Will the Decriminalization of Addiction Increase Rates of Substance Abuse?

As more and more states consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use as has been done in Colorado, or decriminalizing possession and use of marijuana and other substances, many are trying to guess the potential outcome of these legislative changes.

Will more illicit substances become available? Will more teenagers – who are never legally allowed to possess or use any mind-altering substance – be able to get their hands on these drugs more easily? Will more DUI charges pile up and deaths caused by the same? In general, many want to know whether or not the rates of substance abuse among the public will increase as the law becomes more tolerant of personal choice in regard to drug and alcohol abuse.

It is the US Attorney General Eric Holder’s position that a reduction in prison sentence for drug-related charges is the way to go, according to The New York Times. Though he does not advocate for completely legitimizing drug dealing or wiping the slate clean in terms of punishment for drug dealers, he does believe that the average sentence of 62 months should be cut back to 51 months, shortening the time spent in jail for most convicted of the crime by about one year.

The Financial Bottom Line

Should those in a position to make this change follow the suggestions of the US Attorney General, there would be a number of clear effects, including the reduction in the federal prison population by about 6,500 people over the course of the next five years. This would save the federal government a great deal of money by lowering the cost of running these prisons, but many question if it’s a cost-effective measure for the community at large if law enforcement and health care costs increase due to a rise in drug use and abuse.

However, US Attorney General Holder believes that even if this is the case, incarceration is not the answer. He said: “This overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable. It comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”

The United States Sentencing Commission responsible for writing the guidelines for judges’ sentencing will vote on how to proceed on the issue this month. Should they modify those guidelines according to Holder’s suggestions, the changes would take effect by late fall of this year unless Congress votes to overturn the modifications.

Helping Your Loved One Beat Addiction

Whether or not drug dealers spend four or five years in prison for their crimes, it will likely do little to change your addicted loved one’s access to their drug of choice. You can help them to overcome the addiction that is threatening their physical and emotional health by connecting them with a rehab program that provides the evidence-based treatment needed. Contact us at Alta Mira today for more information.

Men vs. Women: Gender and the Neurobiology of Addiction


Traditionally, more men than women have abused drugs and alcohol at disruptive or addictive levels, but in the past decades, the gap between the two genders has narrowed considerably as more and more women have developed substance abuse issues.

There are other differences between the two genders when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse as well. For example, according to a report published in the journal Experimental Neurobiology:

  • Women have a more extreme physiological reaction to substances of abuse, requiring lesser amounts and less time to feel their effects.
  • Women more quickly go through the stages of addiction as compared to men, developing addictive levels of use more quickly.
  • Women are more likely to be affected by triggers to relapse.
  • Women more often relapse in recovery and return to active addiction than men.

The prevailing theory is that estrogen impacts the dopamine systems and creates these differences in use and abuse patterns, but more research is needed to better understand how this works.

Does Drug Addiction Treatment Work for Women?

Absolutely. Though women face different challenges than men in recovery, achieving a life of sobriety is no more – or less – challenging due to gender variances. In order to address their unique obstacles to a life of abstinence, women will benefit from directed treatment and therapeutic interventions that will give them the coping skills they need to fight relapse triggers and maintain stability in their new life.

Some options include:

  • Women-centered support groups
  • Personal therapy that addresses trauma, sexual abuse, and other issues that may have occurred before or during addiction
  • Relapse prevention that is specific to their personal triggers to relapse
  • Couples counseling and/or therapy specific to family relationships and dynamics

What Do You Need to Heal?

Male or female, if substance abuse or addiction is a problem then the key to recovery is an intensive treatment program that is tailor-made to the patient’s needs. For example, if you also struggle with depression or anxiety, these issues should be addressed in drug rehab. If you need assistance with legal issues, help or access to help should be provided. If you need job skills training or help learning how to be a better parent, access to training sessions should be available during treatment.

Contact us at Alta Mira now to learn more about options available to you or your loved one in addiction recovery and help get your family back on track today.

Will Your Insurance Cover the Cost of Drug Rehab?

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With all the changes to health insurance policies and what companies are required to cover as well as what coverage individuals are required to carry, there has been much confusion when it comes to covering the cost of drug rehab. Many families are struggling to get the coverage they need to pay for treatment even though there have been very specific pieces of legislation enacted to ensure that they get the care they need when they need it.

