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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.

NAMI August Speaker Meeting

July 31, 2017
NAMI Broward County Monthly Speaker Meeting Our next Speaker Meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 9 at 7:00 pm. Our Speaker will be: Mark Astor, an attorney dedicated to the Marchman Act and Criminal Defense Representation. He is an attorney-at-law who specializes in the Marchman Act process, Florida’s involuntary commitment law for drug, alcohol and co-occurring mental heath disorders. Additionally, Mr. Astor provides counsel when there is a need to file an Emergency Guardianship Petition (ETG) so that an individual who is no longer competent to make medical decisions for themselves can have that burden taken off their shoulders. On other occasions, he works with individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system and need assistance navigating it’s complexities, having been arrested for an offense that stems from drug addiction or mental health disorders. Please plan on attending. Admission is free and registration is not required. Location: Silver Impact Center 7155 West Oakland Park Blvd Lauderhill, FL 33313

What you can do when someone is in crisis due to substance abuse or mental health issues

July 24, 2017
When someone you love is in crisis due to substance abuse or mental health issues you may be at your wits end and don’t know who or where to turn to for answers. At Drug and Alcohol Attorneys we are dedicated to giving families and individuals dealing with these diseases options and plans of action to get things moving in the right direction. While many of their clients come to them for help filing a Marchman Act, which enables you to ask the courts to make someone go into treatment, you may also have the option to file a guardianship petition so you can start making medical decisions for your loved one while they heal and recover. “If the court finds that your loved one is in imminent danger for his or her physical or mental health or safety, then we can file an Emergency Guardianship Petition and an emergency temporary guardian may be appointed. As the ETG, you can make medical decisions for the respondent.” says attorney, Mark Astor. Additionally, going into and staying in recovery, takes time, energy and resources. As such, your loved one may be entitled to financial assistance from the government in the form of Social Security Disability and/or Medicaid. You won’t know if you’re eligible for this help if you don’t make time to come and chat with them. 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.

2 Guest Appearances on the Addiction 911 Show

July 17, 2017
In May and June, I was honored to be invited to be a guest on the Addiction 911 Show with Christina Rowe. The May topic was Synthetic Deadly Opioid Drugs on the Rise and the June topic was Tough Love: Does it really help an addict? May 2017 June 2017

Judge Allows Mom To See Hospitalized, Jailed Daughter

July 10, 2017
CBS Miami interviewed me to learn what should have been done for this woman and her daughter.               The follow-up story from Fox News: Cleveland mom speaks out about fight to be by daughter’s side in the hospital  

It’s Not Just A Legal Problem, It’s A Personal Problem, Too

July 4, 2017
Happy 4th of July to everyone that reads our blog. As someone who came to this country from the United Kingdom just over thirty (30) years ago, it truly is an honor to share this national holiday with my fellow Americans. It was my father’s dream to live in America, raise his children here, and give us a better life. On January 15, 2017, one (1) week to the day after my fiftieth birthday, we lost my father. For the previous two (2) years he had been sick, suffering from repeated strokes and having to endure multiple surgeries. Wherever one goes after death, I truly believe that my father was ready to go to that place. During his time of sickness, when we thought he’d get better, I lost count of how many times we either dialed 911 or rushed him to the emergency room. I began to realize that as my father was lying in one of his many different hospital beds that we, as a family, were in emotional crisis. I cannot speak for my siblings or mother, but I know that I couldn’t sleep, I was having trouble focusing at work, I was depressed, and I am certain that my clients did not get 100% of my attention. My father’s illness was very much a personal problem for me, permeating my entire life. When a client comes to see us, very often their life is in turmoil, they cannot sleep at night, they cannot focus at work, their relationships are in shambles, and they may well be suffering from depression, too. As lawyers, we view the client as someone with a “legal problem” and we have the “legal solution” based on the number of issues we are able to spot and potentially solve. I am here to tell you that this is not just a legal problem. It’s a personal problem, too. One of the things I’ve learned since turning the focus of our practice to helping families and individuals dealing with addiction is that they, like my family was, are in emotional crisis. One of the cases I handled involved a young man who found himself in the criminal justice system because he had an “impulse control” issue. For over twenty (20) years he had suffered from a mental health disease that was poorly managed and misdiagnosed. As a result, he used, abused, and became addicted to anything he could either put in his mouth, in his veins, or up his nose. He did everything and anything he could to make himself “feel better”. While he fought to stay out of trouble, his family, in particular his mother and father, suffered terribly as they watched their son’s life going from bad to worse. The emotional toll his troubles took on his parents was there for all to see. The first time I met them, the look in their eyes was identical to the look I had seen in my own mother and sisters’ eyes as we sat in one of my father’s many hospital rooms. His parents were financially, spiritually, physically and emotionally spent. They needed options and answers, not a tour of the factory. They needed help with their personal problem. Addressing a client’s personal problem is not unique to the work our firm does. Just ask any

