Wednesday, July 31, 2013


The following was sent to AnnMarie McCullough, the publicist and marketing director for The Orchard Recovery Centre. AnnMarie was also one of the four original creators of Recovery Day 2012, a Canadian first. She is now the Chair of the planning committee for Recovery Day 2013, which will be a national event this year with similar rallies and marches in a dozen cities across the land.

Join us on Georgia Street in front of the Art Gallery on Sunday September 8th for music, dancing, gratitude shares and reading of the Mayor's Proclamation once again naming this date officially as RECOVERY DAY in Vancouver.

Dear Ms. McCullough,

Congratulations! The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is pleased to announce that your event was selected by a panel of judges as the winner in the Rally and Walk/Run Events category of SAMHSA’s Recovery Month Annual Event Award Program. Your event was recognized as exceeding expectations and as a reflection of your commitment to expand the breadth and reach of National Recovery Month in 2012.

As the winner in this category, your organization is invited to send a representative to accept the award at the 2013 Recovery Month luncheon. The luncheon will be held at the J.W. Marriot in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, September 4, from 12 to 2 pm.

Again, congratulations and thank you for your amazing efforts to promote the messages that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover!


Scott Rieder on behalf of the Recovery Month Awards team
Account Executive | Vanguard Communications

Saturday, July 27, 2013



The glamour, fun, excitement of Pride, minus the hangover


Clean, Sober and Proud party a new option at a celebration where 'everything has a beer tent at the end of it'

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG, Vancouver Sun
Guiseppe Ganci doesn't remember much of the Pride celebrations of his youth - despite the fact that he's participated nearly every year since the age of 16.

Pride is nothing if not a big party, and for much of Ganci's life, that meant getting blackout loaded.
"It simply was, you know, what am I going to do to party this weekend," he recalls.

So when he quit drinking and using drugs, Ganci felt like he no longer fit in at the biggest event of the queer year.

"Over time, as I started to get into recovery in my 30s, I was having a real difficult time (figuring out) how to celebrate Pride because everything has a beer tent at the end of it."

That prompted Ganci to introduce a Clean, Sober and Proud parade float five years ago, along with a team from the Last Door Recovery Society, where he's director of community development. The move proved popular with the recovery community, but once the parade was over, there was no place for those avoiding drugs and alcohol to continue the party.

But this year, the first Clean, Sober and Proud party will offer all the glitz, glamour and fun of Pride minus the hangover.

The event includes all the necessary ingredients for a bumpin' dance party, from DJs to bands to drag queens - and all performers are part of the recovery community.

According to Ganci, the event is the first sober evening event to be officially supported by any Pride society in North America. While many Pride parades offer safe drug-and alcohol-free spaces during the day for those feeling triggered or overwhelmed by the often debauched festivities, Ganci said it's equally important to have a place where the sober community can let loose.

"Just because you don't drink doesn't mean your life is boring," he said. "You know, we're
not patients, we're just people who want to have fun."

Offering a place to party is hugely important for the gay recovery community, said Matthew Taylor, a performer at the event.

As a program manager with the Health Initiative for Men, a non-profit dedicated to promoting mental, physical and sexual health for gay men, Taylor said the prominent club and bar culture within the LGBTQ community means substance abuse is a reality for many people as they come to terms with their sexuality and sense of self.

"My own experience was that I was looking for validation and I was looking for acceptance in
my life," says Taylor, who is seven years sober.

"In the gay community I think it's even more pronounced just because (we're) looking to belong, looking to fit in and a lot of our community centres around entertainment and bars and dancing and clubs and the nightlife. And that's neither good or bad, it just is."

Taylor said people who do choose to mark Pride, or other elements of gay culture, by indulging in drugs or alcohol shouldn't be judged. But those who decide that's not a healthy option deserve somewhere else to go.

"It's so important to tell people, 'Hey, it's OK, you have a choice.' "

Introducing a sober party at Pride is an overdue addition to the annual affair that furthers its mandate of inclusion, said Vancouver Pride Society president Ray Lam.
"It's obviously really necessary," said Lam, acknowledging the majority of Pride parties take place in or around bars or nightclubs.

He said the Pride Society decided against adding a beer garden last month to its East Side Pride events - which kick off the run-up to Pride - to ensure at least one outdoor festival remained alcohol-free. The Pride Society is also contributing financially to the Clean, Sober and Proud party to ensure ticket prices aren't a barrier to entry.

For Ganci, who admits he felt like "a loser" at his first sober Pride, going alcoholfree has allowed him to see all the shades present in Pride's rainbow.

"Pride's about unity, Pride's about activism, Pride's about love, Pride's about education, Pride's about celebrating everything that there is about life, but it's hard to know that when your main goal is to drink and use drugs."

The Last Door Society's Clean, Sober and Proud party takes place Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Vancouver International Film Festival Vancity Theatre. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door available at

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


  • The photo shows seven men standing outside Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's Downtown East Side.

     Why are they all so happy and full of smiles? Let me be the first to tell you; on Monday July 22nd they attended the in-house AA meeting to celebrate sobriety and the taking of both a one year and a two year cake. 

    Now here is where things get really interesting, not only are they Alumni of the Mission but they are also resident's of Servant House also known as the Servant's Of Hope Society, located in East Vancouver. 

