Blog Talk Radio: Kevin McCauley Memo To Self, Protecting Sobriety with the Science of Sobriety

Kevin McCauley, MD graduated from Drexel University Medical School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1992. He entered the United States Navy and received his Naval Flight Surgeon training at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Florida. He was the flight surgeon for Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 363 at Marine Corps Air Station, Tustin, California and for Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron 101 at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California.

From 2009 to 2013, Dr. McCauley was the Director of Le Mont, a sober living/recovery management program in Sandy, Utah, and was president of the Utah Association of Recovery Residences. He is currently the Director of Program Services at New Roads Behavioral Health in Salt Lake City, Utah.As Co-Founder of the Institute for Addiction Study, Dr. McCauley wrote and directed two films: “Pleasure Unwoven” about the neuroscience of addiction, and “Memo to Self” about Recovery Management in commercial airline pilots and professionals with substance use disorders. “Pleasure Unwoven” won the 2010 Michael Q. Ford Award for Journalism from the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.

Listen to the full recording here: McCauley on Blog Talk Radio.

Addiction Professional: An award-winning DVD elevates the conversation about addiction

The creator of “Pleasure Unwoven” offers a less stigmatizing presentation steeped in brain science

When Kevin McCauley was sent to a military prison for a year, he decided to immerse himself in learning about the disease that had held a grip on him. Half the books he read during his incarceration were from the addiction field’s historian, William White. So McCauley couldn’t help being moved over White’s writing in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly this year that McCauley’s latest project “may prove to be one of the most effective educational tools ever developed on addiction and will serve as an invaluable aid in the treatment of individuals and families affected by addiction.”

“Bill is the clearest and most moral voice in this industry,” says a humbled McCauley, host of the 70-minute documentary “Pleasure Unwoven.”

The DVD, which was released last November and for which about 3,000 copies are in circulation, again received accolades last month when the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) honored it with its Michael Q. Ford Journalism Award for 2010. The film uses the stunning backdrop of Utah’s national and state parks to illustrate the brain mechanisms at work in addiction, seeking to gently but thoroughly debunk the notion that addiction is a choice and not a disease.

White stated in his review that the presentation “synthesizes very complex neuroscience in the clearest language to date,” complimenting the use of vivid illustration to engage the viewer. McCauley says he can’t fully explain how he arrived at the idea of using the park settings to illustrate regions of the brain. But he was looking for a context that would be less threatening and emotionally charged than the spiritual or political constructs under which the disease/no disease arguments often occur.

McCauley, whose career as a flight surgeon was cut short by his addiction, had been lecturing on the disease topic for years but had never made a film before. The project took place under the auspices of The Institute for Addiction Study, a Utah-based organization (for more information, visit Potential audiences for the film and for McCauley’s lectures range from physicians to justice officials to specialty treatment providers to the general public.

McCauley indicates he is mindful that every media presentation on addiction is serving to tip the balance toward either a more professional, sensitively delivered depiction or toward the more exploitative approach that he sees in today’s cable television shows.

He says of the latter, “They’re showing the person at the worst point in his life. That person can’t consent to anything.” McCauley casts the situation as akin to a battle for the hearts and minds of the public, and he sees “Pleasure Unwoven” and similar efforts as an advance against stigma.

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Dr. Kevin McCauley’s 10 Principles of Successful Addiction Treatment

by Avis Rumney, LMFT

In his CD, The First Year of Recovery, addictiononlogist and recovering addict Dr. Kevin McCauley outlines 10 principles essential to a 95% success rate of recovery from addiction. McCauley works with addicted pilots who are highly motivated to recover and return to flight, and his principles form the foundation of the Pilot Recovery Program. Shirking on the recovery program lessens the probability of success, and each compromise in adherence to the program’s principles can reduce the chance of a successful recovery. Impaired doctors and nurses achieve an 85 to 95% recovery rate in programs based on a similar protocol, and the Pilot Program principles can be applied to other populations with a similarly high rate of successful outcome.

