Author: Justin Mckibben
Many months back, when President Trump was still on the campaign trail, he was asked about the opioid epidemic in America during a Q&A in Ohio. He said the solution was about cutting it off at the source through the southern border. President Trump continues this narrative in a more recent solo press conference, suggesting the United States is becoming a “drug infested nation,” and he added,
“Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.”
So what is President Trump’s plan to fight addiction, and will it help addicts?
President Trump on Cartels
By now we all know President Trump believes there is a direct correlation between the drug epidemic in America and what he calls an epidemic of illegal immigration. In the past he has pointed to the infamous border wall as the answer to cutting off the heroin trade into America, which he seems to believe is the primary source of the problem. During his press conference he adds,
“We’ve ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs,”
President Trump went on to say,
“We have begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers and others who pose a threat to public safety.”
To be fair, we must acknowledge the relevance of cartels in the drug trade. Since the 90’s some statistics show that the primary supplier of heroin to North America is pretty consistently Latin America and Mexico.
However, to believe that Mexican cartels are the only element of the opioid epidemic is a mistake we can’t afford to make. And blaming an entire country for drug dealers and gangs is a bit out of step with the history of drugs and gang violence in America. While it cannot be denied that Mexican cartels have a role in all this, solving the addiction problem is a lot bigger than that. Besides the fact that heroin is not only from Mexico, heroin is definitely not the only problem.
President Trump on China
For example, what do you know about fentanyl? That is, the incredibly dangerous opiate that has created such a overwhelming panic as a result of steep spikes in overdoses and deaths. Did you know it originates from Chinese suppliers?
According to some lobbyists, there are some clues that could imply President Trump plans to prosecute drug traffickers and close shipping loopholes that include drugs coming in from China and other areas.
So far, however, there isn’t much mention out there about these ideas. It seems the majority of the statements being made openly are singling out Mexico. It might be time to talk more on these other areas they plan on addressing. There is some value to stopping these dangerous drugs from getting here, but we also have plenty of problems here already.
President Trump on Opioid Epidemic
President Trump did release details during his campaign about his intentions for taking on the opioid epidemic, stating he plans to:
- Increase Naloxone access- the opiate overdose medication
- Encourage state and local governments to provide treatment options
- Speed FDA approval for abuse-deterrent painkillers
Yet some people are concerned because there hasn’t been much more talk about this since late in the campaign trail. President Trump has referenced a move to expand access to drug courts and raise the cap on how many patients that doctors can prescribe medication-assisted treatments. These may be very effective strategies for providing multiple opportunities for exposing addicts to recovery. But we aren’t hearing enough about those either. When the subject comes up, we should hope for more accurate information to know if addicts will get this help, instead of hearing about immigration.
Again, many still want the President to talk more openly about the contribution made by Big Pharma and prescription drugs to the issue, specifically concerning the opiate epidemic. We can only blame so much of our problems on outside influence. We have to hold our own drug companies accountable.
President Trump and Big Pharma
Trump did say throughout his campaign he would be fighting the Big Pharma companies in order to get rid of outrageous price-gouging on medications. He made a statement at one point that,
“Pharma, pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there’s very little bidding on drugs,”
“We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and we’re going to save billions of dollars.”
This much isn’t off base. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, drug companies and their industry allies spent more than $186 million lobbying for their interests in a year, and $1.12 billion since 2012.
Yet, the Republican Party did a great deal in 2003 under President George W. Bush to prevent federal government from interfering in negotiations between drug companies and pharmacies that participate in taxpayer-funded Medicare Plan D prescription drug benefits.
Hopefully, having a Republican Congress that isn’t constantly at odds with their President will help things move along easier; especially concerning healthcare reforms. So beyond making drugs cheaper, the question becomes what can we do about preventing dangerous and addictive drugs from getting even more out of control.
ACA and CARA
With healthcare reform, many addiction recovery advocates insist that the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) should be a priority. Many say the CARA is the most significant federal legislation pertaining to addiction in years. Still, it does not include a specific allowance of funding for the programs it has created.
Once CARA is funded, more programs will be put in place to help fight addiction. Without the funds it is a Cadillac with no engine or wheels.
Then there is the major point President Trump ran on; repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This action could eliminate coverage for many Americans in recovery who had previously been uninsured. Specifically, if the government repeals the ACA without a plan to replace it or to maintain coverage for those depending on it. If President Trump and the GOP come up with a program to replace it, we may still avoid this tragedy. Still, as it stands, the idea makes plenty of people nervous.
For instance, Medicaid, the federal-state insurance for low-income people, payed for about $60 billion worth of mental health services in 2014. That assistance is now expected to shrink as a result of healthcare reforms under President Trump.
