Drinko de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo Alcohol Use
If we are to believe Jimmy Kimmel’s man on the street interviews, it’s always astonishing what everyday Americans don’t know about America. Stranger yet, is what Americans don’t know about other countries. Most Americans don’t hold a passport and believe that all parts of the world aspire to be us and can’t believe that much of Europe thinks we’re are badly dressed fat people with excessive TV channels, a total lack of culture, and notoriously racist and violent. Of the 1/3 of Americans who hold a passport, most of those won’t ever use them. We are happy right here near a Walmart, with the safety of guns at our fingertips. So why is Cinco de Mayo so wildly popular? In a word: booze.

While Americans are pretty oblivious to and happy with our ethnocentrism, we also love a good party. Cinco de Mayo has now surpassed St. Patrick’s day in liquor sales. That’s a dubious honor considering the history of the Irish people. Google Cinco de Mayo and the history of it is and what it celebrates is pretty low on the first page, well beneath many recipes for various margaritas. The Americanization of the holiday is just another reason to get drunk, as if a regular old Tuesday wouldn’t do. It looks like we have tequila, tecate, Dos Equis, and Corona to thank for the wildly popular holiday. It’s easy to see what is really important by the sales of items on May, 4. Essentially, avocado and tequila sales spike. Let’s get drunk and have some guacamole to support our neighbors to the south! Well played liquor companies, yet another marketing masterpiece to spike the sales of your damage inducing product. Cinco de Mayo is the Olive Garden of holidays. It’s like a bad taco with ground beef and iceberg lettuce off the .99 menu at any number of Mexican fast food restaurants.

The media is awash with the typical “designate a driver” “use responsibly” and “buzzed driving is drunk driving” rhetoric all of which is a good reminder but is a reminder needed? Is there anyone out there who is defending the act of drinking and driving? What about all the other things that will go wrong tomorrow during the tequila soaked piñata fiesta? Alcohol use sees a rise in many things, among them, sexual assault and no where is this more true then on a college campus.

According to a Kent State study on college campus alcohol abuse, every year 500,000 students will have unprotected sex, more than 100,000 will be too intoxicated to know whether they consented to sexual intercourse and more then 70,000 students will experience alcohol related sexual assault. The reminders not to drink and drive don’t address this problem in any way. Holidays like Cinco de Mayo see a spike in all of the collateral damage with a rise in alcohol use. As a side note, guess who doesn’t pay a cent for all the wreckage? Alcohol companies.

I am often asked, “when is drinking a problem?” “when should I seek treatment?”. Questions of that nature. Holidays like Cinco de Mayo won’t give you the answer but they may provide some insight. Using things like fabricated holidays to rationalize excessive drinking isn’t diagnostic criteria but it may give pause to be honest about how important alcohol is to your life and what problems arise from it. The truth is, most people are better off without intoxication and the numbers don’t lie, alcohol is very dangerous stuff. I like to use this simple test “would I go if they didn’t have a bar”. My answer was always “no”. I’m going because I can get sloppy drunk and hide among all the other people getting sloppy drunk. I like guacamole and all but it’s not the guacamole that would be enough to get me out midweek. From a cultural level, Cinco de Mayo is a made up reason to get drunk. On an individual level, if one is making up reasons to get drunk, give me a call.

Oklahoma, Where Insanity Comes Sweeping Down the Plains

Oklahoma Court DecisionYesterday in a bizarre ruling, an Oklahoma court found forced oral sex with someone too intoxicated to consent, legal. Huh? Can that be possible? “Yes” is the sad and inexplicable answer. The case that produced the ruling involved a 17 year old boy and 16 year old girl. A later hospitalization showed the girl had a blood alcohol content of .34, which could produce death. She was drunk, bone saturated drunk beyond recognition and certainly beyond any ability to consent to anything. There were no reports regarding the boy’s level of intoxication, if any. Rightfully so, there are numerous public outcries from advocacy groups and just about anyone with a a sense of humanity. Think about the message here: pesky courtship and dating rituals, consensual decisions are way too bothersome, all you need is a 12 pack and a passed out date. There are so many issues with this that should be examined and the media is alive with condemning the court’s decision. Much of the attention is focused on the boy. That he was a calculating sexual predator. He might be but there is a massive oversight when discussing the problem and that is the alcohol. Of course the alcohol doesn’t excuse the behavior and certainly doesn’t let anyone off the hook but it’s playing a big role here and we should take a look at it.

