Dual Diagnosis Treatment – A System Broken | Guest Author Athena Kay

In a previous post, Addiction is Not a Choice | a Mom and Dad Share Their Daughter’s Story, we learned a great deal of what happened to Athena Kay, a pseudonym Cindy and Nick K’s daughter adopted following her rape at age 15 and subsequent PTSD, rape trauma syndrome, dissociative behaviors, depression, flashbacks, panic attacks and anxiety and eventual slide into heroin addiction. Today, I share the profound essay Athena wrote for a college scholarship application. In it, she shares the many systems that failed her as “a victim, an addict and a criminal,” not the least of which was access to effective dual diagnosis treatment. Athena’s courage and her strength come through – not only for what she’s survived and conquered – but for what she advocates society do in order to fix a series of very broken systems.

[A dual diagnosis is also known as having co-occurring disorders. It is a term to describe people with mental illness who have coexisting problems with drugs and/or alcohol. (National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI)]

Dual Diagnosis Treatment – A System Broken by Athena Kay

Athena K shares her essay on a broken system - dual diagnosis treatment.

Athena K shares her essay on a broken system – dual diagnosis treatment.

I am a statistic.  As a sexual assault victim, a recovering drug addict, and a criminal, I have prosecuted, and I have been prosecuted.  Because of this experience with the criminal justice system and my diagnoses of Rape Trauma Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I have powerful suggestions.  Change is necessary not only to improve our justice system but also to help other individuals who are suffering from a trauma-born addiction are being charged with non-violent crimes to support that habit.

A significant proportion of incarcerated women have a dual diagnosis; chemical dependency and mental health problems that are usually caused by interpersonal victimization.  At present, no treatment has been made that addresses dual diagnosis for these imprisoned women.  The jail is piling up with drug related offenses that are burdening the state and its taxpayers when the convicted should instead be treated.  Correctional mental health services are currently inadequate, because specified treatment does not exist and the needed funding is lacking.

Instead of prisons functioning as the defunct mental hospitals, early diagnosis and treatment for those at risk for committing crimes is necessary.  Alternatives to incarceration for dually-diagnosed non-violent offenders should be implemented.  Diversion to alternative programs would allow dually diagnosed offenders to receive appropriate treatment in therapeutic settings, decrease overcrowding in correctional settings, lessen recidivism, and would be cost-effective compared to incarceration in jails and prisons.

_____________________________________

I (Lisa Frederiksen) wanted to add this next section to Athena Kay’s post, for as you read in Athena’s essay and in some of the comments on her parents’ post, Addiction is Not a Choice | a Mom and Dad Share Their Daughter’s Story, dual diagnosis treatment is a broken system, and yet without effective co-occurring treatment for co-occurring disorders (aka a dual diagnosis), the person will, in all likelihood, relapse. And here’s why…

Information, Help and Resources on Effective Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It wasn’t that long ago that the prevailing treatment for someone who had a mental illness and an addiction was to “get rid of the substance and then treat the mental illness.” But if the substance had been the “medicine” to self-medicate the symptoms of the mental illness, for example, then taking away a person’s “medicine” without treating the source that demands it (the mental illness) can trigger the person’s embedded brain maps to seek and find the “medicine” (the substance) in order to relieve the symptoms of their untreated mental illness. Talk about a Catch 22!

Co-Occurring Disorders required Co-Occurring Treatments

Co-Occurring Disorders required Co-Occurring Treatments

Thus it’s imperative we understand co-occurring disorders – aka dual diagnosis – and what constitutes effective treatment, and then we must demand it.

Quoting from my May 27, 2014, post, Co-Occurring Disorders Require Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Co-occurring Mental Illness and Addiction – A Complex Dynamic

Thanks to advancements in imaging technologies (fMRI, SPECT, as examples), research funding opportunities and the collaborative efforts of brilliant minds – especially in the recent 10-15 years – the way co-occurring disorders are identified and treated is finally, ever-so-slowly starting to change.

It Comes Down to Neural Networks
It is now understood the brain controls everything we think, feel, say and do through neural networks. Neural networks are the way brain cells (neurons) “talk” to one another. They, in turn, exchange information with other neurons (cells) throughout the body via the nervous system. This “talking” is done through an electro-chemical signaling process, which is easier to understand if you think of neural networks as strands of holiday lights. Anything that happens along a strand of holiday lights – a loose bulb, frayed wire, power surge – changes how that strand works. This in turn changes how all other strands connected to it work.

