Punishment, Rehabilitation or Both

October 11, 2017
Good morning, everyone. I am coming to you this morning from the Federal Correctional Institute in Miami. This is the federal prison. I was here visiting with a client and a friend. I spend a fair amount of time visiting clients in jail. Typically, I’m in Palm Beach County dealing with individuals who are charged with violations of state crime. This is a federal penitentiary. This is a whole different ballgame down here.   I wanted to share this with you because we seem to have the mindset that we want to punish everyone. I don’t want you to think that I think people shouldn’t be going to prison for specific crimes. You get violent people, people who are committing murders, rapists and people who are abusing kids. Those people have to go to prison. We should lock them up for as long as we possibly can.   There are other people who are committing crimes because they have substance abuse and mental health issues. If you’ve spent as much time in the system as I have, you realize that it’s the bulk of individuals. When I was a prosecutor, especially when I was fresh out of law school, I said to myself, “Everyone that’s here is bad. We must lock everyone up.” If you read the mandate of the legislature in Florida, our mandate here in Florida and in most states is to punish people.   There’s no mandate for rehabilitation. We just want to punish people. Some people need to be punished and locked away. The vast majority of people who are incarcerated shouldn’t be there. We are locking up more people here in America than the rest of the world combined. We’ve turned incarcerating people into a business. Instead of rehabilitating people, we’re locking them up and spending tax payer dollars to keep them locked up. When they get out, we wonder why their addiction issue has not been fixed.   Coming to visit a client, even as their lawyer, is exhausting. It’s emotionally draining. Prosecutors may be carrying 200 or 300 files at any one time. We don’t have any contact with the defendant. It’s just a file. I don’t mean that prosecutors don’t care, that we’re not there to do justice or that we’re doing something that’s inappropriate. We don’t have that level of personal involvement in a case. When you are doing defense work, you get to know the client. That’s a person. It’s someone’s husband. It’s someone’s father. It’s someone’s wife. It’s someone’s son. When I spend a couple of hours visiting with a client that I’ve known for a long time, it’s exhausting. It’s emotionally draining.   I’m going to spend the rest of the day with family. That tends to make me realize that all the things we do to try and make life better for other people is really worth it. I was up at 6:00 on a Sunday morning so I could get here in time to visit with

The Financial Side of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues for Families

September 29, 2017
Hi, everyone. I’m taking a break to share some thoughts with you. Myself and Audra Simovitch, who is part of my team at Drug & Alcohol Attorneys, are attending a small meeting at NAMI. NAMI is the National Association of Mental Illness. We come down here once a month to hear different professionals speak about things that have to do with mental illness and substance abuse. That is very much a part of what we do at Drug & Alcohol Attorneys. We were blessed this evening to hear a presentation by a financial planner named Allen Giese. I would be happy to put anyone in touch with him who may want his information. Several years ago, he discovered that one of his children was suffering from mental illness. That set him on a course to discover the best way for families to plan for the cost of taking care of a child who is dealing with mental illness. One of the conversations that we have regularly with families is the cost of taking care of a child who is dealing with substance abuse. No family has that Marchman Act or criminal defense savings account sitting there, because they’ve planned for their child to end up in the criminal justice system as a result of substance abuse and a mental health disorder. They don’t have an account set aside so that they can hire a lawyer and pay for the expense of dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. Allen now counsels families on how to plan for the future of taking care of a child. He has really great information. It’s something that we hadn’t really considered before. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to hear someone like this speak. If you know someone or you’re a family that is struggling with the cost of taking care of a child like this and you would like more information, I will be happy to share it with you. Send me an email at mark@drugandalcoholattorneys.com.