Link Between Alcohol Use and Sexual Assault

For years and years we have said “don’t drink and drive” and “designate a driver”. That’s good policy but doesn’t do anything to address the many other things that go wrong when alcohol is poured freely. One of those things is sexual assault. Research is clear on this very simple point: rise in alcohol use, rise in sexual assault. The vast majority of sexual assaults on campuses are when both parties had been drinking. It’s not that the boy who did this isn’t responsible, he is, but alcohol shares in his culpability.

What if there were no drinking involved. Maybe the two teens would have gone to a movie and he would have nervously tried to kiss her. Maybe it wouldn’t have been that wholesome of a scene, who knows. As Americans, our relationship with alcohol is so woven into our lives that we seem to forget to take a look at the role it plays when things go south.

This is an insane ruling in the state of Oklahoma, my sincere hope is there are efforts in place to change this. The alcohol problem has long reaching tentacles and it’s a problem we all share.

Senator “No Grass(ley)” has Plenty of Hypocrisy

For the co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Chuck Grassley has some really antiquated beliefs about Marijuana. In a recent hearing to determine if the justice department is doing their job with enforcing federal marijuana laws in the states, Grassley proclaimed “bad people smoke marijuana”. He is correct, bad people do smoke it, so do good people, fat people, mediocre people, and just about the entire bouquet of humanity. If you’re one to believe research, Marijuana use crosses all demographic lines. The statement made by Grassley shows just how out of touch he is with current trends and research relying on “just say no” culture to inform his leadership in a really important arena. To be fair, the senator is from a different generation and he is a republican from Iowa, so it stands to reason the Marijuana use wouldn’t be his thing but he doesn’t have to use it, he does have a responsibility to govern based on fact, not his opinion or desire for a weed free Iowa. 

Chuck Grassley
Here’s where this gets really sticky for Grassley and company. As much as he hates Marijuana, he loves booze, maybe not on a personal level but certainly on a policy level. Emails and calls to the senators press office with the simple question “does the senator drink alcohol?” went unreturned, so I cannot confirm or deny the senators personal habits with intoxicants but we can find out certain things. Iowa, by state law, can not tax alcohol more than 1% (tax.iowa.gov). The last change in taxes on alcohol in the state was in 1986. To put that into context I was drinking at beer parties with Madonna blaring trying to talk to girls in neon mini skirts. Iowa taxes beer .19 cents a gallon. Effectively, all of this means a few things, alcohol gets to preserve its  low tax monopoly on legal intoxication and amass wealth while the tax payer gets to clean up the metaphorical broken glass and puke. One thing is for sure, Iowa wants  Iowans to be able to get drunk on the cheap. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Iowa grows corn. Lots and lots of corn and corn is critical to distilling many kinds of  spirits. Take a step further and Grassley takes contributions from beer, distilled spirits, and wine, not to mention presiding on the agriculture subcommittee (again, think corn). 

Alcohol is sloppy stuff. It contributes to violence between partners, families, and communities. Alcohol is cause for many uninsured ER visits, loss of life, and the erosion of family life. Marijuana, while not without risk, doesn’t come with the collateral damage of alcohol. For one, there is no known lethal dose of the stuff. That alone is a vast improvement considering the numbers of people who drink themselves to death, many of them 18-25 years olds. Marijuana is way less likely to produce the damage that alcohol does. The senator’s policy doesn’t allow for choice in the matter and it supports people drinking. What gives, senator? Often times, this type of policy is steeped in the disproven fantasy of a “drug free America”. Americans aren’t going to give up intoxication any more than they are going to give up guns so why not be honest about it and let them choose a safer form? The great hypocrisy of all of this is that often this moral posturing is pontificated at a cocktail party, scotch in hand. 

