An intervention is the use of an experienced professional to help an individual dealing with addiction see what others in their life have been seeing for some time. Typically, an interventionist is utilized to help convey these feelings and facilitate the process of change between the addict and their loved ones. The goal of an intervention is to help all parties acknowledge the issue at hand, begin setting appropriate boundaries and start the process of long-term healing.

Are you concerned your teenager or young adult is using marijuana? Below you will find 38 warning signs and symptoms for marijuana use. Marijuana use is very controversial across the nation, but something that cannot be denied, is the detrimental effect it has on young adults. It has been proven that young adults/teenagers who use marijuana have more problems with memory, attention and learning. They also struggle with their school performance, have an increased risk of problematic behaviors, and are more likely to suffer from depression and or anxiety.

Physical signs of pot smoking or marijuana use:

  • red bloodshot eyes, squinting or half closed eyes
  • constant, mucus-filled cough
  • rapid heartbeat
  • dry mouth (cotton mouth)
  • poor coordination
  • slow reaction time

Behaviors that may indicate marijuana use or marijuana addiction:

  • Difficulty problem solving or keeping thoughts together
  • Poor memory, particularly short term or things recently occurring
  • Extreme or unusual hunger or increased eating (especially snacks and sweets), usually called the munchies
  • Acting silly or in a giggly manner
  • Acting slow, lethargic, dazed or confused
  • Lack of motivation, enthusiasm
  • Loses train of thought, rambling, disjointed in a conversation
  • Paranoia

Finding these items on your teen, in their room or with their belongings, likely indicates frequent marijuana use:

  • Visine or other products for red eyes
  • Cigarette Rolling Papers
  • Bongs
  • Metal clips or small clamps
  • Pipes
  • Cigars
  • Cans with holes cut on side
  • Small baggies
  • Dried plant residue, looking like dried oregano
  • Frequent use of incense, air freshener, cologne or perfume
  • Small burn marks on finger tips (particularly thumb and index or middle finger), lips
  • Posters, stickers, buttons, pins, clothing or other items with marijuana leaves, or mentioning marijuana or 420
  • Increased use of mouthwash, mints or gum
  • Smelling like marijuana or a skunk-like smell on your teen, in their bedroom, on their clothes
  • Signs that a towel has been put under the door (to stop smoke and smells from getting out)
  • Hemp Items

Changes in your teen that may indicate marijuana use:

  • Sudden change in friends
  • Talking in code or odd communication with their friends
  • Interest in taking short walks, going outside for short periods of time
  • Sudden drop in education or job performance
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities, pursuits, hobbies
  • Absences from school or work
  • Frequent requests for money with nothing tangible to show
  • Lost valuables or semi-valuable items from the house

If you observe several of these warning signs, it is likely that your child is using marijuana. Finding any of the paraphernalia items, such as bongs, pipes, rolling papers, etc. is a very good indication that he/she is smoking pot frequently.

Marijuana can sometimes have lasting effects on young adults because a young adult’s brain does not fully develop until age 26.  If you are concerned about your teen’s use of marijuana or other drugs, it is important to get help immediately. Brief interventions are very beneficial resources along with individual counseling and therapy when necessary.

New Hope Recovery Center treats chemical dependency for adults 18 years of age or older, however if you know a teen that is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please call New Hope Recovery Center at 773-883-3916 or contact us via email at and we can direct you to the proper resources that can be of help for teens or adolescents.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

Cocaine, also known as coke, is an illegal stimulant. It is usually found in its powdered form and is mixed with a variety of other white powdered substances. Cocaine is inhaled through the nose (most common) or mixed with water and injected into the bloodstream. Although cocaine is not physically addictive, it does have many side effects. It is important to be aware of the warning signs for Cocaine Addiction.

Physical Warning Signs of Cocaine Use

  • Nosebleeds
  • Chapped lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Racing heart
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss
  • Post nasal drip
  • Dehydration

Behavior Warning Signs of Cocaine Use

  • Grinding or clenching Teeth
  • Excessive talking, rambling
  • Paranoia
  • Periodically going to bathroom, or leaving momentarily
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance
  • Anxiety (during crash)
  • Depression (during crash)
  • Lack of pleasure (during crash)
  • Fatigue (during crash)

Indirect Warning Signs of Cocaine Use

  • Financial Problems
  • Missing or Stolen Money or frequent requests to borrow money, particularly with nothing to show for it
  • Unusual sleep schedule
  • Loss of friends/family/employment
  • Plastic bags with white powder residue
  • Rolled up paper or money (used for snorting)
  • White residue on credit cards or other flat edged items (to prepare lines with)
  • Missing alcohol (cocaine provides a “sobered” feeling and will be able to drink more excessively)
  • Short straws or other such items in places not consistent with normal use (eg. Straws in bathroom)
  • Keys with powdered residue

If you suspect your loved one is using cocaine, get help immediately.  It is a deadly drug.  Because of its many caustic chemical components, it can seriously jeopardize your loved one’s health and body.  Persuading your loved one to go to treatment or at minimum visit a doctor is very important.