The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Connection

September 26, 2017
An individual who’s in crisis because of a substance abuse disorder, is more often than not, also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder.  In many cases, when a child or young adult has been prescribed medication for ADHD, anxiety or depression, the slippery slope of addiction and substance abuse rears its ugly head soon thereafter.   “Studies have shown a strong connection between ADHD, alcoholism and drug abuse.  Moreover, ADHD is five to ten times more common among adult alcoholics than it is in people without ADHD. It is also more common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years.” says attorney, Mark Astor, founder of Drug And Alcohol Attorneys. While every person is different, the common thread with many substance abusers is the diagnosis of a mental heath disorder at a young age accompanied by the prescribing of medication, which frequently makes matters worse.  There are a limited number of treatment centers that can appropriately diagnose and treat a dual diagnosis client. To observe such a client become stable and in recovery is the difference between Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll.  There are professionals who are ready, willing and able to assist with these issues. The team at Drug and Alcohol Attorneys can help you and your loved ones get back on track.  They do not charge for a consultation or for access to their resources. So, if your family is in crisis, you are encouraged to reach out for help.   

A Good Question To Ponder…

September 22, 2017
Good afternoon, everyone. For my fellow members of the tribe, Shanah Tovah, a Happy New Year. I hope this will be a happy, healthy and prosperous year for all of us, even those who don’t celebrate. I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you a question that was asked of me a couple of nights ago when I was at an event with the South Palm Beach County Bar Association and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers. It was asked by a good friend of mine who I see frequently at networking events. To be honest, it struck a chord with me. He asked what percentage of our clients that we send into treatment are successful in staying clean. I don’t keep statistics of successes and cases where we don’t get such a successful outcome. It gave me food for thought. I wanted to give you the perspective of a lawyer who deals with this on a daily basis. Here’s what I see. We have a lot of great treatment centers here in South Florida. Sometimes we have to make our clients go using the Marchman Act. The clients that go, whether involuntarily or voluntarily, for the most part, when they go through treatment for 30, 60 or 90 days, when they come out the other end, they’re clean. I believe that there’s a big difference between being clean and being in recovery. Someone who goes through treatment is more than likely going to come out clean, especially if they’ve gone to one of the treatment centers that I’m comfortable sending clients and family members to. If you want to get a really successful outcome, it’s not about being clean. It’s about getting the client or loved one into recovery. Recovery means being clean on a daily basis. It’s someone who is no longer using drugs or alcohol and is staying away from using the types of drugs that we see on a daily basis. For that to happen, it requires a lifestyle change. You don’t just go through treatment, and then you’re done. The clients who get the best results are the ones who get into recovery after going through treatment, and then work at it every single day. Perhaps they go to outpatient. Perhaps they go to AA. Perhaps they get a sponsor. Perhaps they do all of those things. From what I see, I believe that going into recovery and staying in recovery is a daily challenge and fight that people who are dealing with this disease have to overcome. I told my friend, “It’s not a matter of going to treatment for 30, 60 or 90 days and then going back to your old lifestyle.” It doesn’t work that way. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s something that you have to work at on a daily basis. If I said to you, “I want you to run a marathon in three months,” and you worked out, trained every day for three months, ran the marathon,

Iron Sharpens Iron: Spend Time With People Who Help, Not Enable

September 21, 2017
Good evening, everyone. It’s about 9:45. I had one of those crazy, busy days. I realized when I’d gotten home that I’d forgotten to stop at Publix and get something that I really needed. I’m about to run back out to the store.   It was a great day. I had an opportunity this evening with the South Palm Beach County Bar and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers to spend time with some really great lawyers.   A mentor once taught me that iron sharpens iron. You are the average of the five or six people that you spend a lot of time with. When you get to spend an evening with great lawyers and other professionals, people who are working really hard to build their businesses, to provide a better life for their families and to help a lot of people, it’s very inspiring. I feel blessed to be able to spend some time with professionals like that.   During most days, I’m dealing with families who are in crisis. One of the hardest things when you’re dealing with someone who is dealing with the disease of addiction is trying to get across to them how important it is for them not to spend time with other people who are doing drugs, drinking and having their life go in the wrong direction.   One of the conversations that I have with families is how important it is to get their loved ones away from people who are a bad influence on them. At the end of the day, iron sharpens iron. Whether you are a lawyer, another type of professional or someone who is trying to deal with addiction, it’s important to spend time with people who want to see your life go in the right direction, and who will encourage you to move your life in the right direction. That’s my thought for the day. Thank you.

