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Student profile: Janine Vazquez

photoBy Amanda Murphy

BOCA RATON — Recreational drug use is not the only road to addiction. Prescription drug use after surgery or for chronic pain has become an easy route to drug addiction or relapse for recovering addicts. Janine Vazquez, a recovering addict of three years, recently began studying alternative medicine at Everglades University in Boca Raton to help others find different ways to heal from addiction and maintain good health.

“I look for alternatives like acupuncture or massage therapy,” she said. “It takes longer, but I feel better.”

Alternative medicine refers to any health care treatment not used in a physician’s standard approach to illness or disease. Some of these methods include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, homeopathy and herbalism.

Vazquez, 32, said that drug addicts may use a medical problem, like chronic back pain, to be prescribed drugs, inhibiting their recovery. She wants to help these people without relying on pharmaceuticals.

“Being serious about my recovery, I don’t want to be dependent on pills and medication,” she said.

According to Discovery Health, alternative medicine therapists say that many addiction treatment programs fail to support the body as it withdraws from the presence of alcohol or drugs. Alternative methods, along with counseling and education, can offer that support.

“If you don’t know better you can’t do better,” Vazquez said. “I want to educate myself so I can educate others.”

Vazquez wants to become a homeopathic nutritionist, specializing in a natural health therapy developed 200 years ago that uses small, diluted amounts of substances that cause symptoms to treat the very same symptoms.

Mimicking specific symptoms stimulates the body’s own healing responses, instead of quickly suppressing the symptoms with pharmaceuticals, according to

With her degree, Vazquez plans to open a private health club with her sister, Gail Cypress, who is working toward a personal training certificate at World Fitness Association. Although she is majoring in homeopathic nutrition, Vazquez is also open to other fields of alternative medicine.

Vasquez, of Hollywood, has seven children, and with the help of her husband, Tory Vazquez, she commits herself to a 25-minute drive to school three times a week. She recently spoke at the Higher Education College Fair on her experience and the opportunities education provides.

“I wanted to tell the kids how important education is,” she said. “Once you have your degree, no one can ever take that from you.”

Alternative medicine wasn’t always Vazquez’s plan, but with time and new experiences came new passions. When she was 19, she studied early education at then Broward Community College but stopped to become a foster parent. She fostered eight children and adopted one from the program. It was her drug addiction and recovery that inspired her to enter the health field.

She discovered Everglades’ alternative medicine program with the help of Shruti Elliot in the Education Department. Vasquez said Elliot helped her find a school that fit her needs.

Her role model is her grandfather who always told her not to rely on the Tribe and to get an education.

“I didn’t understand what he meant until I got older and learned,” she said. “For me, education equals independence.”