Quote of the Week

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. ~ Anne Lamott

National Drug Take-Back Day: Sept 27, 2014, 10am-2pm
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Saturday, Sept 27, 2014 from 10am-2pm, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will hold its 9th national “Drug Take-Back Day” to enable patients, caregivers and pet owners to properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications at no cost.

Since launching the nationwide Drug Take-Back Day effort in 2010, the DEA has collected more than 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of prescription medications. 
Help to protect our young people (and others) from overdoses and/or accidental ingestion of prescription medications.  Help to keep our water supply safe – don’t flush unwanted medications down the sink or toilet!  

For a searchable list of collection sites nationwide, click here.

The following additional information about the importance of proper disposal of unwanted prescription medications is taken from the Pennsylvania Resources Council websiteThe mission of the PRC is to lead and promote individual and collective actions to preserve Pennsylvania’s environmental resources for each generation.

There are numerous reasons why prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals become unwanted or unneeded. Many people stop taking drugs due to side-effects, their lack of effectiveness, or quicker recovery periods than anticipated. And medications often reach their expiration dates before they are completely used. But people are also being prescribed and buying more drugs, per-person, than ever before in this country.

On a national level, estimates point to upwards of 200 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste being generated each year. Over the past few years, pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors have been detected in growing amounts in surface and drinking water sources around the country. This issue has been increasingly covered in scientific literature and the mainstream media. A series of Associated Press stories brought the issue to the national spotlight in 2008.

In addition, prescription medications have become the drug of choice for teens and other age groups. Each year, tens of thousands of our children and adults die or become critically ill from overdoses and/or accidental ingestion of prescription medications. Citizens, scientists, political leaders, law enforcement, and health care professionals are expressing concern about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals; the old, widely-touted advice to flush these materials is no longer acceptable. But few practical and readily-available solutions currently exist for the safe disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals. As early as 2006, however, some waste management boards and sanitary and wastewater authorities began offering pharmaceutical collection events in states around the country including Maine, Washington, Minnesota, and California among others.

President Obama signed the "Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010" into law on October 12, 2010. The law removes a key barrier to creating statewide programs that allow residents to safely return and dispose of leftover medications. The legislation is intended to support the creation of medication take-back options that reduce prescription drug abuse and reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals getting into the environment. Once the new law is implemented, providers of medication take-back programs will have more options for where and how they set up programs that accept controlled substances, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Ritalin.

Currently, only law enforcement can accept narcotics and other controlled substances from residents. The intent of this federal law is to authorize other convenient community return locations – like pharmacies – for secure disposal of controlled substances. Currently pharmacy take-back programs (the legality of these vary from state–to-state) around the country can only accept the return of over-the-counter medications and prescription medications that are not controlled substances. However, controlled substances make up about 11% of prescription drugs sold.

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Support Groups
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why do I need a support group? 

There is no need to stay isolated and alone with our fears. In fact, it is proven that when we reach out to others and share our experiences, we get stronger. When we are stronger, the addicts in our lives have a better chance of recovery. 

When one person in the family is addicted to drugs and alcohol, we all get sick. And while we cannot control the choices our children make, we can control the choices we make. But how would we know what the choices are, what works and what doesn’t work, if we don’t participate in a forum where we can learn about what has worked for others? ~ Lauren Springer 

For the rest of Lauren’s article, click here

We are able to feel both supported and challenged in a group experience. As the group bonds and trust develops, people feel safer to speak honestly with each other. In groups we can both get and give. Both feel good. The experience of past loss, damage or trauma (whether from our family or from other relationships), may have profoundly affected our self- concept. A group can become a "family" that responds to us very differently, and can give us a corrective experience that impacts us emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. We can also learn that conflict is part of being in relationship, and can be tolerated and worked through. We can't rationalize our negative feelings away, but I believe we can slowly heal as we learn to take in the love and acceptance that emerges in a group. ~ Wendy Fennell 

For the rest of Wendy’s article, click here.

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Free Mental Health Education Program for Parents & Caregivers - Pittsburgh, PA
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania Announces New Class For Parents and Caregivers of Children with Mental Health Disorders

Pittsburgh, Pa. --  NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania is offering, for the first time, the NAMI Basics Education Program for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents with mental health issues. This six-week series of classes will begin in Squirrel Hill on Monday, Sept. 15 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh.

