On Tuesday, President Barack Obama took a firm stand against the drug that kills over 28,000 Americans a year. At the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, President Obama told nearly 2,000 policymakers, professionals and parents, that the nation must provide more treatment for people addicted to opioids and re-frame the addiction problem through the lens of public health.
Obama stated that the most important thing the nation can do for the opioid epidemic is reduce the demand for the drugs through providing treatment and treating addiction as an illness, not a criminal issue.
“Part of what has made it difficult to emphasize treatment over criminal justice system has to do with the fact that the populations affected in the past were … stereotypically identify as poor and minority,” he said. “And as a consequence, the thinking was it is often a character flaw in those individuals who live in those communities. … One of the things that’s changed … is a recognition that this reaches everybody.”
Few politicians have mentioned the association using drugs had with lower income minority communities. Obama was outright in elaborating on how little was done in the past to help communities stifled by drug addiction due to many believing it was a “character flaw,” or simply a choice choice. Now, that the addiction epidemic has spread to the middle class and affluent neighborhoods, the public has finally opened their eyes to the fact that addiction really is a disease.
Across the United States, more Americans die each year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. In 2014, there were 47,055 deaths from drug overdoses, the highest number on record. Most of these overdoses, close to 28,000 were due to prescription painkillers and heroin.
At the Summit, President Obama announced several proposals aimed at increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. For example, physicians are limited to providing drugs like Suboxone and buprenorphine to only 100 patients. Under the new proposed rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that number will double to 200. Raising the patient limit will increase access and allow doctors to treat more people. Opioid agonist medications, like Suboxone and buprenorphine, have been shown to decrease overdose deaths, reduce transmission of infectious diseases, and reduce criminal activity.
Not too long ago, President Obama proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to ensure every American will have access to opioid use disorder treatment. Then in March, the administration announced it would dedicate $94 million to fund 271 community health centers in order to increase and improve substance abuse treatment.
“My job is to promote the safety, the health, the prosperity of the American people,” said the president in his remarks. “When you look at the staggering statistics in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, costs to communities, but most importantly, cost to families from this epidemic of opioids abuse, it has to be something that is right up there at the top of our radar screen.”
Another key strategy is establishing a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. The objectives of this task force will be to:
- Increase access those in need have to substance abuse disorder treatment
- Promote compliance with best practices for mental health and substance use disorder parity implementation
- Develop agency guidance as needed to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.
The president also elaborated on the need to address the opioid problem in rural communities. On Monday, The Department of Agriculture launched a $1.4 million Rural Health and Safety Education Grant Program to address this very problem.
Also, on the agenda was addressing needle exchange programs. Last year, Obama lifted a ban on these programs, allowing certain communities to use federal funding to support them. In the past, laws stated needle exchange programs could not be federally funded.
“When you look at the science, there’s no evidence that because of a syringe exchange program or Naloxone, that that is thereby an incentive for people to get addicted to drugs. That’s not the dynamic that’s taking place,” said the president during the panel discussion at the Rx Summit.
Overdoses are at an all-time high and prescription drug dependency needs to be addressed. At this time, we need to do whatever it takes to tackle the horrifying statistics that continue to get worse. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Justin Mckibben
As if you haven’t heard about this before, and if you haven’t I’d hate to be the one to show you the writing on the wall, the heroin and opiate epidemic in America has claimed an insurmountable number of lives. Towards the end of 2015 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the entire nation had reached a devastating point in the drug addiction issue and with the overdose death outbreak in America, stating that 47,000 people died from drug overdose– 28,647 were opiate related deaths.
The state of New Jersey is no stranger to the inevitable pain and destruction caused by heroin. As a well-populated and thriving suburban area some of the communities of New Jersey have experienced frequent spikes in heroin related deaths, and in some an analysis of the state medical examiner data showed that heroin has been named in more than 5,267 deaths in New Jersey since 2004- half of which took place since 2011! But with the events of this week, that number may get bigger before anything gets better.
