What is National Recovery Month?

recoveryDespite the continued fight against prescription opioid and heroin abuse in the United States which continues to take people’s lives every day, it has arguably been a good year so far for substance use disorder prevention and addiction recovery. In 2015, the President has already pardoned a number of people for lengthy drug related prison sentences, including some who were serving life sentences. Steps have been made to provide greater access to clean needles and the life saving drug naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

All of the aforementioned measures reinforce the prevailing idea that addiction is a disease that requires treatment, not imprisonment. It shows that more people are beginning to understand that people can recover and lives can be saved if we, as a nation, are willing to dismantle the stigmas and misconceptions that have long accompanied addiction.

What is National Recovery Month?

Every year, the month of September is National Recovery Month. Throughout the month, addiction and mental health recovery events are held with the help of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). This is a time when people working a program of recovery and the vast number of people who work in the field of recovery receive recognition for their achievements.

September is an opportunity to reach out to and educate those still in the grips of addiction, letting them know that recovery is possible and addiction is nothing to be ashamed of. Events will be taking place all over the country and everyone who would like to learn more about recovery is welcome.

The President is for Recovery

President Obama made a Proclamation that September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!”. Please read the full Proclamation below:


– – – – – – –



Every day, resilient Americans with substance use disorders summon extraordinary courage and strength and commit to living healthy and productive lives through recovery. From big cities to small towns to Indian Country, substance use disorders affect the lives of millions of Americans. This month, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all those who are seeking or in need of treatment, and we recognize the key role families, friends, and health care providers play in supporting those on the path to a better tomorrow.

This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!” It encourages us all to do our part to eliminate negative public attitudes associated with substance use disorders and treatment. People in recovery are part of our communities — they are our family and friends, colleagues and neighbors — and by supporting them and raising awareness of the challenges they face, we can help eradicate prejudice and discrimination associated with substance use disorders, as well as with co-occurring mental disorders. Prevention and treatment work, and people recover — and we must ensure all those seeking help feel empowered, encouraged, and confident in their ability to take control of their future. Americans looking for help for themselves or their loved ones can call 1-800-662-HELP or use the “Treatment Locator” tool at www.SAMHSA.gov.

My Administration remains dedicated to pursuing evidence-based strategies to address substance use disorders as part of our National Drug Control Strategy. Seeking to widen pathways to recovery, our strategy supports the integration of substance use treatment into primary health care settings and the expansion of support services in places such as high schools, institutions of higher education, and throughout the criminal justice system. In the wake of public health crises related to non-medical use of prescription drugs and heroin in communities across our Nation, my Administration has pledged considerable resources to help Federal, State, and local authorities boost prevention efforts, improve public health and safety, and increase access to treatment in communities across the country. And the Affordable Care Act has extended substance use disorder and mental health benefits and Federal parity protections to millions of Americans.

Behavioral health is essential to overall health, and recovery is a process through which individuals are able to improve their wellness, live increasingly self-directed lives, and strive to fulfill their greatest potential. During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we reaffirm our belief that recovery and limitless opportunity are within reach of every single American battling substance use disorders, and we continue our work to achieve this reality.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2015 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.



If you or a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

Interventions, Life, Art and Storyboards

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

In the news of late, many articles dealt with the word intervention. Intervention is a powerful word, it grabs our attention and we are never quite sure if the storyline will be about war, drugs, climate change, a new television show, a family in crisis…the list is long. For example:
  • Following the horrific deliberate downing of Germanwings flight 9525, many specialists are observing “what if” the co-pilot’s employer, doctors or family members would have combined their efforts and intervened to insist that he get treatment for his mental illness(es).
  • This past week a few “rich and/or famous” families are in the news because family members are organizing interventions to help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction and more.
  • Some communities around the country have issued press releases to announce the establishment of crisis intervention specialists who will work with “at-risk” youth and young adult populations in an effort to prevent long term and perhaps irreversible damage resulting from exposure to drugs, alcohol and crime.
  • On March 22, 2015, television fans were pleased to see A & E bring back the series Intervention.

So the aged old question remains; does life imitate art or does art imitate life?  It is true that real life events take place and artists, writers and producers are inspired to create paintings, sculptures, novels, movies, television shows…and suddenly we have art. Then again, more than a century ago Oscar Wilde opined that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” This philosophical discussion will go on.

