nFOCUS - The 2017 Best Parties & Most Inspiring Events

Best Parties 2017

The results are in!

AUTHORS Nancy FloydHolly HoffmanGeert De LombaerdeMegan Seling

Another year has come and gone, but we couldn’t bid 2017 adieu without honoring the best parties of the year. Our writers and readers alike have been reflecting back on the biggest and brightest moments of the past 12 months, and what a year it was! From laughing with Shaq to dancing with Steven Tyler to celebrating the birth of Andrew Jackson, there was something to delight everyone on Nashville’s social scene. Keep reading to find out what events stood out to our readers, what details impressed our writers and whether or not your favorites made the list.

Cumberland Heights’ own “Reaching New Heights” Women’s Luncheon took top honors for Most Inspiring Luncheon and we couldn’t be more appreciative!  Read about it below:

Most Inspiring Luncheon

Reaching New Heights

Cumberland Heights’ Reaching New Heights Luncheon is always an afternoon filled with wisdom and inspiration, but this year’s keynote speaker took it to another level. Jeannette Walls, author of the best-selling memoir The Glass Castle, shared many of the book’s more poignant tales as she addressed her father’s alcoholism, her untraditional upbringing and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Supporters of Cumberland Heights are no strangers to the heartbreak of addiction, but Jeannette’s message was one of hope and healing, two things that Cumberland Heights works hard to achieve every single day. Nancy Floyd

Scan the list of all the Nashville-area winners below:

Readers’ Choice

Best Party

1. Symphony Fashion Show
2. One Night Only
3. Conservancy Gala and Ballet Ball (TIE)

Most Inspired Co-chair Team

1. Shaun Inman and Sheila Shields (Symphony Fashion Show)
2. Beth Courtney and Mara Papatheodorou (Conservancy Gala)
3. Charlotte Goldston and Trish Munro (One Night Only)

Best Favor

1. Beehive honey pot with honey (Conservancy Gala)
2. Bridge tea towel (Dinner on the Bridge)
3. Commemorative book (Sunday in the Park)

Best Decorations

1. Ballet Ball
2. One Night Only
3. l’Eté du Vin

Most Fun Party

1. One Night Only
2. Gentlemen’s Christmas Breakfast
3. Conservancy Gala and Ballet Ball (TIE)

Best Auction Item

1. Trip to NYC with Matt Logan (One Night Only)
2. Live painting by artist (Dinner on the Bridge)
3. Breakfast with Megan Barry (Taste)

Best Entertainment

1. Eden Espinosa (One Night Only)
2. Fisk Jubilee Singers (Ballet Ball and Conservancy Gala)
3. Steven Tyler (Symphony Ball)

Best Women’s Event

1. Symphony Fashion Show
2. Power of the Purse
3. Friends & Fashion

Best Special Guest

1. Steven Tyler (Symphony Ball)
2. Zac Posen (Symphony Fashion Show) and Renée Fleming (Oz Chairman’s Choice) (TIE)
3. Steve Inskeep (Hermitage Gala)

Best Children’s Event

1. All Booked Up (Junior League)
2. Family Day at Oz (Oz Arts Nashville)
3. Picnic at the Library (Nashville Public Library)

Best Dressed Party Guest

1. Clare Armistead
2. Milton White

Craziest/Funniest/Best Sight at a Party

1. President Jackson showing up for his 250th birthday
2. Seesaw at Conservancy Gala
3. Sabering a 9-liter Schramsberg Champagne at l’Eté du Vin

Best Animal-Centric Event

1. Art for Animals
2. Sunset Safari
3. Cause for Paws

Best Caterer

1. Kristen Winston
2. Johnny Haffner
3. G Catering

Best Event Planner

1. Amos Gott
2. Jayne Bubis
3. Hugh Howser

Best Event Venue

1. Schermerhorn Symphony Center
2. Oz Arts Nashville
3. Cheekwood

Writers’ Choice

Most Touching Tribute

Jane Dudley Dedication

In June, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens recognized Jane Dudley — the founder, two-time chair and honorary chair of the Swan Ball and an honorary Board of Trust member — for her perennial commitment to the historic estate. Following the heartfelt dedication of the Jane Anderson Dudley Grand Staircase and Balcony, past Swan Ball chairs surrounded the honoree for a group photo at the base of the newly named stairwell, which now serves as a constant, touching reminder of the benevolent lady we lost this year. Holly Hoffman

