“What??  Legalize heroin?? Are you fucking kidding me”??  That’s what a woman yelled at me the other day.

She went on to say how much she hated her brother.  How much he had devastated the family.  How legalizing heroin would feed into the beast and make it easy for everyone to use heroin.

“Prescription heroin?  Hell give everyone a prescription for heroin. Fuck you lady.  The only thing he is a good candidate for is a  wooden box and a hole six feet deep.”

It was heartbreaking to listen to her.  Clearly she has been deeply hurt.  That deep hurt has been turned to toxic anger. Sadly, she is not alone in her thinking.

In spite of all the research.  In spite of all the medical professionals speaking out.  In spite of reports from all first responders.  In spite of all the collected data, the overdoses, the deaths.  In spite of the undeniable proof that addiction is a brain disease, far too many people still have the “locked them up and throw away the key” mentality.

And that is a tragedy.

The evidence is there.  Harm reduction is paramount is tackling this horrific medical issue. And what will reduce harm for one person suffering with addiction may well be different than what will reduce harm for another person suffering.

There is no “one size fits all” solution.  Everyone suffering is unique and has to be treated as such.  And we can do this.

This entire generation has been taught by parents, taught by educators, taught by law-enforcement “Do not use drugs”.

No one can say they have not had that message drilled into them from the time they could talk.

If someone says, “don’t touch the stove, you’ll get burned”, we don’t touch the stove.  If someone says, “don’t jump off the bridge, you’ll break your legs”, we don’t jump off the bridge.

There are just some things that just make sense.  We don’t have to touch the stove or jump off a bridge to know we will get hurt.

“Don’t use drugs, and you won’t ever have a drug problem”.  Seems like common sense.  Why risk it?

Think for a moment – how many times have you heard, “Don’t drink and drive”.  “Don’t smoke, it can cause lung cancer”.   “Slow down when the road is slippery”.  “Don’t text when driving”.  “Don’t share too much online”.   “Don’t get into a car with a stranger or with anyone who has been drinking”.

And that is all good advice.

Yet every single day people don’t follow that advice.  Cars filled with young guys race down the highway.  People drive home after a couple glasses of wine. A girl shares too much online.  A parent texts they’ll be a bit late getting home, traffic is moving slowly.

The thing is, we all know what we should and should not do.  It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out.  But we take risks.  And most of the time there isn’t  huge repercussions.  UNTIL THERE IS.

I believe people first try a potentially addictive substance, believing that they will not become a statistic, for one of two reasons.  Curiosity or pain.

Curiosity because they wonder what the big deal is all about.  A lot of people they know seem to be having fun.  They want to see for themselves.

Secondly, people often try something, anything that will take away pain.  It may well be physical pain. From an injury.  A car accident.   A fall.   Often it is emotional pain.  A feeling of deep rejection.  Physical, emotional or sexual abuse in childhood.  Abandonment.

There  is always a reason.

For some, they can try an potentially addictive substance and walk away after.  For another, they are caught in a trap they cannot seem to get free of.

And it is that person who is caught, that has the disease of addiction that becomes a prisoner to their addiction.   When addiction raises it’s ugly head,  our addicted loved one is no longer having fun.  They are simply surviving in a world of pain and suffering.  Merely surviving one day at a time.

And sadly, far too many don’t.  We have a horrific health crisis going on and we have to start treating it with the same intensity we would treat another horrific health crisis.

A large increase in the number of detox and treatment beds is imperative.  A place of safety  is paramount.  Methodose and Suboxon have to made  easily available to everyone asking.  And no one should have to go “pharmacy shopping” to find a pharmacy that dispenses Methodose.  Or to try and find a doctor that will prescribe it.  If you are a licensed pharmacy,  if you are a licensed physician, this crucial, life saving drug should be available.  No stigma attached.

For those people who have tried  treatment, counselling, methodose, everything possible available to them and still they cannot stop the devastation of their disease, they should be prescribed medical heroin.   This is not a complicated concept.  It works for those who have not been able to grasp that lifeline.

The amount given is the amount necessary to keep the person suffering stable.  STABLIZATION IS THE KEY.  The amount given is not keeping the person sick.  It is allowing them to stabilize and function.  It allows them to know what they are getting will not kill them.  It is clean and safe and given in a clinical setting.

These are not short term fixes.

I often hear from readers, Moms predominately, who are concerned because they don’t want their loved one on Methadose or Suboxon.   The truth is, that medication is keeping their loved one well.   It is keeping them stable and able to function.  It may take time to get to the right dosage but that is no different than with any other disease.  And they may need to remain on it for the rest of their lives.

Not to sound simplistic, because there is absolutely nothing simple about the disease of addiction,  but think for a moment, if you take medication for high blood pressure, do you quit taking it because your blood pressure has come down?  If you are a diabetic and your glucose levels come down, do you quit taking your insulin?  If you are suffering from clinical depression, do you stop taking your anti-depressant because you begin to feel better?

No.  You realize that the medication along with perhaps diet and exercise is able to stabilize your condition.

Methadose, Suboxon, prescription Heroin – they are those vital medications that can keep your addicted loved one stabilized, along with counseling and compassionate care that will allow them to live the life they deserve.  That everyone deserves.  These treatments can bring about changes so dramatic that families come back together.  That overdoses stop happening on our streets and in our homes.

This crisis is not going away.  Several Europeon countries have adopted the harm reduction approach that includes prescription heroin given in a clinical setting and the death rate from overdose due to toxic illegal drugs has dropped in some countries to near nil.

The Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver is proving that very thing with the limited group using their facility.  Lives are being saved.  People are feeling healthier and hopeful.

We have to stop the insanity of the “blame game”.  The disease of addiction is literally stealing the lives of wonderful, kind and loving people every day.  This madness must end.  We must embrace harm reduction, in whatever forms work.  It is going to take every social agency to come on board, healthcare, treatment options and facilities, the criminal justice system, housing, benefits that allow healthy diets.

Every time someone finds the help they need, all of society benefits.  This truly is a disease “that takes a village”.   Let’s be part of the solution, because if we are not part of the solution, we stay part of the problem.

Until next time – take care of yourself and know you are not alone.  I truly care.

Much love,






The Disparity Between Physical Diseases and Brain Related Diseases – An Open Letter To Everyone – Because Everyone Knows Someone

No two diseases are the same.  Because of that,  we treat diseases in different ways.  But for anyone who has disease, affecting their physical well-being, one thing is clear – we believe they should get the best possible care available, as soon as possible and for as long as needed.

I believe this.

I also believe that anyone suffering any condition that affects their thinking, their emotional well-being, their behaviors, their decisions, their stability, their capabilities, deserves exactly the same.

So why the disparity.  Everyone of us knows someone that is not treated in the manner their deserve.

We all know people who think those battling addiction “should be locked away in prison”.   That “they are selfish, weak, losers”.   That “they are a drain on society”.

We all know people who think someone battling depression should “just get over it. What have they got to be depressed about”.

Those battling anxiety and panic attacks and at times are unable to even leave their home, are “looking for attention”.

Those battling schizophrenia are “crazy”.

Young people struggling are often dismissed “hormones” “the teen years”.

Diseases or condition affecting the brain are dismissed as something the suffer has control over.  Something the suffer is perpetuating. Something the suffer has brought on themselves.

And nothing could be farther from the truth.  Addiction, mental illness, brain related conditions literally incapacitate the suffer.  These conditions and diseases literally rob the suffer of any pleasure.  Any peace. Any laughter.  Any positive feelings.

These conditions leave the suffer in a deep, dark hole that makes them feel completely alone as they further isolate themselves out of fear, shame, embarrassment.  Because of the stigma society has placed on diseases and conditions affecting the thinking, the behaviors, the ability to process, those suffering often suffer in silence and with beliefs that only compounds their shame and isolation.

This has to stop.  People are dying every single day.  Lives are destroyed.  Families are devastated.  Society is affected.  This must end.

Never before in modern times have we seen this degree of health crisis going on, on our streets, in our homes, in every community in the country.  Countries around the world.  Even the AIDS crisis did not take the number of lives addiction has taken.

Addiction takes the person addicted hostage.  Their behaviors take their loved ones hostage.  Very sick people are dying at an alarming rate every single day from overdose and the opioid crisis.  Those who survive an overdose with the administration of Naloxon or Narcan, as it is often referred to, are often left permanently brain impaired because of the lack of oxygen to the brain.

What many don’t  realize is that hospital wards and long term care facilities have an ever expanding number of those with permanent brain damage – no longer able to care for themselves because an overdose left them permanently disabled.

When addiction has taken hold of someone, the party has ended.  The suffer is no longer “choosing”  to use, rather is “dependent” on using.  That might seem difficult to comprehend but it is factual.  The addict’s brain has been altered.  The person addicted has a brain disease.  The science has proven what those of us who have a loved one suffering have long believed.  The long line of professionals, doctors, scientists, addictions specialist, they all concur.  ADDICTION IS A DISEASE.

We need to have a system in place to treat those addicted in the same timely manner and with whatever is deemed necessary to stop the deaths, as we do for those suffering physical diseases.  Whether that be making Methadose or Saboxon prescriptions more easily availble.  Doctors meeting patients where they are at.  Safe injection sites.  Medically prescribed heroin.  We need to stop this deadly disease trajectory.  If keeping people alive and able to function means prescribing opioids in a controlled environment under strict guidelines, then lets do it.

We will never stop substance mis-use or abuse.  But we can steam the tide.  We can reduce the colossal damage.  The  number of lost and broken people.  The number of devastated families and the financial burden on society.

We need to have detox and treatment immediately available when an addict reaches out.  That window of opportunity is very small – we cannot afford to let that loved one fall through the cracks.  That three week wait list.  That just does not work.

For those people battling any one of the large number of mental illnesses that we are acutely aware of, they cannot wait.  They need immediate help when they reach out.

People with altered brain functioning because of any one of the diseases affecting the brain can not wait.  They are suffering horrifically just trying to get through the day.  Doctors, therapists,  support workers, counsellors, medication, continuous, long term supports.  These are not negotiable.  These are necessities.  People are dying self-medicating.  The numbers of people struggling with addiction and mental illness together is massive.  We need to help those who are at a place where they are feeling helpless.  Where they are feeling hopeless.  Where they are feeling desperate. Where they can no longer help themselves.

Would we as a society leave anyone battling a physical disease in  the same manner in which we leave those battling a mental illness or a brain disease like addiction.  I think not.

We have to do better.  Our loved ones can no longer wait.  Way too many have died.  Stand up.  Speak out.  Let your voices be heard.  They are counting on us.

Until next time my Friend, take care of yourself and reach out when you need to.  I truly care.

Much love,




Drug Addiction: The Light of Her Love

As we go through life we may meet someone who touches our life and it is changed forever.

