• Cross Post: King County, Washington, Celebrates Recovery Month

    Note: This is a cross post from the Reclaiming Futures blog. For the original post, please go here.

    Many of the 29 Reclaiming Futures sites helping communities break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime celebrate Recovery Month, hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) each September. They, along with our King County site, which includes Seattle, Washington, are spreading the positive message that prevention works, adolescent substance abuse treatment is effective and people do recover. 

    King County convenes a multi-disciplinary planning committee (chemical dependency, mental health and community mobilization) to reach people across cultures and disciplines to reduce the stigma for people in recovery.

    They actively develop the Recovery Oriented System of Care model, starting with mental health and gradually including substance use disorders. This year, King County is working with their County Council to include substance abuse disorders in the recovery ordinance so that it becomes a behavioral health recovery oriented system of care. (The recovery ordinance ensures that the publicly funded mental health system in King County is grounded in mental health recovery principles.)

    Some of the most heartfelt work occurs on an individual level, in community discussions about self-care and support.

    For ten years, King County has sponsored an annual Exemplary Services Awards to publicly honor those who are promoting and supporting recovery. They recognize achievements and advocacy by individuals and programs providing mental health or substance abuse services. 

    On September 27, King County will honor the poets and artists in recovery who submitted their work for Recovery Month. Christina M. Johanneck's poem below will be featured at the event:

    Becoming Real
    Is a process of Discovery
    Is the healing Hope instills in me
    My transformation
    Is a beautiful affirmation
    This adventure
    Is an unexpected detour
    Every curve, every corner
    I yearn to push back a border
    Every voice in me
    Is a symphony 
    Repeating, beginning
    Harmonizing, Living
    Pursuing, believing
    My reward is our meeting
    We take turns learning, teaching
    Connections are earned
    By reaching, needing
    Giving beyond what is asked
    On the path of a bond unmasked.

    - By Christina M. Johanneck

  • Guest Post: Supporting Recovery in the Native American Community

    Note: This is a guest blog post from Don Coyhis, President and co-founder of White Bison.

    At White Bison, our goal is to bring 100 Native American communities in healing and recovery plays a large role in this mission.   All of our programs, trainings, and resources are based on the principles, values, and laws found in the Teachings of the Native American Elders and of the 12 Step program. Through my work at White Bison, I’ve learned a lot about addiction and recovery in Native American communities.  In honor of recovery month, I’d like to share some of what I have come to believe and understand over the more than 20 years since we founded White Bison.

    I have come to believe:

    • Alcoholism, substance abuse, domestic, and sexual violence are symptoms of a deeper hurt in our communities;
    • Alcohol and drugs are destroying our communities, but we want to recover; and
    • Returning to our Native American culture is the key to our recovery.

    I also understand that:

    In order to heal, we need to understand and implement the Four Laws of Change in our lives:

    1. Change must come from within: Healing begins with a desire for wholeness and integrity within oneself. It cannot be initiated by external forces.
    2. In order for development to occur, it must be preceded by a vision: When individuals and communities lose their way in addiction and disease, a vision of what could be, of who they truly are, or of the pathway to take is required for transformation to take place.
    3. A great learning must take place in our communities: Addiction is fostered by a lack of awareness of the need for healing in the community. This must be overcome by opening the community’s eyes to the need of the community and its members for healing and to the vision of the community as a healing force.
    4. We must create a healing forest: This means that the entire community needs to be part of the process of healing from alcohol and drug problems. The community itself must recover in order to support its members who themselves are recovering. Our image for this is of an ailing tree that is removed from a diseased forest, nurtured back to health, and then replanted in the forest. Unless we bring health to the forest itself, the tree will become diseased once again through its association with the forest. If we create a healing forest, this trees will remain well and others will not become ill.

    I’ve also come to believe in the concept of ‘Wellbriety.’ Wellbriety is not just about sobriety; it means seeking wellness in all aspects of our lives: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  On August 10th, I entered my 34th year of Wellbriety. I proudly stand among thousands of my Native American brothers and sisters who are in recovery. We are returning to the ways of our ancestors. We are learning from our elders, so we may grow and change. We do these things consciously, so that our babies will grow up to be proud, sober Native American adults and elders. Aho.

