Alcohol Deadlier Than Opioids

As the country continues to battle the opioid crisialcohols, we’re also contending with another, slower moving epidemic: alcohol. While opioid overdoses are responsible for roughly 72,000 people per year, according to the CDC, roughly 88,000 people die each year from alcohol – mostly through cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide.

In fact, from 2007 to 2017, deaths related to alcohol increased 35 percent and a whopping 85 percent among women, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Deaths among men also rose (to 29 percent), as did deaths of people ages 45 to 64. A positive finding: Teen deaths from alcohol were down 16 percent.

“The story is that no one has noticed this,” Max Griswold, who helped develop the alcohol estimates for the institute, told USA Today. “It hasn’t really been researched before.”

One explanation for this is that drinking alcohol is more culturally acceptable than, say, shooting heroin. For example, in our “Dangers of the Wine Mom Phenomenon” blog we touch on how the fact that more women are hitting the bottle to deal with stress has even become a bit of a joke. This is dangerous for many reasons, including the fact that women are more susceptible to alcohol-related risks, according to the NIAAA. Women typically weigh less than men and can feel the effects of alcohol faster. Plus, women are also more vulnerable to the lasting damage.

Drinking can lead to cancers along the digestive tract – from the mouth to the colon – as well as liver damage, heart disease, anxiety and depression. What’s worse, only 5.4 percent of female drinkers and 7.4 percent of men received help for an alcohol disorder, notes the NIAAA. According to Ana Moreno, Clinical Director at FRS, “There are effective evidence-based approaches to help those individuals suffering with an alcohol problem. We know treatment works but unfortunately not enough people receive the appropriate support. We need to educate people and help them understand that alcohol is just as dangerous as other substances, sometimes even more so. If we can help people understand the health risks associated with alcohol then maybe we can get them to recognize the problem and get help earlier.”

Alcoholism is also complicated because the liquor industry, which has “considerable clout with policymakers,” rejects proven approaches like increased taxes on alcohol and limits on where and when alcohol is sold, explain experts.

“It is poison, and we’re treating it like it’s something other than that because there‘s big corporate money behind it,” Attorney Lisa Smith, who has been in recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction for a decade, told reporters. “A lot of people are getting really rich on something that is toxic to us.”

Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder
The longer problematic drinking persists, the more serious it becomes in the future. At Family Recovery Specialists, we can work together to create an individualized plan to help you or your loved one live a happy, healthy and alcohol-free lifestyle. To learn more about our substance abuse treatment services, call today: 305-595-7378.

Opioid Addiction Round Table Discussion

Florida by The Numbers:

  • Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Deployed Narcan 1,200 Times In 2016
  • 14 Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids Everyday
  • As of July 1, 2017 — 2,664 Opioid Overdose Deaths
  • Estimates Indicate that 5,328 Floridians Will Perish by the End of the Year.
  • In 2017, Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue has Increased Narcan Use by 20 Percent

addictionThese opioid overdose death figures, rightly, are cause for serious concern. While the problem is not isolated to the State of Florida, the “Sunshine State” has often been in the news regarding the epidemic, particularly about pain management clinics that once littered the state, otherwise known as “pill mills.” Such clinics recklessly handed out prescriptions for drugs like OxyContin to just about anyone complaining of pain. In fact, Florida became a destination state for people looking to acquire opioids, with few questions asked.

Due to rampant over prescribing at pill mills, both state and federal government officials and law enforcement agencies cracked down, shutting down pain clinics and arresting some of the doctors who made huge profits at the expense of patient safety. The closing of pill mills was a step in the right direction; however, it did not reverse the damage with respect to opioid addiction rates in the state. As a result, opioid dependent patients looked elsewhere to fuel the fire of their disease.

Without addiction treatment, people with opioid use disorders are essentially forced to continue using these dangerous and addictive substances or they experience very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including pain, restlessness, persistent nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Simply cutting off the supply to these drugs is not effective in encouraging people to seek addiction recovery treatment. No longer being able to rely on doctors to alleviate withdrawal, users turn to the black market to obtain illicit painkillers, heroin and other very deadly substances like fentanyl.

Opioid Addiction Task Force

In February, our co-founders at Family Recovery Specialists (FRS), Executive Director Ray Estefania and Clinical Director Ana Moreno joined the Miami-Dade Opioid Addiction Task Force. On July 9, 2017, Channel 10 ABC’s “This Week in South Florida” held a roundtable discussion about the opioid crisis in Florida. Ray Estefania took part in the panel, along with Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Russell Benford and Lissa Franklin of Young People In Recovery.

Please take a moment to watch the discussion, below:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Accessing Opioid Addiction Treatment

The main takeaway from the discussion was the need to provide greater access to addiction treatment services. There are thousands of people with an opioid use disorder who do not have insurance, can’t afford treatment or cannot find a state funded facility in their area. The Governor of Florida declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in May, which allocated funds for, among other things, increased access to treatment.

“Treatment really does work. We know this…We have to provide people effective, affordable treatment that they can access readily. …” —Ray Estefania, MS, LMHC, CAP, CIP, ICADC, Executive Director, Family Recovery Specialists.

If you are actively abusing opioids, or have a loved one caught in the grips of an opioid use disorder, we encourage you to reach out to us at Family Recovery Specialists for a confidential consultation or evaluation. The longer treatment is delayed, the greater the risk of a fatal overdose.

Often the first step to recovery is an intervention. At Family Recovery Specialists, we work with both adolescents and adults, helping families prepare for a substance use disorder intervention and finding the best possible treatment for someone who is in crisis. Our intervention approach is both non-confrontational and invitational. We welcome you to contact us to assist you in beginning the journey of recovery for your entire family.

Addiction Recovery: Success Stories Everywhere

addiction recoveryWith people across the country succumbing to an opioid use disorder, it is easy to become despondent. After all, upwards of a hundred Americans experience a fatal overdose daily. When we do hear promising stories in the news about the opioid addiction epidemic, it is usually about one of two things, either new legislation is passed to address the epidemic by way of treatment and prevention, or expanded naloxone access.

By and large, however, most coverage about the epidemic is focused on the sheer tragedy of it all. Millions of Americans are addicted to opioids. Thousands are dying each year and the price of the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug keeps going in one direction—up. Of late, there are concerns over how an Affordable Care Act repeal and/or replacement might keep countless of Americans from accessing addiction treatment. This is a real concern since recovery centers are gateways to programs of addiction recovery.

In many parts of the country, young adults and beyond find it extremely difficult to access treatment. They feel forced to continue using or go through serious withdrawal without assistance, which exponentially increases one’s risk of relapse. While some people do manage to make it through to the other side of acute withdrawal on their own and begin a program of recovery, such cases are limited. It is for those reasons that expanding access to treatment and encouraging addicts to seek it is so paramount. Sadly, there are many Americans who believe that they will die in the grips of addiction. And this is a belief that needs to be altered.

Addiction Recovery Is Possible

If Americans living in the cycle of addiction are constantly bombarded by stories of despair then, they may not believe recovery is possible, which is reasonable but not accurate. In fact, every day millions of Americans make a daily commitment to work a program of addiction recovery. If you are addicted to opioids and are actively using, rest assured, many of those same people were once in your shoes, believing that there were no good options to free themselves from the grip of these dangerous and addictive substances.

At Family Recovery Specialists (FRS) we have helped a significant number of opioid addicted individuals start on the road to addiction recovery. Many of these individuals are still clean and sober years later. We know that recovery is possible, as much as it is necessary for turning the tide of this deadly epidemic. And our alumni are some of the many people in this country who have been able to turn their lives around through a program of recovery. To be sure, most of the news about the epidemic is dismal, yet if you look closely you can find inspiring stories of addiction recovery. Please take a moment to watch a short NBC News video of one man’s recovery story of success, by clicking here.

This is just one of many stories that started with opioid despair, and now is one of hope and renewal. Perhaps it will inspire you to seek help. Many other stories of success and inspiration can be found around the country. Manny Mendez and Vic James are artists who have overcome addiction and are now in recovery. They are dedicated to using the gifts they have received to end the stigma of addiction and encourage others to seek help through the expression of art. They will be hosting the first annual Art of Recovery Film Festival located in downtown Lake Worth, Florida July 7 through the 9th. Perhaps you can attend.

