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Free Meth Pipes: Harm Reduction or Enabling Addicts?

Free Meth Pipes: Harm Reduction or Enabling Addicts?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Harm reduction is one method of addressing the nation’s drug issue that may seem to some as a philosophy of enabling, while to others it makes sense to offer safe alternatives to individuals who abuse drugs because these strategies can prevent the spread of disease and the damage to the community. It was estimated that 2015 would be a big year for harm reduction, as many suspected that drug policy reform would reshape the landscape in the wake of the “failed war on drugs” while there were efforts being actively put forth to alleviate the suffering caused by the opiate epidemic.

Needle exchange programs are one way that harm reduction can be implemented in a community. Supplying clean needles and safe disposal sites for addicts to use keeps them from sharing needles infected with disease, and now one kind of needle exchange program is changing the game.

In Seattle the volunteers behind a needle exchange are now handing out meth pipes to drug users for free as well. So is this the same kind of harm reduction being utilized to keep people safer, or is this just negligence at an all-time high?

Meth Pipe Program

It seems some think harm reduction means catering to more than just needles. This strange meth pipe program was launched by a group called The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance about 2 months ago, and is offered 5 days per week off an alley next to a church in Seattle’s University District.

About 25 to 30 meth pipes are handed out each day, and according to the executive director of the alliance Shilo Murphy, the demand for the free meth pipes has been growing ever since. The theory behind the program is that by handing out the pipes, some drug users will rely less on needles, which in turn helps to cut down on the risk of certain diseases in the community. Murphy stated:

“People kept coming to our program and saying that they were getting syringes because they didn’t have access to a pipe.”

So in essence this program has tried to circumvent the whole needle issue by giving users access to another method of ingesting their drugs that put them at a much more decreased risk of infection.

Many former addicts are actively involved in these movements to try and help change things in the community. Some even say that this program also helps those who have never used needles, because it is still possible to spread diseases by sharing pipes if there are open wounds in the mouth present. Regg Thomas, a drug user for the past 20 years who currently works with the Urban Survivors Union stated:

“Whatever the reason is why both parties don’t have their own… They wind up sharing. Well, this program has prevented that because all it takes is a cut orally and you’ve transmitted a disease possibly,”

Whether the theory for the program actually works is still up for debate.

Illegal Initiative

So we have seen how harm reduction can help, and I can even begin to understand how this might actually be a useful tactic for addressing a local drug issue, BUT according to state law handing out drug paraphernalia like the pipes is still illegal in Seattle. And Murphy said he knows that, but he disputes that so was syringe exchange 25 years ago. And yet Seattle has syringe exchange programs and it’s proven to be one of the biggest advantages they’ve had for fighting HIV infections through injection drug use in the state.

Even though it’s illegal under state law to give someone certain kinds of drug paraphernalia, police said they’re more concerned with what’s put into the pipes and not necessarily the pipes themselves.

Making a Real Difference

It isn’t all about the bureaucracy for those involved in this movement. It seems this is more about making a real difference and less about placating to the drug users to enable them. Murphy said this is the first program of its kind in the nation, and he believes it has not just reduced risk behaviors, but it has helped get various users tested for Hepatitis C.

But Murphy does not stop with handing someone a pipe and telling them have fun. The program lets drug users pick up wound care kits and get crucial information about treatment options. Murphy insisted:

“By engaging them, we gave people self-worth… Give back people’s desire to live better in life and live better in society,”

It seems that even though it is technically outside the realm of the law, this program could actually inspire similar changes as far as officials and organizations stepping up to keep citizens safer and more informed as drug addicts instead of labeling them all criminals and locking them up.

I have to say, harm reduction programs to me always seem like an awful idea at first because I believe in abstinence and a program of recovery, but these programs aren’t ever meant to be permanent solutions, only temporary effective vehicles to get individuals the help they need and provide safe and educational support for them until they are willing to get the help. It may sound like it is enabling, and it some ways I guess it is, but it’s saving lives and at least offering an opportunity most would never know about. Maybe harm reduction has more potential than we are currently using.

Enabling addicts to keep using is not a good personal decision, but at the same time putting in place a system to keep the community safe from the spread of disease or more dangerous circumstances is important, especially if it gets people the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Amphetamine a Secret Ingredient in Diet Supplements

Amphetamine a Secret Ingredient in Diet Supplements

Author: Justin Mckibben

People take supplements for all types of reasons. Some take them for weight loss, and others take them for energy and building muscle, and some might just be taking vitamins and food supplements to stay healthy and balanced.

