Grand Families: Behind Closed Doors

Thank you to Donna Henson with Grand Families for this week’s guest blog. We appreciate you sharing your journey and thank you for all the wonderful things you are doing! 

Donna HensonMy name is Donna Henson. In June of 2010, I received the news that my daughter, Christy, and her boyfriend had been arrested on drug charges and were in jail in Portland, Oregon. My two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Danni, had been taken by the police to a nearby hospital. There she tested positive for high levels of Meth. She was a sick little girl. Due to the fact that her paternal grandmother, in Portland, wanted nothing to do with her and that we lived in Tennessee, she was placed in Foster Care.

That July, on our family vacation, I walked the beach and cried. I cried to my daughter, Angela, saying “I just can’t do this! I cannot go through this again. I raised her mother and I can’t do it again!”

It is impossible to describe all of the emotions, fears and prayers that were going on in our home. My husband, Dick, and I had been empty nesters for a few years. We traveled, ran our business and thought we would continue that way until retirement. However, on November 7, 2010, Christy passed away. She had an infection that led to a brain hemorrhage. This was the direct result of drug use. She died alone in a Portland hospital.

Because we lived in a different state, Dick and I had to become certified Foster Parents. During the next year, we attended Path classes, made six trips to Portland, completed voluminous forms and fell in love with a very special little girl. Danni moved into our home on October 8, 2011. Our adoption was finalized on December 31, 2013 and Danni officially became Dannielle Marie Henson.

We can never repay the wonderful Foster Care family that gave Danni unconditional love and guidance. They are still on our list of best friends. The help and advice we received from our DCS Worker and our ICP Worker was invaluable. And, of course, the Path Classes! Having raised six children, Dick and I were not only resistant to taking the classes but, also resentful. We are now so grateful for all that we learned.

Danni’s brother came to live with us two years ago. So, we are now raising two children, seven and fifteen. These children have special needs that we never had to deal with before. This brings me to our counselor. It was a requirement of the State of Oregon that Danni continue to have on going counseling during our period of temporary guardianship. On the advice of our ICP worker we were led to Cookie Oakley. She works with all of us. One day, I mentioned to Cookie that I didn’t know how grandparents survive without the training and assistance we received. I told her Dick and I would like to do something to help these people. She had beaten me to the thought a year earlier. So, she said “let’s do it!”

Grand Families is the result. We hope to offer support and training to as many kinship families as possible. It is a way for Dick and I to give back and try to make life a little easier for folks living with difficult situations. There are times when I think I can’t go on another minute. The next minute, I receive an unexpected hug from a teenager or a beautiful drawing from a seven-year-old.

If you are raising a child of extended family members, you are a Grand Family. Thank you for being there for them. We hope you will join us as we work together to break the link of substance abuse and send healthy, successful children out into the world.


How are you giving back on #GivingTuesday?

20140611235952-giving-tuesday-logoToday is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving and giving back. Here are five ways your gift to the Metropolitan Drug Commission.

1. Share your #UNselfie on how you give back to your community, big or small.

2. Parents, find free, effective resources and tools, 24/7, to help deal with teen substance abuse on our website at

3. Make a gift at our website to help us with our different programs we facilitate, such as SADD Chapters, Active Parenting and Grand Families, to name a few.

4. Do something kind for another person in the spirit of MDC.

5. Reach out to someone who needs to get on the path of recovery. Call us at 865-588-5550 to get more information on treatment or call the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789.

We appreciate the difference you make in Knoxville! Your gifts today and throughout the year are helping the community you love. Give today, and thank you for your support.

Dealing with Addictions Around Thanksgiving & the Holidays

Addictions are never easy to deal with, but they become even more challenging during the holidays. Holidays bring with them tremendous pressures, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

But the one thing that’s true for most people is that the holidays always make the stress much worse, and that increased stress can make it hard for you to hold fast to your goals and your recovery plan.

Despite the fact that the holidays add enough stress to make many people consider alcohol or drugs just to wind down, it’s possible to deal with the stressors and difficulties. You just need to remember a few key points to help you cope.

  • Identify your stressors and your inner struggles.Your first step should be to identify your stressors. Alcohol and drug abuse is common among individuals who struggle with depression or tension. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that almost 2.1 million people had to visit hospital emergency departments because of these activities.Turning to alcohol or drugs should not be your first choice. But you won’t know how to stop it until you realize what is stressing you out. Take note of the times when you’re stressed. If you know that the holidays make you depressed because you are single or because you lost a loved one, then avoid things that remind you of that situation.

