Thursday, November 27, 2014

Former Prisoner, Best Selling Author Glenn Langohr, Reviews Former Prison Guard D.J. Vodicka's Book, The Green Wall

"The Green Wall" Is a Courageous Story of the Last Man Standing for Justice Against the California Prison Union" As a former inmate who spent over 10 years inside some of the most violent California prisons on drug charges, I took on D.J.'s book to read and review. As an author myself who started writing to shed some light into the darkness that is California's out of control prison system, my curiosity to see a Former Prison Guard's perception was peaked. It is a penetrating look and historic book that should be required reading in colleges in regards to Crime and Punishment, Criminology, Gangs and Prison culture. It is also an intense read and highly entertaining. The Story follows D.J. Vodicka into the prison system as a guard and in his own words, a new "Fish", as he made his way adapting to one of the highest security prisons in the state, Corcoran. From there he went to the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison. D.J. rose to the challenge and had a mentor, Mr. Reynoso, who helped him. At Pelican Bay D.J. was a first responder to a Mexican Mafia hit where a drop out (Informant against the mob) got a piece of steel in his neck and later died. D.J. witnessed other intense riots, stabbings and constant violence, and maintained his dignity and honor throughout. Once transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison, next to Soledad, D.J. was a veteran prison guard who had worked the highest levels of security and should have had a position of leadership. Instead, the new prison seemed to have a collection of non veteran prison guards who were easily influenced by the violence and heavy gang life of lifers on the yard. A riot exploded. But this one was against the prison guards over a beef that might have been from excessive force, or just a gang flexing muscle. The Mexicans attacked the guards and D.J. was there to help investigate the incident. At this point in the story, D.J. stands up and maintains his integrity by writing accurate reports and taking pictures of injured inmates. The guards seemed to emulate the gangs and create one of their own that went by G.W. They started acting like gang bangers and flashed sign language just like the gang banger prisoners the guards were in charge of securing. D.J. reported it when asked to. At that point, the prison guards who had clicked up in this Green Wall subculture/gang created a "Code of Silence" to look the other way when it came to violence and intimidation manuavers against the inmates. This gained momentum and became more criminal in regards to falsifying reports, planting weapons and possibly/allegedly more of the same or worse. And standing in the way of this tsunami was D.J. Vodicka. Who continued to maintain his ethics and accurately report and follow instructions against this building subculture amongst the guards at Salinas Valley. Now, from the highest levels, D.J.'s reports were leaked on purpose and he became an absolute target. He continued to stand tall all the way to the end. Read this book to understand just how far this went. My takeaways as a former inmate. While locked up at Chino Central in the notorious Sycamore Hall, nicknamed "Stick-A-More Hall" for all the stabbings, a prison guard brought an Aryan Brotherhood drawing "Calling Card" that was an image of dice,a naked female and the numbers 666 all ghosted together. The prison guard asked me if it was mine as he found it on the floor just outside of my cell. Had I said yes, It was my trip to Palm Hall and Pelican Bay. This relates to D.J.'s book in a couple of ways. It is evidence of the subculture of guards who cross the line and work for the gangs and/or become one themselves, and it relates to the Green Wall's Prison Guard gang who used a similar art piece to represent their gang with 666 and the dice. Also while doing time at Centinella State prison on D yard while I was a shot caller, we had a guard who gave us an inmate's paperwork that proved that inmate was a notorious child molester with 44 counts of ANNLY/MOLEST. That guard was helping us handle vigilante justice. I wrote about it in my book, " The Art of War: A Memoir of Life in Prison with Mafia, Serial Killers and Sex Offenders Who Get Stabbed" This also relates to what D.J. says was going on at Salinas Valley Prison. Another takeaway: D.J. and I both share a perspective on the root problem with California's out of control prison system. It stopped being a place of rehabilitation in the 1980's when the population quickly exploded and rose up to 700%. The Drug War and tough on crime politics turned it into a send everyone to prison deal that made prisons warehouses for violence and gang indoctrination. As a result of this, prison guards are just as affected by this militant, always violent, racial segregated fight for every piece of space, highly secretive, constant cat and mouse game of violence and "organized hits" that are prison life. Does this sound like rehabilitation? Obviously not. The prison guards are affected by living in this culture and D.J.'s book shows how the two cultures blend together until lines are crossed and blurred. My hat is off to D.J. for standing tall and documenting it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Famous Addicts Have to Say About Addiction

Celebrities make drug use seem fun and glamorous. It seems as though they never pay any consequences for indulging in substance abuse. In fact, they are socially rewarded for flouting their illegal behavior. Celebrities who have decided to heal themselves and seek treatment often have insightful things to say about the nature of addiction and what drives people to become frequent users.






