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Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council

Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council
Author: Justin Mckibben

For some time now government officials in different states across America have been pushing for the implementation of safe injection sites in their neighborhoods to combat the perpetual rise of opioid addiction and overdose death. This time last year there were proposals in New York, California and Washington D.C. to open such facilities. With the rising rates of overdose and death more officials have asked for the opportunity to at least examine the potential impact of safe injection sites. Now, officials are pushing for safe injection sites in Boston.

This request didn’t come lightly, either. The Massachusetts Medical Society is actually imploring state officials to open a safe injection site within the City of Boston, with desperate hope of curbing the numbers of casualties.

Safe Injection Presented to City Council

The Boston city council members heard arguments both for and against safe injection sites in Boston, and the debate is on as to what to do with the information.

Advocates for safe injection sites in Boston believe such facilities save lives by making emergency medical treatment immediately available. Dr. Henry Dorkin with the Massachusetts Medical Society supports the idea, stating:

“In fact, if you don’t have them in a facility with Narcan readily available, they’ll die very quickly,”

Just to clarify, safe injection sites are secure locations with medical staff available where addicts can use heroin under medical supervision. It provides what could be considered neutral ground where the drug user will not have to worry about being charged with criminal possession, while also having a first line of defense against overdose. Safe injection sites do not provide drugs, they simply provide the space and with some clean needles are also available.

Probably one of the most popular examples used by advocates of safe injection sites has been the famous facility in Vancouver, Canada that helped save dozens of lives. City Councilors Anissa Essaibi-George and Frank Baker, who requested the hearing, point out that the safe injection sites in Vancouver reduced fatal opioid overdoses by 35%.

This kind of decrease in overdose fatalities would make a huge difference in Massachusetts. The state Department of Public Health says the state’s top cause of accidental death so far this year is opioid overdose. The department says an average of 6 people a day in Massachusetts die from opioid overdoses in 2017, making. A 35% decrease would make a tremendous improvement on the community.

Anti-Injection Sites Argument

Opponents of safe injection sites in Boston say that these facilities do nothing to address the true problem, which is addiction. Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association states:

“It’s an existence. We need to figure out how we’re going to save these people and it’s not safe injection sites,”

Looking at the Vancouver statistics was apparently not enough to convince the entire city council. One feature of safe injection sites is that they often have a team of treatment professionals who encourage addicts who visit the facility to get treatment. They provide information about safe medical detox and other levels of care to those who are interested in getting help. However, one city council member, Frank Baker, states:

“263,000 visits a year by 6,500 individuals. And it has only 404 referrals to onsite detox,”

Some officials believe that this measure of harm reduction isn’t enough to really solve the issue without getting more people into drug addiction treatment and off the streets.

Possible Benefits of Safe Injection Sites in Boston

The primary function of safe injection sites is to preserve life. The idea is that while it may not be a lasting solution, it is a way to save lives. Safe injection sites allow people struggling to have the opportunity to survive their addiction long enough to get treatment. Beyond slowing down drug related deaths, safe injection sites in Boston could offer a number of other positive outcomes.

In May of last year we also covered a report titled Alternatives to Public Injection in which experts with experience operating supervised injection facilities (SIFs) shared data that shows:

  1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves
  2. SIFs reduce or eliminate addicts needle sharing
  3. Ultimately, participants reduce their drug use all together
  4. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services
  5. Participants have resources to seek addiction treatment
  6. SIFs do not increase drug use in the surrounding area
  7. Crime and public disturbances decrease in the areas around these programs
  8. There has not been a SINGLE overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation

Rates of people visiting safe injection sites attending treatment may not be as good as they could be. However, the fact that they have no experienced a single overdose death at these facilities is an incredible improvement.

Are we going to see safe injection sites in Boston? Are more American cities going to consider this option? Is having a safe injection site a good idea?

While getting the right kind of safe and effective addiction treatment can create lasting change, preventing the ongoing deaths from drugs is also a worthy cause. Holistic healing programs are designed to address every aspect of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Police Will Give Free Heroin to Addicts to Fight Crime

Police Will Give Free Heroin to Addicts to Fight Crime

Author: Justin Mckibben

That’s right, you read the headline correctly. Law enforcement could soon be giving heroin to addicts, for free, in an attempt to fight addiction. While harm reduction is an admirable concept to preserve the lives of those suffering from addiction, this is a hard bit to chew.

