Representative Patrick J. Kennedy Spends a Month in Rehab

photo of Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy

Rep. Kennedy returns to Congress after month in rehab

After a four-week course of addiction treatment, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy returned to Congress Wednesday with what he called “excellent” prospects for long-term sobriety – in large part because he sought help before he landed in the kind of trouble that has brought him criticism in the past.

In May 2006, a late-night car crash on Capitol Hill attracted harsh publicity and prompted Kennedy to enter an addition treatment facility and to acknowledge that he had been an alcoholic and drug addict for most of his adult life. Since then Kennedy had become a public face for recovery from addiction.

On June 12, Kennedy announced through his office that he had left the House for an indefinite period of time to enter a treatment facility. He has since disclosed that he underwent a 28-day treatment regime at Father Martin’s Ashley, a Maryland center well-known in recovery circles.

Kennedy said Wednesday that he hopes his decision to seek treatment was another “sign to people that this is a chronic illness not unlike a cancer that goes into remission but then becomes malignant again.”

He said, “This is a chronic illness that needs lifelong attention. You can’t ever be cured of it. It needs to be monitored on a day-to-day basis for your whole life.”

Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy Statement on His Drug Addiction (May 2006)

Over my 15 years in public life, I’ve felt a responsibility to speak honestly and openly about my challenges with addiction and depression. I’ve been fighting this chronic disease since I was a young man, and have aggressively and periodically sought treatment so that I can live a full and productive life. I struggle every day with this disease, as do millions of Americans. I’ve dedicated my public service to raising awareness about the chronic disease of addiction, and have fought to increase access to care and recovery supports for the too many Americans forced to struggle on their own.

This past Christmas, I realized that I had to seek help again so checked myself into the Mayo Clinic for addiction to prescription pain medication.

I am deeply concerned about my reaction to the medication and my lack of knowledge of the accident that evening. But I do know enough to know that I need to seek expert help. This afternoon, I’m traveling to Minnesota to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic to ensure I can continue on my road to recovery.

Related: Cindy McCain Drug RehabBrett Favre Overcomes Painkiller AddictionDrug Rehab Centers in CaliforniaTop 10 Luxury Rehab Centers

Research on the Brain and Behavior on Addiction

New research on the brain and behavior clarifies the mysteries of addiction by Craig Lambert, Harvard Magazine, March 2000.

Early experiences with drugs, whether in the womb or as an adult, have ineradicable effects. Drug users often describe a wish to recapture the bliss of their first high. But this goal proves elusive because once the brain has neuroadapted to drugs, it is physiologically and structurally changed. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and many others argue that voluntary drug consumption alters the brain in ways that lead to involuntary drug consumption. The question of whether drug habits are voluntary or not leads us to ask how people get over their addictions, and raises some of the moral issues surrounding compulsive behavior.

Addiction is not all pharmacology, neurotransmitters, and intrapsychic states; the social settings of drug consumption have powerful effects. They can influence basic brain chemistry–which is one reason Gene Heyman rejects the notion that “addictive behavior is insensitive to persuasion, that there’s an irresistible urge to take the drug.” Heyman agrees that drugs alter the brain, but disputes the idea that they change the brain in ways that make choice impossible–he does not believe, in other words, that neuroadaptation makes drug use involuntary. Exhibit A, he says, is 50 million ex-smokers who have voluntarily ended their intake of nicotine.

One reason people believe drug use is involuntary is that recovery rates for addicts treated at clinics are quite bad. Within one year of treatment, relapse rates of 67 to 90 percent are common for alcohol, opiate, cocaine, and tobacco users. “But most of the people who become addicted to drugs don’t go to clinics,” says Heyman. “Actually, only 30 to 40 percent go to clinics. Yet this clinic population has greatly influenced our vision and concept of addiction.”

It turns out that addicts who don’t go to clinics have much higher recovery rates.

