Author Archives: echorecovery

Women Face Additional Challenges in Substance Abuse Treatment

Women Face Additional Challenges in Substance Abuse Treatment

Most Americans know that addiction is a personal struggle, but many believe men and women generally experience similar paths when they decide to pursue substance abuse treatment. While many men and women experience significant hardship through addiction and recovery, they tend to face vastly different scenarios due to the social stigma surrounding addiction and the fundamental biological differences between men and women. Unfortunately, women tend to face a more difficult road to recovery.

Women Face Significant Hurdles in Addiction Recovery

Women Face Significant Hurdles in Addiction Recovery

Addiction can have unpredictable effects on anyone’s life, and it almost always influences more than just one life with every case. Both men and women can develop addictions to many different substances. In the early days of professional substance abuse treatment, there were no research areas dedicated to studying the differences between men and women.

Modern science has evolved enough that now researchers know it is crucial to study the effects of addiction on every possible subset of people. Studying the differences of addiction, withdrawal, and recovery between the two sexes can illuminate much about addiction as a whole. In fact, substance abuse treatment has evolved tremendously thanks to this shift in focus. Close examination of the physical, emotional, psychological, and societal challenges facing women experiencing substance abuse has revealed that the road to recovery may be more difficult for many women due to several factors.

Recovery Challenges from Biology

When it comes to addiction, men and women not only tend to experience drug use and abuse differently but also display different habits when it comes to how they use drugs. For example, women tend to consume smaller doses but generally feel the effects of most illicit drugs more intensely. Substance abuse also tends to develop into addiction more rapidly in women than men due to physiological reasons.

Men and women process drugs differently on a physical level, and women tend to experience the long-term or permanent consequences of addiction more frequently and more rapidly than men. For example, alcoholism has a high chance of causing permanent damage to the liver. Between a man and a woman with similar alcohol abuse habits, the woman is far more likely to develop permanent liver damage.

Another reason that alcohol and other drugs affect men and women differently is the sex hormones present in the human body. Men and women have different hormonal levels, and the sex hormones of women may make them feel the effects of some drugs much more acutely than men. Due to the cardiovascular differences between men’s and women’s bodies, women are more likely to experience issues with their hearts and blood vessels due to drug abuse, and they are more likely to die from overdose symptoms when they require emergency room treatment due to substance abuse.

Difficulty Facing Cultural Perceptions of Addiction

Women and Addiction

Women who abuse illicit drugs or alcohol tend to endure a much higher degree of social scrutiny due to the gender roles typically assigned to women, specifically as caretakers, nurturers, wives, and mothers. Social attitudes surrounding these roles generally create different expectations for women and their behavior, resulting in very different needs when it comes to substance abuse treatment.

Any person who goes through the process of substance abuse evolving into addiction and ultimately leading to recovery will experience some degree of shame, but this stigma tends to be more acute and harsher for women. Overcoming this stigma or confronting it among friends and even family members can be incredibly distressful, and women face a much higher risk of strained personal relationships as a consequence of substance abuse.

Psychological Challenges Facing Women

Substance abuse researchers believe that the pressure of issues concerning child custody, parenting, divorce, the loss or death of a co-parent or parent, and other traumatic events are more likely to propel women toward substance abuse than men. Women who suffer as victims of domestic violence are also more likely to engage in substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

Over time, addiction changes the way the brain processes information and stimuli. These changes tend to occur more rapidly in women, making women more likely to not only experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic disorders, but also more likely to develop long-term psychiatric conditions as the result of substance abuse.

Substance Abuse and Pregnancy

When substance abuse escalates to dependency and addiction, those who experience this shift may engage in risky behavior more frequently, especially when it comes to securing more of their drug of choice. Women face exceptional risk when it comes to the world of illicit drugs as they are generally more vulnerable to sexual assault and carry a risk of unwanted pregnancy while under the influence.

Whether a pregnancy is wanted or unwanted, expected, or unexpected, a mother’s substance abuse puts her child at incredible risk. Women who abuse opioids and other illicit drugs while pregnant risk serious permanent damage to their babies, increase the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and are also more likely to give birth to children with significant birth defects and medical complications.

Childcare and Substance Abuse Treatment

Many people who have developed substance abuse disorders over the years would not fit into the typical “junkie” stereotype, and some of them are parents with careers and household responsibilities. Mothers who develop addictions may have scheduling problems when it comes to arranging childcare while they go into substance abuse treatment. They may not be able to afford the costs of childcare and allow themselves to experience worsened substance abuse and withdrawal to make ends meet.

It can also be very difficult for women to secure legal representation or substance abuse treatment during or following pregnancy because of the social stigmas surrounding addiction. Very few addiction treatments centers in the US offer the full range of addiction recovery services, legal services, childcare options, and parenting classes that many women with substance abuse disorders need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

The Benefits of Women’s-Only Substance Abuse Treatment

The Benefits of Women’s-Only Substance Abuse Treatment

Studies into sex-specific substance abuse treatment has revealed that women tend to display more positive recovery outcomes and higher long-term abstinence rates after completing substance abuse treatment designed specifically for women. There are many reasons for this, but the noticeable increase in quality outcomes tends to fall to specific attention to women’s physical needs and breaking down the guilt, shame, and pressure that social stigmas place on women in substance abuse recovery.

A women’s-only substance abuse treatment program generally allows women to receive more complete and more specific attention to their behaviors, medical needs, and psychosocial issues. Women’s-only treatment tends to be especially effective for women who have experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse during their addictions. Ultimately, it is vital for any woman experiencing substance abuse on any level to understand the unique risks, challenges, and obstacles she may face on her road to recovery.

Echo Recovery exists to help those seeking substance abuse treatment find the programs and treatment centers most suitable to their needs. If you need a women’s-only substance abuse treatment program or want to learn more about what these programs can offer, contact Echo Recovery today and we can connect you with the resources you need to start your path to recovery.

Sober Housing Funding for Substance Use Disorders

Housing Funding Can Better Help People With Substance Use Disorders

Housing issues tie in closely to substance use disorders in many ways, and stable housing is often essential to recovery. But for many people who experience substance use disorders, permanent housing can be incredibly difficult to achieve. Homelessness and other issues related to housing can lead to relapses, making recovery more difficult. State-funded sober living homes and grants for transitional housing, among other types of aid, help many individuals in recovery, but more funding is still needed.

