Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, March 11, 2014

There will be a public meeting of the Allegheny County Drug and Alcohol Planning Council on Wednesday, March 12 at 5:00 p.m. at the Allegheny County Human Services Building, One Smithfield St, Pittsburgh, PA. 

Guest speakers on the topic of Vivitrol will be Dr. Chris Davis, practitioner from York, PA and Joanne Komer from Alkermes (the biopharmaceutical company that makes Vivitrol).  Vivitrol is a prescription injectable medicine used to treat opioid and alcohol dependence.  

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Heroin Use is on the Rise
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, March 08, 2014

Thanks to Mary Canary for sharing the link to a Diane Rehm radio show segment titled “What’s Behind The Sharp Rise In Heroin Use In The U.S.”  By clicking here , you can either listen to the show or read the full transcript. 

Below are some excerpts from the show’s transcript.  In this show, host Diane Rehm interviews Dr. Wilson Compton (deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health), Barry Meier (author of "Painkiller: A Wonder Drug's Trail of Addiction and Death"), and Jeff Deeney (a social worker and recovering heroin addict).


 . . . heroin's one of the most addictive substances that we know. All substances that are abused can be addictive. It's remarkable that people don't think marijuana's addictive, and yet something like 9 percent of people that start smoking marijuana will end up being addicted to it. For heroin, it's more like about a quarter from the studies that we've seen so far.

   . . . over time people develop a habit to that, so they enjoy it. And they want to do it again. So what we find is that the behavior patterns get set up over and over. People form memories, and their judgment changes. Their decision making changes. So they make decisions that they never would've made elsewhere in their lives because of the drug seeking and the pleasure that these drugs start out with.

. . .  there are cross effects among the different substances. It's not at all unusual for a heroin addict to also have problems with stimulants like cocaine or amphetamine. And alcohol would be very typical. We also see tobacco use being an extraordinarily common addiction among substance users. And it turns out that the tobacco is what will kill an awful lot of them.


Well, unfortunately, heroin overdose is remarkably easy, and it's unexpected. Very few people intentionally are trying to kill themselves.  So they use either a larger quantity, or heroin may be mixed with other substances that can make it more potent and more likely to stop your breathing.   . . . Fortunately, if medical care can be received at that time, there are potent blockers of opioid receptors . . . that can reverse the effects within seconds and wake people up.

Relapse & Recovery:

But what happens when people relapse are a number of factors. It can be stress in their lives, whether that's social stress or emotional stress or physical stress.   One of the main predictors of relapse though is sampling the drug itself. So people think, oh, I'll just have one, and that might be safe. But it turns out that even a very low dosage can prime the body and prime the brain to want more and more.

So what would you say to someone out there who is currently in recovery, but tempted?  I would say to reach out and use whatever your networks of recovery support are.  . . .  rely on the people that you have in recovery to go to meetings, to seek support, to share what you’re feeling. 

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"Wax Weed"
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thanks to Wilma for sharing this information about wax weed. 

Experts warn parents of a new form of marijuana that is 10 times more potent than your average marijuana. It’s called butane honey (or hash) oil, BHO, wax, or dab. It is extracted from the most powerful part of the marijuana plant, and can be made using common household items. 

" . . . the amount of THC it contains makes it powerfully psychoactive. Although not life-threatening, a very large dose of BHO can lead to vomiting in addition to anxiety, paranoia and other psychological issues that can persist for days." 

The process of extracting BHO is also very dangerous. " . . . fires and explosions caused by these makeshift labs have become so common that the U.S. Fire Administration issued a warning about . . . the BHO labs’ threat to public safety." 

For more information, click here and here.

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The End of a Chapter
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dylan is back in Shuman.

Dylan was home from placement for 31 days.  Apparently that’s all he could take.  Maybe he hasn’t changed (for the better) as much as we had thought.  Maybe home was the wrong place for him to be, with the lure of old friends and old habits, and a strong desire to “make up for lost time” while he was in placement.

As soon as he came home, he started bumming cigarettes from friends.  He was hooked immediately – the draw of nicotine was like a siren’s call.  We were not overly surprised by that, and thought at least it was better than weed or pills or alcohol.

