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Archives for February 2017

Growing illicit drug use in all 50 states

Illicit drug use comes in various shapes that impact the lives of hundreds of thousands every year. Heroin and other opiates, such as prescription pain killers and fentanyl, combined to kill 33,091 people in 2015, but they are not the fastest growing illicit drug used in each of the 50 states. In a November 2016 report, the Drug Enforcement Administration pinpointed prescription drugs, heroin, and fentanyl as the most significant drug-related threats in the United States.

While alcohol and marijuana are the most commonly abused drugs across the nation as a whole, opioids, heroin, fentanyl, crystal meth, and cocaine abuse is growing. What drug is your state struggling with most?

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Illicit Drug Use in United States

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Prescription Opioid abuse a common problem

Prescription opiate abuse has become more common due to an interesting reason. Doctors have been instructed to limit opioid prescriptions, causing many patients to go cold turkey. These patients, having developed an addiction to the prescription opioids, then turned to other methods to continue using the opioids.

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Illicit Drug Use - Prescription Drugs

Prescription opiate abuse is the fastest growing drug related issue in these states:

OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Hydrocodone, and Demerol are commonly abused prescription opioids. Every day, more than 1000 people are treated in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

The most recent data from the CDC showed West Virginia had the highest rates of death due to drug overdose with 41.5% of all deaths. In some areas of West Virginia, an estimated 1 in 4 residents are dealing with opiate addiction. Alabama ranks #1 in the nation with the most opioid prescriptions in the state.

Heroin issues are widespread

Heroin abuse is growing fast, due in large part to prescription opiate addiction. Among new heroin users, approximately 3 out of 4 admitted to abusing prescription opioids first. Often, when an addict can no longer find or afford prescription opioids, they’ll turn to the much more affordable and accessible opiate based drug: heroin.

Heroin related deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010, and heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6% from 2014 to 2015, claiming the lives of almost 13,000 people.

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Illicit Drug Use - Heroin

States with the fastest growing heroin use are:

In Illinois, much of the problem stems from drug cartels’ easy access to Chicago. New Jersey also has significant heroin issues. Since 2004, more than 6,000 people have died from heroin in New Jersey and an investigation revealed that there were at least 128,000 people actively using heroin.

Fentanyl grows in Midwest and Northeast

Many heroin users and dealers are switching to a different product: Fentanyl. Fentanyl is easy to transport, hard to detect, and an estimated 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. While the video above focuses on Canada’s Fentanyl problem, it does provide valuable insight on overall abuse of the drug.

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Illicit Drug Use - Fentanyl

The following states had 500 or more reported law enforcement fentanyl encounters in 2015:

Ohio has the most heroin related deaths of any state, with 1,444 in 2015, but users are quickly switching to Fentanyl for a more powerful high.

Fentanyl is the top cause of drug deaths in New Hampshire and claims the lives of hundreds in New York, but many users don’t even realize they’re taking it. Fentanyl is often mixed in heroin or in pills without the user knowing. This is considered a contributing factor to the death of musician Prince.

Fentanyl is the fastest growing abused drug in the United States; the number of encounters has more than doubled from 5,343 in 2014 to 13,882 in 2015.

Crystal Meth popular in West

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While opioids such as prescription pain killers, heroin, and fentanyl are raising concerns across the nation, crystal meth is still the drug of choice in the following states:

More than 90% of drug offenses in Hawaii and Montana are for crystal meth. Meth is a large issue in North Dakota as well, due to the recent influx of jobs created by the oil boom. Meth is easy to mass manufacture in rural areas, making it easy to find for lonely, secluded employees.

The meth problem in California is largely due to Mexican cartels ramping up mass production and finding easy routes into Southern California. California had the most drug related deaths of any other state in 2015, with 4,659.

Cocaine use rising again

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Illicit Drug Use - Cocaine

Cocaine was a significant problem in the 80s, but deaths from overdose are climbing yet again. These states have seen rising usage of cocaine:

Colorado residents across all demographics have experienced a rise in cocaine use. New Mexico is seeing a spike in cocaine use in their high school students. Globally, cocaine production is highest in Colombia and Peru.

