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Treatment center helps beat addiction with music

Treatment center helps beat addiction with music
Kendra Erika, right, performs at Recovery Unplugged accompanied by Richie Supa on keyboard. (Courtesy)

In a Fort Lauderdale office building, pop singer Kendra Erika stands on a dimly lit stage at Recovery Unplugged.

About 30 millennials who are fighting drug and alcohol addiction fill the audience. They listen as Erika's silken voice engulfs a therapy session at the treatment center.

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"You have a sense of authenticity and human vulnerability," Erika tells the group. "It's so refreshing to see people go through a legitimate growth process."

Visiting with Erika is The Time's lead singer Morris Day, a friend and colleague of Prince.

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It's not unusual to have celebrities stop by and lend their support, said Recovery Unplugged Chief Strategy Officer Paul Pellinger. He pointed to Steven Tyler's framed guitar on the wall as a keepsake of a recent jam session with Aerosmith's frontman.

"We're here because there's an opiate epidemic going on out there," Pellinger said. "Music is the only form of communication that communicates right to the soul."

Pellinger launched the program four years ago. Music is used as a "catalyst to engage the existing evidence-based therapies," he said. Clients need no musical inclination and all genres and styles are referenced.

"If you matchup a lyric with the particular skill set you want to teach them, or topic, or whatever they're going through it puts words to what they're thinking and feeling," Pellinger said.

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Clients form associations and use songs and lyrics to develop healthy habits and "recovery triggers" – as opposed to relapse triggers, he said.

"The key to staying clean, or let alone happy, is making recovery more of a payoff than getting high," Pellinger said.

That payoff is clearly reflected in the center's long-term sobriety rate.

"The average 24-year old heroin addict that's in treatment right now leaves treatment against medical advice about 42 percent of the time. Our AMA rates are less than seven percent," Pellinger said.

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