instead of “cancer free,” being “sober” is not the same as being “recovered.” For starters, recovery often takes a long period of sobriety, whereas you become sober as soon as you stop using drugs and alcohol. For this reason, sobriety suggests your addiction is a latent disease, not a cured one. There is always the danger of relapse, and your sobriety bases itself fundamentally on that danger. When you’re recovered from addiction, you’re not only sober, but you’ve dealt with the underlying issue of your addiction. Full recovery from addiction is the ultimate goal of one’s recovery journey, just like becoming entirely cancer free is the ultimate goal of cancer treatment. But the journey to recovery is a long one, fraught with many twists and turns.

Rehabilitation centers try their best to tackle the various issues that crop up in recovery, but it’s not easy to hone in on exactly what works for most people. However, these three different recovery programs with similar approaches have shown high success rates and may be able to clue us all in: San Patrignano in Italy, The Delancey Street Foundation and The Other Side Academy in Utah in the U.S. Let’s analyze three.

1. San Patrignano

San Patrignano was founded by Vincenzo Muccioli in 1978 in response to Europe’s rising drug epidemic and its lack of recovery options. It has a success rate of 72 percent, and this statistic has been followed over a 25-year period and represents long-term recovery.

The first sign that San Patrignano is a pioneer in the field of treatment is its cost: free to anyone who comes to the community sober. Yes, you must be 100 percent clean to enter their recovery program. This program’s emphasis is less focused on basic abstinence and more so on addressing the root cause behind a resident’s addictive behavior. To operate, the program relies on private donations and sustainable practices. One reason this helps residents is that the facility does not limit a resident’s treatment plan based off insurance or government guidelines.

It’s not a short program. Approximately 1500 young adults (some with families) stay for 3 to 4 years and operate as a community with over 750 volunteers.This shared communal experience is what truly sets San Patrignano apart from other rehabilitation facilities. Belonging to a community where others understand and accept you is part of the program’s process and also its high success rate.

Why is community so important in addiction recovery? Many suffering from addiction loose themselves to the disease and in doing so become something society doesn’t have a place for. A sick person becomes marginalized and doesn’t know where to begin to begin again. San Patrignano reconstructs identities in a few ways. It teaches residents interpersonal skills with their neighbors, and it provides its residents with work opportunities in local sustainable businesses, like farms, flower nurseries, restaurants and wineries. There is even a local radio station. They also have an education center to earn diplomas and degrees as well as 50 vocational training opportunities in specific fields.

2. The Delancey Street Foundation

Delancey Street was first founded in 1971 by four people in an apartment in San Francisco and now serves multiple U.S. cities including San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, Greensboro, North Carolina, and Brewster, New York.

Like San Patrignano, Delancey Street is a free program for those already sober that runs off of private donations and sustainable practices. It also gives its residents opportunities to build identity and self esteem by working to contribute to the community, while accumulating skills and experience to fill their future resumes for their lives after Delancey Street.

Also like San Patrignano, Delancey Street model has a high success rate for long-term recovery.

3. The Other Side Academy

TOSA is a newer non-profit rehabilitative community founded in 2015 by Joseph Grenny and his wife who and based off of Delancey Street in California. Following the Delancey Street Foundation rehabilitative community model, it offers the same philosophy, educational and vocational opportunities. And of course, its residents are most often successful in the long-term.

There are multiple options to choose from when looking into starting the rehabilitation process, but these three rehabilitative community models and other communities like these are addressing the whole person and the issues they face in recovery and beyond. When looking for a program to start recovery, consider your life, your path so far and evaluate what your goals are, not just in getting sober, but also in what life should look like afterward. A program like San Patrignano, Delancey Street, or The Other Side Academy might be what you need to build a new identity and achieve long-term recovery, forever.

Colleen Marlett is a fierce advocate for reform in the recovery rehabilitation sector. I reside on the central coast of California and am currently fighting for the life of my adult daughter who is suffering from substance use disorder. I’m also an advocate for adoption rights, women’s gynecological cancer and health and publicly speak and write on these subjects as well.

Switching Addictions Detrimental to Recovery

October 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Health


120453Far too often drug rehabilitation clinics, drug prevention education, and even alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs focus on the primary drug of choice rather than addressing the underlying issue of a brain that is susceptible to addiction in its numerous forms.

These “numerous forms” of addiction can encompass and be transferred to anything from sugars and sweets, gambling, pornography, sex and even switching to other family’s drugs.

