Settle Your Small Business Taxes With a Peer-To-Peer Loan

Like the saying goes, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Unfortunately, small businesses know this saying all too well.

Unlike employees who look forward to their refund every April, small businesses loath the approaching spring, knowing they will have to pay Uncle Sam its share of their profits. Each year, small businesses struggling to turn a profit in an increasingly competitive business environment must pay taxes in order to keep their doors open.

With dwindling profit margins and tightened lending restrictions, however, many small business owners find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes time to pay the tax man. Although a business may have steady sales and revenue or thousands of dollars in inventory, banks and traditional lending institutions simply aren’t handing out small business loans like they were in year’s past, leaving small business owners with few funding options to pay their tax bill.

Thankfully, peer-to-peer lending, or social lending, has solved this growing dilemma. These modern social lending marketplaces have connected millions of borrowers with individual investors. Borrowers receive low-interest, fixed-rate loans that can be paid off in two to five years, while investors are able to benefit from decent returns in an economy with sinking bond and savings rates.

Thus, it’s a win-win situation for both small business owners in need of immediate funding and investors looking to make a small profit while helping others.

From Desperation to Exultation: One Man’s Venture into Peer-to-Peer Lending

John Mitchell is an Ohio-based small business owner who found himself in such a predicament just last year. As the owner of the only hardware store in a small town, John’s store flourished the first few years it was open.

After getting his inventory levels, pricing models, and management just right, he decided to expand his business by opening a second location in a neighboring town. John sunk all of his profits into opening his new store, which meant he was short on funds come tax time. However, knowing the success of his business, he thought he would simply get a small loan from the bank that housed his accounts and provided him with the initial loan he used to launch his business four years earlier.

Unfortunately, he witnessed first-hand the effect the recession has had on lending regulations as the banker he’s known for years denied his loan application. If he couldn’t get a loan there, where could he?

On the brink of despair, John took to the Internet to research loan options. After digging through forums and trying a few different searches, he ran across peer-to-peer lending. In less than a week after going through the quick and easy application process, he received a personal loan at a low rate for the amount he needed. A week later, John sent a check for the full amount to the IRS, and less than eight months later, he was able to pay off the loan with the profits from his new store!

If you are a small business owner who has found yourself in a similar circumstance, peer-to-peer lending can do the same for you as well, but how does peer-to-peer lending work?

How Peer-to-Peer Lending Works

A breakthrough product or service emerges every generation, and in the early 2000’s, the emerging breakthrough was social networking. From helping in the organization of overthrowing political regimes to staying in touch with friends and family members, social networking has had a profound effect on our daily lives. Now, it’s changing the small business financing landscape as well.

Peer-to-peer lending is a modern social networking solution for small businesses in search of a way of securing alternative funding. The goal of peer-to-peer lending sites, such as Prosper and Lending Club, is simply to connect individual investors with those in need of funding, and these sites are becoming an increasingly useful tool for small business owners who are unable to secure funding from traditional lenders.

Rather than jumping through endless hoops only to be denied by a bank, small businesses can receive funding via peer-to-peer lending in no time at all by following three simple steps:

Step 1: Create a Profile and Loan Listing

There are a myriad of peer-to-peer lending networks to choose from, so your first step is to research the best ones and create a profile and loan listing on the site you choose. The loan listing is essentially a cost-free ad that indicates the amount of money you need and your desired interest rate.

Step 2: Let the Bidding Process Begin

After your listing goes live, investors have the opportunity to begin bidding on your listing, providing you with the interest rate and loan amount they are willing to offer you. A major advantage of this bidding process is the fact that it can intensify as more and more lenders begin competing for your business.

When this happens, interest rates will begin dropping, potentially allowing you to obtain a much lower interest rate than you expected. It’s important to note, however, that your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio plays a role in the lending decision process.

Step 3: Funding and Paying Back the Loan

Another benefit of borrowing from peer-to-peer lenders is that you can accept several bids to receive your requested loan amount. For instance, if you ask for $10,000 in your loan listing to pay your business taxes, you can acquire the amount from collecting $2,000 from five different borrowers.

This makes it much easier for borrowers to receive the money they need. However, instead of making five separate payments, you would only make one payment, because the peer-to-peer lending site is responsible for dispersing the money to lenders until loans are repaid in full. They simply charge a small fee for this service.

With increased lending regulations, banks are tightening their purse strings more than ever before, making it much more difficult for small businesses to receive the funding they need to expand their business or even pay their taxes. Thankfully, peer-to-peer lending has proven to be a worthy competitor in the small business lending marketplace. If you are a small business owner and find yourself unable to pay your taxes as April approaches, or backed taxes for that matter, a peer-to-peer loan is an ideal option.

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Top 10 Marketing Books for Small Business Owners

Unlike big business owners, small business owners have the burden of taking care of every single aspect of their business – recruitment, marketing, finance, accounts, managing employees to managing vendors, and so forth. But here we focused only on books that can help you gain marketing knowledge and skills. Here are the top 10 books on marketing which we believe are helpful for new as well as established small business owners.

