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Could a New Phone App Combat Human Trafficking?

 

Slavery - Human Trafficking

Author: Shernide Delva

There are an estimated 21 million people in forced or coerced human trafficking worldwide. That number is just an estimate. Human trafficking can happen anywhere at anytime.  It is going on in our backyards, and most of us are unaware of it. Because we are unaware of it, it becomes an unspoken problem. Now, a newly released app plans to combat this epidemic. All it requires is users take photos of their hotel room.

Just by taking pictures of your next hotel room, you can take a small step in helping victims of sex trafficking around the world. The new app is called TraffickCam and allows those traveling to upload photos of their hotel room around the world.

“You just enter your hotel room and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said at a Human Trafficking Town Hall. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”

The hotel room photos go into a database that over time will help law enforcement locate where human trafficking is occurring. Pictures of Hotel rooms are matched against a police database.

“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” she said.

Stylianou says the idea sparked from the times authorities have asked the public to identify a hotel room where human trafficking took place. Often, someone was able to identify the hotel room from the photo.

Now, this app aims to collect hotel room photos in advance. So the next time you check into a hotel room, take pictures of your room and upload them using the app. After all, it is only one extra thing to do on top of your Snapchats and fancy food Instagram pictures. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.

Human Trafficking and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and human trafficking, unfortunately, go hand and hand. Estimates indicate that between 40 and 85 percent of all prostitutes are drug users. What the media often does not portray is the fact that many victims are not addicts before being traffic. However, when found, these victims are left with drug addictions and dependencies.

There a few ways that substance abuse and human trafficking intertwine. It can be a product of recruitment, control or coping:

  • Recruitment: Victims will sometimes end up in human trafficking before any drug abuse. This scenario is very common in the sex industry. Men and women turn to prostitution to support their drug dependencies. Traffickers use this as leverage to obtain workers.
  • Control: Traffickers will force drug use on victims as a mean of control, so they get what they want.
    “In some cases, a prostitute will be forced by a pimp or other person to take drugs to ensure that they do as they are told… This is particularly true in the case of young people and children” (DARA).
    Sadly, this method of control is even used on children as well. Children are sometimes forced to take drugs or drink alcohol, so they are more manipulated into having sex or performing sexual acts without consent. Trafficking victims are often forced to take drugs like heroin or meth because they eventually become dependent on these substances. Traffickers gain control of their victims this way because soon the victims will feel they need to fund their addiction. Now, their addiction binds them to their exploitation.
  • Coping: Drugs can be a method of coping for victims. Victims of human trafficking may use drugs as a way to numb their pain. Day after day, abusing substances allow victims to deal with the reality of their life and work. Substance Abuse is used “as a way to be able to continue to do the degrading and often violent work” (DARA). Some victims also use drugs in the aftermath to reduce their post-traumatic emotional distress.

As you can see, human trafficking is a major problem across the board. The fact that an app like this could help law enforcement find the location these horrible acts are taking place is a step in the right direction. If you or someone you know has gone through a similar traumatic experience and is struggling with any form of dependency, the time is now to call for help. Do not try to do this alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Opioid Alternatives: Should Doctors Weigh Other Options?

Physical therapist helping patient on exercise staircase.

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Over the last decade, the increase in opiate painkiller abuse and heroin abuse has been alarming to say the least. The 2014 statistics state that a person dies every 4 minutes from a drug overdose or alcohol-related event. Prescription pain killer abuse is an epidemic in the United States and as a result, alternatives are being considered to prevent more and more people from developing a dependency to opioids. Are there better methods of managing chronic pain?

Many believe so and are pushing for a change. While opioid medications are effective at reducing pain, they are very addictive, and other alternatives should be looked at before doctors prescribe opioid medications.

So, what options are available? Fortunately, there are a variety of options available for pain relief that range from non-opioid medications to non-medicinal therapies. Discussing these options with your doctor can help provide you with a pain management program that has a lower risk for dependency.