Addiction Treatment

FRS is available to help you or someone you may care about get on the road to addiction recovery. It is a difficult task, but with the right direction and support, recovery is possible. Please give us a call today. We can help break the cycle of addiction and teach you how it is possible to live a life free from drugs and alcohol.

Addiction or “Ritualized Compulsive Comfort-Seeking?”

addictionIf you were to evaluate most of the individuals that seek treatment for addiction, you would find that most of them have experienced some type of childhood trauma, also known as adverse childhood experience (ACE). Common forms of this include physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and the loss of a loved one. When things like that occur at a young age, there is no telling how the mind will cope with such experiences. And without the aid of therapy, the mechanisms that the mind relies on to cope with trauma are often not very effective and sometimes even self-destructive.

Many of those who experience trauma in childhood often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the post-traumatic stress. So, it stands to reason that a child who experiences trauma would do anything in their power to alleviate the pain by way of some type comfort seeking behavior. How this takes shape will vary from person to person. Some individuals may turn to food or sugar to alleviate the feelings of shame and guilt that are typical of oppressed people. Others may begin later on in their teenage years turning to substances for relief.

As teenagers, such behaviors often become ritualized and habitual. It feels good and provides relief from emotional pain, so why stop? Then one day these individuals have a realization, that they cannot stop even if they want to—at least not without help. Their use moves from something that provides them euphoria and relief from emotional pain to the problematic use of substances and in some cases, progressing to full blown addiction.

Ritualized Compulsive Comfort-Seeking

In the field of addiction treatment, we often say that drugs and alcohol are but symptoms of a much greater problem. Underlying most substance-use disorders are often layers of emotional pain, trauma and often, co-morbid psychiatric conditions. Take the substances out of the picture and you have a person with significant maladaptive behaviors that must be addressed if recovery is to be achieved. This is where treatment programs, and support groups like the 12-Step programs, can help a person to begin to recognize their self-destructive patterns and begin to develop new, healthier and more effective coping skills. Once the mind is clear of the chemical fog, the real work begins in treatment and into the recovery process. Through the treatment process and while working a recovery program, recovering individuals take apart the self that developed both before and after drugs and alcohol came into the equation. By understanding the driving forces behind what one man has dubbed “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behaviors,” you can work on the problem of a “self” that is not acting in your best interests.

Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine, seems to want to change the conversation and wording regarding unhealthy substance use and help us understand that adverse childhood experiences are at the core of it all. According to Dr. Sumrok:

“Addiction shouldn’t be called “addiction.” It should be called “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking. Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction) is a normal response to the adversity experienced in childhood, just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed. The solution to changing the illegal or unhealthy ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior of [opioid] addiction is to address a person’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) individually and in group therapy.”

Stigmatizing people that suffer with substance use disorders does not promote recovery, and can interfere with them getting help. The solution lies in compassion and giving people the opportunity to seek help without being made to believe that they are somehow weaker than the rest of society. In many ways, effective addiction treatment centers operating today share Dr. Sumrok’s sentiments, utilizing a method similar to his.

“Treat people with respect instead of blaming or shaming them. Listen intently to what they have to say. Integrate the healing traditions of the culture in which they live. Use prescription drugs, if necessary. And integrate adverse childhood experiences science: ACEs.”

How can you evaluate your level of risk because of ACEs?

This is the test for the occurrence and impact of ACEs.

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Was your mother or stepmother: Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? No___If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Did a household member go to prison? No___If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: _ This is your ACE Score

Essentially, the higher your score, the higher your risk for chronic disease.

Intervention, Treatment and Addiction Recovery

It is important when we attempt to start a conversation with our loved ones about addiction that we have an understanding of the reasons why people seek relief through the use of substances or some other self-destructive behavior. Dr. Sumrok is suggesting that we start the conversation by understanding and acknowledging the role trauma plays in the life of someone who may be addicted. That is, be willing to open our minds to the idea that adverse childhood experiences (however, subtle) can play a major role in behavior and development, particularly as it relates to someone that is using substances in a very self-destructive way. At Family Recovery Specialists, our addiction professionals have received training in trauma-informed care and in the best approaches to intervention that take into consideration someone’s level of trauma and the presence of complex psychiatric conditions, which often accompany an individual’s use of substances. We work with both adolescents and adults who are diagnosed with addiction, substance abuse, and/or co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or mood disorders. We are uniquely qualified to help you with intervention or treatment services that also address the other complicating issues that are essential for long-term recovery.

We are available to help you or someone you may care about begin to take the steps toward a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life! Please call us if we can help.

Brain Hacking In Addiction Recovery

brain hackingSmartphones are ubiquitous. We cannot go anywhere without them, seemingly. Everyone from teenagers to seniors relies on their smartphones to get from point A to point B. Checking email, social media and playing games. Sometimes you may find yourself pining for a time before everyone was constantly staring at their black mirror. A name given because when the screen is not lit up it reflects your face back at you. And it is fair to say, that for some people that is reason enough to continue scrolling down their Facebook timeline or playing another round of Candy Crush.

Given that smartphones are still a relatively new invention, there is little way to know the exact costs of constant cellular interaction. Certainly, there are some whose smartphone use has negatively impacted their lives, requiring some form of intervention. But nevertheless, the clear majority of people continue to use their phones, in some cases for hours each day. All these observations beg the question, why do people use their smartphones to the point of what could be classified as an addiction?

Naturally, there is going to be a number of people, who are familiar with substances and/or behaviors to which people typically become addicted, that may argue that if all one is hooked on is apps—things could be a lot worse. However, it is important to remember that addiction is addiction is addiction. Just because an activity appears to be benign on the surface, does not mean that there isn’t something more sinister operating just below the surface. And if one has the propensity to use one item in an unhealthy way, they are at a much greater risk of forming negative attachments to other activities typified by instant gratification and neurochemical release. Such as sex, drugs and alcohol.

Brain Hacking Via Smartphone

To be sure, smartphone apps can be at times a healthy distraction even. However, there is evidence to suggest that the companies making the apps used by millions every day are actually designing them to get users hooked. In a CBS: 60 Minutes interview, Anderson Cooper talked about “brain hacking” with Silicon Valley tech insider Tristan Harris. We won’t include the whole interview but just a view lines to give you an idea of what is going on.

Anderson Cooper: Is Silicon Valley programming apps or are they programming people?

Tristan Harris: Inadvertently, whether they want to or not, they are shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people. They are programming people. There’s always this narrative that technology’s neutral. And it’s up to us to choose how we use it. This is just not true.

Anderson Cooper: Technology’s not neutral?

Tristan Harris: It’s not neutral. They want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money.

Tristan Harris: And I was asking, “When is all of this adding up to, like, an actual benefit to my life?” And I ended up making this presentation. It was kind of a manifesto. And it basically said, you know, “Look, never before in history have a handful of people at a handful of technology companies shaped how a billion people think and feel every day with the choices they make about these screens.”

The presentation that Tristen Harris is talking about is 144-pages long and it circulated around the industry, including Google where he worked at the time. But it led to zero changes in how things were being done. Now he is going around the country talking about the dangers associated with pervasive smartphone use. He says that the constant distractions of apps and emails are “weakening our relationships to each other,” and “destroying our kids’ ability to focus.”

Here you can view just a few minutes of Anderson Cooper’s 60 Minute presentation on Brain Hacking.

Brain Hacking 3 – 60 Minutes from Proven Men TM on Vimeo.

If you are having trouble viewing this segment, you can see it here.

Put Down Your Phone

If you are working a program of recovery, there is a good chance you see people on smartphones even during 12-Step meetings. Given that the program revolves around community and fellowship, it is fair to say that smartphones can be a distraction from the program. Cutting one off from their support network. Certainly, there are going to be times when you need to use your phone, but being cognizant of your relationship with the device is of the utmost importance.