Best Blast from the Past

Richard Marx at Stars for Wishes

Wherever you go, whatever you do, Stars for Wishes will be right here waiting for you. The star-studded fundraiser for Make-A-Wish had ladies swaying in the audience and singing along with 2017’s headliner, Richard Marx. The singer — best known for his romantic ‘80s ballads — won the crowd over in no time, inspiring everyone to wave their candles from side to side when he closed out the show with “Right Here Waiting.” Nancy Floyd

Most Successful Makeover

Harvest Moon

After more than 30 years, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee decided it was time to give its signature event, the Harvest Moon Ball, a makeover. They opted for a more casual vibe by dropping “ball” from the name and moving to the crowd-pleasing Loveless Barn. The many enthusiastic attendees, who filled the barn wearing sporty jackets and jeans, enjoyed fare from The Loveless Cafe and dancing to Super T Revue, proving the plan was a huge success. Holly Hoffman

Best Bipartisan Gathering

Gentlemen’s Christmas Breakfast

On one of the first truly cold days of late 2017, there was plenty of warmth from both sides of the aisle at Shaun and Gordon Inman’s Franklin home, where a record crowd gathered for the 18th Gentlemen’s Christmas Breakfast. Politics might be especially divisive these days, but disagreements were set aside for this jovial pre-holiday gathering that drew plenty of Republican and Democrat officeholders as well as numerous candidates looking to take their public service to the next level. Geert de Lombaerde

Biggest Celebrity Sighting

Shaquille O’Neal at Great Futures Gala

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee is known for bringing in some big-time celebrities for the annual Great Futures Gala. In the past, they’ve welcomed Rob Lowe, Martin Short and Martin Sheen. But no one was bigger than this year’s special guest. Shaquille O’Neal, a former Club kid himself, was charming and hilarious when he sat down with Rudy Kalis for a live interview about his basketball career, his business success and his upbringing in New Jersey, reminding everyone in attendance of the huge impact this organization has made. Nancy Floyd

Best Dog Park Alternative

Unleashed: Dinner With Your Dog

The number of dog-friendly spots in Nashville continues to grow as more people take their furry friends out and about. When the sun goes down and the dog park closes, the best place to party with your pup is Unleashed: Dinner With Your Dog. Canines are as excited as their owners to head to the Hutton Hotel for the Nashville Humane Association fundraiser. If you don’t own a dog, no worries. Every adorable pup modeling canine couture is available for adoption! Holly Hoffman

Most Inspiring Luncheon

Reaching New Heights

Cumberland Heights’ Reaching New Heights Luncheon is always an afternoon filled with wisdom and inspiration, but this year’s keynote speaker took it to another level. Jeannette Walls, author of the best-selling memoir The Glass Castle, shared many of the book’s more poignant tales as she addressed her father’s alcoholism, her untraditional upbringing and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Supporters of Cumberland Heights are no strangers to the heartbreak of addiction, but Jeannette’s message was one of hope and healing, two things that Cumberland Heights works hard to achieve every single day. Nancy Floyd

Best Late-Night Snack

Chocolate-covered popcorn

After an exquisite evening that included an a cappella performance of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” from the Nashville Boy Choir at Blair, ladies and gents at the Symphony Ball Patrons Party received one final surprise. Each guest was handed a charmingly wrapped, generously sized bag of chocolate-covered popcorn, compliments of G&G Interiors and past Symphony Ball chair Jane Ann Pilkinton. Two nights later at the ball, patrons were raving over the gourmet treat and many confessed to snacking on it as soon as they got home. Holly Hoffman

Most Modern Décor

Frist Gala

The art that inspired the 2017 Frist Gala may have been centuries old, but the party was as fresh and modern as you can get. Guests spent the first half of the black-tie gala admiring Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea in the main gallery, but when they stepped into the tent, co-chairs Julie Dretler and Betsy Wilt wowed them with a modern take on the exhibit. Working with The Tulip Tree, the ladies created a contemporary and oh-so-chic setting for dinner, dreaming up a stark white-on-white aesthetic that was accented by bold red lanterns and panels hanging from the ceiling. The result was as stunning and dramatic as the art itself. Nancy Floyd