Book # 1: The New Rules of Marketing & PR – David Meerman Scott

In the new marketing scenario, the methods such as ad copy, etc. do not bring results for your business. With the popularity of smartphones and other devices and proliferation of the Internet, new methods, rules, etc. of marketing have evolved. This book discusses the importance and benefits of using such techniques.

David M Scott provides fresh examples of success from various industries and businesses across the world. He highlights the new tools and techniques that marketers should use to communicate with their buyers directly – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. In short, this book is a guide that offers actionable strategies and insider tips that can be implemented immediately.

Book # 2: Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking – Andy Sernovitz

This book by Andy Sernovitz emphasizes the use of word of mouth marketing for businesses. The book elaborates purpose of blogs, social media, viral emails, etc. – when to use them and how to make them work.

Word of mouth is an effective tool to share information quickly and easily to promote businesses. It is an effective tool that can promote your business via your customers, friends and relations.

Book # 3: Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business – Jay Conrad Levinson

This book furnishes strategies for Internet marketing, tips on using technology like pod-casting and automated marketing, programs for targeting prospects, cultivating repeat, referral business, management lessons in the age of telecommuting and freelance employees, etc. – exclusively for small businesses.

Book # 4: Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide – John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a well-known expert in small business marketing. In the book, he discusses all the proven tools and tactics together in a step-by-step marketing system. This road map helps small business owners in knowing what they need to do to market their businesses.

Book # 5: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business – David Siteman Garland

This book provides strategies for building, marketing and promoting businesses. These techniques are smarter, faster, cheaper and therefore save your time and money. The book is equally helpful for start-ups as well as those who are already in the market for sometime.

Book # 6: Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed: Leverage Resources, Establish Online Credibility and Crush Your Competition – Patrick Schwerdtfeger

This book provides effective practical strategies and tactics – a complete tool kit to use resources sensibly, to establish online credibility. If you apply these strategies, you can get good results for your business within a brief span of time.

Book # 7: Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide – James Stephenson

This book is an essential guide for every business owner. James Stephenson presents in this book 1500 great marketing ideas that are sure to boost your sales revenue, profits and customer loyalty and also to help you stay ahead of your competitors.

Book # 8: Web Marketing for Small Businesses: 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth – Stephanie Diamond

Marketing for small businesses was difficult in the past. But today, it is not the case. Web marketing enables small businesses to take advantage of marketing opportunities and win new customers.

The book ‘Web Marketing for Small Businesses: 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth’ focuses on different ways of marketing with a detailed strategy to put them into action. The main content of the book comprises checklists – niche, brand, story, search, content, social media tactics, traditional tactics and results. This book helps you implement web marketing strategies.

Book # 9: Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook – Dave Kerpen

This book is a key to unlock the door to new opportunities. It tells you about how to build brand awareness by engaging customers in social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and other social media networking sites.

Book # 10: 500 Social Media Marketing Tips: Essential Advice, Hints and Strategy for Business: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and More! – Andrew Macarthy

This book is a guide to small businesses. It provides 500 social media marketing tips covering all the web’s biggest players like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and others. These tips will help you build brand awareness in social media networks, attract and engage your customers and ultimately help you increase sales.

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Small Business Management

Running a small, start-up business has it share of ups and downs. When I launched my company nearly nine years ago, running my own small business has been both rewarding and challenging. It has enabled me to establish greater balance in my life as I have reduced the administrative burden that corporate America places on each of its employees and replaced it with more time spent on developing content for my clients.

Given the choice, running my own small business is the best option for me at this stage of my life. I can work out of my house, see my kid on a regular basis, focus my work effort on content, rather than administration, and yes golf a tad. That being said, I am asked continually by others “what is it like to be in business for yourself?” as they contemplate the leap from corporate to sole proprietorship.

While it is not for everyone, here are some of the points of consideration that one should mull over before making the jump to starting your own small business:

One Stop Shop: One of the benefits of being a small business owner is the autonomy of “calling the shots”. You are the boss and clearly can steer your company as you see fit. Many think they relish this set-up but in reality, when it comes to being the self-motivator that is required to be successful – the “guy” to go to – lots fall short. Before you read any further, ask yourself if you are cut out to be the “go to guy”. If not, you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Simply stay in the corporate world.

Develop A Business Plan: So, why is business planning so crucial? In a word, it provides “clarity”. Investing time to develop a plan provides precise clarification of the company vision. In addition, it provides a mechanism to gauge the results of the business and provides the foundation for future growth plans. In the long haul, it enhances the company valuation through fiscal responsibility, which provides the story of opportunity to any future investor or employee. Business planning is one-part strategy and one-part tactics – but where the sausage actually gets made is in the execution. Execution comes in the hard work necessary to carry out a plan and the accountability for your activities by tracking them.