New Hope Recovery Center has helped many clients with cocaine addiction.  We are happy to answer your questions.  Contact us at 888-707-4673 or email us at

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

For additional articles on Warning Signs:

Warning Signs for Crystal Meth Abuse

14 Warning Signs of a Secret Alcoholic

Heroin Abuse Warning Signs

Shopping Addiction: 5 Warning Signs

binge drinking chicago rehab Binge drinking among emerging adults remains a major concern for parents, mental health professionals and college administrators since it is more common among those ages 18-34. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is considered 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women, in about 2 hours.  Those who are concerned about binge drinking have well-founded reasons given the serious consequences such as alcohol poisoning, injuries or death, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, violence, health problems, academic underachievement, mental health problems and more.

The good news is that we can use evidence-based approaches to combat this problem. Research has shown that there are interventions that help emerging adults to reduce or to modify problematic drinking.  The three interventions below are highly recommended.

1. Promote Online and In-Person Alcohol Screenings

Emerging adults who are non-dependent, high-risk drinkers account for the majority of alcohol-related problems.  Fortunately, screenings can help to identify problematic drinkers and get them connected with help. Emerging adults typically do not identify themselves as problematic drinkers.  Therefore, easy-to-use alcohol screenings, especially for those with alcohol-related violations, are crucial for early detection and intervention. Here are two great resources:

  • ULifeline Online Self-Evaluator: The anonymous Self Evaluator allows students to learn if a treatable mental health problem could be affecting them or a friend.
  • National Alcohol Screening Day:  This brief screening about alcohol use will help students get help if needed and referrals are tailored for their campus counseling center or health center. This event is held in April of every year.

2. Encourage Brief Intervention Counseling Lasting One to Four Sessions

Emerging adults who drink in ways that are harmful or risky may respond better to brief interventions consisting of one to four sessions with a trained professional. This approach is helpful to those who have experienced, or are at risk for, alcohol-related problems such as poor class or job attendance, missed assignments, accidents, sexual assault, and violence. It is designed to help emerging adults to make better decisions around their use of alcohol by providing feedback on drinking behavior with an opportunity to discuss a plan for change.  A popular evidence-based model that is used for college students is the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS). Parents may inquire about this screening at their child’s college counseling center.

3. Educate Emerging Adults to Dispel Myths about Alcohol

Emerging adults often have skewed perceptions about alcohol.  The lack of knowledge about how much others use, risks involved with using, ability to function under the influence, effects of alcohol and other misinformation places them at greater risk.  A trained professional can use data to refute misconceptions and to guide emerging adults in alcohol-use decision-making based upon real facts. When emerging adults respond to situations from an informed place, they are empowered to more effectively handle decisions and situations involving alcohol.

These recommendations offer an opportunity to identify problematic drinkers and to offer help.  Through screenings, brief interventions and education, emerging adults can receive the support needed to reduce or to modify problematic drinking. In the event a higher level of care is needed to address alcohol usage or chemical dependency, please contact New Hope Recovery Center at 773.883.3916 for an assessment.  We offer Intensive Outpatient treatment (IOP) services as well as Residential Day Treatment (RDT) for emerging adults in Chicago dealing with complications from drug and alcohol usage.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

ABC7 News WLS Chicago / Eric Horng

October 30, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A 2010 study by Roosevelt University researchers found the Chicago area had the most heroin-related hospital visits in the nation.

The drug is cheap, and it's attracting users everywhere including some who are very young.

Today's heroin can be snorted or smoked -- not just injected -- and that's led to a change in the typical user. Increasingly, today's addict is young, female and from the suburbs. And the roots of their addiction can be found in their family's medicine cabinet.

For many, the road to dependence begins at independence --one of a handful of West Side exits off the Eisenhower serve as the gateway to the nation's busiest heroin corridor.