We hear something that resonates with us.  It touches us to our core.  It may be something we hear someone say.  It may be something we read. Very often it is a song we listen to.  A song that speaks to us.  A song that feels it was written especially for us because it says in a song what we feel in our heart.

This week I received a letter from a gentleman in New York, USA.  We have never met.  Yet, we have touched each others lives by chance.  I have never believed in coincidences.  I believe life unfolds as it is supposed to.  People enter our lives when it is meant to happen.  And our lives are better for it.

With his permission I want to share with you a song he has written.  It is a powerful song that will touch the heart of every single person who has a loved one struggling with addiction.  It will especially touch the heart of every Mom with a child struggling with the disease of addiction. And  I am going to share his note with you.  Bill has truly captured the agonizing experience of loving a child who struggles with drug addiction.

Log onto the site indicated in his note.  He has so generously provided this for free. Close your eyes so you have no distractions and allow his words and music to enter your heart.  Every word, reflected the feelings I have carried in my heart.  And as a Mom who a child you so deeply loved, struggling with addiction, I know these are the feelings you too, carry in your heart.

I hope after listening to his words you will write him a review that others may find his words and know their feelings, their fears and their pain is validated and understood.  And I would love to hear from you as well.

Please find Bill’s note below and the link to his song:    The Light of Her Love
Dear Ms. Ariano-Jakes,

About a year ago my cousin emailed me and asked if I could write her a song about the experience of having a child who struggled with drug addiction.  Her son is in his thirties and had been addicted since he was 14, although he has been in recovery for three years now.

My initial thought about writing the song was that I couldn’t write a song about this since I had no firsthand experience with it.  As I continued to think about it I realized that I did know what it was like to love a child and I did know what it was like to fear for a child (I’m a 59 year old grandfather.) so perhaps I could write the song.  I began to look around the internet and came upon your book.  I ordered and carefully read your book.

Although my cousin shared a few things with me about her experience, almost everything I now know about what it is like to be the parent of a child who struggles with addiction comes from your book.  I hope I haven’t gotten it horribly wrong and I apologize if it’s presumptuous to think something so poignant, personal and painful as this can be expressed in a four minute song, but here it is. I hope it somehow will have some value to someone.

I’ve attached the song to this email.  The song is streaming and downloadable for free at this music platform.   http://cdbaby.com/cd/billmott2

Warm Regards,

Bill Mott



And until next time my Friend – know you are not alone. Reach out. I truly care.

Much love to you all,


Stand Up, Speak Out – Together We Can

Hello my Friends – I wouldn’t normally send a second message off to you in the same week but yesterday one of our Addiction: A Mother’s Story Moms, Penny Douglass from Kamloops, British Columbia Canada kindly shared a letter with me that she sent to our Provincial Minister of Health Terry Lake.

Penny’s letter voices the very concerns everyone of us have.  Society is very slowly beginning to realize what we parents have known for a very long time.  Addiction is a disease.  A disease that alters the brain of our addicted loved ones. We have watched it unfold  for years begging for help. Tragically it has taken the incredible number of  overdose deaths this past year due to fentnyl and carfentnyl  into the mix, to shake up the stigma surrounding addiction.

The momentum of awareness and what is needed must continue.  We are just at the starting line.  Our addicted loved ones deserve every bit of care, compassion and help from highly qualified professions.  There is not a “one size fits all” solution.  Like any other health crisis, those suffering with the disease of addiction need us to pull out all the stops. They need intense help to overcome their addiction but they also need  just as much  help to deal with the trauma that addiction has brought into their lives, trauma perhaps carried from childhood. PTSD that results in high levels of anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness, night terrors, the list goes on and on.

As Penny indicates in her letter, our addicted loved ones desperately need and deserve to be treated with the same level of professionalism and expertise as anyone struggling with any other deadly disease.

Please find Penny’s letter below – she is generously allowing me to share it with all of you. Both Penny and I encourage you to write your government health officials, government leaders, representatives wherever you live – it will take us Mothers, we as  family members  to keep the pressure on.  STAND UP – SPEAK OUT – TOGETHER WE CAN. Our addicted loved ones are not  able to advocate for themselves while deep in their addiction so we must. Let your voices be heard.

Be kind to yourselves – take care and please keep in touch.  I truly care.

Much love,


Again, thank you Penny for allowing your words, wisdom, and your experience to be shared.

On Feb 1, 2017, at 9:17 PM, PENNY DOUGLASS  wrote:

I would like to make some comments on the Coroners recommendations following the inquest, into a clients death, in an addiction treatment centre in BC. I would strongly urge our Ministry of Health to implement standardized regulations for the operation of Addiction and Substance Abuse treatment centers in our province. This needs to include a requirement for professionally trained staff to be actively involved in patient treatment. Folks with ‘lived experience’ have valuable knowledge & skills but this needs to be partnered with education and recovery longevity. It is my belief and the belief of other parents that a licensing system needs to be in place.
The regulation of these centers needs to include a standardized measurement of outcomes. I find it very difficult to find out what these centers base their success percentages on. What is a success-someone who completes treatment but may return to using 3 days after they have ‘graduated’? What is counted as a failure? Is a death in treatment a failure? Or did they just not complete treatment? Remember these centers are businesses. Success numbers draw clients.
The opioid crisis has highlighted the increasing need for easily accessible Detox and treatment centers. Most,treatment centers’ recovery philosophy is narrow in focus and they demand total abstinence; therefore, designing recovery plans which exclude clients who require medicinal therapies for their individual recovery. This means many treatment facilities do not admit clients on Suboxone or Methadone ( both recognized therapies in opioid addiction treatment) as this requires more staff, work and expense.