    This year marks a milestone for the society in that after nine years of operation the house has not only met a complete minimum of one year but a grand total of "Thirty Years of Sobriety" In your Freaking face Harmies.

    That's right I said it, no more food lines, free Crack Pipes, free Methadone, free Needles, no more Robbing, Stealing; no more visits to the health services, no more court cases, none of it in fact. They are all steadily employed and Pay Taxes,ironically to a system that supports the very thing they have all escaped from. 

    Abstinence works! here is a shining example; hard work and support based services have made all the difference. Today they do not walk alone but together supporting each other as well as many who need to see and hear that recovery works. 

    Sean Heaney has been quietly running a small residential centre on the east side of town for years. He is one of the several folks who without much fanfare has been doing great recovery work for years. Let's give him our individual and collective thanks and help out wherever and whenever we can.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Al Arsenault is a Founding Member of Odd Squad Productions Society which makes educational videos for youth about drugs and he is a 27-year veteran with the Vancouver Police Department. Al recently retired from V.P.D. in May 2006 having walked the beat in Vancouver’s notoriously drug-infested Downtown Eastside for many years. Al possesses a B.Sc. Degree in Geography and Geology from
McMaster University (1977) and a B.Ed. Degree in Geography and Physical Education from Queen’s University (1978). He is also a member of the International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy.

Although I wouldn’t say that Monteith died directly because of INSITE, I would say he met his demise because of the ideology that promotes the idea that poisons can be ingested in a supposedly ‘safe’ manner.  It’s poison regardless if a nurse is watching or not!  This pro-drug stance Vancouver has taken promotes harm, as the drugs taken by Monteith (and yes being sold on the very doorstep of the SIS), were done so with an illusion of a reduced likelihood of harm or even death.   Just ask the beat cops (and even some of the SIS staff who are fearful of speaking) about the dealers working in front of the SIS. 

But who wants to speak up when people like Ms. Corbella, who merely offer opposing views, are threatened?

There is all this talk about curtailing drug-related diseases and overdose deaths through needle exchanges and drug injection sites as a harm reduction measure.  Abstinence is the ultimate harm reduction measure: harm reduction without a treatment modality attached to it is a wasted effort.  The SIS studies are highly suspect as pointed out by Berner’s Op Ed article below. These ‘studies' are scientism at its best as the researchers are all big advocates of the site who have been getting millions of dollars to promote the Harm Reduction message.  Doesn’t anyone who funds these guys and The Lancet who publishes their studies see this obvious bias? 

Coerced treatment is just as effective as voluntary treatment, but that would mean that we would have to be judgmental about their drug usage (not who they are as people)...and such judgments attack the core of this growth factor of the junkie industry. It is false compassion indeed. Addicts need the cure, not the poison; the secret to beating addiction is hard work through decent treatment. Drug addiction is all about the loss of human potential and to give them boxes of needles in lieu of treatment is shameful. The rich get treatment and the poor get Harm Reduction.

What is really needed are solid drug prevention measures and decent long-term treatment…and it’s hard work to be sure, but these efforts would far better resolve all of these problems. What addicts WANT are free needles, lots of drugs, and a place to shoot up because they are “not ready to quit”. What they NEED is treatment. Bleeding hearts (and legalizers) pander to the lowest common denominator and facilitate drug use to make them feel compassionate (and further their cause). The Vancouver experience has been a dismal failure with hundreds dead and very high rates of disease- and look at the amputees hobbling around down there now! Coerced treatment works as well as voluntary treatment and I see no government-sponsored treatment centers as sweet and sexy as our drug injection site. It’s hard to find treatment in the shadow of Harm Reduction (watch part 5/7 of this video clip- (@ 7 minute mark) for some real ‘insight’ into this mess).

“Adams said the staff screen clients and are ‘very astute as to who is a first-time user and who is not.’ ”

Watch this ‘Streets of Plenty’ clip to show what an utter lie this statement is.  Addicts are so drug-addled as to be unable to see that there is hope for salvaging their human potential- what is the excuse for the blindness shown by those in the 'junkie industry' (besides making a living off the backs of these poor unfortunates so desperately needing help)?

We owe it to addicts to be judgmental, not about WHO they are as people rather, about HOW their drug-related behaviour is costing themselves, their families and society at large. To do anything else lacks compassion and moral fiber.

Al Arsenault
Board Member,
Drug Prevention Network of Canada

Friday, July 19, 2013

Little evidence harm reduction reduces harm - VANCOUVER SUN OP-ED

 By David Berner,

Vancouver SunJuly 19, 2013 5:04 AM

 A report by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS on harm reduction programs and Insite released last month is not science; it's public relations.

 Authors Drs. Julio Montaner, Thomas Kerr and Evan Wood have produced nearly two dozen papers on the use of Insite. They boast of good results in connecting addicts to treatment but convincing evidence is lacking.

 The current campaign reports significant reductions in drug overdoses, yet the Government of British Columbia Selected Vital Statistics and Health Status Indicators show that the number of deaths from drug overdose in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has increased each year (with one exception) since the site opened in 2003. In addition, the federal government's Advisory Committee on Drug Injection Sites report only five per cent of drug addicts use the injection site, three per cent were referred for treatment and there was no indication the crime rate has decreased, as well as no indication of a decrease in AIDS and hepatitis C since the injection site was opened.

