Is it possible that Libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats agree on our Drug Policies?

Libertarians Republicans Democrats
The War on Drugs is Over, We Lost!

Hey, you! Yes, you! All you Libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats, since President Richard Nixon started the war on drugs, the US has spent $1 trillion and here are the results:

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, we have 2,220,300 adults in state and federal prisons in 2013. According to the Brookings Institute, Hamilton Project, in 2010, the United States spent more than $80 billion on corrections expenditures at the federal, state, and local levels or approximately, $36,000 per person per year. In 2012, non-violent, drug possession accounted for 1.3 million arrests (*source Prison Policy Initiative derived from the Bureau of Justice Statistics-Data Analysis Tool).

In the late 1960s, the US had an estimated 750,000 people addicted to opiates; in 2016, we’ve seen that number jump to 2.5 million. We are averaging 125 deaths a day from drug overdoses, 78 of them from heroin or painkillers.

How about a tripartisan approach for combating addiction in the United States of America?

For our Libertarians who favor the repeal of all laws creating ‘crimes’ without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes. We’ll legalize all drugs in the US (slightly tweaking Portugals experiment in the legalization of drugs)

For our Republicans who wish to restore fiscal sanity and common sense to Washington, we can cut the $16 billion a year spent on the “war on drugs,” in half. We’ll stop the excessive spending of $36,000 per person to incarcerate non-violent drug users saving an estimated $25 billion a year in the Federal budget. According to the Cato Institute, the Federal government could generate almost $16 billion in revenue from taxing all drugs. The total increase to the federal government from these three changes alone would be close to $50 billion annually.

Last but not least, for our Democrats, we’ll take half of the $50 billion in savings and more than triple the treatment and prevention budgets from approximately $9 billion a year on treatment to $30 billion and $1.5 billion a year on prevention to $5 billion.

We’ve fought the war on drugs for 50 years. It’s time to surrender. I believe Libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats can all agree “it is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” (thank you for the quote, Franklin Delano Roosevelt) Talk soon, Alex Shohet

Addiction’s Collateral Damage

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14: Guests joined President Bill Clinton and Kobe Bryant at the grand opening of STEP UP ON VINE on January 14, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Global Philanthropy Group)
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 14: Bernadine Fried joined President Bill Clinton and Kobe Bryant at the grand opening of STEP UP ON VINE on January 14, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Global Philanthropy Group)

The 12 Angels Evergreen Fund, a 501c3 nonprofit charity, uses the tools of community economic development such as mentorship, micro-lending, grants and low-interest loans to support organizations that prevent and treat addictive disorders.

Addiction and other mental health disorders cause two types of damage. The first type of injury is to the individuals that addictively use drugs and alcohol. Another hardship is the “collateral damage” caused by addiction. Collateral damage is a general term for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target.

Many people who are addicted believe that they are only harming themselves. Any friend or family member of an addict would certainly disagree with this statement. Emergency room doctors treat approximately five million drug-related visits a year according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The National Coalition for the homeless estimate that 64% abuse alcohol, drugs or both. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse published a report in 2010 stating that approximately 65% of inmates meet the criteria for substance dependence.

Instead of going on describing more examples of the collateral damage caused by addiction, maybe we can summarize with $700 Billion of total economic damage caused by addiction in the US on an annual basis. How big is $700 Billion? We’ve heard much this election season how China and other countries are taking jobs and opportunities from the US. The US trade deficit with China in 2015 was roughly $365 billion.

As Albert Einstein┬ásaid, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” The 12 Angels with your help and support find the opportunities to make a difference for individuals, their family and friends, and our society that is suffering the consequences caused by addiction and other mental health disorders. Join us.

The Human Accelerator

Rendered concept of a Human Capital Diagram

We’ve all watched the explosion of venture capital, angel investing and rapid scaling of businesses over the last few decades. The epicenter of innovation occurred in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley developed a Gold Rush persona that attracted individuals from all over the world. Over the decades. Silicon Valley became known for having the formula to turn an idea into billion dollar company, seemingly overnight.

