Cove Center for Recovery featured on the Ask Dr. Nandi national television show

Karen Corcoran-Walsh

The Cove Center for Recovery, drug and alcohol rehab made its cameo appearance on the national television stage. Karen Corcoran-Walsh, owner and founder of the Cove, was the featured guest on the Ask Dr. Nandi daytime life-style and healthcare show. Karen brought along Chris, a client, who is the first documented flakka addict to successfully recover from the dangerous synthetic, street drug that is especially popular in South Florida.

To watch the television interview click below on the YouTube video

Flakka is considered to be one of the most dangerous designer drugs. The chemical name for flakka is Alpha-PVP. It is a man-made synthetic drug shipped all the way over from China. It can create powerful hallucinations, hyper-stimulation, paranoia, violent aggression and self-injury. The body temperatures can rise dangerously and can lead to kidney damage and failure. Heart attacks and suicides can also happen.

Dr. Nandi, host of the Ask Dr. Nandi show interviewed Chris as well as Karen about his use of flakka. When Chris was just 12-years-old he joined his older friends in smoking pot. At age 14 he started selling it. He tried ecstasy at age 15, cocaine at 16 and heroin and prescription pills at 17. Chris was raised in an educated middle class family.

He played high school basketball and was offered a college basketball scholarship. Chris did not believe the college team was good enough and regrettably turned it down. A decision that still haunts him today. He has made numerous attempts to recover from the clutches of drug addiction – only to find himself back in a residential treatment facility. While at a sober living house, Chris was introduced to Flakka by another person in recovery.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Dr. Nandi: Tell me why you decided to do flakka? I know you have been to a half-way house and trying to turn things around.

Chris: I was clean for a bit and at the halfway house and outside of the house there were a few people that I was familiar with and they were using flakka. I heard about it (flakka) but never experimented with it and I have a history with addiction. On top of that the price was cheap.

Dr. Nandi: How cheap is flakka?

Chris: For five dollars you can get an amount that will get you higher than I felt on $30 worth of cocaine and two hits of ecstasy. I heard that flakka does not show up on a regular drug panel test because it is synthetically made. So the addict in me thought maybe I can try this and get away with it and still be clean at my half-way house and try to still keep going with my clean time, but it didn’t work out that way.

Dr. Nandi: How does flakka make you feel?

Chris: It would be a combination of ecstasy mixed with cocaine. Some people might describe it as using meth. I never tried that but heard it has similar effects.

Dr. Nandi: Do you feel like you can conquer the world when you are on flakka?

Chris: It does give you that superman sense of invincibility. For example, one day while on flakka, I walked for miles and miles and the next day my legs and feet were so swollen and I was dehydrated. I think I lost 10 pounds in a span of 48 hours.

Dr. Nandi: A lot of people believe drug abuse is only a choice, but it is a disease. If you hear Chris talk he says the addict behavior in me says I can get away with it. It is almost like having diabetes but not having the insulin. Addiction is a disease that has to be treated like other diseases. One of the times you were using drugs you said you had what drug or alcohol abusers call a moment of clarity. What was that moment of clarity for you and how did it turn your life around?

Chris: Actually it was during that time that I told you when I was on a 48 hour flakka run and I looked like I belonged on the side of the road. So I was using flakka with a couple of friends and at this point I am using other drugs as well. Flakka, some heroin, some roxies (Roxycontin) and I was drinking as well to counteract the high and the low. This is called a speed-ball. So we end up finding someone who wants to use with us and invites us back to their house.

When we get to the house the doors had been broken in by probably the police. There is no power or water. The back pool did not have water, but was full of beer cans. There was garbage all over the house. The mattresses were flipped over. The house was strewn with empty baggies and syringes. And I took everything in and thought to myself this is not my future. Especially with what I learned in recovery at the Cove Center for Recovery. If it wasn’t for the things I learned at the Cove I probably would have not made it out of there.

“If it wasn’t for the things I learned at the Cove I probably would have not made it out of there.”

Chris, former Cove Center for Recovery client talking about staying at an abandoned house doing flakka

Dr. Nandi: Congratulations for that because a lot of people would have stayed in that environment. You took those tools and made adjustments in your life. Now tell me about your mom and tell me how she changed your life?

Chris: My mom is my rock. She played both mother and father my entire life. She has always made me aware of the addiction gene, but at the same time I kind of hid things from her growing up. As I got progressively worse we lost connection and that mother son bond because I was embarrassed to be around her.

