prosper surge


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Surge Recovery

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CONTENTS To send a comment or question, write to: WHY NOT PROSPER, INC.

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FEATURES 08 FOUNDEDON SUCCESS Helping to turn lives around 12 A VETERAN INHELPING Why WNP’s clinical director devoted his life to making a difference 16 FIGHTINGTHROUGH ADVERSITY Joy in recovery, after a life of hardship 46 LEADING BY EXAMPLE A recovery program ‘surges’ to life with dignity and respect 50 PUTTING RECOVERY FIRST Surge’s first client emerges from a ‘life in shambles’ 54 SKATINGTORECOVERY A figure skater and opioid addict needed an address. 60 MAKING IT STICK Spirituality can be the missing key

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Copyright 2016 by AVA Consultants. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, excepting brief quotations in connection with reviews written specifically for inclusions in magazines or newspapers, or limited excerpts strictly for personal use. Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

IN THE NEWS 24 BOOMING PROBLEM Elderly substance abuse issues expected to grow as baby boomers age 26 STARTING YOUNG Insight into adolescent addiction comes as new guidelines urge early prevention 28 FIGHTING FORTHE BRAIN DISEASEMODEL Model can complicate messaging in treatment plans 30 THEMISSING LINK Integrated treatment works best for victims of sexual abuse who are also addicts 32 RECOVERY U More college campuses are dedicating housing to students recovering from addiction

34 LEARNINGTODRINK Study finds alcohol changes the brain from the very first drink 36 ARE VACCINESTHE ANSWER? A new vaccine has been shown to prevent overdoses and stop opioid “designer drugs” from affecting the brain 38 FROM SMOKINGTODRINKING Marijuana users are five times more likely to develop an alcohol abuse disorder, according to a new study 40 THETURNING POINT New study looks to pinpoint transition from prescription opioids to heroin 44 GENERATIONAL BRAINDAMAGE Drinking during pregnancy presents parents with challenges beyond their own sobriety





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Please Contact Us So We Can Help You!!! 215.468.4017 Our mission is to help adults to recover from drug addiction and alcoholism through personal insight, individual therapy, group therapy, education and the principals of Christianity. 7



Founder and CEO lived the life of her clients, now helps them turn it around e birth of Why Not Prosper, according to founder and CEO Reverend Michelle Simmons, came from a vision she had in 2001 during her second year of sobriety. She had asked the pastor at her church in Philadelphia for help nding a house to live in so that she could get her kids back. It so happened that the church owned an empty house, a parsonage, and was willing to o‚er it to Simmons. When she set foot in the house, she looked around, saw the empty rooms, and God spoke to her.

“In that house, the Lord spoke to me and he said, ‘Open up a house for women coming out of prison,’” she recalls. Her rst stop was the library to read up on starting a nonpro t, a task she hopes others will be able to replicate with the release of her third book in 2016, titled I Started a Transitional Center and You Can, Too. Fittingly, her latest publication is a 181-page manual designed to meticulously walk readers through the process of starting a program just like Why Not Prosper. “No matter what you go through, you can make it,” Simmons says of the theme of her rst two books. Her third proves through concrete evidence that she lives by her philosophy.


Do what you know Simmons founded Why Not Prosper to help women like herself, by providing newly released inmates with housing, drug and alcohol dependency treatment, drug and alcohol treatment speci‚cally for former prostitutes, job readiness and life skill building programs, to name a few of its services. She knows what clients need because she has lived their stories. “I’ve been through it all, through all the times -- some good, some bad, some ugly,” she says, “but with my faith in God I’ve grown beyond my wildest dreams.” She knows ‚rsthand the e†ort and support required to transform a life from the bottom up -- she spent six years cycling in and out of the California penal system, unable to meet the parole board’s requirements to remain free.

“Every time I got released I’d keep going back to the dope man and getting high, and just continuing the cycle,” she says. She wanted to return to Philadelphia, but the courts wanted a year clean ‚rst. She ‚nally gave it to them in 2001, when she left jail for a sober living facility in Los Angeles. She returned to Philly with complete faith in God and the con‚dence of someone who has been through the worst of times. A life transformed through modesty

“Even when I was using and getting in trouble I knew that if I ever got clean, I would be a force to be reckoned with, ” she says. “Seventeen years ago I just wanted to be clean and get my kids back.” Now, with seventeen years of sobriety, she sees her two daughters, ages 21 and 24, every day. “Just go for your dreams,” she says. “Trust in the Lord, trust in the god of your understanding, and you can do anything.”

“I knew that if I ever got clean, I would be a force to be reckoned with.” - Rev. Michelle Simmons, founder and CEO

When she left her cell for the last time, she didn’t expect to be oŒcially pardoned by the state of California. She didn’t expect to start up an award-winning program that changes lives. She didn’t expect to be a three-time author, or earn doctorate degrees in ministry and theology. She knew she had potential, but didn’t realize the extent.




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A Veteran in Helping Clinical Director Wayne Allen uses life experie ce to touch liv s Wayne Allen has devoted his life and career to the “ eld of helping people,” and though he’s witnessed the depths of addiction and mental illness, he thrives o the success stories he encounters daily. It’s easy for an untrained eye to miss the optimism within treatment centers. After all, they are places people enter during some of their lowest of lows, to work through some of the most dicult trauma. Allen isn’t like that. In fact, he cherishes the lasting relationships he makes there, through which he sees the enormous progress and success many of the clients achieve. “It’s wonderful; it’s really great,” he says, “especially when people graduate from the program, and when they come back and let us know they’re doing okay.”

Long term relationships Allen says he rarely saw that type of long-term progress in his 20-plus years of work in an acute hospital setting, where he dealt with mental health emergencies, especially suicide attempts. He recounts that all too often, “you never really know what happens to the patients after they leave,” following a relatively short stay. €is is not the case at Why Not Prosper, where Allen says he is able to see the progress up close as clients move forward in their journey. He is able to have a direct impact on that journey as well, through his leadership of sta and service providers and face-to-face interactions with clients. €rough his own experience, personal and professional, Allen achieves a lifelong goal of being “instrumental to the people that can bene t from my help.” A

Identifying struggles In addition to his career, Allen’s personal experience lends itself to helping clients. With 26 years clean and sober, he remembers the struggles of addiction and serves as living proof that it can be overcome. Moreover, he says it helps him better relate to clients’ struggles. “It helps being able to identify with them that I walked down that long, dusty road, too,” he says. Recovery has given him the strength to persevere through life’s challenges, and in turn encourage that perseverance in recovering addicts. €e youngest son in a family of 15, it’s no surprise that Allen has dealt with grief and loss. He says he has already outlived three siblings, as well as his mother and father. “I’ve been through lots of situations that were discouraging and made me want to give up,” Allen says. “I was able to overcome those struggles without losing what I’ve got and succumbing to the struggle.” Allen is living proof that the advice he gives to clients really does work: “€e sky is the limit,” he says. “What you put into this new way of life will be what you get out of it. You can be anything you’d like to be.” [ ] “I walked down that long, dusty road, too.” - Wayne Allen, clinical director [ ] “What you put into this new way of life will be what you get out of it. You can be anything you’d like to be.” - Wayne Allen

“What Progress, You Ask, Have I Made? I have Begun

To Be A Friend to myself.”

-Surge Survivor

Surge Recovery || PH 215.468.4017

AGENCY AD 4 Spiritual The spiritual part of the disease is our total self-centeredness. the person feels like he or she can stop using whenever they want to, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Denial, substation, rationalization, justification, distrust of others, guilt, embarrassment, dereliction, degradation, isolation, and loss of control are all results of the disease of addiction.

Surge Recovery Please contact us so we can help you!!! 215.468.4017


INTERVIEW 3 Fighting Through Adversity Surge’s food service manager doesn’t let obstacles stand in his way

“I believe that the human heart’s greatest aspiration should be to help somebody.” - Edward Dolison, food service manager, Surge Recovery [ ]

[ ] “When Mr. Boyd had the vision, I knew this was going to be something that was useful and helpful in the recovery community.” - Edward Dolison

INTERVIEW 3 H ardship doesn’t begin to describe Edward Dolison’s life. But it hasn’t held him back either. “I grew up in a family where I witnessed a lot of things that a child shouldn't be exposed to - violence, drug addictions,” Dolison says. Dolison’s brother was only 11 years old when he was rst shot, and he was murdered at the age of 36. His sister was shot while still in her 20s, and while she survived her injuries, she too was murdered when she was 39. His mother became a shooting victim when she was 30, and remained blind until her passing in 2010. Dolison says all of that tragedy led, in part, to a life of addiction and imprisonment. “I took the wrong path, I took the wrong turn,” Dolison says. “†e last time I came home from incarceration, I was actually in a coma as a result of substance abuse.” Dolison says a family member came to visit him while he was recovering and urged him to seek treatment and break the vicious cycle that had plagued his family. “She was being used by God to get the message to me, and that was the start of it,” Dolison says. “I understood the concept, but I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish it.” Making the change Hard work pays off Dolison has now dedicated his life to helping others.