 Claims of success for Insite made in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in 2011 were challenged in a 15-page, heavily-documented response penned by addictions specialists from Australia, the U.S. and Canada, and by a former VPD officer who worked the DTES for years.

 In A Critical Evaluation of the Effects of Safe Injection Facilities for The Institute on Global Drug Policy, Dr. Garth Davies, SFU associate professor wrote: "The methodological and analytic approaches used in these studies are compromised by an array of deficiencies, including a lack of baseline data, insufficient conceptual and operational clarity, inadequate evaluation criteria, absent statistical controls, dearth of longitudinal designs, and inattention to intrasite variation. None of the impacts attributed to SIFs can be unambiguously verified."

The doctors evaluating Insite are the same people who created Insite and who have been awarded more than $18 million of taxpayers' money for their initiatives in recent years. Dr. Colin Mangham, on our Board of Directors, has been a researcher in this field since 1979.

"The proposal for Insite was written by the same people who are evaluating it - a clear conflict of interest. Any serious evaluation must be independent. All external critiques or reviews of the Insite evaluations, there are four of them - found profound overstatements and evidence of interpretation bias. All of the evidence - on public disorder, overdose deaths, entry into treatment, containment of serum borne viruses, and so on - is weak or non-existent and certainly does not support the claims of success. There is every appearance of the setting of an agenda before Insite ever started, then a pursuit of that agenda, bending or overstating results wherever necessary."

 Our President, Chuck Doucette, asks to see an independent and unbiased cost/benefit analysis.

 "The four pillar approach only works when each pillar is properly funded. Prevention reduces the flow of people into addiction. Treatment reduces the number of addicts including those living in the DTES. Policing keeps a lid on the open drug dealing and the affects of the associated problems on the community. Only after these three pillars are properly funded can we afford to spend money on Harm Reduction initiatives that do not encourage abstinence. Putting HR first is like running up debt on your credit card and never paying more than your minimum payments."

 No one would object to free needles, crack pipe kits, methadone, heroin and places to shoot up if only they were the side show and not the main event, if only they ever led to real health.

Harm reduction and Insite are palliative.

They both spring from a deeply cynical and arrogant world view: You are an addict and you are hopeless. We will keep you "comfortable" while you continue to die.

 This is a curious position considering the millions of men and women who admit they are addicts and choose every day not to pick up their poison. I know many such clean and sober citizens.

 We owe one another a chance at dignity. To offer less is not only costly, it is monstrous.

 David Berner is the executive director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Fight Continues

What this story does not include is the fact that Pivot Legal Society drove Vancouver addicts and Vancouver needle exchange workers to Abbotsford in the expectation of being arrested and making headlines. I was told this over dinner recently by a former Pivot employee.


Abbotsford defends city bylaw restricting harm-reduction services after drug users sue

Abbotsford is defending an eightyear-old bylaw that has prevented health officials from offering harmreduction services to drug users, suggesting the provision doesn't, in fact, ban programs such as clean-needle distribution.

A group of three drug users filed a lawsuit against the City of Abbotsford in May, alleging the bylaw violates their constitutional rights because it prevents them from accessing services that could prevent overdoses and diseases such as hepatitis.

The City of Abbotsford has filed a statement of defence in B.C. Supreme Court, suggesting the bylaw doesn't prevent the local health authority from offering services to drug users, while also noting several community groups already distribute clean needles in the community.

"The bylaw does not restrict (the Fraser Health Authority) from using land within the boundaries of (Abbotsford) for all activities that are directed to addressing adverse medical outcomes associated with the consumption of illicit drugs," says the response to civil claim, filed on July 2.

"Harm reduction measures, including needle exchange, are and have been provided by agencies other than the (health authority) within the territorial jurisdiction of (Abbotsford)," the document continues.
Community groups have been quietly contravening the bylaw for years, passing out clean needles, crack pipes and other supplies, without any attempts by the city to stop them, though Fraser Health has repeatedly insisted it cannot launch a needle-distribution program with the bylaw still in place. The statement of defence appears to suggest the bylaw may not represent a blanket ban on harm-reduction services - an assertion that would be at odds with the city's own public statements about the bylaw.
When the bylaw was passed in 2005, councillors at the time made it clear they were changing the city's zoning rules to prevent harm-reduction services like those offered in Vancouver from appearing in their community.

The change was introduced amid the debate over the controversial supervised-injection site opened in Vancouver two years earlier, though the Abbotsford bylaw includes all forms of harm reduction.
The city launched a review of the bylaw in 2010, at the request of Fraser
Health, and several staff reports and reviews prepared as part of that review clearly state the purpose of the bylaw is the "prohibition of needle exchanges, mobile dispensing vans, safe injection sites and other similar uses" in all zones of the city.

In its response, the city denies the bylaw violates the rights of drug users, but says even if it does, such a violation would be justifiable. "The provisions of the bylaw relating to harm-reduction use are directed to promoting the orderly, efficient and reasonable use of land within the defendant's boundaries," the document says.