Understand Tax Burdens: Regardless of the political rhetoric surrounding the tax code and its impact on small business, the fact of the matter is that these entities are levied with a myriad of taxes. I am shocked by how many budding entrepreneurs fail to understand the taxes that small businesses pay. My company has essentially one of the easiest business operating models that a small business can have. I invoice a few clients per month; receive a few checks a month; pay a few bills a month; and have very little inventory and/or depreciation of capital assets. Despite that, my tax return was 84 pages last year. Filing as an S-Corp, my outlay on taxes is between 25% and 39% of federal taxes; North Carolina state income taxes ranging from 6.0% to 7.5%, social security and medicare (twice as a matter of fact for employer and employee) of 15.3%, so nearly 50% of all income goes to taxes and fees.

Replicate Yourself: Given the fact that you are a one stop shop, a small business owner needs to replicate themselves wherever possible. Tools such as social media and the acceptance of telecommuting through online collaboration have enabled small business owners to be in many places at one time. In order to be successful, small business owners need to tap these tools to maximize their exposure to potential clients as well as reaching customers outside of their immediate trade area. Prior to these tools being readily available, my business was limited to the state of Illinois (where my company was originally based). Since I have utilized these tools to replicate myself, I have had clients in thirteen different states.

Navigate Third-Party Challenges: A small business owner wears many hats and relies on third-party entities for key alliances. When Go Daddy had their website and email server outage in September, roughly 5.3 million small business websites and emails were knocked out. Small business owners rely on these support companies and at times, are held captive when issues arise. While my company does not conduct a lot of commerce via my website, many small operators lost online revenue due to the outage.

Be Wary Of Scams: Lastly, where there is a small business owner, there is a criminal waiting to prey on the unsuspecting operator. In fact, this past week, I received a letter from a group claiming to represent the State of Illinois. Having been in business nearly nine years, I am keenly aware of all of the annual expenditures that my company pays. As an Illinois corporation (operating in North Carolina), I received a letter stating that I needed to send in a $125 fee for my “Annual Minutes Records Form”. I didn’t recall ever doing this, and when I contacted my CPA, he shared the following press release with me:

In short, starting and running a small business may be the best decision you may ever make. Having the facts in advance of that decision are critical to ensure that you are positioned for success. Once you fully vet your decision-making for starting your small business, the rewards can be amazing…

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How to Get Financing For Your Small Business

In today’s hostile economic environment, access to capital is the primary differentiating factor between those businesses which have been able to expand and gain market share versus those that have experienced enormous drops in revenue. The reason many small businesses have seen their sales and cash flow drop dramatically, many to the point of closing their doors, while many large U.S. corporations have managed to increase sales, open new retail operations, and grow earnings per share is that a small business almost always relies exclusively on traditional commercial bank financing, such as SBA loans and unsecured lines of credit, while large publicly traded corporations have access to the public markets, such as the stock market or bond market, for access to capital.

Prior to the onset of the financial crises of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession, many of the largest U.S. commercial banks were engaging in an easy money policy and openly lending to small businesses, whose owners had good credit scores and some industry experience. Many of these business loans consisted of unsecured commercial lines of credit and installment loans that required no collateral. These loans were almost always exclusively backed by a personal guaranty from the business owner. This is why good personal credit was all that was required to virtually guarantee a business loan approval.

During this period, thousands of small business owners used these business loans and lines of credit to access the capital they needed to fund working capital needs that included payroll expenses, equipment purchases, maintenance, repairs, marketing, tax obligations, and expansion opportunities. Easy access to these capital resources allowed many small businesses to flourish and to manage cash flow needs as they arose. Yet, many business owners grew overly optimistic and many made aggressive growth forecasts and took on increasingly risky bets.

As a result, many ambitious business owners began to expand their business operations and borrowed heavily from small business loans and lines of credit, with the anticipation of being able to pay back these heavy debt loads through future growth and increased profits. As long as banks maintained this ‘easy money’ policy, asset values continued to rise, consumers continued to spend, and business owners continued to expand through the use of increased leverage. But, eventually, this party, would come to an abrupt ending.

When the financial crisis of 2008 began with the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest and most renowned banking institutions on Wall Street, a financial panic and contagion spread throughout the credit markets. The ensuing freeze of the credit markets caused the gears of the U.S. financial system to come to a grinding halt. Banks stopped lending overnight and the sudden lack of easy money which had caused asset values, especially home prices, to increase in recent years, now cause those very same asset values to plummet. As asset values imploded, commercial bank balance sheets deteriorated and stock prices collapsed. The days of easy money had ended. The party was officially over.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Great Recession that followed created a vacuum in the capital markets. The very same commercial banks that had freely and easily lent money to small businesses and small business owners, now suffered from a lack of capital on their balance sheets – one that threatened their very own existence. Almost overnight, many commercial banks closed off further access to business lines of credit and called due the outstanding balances on business loans. Small businesses, which relied on the working capital from these business lines of credit, could no longer meet their cash flow needs and debt obligations. Unable to cope with a sudden and dramatic drop in sales and revenue, many small businesses failed.