Dark Humor





Even funny quotes about drug use have some underlying fatalism. Robin Williams' troubles are currently part of the public discourse, so it comes as no surprise that he once said, "Cocaine is God's way of saying you're making too much money." It is an undeniable fact that heavy drug users eventually stop caring about how munch money they waste on drugs. David Lee Roth agreed on that count. He said, "I used to have a drug problem. Now I make enough money." Some addicts believe that their drug use is not problematic as long as they can comfortably afford to feed their habits.






The Seedy Underbelly of Rock and Roll





Lou Reed had a similar way of hiding sad truths in dry humor. He said, "I tried to give up drugs by drinking," which illustrates the way addicts tend to trade one substance for another. They tell themselves that switching to legal substances means that their addictive natures are less extreme than they used to be. Sadly, this is usually not the case.





Frank Zappa was no stranger to drugs; his music sprang out of a subculture that extolled drug use as a way of tapping into a higher form of consciousness. After spending several years socializing with addicts, the allure wore off for Frank. He stated bleakly, "Ever try to have a conversation with someone on drugs? It just doesn’t work."





John Lennon took a more philosophical approach to this subject. "The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we need these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that's making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?" For some people, there is no concrete answer for why they are drawn to drugs. They simply find the pressures of day-to-day life to be too hard for them to handle. Lennon spoke from experience. He also said, "The worst drugs are as bad as anybody's told you.”






The Establishment





Ronald Reagan's famous anti-drug campaign illustrated the schism between the establishment and real people. "Let us not forget who we are. Drug abuse is a repudiation of everything America is." No one disputes the fact that drugs are bad, but the way the law punishes non-violent addicts prevents many from seeking the help they need.






Literary Musings





William Wordsworth had a perception of drugs that seems almost modern, given how little was known about addiction during his lifetime. He said, "The human mind is capable of excitement without the application of gross and violent stimulants, and he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity who does not know this." He believed that to abstain from drugs was to honor oneself. Emerson also had a nuanced understanding of the nature of addiction. "Tobacco and opium have broad backs, and will cheerfully carry the load of armies, if you choose to make them pay high for such joy as they give and such harm as they do."





Oliver Goldsmith's sadly humorous missive about addiction sums up the cycle perfectly: "Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe, that found me poor at first, and keep me so." People chase the high even though they know they will feel terrible in the aftermath.





William S. Burroughs is one of the most famous heroin users of the last century. Even though he struggled within the drug's grasp, he understood what it was doing to him. "Junk is the ideal product...the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy."





These quotes illustrate the pain that drugs cause despite the perceived romance of fading into oblivion. A drug rehab inpatient program in Utah can help pull addicts out of deep addictions and give them the resources they need to stay drug-free for life.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dual Diagnosis and Addiction Recovery

Dual diagnosis treatment is a relatively new development in mental health care and addiction recovery. Until recently, clinicians treated mental illness as a separate condition from drug or alcohol addiction. When the conditions overlapped in a dual diagnosis, mental health treatment came only after addiction rehab. This was known as “sequential treatment.”




The Problem with Sequential Treatment

Sequential treatment was the norm as recent as a decade ago. Until then, most clinicians subscribed to a division between mental health treatment and addiction recovery. This meant that people with a dual diagnosis were excluded from one treatment area until they were stable in the other. For example, a depressed alcoholic could not receive therapy for depression until he went through detox and rehab.



Since addictions often stem from psychiatric disorders, people with a dual diagnosis need different types of therapy. When research showed that sequential treatment led to high rates of addiction relapse, its popularity diminished. Today, dual diagnosis treatment centers combine successful aspects of mental health care with substance abuse treatment. The clinicians have credentials and training in co-occurring disorders.




The Benefits of Dual Diagnosis

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only 12 percent of the four million Americans with a dual diagnosis in 2002 were treated for both conditions. Today, many Utah rehab centers offer personalized treatment services for those with dual conditions. Nevertheless, finding the right program is a challenge.



Rehab centers that offer parallel services increase recovery chances. They offer supportive therapies that bolster self-esteem and build self-confidence. The most effective treatments bring spouses and other family members into therapy for individual and group counseling.



Many addicts feel immense relief when they receive a dual diagnosis, especially if they lived with an undiagnosed condition for a long time. If they suffered with long-term depression, severe mood swings, painful flashbacks, hallucinations or suicidal thoughts, giving their condition a name can give them hope. A properly trained rehab team can help them can help them recover from mental illness while they battle their addictions.




