Drug Abuse Risks
Many times, people will become burdened with a number of different addictions at the same time. These individuals are at the greatest danger of having something dreadful happen to them. Addiction can result in loss of jobs, relationships, and even loss of life. Having a chemical dependence can also be exceptionally destructive to an individual’s overall health and wellness, as prolonged drug or alcoholic abuse can have lasting results on many essential body organs and physical functions. If an individual who is having a hard time with extreme addiction does not find health care mediation, it is strongly possibility that they will at some point wind up either dead or in jail.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is imperative that you call the experts at Atlanta Rehab Treatment today. Our expert staff can help you through your withdrawal symptoms in a medically safe and peaceful environment. Without the help of medical professionals and counselors, it is very unlikely that a person will be able to get off of drugs or alcohol on their own. Do not wait for the problem to get so big that there is nothing you can do about it. Call today to learn about our various rehabilitation options and programs.
President and CEO of Valley Hope Association Pat George shares his views on drug and alcohol treatment programs and the truth behind drug and alcohol addiction in an interview with Neil Howe on Business Authority Radio.
Neil Howe: Hello and welcome to the show. This is your host Neil Howe and our special guest today is Pat George. Pat has been the President and CEO of the Valley Hope Association since July 2015. He has served on the Board of Directors since 2003. He has a distinguished career in business and public service, he was the Kansas Commerce Secretary from 2010 to 2015 and served in the Kansas House of Representative for six years. Pat has a 25-year track record of starting and building successful business ventures from his family’s automobile dealership to real estate developments to professional sports. He is dedicated now to helping those suffering from addiction, one person at a time, honorably and respectfully. Welcome to the show Pat.
Pat George: It’s great to be here. I appreciate any time that I get now to talk about what we do here at Valley Hope and it’s certainly not about Pat George. But I’ve been prepared as I look back over my last 25 years to be part of this great organization that just celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend. I recently celebrated 25 years of being drug and alcohol free, I’m actually a byproduct of the Valley Hope way of treating and dealing with the addiction problem. Not only do I work in the industry but I have benefited from the treatment process myself as well as my father. My father was one of the first patients back in 1968 at the Valley Hope Facility back then. To get a chance to come work for an organization that saved my life is quite an honor.
Neil Howe: Well congratulations on 25 years of being drug and alcohol free. It is an extremely important position that you’re holding there at Valley Hope. Let’s really get into it because this is a major problem in this country, basically briefly describe to me … I know you could talk forever about this but what is drug rehab?
Pat George: Well that’s a good question and many people ask that, including many in the medical profession. We’ve been working on educating those that come across the people that are suffering from this disease of addiction and some of the people, the professions that we’re working with is the doctors and other healthcare professionals as well as those in ministries. Different ministers, priests, rabbis talk to us about a number of parishioners that come to them with a problem. What do you do? That’s what the doctors say. I’ve received local training when it comes to addiction, typically it’s a pretty sensitive subject. If I bring it up I’ll probably offend my patient who’s often times been coming to see me and we have a friendship. He’s going to be upset about it but yeah, I care enough and that’s what I do for a living. Then after I bring it up I don’t know what to do.
That’s where our education process has been increased and many other treatment centers are doing the same. Let me describe a typical time. I’ll describe myself, Pat George. When I checked into treatment 25 years ago I was … A number of assessment tasks were given to me as well as physical to determine my physical state. It’s a pretty rigorous process, and then plus many times there’s a physical addiction as well as the mental addiction, so to assess the type of detox that I need. I would say 99% of the patients that present at Valley Hope and at most treatment centers are of the severe category and detox is needed. At Valley Hope our detox rooms are monitored 24-7 by a nurse. There could be medications that’s involved to ease the withdrawal symptoms that can be deadly, especially with this increase in opioids which we’ll get to here in a little bit.
But alcohol is a really tough detox as well and can be deadly. We try to make that process as less painful as possible. Then also with opioids we might introduce some anti-craving medication at that same time. For myself I was in the detox room for three days before I moved into what we would call the general population. That detox could last from 24 hours up to ten days, just everyone’s different. We’d monitor them individually. My typical day being in treatment after the detox process would be to start with breakfast at 7:00 in the morning and then there’s an optional chapel service at 7:45. Then our first group is at 8:05 and this is what we call communication, where you get your assignment, your visit with your counselor, what time your appointment is. At Valley Hope we’re a little unique. You’re assigned both a counselor and a chaplain.
