Safe, effective drug/alcohol treatment

All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

The answer is Palm Partners Recovery Center. It’s a proven path to getting sober and staying sober.

Palm Partners’ innovative and consistently successful treatment includes: a focus on holistic health, a multi-disciplinary approach, a 12-step recovery program and customized aftercare. Depend on us for help with:

Looking at How Xanax Hits the Brain and Hurts the Body

Looking at How Xanax Hits the Brain and Hurts the Body

By now, most people are familiar with the prescription drug Xanax to some extent or another. It has been one of the most popular anti-anxiety medications for many years now, and it has also garnered some infamy throughout our current culture through music and media. Hip-hop artists, like Future in the mainstream or… wait for it… Lil Xan in the underground, have promoted the use of the prescription drug for recreational purposes. Even television shows have made seemingly flippant comments about using the now-notorious medication to take the edge off.

Xanny bars are commonly characterized today as chill-pills, just like amphetamines were promoted in the 60s as “uppers” for the guy or gal on the go. The same can be said about other name brand benzodiazepine medications, such as:

But do people really understand how hard Xanax hits the brain and hurts the body?

Xanax on the Brain and Body

To get caught up to speed, Xanax is a brand name for alprazolam. This is one medication included in a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or benzos. Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for anxiety.

Like all drugs taken orally, it’s absorbed into the body through the stomach. The drug passes through the mucous membrane and enters the liver. Finally, in the bloodstream, it makes its way to the brain. Now for those who don’t know, the blood-brain barrier is a membrane that filters out dangerous substances. It is built in to protect us. However, drugs like benzodiazepines are able to pass through this barrier. That is how they are meant to work.

Benzodiazepines work on parts of the brain known as GABA-A receptors. GABA-A receptors are responsible for producing sedative effects. They are naturally switched on by chemicals used to carry messages around the brain. Those chemicals are called neurotransmitters.

GABA-A receptors are switched on by the GABA neurotransmitter. This is a chemical that creates a calming effect.

Benzodiazepines are agonists, meaning they amplify the GABA-A receptors’ effects. They attach themselves to the GABA-A receptors and increasing the effectiveness of the GABA neurotransmitter. Taking Xanax activates that GABA-A receptor and kicks it into overdrive.

Now none of this is inherently wrong. In fact, doctors typically prescribe Xanax to treat anxiety, which can be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. In those cases, the effects created by Xanax in the brain actually correct an imbalance. Dr. Cathy Montgomery, reader in psychopharmacology at Liverpool John Moores University, says:

“If somebody’s experiencing high levels of anxiety, they have an increase in chemicals like adrenaline, which would normally make you feel more alert and awake, and a deficiency in GABA. High levels of adrenaline and low levels of GABA have a double impact of increased excitation in the brain, which people experience as anxiety. When they take Xanax, they won’t necessarily get the same type of heavy sedative effect.”

So in essence, Xanax does have a job to do. The issue is, so many people found out what a thorough job it does and decided it could be taken advantage of. Use of Xanax without the imbalance in the brain to cause that heavy sedative effect is what recreational users are looking for. Actually, using Xanax for recreation creates a self-inflicted imbalance in the brain. This creates a lot of issues because the body will try to preserve the balance, which only sets things up to get worse in the long run. Montgomery states:

“Whatever you take, your brain will try to regulate it. It may release adrenaline to try and combat this,”

So while your brain might fight back by releasing adrenaline, you won’t feel it until the effects of the drug wear off. The body takes several days to completely release the drug, even if noticeable effects will wear off after a few hours. The drug first detaches itself from the GABA-A receptors in your brain. Liver enzymes break it down, and eventually, the body gets rid of it.

How It Hurts

The issues can start to take shape once the drug detaches from your brain’s receptors. Like we said before, the effects will start to wear off, and the brain will still be trying to maintain its equilibrium. That self-inflicted imbalance we talked about then suddenly becomes a devastating crash. A sudden increase in brain activity finally breaks through the fog when the Xanax is gone, which can cause feelings of anxiety, agitation, insomnia, even terror.

Xanax use can actually create a cycle of dependency very quickly because while they may not have experienced anxiety before taking the drug, they have created it through the imbalance in the brain that may cause them to seek more of the drug. Before you know it, you are self-medicating to treat these symptoms, which are actually withdrawals created by the drug.