Dual Diagnosis Therapy Options

People who meet the criteria for a dual diagnosis are classified when they enter treatment. They generally suffer with a condition such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder as well as alcoholism, drug addiction or another addictive disorder. The most effective treatment considers both conditions.



No single treatment works for everyone with a dual diagnosis. There are many mental health disorders, and the relationship between mental illness and addiction is complicated. Individual recovery plans address specific disorders as well as personal histories of addictive behaviors.




Residential Treatment

People with severe mental illness or heavy drug or alcohol use may benefit from residential treatment programs. This type of therapy offers intensive, 24-hour care and monitoring. It is especially helpful for those who experience psychotic episodes or suicidal thoughts.




Outpatient Treatment

Addicts who are physically and mentally stable may benefit from outpatient treatment, where they can live at home and go to work during their rehabilitation. Because of the minimal supervision, outpatient therapy requires a high level of dedication to recovery to prevent relapse.




Pharmacological Therapy

Pharmacological therapy is usually a key component of dual diagnosis treatment. People with mental illness usually require medications to stabilize their moods, reduce anxiety and prevent flashbacks or hallucinations. While psychiatric medications are often discouraged in substance abuse treatment programs, dual diagnosis patients can benefit from pharmacotherapy during rehab.




Family Counseling

Family counseling is an important part of addiction recovery. This type of therapy educates spouses, children and siblings about addiction and mental health. As they begin to understand their loved one’s condition, they are more likely to provide support for recovery.




Group Therapy

Group therapy is also essential to the recovery process. Peer support groups and 12-step programs are available for addicts, friends and loved ones. Group sessions remind those with drug and alcohol addictions that they are not alone in their struggles.



Most people benefit from a combination of treatment therapies. Getting their lives back on track requires help and hope, and dual diagnosis treatment provides both. Relying on members of their treatment team as well as their loved ones can make rehabilitation easier and more effective.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gateway Drugs of Abuse

Gateway Drugs of Abuse

The Influence of Gateway Drugs: A Path to Addiction

For decades, scientists have studied how the use of mind-altering substances, or gateway drugs, may influence the likelihood of individuals using stronger or harder drugs. For instance, studies on nicotine have suggested that approximately 90 percent of people who consume cocaine are smokers. In 2011, a study by the National Institutes of Health found that nicotine may affect certain structures of the brain that open the door to cocaine use. Scientists have found that use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and prescription drugs may lead the path to illicit drug use and substance addiction.

The Role of Alcohol as a Gateway Drug

As a legal and socially acceptable drug, alcohol use is a reliable predictor of progressive substance abuse. According to a study by the University of Florida in 2012, people who began drinking at an early age are 16 times more likely to use cocaine, LSD or narcotics. Alcohol may create changes in the brain structures that predispose the user to alcoholism or dependence. Consequently, alcohol prevention programs for adolescents may significantly decrease the use of illicit drugs for future generations.

As an individual develops a higher tolerance to alcohol, more of the substance is required to produce the same effects. The addition of stronger or illicit drugs may help the sufferer experience the "numbing" or "euphoric" feeling that has become more difficult to achieve for the heavy drinker. Sufferers of alcoholism may also use cocaine or other stimulants to continue drinking and surpass their tolerance to alcohol.

Does Marijuana Open the Door to Narcotics?

Although the debate continues, scientists have suggested that marijuana may be a social gateway drug that can possibly lead to the use of cocaine, methamphetamines or heroin. As a user progresses from alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana may be the next step towards stronger substances. Eventually, a cannabis user may be more likely to experiment with cocaine, opiates or other narcotics. A high percentage of people who use illicit drugs have admitted to using pot first. Researchers have also found that heavy pot smokers tend to use stronger substances of abuse.

Prescription Opiates Progress to Heroin Addiction

Few people use heroin without experimenting with less potent drugs first. Often, individuals who abuse prescription opiates, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and hydrocodone, are more likely to progress to the use of heroin. While some people may have experienced an injury or medical condition that warranted the initial use of prescription pain medications, others may have experimented with opiates and consequently developed an addiction. As the most highly abused prescription medication in the U.S., experts believe that these prescriptions have caused the demand and supply of heroin to re-emerge in cities across the country.