Dylan met many of his Probation & home contract conditions.  He spent more time at home than we expected, generally with one friend who we think was a reasonably good influence.  He quickly found a part-time job at Hollister at the mall, although we were disappointed at how slowly they were bringing him on board.  He did relaxing teen activities such as playing basketball at the rec center, playing videogames, watching movies, texting and skyping his friends.  He was also doing some more “grown-up” activities, such as very basic cooking, doing his laundry, and doing some chores around the house to earn some spending money.  Surprisingly, he met curfew, except for the night that he was 3 hours late, and we had to pick him up in Bridgeville under questionable circumstances.  On Super Bowl Sunday, someone posted a video on his Facebook page, showing Dylan drinking a shot at a friend’s house, which Dylan denied until his P.O. pointed out that the video was public.  The P.O. placed him on 2 weeks’ house arrest.
At home, Dylan was generally busy, and did his best to avoid or ignore us most of the time.  It was difficult to get his attention to talk about his future plans.  He became an increasingly reluctant participant in family therapy.  He had occasional outbursts of anger when he didn’t get his way, at times becoming verbally abusive as he had in his past.  As the judge said at his hearing, he is a little too old to be having temper tantrums.
We had a few nice moments as a family during the past 31 days.  There were some casual conversations during car rides together, and once he even voluntarily joined us for a movie we were watching at home.  We all shared in his high school graduation day – he was happy, and we have smiling family photos to remember the day.  It was still a mixed-message day – during dinner after graduation, he was distracted and impatient, and spent half of the time outside the restaurant talking to friends on his phone.
For his father’s birthday, we enjoyed going out to a movie and dinner.  At home we sang “happy birthday” as we shared our traditional birthday cake, a chocolate chip cookie cake.  We felt like a normal family that day.  The next day, Dylan turned into a monster.  He wanted to go to a high school basketball game with his father, who said that he would take him, but only if he left his cigarettes at home since tobacco products are not permitted on school property.  Dylan insisted that was not acceptable to him, and it escalated from there.  He became demanding, unreasonable, threatening in posture and language, and verbally abusive.  We called the police, who took Dylan to Shuman.

We really thought that we could provide an environment where Dylan could succeed.  We also thought that Dylan was committed to succeeding, and that he had learned the skills to do that.  What we found is that we were working at it much harder than he was.  Not that we were perfect, or as strong as we would have liked to be.
As a wise PSST parent shared at one of our meetings, change only takes place when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of the change.
We go back to court next week to find out the next step in Dylan’s journey.  We think that supervised independent living will be best for him.  As some other PSST families have learned, sometimes our teens just cannot live at home.

At this sad juncture, as we clean up Dylan’s room in preparation for the next step in his future, I find this quote comforting:

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." ~ Seneca

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Mental Health, Addiction, & Free Will
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, February 06, 2014

Thank you to Cheryl and Roxie for sending the following links: 

Cheryl sent the link to this blog, provocatively titled "Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not have choice or free will and neither do you". When forwarding the link, Cheryl said, "This is one of the best written blogs on mental health & addiction I have ever read.  It is lengthy but well worth the read and complete understanding that addicts need treatment without shame and blame."

Roxie’s recommends Acrobaddict. Roxie writes, "With the onslaught of the fentanyl-laced heroin-induced deaths in our region, and the recent overdose of iconic actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an eye-opening book has come to the forefront that helps non-users understand the addict and his demons entitled Acrobaddict."
Roxie reviewed the book this way: "The title is self-explanatory. The athletic author, acrobat Joe Putignano, pours out his heart and soul to describe his descent into Hell and eventual rise to Heaven as a recovering heroin addict. His strive for perfection led to him use heroin obsessively, with the inability to function on a daily basis without the substance. His sobriety eventually resulted in his career as a clean and rising star of Cirque du Soleil. He briefly talks about his book on YouTube at the link: Acrobaddict."

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An Open Letter to My Family (from the drug addict)
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, February 01, 2014

I am a drug user. I need help.