I’m with the senator. I wish people, especially young people with developing minds and bodies would avoid intoxication in any form altogether. Given, that seems as likely as regaining my wash board abs, the question becomes reducing harm and managing risk. Maybe he doesn’t even know it but the message from Grassley to Iowans and any other policy geeks who pay attention is “drink up, kids!”  And that, quite simply, is bad policy.

Cunning, Baffling, and Powerful…Even for Moms

Mother's Intuition

It was a mom’s gut intuition.  I had to fly to Maui to see my son who I envisioned flailing in desperation due to excessive alcohol consumption.  He moved there with the dream of being a dive master, but I felt he was taking a different type of dive.

My cousin joined me and with feet on the ground, we tracked him to a hotel – only to have a security guard have to open the door of the room he was staying.  I turned a corner to find my 29 year old son in a precarious situation on the bed with eyes glazed staring at the ceiling.  I quietly whispered his name, thinking he was dead, and he blinked.  My cousin and I went into flight mode, trying to pick him up off the bed – watching him crawl on the floor – hearing him spout clear jibberish – and we made a phone call to 911.

Police and paramedics showed up and as the former talked a ‘yep just another drunk’ conversation, I caught the eyes of one of latter, a paramedic who clearly understood that was not acceptable to me.  While my son could talk surprisingly in the alcoholic state, he did not want help.  So, in a compassionate voice, the paramedic said,” buddy let’s go”.  And, I climbed into the passenger side of the ambulance with gratitude that the paramedic understood no was not an option.

We paced the hospital ER floor until the head ER doctor called me in and proceeded to tell me if I drank as much as my son, I’d be dead.  “Well, this is not about me, so what are you going to do? ”  I responded.  With crossed arms he told, “nothing” because miraculously my son was talking and he didn’t want help, so it was impossible to help him.

I heard, I’m possible – and that answer is my number one lesson. Never, ever, let a hospital official say they can’t help your child because they are over age and said no.  Impossible, I think not!

It was my cousin who said let’s call Joe.  On the other side of the country, he got on plane in Brooklyn.  I clearly thought he would head to the beach, but he headed to our hotel, where he asked to see my son.  Back from the hospital and with a bottle we couldn’t pry from his hands, I had left him in the room to welcome Joe.  I opened the door to see him slumped on the couch.  Joe looked in, turned and said to me, “you are no longer here.”

Even writing that, I start crying with my heart in my throat as Joe explained he will be the only lifeline.  In a hotel room down the hall my cousin and I waited, for days while Joe called paramedics twice more, with an intention to get my son sober enough to get him off the island avoiding seizures and getting some kind of confirmation that he would agree to leave, and get help.

And, my son, who doesn’t even remember I had been in Maui for almost two weeks, still didn’t want help.  He was so still under the influence that he thought the hotel assigned Joe as another person in his room.  So, it was time to make another decision.

So lesson number two, don’t wait for someone to hit rock bottom – set it up.  Excruciating, based on the premise that he has two choices, to live or die – and it is not only him who will do either, but his family and friends as well.

So, with a call to my former husband and friend, I got consensus – to sell my son’s truck, take most of his clothes and leave him with a pair of shorts and a top and flip flops, to take his wallet and only leave his driver’s license and medical insurance card, and leave his phone.  Then I went to the front desk and checked him out of his room.  He still didn’t know I was there.  While getting more sober, Joe was his lifeline.  More than excruciating.

With Joe back on a plane to Brooklyn, and it being a total of 13 days, my cousin and I got ready to head to the airport as well.  Time for us to go home, such a hard decision.

About two hours before our flight, I got the first call.  “Mom, I can’t find my truck.”  I told him I was sorry and I loved him, then hung up and cried.  About a half hour later, I got the second call, “Mom, I had to check out of the hotel and can’t find another to stay at and I don’t have my wallet.”  I told him he might want to find a shelter before it got dark.  I told him I loved him, then hug up and cried some more.  About another half hour later, I got the third call, “Mom, I don’t know what to do.”