We believe that the spiritual aspect is part of the three-legged stool so to speak, physical, mental and spiritual. We’re not a specific faith-based organization but we certainly believe in spiritual recovery as part of the process. After the 8:00 we’d have a 9:00 lecture dealing with the education of what addiction, what it is and how it affects you. Then in between 10:00 and 11:00 you might visit with your counselor or your chaplain. At 11:00 typically there’s another lecture, mainly dealing with the self-help groups and the 12 steps. Then in the afternoon there would be maybe a small group or some specific … There might be a group for parents or a female or male group that would get together and would be very therapeutic. Then at the end of the day our patients are encouraged to take part in a 12-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous or something.
What’s different, and I didn’t realize this even though my father had been in treatment and I knew others I envisioned a jail-like atmosphere of we’d be locked up. Going back to our founder’s mission our first executive director back in 1967 had been working with alcoholics. Back then you were just as likely to be locked up in jail for a week or go to hospital for a week or two and nothing more than that. But he believed that what an alcoholic needed more than anything was love. Valley Hope was founded on the mission of helping those suffering from addictions and alcoholism. The way we treat it is with respect and love. So if you would envision checking into a hotel our grounds are not fenced in, you’re not locked in. We believe that responsibility is to be taught as well. I remember coming to treatment, they told me the most important thing I could bring was my alarm clock.
That’s because you’re not going to be catered to, nobody’s going to come around and wake you up. You’re expected to get yourself up and that illustrates just a part of the recovery. Then we’re very conscious and adamant about the patient [inaudible 00:09:10] south and the therapeutic effect of one alcoholic helping another. This milieu that we constantly are creating with the patient group we feel is as important to someone’s recovery as the actual counseling and education process. At Valley Hope it’s a very loving atmosphere and caring atmosphere. To tell you just something that probably touches my heart more than anything is our graduation ceremonies. We call them a cup hanging, if you think 50 years ago there wasn’t too much paper cups or styrofoam that was just coming about. You were given a porcelain cup when you checked in, a white porcelain cup.
As many traditions have an innocent beginning people started painting on their cups and they might paint or write the names of their kids or a Bible verse and that. Our graduation ceremonies now, the cup that you’re given when you check in has become a symbol for your recovery and we ask that you hang that on a hook in the lecture room and then come back and pick that up when you’ve completed a year of being in recovery. They’re very touching, these graduation ceremonies. What always brings a tear to my eye is of course the counselors and chaplains and other staff are there but you’ll also see the maintenance people and the cooks and the people that worked in the kitchen are there as well because everybody feels part of the process. The people in the kitchen take great pride in helping you regain your health.
Neil Howe: Right. It’s a personal journey definitely, and takes a whole team to get somebody to the stage of being able to have recovered and not to relapse and to get educated like you said. But it’s not really a specific kind of person that needs help, which might be one of the misconceptions about drug rehab. I’m looking at Google here, they’ve got drug rehab for teens, drug rehab for couples, drug rehab for families, for single mothers, for vets. It seems like it’s not just a certain kind of person that it affects, it really affects everybody does it?
Pat George: It really does. One of those is maybe an eye opener for somebody that hasn’t been to one of our facilities. It’s actually heartwarming because we treat all walks of life. You might come into one of our treatment facilities and you’ll have maybe some members of the local motorcycle gang and also doctors and attorneys and housewives and mothers and radio disk jockies and people from the political world and everything else in between. What they share is this battle with addiction and it’s a chronic disease just like cancer, diabetes. It knows no boundaries. The good thing is that there is help and recovery is available. I might just give a shoutout for those listening that if you go to Valleyhope.org all kinds of information on how to get help, as you’ve mentioned Neil, you Google and there’s just a lot of resources. One of our big efforts nationally is to take the stigma out of it.