For those who use this medication for sedative effects, another issue presents itself. Benzodiazepines are supposed to be prescribed for a short time. To feel the same effects, people find they have to use larger and larger doses. And taking large doses for sustained periods of time can actually cause the body to stockpile significant withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawals aren’t just painful, they are extremely dangerous.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle aches
  • Tension in the jaw and/or teeth pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness in fingers
  • Tingling in limbs
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Alteration in sense of smell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Cramps
  • Tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hypertension
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Impaired respiration

Stopping the use of these drugs abruptly has been known to cause seizures, and detoxing without medical assistance can even be lethal.

You don’t have to use Xanax for an extended period to experience withdrawals. Some people with prescriptions have even reported to feeling withdrawals between doses. Repeated use can lead to withdrawal symptoms in a very short amount of time. Another issue we find is that GABA-A receptors are concentrated in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is important for memory and is believed to be the reason why these drugs can cause blackouts.

Xanax becomes even more dangerous when combined with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. Not only can combining these drugs be harmful to the body, they can actually be life-threatening. Often overdoses involved benzodiazepines like Xanax occur when the drug is used along with other substances that have a compounding effect, such as alcohol or opioids. The drugs react to one another and cause more severe reactions in the brain and the body.

While anti-anxiety medications can be useful for those who suffer due to an imbalance in the brain, everyone should be aware of the risks associated with Xanax and similar substances. Dependence to this drug can be incredibly hazardous, and discontinuing use should always be done with the utmost caution and with medical assistance. No one should try to stop abruptly without consulting a medical professional, and for those who struggle with substance abuse, there is help.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call Palm Partners Recovery Center toll-free now. You are not alone.

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Fentanyl: Understanding the Infamous Synthetic Opioid

Fentanyl: Understanding the Infamous Synthetic Opioid

Years ago if you asked the average American what fentanyl was, odds are they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Most would probably assume it was some important medical compound found only in hospitals. It almost sounds like the name of some edgy chemical you’d associate with either Breaking Bad or the Unabomber. Sadly, gone are the days of such blissful ambivalence.

Today, America has a more realistic idea of what fentanyl is.

Most adults and young people have at the very least heard the horror stories about this now intensely infamous drug. If you have a television or a smartphone, odds are you have at least glimpsed the headlines. Because in the last few years the devastation caused by this powerful synthetic drug has spread all over the country, and cost countless lives.

Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, researchers have shown an involvement of fentanyl in opioid overdose deaths has quickly skyrocketed:

  • 2010- 14.3% of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl
  • 2016- 46% of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl

With nearly half of opioid-related overdoses, fentanyl is now involved in more deaths than:

  • Prescription opioids- 40 % in 2016
  • Heroin- 36.6 % in 2016

More than one drug is commonly involved in many of these deaths. Therefore, in some cases heroin and fentanyl are both accounted for. However, we can see how fentanyl has a growing presence that can definitely be felt, as dozens of thousands of Americans are dying every year due to exposure to this deadly drug.

So if you’re still unclear as to what exactly fentanyl is, let us look at how to better understand where it comes from and why it is so lethal.

Pain Medication Origins

Some people were indeed ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding fentanyl because it has actually been around for a very long time. The synthetic opioid is used as a pain medication, and in some cases combined with other medications for anesthesia. It has been used for years by hospitals, doctors, and even veterinarians to treat patients and puppies.

  • 1960- Fentanyl was first created by Paul Janssen
  • 1968- Fentanyl was approved for medical use in the United States
  • 2015- 1,600 kilograms/3,500 pounds of fentanyl were used globally
  • 2017- Fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine

On its own, the substance typically looks like a white powder. As a medicine, fentanyl is available in a number of forms, including:

  • Injection
  • Sublingual
  • Skin patch
  • Intranasal
  • Lozenges

And it may be hard for some to believe, but it’s true that one of the deadliest chemicals on the street today can actually be found in lollipop form for medical use.

The drug is such an effective painkiller because it is typically considered to be approximately 75% stronger than morphine for a given amount. However, there are fentanyl analogs such as carfentanil (carfentanyl) which can actually be as much as 10,000 times stronger than morphine. When translated to the illicit drug world, that means fentanyl and its derivatives blow heroin out of the water when it comes to potency and risk.

As a medication, fentanyl can be useful in treating chronic pain patients when utilized correctly. Pre-surgical and post-surgical use of powerful pain management medications is sometimes a necessary step to helping patients recover. In fact, fentanyl patches are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, meaning it is considered one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.