Since many of these same small businesses were responsible for having created millions of jobs, every time one of these enterprises failed the unemployment rate increased. As the financial crisis deepened, commercial banks went into a tailspin that eventually threatened the collapse of the entire financial system. Although Congress and Federal Reserve Bank led a tax payer funded bailout of the entire banking system, the damage had been done. Hundreds of billions of dollars were injected into the banking system to prop up the balance sheets of what were effectively defunct institutions. Yet, during this process, no provision was ever made that required these banks to loan money out to consumers or private businesses.

Instead of using a portion of these taxpayer funds to support small businesses and avert unnecessary business failures and increased unemployment, commercial banks chose to continue to deny access to capital to thousands of small businesses and small business owners. Even after receiving a historic taxpayer funded bailout, the commercial banks embraced an ‘every man for himself’ attitude and continue to cut off access to business lines of credit and commercial loans, regardless of the credit history or timely payments on such lines and loans. Small business bankruptcies skyrocketed and high unemployment persisted.

During this same period, when small businesses were being choked into non-existence, as a result of the lack of capital which was created by commercial banks, large publicly-traded corporations managed to survive and even grow their businesses. They were mainly able to do so by issuing debt, through the bond markets, or raising equity, by issuing shares through the equity markets. While large public companies were raising hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital, thousands of small businesses were being put under by banks that closed off existing commercial lines of credit and refused to issue new small business loans.

Even now, in mid 2012, more than four years since the onset of the financial crisis, the vast majority of small businesses have no means of access to capital. Commercial banks continue to refuse to lend on an unsecured basis to almost all small businesses. To even have a minute chance of being approved for a small business loan or business line of credit, a small business must possess tangible collateral that a bank could easily sell for an amount equal to the value of the business loan or line of credit. Any small business without collateral has virtually no chance at attaining a loan approval, even through the SBA, without significant collateral such as equipment or inventory.

When a small business cannot demonstrate collateral to provide security for the small business loan, the commercial bank will ask for the small business owner to secure the loan with his or her own personal assets or equity, such as equity in a house or cash in a checking, savings, or retirement account, such as a 401k or IRA. This latter situation places the personal assets of the owner at risk in the event of a small business failure. Additionally, virtually all small business loans will require the business owner to have excellent personal credit and FICO scores, as well as require a personal guaranty. Finally, multiple years of financial statements, including tax returns for the business, demonstrated sustained profitability will be required in just about every small business loan application.

A failure or lack of ability to provide any of these stringent requirements will often result in an immediate denial in the application for almost all small business loans or commercial lines of credit. In many instances, denials for business loans are being issued to applicants which have provided each of these requirements. Therefore, being able to qualify with good personal credit, collateral, and strong financial statements and tax returns still does not guarantee approval of a business loan request in the post financial crisis economic climate. Access to capital for small businesses and small business owners is more difficult than ever.

As a result of this persistent capital vacuum, small businesses and small business owners have begun to seek out alternative sources of business capital and business loans. Many small business owners seeking cash flow for existing business operations or funds to finance expansion have discovered alternative business financing through the use of merchant credit card cash advance loans and small business installment loans offered by private investors. These merchant cash advance loans offer significant advantages to small businesses and small business owners when compared to traditional commercial bank loans.

Merchant cash advance loans, sometimes referred to as factoring loans, are based on the amount of average credit card volume a merchant or retail outlet, processes over a three to six month period. Any merchant or retail operator that accepts credit cards as payment from customers, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover, is virtually guaranteed an approval for a merchant credit card advance. The total amount of cash advance that a merchant qualifies for is determined by this three to six month average and the funds are generally deposited in the business checking account of the small business within a seven to ten day period from the time of approval.

A set repayment amount is fixed and the repayment of the cash advance plus interest is predetermined at the time the advance is approved by the lender. For instance, if a merchant or retailer processes approximately $1,000 per day in credit cards from its customers, the monthly average of total credit cards processed equals $30,000. If the merchant qualifies for $30,000 for a cash advance and the factoring rate is 1.20, the total that would need to be repaid is $30,000 – plus 20% of $30,000 which equals $6,000 – for a total repayment amount of $36,000. Therefore, the merchant would receive a lump sum of $30,000 cash, deposited in the business checking account, and a total of $36,000 would need to be repaid.

The repayment is made by automatically deducting a pre-determined amount of each of the merchant’s daily future credit card sales – usually at a rate of 20% of total daily credit cards processed. Thus, the merchant does not have to write checks or send payments. The fixed percent is simply deducted from future credit sales until the total sum due of $36,000 is paid off. The advantage to this type of financing versus a commercial bank loan is that a merchant cash advance is not reported on the personal credit report of the business owner. This effectively separates the personal financial affairs of the small business owner from the financial affairs of the small business entity.

