Monday, June 30, 2014

Alcohol y Drogas en la Familia Latina

Sabemos de sobra que el exceso de alcohol y las drogas son “malas”.  Cada persona leyendo este artículo conoce personas con problemas serios y avanzados por su consumo de sustancias.  Sin embargo, poco se habla de la familia.  Menos, de la familia Latina que destaca por su unidad familiar.  La familia es el motivo de trabajar y ganarse la vida como sea.  La familia es el refugio.  La familia es quien le saca de apuros.  La familia es…. completen ustedes la frase…. 
Esta misma familia, una institución importante, sufre cuando alguien en la familia usa drogas o bebe en exceso.  Al principio no tanto, no se dan cuenta o encubren comportamientos pensando que ya pasara.  Con el tiempo aumentan las preocupaciones.  Para padres, se preocupan por el futuro de sus hijos, la salud, la escuela, las influencias.; pero también les apodera el enojo y dificultades de manejar los comportamientos del hijo o hija que usa.  Muchos se preguntan ¿donde han fallado? ¿Porque les faltan el respeto? Muchos padres sienten culpa, que no es lo mismo que ser culpables. 
Entre parejas puede llevar a fuertes discusiones, incluso a violencia domestica, riesgos legales desde DUI (manejar bajo influencia) hasta deportaciones, puede afectar el estatus de inmigración, causar grandes gastos legales, perdida de trabajo… pero eso ustedes, los lectores, lo saben de sobra.  Los efectos a los hijos que presencian el uso, las discusiones, las inseguridades financieras, las preocupaciones son enormes.  Muchos le siguen el comportamiento son conocer alternativas, no conocen otra forma de vivir, para ellos es un estilo de vida y normal. 
Mientras, la persona que bebe o usa drogas, en muchos casos, también se desespera por encontrar una forma de controlarse mejor, sea controlar el uso, dejarlo o mejorar de comportamientos—aumenta la desesperación cuando no tiene éxito.
Una solución está en que todos tengan más información correcta y profesional , discutir estos problemas abiertamente sin miedo y vergüenza.  Desafortunadamente pocos quieren pagar por estos servicios, aunque pagan por celulares de última moda, bonitos carros y algún que otro Café de Starbucks sin pestañear!  El consumo es más atractivo que un servicio, lo entiendo, me pasa igual.  Pero piensen que es una inversión que les ahorra gastos y sufrimiento, que rinde interés de forma emocional y estabilidad familiar.  El dinero que se gasta en alcohol y drogas es vivido a corto plazo, el dinero que se gasta en servicios profesionales es para largo plazo y mejorar la calidad de vida familiar.
Con más de 15 años de experiencia, certificación como profesional en adicciones y educación en psicología, ofrezco servicios de bajo coste tanto para la familia como el individuo.  Ofrezco clases de concienciación sobre alcohol y drogas diseñadas de servir a personas con cualquier nivel de educación, ser interesantes y les dé un buen valor a cambio.  Las clases pueden servir tanto de información, prevención e intervención. 

Para más información, llame al 805-305-0068

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Drug Testing for Family Court