†ankfully, Dolison was able to get clean and has maintained his sobriety for more than two and a half years.†rough a connection with Martin Boyd, Surge Recovery’s founder and executive director, Dolison began working for Surge before it even opened, saying he knew the power the organization could have. “When Mr. Boyd had the vision, I knew this was going to be something that was useful and helpful in the recovery community,” Dolison says. “I wanted to be on board immediately.” Dolison says he jumped at the chance to work with Surge because he knows how important such organiza- tions can be in transforming people’s lives. But he says a program can’t do it all for you, and it still takes a person being fully committed to themselves to achieve a full and lasting recovery. “I know that we all have issues, and I believe that if you don’t deal with your issues, your issues will deal with you,” Dolison says, adding that through treatment, “I got a better perspective on life itself.”

Although technically Surge’s food service manager, Dolison is really more of a jack-of-all-trades, saying he does “pretty much everything in the building.” From holding groups to administrative work, Dolison has dedicated himself to furthering Surge’s mission of bringing hope and recovery to those who need it. “I believe that the human heart’s greatest aspiration should be to help somebody,” Dolison says. “You have to have a heart, you have to have empathy and compassion, and you have to be extra understanding.” Dolison is currently working toward a degree and hopes to one day run his own program to help those in need. He says seeing success in others is rewarding and keeps him motivated to help as many people as possible. “I can’t put words on it, but it does something to the spirit,” Dolison says. “I just get joy out of it.”


AGENCY AD 5 Transcending Addiction...




Surge Recovery 215.468.4017 19



James 4:7 “Submit yourself therefore to GOD. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”



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RECOVERY it always seems impossible until it’s done 215.842.2360

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“Everything we know about older adults and substance abuse probably doesn’t apply to Baby Boomers.” - Dr. Alexis Kuerbis, CUNY - Hunter College 24

overall numbers present a problem. “We’re grossly understaffed in being able to handle these problems,” says Dr. Dan Blazer, a psychiatrist at Duke University who has studied the issue extensive- ly. “It’s a problem. I think it’s a problem that’s going to get larger as time goes on and we’re probably already seeing evidence of that.” But there’s also an issue of attitude. Baby Boomers, in general, have a more relaxed view of substance use, and experts fear they may carry those behaviors later into life. “There’s no evidence that they’re going to automati- cally stop when they hit 65 years old,” Dr. Blazer says. “They’ve used them all their life, they say, ‘Why shouldn’t I use them now?’”

Even though elderly people show substance abuse issues in a much lower percentage than other age groups, the problem is more prevalent than many realize. And it appears it’s only going to get worse. Studies vary, but generally show between 2.2 and 9 percent of older adults have an alcohol use disorder, and experts say they’re already seeing a rise in marijuana and opioid abuse issues. With the large population of Baby Boomers aging, substance abuse numbers in the elderly population are expected to continue to rise, presenting serious problems for treatment providers and family members. Researchers say the problem is two-fold: part is sheer numbers, the other is attitude. With the number of older adults in the U.S. expected to increase from 40.3 million to 72.1 million between 2010 and 2030,

Experts say the lifestyle of elderly people presents a unique challenge for physicians and treatment providers. For example, because retired people don’t work, substance use doesn’t present a problem at their jobs, a HIDDEN DANGERS typical red ag for younger people. Experts also say too often doctors fall victim to their own prejudices and don’t ask the right questions that could lead to a diagnosis.

substance use. Although success rates in treatment can be better for older adults, the way they’re treated isn’t necessarily the same. Dr. Sacco says older adults respond better to more collaborative treatment programs that give them options. “For so long it was trying to t older adults into these programs, but now it might be changing these programs to t older adults,” Dr. Sacco says.

“People think this person doesn’t look like a substance user,” says Dr. Paul Sacco, an expert on substance abuse in older adults. “Sometimes physical problems associated with alcohol abuse are assumed to have a different cause in older adults.” Substance abuse can be even riskier for older adults as their bodies become less resistant to the stresses brought on by


different for an older adult.” But because Baby Boomers use substances more than previous senior groups have, experts say treatment providers may have to nd new ways to treat an old problem. “Everything we know about older adults and substance abuse probably doesn’t apply to Baby Boomers,” Dr. Kuerbis says. “All bets are off.”

To mitigate the expected problems as much as possible, experts say we need to train more counselors and physicians on how to best treat older adults, and how to spot potential problems in the rst place. “With just a little bit of education about older adults, I think you could make a very big impact,” says Dr. Alexis Kuerbis, a researcher who also works with older adults. “The rst step is awareness on what might be

“We’re grossly understaffed in being able to handle these problems.” - Dr. Dan Blazer, Duke University

StartingYoung Insight into adolescent addiction comes as new guidelines urge early prevention

Treatment providers have known for years that adolescents are more susceptible to drug use and consequently, addiction. But now they might know why. Researchers recently discovered a specific pathway in the brain that makes adolescents more prone to problematic substance use, which could lead to stronger prevention efforts. By studying how cocaine affected the behavior of young and adult mice differently, researchers found that a mechanism in the brain which regulates specific protein production also controls addictive behaviors. By manipulating that mechanism, researchers were able to mitigate cocaine’s addictive effects. “Now we have a bidirectional switch that can turn on and off the cocaine-induced changes in the brain,” says lead researcher Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli of the Baylor College of Medicine.

