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The Green, Green ‘Grass’ of Mississippi

Take note, Mississippians. Your home state is participating in a government project. A story in AP News announced this undertaking recently. It’s all about growing a special crop, namely marijuana for research purposes.

This is not the first time the state is engaging in an effort of this kind. But it is, by far, the largest. Five years ago, the University of Mississippi grew marijuana plants in its Ole Miss medical garden. That crop, also used for research, came about through a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The same federal agency is serving as the source for 2019. The order is grow 2,000 kilograms or the equivalent of 4,409 pounds of product. To put that amount in perspective, it’s enough to make 5 million joints. However, the government has different uses in mind for the offtake and specifications for growing it. This time around, the plan is more complex. It will consist of two varieties of plants: equal proportions of high CBD and high THC.

What are high CBD and high THC? Medical News Today explains. Marijuana is made up of a number of cannabinoids – make that many. Cannabidiol, or CBD, and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are two of them. The distinguishing feature between CBD and THC has to do with their psychoactive effects on the human brain. That is, they interact with different receptors in a person’s brain. As a result, CBD typically does not trigger a mind-altering marijuana high whereas THC does. At this time, medical marijuana contains mainly CBD and a person using it generally will not experience a high.

More on the Medical Angle

The announcement about this government-sponsored development reports “recent interest (in CBD) as a potential medicine for a number of medical conditions.” NIDA advises that scientists are seeking samples of weed that closely align with the types available for sale in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. It also says that the U.S. “government is the only source of pot for nearly all research in the U.S., while it still considers it illegal and dangerous.”

The piece in Medical News Today outlines potential uses of CBD and THC to treat some medical conditions. They include nausea, appetite loss and eating disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, and pain. The AP News article takes that one step further. It mentions that federal regulators approved a CBD-based drug for two rare seizure disorders and that “researchers are pursuing research on it for other conditions. Others are focused on THC.” That said, it went on to quote a professor at the University of Colorado. That person discussed something of interest to readers on this site. Of note, the team is “investigating marijuana with high THC as an alternative to opioids for chronic back pain.”

Here’s some insight about timing. Researchers should receive material from the new Mississippi crop after the harvest in September.

In the Meantime…

Individuals struggling with addiction to opioids, other substances as well as co-occurring disorders, take heed. In Mississippi, your recovery begins at Oxford Treatment Center. A premier drug addiction organization, the main campus is located in the rural town of Etta. A second facility is in Oxford. This rehab has it all. It offers a full continuum of services – from medical detox to residential treatment, partial hospitalization, and outpatient offerings. And each client receives the personal attention needed to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Oxford Treatment Center is so sure of these results that it offers clients a guarantee. Those who successfully complete the 90-day treatment program will stay clean and sober. If not, come back for another 30 days of treatment. The cost is on us. Get started today. Visit our online admissions page.


Read More from Sherry M. Adler:

Mississippi Banning: Opioid Substitute Kratom Deemed Dangerous

About The Contributor
Sherry M. Adler covers a wide range of industries and topics as a freelance writer. She has a passion for her craft and the world at large. Dedicated to using the power of words to inform and energize stakeholders, she named her business WriteResults... Read More

Mississippi Banning: Opioid Substitute Kratom Deemed Dangerous

Kratom. It’s in the news. For some people addicted to opioids, it is the go-to choice to help them in their recovery. As they seek to forgo consuming opioids, they are turning to this legal herbal supplement as a substitute. Given that opioid dependence is at record levels, Kratom is flying off the shelves.

Kratom on the Rise

After all, Kratom is a natural substance. It comes from the leaves of trees. Kratom is reputed to relieve pain. It also allegedly calms the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What’s more, it’s not a newbie. It’s been around for many years, used also to elevate both mood and energy. Only now, sales are surging. More and more of those struggling with opioid abuse are going the Kratom route. That being the case, it appears to work.

“Opioid Users Call Kratom a Godsend,” reads the first part of a headline in a recently published article in The New York Times. However, pay attention to the phrase that follows it: “The F.D.A. Says It’s a Menace.” The Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency charged with protecting and promoting public health, is alerting people. Stop using Kratom.

Based on its own firsthand evidence, a region in Mississippi agrees. Some jurisdictions are taking the warning one step further. According to a WLBT Channel 3 report, 10 counties and 23 cities in the northern section of the state are banning Kratom. The headline of this news piece parallels the second phrase of the one posted above. It reads: “Authorities: Legal Opioid Substitute Is Dangerous, Even Deadly.”

What’s the Problem?

Kratom produces opioid-like effects. That accounts for why it’s popular as an opioid replacement. It turns out, that’s not where the similarity ends. Opioids are highly addictive. Kratom is too.

There’s more. Kratom can cause serious side effects. These include psychosis and hallucinations and other hazardous conditions. Also, since it’s an unregulated substance, the concentration of active ingredients in Kratom varies from package to package. Buyers beware.

But there’s an even more serious reason to exercise caution. Kratom can kill. And it has. A dozen people in northern Mississippi have died from Kratom. Users can overdose. When they do, their respiratory system shuts down. Note: There’s no antidote for Kratom overdosing.

