The Addiction Solution: Re-Thinking How We Can Help

(5-8-18) Helping someone with an addiction is extremely difficult. As parents we are told the mantra: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.”

But those words ring hollow if you love someone who has an addiction and you are trying to help him or her become well. Add in a mental illness and the difficulties increase.

I’d love to hear on my Facebook page what helped you and your family. Please share any information that led to someone you love beating pills and/or alcohol.

I have read several helpful books and now my friend, Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer, the chief medical officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health, is publishing a book today entitled: The Addiction Solution: Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs.

I greatly admire Dr. Sederer, respect his vast experience, and value his wisdom so I am happy to post an excerpt.

 Kirkus Review praised his book as a “comprehensive work” and explained that Dr. Sederer identifies ten key factors that influence how individuals interact with psychoactive substances and then explains approaches for treating those who become addicted.

Here’s an excerpt, printed with his permission, in which he describes the mess we currently are in.


Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs

Substance use, abuse, and dependence are like a plague in this country and throughout the world. We are losing not just our children to this disease, but brothers, sisters, parents, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The body count from overdose deaths and rewarding lives lost to addiction continues to rise. We have yet to implement solutions that will deliver what is needed to overcome the addictive forces that are eroding our societies.

A major reason why we are failing is a dogged attachment to ideas and efforts that have not worked in beating the plague of addiction. Addiction is still here, unabated. The money we are paying—in this country and throughout the globe—is not just vast; it has sadly often been wasted on unsuccessful campaigns of drug control and on education efforts that rely on stressing the negative consequences of drug use.

       I believe that the biggest problem with so many of the psychoactive drugs, those that work on our brains and minds, is that they are so effective.

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Remembering Fallen Heroes: A Preventible Tragedy That Resulted In A Detective Who Helped My Son Being Murdered

(5-4-18) Not a May passes when I don’t recall the deaths of Fairfax County Police Officers Vicky O. Armel and Michael Garbarino who were ambushed by a mentally troubled young man armed with an AK-47 during an attack May 8th, 2006 at a police station near my home. They were reportedly the first Fairfax Police officers killed in the department’s history. After their deaths, I wrote a tribute to Detective Armel published in The Washington Post because of how kind she had been to my son, Kevin, when he first was  arrested.

This was long before Crisis Intervention Team training became a priority in Fairfax, yet she had a big heart and was a devoted Christian who became a police officer to serve and protect, but also to help those in need. A taped message that she had made was played at her funeral during which she spoke about her decision to dedicate her life to Jesus Christ. She was a wife and mother of two. Her killer had fled from a mental facility. Officer Garbarino had been a police officer 23 years and also was survived by his spouse and two children. His widow, Suzanne, later lashed out at the father of the 18 year-old shooter who was convicted of two federal gun charges and heavily criticized for allowing his disturbed son access to a military style weapon.

What strikes me about my original tribute in the Post is how the figures that I cited have not decreased but increased from 700,000 persons with mental illnesses being arrested each year to 2.2 million being booked into jail today.

But the legacy that Detective Armel left behind is what I will always remember most. She treated my son with kindness setting an example for other Fairfax Officers to follow today through CIT training. The irony and horror that she was later murdered by someone with mental illness can not be forgotten. Along with Officer Garbarino, she will be remembered.

In a time when police officers often are criticized for their handling of individuals who are mentally ill, it is important to remember the Vicky Armels in law enforcement.

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Why Don’t We Have Better Medications For Treating Serious Mental Illnesses? Grieving Father Tells Me Psychiatric Drugs Killed His Daughter

(4-30-18) I had just finished delivering a speech at the NATCOM18 about my relationship with my son. People were waiting off stage afterwards to share their stories.

One man, a mental health worker, stood by the exit until everyone else had gone.

With tears in his eyes, he approached me. His daughter, he explained, had a serious mental illness just like my son. He added, “The meds she was given, killed her.”

In the past twelve years since my book was published, I have received occasional complaints about medications and have been told how dangerous they often are. I have brushed aside most of these comments because nearly all of them came from individuals who were clearly anti-psychiatry or others who had some holistic remedy that had worked for them that they were pushing.

This man, who was clearly mourning his daughter’s death, was a mental health worker, someone in the industry. His credentials gave me pause.

My son has done well on medication. Each time, he has stopped taking his prescription, it has been a disaster. Individuals with mental illnesses often look for reasons to stop taking medicine.  I have been reluctant to even question the use of medication because I haven’t wanted to encourage anyone to stop and have a relapse. Yes, medications have dreadful side-effects, but not taking them can cause significant problems.

So what was I to think about this grieving father?

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I Give A 60 Second Speech: Why We Must Be Heard!

(4-24-18) The National Council for Behavior Health asked me to join five others in giving a less than a minute talk yesterday at the opening of its annual conference about the need for mental health reforms. The theme of the three day conference in Washington is “Be Heard.” I was thrilled to be the closing speaker and, unbeknownst to me, my friend and fellow advocate, D. J. Jaffe, taped my brief remarks while they were being shown on the jumbo screen.

Jaffe is speaking Wednesday (tomorrow morning) at the conference about his book, Insane Consequences: How Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill. His  speech is sure to draw a huge crowd because the NATCOM18 convention is the largest gathering of mental health providers in the U.S. and he has been critical of its members.

I was sad to learn yesterday during the opening ceremony that the national council’s executive director Linda Rosenberg plans to retire next year. She has built the group into a powerful, well-funded and highly respected organization with more than a $50 million annual budget. She is one of the smartest when it comes to understanding mental health financing of services and has been a tireless advocate for Americans with behavioral health problems. Her leadership and energy will be missed after she retires late next year.



Biggest Mental Health Convention – Plus More Events Make For Busy Last Several Days, But Best News Was Personal

Linda Rosenberg kicks off annual convention

(4-23-18) This morning finds me participating in the opening session of NATCON18, the annual convention here in Washington D.C. of the National Council for Behavioral Health  – and what an event it will be!

Linda Rosenberg and her crew are renowned for putting on informative and spectacular conventions that few can rival. There are always lots of celebrities. This year, they include Chuck Todd of NBC News, Glynn Washington of public radio, and actress and activist Anna Deavere Smith.

But it’s the mental health experts who always draw me.

Unfortunately, Miami-Dade County Judge Steven Leifman and author/ suicide survivor Kevin Hines will be speaking Wednesday at the same time I am giving a Thought Leader talk entitled: Hard Lessons Learned: A Father’s Mission to Rescue His Son and How That Journey Saved Them Both. I would have enjoyed hearing them.

Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, will hold a town hall and, in a new addition to the schedule this year, Linda and her team have invited several controversial speakers to give Ted like talks during what is being called: Uncomfortable Conversations. Two of those invited to speak are:

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Mental-Health Officials Are To Blame, Not Our Criminal Justice System

(4-20-18) A blog  I posted earlier this week by a frustrated father criticizing how the Loudoun County Virginia Sheriff’s office dealt with his son spread across Facebook prompting an angry community outcry.  Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman defended his deputies yesterday on this page.

Today, D. J. Jaffe, author of Insane Consequences and Executive Director of Mental Illness Policy Org,  argues that it is the mental health industry that is failing our loved ones, not the police. His comments were first published in National Review and are not directly related to the events in Loudoun County, but are germane to this continuing conversation. Share your views on my facebook page at Pete Earley Facebook. What needs to be done?)

Criminal-Justice Officials Should Stand Up to Mental-Health Officials