However, a new study has found that these same supplements may not be nearly as healthy as you hoped, with the secret ingredient being a synthetic speed that’s never been tested on humans! 11 different supplements were discovered to contain this mystery mix, with the worst of it all being that the FDA has known about it for years.

Mixing Up the Medicine

Drugs manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry are hardly perfect. Some have nasty side effects, don’t always work for every patient, and can be misused or overprescribed. Given the dangers, most doctors have full knowledge of what proper ingredients are in a medication, but that is not always the case when people choose to take herbal supplements.

Authors from a study published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis had collected samples of 21 products that claim to be manufactured from Acacia rigidula, most marketed as a weight-loss supplement. Out of those 21 over half of the products exposed the presence of a synthetic amphetamine.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except this chemical is ONLY made in a lab but is being marketed as a “natural” supplement. And even worse, it has never even been tested for the safety of its effects on humans. The ingredient in question just so happens to be ß-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA). In 2013 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted its own study of these supplements that had found the exact same ingredient.

Reporting the Problem

There was hope that after the agency’s findings it would cause the removal of BMPEA from Acacia rigidula products, since they were sold as a natural supplement formula and that ingredient did not match the description. But in the new report researchers found a higher percentage of artificially enhanced powders and pills than discovered two years ago!

It was later reported that 10 of the supplements found to contain BMPEA were all manufactured by the same Georgia company, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals. Despite the president of the company’s claim that the amphetamine is a naturally occurring alkaloid produced by the plant itself, this newest study notes that BMPEA has never been found in extracts derived directly from the plant, so the president of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals statement was quickly disproven.

So why is it that this company is so adamant about using an unnatural amphetamine in its “natural” supplements?

The FDA’s Failure

One of the biggest problems with this whole thing is that manufacturers of dietary supplements don’t need FDA approval before advertising their merchandise. The FDA claims to enforce regulation by prohibiting “false or misleading statements” and demanding that products be safe for consumption, but these standards are very loosely enforced.

Law enforcement personnel, however, are beginning to pursue action against manufacturers that sell products that do not contain the ingredients listed on the bottle. Over a dozen state attorney generals in the nation are demanding Congress investigate the FDA’s role in policing the supplement industry and expand its regulatory authority.

Considering the dangers associated with drugs containing amphetamine and their abuse, the fact that supplements that are sold as a healthy resource actually consist of this kind of chemical is disturbing. Prescription drugs are put through a lengthy and in-depth process for approval to be used on the masses, rigorously examined for health benefits and adverse side-effects. So why would we not expect the same kind of care and consideration to be put into regulating supplements?

Why is the FDA willing to allow Big Pharma to distribute an amphetamine with essentially minimum data (if any at all) that suggests it is an acceptable and safe product?

Is there a possibility for supplement abuse to become something like prescription pill abuse? This raises too many questions, and there is no alternative to the truth.

Amphetamine is a key component in a handful of dangerous and deadly drug addictions, and whether it is in a prescription medication, an illicit street drug, or a supplement this is a scary secret ingredient that can create risky habits. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Pharma Taking Action to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness

Pharma Taking Action to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness

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

Author: Justin McKibben

Eating disorders are commonly defined as psychological illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits. Eating disorders may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the extent that it is detrimental individual’s physical and mental health. As far as general information about eating disorder statistics:

  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment
  • Only 35% of people who do get treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility
  • Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the United States
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression

Eating disorders are a very real issue in this country, and now a new awareness campaign hopes to bring attention to one eating disorder in particular that affects an estimated 4 million Americans, but also one that remains largely unknown to the general public- Binge Eating Disorder.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has become generally defined as an inability to control the consumption of considerably larger amounts of food in a short period of time, without subsequent purging episodes. Eating binges typically take place at least once a week for a period of three or more months, and these periods are often accompanied by feelings of guilt, disgust or embarrassment.

Despite the number of individuals who are affected by BED, the condition was only recently approved for inclusion in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 has created a set of criteria to classify a person’s behavior as binge eating disorder based on studies conducted in identifying the symptoms.
A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the

Binge eating is a core symptom of binge eating disorder; however, not everyone with binge eating has binge eating disorder.  An individual may occasionally binge eat without experiencing many of the negative physical, psychological, or social effects of binge eating disorder. This example may be otherwise interpreted as an “eating problem” rather than a disorder, although that is not always the case.

The condition affects individuals regardless of race, sex, or body type. Binge eating disorder typically begins to manifest itself at the age of 21, which is markedly later than other eating disorders.