After Republicans have pledged to make some major cuts in federal spending, there is still hope out there that agencies like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would not see their funding severed. This would potentially be another devastating blow to the efforts already in place to battle addiction in America. Will President Trump defend these programs to help addicts?
What Will Help?
Some of the ideas this administration mentions do have some hope behind them. My opinion, we might want to hear more about the expansion of treatment options and access to life-saving resources. The strong focus on border control and President Trump’s cries for “law and order” and aggressive investigations sound extremely reminiscent of the War on Drugs that failed so many families and people suffering.
As the former drug czar Michael Botticelli stated,
“Any drug policy that’s going to be effective has got to be based on science and research,”
So President Trump has his work cut out for him, but some still say we need to see more being done with healthcare and providing resources. More advocates want to hear plans on healing people; on how we plan to save lives. Assure people by taking real action to show they will not be without insurance or treatment.
So this does not mean to say the President’s plans are not good. Essentially, we just want to hear more about them besides borders. If his plans do involve expanding current resources, and if the ACA is effectively replaced; if we see adequate funding appropriated for the CARA and if we make this about more than just immigrants and law enforcement, then the plan could make a difference. So far only time will tell.
Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and providing effective and compassionate treatment makes a lifelong difference. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Sometimes new policy can be good. Sometimes, not so much.
The opiate epidemic in America has hit some states with staggering rates of overdose and death. The paralyzing truth gripping the nation today is that more people are dying from drug overdose than homicides and car crashes. Heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers collectively decimate entire communities. People from all over are starting to push officials and lawmakers for more progressive and effective solutions.
Addiction has led to an overdose outbreak that shakes the country to the core, everywhere. Now, Florida lawmakers are pushing for new legislation to try and protect and serve those who suffer from an overdose. One of the first bills on the 2017 agenda is one that hopes to change how law enforcement treats overdose victims.
Although, another bill is trying to turn things in a very different direction.
Florida HB 61 Bill
Florida Representative Larry Lee, a Democrat from Port St. Lucie, has filed a proposal titled HB 61. If approved, this piece of reform would require several new policies for healthcare providers, starting with hospitals.
- It would require hospitals to screen overdose victims to determine the need for additional health care services
- Prohibits hospitals from discharging overdose patients to a detox or treatment facility until stabilized
- Requires attending physician to attempt contact with patients primary care physician, or other treatment providers, who prescribe controlled substances to notify them of overdose
- Requires hospital to inform medical director of treatment center (if patient is currently in treatment) of the overdose
- Hospital must inform overdose victim’s family or emergency contact of overdose
- Must inform contacts what drugs they suspect to have caused overdose
- Attending physician must provide list of drug treatment providers and information about Florida’s Marchman act and Backer act in case the family or contact wishes to seek legal action to protect the addict
The Big Change in HB 61
Lastly, what is probably the most progressive part of this legislation, is the HB 61 bill would prohibit criminal charges from police officers and prosecutors against the overdose victim for possession of any drugs found on them during the incident.
This final aspect of HB 61 this writer thinks is a big deal, because from personal experience I have seen and heard many stories of individuals not calling for help in the event of an overdose out of fear of prosecution. In some cases people actually die because of the fear of criminal punishment. Adding this kind of measure to the bill is an attempt at eliminating the loss of life due to fear of discrimination. Even if it is not a perfect system, this kind of reform takes first responders and law enforcement a step closer to dealing with addicts who are fighting a fatal illness like sick people instead of criminals.
Florida SB 150 Bill Attacks Fentanyl
From across the aisle we see another push from Republican Senator Greg Steube from Sarasota. The question is, will this push go in the right direction? On December 12, he introduced bill SB 150. This is set to be a direct attack on fentanyl.
For those who are not yet familiar, fentanyl is an incredibly powerful, and lethal, opioid painkiller. It’s medical use is to sedate surgical patients and relieve chronic pain. However, being several times more powerful than heroin, it has crept into the illicit drug trade in various parts of the country. And with its arrival also came a horrifying increase in overdose and death.
This proposal means to make 4 grams or more of fentanyl a first-degree felony through:
November 20, the Palm Beach Post released an analysis of people who died in 2015 from heroin-related overdoses. Out of the 216 individuals profiled in this report, 42% of the cases were found to involve fentanyl. So of course, with Steube coming from a district hit particularly hard by the opiate epidemic, it is logical to want to do everything you can to cut the flow of fentanyl off.
Yet, some say that this kind of strategy is too close to the concept of mandatory minimums.
Is SB 150 Too Close to Mandatory Minimums?