The lawsuit was launched by Douglas Smith, Nadia Issel and Diana Knowles, who all live in Abbotsford and use injection drugs. The B.C./Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors is also a plaintiff.

Their lawyer, Scott Bernstein of Pivot Legal Society, said he'll be asking the city to clarify its arguments, though he said he was surprised the city appears to be downplaying the scope of the bylaw. At the very least, he says the city's court submission is vague. "Why is the bylaw there in the first place?" he said Friday. "If it's not actually doing what it says, then what's the point? Is it just to harass people who use drugs or to scare off organizations?"

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Ontario rejects Toronto’s call for supervised drug injection site

Board of health’s landmark request meets prompt refusal, despite Supreme Court ruling allowing such facilities where public safety isn’t at risk.
Ontario rejects Toronto’s call for supervised drug injection site
Vancouver's Insite safe-injection site has been allowed to stay open because of a Supreme Court ruling that found such sites should be allowed where they do not pose a threat to public safety. The federal Conservatives are attempting to make it harder to open such sites, including one proposed by Toronto's board of health.

Toronto’s board of health voted 6-2 Wednesday to ask the provincial government to open a supervised injection facility for the city’s drug users — a landmark proposal promptly dismissed by the province.
“Given that the federal government’s approval would be a prerequisite, at this point we have no plans to move forward with supervised injection sites,” Samantha Grant, press secretary for Health Minister Deb Matthews, said in an email later in the day.
The Conservative federal government is opposed to such facilities aimed at harm reduction, which allow addicts to inject illegal drugs using clean equipment under the supervision of nurses. Both Police Chief Bill Blair and Mayor Rob Ford are also opposed.
Dr. David McKeown, the city’s chief medical officer, is strongly in favour. The board heard Wednesday — from a unanimous parade of doctors, harm reduction workers, academic experts and drug users themselves — that the facilities prevent deadly overdoses, reduce health-care costs, and help connect addicts with services they need to improve their lives.
“I’m just really tired of watching people die,” said Dennis Long, executive director of Breakaway Addiction Services.
McKeown said Toronto is the first health board in Ontario to endorse a supervised injection facility.
The board’s proposal asks the province to fund at least one supervised injection facility, on a trial basis, within an existing provincially funded clinic that already offers services to drug users. Provincial approval, however, is not actually required for a facility to open.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the federal government must allow a Vancouver facility to continue operating. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for the 9-0 court, said Insite “has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada.”
The court told the government to authorize new injection sites wherever “there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety.” But the government responded with legislation, not yet passed, that would make it even more difficult for applicants to obtain the required exemptions from drug laws.
Councillor Raymond Cho and citizen member Suman Roy were opposed to the motion. Councillors Gord Perks, Joe Mihevc, Kristyn Wong-Tam and Sarah Doucette were in favour.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


What if...addiction isn't really a 'disease'?

Almost 26 years ago, on July 18, 1987, I made the decision to stop my addiction and begin my recovery in earnest.


I started by going to daily meetings of both Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous—sometimes three meetings a day, when I was feeling particularly at-risk for relapse. From there, I gravitated into the rooms of Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), and Codependents Anonymous (Coda) in order to develop a deeper understanding of where my addiction began. Although I consistently struggled with feelings of not fitting in—one of the stories of my life—there was definitely something comforting about being in a room full of people who were experiencing many of the same problems as I was—and choosing the same format of recovery.

At the time, I’d had Crohn’s Disease for 14 years, having been initially diagnosed in 1973. After taking addictive medications prescribed to me by physicians for all that time—as well as some other mind-altering substances that I self-prescribed—I found myself at a massive, suicidal bottom. Those 12-Step meetings quite literally saved my life.

I think I stopped going to meetings somewhere around my 10th year of recovery. It wasn’t so much that I felt I didn’t need a program of recovery anymore—although by that time, I was quite solid in my choice to continue living the new and improved life I’d been creating for myself. I knew that if I ever felt like I needed a 12-Step meeting, I’d go to one. The same is true for me today.


In those early days, I tried to go along with everything I heard in the meetings because I really, deeply wanted to recover. But I have to admit I had trouble with some of it. The concept I had the most problem with was the notion that addiction is a disease just like other medical diseases.
The most recent argument in favor of this comes from the understanding that there is brain involvement in addiction. As captivating and useful as much of this current research is, I know that there is also brain involvement when I lift my little pinky—there is brain involvement in everything we do, that’s how we’re wired.  For me, this is not a particularly compelling argument for addiction being included in the medical model.

I have a medical illness. I can’t just say, “Gee, I think I won’t have Crohn’s Disease anymore.” Neither can someone who has cancer or diabetes or any illness like that. But we can do exactly that with addiction—and millions of recovering addicts the world over are proof of this. Addiction can be arrested and recovery is then possible.

Of course, it’s not that easy—invariably there is some difficult, uncomfortable inner work required in the process. However, in my own experience, as well as the experience of so many of my clients, going inward in this way often creates an amazing personal journey that leads directly into a much better life.
The brain studies that show how our ‘reward’ or ‘pleasure’ centers in the brain light up when we ingest something we enjoy are fascinating—and important. These centers in our brains also light up when we involve ourselves in behaviors that somehow take hold of us, such as gambling or smoking or excessive shopping. Unfortunately, many of the scientists who do these studies also tell us that because we can become biologically addicted to the pleasure we receive from these behaviors, it means we have a brain disease—with the tacit implication that we therefore have no choice but to continue.

