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Author: Justin Mckibben
Addiction is not an easy problem to address. It is a complex issue with many variables, so of course there is no simple answer to fix it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; no monopoly on the right kind of treatment. It is understandable that there is a degree of effectiveness with utilizing any medical means available to try and address addiction, but are maintenance drugs really the answer?
Surely medication assisted treatment is useful, and it helps a lot of people. Most inpatient treatment programs utilize some form of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and other side-effects of long-term drug use. The detox period of treatment usually focuses on medically assisting someone struggling with drugs in this transition.
However, is getting people off of one drug by making them dependent on another really the best case scenario? It seems now insurance companies are putting more effort into using maintenance drugs to treat addiction. Is this really a better strategy?
Firstly, let us make a clear definition of what maintenance drugs are. Typically, the definition of maintenance drugs is along the lines of prescriptions commonly used to treat conditions that are considered chronic or long-term. These conditions usually require regular, daily use of medicines.
Examples of common maintenance drugs are medications such as:
- Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus) which is used to treat asthma
- Insulin glargine (Lantus) used to treat diabetes
If you consider these examples the point is that people use these medications to “manage” their illness, not to overcome or remedy it. So looking at the issue of addiction, there are some well-known maintenance drugs, specifically concerning opioid addiction.
These medications can be effective, but they also present a level of danger themselves. Even though doctors prescribe them to combat withdrawals, they actually can create their own devastating withdrawals, especially with long term use.
Aetna Aims for Maintenance Drugs
Aetna is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. In a recent Aetna report, the company is prepared to remove a major restriction for patients seeking maintenance drugs for opioid addiction. The change is set to begin this coming March. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a shift in policy in recent months, now in league with Anthem and Cigna insurers.
To be more specific, this insurance company will stop requiring doctors to seek approval before they prescribe particular medications that are used to combat withdrawal symptoms. One of these medications is suboxone, a well-known medication that many people use to fight opiate addiction.
The common insurance practice is known as “prior authorization”. The reason they are seeking to eliminate this policy is because it sometimes results in delays of hours to days before a patient can get the medications.
This new approach to regulation of maintenance drugs impacts all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed.
Advocates of Maintenance Drugs
Addiction treatment advocates to support having expanded access to maintenance drugs. Dr. Corey Waller, an emergency physician who chairs the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s legislative advocacy committee, states:
“It’s a first-line, Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for a disease with a known mortality. [For] every other disease with a known mortality, the first-line drugs are available right away.”
Essentially, the idea that parity laws require insurers to cover addiction treatments at the same level as other kinds of healthcare means these kinds of medication should be available for immediate access. This should be the same for all forms of addiction treatment.
Opinion: Treatment over Maintenance
While many would argue that maintenance drugs are a form of treatment, it is still a relevant argument that maintenance drugs are also imperfect and could actually be harmful if they become the cookie-cutter answer implemented by most insurers.
While harm reduction is understandable, and maintenance drugs can help people struggling with heroin or other dangerous opioids avoid other serious risks, the fact is many maintenance drugs include their own side-effects. Some often become subject to abuse themselves.
For instance, suboxone can be useful as a harm reduction tactic, but it can also be abused. Many people who have used suboxone as a long-term solution have found themselves battling suboxone withdrawal symptoms. The dangers of suboxone are very relevant.
The same, if not worse, has often been said about methadone maintenance drugs. While they may keep someone alive to get treatment, there should still be a strong emphasis on treatment itself. Maintenance drugs are most effective when part of a program. They are not a substitute for a treatment program.
Treatment should focus on finding solutions, not prolonging the suffering. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment should come from a holistic approach that addresses more than just physical ailments. Holistic treatment focuses on providing extensive and personalized therapy, combined with physical and emotional heal. If insurance companies want to focus on combining rational medical resources with comprehensive treatment, then this could be a great thing. However, if the focus becomes a quick-fix drug option opposing a full recovery through treatment, it only adds to the danger.
Maintenance drugs have support from the recovery community, but typically they must be accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. Maintenance drugs are just that- drugs. They are often powerful narcotics, and are true to their title- “maintenance,” not a permanent solution.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
According to some statistics, opioids killed nearly 30,000 Americans in 2014. This includes illicit narcotics and prescription painkillers. In the last two years there have been reports from all over the country of surges in overdoses and deaths, leading one to believe that number has been magnified with the growing epidemic. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in our country.