How Housing Helps With Recovery

For many individuals with addiction, substance abuse habits are tied to “people, places, and things,” which means that familiar friends, locations, habits, and more can trigger substance use, which is why recovery housing is so important. Staying in the same home or returning to the same house after inpatient treatment can increase the chances of relapsing.

Recovery housing can come in several different forms, but will generally have some support staff on-site or nearby, as well as the support of peers going through the recovery experience together. These types of housing provide extra time and support for those in recovery in a safe, supportive, and drug-free environment.

Homelessness and Substance Use

Substance use disorders and the behaviors associated with addiction can be very destructive, often leading to homelessness. The use of drugs and alcohol is widespread among homeless individuals, and the lack of stable housing can become a barrier to achieving sobriety. Those experiencing homelessness likely have serious limitations in being able to afford any housing or treatment for their addictions. Grants for sober living homes help make it possible for many more individuals to find stable housing while in recovery.

How Housing Helps with Recovery

Does Medicaid Pay for Sober Living?

Medicaid and Medicare are two health insurance programs funded by state and federal governments and are available to certain age groups and income brackets. Medicaid and Medicare can provide low-cost or even free health care, including drug and alcohol recovery treatments; however, the details can vary between the different programs, as well as from state to state.

While these essential insurance programs can help with the initial recovery treatments, they usually do not cover the costs of halfway houses and other transitional or sober houses. Therefore, the need is great for additional funding for sober living situations. Grants for halfway houses and other transitional housing options are critical to providing the necessary financing to those in need.

Housing Approaches to Help Those in Recovery

There are two main approaches to addressing the issue of stable housing for people in recovery, especially those who are homeless. Both approaches are extremely helpful: Sober Living Houses (SLHs) and a program called Housing First (HF).

Sober Living Houses

Sober Living Houses Defined

Sober Living Houses provide a drug and alcohol-free housing environment for individuals who are attending a recovery program. This kind of recovery housing is generally found in residential, single-family neighborhoods. Support levels can easily be customized to match the level of need for the individuals staying at the residence. For example, many sober living homes are dedicated to one gender or offered during a specific level of care. Often times a long-term addiction treatment program offers lower levels of care. As an individual graduates from in-patient, residential care they may go into an outpatient program. If they do not live in the area, often times they need to find a sober living facility where they can stay while they continue their treatment program.

Generally, in this scenario, an individual only needs to live in a SLH for a month or two while they complete the full continuum of care. A typical long-term program transitions a patient from detox to inpatient and finally outpatient care over the course of a 2-3-month period. Ideally someone recovering from a severe addiction will remain in professional care for 6 months or more. However, often times insurance carriers will not approve a patient for longer than 3-6 months and because of this, SLH often see a fairly high turnover.

Sober Living Homes are monitored by a house manager 24/7. There are normally strict house rules and individuals are free to stay as long as they follow the rules, including staying clean and sober and paying the rent.

Housing First Defined

Housing First Defined

In the Housing First approach, stable housing is placed as priority number one for individuals and their families who may be struggling with homelessness in addition to addiction. Often in this type of accommodation, there are no barriers or conditions to attain the housing. Many other types of recovery homes have conditions for complete sobriety to remain in the home, but the Housing First model ensures that permanent housing is available without restrictions. The thinking behind this approach is that those who have more stable housing and voluntarily accept treatments and services are more in control of their progress with addiction recovery and mental health.

Housing First really evolved during the 90’s when large numbers of people remained homeless despite being part of a recovery program. Low income individuals might find coverage for a state program, but still not have access to safe, sober living housing. Housing First doesn’t require the individual be part of an addiction recovery program, however, only that the individual is seeking help for a supportive living situation. Advocates argued that individuals suffering from a mental health or co-occurring disorders are more vulnerable without a stable living situation.

Different than Sober Living Houses, Housing First focuses on harm reduction rather than promoting a strictly abstinence-based recovery. The HF immediate focus is on helping the individual find a safe, stable environment to live in. Some of these arrangements go beyond a residence with 24/7 monitoring. HF provides individuals apartments within the general housing market and other times housing within a centralized setting where multiple homeless individuals are housed together. Programs vary and so do the supporting services. In programs without on-site staff, case managers will visit residents on a regular basis to monitor problems and provide referrals to off-site services as needed.

Sober Living Housing Versus Housing First

Each of these models addresses the problem in different ways, and both should be supported. Recovery from addiction is not a one-size-fits-all path, and each of these approaches can be successful for different individuals in recovery. Recovery housing is needed for those who need sober living with more structure and support, while in an addiction recovery program and sometimes also while they are transitioning back into “regular” life and not returning back home after their care program is over.

The Housing First model is intended to support individuals who have a mental health disorder or a dual diagnosis, that also need somewhere to live. Candidates for Housing First might have a co-occurring disorder, but do not necessarily have to be in treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction in order to get help from the Housing First program. HF is best for those who can be more independent but need a supportive housing environment due to their mental health issues.

It’s easy to see that both types of programs are essential and should be supported. For either approach, substance abuse prevention grants can be used to help fund these programs, and this outside funding is critical to keep these programs going.

The Echo Foundation Recovery Housing Initiative

At ECHO Recovery, we understand that not everyone can afford to find safe, stable housing while undergoing an outpatient addiction recovery treatment program. Housing for these types of situations is often not covered through the treatment plan or insurance programs. Usually, outside funding is used to fill in these gaps and ensure that even those who cannot afford it themselves can have access to safe housing while in treatment.

The ECHO Recovery Foundation provides housing scholarships to those in recovery and in financial need. These scholarships provide critical support to some of our most vulnerable individuals, but we need your help to keep these programs going. You can support our mission to provide housing and recovery treatment to these individuals with a donation in any amount.

The ECHO Foundation Recovery Housing Initiative

Contact us to learn more about how you can get involved or donate to the recovery movement today to help our important housing initiative. We appreciate your support.

benefits of art therapy

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

A client of a prominent east coast drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility bounced into group one morning eager to share the arts and crafts project she had been assigned to complete the week prior. Clients were given blank paper mâché masks and access to a supply cabinet stocked to the gills with basic craft supplies and asked to visually represent the face they show to the world on the outside of the mask, and what’s really happening within on the inside of the mask. With her mask tucked safely inside a paper bag, she allowed her fellow clients to show off their designs as they narrated the creative process behind their inception.