Users who overdose on opioids, if caught in time, may be saved with naloxone, known by its brand name Narcan. However, Narcan does not work with Kratom. Overdosing is serious enough with any substance. But, in the case of Kratom, there is no safety net. Overdosing is truly fatal.

Chemical Dependency: What to Do

Kratom has become a serious drug issue in the state and elsewhere in the nation. The 33-jurisdiction ban here is the first step. Pending further investigation, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics may expand it.

Although Kratom may help people curb their use of opioids, it does not take the place of treatment at a medically-oriented facility. In Mississippi, Oxford Recovery Center is such a rehab. We offer a full continuum of care, including medical detox, residential treatment, a partial hospital program, as well as intensive and standard outpatient programs. Our focus is on customized treatment based on a person’s needs.

Oxford Recovery Center bears the seal of approval from The Joint Commission. It also is accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Our residential clients receive a guarantee. Those who successfully complete our 90-day treatment program will stay clean and sober. We stand by this pledge. Otherwise, return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment. Visit our online admissions page to start the recovery process today.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

For physicians: Levels of Care in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Understanding Levels of Care in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association cover

A version of this article originally appeared in the February 2019 edition of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Primary-care physicians have a front-line role in recognizing when a patient may have a problem with drugs or alcohol.

With some patients, a substance use disorder is easily identified. For example, those who regularly seek out pain-medication prescriptions will trigger an obvious red flag. In other patients, however, the problem may be well-concealed. People with addictions work hard to hide them. Sometimes, it is only when treatment for other medical conditions fails to have the results it should that a physician starts to dig deeper to discern what is going on with the patient.

Physicians should be aware that, statistically speaking, one out of every 10 to 12 patients they see is in need of treatment for problems related to drugs or alcohol. Physicians may also observe a correlation between potential substance abuse and medical problems.

Substance abuse and chemical use can have a negative impact on a wide range primary-health conditions. For example, people living with substance use disorders have:

  • Nine times greater risk of congestive heart failure
  • 12 times greater risk of liver cirrhosis
  • 12 times greater risk of developing pneumonia

Meanwhile, abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs can be damaging to cardiovascular health, leading to high blood pressure and heart failure.

Even when a substance use problem becomes apparent in the scope of treating primary-care issues, many physicians are hesitant to refer a patient for treatment because of their expectations about what it will mean for the patient. Physicians may anticipate that if they refer a patient for treatment, it will mean the patient must go away for one, two or even three months, separated from their home, work and family. Those high stakes often cause physicians to hold off on intervening until it seems a patient has hit “rock bottom” and knows that he or she needs help.

While this approach may have made sense in the past, our understanding of the disease model of addiction today has shifted the treatment model away from an all-or-nothing concept.

As with other diseases, addiction can be prevented and treated early. Different levels of treatment are appropriate for different levels of dysfunction.

Modern treatment approaches are guided by a Continuum of Care described by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). When patients receive an assessment for substance use disorder, the purpose is to identify not only whether or not they have a problem, but also where on the spectrum their problem falls.

For some patients, the severity of their addiction and/or co-occurring mental health disorders will call for an intervention at the most intensive level of care. For others, however, a less-intensive level of care will be the appropriate entry point based on their assessment.

The Continuum of Care is not designed as a start-to-finish path to recovery. Rather, patients enter the continuum at the level that best fits their needs. Based on their progress in treatment, they can step up to a more intense level of care or down to a less intense level. This model takes into account the realities that each patient’s pattern of progress is unique, that relapse is common, and that successful recovery is a long-term prospect.

Here is an overview of how today’s standard levels of care in addiction treatment relate to the ASAM Continuum of Care.


Level 4: Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient ServicesCheck in at inpatient facility

For patients with a daily substance abuse problem who experience difficult or dangerous withdrawals, this is where treatment begins.

At this most intensive level of care, patients receive 24-hour nursing care and daily physician care. Inpatient medical detox programs fall into this category. Fortunately for patients, however, this level of care is no longer limited to only those withdrawals which may be life-threatening. In the past, medical detox was only available to patients for alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines. Today, due to increased awareness and parity in substance-abuse treatment coverage, the medical community recognizes that withdrawals from other substances can also be so severe and painful that they warrant medical care and support. While not life-threatening, withdrawals from substances including cocaine, crack, methamphetamines and even marijuana can be so painful that patients have virtually no chance of being able to stop using for more than 24 or 48 hours on their own. This recognition has led to broader access to withdrawal management care for patients, regardless of their substance of abuse.

In this level of care, patients are removed from their home environment, removing access to substances. They receive medical support for withdrawal symptoms which can include nausea, vomiting, anxiety and insomnia.

While medical detox still manages the dangers of withdrawals for those abusing alcohol, benzos and opioids, providing access to withdrawal management care for those abusing stimulants has led to a significant increase in people with those addictions doing well in treatment. Previously, it was more common to see people abusing those substances continue to use and spiral out of control until some kind of medical or legal consequence forced them to get help. Now we have a chance to bring them in sooner and provide support in an appropriate environment.