Test yourself, try to go through a whole meeting without looking at your phone. If you find yourself getting anxious during the self-prescribed moratorium, it is a good sign that you have developed an unhealthy relationship with your phone. It is probably something you are going to talk to your sponsor about. People in recovery already have the roadways leading to addiction paved, it is important that you have roadblocks like your program firmly in place, lest….

Going forward…

Family Recovery Specialists (FRS) understands the sensitive relationship between substance abuse and mental health problems. Offering a highly individualized approach to adult and teen substance abuse and mental health treatment, we provide family therapy, outpatient rehab, at-risk programs, therapeutic consulting, crisis management, and recovery coaching for guests suffering with substance use and mental health disorders. Definitely we are aware of the number of clients who present with a co-occurring anxiety disorder, a disorder which can be intensified by the over-utilization and reliance on smartphones. If you need more information or would like to discuss your teen or young adult child’s behaviors, contact FRS today.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Systemic Disorder

post traumatic stress disorderIn the field of addiction treatment, it is quite common for those seeking help to have experienced trauma in some form or another. Traumatic events have a way of changing individuals in several ways, which can have a dramatic effect on the course and health of one’s life. The most serious, or most discussed cause of trauma and the condition that it often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD for short) is that seen or felt in armed conflict.

PTSD is a serious mental health condition. Left untreated, the disorder can wreak serious havoc both mentally and physically. Post-traumatic stress is not a new problem, in our own nation’s history you can find reports of PTSD going back to the Civil War. But, at that time the debilitating disorder went by a different name. Young boys coming home from the war who seemed to have left their souls on the battlefield were said to be experiencing melancholy. A significant number of veterans, having been left to their own devices to cope with symptoms on their own, found it too difficult to manage. Opting to drown their sorrows in alcohol or take their own life.

Traumatic events refer to the extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to effectively cope. This may leave a person fearing death, psychosis or isolation. It may handicap the individual emotionally, physically and cognitively. The traumatic event usually includes abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, pain or loss. Some examples are rape, home invasions, sexual abuse, child abuse, natural disasters and war.

PTSD Side Effects

While the disorder is generally associated with the pangs of war, trauma can result in a number of ways. Both physical and emotional abuse can lead to the development of PTSD. Serious injuries from car accidents or the sudden loss of a loved one can have lingering effects for years to come. The point being, there is not just one way to develop the disorder, which affects around 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population at some point in their life, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

In the field of addiction medicine, naturally, we focus on treating people with PTSD who also have an alcohol or substance use disorder. Whether the addiction came first or the PTSD, it is vital that both are treated, if recovery is to be achieved. However, the development of addiction due to self-medicating one’s symptoms is not the only health problem that can arise. There are many comorbidities that researchers have associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The research team found:

“The higher frequency of comorbid physical conditions suggests that PTSD be conceptualized not as a purely mental disorder, but rather as a systemic disorder.”

The researchers found that people living with PTSD were more likely to have:

    • Gastrointestinal Conditions
    • Hepatic Conditions
    • Cardiovascular Problems
    • Respiratory Issues
    • Sleep Disorders

Effectively treating PTSD is difficult; doctors and scientists continue to look for new methods of treatment. The research suggests that treatment may be more effective if both the psychological and physiological aspects of the condition are addressed.

“The limited effectiveness of evidence-based psychological interventions in people with PTSD, particularly in veteran populations, highlights the need to develop biological therapies that address the underlying neurophysiological and immune dysregulation associated with PTSD,” says Prof. Alexander McFarlane, director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Adelaide.

Drugs and Alcohol Make It Worse

Fact: the clear majority of Americans with any form of mental health disorder do not get the treatment they require, including people with PTSD. As a result, it falls to individuals to try and mitigate the symptoms they are experiencing. Drugs and alcohol are the obvious choices.

While substances may help ease one’s pain initially, continued use leads to tolerance, dependence and addiction—and a co-occurring disorder is born. In turn, drugs and alcohol serve to worsen the symptoms of the mental illness, and now both PTSD and addiction need to be treated. Without help, the prospects are usually grim.

If you or a loved one is self-medicating post-traumatic stress, please contact Family Recovery Specialists. Our highly-trained staff fully understands and is qualified to treat co-occurring disorders, offering an individualized approach to substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Why Outpatient Treatment Can Be A Good Option

outpatient treatmentNot everyone who seeks help for a substance abuse or mental health issue has the luxury of being able to go to a residential addiction treatment center or has the desire to do so. Committing a significant amount of time and resources may not be possible for some, which could deter them from seeking treatment altogether. Sometimes inpatient services are not necessary for an individual and an experienced addiction and mental health clinician can determine if someone might be a good candidate for outpatient therapy. Fortunately, outpatient addiction treatment is an option that doesn’t require a total upheaval of your entire life. While in an outpatient therapy program, you are simultaneously able to maintain personal responsibilities and receive much needed intensive therapy for a substance use disorder or a mental health issue. Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is for adults and adolescents who are struggling with substance abuse, addiction, a mental health disorder or a combination of these. We provide comprehensive services for our clients on a part-time yet intensive basis that is structured and tailored to minimize the impact on work, school or family obligations.

The admissions process at Family Recovery Specialists (FRS) begins with each client being thoroughly assessed by a licensed professional. Our criteria for admissions are based on the most widely accepted guidelines for placement of patients struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders as developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). This comprehensive assessment is made up of six dimensions including:

outpatient treatment

Once the evaluation has been conducted and any co-existing disorders are examined, our trained professionals make recommendations for treatment. Following the ASAM’s multi-dimensional guidelines, our clinicians identify the amount of support currently available to each person as well as the risks and the strengths in their current life. The appropriate level of care is based on a continuum that includes five broad levels of service (ranging from early intervention to medically managed intensive inpatient). Our comprehensive services include outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment. For anyone to be admitted into either of these levels of care, they are required to have minimal to no risk of severe withdrawal, low to moderate risk of relapse, they must have some family or peer support and they must have some motivation to seek treatment. In some cases, we can provide outpatient detoxification as well as medication-assisted treatment when deemed appropriate by our physicians.

After eligibility for an outpatient program is approved using this assessment, treatment is then customized for each client. Our IOP consists of individual counseling, education, family therapy, group therapy, recovery coaching and random drug screening for all participants. Along with education about the physical, emotional and social risks associated with substance use, clients are taught refusal skills and other coping strategies to help them make better choices related to living a healthy lifestyle free from addiction. I certain situations, we can even provide a level of outpatient treatment that is completely individualized and includes no group therapy for those who may not wish to participate in groups or who may have concerns about confidentiality.

In outpatient treatment there is an opportunity to begin building a lasting foundation for recovery at the very start of the treatment process. Our outpatient treatment program is available to those who require structure and support in their recovery process with the added benefit of being able to live at home and continue meeting their daily obligations like work or school. We also believe developing a long-term recovery support system in one’s own community while attending treatment can be a real advantage and can help set someone up for long-term success.

Here at FRS, we believe that addiction affects not only the person with the disorder but also the family and friends that care about them. Our program includes education for families, weekly multi-family group counseling, as well as private family therapy sessions. Education provides valuable information for family members about substance use and the addictive disease process, as well as information on how to best support a loved one. Research has proven that those clients whose families are engaged in the treatment process have higher success rates and tend to have a much more positive experience during their course of treatment. In our program, rebuilding important relationships begins day one of treatment and continues throughout the treatment process and into aftercare.

Once a client successfully completes the program at FRS, they are encouraged to attend a weekly aftercare meeting for ongoing support. Additional recommendations are made at the time of discharge, which often include:

    • Following up with a mental health professional for individual and/or family therapy.
    • Medication Management
    • Recovery Coaching
    • Monitoring or Other Types of Support

Our intensive outpatient program provides clients with the necessary guidance and support during treatment and after completion by helping the individual learn a wide range of valuable recovery skills they can practice in daily life. Thanks to our ability to customize our services, this approach to treatment is often more accessible to those who may not otherwise be willing to receive treatment and allows us to meet a client where they are and support their needs in a truly individualized way.

