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Category Archives: Media

100 Americans Die Every Day from Drug Overdose

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the widely admired and award winning actor, died recently from a drug overdose. That got a lot of publicity and millions of people asked themselves how such a thing could happen to someone like that. Meanwhile, on that same day if it was average, 99 other people died in the same way without the public taking notice, or seeming to care. Overdose is the largest single cause of accidental death in America — beating out car crashes for that “honor.”

Here is an article from the Washington Post, a lengthy interview with a prominent psychiatrist and leading researcher in the field of addiction. There is much of interest in the article. An example, when the interviewer asks about private detox facilities, the response is scathing:

It’s such a horrible promise to hold out to desperate people and their families. By the way, those programs are usually cash-pay only. They promise to take away your addiction in two weeks but what they really take is your money….Some [very wealthy people] are checking into rehabs that don’t seem much different than luxury hotels. I suspect, actually, that you might get better care being a working class veteran, or someone who happens to live near a primary care doctor who has trained him or herself using buprenorphine than you would being a rich and famous person in that luxury tier of care.

The article is filled with much information and insight. See it Here.

 

AA Agnostica Features LifeRing

we agnosticsAn AA-related website is featuring an article from LifeRing Board of Directors member (and deputy Executive Director) Mahala Kephart. The article features a introductory quote from Martin Nicolaus’s book How Was Your Week. Here’s a brief excerpt from the article:

In LifeRing, we believe individuals can and must learn to stop ingesting addictive substances before worrying what to call themselves or wrestling with their religious or spiritual beliefs. In LifeRing we are united by the practice of a behavior — abstinence.  That we lived long enough to begin the recovery journey at all should probably be accorded more awe and respect than is our societal norm.

The website, at http://aaagnostica.org/ is from We Agnostics, a group of atheists and agnostics within AA.

At the same site, a recent article from the New York Times is featured, and it’s worth a read as well. The article examines the place of non-religious people in AA:

This meeting, as the parting phrase suggests [the article talks of a meeting ending with the phrase “Live and let live” rather than the Lord’s Prayer], is one of a growing number within A.A. that appeal to nonreligious people in recovery, who might variously describe themselves as agnostics, atheists, humanists or freethinkers. While such groups were rare even a decade ago, now they number about 150 nationally. A first-ever convention will be held in November in Santa Monica, Calif.

See Mahala’s piece Here, and the New York Times piece, “Alcoholics Anonymous, Without the Religion” Here.

LifeRing, of course, is not anti-religion, it is simply non-religious, seeing addiction as a physical and psychological condition, not a spriitual one.

Be sure to look at the Comments under the LifeRing piece — they demonstrate a positive attitude towards LifeRing, at least in some of the comments, that we often don’t see in AA.

— Craig Whalley

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman: A caution, about triggers

Philip Seymour Hoffman, via Slate

Science writer Seth Mnookin has a very good piece about Hoffman’s death.

First, there’s the scary part. Now, in recovery, we want to grow to the point where fear isn’t our primary motivator, but, we should still have a healthy fear for addiction. That’s why this scary part is of the “healthy fear” type:

I cried when I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman. The news scared me: He got sober when he was 22 and didn’t drink or use drugs for the next 23 years. During that time, he won an Academy Award, was nominated for three more, and was widely cited as the most talented actor of his generation. He also became a father to three children. Then, one day in 2012, he began popping prescription pain pills. And now he’s dead.

Why he started back, we don’t yet know, and maybe never will. But, he did.

And, contra some recent columns that tout how much “moderation” may be able to help people, it usually doesn’t. Hoffman’s addiction progressed until he died with a heroin needle in his arm, and heroin dangerously “cut” with the narcotic fentanyl. (Updated, Feb. 13 — Although fentanyl from new “cuts” of heroin was under suspicion at the time this was written, none was found in Hoffman’s case.)

Mnookin goes on, to reveal his own background:

My first attempt at recovery came in 1991, when I was 19 years old. Almost exactly two years later, I decided to have a drink. Two years after that, I was addicted to heroin. There’s a lot we don’t know about alcoholism and drug addiction, but one thing is clear: Regardless of how much time clean you have, relapsing is always as easy as moving your hand to your mouth.