“ The excitement of this study is that now perhaps we have a signalling pathway that could be targeted for the treatment of addiction. ”

- Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli, Baylor College of Medicine

One size fits all What’s most exciting about the study is that the pathway does not appear to be specific to cocaine. A second study examining nicotine returned similar results, leading researchers to believe any treatments targeting the pathway would be effective for all substances. “In the case of nicotine, it’s exactly the same thing,” Dr. Costa-Mattioli says. “All the drugs of abuse, they reduce the activity, they hijack or change this mechanism.” Researchers say they’re still interested to see if the mechanism plays a role in the transition from social substance use to more problematic use. But they say simply identifying such a crucial link of the substance use chain could lead to significant prevention methods. “Of course, the excitement of this study is that now perhaps we have a signalling pathway that could be targeted for the treatment of addiction,” Dr. Costa-Mattioli says.


Total improvement Experts say the benefits of implementing early intervention efforts far outweigh the cost. Although limited data exists, studies show investing just one dollar can produce anywhere from a few dollars to $26 in cost savings down the road. “Thus a well-designed, well- implemented early childhood intervention can dramatically benefit the community and society as well as improve children’s and families’ quality of life,” Dr. Volkow says. But the benefits of early intervention go beyond substance abuse. Experts say many of the risk factors for substance abuse are the same indicators for other social, behavioral and academic problems. They say creating a prevention program to address and reduce the risk of substance abuse will pay big dividends across the board. “Interventions designed to reduce early risk factors show benefits in a wide range of areas,” Dr. Volkow says. “Including improved personal and social functioning, better performance in school, and less involvement with the juvenile justice system or mental health services.” 

“ Early childhood intervention can dramatically benefit the community and society as well as improve children ’ s and families ’ quality of life. ” - Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA director

First eight years To address adolescent drug use, experts say prevention efforts have to start earlier than most would expect.The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the government’s top agency on substance use, recently released new guidelines suggesting prevention education should start in the first eight years of a child’s life. Officials acknowledge that early childhood is not a time period normally associated with drug use. But they say factors with family, school and community environments can shape development of certain emotional and behavioral issues that can manifest in substance abuse problems even decades later. “Central to intervening early is the idea of shifting the balance of risk and protective factors in a way that builds a foundation for optimal social development and resilience,” says NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow.


“The concept of addiction as a disease of the brain challenges deeply ingrained values about self-determination and personal responsibility.” – Dr. Nora Volkow, Dr. George Koob, Dr. AThomas McLellan

Fighting for the Brain Disease Model Model can complicate messaging in treatment plans

Fighting public opinion can be an uphill battle, sometimes even a futile one. Despite years of progress and scientific advancements, researchers and treatment providers still find themselves having to convince the general public that substance use disorder is a disease. But it’s a message that can often complicate treatment plans as much as it seeks to inform.


Setting the Record Straight Earlier this year, three of the nation’s leading drug experts wrote a paper seeking to explain, once and for all, how substance use affects the brain in the same way as similar diseases. In an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow, NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob, and Treatment Research Institute founder Dr. AThomas McLellan say they hope to reaffirm the brain disease model while simultaneously addressing common misconceptions about addiction. “The concept of addiction as a disease of the brain challenges deeply ingrained values about self-determination and personal responsibility that frame drug use as a voluntary, hedonistic act,” the authors write. The authors argue that public skepticism about the brain disease model comes from researchers’ inability to articulately describe the relationship between changes in neurobiology and the behaviors associated with addiction. Although countless scientific studies have proven the brain disease model to be accurate and effective, the authors admit more work may be needed to change public perception. “A more comprehensive understanding of the brain disease model of addiction may help to moderate some of the moral judgment attached to addictive behaviors and foster more scientific and public health–oriented approaches to prevention and treatment,” the authors write.