    Pinpointing inner struggles can be more challenging than identifying your stressors. Look to your behavioral patterns. Remember that you may have to confront some difficult memories and situations, particularly if part of your substance abuse stems from past physical abuse.

  • Remember willpower is finite.In a surprising body of research, the APA reports (PDF) that willpower is actually a finite resource. It’s similar to a muscle that you can wear out. This means that during the holidays, when you have so many increased temptations and decisions, you need to simplify your decision-making. Have someone else help you handle the problems. Even consider setting up simple tasks in advance such as choosing a healthy breakfast the night before.In remembering the finiteness of your own willpower, you should also avoid situations where your addiction may be present. The holidays are especially difficult for recovering alcoholics, as many holiday parties often include all kinds of alcoholic beverages and specials. Don’t go to those parties if you can help it. And if you know that drugs are going to be present, absolutely don’t go. Cops crack down even harder during the holiday season because they know the tendencies.
  • Don’t be ashamed to talk to someone.One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume you can handle it on your own. Even if you have managed your addiction beautifully throughout most of the year, the holiday season brings up a number of challenges that you won’t be prepared to handle. More important, having to deal with these things on your own makes it much harder to keep yourself strong.Friends and family can be helpful during this time, but remember that they aren’t necessarily equipped for this. They could unintentionally enable you, or they might send you into a guilt spiral, which will make your breaking down even more likely. It’s possible for people to have multiple symptoms as well as multiple underlying causes, commonly known as dual diagnosis. All of these must be identified and treated to make sure that the relief provided is as complete as possible. Visiting with a professional counselor or enrolling in an addiction program in can help you get an objective perspective, tailored advice, and a stronger support network.
  • Don’t make New Year’s your time to end the battle.The new year helps make the holidays so stressful. The beginning of another year is the most common time for people to try to kick an addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ran a special to promote quitting smoking in 2013.

There’s nothing wrong with making an addiction-free lifestyle your goal, but you shouldn’t make it a pressure point. Recovering from an addiction can take quite some time, and increasing the stress on yourself only makes it more likely that you will relapse. Instead, remember that the holidays are a time to make good memories. It’s not an excuse to binge on your favorite addiction, and it’s not a time to progress faster.

Dealing with addictions around the holidays can be difficult, but you can make it through. You need to know what makes you struggle. Identify the stressors and the inner struggles.

Your willpower is finite. You only have so much to give, so protect your choices and avoid putting yourself in difficult situations. Needing to talk to someone and getting help is normal. Don’t be afraid to get it.

**Blog from Thank you for the fantastic information to share with our readers! **

WBIR Helps Spread Word on Prescription Drug Abuse

wbirPrescription drug abuse is a problem of epidemic proportions here in the U.S. Overdoses from painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycontin now kill more Americans than motor vehicle crashes. Chances are you have a family member, friend, even acquaintance who is living with an addiction.

In an effort to shed more light on the epidemic facing our communities, all this week WBIR will be sharing stories and providing you with information you can use.

Last night, we heard about the story of a daughter and mother who refused to give in to prescription drug abuse and are now giving back. 

These stories will be in the 5:00 news segment and we hope that you will tune into watch (or DVR).



Sneak peek for our Blog followers, tonight’s story will be focusing around the new law around charging pregnant women who abuse prescription drugs illegally. WBIR will go deeper into what the babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) go through after birth and what we are doing locally to help this problem.

Thank you WBIR for all the work you put into this series!

Marijuana: Take it to the polls (1)Initiatives are on the ballot in Oregon and Alaska today, that would legalize recreational marijuana, are too close to call, according to NBC News. If the states approve the measures, they will join Colorado and Washington state, where recreational marijuana is already legal.

In addition, residents of Washington, D.C. will vote on a measure allowing adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six plants in their homes. The measure is expected to pass. In Florida, voters are expected to defeat a medical marijuana measure. In 2016 at least six more states are expected to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana, the article notes.

TIME released an article giving the breakdown of the handful of states and cities that will vote to loosen restrictions on the drug, setting the stage for bigger battles in 2016.

The Metropolitan Drug Commission does not support the legalization or use of medical or recreational marijuana.