I suggested he look at his phone – there were two numbers to call.  One to dear friends of ours (that I was with at that exact time) who would pick him up off the streets and bring him to the airport, and the other Joe, to meet him in Brooklyn at the sober living home.  A minute later, my friend’s phone rang, and it was my son, ready to be picked up off the streets in Maui and head to Brooklyn.

Of course, I wanted to run to him, to hold him, to tell him life is worth living, but I had to let go of that lifeline.  And because I did, he is alive.

My son is alive because of excruciating decisions validated by the depth of wisdom of Joe, the steadfast love of my cousin, the loyal support of our Maui friends, the incomparable belief of our family…and my son making the choice not only for him to live, but all of us to live.

He’s coming to visit for Mother’s Day…and I am sobbing with joy as I write that.  There were a few other people that were steadfast realistic in this journey, and I thank them profoundly.  They know who they are.

It is possible; don’t accept ‘we can’t help because he/she doesn’t want help’ – and you might have set up rock bottom – because our kids are always our kids and sometimes through life they need our help, even when they don’t want it.

A lifeline, Joe saved yet another life.

Urine Trouble or Are You?

Urine Testing in Recovery

For many, the metric of success in recovery is the binary urine test. “What was the urine test result?” Is one of the most common question we get from families. It is true, it is an important data point but it isn’t the whole story and maybe it’s not even the most important part of the story. A “clean” test, ironic name that developed given urine is waste, is cause for celebration while a “dirty” test incites anger and feelings of forlorn defeat. So what’s the real value of a urine test? The answer, like almost everything in the recovery world is: it depends.

The first thing to keep in mind is that a urine test is only valid for a very short period of time. Fast acting drugs like adderall or cocaine could easily be out of the body in the gap between tests. So even if a test is clean, it doesn’t mean the individual isn’t or hasn’t used. After many years dealing with urine tests, it’s also important to know that the addiction will pull in individual in to amazing lengths to manipulate a test. At least with the boys. Observing urine tests is one of my least favorite chores of the job but it’s needed if we’re going to get efficacy. Believe it or not I have said on more than one occasion “huh, there seems to be a visine bottle strapped to your ‘situation’, why might that be?”. The idea being, if one fills a visine bottle full of clean urine, one can simulate the act and come up with a clean test. At one point I had a DEA agent work out a deal with a urologist. Urologist would drain DEA agents bladder, replace with clean urine, DEA agent supplied urologist with cocaine. Bartering is a lost art but in this case? Wow, really? So what do they really mean?

Think of sobriety as a pie chart, a urine test is a 20% slice of the pie. We as a culture get very hung up on “total abstinence” which is great but it may take time to get there. A result of “dirty” doesn’t quantify. So in other words, a chronic daily user may have had an episodic use. If they used daily, came into treatment at some level and used once over the last 30 days, in my view, that’s great progress, let’s keep going. The notion of that being “failure” is shaming and shame never helps, not ever. Also, in the mind of those addicted the thought is “if they think I’m using anyway, I might as well”.

The poppy seed bagel defense. At some point, someone googled if poppy seeds could produce a positive result for opiates. The answer is yes– in theory. One would have to eat poppy seeds by the spoonful for hours and hours for that to happen, and yet, we hear “I eat a poppy seed bagel every morning, that must be it” all the time. The issue isn’t poppy seeds the issue is it sets up a cat and mouse dynamic. “You’re using !” “No I’m not” and that goes nowhere. When trying to support someone in regaining their life honesty without anger is key, not always possible but important. If there isn’t a dynamic of safety to self report, very little progress is made. So urine screening is important but what else is?

The greatest indicator of someone doing well in recovery is their actions. When words match actions over time, trust is built. Showing up on time, following through with what was said or agreed upon, new friends and interests, engagement in the community, going back to school are all solid indicators that a urine test just won’t reveal. Sustained recovery is more then using or not using, though not using seems to be the ante. It’s like spring, seeing new growth on barren branches. Lifestyle change is critical or it just won’t work for very long. Plus, urine tests are gross so it’s time we devalue them to being 20% of the pie rather than the whole pie.