“You have to emphasize the responsibility on the part of the person, but you also have to explain why the behaviors are happening.” – Bob Rohret, MARRCH executive director

 Scientific studies attest that a person’s brain chemistry can be altered as a result of addiction.This fact can provide a needed explanation as to why continued use can still be a problem for people who clearly desire to get clean. “When you start to apply an explanation of why certain behaviors occur,” Rohret says, “it provides people some comfort in understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing.” Mixed Messages But as confident as many in the medical community are about the nature of substance abuse disorder, the idea that addiction is a disease presents something of a double-edged sword for treatment providers. “The messaging has to be sort of finessed,” says Bob Rohret, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). “You have to emphasize the responsibility on the part of the person, but you also have to explain why the behaviors are happening.” Rohret says treatment providers have to inform those in recovery about the nature of their disease, while also making sure knowledge of that disease doesn’t become a crutch or an excuse for inaction. When presented correctly, Rohret says patients should understand their addiction and responsibility toward it in much the same way someone with heart disease may understand their affliction. Although they cannot change the biological makeup of their body immediately, they can make behavioral changes and take actionable steps that lead to more positive outcomes.


Integrated treatment works best for victims of sexual abuse who are also addicts. Researchers have found a dramatic link between the

“ 1 out of every

occurrence of sexual abuse and substance abuse. According to, “sexual abuse victims are three times more likely to suffer depression, six times more likely to suffer PTSD, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs than those who have not been sexually abused.” They go on to say that one out of every six women and one in 33 men in America have been the victim of sexual assault or rape in their lifetime.

6 women and one in 33 men in America have been the victim of sexual assault or rape in their lifetime. ”

Integrated treatment

Treatment centers are beginning to recognize the need for integrated treatment techniques for victims undergoing substance abuse recovery. Since there’s such a high prevalence of sexual abuse among addicts, integrated treatment offers a fuller recovery for sexual abuse victims. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one common form of treatment. In CBT, individuals are offered psychoeducation, therapy instructing and empowering them to deal with their condition in an optimal way. Stress management tools are also helpful. Individuals can be taught to change their situations or their reactions and how to maintain appropriate personal boundaries. The regulation of emotions can be a challenge for a person who has been sexually abused. In CBT, clients learn what emotions are socially tolerable and they learn how to be flexible enough to permit some spontaneity. Survivors are also taught how to delay emotional reactions as necessary.

Individuals can be taught to change their situations or their reactions, and how to take good care of themselves.

 Integrated treatment for those suffering from substance abuse addiction and sexual abuse greatly increases the chance that this person will remain sober for the long haul.They can also experience greater joy and healing than if they were treated for substance abuse alone. Telling their story One effective aspect of CBT is for the person to do a “trauma narrative.” In addition to telling their story by the spoken word or writing it down, they can also use drawing, painting or other art forms to communicate the trauma.The narrative can then be shared with a safe person, like a trained therapist or substance abuse counselor.The hope is that the survivor will be able to let go of some of the trauma. Healing can then take place. Another facet of CBT is behavior management training. Clients are encouraged to stay calm in an emotionally charged situation, manage their own responses, learn what limits are appropriate, handle challenging questions and learn how to prevent physical confrontations with others. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), survivors are also encouraged to do what they can to heal themselves. Good sleep and nutrition, exercise, and regular routines like starting and ending the day in a peaceful way are a good place to start for people from this background. Those in recovery are also urged to write down leisure activities they find enjoyable and engage in those activities regularly. Clients are also encouraged to use journaling and inspirational reading to further grow in their recovery. Finally, having a supportive group of friends and family will help an individual recover emotionally from this kind of trauma.


INSERT 5 More college campuses are dedicating housing to students recovering from addiction

House parties, keg stands and spring break. The stereotypical images of American college life may revolve around drinking and party culture, but that image may be changing as more universities look to make campus a welcoming space for recovering addicts to live and learn. In the fall of 2016, a growing number of colleges will debut new Living-Learning Communities (LLCs)

speci cally for people in recovery. While LLCs typically occupy a oor of a dormitory and center on a shared interest or academic eld, these new student housing sections will provide a safe and positive environment for recovering students

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to see implemented at the university,” says Dr. Gerard Love, a drug and counseling professor at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania where a new eight-person LLC will open in the fall of 2016. Slippery Rock of cials hope to offer recovery-related programming at least once a week with topics such as nutrition, team building and spirituality. The hope is that the apartment-style living space will provide students a network to help them focus on both academics and recovery..





“I see them as being leaders here on campus.”

– Kris Barry, University of Minnesota - Rochester


“It’s really just about being around like-minded people and developing that ‘we’ as a support system.”

INSERT 5 – Dr. Gerard Love, Slippery Rock University

“Universities are supposed to be about dialogue, and having this is a great opportunity for dialogue,” Dr. Love says. “Bringing this whole notion of addiction out of the shadows and increasing understanding, I think will be a good byproduct of this.”

“It’s really just about being around like-minded people and developing that ‘we’ as a support system,” Dr. Love says. Dr. Love says simply having a recovery space on a college campus could help change perceptions about recovery and remove the stigma surrounding addiction.