Best Visit to a Honky-Tonk Without Running Into Bachelorettes

Bright Lights, Nashville Lights at the Omni

Remember when a trip to Lower Broad was ill-advised because of rather sketchy, somewhat seedy characters roaming the streets? Now it is even riskier due to the rather drunk, somewhat loud bachelorettes who have invaded the five block stretch. At Bright Lights, Nashville Nights, the Tennessee Kidney Foundation remedied that problem by recreating the famous district inside the Omni Hotel. It provided all the fun of hitting the honky-tonks without the threat of running into a single woo-girl. Holly Hoffman

Best Audience Participation

Broadway Brunch

In its second year, Nashville Rep’s Broadway Brunch showcased the excitement and unpredictability of live theater with this raucous Sunday morning party. As guests enjoyed brunch at City Winery, a handful of Nashville Rep’s stars entertained with a Broadway revue, eliciting a little help from the audience from time to time, most notably from the talented Eddie George who was sitting front and center. About halfway into the performance, the cast started chanting “We want Billy,” the intro to “All I Care About” from Chicago. Eddie didn’t need too much coaxing before jumping onstage to reprise his Broadway role of Billy Flynn, sending this crowd into a mimosa-fueled tizzy. Nancy Floyd

Fanciest Footwork

Christie Wilson, Dancing for Safe Haven

You can count on discovering a friend’s hidden talent at Safe Haven Family Shelter’s Dancing for Safe Haven. That friend was Christie Wilson. Six competitors took the assignment seriously, training for weeks with professional dancers to learn their way around the dance floor. Each performance was impressive, but it was Christie who danced her way into hearts of the crowd. With her partner, Christopher Wayne, she wowed everyone with a Foxtrot that went from demure to red hot in a flash and deservedly won the Audience Favorite Award. Holly Hoffman

Best-Kept Promise

Laura Bush at the Spring Outing

In 2009, former first lady Laura Bush was so moved by a visit to The Hermitage that she told the staff to let her know if there was ever anything she could do to help. Last year, when the Andrew Jackson Foundation was planning the Spring Outing, Laura was the first person to come to mind. The former first lady kept her promise and appeared at the 117th annual event to speak to the record-breaking crowd of 700 guests, sharing tales of her time in the White House, offering updates on her family and honoring the important role of The Hermitage in educating others about American history. Nancy Floyd

Best Photo Opportunity

NFA Honors

At the inaugural NFA Honors, Kelly Diehl and Elizabeth Williams of New Hat Projects teamed up with Vroom Vroom Balloon and employed loads of color and patterns to create not one, but two, fantastic photo opportunities at the arts-immersive event. A kaleidoscopic balloon wall from Vroom Vroom Ballooon was the most innovative step-and-repeat ever, and columns of spin-able cubes provided a killer backdrop in the photo booth. As artistic directors for the Nashville Fashion Alliance event, Kelly and Elizabeth embraced the theme — celebrating the artistic collaboration and economic potential of Nashville’s fashion industry — and brought in their creative friends to help. Holly Hoffman

Most Charming Duo

Kelsea Ballerini and Zac Posen at the Symphony Fashion Show

It’s hard to imagine anyone more adorable than fashion designer Zac Posen. That is, until country music darling Kelsea Ballerini walks into the room. The duo was paired up for the Symphony Fashion Show, a genius move by co-chairs Shaun Inman and Sheila Shields, and it was love at first sight — for them and for us. When they came together on and off the stage, the result was pure magic, giving fans one of the most fabulous Symphony Fashion Shows in recent memory and — if we do say so ourselves — one of the most gorgeous Nfocus covers of the year. Nancy Floyd

Best Alternative to Happy Hour

Wined Up

A great way to end a wintry week — or any week for that matter — is drinks with friends. In February, Wined Up provided the perfect setting for exactly that while raising funds for Nashville Wine Auction’s fight against cancer. A thirsty crowd filled City Winery for the Friday-night event, a part of the organization’s Pairings: The Ultimate Wine and Food Weekend. Enthusiasts and aficionados reveled in sampling almost 100 wines from 29 West Coast vintners while cleansing their palates with tasty appetizers prepared by Chicago chefs. That’s plenty to be happy about! Holly Hoffman

