Intro to SMART

11 05 2011

I just finished this video as an introduction to the coalition at our coalition retreat this weekend. This gives you a good idea of everything we have been working on.


What’s going on

27 04 2011

Here is a brief video of the minutes from our last coalition meeting. If you are interested to know what we are currently working on, watch it!

I highly recommend watching PLEASURE UNWOVEN

19 04 2011

Since working in prevention, much of the literature I’ve been reading claims addition as a disease. Though I’ve thought this to be an interesting idea, it has been a harder concept for me to understand due to the fact that addiction starts with a personal choice and, in many cases, disease does not. You do not choose to get cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.  You do choose to start taking drugs, drinking alcohol, abusing prescriptions, etc.

This movie does an excellent job explaining how addiction is a disease and it does so by using the scenery of southern Utah as a metaphore for the brain.

Here is what I learned:

Addiction is a disease of choice but you do not to choose to crave.    

  • A disease is defined when an organ has a defect, which leads to symptoms.
    For example: Diabetes = pancreas— no insulin— blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, etc.

    With addiction =    brain— defect in pleasure senses—- poor choices, poor health, poor relationships, etc.

 Addiction begins in the mid-brain and moves to the frontal cortex. The midbrain gets us from moment to moment. It helps us survive by making things pleasurable (eating, sleeping, etc). This can be more powerful at guiding behavior than rational decision making. Think about it… even though we may want to be productive for 24 hours a day, we have to sleep. The need to sleep is more powerful of a drive then choosing to simply forgo sleep to accomplish more important things.  

Drugs first start by hijacking pleasure in the midbrain. Drugs fool the brain into thinking the drug is better than expected. The release of dopamine tricks the brain and hijacks its way into the top priority for survival. You begin to become pleasure deaf to things that normally cause pleasure because the drug has set a new set point/trigger level for inducing pleasure. Things like going to Disney land, spending time with friends/family, etc. no longer give you the same dopamine release and happiness they used to.

The movie gave this example:
If you put a quarter in a gumball machine, and two gumballs come out, instead of one, your experience is better than expected and you are happier.
If this consistintly happened everytime you put a quarter in, you would not be as satisfied with just the one gumball coming out, because your have been used to getting more.

 Again, drugs set a new trigger level for pleasure.    You become  WIRED to make choices that bring you up to the level where you can have an adequate amount of dopamine released to give you pleasure again. Normal activities don’t do it though… you need more and more drugs. It is definitly more extreme than this gumball example, but metaphorically, you need 5, 10, 20 gumballs to give you the same happiness that 1 used to.  Kind of a stretch… but this helped me understand a little better.

Just on a side note,  If you can raise your set point for happiness by drugs/sex/overeating,etc…  can you lower it by self control? Does a healthy lifestyle, chastity, moral restraint help you to be happier easier? In terms of the gumball metaphor,  if you put in your quarter and give your 1 gumball away does it results in a lower set point for happiness? I have read many studies to argue that compassionate and selfless people are indeed happier.

At this end of this movie I felt a profound realiztion regarding how precious our ability to choose is.  It truly is a gift from God, and I believe it is the purpose of our existence on this earth— to learn how to use it.  This movie gives much hope to recovery. It explains that once you understand the concepts in this movie, you can realize that you are not a bad person for being an addict, but that you have a disease to overcome. Though you have altered the chemistry in your brain, thank heavens, IT IS REVERSABLE. But it is certainly not easy. In fact, you have to go a long while feeling little to no pleasure. I can’t even imagine trying to overcome a drug addiction.   AND THAT IS WHY I LOVE PREVENTION. If we can just help people make good choices…

My favorite campaign out there right now is parents empowered. Studies show that parents are the # 1 influence on a youth’s decision not to drink, use drugs, etc.  Though I think my job is important right now, I believe the job of  parent far exceeds anything I can accomplish.

SMART Helps Doctors Better Prescribe Pain Pills

19 04 2011

Representative Brad Daw, SMART member, worked with coalition members to craft/pass legislation during th 2010 legislative session. The new law prevents pain pill abuse by requiring pain pill providers to (1) register to use DOPL’s Controlled Substance Database, (2) obtain education on proper pain pill prescribing, and (3) be notified of patient abuse (if patient overdoses or has DUI charges against them).


94% of providers are now registered to use the database, compared to 28% before the law
70% increase in database searches since the new law

In addition:

SMART has trained 163 doctors on how to help patients safely use, store, and dispose of Rx pain pills.  Results from a 1 month follow-up survey are as follows:

80% agree they prescribe fewer pills
90% say they spend more time educating patients about pain pills

Great work SMART coalition for these FANTASTIC results!

SMART awarded Drug Free Communities Grant

22 09 2010

After an exhausting application process (literally close to a hundred hours!) our coaltition just recieved news that we have been awarded the federal Drug Free Communties Grant! This was my first experiance at grant writing and though it was time consuming,  it certainly paid off. The coalition is now sustained for another 5 to 10 years with $125,000 each year.

Is Ritalin a Gateway Drug to Coccaine?

19 03 2010

Ritalin and Cocaine are chemically similar. In fact, they even compete for the same binding sites on neurons.

Ritalin increases alertness and productivity.  It is not addictive when taken as a doctor prescribes, however,  it is currently the most abused prescription drug in the U.S.
30-50% of adolescents in drug treatment centers report abusing Ritalin.

Of the six million people that are on Ritalin in the United States, 75% of these are children. Children typically stop taking Ritalin when they reach adulthood, and interestingly, these individuals seem to be more prone to cocaine addiction. 10-30% of cocaine addicts have ADHD

Studies here been done on animals that suggest children that are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD and treated with Ritalin are more likely to develop depression as adults.  There is much debate about whether ADHD is diagnosed too frequently. Ritalin increases dopamine levels in the brain. Perhaps an unnecessary increase in dopamine during childhood may change how the brain develops .

All stated information, facts, and pictures were derived from

Another great site to learn about this topic can be accessed by clicking here.

Dr. Glen Hanson speaks at BYU

19 03 2010

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Glen Hansen, director of NIDA’s Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research. He is a leading expert on drug abuse and spoke of the neurological effects of drug use in his presentation. It was fascinating to hear about the different study methods to test neurotransmission, levels of dopamine, etc. One of his main points was that drug abuse is a DISEASE.

“An addict can no more stop their behavior than a Parkinson’s patient can stop their shaking”

With drug abuse, the brain changes. Addicts report that the things that used to bring them natural joy or pleasures are now dimmed or don’t have the same effect. Dr. Hanson talked about how shutting a drug addict in jail is not the proper way to “cure”. By studying how drugs effect the brain, hopefully better treatment strategies will emerge. For now, I think prevention is KEY.

To learn more about challenges and issues in addition from Dr. Hanson, visit

Dr. Hanson also talks about how genetics are an important

factor in addiction. Different people are more susceptible or vulnerable to different types of addiction. He questions an advantage to genetic testing so an individual can know what to especially take caution with.

“Just because you are prone to addiction doesn’t mean you’re going to become addicted. It just means you’ve got to be careful.”

To learn about this topic visit the following site: