The insidious danger of fentanyl: facts to help you protect yourself, your friends, and your family

An extended hand full of prescription drugs (fentanyl)

As we enter September and National Recovery Month, we at The Bougainvilla House pause to recognize International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31st. Many wear purple to destigmatize drug-related deaths and remember the individuals and families tragically impacted by drug overdoses, including one of the most deadly and insidious of all — fentanyl. 

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared misuse of opioids, including fentanyl, a public health emergency and a crisis we continue to face today.  

To mark National Recovery Month, TBH wants to highlight and educate young people and families on the dangers of opioids, fentanyl in particular. In addition, we want to share resources that might save a life or help a friend or family member start their journey of recovery from addiction.   

What is Fentanyl? 

Fentanyl is a manufactured opioid drug, first developed in 1959 and introduced in the 1960s as an anesthetic and medication to relieve cancer breakthrough pain. The drug is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, making it difficult to identify unless it’s tested. It’s so powerful that an amount the size of two grains of salt is enough to overdose and kill. 

As an analgesic (pain reliever), fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl’s addictive properties and potential for abuse immediately concerned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To minimize this risk, fentanyl was initially approved only for use in combination with droperidol, a drug used as a sedative, tranquilizer, and anti-nauseant. In 1972, fentanyl became available for use on its own.  

Fentanyl abuse and death tolls continue to spike 

As early as the mid-1970s, cases of prescription fentanyl abuse were already being reported, due to theft, fake prescriptions and illegal distribution by patients and some members of the medical community.  

By 1979, illegally-produced fentanyl had hit the streets. From about 1000 deaths reported by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) between 2005 and 2007,  deaths from mainly non-prescription use of fentanyl have spiraled to more than 70 times that number. This past May, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 71,238 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2021. To put this into perspective, that’s more people than a sold-out Hard Rock Stadium, and only a portion of all the opioid overdose deaths that year.

Why are fentanyl-related deaths so high? 

Illegally-produced fentanyl is sold by itself but, even more dangerous, it is often mixed with or sold to the unknowing buyer as heroin, cocaine, or in pills purporting to be oxycodone or other well-known legal pharmaceuticals. Fentanyl goes by the street names Apace, Friend, Murder 8, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Jackpot, King Ivory, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison, and Tango & Cash. 

Fentanyl use – effects on the body 

  • Confusion 
  • Changes in pupil size  
  • Cold, clammy skin 
  • Cyanosis 
  • Slow, shallow breathing 
  • Nausea, vomiting 
  • Drowsiness, dizziness,
  • The presence of coma, pinpoint pupils and slow, shallow breathing are strong signs of fentanyl or other opioid poisoning. 

Who is most vulnerable to fentanyl overdoses?  

Because fentanyl is so powerful, prevalent, and often disguised as other drugs, including prescription drugs, the reality is that anyone can be a victim of a fentanyl overdose. Someone who needs prescription painkillers, who uses drugs recreationally, or is just curious is at risk of becoming a victim of accidental addiction or overdose.  

Many famous celebrities have been victims of an accidental overdose:  

  1. Juice WRLDShortly after his 21st birthday, in December 2019, rapper Juice WRLD suffered a seizure after arriving in Chicago. The cause of death was an accidental overdose of codeine and oxycodone (opioids). 
  2.  Mac MillerIn September 2018, the rapper died at his home in the Los Angeles area following an accidental overdose of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol. Miller had reportedly requested the painkiller Percocet. The rapper-producer was 26 years old.  
  3. Prince – The music legend was only 57 when he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose, in April 2016. He believed he was taking Vicodin (a chronic pain pill), but his pills were laced with fentanyl.  

People who are dependent on opioids often also have a co-existing mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, and many turn to drugs as a way to cope. By recognizing and seeking treatment for mental health problems, vulnerable individuals get the support they need and learn healthy coping skills that might prevent them from turning to drugs. If you or someone you love suffers from mental illness, please seek help. It’s the right thing to do to improve quality of life, prevent addiction, reduce unnecessary deaths, and avoid the trauma and heartbreak that too many American families have experienced. 

How to talk to a friend or family member about their possible drug use

If you are uneasy about a friend or family member’s drug use (or suspected drug use), talk out your concerns. Give examples of times when you were worried about them or noticed a change in their behavior. Share your love and reassure them that help is available and that you will support them throughout. Encourage them to take that first step and seek help, sooner than later. 

In the meantime, educate yourself on the signs of an overdose and on how you can save a life by reversing an overdose. Here is a small list of resources in Broward and Palm Beach County.  