Best Slice of Americana

Whitland Fourth of July Celebration

The Fourth of July always has everybody feeling patriotic, but no celebration in the city is quite as charming as the parade and potluck that happens in the Historic Whitland neighborhood. The entire affair feels like stepping inside a Norman Rockwell painting — rosy-cheeked children waving American flags, dogs yapping at their heels, grown men dressed like Uncle Sam — and is the perfect way to kick off the birthday of our great nation. Nancy Floyd

Best Trip Back in Time

Prom Night at Hampton High

No matter what your recollection of high school prom may be, everyone looks back on Prom Night at Hampton High with fond memories. More than 200 people attired in big dresses, big hair and big lapels walked through a balloon arch into the “gym” — aka Bette and Mark Christoferson’s backyard — for the zany night benefiting Nashville Conflict Resolution Center. Even a former prom queen returned to campus for old times’ sake: Title-winning female impersonator Brooke Lynn Hytes entertained the crowd until way past curfew. Holly Hoffman

Best Triumphant Return

Conservancy Gala

After taking a year off due to an unexpected tragedy in 2016, the Conservancy Gala returned in triumphant fashion this past November. A celebration of our beloved Centennial Park and Parthenon, the event honored the history of these two Nashville treasures by transporting guests back to 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. Co-chairs Beth Courtney and Mara Papatheodorou had every detail covered, from a welcoming committee decked out in Victorian attire to copies of the expo’s admission tickets to a replica of the giant seesaw that was the most popular attraction. It was the perfect way to celebrate the past and the future! Nancy Floyd

Best Hockey-Viewing Party

Swan Ball

Ticketless fans of the Predators filled sports bars and living rooms to watch their beloved team win the first home game in the Stanley Cup finals, but the ritziest viewing party by far was held at the Swan Ball. Guests — some wearing fan gear to accessorize tails and gowns — were thrilled to find televisions strategically placed under the tent on Cheekwood’s Swan Lawn. Although performer Sheryl Crow couldn’t slip away to watch the game, she showed her support for the team by plucking a Preds cap from a fan and wearing it while she sang a couple of songs. Holly Hoffman

Most Informative Chat

Antiques & Garden Show Lecture

The Antiques & Garden Show is known for bringing in some of the most fascinating and glamorous people in the world — Hi, Diane Keaton and Gwyneth Paltrow! — and we could listen to their keynote speakers talk for days about style and design. But it’s also nice to walk away with some very practical tips, which is what audiences received when Nate Berkus took the stage. The interior designer, who shot to stardom as a favorite guest of Oprah Winfrey, was charming and informative as he offered up design tips and shared his favorite finds from the show. Nancy Floyd

Best-Behaved Honoree

Bill Forrester at How About Dinner and a Movie

You can always count on Bill Forrester to be a perfect gentleman, and he was definitely minding his manners at How About Dinner and a Movie. The man who always keeps us in line by asking, “Are you behaving?” was honored for his many far-reaching contributions to so many area nonprofits, including Park Center, beneficiary of the event. A courteous — and record-breaking — crowd followed Bill’s lead and minded their p’s and q’s throughout the night. Holly Hoffman

Coolest Collaboration

Steven Tyler and the Nashville Symphony at the Symphony Ball

It’s no secret that the Nashville Symphony is fabulous, but there is something incredibly special about watching them accompany some of Nashville’s — and the world’s — biggest stars. Fortunately, for guests of the Symphony Ball, that’s exactly what happens when the Harmony Award winner takes the stage at the white-tie gala each year. This year’s honoree, Steven Tyler, had everyone on their feet during his five-song set, but it was the closing number — a moving rendition of “Dream On” accompanied by members of the symphony — that nearly brought the house down. Nancy Floyd

Best Costumes

Ballet Ball

Upon arriving at the Ballet Ball, we were mesmerized by the striking dancers positioned atop marble bases in the lobby of the Schermerhorn. Billy Ditty of the Nashville Ballet’s costume department used a sophisticated color scheme of black, gray and champagne and unexpected materials including feathers and passementerie to create the fanciful costumes that evoked the fashions of Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. We were so enamored by the remarkable looks that we featured three of the dancers on our April cover! Holly Hoffman

Most Artful Dinner

l’Eté du Vin Patrons Dinner

The pieces of art lining the galleries at 21c Museum Hotel — the site of the l’Eté du Vin Patrons Dinner last summer — weren’t the only masterpieces on display. With chef Levon Wallace at the helm, each course of the delectable dinner was a work of art. And due to a new format where patrons were divided into two smaller dinners, Levon and his team actually prepared two entirely different — but equally inspired — multi-course meals to complement the wines from the California vineyards. With inventive dishes like tobacco-cured duck and black cocoa rigatoni with lamb ragù, the meal was almost too pretty to eat. Nancy Floyd