Fighting illicit drug use

These are just some of the rising illicit drug use issues in the United States and this map is in no way an exhaustive list of drug use by region. Prescription opioids, heroin, fentanyl, crystal meth, and cocaine are an issue across the United States. They all need your attention, regardless of location, as any family member could become or may already be addicted.

Drugs don’t discriminate by wealth, gender, or location. They can infect anyone and pull them into a spiral that often has fatal consequences.

33 end of winter bucket list items

The impending end of winter stirs up a multitude of feelings. Joy for some. Angst for others. But before the last snow pile melts and your winter coat is stored away, relive those cherished snow days you prayed for as a kid. Because whether you like to admit it or not, you’ll miss some of those  winter activities when they’re gone.  You will.

Stay at home end of winter items

Winter means more indoor time. A glass half-full point of view might see it as an excuse to crawl under some warm blankets and relax, but for many staying indoors is often plain boring. But there really are some exciting things to do inside that might not be as enticing when the weather warms. Try some of these if you are looking for something to do:

  1. Make homemade hot chocolate
  2. Host a game night
  3. Did someone say movie night?
  4. Cook up some indoor s’mores
  5. Test your cooking skills and make a fancy dinner
  6. Take an online class
  7. Take up knitting
  8. Read a book
  9. Write a story
  10. Start a small business (Try selling what you created )
  11. Build a blanket fort
  12. Catch up on a TV series
  13. Reminisce with old photos
  14. Make apple cider
  15. Make a bird feeder

These are sure to test your creativity and provide countless hours of fun while the thermometer slowly creeps up.

Visit a new indoor area

If the weather is still a little too brisk to spend a significant amount of time outside, take a road trip to a new, indoor activity:

  1. Visit a museum
  2. Go to a hockey game
  3. Try an escape room
  4. Try new coffee shops (You don’t have to drink coffee)
  5. Visit a haunted house (Yes, many are still open in winter. Especially around Valentine’s Day)

These interactive trips range from educational to thrilling, and all offer unexplored adventures to awaken some excitement on even the most gloomy of days.

To the outdoors!

The end of winter carries some whacky weather. It can snow one day and call for shorts the next. If the weather outside is delightful rather than frightful, consider these options:

  1. Ice skating
  2. Ice fishing
  3. Skiing
  4. Snowboarding
  5. Sledding or snow tubing
  6. Do a polar plunge
  7. Winter hiking
  8. Follow animal tracks (A fun activity for kids)
  9. Ice boating
  10. Geocaching

Be sure to bundle up. 50 degrees and sunny in Wisconsin could turn to snow an hour later. It’s always advisable to overdress and shed layers if need be.

Help a good cause

The end of winter is also a great time to support a charity. Here are a few ways you can help those in need:

  1. Donate food
  2. Donate warm clothes to a good cause
  3. Volunteer your time

Rawhide Boys Ranch is always looking for support. If you would like to make the end of winter a good time for spring cleaning, consider choosing Rawhide. Rawhide accepts cash, cars, boats, motorcycles, or other vehicle donations. All funds are used to change the lives of at-risk and troubled youth. Kick off changing weather by changing a life today.

What can you do to love yourself?

Vain. Arrogant. Prideful. Narcissistic. We tend to use these negative terms when describing someone full of self love. Instead, we value those who are completely altruistic and humble. But to love yourself and selflessness are not mutually exclusive.The concept of sacrificing for the betterment of others is admirable, but constantly sacrificing can have devastating consequences. You may end up resenting those you are sacrificing for or lose sight of your goals and ambitions.

Join us to find the self love your life needs.

What does it mean to love yourself?

Self love is an understanding of who you are and genuinely enjoying that discernment.

We all have things we want to improve, and by all means seek out ways to improve, but learning to accept the things out of your hands and allowing yourself to be happy must be your priority: Don’t “act” around others, be yourself, find your style and own it, and learn to say no to things you don’t like or don’t want to do.