For whatever reason there remains the justification that says, “well at least it’s not as bad as ______.” Researchers have found that switching addictions only adds to the possibility of relapse due to the brain still receiving the same impulses and serotonin rushes as were achieved with the primary drug of choice.

“People who have one addiction are prone to others,” says Dr. Gregory Collins, section head of the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center at the Cleveland Clinic. “If you are biologically programmed to addictive illnesses, you risk having more than one.”

Instead of tackling all addiction problems at once, what is commonly done is the worst is first addressed while the recovering addict continues on in their co-occurring addictions. Although the specific method or form of the addiction has changed, the behavior remains the same.

A rough example of this phenomenon could be illustrated by abstaining from alcohol but still hanging around the bar that you and your buddies used to drink at. Although there are not necessarily chemicals being ingested, the behavior itself has not undergone any transformation.

According to Collins, one in four addicts will switch addictions, only furthering their chances of relapse on the original drug of choice.

“Many of the clients we treat come in because one drug is their drug of choice, and they think they can use other substances because it’s not something they’ve struggled with,” says Jennifer Tulli, an addiction specialist at the Cleveland nonprofit agency. “The reality is, the addict is still chasing that feeling, the impairment, the numbing of their senses. It’s hard to think of a situation where that hasn’t happened.”

One of the most common forms of cross-addiction can be seen between alcohol and opiate users. The opiate user might switch over to alcohol because of its seemingly less harmful nature, and the alcoholic might switch over to opiates and painkillers as a form of misusing prescription medicine.

“They might not have used alcohol in 20 years, and they take the drug as prescribed initially,” Tulli says. “But because they really like the feeling, they can’t stop.”

Another common cross-addiction comes in the form of gambling, which can be seen in the way that those with alcohol dependency issues are three-times more likely to develop a gambling addiction.

“The best research we have is for those,” says Ray Isackila, an addiction specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “What we know is that people addicted to a substance — alcohol or drugs — are at greater risk of developing problems with process addictions, such as gambling.”

As described above, the fundamental search for an addict is a mechanism by which they can achieve the same “highs” by a safer means. Once again, this can take on a wide variety of forms stretching from chocolate or cigarettes all the way to gambling and pornography.

“When there’s a heavy focus on the primary addiction, it’s easy to lose sight of the other things that are gathering an unhealthy momentum, until they become very obvious,” said Collins.

Collins’ went on to say that the only reason cross-addiction numbers have stayed at 25 percent is because of growing awareness and rehabilitation centers adapting recovery strategies to help curve the problem.

Tulli states that the best bet for maintaining sobriety is cutting out all addictions at one time, including nicotine, which is seldom counted as a cross-addiction.

“It’s hard for people to give up everything at once, and it’s a tough sell we have to make,” she says. “But the point is, as we say in treatment, to deal with life on life’s terms.”

The superseding premise is that the recovery process should be looked at as a behavioral transformation, in which the overt goal is to monitor and moderate all facets of addictive behaviors. Since the range is so broad and diverse between individuals it is hard to classify any particular behavior as being a “death-trap” of sorts.

Instead the point is to remain vigilant of activities or behaviors that resemble the same compulsions and reactions once obtained from the users primary drug of choice. It is not enough simply switch, an entire behavioral transformation must be undergone in order to give the recovering substance abuser the best possible chance at maintaining sobriety.

Chad Arias has a B.A. in journalism and is a contributor for the Latino Post and Opposing Views. In his free time, Arias writes poetry, short stories and is currently working on a novel detailing his experiences with substance abuse. He is most interested on the philosophical and psychological aspects of the subject.

Exercise Can Lower Lower Alcoholism Risk

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Health


Although alcoholism is likely to be a genetic disorder, scientists across the globe have always been laced with a curiosity to explore other environmental factors that could possibly play a pivotal role.
A recent 20-year study conducted in Denmark by Dr. Ulrik Becker of the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen has potentially found a link between exercise and an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholism.

Between 1976 and 2003 researchers in Copenhagen sent out more than 18,000 surveys, which were used to classify and keep track of participants exercise habits as well as if they were hospitalized for alcohol treatment.
The participants were broken up into three groups: high activity (more than four hours a week), low activity (two to four hours a week), and sedentary (less than two hours). After establishing the classifications researchers then checked in every year to see which groups had a greater frequency of being hospitalized for an alcohol related illnesses.
After 20 years, 736 participants had been at one point hospitalized or diagnosed for an alcohol related disorder. When correlating those affected with their levels of exercise, researchers found that low and high exercise participants were 40 percent less likely to have been diagnosed with an alcohol related disorder.
It is key to note that this does not form a “causal relationship” between exercise frequency and alcoholism, but what it does do is shed some light on the environmental factors that can either increase or decrease a person’s chances of being diagnosed with alcoholism.