Don’t solve my problems for me. This only makes me lose respect for you.

Don’t lecture, moralize, scold, blame, or argue, whether I’m loaded or sober. It may make you feel better, but it will make the situation worse.

Don’t accept my promises. The nature of my illness prevents me keeping them, even though I mean them at the time. Promises are only my way of postponing pain. Don’t keep switching agreements; if an agreement is made, stick to it.

Don’t lose your temper with me. It will destroy you and any possibility of helping me.

Don’t allow your anxiety for me make you do what I should do for myself.

Don’t cover up or try to spare me the consequences of my using. It may reduce the crisis, but it will make my illness worse.

Above all, don’t run away from reality as I do. Drug dependence, my illness, gets worse as my using continues. Start now to learn, to understand, to plan for recovery. Find NAR-ANON, whose groups exist to help the families of drug abusers.

I need help — from a doctor, a psychologist, a counselor, from an addict who found recovery in NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS, and from God.

Your User

Thanks to "Carol" & "Mike" for sharing this.

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Molly is the new Femme Fatale
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Would you take a pill when you have no idea what the active ingredient is or what effect it will have on your body?

Would you be a guinea pig for drug traffickers?

Some of our kids are doing just that. They are taking big risks by experimenting with Molly and it is a growing concern for parents and drug officials.

From the Daily News at The Partnership at Drugfree.org, “Emergency room visits related to Molly, or Ecstasy, rose 128 percent among people younger than 21 between 2005 and 2011, according to a new government report.”

It was believed that Molly was pure MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy, but the drug has now become a toxic mixture of lab-created chemicals, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration."

For the rest of this article, from Cathy Taughinbaugh's website, click here. 

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Drugs Kill Dreams
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, January 27, 2014

Thanks to our PSST parents for keeping us informed about the latest drug dangers.
Roxie & Lindy Lou both forwarded this article about the deadly fentanyl-laced heroin, which has made its debut in the Pittsburgh area.  Both send prayers for your children's safety. A total of 14 people in Allegheny County died from heroin overdoses this week, as compared to the usual 1 or 2 deaths weekly. 

Wilma sent information about “dirty Sprite”, which is opiate (codeine) cough syrup mixed in a clear soda. Click here for an article about the death of a 14-year old Minnesota girl who drank this concoction.

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Agreeing & Setting Boundaries with Teenagers
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sometimes the wisdom of PSST just pops into your head.  And of course the opposite is also true – sometimes it doesn’t.  But when it does, if really feels good.

Son:  Maxine gave me this gift card for my graduation.  Would you give me cash for the gift card?

Mom:  No, Maxine gave that to you specifically because you said you wanted clothes from Macy’s.  She would have bought you the clothes herself if she thought she could have picked something you would like.

Son:  That’s what makes me so mad.  You & Dad always want to control how I spend my money!

Mom:  What do you want to do with it?

Son:  I need it for cigarettes and food from McDonald’s.

Mom:  I'm not comfortable with that.

Son:  Well it’s my gift card and I can do what I want with it.
Mom:  (pausing & thinking before responding)  You’re right, it is your gift card, and I can’t control what you do with it.  What you have to think about is the next time you see Maxine, and she asks what you bought with that gift card, whether you will be proud to say that you spent it on cigarettes and fast food.

Son:  So you’ll give me the cash for it?

Mom:  No, I won’t do that.

Son:  (fuming silently)

Fast forward to the next morning . . .

Son:  Will you take me to Macy’s this morning?   I want to buy some clothes.

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The Collateral Damage of a Teenager
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What adolescence does to adolescents is nowhere near as brutal as what it does to their parents.

This is a fascinating article, whether you agree with the premise or not – many of the points will surely hit home with parents of teenagers.  I’ve included a few excerpts from the article below.  For the full article from New York Magazine, click here. The article includes an extended excerpt from All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, by Jennifer Senior, to be published on January 28 by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Thanks to Mary Canary for sharing this article.