America Needs to Rethink Intoxication. America’s Royal Family Could Lead the Way.

Rethinking Intoxication in America

The Kennedy clan has had well-documented travails with demon alcohol. Some members of America’s royal family have even had their destinies redrawn by their use. It could be argued that a drunk driving accident at Chappaquiddick cost the family another Presidency. Perhaps fittingly, then, their long and storied relationship with booze goes back to the very beginning–it was the saloon business that got them started with their unique American experience. To this day, some members of the family are still addled by the stuff, and any conversation about them is riddled with hush-toned tales of the latest escapade, whether it be tragic or merely gossip-worthy.

But not all of them have allowed the family curse to seal their fate. Christopher Kennedy Lawford and his cousin Patrick have taken their family’s commitment to social justice and focused it on furthering the cause of Americans in “recovery” from addiction, a massive group of people still living in shrouded mystery and marginalization. Patrick Kennedy has been a strong supporter of the mental health parity bill, which, in short, would make it mandatory for insurance companies to cover mental health they same way they cover physical health. In other words, insurance companies would no longer be able to feed the myth that many of the conditions that plague man are character-related, and they would have to pay for the treatment of addiction just as they would for diabetes or cancer.

Patrick has taken on the issue of the stigma of addictive disease, and I thank him for that. But I can’t, for the life of me, understand his vehement opposition to legalizing a substance that is safer than the one that not only made his family so wealthy in the first place but which continues to hang around their collective neck like an albatross.

His arguments are weak. For starters, he boldly claims that more people would smoke marijuana if it were legal. I don’t think this is true. The “statistics” might increase, but I think that would be almost entirely attributable to the fact that more people would honestly report that they smoke marijuana. That’s a big difference. But what if a few more people grabbed a joint and took a haul off of it, so what? Intoxication is here to stay, my friends and it is quite simply a government overreach to tell people how they can do it. It’s simply a fact that it would be far better to have a population intoxicated on marijuana than on booze. The data is quite clear in terms of which is better for public safety, for example. When was the last time you saw a bloody bar fight between two people who were stoned on weed?

Kennedy also argues that marijuana isn’t harmless. He’s correct about that–what is harmless? — It is less harmful than other methods of intoxication and it goes on regardless of its legal status. He also worries about marketing toward kids. But that’s not a reason to make people who use it criminals. it’s a reason to have careful regulation of sales and marketing. If Kennedy wants to take on the risks of marketing to kids, why not take on alcohol–where we already see it happening–rather than worry himself silly about what might happen with marijuana. Alcohol is a frequent sponsor of college sporting events. Why does alcohol get a free pass, Patrick?

But the thing that concerns me most about Kennedy’s position is that he and his cousin Chris are among of the very few self-disclosing “sober” members of the American elite. We need them, their voices, their ability to open doors , and their leadership. What we don’t need is pandering to established useless policy that does nothing about the problem of intoxication or the challenges of entering a life of recovery. Of course, if there is one thing a Kennedy likes more than scotch and chasing skirts, it is running for office. Patrick sounds like a candidate–but not a recovery and mental health advocate. What is worse is he sounds like a candidate on the take from the powerful and unscrutinized alcohol lobby hell bent on keeping their monopoly on intoxication. His efforts to keep alcohol as the only legal form of intoxication hurt families, communities, and recovering people. I am a massive fan of the Kennedy clan, particularly of Bobby Kennedy and their tradition of using their prestige for social justice causes. Patrick would do well to read some of his uncle’s writings and give it some sincere thought.

Yea, Man, Got Any Spare Carrots?

Easter has come and gone and with it, the Easter Bunny has some downtime. Who doesn’t love a fluffy bunny? Clearly the DEA has taken their love of the  long eared creature to a level we never imagined with concerns of not just being road kill but genuine concern for their addictive tendencies. No, not to carrots but weed. According to Matt Fairbanks, veteran DEA agent in Utah, among the environmental concerns would be “rabbits develop a taste for it”.  This is a bunny love we haven’t seen before. Why be concerned with ailing cancer patients and racist incarceration rates when the DEA thinks medical marijuana will get  Mr. whiskers getting high? Keep it moving folks, this is a red state, no wasteful government spending here. I wanted to believe this weren’t true that it was a quote out of context but have a listen to the testimony here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/video/49429b26-c11a-11e4-a188-8e4971d37a8d. This man clearly knows what’s best for you and for bunnies.