  1. The Bougainvilla House – Substance use therapy program.
  2. End.Overdose – Fentanyl test strips, Narcan and more.  
  3. Find Naloxone in your state – Nalaxone (also known as Narcan) is a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. 
  4. Broward County Recovery Center – Schedule an appointment to be evaluated for detoxification.  
  5. The Recovery Villagedetox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment centers.  

Need more help?   

If you or a loved one feel depressed or are having a hard time with substance use, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.     

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.    

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.

The Other Side of FOMO: What Am I Really Missing?

The Other Side of FOMO: What Am I Really Missing?

         Most of us know FOMO is the fear of missing out. People claim to have FOMO when they are unable to partake in an event or experience and feel anxiety based on their absence. But FOMO implies that one experience is far more important, impactful or meaningful than another which fuels the fire of comparison culture. We may think FOMO is a love of exploring, of getting out and seeing the world, but the bottom line is FOMO is a trigger for mental illness and substance issues because if we give in to FOMO, we aren’t staying true to ourselves and our needs.

         When we see the word FOMO on social media, we usually see this acronym tagged to parties, concerts, and travel experiences. Rarely do we see this term linked to events such as family parties, family dinners, and or a quiet night in. This contrast is the real curiosity of FOMO. It seems to be centered around friends and costly events, but why can’t someone be jealous of a quiet night in?

If you’re someone who connects to this message, it might be time to ask why the external experiences are more important than inner growth and family. Why don’t you want to spend time at home? Are you afraid to be alone? Do you even like the band everyone is going to see? These questions are an important step in the direction of unpacking the reasons you feel you are missing out. Ultimately, they will help you unpack issues with mental health, addiction, and so much more.

Why Do I Feel I am Missing Out?

         If you’re the type of person who experiences FOMO, it’s important to stop and ask why? Say your friends are going to see a band that you kind of like, but you don’t really have the money. Plus, you’ve had a long week at school. Do you really want to go? Or let’s say your friends are going to a party at a popular kid’s house. You don’t like drinking, you don’t know anyone there, and the thought actually gives you anxiety because there will be significant underage drinking. However, you feel that if you don’t go, your friends might stop talking to you or you feel you will miss a connection with the people there.

         These examples illuminate the underpinnings of FOMO. In both scenarios, the people making the choice are driven by fear, hence FEAR of missing out. Fear is an archaic emotion that connects to survival. It’s the thing inside of us that yells WARNING and tells us certain ideas or behaviors are going to cause us pain, sadness, or even death. Fear is a response that was designed to keep us safe, but in a 21st-century world, fear can be a trigger for deeper mental illness.

         Understanding this concept of fear is an important part of unpacking why we are afraid to miss out because fear can mask other issues that could connect to negative experiences and even repressed trauma. And the more we make choices out of fear, the farther we get away from what we truly need in relation to health and wellness. So, the next time you feel FOMO, it might be the right moment to stop and assess because in doing do, you can break this negative response patterning once and for all.

The Importance of Family and Community

         The concept of a family is integral to healing and health. Whether we are talking about blood relations or not, the word family means a group of people that unconditionally love and support each other. Without this archetype, it can be difficult to heal from things like trauma, addiction and substance abuse, and mental health ailments.

         Maybe you’ve drifted away from your family, focusing on concerts, parties, and other distractions that have been fueling your addiction or mental illness, and that’s okay. But it’s time to rewrite that narrative and help you realize that turning in towards your support group could be the thing that stops the feelings of said fear. The FOMO we should actually be focusing on should be with the people that have raised us and supported us. Why does society push us away from the people that birthed us and raised us? The answer is unclear, but to start healing and get back on the track to health and wellness, healing within our family systems is an integral step.

         Reconnecting with family isn’t always easy, especially if you’re suffering from addiction or a mental health disorder. If this hits home, The Bougainvilla House can help. We focus on getting kids connected to themselves and their families with a community-style practice. We offer individual, group, and family treatment programs that are customized to fit your individual needs. There’s no need to fight mental illness alone and live in fear. Call now to learn about your options for a better and brighter future: (954) 764-7337

Managing Impulses in Recovery

Managing Impulses in Recovery

Impulse is often talked about in addiction recovery because it can be hard for individuals to exert self-control with certain stimulations, such as those who’ve battled with substance abuse.  Addiction affects the prefrontal cortex, which influences the way a person makes decisions, speaks, learns, judges and more. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for helping us make rational decisions, but addiction can mix things up as it alters the way a person thinks and makes choices. When this happens, a person is no longer using substances for pleasure – rather, they are seeking out substances because their mind and body feel compelled towards it.

