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Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Author: Justin Mckibben

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.

The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:

  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • India
  • France
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Canada

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.

Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.

The Turning Point for America

According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.

Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:

“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”

One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.

GCDP vs War on Drugs

Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.

The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:

“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”

To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction

So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?

Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:

  • Naloxone Distribution and Training

As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.

Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.

Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.

  • Drug Checking

These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.

Decriminalizing Drugs in America

In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.

The report states:

“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”

With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:

  • End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
  • Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.

The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.

“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”

We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.

Better Treatment Research

The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.

One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.

Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:

“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”

While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.

Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.

What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?

One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Florida Governor Pushing for 3 Day Limit on Prescription Opioids

Florida Governor Pushing for 3 Day Limit on Prescription Opioids

While the entire country has been impacted by this ongoing issue, more options for prevention and treatment have become paramount to changing the tides. Just this week Rick Scott, the governor of the state of Florida, proposed a strategy for fighting the opioid epidemic that has gained a lot of attention. Scott has decided to ask local lawmakers to impose a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions during the upcoming legislative session. This latest development is one new piece of recent initiatives to combat the opioid crisis.

Florida Governor Opioid Initiatives

During two press conferences on Tuesday, the Florida Governor announced a pushback on an abundance of opioid prescriptions, while also introducing other ideas for fighting addiction.

One of the initiatives Rick Scott is pushing is to require all health-care professionals who prescribe controlled substances to participate in the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, also known as the PDMP. This database involves health-care professionals to report important information on patients receiving powerful narcotic medications, including:

  • Name of the doctor
  • Patient name
  • Prescription information after the prescription is filled

But this is not the last of Florida Governor Scott’s opioid initiatives. His office also plans to seek additional reforms such as:

  • Fight unlicensed pain management clinics
  • Requiring education on responsible opioid prescribing
  • Creating more opportunities for federal grants

Scott apparently plans to put some more investments toward helping those already struggling. He is also pushing for more than $50 million for services including:

Part of this initiative is also boosting up the budget of the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council.

At the moment the finer details of the Florida Governor’s proposals are not yet available. However, what it does tell us is that Scott is not ignoring the contribution Big Pharma makes in this current crisis. What we can tell from this outline is that Rick Scott says he is aiming to address prescription opioid pain medication, recognizing it as a key source of the growing problem.

Why 3 Days?

It has been reported time and time again that we should be paying attention to how powerful opioid medications impact rising addiction rates. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a recent study showing how quickly someone could get hooked on these kinds of drugs. In this study it is shown:

  • After three days of use, about 6% of patients were still using opioids a year later.
  • Five days into use, about 10% of patients were still using opioids a year later.
  • After 11 days of use, it jumps to 25% of patients still taking opioids a year later.

So it would seem that between 3-5 days, the chances of continued use almost doubled. Then between 5-11 days the chances of use more than doubled. This development may have helped inspire the idea to limit prescriptions to 3 days.

Back in March, Bradley Martin of the CDC, one of the study authors, told Vox magazine:

“There’s nothing magical about five days versus six days, but with each day your risk of dependency increases fairly dramatically,”

So while day 5 and day 6 may not be a dramatic leap over the edge, some may see this proposed limit as an attempt to at least slow a process down.

The Opposing Argument

The Florida Governor will probably face strong criticism, or at least skepticism, from crowds such as:

The opposition is still very real. This isn’t even the first time Florida lawmakers have seen something like this brought to the table. Just last year Florida legislatures quietly rejected an effort last year to impose a five-day cap on opioid prescriptions for acute pain.

Legislatures and doctors are the only concerns Florida Governor may have to tangle with in order to push this idea through. Other potential obstacles standing against this proposal include:

  • Additional out-of-pocket co-pays that patients will incur
  • The ability of patients with chronic pain and terminal illnesses to refill prescriptions

The Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians will discuss caps on prescriptions during a board meeting today. Dr. Sanford Silverman is a past president of the Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. In regards to the 3 day limit he stated:

“We don’t think the cap is reasonable since it is a completely arbitrary number,”

“A better idea would be to mandate usage of the PDMP prior to writing an opioid for acute pain.”