"The ride there you're just anxiety, just, 'Oh I can't wait to get there. I can't wait to get it. I can't wait to feel better,'" said a 19-year-old female heroin addict whose scar are more than skin deep.

She grew up far from the west side's rough and tumble streets, amidst the manicured lawns of the far west suburbs which seems an unlikely breeding ground for a new crop of heroin users.

"I always thought of them as homeless and not caring about what they look like and real skinny and everything," the 19-year-old addict said.

Heroin has never been cheaper and more pure. Just $100 can buy a two day supply.

"I knew. The first time I did it I was like, 'This is bad. I like this way too much. And this is going to be bad," said the 19-year-old addict, whose identity ABC7 has hidden.

DEA Agent Jack Riley says powerful Mexican drug cartels have partnered with Chicago street gangs to make heroin easily available.

"If I had to liken anything to a weapon of mass destruction, it would be heroin," Riley said.

After smuggling the drugs here, Riley says the cartels often operate in Spanish-speaking areas near Midway Airport.

"They can assimilate into these hard working neighborhoods. They can appear to be great citizens, take care of their lawn, put Christmas lights up," Riley said.

The cartels need the gangs to distribute the drugs but officials say fights between the two groups are increasingly to blame for the near-daily violence plaguing some neighborhoods.

"What we consider to be senseless violent acts, many of them may be actually connected to the cartel's operations in Chicago," Riley said.

It seems the danger is of little deterrent to users.

"Within two weeks I was getting sick physically without it, and I needed it," the 19-year-old addict said.

It wasn't until an overdose nearly killed her that she began treatment a few weeks ago at New Hope Recovery Center in Geneva. In four years, the facility has seen a seven-fold increase in heroin cases and many involve teens first hooked on prescription painkillers.

"They'll run out, and someone will say 'Well, snort some heroin. It'll help you, so you won't go through withdrawals,'" said Jake Epperly, New Hope Recovery Center.

That may have been how Billy Roberts began using. The Homer Glen 19-year-old died of an overdose two years ago and his father now warns of heroin's dangers.

"I do it for him," said the victim's father John Roberts. "And I'll continue doing it as long as I'm alive. To give my son's life meaning.

A former Chicago cop, Roberts says it's time for new solutions.

"We need help. The police cannot do this alone. We need a comprehensive, strategic approach to this problem if we're ever going to see these numbers turn downward," Roberts said.

To put in perspective how big the problem is here, the Chicago DEA has secured funding for a 90-person strike force to combat the operation run by the cartels and gangs in the city. Officials say it's the only such strike force outside of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 19-year-old woman interviewed by ABC7, who is currently in treatment, says she knows at least 20 other kids her age, from her community, who are current or former users.

(Copyright ©2011 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Experts Say Drugs Are Similar, And Addicts Will Switch When One Becomes Unavailable

Chicago Tribune / Robert McCoppin

Hurt in a car crash, a Geneva woman got hooked on the painkiller Vicodin. When one doctor stopped prescribing it, she got it from others and was sneaking around so much that her husband thought she was cheating, said her counselor, Jake Epperly.

The face of drug addiction, experts say, is increasingly white, suburban and upper-middle class. New users include older adults seeking relief from pain and teens looking for a high.

The resulting abuse of prescription medications represents the greatest epidemic in drug abuse since crack cocaine ravaged cities in the 1980s and 1990s, said Epperly, owner of New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago and Geneva.

Statistics tend to back him up. Deaths from prescription drugs tripled nationwide from 2000 to 2008 and exceeded deaths from heroin and cocaine combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug deaths reached an all-time high of almost 37,500 in 2009, the tipping point in an ongoing trend reported by the Los Angeles Times: For the first time, drugs killed more people in this country than car crashes.

In Illinois, drug deaths first outnumbered traffic fatalities in 2006, when 1,410 drug-related cases were reported, according to the CDC.

As drug abuse has increased in the Chicago area, none of the traditional street drugs has gone away. Instead, heroin use has spread from the city to the surrounding counties, according to a 1998-2008 Roosevelt University study last year.

In Lake County, for example, researchers found that heroin deaths rose 130 percent from 2000 to 2009. In McHenry County, such deaths increased by 150 percent over one three-year period.

In Cook County, the number of deaths actually decreased during the decade leading up to 2008 with one notable exception, which underscores the spread of the drug: Heroin-related deaths increased 40 percent among white women, Roosevelt researchers reported.