Mad Men returns for its final episodes…

It was last May when we published a blog about Don Draper’s intervention. While Don’s partners insisted that he take some time off, a leave of absence to deal with his alcoholism (albeit they avoided saying the word), they never insisted that he needed to go to treatment. Don, the character, knew he had a problem and his co-workers, among others, knew it, too. Interestingly, in the first episode of Season 7, (which aired April 2014) Don meets a woman on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. The stranger speaks of being a widow and when Don observes that she looks too young to be a widow, she offers that her husband died at age 50. Don asks what could have happened to a man so young. She answers: “He was thirsty, and he died of thirst.”

Last month it was reported that Jon Hamm (Don Draper) recently sought treatment for alcoholism. It was also reported that many fans were shocked and Mr. Hamm shared that he had the support of his family and asked for consideration and privacy.  At least one news outlet referenced “life imitating art.”

The power of storyboards

While Don Draper is a fictional character who works for a Madison Avenue advertising firm, there is a lot we can learn from the process of building an ad campaign. Storyboards! Do you recognize the term? Storyboarding dates back before the 1930s, but the use of storyboards in business has taken on a role of its own in Mad Men, not unlike alcoholism. You will always hear Don Draper asking his team “what story are we telling?” And from that simple question the creative team draws the storyboards to present to the client. It is important to remember there are multiple boards and they can be shuffled to create a whole new story!

The intervention process is similar…the interventionist works to determine the real story and where to go from there. The process begins by having a conversation with the interventionist about the loved one you would like to help. Imagine each family member arriving with their storyboards. Because of professional experience in the field of addiction and recovery, the interventionist has heard it all – there are no stories or situations that haven’t already been heard and no story or situation will be judged, it will all be kept with the utmost level of confidentiality. Although it seems trifling to tell personal details to someone you don’t know, upon sharing your situation your reservation will be met with warmth and understanding and the weight you feel will begin to lift as solutions are proposed.

One last thought from the fictional Don Draper: “Everyone has their own story to tell. It can only go in one direction. Forward!”

Interventions: A Look At Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment

Interventions can happen in so many ways…

This weekend we happened to see The Homesman. This is one of those movies that captures your interest just by reading the cast’s names. You wonder how actors who have won multiple acting awards and nominations find themselves wrapped up in a story about the rescue of three mentally ill women being transported “home” to their families.

Take a few minutes and watch the trailer.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

You learn so much from this film…and for sure every viewer brings their own life experience to this film. Behavioral health professionals will certainly see this film as a powerful example of how interventions dating back more than 100 years were planned to assist those who are suffering from mental illness, depression, anxiety, and the like.

When Meryl Streep’s character Altha Carter inquires of Tommy Lee Jones’ George Briggs, something to the affect, “Have you seen any improvement in their(the mentally ill women) behavior over the weeks that you have traveled with them?” it seemed that Altha Carter knew instinctively that their rescue and their time traveling together and being cared for was, for all intents and purposes, an intervention.

Learning of Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment (CAST)


Interventionists are called upon by family members, friends, co-workers, employers and even the justice system to have a neutral person who is an expert in addiction and recovery intervene upon the addict and their family to bring the addiction and its harmful impacts to the surface so that recovery and healing can begin.

As such, it is imperative that we are constantly learning and staying abreast of new research and studies that are designed to create new modes of intervening.

This week we learned that researchers at Florida State University led by Professor Brad Schmidt were looking for a way to assist veterans and other groups who suffer from high anxiety and whose stress may bring on thoughts of suicide (ideation).

The researchers used Cognitive Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment (CAST) which is a 45 minute treatment consisting of videos and a true and false questionnaire.

The results of this study were published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: Randomized clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of a brief intervention targeting anxiety sensitivity cognitive concerns.