Prettiest Alfresco Event

Dinner on the Bridge

Cumberland Park was a breathtaking substitute spot when Dinner on the Bridge relocated from its usual spot on the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. The park’s riverfront location afforded spectacular views of the city skyline, the bridges, the Cumberland River and the restored riparian plantings along its banks. As if perfectly timed, the sun set just as dinner was announced. More than 500 guests made their way to a long line of tables which ran down the East Bank Greenway, which was perfectly appropriate for an evening benefiting Greenways for Nashville. Holly Hoffman

Best Farewell to Summer

Fall Harvest Dinner

After another long, hot summer, we’ve never been more ready for autumn, and there’s no better place to usher in the cooler temps and the beautiful colors of fall than at Cheekwood. The Horticultural Society’s Fall Harvest Dinner is one of the best ways to say au revoir to summer and embrace the cooler days ahead. The alfresco dinner, staged beautifully in the Bradford Robertson Color Garden, paired perfect weather with an exceptional meal. Nancy Floyd

Best Floral Display

Marché des Fleurs by Electric Flora at the Antiques & Garden Show

Phillipe Chadwick is known for his show-stopping, vibrant designs, and when Electric Flora, his company with Nick Maynard, conceived Marché des Fleurs for the Antiques & Garden Show, it may have been the most impressive example yet. As visitors stepped into a garden of evergreens and white tulips and hyacinths, a loose floral arrangement sitting in a “window” beckoned them to pass through the “storefront” door. On the other side, a vivid flower shop with two flower walls — buckets of pastel flowers on one side and primary-colored ones on the other — was a visual spectacle that brightened our day and spirits. Holly Hoffman

Best Way to Watch the Oscars

A Red Carpet Evening

There are a few requirements for optimal viewing of the Academy Awards: a big screen, a group of friends and plenty of wine. The Belcourt’s annual fundraiser provides all of this and more, offering Nashville the biggest and best Oscars party around. Guests can walk the red carpet like a star, browse local goodies in the silent auction, stock up on treats at the concession stand and watch Hollywood’s biggest night in the company of hundreds of film lovers and new friends. Nancy Floyd

Most Educational Cocktail Party

Claws, Paws and Jaws

At the annual Claws, Paws and Jaws, generous supporters get up close and personal with some of the wonderful creatures who reside at the Nashville Zoo. Not only do attendees get to pet and hold the special guests, they also learn new and fascinating facts about the creatures as well. This year we learned a most unexpected tidbit about some new zoo inhabitants that will never be taken to anyone’s home. One knowledgeable staffer informed us that petting a white rhino is “just like petting a dog.” Holly Hoffman

Best Chance to Mingle With Roman Josi

Petey’s Preds Party

The Nashville Predators hadn’t announced who their new team captain would be when we rolled up to the Bridgestone Arena back in September for Petey’s Preds Party, the annual event that raises awareness of Parkinson’s disease on behalf of the team’s former assistant coach Brent Peterson. So we happily took the opportunity to go straight to the source, asking Roman Josi, the man rumored to fill the honorable role, if he could confirm or deny anything. He let out a surprised laugh, claimed to know nothing and happily posed for pictures. Just a week later, Roman was, in fact, announced the new captain. Congrats, #59! We literally told you so. Megan Seling

Most Original Award

Thomas Williams Golden Skillet Award

At Nourish, an event hosted by The Nashville Food Project, Executive Director Tallu Schuyler Quinn announced the creation of the Thomas Williams Golden Skillet Award. The prize was just that — a skillet painted gold with a plaque in the center. Thomas, a board member and Nourish founder, had the honor of announcing Margot McCormack as the first recipient of the annual prize for her continued dedication to inventive eating. The room cheered when he presented her with the shiny frying pan. Holly Hoffman

Most Bizarre Answers on Readers’ Poll

Is this thing on?

We collected a record number of votes on our Best Parties Readers’ Poll this year so thanks for participating. But it seems like maybe not everyone clearly understood what we were looking for when submitting their answers. We got a kick out of these answers and we thought you would too. Enjoy our picks for the most bizarre answers submitted by our readers!