Heroin and prescription painkiller abuse is intertwined, experts say. The two are similar enough that addicts who run out of one may take the other as a substitute.

Users often start on prescription meds because they are easily available and considered safe. Once hooked, they may move on to heroin, which is now easier to try because it's pure enough to snort or smoke rather than inject, Epperly said.

Both types of drugs have something else in common: They are depressants that kill by suppressing breathing, particularly when mixed with alcohol or other downers.

And the most common way teens get started on prescription pills, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, is through the medicine cabinet at home.

Though the war on illegal drugs has been hotly debated in recent months, prescription drug abuse involves a product that is legal but controlled — and deadly when misused.

The DEA estimates that 1 in 6 people younger than 20 has tried prescription drugs to get high.

Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the DEA's Chicago division, said he's alarmed that drug cartels are starting to supply street gangs with prescription drugs. And the gangs are sending members to doctors to fake ailments and get prescriptions.

"It'll take educators, parents and law enforcement to go after people involved in prescription drug abuse — just like we're going after the Mexican drug cartels — because they're doing that much damage," Riley said.

Special Delivery

A drug dealer is no longer someone standing on a street corner, law enforcement officials say. Instead, he or she may be, intentionally or unwittingly, a doctor or pharmacist, even a package delivery driver.

In June, an Aurora man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally deliver drugs through a package delivery company. Prosecutors said Steven Immergluck, 35, a sales representative, and others recruited a pharmacy and doctors to write and fill prescriptions for an Internet drug provider. They then delivered the goods nationwide to customers' homes.

Through just one of multiple schemes, prosecutors alleged, the defendants delivered 35,000 packages and made almost $500,000.

Similarly, a Calumet Park man was charged this month with illegally diverting the painkiller hydrocodone from the Skokie pharmacy where he worked, the DEA reported. Earl Newsome, 57, is accused of selling some 700,000 pills with an estimated street value of up to $7 million.

Among users, Bill Stelcher, a retail salesman from Hoffman Estates, knows firsthand how prescription drugs can ruin a life.

Wracked with pain from a bad back, Stelcher, 44, had surgery in 2000. For three years, he lived with excruciating pain and took a succession of painkillers, including Vicodin and Oxycontin.

He was taking 30 to 40 pills a day and stayed in bed most of the time, but a pain management clinic kept renewing his prescription, he said. Follow-up surgery finally fixed his back, but by that time he was hooked, he said.

Five or six times he tried to quit on his own, going through painful withdrawal, but he ended up back on the painkillers, he said.

"The drugs completely take over," Stelcher said. "It was killing me. If I'd had it my way, I would have been dead."

His wife got him into rehab, and he has been clean for almost seven years, he said.

"There are places you can get help," he said. "It will bring life back. You can smell and taste and see things again differently."

Heroin In The Cornfields

In Will County, the recent focus is on the troubling rise of an old scourge: heroin. A decade ago, the county had five or six heroin deaths a year, with most of the victims men in their 40s.

In recent years, the number of deaths has nearly quadrupled, to more than two dozen annually. More victims are in their teens and 20s, as John Roberts learned.

Roberts, a retired Chicago police officer, had moved his family to what he thought was a safe community in southwest suburban Homer Glen.

Two years ago, his son Billy, 19, tried heroin, Roberts said. The teen was put into rehab, then monitored closely to keep him away from other users, he said. His son went to meetings but didn't think he needed them because he wasn't an addict, Roberts said.

The teen turned up dead at a friend's house, he said.

"I thought I'd seen a lot and knew how not to become a victim," Roberts said. "It's like, 'How is this happening?'"

In response to such tragedies, Will County officials have started HELPS — Heroin Education Leads to Preventive Solutions. The program, launched in the summer, will use TV commercials and public speakers at schools and churches to warn about drug abuse.

Signs of opiate drug use include pinpoint pupils, too much sleep, too little motivation, unexplained absences and worsening school grades, counselors say.

Parents need to keep their prescription drugs away from children and throw them out when they're done with them.

More generally, the Roosevelt University researchers recommend drug education for young people, increased funding for treatment and overdose prevention.

They also recommend limited protections for those who call 911.

Overdose victims die needlessly, health advocates say, because their friends are afraid they'll get arrested if they call for help.

In memory of his son, Roberts is pushing for a new law to give drug users immunity from prosecution if they call for emergency help.