Offered at no charge to participants, the course will cover information about ADHD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Schizophrenia and Substance Use Disorders. 

It will teach coping skills such as handling crisis and relapse; basic information about medical use in the treatment of mental illness in children; listening and communication techniques; problem solving skills; and an overview of the mental health and school systems' roles in treating children with mental health issues.  

The course will be taught by two trained teachers who are also parents of individuals who developed mental illness as children.

"This course provides a meaningful experience for parents and caregivers of children with mental health issues," said Christine Michaels, executive director of NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania. "It introduces them to a community of people with shared life experience, which is equally important as the education and skills training they will receive in the class."

"We hope parents and other caregivers will take advantage of this unique opportunity," Michaels added.  

For more information, contact NAMI at (412) 366-3788 or visit www.namiswpa.org

NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania provides recovery focused support, education and advocacy to individuals and families affected by mental illness. More information is available at www.namiswpa.org or by calling (412) 366-3788.

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Robin Williams R.I.P.
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, August 16, 2014

Speaking after Robin Williams' recent death, his widow said, “ . . . it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

One of Williams’ many contributions was his willingness to speak publicly about his battle with substance abuse.  After 20 years of sobriety, in 2006 he sought treatment for alcoholism.  During an interview with Good Morning America, Williams explained that falling back into alcohol abuse was "very gradual."

"It's the same voice thought that … you're standing at a precipice and you look down, there's a voice and it's a little quiet voice that goes, 'Jump,'" Williams told Diane Sawyer. "The same voice that goes, 'Just one.' … And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that's not the possibility."

When asked why he relapsed, Robin answered: "It's [addiction] — not caused by anything, it's just there … It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, 'It's fine now, I'm OK.' Then, the next thing you know, it's not OK. Then you realize, 'Where am I? I didn't realize I was in Cleveland.'"

For the full article, click here.

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Detaching with Love
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, August 11, 2014

So far we are experiencing the ups and downs of Pebbles’ and Dina's attempts with sobriety and 12 step programs. They recently decided to live together with Dina's boyfriend, which we strongly advised against. The results were quickly disastrous and the attempts to pull us in were a struggle to avoid. They are both adults now, although even at age 20, Pebbles is only an adult in legal terms.  Dina's maturity has been curtailed from years of drug abuse so that even at 31, she is just a young teen at best.

We have told them so often how smart they are and how skillful they can be, so we feel we need to give them the dignity to use their skills to work this out, and use the resources available to get through this explosion that has recently occurred. As two addicts who think they can live with 12 step, picking and choosing what they want to use, and with strong emotional ties with each other, their lives have become a head-on collision.


It is so difficult not to run to the scene and pick up the wounded, then take them home to nurse them back to health. But we have done this so many times, only for them to regain their strength and then walk out to begin their dangerous lifestyles again. It is so difficult to know that if nothing changes, change does not occur. So it begins with us to be the change and let them work this out. Having your two children fighting each other is more heartbreaking then when they have their own separate issues; but it is what it is. We just hope we all learn a lesson from this.

We are trying to use our PSST phrases to reply to them when they call to report what the other is up to and to generally complain about each other. We always dreamed of a loving family with sisters that are close and supportive. But right now their addiction is controlling their thoughts and behaviors, and we have to allow this to run its course. We are powerless over what their relationship is and will be. They are angry that we are not getting involved and picking sides. They feel we are being unfair.

Having supportive meetings to go to where there are parents dealing with similar issues, along with the PSST blog, keeps me from isolating and falling into a deep depression. Learning to find other interests to keep me busy does not mean that I have abandoned my daughters, but allows them to live their lives as I live mine.

When I first attended meetings, I was asked what I did for fun. I hated that question. I wasn't having any fun. I was feeling obligated to be in the trenches with my daughters. Slowly I have tried several hobbies and interests until I found what worked for me. After being laid off and having too much time on my hands, I have found a part time job where training took up a lot of my focus.  I have friends through PSST and other groups to share good times at art festivals, movies and baseball games.

The girls survived without my constant focus and I think it is better for all of us that I take better care of myself. Maybe by example they too will do the same, in their own time.