“Although we and for that matter others have not proven a causal relationship between physical activity and risk of developing alcohol use disorders, it is likely that there is a causal link,” said Becker.
Becker and other researchers remain unclear on what exactly the relationship is between the two, but future studies will likely hone in on this issue. There a wide variety of personality traits that may go along with individuals who engage in frequent exercise, but other than survey research there is no real way to form a scientific opinion or theory about the topic.

What is Mojo? The Growing Popularity Behind This Synthetic Drug


A relatively new drug trend is skyrocketing among teenagers these days and its name is “mojo.” Mojo, as the kids call it, or more commonly heard as synthetic marijuana, is an artificial chemical drug structured similarly to THC, the active ingredient found in pot, that when sprayed on herbs can be smoked and mimics the effects of marijuana. The reason for its surge of popularity among adolescents is due to the fact that it’s easy to get ahold of and it avoids the complications of the law. Synthetic cannabis can be purchased in local head shops or obtained online and is often marketed as incense or under brand names like Spice or K2. In addition, it doesn’t yield a positive drug test result.

“So if it’s technically legal, what’s the big deal?” is a question that’s constantly asked among the adolescent population in drug rehabilitation. Well in recent years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has deemed it a, “drug of concern” (1) due to the fact that it’s causing a flood of emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers. “Adverse health affects associated with its use include seizures, hallucination, paranoid behavior, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, racing heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure (2). In essence, it’s far more dangerous than regular marijuana because it’s artificially created rather than coming from a natural plant source like it was originally thought to and therefore its side effects are far more severe. It can easily be compared to other legal synthetic drugs like bath salts that are also known to induce states of disturbing psychosis and are not FDA approved (3). As a recovery support specialist, examples of behavior observed firsthand from our adolescent clients going through withdrawal from mojo include violent shaking, ghostly white complexion, fever, nausea, psychotic episodes, rage, and or hallucinations believing that they were Jesus Christ resurrected. “Psychiatrists have suggested that the lack of an antipsychotic chemical, similar to cannabidiol found in natural cannabis, may make synthetic cannabis more likely to induce psychosis than natural cannabis” (4). This drug can yield especially dangerous results for individuals with a preexisting history of mental illness as these, “dramatic psychotic states induced by use have been reported to last for weeks” (5).

Various states have been working feverishly to ban the sale of the substance and there are national efforts at work to gain control of the matter because it’s becoming readily apparent that this mood-altering drug is quickly becoming a risk to our youth. The scariest part of the epidemic however, is the blind eye adolescents seem to be turning to the reality of its danger. They want what they can get their hands on easily, it makes them feel high, and it avoids the law. Most of them don’t even view it as a real drug but rather a “fake” drug so therefore they see no real risk. It’s gotten to the point where the vast majority of our admitted adolescent clients to our rehabilitation facility are there for synthetic cannabis use and due to the overwhelming numbers on our wait list for admittance, the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.


  1. Donna Leinwand (May 24, 2010).24, 2010-k2_N.htm “Places race to outlaw K2 ‘Spice’ drug”.USA Today. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  2. Meserve, Jeanne (February 28, 2011).“DEA imposes “emergency” ban to control synthetic marijuana”. CNN. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  3. “K2 Drug Facts”. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  4. Müller, H.; Sperling, W.; Köhrmann, M.; Huttner, H.; Kornhuber, J.; Maler, J. (2010). “The synthetic cannabinoid Spice as a trigger for an acute exacerbation of cannabis induced recurrent psychotic episodes”.Schizophrenia research118 (1″”3): 309″”310. doi:10.1016/j.schres.2009.12.001. PMID 20056392.
  5. Hurst, D; Loeffler, G; McLay, R (October 2011). “Psychosis associated with synthetic cannabinoid agonists: a case series.”.The American Journal of Psychiatry168 (10): 1119. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.11010176. PMID 21969050.

M. Lujan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Tulane University. She now works with adolescents in drug rehabilitation centers providing recovery support and teaching life skills.

A Closer Look at Welfare and Substance Abuse


In recent years there has been a large push from conservative state legislatures to implement drug testing for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Already 12 states have passed laws allowing for drug testing of TANF applicants, and 12 more have filed drug-testing proposals awaiting federal approval.