Previous research has explained that addiction causes a person to make choices based on immediate reward, rather than long-term benefits. For years, researchers have tried to explore more the ways that impulsivity occurs when addiction is involved, as this plays a major role in both addiction and recovery. There are three general “types” of impulsivity that people tend to experience in regards to addiction:

·       Impulsive Choice – choosing immediate rewards over longer-term ones

·       Impulsive Action – having trouble with holding off on reacting to something that could bring immediate rewards

·       Impulsive Personality Traits – having a personality trait that coincides with impulsivity

Impulsivity, attention and working memory deficits are common occurrences for people who’ve battled with addiction, and much of this is tied to impulsivity and the way the brain stores memories as a person is going through addiction. Even those who’ve been working hard towards sobriety in addiction recovery may experience issues with impulsiveness, and it’s something to work on every day.

In the past, much research has been done on impulsivity and how it’s experienced with various addictions. A clear example of this is shown with meth addiction, where people often experience much more difficulty with attention and working memory, planning, and organization and mental flexibility compared to people who’ve never struggled with substance abuse.

The effects of addiction, including impulsivity, can weigh heavily on a person’s recovery at times – but it’s truly a process of recovery that involves learning and relearning in order to get back on track.

Those in recovery can benefit from trying out different approaches to combat impulsivitity – and while it may seem uncomfortable at first, it just takes time to develop skills necessary. As time continues and a person keeps working hard towards healing, the brain learns to ask questions, problem solve, weigh out decisions and more, which are tools towards combating relapse and living more mindfully.

Of course, impulsiveness can still rear its head, even for someone who has been working diligently towards their recovery for quite some time. In some moments of vulnerability, we may find that we’re more susceptible to acting on our emotions – and that is when we have to remind ourselves that recovery is a process and that it truly takes some time.

When it comes to relapse prevention, it’s a gradual process. Different stages take place and along with that come with different milestones as it relates to personal, professional and recovery goals. One of the main tools of recovery is cognitive behavioral therapy, where certain skills are focused on for a person to be able to navigate tough situations regarding impulsiveness. A clear example of this includes being confronted by a slew of thoughts of wanting to revert to old habits – cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) then gives the person choices with which to choose from. In this type of instance, a person can think about what they need to do to address the thoughts and feelings that they’re experiencing in the present moment, and then determine what action should be taken that would be most beneficial to them.

Recovery can be challenging, but it’s absolutely worth it if you’re able to gain back some of what you lost when addiction was active. It is never too late.

The Bougainvilla House has created a safe and welcoming environment for adolescents and their families which focuses on helping you overcome your feelings and connect you back to the beauty of the world. With a variety of outpatient treatment options and individualized programs, we are confident we can get you feeling healthy and happy. Call now to find a support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337

Self-Love: The Foundation of Recovery

Self-Love: The Foundation of Recovery

As we’re exploring more of ourselves in sobriety, we’ll uncover many more aspects of ourselves that we didn’t know before. One of the most challenging aspects of healing is learning of what we said or did while drunk or high; oftentimes, this coincides with feelings of shame, resentment, and more. Nobody likes to hear that they’ve hurt the ones they love, but when we’re in the throes of addiction, it’s bound to happen. Self-love is an incredibly important part of recovery because that’s when we become stronger in who we really are.

There are several different aspects of self-love, and we may already exhibit a few of these or we may not:

  1. Staying true to ourselves even when it’s not made others happy
  2. Expressing how we really feel and being honest
  3. Eating and exercising as appropriate
  4. Dressing in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves
  5. Building a life we love
  6. Accepting all parts of ourselves
  7. Making time to do things that bring us joy
  8. Choosing not to mull over past mistakes
  9. Trusting that everything will be okay
  10. Learning to set boundaries

It’s so much easier for us to fall back into those negative coping mechanisms – to point fingers at those around us, to wallow in self-pity over what we can’t have, and more. When it all boils down to it, however, how far do we get? How far should we let ourselves go down this rabbit hole of self-defeat? 

Even the most experienced of life coaches and mental health professionals admit that self-love is often what brings us out of the depths of negativity and despair.

Unfortunately, the path towards self-love is often missed as we find ourselves turning down roads filled with self-hatred, depression, anger, and resentment. It’s possible that even if we’re surrounded by others, we may feel completed neglected; it’s oftentimes this dark place of self-hatred that lingers on and gives us a feeling that we’re not good enough, that we’re not lovable, and that we don’t deserve good things.