Personally, I’ve been out of the excitement and opportunity of being an entrepreneur for the last few years entangled with five lawsuits after my second drug and alcohol treatment center exploded, publicly. Thankfully, all my lawsuits are over; I have left the courtroom and returned to the land of entrepreneurial opportunity. One characteristic of being a successful entrepreneur is the ability to find opportunities in the middle of difficulties. One of the first steps an entrepreneur does is take inventory, internally and externally.

After I left my private screening of LA Law and began looking around, I noticed an increase in business accelerators (incubators) around Los Angeles. Twenty-five years ago as a young entrepreneur, it was evident that having a fertile and nurturing environment to launch my company would be immensely helpful. Back then at the entrepreneurial water cooler, we all used to talk about business incubators (accelerators), but they were few and far between. Today, it seems that the “accelerator” has arrived. FYI it appears the “PC” word for helping a business find its path to success is “accelerator,” and not “incubator.” Whatever the correct term, I’m grateful to have them.

At 54, broke, my last two companies killed, the added fun of having a bunch of rumors floating around the Internet; I’m pounding the streets, with my devoted business plan in hand, attempting to find the opportunity in the middle of difficulty. I’m an entrepreneur, not a scientist, researcher, or historian. Many times, my next big idea originates in something that I want that I can’t find or isn’t there.

I started to think about “business accelerators” and Silicon Valley. What typically happens is an entrepreneur sends their business plan (“idea”) to an accelerator, angel investor or VC. The idea sparks an interest from the accelerator, angel investor or VC and the entrepreneur, after being vetted, gets invited into the inner sanctum of venture opportunity.

As a 54-year-old, I’m not the “young” tech entrepreneur. I’m starting over after two public business failures. I had a reputational scandal fueled by a gossip columnist. I’m living with financial wreckage caused by the failed companies and the years of litigation. I haven’t been in the entrepreneurial game in over a three-year period. This morning when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a “business beauty queen” looking back.

So I started to fantasize about meeting my business fairy godmother that would turn my pumpkin into a carriage, and I’d once more get the invitation to the entrepreneur’s ball held each year at Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, and Accel’s holiday parties.

OK, I won’t hold my breath for my business fairy godmother. However, just like I instinctively knew that there was a formula to take an idea, refine it, test it, grow it, scale it, and sell it, which evolved into the business accelerator. What if we built a factory for turning out fairy godmothers, or more realistically, we create a system of accelerating human potential. We apply the same methodology that helped create a “business” accelerator” and we build the “human accelerator.”

One of the features of technology that Venture Capital firms love is scalability. Technology that catches on spreads quickly and inexpensively. What about human potential? Is it scalable? Is it inexpensive? My answer to both questions is yes.

I just finished reading a book by Google’s Laszlo Bock called “Work Rules.” In it, Mr. Bock describes the evolution of Google’s People Operations. While I was reading it, I wondered if we could use Google’s People Operations’ system of identifying and developing human talent outside of Google?

Here are a few highlights from Work Rules:

Create a mission
Be transparent
Give people a voice
Find what the best people are doing and replicate it
Use technology
Today, I’m on the entrepreneurial sidelines. I haven’t been invited to the VC ball this year. I haven’t found or don’t know where to look for the human accelerators in my community. If someone knows of one, please let me know.

I’ve ridden the rollercoaster of success and failure. Financially, I’ve had nothing and more than I need. With or without the human accelerator, I’ll be OK. But will I be able to maximize my human potential without the human accelerator?

If I need it, would it help other people? I’m going to ask my fairy godmother to build a billion human accelerators to give others the opportunity of tapping into their human potential. My hope is that by the time I’m 74, I look around and see all the human accelerators helping people all over find passion, productivity, and purpose.

The Avengers of Addiction Treatment Episode One

comicbook avengers addiction image

The cunning villain spreading addiction in our community, Addictis, is stealing the lives of our musicians, actors, entrepreneurs, comedians, fathers, sisters, daughters, uncles, grandmothers, clergy and civic leaders; just to name a few.