For those who need more clarification, mandatory minimum sentencing laws were a “one-size-fits-all” strategy implemented originally back in 1951 against marijuana, then repealed in the 1970s, and refined in 1986. In 1973, New York State enacted mandatory minimums of 15 years to life for possession of more than 4 ounces of any hard drug.
The idea is that regardless of the individual or the circumstances that a certain crime will have an inflexible punishment across the board. Ever since their introduction, criminal justice advocates have fought these laws, and they have always been surrounded by debate and controversy.
Essentially, some are already saying that SB 150 will ruthlessly make addicts into victims of the already overpopulated prison system. To be clear and fair- the bill does not seem to directly require a specific prison sentence like mandatory minimums, but it’s similar in that it treats every issue related to fentanyl the same.
The issue has already been argued time and time again that non-violent low-level drug offenders have spent excessive amounts of time in prison for possession of a substance. In some cases, an individual will do more time behind bars for possessing a large quantity of drugs than someone who has actually killed someone. Some have come to the conclusion that this tactic just doesn’t work.
The fear with SB 150 is not about the manufacturers or the dealers as much as it is for the consumers. Sometimes individuals purchase drugs on the street believing it to be heroin or another substance without even knowing there is fentanyl in it. So this bill would make first-degree felons out of desperate addicts?
What is Right?
The big question we all face at the end of the day is- what is the right thing to do? How is the best way to handle something that feels so utterly out of hand?
Well, it would seem like its time to finally let go of the archaic stigma. More states and law enforcement officials are turning to compassionate and supportive progress. Many places in America are starting to do everything they can to help people struggling with addiction to find help before it is too late. So why move backwards?
In my opinion, strictly based on what has been presented so far, SB 150 seems dangerous. There are countless advocates out there who say that intensifying the punishment is not how you deter the crime. Especially when it comes to addiction, because this kind of method still suggests it is a moral failing and not a psychological and physical illness.
HB 61 seems to be trying to call health care providers to action and add more accountability on the front lines in the fight against the overdose outbreak. At the same time it seems to move in the opposite direction of SB 150 by trying to limit the persecution of addicts. HB 61 makes more room to help preserve life and offer treatment and solutions. By now we should already know, the solution isn’t a War on Drugs, it is community and compassion.
These are some of the initial responses to recommendations recently made by the grand jury. Every day there are countless people suffering. And every day there are countless more recovering and fighting to help others recover. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
By now everyone who is paying any attention to politics has heard about the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. And if you have heard of Trump, you have heard of his infamous wall. Yes, THE WALL. The ‘life-saving, world changing, country resurrecting’ wall. Let us just call it THE GREAT WALL OF ‘MERICA! Because, it will of course be greater than that shabby wall some people in China seem to think is so great.
I digress… It appears that this wall will do more than inspire racial division. Apparently THE WALL will also solve the opioid epidemic in America.
Yes… that’s what he said…
Building a wall between the United States and Mexico, according to his recent statements, will be the best solution to this issue.
The Wall against Opiates
This astonishing revelation was made during a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio on Monday where Trump was doing a little Q&A with the curious citizens of the capitol city in the Buckeye State. After an audience member asked him to “cut off the source” of heroin, Trump stated:
“We’re not gonna let this crap come into our country and poison our youth and poison our people, and it comes in mostly from the southern border,”
Granted, since the 1990’s statistically the primary supplier of heroin to North America has been Latin America and Mexican cartels. So this whole concept of blocking the flow of heroin into the country isn’t entirely baseless. However, Mexico is definitely not the only way heroin gets into America. The source is also definitely not the only element to the outbreak. Let us focus on his thought process just to point out where else he speaks with a heavy stigma accent.
Heroin Problem Place?
To elaborate on his plan, Trump talked about campaigning in New Hampshire. His time there helped him realize the extent of the heroin epidemic. Voters in New Hampshire town hall meetings consistently said that their biggest concern was heroin, which surprised Trump. The next thing he had to say was unsettling in a different context.
“My first victory was New Hampshire, which is a beautiful, beautiful place … This doesn’t look like it’s a heroin like problem type place,”
So wait… he means to say that only bad parts of town or less “beautiful” places are where he expects to find heroin addiction? Since he didn’t elaborate on where he would expect to see it, does this imply that Ohio is a place not pretty enough to be off Trump’s “heroin problem place” check list?
Ok, maybe those aren’t his words either. Still, thinking only certain people in certain places have a heroin problem shows he’s out of touch with the epidemic. Not to mention how disconnected this kind of thinking is from the truth about addiction.