    Don Coyhis is President and co-founder of White Bison, Inc.

  • Organization Increases Support for Drugged Driving Laws

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy continues to raise awareness and work closely with Federal partners, state and local governments, law enforcement, community groups, and membership organizations across the country to reduce drugged driving in America. 

    One membership association making great strides in support of reducing drugged driving is the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).  Participating as a lead organization for ONDCP’s inaugural 2011 Drugged Driving Summit, GHSA has been a supportive partner of the Administration’s drugged driving efforts. 

    For the second straight year, it broadened its existing policy on drugged driving.  On September 6, 2012, GHSA announced its support of drugged driving per se laws and enhanced penalties for driving under the influence of multiple drugs.  With drugged driving per se laws, also known as zero tolerance laws,  a driver can be charged with impaired driving solely for having a drug is his/her system. Seventeen states currently have enacted these laws.  Additionally, GHSA is encouraging states to adopt an enhanced penalty for driving under the influence of multiple drugs, such as a combination of alcohol and another drug, or the combination of multiple drugs (other than alcohol).

    “Drugged driving is a lot more complex than drunk driving because there are so many drugs and no national standards like there are for drunk driving. That makes it much more difficult for states to effectively address this growing problem. Drug per se laws are one of the few tools that states can use that will help get drugged drivers off the road.”  - Barbara Harsha, GHSA Executive Director

    In 2010, a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that among fatally injured drivers who were tested and the results reported, 33 percent tested positive for at least one drug.[1]

    Drugged driving is a serious public health and public safety threat and sending a clear, consistent message to states to increase the adoption of per se laws and supporting enhanced penalties will help keep drugged drivers off the road. 

    To find all state drug-impaired driving laws visit: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/dre_perse_laws.html.

    The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

    1. [1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation Report No. DOT HS 811 415. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2010. 


  • Cross Post: Director Kerlikowske's Statement on Prescription Drug Abuse

    Note: This is a cross-post from The Partnership at Drugfree.org. The original post can be found here.  

    Last month, I visited a fellow Medicine Abuse Project partner—Project Lazarus—an organization on the forefront of combating the prescription drug abuse problem. Project Lazarus is located in Wilkes County, North Carolina, an area of the country that has borne a disproportionately large part of the burden caused by medicine abuse. While there, I met a group of dedicated people working hard to reduce medicine abuse in the area and across the country—doctors, leaders and law enforcement officers. I have great admiration and respect for all of the people I met at Project Lazarus, but one individual in particular stood out for me.

    Donna Reeves is a mother from North Carolina who tragically lost her daughter to a drug overdose in 2006. She spoke of the importance of involving a diverse range of people in the conversation about prescription drug abuse—emphasizing that this problem doesn’t just affect one demographic, but all age groups across the geographic and socio-economic spectrum. Perhaps most importantly, Donna highlighted the urgent need to educate parents on the signs of drug abuse, the tools available to help young people seek treatment and the existence of a life-saving overdose reversal drug, Naloxone. Donna’s message was heartbreaking, but it’s one we must hear: education is one of the most powerful ways to prevent drug abuse.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that approximately one-fourth of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2010 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.

    Alarmingly, the majority of new or occasional nonmedical users of pain relievers obtained the drug from family or friends for free or took them without asking. Chronic users were more likely to obtain the drugs from doctors or by buying them. What can we learn from this? We know that securing medicine in the home—and disposing of unneeded pills—can help prevent medicine abuse from ever beginning.

    Securing medicines in the home and disposing of medicine properly is an important part of the solution, but it must be accompanied by prescription drug monitoring programs in every state, law enforcement efforts to thwart improper prescribing practices and, of course, education for parents, prescribers and patients.

    If you have unneeded medicine in the home, please take advantage of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on September 29th, when the Drug Enforcement Administration will open sites across the country to receive unused prescription drugs—no questions asked. If you’re a parent, please take the time to talk to your children about the harm caused by medicine abuse, and educate yourself on the signs of abuse. Working together, we can build a better future for our country’s young people—free of the pain caused by medicine abuse.

    Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy


  • Guest Post: What We Must Do About Addiction

    Note: This is a guest blog post from Kevin Kirby, the CEO and Co-Founder of Face It TOGETHER, a non-profit organization in South Dakota focused on recovery from addiction.

    Every September, the ONDCP partners with SAMHSA and a range of public and private sector organizations to celebrate National Recovery Month. I commend the ONDCP for highlighting recovery, and characterizing it as “health, wellness, a sense of purpose, and productive involvement with family and community.” Only through whole society transformation can we break through stigma and achieve a real solution to addiction.

    It’s true that stigma gets in the way of recovery for far too many Americans. I had no idea what my problem was for a long time. Outwardly, I had it all:  a successful business, a wife of 25 years and respect in my community. But inside, I was dying a slow death. I recall vividly the fear when I realized the root of my problems might be alcoholism.

    We need to fundamentally change the way we treat this disease. Medicine has long recognized addiction as a treatable, chronic disease, not unlike diabetes or hypertension. Yet almost everywhere, addiction is treated like an acute health crisis. Real solutions must focus on helping communities understand and treat addiction the same as any other chronic disease.

    This would mean awareness programs that are not moralistic but teach people of all ages that addiction is a disease. No fear of reprisal at work so people are motivated to get help at the earliest problem. Services embedded throughout the community to make it easier to enter and sustain long-term recovery. And an insurance reimbursement system supporting chronic care approaches to the disease. This would bring long-term benefits through reduced public health and safety problems and increased economic productivity.

    This vision is coming to life in my hometown of Sioux Falls, S.D. All sectors – public and private – united three years ago to create “Face It TOGETHER®,” a nonprofit recovery community organization charged with advancing systemic solutions that defy traditional thinking about this disease. Twenty-two of the city’s largest employers have worked together to bring recovery education and peer support services directly into the workplace through chronic disease management programs, reaching one-third of the community’s workforce. The nonprofit’s work is financed by delivering defined value propositions to the private sector in exchange for sustainable funding streams. We plan to rollout the model to communities willing to embrace a new, cross-sector approach to addiction recovery.

    Friends, family, communities are all part of recovery.  But the complete solution is in transforming our society.  If we stand together and demand real change, anything is possible.

    Kevin Kirby, CEO and Co-Founder of Face It TOGETHER®, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

  • Recovery Month: Finding Our Voices

    Note: The following guest blog post comes from Peter Gaumond, ONDCP's Recovery Branch Chief.

    My name is Peter and I’m a person in long-term recovery. For me, that means it has been more than 25 years since I have had to drink or use any other substance.

    Some 26 years ago, when I was struggling to overcome my addiction to alcohol, I could not have imagined myself uttering those words, even to myself. The idea of posting them online for the world to see would have then been unthinkable.

    For those who have not lived through an addiction it may seem strange, but I just could not imagine living without alcohol. It seemed as though my life would be a meaningless empty shell without it when, in fact, it had already become just that because of my drinking and its consequences. Earlier in life, I had been driven by the thought of doing work that would positively affect the lives of others. However, with the progression of my addiction, that dream and my self-respect had been replaced by hopelessness and shame. What had been a bright future, full of promise, had become clouded by addiction and the sense of self-betrayal and despair that can accompany it. While I was only 29 years old at the time, and most of my life still lay ahead of me, looking forward in time, I could see nothing.

    As I began to recover, I was able to begin to see beyond the bleak landscape of addiction. Freed from the compulsive need to drink the unending effort to somehow manage my addiction in order to maintain the appearance of normalcy, I was able to focus outwards and begin again finding ways to contribute. Out of despair and isolation came hope and a sense of community and purpose that has only grown over the ensuing years.

    For 20 years, I chose to remain anonymous as a person in recovery. My family and my friends, many of whom were also in recovery, knew I was in recovery, but others did not. Ironically, for all but the first two or three years of that period, I worked in the addictions field as a counselor, educator, program director, as an administrator in the state Department of Human Services, and later as a consultant supporting SAMHSA’s Partners for Recovery and Access to Recovery programs. I had long recognized that to dispel the stigma, confusion, and fear that surround addiction and recovery, people in recovery needed to come out publicly, putting a face and voice on recovery.  While greatly admiring many who did so, I somehow had a hard time with the idea of “going public” myself.