Level 3: Residential/Inpatient Servicesresident room at treatment

For most physicians, this is the level of care in addiction treatment that is most familiar and expected. Patients are removed from their home environment, where they would have access to substances and be very vulnerable to relapse. They stay in a supportive environment 24 hours a day for several weeks, receiving six to nine hours a day of treatment services. Those services include individual and group therapy, as well as education about the nature of addiction as a brain disorder.

While the basic structure of residential treatment remains unchanged, recent years have seen an evolution toward a more patient-centered approach to treatment. In the past, residential programs were standardized and manualized, relying primarily on 12-step models. Patients were educated in a program of recovery, and told that if they followed it, they would be successful.

In the past five to seven years, however, the patient-centered approach has emphasized a focus on the patients’ buy-in. Patients are engaged to discover their own needs, while treatment revolves around the patients’ needs as well as education.

Most residential programs also include a strong family component as well, where patient families come to the treatment center for tailored programming geared toward educating them about the nature of addiction.


Level 2: Intensive Outpatient/Partial Hospitalization Services

several couches and chairs in a living room

In this level of care, patients can continue living at home or in a sober-living environment while receiving outpatient treatment. Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization are distinct programs, each with its own programming and interventions.

Patients in Partial Hospitalization programs receive 20 or more hours a week of services, while those in Intensive Outpatient programs receive nine or more hours a week. These programs extend the patient-centered approach in education and therapy, including a focus on relapse prevention.

Patients can access this level of care in multiple ways. For some, IOP/PHP programs are their entry-point to the Continuum of Care, if their assessment shows their needs are appropriate for a moderate level of intensity in treatment. For those with greater needs, they may enter an IOP/PHP program after completing withdrawal management and residential treatment. Still others may begin at a lower level of care and move up on the continuum into IOP/PHP if they need greater support to avoid relapse.

One important aspect of IOP/PHP programs is standard drug screenings. Administered as part of the treatment program, screenings are a low-cost way to provide a high level of accountability and to boost the confidence of those who are progressing well in treatment. Those in outpatient treatment may be required to undergo drug screenings as often as three times a week.

In primary-care practices, drug screenings tend to have a bad connotation, due to the turmoil that can ensue for both the physician and the patient when a drug screen comes back positive. In substance-abuse treatment practices, however, drug screenings are as ordinary as blood-pressure tests. They are a standard measure of how well a patient is responding to treatment. When a patient passes them consistently over many weeks, the screenings actually become an encouragement to the patient as a positive, objective proof of success.

At the IOP/PHP level of care, an additional advantage for patients can be living in a supportive housing environment while they are receiving treatment.

Generally speaking, the concept of a community-enforced sober living environment has a poor reputation. But when managed correctly, sober homes have been shown to be effective for people as they work to regain independence and establish new skills for successful long-term sobriety. While there are relatively few sober-living operations to choose from in Mississippi, aspects to look for include a requirement for frequent drug screenings, a commitment to providing a very safe environment, and continued outpatient care for residents.


Level I: Outpatient Services

outpatient services meeting room

In this level of care, patients receive less than nine hours a week of treatment services. Typically, they live on their own or at home. This level of treatment allow people to continue working or going to school alongside their treatment schedule.


Level 0.5: Early Intervention

The ASAM Criteria includes a level of care for those who are at risk of developing substance-related problems. As with any other medical problem, substance-abuse disorders can be prevented from becoming full-blown crises through prevention and early intervention. Physicians need not wait until a patient reaches “rock bottom” to express concern over his or her substance abuse — any more than you would wait for a heart attack to recommend a patient change poor eating habits for the sake of cardiovascular health.

When a patient shows signs of substance-abuse problems, physicians can recommend he or she get an assessment to determine whether there is a problem and, if so, how severe.

Physicians and their staffs have more options than they may realize when it comes to referring for an assessment. Any center where people can go for treatment will also perform assessments, as will community mental health centers.

One of the simplest things a physician’s office can do is simply to call the patient’s insurance provider and ask for a recommendation on where to send the patient for an assessment. A physician who has identified a potential substance abuse disorder can then bring up his or her concern with the patient, being prepared to make the referral immediately if the patient is willing to consider treatment. While the assessment could point to a need for residential care, it could also indicate that only outpatient care is needed and the interruption to the patient’s life could be minimal.

Both physicians and patients need to know that their expectations about what treatment means may be out-of-date. They may expect that treatment always translates into a residential level of care, when actually it may mean only a few hours of treatment per week.

Yet if physicians and patients overestimate the intensity of treatment required, they probably also underestimate the typical duration of a treatment course — especially for those patients who do need to begin treatment at a higher level of care. Successfully working through the treatment levels can take as long as 12 to 24 months, even if more than half of that time is spent only in outpatient treatment.

Both within and without the medical community, the attention on substance abuse has never been higher. The nature of diagnosis and treatment continues to mature and advance, and to become better integrated into the broader healthcare system. These are welcome changes for the estimated more than 20 million Americans who suffer from substance-abuse disorders, and for all of us involved in their care.