How do you treat your mind, body, and soul?

Take time to reflect on the different ways you love yourself. How well do you really know yourself?

Do you treat yourself how you want your friends and family to treat you?

Would you be friends with you?

Do you deny yourself opportunities to be happy?

Are you constantly setting unattainable goals?

Are you surprised by your answers? Or does it confirm an inclination you’ve had about neglecting your personal needs? Self love doesn’t mean tuning out the needs of others; it means including your needs in with the caring, benevolent attitude you already have towards others.  You could go crazy and buy designer sunglasses or a new pair of boots, but that won’t hold you over for long. A more rewarding option: go for a walk and eat a nutritious meal. These simple daily tasks can make your heart grow a little fonder:

Exercise | De-clutter your space (work, home, car) | Go a day without comparing yourself to someone else | 

Get off social media, especially photo sharing sites as they can lead to low self-esteem | Create something (ex. painting, baking, gardening) | 

Go through a day in slow-motion: walk slowly, eat slowly (take time to enjoy living) | Get your fears out of your head and onto a page |

Take a nap/sleep in | Meditate |

Whatever you do, do it for yourself.

Integrate self love into self identity

Some facets of learning to love yourself aren’t quick fixes. Ultimately this is a life-long endeavor. And it’s not always going to be easy.

Learn to forgive yourselfWe all make mistakes or have things that make us cringe with embarrassment. It’s time to let go and forge new experiences. Don’t let your past transgressions define you.

Understand that not everyone is going to like you. Stop trying to live up to others’ expectations or perceptions of you. Spend time with people who make you feel good.

Stand up for what you believe in. If your thoughts and ideas make you stick out like a sore thumb, so be it. Project your values and morals in everything you do, whether it’s at work or at the family dinner table.

There are many ways to love yourself. There will inevitably be times when you are ashamed of an action you took, but by molding a foundation of self love, you can overcome those past slip-ups.

Trouble seeing a future where you love yourself?

Are you still at a loss of where to begin? Or do you desire a deeper level of support to develop the level of self love you desire? If yes, consider reaching out to someone for help. Rawhide has outpatient counselors throughout eastern Wisconsin specializing in many of the issues keeping people from accepting and loving themselves. Take action now. Life’s too short to experience it without love.

CDV, domestic violence and the children in its shadow

Until a few years ago, a term describing children witnessing domestic abuse/violence did not exist. As a result, research or understanding of its traumatic effects is grossly underreported. Every 9 seconds a woman is abused by an intimate partner and 70% of women worldwide will experience domestic abuse. As a result, 1/3 of American children have witnessed violence between their parents.

We see that abusers overwhelming come from abusive background, and thus only replicate patterns they have learned during their childhoods.

Melanie-Angela Neuilly Professor of Criminology

The research we do have is startling. Childhood Domestic Violence or CDV leads to deficiencies in cognitive skills, lower life expectancy, and a higher risk of developing violent behaviors. Children impacted by CDV need our help.

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Defining domestic violence

Domestic violence is difficult to define. It can take various forms and is often tied to intent to cause harm. Most commonly, it is described as a pattern of abusive behavior used to gain power or authority over a partner in an intimate relationship. The goal of an abuser is to control their partner:

Intimidate | Manipulate | Humiliate

Isolate | Frighten | Coerce

Blame | Hurt | Injure

When people think of domestic violence, they may think of a man physically assaulting their female intimate partner. But the scars run much deeper than a victim’s skin. Abuse can come in the following forms:

Physical abuse consists of hitting, throwing, grabbing, etc. It can also include pinching, poking, and any unwanted touching. 

Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual behavior from one person to another.

Emotional abuse describes the terrorization of one’s feelings. This includes withholding love, making someone feel sad or isolated, etc.

Psychological abuse describes any actions that inspire to initiate self-degradation or a lack of self-esteem in a partner.

Economic abuse includes strictly controlling finances, forcing a partner to be financially dependent, and dictating all spending.

Even with these definitions of abuse, pinpointing what is domestic abuse, and what are bumps in the road is complicated.