It was Mother’s Day when I had been on a drug run for a while and I came up to her and asked her for help. It was bad timing, I know, but she said  it was the best gift she ever had. I told her “Mom, I need help. I need to go to treatment.” I told her my addiction has taken over me. And usually a parent might be upset with their child, not understand why can’t you stop. But she understood. She drove me to my first in-patient treatment center and that was the best decision that I ever made.

Dr Nandi: That is wonderful and I am a parent and if you are a parent watching, your kids need you their whole life because they turn 17 and 18 years-old and it doesn’t mean it is over. You said something very important. Folks that are abusing drugs and are in that spiral where drugs take over your life are deeply embarrassed by it. Don’t think they don’t understand what they are doing and so you have to be supportive and I tell you when you have a partner anything that you are doing including trying to defeat the disease that you have is so much easier.

Experimenting with drugs does not mean one will automatically become addicted. When someone uses a drug they experience unnatural, intense feelings of happiness. Now here is the problem. In the brain is a chemical called dopamine. It is responsible for transmitting signals between brain cells. When the brain senses too much scientists say dopamine gets reduced. And if we don’t have dopamine we don’t care about anything.

When a person comes down from your high they can feel flat, lifeless, and depressed. The brain remembers these intense happy feelings and guess what they want to raise those dopamine levels back up. As one keeps using drugs they need larger amounts of to recreate that same high. These brain changes are believed to be the driving force behind someone seeking out drugs compulsively.

Dr. Nandi: Tell me about flakka and why people are using this?

Karen Corcoran-Walsh: Well many young kids are using this because it is inexpensive. It costs only five dollars and it is readily available and it is attractive to the risk takers. Children are often risky in their behaviors. It is new. They like things that are trendy and they are attracted to it.

Dr. Nandi: And it is not scary to them is it?

KCW: No it is not.

Dr. Nandi: Chris talked about that situation where he was walking for miles and his legs were swelling up and I am sure others that you see that have had that revelation, They keep going.

KCW: Often they keep going until something stops them unfortunately.

Dr. Nandi: How did you treat Chris at the Cove Center? Obviously very successful. What did you guys do?

KCW: Well when Chris was first admitted into the Cove, we did an extensive history and physical and we had to look at the reasons why Chris was struggling chronically with relapse and when we looked into his history of his drug use, we found that he needed to look at something different about his behaviors. What was going on when he wasn’t craving to get high? What was he doing when he didn’t have the cravings to go out and use? We started using a multi-disciplinary approach using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and recently Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to actually see what was going on with Chris.

Dr. Nandi: Let me go back. You said that you want to know what he was like when he is not high. Can you tell me why that is so important?

KCW: It is important because when someone is struggling with addiction, they often focus on the time when they are craving and the time when they are high. We need to help them in moments of success by asking questions like: What is surrounding them? How do they feel? Where are they? We look at those times as strength building opportunities.

Dr. Nandi: It is almost like saying it is not just when you are high, but when you are not high that you can have these feelings of self-fulfillment and joy. I think Steven Tyler said this: “I spent my entire life trying to get the joy.” He used to have a family cabin on the lake and had this amazing feeling when he jumped off a tree into the lake. He said that he spent his entire life looking for that feeling and he can never find it, whether it was 20,000 people screaming his name or whatever drug he took.

Dr. Nandi: What things did you take away from the Cove to help yourself?

Chris: One thing definitely is the relapse prevention plan that they helped me with. They helped me deal with my own problems that caused my own addiction in the first place, such as anxiety and depression and dealing with certain situations in the proper way instead of using drugs to cope or to numb the feeling of it.

Dr. Nandi: What can other parents like myself do to prevent teens from abusing drugs?

Chris: Honestly, educate them. In my school we never really had someone come in and show us the damage of drugs and what it could do and lead to, but if you walked me through let’s say a jail when I was younger and say look drugs and alcohol could get you to this place or a morgue that would probably scare me straight.

Audience question: Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others do not?

KCW: It is a combination of genetics, behavior and environment. It is very difficult to predict who will use drugs and become addicted and who will walk away and not become addicted, but it is important to think about what is going on in each person’s life and to pay attention to the signs and symptoms before addiction occurs. Drug use turns to drug abuse and that becomes addiction. So preventing the addiction from occurring is a huge factor.

“Drug use turns to drug abuse and that becomes addiction. So preventing the addiction from occurring is a huge factor.”

Karen Corcoran-Walsh, owner of the Cove Center for Recovery

Dr. Nandi: People tend to label folks like Chris who have had addictions in their life. Unlike a diabetic or heart disease patient. People do not recognize that there are factors that are genetic. Chris is already behind the eight-ball. Can he solve this problem? Absolutely. But we have to support him and understand this is a disease. We all have genetic problems that make us more at risk to have a disease and this is not anything different than another disease.