Wasteful DEA Spending
This is just the kind of red herring drug policy that keeps people sick. Policy to create recession proof government agencies with no defined role or purpose. The DEA is struggling to justify its existence if stoned bunnies are worthy of comment. What isn’t the GOP all over this? Aren’t they opposed to big wasteful government? Could there be more wasteful government that protecting rabbits? Maybe it’s not even protection, maybe the rabbits like it and it doesn’t harm them? Nice work DEA.

Make it Right, Bud Light

Bud Light’s Marketing Campaign

Bud-Light“The perfect beer to remove ‘no’ from your vocabulary” was the tag line on bottles of Bud Light as part of their “up for whatever” campaign. This is the height of irresponsibility in the alcohol industry. It’s patently offensive that the beer, wine and distilled spirits lobbies inject this substance into the culture with low tax and recession resistant impunity. Alcohol companies are notorious for “drink responsibly” messaging, only to counter it with this, showing their true intention.

The CDC estimates 88,000 deaths annually from alcohol and a staggering 2.5 million years of potential life lost by shortening lives due to alcohol use. (Alcohol fact sheet cdc.gov).

Taking Action Against the Beer & Wine Industry

Alcohol is a very dangerous psychoreactive substance with massive consequences and somehow, it never pays the piper. Contrast this with an alternative form of intoxication, marijuana, with a death toll of ZERO annually. It matters that the beer and wine industry facilitate alcohol moving stealthy among us, taking lives and wrecking havoc in families and communities. It matters that we demonize marijuana users and distributors when it is by any measure, safer than alcohol.

Alcohol TaxationFor years we have been told to “designate a driver” an innocuous message and one that may save lives but it presumes that is the only thing wrong with excessive alcohol use is impaired driving. The “designate a driver” culture doesn’t take into account that rates of sexual assault rise with the use of alcohol. Bud Light issued an apology and will stop this ad campaign but you can’t unring a bell. The posturing about safety doesn’t really help the social problems associated with alcohol. Today, Bud Light showed their cards, it’s time to hold alcohol companies accountable for the damage done by the product that makes them rich. The state of Virginia hasn’t seen a tax raise on Alcohol since the 70’s. A .10/100 tax per unit of beer sold in the state would yield $169,000,000 annual revenue. That would mean positioned drop in centers throughout the state and admission for state of the art treatment for the asking. When families struggle to find treatment, yes, insurance companies are scum but we are all complicit in this insanity. Write your congressman and demand a tax raise on beer dedicated for alcohol abuse services. It can be done.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost
On a happy note, the young man in this story is over a year sober, has a job, and building a life. It happens.

Insufficient Alcohol Abuse Treatment Options on Maui

It’s no secret why 2.2 million people visit the island of Maui each year: the beauty, the weather, the recreation. That tourism is supported by a residential population of just 163,000, most of whom work in service industry jobs. And it’s not the locals that are consuming what the Maui county liquor authority reports as $250 million in annual liquor sales. The island is awash in millions of drunk visitors. And the problem cases are all supported by a tiny hospital with an ER staff that sees cases of alcohol poisoning daily. They’re so busy that they’re forced to turn away patients who are not stable enough to be out of a hospital setting. It’s a crisis situation, nothing less.