Black Market Poison

Despite the seemingly altruistic intentions behind the invention of fentanyl, it has been used illicitly since the mid-1970s. Now, there are more than 12 different analogs of fentanyl that have been identified as being illegally made and used recreationally. The synthetic opioid is used through:

  • Smoking
  • Snorting
  • Injecting
  • Taken orally

Some people who abuse opioids do seek out fentanyl. Fentanyl is sometimes sold on the black market after being diverted from legitimate medical supplies. Recently drug manufacturers have also been accused of racketeering in order to boost sales of fentanyl. Even the gel from inside the transdermal patches may be ingested or injected. Those fentanyl lollipops have also made their way into the illegal drug trade.

But a large number of people who end up using fentanyl do it unintentionally. It has been used to adulterate or ‘cut’ heroin, and it has been pressed into counterfeit pain pills and sedatives sold on the illicit drug market. More recently there has been a rise in overdose deaths among cocaine users involving the drug, which suggests that fentanyl is being heavily cut into cocaine as well.

So why are dealers using it? To name a few reasons:

  1. As mentioned before, it is extremely potent
  2. It is easier to smuggle into the U.S.
  3. The drug is very cheap to produce

In China, carfentanil was not a controlled substance until March of 2017, meaning it had been legally manufactured and sold over the internet up until barely a year ago.

While it is a profitable move for drug traffickers, it is a life-threatening variable for drug users. Variations of the compound can be so strong they are incredibly poisonous. Simply breathing air with atomized fentanyl in it, or touching a contaminated surface can kill you.

Fentanyl Overdose

Because of the massive reach of the outbreak, it is important than ever to be aware of the symptoms of fentanyl overdose. These warning signs can include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty thinking, speaking, or walking
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Frequent fainting spells (nodding off)
  • Throwing up
  • Pale face
  • Blue- or purple-colored lips, fingernails, or extremities
  • Choking sounds
  • Pupil size reduced to small black circles in middle of eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Unresponsive
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hypoventilation (slow, shallow breathing)
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Adding to the terrible risk of coming into contact with illicit fentanyl or one of its derivatives is that opioid overdose antidotes like naloxone are not as effective when trying to reverse the effects. Sometimes an individual will require multiple doses of naloxone to be revived, ance revived a new overdose can actually occur when the initial dose of naloxone wears off. It is critical that someone who experiences an overdose received medical treatment immediately.

The nation has been caught up in a growing opioid crisis for years now, serving a shock to the healthcare system and public health officials everywhere. As the death toll climbs and more people are suffering and dying every day it is crucial that we raise awareness and take action to address drug abuse and addiction. One of the essential tools to fighting back is effective and innovative treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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ADHD Drug Overdoses Rising Among American Children

ADHD Drug Overdoses Rising Among American Children

Why are more kids than ever before overdosing on ADHD drugs in America?

Did you know that the number of U.S. children unnecessarily exposed to powerful medications meant to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has gone through the roof over the past few years? In fact, over a 15-year period, unnecessary exposure to ADHD drugs has increased by more than 60% according to reports!

Study on ADHD Drug Exposure

Recently there was a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on ADHD drug exposure and reports to poison control centers indicate:

  • In the year 2000, there were 7,018 calls to poison control centers related to an ADHD drug
  • In 2014, there were 11,486 calls to poison control centers related to an ADHD drug

The study defines “exposure” to an ADHD drug as “unnecessary ingestions, inhalation or absorption” of ADHD medications. This includes when the exposure to the drug is both accidental and on purpose.

The study examined data from approximately 156,000 poison center calls made over the course of 15 years. Another disturbing aspect of the data they collected showed:

  • 82% of the calls were “unintentional exposure”
  • 18% were “intentional exposure”

When taking a closer look at the ADHD drug exposure statistics, the researchers focused in on four of the most common medications used to treat ADHD, including:

Ritalin was the ADHD drug with the highest number of exposures.

One of the lead authors of the study is Dr. Gary Smith. When discussing the conclusions made during the study, Smith states:

“What we found is that, overall, during that 15 years, there was about a 60% increase in the number of individuals exposed and calls reported to poison control centers regarding these medications.”

Smith also concludes that one of the more troublesome findings in the study is the severity of the exposures among the adolescents due to intentional exposure. So essentially, 18% of the calls coming into poison centers concerning an ADHD drug were due to kids taking the medications on purpose.