Update on Pharma Efforts to Fight BED

In another article we talked about how the pharmaceutical company Shire has been pushing a new use for one of their medications. The company manufactures Vyvanse, which is a drug that is frequently prescribed to treat ADHD. Vyvanse was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Binge Eating Disorder. Now the Shire Company is working overtime, stating that it hopes to change that status with a national awareness campaign.

The awareness campaign currently features tennis great Monica Seles as its paid spokesperson. Recently there was another article on Monica Seles’ story and her own struggles with the eating disorder.

Seles, who wrote about her experiences with BED in her autobiography Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, Myself, is being featured in several public service announcements (PAS) about the severity of binge eating disorder. This PSA can be viewed on the campaign’s website.

Pharma Taking Action to Raise Eating Disorder Awareness

The campaign for raising awareness about the dangers of eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder is also sponsored by 2 nonprofit organizations. The National Eating Disorders Association and the Binge Eating Disorder Association are both part of the growing efforts to help the general public better understand and acknowledge the dangers of this condition through promoting awareness on their respective websites.

Strangely enough, this topic has been talked about recently, and this writer posed the question as to whether or not attempting to treat BED with pills was going to be a constructive method of care, or if the side-effects of the medication and the dangers associated with substance abuse would outweigh the potential benefits. Surprisingly this new development means that the pharmaceutical company has actually taken up arms with some of the big guns in this battle to help try and spear-head the evolution of raising awareness for the disorder.

Now this may be a little cynical, but is Shire promoting this campaign because they want to make an impact? Or is this a form of marketing? Is the company trying to spread the word about BED as a health concern to help people get the treatment they desperately need, or is the company putting themselves at the front lines in hopes that Vyvanse will get more sales with more people learning about the dangers of binge eating and the medication now said to treat it?

Eating disorders and drug abuse are nothing to take lightly, and raising awareness is important. Everyone who suffers or knows someone who suffers should know they have the resources available to make a change, and quite possibly save a life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Americas Most Google’d Drugs

Americas Most Google'd Drugs

Author: Justin Mckibben

Let’s face it, we live in the digital age, and to so many people is our answer to everything! We google our movies, our music, our food and even pages upon pages of cat photos. We even talked once about how so many people use google to self-diagnose their illnesses that Google is creating an option to connect browsers directly to doctors to provide a slightly more accurate approach.

So tracking Google searches is a good way to find out what people are searching, what’s trending, and what to do when your cat gets a cold at a given time. Well apparently, Google search statistics can also be collected and analyzed using ‘Google Trends’ to show us what drugs people in America are doing and where, or what drugs the most people in one area are ‘curious’ about at least.

National Drug Google Data

According to the combined data that began in 2004, cocaine is actually the most searched for drug across the country over the past decade. Interesting enough, the drug crystal meth is steadily rising across the board, and searches for heroin and prescription drugs have become more common in the last five years. That should come as no surprising given that the country has been experiencing what many have dubbed an ‘opiate epidemic’, and prescription painkillers are currently public enemy number one in regard to overdose accidents in emergency rooms.

Meth has already been prevalent in the Midwest since 2004, but it didn’t get any surge of searches in other parts of the country until 2012. Adderall interest surged in recent years across the nation, but especially on the East Coast of the country.

Typically official crime rates and hospital statistics provide some good insight into drug abuse across the United States, but this accumulative data brought together by Google also reveals the extent of an illicit substances popularity on a state-by-state basis.

Mathamphetamine (Crystal Meth)

  • During the 2000’s methamphetamine was reported as one of the most commonly abused drugs in the nation, and at one point meth even managed to surpass cocaine as it swept across Middle America.
  • There was a spike in meth searches in 2005 and 2006. At the height of the it was the single most searched for drug in dozens of states.
  • In the years 2013 and 2014 particularly interest in meth once again soared. These were the years when searches for meth took over the US, especially the west.


  • Searches for the anxiety medication Xanax have also risen throughout the Midwest and south.
  • Searches for Xanax first appeared in around 2009, and grew in popularity until around 2012, when they dipped.
  • Then again Xanax searches made a comeback in 2013. Xanax-related hospital visits have doubled across the country over the past six years.


  • In 2010 the prescription stimulant commonly prescribed for ADHD called Adderall became another popular substance of abuse.
  • In between 2011 and 2012 Adderall was the only drug that came close to the number of Google searches for cocaine.
  • 2013 and 2014 Adderall dominated the eastern states.