Living with a monster

A violent relationship often contains love, romance, and happiness. Likewise, a relationship can turn abusive at any point and often leaves the victim confused and conflicted on whether to stay or leave. Even when the victim decides to get out of the relationship, the threat of violence or hardship is not always over. Susan Sorenson, a professor of social policy, says:

We tell women repeatedly to leave the abuser, leave the abuser, leave the abuser, but when she does she increases her risk of homicide.

The effects and after-effects of domestic violence are crippling and the fear of asking for help only compounds. In 57% of mass shootings, the perpetrator targeted either a family member or an intimate partner first and 8 million days of paid work lost by women due to abuse 3rd leading cause of homelessness for families. However,  only 25% of physical assaults are reported to police and only 34% of victims get medical help

Many survivors of domestic violence report bouts of abuse interwoven into a loving, trusting, fun filled relationship. Victims can convince themselves that their significant other is not a violent person, simply kind and gentle with hints of aggression, often thinking:

He doesn’t really mean it when he hurts me.

Signs of domestic abuse

Abuse is so common that it often goes unchecked, or seen as a normal aspect of a relationship. 3,802,800 women have been abused by an intimate partner and 20,000 calls are made daily to domestic violence hotlines. But you can help lower these startling figures by looking for warning signs. It is very unlikely that you will receive direct confirmation, but letting them know you sense something’s not right could open communication.

Every relationship with domestic violence is complex and different, but below are some common warning signs.

Hiding bruises/marks | Disappears from work/social life

Gives up hobbies and friends | Always checking in and asking for permission

Making excuses for partners erratic behavior | Dramatic shift in disciplining children

If you notice any of the above, inform them you are willing to help. Just having someone they trust can go a long way.

Exposure to children, CDV

CDV (childhood domestic violence) is any domestic abuse/violence witnessed by someone under the age of 18. Paralleling domestic violence statistics, the abuse witnessed is most commonly from a father figure towards the child’s mother. Calling CDV widespread is an understatement:

5 million children witness domestic violence every year in the USA

275 million CDV victims every year internationally

40 million Americans over the age of 18 witnessed domestic violence as children

They call children of domestic abuse victims invisible victims because they are around the abuse, but often do not encounter it directly. But just because a child doesn’t feel the violence first-hand, doesn’t mean it doesn’t leave a profound impact. One child witness recounted,

I wouldn’t say anything, I would just sit there…like I was just sitting there, listening to a TV show or something.

Besides seeing, children are affected by hearing, observing, and feeling domestic violence. The lifelong physical problems associated with CDV are distressing:


These invisible victims have very visible burdens. That added weight and anxiety can produce dangerous beliefs and views about relationships and morals.

Violent outcomes from CDV

When violence is constant, it becomes the norm. A child witness may associate violence with intimate relationships or view those abused as weak.

Unhealthy relationships are normal | Use violence as a means to get something | Viewing women as the inferior sex

Believing that fighting means you’re strong | Mom is at fault for making dad angry/not protecting children

With these views encroaching on developing minds, violence is often repeated:

  • 3x more likely to repeat the domestic violence they witnessed
  • 74% more likely to commit a violent crime
  • 75% of boys who witness their mothers being beaten were later identified as having demonstrable behavior problems
  • Up to 40% of chronically violent teenagers were exposed to extreme domestic violence
  • 63% of all boys, age 11-20, who commit murder, kill the man who abused their mother


These children are programmed at a young age to treat violence as just another aspect of life. Dangerous behavior is not only a threat to society, but to the very children where it manifests. CDV victims are at a high-risk of self-harm as 6x more likely to commit suicide. CDV survivor Tannetta Elliott, whose mother was murdered by an intimate partner, spoke about living with domestic violence in her home:

Being a child of domestic violence is like a death in itself. It’s like your life is being taken. Sometimes I used to say, ‘Maybe I should have taken that bullet.’

With the prevalence of domestic violence and its profound effects on children, the situation looks grim. But it is not irreversible.

