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Update: Problems with Indiana’s Fight Against HIV Outbreak

Update: Problems with Indiana’s Fight Against HIV Outbreak

Author: Justin Mckibben

Earlier this year in March we reported on how Indiana is facing a public health crisis as HIV infection cases skyrocketed as a result of the drug epidemic in the area. Initially when the reports came in the number of confirmed HIV cases in Scott County, Indiana was 26, which is already big enough just 3 months into the year. Now at 5 months that number stands at a staggering 150 for a population of 4,200 in the twin towns of Austin and Scottsburg.

One institution providing mental health care to Scott County reported that so far this year they have admitted 22 patients to a medically monitored detox, which is mind-blowing considering only 16 were admitted last year TOTAL.

While some are sure that the lift on the needle exchange ban would help the issue, it seems that the progressive idea to save lives is being suffocated by local law enforcement.

Lifting the Ban

Indiana Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency at the end of March after the CDC persuaded Pence to lift the syringe and needle ban, extending it on April 20 for another 30 days to combat the growing HIV outbreak.

It had been illegal to possess the paraphernalia needed to use drugs in the state, and now the exchange program that was put in place to meet the rising number of HIV cases has been beset by interference from local law enforcement.

Heavy Hand Hurting the Cause

Addicts and community activists have reported to having needles and syringes confiscated by police. It seems law enforcement officials in Indiana remain committed to enforcing the anti-paraphernalia laws in spite of the legislation.

This is extremely detrimental to the cause. Without access to clean needles, addicts are sharing needles up to a staggering 300 times according to Brittany Combs who is a public health nurse for Scott County. The process of getting clean needles to the community is further disrupted by red tape and a fear of the police.

Typically a needle distribution program in urban areas allows addicts to hand out clean needles to their peers. But to get new needles in Scott County, drug users are expected to register at the exchange. Sherriff Dan McClain is more commited to scare tactics than anything it seems, stating:

“If they’ve got one needle and they’re not in the program, they’re going to jail,”

McClain has confidence that arresting those who do not carry a registration card will scare addicts into joining up, but is that just further pushing people away from a program that’s supposed to be helping them. Forcing them to basically register themselves as a documented drug addict under fear of arrest seems a little heavy-handed.

Sheriff McClain was interviewed a while back when Opana was taking over, and then he was just reinforcing stigma with statements like,

“Most of them sleep until noon, get up, and try to find a way to get another pill.”

He insisted that addicts are unable to break the chain of poverty because of their habits. Maybe having a guy who sees addiction as a disease that only affects those he considers poor and lazy isn’t such a good idea.

Knowledge is Power

Education about HIV and AIDS is probably the biggest problem. Education about needle hygiene was never on a list of priorities for the old fashioned, tough-on-crime Republican governor of Indiana. Now in a rural area devastated by unemployment and drug dependency characterized by prescription pain medication use, it seems this is a huge Achilles heel.

Opana, which when crushed and diluted, is a painkiller that is known for a potent high when injected. It had taken over as the number one oxymorphone when OxyContin was reformulated to stop abuse, and it fueled a lot of the new HIV outbreak in the area.

Steps to inform the population about the risk of HIV infection have come from the media through local health officials, featuring a campaign to educate not only IV drug users but reach out to other high-risk groups.

  • You Are Not Alone

State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams says truck drivers passing through Scott County, who frequent prostitutes, are in particular danger of HIV, so included in the efforts has been the “You Are Not Alone” campaign that is running on TV and radio, online, and on social media.

  • Stand Up

Austin High School homecoming queen Holli Reynolds has launched her own awareness campaign. The 18 year old wrote of the epidemic in her editorial for the school paper:

“Scott County is making national and world headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Austin has been dealing with poverty and a drug problem for over 50 years, but recently the problem has escalated and taken an ugly turn with the massive HIV outbreak in the community.”