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

One by one, clients trotted out their creations, some abstract or cartoonish in appearance, others painstakingly crafted in their owner’s likeness, but all with some version of darkness or chaos lining their interiors. One was a study in black and white, unadorned on the outside and caked in globs of black tempera on the inside. One client, instead of painting the mask at all, chose to cut it to pieces that she let flutter to the floor with a dramatic flick of the wrist.

When it was finally her turn, she giddily unveiled her masterpiece – the Mona Lisa of rehab mask projects – hand painted to match her exact skin tone and the muted greens of her irises, complete with adhesive drug store eyelashes and finished with long shanks of blonde hair cut from a $40 wig overnighted courtesy of Amazon Prime just for the occasion. This was the face she had become accustomed to showing the world — one of perfection in the details while she skillfully concealed the 24/7 pandemonium that took place behind the scenes. Thus, in contrast to the flawless exterior, the inside of the mask resembled an elaborate high school science project – the architecture of a brain bedazzled with chaotic bursts of color, sparkling gemstones, and Styrofoam eyeballs projected in 3D by curlicue pipe cleaners.

Art Therapy Reveals the True Self 

Welcome to the world of art therapy, my friends. That client was me, and I unwittingly gave my therapist a treasure trove of information to unpack and process over the following few weeks with one simple display of creativity. Where I may have been unable to express through my command of the English language the existence of my obvious perfectionism, much less its origin, my mask spoke volumes about my state of mind and gave my treatment team a roadmap to my psyche.

How Art Therapy Plays a Role in Addiction Recovery

According to the American Art Therapy Association (arttherapy.org, 2017), art therapy can be used “to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”

When utilized in conjunction with a drug and alcohol treatment program, artistic exploration gives clients the opportunity to express themselves through visual and symbolic mediums and communicate in ways that enhance traditional talk therapy. In its traditional application, art therapy is conducted by a master’s level professional whose training has prepared them for the highest ethical standards and culturally proficient work with diverse populations.

How Art Therapy Plays a Role in Addiction Recovery

Creative expression has become a cornerstone of modern rehabilitation programs, giving clients a multi-dimensional platform for exploring the more obvious as well as previously uncharted facets of their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Using both traditional and unconventional mediums, clients can communicate in a holistic way that enhances their wellbeing by reducing stress and depression, bolstering self-esteem, and providing a creative outlet.

As a bonus, creative expression is often the highlight in a day that is otherwise filled with introspection and the hard work of recovery.

What to Expect in an Art Therapy Session

Art therapy and creative expression take many forms, from conventional paint on canvas and pencil on paper, to song and dance, sculpture, vision boards, graphic journaling, roleplay, and mural design. For many, these sessions will be the first time one has explored the arts in sobriety which can feel both intimidating and empowering.

What to Expect in an Art Therapy Session

While working with clients at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center of which I am the Creative Expressions Director, I am often met with resistance by those who have never explored the arts, don’t consider themselves creative, or whose only artistic frame of reference is inexorably linked to using.

I encourage them to discard their preconceived notions of artistic pursuits and lose themselves in the process. We begin with an open mind and ask that they allow the process to be directed by the same higher power that we ask to direct our recoveries. Often, those who think themselves the most artistically challenged produce the most introspective, insightful pieces.

The Benefits of Art Therapy

The benefits of art therapy and creative expression far outweigh the client’s initial discomfort at having to reach beyond his or her safety zone.  These sessions help to:

  • Improve self-management by learning to focus and work within a discipline.
  • Alleviate depression by lowering the heart rate and bolstering dopamine levels.
  • Improve communication skills.
  • Enhance problem-solving skills.
  • Build self-esteem.
  • Mitigate pain, stress, and irritability.
  • Provide a positive distraction.

I personally witnessed the transformation of a client who had, prior to entering treatment, never touched a guitar without first getting high. She was a songwriter who penned dark tales of woe while under the influence and was petrified to unlatch her guitar case in front of her fellow clients. With a great deal of positive encouragement, she plucked through her first song sober and immediately burst into hot, fat tears. She did it!

The Benefits of Art Therapy

She performed in front of a live audience without spontaneously combusting, and at that very moment she created a new, sober frame of reference in her chosen art form.

Music with Maddie* was born and became a regular addition to the weekly schedule. Maddie wrote several original pieces about the journey from addiction to recovery, and after she successfully completed treatment, she flew to California to audition for a nationally televised talent show.

I’ve seen clients pick away at the edges of repressed trauma through guided painting projects.  I’ve watched the most introverted clients blossom like May flowers during an improv session.  I’ve seen wishes manifest into reality after a client enthusiastically shared the vision board that she was loathe to complete with the group.  Clients have prepared entire meals for their housemates after serving as sous chef during one of my cooking demonstrations.  There are those who have changed the trajectory of their recovery, their education, and their career based on projects we embarked on during our Friday afternoons that are entirely devoted to creative expression.

Art Therapy has a Lasting Impact

And that brings us back to the aforementioned mask project. That client explored her perfectionism through group and individual therapy, worked the magic of the 12-steps on it, and is proud to say that she now finds both growth and comfort in imperfection. It’s also what makes her a true believer in the transformative properties of creative expression in all its manifestations.


*name changed to protect anonymity

Hannah Coates Art

Art in Recovery: Hannah Coates Encourage Others to Work Past Insecurities

Hannah Coates

Artist: Hannah Coates

Art Medium / Style: Primarily acrylic paint, also ink/pen mixed media

Find Hannah Instagram: @hannahcoatesart

Meet Featured Artist in Recovery: Hannah Coates

We sat down with artist, Hannah Coates to find out more about her story and why she is so passionate about art.

Hannah is a 23 year old artist from Baltimore, Maryland. She found recovery when she was 19 and is now in school for Graphic Design with a minor in Fine Arts. She wants to now use her love for art to help others find their sobriety too.

Outside of art, she loves listening to music and looks forward to going to live concerts. She likes a wide variety of genres but says her favorite is hip-hop. She also noted that, “Concerts are a lot more fun since I have been sober.”

Hannah says her Love of Art was Inspired by her Mother

“My mom was my main artistic influence, she is an art major and graphic designer. She had an art studio at the house growing up and educated me on many art forms as well as who the artists are. We often went to art museums, like Baltimore Museum of Art and The Walters Art Museum.”