1 in 4 families are directly impacted by drug overdose. Whether that is you or not, you can see the impact it has on our communities. Now Palm Beach County is continuing to advocate for more resources to help the people most at risk fight back.
There will be Narcan Training events for local communities of Palm Beach County starting this month. The first seminar will be in Boca Raton, Florida at the St. Jude Reception Hall. This is about saving lives, and with so many lives be lost and others suffering, the time is now to learn how you may save a life.
The Problem in Palm Beach County
In 2014 there were an estimated 2,062 deaths due to prescription drugs. Many of these were opioid-related deaths, and heroin accounts for thousands more. In Florida, the total drug-related death toll increased by 14% in the first half of 2015 compared to 2014.
Palm Beach County saw an overdose rate increase of 425% so far in 2016 compared to 2015. There were 13 overdoses alone in Delray Beach last weekend. Hundreds more overdoses happened throughout Palm Beach County last month. The opiate epidemic has not spared any corner of the county, and many government officials and community organizations are pulling their resources in an effort to create strategies to prevent drug overdoses and save lives.
More about Narcan
Narcan, or the generic form Naloxone, is a life-saving opiate antidote. Some examples of opioids include:
An opioid overdose can cause breathing to slow down or stop completely, putting someone’s life in immediate danger. Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids and can actually reverse an overdose in order to get medical attention to someone who is in need.
One major plus is that Narcan has no euphoric effects and cannot get someone “high” so abuse is not an issue. The overdose antidote is essentially harmless if there are no opiods present in someone’s system. If given to a person who has not taken opioids, there will be no effect. Narcan can still be effective when alcohol or other drugs are present with opiates.
Administration to opioid-dependent individuals may cause symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:
- Fast heart rate
There are other measures that can be taken to help ease these symptoms as well.
Narcan and Naloxone expansion programs have become a huge part of states everywhere trying to solve the overdose death outbreak. Many communities have equipped their first responders with Narcan kits and given training on how to administer the antidote. Some police departments in Palm Beach County now carry Narcan or Naloxone kits. Now these programs are trying to empower more people in Palm Beach County.
The first free seminar on Narcan Training is October 24th at 6 o’clock PM. The training takes place in the St. Jude Reception Hall in Boca Raton, Florida. For more information and events, visit the website here.
The seminar is open to the public and will be teaching participants more about the dangers of drug overdose, as well as about Narcan.
Palm Beach County has seen what an opioid overdose can do. It has also seen how effective Narcan and Naloxone can be to helping prevent an overdose from turning into a death. Not only are there expansion programs out there making the medication more available, but the community in Palm Beach County is actively working to help the people understand how to utilize their resources. Putting this life saving medication in reach and teaching people how to use it can help us from having to helplessly watch our friends, family members or neighbors die.
Palm Beach County also has a strong recovery community, and many people got there through effective and innovative holistic drug and alcohol treatment. It is incredibly important to preserve life, and beyond that to improve the lives that are saved. Drug and alcohol treatment can be the first step to a new life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Prescription drugs such as OxyCodone and Percocet have been usual suspects involved in the opiate epidemic that has devastated the nation, while also making a crushing contribution to the overdose outbreak.
It has long been established that prescription drug abuse, specifically opiate abuse, has a direct connection to the growing issue with heroin addiction. Several stories about Big Pharma schemes and unethical doctors have highlighted the severity of the circumstances, while countless patients have inadvertently ended up desperately addicted to opiates through pain medication.
Raising awareness has become a huge focal point of the efforts to fight addiction, as knowledge truly is power when trying to overcome such pervasive poisons. The labors to pioneer new policies to deliver structured support and innovative options for treatment is become more prevalent, and it seems as the momentum mounts, so does the backing.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) made the announcement this month that there will be a staggering $20 million in grant awards intended for programs designed to reduce prescription drug abuse and overdose.
That’s right… $20 Million. It seems politicians and organizations have seen the cost of life and the cost on the communities, so now everyone with a budget is chipping in.
Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States
The new program being founded and funded by the CDC is being called “Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States,” and these programs are set to provide funding to 16 states to help expand their prescription overdose death prevention programs. These 16 states include:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
The states completed a competitive application process in order to be selected for these programs, and surely there are others in need who will benefit from these initiatives at some point in the future. At the same time, several states NOT on this list are also receiving assistance from the “Heroin Response Strategy,” with funds from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) including:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Washington, D.C.
Building off the Budget
The plan doesn’t stop with those 16 states and the first $20 million either. After the first slate of funding for 2015 the CDC also plans to keep contributing financial assistance to the states, paying out between $750,000 and $1 million a year over the next four years to finance the fight against addiction.