    When I finally made the decision to be open about my recovery and to share about it in public forums, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Being open about being in recovery did not have to be a source of either pride or shame, as I had feared. I discovered instead that doing so allowed me to live more authentically than I had in the past. While my addiction and recovery are not my identity, they have played a key role in shaping who I am today. Sharing some about their role in my life allows me to connect more deeply and honestly with others than would be possible if this segment of my experience were cordoned off from the rest of my life.

    I believe that as more of us who are in recovery begin sharing our stories, the broader community will start to understand that addiction is a “we” problem that must be addressed by the whole community and not a “them” problem that can simply be handled by law enforcement or fixed by treatment and forgotten. As more of us speak out, I also think more will come to understand that recovery is a “we” process that can transform individuals, families, and communities and not something one simply does in isolation.

    By speaking out, we can each help in our own small ways to make a positive change in the world around us. Across the nation there are millions of people in recovery. Speaking together, we can move mountains.

    Have you found a voice?

    -- Peter Gaumond, Chief of the Recovery Branch within the Office of National Drug Control Policy

  • Cross Post: Celebrating Young People in Recovery

    Note: This is a cross-post from the National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Sara Bellum Blog." The original post can be found here.

    Because addiction is a disease, it can be treated with therapy and, in some cases, medication. People can enter recovery from addiction, just like people can enter recovery from other diseases, like cancer.

    Maybe when you think of someone who gets treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, you picture a middle-aged person who has struggled for half his life with the disease of addiction. That’s not always the case. Many teens and young adults enter treatment and recovery at a young age.

    Take it from Ben Chin, who submitted his story to the “Youth and Young Adults” section of the website for September’s National Recovery Month health observance. Ben was addicted to alcohol by age 14—but he hasn’t had a drink since he was 19 (he’s 24 now).

    In a video, Ben talks about how alcohol affected his life. “I missed a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I got arrested a lot. I missed a lot of school.” He also threw away a promising athletic future. “I lost the things that I cared about—my friends, and eventually, my family.”

    Entering treatment and recovery, though, changed all that. Ben says, “Recovery has given me a new life and much hope for the future.”

    In honor of National Recovery Month, take a moment to read and watch these personal stories from young people and adults in recovery.

    Do you have a story about drug abuse or addiction? Consider submitting it here, which you can do anonymously. You never know who you might help by speaking out. Kristina Fenn says in her video, “My greatest fear before finding recovery was that I was the only person who had ever struggled with this disease. It’s never too early to get into recovery.”

  • Guest Post: Addressing Substance Abuse Requires Us All to Work Together

    This is a guest blog post from U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján.

    Substance abuse is one of the most pressing public health concerns facing our Nation.  According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older had abused illegal drugs over the past month.  August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to highlight the danger posed not only by illegal drugs but also by the abuse of prescription drugs.

    In New Mexico, our communities know the problem of substance abuse and overdose all too well.  For many years, New Mexico has been among the states with the highest rates of substance abuse.  At the national level, last year the CDC reported that drug overdose led to more than 37,000 deaths in 2009.  Of these, almost 21,000 deaths involved prescription drugs, and well over half of those involved opioid pain relievers—exceeding the number of overdose deaths involving heroin and cocaine.  While illegal drugs continue to plague our Nation, prescription drug overdose has become an epidemic.

    A strategy to address substance abuse must consist of a range of approaches that includes prevention, treatment, and law enforcement elements. Addressing substance abuse cannot be done in a top-down approach, but will instead require all of us to work together.  We cannot hope to lower substance abuse rates by working in a vacuum—we must coordinate our efforts at the Federal, state, county, and local government levels. We must work together with friends, families, communities, educators, and young people.

    One aspect of this problem that we understand particularly well in New Mexico is how drug abuse affects not only individuals but also our culture. Coming from small towns all across New Mexico, people in my district talk a lot about culture and tradition—and its importance to a strong and stable community. As I have joined the community in walks to raise awareness and held events in my district, one thing that I have consistently heard is the notion that we are losing our culture, tradition, heritage, and pride in our communities.  This is not unique to New Mexico, however, as drug abuse poses a threat to the fabric of communities across the country.