Similar Strategies

Other states have created caps on prescriptions, although some may not seem as strict as the 3 day rule.

  • Massachusetts limits the supply to seven days.
  • New Jersey set it so that first-time prescriptions for acute pain cannot exceed a five-day supply. Also, patients being treated for cancer or under hospice care are exempt.
  • Ohio caps distinguish between patients with chronic pain and those with acute pain.

At the end of the day, similar strategies may not be left up to the lawmakers. If pharmacies decide to impose their own limits on certain prescription drugs the Florida Governor might not have to push very hard to get the limits he is looking for.

CVS announced Friday that the company plans to:

  • Limit the daily dosage of pain pills based on their strength
  • Require the use of quick-release painkillers before extended-release opioids are dispensed
  • Limit opioid prescriptions to seven days for certain conditions

This restriction will specifically apply to patients who are new to pain therapy.

Only time will tell how far Florida Governor Rick Scott’s new pitch will go, but it seems one thing people can agree on is that the opioid crisis does require some new approaches to prevention.

With more prevention we may be able to slow down the rising rates of opioid addiction. Meanwhile, the need for safe and effective treatment still means a lot for helping those already suffering. Real treatment resources matter. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

5 Ways to Make Friends Other Than Going to Meetings

5 Ways to Make Friends Other Than Going to Meetings

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

Author: Shernide Delva

The early stages of recovery can be a tumultuous time. After all, you are entering a new way of living.  One challenge those in recovery face is making new friends. Sometimes the only friends a person has are the friends they used drugs with. Those friends are certainly not ideal.

The first advice most people offer is to find friends in 12-step meetings.  While fellowships like A.A. and N.A are great places to meet people, one should not be limited to meetings to make new friends.

There are hosts of places where sober people can socialize and meet well-rounded people.  Making friends as an adult is challenging, and sobriety intensifies that challenge. However, there is hope.

Other than 12-step meetings, there are a plethora of resources available to make new friends. You do not have to go bar hopping to meet friends like you used to.

Here are five ways to make new friends in sobriety other than meetings: 

  1. Check Out Local Meetups.

    Meetup.com is a great way to track people who are interested in similar things as you. You can find people to play ultimate Frisbee on a weekly basis, or you can find an art group. There are so many sober activities on Meetup. Nowadays, there is an increasing trend of individuals trying to find activities to do that do not include drinking. Take advantage of this.
    Meetups are run by independent organizers, and they range tremendously. Everyone can find something they are interested in on Meetup. If you do not find something that interests you, then create your own Meetup! You’ll be surprised by who could possibly show up, and it’s a great way to develop your leadership skills.

  2. Go to the Gym.

    It can be difficult to work out, especially in early recovery, but going to the gym is a great way to make new friends. Fitness classes and exercise groups are great ways to make friends with people who care about their health. Even if they are not sober, people who workout are usually more conscious of what they put in their bodies.  Plus, working out is good for you, so it is a win-win.

  3. Reconnect with existing friends.

    Another way to make friends is to connect to people you already know. For example, if you are in a new area, ask around and see if there are friends-of-friends around that you can connect with. Contact your existing friends and see if they know anyone that they can introduce you to. Maybe one of your friends knows someone in your area who loves art or writing as much as you do. Network and build your circle using these types of strategies.

  4. Tap into your Facebook Network.

    Facebook has nearly 2 billion active users, and it has the tools to help you connect with tons of potential friends. There are a variety of groups you can join on Facebook to meet people with similar interests. For example, there are travel groups with hundreds of thousands of members in them.  People connect through groups like this all of the time. Join Facebook groups based on your interests and track people in your area to connect with. Like any scenario, be safe and always meet in a public place.