When families and/or addicts are choosing a treatment centre they need to do their homework. Ask questions, look at staff qualifications, look at policies on replacement drugs, read rules and regulations. If you identify red flags, deal with them prior to paying or having your addicted love one enter the facility. Most addicts enter a facility at a critical point in their disease and their admission is totally voluntary and they are free to leave at anytime. In theory they are choosing to be there-unlike jail. By the very nature of addiction these are folks who have spent much of their time substance/drug seeking. It is their desire to stop, partnered with the skilled help of treatment professionals. At this critical crossroads, the addicted persons need speedy and efficient access to regulated, standardized treatment in facilities that are inspected, licensed and monitored.
I have had experience with some very good, professional treatment centers and some that are substandard. We have a standard for patient care in other areas of health care system and our family members and others suffering from addictions and substance abuse deserve the  same standardized quality of care.
In concern, Penny Douglass
Kamloops, BC.

Immediate Places of Help For Your Addicted Loved One

Hello Friends – As we come to the end of January we continue to hear of the increasing number of families being affected by the number of overdoses happening in our homes, in our communities, on our streets.  It is a crisis situation we as parents, family members have been pleading for help with, for many years now.

As more research confirms addiction as being an altered brain disease, our political leaders are beginning to speak out about addiction as being a health crisis of epic proportions.  We have a health crisis on our hands and it is not going away.  Our loved ones are suffering unimaginable pain and as you watch your loved one struggling the pain and heartbreak you are living with is unimaginable except to another parent struggling with the same.

I am attaching a letter I received outlining a comprehensive listing of resources to improve access to opioid agonist therapy for individuals with opioid use disorder across Vancouver, Canada.

For those of you living in other areas or countries, I encourage you to approach your Health Authority or your  political health representative to find out what is available in your area.

While your loved one may not be at a place where they are ready to accept help, I encourage you to look into whatever resources are available so that when your loved one does reach out for help, you will have this information at your finger tips.


For those of you who follow Twitter, I hope you will go to my Twitter feed   @AddictionAMS  I post valuable information throughout the day that I believe you will  find helpful and informative for those who have loved ones struggling with addiction, mental illness, homelessness.

Please take the time to take care of yourself.  In the midst of all the kayos of addiction, those of you who have a loved one struggling, often suffer in silence with extreme anxiety, fear, devastation and sleeplessness.  Remember you count.

Please remember you are not alone. Please keep in touch. I truly care.

Much love,




Overdose Crisis of 2016 – What We’ve Learned

As we come to the end of 2016, I’ve heard people say, “I can’t wait for 2016 to be over”. Almost as if once the calendar turns the page, the issues of 2016 will be over.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful if life worked that way.

The truth is, 2016 saw a never before seen spike in drug overdoses and overdose deaths. Toxic substances like Fentenyl and Carfentenyl changed the way drug use is seen.

Many in society went from the mindset of addicts being weak or morally corrupt to seeing addiction for what is truly is – a horrific, unforgiving and devastating disease.  To the one addicted and to those of us who love them.

For many, they started to think of addiction, what you and I have always known – it was much more than bad choices.  We have seen loved ones struggling to just get through the day.  We have seen the drastic and dramatic change in who they were.  It was as if we were looking at two entirely different people.  One the person we loved.  And the second, the person we loved on drugs.  And we knew they were polar opposites.

The kind, loving, gentle person was gone.  The angry, aggressive person we didn’t know was there.

Tragically, it took “middle class mothers”, “middle class parents”,  and youth dying for people to stand up and take notice.  All of a sudden it wasn’t only “junkies” dying. All of a sudden people with “normal” lives were dying.

It took people like Sarah Blythe who cared about the numbers of people overdosing and dying on our streets to take action and open up unsanctioned pop-up life-saving tents in the back alleys where drug use was rampant.  That action drew attention the government could  no longer ignore.  We have an epidemic going on and something had to change. Not tomorrow.  Right now.  Because every single day we are seeing more people dying.  More lives devastated.

For years parents and loved ones of those addicted have been begging for additional detox and treatment beds.  Our loved ones were treated as “less than”.  Parents of addicts were often made to feel they had somehow “failed” as parents.

The truth is, addiction is a disease.  Why drug use affects one person differently than the next is brain chemistry.

What we need is immediate multifascited, long term support for those struggling with addiction.  There is no quick fix.  But lives are at risk every single minute of the day and society can no longer turn a blind eye.

Addicts are not bad people.  They are sick people.  Sick people who often do “bad” things to get the money to pay for that fix.  There is a huge difference.  These are very sick people who need multifacited, long term treatment and ongoing support.

We often think of this drug overdose crisis in terms of number of deaths.  The fact is, many people survive overdoses because of Naloxone/Narcan.  Many survive because of intervention.

But, those who survive very often have lost cognitive functioning. We don’t “see” it. We think, “they made it”.  The fact is, many people who survive overdoses now have severely altered brains.  Their brains have been damaged.  Many fill hospital wards and will require long term care for the rest of their lives.  Many have lost the ability to properly process acceptable behavior or have lost the ability to problem solve which often leaves them extremely vulnerable.

When overdose occurs, the heart stops.  The body is not getting blood pumped to all the vital organs. The person is no longer breathing.  Brain cells begin to die.  Unless someone is there immediately to inject Naloxone and to begin breathing for the person down – that life will never be the same again.  Damage on some level has occurred.  The seconds/minutes  between overdose and intervention, determines the outcome. But make no mistake, damage has occurred.