Hannah and her mom

“It is time for parents to teach young people that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” – Maya Angelou

Hannah Coates Art on Table

How Art Helps with Addiction Recovery

“Art has helped my 100% in my recovery”, says Hannah when we asked her if she feels art has helped her overcome addiction. She went on to say, “Life gets harder when you are just getting sober and art helped to settle my mind, make a distraction for my feelings especially when I struggled getting my feelings out, it was also a buffer for my loved ones because I was able to use my art to work through my feelings and not always bombard them”.

“I want to convey confidence and encourage others to work past the insecurities and concerns about judgement of their art work.”

Hannah Coates Art

Art Helps Individuals with Self Expression

Hannah was able to find her own artistic perspective by allowing herself to be open minded in her process of creation and finding her own voice as an artist. We asked her if he work has a specific focus or intention. She said that a lot of her work is focused on helping individuals overcome any lack of confidence they have in their own abilities.

“I feel like my focus tends to be towards feminism, I want to support women in art and help women embrace their bodies and sexuality without it having to be sexual. I want to convey confidence and encourage others to work past the insecurities and concerns about judgement of their art work.”

Hannah Coates Art

What would you say to someone who is curious about creating but hasn’t expressed themselves using art yet?

“Try not to be as concerned about others judging your artwork even if you feel you are not going to be good at it. If you have an interest in art you should try it. Be patient, willing to try and fail and keep growing over time. Remember, it’s about the journey, not just the destination.”

A Reminder for Those in Recovery

As a person in recovery herself, Hannah knows that we tend to be very hard on ourselves. We even avoid trying things because we think we won’t be good at them. This is sad though, as it means that we are missing out on things we could be really good at or enjoy doing, simply because we’re so critical of ourselves.

Hannah reminds us that it’s not just art we miss out on though, it’s life.

“Being critical of yourself translates to many things in life, not just art. If you love it, keep doing it. Keep trying and remember progress not perfection.”

Hannah Coates

How the ECHO Foundation Helps Artists in Recovery

The ECHO Foundation helps individuals who are struggling with addiction while in treatment and beyond.

Often times, a person new to recovery does not have the means to support themselves while in the initial stages of treatment. The ECHO Housing Initiative is designed to help these individuals take the first step back towards becoming productive members of society by providing scholarships towards safe and supportive housing and personal needs while in recovery.

In addition to the housing scholarships, ECHO aims to provide individuals in recovery and their families a voice in community organizations, networks and government initiatives that matter to them most.

We have seen the power of art in recovery.

Art offers a path to healing unlike other forms of self-expression allow. We want to share the stories, such as Hannah’s, of those who have used art to help overcome addition. Sharing real experiences helps bring people together.

ECHORecovery.org is a platform for artists in recovery to share their work, tell their story and bring hope to others who are looking for something to move them.

Why We Support Art in Addiction Recovery

Art inspires when words fail. 

Do you have an Art in Recovery story to share? Submit your request to us and let’s talk about a collaboration. Contact us here. 

 

Painting on Easel

Art in Recovery: Laura Mechling Revisits Roots, Gets Personal

Artist: Laura Mechling and her Mom


Artist: Laura Mechling

Instagram: @lalala____scribbles

Medium/Style: Pen & Ink, Simple Lines, Black on White, mixed media and collage work


Not everyone is an artist, or so it is that many people believe. True art, not only lies in the beholder, but is also a direct manifestation of each person’s authentic self. What we, as humans, can keep emotionally hidden will often cry out through detailed etchings and the brush strokes of time. Our painful truth and resolve come to life through art in recovery.

Why Laura Mechling

This is a featured interview on artist Laura Mechling. Although she is not in recovery her works are inspired by those close to her, friends and family who fight the disease of addiction every day. Mechling is a voice for many aspiring artists yet to be discovered, until they find themselves doing art in rehab. One of the many benefits of artistic expression during addiction treatment is the reconnection with the subconscious self.

Laura - Art in Recovery

Pushing Beyond Fear during Art Therapy

I would tell someone not to be intimidated to try something new,” Mechling mused during our interview. “I think people are scared of the unknown because we never know the outcome of taking risks. Testing out a new form of expression might allow room for growth and a sense of awareness of themselves and others,” she continued.

She also draws a correlation between creating art in rehab and the recovery process as a whole. Mechling explained, “Many people would rather stay in their comfort zone of living in old habits, however, allowing themselves the time to work through the process, there comes the opportunity for awareness on the other side.”

Greater awareness is one of the many aspects that can be both alarming and restorative to a person in recovery. In fact, it’s one of the essential life skills that support healthier decision-making during sober living.

Laura - Art Therapy

Inspiring Imagery Creates Healing in Others

Using visualization is a key component of the practice of mindfulness, a valued resource for those seeking ongoing and consistent refuge from the negativity that permeates the world. Mechling delivers visualization of thought in the places she’s been, the people she’s spoken with, and the moments that defy logic. To her, there’s beauty in them all.

Her mind’s eye is shared through articulate expressions through pen and ink, simple lines, black on white, mixed media and collage work.

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.” Henri Matisse

Although art is meant to be seen and savored, for the artist it is merely an outpouring of either emotional release or thoughts channeled from a source unknown. Artists, like other creatives such as writers and musicians, can attest to their work as coming from divine intervention or another world.

Mechling reflected back on her earliest memories as an aspiring artist, and cites a special person near and dear to her as being a source of inspiration and support. “My mother was an art teacher and she would have mixed media available and allow me and my siblings to experiment at the kitchen table. But art really hit me in high school. I used all my free time to be in the art rooms.”

Our lady of Guadalupe (acrylic on velvet)

Drawing from Personal Experiences Is Artful

In order to get real with your art, you have to get to a place where “freedom of expression” comes from the soul, not your intellect. Mechling provides some of her favorite aspects of being in that sacred space of creating.

Art has always been an escape for me. I love the idea of creating something out of nothing.

When asked about a particular time in her life, when intention and focal points of her work had shifted, Mechling’s excitement was hard to contain. “I would say that my passion for art became strongest within the past seven years or so. I started looking at the world in a new light.”

This new light that Mechling mentioned is something that artists in recovery describe often as the metamorphosis of their healing.

Benefits of Artistic Expression during Addiction Treatment

Although Mechling is not a person in recovery, her message to those who are is resounding and parallels many of the reasons why more and more addiction treatment programs offer art therapy as a method for greater healing.