He got and stayed sober after that, but later got “reminders” himself. What we might call “triggers”:

Being back in Boston was a visceral reminder that there’s an important part of my past that isn’t on the bio page of my website: From 1995 to 1997, the last time I’d lived in the area, I’d been an IV drug addict. Living here again made me acknowledge that past every day: The drive to my son’s preschool took me within blocks of the apartment that I’d lived in during those years; my route from his school to my office went past the free acupuncture clinic where I’d sought relief from withdrawal pangs. One afternoon, I looked up and realized I was in front of the emergency room I’d been taken to after overdosing on a batch of dope laced with PCP. I did a double take and looked to my wife, but, of course, that wasn’t a memory we shared. We met in 2004, when I’d been sober for more than six years.

One truism of addiction science is that long-term abuse rewires your brain and changes its chemistry, which is why triggers (or “associated stimuli,” in scientific parlance) are major risk factors for relapse. But these changes can be reversed over time. Walking past the apartment where my dealer used to live didn’t make me want to score; it made me feel as if I was in a phantasmagoria of two crosshatched worlds—but I was the only person who could see both realities.

Give the whole thing a read. It’s worth it.

And, although Lifering has no formal “program” of recovery, talk like Mnookin’s is why many in Lifering talk about the issue of “triggers.”

Yet another “false dichotomy” story

Just a couple of weeks after the New York Times, in a column by a person pushing a book, presents a false dichotomy between Alcoholics Anonymous and science-based moderation as the only alternatives on the table, Slate does the same thing. And, it’s story author is a Slate staffer who doesn’t even have the excuse of publishing a book. You can comment on the page or Tweet Brian Palmer here.

The story’s good otherwise; Palmer knows the history of AA’s semi-official opposition to medical assistance for addiction, counseling and more. But, there’s not a single word in there about secular sobriety organizations. Only by people like us contacting people like Palmer to get the full story out there, can we get the full story out there.

And, whether Palmer’s analysis of AA is close to correct or not is not the primary point of this blog post. (That said, I do think he is broadly correct.)

AA vs moderation — false dilemma rears its head again

NY Times image

And unfortunately, it rears its ugly head in a New York Times op-ed, and even worse, it’s one of those New York Times op-eds written by an author who’s got a new book to plug.

Gabrielle Glaser thinks that she is saving many a woman with some degree of a drinking problem from the moralizing of AA. She gets right that, as well as noting that AA is male-focused, unscientific, and still largely rooted in the days of its founding.

She also gets right this:

Women increasingly need help, as their drinking has escalated. Women are being stopped more for drunken driving than they were two decades ago. They’re also the biggest consumers of wine, buying the larger share of the 856 million gallons sold in the United States in 2012. These women are drinking partly because alcohol is a socially respectable way to slog through the smartphone-tethered universe of managing demanding careers, aging parents, kids’ activities and relationships at once. And while it’s not healthy to pour yourself a third or fourth glass every night, it doesn’t mean you’re powerless to do anything about it.

But, she then says the alternative to this:

(T)he A.A. program offers a single path to recovery: abstinence, surrendering one’s ego and accepting one’s “powerlessness” over alcohol.

Can, and should, (often) be moderated drinking.

I put the “often” in parentheses because she does, at her website, albeit on a hyperlink whose linkage is broken, or was for me, abstinence-only alternatives to AA. Besides us, and the others, I was simply flabbergasted that, because her column was about drinking problems particular to women, she wouldn’t even mention Women for Sobriety in the column.

She then goes on to specifically tout Moderation Management, without noting, besides just founder Audrey Kishline, its own problematic history, lack of verifiable information, etc. This is a sad case of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it, too.

Next is this:

This approach isn’t for severely dependent drinkers, for whom abstinence might be best.

“Might”? Try “is.” Period.

Unfortunately, she got curt with me when I pointed out some of the above issues in an email. I have made multiple comments on the Times op-ed, my original ones being about the book itself, then responding to a couple of diehard AAers trotting out the classical “no true Scotsman” stance in saying Glaser wasn’t critiquing true AA, etc.

Her book is getting a number of unfavorable ratings on Amazon from people who are NOT diehard AAers, for a variety of reasons, so a few people are looking at the devils in the details.