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A Mother's Letter to Her Son
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, August 04, 2014

Kathy Radigan, who is a blogger and published author, as well as the mother of three children, explains why she wrote a letter to her son about underage drinking:
So many parents take it as a foregone conclusion that their kids will engage in any manner of risky behavior . . .  But, I want him to know where I stand on engaging in behaviors that are at best risky and at worst illegal or life threatening.  I never want my son to say that I wasn’t clear about my feelings . . .

Here is a quote from the letter to her son:
Your father and I are so proud of the man you are becoming. We love you so much that we don’t care if you hate us. That’s our gift to you, we are your parents not your friends.

Click here  for the full article.

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Dangers of Liquid Nicotine
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, July 27, 2014

Did you know that liquid nicotine, an e-liquid used in e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers, is a powerful neurotoxin, unregulated by federal authorities?
Click here for an article about liquid nicotine from the New York Times, “Selling a Poison by the Barrel.” 

Here are some excerpts from the article:
Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. 
Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate and bubble gum.  A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.  

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It's a Long Way Down!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, July 21, 2014

Here's a photo of our own Abby, rappelling down the side of a building as part of the Shatterproof Challenge held in Pittsburgh in July. Shatterproof is an organization whose mission is to provide support for prevention, treatment and recovery associated with drug addiction. 

Abby, you are our hero(ine)!  Wonder if rappelling down a building is listed in the book "101 Natural Highs"?

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101 Natural Highs
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those of you who have a Kindle might be interested in Cathy Taughinbaugh’s e-book “101 Natural Highs for an Amazing Drug-Free Life”.  It’s normally $2.99, but is currently on sale for $0.99. The sale ends on Saturday, July 19th. Click here for more information about the book.

In the book are reminders and new ideas particularly targeted toward someone in recovery, who needs to fill the hole left by his/her drug or alcohol use.  This book also appears to be useful for those who are looking for ways to "take care of themselves," while dealing with a family member who has a drug or alcohol dependency.

Here are some reviews from Amazon:
"101 Natural Highs is a treasure trove of ideas that bring joy, meaning and enjoyment into anyone's life."
"Engaging, not too long, and a reminder that there is so much a person can do without drugs or alcohol." 

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Our Story - Max, Mel, Michael & David
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, July 11, 2014

In 2008, our oldest son had been arrested for beating up a kid and taking his iPod, along with another boy. We were totally in shock. We never imagined he would break the law, especially in this manner. We already knew he was experimenting with weed and alcohol, and was disrespectful of us at home, but we had worked with 2 different family therapists and were very involved with school counselors and school social workers. We thought we were on top of things. At about the same time, our youngest son was starting his own rebellion with weed, skipping school, bad friends, disrespect.

Between the two of them, one or the other was sneaking out of windows at night to joy ride in my car without a license, coming home drunk or high, hanging out in unsafe neighborhoods with parents that would smoke weed with them, owning a gun, and lying constantly, and we never really knew all of this was going on until after the arrest. We were manipulated at every turn, but were so overwhelmed, we didn't realize it. When we did, we had no skills to deal with it. I was humiliated, felt judged, embarrassed, sad, frightened, anxious, and had no person I could confide in -- until I found PSST, on the internet. 

I called the number and Lloyd answered. He explained how the group worked, and urged me to come to a meeting. I was very worried I would be the only "normal" parent in the room. I was sure if parents went to this group, their kids must really be "bad" and the parents probably weren't very savvy, like I thought I was. I attended a meeting and it changed my life.

I noticed with a bit of surprise and relief that the parents were just like me. My sons were just like their kids, and some were actually friends of my boys. I was no longer ashamed, and I certainly didn't feel judged. It stopped me from feeling helpless and gave me the tools to be pro-active and in control of my home and myself. I learned these things in the most supportive atmosphere with the best junk food. I knew everyone understood how I felt. I had gained the greatest friends in the process. I was hooked, and I went to every meeting, every location, every month for a solid 2 years.

It was at PSST that I acquired my arsenal of weapons: "I'm not comfortable with that", "Would you like to ask me again?", "I will not keep your secrets", "You aren't going to like what I'm going to say" and my personal favorite "YOU'RE RIGHT! I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT THAT!" I was shocked that they worked so well and so quickly with our boys. Mel & I learned we were so afraid of their big reactions, that we avoided confrontation at all costs. But the cost of doing nothing was huge.