Those of us who are committed to changing the outcome for those battling drug addiction have to continue to speak out.  Your voice, your opinion matters.  Change will only occur is enough people say, “Enough”.

We now have doctors going to the street, meeting people where they are at, filling prescriptions for Methodose and Suboxone, trying to encourage those addicted.  We have first responders exhausted and begging for help in this crisis.  We have police and fire departments, ambulance services demanding help.  We have finally gotten some government officials working to implement change.

This is just the first step.  We cannot allow this to slow down.  We have a crisis.  It will take all hands on deck to fight this crisis, because we have drug traffickers who are ruthless in their quest for money and power and they have pulled out all the stops.  We have to do the same.

So as we turn the calendar page, let us not slow down – keep the pressure on.  The lives of those addicted are counting on us.  We cannot let them down.

As 2017 is about to come in, I wish you continued hope.  Hope that those we care about will find their way out of their addiction.  And that those of you who love them will find a peace you so desperately and rightfully deserve.

Take care my Friend – be kind to yourself.  Remember you count too. You are not alone, I truly care.

Much love,






10 Keys to Recovery from Mental Illness and Addiction

I found an  article by Dr. David Susman and felt that perhaps it is one you may want to read as well.  Our loved ones are struggling with Addiction.  Many are also struggling with mental illness.

When Addiction: A Mother’s Story first came out in 2012 I wrote that recovery was like running a marathon all uphill.  In the 9th point in this article Dr. Susman also refers to recovery as a marathon.   Those of us who have watched our loved ones try and try again to reach for recovery have seen this ourselves.

I believe you will find valuable information in this article.  You can find it at http://www.davidsusman.com/2014/12/12/10-keys-to-recovery-from-mental-illness-addiction/

I hope you are having a peaceful day.

Remember, you are not alone.  I truly care.

Much love,




Top 10 Myths (and Realities) About Drug Addiction

Hello Friend- This month I am posting twice.  I came across this article authored by Dr. Eric Patterson as indicated below and thought it contained  a great deal of valuable  information.  There is so much misinformation around addiction and  I believe you will find this article helpful as you walk the journey with your addicted loved one.

Take care and be kind to yourself. Remember you are not alone, I truly care.

Much love,




Top 10 Myths (and Realities) About Drug Addiction

Authored By Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC


More than many other topics, addiction is surrounded by myths and misinformation. Substance abuse is a hugely emotional issue and opinions on the issue vary widely. While this is to be expected, it is dangerous when opinions on such a life-impacting issue are based on information that is less than factual. Here we will discuss and dispel some of the most common myths associated with drug abuse and addiction.

Common Myths About Addiction

While it’s impossible to list every myth associated with substance abuse, we’ve listed 10 of the most common misconceptions about addiction and the facts that dispel these myths.

Myth #1: Addicts Can End Use Whenever They Wish

Many people believe that someone suffering from addiction is making the conscious choice to keep using. As someone looking in at an addicted person, it’s easy to wonder why that person won’t just stop. Thoughts like “If she loved me, she’d stop” and “He’s choosing the drugs over me” prevail the thinking of many people who love someone who’s addicted. It’s common to assume that an addicted individual wants to live the life of an addict.

This misguided view ignores the very definition of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as an enduring condition that triggers the user to compulsively search out and use substances. Often, this use will continue regardless of the repercussions, no matter how unwanted they become. People in addiction often experience loss of friends, jobs, and housing as well as negative physical and mental health effects. The power of addiction perpetuates continued use even despite the repercussions.

Another factor that makes quitting more complex is dependence. When someone is dependent on a drug, his body begins to require it to feel and function normally. If he does attempt to end use, he will experience varied levels of physical and mental distress for a period. This is known as withdrawal and it can be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous, depending on the drug type.

Those struggling with addiction often need support and assistance to begin the journey toward sobriety. Learn how to help an addict.

Myth #2: Addiction Is a Moral Failure

This myth is tricky because there is some level of truth to it. Yes. Using a substance is a choice, especially at the beginning. Unless someone was drugged without their knowledge, they willingly choose to use a substance initially. This does not mean that they chose addiction and all that comes with it, however.

Some people are able to use a substance multiple times without becoming addicted. Others may have used a substance only once when signs of addiction were established. Someone’s potential for addiction is affected by several factors, including:

  • Genetics.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Developmental factors, such as family upbringing and past trauma.
  • Psychological and personality factors, such as distress tolerance, impulsivity, emotion regulation, and executive functioning.

Addiction is marked by observable and predictable changes in the brain. This is the basis for the theory that addiction is a disease. While substance use is a choice in the beginning, addiction is not. Brain changes caused by repeated substance use make it extremely difficult to quit using. Addicted individuals often make numerous failed attempts to stop and, in fact, recovery from addiction is often associated with more than one relapse.

Myth #3: All People that Use Drugs Are Addicted

In reality, there is much more to addiction than simply using a drug. Addiction is observed through a number of signs like:

  • About 15% of people that use cocaine become addicted.
  • About 12% of people that use alcohol become addicted.
  • 8% of people that use marijuana become addicted.
  • Increased conflict and changing relationships.
  • Decreased attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Changes in sleep and energy levels.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Lack of money due to spending more on the substance.
  • Legal problems associated with continued substance use.
  • Numerous failed attempts to stop using.
  • Tolerance (needing more or higher potency to achieve the desired effect).
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using.

If someone is not exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is possible that they are not addicted to the substance.