While Trump was explaining his plan to wall off the drug problem in America, he said,
“They say, Mr. Trump, it is flowing across our southern border.”
But maybe… just maybe the New Hampshire residents were referring to the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Drugs regularly travel in bulk via interstate highways into New Hampshire and the rest of New England from this area. So perhaps Mexico is way more south than New Hampshire is saying we should be looking.
WALL is LIFE
What Trump did fail to acknowledge is that many powerful opioids that end up on the black market, like fentanyl, originate from Chinese suppliers. So even if we make a huge dent in the heroin supply from Mexico, there are still plenty of countries that have been sending it over for years.
Also, Trump should note the accessibility of prescription drugs is a major driving factor for the opioid crisis. He didn’t, but he should. To have a comprehensive plan, you absolutely have to include addressing the Big Pharma companies involved in opiate medication production.
Trump did finally acknowledge the need for treatment. This is the best thing to come out of the discussion, because he did admit,
“It’s very hard to get out of that addiction, of heroin. We’re gonna work with them, we’re gonna spend the money, we’re gonna get that habit broken.”
This claim at least notes the vital need for treatment options, but lacks any structure or outline on how to address it. Any complete idea on how to defeat the opiate epidemic should include education, intervention and innovations for addiction treatment. But it seems Mr. Trump is more concerned with the U.S.-Mexico border.
Addiction treatment, education and prevention should not be cliff-notes to a drug policy centered on a grandiose design for this wall that is prophesized to “make America great again” by keeping the “bad people” out. It should be centered on the concept of compassion and awareness- two things that, like I pointed out earlier, Trump seems to be in short supply of concerning addiction.
I’ve said it before… the future of our nation should have no room for stigma, we need leaders who are willing to serve the interest of every American. Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and more needs to be done to help people besides blaming someone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. If you are looking for a way to get your life back, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The War on Drugs in America has definitely proven to have been extremely counter-productive to actually saving the lives of Americans and improving the state of the nation concerning addiction, overdose death and other effects caused by drug use. But even with the destruction it has brought, it is nothing compared to the drug war waging in the Philippines today.
New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is gaining international notoriety for his approach to drugs and addiction… but not in a good way. Duterte campaigned hard on a no-nonsense approach to crime. Today the full force of what this actually entails is incipient, and it is not pretty.
So is this kind of militant approach to dealing with drugs and their dealers a new level of “tough love” or is it outright stigmatic murder?
Picture Tells 1,000 Words
At first having a strict and unyielding strategy to fighting drug dealers and addicts seems pretty common. Some in America have insisted we need to be harder on criminals. Others have even said we should be charging dealers with the murders of addicts who overdose, and this has been met with a great deal of controversy.
Now shocking photographs that are being published in local and international media outlets depict suspected drug dealers dead or captured in the most inhumane ways. Images show people bound hand and foot with their shirts soaked in blood, faces sometimes covered in duct tape, wearing crude signs proclaiming their alleged crimes.
Public executions are now the norm in the Philippine drug war. So one must ask- how did it get this far?
Warnings Were There
Despite the blatant disregard for due process, part of Duterte’s appeal to the electorate is his tough on crime attitude. Duterte has on several occasions openly alluded to the idea that in this drug war he doesn’t oppose his police force killing suspected criminals. But what is worse is that he also alludes to a kind of vigilante justice.
In a nationally televised speech in June, Duterte told citizens,
“If (a criminal) fights, and he fights to the death, you can kill him… Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun … you have my support.”
The insanity of it all is there are countless cases of people murdered in the street by unidentified gunman and labeled drug dealers. Despite the fact that possibly innocent people are dying, he is doubling down on the policy.
However, his administration and police deny the support of vigilante justice. THIS is the madness we are seeing unfold! In one breath Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said-
“We do not condone these acts,”
Yet, in pretty much the same breath, President Duterte himself says-
“It’s a war, not a crisis. Why should these people live?”
The PNP (Philippines National Police) Chief Ronald dela Rosa claims he will aggressively fight vigilantism, yet these killings are happening every day in this drug war! The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List” stands as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes, stating:
- Between the day Duterte assumed office, June 30, and August 1 there have been 465 deaths
- Philippines police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte’s inauguration
Probably one of the greatest injustices here is that stigma is circumventing logic in order to dictate policy. It’s the view that drug abuse and addiction, which are a common element of the drug trade, are moral failings. It tells us that all drug dealers and addicts are bad people.
There are seriously so many things wrong with this story I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll elaborate on two specific concerns.
Not everyone who dies is a (proven) dealer
Let’s just pretend that a death sentence for a dealer even made sense. Even if that were the case, a trial should be absolutely mandatory. However, this whole thing has turned into the Salem witch trials. Anyone can be accused of being a dealer and end up dead with no evidence.