Best Venue: The party was great
Best Party Favor: Food
Best Decorations: Gold
Best Auction Item: The way they set up the bar
Most Fun Party: Chris in shoes sues home

NPR: How Drug Combos Are Making Tennessee’s Opioid Problem Even More Deadly

Original By: AMY ESKIND
Posted On: September 25, 2017

NPR: Combining Dangerous Drugs Pushes Tennessee Overdose Deaths To Record High
NPR: How Drug Combos Are Making Tennessee’s Opioid Problem Even More Deadly

The combining of powerful drugs — both purposeful and unintentional — is making Tennessee’s opioid epidemic even more deadly. The latest figures out this month show 2016 was another record year for overdoses in the state — more than 1,600 people died. And experts say risky drug cocktails are compounding the problem.

Emergency responders have answered hundreds of 9-1-1 calls from friends and family members of people who have overdosed. Last year Davidson County lost 261 people to overdose, almost all of them from opiates. On the street, heroin is a cheaper opiate than pills. Many users are looking for whatever will give them the highest high, says recovering addict Mary Barton Lea.

“When I was buying my heroin I said, ‘who’s got the heroin with the fentanyl?’” she says. “That’s the heroin I want.”

Fentanyl is a very strong opiate that magnifies the experience and lasts longer. Experts expect to see more of it coming into Middle Tennessee.

“It’s a sleep-like state, it’s a state that you feel secure,” Lea says. “I’ve read — and I tend to agree with this — it’s almost like kissing God, because it takes you to a place you’ve never been before.”

But that incredible high comes with a physical and mental addiction, Lea says.

“When you come down from that state, all your body says is I want to get back there…You get up there quick, but then there’s a crash and the crash is horrible. The crash is you will do anything within your power to get more.”

Serious addicts like Lea may be willing to flirt with death. Others are simply unaware, says Sam MacMaster. He’s the chief clinical officer at JourneyPure, an addiction treatment provider. He warns that no one can be sure what they’re buying in the illegal market.

How Drug Combos Are Making Tennessee's Opioid Problem Even More Deadly
Sadly, 2016 was another record year for overdoses in the state — more than 1,600 people died. And experts say risky drug cocktails are compounding the problem.

“You would not be able to tell [by] how it looks at all, and that’s the issue,” MacMaster says. “They believe that they’re purchasing typically heroin or sometimes even a pilled opiate but it’s been cut with fentanyl.”

Indeed, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued a warning about counterfeit Vicadin and Oxycotin pills. As with heroin, unscrupulous dealers add fentanyl to give themselves a marketing edge — they’ve got the strong stuff.

But some users are buying the laced drugs unknowingly. They may erroneously think it’s stronger because it’s more pure. The next thing they know, they can’t breathe. Then their heart stops.

“If I believe I’m shooting x-amount of heroin, I may in fact be shooting something that is much more potent. And while I may have a sense of what my body can handle, I’ll have no idea what my body can handle in terms of the fentanyl,” MacMaster says.

Some dealers are even lacing their supplies with carfentanil, a veterinary opiate that can knock out a rhino.

But lethal combinations go beyond various opioids. Users have also been adding prescription anxiety medications, such as Xanax, Valium or Klonopin. Not only is that a doubling up on medications that depress the central nervous system, experts worn there can be a multiplier effect. And it’s hitting teens and young adults hard, especially since many of them already have anti-anxiety prescriptions. Others have painkillers, maybe prescribed for an injury.

“There’s actually prescription parties where kids will have a party and everybody raids the medicine cabinets they can get to, brings them to the party, and then you have whatever you have at that party for people to experiment with,” says Cinde Stewart Freeman, chief clinical officer at Cumberland Heights, an addiction treatment center.

Cole Szabo, adolescent specialist at Cumberland Heights, says the days when kids stuck to beer and marijuana are gone.

“The benzos and opioids are the new gateway drug,” he says. And it’s in the schools. “You’re seeing Xanax, you’re seeing benzos, you’re seeing hydrocodones, oxycodones, Vicodin – you’re seeing that more. The problem with that is, you’re going to die quickly. It’s a quick death, you’re going down fast.”

If administered in time a nasal spray called Narcan that reverses the effects of opiates can save a life. Emergency responders in Nashville have used it on more than 500 people already this year.