The Best Opiate Alternatives

  • Over-the-Counter Acetaminophen
    Acetaminophen is a drug more commonly known by the brand name Tylenol. It is recommended as a first-line of treatment by the American College of Rheumatology. While scientists are not sure on how the drug works, most theorize the drug works by inhibiting the synthesis of chemical messengers called prostaglandins, which help to transmit pain signals and induce fever. This drug is non-addictive and can be very effective.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    NSAIDs are more potent than acetaminophen and include anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve. These drugs work by reducing inflammation; however they run a risk of risk of organ toxicity, kidney or liver failure and ulcers. Use in moderation for optimum success.
  • Corticosteroids
    Steroids inhibits nerves in the body and provide pain relief. The drawbacks to steroids are that they can potentially accelerate join destruction. Other side effects can include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues and psychiatric effects.
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitors
    Anti-depressants may be appropriate for nerve, muscular and skeletal pain. They also help with insomnia and anxiety. This is a great alternative because these drugs do not have the same side effects of opioids.
  • Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy requires more work from the patient but can be extremely useful in improving physical healing and relieving pain long-term. Physical therapy can be done in sessions and recommended exercises can often be done at home.
  • Massage, Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care
    Acupuncture is an ancient art form that has been used for thousands of years. Some find acupuncture to be just as effective, if not more effective than medications. On the bonus side, it is a totally natural safe alternative to opioid medication.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is beneficial for so many reasons. Surprisingly, exercise has been shown to be healing for those with chronic pain. Low-impact exercises can help improve mobility and functionality. Activities like yoga and ta-chi can be helpful for many ailments.

Chronic pain affects millions. Whether we like it or not, pain is a real occurrence, and sometimes opioid medications may be the only option. However, if other alternatives and other methods of care can be promoted, it can help prevent the amount of patients suffering from dependence to these drugs. Often, taking a prescription opioid may not be the best option. As the prescription pain killer epidemic continues to gain media attention and  political awareness,more attention should be placed on prevention methods, as well as treatment.

Overall, ask your doctor to weigh the alternative options available. Together, both of you can decide the best method of pain management. What do you think? Should doctors weight other options? If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Congress Investigating Big Pharma Price Gouging

Congress Investigating Big Pharma Price Gouging

Author: Justin Mckibben

Anyone remember the outrage that came about in recent months when it was publicly announced that Big Pharma companies were purchasing the rights to manufacture and distribute life-saving medications and then gouging the prices at astronomical and frankly offensive rates?

There was the story of Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who hijacked the life-saving AIDS medication Daraprim, and then held it hostage with a price hike of 5,455% increase, going from Daraprim costing $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

Then came J. Michael Pearson, the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, who increased the price of 56 of the drugs in the last year alone, and acquired the drug Zegerid and promptly raised the price by 550% overnight.

Well now it seems the powers that be have had enough of the price gouging nonsense. Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has made it a personal point to attack the status of Big Pharma price spikes since his campaign began, and now it seems Sanders and other crusaders are getting some extra muscle from the United States Congress.

House Announced Big Pharma Investigation

The announcement comes after waves of outrage concerning the way that Big Pharma is manipulating the drug market to leach as much as they can out of the American consumers who are in serious need for the drugs they are producing. The United States House of Representatives investigative panel has given a declaration that they do plan to hold a hearing next year on drastically rising drug costs.

Now, considering the recent news that drew a lot more attention to this pertinent issue, the focus could mainly be on the pricing tactics of one pharmaceutical company in particular: Mr. Pearson’s Big Pharma giant Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

According to a spokeswoman for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform said the investigation into drug policies of these Big Pharma bullies is already underway, and the panel has solicited numerous drug companies for further information.

Not-So-Valiant Valeant

The U.S. Senate Special Committee already launched a probe earlier this month into drug pricing at Valeant, which isn’t too surprising considering what we already know. Then there comes the info involved with one of their most recently publicized problems.

Some of the top executives working with Valeant were directly involved with the operations of specialty pharmacy Philidor Rx Services. Philidor Rx Services had caught some heat for their questionable business model after a recent report claimed that two Valeant employees were copied on an email last November that explained how employees at Philidor could bill the highest amount an insurance company was willing to pay by resubmitting rejected claims at different price points.

Representative Elijah Cummings is the top Democrat on the investigative panel seeking to expose unjust and illegal actions in the Big Pharma activities and he wrote,

“Valeant employees may have been personally involved in questionable billing practices that led Valeant to cut ties with Philidor last month.”

Valeant later acknowledged a relationship with Philidor Rx Services shortly after the scandal, but claimed to have cut ties with Philidor because they had “lost confidence” in them due to questions about their business practices. Not-so-valiant Valeant Chief Executive Pearson has not commented on any of the ongoing investigations.