The term “medical marijuana” is generally used to refer to the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its crude extracts, which are not recognized or approved as medicine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Leading from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Mother wants ‘Breaking Bad’ figures removed from Toys R Us

Mom takes on Toys ‘R Us for selling ‘Breaking Bad’ toys

The award-winning show “Breaking Bad” was popular with critics and fans, however one Florida mother is not to pleased.

Susan Schrivjer of Ft. Myers, Fla., is demanding that Toys R Us stops selling “Breaking Bad” figures that come with perceived drug paraphernalia.

Schrivjer posted a petition on — which currently has more than 6,000 signatures — in an effort to get others to join her cause.

“Breaking Bad,” a popular and critically praised show on the AMC cable network, is about a terminally ill high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who goes into business with a former student to make and sell crystal meth for money to support his family after he dies of cancer.

The action figures come with drug paraphernalia, according to the Toys “R” Us website.  Walter White comes with a bag of “blue crystals” which fans will know is meth.

Jesse Pinkman, Aaron Paul’s character, comes with a gas mask and also a tray of the “blue crystals.”

Schrivjer stated in an interview, “While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters.”

When asked if Toys ‘R Us would remove the dolls, U.S. spokesperson Kathleen Waugh told Global News: “We carry a variety of fictional character action figures, including those for our collector customers.  The products are carried in very limited quantities in the adult action figure area of our stores.”

If you would like these action figures taken off shelves, please sign Schrivjer’s petition.


Deb_Headshot90 percent oral opiates in the world are consumed in America. There’s enough Vicodin out now to give every single person in this country a pill every four hours for one month.

CBS News is exploring the challenges of addiction and recovery, and showing solidarity with the millions of people who are struggling with these issues.

In this video, Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist, addiction medicine specialist and TV host widely known as Dr. Drew, is urging people to change the way they view addiction. He spoke with CBS News about the need to “let go of this moralizing model about substances.”

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) offers a concise definition of addiction: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

Dr. Drew explains that all the brain’s systems that are driven or motivated by survival, even such basic instincts as hunger and thirst, can be overtaken by the disease, compelling the addict to prioritize using drugs and alcohol above all else.

Although this is a social media campaign launched by CBS, I challenge you to give up your “drug of choice” for #14days.

MDC Community Champions Luncheon Nominations

Community Champion Awards- ThumbnailIt’s time for nominations for the 2nd annual MDC Community Champions Luncheon! Do you know someone who is making Knoxville a safer and healthier place to live? Nominate them for an award. MDC will recognize community leaders in the following categories:

Coalition Member of the Year

This award will be given to a coalition member who exhibited commitment to the organization through meeting participation, committee leadership and project implementation.

Innovations in Substance Abuse Prevention Award

This award will be given to an individual who implemented and/or oversaw a groundbreaking prevention project.

Commitment to Service Award

This award will honor a person who is dedicated to giving back to the community, whether through their profession or volunteerism.

Media Advocacy Award

This award is dedicated to the local media professional that brought great awareness to and generated community conversation around substance abuse.

Youth Leadership Award

This award will be given to a “rising star” in the area of substance abuse prevention. The nominee should be a youth or teen trailblazer under 21.

Recovery Services Award

This award will be presented to a treatment professional that has expanded services and/or reduced stigma facing people with addictions.

Celebrate Recovery Award

This award will be presented to a person who has gone through recovery and has put forth extreme effort in making a positive change through their journey.

Completed nomination forms must be received at the MDC office no later than Friday, October 24 at 5 PM. If you are interested in filling out a form, please email Aly Taylor at gro.g1419163214urdor1419163214tem@r1419163214olyat1419163214a1419163214 or visit our online application.



Hi. My name is Betsy Tant. My teenage nephew Henry died from an opiate overdose.henry-in-red

He was a beautiful boy who loved and was loved by so many. Henry was incredibly intelligent. He loved to read and discuss history and philosophy. He was kind and compassionate and was often overwhelmed by the cruelty in the world. He was a talented guitarist and found solace in his music. Henry adored his family and was a loyal friend and took people at their word. When he was deep in his addiction and very vulnerable, he ended up trusting the wrong people. They said that they would help him get clean and reclaim his life. Instead they sucked him into their world of dealing.