It’s part of our biological instincts – to focus more on the negative than the good, as a way of self-preservation. The problem with this is that in modern life, we’ve adapted to focus more on the negatives as a whole – no longer just for the needs of survival. When we give more weight to our flaws and shortcomings, we’re holding ourselves back from receiving the love, joy, and fulfillment that we truly deserve. Yes, addiction can seem to take away parts of us over time – but that doesn’t mean that we have to continue letting those past behaviors take over us even well into treatment.

Self-criticism is often one of the most life-sucking aspects of life if we let it occur; when we neglect self-love, we’re more likely to:

  • Begin thinking in ways that make us more prone to relapse
  • Become more withdrawn in social situations
  • Avoid attending recovery-related activities
  • Have more self-doubt in our abilities to succeed in recovery
  • Give in to temptations easier, especially if we feel we’re deserving to fail
  • Experience more aggression and tension in daily life
  • And more

Neglect can tear us apart from our own sense of wellbeing, and this can further damage our progress in recovery along with our progress in forming meaningful, supportive networks to move forward in our lives.

If you’re ready to apply more self-love to your recovery, you must note that you’ll not always feel like practicing self-love  – but you must do it anyway. Positive affirmations are a great way of working through all of the negativity that can squander self-esteem. There are several things you can say to yourself to help with this, such as the fact that you’re doing the best that you can, that you have people who believe in you and who support you, and that you’re an incredibly strong person in recovery right now.

Work with your family, your therapist and/or your sponsor to help remind you to replace those negative thoughts with more positive, productive ones. Over time, self-love will become more natural – and you’ll find that your mind, body, and spirit thrive off of it as well. 

The Bougainvilla House has created a safe and welcoming environment for adolescents and their families which focuses on helping you overcome your feelings and connect you back to the beauty of the world. With a variety of outpatient treatment options and individualized programs, we are confident we can get you feeling healthy and happy. Call now to find a support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337

Why Isolating is Counterproductive

         When you’re feeling down, anxious, miserable or depressed, it can feel natural to want to hide in your room, in your bed, away from the world. Isolating can feel safe and comforting, especially if an event took place to trigger dark or traumatic emotions. But when we continuously remove ourselves from the company of others and the supports in our lives, we fall deeper into a mental health warzone that will keep us from healing.

Mental health issues stemming from depression and anxiety feed off isolation. Think of them like a stray cat. The cat comes to your door, you feed the cat once, and it keeps coming back for more. The cat doesn’t understand buying it food costs time and money. All it’s looking for is the fix—the food.

Mental health issues can act in the same way. Depression and anxiety want to make you think being alone is the best thing for you, not because it will make you feel better, but because it will benefit the mental illness. It wants to stay alive just like the cat. But the mental and physical energy we expend to keep feeding that cat is what deteriorates our self-worth even more. Now, that’s not to say that spending time alone is bad or wrong. It’s important to spend time alone to recharge. But if being alone is all we want to do, we need to start asking why.

The Paradox of Isolation

Being alone can feel good because we don’t have to try. We don’t have to put on a happy face, we don’t have to pretend, and we don’t have to worry about what others will think about our thoughts and behaviors. We can truly be ourselves in all moments without judgment. We can sit in the pit, we can stare at a wall, and we can cry. We simply don’t have to engage with anyone or anything when we are alone. But this is where the paradox comes in. It may feel good and safe being alone, but when we are alone, our internal narrative that craves peace can quickly shift to judgment.

Remember the cat. It wants to be fed; therefore, it doesn’t want you to change this behavior which in this case is isolating. It’s going to start telling you lies that, without another person to bounce things off, you start to believe. It might start by reinforcing isolation. Then it might tell you why it’s a great idea. But here’s where we find the shift. It tells you to stay isolated because no one likes you. Because you don’t really have any friends. Because sports aren’t fun anyway. And you’re not good at painting.

Do you see how quickly isolation reinforces itself? You begin to rationalize being alone, and the reasons become dark and negative. And the more times you tell yourself these narratives, the more you start to believe them.

Why It’s Important to Reach Out for Help

Depression and anxiety are tricksters. They make us think and feel things that aren’t real, but to the one suffering, the reality they are experiencing is a world of hurt that feels never-ending. People suffering from depression and anxiety can feel like they have no friends, no one likes them, and or no one cares, but just like the cat, these are the lies that are keeping it well-fed.