Or at least that’s what most practicing addicts would have us believe. They do this so that they can claim they are victims to their addictions and “can’t” make a different decision about what they are—voluntarily—doing to their lives.

I use the word ‘voluntarily’ with intention, because we all know that although there may well be substances and behaviors that arouse our brain’s pleasure centers, any of us can stop whenever we ultimately make the decision to stop. If that were not the case, millions of people from 12-Step and other recovery programs would still be actively using their addiction. But they aren’t—because they have chosen not to. I have the same pleasure centers in my brain, but I’m clean and sober today because I choose to be.


For a long time, I thought I was the only one who thought that perhaps addiction was more of a choice than a disease. But as time went on, I began to receive feedback from clients who told me that they too saw addiction as a choice, not as a physical illness—and that they felt relieved to know that I saw it that way too. I was amazed that there were, indeed, others who felt the same about this as I do, and that many of them were consciously choosing me to work with when looking for an Addictions Therapist.
Imagine my surprise when I even began to find published literature that contradicted the steadfastly-held belief that addiction is a medical brain disease. What I discovered was what I already believed to be true: whatever else addiction may or may not be—a biological compulsion, a result of genetic predisposition, perhaps a pursuit learned in one’s family of origin—regardless of any of that, whether or not to use an addictive behavior is a choice.

My colleague Andrew Feldmar, renowned Vancouver, BC psychologist, summed it up beautifully:
A lot of responsibility is shirked by pretending—and other people making money from pretending—that what addicts suffer from is an illness rather than an existential choice. One cannot be NOT-free—as human beings, we are condemned to freedom. The flaw is that the helpers pretend they have choice and that the helped do not. But we are all in the same boat, there is only ‘us’—and we all have free choice.”


It is true that some people don’t end up recovering from addiction—and some of them use the ‘disease’ excuse to sidetrack themselves. “I have a disease,” they claim, “I can’t help it.”
Yes, you can help it—of course you can ‘help it’—but only if you choose to. When I discovered that I was an addict, I was actually relieved. I’d had no clue about what was going on with me, but I knew that the consequences I was struggling with had, over time, become progressively worse. Once I understood why I was doing what I was doing and how my negative choices were sabotaging my life, I also understood that I could change this way of living. At that point I was ready to be done with the miserable and dire consequences my addictions were causing.

I don’t believe that any of us start out using alcohol, drugs, or other behaviors in order to become addicts. We don’t go and sign up for Addiction 101. In fact, just the opposite is true in most cases: we think that this will never happen to us. Even if it happens to the other guy, we like to believe that we’re different, we can handle it. Our incredible capacity for denial tells us that we can continuously use mind-altering substances—or gamble or smoke or binge and purge, spend more than we have, or become glued to our computer screens—safely. And it often takes a while before we realize, beyond a doubt, that we have crossed that line into addiction. Although we did not intentionally set out to get ourselves addicted, we are still 100% responsible for what we are going to do about the fact that we have, indeed, become entrenched in addiction.

Of course, one of the roadblocks that can prevent addicts from making the decision to stop the addictive behaviors is the lack of caring. People who have been struggling with addiction for a while can lose their desire to care about their own lives, and sometimes feel that their loved ones have also stopped caring about them. They begin to wonder why they should even bother trying to make things better, finding it easier to convince themselves that they are powerless to change their lives. We have to dare to care, which requires effort, courage, and faith. Encouragement is often a vitally important part of the change process—and this is where self-help groups, family and friends, doctors, therapists, and other healers can play an integral role. If you or someone you know needs this kind of encouragement, please don’t hesitate to either give it or to reach out for it.

Ultimately, it makes no difference whether the addiction is to TV, heroin, or chocolate—there are any number addictive behaviors at our disposal. We all choose to hide from reality sometimes; that is human nature. The problematic behavior only becomes an addiction when it begins to interfere with our lives. This is what distinguishes a habit from an addictive behavior.

It’s important to remember that anyone can be a candidate for addiction, even people who have been actively in recovery for a period of time. As soon as addicts in recovery decide they are no longer going to handle life in healthy ways, off they go into that netherland of the infamous ‘slip’, which in actuality stands for “Sobriety Loses Its Priority.” Once people decide that sobriety from addiction is no longer a priority in their lives, they relapse and start to use again.

How can that be anything less than a choice?