“Stand Up” is a club Reynolds started with other students to talk to kids in grades 2-8 raising awareness about HIV and AIDS while dismissing the myths.

  • Jerome Adams Article

Jerome Adams also addressed many of those misconceptions in an editorial in early May, pointing out the re-surfacing prejudices of decades ago. He reasserted the difference between HIV and AIDS, and even deals with issues of transmission.

With so much going on to combat the increasing number of HIV cases, there is some hope that while the community becomes more informed that the needle exchange programs will be permitted to make more of a difference.

The focus now should shift to treating those living with the virus, and doing more to treat those in active addiction who can still prevent further spread of infection. Drug use puts people at risk for all kinds of health issues that can mean a life of suffering or even death, but there is help for those who are in the throes of addiction. It is never too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135  


New Zip Lock Bag Destroys Drugs

New Zip Lock Bag Destroys Drugs

Author: Justin Mckibben

Prescription drug abuse is easily one of the biggest health concerns facing Americans today. Prescription painkillers and other narcotic medications have made a vast contribution to the overdose epidemic, and experts in the area of drug addiction have frequently done their best to try and inform the public about how leaving unused prescription drugs around the house is a very dangerous and unnecessary risk.

There have been a lot of programs put together by community leaders to have prescription drug drop boxes and throw away locations set up for individuals to safely and responsibly dispose of their dangerous medications. But now there is a new innovation that could make the entire process easier and keep our homes safer. These drugs have made the problem with opiates, especially heroin, even worse and now this simple solution could put a big dent in the heroin epidemic.

Zip It Up

Instead of taking unused narcotics to a prescription drug drop box at a police station or  pharmacy, there’s a new bag that destroy liquids, pills, or patches in seconds.

Deterra is a brand spanking new drug deactivation system that’s so exclusive you can’t even buy it yet. The new miracle product looks like a zip lock bag, but inside there is another little bag full of activated carbon.

When you have extra, unused or unidentified pills to dispose of, you just add the pills to the bag with some water. It only take 10 seconds in the bag, and it could mean the difference between life and death. Jared Opsal, public awareness specialist for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse believes this is one of the big answers we have been looking for when it comes down to the opiate and heroin epidemic. Opsal stated:

“It’s very simple. This is like hitting the easy button for prescription drug disposal.”

This new and exciting invention may be the future of harm reduction, and the technology has only been out for almost a month.

For the Deterra bags there are two sizes, with the larger of the two being able to destroy as many as 90 pills effectively in one use. As if that weren’t enough, Deterra is more environmentally friendly than flushing drugs down the toilet, and it can create a stutter that puts a stop to a pill habit that quickly grows into a heroin addiction.

Too many addicts get hooked starting with opioid painkillers at a young age, and afterwards they become more and more desperate, usually with no idea that this typically leads to a serious heroin problem. Many teens actually start getting high on prescriptions they find at home, and once they build a tolerance to pills, it is only a matter of time between them and the needle.

Some have made even a direct statement that leaving unused prescription medications of any kind around the house is just like leaving a loaded gun out for your children to play with, and more suggest that when writing prescriptions it would make a huge difference for families if the companies or doctors included these bags with the pill bottle. The impact of having an immediate way to dispose of any hazardous substance would probably save many from ever even getting their first taste of opiates.

While you still can’t just go out and buy these at a CVS right now, there is still a way to get these drug disposal bags. For the time being you must contact the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, or contact Deterra at and they will ship them out to you.  Either way there is a new opportunity to take some action that could change a serious outcome or even save a life.

We all have some level of involvement and opportunity to help influence the issue of drug abuse in our communities and in our country. Some people can do something as simple as safely and effectively destroying their medications. Others may have to take a little more action, but there is help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Opana Causing HIV Outbreak in Indiana

Opana Causing HIV Outbreak in Indiana

Author: Justin Mckibben

Southeastern Indiana has been battling the prescription painkiller problem for some time, and for a second it seemed that heroin was outdoing opioids as the drug of choice and the pill issue was in decline. Then this past Wednesday news from state health officials changed all that optimism when people were informed that at least 26 people in the region were diagnosed with HIV in just a 3 month period, and most of them contracted it after injecting drugs, but not the heroin they thought they were dealing with, but Opana, another potent painkiller.