The Complexity of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Researchers strive to examine all the contributing factors that result in drug abuse and addiction. Like any other medical disease or condition, substance abuse or dependence requires trained professionals to provide individualized drug treatment. A large proportion of addiction sufferers initiated dependence by self-medicating the emotional disturbances of depression, stressful anxiety or an underlying mental health disorder. While some people can arbitrarily experiment with illicit drugs and not become addicted, other individuals may have a genetic predisposition to drug dependence. Although gateway drugs may be a predictor to the progression of drug use in some sufferers, many factors play a role in drug addiction.

The Controversy of Gateway Drug Theory

Although the gateway drug theory may be controversial for some, there is no disputing that an overwhelming number of hard-drug users began by smoking, drinking or experimenting with marijuana. Obviously, few individuals would use cocaine, heroin or other illicit drugs without experiencing the milder mood-altering substances. While gateway drugs may be responsible for a large portion of drug abuse, it's important to factor the social aspects, mental conditions and genetic predisposition that may contribute to addiction.


National Institutes of Health:  http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/november2011/11212011nicotine.htm

Prescription Drug Abuse:
http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/featured/prescription-drug-use-teens/

University of Florida:
http://news.ufl.edu/archive/2012/07/uf-study-shows-long-term-drug-abuse-starts-with-alcohol.html

Monday, August 11, 2014

Five Reasons to Chase and Capture Sobriety

More than 15 million people in the world are currently affected by alcoholism, and 23 million people are addicted to some form of drug. Many of those people do not realize that they have an addiction that is causing chaos in their lives and the lives of the people around them. A large number of people do realize their actions through their own personal observations or the help of family interventions, helping to them to find a great drug rehab inpatient program.  Sadly, not all of them choose to go to drug rehab centers. The reason for the initial treatment denial may be a lack of motivation. The following are five reasons that a person with a drug or alcohol problem should make a goal of becoming and staying sober:



1. Sobriety Increases Quality of Life

People sometimes do not realize how expensive a drug or alcohol habit is until they stop using those substances. Some people need to see a visual breakdown of the calculations to believe that drug and alcohol cessation can improve the quality of their lives. A person with a narcotic prescription pill addiction may have to pay anywhere from $5 to $30 for each pill that he or she buys. Therefore, the average adult male or female with a fierce addiction may spend $175 a week on the habit at the very least. The savings that person can obtain by kicking the drug habit can afford him or her monthly rent on a brand new apartment, or payments for two brand new vehicles.



2. Sobriety Improves the Relationship with One’s Higher Power

Religion has many sectors, but most of them deal with the rules of life that are set forth by a higher power. The higher power of most religions would not want a mortal person to idolize a substance more than that person idolizes the higher power. Additionally, most religions contain rules about purity. Drugs are bodily impurities. Drug and alcohol cessation can make a person feel better spiritually because that person will be living the pure life that the higher power desires.



3. Sobriety Cuts Medical Expenses

Getting sober and staying sober may have an initial expense, but in the end, it can save a person thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Long-term alcohol abuse has medical repercussions such as liver disease, pancreatitis, depression and cardiovascular diseases. The long-term effects of drug use may include liver failure, heart attack, kidney damage and more. A person who stops using drugs and alcohol today can give his or her body a chance to heal before those long-term effects take place.



4. Sobriety Encourages Happiness

People who are highly involved in addictive behaviors often lose touch with their closest friends and family members. Such relationship damages can bring forth a sense of loneliness and isolation. Family members and friends will sometimes return and offer support when a person decides to get help through a rehabilitation facility. An increased support system will foster feelings of well-being, and the person will be happy.



5. Sobriety Provides Freedom Opportunity

Many persons who have addictions find themselves in trouble with the law. Criminal convictions such as DUI, assault and related crimes can cause a serious drop in a person’s potential to obtain gainful employment. An immediate trip into the realm of sobriety may not erase the convictions, but it can provide a clean slate and prevent any additional crimes from making their way into the person's life.

 So many reasons to get sober and stay sober exist. The main reason for changing one’s life is time. Life is too short for one to waste it away on painful activities. Sobriety is an enlightening experience that can truly open a person’s eyes. He or she will be able to take the journey with a feeling of purpose and accomplishment. A sober person can help other people to transform their lives into something of meaning, just like they were able to.


Sources:
http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics
http://alcoholismstatistics.net/
http://americamagazine.org/issue/360/article/religion-science-and-substance-abuse
http://christianity.about.com/od/depressionandsuicide/a/laurietestimony.htm

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sword and Scale Episode 13 Prison Interview on Lockdown

Sword and Scale Episode 13 A Deep Look at Prison Life in an Interview with Glenn Langohr About What It Was Like When He Was On a Level 4 Max Security California Prison, Before Becoming a Best Selling Author/Producer.