I’m the founder of Williamsburg House, the first sober house in NYC (in Williamsburg) as well as a long-time practitioner of interventions and crisis management. I know my craft, and I know how to talk to ER nurses, paramedics, police, and judges. I thought I was capable of negotiating any system — I operate a residential sober facility in Brooklyn, for God’s sake — but I have never seen anything like I saw in Maui.
Called in May 2015 to help a man in crisis, I arrived in Maui after a 17-hour journey to find my identified patient, and his harried mother and aunt. They told me a tale of bringing their alcoholic 26-year-old son/nephew to this one hospital on Maui at 6am, only to be turned away with no medication and no referral. In my arrogance, I thought, “The calvary is here, step aside ladies. Maybe go to the spa or take a walk on the beach while I get this young man sober.” What I found was a 26 year old man in acute intoxication, the kind of bone-saturating drunk that you’d see in a cartoonish depiction of alcoholism in a black and white movie. He was incoherent, rambling, and clutching a bottle of Captain Morgan. After a few hours of sparring with him I made the call to 911 to get him admitted to the ER for detox. The Maui police showed up, annoyed, and without compassion. “You should have taken him to rehab before this,” said one of the officers. “Be that as it may, ‘surfer dies of alcohol poisoning in rat hole Maui hotel room, after police left annoyed’ sounds like a shitty headline, wouldn’t you say?” I replied with NYC snark that did nothing to help my cause. Nevertheless, the paramedics did eventually take my client to the ER which started a process of discovery about this island paradise.

Seeking Safe Alcohol Detox

The charge nurse told me that she literally cannot care for the high numbers of cases of alcohol poisoning she sees every single day. She refers most of them to a treatment center that provides detox. But the treatment center told me their next available bed was in July. “July?” I asked incredulously. “He’ll be dead by then.” “More then likely” was the matter of fact response laced with frustration and a spoonful of sadness. Alcohol detox is a very dangerous process and can result in death. There are 88,000 deaths annually chalked up to alcohol and the detox is one of the primary causes. While the culture demonizes heroin use, the truth is, a heroin detox won’t kill you, but an alcohol detox will. So why, on an Island with 2.2 million visitors per year and $250 million in annual liquor sales are services to treat the byproduct of all this fun so abysmal?

With the huge number in liquor sales, a safety net would seem not only feasible but a moral imperative. Maui is likely not unique in this problem. While we focus on other drugs of abuse, and well we should, we seem to lose sight of alcohol. We can do better than this. We must do better than this. Alcoholics are not disposable people. We are not a blight on society who deserve substandard care because we “did it to ourselves”. There was a happy outcome in this case. The family was thrilled when six months after these events, the young son came on time, sober, and appropriately dressed for his sister’s wedding. Sadly, that is an all too rare outcome.

Heroin is Terrifying for More Reasons Than You Think

While a jittery Brussels gets back on its feet and the world speculates “who’s next,” the theories are flying about who is to blame and what to do. The right looks to assign blame to a lack of guns and a religion, while the left is scurrying to indict radicalized individuals; but there may be a culprit that stealthy sneaks out the back door: addiction and a voracious appetite for drugs.

Making the Link between Terrorism and Addiction

As Westerners look to insulate themselves from the insatiable demands of modern life, many of us have turned to chemicals, and for some of us that means heroin. The once shadowy mysterious culture around heroin use has found its way to suburban malls. As the tide of gentrification swells in American life, even heroin is becoming as common as a Starbucks or Gap. “Treatment not incarceration” is an embryonic, but growing battle cry but America is still steeped in a “just say no” mentality that is about as effective as “abstinence only” birth control. Seldom, if ever, do Americans look at the ripple effect of what addiction does to other systems: families are destroyed, finances consumed, prisons overflow and yes, terror networks are funded.

Recent estimates from the UN show that Afghanistan produces a staggering 90% of the worlds opium poppies (http://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Afghanistan/Afghan-opium-survey-2014.pdf). That translates into billions of untaxed, unregulated, and untraceable funding for terror networks. Certainly a family in crisis with active addiction in their household has other things to consider than the global implications of the drug trade, so where does the responsibility lie?

Terrorism is an abstract concept, difficult to define and wage war against. Like any effort, it doesn’t work well without funding and the funding is from the drug trade. In all the actions given to ending terrorism, little seems to be done to address the chain of money. The net result? Well funded terror cells and an America dropping 100 bodies daily to overdose. Anyone who has loved someone caught in the tight grip of addiction knows, it’s pretty terrifying. Maybe the terror is more than we think.