Addiction In America: Reining In An Epidemic

addictionChemical dependency is a form of mental illness that unfortunately cannot be cured, but can be successfully treated and arrested. A person who suffers with this illness can recover but they must continue maintenance by taking care of themselves and working a program of recovery. Addiction is similar to Type I diabetes, where patients must constantly monitor their blood sugar and take insulin each day. This is a form of maintenance that cannot be neglected and failure to stay on top of the condition often results in potentially fatal side effects.

The addiction/diabetes comparison is meant to drive home the importance of a continued program of recovery. While there is plenty of scientific evidence to support the disease model of addiction, society has long viewed the condition with much skepticism. Someone who has never experienced the incredibly powerful grip that addiction can have over one’s life may find it difficult to understand and to empathize with those who suffer with it. Often those struggling with addiction must face difficult moral decisions to avoid excruciating physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. This cycle of cravings, compulsion and the need to avoid the physical and psychological suffering that substance dependence creates leads to devastating consequences for the person with the illness.

Helping the rest of society understand what it is really like to experience addiction is nearly impossible, which leaves the door open for much judgment and shaming. The stigma that comes with treating a substance abuse or mental health disorder can often be a deterrent for individuals to seek help. This is how we find ourselves where we are today; many people not getting the life-saving treatment they need to recover from this deadly disease however just because we can’t fully understand what it is like to experience addiction, does not mean that we can’t offer people the necessary treatment they need in a caring and compassionate way, while not contributing to the shame they may already feel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are some two million Americans with an opioid use disorder; however, the vast majority of these individuals are left untreated. Currently, there are over 100 overdoses per day in the United States, resulting in death. This is something that needs to be addressed—sooner rather than later.

Changing the Conversation About Addiction

The nation’s second largest physician group, the American College of Physicians (ACP), has published a position paper which includes several recommendations for reining in the opioid epidemic. It is essentially a call-to-action, urging the medical community to do their part in helping resolve a problem which they had a role in creating. The authors of the paper reiterate the fact that addiction is not a moral failing, but rather a chronic illness which requires treatment and continuous recovery.

“We now know more about the nature of addiction and how it affects brain function, which has led to broader acceptance of the concept that substance use disorder is a disease, like diabetes, that can be treated,” writes the authors. “Physicians can help guide their patients toward recovery by becoming educated about substance use disorders, proper prescribing practices, consulting prescription drug monitoring programs to reduce opioid misuse, and assisting patients in their treatment.”

The paper was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

ACP Recommendations At A Glance

  1. Substance use disorder is a chronic medical condition and should be managed as such.
  2. Treatment-focused programs should be implemented as an alternative to incarceration or other criminal penalties for persons with substance use disorders found guilty of the sale or possession of illicit substances.
  3. Policymakers and researchers should assess the risks and benefits of removing or reducing criminal penalties for nonviolent offenses involving illicit drugs.
  4. Implementation of evidence-based guidelines for pain management. Expansion of access to naloxone, medication-assisted treatment, improved training in the treatment of substance use disorders, establishment of a national prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP).
  5. Health insurance should be required to cover mental health conditions, including the evidence-based treatment of substance use disorders, and abide parity rules.
  6. Increasing the number of professionals qualified to treat substance use disorders.
  7. Training in the treatment of substance use disorders should be embedded throughout the continuum of medical education.
  8. Continued research into the efficacy of public health interventions to combat substance use disorders and associated health problems.

The Stakes of Individual Addiction

While the recommendations are aimed specifically at the opioid addiction epidemic, they can help anyone battling addiction to any substance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 18 percent of people with substance use disorders receive treatment. All those affected by this potentially fatal disease stand to benefit from having a wider range of treatment options. We need to make treatment more available so we can battle this deadly epidemic and ensure more of those in need are given the chance to recover.

Addiction not only affects certain individuals, it affects countless families and society as a whole. Mental health disorders that are left untreated place a huge burden on multiple systems, costing society billions of dollars every year. Treating addiction as a chronic illness like cancer, diabetes or heart disease can be in the best interest of those individuals suffering with the illness as well as for their families and our entire society.

Going Forward

Family Recovery Specialists (FRS) utilizes evidence-based practices in our treatment approaches and we constantly strive to provide families with the most innovative and customized treatment experience in the industry. The FRS staff truly understands substance use disorders and we make no judgments about how or why an individual may be abusing or dependent on substances. Our program offers evaluations, treatment, intervention and other addiction and recovery related services to help your family begin the journey of recovery. Please give us a call and begin your process of treatment and recovery today!

Intervention: How do you help someone who does not recognize they need help?


Mental Health in the United States
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Feeling scared, anxious and powerless…

“Help, what do we do? How do we get someone help when they don’t really want it?” These are questions we often hear from families that come to us for guidance. Does someone close to you have a substance abuse and/or mental health issue but is not willing to seek help? They may be in denial about their problem and on a very self-destructive path. Naturally, as a loved one, you may be feeling scared, anxious and powerless. Most people are not aware of the options available to them, even in a seemingly hopeless case. The time has come to contact a professional when the person you care for is suffering from an eating disorder, mental health disorder, addicted to drugs, alcohol, food or compulsive gambling and you have tried everything in your power to encourage them to seek help. An experienced interventionist or therapeutic consultant can bring a family together in a very strategic and unified way in order to influence a person to seek help and develop an individualized plan that includes direction and support for the family and comprehensive treatment for the individual.

Seeking a qualified interventionist…

When someone desperately needs professional help, but is ambivalent or reluctant to seek it, family and friends can encourage and invite them to receive that help by utilizing the skill and expertise of a qualified interventionist or consultant. A specialized professional can lead the support system through an intervention process than can often have the desired outcome. Generally, people have some misconceptions related to how aggressive or confrontational an intervention can be. This is most certainly not the preferred method and the team at FRS believes interventions can be facilitated with a more positive, compassionate and invitational approach. Our highly-qualified clinicians are experienced in reinforcing constructive changes that will benefit all involved, including the individual and the family system as a whole. We accomplish this by using the love and influence of the family, ensuring the process is conducted in a caring and compassionate fashion, while focusing on the individual’s and family’s strengths rather than staging a negative confrontation.

It is important to be sure the professional you choose is experienced, skilled, credentialed and ethical and does not accept any financial compensation from treatment centers for placement. You can avoid falling into the hands of an unscrupulous or unqualified interventionist by asking for their educational background, credentials and testimonials from previous clients. You can also see if they are a member of a professional organization that holds them to the highest standards of competency and ethics. The right interventionist has the specific expertise to deal with the complexities of addiction and mental health, is preferably a licensed clinician and is independent, objective, knowledgeable about many treatment options and will work diligently to find the best possible treatment program to meet a person’s unique needs. The team at FRS is licensed and certified in our profession and is uniquely qualified to help you develop a comprehensive treatment plan for your loved one. Each family and individual has unique needs so our consultants spend time regularly visiting and evaluating programs across the country in order to tailor a plan that includes the best possible services and the most effective treatment to help someone improve their overall health and quality of life.

Substance Use in the United States
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Navigating the intervention process…

Navigating through this most difficult process can feel quite overwhelming without the guidance of a trained professional. An experienced interventionist will let you know what to expect and will provide the guidance and support you and your family require every step of the way. Our individualized and comprehensive approach will support you through the recovery process and ensure the best possible outcome for your family. While the individual is in treatment, we continue to support the family by providing ongoing direction and case management and we assist in coordinating aftercare plans once the patient has completed a primary program. We can also help with secondary placement when needed or we can help you develop a plan for continuing care once the individual returns home in order to set them up for success, while making this important transition. In the unlikely situation that an individual initially refuses treatment, we will help you develop an alternative approach that will include reasonable boundaries and limit-setting, which more often than not will lead to an eventual acceptance from your loved one. We work with you over the long-term to help guide and support the process of recovery for the entire family and we don’t ever give up until we have made measurable progress for you and your loved one.