Addiction develops at different rates depending on the unique characteristics of the person, their reasons for using, and their drug of abuse.While it’s easy to call any drug user an addict, the reality is that drug use does not necessarily equate to addiction.

Myth #4: Addicts Are Easy to Identify

Myths and stereotypes usually work in combination to spread misinformation. The typical stereotype of an addict often includes the following characteristics:

  • Low socioeconomic background.
  • Unemployed.
  • Male.
  • Minority.
  • Involved with criminal activity.

Overall, many of these stereotypes are unfounded. Take the case of heroin use as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

The truth is that people addicted to substances exist in every walk of life regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, employment, or economic status. Addiction is a condition that impacts everyone.

Myth #5: You Cannot Be Addicted to a Prescribed Medication

It’s common to assume that if your doctor prescribes you a medication, it is completely safe and nonaddictive. Unfortunately, this is not true. Many prescribed medications are highly potent and have the potential for abuse and addiction.

People can abuse and become addicted to a range of medications including:

  • Opioids.
  • Benzodiazepines.
  • Sleep aids.
  • Barbiturates.
  • Stimulants like ADHD medication.

Prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are well known to cause addiction. In fact, prescription opioid abuse has become a national epidemic in recent years.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), about 16 million people reported lifetime oxycodone abuse in 2012. The DEA goes on to state that nearly 26 million people admitted lifetime hydrocodone abuse in 2012.

Misusing these drugs (taking more than prescribed or taking it via alternate methods like injecting) leads to greater chances of addiction.

Myth #6: If You Can Go to Work, You Are Not Really Addicted

This myth is one likely perpetuated by the addicts rather than outside observers. Denial is a strong force for many addicts.

Going to work does not disqualify someone from being addicted to a substance. In fact, many addicts hold down jobs.

For many, work is one of the later aspects of functioning to suffer because of the value they put on their jobs for income and social standing. Those who are still able to maintain employment while addicted are often referred to as “high functioning addicts.” This high-functioning status typically degrades over time, however, as the addiction progresses.

Addiction does not look the same in every person, and addiction progresses faster in some than others. There is no hard and fast rule that determines whether someone is addicted.

Worried someone you love is addicted?
Learn the signs and symptoms of drug abuse.

Myth #7: Only “Hard” Drugs are Dangerous

Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine have a reputation for being highly addictive, powerful, and dangerous. These “hard” drugs carry a well-deserved negative connotation because of their perceived risk, but these are not the only dangerous drugs.

Any substance that can lead to addiction and dependence can be dangerous. The effects of these substances can impair judgment, decrease coordination, and bring about unwanted physical and mental health issues. Even a substance that has a low risk of addiction can be very problematic depending on the individual and the reasons for use.

For example, alcohol is widely used recreationally and not considered a “hard” drug; however, its dangerous nature is easy to track. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

  • About 88,000 people die each year in the U.S. from alcohol-related issues.
  • More than 10,000 people die each year from driving accidents involving alcohol.
  • Alcohol drinking can interfere with normal physical development for children and teens.

Alcohol is not the only example, though. According to NIDA, marijuana use is related to a number of mental health concerns including:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Psychosis.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

People that use drugs earlier in life are at greater risk of these negative effects of use, even though they may not present until later into adulthood.

Myth #8: There is Nothing Friends or Family Can Do to Help

This myth maintains that friends and family members are powerless against the addiction. This myth is not only incorrect, but it is dangerous since it implies that loved ones and their actions do not factor into someone’s ability to get recover from addiction. Certainly, no one can force an addicted person to quit using, but luckily, there are many methods you can use to improve the situation. Conversely, there are certain actions that can worsen the situation.

What to Do

The following can help you aid your loved one during the course of addiction:

  • Being consistent with rules and expectations.
  • Following through with promises and consequences.
  • Speaking with optimism and positivity.
  • Giving physical and verbal encouragement like a hug or a compliment for a job well done.
  • Using assertive communication to find compromise.
  • Creating (and sticking to) strong boundaries.
  • Addressing underlying reasons for substance use.
  • Gaining education on addiction and the substance of choice.
  • Encouraging treatment for your loved one and yourself.

What Not to Do

Factors that can worsen addiction include:

  • Being inconsistent with rules and expectations for the addicted person.
  • Punishing the person during periods of sobriety.
  • Speaking negatively or accusingly, which triggers shame and guilt.
  • Placing all responsibility on the addict.

Myth #9: Rehab Doesn’t Really Work

For so many people, residential rehabilitation is a highly effective form of treatment. Rehabs help by removing an addicted individual from her current environment in the attempt to focus on treatment for a period that usually lasts between 28 and 90 days. During treatment, people can receive mental health, physical health, and addiction support to assist in the present and plan for the future.

Rehab is not a lifelong cure for addiction, though. As mentioned, addiction is a long-term condition, and it is marked by periods of relapse and recovery. It is possible for people to continue drug use following treatment just as it is possible for people with diabetes to struggle to maintain their blood sugar.

The best treatments for substance abuse and addiction are long-lasting, specialized programs that are readily available and target the whole person rather than the addiction. Rehab is an essential part of this long-term care for many people. Often, a successful plan incorporates rehab, outpatient treatment, and ongoing aftercare for continued support.


Myth #10: A Relapse Equals Failure

A relapse does not equate to failure. It is not a failure of the previous treatment attempts, the supports in place for the person, or the person. In fact, viewing this as a failure may breed unwanted emotional responses like:

  • Shame.
  • Guilt.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Apathy.