Various countries are working to drastically reform drug policies. Some states in America have even started to pursue expanding access to naloxone, needle exchange programs and even safe injection sites. Other countries around the world have gone to new lengths in decriminalization, while others go to new extremes in the War on Drugs. Yet, despite all this variations of progress, giving away heroin seems like the most abstract idea yet.

Police in Durham, a city in northeast England, are planning to offer free heroin to drug users. Why? They say the objective is actually to reduce both crime and addiction.

The Free Heroin Plan?

Durham Police and Crime Victims Commissioner Ron Hogg spoke recently on his logic for providing heroin to addicts. In his statement he said,

“The aim would be to enable people who have become addicted to heroin to follow a program that would stabilize their addiction in a controlled environment, and reduce their dependency on heroin until they stop taking it,”

The idea isn’t just to give addicts free heroin and let them loose, but to create a very distinctive atmosphere of support in hopes of inspiring recovery. The proposed free heroin program would work in combination with a traditional substance abuse support program, and the users would be monitored on use and tapered off. According to the Independent newspaper, the free heroin clinics could be established in the Durham area before the end of this year.

What do Police Think of Free Heroin?

It seems the police department is hoping that if drug users have access to free heroin then they won’t have to resort to crime to support their addiction. While they are aware of how this idea might seem strange, the idea is that they may be able to further decrease all other devastating results of addiction on the community. Crime, spread of disease, overdose death and more.

According to the Independent newspaper, Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton also says the initiative would take away from drug dealers’ profits. With drug users having access to free heroin they hope it will cripple the trade on the illicit drug market. Barton states:

“We need to get over our moral panic about giving people heroin as part of a treatment plan,”

“Our primary concern is to prevent crime. If we’ve got people who are addicted to Class A drugs committing crime, it makes good sense to get that person off drugs.”

Commissioner Hogg also goes on to say,

“The aim of the initiative is to save the lives of addicts, shut down drug dealers and reduce acquisitive crime,”

“It would also reduce demand on police time, and the courts, and I believe it should also help lower the prison population.”

The impact of heroin on the U.K. should of course be noted as a cause for desperate measures.

  • 2015-2016 statistics show there were 149,807 people receiving treatment for opioid use disorder in England
  • Between 2012 and 2015, heroin-related deaths doubled from 579 to 1,201 deaths in England and Wales

So of course, as the opiate epidemic rattles countries all over the world, a few have decided to react in very different ways. Apparently, some parts of the U.K. are moving toward a very, very liberal stance.

Fix Rooms and Safe Injection Sites

England is not alone on this. Let us also note that Switzerland has actually offered a free heroin maintenance program since 1994. Other governments in the U.K. have approval for similar safe injection initiatives, including:

  • Scotland
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • The Netherlands

Last October, Glasgow, Scotland became the first city in the U.K. to approve plans for “fix rooms”. These are sites where people will be provided medical-grade heroin and clean syringes with the intent to contain the heroin epidemic.

The free heroin program in Switzerland began in Zurich. It is now credited with decreasing crime in the area. Information indicates this program has expanded to 23 clinics. But it isn’t just free heroin in these locations. These “fix rooms” also provide counseling and support.

Harm Reduction… or Reorganizing?

Now, we have to ask, is this as crazy as it sounds? While the police in these areas seem to be openly admitting that giving away free heroin is indeed enabling, they seem very convinced that things have gotten so bad this is the best they can hope for at the moment. Again, they are hoping to contain the fallout of heroin abuse in their communities and provide information and treatment resources. The idea sounds pretty intense, but some would say desperate times call for desperate measures.

So is this harm reduction, or just reorganizing? Is this tactic set to prevent even more suffering and destruction, or is it a feeble attempt to make some semblance of order out of the chaos of the opiate crisis?

From a personal opinion, as an addict in recovery, I can say I honestly don’t know. It sounds incredibly dangerous and almost irresponsible to say that law enforcement will provide free heroin. Yet, I have to try and understand their logic; that it might be able to prevent some crime. It might take a nice piece of money out of drug dealer pockets, and it might preserve lives long enough to convince them to get treatment. Then again, an addict like me might just take advantage of the free heroin program and get more off the street while also getting free, government funded drugs too.

Past data might show some support to this innovation. I guess we will just have to wait and see what becomes of this. Until then, there should always be an emphasis on the possibility of effective and comprehensive treatment. Even with the free heroin program, the idea is to get people the treatment they need.

We want to know what YOU think.