One primary factor the funding being used for is improving prescription drug monitoring programs. The money will also be dedicated to:
- Overdose education
- Communications campaigns
- Emerging issues
- Working with health-care providers and insurers “to help them make informed decisions about prescribing pain medication”
CDC Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell believes that the prescription drug overdose epidemic requires a multifaceted approach, and stated:
“With this funding, states can improve their ability to track the problem, work with insurers to help providers make informed prescribing decisions, and take action to combat this epidemic.”
CDC Director Tom Frieden seems to believe in the proactive concept of this program, trying to get in front of addiction, while getting behind recovery efforts. Frieden commented:
“The prescription drug overdose epidemic is tragic and costly, but can be reversed. Because we can protect people from becoming addicted to opioids, we must take fast action now, with real-time tracking programs, safer prescribing practices, and rapid response. Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states.”
Although the CDC praises programs for prescription tracking as a sustainable solution to opioid abuse, some experts have criticized these methods in the past as only providing a faster route to heroin addiction. These critics believe that throwing money at making it harder to get pills isn’t going to fix the addiction issue, and that makes plenty of sense when considering the immeasurable number of addicts out there already who will swiftly turn away from crushing and popping pills to a stronger substance and soiled syringes.
The CDC program also stipulates the funding can be employed to “investigate the connection between prescription opioid abuse and heroin use,” but this still does not indicate any possible connection between prescription tracking and heroin use.
The “Heroin Response Strategy” we mentioned is actually just a small portion of the $25.1 billion the United States government is planning to spend fighting drug use, while other organizations and communities rally together in collective support of groundbreaking programs for fighting prescription drug addiction and overdose as part of the opiate epidemic in America.
I have to say we sure are hearing about a lot of money getting thrown into this issue, so hopefully that money will be matched with a conscious effort by those who can make a difference to inspire and nurture change.
So far the prescription drug problem, aligned with the opiate epidemic, has been very costly to American life, while tearing apart families in every state. Beyond the price of prisons, treatment and law enforcement, the price of life has been immeasurable, so seeing big budget companies throwing their hat in the ring with funding to support recovery is very refreshing. There is always hope, and people willing to help make a change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
I’m just gonna say this right off the bat…a lot of people aren’t going to like what I have to say about this topic.
There are those people, myself included, who believe that the use of any mood or mind-altering substance is a break in sobriety and therefore anyone using one of these so-called medications, even if prescribed by a doc, cannot be considered to be in recovery.
Then there are others who believe that the use of methadone or Suboxone is a lesser evil than heroin or other opiates and that somehow they can be considered to be sober. I am going to explain a few things about methadone and Suboxone to help clear the air about whether or not people on methadone or Suboxone are truly in recovery.
So, Are People On Methadone or Suboxone “in Recovery?”
Methadone: Synthetic Opiate
First of all, methadone is a Schedule II drug along with oxycodone and morphine. That’s right, they’re both classified just like other opiates. However, methadone and Suboxone are technically classified as ‘opioids.’ The only difference between an opioid and an opiate is that opioids are a synthetic version of opiates. For example, heroin, morphine, and codeine are all derived from the poppy plant and are therefore opiates. Methadone and other narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, Opana, and Tramadol are opioids simply because they are the man-made version of heroin and its derivatives.
According to Wikipedia (and all other medical sources), “Methadone…is a synthetic opioid.”Plain and simple.Methadone has what is called ‘cross-tolerance,’ which means that it has tolerance to similar drugs, including heroin and morphine, and causes similar effects as these but with a longer duration of effect. And because it is so similar to morphine or heroin, methadone acts on the same brain receptors as these drugs do, therefore causing many of the same effects; just like with heroin and other opiates and opioids, methadone’s adverse effects include respiratory depression (slowing down of breathing) which is also the mechanism behind fatal overdose, constipation, miosis (pinned pupils), dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
Suboxone Contains an Opiate
Suboxone (the name brand for the generic drug Buprenorphine), is scheduled a little differently than methadone as it is considered a Schedule III drug, making it similar to methadone and other opiates and opioids but it considered to have a lower potential for abuse than these others.
Now, in the case of Suboxone, it contains two drugs: an opiate agonist – an actual opiate – and an opiate antagonist, which blocks the action of the opiate. This blocker drug works to block certain brain receptors in order to keep the patient from achieving the same level of euphoria – the ‘high’ – that they would with a straight opiate. It’s kind of like a governor on a car’s engine – it only allows the opiate part of the drug to work to a certain degree.