A second advantage to a merchant credit card cash advance is that an approval does not require a personal guaranty from the business owner. If the business is unable to repay the merchant cash advance loan in full, the business owner is not held personally responsible and cannot be forced to post personal collateral as security for the merchant advance. The owner removes the financial consequences that often accompany a commercial bank business loan that requires a personal guaranty and often forces business owners into personal bankruptcy in the even that their business venture fails and cannot repay the outstanding loan balance.

A third, and distinct advantage, is that a merchant credit card cash advance loan does not require any collateral as additional security for the loan. The future credit card receivables are the security for the cash advance repayment, thus no additional collateral requirements exist. Since the majority of small businesses do not have physical equipment or inventory that can be posted as collateral for a traditional bank loan, this type of financing is a phenomenal alternative for thousands of retail businesses, merchants, sole proprietorships, and online stores seeking access to capital. Such businesses would be denied automatically for a traditional business loan simply because of the lack of collateral to serve as added security for the bank or lender.

Finally, a merchant credit card advance loan approval does not depend upon the strong or perfect personal credit of the business owner. In fact, the business owner’s personal credit can be quite poor and have a low FICO score, and this will not disqualify the business from being approved for the cash advance. The business owner’s personal credit is usually checked only for the purpose of helping to determine that factoring rate at which the total loan repayment will be made. However, even a business owner with a recently discharged personal bankruptcy can qualify for a merchant credit card cash advance loan.

Since the cash funds being lent on merchant credit card advances is provided by a network of private investors, these lenders are not regulated or affected by the new capital requirements that have placed a constraint on the commercial banking industry. The merchant cash advance approvals are determined by internal underwriting guidelines developed by the private lenders in the network. Each loan application is reviewed and processed on a case-by-case basis and approvals are issued within 24 to 48 hours from receipt of a complete application, including the previous three to six months of merchant credit statements.

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Do Addicts Really Recover?

In my line of work as addiction professional, I’m often asked “Do people with addiction get better?” The question may sound simple but it’s not really that simple. There are so many facets to addiction. The chemicals are but one aspect. There also are the addict’s personality attributes, attitudes, lifestyle, and values – all contributing and feeding the addiction syndrome. For most people, the obsession by the addict to consume chemicals is the most salient aspect of addiction. This becomes their focus of attention when asking the question, “Do addicts really recover?” Meaning can they give up drugs and become “normal” people again?

After a closer look at addiction, one begins to realize that the chemical abuse is intimately tied to the person’s mental health, lifestyle, and personal values. For example, it is hard to ignore an addict’s criminal activities related to supporting his drug habit or an alcoholic’s scheming and manipulating behavior to hide his alcoholism when the addicted or alcoholic is trying to pursue “recovery.” Can people “recover” from addiction and still carry on with these criminal or anti-social inclinations? What are the chances of a recovering person remaining abstinent while continuing to sell drugs or maintaining his connection with friends who are involved in criminal activities? Can a recovering alcoholic remain sober while bar-tending?

My point is that there is a “quality of life” a recovering addict or alcoholic must maintain to achieve a certain level of healthy living. For some this may mean pursuing counseling or following medication regime to control psychiatric symptoms. For others, a complete lifestyle change may be necessary to re-align personal priorities and internalize pro-social values. With addiction, old associations — people, places, and things – can easily trigger a relapse to old “bad habits.” There is a common belief among recovering persons that “picking-up” drugs or any substances is the last step in the relapse process. Long before the actual substance use, the person has already relapsed in his thinking – reflected in noticeable changes in attitude, values, and over-all behavior.

To go back to the original question: “Do addicts really recover?” The answer is a relative yes. For some who consider their addiction as a disorder of the whole person and take a holistic view of recovery, they aspire more than giving up the chemicals to include a reinvention of themselves, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Others are content with minimizing the harmful effects of illicit drug use but still resort to alcohol use. Still others give up drugs but continue to have dysfunctional patterns of coping or residual manifestations of personality disorders.

Do Addicts Really Recover?
Dr. Fernando B. Perfas

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How Nicotine Test Helps Employers to Establish Smoke-Free Workplace

Nicotine abuse is an issue affecting the profitability of businesses and the environment at workplaces. Employers are insisting on measures that will help them make the workplaces free from smoking of tobacco so as to make their businesses more productive.

Employers in US imposing ban on smokers:

Increasing numbers of employers in US are rejecting the applications of candidates who smoke. They are abiding by the laws framed by the government for the purpose and are not hiring who they find to be smokers. To know whether the prospective hired is smoker, they conduct tests. Those who are found positive for smoking are not offered employment.

Nicotine test helps them to detect smokers – instantly:

Employers apply different techniques to tackle the issue of smoking. These include testing for tobacco (nicotine) by different methods. These tests are helpful to identify if the applicant really smokes tobacco or not. Generally, a nicotine test can be conducted using urine, saliva or hair follicle samples. Employers use any or a combination of these techniques.