We can't say enough about how important PSST is for a parent in our position. I tell anyone I meet with a similar issue to come to a meeting and read the blog.  Role-plays and insights from the group’s leaders are invaluable teaching tools. The advice we received helped us out of limbo and into action. We had access to some of the most empathetic, generous and truly caring mental health professionals we have ever dealt with. We know of no other group or place that offers the help to parents we received from PSST and we are forever grateful.

Our current status:

Our elder son Michael is living in an apartment with his very lovely girlfriend, and continues to be enrolled in a CCAC trade program. He is looking for a job (to supplement his landscaping job which is very part time) and not having much success. We’ve tried to help with advice and contacts. His response : “Thanks, I appreciate your help, but if you help, it won’t be my accomplishment. I want to do this myself”. Wow.

Our younger son David just graduated from high school and walked in commencement, which is something we honestly didn’t know would happen until finals were over. He continues to work on the line in a nice restaurant, getting more hours and gaining more experience. He plans to go to culinary school, but we all agreed he should just work for a while to be sure. His goal is to move into an apartment by the spring of 2015. The worst thing I can say about him living at home is that he doesn’t clean up after himself (his bedroom is scary) to my standards...but he is otherwise pleasant and reasonable.

We are truly proud of both of them.

I still use PSST-isms almost every time I communicate with either boy, while continuing to work on myself; to not enable, to not hover, to not sweat the small stuff, and to keep in mind that they have their own identities and personalities and are not merely extensions of us.


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Developing Intimacy within your Family
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, July 06, 2014

Our recent PSST meetings have had a recurring theme about creating and maintaining intimacy within the family. Click here for an article that defines intimacy and basic steps for achieving it, and here for an article that discusses how to cultivate ongoing relationships with your adult children.

As stated in the first article,
“Intimacy is a dance.  It deepens or is eroded by every interaction we have.  The good news is that every interaction you have is a chance to shift onto a positive track and deepen your connection to your loved ones.”

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Shatterproof Rappelling Event in Pgh Rescheduled
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, July 04, 2014

The Shatterproof Challenge Pittsburgh rappelling event has been rescheduled for Tuesday, July 15.  All additional information requested by the Pittsburgh Dept of Building Inspections has been provided, and the City has approved the event. Shatterproof stresses that Over the Edge has hosted over 400 rappelling fundraisers and has an impeccable safety record.  (That should make Abby feel better.)

For the initial blog posting about this event, check out this link.

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7 Drugs that can Kill Kids in a Single Pill
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, June 28, 2014

The following information is from an article published by the ABC News Medical Unit.  For the complete article, click here.  

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2002 there were 2.4 million toxic ingestions, and more than half of these occurred in children younger than 6. Children aged 18 to 36 months seemed to be at the highest risk, and in these little bodies, just one pill can be deadly.

Even more worrisome is the fact that, after taking some of these pills, a child can appear perfectly fine until it is too late.  "Within two hours, we have seen patients go from ingestion to death -- even after taking only one to two pills."
Even when parents make a habit of keeping medicines out of their children's reach, children seem to be drawn to pill bottles when they are out for only a short amount of time.  There have also been cases where a visitor to the home drops a pill, or when children find pills on the floor in a hotel room, in which case parents bring them to the emergency room having no idea what they took.
For these reasons, parents should recognize the high risk of accidental ingestions and be prepared to act. Call 911 immediately, experts say, or call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Parents should be prepared to take their child to the hospital immediately, and bring the bottle of whatever the child took. Importantly, new guidelines from the American Association of Pediatrics urge against the use of Ipecac or any other mechanism to induce vomiting.
Fortunately, once children are in the emergency room, doctors can rapidly respond, as some medications have antidotes, reversal agents or supportive therapy.
Below are seven common medicines that can lead to emergencies when accidentally ingested by kids.
  • heart pills
  •  muscle rubs
  • prescription pain medications
  • aspirin and oil of wintergreen
  • depression drugs
  • topical blood pressure patches, eye drops, and nasal sprays
  • diabetes drugs

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Have a Story to Share?
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, June 19, 2014

We invite you to share your story with us - using, of course, "pen names" to maintain your family's anonymity. Knowing that we share many of the same experiences, heartaches and joys can be very helpful to others in the same situation.  How are you coping with your child's addiction?  What do you need help with?  Let's support each other!

Send your story to gopsst@gmail.com.

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