This is an interesting article with interesting data. Remember the different recover rates for those that go to clinics and those who does not mean going to a clinic reduces the odds of success. It seems reasonable to guess most of those that go to clinics are drawn from the subset that failed to quit without going to a clinic. So it could be that fail to quit on their own then will fail only quit on their own 3% of the time and quit in a clinic 10% of the time (these numbers are not based on anything just an example of what you must consider about the above statistics).

Even though cigarette smoking is the direct cause of 400,000 American deaths annually, while alcohol directly causes only 100,000 deaths, “alcoholism is a major reason that people don’t stop smoking,” says Vaillant. “Those who keep on smoking after age 50 tend to be alcoholics.” In hospitals, alcoholics cost six times as much as other patients. Half of all people who show up in emergency rooms with severe multiple fractures are alcoholics. “But the emergency rooms treating multiple fractures ignore blood alcohol levels,” Vaillant says. “The causal link isn’t made.”

“No other drug of addiction impairs one’s aversion to punishment the way alcohol does,” he continues. “Yes, compulsive gambling impairs your aversion to being poor, and heroin use impairs your aversion to being arrested. But alcoholism goes across the board. When drinking, people are much more likely to engage in all kinds of dangerous, life-threatening behavior–wife beating, child abuse, unprotected sex with strangers, smoking, drunk driving. You can be five foot two and willing to take on anyone in the bar.”

Related: Alcohol is a Major Cause of Drug Rehab AdmissionsHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?Methods to Treat AddictionWhy Can’t Drug Addicts Quit on Their Own?

The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts

cover of the Narcotic Farm

The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts is a book exploring an experiment to deal with addicted criminals.

The farm was the first place to look at drug addicts as patients that were in need of treatment instead of criminals in need of punishment. The farm did experiments to learn about addiction including on methadone (which is commonly used to try and ease the transition from narcotic addition today). Certainly the methods practiced on the farm were of debatable ethical ground however there was a great deal of learning and desire to learn and treat drug addition.

From 1935 until 1975, just about every junkie busted for dope went to the Narcotic Farm. Equal parts federal prison, treatment center, farm, and research laboratory, the Farm was designed to rehabilitate addicts and help researchers discover a cure for drug addiction. Although it began as a bold and ambitious public works project, and became famous as a rehabilitation center frequented by great jazz musicians among others, the Farm was shut down forty years after it opened amid scandal over its drug-testing program, which involved experiments where inmates were being used as human guinea pigs and rewarded with heroin and cocaine for their efforts.

Published to coincide with a documentary to be aired on PBS, The Narcotic Farm includes rare and unpublished photographs, film stills, newspaper and magazine clippings, government documents, as well as interviews, writings, and anecdotes from the prisoners, doctors, and guards that trace the Farm’s noble rise and tumultuous fall, revealing the compelling story of what really happened inside the prison walls.

Listen to an NPR podcast on America’s First Drug-Treatment Prison

Related: How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?Drug Rehabilitation Centers in CaliforniaWhy Can’t Drug Addicts Quit on Their Own?

Hugh Masekela Fighting Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction

photo of jazz musican Hugh Masekela

Masekela’s message for ‘addictive’ SA

One of the biggest names in world music – trumpeter Hugh Masekela – has said the message behind his latest album Time is to help the fight against drug and alcohol addiction in his native South Africa.

Masekela himself is a recovering addict, having gone into rehabilitation six years ago before establishing an organisation to help those with similar problems in his homeland. And he told BBC World Service’s The Ticket programme that he felt a duty to help others suffering from the same problems.

“I myself am a recovering addict and alcoholic. Six years ago I came to England, took up counselling, and learned the psychology of addiction.”

Drug-busting Masekela calls a brave new tune

The project, called the Musicians and Artists Assistance Programme of South Africa (Maapsa), is a partnership between several South African celebrities, including musicians Jabu Khanyile and Family Factory, actress Connie Masilo and talkshow host Felicia Mabuza-Suttle. Masekela said: “This organisation will make South Africans aware that addiction is a dynamite powder-keg. In South Africa, people are often praised for being able to drink a lot. They think drinking is something to be proud of.”

Victor Ntoni, another respected musician, said alcohol and substance abuse among musicians was exacerbated by the increasing exploitation of artists in South Africa.

Mabuza-Suttle, one of the trustees of Maapsa, said that because she came from a background of alcoholism, she knew about the devastating effects of addiction on families.

Hugh Masekela Biography

As the brutality of the Apartheid state increased, Hugh finally left the country with the help of Trevor Huddleston and his friends Yehudi Menuhin and Johnny Dankworth who got him admitted into London’s Guildhall School of music. Miriam Makeba who was already enjoying major success in the USA later helped him with Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillepsie and John Mehegan to get admission to the Manhattan school of Music in New York. Hugh finally met Louis Armstrong who had sent the Huddleston Band a trumpet after Huddleston told the trumpet king about the bank he helped start back in South Africa before deportation.

With immense help from Makeba and Belafonte, Hugh eventually began to record, gaining his first breakthrough with “The Americanization of Ooga-Booga” produced by the late Tom Wilson who had been producer of Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel’s debut successes. Stewart Levine his business partner in Chissa Records went on to produce hit records for Hugh on Uni Records, beginning with “Alive and Well at the Whisky” in 1967 and then “”Promise of A Future” which contained the gigantic hit song “Grazing in the Grass” in 1968.

By the beginning of the 1970’s he had attained international fame, selling out all of America’s festivals, auditoriums and top nightclubs. Heeding the call of his African roots, he moved to Guinea, then Liberia and Ghana after recording the historical “ Home is where Music is” with Dudu Pokwana.

photo from Ritmo Artists

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Colin Farrell Wanted To Be A Better Dad

Actor, Who Wanted To Be A Better Dad, Is Glad To Be Sober

“I knocked that on the head, I haven’t had a drop in six months,” the Irish actor said Monday on The Late Show With David Letterman. “It was tough. It was something that I did every day for about fifteen years so it was tough, yeah, absolutely.”

The 30-year-old actor said that he decided to get help when he realized his fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle was taking its toll on him and affecting his ability to be a good father to his two-year-old son James.

“It was horrible in one way, because I went away because I was pretty sick,” he said. “But in another way it was great, because it was a very safe environment with a bunch of people who were looking to sort out things in their life.” “But I don’t want to go back,” he added.

Colin Farrell: Drink and drugs nearly killed me

The Dublin-born star of Miami Vice was renowned for his wild lifestyle, but made the decision to enter rehab two years ago as he said he knew he was “dying”. “It was a fairly drunken life for 16 years so it was a tough life change, but I was dying and I’m one of the lucky ones in that so far I’m out of it,” he said.

“For me there was no choice. I was pretty sick. I went away for five or six weeks and that was a very safe environment and I began to come out of the haze that I had burrowed myself into so deeply. “I came back into the world and everything was in a degree of focus that I hadn’t experienced.”

“I don’t believe I have any chemical predisposition towards depression, but let’s just say I was suffering from a spiritual malady for years and I indulged it.

Farrell is now in a relationship with novelist Emma Forrest and seems to have put those dark tendencies behind him. “I’m glad I’m out of that cycle of my life, and I’m very lucky,” he admitted.

photo © Eric Charbonneau

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Brett Favre Overcomes Painkiller Addiction

photo of Brett Favre Nov 2006

Brett Favre’s addiction to painkillers (1996)

After the seizure had ended and he had come to his senses, Favre looked into a sea of concerned medical faces and saw Packers associate team physician John Gray. “You’ve just suffered a seizure, Brett,” Gray told him. “People can die from those.” Favre’s heart sank. Upon hearing from doctors in the room that his dependence on painkillers might have contributed to the seizure, he thought, I’ve got to stop the pills, I’ve just got to.

Last season Favre went on such a wild ride with the prescription drug Vicodin, a narcotic-analgesic painkiller, that Tynes feared for his life. He scavenged pills from teammates. At least once he took 13 tablets in a night. But on Tuesday of last week, during his final telephone call before entering the Menninger Clinic, a rehabilitation center in Topeka, Kansas [which moved to Florida in 2003], to treat his dependency (and also to evaluate his occasional heavy drinking), Favre told SI that he hadn’t taken Vicodin since the seizure. “I quit cold turkey,” he said, “and I entered the NFL substance-abuse program voluntarily. I don’t want a pill now, but I want to go into a rehab center because I want to make sure I’m totally clean.