The effort undoubtedly centers upon the stereotypical notion that drug and alcohol abusers make up the most poverty-stricken demographics of the American population. Since it is largely assumed that they are already using drugs and alcohol, hence their current situations, citizens feel that they have the right to decide whom their tax dollars should be spent on.

In order to show the “supposed effectiveness” of this new push for drug and alcohol screening, Tennessee, which implemented their screening law in 2014, will be analyzed as a case study. Of the 16,017 total applicants, 37 applicants confirmed their own use of use of drugs and thus were ordered to take a drug test. All 37 were found to have drugs in their systems making them ineligible for benefits.

Just in case you’re wondering, 37 applicants testing positive for illegal substances out of 16,017 in total comes out to 0.23 percent. Not only do these numbers sufficiently prove the outrageousness of the laws premise, moreover it cost taxpayers nearly $6,000 to implement the program.

It is essential to understand that so far TANF has been the only program to be targeted for drug screening, since it is on the state level. Federally funded programs have yet to implement such laws, which would affect a vastly larger amount of citizens. Currently only 3.4 million American receive TANF on a yearly basis, compared to 46 million Americans who qualify for food stamp benefits.

While TANF is the first program to be hit, it will likely not be the last if conservative lawmakers are able to follow through with their aims. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has publically stated that he wants to expand drug tests to unemployment insurance and other state funded programs.

Texas is another state that has sought to broaden the scope of drug testing social welfare applicants. The Texas Legislative Budget Board estimates that the law expansion would cost the state around $30 million annually, due to a federal block of applicants being charged for their own drug tests. States are forced to pay for their own tests, which range from $25 to $75 per person.

When asked about the “successfulness” of Tennessee’s new testing policy Rep. Glen Casada told the Tennessean, “That’s 37 people who should not be receiving taxpayer subsidies, because they are not behaving as they are supposed to. If the taxpayers are going to support you there are certain criteria you need to adhere to. This is a good use of taxpayer money.”

It will be interesting to hear from Texas citizens if they too believe that a $30 million witch-hunt is a “good use of taxpayer money.”

CBS Denver recently published an article regarding El Paso County’s new law that will call for drug testing of TANF applicants. The article begins, “People who are on welfare in El Paso County and abuse alcohol or drugs need to be ready to get treatment.”

Although there is no cited author to the article, one might inquire where exactly the TANF applicant is going to get the money to pay for rehabilitation. Naturally, CBS Denver is unaware of the actual costs of admitting ones self into rehab. Additionally, one of the stipulations of receiving benefits is that the individual is required to participate in 30 hours per week of job training programs, which would be impossible if the individual is in rehab.

In short, the new legislative attempts to curve state tax dollars away from supposed drug abusers are straying off in the wrong direction. With little to no resources or options for rehabilitation, states are condemning drug abusers without offering any support or alternative measures.

While no one condones drug abuse, those who suffer from addiction should be offered help instead of condemnation by their elected officials. The new laws are completely backwards, focusing on punishment rather than recovery. If states want to require clean drug tests then also must offer affordable rehabilitation options for those who suffer from the disease.

Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse on the Downswing

January 5, 2017 by  
Filed under People and Culture


Alcohol is now being used at its lowest frequency in teens according to study conducted by the University of Michigan. Although the problem still exists, there is hope on the horizon.

Research has shown that most effective means of preventing substance abuse stems from early drug prevention programs implemented in the K-12 education system. In order to track the effectiveness of such methods, the University of Michigan started the Monitoring the Future study in 1975. Every year 50,000 students from 8th, 10th and 12th grade are surveyed to get a better understanding of national trends in youth substance abuse.

The 2014 totals for the youth demographic using illicit substances as well as alcohol came back with some promising results, although the problem is far from being solved. The study found that alcohol usage is at its lowest point since the study was started 40 years ago. This is largely attributed to anti-alcohol and drug campaigns started in schools from an early age.

To put alcohol abuse in relative perspective the totals in 1997 showed that 61 percent of students surveyed had drunken alcohol in the previous 12 months. The 2014 totals show that that figure has dropped 20 percent coming in at 41 percent.

It must be noted that 41 percent of students drinking alcohol in middle and high school are still alarming numbers, but the downslide does give a glimmer of hope for the future. Since 12 months is a large period time, the survey also asked more specific questions such as if the students had engaged in binge drinking within the past two weeks. Of the three grades combined only 12 percent said that they had consumed more than five alcoholic drinks in one sitting.