An intervention – we can help you face the obstacles

Sometimes mental health and substance abuse problems may seem like insurmountable obstacles but from the moment we begin this process together you can rest assured we are at your side from start to finish. Initiating and executing a well-prepared intervention for someone you care about is a powerful tool that can ultimately save his or her life. We believe an intervention is a significant expression of love and respect for a person in crisis, especially when friends and family unite in support of recovery. Our team of consultants will expertly arrange an organized collaboration that encourages everyone to stay focused on the hope for recovery.

If you are concerned about someone who may have an alcohol or drug problem, mental disorder, eating disorder, compulsive gambling problem, sex addiction or any other self-destructive behavior, please call us for an initial consultation. We work with many families in crisis and can help you develop a plan to encourage someone you care about to get the treatment they need to change their life for the better!


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) assists you in answering the question: “How do I know if my adult friend or loved one has a substance abuse problem?”

Marijuana: American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In

marijuanaIn November 2016, Florida became one of 28 states (including the District of Columbia) to legalize medical marijuana. While each state has taken their own approach to how the programs work, they are all for the most part fairly similar. Additionally, there are now seven (7) states that have voted in favor of recreational marijuana for adult use.

As Americans become more tolerant of marijuana, there are several organizations and lawmakers who are still unsure if this is the right course to take. However, the concerns are often not regarding adults using the drug, but rather adolescents and young adults who are more at-risk and vulnerable to the effects of experimentation with marijuana. Let’s take a moment to explore some concerns.

American Academy of Pediatrics Takes On Marijuana

On February 27, 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report highlighting the risks of young people using cannabis, CBS News reports. The report comes in the wake of more and more parents asking their doctors to weigh in on marijuana use among kids. The AAP’s report, published in the journal Pediatrics, cites research indicating that marijuana can wreak havoc on developing brains, causing problems with memory and the ability to plan. The AAP points out that the brain is still developing in one’s early twenties.

The report also cites previous research which has shown that early initiation of marijuana use increases the risk of addiction developing in adulthood, according to the article. But despite such realities, more and more young people perceive marijuana as a benign substance. Almost 40 percent of high school students across the country have used marijuana at least once (10 percent used the drug before turning 13-years of age, according to government data. Roughly 20 percent of U.S. high schoolers are current cannabis users.) As more and more states legalize marijuana, the perception of harm among young people decrease and parents become more confused about how to handle this issue with their children.

Marijuana “is the drug of choice” for many of my teenage patients, says the report’s lead author, Dr. Sheryl Ryan, a Yale University pediatrics professor.

Marijuana’s Path to Addiction

Dr. Ryan goes on to say that many young people form their opinion about the drug based on the fact that their parents used the drug, and nothing bad happened, the article reports. However, marijuana (today) is far more potent than it was historically. Higher potency can result in greater changes to one’s brain. The drug should be avoided by young people, as much as possible.

Greater potency could mean heightened risk for dependency. When it comes to addiction many believe marijuana use is not habit forming, and that it does not lead to physical dependency. However, while symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may not be as severe as opioids, alcohol or other substances, it still has symptoms like cravings, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, mood swings and irritability. What’s more, people who use marijuana regularly are far more likely to experiment with other, more potentially dangerous substances. Marijuana use can lead to dependency in some individuals and the younger, more underdeveloped brains of teens are particularly vulnerable to the effects of marijuana.

It is vital that parents heed the AAP’s report and do what they can to mitigate the risk of their teenager using the drug. It is important for parents to understand that marijuana is not a harmless drug and the marijuana that is being used today is not the same substance they may have experimented with when they were younger. It is more potent and has a higher risk of dependency, especially in the adolescent brain.

Learn About Our At-Risk Program

Among the many addiction and mental health services provided by Family Recovery Specialists, the At-Risk Program is designed for young adults and adolescents who are experimenting with or abusing substances, but may not have a more serious problem.

These individuals typically are in the early stages of substance use and often do not meet criteria for substance dependence. The At-Risk program is more intensive than an individual/family therapy approach and provides education for the parents and the child, as well as individual therapy, family therapy and a group component. Additionally, our program explores the underlying reasons for a child’s experimentation with substances. We offer tools for making better decisions and avoiding further substance use. This is an early intervention program that can prevent a child from continued exploration and the consequences related to substance use. In addition we do provide more intensive services for teens and young adults that do show more clear signs of abuse or addiction.

Family Recovery Specialists is available to confidentially discuss your situation and answer any questions you may have. We offer evaluations and consultations, if you are interested in seeing if your child or young adult may have a problem with substances and could benefit from any of the services we offer.

NACoA Awareness Year Round

NACoAAddiction is a family disease. A simple statement that can have different meanings depending on who you ask. On the one hand, your loved one’s addiction ripples through the lives of the entire family. Those who are successful in achieving long-term recovery typically have families that learn how to be supportive in a way that does not enable continued substance use. Many a relapse has been influenced by a family member who, out of what they think is love, does things that can contribute to a recurrence. Success stories often involve family members making changes in their own lives, in order to better serve a loved one’s recovery. If addiction is a family disease, then recovery is a family effort.

On the other hand, implying that addiction is a family disease can also refer to the fact that the children of alcoholics and addicts are at a greater risk of struggling with addiction themselves in the future. Those who are exposed to the destructive behaviors of a parent, are far more likely to adopt the same practices. They are also far more likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that include the use of mind-altering substances to deal with life stressors. It is for this reason that we should never underestimate the impact that growing up in an addictive home can have on a child; wreaking havoc on one’s life as they mature, in ways that don’t even necessarily involve the use of drugs or alcohol, i.e. poor social skills and trust issues.

With that in mind, it could seem like growing up as a child of addiction might be quite hopeless. That it may be impossible for such people to recover from the damage done by coming of age under the parenting of an alcoholic or drug addict. But that isn’t always the case.

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

Those who grow up surrounded by addiction need support starting at an early age, lest they end up walking down the same path as their parent(s). They can, and have found help for the last 30 years, from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA). An organization whose mission is:

“…to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families. Using our network of the most respected experts in the field, we provide solutions to address these impacts effectively. NACoA envisions a world in which no child who struggles because of family addiction will be left unsupported…One in four children under the age of 18 years are touched by the adverse effects of a parent abusing alcohol or drugs. We are the voice for these children, and have been for over 30 years. We are fueled by a deep and abiding passion to break the silence for millions of children in families entrapped by the “no talk” rule. We work to ensure that they can find their own voice, and by sharing their experiences find the hope and healing they deserve.”

Last week was CoA Awareness Week, an important time for celebrating those who have been helped by the organization, as well as offering hope to the many children still suffering. However, raising awareness about the impact that alcoholism and addiction can have on a child should be a year-round endeavor. The NACoA website offers a number of tools for children, families and professionals to help the affected young people.

Understanding the Issue by Understanding the Numbers

In a recent press release, NACoA highlighted the statistics, as they relate to children:

  • In the United States, mothers convicted of child abuse are 3 times more likely to be alcoholics and fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics.
  • More than 50% of all confirmed abuse reports and 75% of child deaths involve the use of alcohol or other drugs by a parent.
  • One in four children is being hurt in a family impacted by parental alcohol misuse, and countless thousands more are being devastated by drug addiction in the family, creating a trauma-inducing environment that is developmentally damaging to children from birth and impacts their emotional and physical health for a lifetime.

NACoA offers guidance for these children as they mature to adulthood, recognizing it is paramount that there is additional help for adult children of alcoholics (ACoA). Theses support groups help thousands of people who are still struggling with the trauma of childhood.

At Family Recovery Specialists, we provide individual and family therapy with unique and specific goals targeted for the individual as part of our Miami addiction treatment services. We provide these services for individuals and families going through the recovery process as well as for most other mental health issues. We specialize in providing individual and family therapy to adolescents and young adults but we also work with older adults and parents who want to become more effective at home.

We understand it is never too late to start repairing the damage of your past, in order to have a healthy future. If we can help you or someone you care about please don’t hesitate to call for more information about our services.