  • Heroin was steadily searched for from 2004 until 2011.
  • 2006 showed a spike searches for heroin in a few states including Maryland and Utah.
  • As addictive prescription painkillers have become more tightly regulated, heroin has become an increasingly popular substitute in Pennsylvania and Oregon.
  • After prescription opiate regulation started to step up to combat ‘pill mills’ and ‘doctor shopping’ the searches for heroin across the board began to rise, and reached a peak last year in 2014 as the opiate epidemic rages on.

State by State Basis

All the drugs studied have been rising since the end of 2009, except cocaine which has been on a bit of up and down from 2009-2012, and then up again from 2012 until now. When measuring the most popular searches for specific drugs in select states, researchers also came up with some interesting data. The top searches in some states are as follows:

  • Los Angeles, California- Meth and LSD
  • Pennsylvania- Heroin
  • Massachusetts- Suboxone (a replacement opiate drug commonly used to wean off heroin use, but also commonly abused)
  • New Orleans- Adderal
  • New York- Cociane
  • Seattle- OxyContin and ‘Magic Mushrooms’
  • Virginia- Painkiller Oxycodone
  • Florida- MDMA

With numbers like these, we can determine that while not every drug is becoming popular everywhere, there are some clear indications that a few have made their mark all over the map.

Granted some people who Google these drugs may be looking for treatment, they may be trying to help a loved one, they may even be writing a term paper or doing some other form of academic research, but for the most part you can assume that these drugs are being searched in these areas for a reason. We can only hope that the number of searches for treatment is rising as part of these statistics.

Like it or not, the world is still searching for the answers to the drug problem. The internet is speculated to be both part of the problem and part of the solution, but any way you look at it there is a need in this nation for some change. Each of us has the ability to take some action, we just need to commit to that first step toward a different future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135



Maine Has More Meth Labs than Ever

Maine has More Meth Labs than Ever

Author: Justin Mckibben

Methamphetamine is one of the most intimidating drugs out there for addicts and non-addicts alike. The photos of meth users are enough to shock anyone even meth users themselves. So is it true that the US has a meth epidemic? That question may not have the most definitive answer, but it is indisputable that meth is extremely addictive, very destructive, and just all around bad for you, and meth labs are on the rise in certain areas.

The Maine Meth Problem

Law enforcement officials in Maine are currently over-exerted in their resources and manpower in a progressive struggle to stop methamphetamine labs in their state, and it seems that this trend of cook-houses doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime too soon. Officials from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) reported that they dismantled 28 labs 2014, which is 12 more than in 2013, and more than 6 times as many in 2011!

That rate of increase is pretty radical, and those numbers do not even include the number of “dump sites” where chemicals and other materials used to make meth are disposed of. Even without that estimate it is probably safe to presume that more and more meth is being produced in the area than ever before, and that alone is a dangerous and volatile situation for Maine.

MDEA Resources

So you may be asking why is it a problem if the labs are being torn down? It is a victory each time some drugs are taken on the streets, even a little bit. But MDEA spends more than $10,000 of its budget to dismantle each lab individually, and that figure does not include the expenses incurred by local police and firefighters who are also often called into the scene due to the high incident of fires and explosions caused by chemicals that are associated with clearing out and disposing of meth labs.

However, despite the increased number of lab locations, this may not mean what people assume it means at first glance. MDEA officials believe that the rise in lab numbers actually has nothing to do with being part of expanded trafficking in the state, so it’s not that the real-life Breaking Bad crew came in and started up a new empire or anything like that.

They actually attribute the increase in labs being found to improvement in the training procedures for local law enforcement agencies, causing them to have gotten better at finding such operations. One piece of the puzzle that supports this theory is that the treatment levels for meth addiction in Maine having experienced only slight growth over the last few years, and actually runs below the statistics reported back in 2006, according to the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

Still, the cost of fighting this branch of the ‘war on drugs’ does exists, and the MDEA hopes that they will be getting some assistance for the coming year ahead. The Maine officials are hoping that a $900,000 federal grant will be approved that could provide greater assistance in their efforts to postpone and possibly subdue the growing meth labs in the area. The grant, which the state announced in October 2014, will allow the state to hire 4 new drug agents and buy specialized equipment for first responders to lab sites, making the entire team more efficient in facing the rising meth issue head on.

Currently, the most effective meth addiction treatment is a combination of behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral and contingency management interventions. A comprehensive behavioral treatment approach includes behavioral therapy, family education, individual counseling, drug testing for accountability, and encouragement for clean and sober activities combined with an active aftercare program.

There doesn’t have to be a high concentration of meth labs, or even meth addicts in your area for you to be an addict, and it may seem impossible, but people do it every day and there are those that want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-3561

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