This is where outside support is vital to rewriting the internal narratives and finding joy. Talking to a friend, having dinner with family members, and going to therapy can quickly shift those negative words and reinforce the fact that people care about you. The more you isolate, the more junk you’re keeping in your head and heart. If you start talking about these feelings and narratives to others, they can help you see where the mental illness is looking for food and reinforce the love and support that is awaiting you.

 It can feel like an impossible feat to reach out for help when you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, but the truth is, you don’t have to live in that space. However, you do have to admit you’re suffering. Healthy living means yes, encountering some lows and some bad days, but healthy living means enjoying life more often than not and finding beauty in daily activities. If you’re struggling to find joy, it may be time for help.

It’s okay to feel sad or anxious. These feelings are simply human. But if these feelings are causing you to isolate and endure negative self-talk, it’s time to reach out for help. The Bougainvilla House has created a safe and welcoming environment for adolescents and their families which focuses on helping you overcome your feelings and connect you back to the beauty of the world. With a variety of outpatient treatment options and individualized programs, we are confident we can get you feeling healthy and happy. Call now to find a support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337

The Gift of Community

community family friends

The holidays are approaching, and regardless of whether we are making the decision to enter into recovery, or are well on our journey, it can seem depressing in comparison to the ways that other people might be celebrating the holidays. But if we step back and look, we have just given ourselves the greatest gift we could ever receive. Recovery is not the only gift, either. Along with recovery comes the gift of community.

What is a Community?

There are two popular definitions of the word community. The first is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” This definition is how perhaps people from the outside might view people who come to a treatment facility. It is definitely true, on the surface, everyone is living there and they are there for the common purpose of beginning recovery from various types of mental health challenges and addiction.

However, at The Bougainvilla House, there is so much more to treatment than just people getting together in a shared space with a common characteristic. The sense of community is maybe not something that is visible on the surface. Rather, it is something that truly binds people together. When we choose recovery, we become more like the second definition, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

More than Commonalities

It would be easy to come together with all that we have in common and just form groups of people in recovery. But recovery isn’t like having a barbecue or other social event. Recovery is where we dig into the depths of our souls. We find the very best and the very worst in ourselves, and everything in between. We suffer physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And we make life-changing transformations, too.

At The Bougainvilla House, we are never asked to do all of that alone. Amongst the people with which we have both differences and commonalities, we also find fellowship. We are all on this path together, even many of the employees, and so when one of us is suffering, we all suffer. When one of us has a breakthrough, we all rejoice. We cry together, laugh together, and help each other stand when maybe alone we didn’t feel like we could.

Although each of us has our own journey in recovery, it is impossible to do it all on our own. So we reach out to those around us who support us, and we support them. They are people with commonalities and differences, people with strengths and weaknesses, people who have good days and bad. They are just like us and yet different from us, but ultimately, we all share the same goal: to be well. It becomes a fellowship of freedom from our addictions and a family of warriors for life.

Building Relationships in Recovery

Friendships made in recovery are made stronger because of the incredible things we go through during the treatment and recovery process. Also because we are learning to be present, sometimes for the first time, we are able to learn about healthy relationships. We can ask for help, learn to trust, and we can reciprocate help, too. Despite the fact that we are all pretty raw, we can build a support system of friends that we can lean on and they can lean on us.

These friendships are different from some we may have had before because we are all healing together. We all share the same guidelines, we are learning together how to set healthy boundaries. We know better than to be distracted by romantic relationships because we are carefully rebuilding our lives and our hearts. Instead, the relationships we build while starting out in recovery are the kinds of friendships that will fortify us and help us to find our feet again. The kind of friends that we know we could call at any time, and we know they will be there for us.

The Community of Family

Within recovery, those who believe in us, stand by us, and lend us a hand when we think we can’t go on become closer than typical friends, they become like a family. They understand what we have been through, because they have been there, too. They understand where we are at, because they are right here with us, too. And we know they will be a part of our future because together, we are stronger. Not only do they reach out for us to lift us, but we can reach out and help them, too. 

The friends and family we have had prior to recovery may or may not understand us, it may not even be healthy to keep them in our lives. But the family that we make while in recovery will not let us get away with anything, will call us out when we need it, and love us for who we are, no matter what. And we can do the same for them. It is truly a gift in our lives to join this fellowship of wellness.

Do we feel alone and helpless?

At this time of the year, wouldn’t it be nice to become part of something bigger than ourselves? This is the perfect time to recover our lives and give ourselves a new kind of family,  the gift of community.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health challenges and/or addiction, don’t fight it alone.

Call Now: 954-764-7337