But Narcan has no effect on other drugs like anti-anxiety pills, cocaine, or alcohol, so combination overdoses can still prove lethal. That was unfortunately the case for Max Barry, the son of Nashville’s mayor, who could not be revived with Narcan, and died over the summer in Colorado with much more than opiates in his system.


Original Article By: MICHAEL CORKERY, NY Times
Date: SEPT. 15, 2017

As drug addiction soars in the United States, a booming business of rehab centers has sprung up to treat the problem. And when drug addicts and their families search for help, they often turn to Google.

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety

But prosecutors and health advocates have warned that many online searches are leading addicts to click on ads for rehab centers that are unfit to help them or, in some cases, endangering their lives.

This week, Google acknowledged the problem — and started restricting ads that come up when someone searches for addiction treatment on its site. “We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision,” Google spokeswoman Elisa Greene said in a statement on Thursday.

Google has taken similar steps to restrict advertisements only a few times before. Last year it limited ads for payday lenders, and in the past it created a verification system for locksmiths to prevent fraud.

In this case, the restrictions will limit a popular marketing tool in the $35 billion addiction treatment business, affecting thousands of small-time operators.

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety

“This is a bold move by one of the world’s biggest companies, saying people’s lives are more important than profit,” said Greg Williams, co-founder of Facing Addiction, a nonprofit group that is an advocate for people struggling with addiction.

Many rehab centers, a large number of which are clustered in warm climates like Florida, Arizona and California, rely on Google searches to attract patients from across the country. Their strategy often included buying an ad that would come up when someone searched for phrases like “drug rehab” or “alcohol treatment centers.”

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads

As of this week, Google has stopped selling ads related to those searches, although it may lift the restriction if it can find a way to weed out misleading advertisements.

Search ads for addiction treatment are lucrative. Treatment providers, in some cases, have been willing to pay $70 per ad click, according to an analysis that Mr. Williams’ group conducted and presented to Google executives.

But the payoff for those clicks can be significant. Addicts who sign up for 30 days of residential treatment can bring in tens of thousands of dollars from private insurance.

The crucial, if unwitting, role that Google has played in the treatment industry exposes the deep flaws in how drug addicts are cared for in America. Despite the rapid growth in the number of addiction cases — and the Trump Administration’s declaration that the opioid crisis is a national emergency — the treatment industry remains a hodgepodge of upstart businesses, with only a few well-known providers.

What constitutes treatment is also all over the map, from yoga and equine therapy to daily doses of medication. And unlike other serious illnesses, like cancer or heart disease, where a physician typically refers the patient for treatment, many addicts and their families look for help on the internet.

That has made Google one of the largest referral sources for treating a disease that affects millions of Americans. And the companies willing to the pay the most for ads are the one that addicts are most likely to see on their search.

But ad-driven searches, according to advocates and law enforcement officials, have not always led patients to the best care. In some cases, they have found that patients are being duped, a phenomenon Google on Thursday acknowledged.

Last December, a Florida grand jury released a report detailing abuses in the state’s addiction treatment industry, which is centered around Palm Beach County. Among the findings, the grand jury zeroed on the problems with how some of the shoddy programs were being marketed online.

One witness, according to the grand jury report, described how “online marketers use Google search terms to essentially hijack the good name and reputation of notable treatment providers only to route the caller to the highest bidder.”

Another common trap: Addicts search Google for a rehab program close to their home, but they will click on an ad for a referral service pitching treatment in another state. The referral service then collects a fee, if they signed up.

Google’s restrictions were cheered by health officials, who have called for more medically based treatment. “People don’t always know what good treatment is,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama Administration and published a oft-cited report last year that warned of the nation’s addiction crisis. “I am glad Google took steps to prevent the spread of these false ads.”

In targeting the ads for addiction treatment, Google consulted with experts including Mr. Williams, who himself has been in recovery for many years. He said he began discussions with Google executives around the time that Dr. Murthy released his report.

Mr. Williams said that he had explained to Google that his own experience trying to buy ads from the company had illustrated how the process of finding information about addiction treatment online was providing people with unreliable information. Mr. Williams said he discovered this when his group received a grant from Google that would help him buy ads promoting a website providing information about community based treatment — and found he couldn’t compete.