  5. Socialize More.

    If you are an introvert, it can be difficult to open yourself up while doing day to day activities. However, this is an excellent way to meet new people. Whether you are running errands or going to work, everyday ventures are an opportunity to connect with people. The more you talk to people, the more people you will meet. I hate small talk as much as the next guy, but I have to admit, those who do more of it reap the benefits of having more connections with people.
    You can meet people while shopping for a new blouse or getting your hair washed. Put yourself out there and open yourself to new friendships. You’ll be surprised at the results!

Overall, recovery is a great time of reinvention and with the reinvention comes the opportunity to build your social network. Creating a solid group of friends is an excellent way to maintain your sobriety. You will begin to learn a variety of ways to have fun without the use of drugs and alcohol.  You do not have to meet friends only in meetings. The world is your oyster.  If you are currently struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Experts Say an Opioid Vaccine Is Far from Becoming Reality

Experts Say an Opioid Vaccine Is Far From Becoming Reality

Author: Shernide Delva

In the past, we’ve talked about the potential of opioid vaccines. These vaccines could have a major impact on lowering a number of opioid overdose deaths. They could completely shift the direction of how we treat opioid addiction. However, is the future of opioids imminent or far, far away?

Sadly, it will be a long time before we see opioid vaccines available for widespread use. Experts all agree that although the future of opioid vaccines looks bright, the process of getting a drug into the market is a lengthy one and we should not hold our breath just yet.

Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price mentioned opioid vaccines as an exciting new development in the war against opioid abuse.

“One of the exciting things that they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is incredibly exciting,” Price said during a briefing about the drug epidemic.

However, experts say it won’t be made public for years… if ever.

The process of a drug going from the research phase to the production phase is a long, tedious process. Opioid addiction vaccines have not even begun human trials yet. Researchers would have to put drugs through phase one, two and three trials before submitting them for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), given that the trials are successful.

“He may be a physician, but he’s not terribly well-informed about addictions,” said Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a psychiatry professor at the Baylor College of Medicine with a concentration in addiction vaccines. “I can’t imagine the vaccine would be on the market before the Trump administration is over.”

Dr. Kosten knows all about vaccines. He worked on cocaine vaccines for 16 years before deciding that it “just didn’t work well enough” to continue. Today, he is working on a vaccine for fentanyl, an opioid painkiller up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl has been a major culprit for overdose deaths in the current opioid epidemic.

Those who previously used painkillers turn to heroin due to the lower price and easier access. Unfortunately, often heroin is not just heroin and instead is laced with powerful painkillers like fentanyl which make a user much more susceptible to an overdose.

Dr. Kosten hopes his work on the vaccine will pan out, but he wants to ensure people are not holding their breath. These things take time.

“There are no opiate vaccines that have been in people at this point,” said Dr. Kosten.

Even if the vaccine passes trials and goes into full-scale production, it would only be used therapeutically, not as a preventative measure.

“The purpose is not to “mass-immunize a whole bunch of kids,” Dr. Kosten said. “That’s not at all what they’re designed for.”

For now, the vaccine is proving to be effective in animal testing. However, this is not necessarily good news.

“Sometimes, the translation from animals is not necessarily the same in humans. So we have to do the human studies,” said Dr. Ivan Montoya of NIDA’s Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences.

The goal of the vaccine is to allow the body’s own immune system to combat opioids before they can reach the brain and take effect.

“We don’t have to modify the brain to produce the effect,” said Dr. Montoya. “You take advantage of your own immune system and prevent access of the drug to the brain.”

In the future, Dr. Montoya hopes to come up with a vaccine that can block the effects of a wide range of opioids including fentanyl, heroin, and OxyContin.

While the prospect of opioid vaccines sounds promising, we are still far away from this becoming a reality. Therefore, stating vaccines as an exciting solution to the opioid epidemic is a bit of a stretch for now. Instead, the focus should be placed on increasing access to treatment. With the right program, recovery is possible. If you are struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

1 Out of 12 Doctors Get Incentives from Opioid Makers

1 Out of 12 Doctors Get Goodies from Opioid Makers

Author: Shernide Delva

Free lunches?