Bigger Body Counts
Bringing with it a wave of devastation, a new form of heroin has hit the streets of Camden, New Jersey and in just 24 hours killed 15 people! Heroin in its purest form has hit suburban New Jersey hard and now police are struggling to fight back. Emergency responders and law enforcement are troubled about the potential of more deaths, and the community is in shock.
Camden Metro Police Chief Scott Thompson was reached for comment in regards to this sudden string of tragic deaths, and in his statement to members of the press Thompson stated:
“Right now we know that there is something out there that’s putting people in near death situations,”
These 15 overdoses occurred in several surrounding towns since Tuesday, March 22 and of the 15 cases 14 of the victims were young individuals. Thompson described the situation and the victims as in their younger 20’s and named the some of the impacted areas as:
- Washington Township
- Cherry Hill
The Chief emphasized to the public that this is a drug that knows no social or economic barriers, and that heroin does not discriminate against who it hooks, or who it kills.
Stronger Heroin on NJ Streets
According to authorities directly involved in the investigation these bags of potent and potentially lethal heroin doses are marked in specifically labeled bags. Chief Thompson further explained,
“The bags are branded. That’s part of the marketing scheme of the drug dealer. If you were to walk into the community of drug users and start to talk about bags, you’re talking about locations.”
What some would hope is that this connection would help law enforcement follow the trail back to the supplier, and local police are currently stepping up patrols. Authorities have even put Cooper University Hospital on alert in case of additional incidences.
With the escalating intensity of heroin related overdoses and deaths, the state is trying to take aggressive action towards tracking down the source of this pure heroin product that has been flooding the Camden County area, while keeping first responders on stand-by and expecting the worst while hoping for the best.
15 dead in 24 hours is a staggering and horrifying measurement of mortalities in any state under any circumstance.
Think about that. 1 day… 15 people gone, 14 under the age of 30… that is the grim reality, and it seems to get worse every time we write about it.
Heroin continues to destroy lives and desolate families and homes to an alarming and disastrous degree, while politicians and law enforcement clamor to find a method of effectively fighting back and curbing the calamity that has resulted from this poison clogging the streets. One can only hope that beyond putting a stop to this pure heroin from taking more lives that more heroin abusers and addicts are getting the help they need before it is too late.
A story like this just shows how much we need to share that there is a way out. There are thousands of people who have recovered and there are thousands still who may die without the chance. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
The state of Florida’s soaring rates of IV drug use and overdose deaths have made the idea of providing addicts access to a safe needle exchange program tolerable. After years of deliberation, Gov. Rick Scott has signed off on a pilot program in Miami-Date County, run by the University of Miami, to establish a needle exchange program for addicts.
Looking at the track record that needle exchange programs have had in reducing rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis prompted organizations like the Florida Medical Association to get behind the program. It also resulted in a Republican-led Congress to lift the ban on using federal money for such exchanges.
For now,Florida’s program is just a pilot. The University of Miami won’t be able to use state or local tax dollars to help get it up and running. However, in a written statement, Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, expressed optimism:
“Hopefully, this pilot syringe program is just the beginning of major changes in Florida,” he wrote.
The program was introduced to the governor on March 2nd by the Florida House in response to the increasing HIV infections occurring in the South Florida communities. The goal is to allow drug addicts to exchange their dirty needles for free, clean needles and syringes.
The process to get this plan approved has been a long one. For four years, Sen. Oscar Braynon D-Miami sponsored the bill but was unable to get it through the House and Senate. Finally, after the statistics in South Florida show the increase in intravenous drugs use, they were able to get full support for the idea.
“It took a while for us to get people to understand what this program did,” Braynon stated.
The rise in heroin use has exploded, and new cases of HIV/AIDS increase each year. In fact, Florida leads the nation in new cases of HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, as infections have risen, county health departments have been shrinking under Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s top health officer, Dr. John Armstrong policy to cut programs and employees at the Department of Health.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is most severe in the Miami-Dade and Broward counties which have the highest rate of new infections per 100,000 residents of any area in the country, according to state and federal data. A study found that the cost of treating patients with bacterial infections as a result of dirty needles is close to 11.4 million a year.