Buying ads on Google involves bidding to place your ad at the top of the search results when a user types in words relevant to your product or service. But Mr. Williams found that the bid prices for words related to treatment had gotten so expensive that his group couldn’t pay as much as the for-profit treatment providers. Some of those treatment providers, Mr. Williams told Google, were not only misleading, they had been charged with crimes.

In a series of phone calls and a meeting in Washington, D.C., Mr. Williams presented the company his research. He highlighted that some of the biggest buyers of ad words related to treatment had been accused of misdeeds related to insurance fraud and sexual assault.

“We stumbled upon this issue organically,” said Mr. Williams. “And they heard us out.”


A version of this article appears in print on September 15, 2017, on Page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: In Rare Move, Google Imposes New Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Saftey.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A hard hit can do more than just knock the wind out of a player on the field. It can leave them with an injury requiring medical attention and possibly pain medication.
“Sports are probably the leading cause of injury in kids but I think it is important to understand that sports in general are protective,” Dr. Alex Diamond said. “We know kids who play sports compared to kids who don’t are typically less likely to be involved in risky behaviors.”

 
High school sports injuries can lead to addiction depending on treatmentDr. Diamond is an assistant professor of Orthopedics and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is also the team physician for Vanderbilt University, Nashville Predators and the Nashville sounds. He along with the other physicians at in his department treated 26,000 adult and children athletes in 2016.
“As physicians we need to be mindful when treating children with injuries what situation require pain medication and what situations can be handled without pain medication,” he said. “Most of them can be handled without pain medications.”

 
Pain medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone and other opioids can be very effective in treating chronic pain. But, they can also be addictive and lead to more illicit drugs like heroin.

 
At Cumberland Heights, a non-profit addiction treatment facility, the number of teens entering the facility’s Adolescent and Young Men’s Services department has grown so much in the past couple of months it is expanding to keep up with the need.

 
“We take kids from all over the country,” Director of Adolescent and Young Men’s Services Dean Porterfield said. “The primary diagnosis is substance abuse, but It is not uncommon though that the underlying issues once you take those substances away are anxiety, depression or trauma.”

 
According to Porter for the 18 year old to 25 year old age group that makes up the Young Men’s program a growing number are addicted to heroin.

 
“A notable factor with the young adult population that we serve is that several of them are athletes who have experienced high school or college sports injuries that have required surgery and have become addicted to painkillers.”

 
He continued, “When the painkillers run out or they become more expensive the more accessible affordable drug is the heroin. That replaces what used to be that passion for sports and athletics and now their primary goal is to drug seek.”

 
Porterfield said with heroin it is not uncommon for the treatment center to get a call from family or the patient themselves saying they are in route for immediate admission to the facility.

 
“They are also some of the most vulnerable patients and need a great deal of attention throughout the painful detox and early days of treatment to prevent them from leaving against medical advice,” he said. “One of the things Cumberland Heights clinicians have made a priority is educating these young men on the risks of relapse and the lethal dangers associated with resuming the volume of heroin use they came in handling with the assumption their tolerance level is the same.”

 
He continued, “This scenario increases the likely hood of a lethal overdose.”

 
At Cumberland Heights the process is based on the 12-Steps.

 
After detox the work begins to help the young men understand the underlying reasons they abused drugs. In many cases its tied to the emotion effect their injury had on them and their identities.

 
“Just being an adolescent adult in general is full of ups and downs,” Porterfield said. “When they realize this substance can help alleviate that, they get hooked pretty quick.”
The same progression from painkillers to heroin and stronger opioids is much the same in adult users.

 
According to the CDC Tennessee is one of the most overprescribed states for painkillers.

 
At one point doctor’s wrote more prescriptions for painkillers than there were people in the state.

 
“As physicians we need to be mindful when treating children with injuries about which situations require pain medication and what situations can be handled without pain medication,” he said.

 
“We have a lot of other options that don’t have the same complications and risk involved with addiction.”

 
Dr. Diamond said things like physical therapy, proper braces or casts and anti-inflammatory medications can be very effective.

 
“As a parent you need to be diligent on what pain medication your kids are getting,” he said. “For the most part the narcotic pain medication is not needed for what we are seeing in our children. It is very rare.”

 
Porterfield said parents should be involved in their teens lives take note if you start to notice missing money, missing prescription medication, if your child is hanging out with friends or in places you do not know, and if your child attends unsupervised parties.

 


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