How to help children

Unlike domestic abuse victims, warning signs for CDV are often easily noticeable. They change as the child ages and uses different methods to cope with the turmoil at home:

Preschool – Regressive behaviors (ex. thumb-sucking), anxiety with strangers

School Age – Self-blame, violent outbursts, regressive behaviors

Adolescents – Truancy, drug abuse, sexual activity

The child experiencing domestic violence is trying to understand how normal relationships work. That’s why priority number one is to prevent normalization of domestic violence. Show them how a healthy relationship works. Start by being their friend, someone they can trust. The courts and law enforcement are also getting involved as 23 states and Puerto Rico have adopted laws addressing violence committed in front of children.

Listen | Never make promises you cannot keep

Introduce them to safe hobbies/activities | Build on child’s cultural background

Find anchor (stable) family members to spend time with the child

Reinforce examples of positive relationships, and use these phrases often:

Violence is not okay | It’s not your fault | It is not your job to prevent or change domestic violence

Get help

In an emergency dial 911.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224

CDV survivors are finally starting to get the help they need. As awareness grows, and survivors continue to share their experiences, the crippling effects of CDV are starting to slow. Together we can help the next generation put domestic violence in the rearview mirror and develop healthy, loving relationships.

29 tips to hold quality conversation

How are your conversation skills? Do you find it easier to text than to have a face-to-face conversation? We’re here to help! Face-to-face conversations are tricky, but they’re a great way to truly connect with someone on a personal level. Our 29 tips to hold quality conversation will help you start conversations better than a candy heart ever could.

Start quality conversation

Opening a conversation can be as easy as saying, “How about this weather?”. But will the conversation go much further than next week’s forecast? Unless the other person is extremely passionate about the weather, the answer is no.

Instead, start with an engaging question focusing on your environment. If you’re at an event, ask what the other person thought of:

  • The speaker
  • The food
  • The event venue

If it’s just a random encounter, focus on something you can easily identify first. Maybe they’re wearing a fun shirt or cool shoes. Ask them where they purchased them and discuss your favorite places to shop. A few ideas for random conversation starters are:

  • How should success be measured? By that measurement, who is the most successful person you know?
  • How often do you help others? Who do you help? How do you help?
  • If you could bring back one TV show that was cancelled, which one would it be?

Once the conversation begins:

  • Jump into more detailed questions regarding favorites or opinions.
  • Keep things positive and bubbly to create a warm atmosphere that generates healthy conversation.

Unless you’re at a religious or political event, it is wise to avoid those topics. They may come off as combative and often make people feel uncomfortable.

Continue quality conversation

How do you keep the conversation going? First, gauge if the other person actually wants the conversation to continue. If they keep breaking eye contact or fail to ask questions of their own, consider moving on to another person. Forcing conversation creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone.

To keep conversation flowing:

  • Continue asking open ended questions that allow the other person to express their interests
  • Be an active listener, ask follow-up questions
  • Avoid giving one word answers
  • Understand the conversation might hit bumps along the way

A few question prompts to consider are:

  • “Tell me more about…”
  • “What’s the best part of…”
  • “What started your interest in…”

Different personalities enjoy talking about themselves to varying degrees, so make sure there’s an equal give and take in the conversation.

Search for free information

Good conversations often have free information passed along that provides opportunity for extended conversation. The trick is to listen. Often, people will mention minor details when answering a question that can lead to new topics and more detailed, engaging conversation. Here’s an example:

You: Wow, I really love the pattern of that shirt.

Other person: Thank you! I just bought it at the mall.

In this situation, you could ask:

  • What’s your favorite store at the mall?
  • What store did you purchase the shirt from?
  • What’s your favorite mall?
  • What food court item would you have as your last meal?

Just from that little piece of information, the opportunities are endless.

Consider exchanging information

If you’ve genuinely enjoyed the conversation, let the other person know. Consider exchanging phone numbers or add them on Facebook or Twitter. This could form a new friendship and lead to many adventures.

Let us know how these work!