Airfare?

Complementary drinks?

These are just a few of the incentives doctors have received from prescription opioid companies. Did these goodies get you your last opioid prescription?

Could incentives be responsible for our current opioid epidemic?

That’s exactly what researchers set out to understand.

A recent report confirmed what many have suspected: doctors are receiving incentives from major opioid makers. In fact, one out of every 12 U.S doctors gets money, lunch or something else of value from companies that make opioid drugs, the study concluded.

Furthermore, companies are spending more time and effort marketing opioids to doctors than they are other less addictive painkillers. These finding will help understand why doctors have played such a major role in the opioid addiction crisis.

“A large proportion of physicians received payments — one in 12 physicians overall,” said Dr. Scott Hadland of the Boston Medical Center. “Tens of millions of dollars were transferred for marketing purposes for opioids.”

Dr. Hadland and colleagues went through databases from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government office that oversees public health insurance.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act includes the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act. This act required medical product makers to report any offerings or goodies made to doctors or to teaching hospitals. However, incentives are often disguised as something else.

“In some cases, they are money provided directly to physicians — for example, the speaking fees, the consultant fees and the honoraria. In other cases it is reimbursement for things like travel,” Hadland said.

On average, doctors get a single “payment,” usually a mean worth of $15 about once a year. Still, there are a select few doctors that are reaping the most benefits.

“The top 1 percent of physicians (681 of them) received 82.5 percent of total payments in dollars,” the team wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

These incentives could influence doctors to prescribe opioids to their patients:

“One of the main drivers of the epidemic has been the vast overprescribing of prescription pain medications,” the study notes.

Between 2013 and 2015, the team found 375,266 payments totaling 26 million distributed to more than 68,000 doctors.

While larger fees mostly accounted for speaker fees, more leisurely incentives like food and drink accounted for 94 percent of the payments.

“I do think the practice is exceedingly common. Increasingly, medical schools are restricting the ability of pharma companies to come to speak to medical students and even faculty,” Hadland said.

So what?

With all this said, do small incentives really make a difference? After all, can a doctor really be bought for the price of a boxed lunch?

The research indicates that, yes, these little goodies do influence prescribing. Last year, a study revealed that physicians who accepted even one meal by a drug company were more likely to prescribe a name-brand drug to patients later.

This is not the first time investigations were conducted on possible incentives. After earlier controversies and studies, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America issued a voluntary code of conduct to curb the once widespread practice of handing out free mugs, prescription pads, and other swag covered in drug brand names.

Some cities and states especially hit by the opioid abuse epidemic have even sued drug makers saying their practices have helped fuel the problem. The CDC states doctors have contributed to the addiction crisis by prescribing opioids to too many patients. These prescriptions are often prescribed at high doses for too long which only increases the vulnerability to addiction.

The result is deadly.

There were more than 30,000 fatalities in the United States in 2015, the federal government said.

“I think that first and foremost we have known that one of the main drivers of the epidemic has been the vast overprescribing of prescription pain medications,” said Michael Botticelli, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and now executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at the Boston Medical Center.

According to Botticelli, the answer is independent education, free of the need to promote a specific product.

“At the federal and state level (we may need to) move toward mandatory prescriber education to counteract industry’s influence over prescribing behavior,” he said. “Clearly, guidelines are not enough.”

For a long time, prescribing opioids was one of the first responses to pain management. Now other alternatives are being promoted such as pain management devices and holistic alternatives.

Botticelli agrees that while pain is a major problem, the answer is not more opioids.

“Yes, we want to make sure people’s pain is appropriately treated, but we know that longer and higher doses have significantly added to the addiction problem that we have in the United States,” he continued.

What are your thoughts? Did you know about these incentives? More studies are coming out revealing the back story to what led to the prescription opioid epidemic.

Opioid addiction has become a public health crisis. Now, more than ever is the time to seek treatment. Recovery is possible. You do not have to feel out of control. There is a solution.  If you are struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait. 

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

 

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