If all of a sudden I had some spots on my skin and one of my friends said, “Maybe you ought to get that checked. You might have skin cancer,” well I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d be calling up and getting into the doctors as soon as possible. If one of my friends at APAC, “We think you might be drinking too much.” You’d probably say, “Well mind your own business. What are you talking about?” We’re trying to reduce that stigma because the sooner we can help somebody the better the result. It doesn’t matter what the health issue. When you see the results Neil, I was doing some calculating last night. I know this is a business show so many of the listeners out there manage your own or run businesses. But the costs are staggering what the cost to not just the family or the individual but to businesses and to society as a whole.
I’m going to throw some numbers out there. Last year we touched 17,000 people so that’s just Valley Hope. There’s many, many treatment centers out there, many fine ones. Some maybe on the edge of not being quite so fine like anything. In patient, out patient, online, significant others that we had a direct influence on numbered 17, just under 17,000. If you just take that half of those people got into sustained recovery, so 85 hundred and the cost … I’ve seen this in several places over a lifetime. If you help somebody with efficient and correct treatment and they are able to maintain their recovery over a lifetime the savings … The economic impact is about a million dollars a person. I was computing that to the influence that Valley Hope did. Our greatest impact is that we’ve helped somebody stay alive and helped keep families intact.
That transposes into many generations that we help. $7 billion of economic impact, $7,500,000 based on the people that we helped last year, how that positive impact over their lifetime.
Neil Howe: I mean it truly is amazing Pat, just the numbers that you mention there. That’s what some people don’t realize, is not only does it cost to go through rehab and yeah, there’s some money generated in that industry. But really it’s the lack of productivity from just you yourself, from 17,000 people that when they have these problems they’re not really being productive. It is a drain on the economy in that sense.
Pat George: Oh absolutely. The cost to their families multiplies that and showing up late or showing up in an altered state of consciousness or hungover, it takes up the time with their managers, their coworkers are affected. Often times just creates a hostile work atmosphere so there’s all kinds of costs besides the direct cost either out of their pocket or insurance or disability benefits. It’s staggering and I think this is just starting to be learned that an investment over the short-term and to do treatment right, I’ve been fighting the insurance industries and I have many friends there and they know I have a passion for this. But one of them told me five years ago, and I didn’t like the answer but it made me as a business guy understand what he was saying. I said, “There’s all kinds of data and science that shows that if you help this person with this chronic disease of addiction that the healthcare costs, the cost to … Public cost, avoiding accidents and not ending up in jail far exceeds the initial cost of doing treatment right.”
He looked at me and said, “We don’t think in those terms because the average person changes jobs nine times during a lifetime and each time they change jobs they change insurance carriers. So we’re looking at a two to three year window.” That was kind of a sad … I understand it from a business standpoint but that has changed some recently just because of the awareness of the cost. With ACA and we all know that the Affordable Care Act has its problems. But one of the things that it did is make insurance portable so insurance companies are taking a more long-term look at, “How can we do effective treatment, not just a token treatment that says, “Oh yeah, we provided seven days of treatment and it didn’t work.” Well it didn’t work, that’d be like me needing three stints and I only get two. Like, “Well, that didn’t work.”
Neil Howe: So Pat, let’s change directions a little bit here and talk about the problems. Why are drug and alcohol addiction such a problem in the United States right now?
Pat George: We’ve had a perfect storm and a lot of attention has been drawn because of the increase in opioid use. You go back about ten years ago and it seemed pretty innocent that [inaudible 00:19:53], the healthcare arm of the federal government started measuring how well your pain was controlled. It actually affected the pocket book of our healthcare industry and doctors in particular, and so if I’m being graded on how well I controlled your pain after surgery and it affects my pocket book, well I know how to control pain. I just prescribe this type of [inaudible 00:20:23], an opioid, and I do it innocently. I know that when I take this pill physically I feel a little bit better. If I have a propensity for addiction and I’m carrying a load of emotional strain as well I’ve noticed that when I take this pill I feel a little bit better mentally. In 30 days when the physical pain is gone I still have some mental duress going on in my life.
The thing about opioids is that they quickly form a physical addiction to them. Doctors started prescribing more and more pain medications, many of them with an opioid base which is very addictive. We have found that perhaps opioids in themselves are maybe the only drug that if you don’t have the addiction gene so to speak, that you can still form an addiction with opioids or it’s a lot more common and it takes just a matter of days instead of years forming an addiction to alcohol, maybe in 90 days I’ve gone from being very productive at work. What’s sad is we see young people that, I’ve read countless story of Johnny who was an A student and competed on the football team and got his knee hurt and then six months later he’s addicted to an opioid. We started seeing and recognizing this and it became alarming because of the number of suicides.
It was affecting every socio-economic status out there and so middle class and upper class and lower class young people were dying. So the policy makers both at the state level and in Washington said, “Hey, what’s going on here?” Of course the drug makers are complicit in this too in that they were promoting their new painkilling drugs to the doctors and the doctors were getting paid to control pain. It’s a perfect recipe to increase the availability. But then three, four years ago we started calling back on that and states started putting some clamps down on the medical field not to prescribe so much. At the same time the Mexican cartel that have supplied mainly the marijuana supply to the United States and the heroin that came in, which is the same chemical makeup as other opioids from Mexico, it was an inferior grade.
The cartels in Mexico, they went and imported the scientist from Columbia. I don’t know if they did that with cash or with guns, but anyway they brought the scientist to Mexico and started making a much purer, better quality heroin. They already had the transportation links in place and so there was a great influx of heroin coming into the United States. At the same time we were making it tougher to get prescriptions, pain medications. I might have someone that still has some pain, plus I’ve become physically addicted to the opioid pain medication that I’d been receiving. But now my doctor refuses to write it and the cost of the pain pill on the street’s gone from $5 to $40. At the same time heroin, I can get a daily dose of heroin from 5 to $10 and it’s a better quality than it ever has been.
That’s the perfect storm Neil of how we’ve got to this point where most of the percept of people affected by alcoholism, which is still the number one drug abused, has remained constant in that it’s gone down a little bit from say in the mid-50% to around 50%. Cocaine and methamphetamine and marijuana has remained pretty stable, maybe a percent or two down. But the opioid addicts have more than doubled. I know here at Valley Hope, which is a pretty significant population number-wise has more than doubled. We’ve seen an increase, what used to be 13% of people that checked in presenting with an opioid problem to about 28% today. That happened over a six, seven year period.
Neil Howe: That really is amazing Neil. Let’s talk about some of the misconceptions, you touched on some there that I think some people think when it’s just a drug problem, somebody’s addicted to drugs it is the drugs on the street, which is the heroin, the coke and whatever else. But really it is a huge prescription drug problem.
Pat George: Huge and both at the state level and the state level they’re trying to get their arms around it. Some of the states have drug tracking whereas up until three, four years ago I might have three different doctors prescribing me a painkiller, none of them aware of that. I go to maybe ten different drug stores, pharmacies to get my prescriptions filled. Now many states either have or are in the process of instituting drug tracking through technology that would identify that Pat George already has one drug prescription for hydrocodone. If I go to the dentist, my dentist is not going to write me that description or if he does then the pharmacy will be able to quickly through the state data bank see that I already have a prescription and not go there. It’s sad that many of the opioid addicts that we treat here at Valley Hope, and I’m sure nationally it’s the same, got a start in the medicine cabinet from their home or their grandparents’ homes.
Countless cases of a teenager that is robbing grandma’s medicine chest because she has a prescription for painkillers. I’ve just recently had personal interaction with a young couple in their early 20s that have become addicted to painkillers. They know that they need help and I ask them their source and it was both sets of grandparents that were treating an arthritic condition with a type of painkiller, that they basically were blackmailing their grandparents into filling these prescriptions a lot more oftener than they would need them so they could satisfy not only their addiction but also use that as income. We are seeing an alarming number of those type of cases where the prescription drugs are abused.
Neil Howe: Pat, there’s two main questions that come up when I search online and those are … And I want to get to these, we’re running out of time here. I want to get to these main questions because they’re big questions. First of all is how do you get somebody to rehab when they don’t want to go?