Miami-Dade Opioid Addiction Task Force

opioid addictionA few weeks ago we were pleased to report the annual Monitoring the Future survey showed a dramatic reduction in teenage prescription opioid use. Clear evidence that adolescents are getting the message about the dangers of opioid narcotic use. Unfortunately, when it comes to adults, people are still losing their lives every day at unprecedented rates—the result of untreated opioid addiction leading to an overdose death.

The opioid addiction rates across the country are a serious cause for concern. For the last several years, both lawmakers and health experts have come together to develop strategies for tackling the ongoing public health crisis. Between the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act, more than a billion dollars should be directed towards providing greater access to addiction treatment services and the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.

In over 100 cities throughout the country, municipal police departments have implemented some version of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.). After realizing that arrests would not have an impact on the opioid addiction crisis, police departments with “angel programs” encourage addicts to surrender their drugs to police, who will then find them a bed at a treatment facility. Hundreds of addicts have found help because of the paradigm shift in thinking with regard to punishing addiction.

Opioid Addiction Task Force

Even in cities which have not adopted P.A.A.R.I., efforts are being made to address the epidemic. South Florida has been ravaged by opioid addiction and overdose, requiring the need for drastic measures to be taken. Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez in partnership with the State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle and other state agencies came together to create the Miami-Dade Opioid Addiction Task Force. At the end of January, the task force met to discuss effective methods of treatment for addicts and plans for taking a tougher stance on drug dealers, CBS Miami reports. Mayor Gimenez highlights the urgency:

“We’ve had more opioid deaths in the last year… more opioid deaths than car crashes, more opioids deaths than homicides.”

The Opioid Addiction Task Force aims to:

  • Meet with the community to identify best practices in deterring new users.
  • Address holistic and comprehensive methods for treating opioid addiction.
  • Utilize healthcare solutions to the epidemic.

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Working Together

Addiction, of any kind does not discriminate, as is ever so clear by looking closely at the epidemic’s vast impact. Addressing the crisis will require that lawmakers, health experts and addiction professionals work together to develop effective plans that seek to treat addiction, rather than punish people for having an illness.

“We have a very serious epidemic of opiate addiction and overdose around the country and specifically in Miami-Dade. Our young people are dying by alarming numbers and we must do more to protect them from these very dangerous substances. Family Recovery Specialists is looking forward to participating in this task force to support the county in their efforts and do our part to save lives and help those that are suffering with addiction,” offered Ray Estefania, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Family Recovery Specialists.

If you have a loved one who is addicted to opioids or heroin, please feel free to call Family Recovery Specialists. We offer interventions, outpatient rehab, and specialize in providing individual and family therapy to young adults and adolescents, but we also work with older adults and parents who want to become more effective at home. Remember by working together, recovery is possible.

MTF Survey: Teenage Drug Use Declines

opioid-useWe need not look any further than the devastating impact opioid addiction has had in the United States, to understand the continued need for educating young people about the dangers of substance use and abuse. Thousands of people who went to the doctor for pain, who were in-turn treated with opioids—are now fighting heroin addiction and putting their life at risk every day.

The opioid epidemic is a clear example of how seemingly innocuous use of a drug can quickly spiral into addiction, a disorder that is easy to develop, infinitely harder to treat and recover. Opioid narcotics, while they top the list of deadly drugs, are just one of many mind-altering substances that can lead people down the dark and dangerous path of addiction. Without treatment and continued maintenance, the outcomes are rarely positive.

Preventing young people from developing inaccurate beliefs about drugs, alcohol and how addiction develops—is of the utmost importance. Millions of dollars and countless man hours are spent every year attempting to prevent early initiation to drugs and alcohol. The efficacy of such efforts is reviewed every year by the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey.

Monitoring the Future

The MTF survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The findings in 2016, released in December, come from researchers surveying 45,473 students from 372 schools across the country. The survey mainly focuses on teenage alcohol, marijuana and tobacco use, as they are the most commonly used substances among teenagers. That is not to say that the researchers don’t look at other substances that are used less frequently. But alcohol and tobacco are most commonly used first.

The findings in 2016 were promising. A sign that efforts to prevent teenage use of drugs and alcohol are working. The survey showed the continuation of a long-term decline in the use of a number of mind altering drugs with the potential for addiction. Including:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Tobacco
  • Some Prescription Drugs (i.e. Vicodin)

Please take a moment to watch an interview of NIDA Director Nora Volkow on the MTF survey findings:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

MTF On Opioids

Given the deadly nature of prescription opioids, as witnessed among adult demographics around the country, it is vital that teens understand the dangers. And, according to the MTF, they appear to be getting the picture. Prescription opioid past year use among 12th graders dropped 45 percent, compared to five years ago, according to NIDA. With 2.9 percent reporting past year use of Vicodin in 2016, compared to nearly 10 percent ten years ago.

“Clearly our public health prevention efforts, as well as policy changes to reduce availability, are working to reduce teen drug use, especially among eighth graders,” said Volkow. “However, when 6 percent of high school seniors are using marijuana daily, and new synthetics are continually flooding the illegal marketplace, we cannot be complacent. We also need to learn more about how teens interact with each other in this social media era, and how those behaviors affect substance use rates.”

Counseling Adolescents and Adults

At Family Recovery Specialists, our program for adolescents and adults includes education about the physical, emotional and social risks associated with substance use. Clients are taught refusal skills and other coping mechanisms in order to make better choices related to living a physically and emotionally healthy lifestyle free from substance use.

Staying abreast of the latest observations and conclusions regarding use and abuse of addictive substances adds to our ability to provide our clients with the most up to date information. If you or a family member needs treatment for substance abuse, please feel free to give us a call. Wellness and recovery are possible.

DXM Cough Syrup Law in Florida

DXMWith the New Year under way, we hope that everyone working a program of addiction recovery made it through the holiday (one that is typified by heavy alcohol consumption) without relapsing on drugs and/or alcohol. At Family Recovery Specialists, we understand the difficulties that come with navigating the dangerous waters of the holiday season. Those of you who managed the task successfully should be proud of your accomplishment, which served to strengthen your recovery.

As 2016 came to an end, there were a number of legislative acts that occurred on both the federal and state levels, which will hopefully have an impact on substance abuse in the coming year. In the Capitol, the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act should result in an additional $1 billion in funding for addiction treatment services across the country. The bill should strengthen the programs laid out in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that was passed earlier in the year, amid concerns about a significant lack in funding.

Together, the Cures Act and CARA could have a major impact on the insidious opioid epidemic in America. It is worth noting that there were a number of laws signed in the 12th-hour of 2016 that could do some good in the coming year, some of which could prevent teenagers from making bad decisions involving the use of substances. Poor choices that could start them down the hard road of substance abuse and addiction.

Suppressing, Cough-Suppressing Drugs

You are probably aware that there are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications that, if used incorrectly, can have intoxicating effects. One commonly sought after OTC drug is cough syrups containing dextromethorphan, or DXM. Found in cold and flu medicines, like Robitussin and NyQuil™, DXM is the ingredient which suppresses one’s cough. For decades, teenagers and young adults have consumed large quantities of DXM-containing drugs to get high. Despite the dangers, minors can still purchase the potentially harmful substances in drug stores throughout the country.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Florida Senate Bill 938, effective January 1, 2017, prohibiting the sale of cough syrups containing dextromethorphan to minors. Anyone who appears to be younger than 25-years old, must present an ID to purchase cough medication in Florida. DXM can be found in over 100 different OTC medications, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and can have potentially very harmful effects.

“DXM is often abused in high doses by adolescents to generate euphoria and visual and auditory hallucinations,” the DEA wrote in a report on the substance.

Some of our readers may think that the new law is extreme, but it is worth noting that DXM abuse can cause:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Stomach Pain
  • Impaired Physical Coordination
  • Rapid Heart Beat

Adolescents Do Experiment

Some parents would like to believe that a bill like SB 938 is not necessary. However, many young people like to experiment with substances that are easily accessible. Consider how many young teens will try smoking a cigarette or even using marijuana. The same is true for drugs like dextromethorphan. Sometimes it’s a dare or a situation where the whole group is experimenting with a particular substance.