Focus in the Fight

While many have a dubious perspective of the dignity of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, they are definitely not the only Big Pharma focus of the investigation.

Turing Pharmaceutical earned its own focus from the House panel for its own dissatisfying pricing strategies. Martin Shkreli angered just about everyone with the announcement of his price spike, but he announced a few days later that he would lower the price of the drug “in response to the anger that was felt by people.”

Despite Shkreli’s quick backpedaling, it seems it hasn’t been enough to keep his company out of the spot light.

With all this happening, one can only hope that it sheds some light on the way Big Pharma has been abusing the power that comes with producing life-saving prescription drugs. Some Big Pharma companies are helping in the fight with cheap alternatives, so what else can be done?

Don’t even get me started again on how the Big Pharma company behind Naloxone has steadily increased the price of the opiate overdose antidote that is so desperately needed all over the country. In my opinion- these people need investigated!

I honestly feel like Amphastar Pharmaceuticals is blackmailing America with a medication when it could not be more necessary to have expansive and all-inclusive access to- considering the casualties and calamities created by the opiate epidemic. Yet while the states are passing legislation to make it more available, the Big Pharma bosses seem to gradually raise the price as the epidemic worsens… how many opportunists does it take to undermine the efforts to save a nation?

Well if Big Pharma doesn’t want to help, Congress seems more than happy to take a closer look at WHY they need to make it harder on those who are trying to help the addicts in their communities. Not everyone gets the treatment they need, but it is possible and we want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Delray Beach Pill Mill Doctor Guilty on 55 Charges

Delray Beach Pill Mill Doctor Guilty on 55 Charges

Author: Justin Mckibben

Some serious justice has been dealt this month as another crooked “pill mill” doctor has been struck with a serious of guilty verdicts for his participation in the illegal enterprise of over-prescribing patients shopping for dangerous opiate painkillers.

In a Palm Beach County courtroom earlier in November Dr. Barry Schultz stood in a frozen stare as the word “guilty” was read out 55 times pertaining to charges brought against him. Each sentence was assurance that Schultz would be serving at least 25 years in prison for his pill mill drug trafficking activities.

This is just one story out of so many similar instances across the country where doctors essentially ran illegal drug dealing operations out of their offices and clinics, writing prescriptions for addictive and deadly drugs to people who didn’t need them, fueling the opiate painkiller abuse issue that made a devastating contribution to the opiate epidemic.

The Case and the Charges

Barry Schultz is a 59-year-old former doctor of the suburban Delray Beach, Florida area. During the trial brought against him Shultz claimed he had been pumping out the obnoxious amount of prescriptions for massive quantities of oxycodone and other narcotics to help people in chronic pain. Since the verdict Shultz was shipped off to Palm Beach County Jail to await sentencing set on January 8th.

During the trial, Assistant Palm Beach County State Attorney Barbara Burns and prosecutor Lauren Godden said Schultz prescribed as many as 20,000 pills a year to patients without medical justification. Barbara Burns retired after spending 25 years as a county prosecutor with this case marking the end of her career, showing that she finished strong.

Schultz carried out his illicit operations from the pharmacy out of his office on Jog Road. Prosecutors refuted his claims of trying to help people with pain by stating he was simply greedy, and eventually it caught up to him. The pharmacy only accepted cash, and it was estimated by Burns that on a weekly basis it was raking in about $10,000!

That is a lot of chronic pain.

The jury that heard Schultz’s case deliberated for roughly 17 hours over a three day period before announcing the verdicts. Schultz escaped a few of the charges, which came to about 19 of the 74 drug trafficking charges he initially faced, but the other 55 are nothing to be overlooked. At least 20 of the 74 chargers are all punishable by mandatory 25-year prison terms, so Shultz is sure to be getting more than enough time to spend reflecting on his crimes.

Schultz’s attorney declined comment. But the show isn’t quite over for Schultz. He was stripped of his medical license, and now also faces a charge of manslaughter for causing the overdose death of a 50-year-old patient in 2010. The pieces of the pill mill seem to have fallen apart and are now piling up on top of this crooked doctor as the prosecutors aim to make this case a staple in the fight against drug trafficking and opiate addiction.