These feelings hurt both the addicted person and those that love him and fuel continued substance use.

Relapse is a normal part of recovery indicating the need for a modification or reinvestment in treatment. It can be a sign that additional types of treatment should be explored and employed. Making necessary changes to the treatment plan increases the chances of maintaining future recovery efforts.


Dangers of Believing the Myths

Myths will always exist, especially among emotional and confusing topics like addiction. The risk comes from treating a myth as a reality without questioning it and letting it influence your beliefs and actions.

Lack of appropriate information on the subject of substance use can lead to a list of negative outcomes including:

  • Increased use.
  • Damaged relationships.
  • Increased mental health complaints.
  • Increased physical health complaints.
  • Risk of overdose, hazardous withdrawals, or death.





  1. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. Hydrocodone. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2016, from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/hydrocodone.pdf#search=hydrocodone
  3. Is there a link between marijuana use and mental illness? (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-mental-illness
  4. Oxycodone. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2016, from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/oxycodone/oxycodone.pdf#search=oxycodone
  5. Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from http://www.samhsa.gov/specific-populations/racial-ethnic-minority
  6. Result Filters. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11927172
  7. Researchers Identify Alcoholism Subtypes | National Institutes of Health (NIH). (n.d.). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/researchers-identify-alcoholism-subtypes
  8. Research Report Series: Prescription Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/prescriptiondrugrrs_11_14.pdf
  9. Today’s Heroin Epidemic. (2015). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/
  10. Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction
  11. Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction
  12. What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs. (2016). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs





Our Homeless Population – People Who Have Tragically Fallen Through The Cracks

I know so many truly good people who live in homelessness.  Many live under tarps to keep the rain and wind off themselves.  Many stay overnight in shelters when they are able to access an available bed. Many couch surf whenever they can.

They are the  sons and daughters of other Mothers who are battling the unforgiving disease of addiction.  Many are struggling with severe and untreated mental illness.  Some have escaped an abusive environment.  Or have been released from the prison system.

All have their story as to how they got there.  My son was homelessness many times over the twenty-three years of his addition.  I have listened to his stories.  I have listened to the stories of hundreds of people I know who live in homelessness.

Each one is carrying pain.  Fear.  Embarrassment. Shame.  Hopelessness. Always a sense of hopelessness. Smiling on the outside but in deep pain and crying on the inside.

The following are three poems I wrote.  One reminds us to stop and acknowledge.  The second tells of those who walk all night, because to fall asleep can put a homeless person in great danger.  And the third of someone just released from prison looking for a place to go.





#1  Homeless:  See Me

See me.

Don’t walk by.

I am not invisible.

Or am I?

Today I feel dead inside.  

Please see me. So I have hope.


Your outside packaging is clean and new.

Mine perhaps stained and worn.

But under the outside packaging

We are the same.


I hurt when I fall.

I bleed when cut.

I am often sad and lonely.

And cry I do when I am overwhelmed and hurting.

You see, inside we really are the same.

Don’t walk by.

I am not invisible.

See me.

By June Ariano-Jakes





#2   Homelessness:  When Evil is awake

Night time falls.

It is dark,

I cannot sleep.

Evil is awake.

I cannot sleep.

I must walk.

My body aches.

Sleep it cries.

But I cannot sleep.

Evil is awake.


My feet are wet.

My feet are sore.

Oh my street feet.

I cannot stop.

I must walk.

For evil is awake.


If I dare sit down.

If I dare lay down,

If I dare to fall asleep.

I may not wake.

For it is dark.

Evil is awake.


I am so tired.

For I have walked all night.

My feet are wet.

My feet are sore.

Oh my street feet.

I must not stop.

I must not sleep.

I have to walk.

Evil is still awake.


The sun comes up.

Time for you to wake.

Now I can fall asleep.

You see me and say “lazy bum”.

I am not lazy.

Don’t label me with your words.


While you slept

I walked.

For I dared not sleep.

No locked door to keep me safe.

When darkness comes.

Evil is awake.


By June Ariano-Jakes




#3   I Need To Find Some Place To Stay


Seven years I have been away

I have paid my debt to society they say.

I am on my own. No where to go.

Just a one way ticket in my hand.


For seven years I have been locked up

No one to blame but myself

Told when to wake

Told when to eat

Told when to go outside

Told when to sleep.


I cannot think for myself anymore

I forgot how.

Where to go?

I just don’t know.


The bus stops

Time to get off

Go left?

Go right?

I do not know.

How do I decide?


Keep it simple they say.

I will go in the direction of the next car that passes by.

For I have no where to go.

No one to see.

I burnt my bridges.

I just have to find some place to be.


Some place to lay my head

Some place to feel safe

I have slept in a cage for seven years

This is all to much

Freedom is scary

And today freedom is my prison.


I ask a stranger on the street

Where can I go?

“Just keep walking,

You’ll find some place”.

Of course I will find some place

But where?


I am beginning to feel overwhelmed

The sun is going down

I still cannot find a place to sleep

I need to feel boxed in.

It’s just to big outside.

I need to find some place to go.


I asked another

“Where can I go?”

“Just keep walking, you’ll find some place”.

That really doesn’t help me I feel like screaming.

But I dare not make a scene.

For I can not go back.


So I keep walking,

My feet are sore

My spirits are low

I have still not found some place to stay

I ask once more

“Where can I go”?


The lady on the corner points to a building.

It’s after midnight – I take a chance

I knock on the door – I tell him my story

“Come on in,” Neal says, “ I’ll put down a mat”

“Where am I man”?