The University of Miami plans to use a mobile unit to reach addicts and encourage them to replace dirty needles for clean ones. The effort will include helping people find drug treatment and counseling programs, as well. Since the university is responsible for finding money to pay for the program, there is no cost to state taxpayers. The university plans to fund the program through donations and grants.
Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a conservative Republican from Naples, who is an orthopedic surgeon, supports the idea of a mobile unit. Gonzales stated in a recent interview that an addict’s world is “a very, very horrible place,” and they are often unable to “leave that world to go someplace else to go get a needle to protect themselves.”
“This is a very palpable, very real, very threatening disorder that threatens not only the lives of people that are affected but their families, their communities, our budget,” he said.
He described in a recent interview, seeing patients so infected that they could not digest food and their veins were so damaged from their drug use that medical personnel were unable to find a vein.
While harm reduction is never the best solution, often it is a viable option to reduce the horrible effects drug addiction can have in a community. Still, if you are struggling, committing to a life of sobriety is the ideal option. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Justin Mckibben
For some people, bathroom scales represent a lot more than just tools for measurement… a scale can actually become a symbol of self-sabotage and emotional atrophy due to a traumatic experience or the gradual development of unhealthy self-image. Looking a little closer, the statistics can say it all. According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):
- Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
- 25% of college-aged women admitted to binging and purging as a weight-management technique.
- 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder.
- Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment.
For many who suffer from eating disorders, the scale is more of a shackle that keeps them hitched to the destructive habits and head space that embody their eating disorder. Now one woman has inspired a movement to break the grip of this triggering mechanism by shattering the scale.
McCall Dempsey struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years, and today she has taken to spreading eating disorder awareness through a body positivity campaign she started on campus at several southern universities.
The Southern Smash
McCall’s movement is cleverly called the Southern Smash and the idea is for people to literally “smash” the body pressure away by taking a baseball bat and smashing their scales. The Southern Smash campaign’s latest event, which took place at the University of Virginia’s South Lawn on Tuesday, was just one of many gatherings for people trying to raise awareness about the impact of eating disorders by attacking one element of the negative body-image. Talking with the university’s student-run newspaper about the event Dempsey stated,
“I think everyone no matter what age lives in a world where we feel so pressured to look a certain way, be a certain way, dress a certain way, and this lets us smash all of those standards,”
“It’s a silent epidemic that is plaguing our country, and there is not enough discussion about them. There is so much shame and secrecy around them, so we smash scales to catch people’s attention about doing something fun and then really opening the conversation and educating students.”
Tuesday’s event was hosted by the UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns and Durham-based treatment center Carolina House. It gave students the opportunity to smash scales of their own, and the disheartening association attached to it.
Destroying scales wasn’t the only way to participate in the event. Students also wrote their perfect numbers on balloons, referring to:
The students then let the balloons go. They also wrote a “scale tombstone.”
Fighting Stigma on Campus
College campuses all across the country can present a competitive and intimidating environment. Stress from studies and peer pressures can weigh down on students and according to Melanie Brede, chair of UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns, many students who experience a hardship, including mental health disorders and addictions, don’t feel comfortable sharing their struggle with their peers.
“The reality is lots of people are struggling and being able to talk about it and have it be a common part of conversation makes it an opportunity for us all to be stronger together instead of struggling silently alone,”
The smashing of scales is just a catalyst, as the event was about a lot more than just getting together to break stuff in public. After the scales were effectively destroyed a panel discussion on eating disorders took place on campus where the discussion touched various topics concerning eating disorders and the importance of asking for help if someone is suffering a lone. A big part of the conversation was aimed to assure students that this doesn’t have to be a lonely fight, as was the point of inviting people impacted by the issue to shatter scales on campus in an act of solidarity against the stigma.
One college junior named Kendall Siewert shared her thoughts on the isolation an eating disorder can create, and how coming together as a community means a lot for the fight. Siewert stated,
“It is important for young women to understand their worth is not in their weight. It is never too late to ask for help. It’s never too late to find people and surround yourself with acceptance and work on that every day.”