Drug testing for co-custody is frequently ordered through Family Court.  Following difficult divorces or separations, parents often accuse another parent of problematic use of alcohol and other drugs.  Sometimes these accusations are unfounded, but neither the judge or the mediators can tell only by the other parent denying substance abuse.  Perhaps the accusations stem from misunderstanding substance abuse, as revenge, defense strategy, power play or a continuation of interpersonal violence--patterns of domestic violence can carry on even after divorce/separation.  Power and Control can continue playing out in the legal battle field.
Anyone ordered to drug testing may however consider this as an opportunity to use objective methods to disprove the accusations.  While inconvenient and somewhat expensive, considering continued legal costs, it might prove a good investment.  
To increase the credibility of the test, random testing, supervised by a well trained collector can help a lot. If there is little chance of cheating when the sample (usually urine, breath or saliva) is taken, you are getting more for your money.  In addition, with urine, there are additional things a tester can do (i'll keep this to myself) to ensure the donated liquid is really human, was at the right temperature, was not diluted AND to check for different types of adulteration.  While there are many products that can be found on the internet to promise a clean test, the labs and professionals are also aware of these.  Therefore,  a series of clean tests that were done randomly giving the donor little time to plan for adulteration, again increases the credibility of the tests.  As Bob Marley put it 
"You can fool some people sometime, but you couldn't fool all the people all the time"
Several tests over time will help to clear your name if you have been accused of using substances when that is not the case.  And for people that have a history of substance abuse, the tests can demonstrate prolonged abstinence, giving an attorney more leverage to argue in your favor.
Supervised drug testing means a trained "collector" will be with you in the bathroom and follow a protocol to ensure the sample is from the person being tested and adulteration being less likely (putting something in the sample, like water).  This might be difficult for people not used to this, often being unable to urinate, this might be very problematic.  An option might be unsupervised testing, but, as mentioned before, adulteration could be more likely and judges know this.   The sample is send to a laboratory that performs a series of sophisticated tests.  Dip sticks like the one in the picture below, are not used for custody cases as the results need to hold in court.  Allthough, outside of court, the parties could agree by contract to use dip sticks before visitation to "clear" the visit and send the rest to the lab, or not if negative.
Here an exerpt how dip sticks work from personal correspondence with a teaching assistant in a Forensic course through  "These tests work because they contain an antibody that recognizes the molecule of interest, and this recognition triggers a colour change.  As antibodies are very specific, they are unlikely to be affected by adulteration--after all, they detect the compound in the midst of all the other stuff in urine.The danger with these has always been that they are too sensitive.  There was a case where a woman was fired for being a drug addict after "failing" one of these tests.  It turned out she had merely eaten a poppy seed bagel, and the seeds had provided enough morphine to give a positive result in the test. Therefore, these should be treated as qualitative tests and any positive result should be followed up by something quantifiable"
Quantifiable means to tell the amount present.
Another alternative is using quality oral testing, tests for forensic use only HAVE to be court ordered, so this would only apply if the parties agree and get it put in the order themselves.  The collector places a plastic stick with a sponge tip in the donors mouth and lets it soak up the saliva.  After a few minutes the sponge is is pressed out and some saliva is placed in a reader or can be send to the lab.
For alcohol, before visitation, a simple breathalyzer can be used and the parent could be cleared for visitation.  But there is no way to see if that parent might use alcohol while the child is in his/her care--except for an ETG/ETS test that can test up to 72 hours retroactively--this requires a urine sample.
If you know of parents in custody battles, accused of substance abuse or if you are yourself concerned about a parent that you know does abuse of substances, testing is a viable way to ensure the children are not exposed to substance abuse.

For more information, or scheduling testing in Ventura and Oxnard, please contact Aspira Counseling:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

drug and alcohol evaluations

Welcome to the first post on this Blog site.  The purpose of the Blogs is to provide information to current and potential new clients in need of drug and alcohol evaluations.  I hope the reading is helpful and relieves some concerns that inevitably come with court ordered requirements.  I'll start with the most important questions:

