The Miracle That Saved Robert Downey Jr.

It is nice to read about successes in addressing drug addiction and the damage it causes to people. Robert Downey Jr. continues to provide such an example with his long successful career after years of struggles with drug addiction.

Susan Downey: Iron Woman

For a long time, however, it seemed as if that never-grow-up quality was going to land Robert in an early grave. After sauntering into our hearts as the doomed rich kid Julian in 1987’s Less Than Zero and proving himself a comic genius with his Oscar-nominated performance in 1992’s Chaplin, Robert spent roughly five years (from 1996 to 2001) in a long, heavily publicized death dance with crack cocaine, heroin, gunplay, and prison — at one point, even wandering into a neighbor’s home and passing out in a child’s bedroom. By the time he was released from court-ordered rehab in 2002, he was largely considered unemployable in Hollywood and was able to convince producer Silver to hire him for Gothika only by agreeing to have a good chunk of his salary withheld until the film wrapped.

But Robert was not quite finished with what he refers to as his Darth Vader side. “I did meet Darth Vader, for like a minute,” Susan acknowledges, “right after the movie wrapped, and I said immediately, ‘This isn’t gonna work.’ I made it clear that to stay with me, nothing could happen.”

Something about Susan’s ultimatum clicked. Around July 4, 2003, Robert stopped at a Burger King on the Pacific Coast Highway, threw his drugs in the ocean, and decided that he was done for good. “I think he saw what we had,” Susan says. “There was something magical there, something we couldn’t put our finger on. He always says that we became this third thing when we got together — something that neither of us could have become by ourselves — and I think that’s true.”

Success for one individual don’t easily translate to others. It is normally many individual things that all line up to make it work. Robert had been to rehab before and relapsed. Plenty of addicts get ultimatums and relapse. Plenty of people find love and proceed to mess it up. But in this case Robert was able to make a change and has been able to enjoy great success and happiness.

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Drug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime Costs

Some interesting details and data from Texas government web site.

Drug users constitute a large and growing proportion of the criminal justice population. Drug users not only commit a substantial amount of crime, but as the frequency of drug use increases, the frequency of crime increases and the severity of crimes committed also increases.

Drug use in the general population appears to have declined over the past decade, yet the number of drug-involved offenders is increasing. The number of convictions for drug violations in Texas has increased from 8,103 in 1980 to 23,126 in 1988, a 185 percent increase in less than ten years.

Estimates of lifetime drug users among the nation’s incarcerated population range from 80 to 87 percent.

The American Correctional Association notes that more than 95 percent of drug and alcohol offenders will be discharged from prison, most without receiving any treatment. Because of the high association between drug abuse and recidivism, it is in the public interest to place offenders in the kinds of treatment programs that have been found effective. A noticeable reduction in drug use and criminality can occur with an alliance between the criminal justice system and drug abuse treatment.

Public expenditures for drug abuse treatment are wise and prudent investments. Treatment works to reduce crime, drug abuse, and recidivism. Sustained reductions in recidivism can be achieved up to six years after treatment. With appropriate drug abuse treatment more than 75 percent of offenders with chronic substance abuse histories can reenter the community and lead socially acceptable life styles.

For every dollar spent for drug treatment, $11.54 is saved in social costs, including law enforcement costs, losses to victims, and government funds for health care.

Research has shown that funds invested in drug treatment reduces future criminal justice costs for treated offenders. Every dollar spent on residential drug treatment in probation saves $2.10 in future criminal justice costs. Every dollar spent on outpatient drug treatment in probation saves $4.28 in future criminal justice costs.

This is an old report, from 1997 but the basic model doesn’t change. A large amount of criminal activity is driven by drug addiction. To reduce crime in society drug addiction needs to be reduced. While success rates of drug addiction treatment centers are far from perfect the results more than pay for the cost – just in reduced crime costs (without even considering the better lives these people lead and the benefits to their children and loved ones).

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New Jerusalem Now

“You cannot fully recovery unless you help the society that made you sick, recover.” New Jerusalem Now, a community of former addicts helping each other achieve a “fullness of life” formerly prevented by drug and alcohol abuse. From the residents’ narratives, you learn how they run their community within a community in one of the poorest neighborhoods in North Philadelphia, PA.

New Jerusalem Now was started by The Simple Way, a web of subversive friends conspiring to spread the vision of ‘Loving God, Loving People, and Following Jesus’ in our neighborhoods and in our world.