Let’s Fix The Marchman Act

June 20, 2017
At Drug And Alcohol Attorneys, our practice is exclusively focused on helping individuals and families who are in crisis because of drug and alcohol addiction. The Marchman Act is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to solving the issue of addiction. With that said, there are parts of the Marchman Act which need legislative attention, the most serious of which are addressed below.    The process must be faster (much faster)    Hypothetically speaking, if I receive a call from a distraught mom at 7:00 p.m. on a Thursday night, her daughter having come to Florida for treatment from another State, I can be retained, interview the client, and draft and file a Petition for Assessment, Stabilization and Detox before midnight. However, somewhere in the mix of the Clerk of Court, the Judicial System, and law enforcement, a Pick Up Order likely will not get executed when it is needed, the next day (Friday). By Monday morning, when law enforcement is ready, willing and able to execute the Pick Up Order, it’s too late. The daughter is nowhere to be found. This hypothetical is the type of scenario I experience all too often and is desperately frustrating for a parent who has been referred to me and I can’t get them the help they desperately need. The simple fact remains that we need more clerks and judges and law enforcement officers receiving, reviewing and executing Pickup Orders if we are to move rapidly and save lives. Same day turnaround should be the norm when an ex parte Petition for Assessment, Stabilization and Detox has been filed, not the exception.      The Enforcement Process is Too Cumbersome    When an individual (the Respondent) is ordered into treatment, unless he or she is ordered into a hospital setting, which tends to be more secure than a regular treatment center, they are free to walk out against medical advice. The appropriate legal remedy when that occurs is to petition the Court for a Rule to Show Cause which, before being heard by the Court, must be served on the Respondent … who just walked out of treatment and cannot be located. While we recommend the filing of a Missing Person’s Report, unless the location of the Respondent is known, law enforcement will not go looking for them unless foul play is suspected. They just don’t have the man power.   When a Defendant in a criminal case is arrested and goes before a judge to address the issue of pre-trial release, he or she can be ordered to wear an ankle monitor so that his or her location is known and can be restricted, usually to their home. If they leave or remove the device, law enforcement is immediately notified and can effectuate an arrest. Why is this or similar technology not being used in the Marchman Act process? When an individual leaves treatment, not only must law enforcement be notified immediately, they must also be able to track, locate, pick up that individual, and either take them into custody, or in the event they have used opioids, take them to a secure detox facility. Respondents who are ordered into treatment have been judicially determined to be incapable of making a rational decision to go into treatment. These

“In case of emergency, break glass.”

June 14, 2017
You may have heard the saying, “In case of emergency, break glass.” That’s typically the case when a family reaches out to attorney Mark Astor and they have a loved one who’s struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and they’ve run out of ideas and ways to help them. They’ve reached the point where they believe there’s no help in sight, they’re in emotional crisis, and that’s when they call Mark.   We have access to lots of resources and we also offer a free consultation. So if you sit down with me, I’ll give you some options and counsel you as to what I think is the best course of action that you can take to help the person get into recovery and get their life back on track. Whether it’s filing a Marchman Act petition, which will involuntarily compel the individual to get treatment, a guardianship, so you can make decisions for them while they’re incapacitated or in treatment, defending against criminal charges, access to the appropriate treatment center, or an interventionist, at Drug And Alcohol Attorneys we focus on helping those suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders get back in the game of life. Combined, we’ve been working in the justice system for over fifty years, we understand the struggle you’re facing, we’ll work with your family to clean up the wreckage of the past so you and your loved one can build a better future. 
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