Surprisingly enough marijuana is also on the downswing dropping from 23 percent of students smoking weed in 2013 to 21 percent in 2014. Students also said that marijuana was not as easily available as it had been previously.

“Even though the indicators are very good news, at the same time we cannot become complacent. This is a stage where their (teens) brains are most vulnerable. We need to continue our prevention efforts,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Naturally the substance abuse problem in the youth demographic will not be solved over night. However, trends can be established and policy makers can continue on with the programs that have been shown to be the most effective.

The Dangers of Bath Salts

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, People and Culture


In 2011, the mainstream media picked up on a chilling story of cannibalism in Miami, where a certain “new drug” was said to have played a pivotal role in the egregious assault. Although it was later determined that this “new drug” was not to blame for the incident, the cat had already been let of the bag and thousands of curious drugs users learned about a new species of chemical substances, referred too as “bath salts.”

The drug classification of “bath salts” does not pertain to one specific substance. Instead the term is used to categorize a slew of substances all containing one or more manmade chemicals that act similar to cathinone. Cathinone is naturally found in the khat plant, and when ingested it acts as amphetamine-like substance, similar to methamphetamine and MDMA.

Bath salts should not be confused with Epsom salts, which are made for the sole purpose of creating a more relaxing bath. Epsom salts do not carry the same psychoactive properties that are found in bath salts, due to the missing ingredient of cathinone. These relatively new drugs are labeled by distributors as “bath salts” for their similar appearance and also as a way to stay under the federal radar.

Federal Regulation

The original problem and overall foothold that bath salts were able to achieve was skating by under the guise of a “legal high.” In a sense they can be liked to Dust-Off or Freon, drugs that could be legally purchased and used for ulterior purposes. It wasn’t until 2011 that the Drug Enforcement Agency placed an emergency ban on three of the chemicals commonly used in bath salts: methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone. After a year of further research, a permanent ban was placed on two of the manmade cathinones as well as other manmade chemicals used for synthetic-marijuana.

“Legal highs” are always one of the most dangerous forms of substance abuse because the purpose of the substance is usually not intended for human consumption. The screening processes for products intended for human consumption differ greatly from the tests done on inedible items. This can easily lead to the user being poisoned, since a wider assortment of chemicals are allowed to be used.

Drug Description

Generally speaking bath salts come in small packages with contents that resemble white or brownish crystals. The substances can be swallowed, snorted, inhaled or injected with a needle. In most cases, the worst drug reactions have been seen in users who have snorted or injected the substance.

Harmful Effects

In 2011, there were 23,000 reported emergency room visits stemming from bath salt usage. Most users reported having severe chest pains related to high blood pressure and other symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations. Researchers have also classified some users as being in a state of “excited delirium,” which lead to dehydration, break down in muscle tissue and kidney failure. In severe cases, users have died from ingesting a great enough amount or a bad mixture of the manmade cathinone substances.

As far as the specific effects that each user feels while under the influence of the substance, each case is different due to the different cathinones found inside. Largely the effects of the drug can be likened to methamphetamines in the way that users can feel immense outbursts of joy, social interaction and sex drive. However, as is true with methamphetamines, the drug also produces effects such as paranoia, hallucinations, agitation and sometimes violent acts. MDVP alone acts in the same way as cocaine, raising dopamine levels in the brain, except that researchers have estimated that it is 10 times more potent. The hallucinogenic symptoms of the drug can be compared with the visuals of LSD or MDMA.

Although the Federal ban on bath salt related chemicals has been largely effective at cutting down the amount of emergency room visits, the takeaway message should be that “legal highs” are a dangerous game to play with. Most of these new substances are unregulated and with little to no trust in the distributors who purposely mislabel the packaging, there is no way to be able to tell what harmful chemicals make up the substance. In a sense it is blindfolding yourself and ingesting whatever substance is put into your mouth.

While using harmful substances should never be encouraged, it must be noted that there are safer ways of getting “a buzz” then purchasing deviant substances online.

Animal Assisted Therapy and Recovery


animal-assisted therapyDogs in the Betty Ford Center. Horses at Hazelden. Wolfdogs and young addicts in L.A. The use of animal-assisted therapy is increasingly used in addiction recovery, as well as many other fields.

So how does it work? The point is not that the animal is supposed to replace a human relationship, according to Phil Tedeschi, founder and director of the Institute for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Denver. Animal-assisted therapy instead aims to be a bridge back to healthy relationships with other humans.