Changes or Differences in Neural Networks Can Cause a Person to Think, Feel and Behave Differently
Thus if any of the “things” that make this electro-chemical signaling process possible are changed or “different” (inherited), it changes the way neural networks perform. These “things” include cues, neurons, axons, dendrites, neurotransmitters, receptors and synapses, as examples. Both mental illness and addiction change several of these “things,” which is why both disorders must be treated individually and simultaneously.

Causes of Co-occurring Disorders (aka Causes of Neural Network Changes or Differences)
Not surprisingly, addiction and mental illnesses can have similar contributing causes. These include:

• genetics
• brain chemistry imbalances
• brain injury
• childhood trauma
• environmental stressors
• presence of the other
• stage of brain development at onset – especially ages 12-25.

Having similar contributing causes, however, does not mean you fix one and the other is automatically fixed. This is because of the complex dynamic that exists with co-occurring disorders.

The Complex Dynamic
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains the co-occurring disorders’ dynamic this way:

• Drugs and alcohol can be a form of self-medication [for the mental illness]– the drug or alcohol chemicals work on the brain’s pleasure-reward pathways, the ones that make a person feel good.
• Drugs and alcohol can worsen underlying mental illnesses – alcohol is a depressant, for example, which can worsen the depression mental illness symptoms.
• Drugs and alcohol can cause a person without mental illness to experience the onset of symptoms for the first time.

Because of this complex dynamic, it is imperative both disorders be treated simultaneously or else one can be the trigger for the other and/or the person still won’t feel “normal,” even though one of this disorders has been treated.

Bottom Line

Addiction and mental illnesses are brain changers. Given the brain controls everything a person thinks, feels, says and does, treating any and all brain changers is necessary in order to improve one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. To find out more about co-occurring disorders and what effective dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorders) treatment is, please read the remainder of my post, Co-Occurring Disorders Require Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment.

Jake Parent | Today’s Face of Addiction Recovery

It is my great pleasure to introduce Jake Parent – today’s Face of Addiction Recovery, who has graciously agreed to share his story of his dependence on alcohol and the recovery journey he’s taken.

Why share?

There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Treatment and Recovery.

It is my pleasure to introduce Jake Parent, who has been in recovery since 2008, and is the author of Only the Devil Tells the Truth, a new novel about addiction, friendship, love, poverty, growing up, and the search for purpose.

How did your addiction start?

I was 13 when I first drank. From then on, I don’t think I ever drank or used “normally.”

Jake Parent | Today's Face of Addiction Recovery

Jake Parent – Today’s Face of Addiction Recovery. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

I mean, there was certainly a progression in the frequency and amount I used (and of the type of substances), but from the first time I put something in my body to change the way I felt, the only thing I wanted was more. No amount of anything ever seemed to satisfy me, even when I was having a good time.

What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober?

It was 2006. I was 25 and had already been in the hospital (the year before) twice for pancreatitis. The first time, I stayed sober for three whole weeks. The second time it was only like five days.

Anyway, the first part of the year was disgusting. I was drinking an eighteen pack every day, and usually lots of Vodka to go with it. Along, of course, with just about any pill or powder I could get my hands on.

But, motivated by the threat of losing my then girlfriend, I didn’t drink for six months.

And was miserable.

Each day I cringed and complained and more-or-less hated every atom in the universe. My anger was thick. It oozed from my pores and either pushed people away or made them miserable.

Well, unsurprisingly, I picked up the bottle again. And hit it hard. Beer was almost completely out, replaced by Jameson and vodka. All the time.

My boss started making comments (I still can’t understand why I wasn’t fired).

The woman I thought I was in love with could hardly stand being around me. And who could blame her? I hated her happiness, just like I hated everyone’s happiness.

The weekend before Halloween, I was blackout drunk by 8 PM Friday.

I did some pathetic stuff – things I won’t repeat here, in order to protect those involved. But, needless to say, when I awoke on the morning of October 30, 2006, it was to a world that I’d pushed away with all the resolve I could muster.

Luckily, the desperation and despair I found myself in was so deep and painful that my mind finally opened to the idea that maybe I didn’t have all the answers.

The woman I was dating made it clear right away that she wanted nothing to do with me (we haven’t spoken since).

For some blessed reason, however, this time I decided to try getting sober for myself.

With that tiny seed of hope planted, I attended my first recovery meeting. There I met people who knew me better than I knew myself. Their stories showed me that my weak and fuzzy vision of happiness was, in fact, a complete underestimation of life’s possibilities.

What was your initial addiction recovery treatment?

