Read my blog below "Giving Up The Ghost" that highlights my story in the book!

Scott M. Davis, M.D., M.A., FASAM

Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine


Dr. Scott M. Davis, M.D. is an Internist and Addiction Medicine Specialist. Graduating from Boston University School of Medicine in 1991, he completed his medical training in Internal Medicine from the University of California at Irvine and subsequently, a Fellowship in Addiction Medicine with Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Dr. Davis is now widely regarded as a leading expert in the field of Addiction Medicine, garnering requests for his substance abuse expertise from numerous professional organizations and government agencies as diverse as the California Board of Registered Nursing, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the U.S. Government’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), and the United States Justice Department. His most recent book is Living Jonathan's Life, (publisher, Health Communications Inc.,released January,2008.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

How I Would Help Eminem Battle Drug Addiction

Recently the famed rap artist Eminem publicly announced his own battle with drug addiction, primarily with prescription drugs. On the heels of this, superstar Elton John, himself in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction, publically offered his own support to assist Eminem. Firstly, to Eminem, I offer a very heart-felt and empathetic "Atta-boy!". Why? Quite simply, the first step in recovery from drug addiction (and argueably the most difficult), is Eminem's coming to terms with his having a problem, and that he is powerless over his drug(s) of choice. This is by definition the "First Step" in the recovery process. At this very early stage, I would help the rap artist by acknowledging his decision to "get clean" and take this difficult but immensely satisfying path called Recovery.

Kudos to Sir Elton John, for reaching out to Eminem, embracing him as one in recovery helps another, and offering his whatever support his own heart can muster to steer Eminem onto the path of freedom from drugs!

As an Addiction Medicine specialist, and author of "Living Jonathan's Life", detailing my own descent into addiction, I would suggest to Eminem several things that might assist him. One: you did one of the hardest parts by simply acknowledging your addiction, now keep the faith and the promise you (hopefully) make to yourself--to keep moving forward. You are an amazing artist and a benevalent human being in your own right. You owe the gift of recovery to yourself to keep those sparks alive!

Secondly, don't isolate--but allow others to help you help yourself. As we say in recovery, let others love you until you can love yourself again! Take that to heart!

Thirdly, be transparent to others and let yourself be vulnerable. As difficult as these can be for those of us suffering the disease of addiction-- they are important tenets of the Twelve Step process!

Sir Elton- thank you so much for your continued benevolence for others; your aid to Emimen is just one more incredible example.

Eminem-- keep the faith that you can overcome and enjoy your many gifts ahead; both those you possess as an artist, and those you will inherit as a human being in recovery!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How To Stay Sober During The Holidays

There are many reasons not to drink at a Holiday party. For example, you may need to avoid alcohol because you are driving, because you are a recovering alcoholic or simply because you are going somewhere after the party and you need to be clear-minded. There is also a chance that you want to have a drink or two but want to avoid getting drunk and losing control. In any case, there are some things you can do to stay sober.

1. Focus on the people, not the table or the open bar. Walk around, strike conversations and enjoy the music or the atmosphere. The more involved you are with your surroundings, the less chances you will stick around the drinks and lose count of how many you have had. If you are shy and know in advance you will be surrounded by strangers at the party, ask if you can bring a friend or family member along to help you cope with the environment.

2. Get a non-alcoholic drink as soon as you walk into the place. A glass of non-alcoholic beer or champagne or even soda or punch will give you the feeling of being part of the celebration without actually having to drink. Keep the glass in your hand and make sure is always full, so you won’t be tempted to take something else.

3. Have something to eat. It’s easier to avoid drinking if your stomach is full. If you are just trying to avoid having alcohol in excess but are OK with just a couple of glasses, eating something will keep your blood stabilized and prevent you from getting drunk after just a glass or two of champagne.