A Mother Climbs Out Of The Depths Of Addiction

Tribune reporter / Colleen Mastony

She stood on the sidelines amid the blankets and camp chairs, a petite, brown-haired woman in a monogrammed polo shirt, cheering as her 7-year-old son sprinted down the soccer field.

At halftime, she stepped up with a water bottle and pep talk. And after the game ended in a 4-0 loss, she circulated among the pint-size players as the designated "team mom," passing out apple slices, pretzels and peanut butter crackers.

"Good job, guys," she said brightly as she tousled hair, patted shoulders and gave high-fives. "You did really well."

The Saturday soccer game is familiar territory for many middle-class mothers. But for this 39-year-old executive, the autumn afternoon felt like a gift. Last year she missed a lot of games. When she did show up, she was usually drunk. An outgoing woman with a big smile and wry wit, she would stand by herself because, she says, "I was afraid the other parents would smell alcohol on my breath."

Her story -- of a nightly glass of wine that turned into a nightly bottle and eventually four bottles a day -- reflects a growing national trend: Alcoholism, once largely considered a man's disease, has become increasingly common among women.

At her most desperate, Heather -- who asked the Tribune to withhold her last name because of the stigma associated with alcoholism -- was drinking around the clock, waking in the middle of the night to pour herself a glass of white wine and regularly driving her son to school while drunk. A doctor told her that she was killing herself with alcohol. She had gone to that appointment drunk; a blood test confirmed that she was over the legal limit by 8:45 a.m. And for weeks afterward, she kept drinking.

Now, after an intervention by her employer and her pastor, she has remained sober for a year. But staying that way remains a daily, sometimes hourly, struggle.

"I know this disease is waiting for me. It wants to see me dead," she says. "It's like it's outside doing push-ups, getting stronger and stronger and stronger. It's just waiting for me to have a moment of weakness so it can take me back."

Drinking on rise among women

Over the last several decades, women have been drinking more and getting drunk more often. Studies show that the rates of alcoholism have nearly doubled among women born after 1954 when compared to those born earlier. And, over the last decade, excessive drinking among women suggests that rates of alcohol dependence are continuing to increase. The number of binge drinking episodes among women, for example, rose 31 percent between 1993 and 2001, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heavier drinking rates, in turn, seem to be resulting in higher rates of drunken-driving arrests; the number of women arrested for driving under the influence increased nearly 30 percent between 1998 and 2007.

And it's not just women who are drinking more. Girls are drinking earlier than ever before, with nearly one-quarter of female high-school students reporting that they began drinking before they turned 13, a particularly disturbing trend because drinking at a young age increases a person's risk of becoming a problem drinker later in life.

Across the country, addiction treatment centers report spikes in the number of women seeking care. Two years ago, the well-known Hazelden rehabilitation center in Minnesota doubled the number of beds available for women in an attempt to meet increasing demand for drug and alcohol treatment. In Chicago, programs including New Hope Recovery Center and Resurrection Health Care's treatment facility have seen similar increases.

"Ten years ago, it used be 65 percent men. Today, we're approaching 50/50," says Dr. Daniel Angres, director of addiction services at Resurrection. As factors driving the trend, he and others point to increased pressure on women to juggle work and motherhood, along with a culture that often makes light of drinking with books such as "The Three-Martini Playdate" and the Facebook group "OMG I so need a glass of wine or I'm gonna sell my kids."

Behind the statistics and theories, however, are the stories of everyday women. Some cases -- such as Diane Schuler's wrong-way, drunken-driving crash that killed her and seven others on a New York expressway in July -- have drawn intense publicity.

But many more women struggle anonymously. Women such as a 45-year-old South Side mother of four who told the Tribune how she hid bottles beneath the towels in her linen closet. Or the 49-year-old executive of a nonprofit whose 10-year-old daughter once found her passed out on the bedroom floor during a family ski trip.

"There's been liberalization of so many different things, many of which have been very good for women -- sports, education, employment," said Dr. Laura Jean Bierut, an alcoholism researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. "But one of the areas of liberalization that may not be good is that girls are drinking more like boys. And drinking more like boys has also resulted in what appears to be an increase in alcoholism in women."

Drinking began at an early age

In many ways, Heather's story reflects these larger trends. Growing up in Lake Forest, she started drinking when she was 10, sneaking a sip from her grandmother's bourbon and Coke. In high school, she binged whenever she could. And in college, she spent so much time partying she failed out of school. She re-enrolled, eventually graduated and, in her 20s, reined in her drinking.