Of cials at the University of Minnesota – Rochester will also be opening a new recovery LLC for the fall 2016 semester. Of cials say it’s necessary to provide recovering students with the tools they need to succeed academically and in their personal lives. “Historically, students who are in recovery really struggle to come back to campus without that [supportive housing] program,” says Kris Barry, the school’s health and wellness advocate. The LLC will house six to 10 students and feature evidence-based recovery programming. Of cials say the LLC speaks to the school’s mission as a health-focused university. But more than that, they say they hope to foster a culture of personal growth among all students, particularly those in recovery. “I see them as being leaders here on campus and then taking that and changing the dialogue about addiction,” Barry says. “We know that the traditional college experience can be hostile to the goals of anyone in recovery, and we want to support them as much as possible.”

Boyd Austin says student communities centered on recovery provide a welcome relief for students to explore their university in a supportive and positive way. “It o ers a space, it o ers a culture, it o ers a community of people who are engaging in college in the same way,” Boyd Austin says.

Experts say universities are increasingly adding recovery programs focused on creating a community among students, but ones incorporating housing are still few and far between. “This started about 30 years ago, but it has really taken off in the last 10 years,” says Amy Boyd Austin, president-elect of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education.


Learning to Drink

Study finds alcohol changes the brain from the very first drink

“ Drugs of abuse basically hijack the normal learning and memory processes. ” - Dr. Dorit Ron University of California - San Francisco

Preventing escalation

The NIAAA-funded study did not establish a relationship between initial use and addiction, or even problematic drinking. But the hope is that further understanding of how alcohol affects the brain initially could lead to better treatment and prevention efforts down the road. “If we can control that step, we may be able to prevent further escalation,” Dr. Ron says. More research is needed to determine which other components of the brain are affected by initial alcohol exposure. Dr. Ron says she believes the changes that occur during first exposure could be reversed with prolonged abstinence from alcohol. But she said the more a person drinks, the harder it is to reverse those changes as the brain forms stronger connections to drinking.

One drink is all it takes. That’s what one research team found when studying how even the first exposure to alcohol can affect a person’s brain. A team from the University of California - San Francisco exposed mice to alcohol and then studied the synapses (connections) in their brains.The team found that even the first drink produced significant changes in the brain’s biological structure, calling the changes a “learning event.” “This is basically the first step,” says Dr. Dorit Ron, one of the chief researchers. “You are basically placing a memory trace.” Dr. Ron says the entire study was based on the idea that “addiction, and not just alcohol addiction, is thought to be a maladaptive form of learning and memory.” In essence, the study showed that first exposure to alcohol primes the brain for further use and lays the foundation for future “learning.” “Drugs of abuse basically hijack the normal learning and memory processes,” Dr. Ron says. “The behavior becomes habit.”


Predicting behavior

A new study also suggests that the earlier a person starts drinking, the stronger those connections may become. Researchers recently set out to identify which substance people use first in their lives and found the majority of people try alcohol before any other substance.The team also looked at how a person’s age when they start drinking affects substance use later in life. Researchers say the earlier someone starts drinking, the more likely they are to use more than one illicit substance, and they’re also more likely to develop an addiction. “It’s a very nice predictor for polysubstance use,” says Dr. Adam Barry, the study’s chief author. “The later you delay, the closer you are to 21, the less likely you are to be alcohol dependent or dependent on other substances.”

“ Alcohol consumption among youth doesn’t occur in a vacuum. ” - Dr. Adam Barry, Texas A&M University

 strategies that prevent drug use and then applying those in an alcohol setting.” Curbing use Researchers acknowledge there’s a difference between a first sip and a first binge drinking event. But they say age at first use of any kind is still a good predictor of behavior later in life. To combat problematic drinking, Dr. Barry says educators need to address all factors of a child’s life, not just the substance itself. In keeping with new guidelines from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Barry and his team recommend beginning substance education as early as third grade. “Alcohol consumption among youth doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” Dr. Barry says. “It’s really just trying to find evidence-based




Treating addiction with vaccines is a relatively new idea with many unanswered questions

that arise out of a lack of research. But a new study suggests vaccinating against illicit drugs is not only possible, it could be extremely effective. At the Scripps Research Institute in California, researchers were looking for a way to guard against the lethal and addictive effects of synthetic opioid “designer drugs.” A potentially deadly opioid, fentanyl, is often used as a heroin substitute or mix-in by drug dealers, so researchers developed a vaccine to try to mitigate its effects. Researchers injected mice with three rounds of the vaccine and then exposed them to doses of fentanyl. They found the vaccinated mice did not display any “high” behaviors even months after the last series of vaccine injections. Researchers say the immune systems of the mice developed antibodies that successfully blocked the drug from reaching the brain. “The results were the best we’ve ever seen for any drug vaccine,” says Paul Bremer, a graduate student at Scripps Research Institute who worked on the study.