4. Have a glass of sparkling water or soda in between drinks. Alcohol dehydrates, which will make you thirsty and in turn makes you drink even more. By alternating drinks, you keep your blood alcohol under control and your instincts awake.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Giving Up The Ghost: A Physician In Recovery

The pills- he had to find the pills. Running from his house to his leased car, he yanked open the front door and reached for the fuse box. The stash he kept there was gone. Frantically pusing his hands under the front seat, he poured through the car before ripping off the dashboard.Unable to find his bag of sleeping pills, Scott Davis, M.D., endured a long, sleepless night. Lying awake, he wondered if his wife had found his stash when she’d had the car detailed earlier that day. He didn’t dare ask, and at any rate, she was sound asleep. In the morning, Davis stopped at a pharmacy on his way to work, writing himself a bogus prescription as he had many times before, only mildly concerned that someone would notice the fictitious name on the prescription. Logging a normal shift at the HMO clinic, Davis stopped working only once that day to pop a handful of Vicodin in the bathroom. Knowing it would take about an hour for the drug to take effect, he returned to his office. The clinic director was waiting for him, accompanied by another physician. The bogus prescription had been tagged by the pharmacy and the clinic director asked Davis if he’d written it. Davis lied and then recanted, admitting to what he had done. He was immediately terminated. Walking Davis to the door, the clinic director said simply, “Scott, get some help.”

LOSS OF A TWIN It was September 1999 when Dr. Davis, who has since become the Certified American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Physician at the Betty Ford Center, entered a rehab facility called Springbrook Northwest (now called Hazelden Springbrook) in Newberg, Ore. Finally facing his prescription drug addiction, Davis also came to terms with the life and death of his identical twin brother.Davis and his twin brother Jonathan grew up in a middle class family in New Jersey, a fairly typical American family with the normal ups and downs but nothing out of the ordinary. Although Davis felt particularly close to his twin brother, Jonathan was intensely private and didn’t share much about his personal life. Davis first learned about his brother’s battle with AIDS when he found a small blue pill in Jonathan’s car during one of their visits together. Devastated, he was convinced that the pill belonged to someone else until he found the letter confirming Jonathan’s diagnosis in his room. Still, Davis chose not to mention it. In the years leading up to Jonathan’s death in 1993, there was no magic cocktail of drugs to combat the effects of AIDS. Jonathan quickly deteriorated, eventually moving in with his parents so his mother could care for him. In the prologue to his book, “Living Jonathan’s Life”, Davis writes, “The day I watched my twin brother die before my eyes, I experienced a loss that was devastating and without comparison. With his passing, I lost much more than a best friend, a confidante and a brother; I lost a human mirror, a reflection into which I had always been able to look and from which I could gain strength. When Jonathan died, that once radiant mirror turned black as stone. His disease had claimed me too”.

FIGHTING DEMONS With the death of his twin brother, Davis dove deeper into his work as an internal medicine physician. But he couldn’t sleep. Sleeping pills helped temporarily but brewing inside his body was a physical pain that wouldn’t go away. Davis was diagnosed with chronic abdominal pain, but not source was determined. The pain worsened until one physician suggested a morphine pump. Surgically inserted into his abdomen, the pump delivered a continuous stream of morphine.In rehab at springbrook, Davis was still convinced that he didn’t have a problem. When he finally broke down and admitted his deepest fears, the excruciating, chronic pain began to subside, and within days, it was gone.Davis says, “It was painful going to the depths. There were issues that I had surrounding the events of my brother’s death. I had a lot of survivor guilt related to that as well. With the added pressure of being the doctor in the family, it became a desperate situation for me.”According to Davis, escape is at the heart of drug or alcohol addiction – escape from reality. Whether it is emotional or physical pain, the user escapes from the real experiences of life. “The goal of recovery is to allow patients to begin to live and experience an authentic life that will have its challenges, but healthier ways of coping and living,” says Davis. “It’s not the drug that’s the problem. The drug is the drug. It’s the behavior around it. Usually it’s the problem going on inside of someone that causes them to take drugs in the first place.”Alcohol addiction in America has risen only slightly over the years, but prescription drug addiction has climbed exponentially. Davis is more direct. “It’s literally an epidemic. Laws to regulate these drugs are slowly being tightened but unfortunately there’s still so much access. There needs to be more education on the part of primary care physicians, including psychiatrists.” Davis explains the natural effect of these drugs quickly leads to higher dosages, and in some cases additional drugs and alcohol. The hallmark of drug and alcohol addiction and substance abuse is the loss of control around the drug which leads to the escalation and use.