This is SUM Place. Welcome Friend.


By June Ariano-Jakes



I want to thank Frances from Parents Forever, a parent support group in Vancouver, B.C. Canada for inviting me once again to speak to their group last evening.  If you are a parent whose has a teen or adult child battling addiction, this is a wonderful support group.  Go to:  http://www.parentsforever.ca

As we are now well into the fall season and the days are getting much shorter – be sure to take care of yourselves.  Remember, you count.  Never give up hope that your loved one will reach out and grab that lifeline you are throwing and accept the help they so desperately need.  Remember  you did nothing to cause your loved ones addiction.  It is a disease. And only they have the power to say when they are ready.

Until next time my Friend, remember you are not alone.  I truly care.

Much love,



Finally Recognizing Addiction As A Disease Not A Moral Issue

It has taken far to long.  To many beautiful souls lost.  To many families being ripped apart. To much misinformation out there.  Lives destroyed.  Hearts broken.

We, as parents, who have drug addicted loved ones, know all to well that our teen and adult children who battle addiction are not bad people.  They are sick people.  Sick people who often do “bad” things to relieve the debilitating physical and psychological pain.

Our addicted loved one’s behavior completely shatters our lives.  We would do anything.  Give anything.  Go anywhere,  to find help for the addict in our lives that we love so much.

For far to long, society has treated our addicted loved ones as weak, immoral, selfish, uncaring, worthless, a stain on society. “Put them in prison and throw away the key”.  That has been the mentality we have tragically lived with.

Our addicted loved ones have been harshly judged.  We as parents may have felt harshly judged as well.   After all, if we were good parents this couldn’t possibly have happened, right?


Addiction has been judged as a moral issue for far to long.  It has created isolation, pain and suffering for our addicted loved one and for each member of the family, in their own way.

Sadly, it has taken thousands of overdoses in every  single area of every single country on earth.  Millions and millions worldwide. And countless numbers of deaths before what scientists and many doctors and we as parents have always known, addiction has become a brain disease.

The very first time our addicted loved one tried a potentially addictive substance, they made a moral choice.  But once addiction raised its ugly head, a beast was awaken and the disease of addiction grabbed hold of our loved one.

Many of you will remember those days when the talk of addiction within the family was more often than not,  confined to the family.

We were lead to believe it was a weakness.  That it was completely a choice.

Only it isn’t.

Addiction is finally being talked about for the horrific disease it is.  This is a disease unlike any other, in that all the addict has to do is stop taking their drug of choice.  Seems so easy.  Just stop using and the disease halts.

Well if it were that simple we would not have millions of people world-wide suffering unbelievably because of their addiction.  We would not have families torn apart.  Our prisons would not be over-flowing with addicted inmates, incarcerated for drug related offenses.

My son Nathan, battled heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and meth.  His addiction lasted twenty-three years.  He tried over and over again to walk away from his drug use. I never doubted he wanted to be drug free.  Each and every time he reached out for help, he meant it. He wanted to be free at that time.  An hour later he may well have been back to using, but when he asked for help, I knew he meant it. To have the chains of his addiction broken.  He wanted that and so does each and every addicted person.  They are being held hostage to their addiction and we as the families who love them deeply, are being held hostage to the behaviors of their addiction.

We need to have programs in place where when an addict reaches out for help, it is immediate.  Just like someone having a heart attack.  Would we say, “We’ll put you on a wait list.  Call back every day and we will see if we can fit you in”. Of course not. Delay would result in death.  Delay in getting our addicted loved ones help is resulting in deaths every single day as well.  When an addict asks for help it has to be immediate.

Finally, we have enough highly educated professionals, at the top of their came, stressing addiction as being a brain disease.  Doctors, neuroscientist, psychologists, addictions specialist, mental health experts.  This is not a moral issue.  This is a medical issue.  We must do everything we can – use our voices, use our pens and computers and send our government leaders letters encouraging them to implement services to help our addicted loved ones.

We know better than anyone, the pain and suffering of watching our addicted loved one self-destruct, is the most difficult, painful, heart-wrenching experience possible.

Our lives have been devastated because of their behavior.  But – your loved one’s addiction was not about you.  My son’s addiction was not about me.  It was never about us.

Addiction is a disease.

Our addicted loved one never meant to hurt us.  Because of our deep love for them, we were hurt.  We were devastated watching their pain, their spiraling out of control.  We were the collateral damage of their addiction.

What our loved ones don’t need is rejection.  When they are reaching out for help, more than ever before, they need support.

Of course they are still accountable for their previous actions, but we must step away from what was and begin to embrace  what is happening.

Our loved one is already consumed with enough self-blame, guilt and shame.  They don’t need to be reminded of where they were.  If only their brain would be quiet so they could forget for awhile.

Forget past relapses.  Those were then; today is what we’ve got. Encourage the efforts. That is the real connection our loved one needs.

As parents, as families we need to keep speaking out for programs, for help for our addicted loved one.  When deep in their addiction, they are unable to speak out for themselves.  We must be their voices.  We must be the advocates.  We must speak up for social justice and help for those we love.  They are counting on us.

I wish you all some much needed peace. Be kind to yourself.  Remember, you count too. Never give up hope that your loved one will find his or her power to reach out for that lifeline you have been throwing.

For any of you who follow twitter, I hope you will follow @AddictionAMS  – I will have thoughts,  inspirations we can all identify with and articles, related to addiction, mental illness, homelessness, etc., that I believe you may be interested in.

Remember, you are not alone.  I truly care.

Much love,