The study also compared these medications across three different age groups:

  • 0-5 years
  • 6-12 years
  • 13-19 years

In the 0-5 year age group, they discovered that unintentional exposure was due to “exploratory behaviors”. However, with children 6-12 years old, exposure was due to:

  • “Therapeutic errors”
  • “Accidentally taking multiple pills”

Sadly, among the group 13-19 years old, more than 50% of exposures to an ADHD drug were intentional. Researchers note that many teenagers will use these stimulants because.

Even worse is, of all the poison center calls, around 10% resulted in a serious medical outcome. 10% may not seem like a lot, in regards to poisoning from medications any number is too many.

Ups and Downs

Smith did note that there were some ups and downs in the trends concerning ADHD and complications from the medications. For instance, the study notes:

  • Between 2000 and 2011- ADHD drug exposures increased by 71%
  • Between 2011 and 2014- ADHD drug exposures dropped by 6.2%

It is unclear why there was this decrease in ADHD drug exposure rates. However, some believe it may be due to the fact that warnings from the FDA about the adverse side-effects of ADHD medications could play a big part in it.

Another thing that stands out about this study is that we have also seen a steady increase in the rate of ADHD diagnosis.  Case in point, according to new reports:

  • 14% of all American children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2014
  • Between 2005 and 2014 the number of ADHD diagnoses more than doubled

While it is important to note that these medications can be helpful for some, they can also be extremely dangerous. According to Dr. Benjamin Shain of NorthShore University HealthSystem and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine,

“Adverse effects of taking too much stimulant medication include fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, tremors, and agitation. Worse case scenarios include schizophrenic-like psychosis, heart attack, stroke, seizures and death,”

Shain adds that adverse effects are the same if you do or do not have ADHD, or if you take too much of the medication. So people who are prescribed an ADHD drug still run the risk of suffering through some of these side-effects.

Making Safer Choices

At the end of the day, it is all about making safer choices for yourself or your loved one. When it comes to treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, there are other important elements. Various therapies can be helpful in creating a more comprehensive treatment plan, such as:

Ironically, these same therapies are also extremely helpful for those who may find themselves abusing these kinds of prescription medications. People suffering from substance use disorder can benefit greatly from these opportunities.

Because these ADHD drugs are stimulants, they also have a tendency to be abused. Either by those with a medical prescription who use too much of the drug or by those with no medical need who use them for the feelings of energy and focus they get. Again, in the case of prescription stimulant abuse, the beginning of a path to recovery means making safer choices. One of the best choices you can make is to seek professional and effective treatment options.

Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in providing innovative and personalized treatment options to anyone battling with substance abuse or addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Heroin Detox: What You Need to Know

Heroin Detox: What You Need to Know

Every day, thousands of men and women all over America lose their lives to heroin addiction. In every state, there are families and communities suffering from the loss of friends, neighbors and loved ones. Heroin addiction is more prevalent than ever before in our country.

At the same time, there are people every day trying to give up using heroin and other opioid drugs. Some people try to do it on their own, and very few of them succeed. Many end up relapsing due to the pain of withdrawal and the intense dependence on this life-threatening drug.

But there is hope. With professional help and safe, medically assisted heroin detox many people have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for recovering from their addiction.

Let us look at what you need to know about heroin detox when you reach out to get help.

Heroin Detox: Understanding Drug Dependence

Like most drugs, excessive and prolonged abuse of heroin leads to a medical condition called Substance Use Disorder (SUD). But a crucial part of the development of a SUD is drug dependence, and there are two particular kinds of dependence that people should understand.

  1. Physical Dependence

This is about how your body adapts to substances. When the cells of your body can’t function without a substance, that is a clear indication of physical dependence. The body gets used to the presence of a chemical over time, so when the chemical is no longer present the body is forced to regulate itself.

The body also stops producing certain chemicals in the brain naturally because it gets them artificially through drugs. However, once you stop using the drugs the body is no longer producing what it needs.

Physical dependency becomes pretty apparent when you try to stop using heroin without any medical help. When you try to stop using abruptly you experience extremely uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms because of the imbalance in the body.

  1. Psychological Dependence

Psychological or emotional dependence is a result of the changes a drug creates in the mind. It is defined as a compulsion or perceived obsession for the substance. So while the individual may not be experiencing intense physical withdrawal, they may be psychologically impaired by the abrupt absence of a substance they have adapted to.

Instead of developing healthy coping skills, most heroin users tend to rely on the drug for dealing with emotional or behavioral issues. If they suddenly remove the drug, they are left defenseless against their issues.