As anyone in addiction recovery knows, trust issues are the norm. Most addicts have burned others and been burned by others. After this has happened, it becomes difficult to rely on your instincts about who to trust. Animals lack the emotional agendas of humans. You treat the animal well, and it will likely reciprocate. Developing a bond with an animal can open an addict’s heart and help to develop healthy bonds with humans again.

One study done by Seton Addictions Services in Troy, NY, found that patients opened up to addiction counselors more about their personal histories while dogs were present. Counselors gained insights into patients’ emotional and behavioral patterns and could guide them to better interaction choices. For example, when patients were annoyed that a dog didn’t immediately want to bond, the counselor could suggest ways to slow down and gain the dog’s trust.

Equine Therapy

While dogs are the most common therapy animals – easy to come by, fairly obedient, of a manageable size and easy to take them almost anywhere – many other animals are also used. The famous Hazelden recovery center in Minnesota introduced equine-assisted rehab therapy in 2005. Now some patients participate in an eight-week program that integrates horses with the 12 steps of recovery. The focus is more on interacting with horses on the ground rather than riding them. Several other rehab centers are now using equine therapy and other types of animal-assisted therapy.

Lynn Moore, the addiction counselor who developed Hazelden’s equine program, says that horses mirror human feelings. Patients who have lost all touch with their emotions find that horses can stir up joy, fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, resentment and peace. She recommends equine-assisted therapy for patients who over-intellectualize. Horses, she says, help people get out of their heads and back into their bodies and hearts.

Addicts and Wolfdogs

You could draw a pretty good analogy here: As wolfdogs are to dogs, addicts are to “normal” humans. While genetically similar to their “normal” counterparts in their respective species, wolfdogs and addicts don’t quite fit in. They’re considered dangerous in their societies.

Wolfdogs – hybrids that are too dog-like to survive in the wild but too wolf-like to be adoptable – really get a bum deal. Many are abused, neglected and abandoned. They might be confiscated by authorities, taken to a shelter and euthanized. Young addicts from messed up homes can relate to the difficult path that a wolfdog typically must journey on.

Promises, a West Los Angeles addiction treatment center, teamed up with Wolf Connection, which rescues wolfdogs. Now wolf therapy is part of Promises’ treatment for young adults. While the young addicts help save the wolfdogs from death, the wolfdogs teach their human caregivers wolf principles. These include teamwork, respect, setting and maintaining boundaries, forgiveness, trust and acceptance.

Prison Programs

In 2012, more than half of the U.S. incarcerated population was doing time for drug charges. Prison dog training programs are not aimed solely at recovering addicts, but this type of animal intervention is important for many folks who are beginning recovery behind bars.

Prison dog training programs have popped up around the U.S. in recent years. Often the dogs themselves are on death row – about to be euthanized by local animal shelters – when they’re rescued and distributed to inmates. Prisoners see themselves in the dogs, according to Tedeschi, who works closely with prisoners in the program at Colorado Prison. As prisoners rehabilitate the unwanted pets, they begin to rehabilitate themselves. Usually the prisoners train the puppies until they’re between one and two years old, then hand them off to Tedeschi’s grad students in the School of Social Work for further training as therapy dogs. Both prisoners and dogs thrive under this system. The men and women in the training program are the most successful inmates upon release, Tedeschi says.

Someone Who Cares

Most addicts have alienated at least some of their friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances by the time they hit bottom. Addicts can feel disgusting, dehumanized and thoroughly unlovable. But animals see people differently than other people do. As long as you treat the animal well, it doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, or have scars on your body and soul.

The beauty of animal-assisted therapy is that it’s two-way. The addict needs somebody who cares about him or her. The animal needs someone to care for it. The act of taking care of an animal turns an addict into someone who cares for another living creature.


Teresa Bergen is a Portland, Oregon-based health, fitness and travel writer. She enjoys exploring the human-animal connection in her writing and in her life.

How Music Inspires Us during Addiction Recovery


Dancing to Music Can Help Manage Stress, Moods

Dancing to Music Can Help Manage Stress, Moods

They say that music soothes the savage breast. That phrase actually comes from a play called “The Mourning Bride,” written by William Congreve in the 1700s. The phrase, while now cliché, still contains a lot of truth: Music has the power to soothe us. Music can also trigger and express powerful emotions like joy and love, as well as anger and fear. Some music makes you feel bad and some music makes you feel good. Hearing emotions expressed in music can help the listener to release feelings or empathize with and connect to others. These are some of the reasons why music is used as therapy to help people recover from physical and mental trauma, and is often used in addiction recovery.