I went through a couple bad days of alcohol detox, and almost went to the hospital. Actually I probably should have gone to the hospital. But my pride kept me from doing so. I remember holding a phone in my hand and crying because I wanted to call 9-1-1 to get help for the violent shakes I was feeling but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

After a couple days like that, I started to feel a little bit better. I was able to find a treatment facility that was covered by the insurance I was lucky enough to have. They certainly pointed me in the right direction. But it wasn’t until I went to my first 12 step meeting (at six days sober) that I really started on the right path. When I walked into that room, I knew I was in the right place.

Do you do anything differently, today?

I think recovery has a certain ebb and flow. For example, during the first few years, I went to meetings almost every day. Now I go with regularity, but definitely not every day.

As time has passed, I’ve learned to take the spiritual principles of service I’ve learned in recovery and use them in other aspects of my life.

I’ve had periods of happiness, sadness, anxiety, depression, pain, love, hardship, and success. And through it all, I’ve stayed sober by always making my recovery a central part of my identity.

What is your life like, now?

Life is for living.

Recovery has taught me that my dreams matter. That the fire inside me is something valuable. And that my passions can bring me a lot of happiness, if I pursue them in a way that helps build a better world.

Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction? How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?

Unfortunately, one tough lesson I’ve learned in sobriety (mostly by seeing friends relapse) is that when people actively suffer from addiction, they are pretty walled off. People really won’t change until they are ready.

But I think the best advice I could give such a person is to go to a 12 step meeting with an open heart and mind. Talk to the people there, especially those with a significant amount of sobriety. There are plenty of people in those rooms who are full of crap, but there are way more who sincerely want to help you. Find a person who you want to be like, and latch on to them. Watch them. Listen to them. Learn from them.

For friends and family, try to set a good example by the way you live your own life, and be there when the person is ready. However, it’s really important that you don’t enable the addict/alcoholic by giving them money, letting them stay in your home, etc. As hard as it can be to say no, I don’t think that does anything but prolong the inevitable, and cause a lot of undue pain.

What is the best part about your recovery?

It feels almost cliché to say so, but the gifts of sobriety have blown away my wildest expectations.

First off, it has given me a sense of self that doesn’t involve a driving need to take from the world. It allows me to live a life I feel good about. One where I (at least on my good days) pay attention to how my actions affect others. It has allowed me to finally develop some positive and mutually respectful relationships in my life.

I also went to community college (after dropping out of high school with no GED), eventually ending up at a university, getting two degrees, and even went on to get a masters.

I co-founded an orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan, which now houses 17 boys.

I started my own marketing consulting business, giving me the chance to work with great people from around the world.

I found the perfect wife.

And recently I accomplished my long-held dream of publishing a novel. It’s called Only the Devil Tells the Truth and is about a poor California teenager who falls into addiction. So far, people seem to really relate and draw strength from it.

Being able to empower people in this way is something that never crossed my mind when I was shaking on the floor that first day of sobriety.

Thank you so very much, Jake, for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 8 years RECOVERY!

OnlyTheDevilTellsTheTruth_JakeDParentJake is running a promotion from 12/17-24 on the Kindle version of his book, Only the Devil Tells the Truth. It will only be 99 cents during that time.

_______________________

You may also wish to “meet” others sharing their recovery stories with BreakingTheCycles.com by clicking on this link, Faces of Recovery.

Addiction is Not a Choice | a Mom and Dad Share Their Daughter’s Story

Addiction is NOT a choice, contrary to the common belief and presumption “it” is a moral weakness, a shameful lack of willpower. I have been working in this field for over a decade, now, and that has NEVER been the case. With every person I’ve met or worked with, who either struggles with the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction, or loves someone who does, there is always, what I call, a “back-story.”

A back-story is the presence of one or more of the five key risk factors for developing addiction: childhood trauma, mental illness, social environment, early use (which especially makes sense when you understand brain development, ages 12-25) and genetics.

Today’s post by guest authors, Cindy and Nick K., will touch your heart and help you better understand how it is that a wonderful, vibrant, healthy young girl could develop an addiction to heroin. They’ve written this post as a letter addressed To Whom It May Concern.

In a later post, you will be able to read an essay their daughter, Athena Kay, wrote for a college scholarship application. “Athena Kay” is the pseudonym their daughter has chosen in order to advocate for the change she so profoundly outlines in her essay, while at the same time, protecting her identity for obvious reasons.