Big Picture

This county is full of doctors who have been prosecuted in recent years as pain clinics created a health crisis throughout the state. Doctors have plead guilty to a variety of related charges, including wire fraud, while others were convicted of other charges.

Schultz’s attorney tried to use the pain clinic crackdown to persuade jurors that Schultz was the victim of a witch hunt. Schultz said he became attracted to the potential benefits of narcotics while working as a hospice doctor and treating the elderly, and stated he was only doing what he thought was right to assist his patients. It is expected that Schultz’s legal team will appeal the verdict on these grounds.

Either way, it would seem that the state of Florida is attentive to the issue with prescription pain medications being sold to the highest bidder by doctors who knowingly supply the drugs for them to be abused, taking it very serious and actively trying to bring down those who are trying to profit from pill mills. Making money off of the pain and suffering of sick people is no joke, neither is a 25 year sentence for drug dealing out of a pharmacy. Sooner or later it all catches up.

Battles against prescription painkillers and the doctors running the pill mill empires seem to still be making waves. There are still thousands of addicts and alcoholics seeking help. But there is hope, and it can be as simple as a phone call. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. 

Recovering from Opiate Addiction: Learning to Boost Pleasure

Recovering from Opiate Addiction: Learning to Boost Pleasure

By Cheryl Steinberg

If you are recovering from an addiction to opiates, the bad news is that you will most likely experience cravings and you’ll find it difficult to experience pleasure in the little things – an ability that people who don’t suffer from addiction possess.

Now for the good news. You can absolutely reduce your cravings and the method by which you can accomplish this just so happens to knock out the second drawback listed above. In a nutshell: by learning to enjoy other aspects of their lives, you can avoid cravings and find your joy.

Sounds like it’s easier said than done, right? However, the truth is that you have all the tools within you to accomplish boosting your ability to experience pleasure after being in active addiction to opiates. And, it’s something that will serve you in all aspects of your life. And – yes, another “and” – for many in recovery, it’s already a part of – or goal of – their recovery program.

Recovering from Opiate Addiction: Learning to Boost Pleasure

The key finding in a new study that was published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine by Eric L. Garland, associate professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work, revealed this very solution. Garland and colleagues studied how an intervention program called Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) could positively impact chronic pain patients who were prescribed opiate painkillers by decreasing their desire for those drugs.

The MORE intervention focuses on helping people to rediscover a sense of meaning and fulfillment in everyday their everyday lives by embracing pleasures – and even pain – without turning to substance use as a coping mechanism. MORE integrates the latest research on addiction, cognitive neuroscience, positive psychology and mindfulness. The participants in Garland’s study were instructed on applying mindfulness-oriented techniques over the course of eight weeks in order to alleviate pain and craving while at the same time strengthening positive emotions and the sense of reward and meaning in life.

Here’s an example from the study to give you a better idea of what the instruction taught: in order to enhance their sense of reward in life, the study’s participants were taught a “mindful savoring practice,” in which they focused their attention on pleasant experiences such as a beautiful scene in nature, like a sunset, or else a feeling of connection with a loved one. Then, in a meditation session, the participants were taught to focus their awareness on the colors, textures, and scents of a bouquet of fresh flowers and to appreciate the sense of joy arising from the experience.

The participants also had daily homework, which involved practicing the same meditation technique as a way to enjoy other pleasant life experiences.

The new research shows that, after a sample of chronic pain patients misusing opioids completed MORE, their EEGs exhibited an increase in brain activation to natural, healthy pleasures. Furthermore, the more their brains became active in response to natural healthy pleasures, the less the patients craved opioids.

“These findings are scientifically important because one of the major theories about how and why addiction occurs asserts that over time drug abusers become dulled to the experience of joy in everyday life, and this pushes them to use higher and higher doses of drugs to feel happiness,” said Garland.

“This study suggests that this process can be reversed. We can teach people to use mindfulness to appreciate and enjoy life more, and by doing that, they may feel less of a need for addictive drugs. It’s a powerful finding.”

Garland, who developed MORE intervention, said that his method is also being tested for application with people who want to lose weight or quit smoking.

Have you tried to quit using opiates or other substances but found that the cravings were too powerful and seemingly impossible to overcome? Palm Partners offers a safe and comfortable medical detox as well as cutting edge therapies, including meditation and mindfulness, it helping clients to overcome this very difficult situation. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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