Family Recovery Specialists offers an At-Risk Program for adolescents and young adults that are experimenting or abusing substances, but may not necessarily have an addiction problem. Such individuals typically are in the first stages of substance use and are not yet dependent on any addictive substance. These young people if intervened upon early enough can be prevented from progressing into more addictive and dangerous levels of substance use.

Our At-Risk Program is an intensive program more so than our individual/family therapy approach and provides education for the parents and the child, as well as individual therapy, family therapy and a group component. We feel it is important to explore the underlying reasons for a child’s experimentation with substances, such as DXM, and provide the child tools for making better decisions and avoiding further substance use.

Our At-Risk program is tailored to a specific young person’s needs and focuses on education, prevention and family therapy to encourage a teen to make better decisions. In cases where a young person has a more serious problem, one of our other more intensive treatment approaches can be utilized to address a substance abuse or addiction issue.

Please call us at 305-595-7378 if we can help someone you are concerned about. We can work with individuals of all ages and we have specific and extensive experience working with young people and their families.

Mental Illness and Early Intervention

mental illnessWith the Christmas holiday approaching, many parents are excited to have their children back home from college. For most parents, the last four months has been the longest period away from their child. While this coming weekend will be packed with joy for countless families across the country, for others it may be a different story all together—with parents witnessing a side of their child they have never seen before. And that may include substance use and/or other forms of mental illness.

Early adulthood, like adolescence, is a time for many changes since the brain is still developing. In a short span, your child can go from being mentally sound to being unrecognizable. You may, unfortunately, observe marked changes in your child’s behavior, symptoms that might fall under the diagnostic criteria of a mental health disorder. At Family Recovery Specialists, we implore you to stay strong in the face of such a realization, you are not alone and there are effective methods of treatment available.

Early Intervention

In the field of addiction medicine, experts are acutely aware of the adage: when it rains, it pours. It is extremely common for people affected by addiction to alcohol to have a co-occurring mental health disorder—such as depression or bipolar disorder. Conversely, people, living with any one of a multitude of mental illnesses, will often self-medicate to alleviate their symptoms. At first, the practice may provide some relief, but in the long run drugs and alcohol only exacerbate the symptoms of the condition and can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.

The longer mental health disorders are left untreated and self-medication continues, the more difficult it can be to treat. Despite effective methods of diagnosing and treating mental illness, such conditions often persist for decades before an individual receives help. Intervening at an early age can be the difference between a decade of pain or not. If you think that your son or daughter is exhibiting unusual behaviors, it is paramount that you have a compassionate conversation about what is going on. Ignoring the problem will not make it disappear, as you might imagine.

Resistance to Change

The paradox of addiction and mental illness is that simultaneously the affected is convinced they are alright, while actively their lives are being torn to shreds. Parents who confront their children are likely to be met with resistance, do not despair. Getting a loved one the help they need can be a process, sometimes a long one; it may involve bringing in a third-party, such as an interventionist who can help mediate.

Recovery Toolbox

Those who actively work their recovery program and behavioral health specialists realize that having a trusted “recovery toolbox” can be beneficial for every member of the family. The toolbox usually contains resources, coping skills and emergency strategies. This past month we came across an article which we thought you might want to add to your “recovery toolbox:” 7 Things You Need to Know About Substance Use and Mental Illness.

In closing, if your loved one is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help. It could be the only gift your child needs this holiday season. Please contact Family Recovery Specialists, we can assist your family in finding the most appropriate placement for a loved one struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorder.

Step Into The Arena The Daring Way ™

Some thoughts on daring greatly…step into the arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

You might be surprised to learn that President Theodore Roosevelt spoke these words after completing his last term as president in March 1909. No doubt, these are powerful words that deliver a strong message, which still resonates today. He challenges us to be courageous, understanding that we will face errors and shortcomings, but we can do so without guilt or shame. Life, after all, is a journey.

It was President Roosevelt’s message that inspired Dr. Brené Brown to pursue the writing of her book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.” And it was in June 2010 when Dr. Brown was invited to deliver a TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability, which, as of today, has 27,479,774 views.

Dr. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, commenced her journey by declaring “I want to start a global conversation about vulnerability and shame.” And so began The Daring Way™.

Certified Daring Way Facilitator Onsite

So, what is The Daring Way™?

Simply put, The Daring Way™ is a certification and training program designed for helping (behavioral health) professionals to assist adolescents, women and men to SHOW UP, BE SEEN, and LIVE BRAVE™. The goal is to promote both authentic and wholehearted living. This experiential methodology can be applied in counseling couples, individuals, and families. Additionally, some organizations offer it to facilitate processes with leaders and team members.

The Daring Way™ offered at Family Recovery Specialists

Diana Garcia Certified Daring Way Facilitator
Diana Garcia Certified Daring Way Facilitator

At Family Recovery Specialists (FRS) our Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators (Diana Garcia, LMHC, CDWF and Ana M. Moreno, LMHC, CDWF) offer clients, who are attempting to cope with alcohol and drug addiction, an alternative approach to examine their comparisons, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, which hold them back from seeking and accepting recovery.


FRS Co-Founder Ana M. Moreno, psychotherapist and addiction specialist, shares her views on being a certified facilitator for The Daring Way™:


Ana Moreno, Addiction Counseling Miami
Ana Moreno, Certified Daring Way Facilitator

“I was drawn to The Daring Way™ because I believe at the core of being human, we are meant to be onnected to others in intimate and meaningful ways.  Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and other mental disorders work against that belief, as they can be isolating diseases that come with many shame related to behaviors.  If we can help a client move from shame to guilt, it can motivate change.  When clients can learn to be self-compassionate they can be empathetic to those people that love them and that they love.  If they can be vulnerable with a person that can value and appreciate them, it increases the intimacy in relationships.  The more a person feels loved and loves, the higher the likelihood of them taking better care of themselves and recovering.”

Moving towards self-compassion and empathy…

The disease of addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders will eventually disconnect the person from their loved ones. Shame is felt and it is painful; the person concludes that they don’t and can’t belong. They don’t deserve to be loved.

Engagement is paramount to having the courage of owning your story and sharing your story. At FRS, our clients learn the power of empathy, avoiding judgement, gaining perspective; while really communicating and recognizing emotion…with a mindfulness of purpose.

People tend to confuse empathy with sympathy. They are not synonymous.  In closing today, we would like to share a short video: Brené Brown on Empathy.

Will you be part of the global conversation?

Are you willing to take a chance in your life and Dare Greatly?

Facing Addiction: Surgeon General’s Report

addictionWe are no strangers to public health crises in the United States; and we have a long history finding solutions to such problems, even if they are not in the form of a cure. Naturally, the crisis we face today, is opioid use disorder, a problem affecting millions of Americans on a scale of epidemic proportions. Yet, despite the best intentions of public health experts and lawmakers alike, the epidemic rages on, taking the lives of nearly 100 American lives daily.

The estimates vary regarding how many people are afflicted by an opioid use disorder, but one thing is certain, only a small percentage of addicts ever receive the treatment that they so desperately require. Without treatment, or access to substance use disorder facilities, prescription opioid and heroin addicts will continue to carry out self-harm and ultimately experience premature death. It is a reality, which sadly, does not need to be, since addiction is just as treatable as any other manageable health problem, such as diabetes. Addiction, just like diabetes, can be deadly without a program of maintenance.

Facing Addiction in America

Last week, U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, released a report the magnitude of which was on par with the 1964 surgeon general’s report on smoking and health which ultimately resulted in huge reductions in smoking rates and related deaths in the decades that followed. Murthy’s report called “Facing Addiction,” gives readers a sweeping view of the opioid epidemic and the challenges we face in curbing the problem, The Washington Post reports. The Surgeon General called the opioid epidemic “a moral test for America.”

“The reason I’m issuing this report is I want to call our country to action around what has become a pressing public health issue,” Murthy said in an interview. “I want our country to understand the magnitude of this crisis. I’m not sure everyone does.”