  • What are drug and alcohol evaluations?  The evaluation consists of an assessment and a report that explains the findings of that assessment.  So what is an assessment? A trained and certified or licensed professional meets with a client.  After some intake paperwork a client may be given some brief questionnaires if the evaluation is limited to substance use and a personal interview.  The counselor may use a printed or computer version of an interview and writes in the answers.  Many questions ask about specific drugs, lifestyle problems that are common among people with substance abuse.  Some of the questionnaires are straight forward, while others may have questions to try to detect if someone answers in a way to make themselves look really good.  It is important to be honest with the answers to get a valid score.  After the professional has sufficient information, a report is written for the court or whoever needs that evaluation--sometimes social services will request these.
  • Who gets ordered and why?  This varies a bit, but mainly I get clients from out of state, in particular Arizona that had a misdemeanor while on vacation. With first infractions, the court often orders a drug and alcohol evaluation and for the defendant to follow through with any recommendation.  Often clients will be referred by a judge or mediator from Family Court, often as a result of custody dispute. It is very common for parents to accuse each other of wrongdoings including drug and alcohol abuse. A judge or mediator cannot take the time to find out who is saying the truth or how bad the drug and alcohol use really is, so they refer out.  Some people come to an appointment confused, saying "I'm not an alcoholic, so why do I have an evaluation done?"  Most people think an evaluation is exclusively for people with advanced alcoholism or addiction, however for court orders, they may also serve to clear up the mutual accusations, detect early signs of abuse and bring more clarity in how to best proceed with a case.  An evaluation can and should offer solutions if a substance use disorder is in fact detected, and this set of solutions would be in the written portion and the client should be made aware of course.  Cases where children are removed from the home may also require evaluations, here the social workers may want to be sure the children can be placed back with the parents or if the parents need to go through a treatment program before that is the case. These cases can be challenging because of the family trauma and distrust in the person conducting the evaluations. Unfortunately, some clients in states of anxiety, fear of being judged and fear of consequences may be very apprehensive.  Many are also unaware how their drug and alcohol use IS actually impacting other family members and IS creating problems but may try to present that there are NO problems. Typically the apprehension and inconsistencies raise flags, making it much more challenging to assist the client through the evaluation.  Unfortunately, an evaluator may not be in the position to tell a client not to worry, just tell the truth since they cannot guarantee that the results lead to satisfactory outcomes. The decisions are in the hands of the courts.  Typically though, keeping the family unit together is a big priority these days, if an evaluation confirms a presence of a substance use disorder, that can be a good thing when the parent agrees to treatment!
  • PRICES:  if you look through the internet and make some phone calls, you might get some very, very different price ranges, buyer beware!  Some agencies might get funding and that would explain how they can do so much work for under 100 dollars, but typically in the Ventura area, many charge around 400-500 dollars, or even more.  Some may charge less but may require that you complete a treatment program--for people that don't need an intensive treatment program, this is often confusing. This may simply be that they called a treatment program that uses the assessment procedure to determine if you need inpatient treatment or if their outpatient treatment is sufficient.  They may not have the time or resources to only do court evaluations.  Also when you call around, you may want to know that some programs only do a brief "screening": intake paperwork, a questionnaire and brief interview, again to determine what level of care you might need, not enough information of what a judge or social worker might want/need. Having a solid, thorough evaluation might seem expensive, but may reduce continued arguing in court and leave a judge wondering.
  • What would a recommendation say?  A counselor's job is also to try and assess what "level of care" is best based on the information given.  There are tools we use to help us make decisions that are not too drastic.  Best case scenario could say that there were not enough findings to show the client has a current substance abuse disorder, yet a counselor cannot say this 100%, so we use careful language. Worst case scenario, I stop in the middle of the assessment and call an ambulance to take you to the closest hospital as I see you are going through withdrawal or DT's and they are life threatening--but this is very unlikely and the recommendation would state that intensive treatment is recommended.  Even if the results show a substance use disorder, this does not mean parents don't get visitation or their children back.  If the clients follow through with the recommendations, depending on the situation, visitations might continue.  If a client does not follow through, supervised visitation or even therapeutic visitation might be ordered.  For criminal cases, a judge might decide to allow treatment rather than jail time.  In summary, an evaluation does not determine the outcome, that is still up to a judge, they might help the judge, district attorney or your lawyer negotiate terms.
I hope this was helpful, it is a long blog hoping to answer a lot of questions people may not get answered when they ask in court.  I have seen letters to courts by therapist saying something like "My client is not an alcoholic, I have seen him/her for three years"--while a therapist might mean well, a judge may not consider such a letter as enough evidence, in particular not knowing what expertise in addictions that particular therapist has.  Hence, the going to someone that specializes in the field of substance abuse might really pay off in the long run.  For more information please visit