Pat George: Well, and that’s a great question and something that we deal with all the time. Me personally I’ve made no secret of my challenge, my battle with addiction and having been in a public place I don’t mind publicizing that for the reason that it could help somebody. I get many calls from loved ones, parents, spouses, significant others that have a family member or friend that they know is slowly or rapidly killing themselves. Unlike the shows, Intervention, there’s a proper way to do it. But I always encourage people just to be honest. You know what? They might get mad, but why are you doing this? Why are you confronting them? Is it because you have some spite or is it because you love them? Just as if I had another chronic problem, a heart disease and you notice that I was maybe panting when we go exercise or walk you would caution me.
“Hey, why don’t you get a checkup by the doctor?” So there’s no better way than to directly confront it. I’d prefer that if you have somebody that’s been through the process it’s always helpful just like me being part of many family interventions, I can talk about … I was sitting on that side of the table, 25 years ago that was me. If my mom and a few other friends of mine didn’t love me enough to confront me I would be dead, there’s no doubt about it. There were people in the room when I was confronted that were in recovery themselves. That’s a way to do that, there’s many many resources available. Just in most communities Alcoholics Anonymous has 800 numbers nationwide and there’s a number of those support groups that would be willing to be part of that process. Then the other thing that we pride ourselves on here at Valley Hope and many treatments do is that we have trained professionals to answer the phone, to help answer questions and to make it less threatening.
We’ve been working nationally to remove the stigma. I knew I needed help, but I couldn’t quite verbalize that. I couldn’t quite raise the white flag and say, “Help.” By bringing it up it’s scary, but I can tell you from my own point of view that I appreciated those that have the courage to come to me and say, “Hey, we love you enough. We think that you’ve got a problem and we want to help you.”
Neil Howe: The second main question, once people decide or have been convinced that they need help and they need to check in is about the money. Obviously it takes a lot of money to be able to treat these people, but what are the solutions? I know there’s insurance or some government programs. What kind of solutions are there for people that needed the rehab?
Pat George: Great question Neil. There’s a broad spectrum of help available from both the local and state-funded facilities. I’ve done national work, every state offers some level of treatment. Then everywhere in between you have the high-end facilities that run anywhere from 30 to 60,000 for 30 days of treatment to those … Valley Hope is a non-profit charitable organization and we have 700 employees and they want to get paid, and we have lots of need to constantly upgrade our facilities that we do. But we like to think of ourselves as being available to anyone, and we treat from people that don’t have any means to those of very high net worth. An average treatment period at Valley Hope, we actually have a traditional program that we call it that’s 25 days and the cost on it is a little under $11,000.
So if you think of a hotel room that you pay two or $300 for, that’s what we’re charging. Plus you get meals, doctor care, nursing care, counseling. But one of the things I’m most proud of is that we provided over $20 million in charity care last year. A lot of times if you have some means we’ll use charity care to help cover part of the cost. You mentioned insurance. More and more carriers cover for treatment. There’s over a billion dollars extra was allocated through the Federal Government and we see that figure only going up as there’s more and more attention being drawn to addiction. As we talked about the cost, well the same as the savings. I think policy makers are realizing that an investment to help people suffering from addiction is a wise investment.
Neil Howe: Definitely. Well Pat George, I appreciate you talking with me today. We could talk for quite a while about this subject, there’s a lot of questions there’s a lot of stuff that we haven’t answered yet. But leave me with this, people that are listening to this and know that they need help or family members that know that they need to take some action, what are the steps that they need to take and specifically how do they reach out to you and contact Valley Hope?
Pat George: Valleyhope.org. Our 800 number is 800 544 5101 and I encourage you to make that call or to research online. You can also reach us electronically, cheat features, email us. But people ask me about the time, they always say, “There’s never a good time.” There’s no better time than the present. Just like any other disease the sooner you can start treating it the better the result. I encourage those that maybe have been hesitant to reach out to help somebody or to yourself, that you know that you have a problem and you just haven’t been able to get on top of it yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out, to do the research at Valleyhope.org or give us a call at 800 544 5101.
Neil Howe: Well thanks very much. You’ve been listening to the President and CEO of Valley Hope. Pat George, thank you very much Pat for sharing your time and your expertise with me.
Pat George: Thanks Neil.
Neil Howe: To our listeners, if you like what you hear hit that like button, share and we’ll see you next time on the show.