Addictis possess the minds of its victims. Anyone in the clutches of Addictis become selfish, self-centered, liars that inflict harm on their families, friends, and community. In addition to hurting others, these possessed individuals mercilessly ravage themselves. Some people under Addictis’ spell will jab sharp objects into their veins, inhale noxious gasses, swallow unidentified capsules, insatiably feed or embrace starvation.

By 2050, Addictis was in control of half the world’s population. The United Nations called on Iron Man for assistance. Iron Man asked for a private meeting with Secretary General. In the meeting, Iron Man explained that years earlier he had fallen under the spell of Addictis. Addictis controlled Iron Man’s mind, which led to his increasing obsession for cocaine, opiates, and alcohol.

Iron Man tells the Secretary General, “soon, I was out of my mind on cocaine and drink; I crashed my armored assault vehicle into Stark Towers. When Captain America arrived on the scene, (episode Iron Man No. 172), he had to pull me out of the vehicle.”

Captain America said to me, “You must know what you’re doing to yourself. You must realize that you’re destroying yourself.” I ignored Captain America, walked directly past him, marched past the wrecked armored assault vehicle through the hole in Stark Towers and grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels out of the liquor cabinet. Captain America followed me into the tower and smacked the bottle of Jack out of my hand. What happens next is a “Civil War” between the two superheroes, which threatened their friendship, love, respect, and lives.

Iron Man and Captain America determined that Addictis was too powerful for any single superhero to destroy. Addictis twists the minds of people causing them to harm their friends and family. The destruction caused by Addictis is insidious. To obliterate Addictis, Iron Man and Captain America assembled a team of superheroes, they named the Addiction Avengers (“AA”).

The AA team included Mind MD, Trauma Doc, Rock Recovery and Wendi Wellness. The Secretary General asks Iron Man if it’s possible to save the people under the spell of Addictis. Iron Man explains that the AA team members each have unique superpowers, which will be used to extract Addictis’ from the minds of his victims.

Mind MD is a master of the prescription medication. She is trained to use the most cutting-edge pharmacological research to help restore balance to the infected mind.

Trauma Doc is the superhero that saves the person from their intrusive thoughts and feelings. Individuals under Addictis’ spell will use any addictive substance or behavior to quell their disruptive emotions. Trauma Doc uses techniques such as EMDR, CBT, DBT, and others to improve the brain’s limbic system.

Rock Recovery builds a supportive community around each person. Victims of Addictis have been known to destroy the meaningful relationships with their families, friends, lovers, and business associates. The superpowers of Rock Recovery bring folks with love, understanding and support to help heal the damage done to their families, friends, lovers, and business associates.

Wendi Wellness activates the physical and spiritual well-being necessary to repair the injuries to the person’s health. Many of Addictis Victims will destroy themselves by not eating, sleeping, isolating, and acquiring diseases. Wendi Wellness encourages exercise, proper nutrition, yoga, meditation and other self-care practices, which aid in recovery.

Even with the superheroes on the AA team, there is no guaranty that we can save everyone. Once Addicitis takes over a person’s mind some people will die, others will be institutionalized, and some will join the AA team, and some will return to their normal lives.

Iron Man tells the Secretary General that he will personally lead the AA team and will find a way to destroy Addictis, no matter how long it takes. The Secretary-General says, “Good luck, the United Nations is with you, Iron Man!”

Why Did Kate Let Leo Drown?

titanic

FYI In this blog, we use the term “addict” to mean any individual that consumes any substance of abuse or has a behavioral addiction. This list includes legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, shopping, etc.

Many “using addicts” ricochet from crisis to crisis and are reluctant to enter residential treatment. The national statistics evidence the high risk of accidents or overdose due to prescription pills, cocaine, benzodiazepines, heroin or other addictive substances. (See National Institute of Drug Addiction’s “Overdose Death Rates” at http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.

For friends, family members or loved ones, the risks associated with substance abuse intensifies the demand for interventions and treatment. Anyone who watched the reality show Intervention witnessed the arduous and harrowing task of getting an addict into treatment.