Tynes wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath. She sniffled a few times. “You know,” she said, “he’s changed already. He talks to me again. He takes Brittany and me out. He pays attention to us. A few days ago he hugged me and he thanked me for everything I’ve done, and he said some really nice things to me.”

She wiped her eyes again. “I said, ‘I can’t believe it. The old Brett’s back!'” Time will tell. The true test will start in September.

Time has shown the answer, after struggles for several years, as Brett Favre has continued his amazing NFL career with great success.

Through triumph & tragedy, Deanna and Brett Favre remain a constant

After doctors found severe liver damage in 1996, Brett agreed to enter rehab, and was able to kick his addiction. He and Deanna were married several months later and welcomed daughter Breleigh in 1999, but his problems with substance abuse had not ended. By 1999, Brett had returned to heavy partying, and was abusing alcohol. Deanna contacted a divorce attorney, which helped scare her husband into quitting drinking entirely, according to Deanna.

The 1990s tested their relationship, but Deanna ultimately appreciated that Brett chose to seek help. “He was battling a disease,” she says. “I was trying to support him, and when he started making the right choices by getting the help he needed, that made a difference.”

Life had stabilized for the Favres by 2003: Brett was sober and a Super Bowl-winning icon in Green Bay, and Brittany and Breleigh were healthy and happy. “We were at a good spot in our lives,” Deanna says.

Then, in December 2003, Brett’s father died in a car accident. The following October, Deanna’s 24-year-old brother Casey was killed when his all-terrain vehicle hit a patch of gravel and flipped. Casey had recently overcome his own drug problems, and his girlfriend was eight months pregnant when he died.

In her memoir, Deanna described the loss of her brother as the darkest time in her life, but the darkness would not pass quickly – just days after Casey’s funeral, Deanna was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35.

Continue reading

Robert Downey Jr. Rehab Success

photo of Robert Downey Jr.

The Comeback Kid

His Life Nearly Destroyed by Drugs, Robert Downey Jr. Found Love and Fought His Way to Recovery.

For too long other priorities led Downey down a darker path. The son of film director Robert Downey Sr. and actor Elsie Ford, Downey dropped out of Santa Monica High School to act, landing a gig on Saturday Night Live at 20. A slew of roles in movies like 1987’s Less than Zero followed, and in 1992 Downey landed the title role—and an Oscar nod—in Chaplin. But his struggles with drugs eclipsed his talent. In 1996 he was put on probation after an arrest for driving in Malibu with heroin, cocaine and a concealed .357 Magnum. For the next five years he was in and out of rehab and jail, doing time in California’s Corcoran State Prison in ’99 for failing to take a mandated sobriety test. In ’01 Downey was fired from Ally McBeal after another relapse.

It was a wake-up call. After another rehab stint, he slowly found his way to health by practicing yoga and kung fu, and by finding love with producer Susan Levin, 34, whom he wed in ’05. “She’s fantastic,” says Downey, who’s also devoted to his son Indio, 14, with first wife Deborah Falconer. “I’m not a walk in the park, and [Susan’s] a very complex and engaging person.” Downey, says Stiller, “talks a lot about how his wife and his son are his grounding forces.” Today his strongest drink is black tea. “My vice, it seems now, is creativity,” he says. “It’s all about living a normal, balanced life.”

Rehab Success Stories

Hammer (CNN Showbiz Tonight): Robert Downey, Jr. spent most of the 1990s in and out of southern California courtrooms, jails and rehab centers, hooked on cocaine, alcohol and methamphetamines. Downey couldn’t come to grips with his addiction.

Robert Downey Jr.: You know, there’s a reason it’s listed in American medical — you know, in books of disease.