Dr. PannelDr. Pannel is Medical Director of Oxford Treatment Center. He specializes in treating dual diagnosis issues. He is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

Connect with our regional Treatment Consultants for questions and referrals

Oxford Treatment Center Direct Admissions: (662) 281-9992 ext. 1








Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. (2006) Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US)


SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions. Integrating Addiction and Primary Services. Becky Vaughn, MSEd, CEO, State Associations of Addiction Services (SAAS), and Aaron Williams, MA, Director of Training and Technical Assistance for Substance Abuse, CIHS. Retrieved from


Kozor, R., Grieve, S. M., Buchholz, S., Kaye, S., Darke, S., Bhindi, R., & Figtree, G. A. (2014). Regular cocaine use is associated with increased systolic blood pressure, aortic stiffness and left ventricular mass in young otherwise healthy individuals. PloS one9(4), e89710. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089710


Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Retrieved from data/



Reprinted with permission of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association© 2019;60 (3):85-86

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Celebrating Sobriety

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth; Dee Meux; Oxford Treatment Center CEO Mark Sawyer; and Drug Court Coordinator Brandon Vance

Family Program founder speaks at drug court graduation

The road to recovery is not easy, as each person fights his or her own unique battle towards sobriety. However, each successful step deserves a moment of recognition.

Dee Meux, ICADC, speaks at the 15th Drug Court Graduation for Mississippi’s Third Judicial District on Aug. 14

That was the message offered by Dee Meux, ICADC, as speaker at the 15th Drug Court Graduation for Mississippi’s Third Judicial District on Aug. 14.

“Completing drug court has so many layers of achievement,” she said. “I acknowledge and understand where each graduate has been and what it took for them to get here today.”

Meux is the founder of family programs at Oxford Treatment Center. She currently serves as family facilitator for the center’s Resolutions campus. At the graduation ceremony, she joined in celebrating graduates by affirming the courage they had to overcome their addictions.

“Everyone graduating and taking this next step into sobriety is a soldier in the battle against addiction,” she said.

“Miracles will continue to happen. Be open to the spiritual transformation that comes with living clean and sober.”

The ceremony for the Third District Drug Court included 11 graduates plus 18 people who are close to completing the program.

Drug Court Coordinator Brandon Vance said each participant must spend at least three years under the supervision of drug court and comply with all program requirements before becoming eligible to graduate. There are currently 302 people enrolled in the program, which spans Lafayette, Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties in North Mississippi.


Graduates at the ceremony also shared their stories of recovery and their hopes for the future.

“Do not compare yourself to others. Do not give up before the miracle happens,” one graduate said. “I have a story with broken pieces — but also a major comeback.”

About Dee Meux

Dee Meux, ICADC, has worked for over 30 years in the field of addiction treatment. She currently directs the two-day intensive Family Program at the Oxford Treatment Center at the Resolutions Campus of the Oxford Treatment Center, providing addiction education for families followed by a process of patient and family sharing, with a focus on communication and healing.

Dee has been the recipient of many awards thru the Mississippi Association of Addiction Professionals, including ‘Counselor of the Year’ and numerous awards for her service in the field of addiction.  She is a sought-after speaker and workshop facilitator, most recently presenting at the  28th Annual MAAP Conference in June 2018.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Online guide covers substance abuse at Ole Miss

person typing on laptop, on Ole Miss website

Students and faculty at the University of Mississippi

Have a new resource for understanding the link between substance abuse and addiction on campus. American Addiction Centers’ web-based content team has launched the research-based Ole Miss Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Guide. Tailored to Ole Miss, it combines addiction information with links to specific resources on campus.

The guide is located at and linked from the UM Wellness Education website.

Erin Cromeans, UM Assistant Director of Wellness Education

AAC’s team in San Diego, California, worked with Erin Cromeans, UM Assistant Director of Wellness Education, to build the content.

“They are great to work with and very attentive to the needs of our campus,” Cromeans said. “We were able to organize our information to make it most meaningful to our potential readers, including highlighting the substances most commonly used on our campus.”

Campus-specific content includes the university’s disciplinary procedures for drug and alcohol offenses, which the university is revising for the 2018 fall semester.

The guide describes how newfound independence, academic pressures and college culture can all contribute to risky behavior with drugs and alcohol. It also offers resources for how to know whether a friend might have a drug or alcohol problem.

two women sitting on stairs having a conversation

The online guide offers resources for how to know whether a friend might have a drug or alcohol problem.


While the guide is specifically designed for college students and university employees, the resources can be helpful for parents as well.


“Parents are familiar with the risks of binge drinking, but may be less aware of drugs like Adderall that students use to stay awake and study,” said Brianna Leatham, who managed the project for the San Diego team.

“The guide helps shine a light on some of the substances that are commonly used and likely to cause problems for students.”

Research and writing for the guide was provided by writer Lauren Villa, who holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.

The site includes a helpline number which connects callers to AAC’s treatment support advisors in Brentwood, Tenn. It also includes links to’s comprehensive listing of U.S. treatment facilities, where people can search rankings and reviews to choose a treatment center for themselves.