Valentine’s Day is coming up (hint, hint). Give these starters a try and let us know if they work for you. Remember: stay positive, project confidence, and remain interested in the conversation. You don’t have to be the most interesting person; you just have to be the most interested.

My son’s turning point – Adventure Camp

At age 12, our son was not labeled as a “troubled” youth but we definitely saw the warning signs.  We felt that if we didn’t look for avenues now to re-direct him we would be facing some bigger issues as he got older. As parents, we didn’t know what to do or how to help our son.

A Mother’s Heartbreak

From an early age, consequences seemed to have no effect on him. His grades in school were poor and he was unmotivated to improve them. He struggled to make and keep friends. He was quick to lose his temper when anyone did or said anything he did not want to do or hear.

We decided to switch him from public to a private school, but the improvements we saw at first quickly disappeared. After his brother was born, his attitude became more aggressive and he took on a negative outlook on life. His lack of passion and enthusiasm towards life started to worry us. We sought help from his pediatrician and had him enter counseling; neither proved successful.

During the last school year, he attempted to forge my signature on two separate occasions. For several days, he denied the forgery even when presented with proof. We grounded him with no TV, no video games and no visitors were allowed. We hoped this would prompt him to admit what he had done, but to no avail. As his mom, this was heartbreaking to watch.

The Last Straw

We knew something needed to be done when shortly after that incident; he tried to join a pornography website using his school email address. Again when faced with the evidence, he denied any wrongdoing. After considerable prodding, we finally convinced him to tell the truth and face the consequences. His computer privileges at school, as well as at home, were revoked for the remainder of the school year. After school ended for the summer, we reinstated his computer privileges at home, but his pornographic searches continued.

Discovered Rawhide’s Troubled Youth Camp

It was at this time, we discovered Rawhide’s Adventure Camp — a troubled youth camp. As a mother, I was very worried about how my son would do at camp, after all, he was only 12, not quite yet 13; the minimum required age for campers.  Additionally, I was concerned because he had never been away from family for that long. Aside from his attitude and general disrespect, he also struggled with behaviors that were immature for his age, such as thunderstorms and being afraid of the dark. We decided that it was best that we send our son to camp.

Amazed at the Changes

The day Adventure Camp ended, we were amazed at the changes we saw in him. When he returned from this troubled youth camp, he willingly shared  his experiences with enthusiasm. We were shocked when he got all of his camping gear out of the car and put away after only being asked once! Normally, I would have had to ask him several times to do it and then would still sit in the car for days before I eventually took care of it myself. It was two weeks before we got into an argument again, something which had previously been a daily occurrence.

Three Months Post Camp

It has been three months since Adventure Camp and our son is back in school. His grades are a huge improvement. He is now getting As and Bs compared to Ds and Fs. There have been no disciplinary problems and he seems to be making more friends.

Not long ago we attended the first parent-teacher conference of the year. His teacher said that he was attentive in class, worked diligently and actively tried to stay out of trouble by avoiding the troublemakers he was “friends” with in the past. For the first time since he started school, I left in tears of happiness rather than tears of sorrow and worry. We believe that he now has a bright future.

There have been some bumps in the road since returning from camp. We have had some arguments and attitude conflicts here and there, but nothing compared to what we had been experiencing. I feel that now, we now have a normal 12 year-old boy.

A Mother’s Joy

I believe that Adventure Camp has played a major part in our son turning his life around. He continues to talk frequently about his experiences at camp, eagerly sharing the things that he learned.

We continue to work with him on things like respect and responsibility. I believe that the Adventure Camp staff helped build a foundation for him that he can create his future on. This was something that we had been unable to do no matter what we did or how hard we tried.

Now, and in the future, I feel that Adventure Camp is certainly something we will all be able to look back on as a turning point in his life.  My hope is that he will continue to make the good choices.  Rawhide’s Adventure Camp has certainly been an answer to our prayers.

Last Friday, at the Rawhide Fish Fry, he lit up when talked with the camp staff again. We were happy to see this excitement and happiness in our son again!

Thank you!

For more information about our summer camp program or to register; please visit our Adventure Camp page or…

Register today — space is limited.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.