Medbox: Dawn of the Marijuana Vending Machine

By on May 09, 2013 
Are you concerned that the Brave New World may be  completely crazy? Don't you worry now - it is.
“We are in the right place at the right time,” says Bruce Bedrick, a 44-year-old chiropractor, occasional pot user, and chief executive officer of Medbox (MDBX), maker of one of the world’s first marijuana vending machines. “We are planning to literally dominate the industry.”
The two investors Bedrick is addressing at the offices of NewGate Capital Partners in Winter Park, Fla., smile politely. NewGate partner Joe Alvarez Jr. says he likes Medbox’s product but has concerns about the company’s roller coaster stock, which zoomed from about $3 a share to $215 in November and has recently bounced between $20 and $30. Alvarez doesn’t use the phrase “pump-and-dump,” but it hangs there like a cloud of smoke. Either way, Bedrick takes umbrage. “This is all crazy talk,” he nearly shouts. “Wall Street plays games with our stock all the time. We’re a retailer’s wet dream. We’re the leading player in an industry that’s ready to explode.” Alvarez says he meant no offense.
Gregg Segal for Bloomberg Businessweek
Medbox’s core product resembles a Redbox DVD dispenser, only it’s black, refrigerated, and armored. Bedrick avoids the term vending machine because you can’t just saunter up to a Medbox, put in a few bills, and walk away with a stash of weed. The devices sit behind sales counters at state-licensed marijuana dispensaries. Biometric technology identifies the fingerprints of patients carrying state-issued medical marijuana cards. Clerks hand over plastic vials of cannabis leaf or, depending on the machine, cannabis-infused brownies, lozenges, or other “medibles.” A database tracks everything so that patients can’t buy more than their legal allotment, clerks can’t pilfer the merch, and states can collect taxes.
It’s a conventional business model—which is the point. Medbox’s $50,000 machines are intended to allay fears that pot means “druggies standing on street corners and grabbing little kids and stuffing drugs down their throats,” Bedrick says. As he sees it, for marijuana to become as mainstream as Miller Lite it needs to endure the same PowerPoints and conference calls as other businesses. “If you’re going to allow people to have marijuana, then let’s organize it, regulate it, tax it,” Bedrick says. “It has to work for everybody.” He adds, “I’m a Libra—always seeking balance.”
After the meeting, he steers his rented Chrysler into downtown Winter Park for lunch. He parks curbside on busy Park Avenue and starts to strip off his charcoal suit, blue dress shirt, and banana-yellow tie. Shoppers strolling past don’t seem to notice the hairy-chested man in boxer shorts jabbering on his phone. Bedrick doesn’t care. He slips into jeans and a T-shirt. “I’m very thankful for everything that has happened to me,” he says, “but I never thought I’d be wearing a suit.”

Gregg Segal for Bloomberg BusinessweekBedrick and his 34-year-old partner, Medbox inventor P. Vincent Mehdizadeh, are two of many entrepreneurs seeking to cash in on the prospect of legalized marijuana. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes, and others are moving in that direction. Washington State is writing rules for recreational use; Colorado just passed legislation regulating retail sales. With a Pew Research Center poll finding broad support for legalization, entrepreneurs hope the feds will rescind, or at least not enforce, its decades-old ban on marijuana. The market is potentially huge: IBISWorld estimates legal sales this year will be $1.7 billion, rising to $5 billion by 2018. Then there are the picks and shovels of this gold rush: vaporizers to inhale marijuana, hydroponic gear to grow it, software to tally taxes, and so on.
Some new shops look as bland as doctors’ offices, with clerks in white smocks and labeled plastic containers like the ones behind the counter at CVS (CVS). Leafly, a sort of Yelp (YELP) for dope, wants “no puns, no pictures of pot leaves or giant joints, none of the negative stereotypes,” says Brendan Kennedy, co-founder and CEO of Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that owns Leafly. Only medibles are visible in Medboxes, not the weed; “You don’t see pharmacies with Vicodin on display,” Mehdizadeh says. He has no title at Medbox but helps Bedrick run the business as a consultant.
Bedrick, Mehdizadeh, and other aspiring marijuana moguls are urging states to levy taxes, set hefty registration fees, and establish detailed regulations such as mandates for fungus testing. Washington State estimates marijuana taxes and fees could generate $2 billion in revenue over five years. “What state … forget it, what country can afford not to give that a serious look?” says Tripp Keber, managing director of Dixie Elixirs & Edibles, which sells marijuana-infused sodas, candies, bath salts, and tinctures.
For now, the feds still loom. Banks shun marijuana businesses. Cities worried about crime are erecting legal obstacles. Most of the dozen or so public pot companies, including Cannabis Science and Medical Marijuana, remain pink sheet stocks, which don’t have to report financials as fully as companies on major exchanges. Medbox, based in West Hollywood, Calif., saw its market cap soar to more than $2 billion in November after the votes in Colorado and Washington. On Nov. 15 the stock closed at $205 a share; the next day it fell to $20 after Medbox said the price spike was “not based upon present business economics.” It blamed the increase on a tiny “float”—publicly available shares—that meant trades of a few thousand shares could push the price way up or down. “The key to these investments?” Jay Leno quipped on The Tonight Show. “Buy low, sell really, really high.”
The company posted 2012 net income of $327,853 on revenue of $3.5 million. It filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a company that fully reports its financials, which Bedrick says will attract blue chip money. “We have the largest market cap because we have the most professional organization,” he says. “Whether it ends up that way—well, I’m doing my best.”

