This was originally published for Hazelden Betty Ford’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive our advocacy emails, subscribe today.
Curation & occasional commentary by Jeremiah Gardner
📕 READ: If you’ve run across the term “crack pipe” in the news this month, odds are you’ve encountered two versions of the story playing out in the nation’s capital. Here’s one attempt from the Washington Post to sort out the confusion, and another from The Dispatch. The issue held up action on a government spending bill and seemed to highlight the political delicacy of harm-reduction public health strategies on both sides of the aisle.
📺 WATCH: In an MSNBC interview not related to the crack pipe kerfuffle but touching on the harm-reduction strategy of overdose prevention sites (aka safe injection sites), our CEO Dr. Joseph Lee said, in part: “It’s not the only tool in the tool kit, so I don’t think people need to be overly alarmed.” Generally speaking, the public would benefit from turning down the temperature on harm-reduction discussions so we can figure out and implement all the tools that help people and ultimately move away from any that don’t.
📕 READ: There will be lessons we learn from cities like San Francisco as public health officials look to balance the benefits, risks and other needs associated with various strategies.
📕 READ: Two and a half years after California Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of an overdose, a jury found former team employee Eric Kay guilty on two related drug charges. During the trial, details also emerged about other drug use in baseball.
📕 READ: The CDC has proposed new guidelines for prescribing opioids that would eliminate dosage recommendations for treatment of chronic pain in favor of a more flexible approach by caregivers. See the reactions from our Dr. Alta DeRoo and Dr. Steve Delisi. Both said that for any guidelines to be effectively applied, medical, nursing, physician assistant, and pharmacy students need required education on addiction and pain.
📕 READ: According to a new national survey, 4 out of 5 people say they want to avoid opioids after surgery.
📕 READ: In a 50-page report on the opioid crisis published in The Lancet, Stanford’s Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., and colleagues say more than 1.2 million more people could die from overdoses in North America by 2029 unless governments establish policies that treat addiction as a chronic condition. The report document the missteps that led to the overdose epidemic and suggests a wide array of solutions.
📕 READ: The U.S. Department of Justice has concluded that Pennsylvania violated the ADA by not providing medication for people with opioid use disorder in criminal justice settings.
📕 READ: A new study of Sobriety 24/7, a successful program developed in my home state of South Dakota, shows it’s effective at reducing DUI re-arrests in Montana, too — by 80%. Researcher and policy expert Keith Humphreys says, “This dwarfs effects of alcohol interlock, sobriety check lanes, required education, and treatment. Incredible that some states aren’t doing this yet.”
📕 READ: The American Society of Addiction Medicine this week published Integrating Tobacco Use Disorder Interventions in Addiction Treatment. Hazelden Betty Ford Chief Medical Officer Alta DeRoo, MD, led the committee that published the guidelines, which focus on the benefit of treating all substance use disorders — including tobacco use disorder — during addiction treatment. Download and read a story about the project here.
📕 READ: Schools’ massive anti-vaping lawsuit against Juul gains momentum.
📕 WATCH: CNN’s Sanjay Gupta checked in with the patient who more than two years ago received experimental brain stimulation surgery as a treatment for his severe opioid use disorder. The patient, who says he is also taking the medicine buprenorphine, reports doing very well. The surgery performed in West Virginia is reportedly part of a NIDA study overseen by multiple government and medical regulatory agencies. Of course, viewers should also be reminded there are effective and less-intrusive treatments for addiction. Seems that would go without saying, but we know the reality: many still doubt the possibility of recovery. Reports about last-resort, experimental surgeries — even successful or promising ones — need context to avoid perpetuating pessimism.
📕 WATCH: It was fun to see Eminem and Mary J. Blige, both of whom have spoken publicly about their recoveries, perform during the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Speaking of which — did you catch the commercial for Liquid Death? The 30-second spot depicted kids partying and chugging what appear to be “tall boy” cans of alcohol, only to reveal in the end that Liquid Death is actually mountain water. One of our readers said it glorified drinking culture for kids, calling it “shameless” and “gross.” What did you think?
📕 READ: Picking up where we and other advocates left off last fall, our friends Ryan Hampton and Bill Stauffer wrote a great article calling for dedicated federal funding to support recovery community organizations.
📕 WATCH: Still wrapping your head around what a recovery-oriented system of care is? Here’s a helpful video from our friends at the Peer Recovery Center of Excellence.
📕 WATCH: In a podcast interview with William C. Moyers, Dr. Sara Polley shares her family’s story of grieving and finding meaning in the madness, and how that inspires her work with families facing addiction today.
📕 READ: Really interesting opinion piece on why some substance users may trust their drug dealer more than their doctor.
📕 READ: NAATP announced that its Diversity, Inclusivity, and Racial Equity Award will now be named in honor of our friend and partner Peter Hayden, founder of Turning Point, Inc. in Minneapolis. The annual award will honor Peter’s legacy for years to come and keep the spotlight on the importance of culturally specific addiction treatment services everywhere. From all of us at Hazelden Betty Ford, thank you and congrats!