To Whom It May Concern

How does a parent prepare to write a statement regarding who their daughter is? A statement informing a Judge and a Prosecutor, the deck of cards dealt to our child. A life where we as a family have lived, a life they have no basis to understand.

Our daughter, Athena

Our daughter, Athena Kay

How do you put into words the day your daughter, 15, told you she was raped, by a man 8 years older? How do you express finding a brown paper bag hidden in a friend’s closet containing the clothes from that night? How do you put into words the anger the day the grand jury found no cause to charge statutory rape? How do put into the words the continued stalking, harassment and fear as this man followed her, sat outside her school, in her place of employment and drove by our house. How do you expect a parent to respond when waiting in the court room for the misdemeanor sentencing, and they are told, “There has been an error, Ron was mistakenly released from jail yesterday and we do not know where he is?” To find out later he fled the state and there was nothing anyone would or could do about it. Five years later after years of searching and following this rapist, we had him arrested at our area airport where he finally served his 6 month sentence for contributing to the unruliness of a minor. Was our daughter unruly or raped?

How does a parent react when they are told their daughter is self-mutilating, cutting and burning themselves in order to “feel alive?” And then was voted the Homecoming Queen by her classmates and her peers. A week later celebrated her Sweet 16 Birthday Party and a week after is rushed to the ER with a suicide attempt by taking an overdose of Ambien? How does a parent react while taking the elevator to the top floor of Children’s Hospital, Psych Ward, reading the documentation, Suicide Attempt? And she is 16 years old.

AwardofExcellenceToddlerHow should a parent react when “feeling alive” becomes “self-medicating?” Through high school she became an advocate for rape, for rape survivors and awareness. Her love for photography became her voice for words not spoken. Her self-portrait, seen to the right, received the Ohio Governors Show Award and hung in the Governor’s House Educational building for 6 months. It is called, “Constitutional Rape.” Her photography would award a full ride scholarship to Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC. Her passion was to become a photo-journalist, capturing the pain of others as she was able to do for herself. It was there she was introduced to heroin, her means of self-medicating. The solution to her pain. The prescription for PTSD, rape trauma syndrome, Dissociative behaviors, depression, flashbacks, panic attacks and anxiety. And like many other rape survivors, heroin worked. It made her feel the best she had in years, until it took everything and made her feel the worst.

KentStateWe brought her home that first year. Her scholarship gone. Her passion for photography taken. But her drive to graduate from college lived on. She enrolled at Kent State with a dream of a bachelor’s degree.

She wanted to become involved with children, those suffering trauma, abuse and addiction. Throughout the years attending Kent State she battled her addiction, was on academic suspension for one year, but her willingness and perseverance gained her the title of Kent State Advocate. She represented the college in events, tours and greeted the new freshmen and guests with a smile and grace. She was also selected to be a research assistant with one of her Professors. She decided through this opportunity she also wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree in Michigan studying trauma and addiction. How they correlate and effect young people, especially women and children. Our daughter never lost sight of her goals and wanted to help others. She graduated from Kent State, addicted to heroin, with honors, in Family Studies and Family Education. She finally was able to pursue her goals in life. But once again, Heroin and a dual diagnosis have now taken this opportunity away as well.

Lost

Addiction is NOT a choice…

The years from 2003 till present have brought much pain, anger and judgment to our family. Athena has been in counseling since 2003, treating PTSD, Rape trauma syndrome, dissociative behavior and all other symptoms; fears, panic attacks, anxiety and flashbacks. They seem unending. Athena has been in treatment, numerous IOP programs, inpatient, outpatient, AA, NA and everything in-between.

Father:DaughterOur system has little to offer when treating dual-diagnosis.  We have constantly heard, “Come back when you are sober” or “We only treat drug addiction, but you will have to wait a month or so. Call back then.” Nikole knows people on a first name basis at the Crisis Center. If not there for overdose or detox, she is there for suicide ideation once off heroin. Her symptoms magnify and there is little treatment for the ongoing depression and anxiety/panic attacks. We have all learned the rules, Yell her name as we walk up to her room, never come up from behind without making noise, do not touch from behind and never surprise her. And unfortunately, the medications used to treat these symptoms are not prescribed; she is a substance user, an addict.

We know our daughter. She was admired and loved by her teachers and her peers. She is loved dearly by her family, her Grandmothers, her siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, nephews and Godson.  She is respected by fellow co-workers and friends. She was raised in church, danced with the Greek Dance group at our area church for thirteen years. We taught our children values, morals, self-respect, love and loyalty. She is kind and passionate. She loves to read and write. She has stamina, determination and a “never quit attitude.” athena2

One day, in a matter of hours, her life changed. My daughter left for a Fourth of July picnic with friends and she never came home.