AAC is the parent company of Oxford Treatment Center. The company was among initial supporters for the William Magee Center for Wellness Education at Ole Miss, part of the new South Campus Recreation Center currently under construction.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

For physicians: Addiction screening in primary care

How primary-care physicians can integrate addiction screening, referrals into their practices

When you refuse to refill a patient’s OxyContin prescription, they respond with screaming, threats, or even physical damage to your office. Have you just witnessed a manic swing due to bipolar disorder? Or is there something else going on?

A version of this article originally appeared in the January 2018 Special Opioid Edition of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association. About MSMA  Download article

Embarassing scenes like that are a red flag for addiction, but many physicians would not recognize it as such or know what to do to help the patient. For most doctors and surgeons, mental healthcare and addiction were not part of their education and training. Those fields have been largely segregated from the broader healthcare system and from hospital-based physician networks, making the gap even wider.

Due to the current opioid epidemic, however, physicians are finding themselves on the front lines of the crisis. All primary-care practices now need to consider whether they are equipped to help their patients avoid or recover from addiction.

Fortunately, this does not require becoming an expert in treating addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Your practice can make a significant difference by adding small steps to the systems you already have in place to screen patients for potential problems and to refer them out for specialized care.

Here are three steps we recommend:

1. Understand the prevalence

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly one in 10 Americans are in need of treatment for problems related to drugs or alcohol.

Particularly in the case of the current opioid epidemic, we have seen that addiction spans all social classes without discrimination. No matter the makeup of your particular practice, consider that one out of every 10 patients you see has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Ask your office manager how many patients you currently have in your practice, and do the math. The figure may be hard for you to believe, but those struggling with drugs or alcohol often hide it well, at least for a while.

Your practice also includes people who have not yet developed a substance use disorder, but who are vulnerable to addiction due to a genetic, physiological or psychological predisposition.

Consider this: A treatment path that may be medically appropriate and effective for 90 percent of patients can accelerate chemical dependency issues for the remaining 10 percent, due to existing substance use disorders or addiction vulnerability. For that reason, to routinely prescribe Xanax for anxiety or Lortab for pain, without considering certain patients’ vulnerability to addiction, will cause problems for them and for your practice.


2. Screen and engage patients

Despite the stakes, it can seem extraneous and time-consuming to engage patients on the subject of their drug or alcohol use when they’ve come to your office for medical care.

To streamline the process, introduce a screening tool into the paperwork that patients already complete during check-in. Choose one for your practice by reviewing the forms provided in the Clinical Practice section of the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions website.

The DAST-10 screening tool, for example, is only 10 questions long and can be completed in minutes. It asks patients whether they have ever used more than one drug at a time, whether they’ve experienced blackouts or withdrawals, and whether their family members have ever complained about their drug use.

By utilizing a simple check-in screening tool, physicians have a better chance of determining whether drugs or alcohol might be causing problems in a patient’s life — before a new prescription potentially sends them deeper into dependency.

3. Develop referral resources

Of course, the catch in trying to determine whether patients have a problem with drugs or alcohol is: What are you going to do with that information?

Primary-care practices need to build out their referral resources in the areas of mental and behavioral health, especially in communities where those fields are still isolated from broader healthcare systems. When a patient admits to having a drug problem, or when a patient throws a fit in full-blown denial, you don’t want to have to make 10 different calls to find someone who can help.

To identify quality treatment centers, look for appropriate licensing and credentials. A center should be certified by the Department of Mental Health and be accredited by the Joint Commission or CARF.

Referrals for treatment should be made within the context of each patient’s access to care. If they have a current insurance plan, reach out to the insurance company’s provider service network and ask for a referral for substance use disorders and/or mental health issues. Many practices routinely use insurers’ services to refer patients to in-network providers for a range of medical problems; physicians may not realize the same service can also help them refer out for mental and behavioral healthcare.

Addiction and co-occurring disorders are closely linked to physical wellbeing. Patients struggling in theses area many times present with medical complaints that are not clearly defined and also do not respond to treatment interventions. This may lead to frequent return visits.

This is a good time to consider addiction and co-occurring disorders and integration of treatment for these with your patients. This will help your patients return to good health and stay healthy.


Dr. Stephen Pannel oversees medical detox, medication management, and treatment planning as Medical Director at Oxford Treatment Center. He specializes in treating dual diagnosis issues. He is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

Connect with our regional Treatment Consultants for questions and referrals

Oxford Treatment Center Direct Admissions: (662) 281-9992 ext. 1

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

From our staff: 12 Myths of Addiction

When it comes to addiction, there are plenty of misconceptions

This fall, the small-town newspaper in Oxford, Mississippi, invited Oxford Treatment Center to help build local awareness about addiction and recovery through a 12-part column series.

Readers of The Oxford Eagle gained insights from our therapists, leaders, medical staff and regional treatment consultants. Each was asked to respond to one of the common misconceptions we encounter in our work with individuals and families, and in our outreach to the broader community.