📕 WATCH: Our good friend Geoff Mason’s resume is incomparable. The legendary sports TV exec has won more than 20 Emmys. But his greatest achievement has been recovery and his greatest work helping others. Here’s Geoff’s story, as shared with Fox Sports Radio’s Bryan Fenley.
📕 WATCH: We teased it last month, and here it is: our CEO Dr. Joseph Lee talking with national prevention leader Angela Jerabek — founder of Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) — in a dynamite conversation about leadership, culture, and helping healthy kids stay healthy.
🔊 LISTEN: The first guest on the new season of Bill Clinton’s new podcast is Jason Isbell, talking about vaccines, public health, the opioid epidemic and more, per Deadline.
📕 READ: Carl Erik Fisher is an addiction physician and bioethicist with a new book out whose provocative New York Times essay, “It’s Misleading to Call Addiction a Disease” resurrected a very old debate. He thoughtfully illuminates real challenges and deep insights about addiction, how common it is, and what a unique window it is into the struggles of being human. However, his narrow view of disease is problematic. Our thoughts are more aligned with the reaction of addiction professional and social worker Jason Schwarz, who writes: “I think the solution is that we get better at talking about diseases and their complexity, rather than reclassify addiction because it’s too complex.”
📕 READ: Carl Erik Fisher wrote another recent piece, this time for the Washington Post, that we loved — a wonderful profile of the great recovery advocacy pioneer Marty Mann.
📺 WATCH: In a recent No Thanks But Yes video podcast, recovery activist Donald McDonald interviewed our friend Greg Williams, managing director at Third Horizon Strategies and producer of The Anonymous People, Generation Found and Tipping the Pain Scale (and hopefully next — a biopic of Marty Mann). A great and insightful conversation about recovery advocacy!
📕 READ: Addiction counselor Stuart Gunter also plays drums in a band whose music is featured in the Hulu docuseries Dopesick.
📕 READ: Honored that North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum, whose recovery has fueled a personal and public-service mission to end the stigma and shame associated with addiction, will deliver the 23rd Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies commencement address.
📕 READ: Speaking of digital TV series, who is watching Season 2 of Euphoria?
📕 READ: The opioid crisis now costs the U.S. economy about $1.3 trillion a year, according to a new estimate.
📕 READ: Meanwhile, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and a group of states have not been able to agree on a multibillion-dollar settlement of lawsuits over the drug’s role in the opioid crisis after more than a month of mediation. In the latest salvo Friday, it was announced that Purdue had boosted its settlement offer by $1 billion to a total of $6 billion. Unlikely to change the sentiment of recovery advocate Ryan Hampton, author of Unsettled, who wrote: “In Purdue Pharma bankruptcy settlement, OxyContin’s many victims may receive nothing at all.”
📕 READ: Drug legalization debates continue to grow more prominent. Maia Szalavitz made her case for legalization in the New York Times, pointing to Oregon’s legalization experiment as a model. The question is does her philosophical case match the experience of most people living there? We certainly hear mixed reports. Here’s one cogent critique.
📕 READ: Disappointed to see Oregon fall to last in the country in access to addiction treatment. Our leader there, Heidi Wallace, and Oregon Recovers leader Mike Marshall offered some reaction and insights.
📕 READ: Surprise … Some recreational pot shops are using tricks from the old playbooks of alcohol and tobacco companies to target underage users on social media, a new study reports.
🔊 LISTEN: Faces & Voices of Recovery has a new podcast: This is What Recovery Looks Like.
📺 WATCH: Congrats to Adriana Marchione and all others involved in making the new film The Creative High, a film about reclaiming creativity in recovery. It recently premiered and won its first film festival award. Watch the trailer. I had the chance to watch a private screening and really appreciated it!
📕 READ: Check out the lineup for a Women’s Global Recovery Roundtable set for March 8 (International Women’s Day).
🔊 LISTEN: Our colleague Javier Ley talks about recovery, life and purpose in a new podcast.
📺 WATCH: NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy joined Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s Dr. Kevin Sabet for a conversation about the clinical outcomes of marijuana use, particularly among teens.
📕 READ: Dry January has come and gone. Jenna Ross at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis devoted a whole month of great coverage to this tradition many have of experimenting with sobriety after the holidays. Her work included several stories and expert tips, context from experts like our own Dr. Kristen Schmidt, an excellent Facebook support group, and even her own story of trying sobriety last January and keeping it up ever since. Dr. Schmidt also talked about the benefits of taking a break from booze with The Current.
📕 READ: A suicide hotline’s data practices are sparking ethical debates.
📕 READ: Historian and deep-thinking recovery advocate William White is taking a break from his blog, as he routinely does. So, in honor of the passing of addiction treatment pioneer Len Balzer in December, please take a look back at White’s publication A Tradition of Leadership, documenting the founding in 1978 and early history of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). You will see Len’s photo and a few words about him on page three.
🧠 RECOVERY ALMANAC: Feb. 19 marks the 15-year anniversary of comedian and late night talk show host Craig Ferguson’s memorable sobriety dialogue on The Late Late Show. Without saying he was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he cleverly advised anyone with a problem with alcohol to seek help from a tremendous organization that is listed “at the front of the phone book, the VERY front!”
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Jeremiah Gardner is director of communications and public affairs for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.