McCauley’s 10 Principles:

1 – 90 Days of Residential Treatment. It has been demonstrated that 30 and 60 days of treatment are insufficient to provide a solid foundation for recovery. A full 90 days in a residential program provides a strong base for ongoing recovery.

2 – Seamless Transition into a Sober Living Environment. McCauley emphasizes that the addict should visit sober living houses — and choose the one he or she will move into — while still in residential treatment. Upon release from the inpatient facility, the recovering addict should be transported directly to the sober living environment so there is no time during this vulnerable transition for the addict to obtain drugs or alcohol.

3 – Frequent, Non-Random Drug Testing. Drug testing must continue throughout the first year of recovery and be performed at frequent enough intervals to detect any time the addict uses his or her drug of choice. Any lower frequency gives the addict a window in which to use with impunity, which is a disservice to the recovering addict: a clean test enhances motivation for recovery.

4 – Outpatient Treatment Program. While the addict is residing at a sober living environment after being released from residential care, he or she needs to continue treatment. This will entail working with a drug addiction counselor and may include individual, family and/or group therapy.

5 – A Relapse Prevention Plan. A recovering addict may be exposed to old triggers to drink or use, and new situations are likely to arise in which he or she will have impulses to use again. Very early in outpatient treatment — if this has not been done during the residential stay — it is helpful for an addict, in the presence of his or her therapist, to draw up a relapse prevention plan that spells out in detail who to call, where to go and what to do when impulses to use arise. The addict should write out his or her plan, carry it at all times, and use it religiously as needed.

6 – 90 AA Meetings in 90 Days. “90 in 90” means that the addict should attend at least 90 meetings in his first 90 days of being in outpatient treatment. This gives the recovering addict a firm footing in the recovery community of Alcoholics Anonymous. In the environment of AA, the recovering addict can learn sober ways of thinking, behaving and coping, and observe sober people who are creating sober lives for themselves. AA offers the addict a community in which to develop personal connections and to feel a sense of belonging.

7 – Meeting with an Addiction Physician. There can be medical complications resulting from addiction, and a physician versed in the physical effects of addiction, and the physical changes that accompany recovery, will be best able to help the addict understand and manage his symptoms.

8 – Meeting with an Addiction Psychiatrist. There may be psychiatric issues that preceded addiction or that arose during the period of use, and a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about the psychological issues that accompany drug and alcohol dependence can distinguish psychological symptoms that are transitory aspects of recovery from those that may benefit from psychotropic medication. Sometimes an addict needs a period of time to be sober before a psychiatrist can determine what symptoms are likely to clear up with sobriety.

9 – Return to Work. Returning to work is an important aspect of becoming a fully functional after a lapse into addiction. Furthermore, work helps build self-esteem and offset the shame that generally accompanies addiction and job loss. Someone in early recovery may benefit from choosing a lower-stress job than he or she had previously, since the goal of working at this phase of recovery is to provide consistency, structure, responsibility and an opportunity to perform well rather than to embark on, or resume, a particular career path. For some people in recovery, return to a previous job is appropriate, but for others this is not the case. Determining what constitutes appropriate work for a specific individual is a topic that the recovering addict can person discuss with a therapist or group leader.

10 – Fun. The dopamine that has been depleted in addiction needs replenishment. Learning non-drug-using ways to produce pleasure is essential to rebuilding the natural supplies of dopamine. Without dopamine, recovery will not be appealing, the addict will experience more pain than pleasure, and the option of returning to alcohol or drugs in order to feel good will be compelling.

Following these ten principles can be a tall order, which is why the person in recovery, and his or her family, can benefit from substantial support and guidance. A counselor can reinforce these principles, and can steer the recovering person to their close adherence, for the sake of building a solid recovery platform.

For help with issues involving any type of addiction, please contact Avis Rumney at (415) 924-2100 or