The result is an overview of the research-based model that informs our approach addiction and treatment today. It’s also a picture of the many ways our society must evolve its ideas about addiction in order to best help those who struggle with it.





Myth #1: Addiction doesn’t happen to good people

“The people I worked with as a therapist and the people I help get to treatment today are not bad people. They are ordinary, good people who used substances for their coping skill. Life had overwhelmed them at one point or another, and this was what they used to survive. It wasn’t a problem until it became a problem.”

— Mark Russell, MSW, AAC Treatment Consultant


Myth #2: Faith can fix addiction

“Anytime we talk about recovery and the place of faith, we have to be very careful that we don’t try to substitute one for another. AA won’t get you to heaven, and Christianity won’t make you sober any more than it will cure cancer. But it’s a very beautiful thing when the two come together, because they truly do make a whole person.

— Larry Wills, LPC, M.Div., Clinical Therapist


Myth #3: Better parenting would have prevented addiction

“Right off the bat, we help families realize they’ve been doing the normal thing. When you love someone, it’s normal to want to help them out — bail them out, fix things, give them third, fourth, fifth chances. Yet when you’re dealing with active addiction, those are some of the worst things you can do.”

— Dee Meux, ICADC, Family Program Coordinator



Myth #4: If my child were addicted, I would know

“Parents will say, ‘She’s too smart for that. She’s a good young lady.’ The problem is, it’s not about good and bad. And if a kid seems to be doing fine, it’s easy for parents not to pay close attention.

— Reggie Watkins, MLAP, ADC, ICADC, Young Adult Program Coordinator



Myth #5: A little weed is nothing to worry about

Billy Young CEO“Anytime you have mixed cultural perceptions, the situation is set up for abuse or addiction. People say, ‘It’s a recreational drug’, but the real issue is those individuals who already have a predisposition for addiction.

— Billy Young, Oxford Treatment Center CEO



Myth #6: You have to quit work to get treatment

Deja Washington“I have not yet heard anyone say, ‘My employer doesn’t get it.’ Many people are in an Employee Assistance Program because of an addiction, and their employers are trying to give them a second chance. If an employee is willing to get help, their company is willing to work with them.

— Clinical Therapist Deja Washington, MSW



Myth #7: You can’t have fun sober

Laura Merrill McCaleb, LCSW“Whether or not you were the most popular person at a party is not going to matter to you in 10 years. What is going to matter? Your physical health. Having healthy relationships. Learning how to love yourself and take care of yourself. Simply being alive.”

— Laura Merrill McCaleb, LCSW



Myth #8: They could stop if they really wanted to

Stephen Pannel“There’s this perception that people who are in treatment have not tried to quit on their own, and that’s usually not true. Most of the time, when people get to this point, they have already tried to stop. But the withdrawal or physical pain from quitting is so severe, they can’t bear it.”

— Psychiatrist Stephen Pannel, DO, ABPN, ABAM



Myth #9: To recover, you have to want it badly

Amy Woodward“Surprisingly, there isn’t much difference in results between those who say, ‘I’ll do it, but I’ll hate every minute of it,’ and those who say, ‘I’ll do it, and I’ll love it.’ Doing it is the most important thing.

— Clinical Therapist Amy Woodward, CADC



Myth #10: The 12 steps are old-school and don’t work today

Barry Doughty“The core of addiction is total self-centeredness. But in recovery, we learn how to give back to our families, our communities and society as a whole. We learn what it means to contribute — instead of being people who just take.

— Clinical Therapist Barry Doughty, ICADC



Myth #11: I’m too old to go to treatment

Barbara Cox“When people have been abusing drugs or alcohol for many years, it’s difficult for them to imagine life any other way. When you’re in the middle of the situation, it doesn’t seem so bad. People wonder: Can I be successful in life without drugs and alcohol? Yes, you can. It’s being done every day, and the individuals we work with are living proof.”

— Outpatient Director Barbara Cox, LSW, MRC, MAC



Myth #12: Addiction is something you don’t talk about

Brian Whisenant“Both for addicts and their families, it takes a lot just to come out of your own denial and admit that there’s a problem. You don’t have to start by telling the world. Talk within your family. Talk to your pastor. Go to a support group. What you don’t want to do is let the pressure inside you keep building until it explodes.”

— Community Relations Representative Brian Whisenant


About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Myth #12: Addiction is Something You Don’t Talk About

Addiction is a more public issue than ever before. The epidemic of opioid overdose deaths is in the news every day. So why are so many families still suffering in silence?

It’s true that, while society’s understanding of addiction is evolving, the stigma surrounding it still exists. But here’s the catch: It’s hard to break through the stigma until people are willing to talk openly about it.

Locally, credit is due to David Magee, publisher of The Oxford Eagle, for opening a new community dialogue about addiction.

Last fall, he began publicly sharing the story of his son William’s death from drug overdose. He has since brought together support for a new wellness center at the University of Mississippi designed for prevention and early intervention among young adults.

“Drugs are the number-one killer of our young people,” Magee has said.