Hammer: The headlines-making bouts with rehab eventually worked for Downey, who is now clean and sober and starring in movies like “Zodiac,” where he ironically plays a cocaine-addicted reporters, and in the summer blockbuster “Iron Man.”

Robert Downey Jr.: Part of that is largely a moral issue, but I think once you have an opportunity to get the help you need to get out of it, you just have to remember that sometimes that train doesn’t come back around for seven years.

Photo by Edgar Meritano, May 2008.

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Rehab Reality Check

Rehab Reality Check by Jerry Adler, Newsweek, provides a good, very cursory, overview of rehab treatment options.

residential treatment programs for the middle and upper classes have proliferated across both the geographic and the therapeutic maps. Heated disputes have erupted between proponents of different treatment models. This is exacerbated by a growing rivalry between old-guard institutions like the Ford Center, with its comparatively austere campuslike ambience, and the new class of superluxury rehab centers in ocean-view mansions that supplement the traditional 12-step approach with acupuncture, massage, equine therapy and Native American Talking Circles.

To John Schwarzlose, president and CEO of the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the blurring of lines between “spa” and “treatment center” is disheartening. “They say, ‘We have 500-count sheets.’ It trivializes what we do.”

In fact, with a few exceptions most residential programs run along broadly similar lines. The typical stay is a month, which might not be optimal but is as much as most insurance plans covered back in the 1980s when the programs were designed.

The exact form of therapy, he says, is less important than just the fact of seeking treatment. A year after completing a rehab program, about a third of alcoholics are sober, an additional 40 percent are substantially improved but still drink heavily on occasion, and a quarter have completely relapsed

I discussed some of my thoughts on this in Should Rehab be Enjoyed?

Related: Top 10 Luxury Rehab CentersBetty Ford CenterDrug Rehab Centers in Los Angeles

Eva Mendes on Rehab

photo of Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes Opens Up On Substance Abuse

Eva Mendes, who entered Utah’s Cirque Lodge for rehab earlier this year, recently spoke about substance abuse with David Colman for Interview magazine. “I”m not angry,” said the actress, who stars in the upcoming The Women (due out in September) and The Spirit (due out at Christmas). “I’m proud of people who have the determination and the fearlessness to actually go and face their demons and get better. This is a life or death situation.”

David Coleman: They’re going to have to change the name of it to “Alcoholics Unanimous.”
Eva Mendes: [silence]
David Coleman: I’m sorry, that’s a bad joke.
Eva Mendes: I’m not making jokes, because people die from this stuff. So, honestly, I think it’s a bit tacky that you made a joke. I’ve got to be honest.
David Coleman: You’re angry. Listen . . .
Eva Mendes: I’m not angry. People have died, and I’ve lost friends too–even recently. So I can be a little sensitive on the subject.

photo by Thierry Caro, 2008.

I think Eva is right in saying that people can forget that just because someone is a celebrity doesn’t mean rehab isn’t serious. At times the craziness around celebrity can make it seem like it is a joke. But the drug and alcohol addiction troubles anyone has can be serious and we shouldn’t lose that just because sometimes it seems like rehab is not taken seriously by some people (celebrity or not).

Related: Top 10 Luxury Rehab Centers (Utah’s Cirque Lodge is 9th)Should Rehab be Enjoyed?

Piano Man Rehab

photo of Billy Joel

Singer Billy Joel spent time at the Betty Ford clinic for alcoholism treatment in 2005.

Billy Joel leaves US rehab clinic

Singer Billy Joel has left a Californian rehabilitation clinic where he was being treated for alcohol abuse. His publicist confirmed that the 55-year-old had now checked out of the Betty Ford clinic, in Rancho Mirage, where he had spent 30 days.

Photo taken on November 14, 2007.

Piano Man Finds Inner Harmony

“I’m just not drinking,” says the Piano Man – who had struggled with a love of bottles of red and bottles of white. “I don’t know if I will never have a glass of wine again for the rest of my life, but right now I am not taking any chances. “There was a time in my life when I was drinking too much, and so I have stopped,”

Related: Piano Man: The Very Best of Billy Joel52nd StreetAging of the Population in RehabThe Stranger