Once a person begins the recovery process, it can be likened to starting life over. It takes time, patience, and perseverance to remove old, self-destructive habits and replace them with newer, healthier ones.

Discovering how life feels again can be frightening and invigorating all at the same time. As emotions sway from one end of the spectrum to another, having the ability to find balance and inner peace is important. Art in recovery helps people find that balance while cultivating personal tranquility.

Laura - Art Therapy for Addiction

The Eight Ways to Reclaim Your Life through Art Therapy

In addition to the personal enjoyment that one gets by using charcoal, ink, watercolors or oil paint, clay, metal or other materials for the creation of art, the breadth of wellness it brings is astounding.

Art in Recovery provides:

  • Self-reflection
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-discovery
  • Emotional healing
  • Personal breakthroughs
  • Visual communication
  • Positive outlet
  • Relapse prevention

Using art to understand human emotion has been in practice for decades. Many years ago, psychologists and psychiatrists used art therapy in patients who were too young to verbally express their feelings. Known as incident drawing, children could draw pictures that would tell their story of trauma inflicted on them or someone close to them.

For the treatment of substance addiction, art therapy has a similar process from program to program and from person to person. It is in the details of the individual experience that decrees the differences.

Mechling Talks about Her Recent Change in Process

How inspiration comes is often hard to explain in words, though Mechling had no trouble revealing how it comes to be for her.

“I would have experiences and get a desire to recreate a moment on paper or draw a character from an interaction I had earlier that day. I can look at nature and take the pictures in my mind home with me and draw the memories in my own style.” She added, “I am fascinated with the ways children interact with the world around them. I am always thinking of ways I can draw the cycles of life and nature.”

Her strong connection with the human experience blossomed, redirecting her talent to Mother Earth. “This summer I have actually had a shift in my message that I want to convey as an artist,” she recalled attending two retreats, one in the mountains of Colorado and the other in Louisiana. “I now have a desire to create more authentic work that shows the beauty in nature as well as religious-inspired artwork. I feel that I am somewhat going back to the innocence of my childhood roots.”

Bird in Starry Night (acrylic on tree bark)

Get Up Close to Mechling Works of Art at the ECHO Recovery Art Show

Valentine (Acrylic on canvas)

To further showcase the importance of art therapy, ECHO Recovery is proud to continue this Art in Recovery blog series, featuring aspiring artists who found inspiration and recovery through art or who are inspired by those in recovery.

You too can support our featured artists and others by joining us for the first annual ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night this November at the Bel Air Armory. There you’ll find a wide array of artwork to admire and purchase.

If you’re musically inclined, here’s your chance to participate in the Open Mic and share your singing, instrumentals, or poetry in motion. Just an art and music admirer? Attend and help make a difference to the addiction recovery community.

Why We Support Art in Addiction Recovery

Art Show

Event Date and Time: Sat, November 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

Location: Bel Air Armory 37 North Main Street Bel Air, MD 21014

Artists Sign Up: Register to display and sell your work. 30 spaces available $35 Fee for about 10×10 space* *tables for displays available upon request

Musicians Open Mic Sign Up: Day of Event Short run time performances only

Tickets: $5 Donation**, children under 10 years old are FREE **Proceeds will be going to ECHO Recovery for 1st week sober living scholarships.
There will also be snacks, drinks available for sale. Your ticket helps Bel Air’s local Artists and the Recovery Community

Purchase Tickets to The ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night

Come support Bel Air’s local Artists and the Recovery Community. Together we can make a difference.

Art in Recovery

Why We Support Art in Addiction Recovery

Carrie shares her personal story about growing up with an alcoholic mother:

“I never thought of my mother as an artist. In fact, it was the family on my father’s side that always comprised the creative individuals of my name’s sake. Until I visited my mom while she was doing a 30-day rehab stint some years ago and she shared her paintings with me. Then I realized there was a whole different side of her that I never knew. But the discovery went much deeper than that.”

“Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.” – Stephen Sondheim, American composer

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If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction or are living with someone who does, life has undoubtedly become unmanageable. Chaos can dictate daily decisions and define the new norm. Life, and its unpredictability, even for those without substance abuse issues, can bring about self-defeating thoughts and harmful actions.

Art and Mental Health

In today’s society, there is a heightened risk of mental health decay due to the onslaught of negative social impressions. For those who want to remove drug and alcohol dependency from their lives will find that, even after treatment, maintaining mental health and avoiding the triggers that disrupt it is an ongoing task.

Never has it been more important to quiet the mind and reconnect personal spirit to every soul. This too, is a necessary component to achieving humanity’s balance, individually and collectively.

For those working on sobriety, art, in all its forms, proves to be the sanctity needed in an unscrupulous and impersonal world. A way to reconnect with old passions or even discover new talents they didn’t even know they had.

Addiction Can Happen to Anyone

Many people who have been caught up in drug or alcohol abuse have self-medicated to forget their pain, or, at the very least, numb its impact. Others’ addiction may have been circumstantial. For example, athletes after injury or anyone who had undergone surgery were prescribed opioids to relieve pain. We now know that opioid addiction can occur in as little as five days of use. No matter how a person develops a substance use disorder, there are similar results embedded in the process affecting each victim of the disease.

People

Emotional Response and Rescue

Over time and ongoing toxicity from drug and alcohol intake, emotional balance declines. During active addiction, as well as during the withdrawal process, the body and the brain are desperately trying to reset to homeostasis. But without a proper drug detox and ongoing treatment, it’s a losing battle.

People under the influence on a consistent basis will enact inappropriate responses to their environment and social situations. Mood swings, erratic behaviors, and impulsivity are common. Anxiety, depression, and reactive moments are routine and can escalate into post-traumatic-stress disorder.

All of the above are repercussions from the misappropriation of the human “fight or flight” response that drug and alcohol addiction hijacks. As such, an individual can easily overreact to an everyday situation, compounding their problem and making it near impossible for social interaction and the ability to forge healthy relationships. Exercising creative expression through art in recovery is a non-invasive way to put emotions back into place.

Art in Recovery - Painting

Self-Expression in Art Eases the Effects of Trauma

If you were to take a cross-section of people in addiction treatment and pinpoint the exact root cause for their affliction, the majority could site prior trauma as the instigator for use.

Painting

Through recovery, clients learn how to access their emotions and get more comfortable with them. From there, understanding the why about emotional responses helps to better moderate and manage them when they arise. It’s often a painful and challenging process that fuels negativity and the resurgence of agonizing memories.

