Informed Families Catalyst

President's Message - May 2015

Posted by Peggy B. Sapp, President & CEO on May 23, 2015 at 8:28 AM


Can I get an A-M-E-N?! No, this isn’t a religious discussion; it is why people love our Joe’s dinner: NO SPEECHES. We just finished our 30th Annual Informed Families Dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant – and it was the most successful fundraiser we’ve ever had.

Thanks to our Co-Chairs Extraordinaire Phillis Oeters of Baptist Health South Florida and Anita & Ron Shuffield of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realty International/Christie's International Real Estate whose combined enthusiasm, dedication and great skills could move mountains, we raised close to $350,000 to support our statewide prevention programs, save lives and help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free.

If you’ve ever attended our Joe’s dinner, you know that the event is fantastic, complete with local celebrity sightings, a lively pre-dinner social and Joe’s signature stone crabs and legendary service. What you have never witnessed at a Joe’s event is a speech.

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Topics: President's Message, addiction, underage drinking, Events, children, Informed Families, Joe's Stone Crab

Instagram Study Sheds Light On Drug Use At Summer Music Festivals

Posted by Informed Families on May 1, 2015 at 11:59 AM

An analysis of Instagram posts in March shed light on anticipated drug use at this year's Summer Music Festivals. reviewed over 3.6 million Instagram posts mentioning 14 different Music Festivals to determine the percentage of posts that contain language about alcohol and drugs, including 61 popular terms associated with those substances.

The study shows that alcohol is  the most prevalence drug at concerts and festivals, followed by "Molly," Marijuana and Cocaine. 

Related: How To Tell If Someone You Know Is Hooked On Prescription Drugs

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Topics: addiction, prescription drug abuse, drug abuse, overdose

From The Front Lines: Hiding In Plain Sight

Posted by David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, CPP, ICADC, NCAC II, Assistant Vice President, South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center on April 16, 2015 at 1:54 PM

Did you know that, according to last year’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly a third of people who use drugs for the first time begin by using a prescription drug non-medically? Did you know that the data suggests that one in 15 people who take non-medical prescription pain relievers will try heroin within 10 years?

Being fortunate to work with other engaged community leaders on both the Addiction Services Board as well as the Miami-Dade Criminal Justice Council, we often discuss whether/how policymakers are coming to terms with the prescription drug and heroin epidemic, which does not discriminate based on age, race or wealth. I wonder sometimes…do they know that addiction has crept into the halls of our elementary, middle and high schools? Do they know that it’s hidden on the internet? Do they know that it’s in our living rooms?

Do you?

I have been doing this a little while now and I can tell you something unequivocally…America cannot simply arrest its way out of our current drug crisis. Solutions require a broad, multi-pronged approach of education and prevention tools, as well as expanded treatment options.

Parents, children, teachers, students, employers, lawmakers and the public must open lines of communication.

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, teenagers are 50 percent less likely to abuse prescription drugs when they learn the risks from their parents. Proactive education about prescription drug misuse, heroin use, suicide and overdose is necessary. These are dangerous drugs with real consequences, and communities cannot be blinded by prejudice.

Additionally, addiction and overdosing can be prevented by cautious prescribing of painkillers. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) provide good tools to curb doctor-shopping by individuals with an addiction and identify improper prescribing practices. In fact, after one year of using a PDMP, New York and Tennessee saw respective 75 and 36 percent drops in patients who saw multiple prescribers to obtain the same drugs. I hope we can realize some of these same kinds of gains here in Florida someday.

Addiction needs to be recognized as a disease that can be prevented and treated and from which individuals recover. Only one in 10 people with addictions receive treatment — we can do better. Individuals with substance use disorders need access to safe, effective pain treatment and need to know how to use the resources available to them through the Affordable Care Act. In addition, primary care providers need to be aware of the signs of abuse and work with behavioral health caregivers when help is required.

Only access to education, prevention, treatment and recovery support will be able to put an end to this epidemic’s devastating consequences.

Don’t know where to start? There are lots of opportunities right here in Florida. One way you can support education and prevention is by reaching out to students and families with healthy messages through the Informed Families Ambassador Program.

If you would like to support local treatment and prevention efforts or find out more about volunteer opportunities to support your community, contact the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at 800-YES-HOPE.

Join Our Ambassador Program


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Topics: addiction, painkillers, prescription drug abuse, David Vittoria, recovery, prevention

President's Message - December 2014

Posted by Peggy B. Sapp, President & CEO on December 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM


It’s December again and we are rushing around in a frenzy. We have gifts to purchase and wrap, parties to attend or to host, trips to plan, lines everywhere in airports, stores, on hold on the phone, traffic to fight, work to finish… on and on and on. WE ARE STRESSED BUT WE ARE CREATING OUR OWN STRESS!!!!

With all the things we are trying to achieve in our personal, family and professional lives simultaneously, we are succumbing to our unnoticeable addiction to technology. Have a free moment? Check your phone. Stopped at a light? Check your inbox. Waiting in line? Visit Facebook.

Does this describe you? If not, I commend you and encourage you to keep up the good work. For those of us who I’ve just described, I have a great solution that doesn’t cost money or require much time. Stop holding your breath, relax, release and breathe.

Give yourself the gift of disconnecting from all the technology and the “doing” and take some time each day to just sit and breathe. Invest your energy in appreciating the people around you and all the wonderful blessings you have in your life. Spend technology-free time with your children – play a board game, visit a park, take a walk, work on a puzzle, make cookies or just sit and talk. Everything else will be waiting for you when you return to your hectic life.

From all of us at Informed Families to you and your families, I wish you very happy, healthy, meaningful and stress-free holidays. We appreciate you and your unwavering support for helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free. Remember, Love Yourself!




