Monday, October 12, 2015

Substance Abuse Disorder in Young Adults

Complexities in Practice and Understanding Theory

The above topic is a training I attended last Friday at Brynn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work & Research. In order to keep my license to practice in the state of Pennsylvania, I must complete 45 hours of training every two years. In order to keep my job at Fairmount, I must complete 25 hours of training because that is what's required for DDAP. It is safe to say, I will be in a classroom as long as I want to keep my license and since it took a hell of a lot of work to get that license in the first place (besides sitting for state boards) I intend to make sure I keep it.

I work with a lot of patients between the ages of 18 to 30 years old and given that the average heroin addict is a white male between the ages of 18 to 30 years old from the suburbs, I chosen a class to address this population. I would rate this training as no more than adequate. Though, I did learn some new information most of the information I was already aware of. I wanted to learn more about prevention as well as more therapeutic interventions. There was very little information about prevention and the interventions spoken about such as Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are techniques I already use. I guess I wanted something more.

What I did learn;

Chester, Delaware and Lancaster Counties have the highest addiction rates especially as it pertains to opiates. It is not Philadelphia.

Most kids start taking pills right out of their parent's medicine cabinets right in the home. The message I received appeared "common sense", lock up the medications.

Environmental concerns around the pharmaceutical age and the minimization of the use of marijuana fuels the addiction process.

When raising your children "Explain not blame". We live in a time of "Prescription Explosion, Minimization of Marijuana, An Opiate Epidemic, College Age Drinking". One crushed 30 mg Percocet equals 5 bags of heroin. Kids ages 18 to 25 years old are the biggest abusers of prescription opioid pain relievers (right out of their parent's medicine cabinets), ADHD stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs such as Ativan, Xanax, ect. More than 3,000 young adults die yearly from prescription drug overdoses. Notice this number does not include heroin addicts. Today, drug overdose is the leading cause of death in young adults.

75% of opioid addiction patients switch over to heroin. More than 300 million opioid pain medication prescriptions are written every year which equals one bottle of pills per adult in America. I will add that this is one of my "pet peeves". I will never understand why doctors/dentists feel it is necessary to write opioid prescriptions for every little pain/procedure. One in twenty high school students has abused Vicodin, and one in thirty high school students  has abused Oxycontin. Guess what? Over 50% of them started at age 12 years old.

Then there is the myth surrounding today's marijuana and its addictive substance known as THC. In the 1970's and 1980's marijuana contained lower than 4 to 5 % of the addictive substance THC compared to today's marijuana which contains an average of 80 to 90 % of the addictive substance of THC. Because of the popularity of medical marijuana and the perception that marijuana is not dangerous has lead to a culture of acceptance. The problem is the concentration of THC in today's marijuana is a catalyst to mental health problems in our youth. Our brain does not even fully develop until age 25 years old so using a substance high in THC on an undeveloped brain creates problems with the brain. especially when it comes to impulse control, decision making and problem solving.

There was also a lot of discussion around process addictions and substituting one addiction for another. Many folks with substance addictions also have process addictions or those who become sober from the substances turn to process addictions such as gambling, codependency, internet, food, sex, pornography, gaming, body image and obsessive dieting and exercise, shopping, clothes, clutter, work, cutting, kleptomania, depressive cycles and being attracted to chaos.


38% of us cannot go more than 10 minutes without checking our cell phones, or email.

There is a whole new generation growing up in the technology age which fragments language and leads to fragmented relationships. Of course if we do not know how to form healthy relationships than we automatically decrease our much needed social interaction and supports. The most important thing adults can do is model behavior. Put the cell phones away at the dinner table and limited internet use.


82% of substance abuse and/or process addicts also have a mental health diagnosis. It does not matter which came first but it does matter that both are treated at the same time.

Counselors need to understand both addiction and mental health and learn to bridge the gap.

As a society we must remove the stigma of those with addictions and mental health diagnosis in order for proper treatment to occur. There are so many people who suffer in silence for fear of being an outcast in society. It is a disgrace how society treats those who suffer whether it be the individual or family.

"Remember if you do not heal from both you may not heal from either".

What can we do to help? EDUCATE EDUCATE EDUCATE

The important thing we can do to help our children as they enter into young adulthood is to build resiliency.  Kids who are resilient do better than kids who are not resilient. It can be developed over time because it is learned. Pay attention to your kids. Listen intend of preach. Nurture. Make your home a safe place. Model the behavior you want from your kids. Do not be inconsistent. Watch your unrealistic expectation of your children. Children who do not feel so good inside feel isolated and will look for external things to feel better. And remember that even the healthiest family framework can produce a child who wonders externally however if they were given a solid foundation, and they do not die prematurely as a result of the external instant gratification with help and support, they can come back and live healthy productive life.