As she stated in one of her writings:

Garden:Rabbit“It was on July 4, 2003 that my childhood innocence was so abruptly and unrepentantly ripped away. Every breath of my childish dreams and imagination had been seized, and my dolls were silently placed back into their toy chest, never again to reappear.  Following this act of rape, my childish cheerfulness was suffocated.  That was the last day I laughed with innocence, and no one would be able to comprehend my muted silence and secrets.  I was unable to talk about the experience.  No one until recently was ever told about this man who ripped apart my soul with his perverted hands and never attempted to piece it back together again.  No one had ever told me what defined rape, as I searched for ways to cope and heal, or to blank the experience from my mind altogether.  I mistakenly believed it was somehow my fault.”

How do we explain, knowing what we know today? Addiction is no one’s fault. It is not a choice, but a disease.  Addiction has one of three outcomes, jail, recovery or death. Please help keep our daughter alive.

Sincerely,

Cindy and Nick K

________________________________

Added 12/21/14

To read Athena’s essay, please click here, Dual Diagnosis Treatment – A System Broken | Guest Author Athena Kay.

 

Substance Abuse Recovery on College Campuses | David Greenspan

Substance use disorders are complicated. Meaning: a person is not born an alcoholic or drug addict. Rather they develop the disease, typically influenced by five key risk factors, one of which is early use. And often, early use (early misuse) begins in middle school, high school or college. Because of the strong influences of brain developmental processes occurring at the time, coupled with the presence of the other four key risk factors (genetics, social environment, mental illness and childhood trauma), addiction typically occurs at an early age, yet it’s often difficult to find substance abuse recovery alternatives on college campuses. Thanks to today’s guest author, David Greenspan, readers concerned about their own, a friend or a child’s recovery during the college years can find help.

David Greenspan is a writer and media specialist at Lighthouse Recovery Institute. He’s been in recovery since 2008 and has published poetry and fiction widely. David can be reached by email at dgreenspan88@gmail.com.

Sober in College? Yeah Right

In the world of higher education, emphasis certainly on higher, sobriety is often a rare find. This is true of the culture surrounding universities, the various housing options, the “recreational” activities, and the students themselves.

David Greenspan shares hope and resources for substance abuse recovery on college campuses.

David Greenspan shares hope and resources for substance abuse recovery on college campuses.

So, I take pride in uttering the phrase “I was a sober college student.” While my college sobriety was hard won, there are an increasingly large number of resources for students seeking an alternative to the Animal House and Van Wilder college experience.

I Was a Sober College Student

My story of addiction and recovery isn’t that different from thousands of others. From as far back as I can remember, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I found a solution to that gut level discomfort in drugs and alcohol. After a period of time, the consequences of being drunk and high outweighed the positives. I went to treatment, suffered a few relapses, and got sober.

That’s a pretty typical addiction and recovery narrative, right? Where my story differs from the many other addiction stories, if it does differ at all, is that after getting sober, I immediately went back to school.

I barely graduated high school. After pulling off that miracle, I spent a drunken and hazy year at a state university in New York. Actually, it’d be more accurate to say I spent some time at the university. Most of my time was spent running the streets of New York City.

When my parents finally saw my grades, I joked that instead of D’s and F’s, I should have gotten H’s due to my heroin addiction. It was a moment of gallows humor. Needless to say, my parents weren’t amused and insisted I go to treatment right away.

So I did. After treatment, I relapsed. After relapsing, I went to another rehab. After that rehab, I went back to school.

I started at a small Florida community college. I was living in a halfway house and didn’t even have a car. My roommates would drive me to class in the morning and pick me up when they got out of work.

Despite being in early-sobriety, I didn’t find going to school too stressful or triggering. I was simply a sober student. My peers would stumble into class Monday morning hung over and boasting about who’d won beer pong. I’d walk into class and talk about what movie I’d seen or Sunday night football.

After two years at community college, and two years of sobriety, I transferred to a state university. That’s where I found many of the recovery resources listed below.

Recovery Resources Available to Students

Sober/Dry Dorms
This is probably the most well known resource for sober students. A sober dorm is any dorm which doesn’t allow students to drink or keep alcohol on the premise.

This also applies to drugs, although, in theory, most dorms are drug free because, surprise, drugs are illegal.

