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Addiction Recovery Body & Neuro Brain Uncategorized

Addiction Gods? Big Tobacco, Hyper-Palatability Food, Opiates, and Social Media Brain-Altering Algorithms

In the labyrinthine world of modern influence, there exists a dark underbelly where certain entities wield their power with intentionality and precision. This intentional influence is not merely a consequence of happenstance but a strategic maneuver aimed at molding and manipulating human behavior. This article delves into three distinct but interlinked facets of intentional influence: the historical saga of Big Tobacco’s hand in shaping the hyperpalatability of food, pharmaceutical companies’ alleged suppression of opiate risks, and the insidious algorithms deployed by social media platforms. What makes this phenomenon all the more troubling is that these influences are wielded by powerful entities who are far beyond the reach of being held accountable by almost anyone, even our governmental and justice systems. As we peel back the layers, we find ourselves asking whether we should hold them accountable for the addiction crisis they may have fostered. Furthermore, it prompts us to question whether it is right to disproportionately focus on holding individuals, especially minorities and the impoverished, solely responsible for their addictions when these large-scale intentional influences thrive and prosper.

Big Tobacco and the Hyperpalatability of Food

The Tobacco industry, notorious for its deceptive tactics, provides an early glimpse into the world of intentional influence. In the mid-20th century, as the dangers of smoking became increasingly evident, tobacco companies faced a dilemma – how to maintain their profitability in the face of mounting health concerns. Their ingenious solution was to pivot towards a different avenue of addiction: food.

The notion of “hyperpalatability” emerged, referring to the deliberate engineering of food to be as irresistible as possible. This phenomenon involved enhancing the taste, texture, and overall appeal of processed foods. Big Tobacco’s entry into the food industry was marked by the acquisition of multiple food companies. They brought with them not only their financial clout but also their expertise in manipulating consumer desires.

One of the most notorious examples of this influence was the creation of the infamous “bliss point” – a precise combination of sugar, salt, and fat engineered to trigger a neurobiological response akin to drug addiction. Food scientists, many of whom had previously worked for the tobacco industry, played a pivotal role in this process. The result? An entire industry built on the intentional influence to make people crave and consume unhealthy foods.

Pharmaceutical Companies and the Suppression of Opiate Risks

The story of pharmaceutical companies‘ involvement in the intentional influence narrative is equally unsettling. Opiates, while offering critical pain relief for many, have also been a source of widespread addiction and devastation. The opioid crisis in the United States, in particular, has exposed a chilling pattern of influence.

Pharmaceutical companies, driven by profit margins, allegedly suppressed vital information regarding the addictive nature of opioids. They downplayed the risks associated with these drugs, even as they flooded the market with an ever-increasing supply. This calculated strategy led to countless individuals unwittingly becoming addicted to prescription medications, with many transitioning to illegal opioids like heroin when their prescriptions ran out.

The current opioid crisis in the US serves as a stark reminder of how influential corporations, with their deep pockets and political connections, can operate with impunity. The human toll has been immense, with millions of lives disrupted or lost due to opioid addiction. In the face of such devastation, the question arises: should these pharmaceutical giants be held accountable for their role in promoting addiction?

Social Media’s Brain-Altering Algorithms

In the digital age, the concept of intentional influence has taken on a new, digital form. Social media platforms, with their massive user bases and access to intricate user data, have become masters of shaping human behavior through algorithms. These algorithms are designed with one purpose: to keep users engaged for as long as possible.

Social media companies employ complex algorithms that track user interactions, preferences, and online behaviors. With this data, they curate personalized content feeds, optimizing the chances of users clicking, liking, and sharing. What may seem like innocent suggestions or recommendations are, in fact, strategically crafted attempts to influence user behavior.

One of the most concerning aspects of social media’s intentional influence is its impact on mental health. These algorithms have been found to exacerbate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. They can also foster addictive behaviors, as users become increasingly glued to their screens, chasing the dopamine rush that comes with each notification or like.

The question that arises here is whether these social media companies, which profit immensely from our addiction to their platforms, bear any responsibility for the negative consequences on individuals and society as a whole.