What Should Happen

In 2008, a law called the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was approved, requiring that employer-provided health insurance plans for larger businesses offer coverage for substance abuse and related mental health issues at the same rate and level provided for other medical illnesses like cancer and other chronic disorders.

Though the law went into effect in 2010, patients have still had a hard time getting coverage for drug abuse treatment in the past couple of years. Many have been forced to cover most of the cost out of pocket or argue long and hard for a modicum of coverage for specific services.

The Added Challenge of the Affordable Care Act

In theory, the adoption of the Affordable Care Act this year was designed to ensure that even those who can’t afford health insurance have the coverage necessary to get help – especially help for substance abuse and mental health issues among Baby Boomers. According to USA Today, treatment for these two issues is on the list of essential health benefits that must be provided in all individual health insurance policies and policies for small businesses as well. The key factor is that, just as with large business-based health insurance policies, this coverage can be no more restrictive than coverage for other medical events.

Unfortunately, these well-intentioned laws are doing little to positively impact many patients’ experience when it comes to paying for treatment.

Michael Walsh is the CEO of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals (NAATP). He told USA Today: “Many providers … report less days and more difficulty with reimbursement since the final rules were established.”

The problem, according to Walsh, is that many insurance providers can’t come to a consensus when it comes to “what the practical implementation of the rules should be and what should be covered.”

The Coverage Your Loved One Needs to Heal

As the country works to resolve the many issues raised by the Affordable Care Act, many families in crisis are struggling and left to fight their insurance companies while also scraping together the funds they need from other sources (e.g., personal loans, personal savings, help from friends and family, etc.).

How are you handling the business of covering the cost of treatment for your loved one?

Can Building Up Your Immune System Help You Fight Addiction?

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When your body faces an illness, whether it’s a case of the flu or a tumor, the immune system responds, often sending copious white blood cells to the inflamed area and shutting down other functions in order to apply all resources to overcoming the illness.

When addiction is the illness in question, your immune system responds in a similar manner. Your personality changes as your body focuses on dealing with repercussions of chronic drug and alcohol abuse, and your ability to fight off other ailments is diminished as well. And when you stop taking your drug of choice, watch out. The body responds with a host of withdrawal symptoms that vary patient to patient but often look a lot like physical illness.

So how best can we manage the impact that chronic drug and alcohol abuse – and the strain of detox – take on the body in recovery?

Building Up Your Immune Response

Dealing with withdrawal symptoms is not like fighting off the flu, no matter how similar the symptoms may appear in some cases. You can’t take zinc lozenges to shorten your experience in detox or overload on vitamin C and expect to positively impact your body’s ability to fight off the effects of addiction.

However, the concept of increasing your body’s ability to flush out the toxins that have built up during drug use and more swiftly move toward physical stability in abstinence is a solid one. Feeling bad physically is one of the biggest reasons people relapse in early recovery, giving up before they really have a chance to get started. Working to feel better can provide positive focus and every little bit of positivity helps during this difficult time.

In order to fend off relapse and give yourself every opportunity to succeed, there are a number of little changes you can make that will help the process along and ease your experience along the way, including:


  • Drink lots of fluids. Staying hydrated can make sure that your body has the ability to flush out toxins, improve mood, and move more quickly toward full detox.
  • Eat, but eat well. Some people gorge themselves during the first weeks of recovery; others feel so poorly that they have no appetite. It’s important to eat but to focus on good nutrition. You need fruits, vegetables and protein to make sure that you have a range of nutrients as well as the energy to get through the detox process but limited amounts of sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods.
  • Get gentle exercise. This is not the time to start training for a marathon, but yoga, long walks, swimming, and other gentle physical activities can help you to feel better and sleep better as you heal.
  • Give and get support from others. Detox is not easy, which is why it is recommended that those who undergo the process do so in an inpatient treatment facility. Here you can get the support you need from substance abuse treatment professionals and peers going through the same issues as you get closer and closer to a place of balance in recovery.


Start Today


Don’t wait to get started on the rehabilitation experience that can change your life. Contact us at Alta Mira now to learn more about the options we provide in detox and addiction treatment.


The Troubling Truth About Long-Term Use of Buprenorphine

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Buprenorphine, a medication approved by the FDA for nothing but the treatment of opiate addiction, is dispensed in its pure form, Subutex, or in combination with naloxone, an opiate-blocking agent, in the form of Suboxone. These two medications can be used in the treatment of dependence upon heroin and other opiate drugs in some cases.