Krav Maga: My Peace…

September 20, 2017
This is what we do, learning real techniques for real street encounters. This is my place of peace. I try to come here three times a week when I can, but when you run a practice like I do and we’re dealing with people in crisis, it’s not always possible. Have a good rest of the day.

The National Heroin Epidemic

September 19, 2017
I’m excited to be doing my very first personal video blog. It’s been a good weekend. It’s nice to spend a weekend where there’s no hurricane bearing down on us. I got a lot accomplished this weekend.   This evening, I went for dinner to one of my favorite places, Lemongrass in Boca Raton. As we got done with dinner, we were sitting at the bar, and 60 Minutes came on. They were doing a segment on the heroin epidemic that is ravishing cities and towns throughout Ohio. It’s not just a problem that’s unique to Florida. In fact, it’s a nationwide epidemic. For my first personal video blog, I’m imploring you, if you know anyone who is dealing with this issue, don’t be shy about saying something to them and letting them know that there are professionals out there who want to help to save lives. I have access to lots of free resources. I never charge for a consultation. As part of my first video blog, I want you to reach out to someone that you might know who is dealing with the issue of substance abuse and mental health, and ask them to give me a call. I’m excited to be doing this video blog. I thank my social media guru, Sophie, for encouraging me to do this. I’m looking forward to talking with all of you on a much more regular basis.

Feature Article: Mark Astor, An Attorney with Heart

September 18, 2017
By Deby Goldfarb Simply the Best Magazine The walls of his office are covered with certificates, degrees and awards yet Mark Astor, Attorney and Counselor at Law, is unpretentious and down-to-earth. He specializes in helping those suffering from the diseases of substance abuse and mental health disorders, most often individuals from 18-30 years of age, and he does it with heart.  His fortuitous beginning as a Certified Legal Intern in the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office in 1993 was “a real privilege” and the “best job I ever had”, he said, since it led him on a path to his current career. “I knew five minutes into my first trial that this is what I wanted to do and where I was supposed to be,” he remarked. He parlayed that experience into opening his own business, one with a very important specialty. Though it can be very difficult, Mark derives a huge amount of satisfaction in helping youngsters in trouble. “People tend to come to me when there is nowhere else to turn. Typically it will be parents of a teenager or young adult who has become addicted to drugs,” he said. Mark explained that a statute in the state of Florida called “The Marchman Act” allows a parent, guardian or even close friend to petition a court to intervene and convince an addict that drug rehabilitation is needed. The Marchman Act is a two-step process:  First, assessment and stabilization. Mark spends a great deal of time with the family and evaluates the negative behaviors (lying, cheating, stealing, drug use) of the person so that he can draft a petition which is filed on an ex parte basis (only the Petitioner’s allegations are reviewed). Once filed and reviewed for legal sufficiency, the Court can order an individual to be assessed for up to five (5) days.  A judge signs a court order and a sheriff brings the person to a facility for assessment and stabilization. Second, after a hearing, which takes place within 10 days of the filing of the petition, the court can order an individual into treatment for up to ninety (90) days.  If the individual leaves treatment prior to completion of the Court ordered treatment, contempt proceedings can be initiated and a “pick up order” requested. The Court can use the threat of incarceration to “leverage” the individual back into treatment.  Mark said that many parents worry that this process will break up the family but he has found that once the addict has been off drugs, even if it is only for the five days of assessment and stabilization, the person is more rational, and the family is brought closer together. After 23 years in the Criminal Justice system, Mark has seen that “without help, drug abusers never get better.” He called it “a revolving door” in that they briefly try rehab, get out and get addicted again.” He said without help/therapy, they end up repeatedly back in a rehab facility, or worse, in prison. Once a person

Is The Opioid Crisis,
At Least In Part, Man Made?