But on maternity leave with her infant son, she sometimes treated herself to a glass of wine in the afternoon. When she went back to work, she began to depend on several nightly cocktails to help her unwind -- a pattern that her physician, Dr. Lisa Oldson Orelind of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says is "a very common way people get into trouble."

The dual pressure of motherhood and career created a constant knot in her stomach, Heather says. "I felt this need to be perfect -- perfect at my job, a perfect wife and mother."

A family history of alcoholism -- Heather's grandfather, father and brother are all recovering alcoholics -- no doubt made her more vulnerable. Over next few years, her drinking accelerated, fueling the collapse of her marriage. Her then-husband didn't realize how much she was drinking, but now wonders, "if it was willful ignorance on my part, that I didn't want to see what was happening."

After the couple divorced in 2006, Heather began finishing a quart of vodka a day. At work, colleagues covered for her unexplained absences, lost paperwork and missed deadlines. At home, she planted her then 5-year-old son in front of the television so that she could pass out on the couch. Afraid that she would die, she taught her son how to use her BlackBerry so he could call for help.

By 2007, she was struggling to quit. After a family intervention, she managed to stay sober for three weeks. But always, the bottle drew her back.

When tests last year showed she had developed alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, Dr. Daniel Ganger, the director of hepatology at Northwestern Memorial, warned that she was killing herself with alcohol. "Maybe within in year she would have been very ill or possibly dead," he says now. Still, for weeks afterward, Heather kept drinking. She couldn't stop, even to save her life.

"I would say to myself, 'You're not going to drink from 9 a.m. until lunchtime,'" she recalled. "But I could never make it. I'd say, 'OK, just give it an hour.' But there were days when I couldn't give it an hour."

Then, last October, the Rev. David Abrahamson, the pastor at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Lakeview who had known Heather for more than a decade, confronted her in his cluttered church office. At the pastor's side that afternoon was Heather's boss. They explained that her job was safe, but under one condition. "You're going into a rehab program," Abrahamson said.

Heather had arrived at the church drunk, exhausted and expecting to be fired. She had damaged her liver and been told that she was drinking herself to death. Her parents and ex-husband had begun to discuss challenging her fitness as a parent. That afternoon, she said: "OK, I'll go."

For the next several days, she drank heavily. But the following Wednesday, she walked into Harborview Recovery Center at St. Joseph Hospital, a 15-bed facility that overlooks the lakefront.

Sharing lessons about alcoholism

On Thursday, Heather marked one year of sobriety. The last 12 months have been far from easy. Her mind returns again and again to the times she drove drunk with her son in the car. "Just to think that I put my son in that position," she says. "I pray to God that he will not remember any of that. That it is just erased from his memory."

Every Thursday, she returns to St. Joseph Hospital to speak to patients. It helps to see the faces of people still in the throes of addiction, a reminder of the place she doesn't want to return. It helps, too, to share the lessons she's learned: you're not alone, you need help to beat the addiction, there is hope.

On a recent afternoon, she breezed onto the hospital ward. Dressed in a dark suit and a string of silver beads, she waved hello to the nurses, checked in with her counselor, and headed for a small break room. As a group of patients gathered, Heather saw that half of the 10 people around the table were women -- grandmothers, wives and mothers -- a reflection of the growing number of women suffering from the disease.

Michelle, a petite 48-year-old wearing wire-rimmed glasses, had been drinking two bottles of wine a night. Marge, a 63-year-old grandmother, had turned to the bottle after her son died in an accident two years before.

They all took their places around the table.

When everyone was settled, the woman in the dark suit began to speak.

"Hi," she said, "my name is Heather, and I'm an alcoholic."

- - -

Telltale symptoms of alcohol abuse

This questionnaire by the National Institutes of Health is designed to identify symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence. Answering yes to even one question may indicate someone is abusing alcohol, according to NIH, and three or more positive answers can suggest alcohol dependence or alcoholism, depending upon the severity of symptoms. In the past year, have you:

*Had times when you ended up drinking more than you intended?

*More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, but couldn't?

*More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt -- such as driving or having unsafe sex?

*Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?

*Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem, or after having had a memory blackout?

*Spent a lot of time drinking or getting over the aftereffects of drinking?

*Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?

*Found that drinking -- or being sick from drinking -- often interfered with taking care of your home or family, or caused job troubles or school problems?

*Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you in order to drink?