For some patients, buprenorphine is a lifesaver, providing them with the freedom they crave from their drug of choice and the opportunity to pursue a meaningful recovery through therapy.

For others, buprenorphine is a door to even more problems with addiction and potential death due to overdose. Once touted as a drug that was impossible to abuse, it’s clear now that that is not the case. In combination with other substances or used alone for recreational purposes, it has taken the lives of many.

Are the drug’s positive attributes worth the risks?

Growing Problems

The New York Times reports that a minimum of 1,350 of the 12,780+ doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine across the country have been charged with a range of offenses related to the drug, including:

  • Excessive prescriptions
  • Insurance fraud
  • Practicing medicine while impaired
  • Sexual misconduct

Many have been arrested or suspended from practicing medicine, which has left the patients who are genuinely attempting to recover from addiction using the drug without support that they need.

Additionally, the following problems have been increasingly associated with buprenorphine use and abuse in the past few years:

  • Illegal use in jails and prisons
  • Illegal use causing high rates of drug seizure by law enforcement
  • High rate of calls to poison control and admissions to the ER
  • High rate of pediatric hospital admissions when children accidentally ingest the drug

Potential Benefits

Many argue that there are other substances that are legal for use medically that can be harmful when abused as well. Prescription painkillers and sedatives, for example, can lead to addiction and overdose, but they are still widely prescribed for the treatment of a number of medical ailments.

They also point to all the success stories of those who were living with a debilitating addiction and found their way to abstinence by way of buprenorphine. For a number of patients, the use of medications like buprenorphine is the only way to get through detox without relapse and get to the work of building a life in recovery.

However, the long-term nature of recovery using this method may not be the best choice for those who would benefit from more quickly breaking free from dependence upon any substance.

Is Medicated Detox the Right Choice for Your Loved One?

No two people are alike in their needs during recovery. Depending upon your loved one’s experience in addiction and/or past efforts in treatment as well as their goals for recovery, the answer to that question will vary.

Contact us at Alta Mira now to speak to someone about the specifics of your loved one’s needs and help them begin the process of treatment today.

The Reflex of Addiction: What It Means to Break Free

Long-term drug use and abuse create changes in the brain – changes that can last long after the person goes through detox and stops using their drug of choice and other illicit substances as well. Some define the continued chemical reaction in the brain documented through brain imaging studies when the person is exposed to images or reminders of drug use as proof positive that addiction becomes a reflex for an addict.

Dr. Charles P. O’Brien is the co-founder of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania. He told NPR: “Addiction is a memory, it’s a reflex. It’s training your brain in something which is harmful to yourself.”

So for those who have developed an addiction, will this reflex haunt them for life? Or will treatment help them to turn over a new leaf?

The Chronic Nature of Addiction

The “reflex” of addiction does not need to negatively define a life spent in recovery after active addiction. Rather it can be attributed to one of the many issues that must be dealt with as one learns to turn the wheel in a different direction and avoid circling back to destructive behaviors.

Addiction is defined as a chronic disease. It has no cure, and thus patients are advised to avoid complacency in recovery. This means starting out their journey with a comprehensive addiction treatment program and following it up with months, if not years, of ongoing support. This can come in the form of any combination of the following:

  • 12-step meetings
  • Personal therapy
  • Alumni groups
  • Sober living
  • Holistic treatments (e.g., yoga, nutritional counseling, acupuncture, etc.)

Retraining the Brain

All bad habits can be broken, and if drug and alcohol use is a reflex response to certain stimuli, then it can be replaced with more positive behaviors. Which positive behaviors will be the most suitable replacement will vary from person to person. Often, a part of intensive recovery is to help find the right combination of options that best suits each patient. Some options include:

  • Medication. Especially when co-occurring mental health symptoms are an issue, medication can be helpful to mitigate relapse.
  • Sports and exercise. When people feel better physically, they may be less inclined to indulge in behaviors that they know will do them harm.
  • Job skills and career. Working toward improving career options can be highly motivational and the knowledge that a return to drug abuse will destroy all they’ve worked for can help to manage cravings.
  • New hobbies. A new craft, a new skill, a class at the local college, a renewed interest in an old hobby – all these can help to provide a positive outlet for those attempting to avoid drug and alcohol abuse.

Start Out on the Right Foot

If your loved one is attempting to overcome drug and alcohol abuse or addiction, the first step is professional treatment. Call us at Alta Mira today to learn more about our evidence-based program.