By bringing students together to participate in a fun and entertaining activity, they hoped it would encourage a crowd that could ultimately extend the dialogue of addressing eating disorders, and showing how many others experience eating disorders. Other Southern Smash events are planned for this year at a number of colleges and universities to smash some scales in a few other states including:
- North Carolina
The Southern Smash campaign’s 2016 schedule can be viewed on its website, so there are plenty of chances for people in these areas to get involved.
Eating disorders are not always as easy to spot as an alcohol dependence issue, but they are both discrete and lethal illnesses, and they both effect more people than most would expect. Raising awareness about eating disorders can help destroy the stigma associated with them and lead to more people seeking the help they desperately need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Denise Hill, IOP Therapist. M.A.,C.A.P.
Author: Shernide Delva
In recovery, it is important to learn from those who have been successful in their journey. Everyone has a different perspective to offer. That’s why Palm Partners is starting a series called #JourneysThroughRecovery to honor those who have overcome the adversities of addiction. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Hill, an IOP therapist at Palm Partners Treatment Center. Since 2002, Hill has been in the addiction and substance abuse field. Hill started at Palm Partners as a tech while earning her Masters degree. She quickly was promoted to Crisis Intervention Coordinator, and soon after became Residential Manager.
Still, Hill knew that her purpose was to be a therapist, so she earned her credentials as a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP) and became an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) therapist. Working in recovery has allowed Hill to remain humble and aware of the disease of addiction. Throughout the interview, Hill’s bubbly and confident personality shined through. It is hard to believe the journey that Hill has overcome, but it is a testament to the possibilities that recovery has to offer. Hill shares a compelling story that those struggling in recovery can learn and benefit from.
Journeys through Recovery: Denise Hill, IOP Therapist and Recovering Addict:
Tell me a little bit about your addiction story and life before recovery? What was your DOC? How long were you active in your addiction?
My addiction spanned over 22 years. My drug of choice at the end was crack. I’ve done multiple drugs leading up to crack. I came from a family that was really poor. I’m the middle child, so my identity was lost and thinking back, I remember thinking, “I just want to be.” I was always intrigued by the older crowd. I couldn’t quite fit in with my friends, but I couldn’t quite do what the older people did, so I had to figure out something. Coming from the verbal abuse that I got, the drugs was the necessary out that I needed to help numb the pain.
What do you mean by verbal abuse? Who was giving you the verbal abuse?
Well, my mom was verbally abusive because she cursed a lot. My sister was emotionally disconnected. My brothers, they just weren’t available at all because they had their own issues coming up. I had a lot of dysfunction in my family so we didn’t get the regular talking to trying to figure out or identify what different roles we could be, set goals, dreams…you just kinda fend for what you had and kinda hoped that you became somebody different.
So growing up in school, they weren’t really pushing you to like pursue a career or anything?
Oh no, growing up was terrible! Oh my goodness! School years were terrible for me [laughs] because I went in with low self-esteem, and the teachers were as motivating as they probably could’ve been, but I wasn’t at a place to draw to them because I was so withdrawn from all the pain and embarrassment of things going on. And not having the best clothes like, it just didn’t put me in that spotlight of this “popular kid” […]. It set me up to be this person to get taken advantage of.
Would you say your childhood definitely played a role in your addiction?
Oh, most definitely! It was one of those… it was so painful. The first chance I got to escape, I loved it. I come from a gambling and drinking family so we could drink for holidays, and I could remember the first day I drank. I was like eight. I remember drinking alcohol and getting drunk the very first time, and I loved it. Even though I threw up, I loved it! Like I couldn’t understand; how could people not want to be like this? Even at eight, because I knew there was so much pain inside, and it took away the pain, so it made it seem better.
Do you think childhood typically affects an addict?
I don’t know that childhood does… I don’t even know that it’s just limited to having a bad childhood. I think the lack of coping skills, the lack of enforcement could’ve encouraged me to do something different. I was already seeking something, because what I was getting was painful, so I was already in searching of something of a disconnect.
What’s one memory that stands out to you when you think back to your childhood that made you maybe feel like you should turn to drugs?
Well, it was a combination. By the time I was ten, I was being molested by my brother. I was stealing, and I was already given permission to drink. So by that time, it numbed me. It took away the feelings that the secret was harboring.