As a former CEO of two residential treatment centers and a participant in many interventions, I have been wondering what is the problem with our Interventionists or rehabs if they cannot guaranty success.

Let’s explore some of the reasons Interventions and rehabs fail from the perspective of a friend, lover or family member in a close relationship with a practicing addict. Here goes!

Our story involves Leo and Kate. Leo and Kate are young lovers, madly in love. Kate is addicted. Leo wants Kate to stop using. Our young couple decides to leave England and sail to NY where Kate has promised she will stop using. They board the Titanic Kate smuggles her drugs on board.

When the Titanic sinks, we hold our breath, praying Leo and Kate survive. Luckily, Kate makes it into a lifeboat. Leo stays on the ship. In our story, once Kate is safely in the lifeboat she remembers she left her drugs in the cabin and panics. Leo falls into the freezing water and swims for Kate’s lifeboat. Kate dives into the freezing water and swims for her drugs on the Titanic.

Why would Kate leave Leo to die in the icy water and swim back to the Titanic? Doesn’t Kate love Leo? Why would she risk her life for her drugs? ┬áMaybe Kate does not see the Titanic as a heap of metal sinking in a sea of ice but thinks she was on the “Love Boat.” For any younger person reading this blog, the Love Boat was a TV show in the 1970’s, and 1980’s featuring an elegant cruise ship that magically motivated romance among its passengers.

To understand Kate, we need to learn a little bit from scientists who study the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body.

Researcher Helen Fisher scanned the brains of young lovers and found that brain parts start lighting up when they see their partner. Ms. Fisher, shared her research in a TED Talk entitled “The Brain in Love”, where she answers the question, “Why do we crave love so much, even to the point that we would die for it? ”

We know from the story that Kate and Leo are madly in love. So why would Kate be more obsessed with getting her drugs then saving Leo from drowning in the freezing ocean or risk her survival to swim back to the Titanic?

Researchers studying the brain’s neurotransmitters have found that an addict’s desire for drugs, at times, will be stronger than their desire for love. Sorry Leo. Falling in love with a practicing addict is risky. Please watch Helen Fisher’s TED Talk it is great. As your watching, just substitute craving for love with an addict’s hunger for drugs.

Let’s go back to our original question. What is the problem with our Interventionists or rehabs if they cannot guaranty success.

Many addicts will be hit by an “obsession to use” anywhere in their first year or two of recovery. It is tough not to act on an obsession. In our story, Kate’s passion drove her to jump off the lifeboat and swim back to the Titanic leaving poor Leo to drown. Addicts with the obsession to use will find a way to use whether they are at a treatment center, sober living, psych hospitals, outpatient program, church, 12 Step meetings or jail.

Interventions rarely produce sustained behavioral changes. The TV show Intervention demonstrated one type of intervention designed to encourage an addict to enter a treatment center voluntarily. At times, the intervention was successful, and other times it wasn’t.

Even if the intervention was successful and the addict enters treatment, what are the success rates of the treatment center? This question “what are the success rates” sounds simple. But don’t be fooled. The word “success” means different things to different people.

An excellent exercise is to try to define success for yourself or your loved one.

Here are some ideas, hopefully, you’ll make your list from some of the ideas shared in this blog. Success is:

being abstinent from all mind or mood altering drugs
feeling good about myself
being in a healthy relationship with fill-in-the-blank (significant other, family, friends, etc.)
having a sense of purpose and meaning
having a satisfying spiritual and/or religious connection
being emotionally healthy
being authentic
being physically fit
being self-supporting through my own contributions
being grateful
giving back to my community

If we compare the treatment of diabetes vs. addiction, we may see the difficulty in measuring success.

If two patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, go into treatment. They are both prescribed the same treatment plan of insulin, exercise and a low sugar diet. Patient A follows the treatment plan, and when the treatment center follows up two years later, Patient A is diabetes is managed. Patient B eats sugar, does not exercise, take insulin regularly, and dies one month after leaving treatment. Patient A and Patient B received the same treatment plan for the same condition but had two very different outcomes because Patient B was non-compliant.