Within a week of meeting them Henry ended up at their trailer with a head injury. Instead of calling for help they gave him more and more drugs until he was unconscious. They put him in a bedroom and left him there unconscious and choking on his own vomit. Hours later they realized that he was going to die and instead of calling an ambulance they called the last person Henry had called and told her to come get him. She told them to call an ambulance and she called the police. It was too late to give him naloxone and reverse the effects of the drugs. The damage to his brain from the time he was in their home dying was too extensive. These people were afraid of getting in trouble so instead they let him lay there dying. If they had just called for help in the beginning he could have been saved.

He died in his parents’ arms.

If they had just called for help, he might be in college now. If they had just called for help, Henry might be happy and healthy and helping others find their way to recovery. If they had just called for help, his brother and sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents would not spend each day of the rest of their life with a piece of their heart missing.

Many people ask me if saving people from overdose makes any real difference. The answer is yes. Most people in active addiction are not afraid of overdosing but there is data that tells us that surviving an overdose has an impact. At least a quarter of overdose survivors seek treatment within 30 days. There are many who overdose many times before finally starting a life in recovery. Many of these people end up on the front lines, teaching overdose prevention education.

Most people are not alone when they overdose. This means that a majority of overdose deaths could have been prevented if someone had just gotten naloxone in their system within 2-3 hours. Naloxone is a miracle drug. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making it legal for people get and administer naloxone. Many of those states also have Good Samaritan laws giving immunity from possession charges to people who call for help. Most ambulances have naloxone ready to use if given the chance.

So why are overdose death rates still so high? It’s simple- very few people know about naloxone. Despite the new laws making it legal to access there is very little being done to educate the public and doctors about them.

Next month I will be heading to a conference in Baltimore where we will review the history and evidence for programs to distribute naloxone to people who use drugs and other community members, discuss innovative ways for ensuring wide access to the medication and review best practice in and naloxone access laws. Participants will have the opportunity to brainstorm things they can do to increase access to naloxone in their area – whether or not their state has permissive laws. I’m going to bring that information back to Tennessee and start doing what I can to save more lives.

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”  -Cicero

To learn more on how to support Henry’s Fund please visit their website.

Be a Parent. Not a Peer.

Deb_HeadshotToday, an Athens man was arrested after officials said he forced his 15-year-old son to drink alcohol until he passed out. Several people at the home said the teen’s father, 35-year-old Mark Allen Hughes, forced his son to play a drinking game with him while watching the Tennessee football game on Saturday. Witnesses told police that Hughes made his son play the game after he caught the 15-year-old drinking. Some of the witnesses then left the home, but when they came back, the teen lying unresponsive on the kitchen floor.This father has been charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect as well as contributing to the delinquency of a child.

More information on this story

I think this incident should bring light to anyone over the age of 21 who has ever or even thought about supplying alcohol to a minor.

The legal drinking age was not just chosen at random. Research indicates that the human brain continues to develop into a person’s early twenties and that exposure of the developing brain to alcohol may have long-lasting effects on intellectual capabilities.

While many parents may think that allowing their teens and their teens’ friends to drink at home under adult supervision keeps kids safe and leads to healthier attitudes about drinking, the truth is that there are serious negative consequences for both parents and teens.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has broken down the underage drinking Myths.

Myth: Some parents think that providing alcohol to teens at home decreases the risk for continued drinking as teens get older, and subsequent drinking problems later in life. 

Truth: The opposite is true – parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.

Myth: Young people from European cultures whose parents give them alcohol at an early age learn to drink more responsibly than their American counterparts. 

Truth: A greater percentage of European youth report drinking regularly (in the past 30 days) versus American youth, and for a majority of European countries, a greater percentage of young people report having been intoxicated before the age of 13 than is the case in the U.S. The World Health Organization cites global longitudinal studies that found the earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life.

Myth: Some parents believe that being ‘too strict’ about adolescent drinking during high school will cause teens to drink more when they first leave the home and do not have as much parental oversight. 

 Truth: New research from The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reveals that teens who perceive their parents to be more permissive about alcohol use are MORE likely to abuse alcohol and to use other drugs.[4]

Myth: Parents who serve alcohol to teenagers at home are under no legal jeopardy. 

Truth: A majority of states have civil and or criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to underage kids at home.

So the next time someone you know or yourself, even, has the thought of serving to minors, please think twice. It could cost the both of you.

Be a Parent. Not a Peer.