Even with effective traditional therapies, addiction recovery will often leave people with mental health conditions that hamper the ability to relax and focus.

By introducing art in recovery, each person can take a mental break from the racing and irrational thoughts that present each day and put emotions in neutral. Through a paint brush, ink pen, charcoal pencil or the gentle maneuvering of clay, art becomes the expression of emotions that words cannot explain. In essence, art in process does the talking without speaking a word.

The Inner Voice Needs a Healthy Outlet

People, at our core, are made of energy. Some of us naturally have more energy than others. Endurance athletes are a prime example; stage performers carry similar characteristics. After addiction has taken hold of a person, the connection between owning personal emotions and then communicating them to others is lost. Without a way to deal with emotions, mental health is always in flux and at the mercy of what a person can control or not.

Considering that life is full of the unexpected, having an outlet for emotional expression and an overabundance of energy is vital to overall wellness and avoiding potential triggers for drug relapse.

Art in recovery provides the resource in revealing one’s inner voice, and so much more.

Discovering Hidden Talents Can Heal

“Her paintings were simple but complex.” Carrie continues, “Looking back on my mother’s art in her own recovery, I believe it was truly representative of who she was as a person and why she was misunderstood. Her relationship with my father was based on her enabling his behaviors, much to the detriment of her self-esteem, personal worth, and the blossoming of any aspirations she may have held.

She was the support network for everyone else. Creativity was left to my father and his work. Mom was never given the opportunity to be heard through artistic self-expression. Until time in addiction rehab for a co-occurring disorder opened the door for her. Seeing her visual impressions on canvass in watercolors that blended haphazardly from left to right, it was bittersweet. I was happy to see her, the artist I never knew existed, yet sad that so much time had lapsed in her life before it came to fruition.”

Art Therapy Encourages Sharing and Expression

Art therapy for addiction treatment is done in a group setting where clients can learn to focus on their work while in the presence of others.

Music therapy provides people, even former musicians, time to rekindle their passion for play that took a back seat to drug abuse or alcohol addiction. Art therapy is more than an emotional outlet; it’s a manifestation of a person’s inner being. There’s beauty in that, and often inspires a person to delve further into their artistry, while helping others step outside of the fear of judgment to begin exploring art therapy for themselves.

sculpting

Why Addiction Treatment Includes Art

There is science behind the inclusion of art during drug rehab and alcohol addiction treatment. An article in Psychology Today points to the following benefits of art therapy that align with human needs during the recovery process:

  • Self-expression and learning how to just let life flow
  • No judgment or shame
  • Reconnecting with self, regulating emotions
  • Providing purpose while coping with loss
  • Helps with socialization and promotes playfulness
  • Empowers other abilities
  • Allows personal healing and shared healing

ECHO Recovery Supports Artists in Recovery

There’s a saying that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If art is an extension of the artist, then art is beauty in its honesty.

ECHO Recovery advocates for those who need help in treatment and beyond. That’s why we have decided to hold our first, annual ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night this November at the Bel Air Armory.

Art Show

Open to the public, the ECHO Art Show will have a diverse display of artwork to view and purchase.

Open mic – If you would like to highlight your talent musically come take the stage for a small timeframe singing, instrumental, poetry… there will be a sign up on Event day.

Are you an artist? Sign up to display your work and sell your work. We will have 30 spaces available for artists $35 Fee for about 10×10 space, tables for displays available upon request.

The Public Entrance Fee is a $5 Donation, children under 10 years old are free. Proceeds will be going to ECHO Recovery for 1st week sober living scholarships. There will also be snacks, drinks available for sale.

Event Date and Time:

Sat, November 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

Location:

Bel Air Armory 37 North Main Street Bel Air, MD 21014

Tickets:

Purchase Tickets to The ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night

 

Come support Bel Air’s local Artists and the Recovery Community. Together we can make a difference.

 

The Link Between Addiction, Depression, And Suicide

The Link Between Addiction, Depression, And Suicide

Suicide is a major issue in the United States, and one of the leading causes of death among young adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States overall and the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34 in 2016. Approximately 45,000 people died from suicide in 2016 within the United States. Certain risk factors exacerbate suicidal thoughts and ideation among young people – and depression and addiction are at the top of the list.

Major Risk Factors For Suicidal Ideation

Major Risk Factors When someone makes the decision to commit suicide, they do not do so at random. Years of trauma can contribute to suicidal ideation, as well as abusing drugs and alcohol. Feelings of extreme sadness, pain, and trauma often push a person to take this action, much to the grief of their friends and family. While many people may think about suicide throughout their lives, certain risk factors and occurrences can increase someone’s chance of committing suicide.

Substance abuse is a major risk factor for suicide, especially if the person is also experiencing other mental disorders such as:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Other personality disorders

In addition, stressful life events can push someone into committing suicide. Poor social support, loneliness, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness also increase a person’s risk of suicide. In addition, a history of childhood abuse, chronic pain, and prior suicidal behavior are risk factors for suicidal ideation. Feelings of aggression and impulsivity can lead others to act upon their suicidal thoughts.

Substance abuse can seriously impact a person’s life, leading to the stressful life events and feelings of isolation and loneliness that can exacerbate suicidal ideation. Relationships can crumble and people who suffer from addiction can isolate themselves from other people in order to use drugs and alcohol. Addiction can also increase instances of aggression, impulsive decisions, and chronic pain. Many people use drugs and alcohol to cope from traumatizing events in their past – making them susceptible to suicide.

How To Identify Suicide Warning Signs

Suicidal ideation does not exist in a bubble, especially if someone you know is suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Each person who experiences suicidal ideation will express their feelings in a different way. Some people may exhibit no warning signs at all, while others will show some of the classic signs of suicide.

However, if you notice that someone you love is exhibiting any of the following warning signs of suicide, you should not ignore them.

  • Exhibiting extremely anxious or agitated behavior
  • Using heavy amounts of alcohol and drugs
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family
  • Not participating in hobbies and other activities that they previously enjoyed
  • Expressing a desire to die or an interest in death
  • Engaging in reckless, dangerous behavior
  • Engaging in self-deprecating and self-critical talk
  • Suffering from insomnia
  • Exhibiting extreme irritability
  • A sudden, sharp decrease in their work and academic performance
  • Suddenly giving away personal and sentimental belongings
  • Evidence of self-harm on their body, such as cuts or burn marks

How To Help Someone Who Is Addicted And Suicidal

Helping someone who is struggling from addiction, depression, and suicidal ideation is not an easy task. Offering to help them seek treatment may feel like an attack or confrontation, while leaving them alone could increase their feelings of isolation. The best way to approach someone who is suffering from suicidal ideation and addiction is in a calm, measured, and prepared manner.