How does music have such a profound effect on us? What is it about music that creates such a strong emotional response? The truth is, scientists don’t know the exact mechanism that gives music such emotional power, but they do have several ideas about how our brains and bodies respond to music.

Music and the Brain

In the documentary The Music Instinct: Science and Song, scientists and musicians collaborate to explore the effects of music on the brain and body. One thing they discovered is that there isn’t one music area of the brain. Music actually affects multiple areas of the brain at once. For example, when listening to a popular composition by Max Richter and Dinah Washington, your brain actually interprets the music in several ways at once, using different parts of your brain. One area of your brain processes the words, another area processes the sound of Dinah’s voice, while another processes the sound of the strings, and another the melody. The brain then takes those individual elements and puts them all together. All these different levels of interpretation happen instantly and simultaneously, so that you don’t even notice how your brain is processing and interpreting the information.

Interestingly, there are those who can’t hear music in the same way, in part because their brains don’t process all the components properly, or they don’t synthesize and reintegrate them properly.

Music and the Body

Music is made up of vibrations of sound waves. Your ears register sound when they pick up the sound waves that flow through the air and vibrate your ear drum. Those same sound waves are also vibrating other parts of your body. You may not realize that sound is vibrating in other parts of your body beyond your ears, because your other organs are not necessarily as sensitive to sound as your eardrums, so you don’t realize what’s happening.

There are people, however, who are more sensitive to sound vibrations and can actually feel sounds resonate in various parts of their body. One example is Dame Evelyn Glennie, the deaf percussionist who was featured in the 2012 London Olympics. She hears by feeling the vibrations of the instruments through her feet and other parts of her body.

The body’s ability to feel sound is probably part of the reason why some people have a tendency to play music very loudly, especially music with heavy bass lines. That effect is especially noticeable in small, enclosed spaces, like your car. Because cars are small spaces surrounded by metal and glass, the vibration of sound within the car may be magnified, and you may experience that vibration more readily throughout your body. Many people enjoy this sensation.

It makes sense if you think about it. Your first experience with sound was in the womb where you were surrounded by liquid, which also amplified the sound in an enclosed environment. The very first sound you probably heard was the deep bass throb of your mother’s heartbeat. So, cranking up the sound on your stereo can be really comforting because it kind of reproduces the experience of the womb.

Music and Emotional Cues

The fact that music affects multiple parts of the brain and the body explains why certain music evokes an emotional response–sometimes a negative emotional response. For example, if you’re watching a scary movie, the music that is used to accompany the action actually does more to make you afraid than if the images ran without music. If you mute the music, you will probably have a very different response to the scene. For examples of this phenomenon, just look at the trailer for The Sound of Music, the trailer for Stephen King’s IT, or the trailers for any of the Harry Potter movies. In all of these, the music provides emotional cues and sets the emotional tone for the stories.

The reason music affects us the way it does is still a mystery, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it. Whether you like samba or soul, hip-hop or hard rock, music truly can soothe the soul.

Music and Addiction Recovery

Music is often used as a therapeutic tool during treatment for addiction, as well as during addiction recovery. Addiction counselors and music therapists may use music to help patients manage their physical, emotional, or cognitive problems. In a music therapy session, a therapist might have the patient listen to certain music, to sing along, or even to dance to it. Therapists in some recovery programs will encourage patients to discuss the lyrics of a song and what the lyrics might mean to them. Music therapists might even ask patients to create music or write music lyrics as a way of expressing their feelings and working through problems.

When used as a supplemental type of therapy during addiction recovery, music can help to reduce the negative emotions and stress levels that an addict encounters as they adjust to being sober. Some recovering addicts find that if they listen to music when they are bored or restless, the music can help distract them from negative thoughts or wanting to use again–music can help redirect thoughts and energies in a more positive and less destructive direction.

People in recovery sometimes encounter depression and anxiety, and in these instances music can help to lighten the mood. A word of caution: be careful to choose the right type of music to help lift the mood and keep things positive. It is best to avoid music that will make a recovering addict reminisce about old times when he or she was using drugs or alcohol. It is also best to avoid music that will trigger unpleasant memories. A music therapist or addiction counselor can discuss your individual needs and unique situation, and help guide you towards the types of music that will have the greatest benefit during your addiction treatment and recovery.