The Moral Quandary: Accountability and Responsibility

As we navigate the treacherous terrain of intentional influence, we are faced with a moral quandary: Who should be held accountable for the addiction rise and tragic losses cultivated by these powerful entities? Is it right to place the lion’s share of responsibility on individuals, especially those from marginalized and impoverished backgrounds, while overlooking the orchestrators of these grand schemes?

Corporate Accountability:

First and foremost, it is imperative that we hold corporate entities accountable for their actions. Big Tobacco, pharmaceutical companies, and social media platforms all wield immense power, and with great power comes great responsibility. If these entities knowingly engage in practices that contribute to addiction and harm, they must be held legally and morally responsible.

This entails regulatory measures, transparency, and, where appropriate, legal action to ensure that these entities do not continue to profit at the expense of public health and well-being. Penalties, fines, and legal consequences should be commensurate with the harm caused.

Government Oversight:

Government bodies and regulatory agencies play a pivotal role in overseeing the actions of corporate entities. In the case of pharmaceutical companies, stricter regulations on marketing and promotion of opioids, as well as increased oversight of clinical trials, can mitigate the risk of similar crises in the future.

Furthermore, legislation aimed at curbing the power and influence of social media companies, particularly concerning their algorithms, should be considered. This includes transparency in algorithmic decision-making, user data protection, and measures to address the mental health implications of excessive social media use.

Empowering Individuals:

While corporate accountability and government oversight are essential, it is equally important to empower individuals with knowledge and resources. Education campaigns about the dangers of addiction, whether from tobacco, opioids, or excessive social media use, should be widespread and easily accessible.

Additionally, access to affordable healthcare and addiction treatment services is crucial for those who have fallen victim to these intentional influences. Rehabilitation and support should be readily available to help individuals break free from the grip of addiction.

Addressing Systemic Inequities:

One cannot discuss the accountability and responsibility of individuals without acknowledging the systemic inequities that shape their choices and experiences. Minority and impoverished communities are often disproportionately affected by addiction, and addressing these disparities requires a multi-faceted approach.

Efforts to reduce poverty, improve access to education and healthcare, and combat discrimination must be part of the larger strategy to tackle addiction. This includes addressing the social determinants of addiction and providing support and opportunities for marginalized populations.

Wrapping Up Before You Go

The concept of intentional influence, as exemplified by Big Tobacco’s hyperpalatability of food, pharmaceutical companies’ alleged suppression of opiate risks, and social media’s brain-altering algorithms, paints a disturbing picture of how powerful entities can shape human behavior for their own gain. The moral question of accountability and responsibility looms large.

It is incumbent upon society, through government action and individual awareness, to hold these entities accountable for their role in fostering addiction. The devastating consequences of addiction are too great to ignore, and those who profit from it must bear their share of responsibility.

Moreover, as we contemplate the rise of addiction and the tragic losses it has wrought, we must ask ourselves whether it is right to disproportionately focus on holding individuals, particularly minorities and the impoverished, solely responsible for their struggles. The answer lies in a balanced approach that combines corporate accountability, government oversight, empowerment of individuals, and addressing systemic inequities. Only through such a comprehensive effort can we hope to mitigate the impacts of intentional influence and work towards a healthier, more equitable society.

Patterns Are Everything
Patterns Are Everything
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What is Narcan?

Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Opioids are a class of drugs that include prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illegal drugs like heroin. Opioid overdoses can be life-threatening, causing respiratory depression and potentially leading to death. Narcan works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to, effectively blocking the effects of the opioids and reversing the overdose.

Narcan is available in several different forms, including injectable, nasal spray, and auto-injector. The injectable form is typically administered by healthcare professionals, such as emergency medical technicians or hospital staff. The nasal spray and auto-injector forms of Narcan are designed to be used by non-medical personnel, such as family members or friends of someone who is at risk of an opioid overdose.

When Narcan is administered, it quickly binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, displacing the opioids and reversing the effects of the overdose. Narcan has a relatively short half-life, meaning that it is quickly metabolized and eliminated from the body. This can result in a temporary reversal of the overdose, and additional doses may be necessary to fully reverse the effects of the opioids.