Those who are accused and turn themselves in can still face severe punishments if they cannot prove their innocence. It is almost like saying anyone who fits the description can be shot on sight as long as it can be justified later with hearsay…
(… awkward silence…)
Something else that goes overlooked it seems is that gangs can use this to their advantage for eliminating competition without consequences. Gang members can openly kill their rivals and claim it is a community service!
Many dealers are addicts
Remember, when looking at the drug trade, street-level dealers especially are often addicts. So in many cases you may have a young man or woman who has been hopelessly addicted to drugs and is helping sell drugs to support his habit. They get caught on the street and they get killed instead of being given prison, or any chance to change.
Worse- it’s not the police that kill them; it’s their next door neighbor! Stigma will brainwash people into believing that every drug dealer is out to poison people and reap the rewards. The truth is frequently a very different reality.
Look at the way the drug war in the Philippines is evolving into a no-mans-land; at taking the law into your own hands based on speculation and fear-mongering. If we learn anything from this example, it’s that human rights should not be a casualty of a drug war. Innovative and compassionate harm reduction and treatment options are how progressive politicians are trying to save lives here at home. There are always better solutions for substance abuse and addiction. For anyone who is looking for a solution of their own, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Talk about a power-move… these might just be the kind of game-changers we need to see more of in America.
Even though it is an amazing place for living in recovery, also considered the recovery capitol of the country, South Florida has seen its fair share of trouble in paradise. With an opiate epidemic that has gripped every part of America, even this beautiful community has a population of drug dealers and users, but Florida police are cracking down hard.
As someone who lives here in South Florida as a transplant from the Midwest and an active member of the recovery community it brings a great deal of satisfaction to see the area I now consider my home-away-from-home become a better place.
The last couple months there has been reason to celebrate some of the efforts put forth by law enforcement to make these cities safer. With stories in the news about how bad it gets out there, I figured it would be good to highlight two very recent stories of how police have made massive strides in the right direction when it comes to cutting off influence of the drug dealers in their neighborhoods.
Operation Street Sweeper- Delray City Arrests 28
At the end of April the story broke that police in the city of Delray Beach, Florida had arrested 28 suspected drug dealers in only 10 days as part of an undercover operation. One of the most recent arrests made was that of a man who carried a gun that reports said was called the “cop-killer.” This weapon carried condensed rifle bullets powerful enough to pierce bullet-proof vests, and police are happy to have this dangerous handgun off the streets.
The weapon was traced back to 32 year-old Gerald Petion, who was arrested Sunday evening on charges of:
- Possession and sale of heroin
- Possession of a weapon by a convicted felon
Apparently authorities state that Petion had actually left behind his gun during a police chase two weeks ago.
Delray Beach police began “Operation Street Sweeper” in February with the intention of getting drug dealers in this beautiful South Florida area out of the community. Controlled sales with known drug dealers were repeatedly staged by undercover police officers over the course of months in order to conduct a thorough investigation that lead to these arrests. Police obtained the warrants for these arrests in early April and tracked down many of the dealers, but some are still at-large.
Having arrested over 2 dozen alleged drug dealers in less than 2 weeks time is an impressive move sure to make a heavy impact on the drug traffic in the area. Most of the men and women busted by police were selling heroin, although some sold cocaine and prescription pills.
Operation Dope Death- Boynton Beach Busts 13
Boynton Beach police say an operation they labeled “Operation Dope Death” has helped them dole out a major victory over drug dealers in their community, claiming that this operation lead to:
- Arresting 13 suspected drug dealers
- Confiscated 62 grams of heroin
- 5 grams of cocaine
- 4 grams of marijuana
- $4,300 cash
- 8 cars
- 1 gun
Police say the month-long investigation came after the rising number of calls in response to drug overdoses in the city so far this year, with more than 2/3 cases involving heroin and 5 ending in tragic deaths.
Out of the list of suspected drug dealers involved in the arrest, several were given multiple charges and suspected of dealing in multiple substances that are all controlled and dangerous.
10 have been booked into the Palm Beach County Jail since Monday, and there was even a 17-year-old suspect arrested and charged with the sale of heroin.
With these two substantial operations the police departments in South Florida are working towards dissolving a huge segment of the drug trafficking in the area, and hopefully as the community sees this more resources will come together to make moves toward even more change. It will take time, but it appears possible to level the playing field in more ways than one.
Paradise is nowhere near lost, but it will take work. The same is true for the lives of those impacted by addiction. Even in the darkest times having a willingness to move forward can save lives. 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.