Benefits of establishing smoke-free environment:

A smoke-free environment improves productivity of the employees and reduces health insurance costs. Employers find smoke-free workplace beneficial on the following grounds.

Increased productive hours:

A no-smoking environment results in higher number of productive hours than in a smoking permitted one. Employees not used to smoking concentrate better on work and hence there is greater number of productive hours. They are healthy and take few sick leaves.

Whereas, smoking employees take unauthorized breaks to smoke, which is waste of productive time.

Healthy atmosphere:

As healthy employees are more focused on productivity, there is cordial relation between employees as well as employers. Such workplaces boost the employees’ morale and work potential and encourage talented workforce to work for more number of hours. Employers too reciprocate and get prompted to take positive action on any issue.

Shows professional approach of the business:

A smoke-free workplace, places the employer’s image in a positive view among the employees, peers, government, and social groups. The welfare measures taken serve as an example for professional approach taken by the employer. This will enhance mutual trust between the employer and employees.

Reduces healthcare costs:

Following a no-smoking policy at workplace would result in less healthcare costs. This is because, the employees are healthy and need lower health maintenance expenses – be it insurance premium or medical emergencies. These factors are known to cause increased medical expenses to employers in case of employees habituated to smoking. Studies show that, post non-smoking policy there is remarkable decline in the tobacco caused heart attacks, making current smokers to quit (Source: Forbes, 12 June, 2016).

Taking up nicotine tests to enforce a smoking-free environment at workplace is beneficial. The measures, of course, entail costs to the employers.

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Which Is the Most Difficult Drug to Detox From?

The hardest drugs to detox from depend on your perspective. If by “difficult” you’re referring to the severity of dangerous medical symptoms that occur during withdrawal, then the obvious answer is alcohol and benzodiazepine. Both of these drugs could kill you during detox. But if you’re referring to the severity of emotional, mental and spiritual symptoms that affect a person during drug detox, then most addicts will agree that opiates are the most difficult; especially opiates like Methadone that are designed to help wean an addict from other opiates like heroin.

The Most Difficult Drugs to Withdraw/Detox From: Medical Reasons

The following substances prove especially challenging for many addicts to withdraw from considering the serious medical risks of doing so: Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines and Alcohol. The withdrawal process has been known to cause life-threatening complications in some people. This includes pulmonary and cardiovascular distress, respiratory depression, grand mal seizures, delirium tremens, hallucinations, coma and death.

Fortunately, death is rare but nevertheless the fact that it is possible creates a deterrent to treatment for some addicts. In most cases the risks of withdrawing from these substances can be mitigated by attending detox in a professional medical setting where healthcare practitioners and addiction experts can observe the detox process and respond immediately in case of any complications.

The Most Difficult Drugs to Withdraw/Detox From: Emotional Reasons

Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the first annals of history were recorded by the ancient Sumerians. Translations of stone etchings show that these early peoples farmed and used opium extensively. In fact, their word for the plant can be translated to “Joy;” an apt description considering the widespread abuse of opium for the next several thousand years. By nearly all accounts, the euphoric high obtained by using opium is the highest feeling of joy most addicts have ever felt. But herein lays the problem.

When a person uses an opiate like heroin or Oxycontin to get high, they rapidly build up a tolerance not only to the drug, but also to euphoria. This means that it becomes more and more difficult to obtain the same euphoric effect with the same amount of opiates, so in nearly all cases users continually increase their dosages – some to the point of overdose and death. But in general the central nervous system becomes more and more desensitized to stimulus that would normally cause feeling of joy or euphoria. In fact, the opposite often occurs, resulting in a state known as Dysphoria; the opposite of euphoria.

Dysphoria is a severe problem for people who are detoxing/withdrawing from opiates because after the stop using the drug they often find it difficult or impossible to find joy or happiness in anything. This causes severe bouts of depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and unexplained misery, terrible sadness and overwhelming inadequacy and loneliness; even in the presence of others. These emotional and spiritual symptoms drive many people in the early stages of recovery to return to drug use in order to self-medicate their general state of dysphoria.

Opiates Used to Treat Addiction to Other Opiates

Many addicts report and anecdotal evidence suggests that withdrawing and detoxing from opiates that are used to treat addiction to other opiates is a severe and extremely challenging process. The reasons for this are not understood, but it’s possible that because most opiate treatment drugs like methadone block the release of dopamine, addicts do not obtain a euphoric effect, even though they are spared the normal symptoms of withdrawal (essentially because methadone maintenance merely prolongs the addictive process.)

Support forums on group sharing often results in addicts advising each other NOT to go on an opiate maintenance program and to tough out the initial stages of a more “pure” withdrawal instead. Therefore, it could be argued that detoxing from opiate maintenance drugs is the most difficult type of detox to undergo.