Community Relations Representative Brian Whisenant

Community Relations Representative Brian Whisenant


He draws a parallel to the way breast cancer was also once a taboo topic. Over the past 25 years, though, greater awareness has led to more screenings and research. The death rate has dropped by more than one-third.

“The reason I wrote about my son, and the reason why people tell their stories, is that we have to take the stigma of addiction away,” Magee said. “Imagine where we might be years from now if we keep getting the word out.”

Brian Whisenant, who joined Oxford Treatment Center in July as community relations representative, said that openness about addiction is not a black-and-white issue.


“It’s a process,” he said. “Both for addicts and their families, it takes a lot just to come out of your own denial and admit that there’s a problem.

“You don’t have to start by telling the world. Talk within your family. Talk to your pastor. Go to a support group.”


“What you don’t want to do is let the pressure inside you keep building until it explodes.”

Cultural pressures can also be a powerful force to overcome when talking about addiction — especially in the South.

“Talking about anything you’re struggling with can be a faux pas,” Whisenant said. “You don’t talk about money struggles. You don’t talk about family issues. When you go out in public, everything is picket fences and rainbows — even when it’s not.”

Whisenant is in personal recovery from addiction, approaching three years clean.

He started speaking publicly about his recovery only a month ago, when he was asked to speak at the Third Annual North Mississippi Recovery Walk in Tupelo. He hesitated before agreeing that his name and photo could appear in the local newspaper the next day. When the story came out, he decided to go ahead and share it on social media.

“There was freedom in going public about my recovery, just as there was freedom in admitting to myself that I had an addiction,” he said. “It was like another set of chains fell off; I don’t have to hide anymore.”

Whisenant said he was careful to keep his recovery private early on, because of potential repercussions and the risk that employers might not be willing to hire him.

Addiction treatment providers and 12-step recovery communities work hard to protect people from such risks. Like all health matters, treatment services are protected by federal privacy laws. Meanwhile, 12-step fellowships like AA and NA maintain anonymity as a long-standing tradition.

When Oxford Treatment Center alumni have been clean for at least a year, they can have a chance to share their stories in blog posts, media interviews and podcasts — but always on their own terms. Some people want to share their story, but ask that their real name not be used.

“It takes brave people to come out and talk about being in recovery.”


— Whisenant said. “It’s a process for families to talk openly about it, too, and it can be hard on them.”

People who talk openly about addiction and recovery also run the additional risk of being branded a hypocrite if they struggle with drugs or alcohol again in the future. As a chronic disease with relapse rate similar to that of diabetes or high blood pressure, the risk is real.

“We can’t shun people because they’ve admitted they’re in recovery, and then they falter,” Whisenant said. “After a relapse is when guilt and shame are at their worst. It helps when people in the broader community can understand about addiction and be supportive through a relapse. A person’s recovery doesn’t end just because they’ve used again.”

Whisenant said the process of opening up about addiction can begin within the safety of settings like group therapy and 12-step meetings.

For families, Al-Anon and Nar-Anon support groups gather locally each week. Oxford Treatment Center provides a free therapist-led support group for families every Tuesday at 6 p.m.

To learn more about local resources for those suffering from addiction, contact Whisenant at 662-701-9653 or


This article originally appeared in the Oct. 1, 2017, edition of The Oxford Eagle newspaper.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Myth #11: I’m Too Old to Go to Treatment

When drug or alcohol problems have been going on for decades, is it too late to change? The truth is that recovery can begin at any age.

For people who have tried and failed to stay clean and sober, time and again, it’s easy to lose hope. Yet in some cases, their maturity and experience can actually become an asset in treatment.

At Oxford Treatment Center, people as old as their late 70s have sought help for drug or alcohol addiction. Outpatient Director Barbara Cox, LSW, MRC, MAC, said age can initially be an obstacle for people as they begin treatment.

“When people have been abusing drugs or alcohol for many years, it’s difficult for them to imagine life any other way,” Cox said. “Often, they come to us depleted, physically and emotionally. They’re convinced their situation is hopeless.”

Barbara Cox Manager

Outpatient Director Barbara Cox, LSW, MRC, MAC


Cox is a Licensed Social Worker and Master Addiction Counselor with previous experience in vocational rehabilitation. She has worked directly with clients in Oxford Treatment Center’s residential and outpatient programs. Today, she is director of outpatient services in Oxford, Tupelo and Olive Branch.

Cox said one advantage that older adults can have in treatment is a better grasp on the consequences of continuing in addiction. That can often be an abstract concept for young people.

Older clients also tend to be more settled in life. With jobs and families to go home to, they can anticipate and prepare for situations where they would be likely to drink or use drugs again.

“In treatment, we talk through different high-stress situations that they might encounter when they return to their normal life,” Cox said. “We focus on developing new coping skills they can use to respond to those situations. It’s a huge advantage when they can anticipate these situations and have a plan for how to handle them without turning to drugs or alcohol.

For Linda*, alcohol dependency became a problem after she retired from her career as a schoolteacher. Health issues related to excessive drinking ultimately prompted her to seek help. She had elevated blood pressure, liver function issues, and bruises from stumbling and falling.