Dr. Bruce, as Bedrick calls himself, was a 10-year-old in suburban Philadelphia when his mother died of breast cancer. “I remember hearing her screaming at night for her own mother,” he says. If she’d had marijuana, he says, “her life would have been different. At least she would have had an appetite.”
Gregg Segal for Bloomberg Businessweek
At Ithaca College, Bedrick worked for a chiropractor who inspired him to help people like his mom. He graduated from a chiropractic school in Oregon and opened a wellness center catering to patients with chronic and degenerative conditions. He says he couldn’t stomach losing patients or taking money from the dying. He closed the center and in 2004 opened a clinic where he put athletes through soft-tissue workouts and advised them on diet and exercise. Again he had trouble collecting money, this time from health insurers. “I had to make a change,” he says. “I asked the muse, ‘Please, please send me somebody.’ ”
A patient told him about marijuana vending machines, which led him to Mehdizadeh, who managed law firms in Los Angeles and partied with the Hollywood set. Mehdizadeh opened two L.A. medical marijuana outlets in 2007, one a 24-hour store equipped with an early version of what would become the Medbox machine. It was neither clerk-operated nor behind-the-counter; customers swiped a card, matched a fingerprint, and—voilà!—product. It got him more press than he’d hoped for: In March 2008 federal agents confiscated the machine. The feds eventually returned it, but Mehdizadeh sold his pot shops. An Internal Revenue Service audit concluded he owed about $1 million in back taxes, interest, and penalties. In 2010 he filed for bankruptcy. “I wanted a fresh start,” he says.
By then, he’d won a patent for a vending machine that would confirm a person could legally purchase pot. In Arizona, voters were about to legalize medical marijuana. Bedrick, who lives in Scottsdale, approached Mehdizadeh. They hit it off and formed Medbox. When the company went public in 2011, Bedrick became its CEO. Mehdizadeh says his IRS problems are almost resolved. An IRS spokesman says the agency can’t comment on individuals. Mehdizadeh says he learned from his first foray into the pot industry: “Like in any business, you have to figure out where society is and craft your project accordingly. Society’s not ready for 24-hour machines.”

Bedrick makes that point repeatedly at a free seminar in a Boston hotel. Jimmy Cliff thrums from a sound system as about 90 would-be pot retailers, some in suits, some in jeans and sneakers, take seats. The reggae fades out. Bedrick fires up his PowerPoint. “Is everybody here excited?!” he shouts. “Yes,” comes the halting reply. Audience members are wary of being interviewed. One man asks, “You don’t work for a federal agency, do you?”
Medbox CEO Bedrick pitching his dispensing system in BostonPhotograph by Leonard Greco for Bloomberg BusinessweekMedbox CEO Bedrick pitching his dispensing system in Boston
For 90 minutes, Bedrick expounds on Massachusetts’s proposed medical marijuana regulations. If you want a license to sell reefer, you can’t have a felony in your past. You need a detailed business plan. You must show you have $500,000 in cash. State officials will “look up your tush with a magnifying glass,” he says.
Bouncing around the room, Bedrick looks a little like Jerry Seinfeld but sounds at times like Rodney Dangerfield. He points at one of two Medbox units sitting side by side at the front of the room and solemnly declares, “This is not a vending machine.” The unit next to it is set up to dispense medibles. Bedrick’s assistant hits a button to vend a fake sample but the little white bag gets stuck inside. “It’s rare that that happens,” he says, as the assistant fishes the bag out.
Bedrick finally comes around to the session’s real purpose: winning over clients for Medbox. For about $200,000, he says, customers can get all the Medbox equipment, plus help with writing business plans, finding locations, and acquiring licenses and permits. Clients don’t have to buy the boxes, but Bedrick argues that regulators will look more kindly on license applications relying on Medbox gear because it’s designed specifically to demonstrate compliance with state rules and help governments figure out how much they’re owed in taxes.
Medbox has sold more than 100 machines to shops owned by physicians, attorneys, and pharmacists, Bedrick says. It’s also helped businesses in Arizona win 20 licenses, and it’s working with clients in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and elsewhere. Other companies offer similar consulting services, and still others make vending machines for federally approved drugs. So Medbox has been acquiring and investing in companies that would help it sell its products to pharmacies, hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes. It recently bought a stake in a Michigan company that sells a dispenser for doctors’ offices. “We’ve always thought somebody’s going to buy us out or we’re going to have to be No. 1,” Bedrick says.