    As we mark today’s occasion and remember those who have been lost to substance abuse, we must realize that the equalizer in our fight against substance abuse is education.  Working as communities to raise awareness and spread education on the dangers of substance abuse—particularly the abuse of prescription drugs—will help to avert future tragedies.  We can also limit the availability of prescription drugs by locking medicine cabinets, properly disposing of prescription drugs, and supporting smart law enforcement efforts.  Government also has an important role to play, and now 49 out of 50 states have enacted legislation to establish prescription drug monitoring programs to prevent diversion and abuse.  By working together as part of a comprehensive strategy, we can rise to this challenge and reduce substance abuse and its often deadly consequences.

  • ONDCP Visits Detroit as Part of National Youth Initiative

    On August 8th, a team from the Domestic Policy Council, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Corporation for National and Community service visited Detroit, Michigan, as part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.

    The Forum, a White House-led initiative commissioned by President Obama in 2010, links cities and Federal agencies together to prevent youth and gang violence in the United States.

    The visit brought together city, state, and Federal officials, members of the business and philanthropic communities, law enforcement professionals, community leaders, and young people to discuss Detroit's efforts to reduce gang- and firearms-related violence.  ONDCP works closely with Federal agencies and national and local organizations to educate and empower young people to reject the negative influences surrounding them, including the influence to drink alcohol and use drugs.  Youth violence—particularly gang violence—is often linked to substance abuse and drug markets. 

    During the visit, ONDCP shared information on the agency’s youth drug prevention initiatives and the Drug Free Communities Support Program.  In the words of senior policy advisor Cynthia Caporizzo, “The Drug Free Communities Program helps to empower teens and young adults to make healthy decisions and to become leaders in their communities.  In that same spirit, this Forum brought adults and young people together to work on solutions that will make a difference for their community.”

    A Federal grant to support Detroit’s youth violence reduction efforts was announced by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Programs.  Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Ralph Godbee met with U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade to discuss the city’s plans to sustain its efforts into the future. 

    The other cities that currently comprise the National Forum are Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Salinas, and San Jose. 

  • Director Kerlikowske Visits Missouri; Urges Adoption of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

    In June, New Hampshire became the 49th state to enact a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), giving medical professionals a powerful tool for reducing the diversion and abuse of opioid painkillers and other prescription drugs.  The move left Missouri as the only state in the Nation that has not passed legislation to take advantage of this promising program.  On Wednesday, Director Kerlikowske joined Missouri State Senator Kevin Engler, Director of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA) David Barton, and Thomas Heard, the parent of an overdose victim, to discuss the importance of supporting efforts to monitor and track prescription drugs in Missouri and across the United States.  

    Rates of drug overdose deaths—driven primarily by prescription pain relievers—increased roughly five-fold between 1990 and 2007. The decade from 1998 to 2008 saw a more than four-fold increase in the proportion of substance abuse treatment admissions reporting any pain reliever abuse.

    These are just some of the concerns PDMPs can help address.  A PDMP is a database that helps track prescriptions and can act as an early warning system for prescribers to avoid dangerous drug interactions.  It is also a tool that can be used to intervene in the early stages of prescription drug abuse, as well as to identify pill mills and reduce doctor shopping.  PDMPs  can be used by state licensing boards as they seek to weed out prescribers with patterns of inappropriate prescribing and dispensing.

    Research supports the effectiveness of PDMPs.  A 2010 study at a Toledo, Ohio emergency department (ED), for example, found that ED physicians changed the prescriptions for 41 percent of ED patients after reviewing PDMP data.  Sixty-one percent of those patients received fewer or no opioid medications than were originally planned, and 39 percent received more opioid medication than previously planned, because the PDMP data made it clear the patients did not have a recent history of drug abuse.

    For years, ONDCP has worked with Federal, state, and non-governmental partners to encourage the development of PDMPs in every state.  We are pleased to be just one state shy of realizing this goal, and support those in Missouri working toward establishing a PDMP.

    More information about PDMPs is available from the PMP Alliance here.