Record Numbers of HIV Cases

The first case that has been included in the outbreak in southeastern Indiana was diagnosed in early December according to the deputy commissioner and director for health outcomes at the Indiana State Department of Health Dr. Jennifer Walthall.

By January 23rd the total of newly diagnosed HIV cases jumped to 11, and in a region that typically experiences less than 5 new cases annually that was a big eye-opener. Since then, more cases have been diagnosed in several counties, and officials are troubled.

These cases, not to mention 4 others considered preliminary cases, could be the start of a whole new problem for the people of Indiana. State health officials are interviewing newly identified HIV patients and urging them to reach out to their sexual partners as well as anyone with whom they shared needles, as both forms of contact can spread the disease.

During their investigation into the outbreak, officials found those infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, had injected Opana. State health officials say it is not a common occurrence that prescription drug abuse has sparked an HIV outbreak, and Dr. Melinda Campopiano, a medical officer with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, agreed in a statement.

“I am not aware of any similar instances like this related to this or any other specific opioid pain reliever. I am so sorry to learn this is going on.”

Opana Abuse

Opana is a drug that started its trend about 5 years ago when the makers of Oxycontin’s reformulated that drug in an attempt to make it harder to abuse. The company who makes Opana- Endo Pharmaceuticals, took similar steps, but Opana contains oxymorphone, an opioid more potent per milligram than Oxycontin, and people have continued to find ways to transform Opana pills into an injectable high.

Experts say the prevalence of Opana abuse varies across the country, but they have stated that just one or two doctors prescribing the drug in large quantities can have a drastic impact on the drugs popularity for abuse.

Kentucky, for instance, saw a spike in Opana overdose deaths in 2011 according to the executive director of the Kentucky Office for Drug Control Policy. But the issue seems resolved since the drug became tamper-resistant. In addition Kentucky closed a number of the infamous ‘pill mills’.

Health and law enforcement officials have fought back against Opana in southeastern Indiana as well, including shutting down pill mills and creating stricter enforcement on prescriptions, and statistics showed that the number of prescriptions had dropped.

But at the same time, heroin use in the area has raised according to Indiana State Police officials.

The Outbreak

The recent outbreak has brought the reality of drug abuse to many peoples front door for the first time. That being said, there’s nothing specific about this drug to link it to HIV according to expert opinion. Sharing needles, regardless of the substance, creates the risk of contracting whatever disease the previous user had.

Then again, whenever anyone injects a substance such as Opana, bigger wounds and more bleeding can ensue, which can increase the chance of contamination.

Now, those in health care must bring the message of the dangers of needle sharing to the general public, and state health officials are actively trying to spread the word about the importance of cleaning needles. Here again we see the importance of a harm-reduction approach. Officials are now providing harm-reduction kits to those who use drugs intravenously, and encouraging them to seek treatment.

While the efforts seem well planned, many believe that the outbreak has just begun, and that local clinics should be prepared to test patients in the region worried about contracting HIV through sexual partners, given the nature of the illness. In the near future many bodies will have to come together to help care for those affected by this outbreak, including churches, clinics and counselors. But the public health care system will need to be there to support the community, because some expect the outbreak is likely to impact far too many too soon.