What was that turning point that made you realize that you might have a problem?
When the pain on the inside got great, and I couldn’t talk about it. It’s one thing about stuffing feelings, it’s another thing to be able to express the feelings. Because I didn’t come from a family that would allow me to express my feelings. I was always taught, “Oh, it’s not what you feel,” or “Oh, shut up, you don’t feel that,” or “Change the way you feel,” or “Deal with it.”
Well, how can I deal with it if I can’t talk about it? And if I can’t talk about it, how do I process it? I found out now that I am a verbal processor, but back then, all it did was it just gave me a reason to want to escape, and that’s why drugs became the escape. Because they made me feel good. Then, my voice came when I started using drugs because I could really speak then [laughs]!
Tell me about your process of recovery. How did that start?
OH, that’s the fun part now! (laughs) So, I did what’s called a geographical change. Basically, I moved from one state to another in the name of trying to get something different. So, I moved from Chicago to Rockford, Illinois, moved in with a girlfriend, and ended up getting evicted. I went to this agency for help, and they insisted I go to treatment.
When I got into treatment, I learned so many tools. They put words to things I didn’t know I needed words to, but once I understood the words attached to it; I was like “Oh, that’s what I’m experiencing! Oh my goodness, that’s why I’m going through!” I’ve only had to go through treatment one time, and that’s such a blessing. When I went into treatment, I was so greedy. I was hungry. I was like a sponge absorbent. I absorbed everything in treatment. They talked about, “No matter what, don’t use.” That is what I still live by. I love that phrase. No matter what, don’t use.
One of the pivotal points, when I was in treatment, was this lady asked me my second day in; she said: “Tell me about the saddest time of your life.” And I remember having to think back, because I had stuffed my emotions so much, I couldn’t identify sadness. So I had to think of a moment that I experienced “Sad,” and what I told her about was this time when I was like seven months pregnant with my daughter, and her father chased me cause he used to beat me. He chased me down the stairs, and I fell on my stomach, and I thought that would have stopped him from beating me up, but it didn’t. And then I started crying, and I realized after I had cried that I had stuffed my emotions for so long. Once I cried, and I got done crying, I remember realizing, “If all I have to do is talk about me, I think I could do this.” And I haven’t had to look back since.
You only went to treatment one time?
I’ve only gone to treatment one time, and never had to relapse by the grace of God.
That’s amazing. What do you think results in relapsing and many addicts going back to rehab?
Couple of things. There is so much information out there about relapse, relapse prevention, pattern of using. For me, I know God plays a big part in my story. My faith is strong so that’s what grounds me. What I’ve realized is there is work to be done, and you can’t stop doing the work. Even when you get some clean time, whether it is five years, ten years, or fifteen years, you can’t stop working on your past, because it continues to haunt you. Not being honest, whether it is fear-based, whether it is insecurity, whether it is uncertainty, whether it is financial issues; if you don’t put words to that, you eventually act out about it because you’re not talking about it. Life’s situations requires us to grow up. If we’re not emotionally, physically, spiritually present, the disease lives in those places. It whispers, and it calls you. If you don’t do the work to stay away from it, you’ll end back in that deep dark hole.
What is your least favorite stigma around addiction? How can we go about changing that in the community?
Oh, that is a great question! “Once an addict, always an addict,” is my least favorite stigma. How do we go about changing that? I am in the process of changing that through my Ph.D. program. My dissertation would be around working with African-American children between 21 to 30, creating a group curriculum and traveling to different arenas within the community to teach coping skills, in a group setting, so they can learn how to face themselves and do something different.
Describe addiction in three words.
Dark, dreary hole.
Describe sobriety in three words.
Three words…I’m just gonna say “Trust in God.”
Why I say Trust in God is because the disease is spiritual in nature. […] If you can connect them to a source that is greater than their addiction, they have a greater chance of living in sobriety.
Learning through another person’s story is an excellent tool in recovery. Different journeys offer a perspective that can help you make the connection. Remember, if you are struggling with addiction, there are so many people who have been in the same place you are in. They have embraced sobriety, and so can you. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.