They are not just treating the people but building up the community. This is an important activity. Creating a healthy community will not eliminate drug and alcohol abuse but it will help both reduce the amount and reduce the impact of the abuse. Just as a healthy body can get sick and recovery quickly a healthy community can help people recovery more quickly than a sick community.

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Principles of Effective Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation

Principles of Effective Treatment from the United States National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service

Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences. While the path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs, over time a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive. This behavior results largely from the effects of prolonged drug exposure on brain functioning. Addiction is a brain disease that affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior.

Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences. Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. Because addiction is typically a chronic disease, people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.

Too often, addiction goes untreated: According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 23.2 million persons (9.4% of the U.S. population) aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2007. Of these individuals, 2.4 million (10.4%) received treatment at a specialty facility (i.e., hospital, drug or alcohol rehabilitation or mental health center). Thus, 20.8 million persons (8.4 % of the population aged 12 or older) needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem but did not receive it.

Scientific research since the mid–1970s shows that treatment can help patients addicted to drugs stop using, avoid relapse, and successfully recover their lives. Based on this research, key principles have emerged that should form the basis of any effective treatment programs:

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.
  • No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  • Treatment needs to be readily available.
  • Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
  • Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical.
  • Counseling—individual and/or group—and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
  • Medications are an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies.
  • An individual’s treatment and services plan must be assessed continually and modified as necessary to ensure that it meets his or her changing needs.
  • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long–term drug abuse.
  • Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur.

When looking for drug rehab centers it is valuable to keep these facts in mind. Even the best rehab centers have many failed attempts to beat drug addiction. By finding centers that have adopted scientifically tested strategies success rates can be improved.

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Improving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison based program aims to better drug treatment

Green-Milon’s apparent success in overcoming her addictions is all too rare, experts say. Only about a tenth of the 24 million Americans who need drug treatment get it, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and at least half of them relapse.

Part of the challenge, scientists say, is that addiction, like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, is a chronic condition; it changes the chemistry of the brain. But there’s another hurdle that’s getting attention: treatment programs, with their voice-mail systems and multiple forms to fill out, aren’t very patient-friendly, especially to people whose lives present many barriers to staying in treatment.

A national program, based at UW-Madison, is trying to change that by bringing process improvements to drug treatment. The Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment, or NIATx, attempts to get addicts into treatment quicker and retain more of them by making the programs more appealing.

24 million Americans need treatment for illicit drug or alcohol problems.
2.5 million get the treatment they need.
The economic cost of substance abuse exceeds $500 billion a year (including alcohol and tobacco; for just illicit drugs, it’s $181 billion).

The NIATx (formerly know as the Network for the Improvement of Addiction Treatment) at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is focused on improving the success of addition treatment.

Use what you learned in Walk-through exercises (See the NIATx Conducting a Walk-through guide for guidance) to identify problems in processes within your organization from the clients’ point of view. Consider changes to test based on that experience. Prior to starting, you should decide the parameters of the change project, including where (e.g., location) you wish to introduce the change, as well which clients (e.g., level of care, population) you expect to impact.

The PDSA Cycle is an efficient way to learn what will work in your organization, and should be the foundation of every change you make. The PDSA Cycle begins with a Plan, and ends with Action based on the learning gained from the Plan, Do, and Study phases of the cycle

They also offer many case studies on improvement successes by treatment centers.

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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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Cindy McCain Drug Rehab

photo of President Bush and John and Cindy McCain at the White House March 2008

A Tangled Story of Addiction:

When Cindy McCain is asked what issues she would champion as first lady, she often cites one of the most difficult periods of her life: her battle with — and ultimate victory over — prescription painkillers. Her struggle, she has said repeatedly, taught her valuable lessons about drug abuse that she would pass on to the nation.

“I think it made me a better person as well as a better parent, so I think it would be very important to talk about it and be very upfront about it,” McCain said in an interview with “Access Hollywood.” In an appearance on the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” she said she tries “to talk about it as much as possible because I don’t want anyone to wind up in the shoes that I did at the time.”

In describing her struggle with drugs, McCain has said that she became addicted to Vicodin and Percocet in early 1989 after rupturing two disks and having back surgery. She has said she hid her addiction from her husband, Sen. John McCain, and stopped taking the painkillers in 1992 after her parents confronted her. She has not discussed what kind of treatment she received for her addiction, but she has made clear that she believes she has put her problems behind her.

I searched on the McCain presidential campaign web site but could find no results sharing the campaigns proposals for drug treatment or the discussion said to be so important (drug rehab, drug treatmentaddiction treatmentdrug rehabilitation all have 0 results)

Photo taken at the White House on 5 March 2008.

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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