Narcan is a safe and effective medication for reversing opioid overdoses, and it has been credited with saving countless lives. However, it is important to note that this is not a substitute for medical treatment. Individuals who have experienced an opioid overdose should seek medical attention immediately, even if they have been given Narcan. Additionally, this medication does not treat the underlying addiction to opioids, and individuals who have experienced an overdose should seek treatment for their addiction to prevent future overdoses.

In conclusion, Narcan is a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that opioids bind to, effectively blocking the effects of the opioids and reversing the overdose. Narcan is available in several different forms and is safe and effective for reversing opioid overdoses. However, it is important to seek medical attention after an overdose and to seek treatment for opioid addiction to prevent future overdoses.

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Addiction Recovery Alcohol Opiates (Heroin and Prescription Pain Pills) Uncategorized

Opiate Addiction: Detox and Withdrawal 

Opiate Addiction: Detox and Withdrawal

Today, opiate addiction is all too common. Both prescription and nonprescription sources, such as online or through unregistered merchants, have made it so easy to purchase these drugs. Regardless of how vital living a healthier life is, using drugs like opiates are more socially accepted in some cultures, especially Western ones. The spread and impact across the US has become an epidemic. And the likelihood is high that you or someone you know has struggled with addiction. That’s why understanding Opiate Addiction: Detox and Withdrawal is so important.

What Are Opiates and Opioids?

Opiates are a class of drugs that act as central nervous system depressants. They are typically derived from opium –a substance that is produce naturally from poppies.Opiates are also referred to as narcotics. They also occur in the form of opioids. Opioids are opiate-like medications that are chemically made.

Opiates and opioids block pain signals that your body sends to your brain. They do so by attaching to structures called receptors. They can target nerve cells in your brain, spinal cord, or other body parts.

How Does a Person Become Addicted?

The opiate stimulates the brain’s reward system in a powerful way. This is a critical reason why people can so quickly become dependent. It is highly addictive, especially in the early phases of misuse. With time,the need for opioids becomes stronger. It goes beyond a basic desire for pleasure.Tolerance and reliance are linked to this high drive.

Opiate addiction occurs as it triggers your brain to release the feel-good chemical, namely dopamine (video). That is why it is simple for anyone to develop a pattern of drug abuse and addiction. It happens to individuals, particularly while seeking to address problems from pain management to emotional worries and stressors. Sometimes innocently enough by way of medical treatment by providers who were ignorant or dismissive of the risks that can lead to numerous mental and physical health issues. There can be short or long term negative-effects from drug addiction.

What Happens If I Stop Using Opiates On My Own?

While opiates can relieve pain and create euphoria, they can produce numerous unwanted side effects as well. They may include sudden withdrawal symptoms, unmanageable agony, and suicidal thoughts. It can all occur when opiate usage is stopped or doses are reduced rapidly. Drastically cutting back or stopping abruptly can easily prompt withdrawal. The body requires time to heal after the addicted person quits using the drug.

Even well into recovery the withdrawal symptoms begin to appear. This is due to something called Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). You could have detox symptoms like restlessness, tears, cramping, flu like symptoms, etc. And yes, it can happen even when the opioid dosage is progressively reduced.

 

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms & How Long Do They Last?

Opiate withdrawal symptoms can be very unpleasant and intense. Medical detox is the safest , least uncomfortable and most efficient method of eliminating opiates or other drugs.

Within 24 hours after the last dose, a person will typically begin to experience a combination of the symptoms. The significant indications are flu-like, fever, sweating, and vomiting.

Pain in the muscles
Diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea
Restlessness
Sweating
Anxiety
Dilated pupil
Watery eyes
Cramping / abdominal pain
Increased heart rate
Frequent and excessive yawning
Goose bumps
Insomnia
Shakes / tremors

The symptoms may last from few days to a week or even longer. In any case, they will eventually subside and disappear. After the last opioids intake, opiate withdrawal symptoms often begin 12 to 48 hours later. The worst ones usually manifest between 24 and 96 hours. After discontinuing opiate use for 5 to 7 days, you will start to feel better. However, the detox process can continue longer for some patients.