“It was hard for me to accept that alcohol was causing all these problems,” Linda said.

“When you’re in the middle of the situation, it doesn’t seem so bad. You can ignore the problems, because you can just numb out again. Until you get sober, you don’t really realize you had a problem.”


Linda started her recovery through the 10-week Intensive Outpatient Program at Oxford Treatment Center’s Tupelo office. There, working with a therapist in individual and group sessions made her feel “heard” in a meaningful way. The therapist also introduced clinical concepts about addiction being a disease, not a moral failing, and about its affects on the brain.

“What I learned helped me understand what was going on in my mind,” Linda said. “I’d always thought it was my own mind and feelings telling me to drink again, so I’d listen. And it always got worse, never better. Once I understood it was my disease talking, I was able to say, ‘Don’t listen. It changed my whole life and gave me hope.”

Linda had been struggling with alcohol on and off for 20 years before the problem became serious enough for her to seek treatment.

For other older adults, addiction can set in more quickly as a result of being prescribed pain pills like OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin. Those opioids look innocent in prescription bottles. But they are actually heroin’s synthetic cousins and are highly addictive.

Cox said she has worked with many clients who never had a drug or alcohol problem until being prescribed pain medication after a surgery.

“In many cases, they were also struggling with depression — and suddenly they discover the feeling of a high,” Cox said. “They say, ‘I never thought I could feel so good again.’ These are people who never dreamed they would find themselves needing treatment for addiction.

Whether people develop dependency late in life, or have been in and out of treatment for years, Cox said people are never too old to find recovery.

“It involves coming to a place where you’re honest, open-minded and willing,” she said. “And whether you’re a young adult or an older adult, it involves putting your laundry on the table. But it’s worth it.

“People wonder: Can I be successful in life without drugs and alcohol? Yes, you can. It’s being done every day, and the individuals we work with are living proof.”


It is never too late to reclaim your life. Take the first step: Schedule a no-cost clinical assessment at the outpatient office nearest you.


This article originally appeared in the Sept. 24, 2017, edition of The Oxford Eagle newspaper.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Myth #10: The 12 Steps are Old-School and Don’t Work Today

“Hi, I’m Jim, and I’m an addict.”

Even for those who’ve never set foot in a 12-step meeting, that introduction is a familiar refrain. But with so many modern approaches to addiction treatment, aren’t mutual-support groups passé?

In fact, the opposite is true. Around the globe, more than 120,000 meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are held each week. Meanwhile, addiction treatment centers that rely on research-based approaches continue to apply 12-step philosophies, alongside tools like cognitive behavioral therapy and appropriate medication.

That’s because the 12 steps have just as much power today as they did 80 years ago, when AA first began.

Barry Doughty ICADC

Clinical Therapist Barry Doughty, ICADC


Barry Doughty, ICADC, a clinical therapist at Oxford Treatment Center, said that working the 12 steps is not just about quitting drugs or alcohol. It’s also about defining what comes next.

“Addiction involves much more than the use of drugs,” Doughty said. “In the same way, living in recovery involves more than just abstinence from drugs. The first thing is to stop using. After that, recovery can begin.

Working the 12 steps involves a process of surrender, introspection, and making amends to those you’ve hurt. It’s described as a “spiritual” path, but not a religion. Service is also an integral part of 12-step programs.

“The core of addiction is total self-centeredness,” said Doughty, who in addition to being a therapist has nearly 12 years in personal recovery.

“When you’re using drugs, your life is about that, and everything else becomes a casualty,” he said.

“But in recovery, we learn how to give back to our families, our communities and society as a whole. We learn what it means to contribute — instead of being people who just take.”


In Oxford, the growth of 12-step meetings in the past five years is earning the town a reputation as a “recovery community.” Doughty, who helped establish NA locally, said the number of weekly NA meetings has grown from one to 17 over that time.

“In the beginning, it would often be me and one other person,” he said. “Now, there’s not enough seats for 50 people in the room. People are getting better, they’re working the steps, and they’re talking about how it’s changing their lives.”

At Oxford Treatment Center, those who seek help come from across the country. They are required to begin attending AA or NA meetings while they’re in treatment. After treatment, many choose to stay. The local recovery community becomes a critical support as they build a new, clean life.

“You can’t work the steps by yourself.”


— Doughty said. “You need a network of recovering addicts and people you can run things by. As part of a ‘home group,’ you become each other’s eyes and ears. People get to know you, and they can tell when something’s not right.”

People in a 12-step fellowship also have a “sponsor” who has been clean longer and helps guide them through challenges.

The accountability that comes with being part of a 12-step group offers layers of support that can help people steer clear of situations and stressors that could prompt them to use drugs again. The fellowship can also help them get back on track after a relapse.

The process of working through the 12 steps is designed to be ongoing. Step 12 describes a spiritual awakening that comes as a result of the journey. It also offers a call to share the same hope with others.

“Each step is a self-examination, plain and simple,” Doughty said. “They put us in touch with who we are, who we’ve been and who we want to become.”


This article originally appeared in the Sept. 20, 2017, edition of The Oxford Eagle newspaper.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More