Is it possible that adolescence is most difficult—and sometimes a crisis—not for teenagers as much as for the adults who raise them? That adolescence has a bigger impact on adults than it does on kids?  . . .  it could simply be that the advent of the modern childhood, a fully protected childhood, is especially problematic for parents as their children get older. Keeping teenagers sheltered and regimented while they’re biologically evolving into adults and pining for autonomy can have exhausting consequences. The contemporary home becomes a place of perpetual liminal tension, with everyone trying to work out whether adolescents are grown-ups or kids. Whatever the answer—and it is usually not obvious—the question generates stress, and it’s often the parents, rather than the children, who suffer most.

The conventional wisdom about parenting adolescents is that it’s a repeat of the toddler years, dominated by a cranky, hungry, rapidly growing child who’s precocious and selfish by turns. But in many ways the struggles that mothers and fathers face when their children hit puberty are the opposite. When children are small, all parents crave is a little time and space for themselves; now they find themselves wishing their children liked their company more and would at least treat them with respect, if adoration is too much to ask.  After years of feeling needed by their children—and experiencing their children’s love as almost inseparable from that need—mothers and fathers now find it impossible to get their kids’ attention.

If adolescents are more combative, less amenable to direction, and underwhelmed by adult company, it stands to reason that the tension from these new developments would spill over into their parents’ marriages. This strife is by no means preordained. But overall, researchers have concluded that marital-satisfaction levels do drop once a couple’s firstborn child enters puberty.  As children become adolescents, their parents’ arguments also increasingly revolve around who the child is, or is becoming. These arguments can be especially tense if the child screws up. “One parent is the softie, and the other’s the disciplinarian,” says Christensen.

Here's what may be most powerful about adolescence, from a parent’s perspective: It forces them to contemplate themselves as much as they contemplate their own children. Toddlers and ­elementary-school children may cause us to take stock of our choices, too, of course. But it’s adolescents, usually, who stir up our most self-critical feelings. It’s adolescents who make us wonder who we’ll be and what we’ll do with ourselves once they don’t need us. It’s adolescents who reflect back at us, in proto-adult form, the sum total of our parenting decisions and make us wonder whether we’ve done things right.

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A New Beginning
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, January 13, 2014

It has been 4 long years for our family, starting when Dylan was 13. 

Entering into his teenage years, Dylan had become nonfunctional.  He stopped going to school, refused to follow anyone’s rules, used marijuana, and drank alcohol.  He showed escalating verbal defiance and physical aggression toward teachers, police, administrators, and his parents.  His marijuana use and aggression brought him into court on Act 53 and simple assault charges; the judge ordered him into placement. 

Dylan’s placement career has been very rocky.  He had several unsuccessful offsite visits and home passes with his family, two attempts at running away from placement, one escape from home for a week, explosive behavior outbursts that once resulted in a broken hand and another time in a sprained toe, insubordination and attempts to assault peers/staff, and painful rejections of his parents.  Dylan made his way through 5 different placements in 3 years.  

Dylan’s most recent placement brought about many positive changes.  Undoubtedly he is more mature now, and that’s an important factor, but we also credit the various placements, probation, and therapists for providing him with counseling and support that he needed.  As he got closer to high school graduation, Dylan began showing regret that his high school years had passed him by, and that all those potentially exciting milestones had slipped through his fingers, never to be recaptured.  At some level, he seems to recognize that he bears some responsibility for his situation.

For nearly a year, Dylan had been insisting that he would never return again home to live with his family, but then abruptly began to change his tune.  He made the difficult decision to graduate from high school at his current placement, and then did what was necessary to make that happen.  He began to look forward to graduation and to post-secondary schooling plans.  He had 3 successful 3-day home passes between Thanksgiving and Christmas, where he was able to demonstrate an ability to accept frustration/disappointment, and to treat his family with respect.  We also saw glimpses of old behaviors, such as how he chafes under authority.

Just as Dylan has been changing, we (his parents) have been changing too.  We have tried to understand our family dynamics better, recognize what is in our power to change and what is not, avoid the temptations to debate or lecture Dylan, model the mature interactions that we’d like our son to emulate, and temper our expectations of perfection.  I have to emphasize the word “tried”, since we are not always as successful as we’d like.  During Dylan’s home passes, we saw glimpses of some of our own weaknesses, such as struggling with the right balance between being flexible and being enablers. 