The results were the best we’ve ever seen for any drug vaccine. - Paul Bremer, Scripps Research Institute


SAFE AND POWERFUL Not only was the vaccine able to stop intoxication (something researchers suggest could aid in opioid addiction treatment), the vaccine also proved extremely effective in blocking the potentially lethal effects of fentanyl as well. While the chemical is not necessarily toxic in itself, it does produce psychoactive effects that can shut down breathing and stop a person’s heart. Researchers say mice injected with the vaccine could withstand doses of fentanyl up to 30 times the normal rate. “It was just a rst generation vaccine, but it did prove to be very potent,” Bremer says. “We were able to block extremely large doses of fentanyl to protect against overdoses.” A SINGLE PURPOSE Researchers say the vaccine would not protect against heroin or oxycodone, and a mixture of vaccines would be needed to protect against all opioids. But that was somewhat by design. To make sure the vaccine would not interfere with any medications a person may take responsibly later in life, researchers targeted speci c molecules so the vaccine would only block fentanyl and its derivatives.

“For unrelated drugs that you would be taking, there would be no effect from the vaccine,” Bremer says. LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE Although still in the early stages of development, researchers say the vaccine represents an exciting step forward in drug vaccine research. The lab is beginning more advanced trials on a similar heroin vaccine which should give them a better idea of how successful the fentanyl vaccine could become. But until more testing can be completed, researchers say they were pleased with the progress and excited for the future of vaccines in the treatment of addiction. “This concept of using a vaccine for addiction isn’t just an academic pursuit, it could really be used in practice,” Bremer says. “I think it’s really promising.”

safe and powerful


Marijuana users are five times more likely to develop an alcohol abuse disorder, according to a new study

When it rains it pours. The old idiom may be familiar to many drug users who often find themselves battling more than one addiction. While previous research has shown multiple substance abuse disorders often go hand in hand, a new study suggests simply using marijuana can lead to a much higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

Finding the Link Researchers at Columbia University analyzed data from 27,461 people who had used marijuana at the time of first testing, but had no history of alcohol related disorders. When researchers checked back three years later, they found marijuana users were five times more likely to have developed an alcohol abuse disorder.

Researchers said they were surprised the link wasn’t between marijuana use disorder, but simply marijuana use itself. “I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are certain behaviors that come with specific risks,” says Dr. Renee Goodwin, one of the lead researchers. “It would be particularly useful for youth.” Because youth are at a higher risk of experimenting with both drugs and alcohol, researchers said educating them about the total scope of risk is not only important, but could help curb problematic behaviors. “Preventing or delaying the onset of marijuana use could prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use disorder,” Dr. Goodwin says. “Statistically it should.”

“I think it’s important for people to be aware that there are certain behaviors that come with specific risks.” -Dr. Renee Goodwin


“Preventing or delaying the onset of marijuana use could prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use disorder.” -Dr. Renee Goodwin

Uses In Treatment For those already struggling with marijuana or alcohol use disorders, researchers said the knowledge that the two behaviors are linked could help people see the bigger picture of their addiction, and could prove useful in their journey toward recovery. “In some ways it may seem self- evident, but it may not be,” Dr. Goodwin says. “If you’re trying to quit drinking, it’s good to know that quitting marijuana could increase your chance of being successful.”

Zero relationship to mood and anxiety disorders As marijuana use has increased in the U.S., with some states even voting for legalization, some have wondered what the psychological cost will be to users. To investigate the question further, other researchers at Columbia University also conducted a recent study to determine if a link exists between increased marijuana use and psychiatric disorders. Although the results, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, mimicked previous research in showing a strong relationship between marijuana use and other substance abuse disorders, the findings in regards to psychiatric disorders were much different. The study showed no relationship between marijuana use and increased instances of mood and anxiety disorders, only substance abuse disorders. But despite the lack of a connection, researchers still cautioned against public policy that could lead to increased marijuana use. “The lack of association between more frequent cannabis use with increased risk of most mood and anxiety disorders does not diminish the important public health significance of the association between cannabis use and increased prevalence and incidence of drug and alcohol use disorders,” the authors wrote. 


New study looks to pinpoint transition from prescription opioids to heroin

Stopping heroin use before it begins may be the best remedy for the country’s growing epidemic. A new study looks to pinpoint the times and ways that young people rst use the dangerous drug in hopes of strengthening prevention efforts. For three years, researchers at Wright State University tracked nearly 400 18- to 23-year-olds in Columbus, Ohio, who used illicit prescription opioids but were not opioid-dependent. Of the 362 participants, 27 eventually transitioned to heroin, a rate of 7.5 percent. “We were surprised at the number of people who transitioned to heroin,” says Dr. Robert Carlson, the study’s lead researcher. “We had really no idea of what exactly we’d be able to predict.”