Opioid Withdrawal varies depending on multiple variables during the medical detox process. It could rely on factors such as the type of painkiller being misused, the individual’s level of drug tolerance, the duration of their addiction if they used several drugs and their mental and medical histories.

Why Is Additional Care Crucial For A Complete Recovery?

People in active addiction typically reject that their drug use is a problem. They are hesitant to get help. In some cases, an intervention might inspire someone to seek or accept help. Professional and appropriate interventions seek to provide an organized opportunity to make adjustments and get treatment before circumstances worsen. In most cases whether with an intervention or not, it can be helpful to involve their closest friends or family to provide physical and mental support.

Keep in mind that addiction is extremely taxing on the mind and body of the person struggling with it. Desperation and feelings of hopelessness can be overpowering and sometimes people attempt to hurt themselves. At the front end of treatment, it is usually the recommendation to only pursue drug detox under the supervision of a medical professional.

Entering Detox and Effects on Family

The strain from detoxing from opiates, or any drug or alcohol, can tear apart happy, loving homes. For example, as relatives battle over how to interact with a child who has been taking opiates, conflict becomes norm. Trust erodes and starts to disappear. If a family member tries to stop using on their, they may be tearful, erratic or act aggressively.

During medical detox is not the time to have deep, constructive conversations. It’s too early for the person seeking recovery and often times it’s too early for the loved ones who are still raw from the chaos, fear and emotional upheaval in the family. Those detailed conversations can wait until the person enters Residential, PHP or IOP level of care. In each of these there will be clinical professionals to facilitate these re-connections in a healthy and safe way.

Rational discussions are hard between the intense emotions and fears of all involved and the biology at play in the struggling addict. A lot fo times there are years of pain, fear and hurt feelings to work through for everyone involved. Addiction affects the whole family. It can help to talk to someone who is professionally trained and experienced in working with families facing addiction.

Leaving Opiate Addiction Detox Too Early

Leaving opiate addiction treatment during detox can bring negative changes. Many people in detox treatment begin to feel physically better long before they have actually even begun the work it will take for sustained recovery. This is why so many people leave treatment after only a handful of days. This is a serious and critical issue because the person is very likely to fall right back into use and may even accidentally overdose without intending to. Leaving treatment early puts the person struggling with addiction is a very dangerous position.

Can People Die from Opiate Withdrawal?

Yes, if left untreated, persistent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to heart failure, hypernatremia (a high blood salt level), and dehydration. A professional, medical detox facility will pay very close attention to this and be monitoring the client day and night. Otherwise, unless you have other complicating medical conditions, opiate withdrawal symptoms, while intense and uncomfortable are typically not life-threatening.

A Few Final Thoughts on Opiate Addiction

Any drug addiction, whether opiates, alcohol, benzos, cocaine or something else puts you at serious risk. Liver, stomach, kidney, heart and brain can all be damaged and a variety of other complicating medical problems can begin. The destruction on relationships and emotional health is no less severe.

It takes courage to look at yourself and admit you have a problem. And even more courage to step into the unknown and allow someone to help you. Stay open-minded. You don’t have to be perfect – you get to be human. Begin by being willing to begin something new.

The first step to a better life than you can imagine is to reach out and get professional help

Breathe. You CAN do this.

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Opiates (Heroin and Prescription Pain Pills)

Opiate Addiction and the Brain

Opiate Addiction and the Brain

As human beings we have a long history of using opiates, such as morphine. And if a person gains unlimited access to opiates, they can easily and quickly become tolerant and addicted to it. The drugs have an intense effect on the human brain. Prescription opiates are after all intentionally designed and created to make a person feel good within a short period of time. The drugs increase the level of dopamine released in the brain and copy the effects of endogenous opioids. More often than not, people who have taken opiates with consistency often have difficulty feeling normal without taking the drugs and little or no knowledge of what really happens with opiate addiction and the brain.

Endorphins and Dopamine

Our brains produce a natural morphine known as endorphins. They stimulate the opioid receptors to lift our mood when we are under stress; helping us feel more motivated and relieving pain when there is an injury. These hormones are produced during excitement, exercise, feeling loved, orgasm, pain, or even eating spicy food.