And, just like with other opioids, the most common adverse effects associated with Suboxone include nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, memory loss, cognitive disruption, sweating, itchiness, dry mouth, miosis, decreased libido, and difficulty with urination. Respiratory depression, the most serious adverse reaction related with the use of opiates and opioids, is also associated with Suboxone use, although it isn’t as high of a risk in Suboxone users as it is in people who use other opiates.
Methadone and Suboxone Maintenance Programs
From personal experience with both of these drugs – as a way to treat my opiate dependency and addiction during the decade or so of my active addiction, I will tell you that these programs are misguided. They boast that they can help opiate addicts who otherwise can’t get clean to lead a “normal” life. I see it differently. Big Pharma, methadone and Suboxone clinics and their staffs see desperate opiate addicts as a cash cow, offering a steady stream of income with little work on their part. All they have to do is make empty promises and supply desperately addicted people with their form of legalized dope.
As a person in long term recovery from all mood and mind altering substances, and as someone who had tried both methadone and Suboxone, it is my belief that pure abstinence and successful recovery from opiates and all other illicit and prescription drugs is possible.
The way I was able to achieve sobriety was by getting professional help from a drug and alcohol treatment program. There, I was eased off of Suboxone so as to be as comfortable as possible through the detox process. I then attended a 30 day rehab, which I completed. After that, I received ongoing support and therapy from an IOP. Early on, I became involved in a 12 Step fellowship, which supports me in my ongoing sobriety. If you or someone you love is on methadone maintenance or Suboxone, give us a call toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 where we have Addiction Specialist available around the clock to answer your questions.
Palm Springs, Fla. – 53-year-old Brad Butler remains in a coma as a result of a brutal beating he received over two weeks ago at the hands of his roommate, James Smith, 23.
Neighbors report hearing an argument around 9:30 or 10 p.m. on February 27th.This is when the alleged beating took place. Mr. Butler did not receive help until 12 hours later, on the 28th. According to an arrest report, medics found the victim in a pool of his own blood, urine, and feces on the living room floor of the apartment he shares with Smith.
The events of that not and the following morning are somewhat confusing. It remains unseen as to why it took so long for someone to call for help on Mr. Butler’s behalf.
In the News: Palm Springs Man Arrested for Beating Roommate Before Heading to Methadone Clinic May be Charged with Murder
Here is what is known so far, as reported by Smith, his girlfriend, their neighbors, and the police report.
According to police, on Feb. 27, Smith beat Butler and left him bloody and swollen without medical attention overnight and into the next morning. Also according to the report, their neighbors suspect the fight was over drugs.
Neighbors also told officers they heard a fight next door between 9:30 and 10 p.m., which is consistent with the evidence that Mr. Butler was attacked around 10 p.m.
Almost three hours had passed when Smith and his girlfriend, Brittany Harvey, knocked on their neighbors’ door, saying that their roommate, Butler, had hurt himself. Accompanying Smith and Harvey, the neighbors went over to the apartment and found Mr. Butler sitting on the couch, his face swollen and bloody, and he was making “gurgling sounds.” The neighbors told Smith and Harvey to call an ambulance but the couple refused, saying Butler was just drunk and needed to sleep it off.
The next morning, on their way out to work, the neighbors thought to check on Butler. This time, they found him on the floor, according to the report. It remains unclear as to why the neighbors didn’t call for help at that time.
It wasn’t until almost 10 a.m. – a full 12 hours after the attack that Palm Beach County Fire Rescue medics arrived at the apartment at 2300 Springdale Boulevard off of Kirk Road.
In the arrest report it says that Smith and Harvey changed their story multiple times throughout the interviewing process. One of the final versions of the couple’s story states that Smith was defending himself because Butler charged him that night.
Smith went on to tell officers that he got up around 6 a.m. the next morning to go to the methadone clinic for his heroin addiction, and then onto work. Smith stated that, at that time, Butler was still on the floor and that he heard him snoring. Smith said his girlfriend drove him to the clinic and then work after which she then called the authorities to get help for Butler, because she noticed that he was having trouble breathing, according to the report.
Smith appeared before Judge Joseph Marx on Thursday morning. He is being held on $27,000 being charged with aggravated battery and delayed medical treatment.
“You better hope he pulls through,” Marx said. “Because you may be facing a murder charge.”
Butler remains in critical condition at Delray Medical Center, according to a hospital spokesperson.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.