August 29, 2017
Every day we speak to families in crisis because a loved one, usually their child (18-30 years old) has a raging substance abuse problem and co-occurring mental health disorder. One startling fact we’ve noticed, is that in nearly every case, the child has been prescribed medication for ADHD, usually Ritalin or Adderall, in addition to a medication for anxiety or depression, such as Xanax. It seems that once a medication has been prescribed, and there is an endless list of them because no one size fits all and their effectiveness appears to dissipate over time, the slippery slope of addiction and substance abuse becomes much more prevalent. It appears that genetics also play a part in the likelihood of a substance abuse disorder developing in an individual who also has ADHD. People with ADHD tend to be more impulsive and likely to have behavioral problems, both of which can contribute to drug and alcohol abuse. Also, both ADHD and alcoholism tend to run in families. A child with ADHD who has a parent with alcoholism is more likely to also develop an alcohol abuse problem than one without. Statistics suggest that our experience may not be unusual. The number of children prescribed medication for ADHD soured from 600,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million by 2013, and that number continues to climb. Moreover, it seems that the increase in the number of prescriptions written by doctors has coincided with four (4) factors: 1) drug company marketing, which has expanded the definition of ADHD to include things such as carelessness and impatience, 2) drug companies overstating the benefit of the medications, 3) a twenty (20) year campaign by the drug companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents, and 4) false and misleading advertising by the drug companies as to the true benefits and dangers of their drugs. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/health/the-selling-of-attention-deficit-disorder.html?pagewanted=all) Studies have shown a strong connection between ADHD, alcoholism and drug abuse (http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adhd-and-substance-abuse-is-there-a-link#1). Moreover, ADHD is five (5) to ten (10) times more common among adult alcoholics than it is in people without ADHD. It is also more common for children with ADHD to start abusing alcohol during their teenage years. In one study, 14% of children ages 15-17 with ADHD had problems with alcohol abuse or dependence as adults, compared to children without ADHD. Another study found that at a mean age of 14.9 years, 40% of children with ADHD began using alcohol, compared to 22% of children without ADHD. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the brain’s likelihood of becoming addicted to a drug is related to how a drug increases levels of the naturally-occurring neurotransmitter dopamine, which modulates the brain’s ability to perceive reward reinforcement. The pleasure sensation the brain gets when dopamine levels are elevated creates the motivation for individuals to perform actions that are indispensable to our survival (like eating or procreation). Dopamine is what conditions us to do the things we need to

How Substance Abuse Interventions Work Under The Marchman Act

August 11, 2017
Families affected by the disease of addiction face an uphill battle to convince the addict that treatment is necessary. Interventions can, and may work, but sometimes a family must take the proverbial bull by the horns and compel their loved one into treatment by taking advantage of the Marchman Act process. You may, however, have questions about the Marchman Act and how it can help you to get your loved one into treatment and long term recovery. “A spouse, guardian, relative or any person with direct knowledge of a person’s substance abuse can initiate the Marchman Act process if he or she can demonstrate that the addict has lost the power of self-control with respect to substance abuse, especially if that person is likely to inflict harm upon themselves or other people unless they get help.” says attorney, Mark Astor. After the necessary paperwork is filed, a judge can order an initial period of stabilization and assessment to be followed by a recommended period of treatment. If the addict refuses, he or she can be held in contempt of court, and either complies with the court’s treatment order or goes to jail. The Marchman Act works because it contains real consequences for the addict who cannot make the rational decision to seek treatment on their own. A distinct advantage of hiring a member of the Drug And Alcohol Attorneys team is the ability to expedite the process, especially the critical phase of stabilization and assessment. Acting on your behalf, one of our lawyers will file a sworn petition with facts and law sufficient to demonstrate to the court the need for stabilization, assessment, and treatment. Typically, this can be accomplished in as little as 24 to 48 hours. At Drug and Alcohol Attorneys, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and they will show you the way to get there.