Addiction and drug abuse have become relevant in every aspect of American life. Police, politicians, educators and community leaders are trying to create radical changes in perspective. Not every perspective is easy to understand, but the common goal is inspiring lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Palm Beach County Hosting Narcan Training

Palm Beach County Hosting Narcan Training

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:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone
  • Vicodin

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:

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating

There are other measures that can be taken to help ease these symptoms as well.

Expansion Programs

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

CDC Spending $20 Million to Fight Addiction

CDC Spending $20 Million to Fight Addiction

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:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

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
  • Baltimore
  • Philadelphia
  • 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

 

How Heroin and Aspirin Are Related

How Heroin and Aspirin Are Related

Author: Justin Mckibben

Yea… got your attention, huh?

Kind of curious to see how this one plays out? Well it is kind of weird to even consider the idea that the world’s most popular and successful legal drug ASPIRIN would be distant cousins (twice removed even) to one of the most dangerously addictive and infamously lethal illegal narcotics out there, HEROIN. Sure we have seen how prescription medications can get out of hand, but not everyone knows how common and even legal most illicit drugs used to be.

It’s like hanging out with a guy who wears tailored suits and talks spiritual principles, while driving his Mercedes to a charity event he hosts for starving children… and then meeting his brother, the lying drug dealer who robs little old ladies and doubles as a disease spreading hit-man.

Why do I feel like Martin Scorsese is directing this?

Well believe it or not, this is a story or metaphor based in fact to a chemical level, and it’s weird to find out how.

The Relation

German pharmaceutical company Bayer had a moment of sheer victory back in 1999 when it celebrated a century of success for Aspirin. Both Heroin and Aspirin are drugs synthesized by adding acetyl groups to already existing natural compounds.

  • Aspirin is produced by adding 1 group to salicylic acid, found in willow bark which had long been used as a traditional remedy for pains and fever.
  • Heroin is produced by adding 2 acetyl groups to morphine, the active constituent of opium.

If you look at the acetyl groups in a formulae graph, you can see the similarity plain as day; while the one for heroin is a much more complex chemical build up.

History of Heroin

Back in Europe in the 19th century opium was the first widely used painkiller, then morphine, and a non-addictive painkiller was desperately needed. At this point while both compounds were already know, aspirin was the first of these two to be synthesized in a form pure enough for medicinal use, and the Bayer pharmaceutical company could have been launched it in 1897.

Heinrich Dreser, the head of the testing department, had already begun testing the much stronger drug heroin on himself as well as several others who said it made them feel HEROIC (hence the name). Dreser rejected aspirin on the grounds that it would “weaken the heart” after realizing the commercial potential of heroin, and the company then launched heroin not so much as a painkiller, but as a cough remedy.

At the time it made sense, since even the 19th century saw tuberculosis and pneumonia as common threats to public health, and the severely ill patients desperately needed something that would give them a night’s sleep, so of course such a powerful drug would seem like a very marketable remedy.

It only took one year for some patients to begin showing “tolerance” to the drug. By the beginning of the 20th century, recreational use and addiction to heroin was already on the rise and only gaining momentum. It soon became clear that this was one cough medicine that was geared to tear people apart far more than it would ever hold them together, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Dreser himself died in 1924 of a stroke after he had apparently become addicted to his own heroin, which he was using to treat his discomfort.

Aspirin Aspirations

In 1913, Bayer stopped marketing heroin. It took that dog out of the fight taking heed to the rising issues, and they quickly swapped out their front-runner with aspirin in the painkiller game.

After the Second World War aspirin did lose a little bit of its popularity, partly because of damage to the stomach suffered by people taking overdoses. But it made a solid come-back, especially since the discovery that instead of weakening the heart like Dreser used to claim, it was determined to actually help to prevent heart attacks or strokes.

So while aspirin was never intended to be the Bayer companies claim to fame, they had to use what little clout that bought them, especially considering they developed a drug that now ravages the nation as one of the leading causes of addiction and overdose death.

Some people may have heard stories about how heroin was once used as a house-hold product for all types of ailments, and people willingly sold it and administered it to all age groups as a miracle medicine. Now we know better. What many people may not know is that Aspirin was close kin to heroin, and if the research had been thorough at the time Aspirin could have maybe even sidestepped the rise of heroin.

Drug abuse has a history, and a lot of drugs were believed to be a lot less dangerous than they are now known to be. Most addicts don’t suspect the drugs to have the power they have until it’s too late, but there is always hope in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

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