According to Science World Report, the researchers found:

The program works by helping to reduce racing thoughts as well as the inability to concentrate and make sure that others are not a danger to themselves as well as not an implication that something bad is about to happen.
Those who received CAST training saw their anxiety scores drop significantly more than those who just learned about healthy living. Furthermore, the decrease was similar to that seen in many therapy sessions.
Researchers believe that military members could stand to benefit, especially those who may be at an increased risk of suicide or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Looking forward…

Continuing to conduct research for ways to improve the intervention process is critical. People continue to hide their needs…they may suffer from addiction, depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD. But getting help is the most important goal. Sometimes people will be reluctant to seek help for fear that they will jeopardize their relationships both personal and on the job.

The holidays are here. Be vigilant with your loved ones; don’t overlook a cry for help. Celebrate the holidays and celebrate life. Recovery is the best gift.

Is An Intervention Ever Too Early?

Let’s talk about interventions

The word intervention is often used when speaking of political, financial, commerce, legal and medical situations. Basically it means to come between disputing people or groups to intercede or mediate in an effort to change the course of events.

When it comes to health, particularly mental and behavioral health we define an intervention as:

An orchestrated attempt by one or many people – usually family and friends – to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some kind of traumatic event or crisis, or other serious problem. The term intervention is most often used when the traumatic event involves addiction to drugs or other items.

The process of this type of intervention was introduced in the 1960s by Dr.Vernon Johnson who was a recovering alcoholic and an Episcopal priest. He promoted what he referred to as “early intervention” to interrupt the disease of alcoholism before the process of the disease destroyed one’s life.

Johnson’s concept is key to what many family members ask themselves everyday…”should we have noticed earlier what was coming, could we have prevented the escalation of the disease of addiction…should we have intervened earlier?”

Research results examines the outcome of early intervention in children

It was 1991 when the Fast-Track Project study began. This was a collaborative study including researchers from Duke University, Pennsylvania State, Vanderbilt and the University of Washington. They screened nearly 10,000 five year-old children who lived in Durham, Nashville, Seattle and rural sections of Pennsylvania. Of these 10,000 the researchers identified 891 who were at high risk. Half of these were selected as a control group and the other half were assigned to participate in the Fast Track intervention. Here is an overview of the Fast Track Project as provided on the website:

Fast Track is a comprehensive intervention project designed to look at how children develop across their lives by providing academic tutoring and lessons in developing social skills and regulating their behaviors. Selection began when the participants entered kindergarten and children were placed either in the intervention group or the control group. The intervention was guided by a developmental theory stating the interaction of multiple influences on the development of behavior. There can be multiple stressors and influences on children and families that increase their risk levels. In such contexts, some families that experience marital conflict and instability can cause inconsistent and ineffective parenting. These children can sometimes enter school poorly prepared for the social, emotional, and cognitive demands of this setting. Often the child will then attend a school with a high number of other children who are similarly unprepared and are negatively influenced by disruptive classroom situations and punitive teacher practices. Over time, children in these circumstances tend to demonstrate particular behaviors, are rejected by families and peers, and tend to receive less support from teachers, further increasing aggressive exchanges and academic difficulties.

As youth get older, their risk for these behaviors increase due to peer influences, academic difficulties, and their personal identity development. The Fast Track project is thus based on the hypothesis that improving child competencies, parenting effectiveness, school context and school-home communications will, over time, contribute to preventing certain behaviors across the period from early childhood through adolescence.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The study’s findings…

The study was to cover 10 years and over those years the researchers published numerous progress reports. Most recently Kenneth A. Dodge, Ph.D. at Duke University (who headed the original project and secured the original sponsorship of the NIMH) worked with researchers from Pennsylvania State University, the University of Alabama, Tufts University and Simon Fraser University. The goal was to reach out to the original subjects and determine how they were doing some eight years after the program had ended. The full results are published on-line in the American Journal of Psychiatry: Impact of Early Intervention on Psychopathology, Crime, and Well-Being at Age 25.

This study showed modest improvements in psychological markers that predict long-term antisocial behavior and criminality and according to a Los Angeles Times article.  

Program graduates had fewer legal problems, substance abuse issues and risky sexual behaviors. The data suggest that intervention can work, and effects can persist over many years. Overall, the likelihood of psychological, criminal, sexual and behavioral problems dropped by about 9 percentage points from those of nonparticipants, the study found.

Dr. Dodge is quick to point out: “It’s not miracles; it’s not huge impacts. We weren’t successful with every child, but on average we have been able to prevent some of those [negative] outcomes.”