(Michael Blanche MSS LCSW)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I Love This Kid

We had a wonderful weekend. Though the goal was to start closing up the shore house, we did everything but close up the shore house.

We went out to breakfast and dinner in addition to an old fashion ice cream parlor on Washington Street in Cape May.

We found ourselves in a movie theater for the third time this week. The latest movie was "Pan" and yes we sat in those comfy reclining chairs and ate hot dogs..

We walked on the beach at sunset.

And witnessed an amazing sunset.

Nothing like waking up and having this view right outside your window. Yes, our back yard and side yard are the wet lands. The picture is through our living room screen.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

As It Turns

Last week began with a movie date with my grandsons to see Hotel Transylvania in 3D.

The theater had those new reclining seats which were "oh so" very comfortable.

I am really glad my teenage grandson still likes to hang with his grandmother.

The week also meant the arrival of my granddaughter's party dress and shoes. The picture does not do this dress justice.

What is Fall without a new pair of boots in black and brown?

Tuesday I was given an award with a gift card and thank you note from work. I felt humbled.

 Aubree stood up in her crib for the first time this past week. I was so happy Josh snapped a picture and sent it to me. I just love her beautiful blue eyes.

Bill, my sister Marianne and I went to see "The Who" Live from Hyde Park. What a great show!

We are currently down at the shore house this weekend and here is my teenage grandson a.k.a "Sleeping Beauty". At our Wa Wa stop last night via in route to Cape May, he requested a French Vanilla Cappuccino and two apples for the drive. I am really feeling old. First he goes to high school and now he requests a cappuccino. We are planning another "spring break" out of the country trip for 2016 in which we will be taking Shaun and Nikolas to Canada. So far the hotel is booked for the nights we will spend in Niagara Falls (Canadian side).  The airline tickets to Toronto will be booked this week as well as the hotel in Toronto and the tickets to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  Let's not forget the rental car. We are currently working on the overall agenda because after we fly to Toronto it will be a road trip to various places in Canada.

Yes. My grandson is spoiled. New Flyers Jersey and a basketball.

 And then I was sent this picture. The picture has been in my hands the last few weeks and I really did not know whether I wanted to address this or not. However, there is so much "wrong" with this picture and where it apparently came from that I do not know what to say other than these folks are not her family other than her mother and half siblings.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Saturday Morning

It was cute to see my middle son write a paper last night for school. He is in an accelerated program at Villanova and goes to class Friday nights 6 to 930 then all day Saturdays 9 to 4. His immediate goal is to be a Certified Recovery Specialist in the Drug & Alcohol field. Once he completes his classes, he will sit for a state board exam. He really loves being a student at Villanova and I am happy he has a foreseeable goal.

My oldest son also returned to school this Fall. He is a part time student at Community College taking English Literature and an English Writing Course. He told me the events surrounding his youngest brother prompted him to return to school and his goal is to major in Criminal Justice.

Both boys are doing really well in their classes. One boy was writing a paper at the dining room table late last night while I was on the phone with the other boy who told me he just finished up a paper for his English class. The boys are all adults in their 30's.

The apple does not fall far from the tree. Their mother seems to always be in a classroom too and she is nearing retirement and a grandmother.

Bill and I are going to take the grandsons to the movies tomorrow to see Hotel Transylvania. Seems to be an appropriate movie for this time of the year. Aubree's Halloween costume arrived yesterday. Josh wanted her to be "Pebbles" for her first Halloween and amazingly we found a costume online and had it shipped.

Yesterday, I ordered her party dress from Macy's for her first Christmas and/or first birthday which is December 21st. It is black velvet on the top and white organza on the bottom with a red stash and rose flower at the waist. I also ordered black Maryjane's.

I will not mentioned I also ordered two pair of boots for me:) The boots are the same design just different colors. Everyone must have a new pair of black and brown boots for the new season. Last week it was two new pairs of flats in black and nude colors.

Bill and I stayed home from the shore this weekend because of the rain though I wonder if we should have went down to check on the house since there have been high winds and flooding in the area and our backyard  is the "wet lands". I am sure the community will contact us if there are any issues as they did last year when a tree fell on our screen room. We will be closing up the house soon for the winter.

Winter. It will be here before we know it!

Then, the holiday season and all its craziness will be upon us. I am already thinking about what to buy for Christmas gifts though most gifts will be in the form of cash or gift cards. Unless the older grandchildren ask for something specific, they will probably receive cash/gift cards. As they get older they have specific tastes therefore it is difficult to buy for them. Reservations have been made for months now to celebrate Nikolas's birthday at the resort in the mountains which we do every November. This year I reserved a one bedroom suite because the boys are older and require more room than a basic hotel room. Pretty soon, we will be reserving connecting rooms. It still blows my mind that Shaun is 14 years old and a Freshman in high school. I am just glad he still likes to hang out with his grandparents and never turns down a movie date or weekend away.

Anyway to close this post, let me share this week's pictures,

Mom came to visit.

My adorable girl Aubree came to visit.

Tasting Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream minus the chips with grandma.

Swimming in her Minnie Mouse Tub.

The girl is always crawling under tables to investigate.

The Pope was in town.

Winter clothes shopping for Aubree.

I am in a wine club where we taste test wines and write about them. This was this week's wine.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A Girl Cannot Have Too Many Cute Shoes

Especially if she is my granddaughter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Papal Mass On the Parkway

Pope Francis visited Philadelphia on September 26th and September 27th  and though I was the counselor on site and could not make it to the festivities, my sister Marianne worked the security detail and took some great shots of the September 27th Papal Mass.
What an amazing weekend for all of us.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Continuing with the Journey

I do not know what is triggering me lately but I have been having nightmares again. They started last weekend and I am not sure if it is because of the recent conflict around Ava's mother or if it is memories stemming from my childhood around my own biological father. Lately, I have been remembering how much I missed my father (Ron) when I was a small child. How I could not express this feeling to my mom or dad (Art) for fear they would be angry with me. I remember laying across my mother's bed crying alone when my father (Ron) was sent back to Vietnam for a second tour of duty during the war. I think I was around 8 years old. Prior to that he was in and out of my life since I was 5 years old. While state side he was stationed in Rhode Island and sometimes he would drive down to Philly over a weekend. Most of my growing up years, I did not have him in my life. He was a career Naval Officer who served one tour in the Korean War and two tours in the Vietnam War. I was 16 years old before he retired after 27 years of military service. I did not understand any of this while I was growing up. I only knew he was gone and my mother seemed to be angry with him all the time. People do not realize how much a child feels because a child cannot verbalize those feelings. Overall I had good childhood years and I grew to love my dad (Art) very much however I never felt completely a part of the family as my younger siblings did and I do remember the feeling of loss and fear.

I wonder if these memories surfaced because of Ava. I often wonder what she is thinking or feeling and if she can verbalize those feelings. My guess would be "no". She is still pretty young and probably cannot verbalize what she feels or does not understand. I do not know for sure since I have not seen her in two years. It has not been for lack of trying on my part. I have hundreds of pictures and videos from her first four years when she was a major part of my life. There are so many memories of things we did together and places we went to. Lots of family memories. More memories than I ever had with my own biological father. I doubt she will forget those memories especially if she is anything like me. I have memories all the way back to being 2 years old kneeling on a chair in my grandmother's kitchen watching my grandmother kneading pie crusts. I still remember my grandmother doing laundry in the shed connected to the kitchen on Ridge Ave using a ringer washer and hanging it out in the yard or basement to dry.  I remember living with my grandparents after my parents were divorced. Considering my mom remarried when I was 3 years old and we moved out of my grandparents' house seems to be a pretty decent memory.

The nightmares can be disturbing though I am not as affected by them as I had been in the past. Time has a habit of healing some things. Truth be told, I also did a lot of work on myself in the past few years. I came to a point when I had to decide if I wanted to be a survivor or drown in self-pity. I am glad I made that choice to be a survivor because life is so much better today despite some nonsense or pain. I am no longer a victim who drowns in self-pity. I have not been for some time. What a wonderful feeling so if anyone out there is reading this and feels sorry for self, it is worth the work to turn that feeling around. I promise you, life is so much better. I have compassion and empathy for those around me who have not yet crawled out of the "victim phrase". I also know that each of us is responsible for our own journey in life. When you give up trying to control how another person thinks, feels or behaves, you gain a sense of freedom and a higher level of happiness. I am only responsible for myself and no one else. My children are adults. My grandchildren have parents. I have my husband and my career, both whom I love.  My future is about work, travel, planning for retirement, enjoying my children and grandchildren, laughing with my sister, and walking the rest of this journey with my husband by my side.

Yes. Life is good today.