FINDING RECOVERY Davis acknowledges that his own recovery included giving up the ghost, revealing the source of his pain and talking about it. It is a key part of recovery. “It’s walking through…engaging in a process. We have to learn to lean on other people, to trust and to be honest. It means being as transparent as possible. It’s part of the 12-step process.Davis’ book, “Living Jonathan’s Life,” which he completed in 2006, tells the story of his relationship with Jonathan, his addiction and his recovery. The book is available through Health Communications, Inc. (,, Barnes and Noble, and all Borders stores and online. Introspective and cathartic, Davis’ book gave him a different relationship with his twin brother. “I have a lot more hope than I used to…I know myself much better and I’m more open and honest now,” says Davis. “Even though my brother Jonathan died, I have a better relationship with him today. Thant helps carry me and translates into my relationships with other people as well as with my family.”Davis’ marriage survived his drug addiction and he and his wife have two young daughters. Davis is optimistic about his life. “I’ve been with the Betty Ford Center over four years now and I love working here. I feel like there’s so much I can do, not only working with patients in the clinical setting but teaching and educating.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Truth About Internet Addiction

Internet addiction definitely qualifies as an behavioral addiction (while alcohol and other drugs cause chemical addiction). As a person becomes more and more compulsively bound to surfing the Internet, adverse consequences on one’s family, work, and social life can occur as that seen with any other drug addiction. One can become addicted to the Internet in general, avoiding other real-life activities in favor of the online experience. One may also be addicted to particular sites or topic, such as one may become addicted just to online pornography, or even exclusively a certain type of pornography.

Qualifying for Internet addiction, a person’s Internet-accessing behavior would meet the same criteria as for addiction to alcohol or other drugs:

Increasing the frequency or duration of their access time to achieve the same satisfying effect.
Withdrawal symptoms can be seen: when not on the Internet, one can become depressed, anxious, isolative, or irritable
More time, or longer duration spent than what was intended
Persistent desire or failed efforts to control or cut down Internet use.
More time spent in activities to access Internet, use it, or even recover from the use.
Important social, occupational, and recreational activities are given up in favor of the Internet.
Continued and frequent Internet access despite physical, psychological, or social problem that occur as a result of it.

I have seen some extreme examples of Internet addiction where a person is so dependent on their online access that they have become malnourished, physically sick (exhaustion requiring hospitalization), or even psychiatrically unstable (extreme sleep deprivation to the point of hallucinations and psychotic breaks). The same surge in the brain hormone, dopamine, responsible for alcohol and drug addictions, is also seen surging in behavioral addictions such as with the Internet.

At the Betty Ford Center, a patient must have, at least, a primary chemical addiction to alcohol or other drug. But many patients also have a co-existing behavioral addiction, such as Internet addiction. The treatment is the same, as the Internet has become another “drug” for these patients: treatment involving abstinence from computer use (as this will drive Internet “craving”), showing them how they are powerless over their use, and teaching them new tools and skills to integrate them back into real-life and away from their online isolation.

Unfortunately, for so many people, the Internet has become a hi-tech, very easily available drug, that can carry with it the same consequences in life as any chemical. I believe it speaks to the state of our culture as promoting “instant gratification” and “right now” as the technologically advanced Internet provides today. While it certainly is a very powerful tool, with positive benefits to society, it may be undermining more moral values at an even faster pace.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why Longer Treatment Is Optimal

For many individuals contemplating treatment for addiction, ninety or more days of residential treatment can be a daunting thought; even difficult for some to consider beyond the once-mainstay “30 day” inpatient treatment program. While many programs still use this “30 day” model, this duration was not based on research or science. It was simply the time period that insurance carriers agreed to provide coverage in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and so was adapted as the model for treatment.
Fast-forward nearly seventy years. The wisdom found in experience, combined with large outcome studies, have clearly shown that patients completing at least 90 days of residential treatment have a significantly reduced relapse rate compared with those who stay for shorter time periods. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) now considers 90 days of treatment as the “gold standard”. With longer treatment, patients have more time to fully participate in a meaningful level of treatment. They are able to begin applying and “practicing” real-world skills important for their recovery in the relative safety of a residential program.
Detoxification from alcohol and other drugs, especially in the face of other physical and psychological issues, may be prolonged and may take several days up to several weeks to complete. Within that timeframe, a patient may just begin engaging in the treatment process towards recovery, which is continued and reinforced during the longer stay in residential treatment.
The length of detoxification can vary greatly due to multiple factors that must be accounted for at the start. An uncomplicated detoxification from alcohol in a relatively healthy patient may be as short as 48 hours. Conversely, patients with a history of withdrawal seizure from alcohol, or dependence to benzodiazapines (i.e. Valium, Xanax, or Ativan) usually require a longer “controlled” taper off of these drugs with medication that will prolong detoxification. The Betty Ford Center employs state-of-the art detoxification protocols that affect the duration of detoxification based on multiple factors in a patient’s history.
At the onset of treatment, a multitude of factors can make it more difficult for a patient to engage in treatment quickly, and increase the need to extend treatment for up to 90 days or more. These may include a prolonged detoxification as discussed, or complications that may develop during the Detox period (such as high blood pressure or high blood glucose levels, for example) that require closer, longer monitoring. Of course, a patient may be lacking motivation to begin treatment immediately, or may be in frank denial of their disease that would slow engaging into the treatment process.
Addiction to alcohol or drugs is also rarely an isolated event. Many serious problems coexist, including multiple drug addictions, legal and criminal problems, mental and physical health disorders, professional licensure issues or a family home-life that is not conducive to new recovery. Research again has shown that the return to drinking or drug use is considerably lower after 90 days of treatment even when these complicating problems are present. At the Betty Ford Center, for example, alcoholic/ addicted physicians who undergo a 90 day treatment program enjoy an impressive 78% long-term sobriety rate, with five to seven years of continued monitoring.
The traditional 30-day treatment program may certainly be appropriate for many patients. However, a longer length of stay allows a patient to focus on recovery, while learning new tools to maintain long-term sobriety.