Some closing thoughts…

Being a member of a family is a journey that we all take. We travel through good times and difficult times that include financial hardships, illness, and emotional trials that if not recognized early can impact many members of the core family group and beyond. Often parents will notice signs, but are reluctant to ask questions and seek answers. Even spouses will look the other way and hope for a positive outcome. It is always best not to look away, but to reach out for help when you realize that your loved one is experiencing mental health issues and/or addiction.

Correctly guiding ourselves through life is challenging enough and trying to help a loved one who is suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction can seem impossible.

Often, the person in active addiction has difficulty managing their own lives and as time goes by it seems to get worse. The impact of their addiction on their lives are evident through loss of things like jobs, relationships and self-care. Perhaps several attempts and conversations have been initiated to help them without success. This is because the person trying to help is often too close and doesn’t have the professional background to be both emotionally neutral and aware of resources that match the needs of the addict. Such addiction professionals can help via home interventions or through recommending applicable treatment for the addict who is suffering.

Bottom line: It is never too early to consider an intervention!

Teens: Is It Depression Or Behavior Problems That More Likely Affect Grades?

Parenting is not about letting go…

Raising teenagers


“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.” Ron Taffel, Ph.D.

For sure, being the parent of a teenager is hard work. We worry everyday when they leave for school, we worry about their grades, their involvement in sports, their friends, we worry about their ability to go on to college and we also try to keep a close eye on their behaviors. These behaviors include experimenting with drugs and alcohol and more frequently we try to be aware of any signs of depression.  It can be, as Dr. Taffel says, a very bumpy ride.

New study looks at depression, behavior problems and lower grades

Many parents are taken aback when their children reach high school and they witness a sudden or subtle slip in their teenager’s grade point average (GPA). Parents begin to wonder if the grade school teachers were too easy in their grading requirements or if their child really just isn’t as smart as they had thought or hoped. Parents search for answers. Parents observe their teenagers looking for signs of depression which could lead to the report card being less than stellar. But often parents will ignore behaviors that more likely can cause the slip in school performance. These behaviors could include attention deficit, substance abuse and/or delinquency – all behaviors that no parent wants to consider.

The December 2012 issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published a study led by Jane D. McLeod, Indiana University, Department of Sociology. The full report Adolescent Mental Health, Behavior Problems, and Academic Achievement  states that “prior research on the association of mental health and behavior problems with academic achievement is limited because it does not consider multiple problems simultaneously, take co-occurring problem into account, and control for academic aptitude.”

An overview of the study…

The researchers examined data provided by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. This data was gathered by following youth from middle and high school years through the transition to early adulthood.

  • Researchers used a stratified sample of 80 high schools and 52 middle schools.
  • 7th through 12th grade youth who attended these schools were invited to participate in an in-school survey. The number of participants was 90,118.

According to HealthDay News the study found:

  • Unlike students with depression, those with behavior problems such as attention issues, delinquency or substance use had lower GPAs than others.
  • Delinquency and substance use were associated with receiving lesser educational degrees, while depression was not.
  • Students with two of these problems typically earned lower GPAs and lesser degrees than those with one problem, and some combinations of problems had more harmful effects than others.
  • Substance use worsened the educational risks associated with depression, attention issues and delinquency.
  • Having depression did not, however, increase the educational risks associated with attention issues, delinquency or substance use.

Quoting Jane McLeod:

“There’s a fairly sizable literature that links depression in high school to diminished academic achievement. The argument we make in our study is what’s really happening is that youths who are depressed also have other problems, and it’s those other problems that are adversely affecting their achievement.”

Parenting teens and considering an intervention

The holiday season is here. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Now families across the United States are making plans for the December holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Years. It is a time of year that school semesters are drawing to a close and our teenagers and college students will be receiving their term grades. And while we all look forward to happy holidays spent with our children, this may be the time to question the grade point averages that just don’t make sense. If the report card is sending the parent a message, take the time to ask questions and to be observant of your child’s behavior patterns. If you suspect that substance abuse may be a problem and you need help with an intervention, then by all means reach out for that help.

An intervention at this point in your child’s life may be the best holiday present you can provide…a gift that can last long into adulthood.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Help Can't Wait

Get Help Now