The production of endorphins also leads to the discharge of dopamine, which is the chemical that activates the reward system of our brain. Dopamine acts as natural “go system” that helps humans pursue stuff that we need to survive. Our brain also has a “stop system” found in the prefrontal cortex at the front of our brain. It helps us determine the consequences of our impulses. When a person is addicted to opiates, the “go system” of the brain acts on its own, and the “stop system” can no longer control it.

Some Examples of  Opioids

Heroin

Codeine – ingredient found in many cough syrups

Hydrocodone – Vicodin, Lortab or Lorcet

Oxycodone – Percocet, OxyContin or Percodan

Hydromorphone – Dilaudid

Morphine – MSContin, MSIR, Avinza or Kadian

Propoxyphene – Darvocet or Darvon

Fentanyl – Duragesic

Methadone

What Opiates do to a Person’s Brain?

Opiate drugs activate the dopamine pathway (also known as the reward pathway) that sends out a rush of pleasure chemicals to the brain. When talking about opiate addiction and the brain, opiates are much more stimulating than natural endorphins, which is partly why they are so addictive. Once a person uses opiates, the brain stops creating natural endorphins because the body thinks that there are already enough levels of it in the brain. Within six to 12 months of using opiate drugs, the cells that produce endorphins can be significantly reduced in size and even die off.

One of the most commonly abused illegal opiate drugs is heroin. When it is injected into a vein, heroin reaches the brain within 15 to 20 seconds. It then binds itself to the opiate receptors found in the different parts of the brain that include, you guessed it; the reward pathway. When the receptors in the reward pathway are activated, the person feels a brief and very intense rush of euphoria. This is followed by several hours of what many report as a “contented and relaxed” state. This feeling of euphoria is what draws people back to opiates again and again.

The effects of opiates are similar to the ones from naturally occurring opioid peptides. When used for medical purposes, opiates can stop diarrhea, depress breathing, and relieve pain. They come with side effects that include vomiting and nausea. But when used in large doses, they can make breathing shallow or even make it stop altogether. Thousands of opiate addicts have died due to overdose. And mixing alcohol with opiates only increases the risk of death.

Opiate Addiction and the Brain vs. Opiate Dependence

Dependence happens due to the normal adaptations to prolonged exposure to opiates. Do not confuse the term dependence with addiction – they are not the same. Dependence is a physical condition. Addiction is described to be the compulsive seeking (psychological) and use of the drug that results in deadly consequences. Addiction usually includes some type of dependence (physical) as well.

Another way to understand it is this: dependence is typically acute and holds the potential to be resolved or cured. Addiction on the other hand can be acute or in remission – but it is always chronic and life long (i.e. it is not cured or removed). This is why we say a clean/sober person is “in recovery” and not that they are “recovered”.

A person who is dependent on opiates will experience some type of withdrawal symptoms when the use of the drug is suddenly stopped or reduced. The symptoms can be mild to severe. Withdrawal symptom includes flu-like discomfort, stomach cramps, unpleasant mood, diarrhea, and severe muscle pain, just to name a few. The withdrawal symptoms are most commonly managed medically through the use of a slow drug taper.

Dependence & Tolerance

Dependence is often accompanied by tolerance, which is the need to take higher doses of the drug in order to get the same effect. Once a person experiences tolerance, it can be difficult for the health care provider to evaluate whether the patient has a drug problem or if there is really a need for higher doses to control one’s symptoms. This is the reason physicians are attentive and vigilant to their patients’ symptoms, as well as the level of functioning to provide them with the most accurate information needed to prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Connection of Opiate Addiction and Brain Damage

While it has already established that opiate overdose can result to slow breathing, its effects on brain function are still being studied by researchers. Depressed respiration can affect the oxygen level in the brain. Researchers are still trying to determine the long-term effects of opiate addiction on the brain. Previous studies have shown that there is some deterioration of the white matter among heroin users that affect their ability to respond during stress situations, regulate behavior, as well as their decision-making abilities.