The Counseling Center
Most, if not all, colleges have a counseling center. This is a place students can go to see a therapist or psychiatrist. The best part is the fee is included in tuition. If medication is needed, it can be prescribed, and sometimes dispensed, at a discount.

Counseling centers often have ties to various student organizations and local support systems (think twelve-step fellowships or SMART Recovery).

Student Organizations & Clubs
There are a ton of student organizations that don’t revolve around shot-gunning beers or smoking a certain leafy green substance. It’s shocking, I know. I’ve found many clubs, from the chess club to the drama club to the local Mario Kart Appreciation Society, are substance free.

Then there are student organizations which are specifically centered around sobriety. I’m not sure all colleges have these, but if you live in an area with a large recovery community, it’s a good bet they have a student club.

Private Therapy
If, for whatever reason, the above options don’t work for year, fear not! There’s such a thing as private therapy.

Although this is often pricey, it’s money well spent. After all, would you rather waste $5,000 over the course of a semester on drugs and booze or spend that money on something that can help you stay sober, offer insight into your life, and help you grow as a person?

The choice is yours.

Twelve-Step Fellowships
Twelve-step fellowships are the oldest form of “addiction treatment” around. They offer, as the name implies, fellowship, support, and a spiritual solution to substance abuse. While this spiritual approach isn’t for everyone, it has helped millions.

Much like student organizations dedicated to recovery, twelve-step fellowships may not be an option depending on where you go to school. I’ve heard of rural areas where people drive for an hour to get to a twelve-step meeting. Hopefully, that’s just a recovery rumor and nothing more!

Outpatient Treatment Centers
Outpatient treatment centers offer the quality and insight of a residential rehab without the time commitment. In fact, the draw of many outpatient programs is their flexibility. They facilitate recovery for those who can’t, or won’t, take time away from work, school, or family.

A typical outpatient program offers groups several times a week, as well as a one-on-one session with a primary therapist.

National Impaired Driving Prevention Month | 3 Things You Can Do

Annually, the President of the United States issues a Proclamation declaring December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. In the past, it’s also been known as National Drunk Driving Prevention Month and National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

This year, President Obama issued his 2014 Proclamation, from which I quote:

“Reducing impaired driving and keeping our roadways safe is everyone’s responsibility. Parents and other caring adults can play an important role in educating young Americans about the dangers of impaired driving; adults can model good practices while driving and can help new drivers develop safe habits. This holiday season, all Americans can drive responsibly and encourage their loved ones to do the same, including by designating a sober driver or making alternative transportation arrangements. For more information, please visitwww.NHTSA.gov/DriveSoberwww.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP/DruggedDriving, and www.Distraction.gov.”

And as the President points out in his Proclamation – impaired driving is not just about drunk driving:

“Illegal drugs, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications, can be just as deadly on the road as alcohol, and preventing drugged driving is a public health imperative. As part of our 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, we are working to support the data collection that underlies evidence-based policy making, strengthening the protections that keep drugged drivers off the road, and helping bolster law enforcement officials’ ability to identify drug-impaired drivers.”

3 Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Alcohol Impaired Driving

So why is it that after a night of partying a person can think they are OK to drive?

So why is it that after a night of partying a person can think they are OK to drive?

Beyond the obvious admonition, “Don’t drink and drive,” here are three suggestions to help prevent drunk driving:

1. Familiarize yourself with the definition of a standard drink of each of the various alcoholic beverages, as well as the numbers of standard drinks per cocktail or drink container. This can help you decide when to intervene on a friend’s behalf, for example. It can also be a point of conversation leading up to a celebratory night on the town.

2.  Understand how they body processes alcohol and why staying within low-risk drinking limits is so important. Knowing these limits can further help you decide when to intervene on a friend’s behalf.

3.  Know that most people who drive while impaired are NOT alcoholics. To learn how it’s possible for a person to drink and “choose” to drive, check out this 10 minute video, “DUI – Is It a Choice or an Accident?

For more about drinking patterns and tips for cutting down, check out NIAAA’s website, Rethinking Drinking.

Specific to Drug Impaired Driving

As the President stated in his Proclamation, “Illegal drugs, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications, can be just as deadly on the road as alcohol.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports, “After alcohol, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana, is the substance most commonly found in the blood of impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. Studies in several localities have found that approximately 4 to 14 percent of drivers who sustained injury or died in traffic accidents tested positive for THC.”

For more on various drugs of abuse and how each effects the brain and body and thus a person’s ability to drive safely, check out NIDA’s Drugs of Abuse.

Help Spread the Word – December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month