September 27, 2011


About six and a half months ago I embarked on a new journey that led me to Austin, Texas. The first day I arrived I felt like a fish out of water. I recall going to the corporate apartment that evening and calling several people to let them know I didn't think I would make it. But, I did.

Now my work in Austin is almost over. And I have a new direction in DFW. But a piece of my heart is still there.

I have met some incredible people that will take me back to Central Texas. Some who have forever changed my life. I am a richer person because of the experience. I am a stronger person because of the experience.

I will remind myself time and again that the first day was easily overcome. As have been most of my struggles. And I turned out much happier for taking them on.

I will miss you. But I will be back.

September 19, 2011

Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in U.S., data show

Fueling the surge are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous.

Lori Smith of Aliso Viejo with photographs of her son Nolan, who died of a drug overdose in January 2009, six months shy of his 16th birthday. A toxicology test turned up Zoloft, which had been prescribed for anxiety, and a host of other drugs that had not been prescribed, including two additional anti-anxiety drugs, as well as morphine and marijuana. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times / September 18, 2011).

Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Times analysis of government data has found.

Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation's growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.

Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxietydrugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused areOxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

The most commonly abused prescription drug, hydrocodone, also is the most widely prescribed drug in America, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Better known as Vicodin, the pain reliever is prescribed more often than the top cholesterol drug and the top antibiotic.

"We have an insatiable appetite for this drug — insatiable," Joseph T. Rannazzisi, a top DEA administrator, told a group of pharmacists at a regulatory meeting in Sacramento.

In April, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced initiatives aimed at stanching prescription drug abuse. The plans include a series of drug take-back days, modeled after similar programs involving weapons, in which consumers are encouraged to turn leftover prescription drugs in to authorities.

Another initiative would develop voluntary courses to train physicians on how to safely prescribe pain drugs, a curriculum that is not widely taught in medical schools.

Initial attempts to reverse the trend in drug deaths — such as state-run prescription drug-monitoring programs aimed at thwarting "doctor-shopping" addicts — don't appear to be having much effect, experts say.

"What's really scary is we don't know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths," said Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School who is studying ways to lower the risk of prescription drugs.

"It's a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain," Bohnert said. "But we haven't figured out the safety belt yet."

September 11, 2011

Where were you?

My son turned 8 months old on 9/11/2001. His dad had only been out of the military a few months. We’d just moved back from Germany. We built a new home in Rockwall County and been there only two months.

I went to work that day. With a long time friend and colleague I was taking my first group of students from the LCDC Training School (now called Institute of Chemical Dependency Studies) on a ROPES course. As we were driving down the road I received a phone call from my son’s dad. He told me what was happening.

I shared the information with everyone in the van. Everyone started making phone calls. I called a friend still working on the military base in Germany. Then I called a friend who lived in Brooklyn, New York, though that call would not go through.

I remember having a great deal of fear and so many questions. The students decided to continue on with the ROPES course that day, as there was little we could do from Dallas, Texas. After we finished we stopped in a store with a grill and got some food. We ate there while we watched the first television broadcasts we’d seen all day.

I felt fear about my son’s dad having just gotten out of the military. I was afraid they would call him back. He would have loved being able to go back but I was worried about our sweet little 8-month old boy being without him.

I felt distress about the world my son would be raised in. I knew in my heart America would never be the same after 9/11/2001.

In the days that followed I felt a great deal of pride in America and its people. Strangers were coming together because silently we all seemed to know it was necessary. I remember wondering, and even hearing on television, discussions about when the right time to go back to doing things we used to do would be.

I sensed we never really would go back to the way it once was. When Homeland Security was developed and everyday since I have never once been angry for being asked to remove my shoes or allow my bags to be examined at the airport. I do get frustrated when people are upset about this process. I have visited countries that do much more search in an airport and never even ask permission. I understood the mandatory change.

Life hasn’t been the same. It likely never will.

I value my freedom. I support our troops and I thank God everyday that I am a citizen of the best country on earth. I won’t ever forget that day. I wrote my son a letter that day hoping to capture what life was like before. One day maybe he will understand its significance.

God Bless America.