“One of the worst health epidemics facing this country is the belief that successful pain management actually means the absence of any pain at all.”

BW Carrettin, 2003

Getting Off Opiates

Once a person stops using opiates, the natural chemical system of the body can’t turn on right away. It has already been damaged, and it will take a while to recover. The person will go through severe withdrawal that can last up to a week. Then the person will also undergo a long process called post-acute withdrawal syndrome that can last several months or even years.

When the person is suffering from withdrawal, they are typically depressed and with no motivation to do anything. Removing opiates from their system will suddenly bring lots of pain because there is no base level of endorphin found in their system. Professional treatment centers who specialize in opiate detox can help the withdrawal experience be much more comfortable.

Treatment for Opiate Addiction in Houston, Texas

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, and like all chronic diseases it is a medical condition for life. While it can be managed and kept in remission – it cannot be cured and will not go away. However, a person with an addiction can regain a healthy, active and productive life.

There had been a lot of growth and improvement in the field of addiction treatment and one aspect of that is medication-assisted treatment or MAT. Because of a lack of up-to-date training, antiquated ideas about addiction and a general ignorance of neurology and physiology – many people, even those in the addiction treatment field, find the idea of medication-assisted treatment to be controversial. This is sad and detracts from the core intention of recovery work.

It’s important to know that the overall goal of medication-assisted treatment is to help someone begin to recover from addiction. These medications, prescribed and monitored responsibly, do NOT replace one addictive substance with another. They provide a safe and controlled level of medication to overcome the use of a problem opioid. Medication-assisted treatment only works if all three of it’s equally important parts are upheld: medication (monitored and taken as prescribed), counseling (with a seasoned professional who specializes in addiction) and community support (recovery meetings as well as family and friends)

Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In the past, the standard treatment for opiate addiction involved the use of methadone. (Even in the face of better options methadone is still widely used today for treatment of opiate addiction.) Methadone is a long-acting opioid that is used to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. It also controls the craving and relapse of the patient. Whether methadone treatment is actually an effective tool for rehabilitation remains a subject of great controversy.

Another medication used in the rehabilitation of opiate addicts is Buprenorphine. It contains a partial agonist opiate, has a weaker effect on the receptors in the brain than some newer medications and has a limited high, which some health care providers believe can deter the addict from abusing the medication. This medication is also surrounded by controversy – some have suggested it is due to improper use, others suggest negligent monitoring by treating physicians.

Naltrexone and Naloxone are used as antagonists at opioid receptors to block the pleasurable effects of the opiates. These do not contain opiates nor do they produce a high. When coupled with counseling or other therapeutic treatments these blockers have more recently been reported to help people quit their opiate addiction. There is an intramuscular injection (IM) version called Vivitrol which lasts approximately 30 days and has been reported to successfully block highs and help to control not only opiate cravings but alcohol as well.

Succeeding in Recovery from Opiate Addiction

For addiction recovery to be successful over a lifetime requires a great deal of desire, commitment, persistence, humility and support. One of the most widely available community-based support organizations is 12 Step with meetings across the globe and in nearly every city in the United States. Churches, community centers and many other venues are also available depending on your area.

A seasoned and experienced counselor who specializes in chemical addiction can also help the recovering addict through the challenges that arise in the recovery process. If the counselor is also licensed and experienced in mental health, they can also assist with issues such grief, anxiety or relationship conflicts that may come up during treatment and recovery. Counseling or psychotherapy is helpful not just for the addict but also for the partners, friends and family who love them.

Breathe. You Can Do This.

Change is hard and for many it can also be a bit scary. Patience and compassion, but not coddling or excusing, is necessary. Learning how to set good boundaries – new boundaries – is important for everyone involved. Remember – getting better doesn’t mean back to how things were. It will never be the same way it was in the past. That was the past. But it can be better, more than better. It can be really good.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opiates, or any drug or alcohol, reach out and get help. A better life is possible and attainable. I’ve worked in this arena for a long time and I’d like to help you.

Stop.    Take a moment.    Breathe.

You CAN do this.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

For More Resources

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Opiate Addiction and the Brain