*More than once gotten arrested or had other legal problems because of your drinking?

*Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart or a seizure?

Source: National Institutes of Health. Questions are based on symptoms for alcohol use disorders in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.

- - -


*Alcoholics Anonymous, Chicago Service Office. For information or lists of local meetings call 312-346-1475, visit or

*Al-Anon and Alateen offers help for friends and families of problem drinkers. For information or lists of local meetings, call 312-409-4058 or go to

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, maintains a database of treatment facilities at along with information about how to find help.

*The National Institutes of Health posts tools and resources at and

From Drugs To Alcohol To Eating Disorders, Families And Friends Are Using Interventions To Pull Their Loved Ones Back From The Edge

RedEye / Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

John David was asleep, coming down from the heroin he'd shot the night before, when his doorbell rang one morning last April in his Humboldt Park apartment.

Waiting on his doorstep were his dad, mom, two sisters and their husbands, and his step-grandfather.

"I wasn't too sure what was going on," David, now 23, remembers. "I was kind of nervous."

What was going on was an intervention into a heroin habit that had led David to drop his longtime dream of cooking school and spend his days prowling Chicago Avenue for drugs he said he paid for by stealing, scamming and begging. Fearing the worst was to come, David's family confronted him that day with letters, tears and pleas that he seek treatment.

It was excruciating, David and his parents told RedEye. And it changed his life.

"I knew I had a problem with drugs, but I didn't have any clue what to do about it," said David, who says he is now drug-free, a chef and living near his parents in Wisconsin. "I don't think I would have done anything if my parents hadn't put their hand out."

Too often, experts say, the families and friends of people on self-destructive paths don't put their hands out soon enough.

There are efforts to change that. The A&E reality show "Intervention," which starts a new season Friday, and HBO's "The Addiction Project," a multimedia campaign that debuts on Thursday, aim to raise awareness of what addiction is and what people can do to help.

Hollywood offers more real-life lessons. The recent downfalls of Britney Spears, who entered rehab two weeks ago after several months of odd behavior, and Anna Nicole Smith, whose death last month shone a spotlight on her troubled life, are very public examples of lives allowed to spin out of control, some say.

"It's really sad when I look at people like Britney Spears or Anna Nicole, to look at all of these supposedly professional handlers who just enabled them by covering up, fixing their problems, keeping their secrets," said Bob Poznanovich, CEO of St. Paul, Minn.-based Addiction Intervention Resources, which the Davids hired to help with their intervention. "People were holding their hands but never gave them help."

Oftentimes, people who think they're helping inadvertently become enablers. They don't know what else to do and fear an intervention will be alienating.

"There's always this sense that they're being disloyal," said Jake Epperly, president of New Hope Recovery Center in Lincoln Park, which has an intervention team.

But by and large, interventions seem to work.

At New Hope, 75 percent of interventions lead to treatment, Epperly said, mostly for alcohol addictions but also for drug addictions, eating disorders and gambling.

At Addiction Intervention Resources, which has an office in Chicago, 90 percent of intervention subjects seek treatment for everything from substance abuse to depression to compulsive behaviors, Poznanovich said. (Meth addicts are an exception, with only 50 percent seeking treatment after an intervention, often because the drugs make them paranoid or psychotic, Poznanovich said.)

People who go into treatment after an intervention tend to fare better than if they go in alone because they have loved ones holding them accountable, experts say. Even if a staged intervention doesn't lead to immediate treatment, it often plants the seed that gets someone to seek help down the road.

The notions that people have to hit bottom before they can get better, or that they have to want help before they can be helped, are misguided and, in some ways, cruel, Poznanovich said.

"Interventions are a way to get people to get help before they are able to get help themselves," he said.

He speaks from experience.

Poznanovich was a successful vice president at Zenith Data Systems in Chicago when he developed a $1,000-a-day cocaine habit that derailed his life. He lost his job, his fiance and half a million dollars, he said. It wasn't until his mother and brother staged an intervention that he started treatment.

"I didn't want to have to ask for help," Poznanovich said. "The beauty of the intervention was that it was done for me."

David, 22 at the time of his intervention, said he at first felt his family members were ganging up on him when they confronted him. But he listened as they read the letters they'd prepared, telling him how his addiction was affecting their lives and that they wouldn't put up with it. He caved after the first letter, read by his older sister.

"It was an eye-opening experience," David said. "I had thought that I was by myself and no one really cared."