Pay attention to the warning signs that make you think they may be thinking about suicide. What is different about their behavior, actions, and overall persona? Has there been a sudden change after a traumatic event, or have you seen them gradually get worse over time? Knowing the reasons why you want to help them will aid you in your approach.

Approach your loved one calmly and with a great deal of care. Tell them that you are there for them, and they can tell you about whatever is on their mind. When someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts and addiction, they can feel trapped in their own thoughts and fall away from reality. By expressing their thoughts and feelings to you, they can bring themselves closer to reality. In addition, knowing exactly what is on their mind can help you make better decisions on how to help them. Remind your loved one that their life matters, that you care about them, and you want to help.

Offer to help your loved one contact a professional and seek psychiatric treatment. They may refuse to seek treatment for a number of reasons, including guilt, shame, and embarrassment. If you believe they need treatment, contact the professionals on their behalf. Accompany your loved one to the hospital and any treatment programs they may attend, and spend time with them. By establishing yourself as a consistent presence in their life, you can become a source of strength and someone to rely on – which a person who is struggling with addiction and suicidal thoughts needs to survive.

Seek Help For Addiction Today

Although addiction and depression can exacerbate suicidal thoughts and actions, help is available. Certain protective factors can reduce suicidal ideation in people struggling from addiction, and the first step is to seek professional help through a drug and alcohol treatment program. The following factors can reduce suicidal ideation in young adults struggling with addiction:

  • Being clean and sober from drugs and alcohol
  • Attending regular substance abuse support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs
  • Receiving mental health care from a trusted counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist
  • Identifying reasons for living
  • Believing in a higher power and adopting spiritual beliefs
  • Having stable relationships and responsibilities, such as employment and parenthood

You can achieve many of these protective factors by attending a drug and alcohol treatment program. If you are struggling with addiction anywhere in the United States, you are not alone. This issue impacts millions of people across the country. Help is available to aid you in reducing your dependency on the substance, manage withdrawal symptoms, and begin the path to recovery.

Seek treatment at a professional drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility as soon as possible. For additional resources on managing addiction and recovery, visit Echo Recovery today.

Addiction And Sleep Disorders: A Common Struggle

Addiction And Sleep Disorders: A Common Struggle

If you are recovering from an addiction to drugs and alcohol, you know that the road to recovery is full of challenges. You have to manage cravings, stave off relapses, handle withdrawal symptoms, and rebuild relationships, among many other tasks. However, one of the most common and most stressful issues that people in recovery face is sleep disorders. Not being able to sleep can heighten your chances of relapse and make recovery even more difficult – but there are strategies you can use to manage your sleep and get the rest you need.

What Happens To Your Sleep In Recovery?

According to the Journal of Addiction Medicine, people in recovery are 5 times more likely to suffer from insomnia than the general population. People in recovery are mainly at risk for these sleep disorders because of the complex psychological issues that occur when coming off of a substance, especially if you used this substance to help you fall asleep in the past. Sleep disorders can range during recovery – you may only deal with them during the withdrawal period, or you can keep experiencing them for weeks, months, or even years after recovery.

When it comes to addiction, you can experience long-lasting effects that impact your physical and mental health. Anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions contribute to insomnia – and these issues are also common side effects during the recovery process. Unfortunately, sleep disorders can also feed into the risk of relapse, making recovery even more difficult.

First, you may have used the substance you are recovering from to help you sleep in the past. Now that you are clean from this substance, you cannot rely on it to fall asleep. In addition, you may be battling with very unpleasant side effects while in recovery – anxiety, depression, stress, and fear are some of the most common. As a result, it is more difficult for you to fall asleep at night.

Since it is more difficult to fall asleep, the sleep disorder exacerbates some of your recovery side effects. In particular, insomnia makes anxiety, depression, and stress even worse. You feel irritable, overtired, and like you cannot perform your daily functions – and your stress levels go through the roof.

You may think that old coping mechanisms, such as drug and alcohol use, are looking like a better decision. Since you are suffering from sleep deprivation, you could have more impulsive tendencies and want to end your discomfort as soon as possible. You could run the risk of relapsing at this point, or you could continue to suffer from sleep issues. However, a third option is available: using healthy methods to improve your sleep.

How Does Addiction Impact Your Sleep?

While sleep disorders in recovery are common, it is likely that you have experienced trouble sleeping before. Addiction itself can worsen your sleeping habits. Depending on the type of substance you used, you could impact your brain chemistry and sleep cycles. In addition, addiction withdrawal symptoms can also reduce your quality of sleep.

Because of the changes that drugs and alcohol make to your body, it can be very difficult to develop healthy sleeping habits while on these substances. Recovery and healthy sleep methods are the best options.

Addiction throws your natural body clock out of its rhythm – you often stay up very late in the night and wake up very late in the day. Drugs can also impact the time you spend in REM sleep, which reduces your feelings of restfulness in the morning. It takes longer to fall asleep when you are addicted to a substance, and you will reduce your overall sleep time because you often wake up during the night.

Tips For Improving Sleep While In Recovery From Addiction

While sleep disorders are often unavoidable in addiction recovery, it doesn’t mean that you cannot get a good night’s sleep. Follow these tips to enjoy a better night’s sleep and naturally improve your symptoms:

  • Exercise plays an important role in regulation your sleep cycles and increasing your relaxation during the day. In addition, exercise produces natural endorphins that can aid in your recovery journey. Performing 15 to 30 minutes of exercise about 3 to 4 hours before you go to bed can have a great impact on your ability to fall asleep.
  • Meditation can also aid in helping you fall asleep, especially if anxiety or intrusive thoughts play a role in your insomnia. With consistent practice, you can reduce your stress and help you focus on the present, both of which can help you fall asleep easier.
  • You can change your sleep environment to promote relaxation and aid you in falling asleep. If your mattress is uncomfortable, invest in a new one and supply it with supportive pillows, new blankets, and clean sheets. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Invest in a white noise machine to block out intrusive noises.
  • Using electronic devices right before bed can make it harder to fall asleep, since the blue light can block the release of your sleep hormones. Enable night mode to lower your exposure to this light before bed or avoid screens completely in the hours before you fall asleep.
  • A poor diet can also make it more difficult to get some rest, in addition to increasing stress and discomfort. Avoid foods that are high in sugar, fat, spice, and caffeine after midday. Incorporate foods that promote sleep, such as legumes, leafy green vegetables, dairy products, and meats, into your diet. Avoid eating large, heavy meals late at night.
  • Establishing a regular bedtime routine can also help you fall asleep easier. Having a regular schedule allows you to develop a ritual that can help you combat insomnia and promote relaxation. Avoid doing anything other than sleeping and relaxing in your bed. Go to bed and wake up around the same times every day, including weekends. Perform relaxation activities before bed, such as meditating, doing some light yoga, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.