Drugs and Eating Disorders: What’s the Connection?


Eating Disorders and Drug Addiction Can Co-Occur

Eating Disorders and Drug Addiction Can Co-Occur

An eating disorder is a psychological condition where the person develops an unhealthy relationship to food. Sometimes, an eating disorder is linked to drug use.

There are three major eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.


With anorexia the person develops an aversion to eating and subsists on an extremely low calorie diet in an effort to stay slim. In severe cases of anorexia, the anorexic person might not eat anything at all for days at a time. They ignore their hunger cues and, after a while, might no longer feel those cues at all.


With bulimia, the person develops a cycle of binging followed by purging, usually in the form of vomiting. Sometimes bulimia is connected to compulsive eating disorder. Bulimics might also use laxatives to eliminate calories or over exercise to burn the calories they have consumed.

Binge Eating Disorder

With binge eating disorder, the person has cycles of binging but without the purging associated with bulimia. A person with this disorder may binge-eat on a daily basis, or have periods of normal eating interspersed with binging.

Non-Specific Eating Disorder

There is another class of eating disorder which is often called “non-specific.” In general, non-specific eating disorders tend to combine some of the food restriction and aversions of anorexia, with the binging and/or purging elements of bulimia.

Eating Disorders and Drug Abuse

One of the most dangerous aspects of eating disorders is that they become so ingrained that people will do anything to maintain them, even when they know it is killing them. In that way, the psychology of eating disorders is similar to that of addiction. In fact, people with eating disorders might also abuse drugs (both legal and illegal) in an effort to control their bodies, and maintain their illness – the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse estimates that 50 percent of people with eating disorders also abuse drugs or alcohol.

Drugs That Support Eating Disorders

The truth is that any drug can support an eating disorder if it affects your ability to eat, or encourages purging. For example, someone who is sensitive to aspirin could take it to induce stomach pain, which would prevent her from eating. Someone who is addicted to staying slim might use a drug that suppresses the appetite. Another person might take drugs that stimulate the appetite, to encourage binging. That said, there are certain types of drugs that are abused more often than others in relation to eating disorders:


Stimulant drugs suppress the appetite, and they also energize people so they can keep going on few to no calories. A person with an eating disorder might start with a mild, over-the-counter stimulant like caffeine, nicotine, or diet pills. As the disease progresses and they need stronger stimulation, they could graduate to the stronger, illegal stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Drugs like XTC (ecstasy) provide a sense of well-being and euphoria, in addition to increased energy and a reduced appetite. Some people might even combine stimulants, such as smoking several packs of cigarettes a day while using cocaine.

Opiates, Depressants, and Sedatives

Opiates, depressants, and sedative drugs dull the senses so that people don’t feel their hunger, or much of anything else. A person might start out using alcohol, which is a depressant, opting to dull her senses with drink to avoid thinking about food. The alcohol could also provide emotional insulation, to keep her from feeling strong emotions that could lead to comfort eating. Alcohol has calories, however, and someone with anorexia might graduate to using something that doesn’t contain as many calories – such as drugs like heroin and morphine, pain killers like Oxycontin, or an anesthetic-type drug like Ketamine.

Prescription Drugs

In this context, prescription drugs refers to drugs that a doctor has prescribed to the individual, not prescription-level drugs purchased illegally.

Several legal prescriptions have side effects that can support an eating disorder. For example, some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs suppress the appetite. Unfortunately, some people with eating disorders are prescribed these medications to help treat their conditions, and the drugs end up making their conditions worse.

Laxatives and Emetics

These types of drugs cause vomiting or increased bowel activity and are often used by people with purging as a component of their disease. People with binge eating disorders might also abuse laxatives because it clears the bowels, allowing them to eat more.

Treating an Eating Disorder

Treating eating disorders is very difficult. In fact, eating disorders have some of the highest relapse rates around. When drug addiction is part of the equation, it is even harder, because these are co-occurring diseases where one disease feeds into the other.

At this point, there are no cut-and-dried solutions for treating eating disorders. Counseling or therapy, and even support groups, are considered to be the most effective approach to treating eating disorders. Most therapists or counselors treating someone with an eating disorder will also work with other healthcare providers to address the patient’s dietary needs to ensure she receives the nutrition she requires during recovery and in the long term. When drug addiction is a co-occurring problem, many mental health professionals opt to address the drug addiction first, or at least get their patients through a good detox program before tackling the eating disorder. Other professionals opt to treat both conditions together.

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