If someone relies heavily on drugs for feelings of pleasure and stimulation, removing the drug may cause them to feel they cannot be happy without it. This is impacted by the drugs chemical interaction with the brain.

And at the end of the day, physical addiction can have psychological side effects, and vice versa. That is why heroin detox should not only offer medical assistance, but also therapeutic resources.

Heroin Detox: Withdrawal Symptoms

Suddenly stopping heroin without any medical assistance is called going “cold turkey” and it throws you almost immediately into withdrawal. “Cold turkey” is not just uncomfortable, it is dangerous. These heroin withdrawals manifest both physically and psychologically, and the symptoms can range in severity and frequency. Some examples of heroin withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Irritation
  • Depression
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Itchiness
  • Excessive yawning and sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Cold sweats
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Cramp-like pains
  • Involuntary spasms in the limbs
  • Severe muscle and bone aches

Trying to go through withdrawal from heroin without help is extremely difficult. Some people find it impossible due to the severity of their symptoms. Many people find themselves trapped in a cycle or relapse and attempts to recovery because withdrawal symptoms can be so hard to overcome.

This is why heroin detox is so important. This level of care can help ease you off of heroin and other opiates gradually with the use of medications specifically designed to assist with heroin withdrawal symptoms. Having a safe and experienced medical staff makes this process much more manageable. With a physically and emotionally healthy environment, you can start to establish a comprehensive recovery plan.

Heroin Detox: Safe, Medical Care

Heroin detox should always consist of two phases: evaluation and stabilization.

  1. Evaluation

During this first stage of heroin detox, the individual will be given an assessment in order to determine the best course of treatment. It will include obtaining information about:

  • What drugs they have been using
  • The presence of drugs in their system
  • What quantities of drugs have they been using
  • How long have they have been using these drugs
  • Other medications
  • Co-occurring conditions

This is done through a drug screen, along with any further information you provide during the assessment. Because programs for heroin detox are in a medical setting, the results of your drug screen and information disclosed during your assessment are strictly confidential just like any other medical information is.

  1. Stabilization

During a heroin detox program, the stabilization stage will utilize all the information you provide during your initial assessment to design an effective detox plan. Taper medications are often used in order to wean you off of heroin in both a safe and comfortable way. Detoxing from heroin and other narcotic opiates like prescription painkillers should always be done in a professional and effective manner.

There are many kinds of medication designed to help combat opioid addiction. Carefully consider your options with the medical addiction specialist to ensure you are getting the best possible care. Be sure to provide them with accurate health information for the best results.

Quality care during stabilization should also include providing therapeutic resources for the emotional and psychological side effects. Having support for your mental and emotional well-being is also extremely important for relapse prevention. It lays the groundwork for developing healthy and sustainable coping skills. With the right care, you can take this time to design a personalized recovery plan that is right for you and addresses all of your specific needs to help you be more successful in recovery.

Are you struggling with a dependence on heroin? Are you trying to quit but have failed on your own? Consider reaching out to the caring and compassionate professionals of Palm Partners Recovery Center. If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Bitcoin for Fentanyl: How Drug Dealers Cash in on Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin for Fentanyl: How Drug Dealers Cash in on Cryptocurrency

Connect to the wifi and check your wallet app. Today we are talking about the crooked connections to cryptocurrency.

In a new age of electronic economics, one brand has made a lot of noise- Bitcoin. As early as 2009, when it was created, people began to stockpile the stuff. It was the first decentralized digital currency, and it has inspired thousands to risk this uncharted financial frontier with hopes of discovering a quick way to score some real-world cash from encrypted accounts. Then, just last year the cryptocurrency trend exploded onto Wall Street and ever since people have been trying to take advantage of the hype before the well runs dry. Suddenly anyone with a little extra scratch has become a cyber stockbroker.

While some have tried to cash in just to see if they can hit the crypto-lotto, others have become Bitcoin millionaires. But some of those people were actually gathering those funds through illicit means, like fentanyl trafficking.

Bitcoin for Beginners

For many of us, the whole Bitcoin thing is still a bit confusing. If some of these explanations seem oversimplified for anyone currently obsessed with cryptography, “block time” or whatever a “Merkle tree” is… I’m sorry, I guess.

Bitcoin was originally designed as being a truly free-market currency. This means without any company, country or central bank controlling its value or supply. Bitcoin takes no physical form, but actually only exists as a virtual token. Transactions are recorded in an open public ledger known as a blockchain. This peer-to-peer network avoids many risks of having a central database. But, while the transactions are typically public, the Bitcoin ownership is not.