Predicting risk

Researchers found several predictors of increased risk of heroin use, starting with the ways in which the opioids were being used. Those who crushed or snorted the prescription drugs were far more likely to transition to heroin. “It increases the speed at which the drug is hitting the system and makes people much more liable to becoming dependent,” Dr. Carlson says. “If people can become aware that if they even think about starting to use via a non-oral route, they are heading off on a very dangerous path.”


“We were surprised at the number of people who transitioned to heroin. ” - Dr. Robert Carlson, Wright State University

Racial divide

The new NIDA-funded study targeted 18- to 23-year-olds because they are arguably at the highest risk for substance abuse. The study did not look at other age groups. But when considering the factors that may move a person from prescription opioids to heroin, Dr. Carlson believes age is just a number. “I wouldn’t think the risk factors for transition to heroin would be much different regardless of age group,” Dr. Carlson says. While the risk factors may be the same across age groups, the most deadly effects of heroin use are not. Research has shown that those most at risk of a heroin-related overdose fall in the 25 to 44 age range. It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of prescription opioid users will not move on to heroin. And signi cant research is still needed to determine the social, environmental and biological factors that contribute to a person transitioning to heroin. But Dr. Carlson says he’s encouraged by the progress being made and believes the groundwork has been laid to develop effective treatment and intervention programs. “The really exciting thing to come out of this is it really gives us a rm foundation of some variables that could be targeted to prevent transition to heroin and transition to dependence,” Dr. Carlson says. Targeted approach The study also saw a difference in race among those who eventually turned to heroin. Despite roughly half the participants being African-American or Hispanic, all of the individuals who ultimately used heroin were white. Although the study could not determine the reasons behind such a strong racial divide, Dr. Carlson suggests that social networks, generational use and other circumstances could be signi cant factors. National data shows the heroin epidemic has increasingly hit white males the hardest. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that between 2002 and 2013, heroin use among non-Hispanic whites increased 114 percent. Age is just a number


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Drinking during pregnancy presents parents with challenges beyond their own sobriety

Since its first diagnosis in 1973, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) have shown how devastating drinking during pregnancy can be for an unborn child. Despite this fact, at least one in 10 pregnant women drink in the U.S. every year, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says children with FASD have physical issues like low birth weight and growth, problems with organ systems and damage to parts of the brain.These issues lead to behavioral and intellectual disabilities, hyperactivity, difficulty with attention, and poor communication, reasoning and judgment skills. The incurable situation can produce lifelong issues with school and social problems, mental health and substance abuse issues, difficulty keeping a job, living independently and having trouble with the law. In 2010, drinking while pregnant cost the U.S. $5.5 billion, says the CDC.

“ In 2010, drinking while pregnant cost the U.S. $5.5 billion. ” — Centers for Disease Control


“ I don’t know how I’m going to tell her. It was something I could have prevented. ” —mother of an FASD infant

Dysfunction in the family tree FASD can be multi-generational. Besides the common familial curse of addiction, the disability itself can contribute to bad impulse decisions, making it more likely for one to drink in the present moment and ignore the possible consequences. For that reason, a mother who has FASD herself may not recognize the symptoms of FASD in her child, because she views her own symptoms as normal. A mother in Tucson, Ariz., who was in recovery before realizing her drinking had caused FASD in her child, says the guilt was tremendous. Having to explain to her daughter why she had FASD was going to be the hardest thing she had ever done. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell her. It was something I could have prevented,” she says. Early diagnosis is key Diagnosing fetal alcohol syndrome can be difficult. A simple blood test will not suffice. Doctors typically look for abnormal facial features, such as a smooth fulcrum (the ridge most of us have between our nose and lips), lower than average height and weight, a small head and the birthmother’s admission of alcohol use during pregnancy. There are many treatment options, including medication for certain symptoms, behavioral therapies, education and training for parents. It is most helpful for children to be diagnosed before the age of six, be in a nurturing family environment and have access to special education and social services. Having FASD is not a hopeless situation. Implementing treatment strategies at a young age can help a child thrive despite the disorder.

 Regardless, it is never too late to quit drinking. Since brain growth takes place throughout a woman’s pregnancy, the sooner a woman quits drinking, the better off her baby will be. Prevention is best To prevent FASD, the best scenario is for a woman to refrain from drinking any amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Ideally, women should quit drinking the moment they go off birth control. “About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking,” says Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the CDC.


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