David's father, Douglas David, called the intervention experience "the worst thing you could imagine," even though it was successful.

John was a culinary arts student at Kendall College in Evanston (the school later moved to Chicago) when he started doing drugs his freshman year. He said he went from smoking pot to snorting OxyContin, then to snorting and shooting heroin.

"It was about not feeling accepted and wanting to feel accepted," John said.

He got suspended from school because his grades were suffering and never went back.

John said he did "the most despicable things" to support his heroin habit. He said he scammed money from his parents, did errands for dope dealers, panhandled and shoplifted. He was caught stealing $550 worth of DVDs from Best Buy in the fall of 2005 and spent five days in jail. Court records show he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor retail theft and was sentenced to court supervision.

"That was probably when I first knew that I had a problem, when I got caught," John said.

His parents, who were living in Wisconsin while their son's life came undone in Chicago, didn't see the signs at first.

Then, on a visit to Chicago, Douglas said he found a hypodermic needle in his son's bathroom. Later, John's girlfriend's mother told the Davids that she'd seen track marks on John's arms.

"We were scared to death," Douglas said.

Douglas awoke in the middle of the night and told his wife that he feared their son might end up on the streets and disappear. They became proactive, contacting treatment centers to learn what they could do. They hired David Eichhorn, Midwest director of intervention services for Addiction Intervention Resources, to help.

On April 29, 2006, family members flew in from across the country and gathered in a downtown Chicago hotel to write their letters. The next day, they rang John's doorbell.

"It was one of the most powerful [interventions] I'd ever seen," Eichhorn said. "They loved him so much, and he felt it."

John was admitted to Hazelden, a treatment center in Center City, Minn., for its 28-day residential program. Resentment of his family turned to appreciation. In the last week of the program, "it was like seeing miracles," Douglas said of his son's transformation.

After eight months of treatment that involved halfway houses and outpatient programs, John is now the head chef at a bakery and living in Wisconsin with his best friend from childhood. When he gets cravings, he calls his sponsor. He said he is "incredibly happy."

"There's a life afterwards. People should know you can get through it," John said. "People should know that there's always someone who will miss you if you die."


Intervention experts advise families and friends to approach as a group, armed with letters describing how the addiction has affected them and how their relationship will change if they don't seek help.

"A lot of times, people feel bad about the ultimatums, because it's scary to think that you might have to cut someone off," said Gretchen Feinholz, an addiction therapist with New Hope Recovery Center in Lincoln Park. "But it's important that what they say is what they follow through on."

Some of the most successful interventions take place at work because there's less wiggle room when an employer says to get help or get fired, said Bob Poznanovich of Addiction Intervention Resources. But more often, the heavy lifting falls to family and friends. Poznanovich offers some tips.

- Don't do it alone. Gather together the people who care about the person in crisis so you can confront him or her together, and be unified in your message.

- Don't keep their secrets. Everyone should be open and honest about what they know in order to get a true picture of the problem.

- Make arrangements. Have a treatment center picked out and reserved so that there are no obstacles.

- Write letters. Get your thoughts on paper about how the person's addiction or behavior has affected your life and include facts that prove they have a problem, so that you can read from the letter at the intervention.

- Don't make deals or threats that you can't keep. For example, don't say, "If you don't stop drinking, then I'll leave you"--if you're not really going to do it.

- You can't force them into a treatment center. Illinois law doesn't allow involuntary substance abuse treatment unless the person is mentally unstable and at risk of doing harm tothemselves or others. If they walk away, you still can change your own behavior so that you don't enable their problem.


It's often difficult for friends and family members to know when it's time to intervene.

"Usually it's past time, sadly," said Lea Minalga, president of Hearts of Hope, a non-profit substance abuse education and counseling group in Geneva.

Minalga, who has had to stage interventions with her son several times since he started using heroin at 17, said the families themselves often are in denial.

"Usually, families have been living in a hurricane, and they get used to this unbalanced, dysfunctional household, and it becomes normal," Minalga said. "Sometimes it just takes a family member to finally scream, 'This isn't normal!' "

There can be concrete signs of a problem. Some people lose their jobs, let their relationships fall apart or don't do the activities they normally like. Others get into legal troubles or car accidents.

But often you feel in your gut when something's not right. Bob Poznanovich, CEO of Addiction Intervention Resources, said you should focus on your own feelings about the other person's behavior to determine when to intervene.

"When it's gotten so bad for you that you can't take it anymore, that's the jumping off point," he said.