The Kindling Effect

Regardless of the substance, the Kindling Effect can make detox and withdrawal an absolute nightmare; especially if the addict in question has relapsed repeatedly in their lifetime. The concept of Kindling is that with each progressive relapse and subsequent withdrawal, the brain and central nervous system become more highly sensitized (or highly desensitized) to drug abuse and the feelings it creates. As a result withdrawal symptoms are much more severe and potentially dangerous for these individuals than for others.

Ultimately, the most challenging detox is the one you’re about to go through. Taking that first step is extraordinarily difficult regardless of what drug you use and how long and hard you’ve been using it. But the reality of the situation is that left unabated the consequences of continued active addiction are in every instance more severe and potentially life-changing that the actual process of withdrawal and detox, which usually takes 10 days or less for most people.

If you or someone you love is fighting addiction, the most valuable weapon you can give them is action. Do it now; get help, get a free consultation, and take the first step before it’s too late to move forward at all.

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7 Habits of an Addict About to Relapse

Many addicts in recovery that are nearing a relapse episode exhibit predictable and identifiable habits and behaviors before the actual relapse occurs. Recognition of these habits is critical in order for people in recovery and their loved ones to take decisive and immediate action to prevent the relapse. This is especially important considering the potential consequences of each new relapse episode: prison, violence, bankruptcy, death. Relapse prevention isn’t just about stopping someone from using again; it’s about saving a life.

The following are 7 behaviors that many addicts exhibit prior to and/or during the early stages of a relapse:

1.) Withdrawal/Isolation

A person in recovery who is on the verge of relapse will likely become withdrawn and purposefully isolate other people around them. This is particularly true of people that will not support or condone a return to drug use or drinking. This could be evidenced by spending less time with family members, staying out later at night than normal or not coming home, and by seeming withdrawn and quiet when others are present.

2.) Decline in Hygiene/Productivity

There is often a lack of care and concern when a relapse is imminent. Meaning, less attention is paid to personal hygiene details, exercise programs are abandoned, employment or educational inefficiencies or neglect occurs, and regular household upkeep suffers. These are all common signs of an addict who is beginning to care less and less about trying to maintain a legitimate lifestyle.

3.) Glorification of Substance Abuse

An addict that is unhappy with or neglectful of their recovery will often yearn for the days when they used drugs or drank. They may talk about using and relive their past drug use in the form of stories, anecdotes and comments that make it clear that they miss those times, despite the severe consequences they suffered as a result. (Levels of Relapse Warning Signs, T. Gorski)

4.) Reconnecting

An early warning of relapse is when a person in recovery begins to reconnect with friends or acquaintances they used drugs or drank with. This refers mainly to individuals who are potentially still using drugs or those who do not support recovery/sobriety. These reconnections are especially troubling when the person in question has withdrawn from people that DO support their recovery.

5.) Engaging in Risky Behavior

An addict in recovery that is about to relapse will often exhibit abnormally risky behavior. This could include extreme sports or other athletic activities, promiscuity, excessive speeding and other dangerous activities. Engaging in behaviors such as these fills a certain need for excitement and euphoria, but for most addicts in recovery the only euphoria that will satiate them is a return to their drug of choice.

6.) Secretive

As people in recovery get closer to relapse, they sometimes become secretive; carefully guarding their phone or computer, remaining tight-lipped concerning where they go, who they’re with, etc. Often at this stage the relapse has already begun and secrecy is required in order to conceal it.

7.) Abandoning Treatment

Addicts in recovery usually engage in some type of ongoing treatment as part of a relapse prevention program. This can take many forms, but when people in recovery are nearing a relapse episode, they often abandon these types of treatment with little explanation. When combined with any or all of the behaviors outlined above, it’s likely that for these people, relapse is imminent. (Carole Bennett, M.A. 6 Common Relapse Triggers PsychologyToday.com)

If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone you love who is in recovery, taking swift action is critical. This should begin by addressing the issue directly with the individual, and escalate to involve the person’s support network, treatment specialists and if needed, an interventionist.

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Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘N Roll: The Real Story

Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll is a common dream that few will know; but many try and so the story goes, that there’s riches there in the backstage glow. But looking in subjectively, one must put down the cell phone, the remote and the Wii, for things in the spotlight are never what they seem- when it comes to the combination of these infamous three.

It’s a tempting image we’ve too often seen; fans by the millions who clamor and scream; for a glimpse, just a touch or a kiss on the cheek; there’s no shortage of groupies and their big rock-star dreams. So backstage they go to embrace beneath the sheets; neither star nor fan knowing if the other is clean. Just ask Freddy Mercury of Queen or the legend Easy E, or ponder the math of promiscuity. The more sex one has the more threats one will see; the chances for most are about 1 in 3.

Of course, the risk is increased when one factors in drugs, which diminish good judgment and moral aplomb. To this many a rock star can certainly attest, with unwanted pregnancies, herpes, syphilis and the rest.