Friday, June 26, 2009

As i began to discuss yesterday, and becoming more apparant today, Michael Jackson's excessive use of prescription drugs may well have contributed to or caused his demise. Reports from those who knew him well are surfacing of his narcotic addiction and his treatment of chronic pain.
Alone these drugs such as the narcotics Demerol and oxycontin- which Michael Jackson purportedly was prescribed repeatedly- can ease pain but also have serious physical, psychological and social consequences. In combination, these drugs greatly increase the risk for overdose and death. Also, a paradox exists for the treatment of chronic pain with narcotics. As one continues to use these drugs for a prolonged period to reduce pain- in fact, pain can actually worsen as the narcotics are continued. These drugs over time actually make the body more sensitive to pain. A vicious cycle then ensues-- more pain develops, more drug is taken to relieve the pain, and then more pain occurs, and so on. I have seen countless patients fall into this cyclic trap of pain and pain medication, that eventually leads to addiction. One can only wonder if Mr. Jackson himself was its victim who eventually was befallen by overdose.
Perhaps this most tragic example of the consequences of drug addiction can show the world that the disease of addiction does not discriminate, and must be taken very seriously. It can equally affect the lives of those who live at the lower rungs of our society just as well as touching those, like Michael Jackson, who lived in its upper limelight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Did Michael Jackson's Prescription Drug Use Lead To His Death?

Prescription drugs when used properly can have many beneficial effects- including significant reduction of pain, reduction in anxiety and improved sleep for instance. However, when used improperly, these medications can be quite harmful and, in fact, can become quickly fatal. Narcotic painkillers, for example, when taken in dosages that exceed the recommended amounts, or when combined with other medications or alcohol, can create a sudden, large drop in blood pressure. Physically, narcotics have an effect of dilating blood vessels, dropping blood pressure, causing the heart to have to work harder to maintain a normal blood pressure. If the heart is already compromised- as can occur due to stress, physical or even excessive psychological illness, or co-occurring physical illness- the added workload on the heart can lead to abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) that can result in death. Drug overdose- that which may have led to Michael Jackson's untimely death- can quickly lead to death in this manner.

Whether overdose on prescription drugs lead to Michael Jackson's death is unclear at this early stage, and simply speculation now. However, this certainly must be considered a possibility, particularly given his past history of drug abuse and need for treatment. Past behavior and family concern is frequently a "red flag" for a drug problem. Relatives of Michael Jackson had publically expressed serious concerns in the past for possible drug addiction. Unfortunately, drug overdose may never be known in certainty as the cause of death, as is the case in many instances.

I will continue my blog discussion tomorrow on prescription drug abuse/ addiction and further discussion on how this may have contributed to Michael Jackson's untimely death. Please comment if you wish in this discussion. Latest Resources

New York Times Book Review : "An eye-opening look into the hidden world of America's drug problem."

The Midwest Book Review : "An engrossing, solid narrative."

Publishers Weekly: "...Captivating and gripping".

Writer's Digest: "After the first two chapters, I couldn't put it down".