If you are still struggling from a sleep disorder during recovery, visit a medical professional as soon as possible. If you find yourself struggling with a sleep disorder due to addiction, seek professional treatment from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. For more information on pursuing your recovery journey, visit Echo Recovery today to gain valuable resources from others like you.

Fentanyl Overdoses Are Rampant, But Where Is The Drug Coming From?

Fentanyl Overdoses Are Rampant, But Where Is The Drug Coming From?

By now, most of America is well aware of the ongoing opioid epidemic, or has at least heard about it on the news a time or two. However, while most of the country recognizes the names of the most common opioids – names like heroin and OxyContin – and may even have a little knowledge regarding their effects, the true danger of fentanyl remains a mystery to many. What is Fentanyl? Why is it so dangerous? Where does it come from?

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid, which means that it is a compound that resembles opium in the way it physically or psychologically affects the user. Originally developed in 1959, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid meant to provide anesthetic and pain relieving effects to those who had recently had major surgery. Like other opioids, such as morphine and codeine, fentanyl was first produced for medical purposes.

Fentanyl is over 100 times stronger than morphine, which made it extremely effective at addressing pain during and after surgery. In the 60’s, fentanyl was administered as an intravenous dose to provide anesthetics before surgery. Due to the drug’s usage primarily in the hospital setting, there were no cases of fentanyl abuse at that time.

However, in the 1990s, manufacturers developed a fentanyl patch that could be applied to the skin for long-term pain relief, as well as a lollipop that could be consumed to provide pain-relieving benefits. Cancer patients enjoyed the pain relieving benefits of fentanyl, as well as the reduction in the emotional responses to pain. Unfortunately, recreational users did, as well.

Why Is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

As mentioned, fentanyl is extremely potent – 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. In fact, even two milligrams is strong enough to cause death in adults. So, why do users risk death with such a strong substance? Sometimes, those using fentanyl are unaware.

In the early 2000’s, drug cartels began cutting fentanyl with a number of other illicit drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamines, and especially heroin. Sometimes, the cut drugs are diluted and sold in bricks; other times, the product is pressed into pills and sold as Xanax, OxyContin, or other prescription medications. Either way, a poorly mixed batch can feature areas rich in fentanyl, which is much stronger than the drugs it imitates. An unsuspecting user can consume high amounts of fentanyl without even knowing they’re using the drug.

What’s the motivation behind cutting fentanyl into other drugs? First, fentanyl’s ready availability from foreign laboratories makes it hard for dealers to pass up the ease of mass production. Compared to heroin, which takes months of growing and cultivating – not to mention land – accessing synthetic fentanyl is simply easier. In addition, the high potency of fentanyl means manufacturers must only include a little in each pill on order to give the user the effects of using another prescription opioid.

Diluting and cutting fentanyl can result in a great deal of money to be made. In fact, street values of a kilogram of diluted fentanyl can reach upwards of $350,000, all for a product that cost only $3,000 in its purest form. In pill form, that same kilogram can result in a million pills worth as much as $20 apiece – up to $20 million in profits for the seller.

Where Does Fentanyl Come From?

One source of fentanyl in the US is legal prescription medications. Some users improperly obtain and consume fentanyl lollipops for recreational purposes. Others remove fentanyl gel from the fentanyl patches and concentrate and inject or smoke it. Still, legal prescriptions are only one source of fentanyl.

Primarily, fentanyl in the United States comes from China, through multiple channels. One way Chinese manufacturers send fentanyl to the US is via direct mail. Consumers purchase fentanyl and other drugs over the dark web; the drugs are then packaged and arrive directly at the consumer’s mailbox, ready for consumption. Since fentanyl is so potent, the product arrives in tiny envelopes, packed in small packages that are easy to overlook with the large volume of international mail that passes through the US Postal System every day.

In many cases, fentanyl via mail is intentionally mislabeled so that it passes through other countries that proved less conspicuous than China. Often, packages travel through countries like Tonga and Canada before finding their way to the United States. Hundreds of shipments are seized each year, but hundreds more arrive at their destinations. When you consider just how potent a small envelope of fentanyl is, hundreds of shipments takes on a scary, new meaning.

However, in other cases the fentanyl pipeline is much more complicated than a direct route from China to US shores. First, much of the bulk fentanyl produced in China gets funneled through Mexico, where it is accessed and distributed by the same drug cartels that push other drugs across the US border. It is diluted, cut with other drugs, and distributed – usually through San Diego – to dealers across the county.

How does the fentanyl cross the border? The bulk of the US fentanyl trade comes from the Sinaloa and Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels. Like many other drugs, fentanyl reaches the US via the cartel’s smuggling routes on foot, via car, semi-truck, or boat. To that end, seizures of fentanyl have occurred in produce trucks, shoes, buses, and in airport passenger terminals.

What Can We Do About It?

Investigators in the United States and Mexico are working together to try and halt shipments of fentanyl from coming into the United States, which includes efforts to cease manufacturing, cutting, and transport operations in Mexico. Border security, mail inspections, and other efforts continue on both sides of the US borders with Canada and Mexico. China, as well, has begun efforts to curb fentanyl production with a series of regulations on the chemicals involved.

Still, officials are fighting a tough battle. Fentanyl has maintained its position as the most commonly overdosed drug in the United States since 2016, when it first surpassed other opioids in that respect. Similarly, between 2014 and 2015, officials saw a 2,400% increase in the seizure of fentanyl at the border. Cooperation among all countries and agencies is necessary to limit the amount of this truly dangerous drug that crosses our borders.