The digital tokens are stored in a digital wallet that is only identified by a series of numbers and letters. A lot of times people using the digital wallet remain anonymous because they don’t have to provide any personal information to set up their accounts.

Because of all the freedom of Bitcoin, along with its anonymity, it became extremely useful for those involved with the Dark Web. You can read plenty more on that subject, but essentially is it another layer of the internet criminals use for conducting illicit business. One site from the Dark Web would be the infamous Silk Road.

The Future of Fentanyl Financing

Authorities say that bitcoin has helped create a new generation of criminals who buy and sell drugs online. It has become much easier for drug dealers to cover their tracks with cryptocurrencies.

Which of course leads us to fentanyl trafficking. For a long time the majority of drugs sold on the Dark Web were:

However, the sale of fentanyl is rising rapidly. Considering most fentanyl is sold online from dealers overseas, it makes a lot of sense that traffickers would rely heavily on digital money. Greg Nevano, the Deputy Assistant Director of Homeland Security Investigations states,

“You can order illicit opioids right online and have them delivered right to the comfort of your living room.”

According to CDC data, nearly 20,000 people died after overdosing on fentanyl in 2016. This is a huge contributing factor to one of the worst drug epidemics in American history.

For example, undercover investigators working for a Senate committee led by Ohio Republican Rob Portman talk about an e-mail from a fentanyl dealer with an important message for potential buyers. The fentanyl trafficker states:

“We have switched to bitcoin payments only. Now you will enjoy a 10 percent less price tag on all products,”

The email also points out:

“Good part is that paying by bitcoin you can order as much as you like with no limit.”

Ohio is suffering from one of the highest rates of fentanyl overdose deaths in the country. This particular investigation was part of a yearlong inquiry into the international supply chain that funnels fentanyl from China to homes across America. Earlier this year, the committee released a report which tracked activity on six websites offering fentanyl. That report indicated:

In each of these cases, the sites list bitcoin as the preferred method of payment. Portman himself adds,

“Because it’s anonymous, it’s the currency of choice for these drug traffickers,”

Just last fall the Justice Department shut down another illicit online marketplace called AlphaBay. In this case, the Justice Department seized around 144,000 Bitcoins, which comes out to around $48 million.

Cracking Down on Cryptocurrency

Lawmakers in Washington have come to the conclusion that cracking down on cryptocurrency is essential in order to stop the flow of fentanyl coming into the United States. Thankfully, this is one thing that officials from both sides of the aisle agree must be addressed.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California have presented a bipartisan bill that would create explicit requirements for digital currencies to comply with laws against money laundering. Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a task force earlier this year to specifically target fentanyl sales online.

Can We Blame the Crypto?

Meanwhile, many advocates for cryptocurrencies are not happy about these new campaigns. Perianne Boring, president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, is one person who fights on behalf of Bitcoin, stating:

“Blaming bitcoin for this crisis would make as much sense as blaming the internet or cars that drug traffickers have to use.”

Boring’s organization is trying to help. They are part of the Blockchain Alliance, working with more than two dozen companies to help authorities combat crime.

Industry groups also reject the claim that cryptocurrency is anonymous and untraceable. They say Bitcoin users are “pseudononymous” because buying Bitcoin does require real money. Advocates insist that most users convert real cash through exchangers that do actually collect personal information. They also argue that in order to spend that Bitcoin, users will have to convert it back to real money, and that’s where law enforcement can intercept illegal operators.

Crypto-advocates also point out that cryptocurrency exchangers in the United States are also subject to federal reporting requirements and laws against money laundering. Earlier this year an industry analysis by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies found:

  • Less than 1 percent of bitcoin is used for illegal purposes.
  • Almost all of the illicit activity came from transactions on the dark web

However, the report also goes into detail about ways criminals can avoid regulated currency exchangers altogether. This includes using foreign converters or “mixing” sites that allow users to swap Bitcoin.

Meanwhile, new cryptocurrencies that are even harder to trace are gaining in popularity. So it would seem that as soon as the system catches up to a new digital trend, someone creates a copy and the cycle starts all over.

So can Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies expect to be subject to new attempts at strict regulation? If so, what kind of regulations should be put in place to track digital transactions and prevent further abuse for illicit profits?

The evolution of the internet has changed how illicit drug markets work. The fight against drug trafficking is more complex than ever before, and strategies for facing drug dealing, drug use, and addiction have to evolve, too. This also means providing innovative and cutting-edge treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.   

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