Bedrick is the only guy in a tie sitting around a big table at a meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. To his right is Herb Postma, a 67-year-old entrepreneur with reading glasses perched on his bald head. Postma once ran successful yacht dealerships in Fort Lauderdale. “I used to sell $7 million to $20 million yachts, on spec,” he says. Now he runs Vaporfection International, which Medbox is angling to buy.
Photograph by Gregg Segal for Bloomberg Businessweek
Postma says he smoked dope in college but raised his kids as an “anti-pot-smoking father.” He retired in 2001, got bored with golf, and was looking for new opportunities when his 29-year-old son Jonathan gingerly broached the idea of marijuana. Soon Dad was all in.
Postma holds up a boxy white device that resembles an oversize iPod. The viVape 2 vaporizes marijuana so it can be inhaled as warm, odorless air instead of smoke. Postma tells Bedrick that the $399 device is perfect for cancer sufferers who’d benefit from marijuana but have respiratory or digestive problems that keep them from smoking or ingesting it. He demonstrates how to inhale from a hose attached to a hole in one end of the vaporizer. Then he inflates a clear vinyl bag that can supply vapor to patients who can’t easily draw air on their own. “We’re the new demographic for alternative medicine,” he says. Only 1 percent of marijuana users use a vaporizer, he tells Bedrick, and every additional percentage point could be worth $500 million.
As with bongs, vaporizers don’t run afoul of federal law as long as they’re not explicitly marketed for marijuana. Fine print on Vaporfection’s website says its products are “not intended for medical purposes or illegal use.” Postma tells Bedrick the pinch of marijuana used in a single viVape 2 dose “represents 25 percent to 30 percent of the material in a typical joint. But it gets the same effect of a full joint, so you’re saving on your material costs as well.” His son chimes in, saying the device can get people “where they want to be” in 30 seconds or less. His dad pulls out a prototype of a pocket-size model called a miVape. “This is my martini,” he says, grinning.
“I’m lovestruck,” Bedrick says. But he has questions: Is Vaporfection locked into its distribution contracts? Who’s pitching vaporizers to assisted-living facilities? Is someone analyzing customer demographics? One of Postma’s staffers says 1,000 customers responded to an online survey. “Awesome,” Bedrick says. “That speaks to a tech-savvy user, not your average stoner.” He leaves Postma with Medbox’s acquisitions chief to close the deal.
The next day, Bedrick is looking forward to a workout and an hour or two at the beach. But the Vaporfection negotiations hit snags, not over millions of dollars but tens of thousands. Bedrick decides he has to be there. He climbs into yet another suit and tie. “Bummer,” he says. “Gotta go to work.”


Study Points To Potential Strategy For Erasing Memory Of Addiction

27 Jun 2013  

This piece from MEDICAL NEWS TODAY was sent to us - quite tongue-in-cheek - by a friend.

A new study by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco offers encouraging findings that researchers hope may one day lead to a treatment option for people who suffer from alcohol abuse disorders and other addictions.

In the study, conducted in rats, the UCSF researchers were able to identify and deactivate a brain pathway linked to the memories that cause cravings for alcohol, thus preventing the animals from seeking alcohol and drinking it, the equivalent of relapse.

"One of the main causes of relapse is craving, triggered by the memory by certain cues - like going into a bar, or the smell or taste of alcohol," said lead author Segev Barak, PhD, at the time a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of co-senior author Dorit Ron, PhD, a Gallo Center investigator and UCSF professor of neurology.

"We learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving" he said.

The study, also supervised by co-senior author Patricia H. Janak, a Gallo Center investigator and UCSF professor of neurology, will be published online in Nature Neuroscience.

In the first phase of the study, rats had the choice to freely drink water or alcohol over the course of seven weeks, and during this time developed a high preference for alcohol. In the next phase, they had the opportunity to access alcohol for one hour a day, which they learned to do by pressing a lever. They were then put through a 10-day period of abstinence from alcohol.

Following this period, the animals were exposed for 5 minutes to just the smell and taste of alcohol, which cued them to remember how much they liked drinking it. The researchers then scanned the animals' brains, and identified the neural mechanism responsible for the reactivation of the memory of the alcohol - a molecular pathway mediated by an enzyme known as mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1).

They found that just a small drop of alcohol presented to the rats turned on the mTORC1 pathway specifically in a select region of the amygdala, a structure linked to emotional reactions and withdrawal from alcohol, and cortical regions involved in memory processing.

They further showed that once mTORC1 was activated, the alcohol-memory stabilized (reconsolidated) and the rats relapsed on the following days, meaning in this case, that they started again to push the lever to dispense more alcohol.

"The smell and taste of alcohol were such strong cues that we could target the memory specifically without impacting other memories, such as a craving for sugar," said Barak, who added that the Ron research group has been doing brain studies for many years and has never seen such a robust and specific activation in the brain.

In the next part of the study, the researchers set out to see if they could prevent the reconsolidation of the memory of alcohol by inhibiting mTORC1, thus preventing relapse. When mTORC1 was inactivated using a drug called rapamycin, administered immediately after the exposure to the cue (smell, taste), there was no relapse to alcohol-seeking the next day. Strikingly, drinking remained suppressed for up to 14 days, the end point of the study. These results suggest that rapamycin erased the memory of alcohol for a long period, said Ron.

The authors said the study is an important first step, but that more research is needed to determine how mTORC1 contributes to alcohol memory reconsolidation and whether turning off mTORC1 with rapamycin would prevent relapse for more than two weeks.

The authors also said it would be interesting to test if rapamycin, an FDA-approved drug currently used to prevent organ rejection after transplantation, or other mTORC1 inhibitors that are currently being developed in pharmaceutical companies, would prevent relapse in human alcoholics.

"One of the main problems in alcohol abuse disorders is relapse, and current treatment options are very limited." Barak said. "Even after detoxification and a period of rehabilitation, 70 to 80 percent of patients will relapse in the first several years. It is really thrilling that we were able to completely erase the memory of alcohol and prevent relapse in these animals. This could be a revolution in treatment approaches for addiction, in terms of erasing unwanted memories and thereby manipulating the brain triggers that are so problematic for people with addictions."