If you have a loved one who is battling with a health condition of any kind, you would expect that they would receive access to effective methods of care, in a timely manner. With addiction, that simply is not the case. In the new report, it is pointed out that addiction affected 20.8 million people in the United States last year, just as many as those living with diabetes, according to the article. However, only one in 10 people living with addiction receives treatment. Murthy states:

“We would never tolerate a situation where only one in 10 people with cancer or diabetes gets treatment, and yet we do that with substance-abuse disorders.”

A National Summit With The Surgeon General

At Family Recovery Specialists, we hope that you will take some time out of your day to learn more about “Facing Addiction in America: A National Summit with The Surgeon General.” You can find the video below; it is lengthy but there is a lot of good information. (Please Note: Video starts at about 1 minute 36 seconds.)

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Going Forward…Join the Conversation

As the holiday season begins, we feel this is the perfect time to join the conversation and consider Dr. Murthy’s call to action. Please remember, if you’re experiencing problems starting a conversation about your loved one’s addiction symptoms (including opioids), then please know Family Recovery Specialists’ adolescent and adult substance abuse counselors are available to guide you or your loved one through the intervention process, detoxification services and therapeutic counseling.

Our program consists of education, individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy and random drug screening for all participants. We provide highly individualized and comprehensive services for addiction and recovery and utilize best practices to serve all our clients and families.

Young People, Marijuana and Psychiatric Disorders

marijuanaThe long, arduous road to the polls has finally come to end with the nation casting their votes. The night of November 8th was long for many Americans as they eagerly awaited the results, and it goes without saying that some Americans find themselves in a dark place as they try to make sense of it all. We cannot express enough just how important it is for everyone to stay calm and collected as we move forward, especially those who are working a program of recovery.

It is fair to say, that this Presidential election has put unprecedented amount of stress on millions of Americans; it is vital that people in recovery work through how they are feeling in healthy ways, without having to resort to drugs or alcohol. Remember, the future being uncertain is never an excuse to pick up a drink or drug, doing so would only make matters worse.

The Future of Marijuana

Aside from what can only be characterized as a vitriolic presidential election, a major topic of the 2016 election was marijuana, whether that be for medical or recreational use. Going into the election there were 25 states and D.C. with medical marijuana programs, and four states with active adult recreational use programs. Yesterday, Americans in five states voted “yes” for legalization, The Washington Post reports. States that legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21 include:

  • California
  • Maine (still counting votes)
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada

Three states voted “yes” on medical marijuana initiatives, including:

  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • North Dakota

More than half of the 50 states have adopted a medical marijuana program of some kind, and eight states have legalized recreational use for adults. With the passing of Proposition 64 in California, many experts expect something like a cascade effect in other states regarding marijuana in the near future. This could signal the end to nearly 100 years of cannabis prohibition in the U.S., which most Americans believe perhaps did more harm than good. A large percentage of the prison population in the United States are incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Young People Beware

Most young adults in America are in favor of ending cannabis prohibition, coming out in favor of the propositions voted on yesterday. Most would agree that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes, two addictive substances that are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country each year. While that view is not inaccurate, it is important for young people to be aware that research shows that marijuana can be addictive and can seriously impact developing brains.

There is also significant research indicating a link between young people using marijuana and the development of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. The chief of the Psychotic Disorders Division at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital has something to say on that subject. Dr. Dost Öngür, is an expert on psychosis who believes that people should wait until after their twenties to use marijuana, according to WBUR. The link between heavy “pot” use and mental illness is something that Öngür would like young adults to be aware of the potential consequences of heavy use.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Family Recovery Specialists works with young people and adults with co-occurring disorders, including psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. We understand the sensitive relationship between substance abuse and mental health problems. Offering a highly individualized approach to adult and teen substance abuse and mental health treatment, we provide family therapy, outpatient rehab, at-risk programs, therapeutic consulting, crisis management, and recovery coaching for guests suffering with substance use and mental health disorders.

Share Information About Heroin The Silent Killer

Heroin The Silent Killer

First responders in South Florida witness heroin the silent killer every day and really every two hours. That’s right! Every two hours emergency medical technicians and/or police are called to assist someone who is overdosing on heroin.  Often the first responders will administer Naloxone. So why is heroin referred to as the silent killer?

As Don Maines, a Special Advisor at Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) explained to Miami’s CBS News when commenting on the serious situation in Broward County:

“It’s a ‘silent killer’ because people get this drug they go back to their room, they shoot up, they die. Behind dumpsters, shoot up, they die.”

Ana Moreno FRS Co-Founder offers observations

Ana Moreno, Heroin Addiction Counseling Miami
Ana Moreno, Addiction Counselor

This past week CBS News’Lauren Pastrana interviewed Family Recovery Specialist’s (FRS) Co-Founder Ana Moreno, a psychotherapist and addiction specialist, who works with heroin addicts first hand. Ms. Moreno relates that in one recent day she received three calls regarding patients overdosing on heroin. Two did not survive.

In discussing the prevalence of heroin addiction and the availability of the drug Ms. Moreno offered:

“Statistics show 4 out of 5 current heroin users began with prescription pain medication,” she said. “At the closing of the clinics and the ease of getting the pills, people have been left with this dependency and this addiction to opiates.”

Recovery is possible

Take a few minutes to watch CBS Miami News’ full report on Heroin: The Silent Killer.

Having trouble viewing the video? You can see it here.

If you have a loved one who is addicted to opioids or heroin, please feel free to call Family Recovery Specialists. We offer outpatient rehab, interventions and specialize in providing individual and family therapy to adolescents and young adults, but we also work with older adults and parents who want to become more effective at home. Remember prevention and recovery is possible.

Heavy Drinking Affects Mental Abilities

heavy-drinkingThose of us who work in the field of addiction medicine know all too well the impact that alcohol can have on people. When consumed in small amounts and sporadically, alcohol is relatively safe for adults to use; however, when the substance is used frequently and in heavy amounts, it can wreak havoc on both mind and body. While alcohol is legal in the United States for adults over the age of 21 to consume, drinking can have long term side effects that may be irreversible.

Researchers continue to examine the devastating outcomes alcohol can have on people from every demographic. The findings can lead to new preventive methods and targets for intervention.

As “baby boomers” reach their senior years, lately there has been much concern raised recently about heavy drinking among this demographic. The trend is particularly concerning when you consider that researchers at the University of Florida (UF) have found that heavy drinking affects the mental abilities of older adults more than younger adults, according to a university press release. The findings, however, do not mean that younger adults who drink heavily are in the clear, the researchers found that heavy drinking in one’s younger years can have permanent effects on memory and learning ability when they are older. The findings were published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Long-Term Heavy Alcohol Use

Again alcohol is an addictive substance that can lead to a number serious health problems, including chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. Naturally, alcohol affects everyone a little bit differently, but science indicates that those who engage in prolonged, heavy alcohol use are highly susceptible to the aforementioned health problems. What is less understood is the effects of alcohol on one’s cognitive abilities, which is why the UF research is so important.

The UF researchers found that heavy drinking has a greater impact on thinking and memory, the older you are, according to the report. Those who have engaged in heavy drinking over the course of their life were found to have the same cognitive impact (even after someone stops consuming alcohol).

“As people get older, their decline of memory is one of their greatest complaints. We found that in those who drink heavily, as they age, they have a greater decline in thinking and memory than their non-drinking or moderate-drinking counterparts,” said Adam Woods, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of aging and geriatric research who led the study. “The real story is less of an age story and more of one of the consequences of heavy drinking in your past. You may think, ‘Well, I’m young, I’ll be fine, my body can take it.’ The reality is our data suggest this may not be the case. If you are drinking heavily, you may experience long-term cognitive consequences throughout life.”

Such people can have difficulty:

  • Driving
  • Learning New Technology
  • Remembering Cooking Recipe Steps
  • Following a Medication Schedule

Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or a loved one has been engaging in heavy alcohol use for a number of years, there is a high likelihood of the presence of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). At Family Recovery Specialists we can help you, whether you are young or older, break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery. The longer problematic drinking persists, the more serious it becomes in the future. Please contact us today.