It helps to think of diabetes and addiction as chronic disorders that need managing. Having an addictive disorder is a complex condition with no easy answers. We do know that addiction will diminish a person’s impulse control. Therefore, it should be assumed that an addict will not follow her treatment plan.

If residential treatment is not going to “cure them” then is treatment effective. The short answer is yes. Just like treatment for diabetes, an addict in treatment will be given a treatment plan.

If the reader can tolerate one more analogy, let’s compare the recovery process to a runner training for a 26.2-mile marathon.

The recovery process has similarities to running a marathon. Many athletes require practice, coaching and changes in lifestyle to complete a marathon. If you do a search on the Internet, you’ll read lots of articles on marathon runners’ hitting “the wall.” This time, we’ll envision recovery to running a marathon and the obsession to use as hitting the wall.

Here’s how “the wall” is described on a blog posted on Runner’s World. “You’re in the middle of a run when things start to fall apart. Your legs feel like concrete, your breathing grows labored, your strides turn into a shuffle. Negative thoughts flood your mind, and the urge to quit becomes overwhelming.”

Here’s how the obsession feels to an addict in early recovery. It’s Friday, and I just got my paycheck. I feel like getting high, but I don’t want to lose my sobriety, and I don’t want anyone to know. I have the weekend; no one will find out. I’ll just use this once. My heart starts beating faster. It is hard to breathe. My mind is racing with fear, guilt, excitement; it’s excruciatingly surreal. I better breathe, take some deep breaths. Where can I find some? I hope they’re around. Breathe! Am I going to have a heart attack? My fingers are so tight around the steering wheel; my hands are turning white.

Reading the descriptions on the runners’ websites of hitting the wall, it seems evident that the causes are complex. Runners’ openly discuss their theories of the causes and their solutions. It appears that most running experts and hobbyists share about the wall without guilt or shame. It seems the wall is an accepted condition associated with running a marathon.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if individuals in early recovery and the professionals could openly discuss the obsession, without guilt or shame. Runner’s vigorously search for the complex, psychological and physiological causes of hitting the wall.

Recovery from addiction is a marathon. Many of these walls (obsessions) in recovery are difficult to see, rooted in the complex, psychological and physiological characteristics of the condition. If we can’t predict or prevent an addict’s obsession how can we prevent relapse in residential treatment, sober living, outpatient, a 12 Step group, a faith-based program or a psychiatric hospital? Pharmaceutical companies still haven’t found a drug(s) that will prevent an addict in early of recovery from being compelled to use by their obsession.

Without a cure, effective addiction treatment requires applying a set of research-based best practices, which will be elaborated on in our next blog. If we think about the addict running a marathon and every time, he hits the wall the health care providers or other people that are part of the addict’s recovery, intervenes. Interventions may take place each mile i.e. 26 times before the runner finishes the race. The people and health care providers working with addicts better get used to recovery being a marathon, lots of interventions before the finish line; and sadly all too often an addict will swim back to the Titanic from the life raft.

If I had a magic wand, I’d get all my friends, relatives, and clients off the Titanic.

About the organization and the author: The 12 Angels Evergreen Fund’s mission is to provide the investment capital, consultation, and mentorship to support sustainable businesses that support recovery from addiction and other mental health disorders. We believe every person with an addiction should have a chance to enjoy healthy and productive lives.

Our goal is to help improve the lives of individuals suffering from addiction and related mental health disorders. Our primary focus is to break the cycle of economic dependency of addicts on their family, friends, and community. We believe recovery is incomplete until each member of the recovery community can have a sense of purpose, economic self-reliance, or both.

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is Alex Shohet, who is an entrepreneur in the recovery industry. Alex Shohet is not a clinician or health care professional. He doesn’t have a license or certificate in the treatment of mental health disorders or substance abuse.

All content provided on 12 Angels Evergreen Fund’s blog is for informational purposes only. We make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

The owners of 12 Angels Evergreen Fund are not liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. This terms and conditions is subject to change at any time with or without notice.