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Topics: President's Message, parenting, addiction, holidays, breathe, Facebook, stress, technology

From The Front Lines: From Painkillers to Heroin

Posted by David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, CPP, ICADC, NCAC II, Assistant Vice President, South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center on December 16, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations of painkiller abuse in the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have highlighted the results these drugs can have on relieving pain and energizing players. The FDA and former NFL team members who’ve filed a class-action lawsuit say players were given drugs like Percocet, Toradol and Novocain to energize them before games and relieve pain afterward.

But there’s another epidemic related to painkiller abuse sweeping the country, and it’s also a dangerous one. Painkiller addiction often serves as a gateway to heroin use and has led to skyrocketing levels of addiction to and deaths from the illegal and highly-addictive drug, according to a recent government report.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 2010-2012 mortality data from 28 states found deaths from heroin overdoses doubled in those two years, from 1 to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people, while deaths from prescription opioid drugs fell to 5.6 from 6 deaths per 100,000. The South region of the U.S. saw the second-highest increase in heroin overdoses – a whopping 181 percent leap.

As a result, addiction rehabilitation programs, are seeing an increase in patients seeking help for heroin addiction, including the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center. We’re definitely seeing an increase. There are three things at the base of the current heroin epidemic.

Reasons for Increased Use

First, the closing of the “pill mills” in Florida meant there was no more easy access to narcotics. Strip malls and street corners laden with “pain clinics” attracted a constant flow of “patients” consuming narcotics. When these sources closed, these people sought the next readily available substance – heroin.

Second, the government challenged the pharmaceutical industry to change the content matrix of oxycodone to prevent it from being easily crushed and turned into a powder that can be snorted or injected to get high. As a result, people who were used to crushing, cooking or injecting starting using heroin.

Third, when a physician cuts off people who are legitimately taking prescription pain medicine for pain or recovering from an injury, they realize they’ve become dependent and go to heroin to fill the void. When access to the drug of choice is taken away, the addict becomes “dope sick,” a condition in which they feel so ill that they have to keep using to feel better. To many, the high that heroin provides is the cure. It‘s cheaper, readily available and its effects are relatively predictable.

Dangerous Effects

Many heroin users don’t think about how the illicit drug can damage the body. Pulmonary infections and endocarditis, a serious infection of heart valves, are the two most common infections that result from heroin use. The infections are caused by the white powdery substances mixed with heroin to bulk up volume in order for the sellers to charge more money for the drug. When things like talc, sugar and artificial sweeteners are injected or snorted into the body, they get into airways and heart valves, damaging or sometimes destroying, the body’s vital pulmonary or cardiac systems. Heroin itself, in its pure form, is like morphine, providing sedation and pain relief. It’s the contaminants in heroin that cause so many of the serious reactions and deaths.

Meanwhile, drug companies have created quick-acting, emergency treatments for overdose cases. To help save lives, several police and fire rescue crews and emergency rooms are now equipped with Narcan, a drug that serves as an immediate antidote to narcotic overdose. The medication also is available over-the-counter, and the White House recently issued a nationwide plea to people who regularly take narcotics, and even to heroin users, to keep it on hand.

So what can you do about preventing this epidemic in your own home? Lock Your Meds. Secure your medication, take regular inventory and safely dispose of expired and unused medications.

Learn More About Lock Your Meds


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Topics: addiction, painkillers, prescription drug abuse, David Vittoria, recovery, heroin

President's Message - November 2014

Posted by Peggy B. Sapp, President & CEO on November 23, 2014 at 9:10 PM


Every day, our society becomes more perplexing to me. I question many of the values being promoted and espoused in America in 2015; however, I think there is one thing we can all agree on: the importance of family.

Family is something we hold dear. That hasn’t changed. We need the support system it provides. Even individuals from dysfunctional families appreciate the beauty of building a new paradigm of family for their own children.

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Topics: President's Message, parenting, addiction, drug trends, red ribbon week

The Medical Marijuana Ruse

Posted by Grady Judd, Sheriff on October 15, 2014 at 1:51 PM

As Election Day draws near, “medical marijuana” has become a hot topic, and many have asked me about my position concerning constitutional Amendment 2. That’s simple:  I am personally against the amendment because I know it is a ruse that will create defacto-legalization of marijuana in Florida. The amendment supporters are counting on those of us who are compassionate and who want to help the very sick, to ignore the very real negative consequences of legalization. 

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Topics: marijuana legalization, addiction, drug trends, marijuana

President's Message - October 2014

Posted by Peggy B. Sapp, President & CEO on October 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM


Society is overwhelmed with information, so we just hit “agreed” and proceed. Who has time to read all the legalese?

That is the situation Floridians are facing November 4, 2014, when voting on Amendment 2 (Medical Marijuana). We are tired of the drug war and want to stop hearing about it! So it is tempting to just hit “agreed” and move on. But, this time it is critical to read the legalese and accept that Amendment 2 is no panacea for fixing society’s drug problem.

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Topics: President's Message, parenting, addiction, drug trends, marijuana

Bad Trip

Posted by David Altshuler, M.S. on September 16, 2014 at 9:42 PM

Last night I dreamt I was trapped at a dinner party where a woman whom I didn't know, apropos of nothing, addressed me as follows:

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Topics: David Altshuler, parenting, marijuana legalization, addiction, marijuana

About Us

We teach people how to say no to drugs and how to make healthy choices. To reduce the demand for drugs, Informed Families has focused its efforts on educating and mobilizing the community, parents and young people in order to change attitudes. In this way we counteract the pressures in society that condone and promote drug and alcohol use and abuse. The organization educates thousands of families annually about how to stay drug and alcohol free through networking and a variety of programs and services .

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