But if the threat of disease isn’t enough, consider the sexual dysfunction that could be caused by drugs; with repeated use the good feelings fade – until sex feels like nothing and relationships become strained. Then all that’s left is to get high and play; but the music, like sex, is empty and grey.

This is the way so many rock stars go; they hide in the weed, the booze and the coke. They wait for salvation in the fame or the dough, but round and round with the drugs they still go. It’s a tired old story with so many names, of rock ‘n roll legends this disease has claimed;

Janis Joplin overdosed on heroin and Hendrix choked on his own puke – while passed out and delirious on ‘barbs and on booze. John Bonham from Led Zeppelin would likewise follow suit, and choke on his vomit after 40 shots of booze. Jay Bennett, from Wilco; lost to overdose, not long after Wes Berggren from Tripping Daisy died from cocaine and ‘benzos.

Steve Clark from Def Leppard, Kevin DuBrow from Quiet Riot, both died far too young from a cocaine-based diet. Slipknot’s Paul Grey died from morphine and pills, while Sublime lost their front-man to a heroin thrill. It was heroin too, that took Kurt Cobain and bassist friend Pfaff; the loss to the grunge scene marred its future and past.

Some groups have lost more than one member to the scourge of addiction, the call of drug abuse – The Pretenders, The Grateful Dead, Alice in Chains and The Who – were all scarred forever when their deaths numbered 2. But it’s not a problem isolated to just these few; The Temptations, Sex Pistols, AC/DC, Blues Traveler, Weezer, Mad Season, Avenged Sevenfold and Red Hot Chili Peppers all lost members too.

So it’s clear to the people and plainly we must see, that the image of fame is not presented impartially. And though the story won’t change and it’s long as it goes, there’s still the allure of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll.

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The Paradox of Drug Abuse and Euphoria

One of the most significant reasons that people abuse drugs is for the euphoric effects they provide. While many might argue that people use substances to escape reality, to cope with stress and an unlimited number of other reasons, the fact of the matters is that euphoria makes these things possible: drugs cause people to feel good, even if they weren’t necessarily feeling bad to begin with. Unfortunately, the neurological nature of addiction tells us that substance abuse actually makes it more challenging for people to feel euphoria, happiness and contentment.

How Drug Abuse Works: Understanding the Role of Dopamine

The following is a highly simplified explanation of the processes at work when a person abuses drugs:

1.) Drug is consumed which sends signals to neurons in the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine (or others in some cases).

2.) Dopamine binds with specialized receptors and produces a feeling of well-being, contentment and euphoria.

3.) Drugs prevent dopamine re-uptake, essentially leaving the substance in the brain for much longer than would ever occur in a natural environment.

4.) Dopamine stimulates the reward center of the brain, which creates a contextual log of the event to use as cues to prompt the user to repeat the behavior. (This is based on the theory that addiction is a byproduct of an innate evolutionary survival mechanism.)

And with these four steps, the groundwork for addiction has been laid.

Tolerance: Another Evolutionary Survival Mechanism

In order to offset the effects of chemical substances, the central nervous system will make changes to receptors and neuronal circuitry to create a resistance to the drug. This can be accomplished by making fewer receptors available, altering the structure of receptors, limiting or restricting their ability to bind to neurotransmitters, or by “disconnecting” parts of neuronal circuits.

The chemical resistance created by adaptations at the neuronal level means that the user will obtain less and less euphoric effect because the CNS essentially views the drug as an invading foreign substance that interferes with the proper working functions of the brain. Of course, this is exactly what drug abuse is; persistent self-inflicted poisoning.

In order to offset the euphoria-limiting effects of tolerance, drug users will simply increase their dosages accordingly. This prompts more changes in neurons – changes that by this point are becoming permanent for many addicts. Ultimately, these changes only make it harder to feel euphoria and generally lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, feelings of worthlessness and other debilitating emotions.

In fact, feelings that are specific to certain drugs, such as high-energy to cocaine, relaxation to marijuana and joy to opiates, are often reversed as the body becomes tolerant to the drugs that cause these responses. This is especially true when an addict suddenly stops using; by forcing drugs into their bodies for so long, they have effectively developed a tolerance to the very feelings they sought to achieve with their substance abuse in the first place.

To summarize, drug abuse can destroy a person’s ability to feel good. And because addiction often comes with repeated relapse events, each successive period of active drug addiction results in additional, permanent changes within the brain – changes that can have a lasting effect on the emotional and mental well-being of the user for the rest of their lives.

This isn’t information to be used as a scare tactic to keep people away from drugs; it’s nothing more than science expressed. People take drugs to feel good, but once addicted those feelings become harder and harder to achieve, even long after active drug use has stopped. This is why it is absolutely critical that if you or someone you love is abusing drugs, they must stop now. With each passing day and each successive “high,” the one thing that they seek – happiness – becomes more difficult to come by; often leading to personal disaster.

The ultimate paradox of drug abuse is that it robs from you what you seek from it.

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