On Friday, Dylan was released by the court to come home.  A new chapter in our lives is beginning.  We are hopeful, while at the same time nervous and anxious.  We see the potential in our son for a fantastic new beginning, along with the nagging fear that the pressures of behaving appropriately, and of avoiding the lure of old friends & old habits, could be too much for him.   

In PSST, we find hope, guidance and support from a caring group of people –not only from the dedicated, insightful probation and therapeutic professionals who faithfully support our family, but also from the other parents who are similarly committed to saving their families.  As we think about the past 3 years, once we found PSST, we are reminded that the team has been there for us every step of the way, through every hopeful sign and every heartbreak.  They have given us practical advice and guidance, guiding us through the options for getting help for our son.  The group has helped us to recognize how we can continue to become wiser, stronger parents.

We are grateful that we are not taking this journey alone.
Jenn & Brad             

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Texting and driving so dangerous
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, January 10, 2014

Type rest of the post here

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No Resolution – Just Change (written by Roxie)
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, January 10, 2014

"Happy New Year”, Roxie declares to the parents of PSST!

I hope some of you have obtained humorous, as well as understanding insights into my family from my writings last year; while others may have become bored as bed bugs tolerating the sadistic saga of Roxie and Lenny. I was a mom trying to change a son who considers ‘change’ as a form of currency to cop Copenhagen snuff. I have appreciated the opportunity to express myself with a venue of parents who love their kids and pray for their sobriety. Many concepts, methods, and communicative techniques from PSST worked when Lenny was a younger lad.

He’s taller now, very muscular, bull-headed, and determined to continue his death-defying drug abuse lifestyle more than ever before. I am no longer the mommy playing table tennis with him at rehab. Additionally, I am no match against the demonic drugs and alcohol that made my son resemble a madman. Drug abuse’s effect on my entire family was like being stampeded by wild stallions with sharp hooves, while lying face up on a trail with our eyes wide open and arms at our sides.
I thank my Higher Power that the dust finally settled, the wounds I received are slowly scabbing over, and my eyesight has become intuitively insightful - 20/20. Unknowingly, all family members play their own dysfunctional role in an alcoholic household. It is unfortunate. The only person who missed his role-play at my house was my older son who married while in college, and moved out before Lenny let loose.

Coincidentally, the Chinese New Year for 2014 is designated as the Year of the Horse. Roxie’s is out of the saddle at the ‘Not’ OK Corral, and Lightning Lenny has no one to ride him while chomping at the bit. I have blogged about letting Lenny go so many times that even I became tired of the horse manure. Lenny would not move out and the situation needed to change. I looked in the mirror and realized that I did not need to let Lenny go. I needed the courage to change myself and leave the Corral.

Paradoxically, as Lenny was helping me shove my clothes in the backseat and trunk of my car, he said, “Don’t forget to stop by sometime. And when you do, bring a case of water ‘cause I’m always dehydrated.” We can lead our teen colts to water, but we cannot make them drink from parents’ washbasin of wisdom.

May your new year be happy, blessed, and calm. Personally, I am determined to ‘choose’ to be happy, although I am still going to miss my family. Through the support of many friends and a dear mom, I hope to be blessed enough not to be too stressed. There is a calmness that came to rest on my life after I left, for I had been praying about ‘when to leave’ for months. ‘Tis not through my strength that I’ve come this far, for to God be the glory.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

       – Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple

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Marijuana & the Teenage Brain
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, January 03, 2014

Thanks to Mary Canary for sharing this article.

A new study suggests that heavy marijuana use in the teenage years could damage brain structures vital to memory and reasoning.  Although the results of the study do not provide proof of a cause-&-effect relationship, they raise valid concerns for parents of teenagers. 

“We see that adolescents are at a very vulnerable stage neurodevelopmentally,” said lead researcher Matthew Smith of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “And if you throw stuff into the brain that’s not supposed to be there, there are long-term implications for their development.

For the full article, click here.

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