HIV and other infectious diseases are just example one of the countless devastating side-effects of drug abuse. Too many lives are either destroyed or ended because of drugs and alcohol, but there is always a way out for those willing to seek it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Long Term Effects of Opana Use

Long Term Effects of Opana Use

Opana abuse is a behavior described as taking more of your Opana prescription than you were instructed to take by your physician. More obviously, Opana abuse is the buying of the prescription painkiller off of others also called “on the street.” In either case, Opana abuse is further described as altering the method of how you take it. So, for example, people who abuse their Opana prescription might crush up the pills in order to snort them, a method called insufflation, or they might inject the drug into their veins, known as IV use, after preparing their Opana pills in a liquid solution.

Long Term Effects of Opana Abuse: Physical Dependence

An effect of long-term Opana abuse is being physically dependent, which means that, when you try to stop or run out of your Opana pills, you become physically ill as well as experience extreme mental distress, such as depression and severe anxiety. If you are on pain management for an ongoing medical issue and have been taking Opana for a long period of time, you will develop what is called dependence on it, which is a physical and psychological need for Opana in order to even function properly. Physical dependence is a separate yet overlapping medical condition and it’s a difficult situation to deal with if you don’t have support from medical sources, such as a detox program.

Long Term Effects of Opana Abuse: Drug Tolerance

Because Opana is a physically addictive substance, meaning that your body and brain become dependent on it, the longer you take it, the more likely you are to build tolerance to it. Building a tolerance to a drug means that your body will need increasingly higher amounts of it as time goes by in order to get the same effect as you did when you first started taking it. Therefore, one of the long term effects of Opana abuse is tolerance and this is significant because tolerance and increasing your Opana intake can lead to many other, serious health and social problems.

Long Term Effects of Opana Abuse: Respiratory Depression and Distress

One of the more serious long term effects of Opana abuse is respiratory distress, which is the slowing and stopping of the breath. This is the main mechanism behind fatal overdose when it comes to the use and abuse of painkillers such as Opana. Besides blocking pain signals to the brain, narcotic painkillers like Opana also have the effect of suppressing central nervous system functions, such as breathing. And, again, this respiratory failure is a result of the tolerance you have developed because, as you take the drug for a long period of time and increasingly take higher doses of it, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of stopping breathing altogether. Respiratory distress is marked by such symptoms as difficulty breathing, feeling lightheaded and dizzy (from lack of oxygen), overdose and even death.

Long Term Effects of Opana Abuse: Increased Physical Illness And Risk Of Death

Other serious long term effects of Opana abuse include putting yourself at an increased risk for physical trauma as a result of accidents and falls while under the influence of Opana, mental illness and fatal overdose as is tragically the case with Opana abuse. Depending on how you take the drug, you are also at higher risk of certain diseases and viruses, including Hepatitis C, HIV, and AIDS.

Long Term Effects of Opana Abuse: Social Consequences

Opana abuse also affects your relationships with your loved ones and can lead to job loss, financial problems, and even legal problems. Many times, people who are abusing Opana or other drugs result to illegal activities in order to continue to support their drug habit. It might be hard to imagine but, as you begin to suffer the negative consequences of your Opana abuse, you will find that the increasing desperation you experience will lead to do behave in ways that you never thought possible before.

If you are on long-term pain management and prescribed Opana or other narcotic painkillers and you want to find another way to treat your pain – without the use of powerful narcotics and you fear the withdrawal syndrome, there are specialized programs, such as the one here at Palm Partners, available to help you detox with dignity and while remaining comfortable. If you have a loved one that you suspect is abusing Opana or other opiates, we can also help. Give us a call toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist who can answer your questions. We are available around the clock.

How You’re Being Selfish By Enabling the Addict in Your Life

How You're Being Selfish By Enabling the Addict in Your Life

You may not know it, but by adapting to the life-style and choices of a person in your life struggling with substance abuse or addiction you are enabling the harmful actions and outcomes in that person’s life, and it is done out of selfishness. Helping is doing something for someone that they are not capable of doing for themselves. Enabling is doing for someone things that they could, and should be doing themselves. And although you may have the best intentions to protect or support the addict or alcoholic in your life emotionally or financially, ultimately there are typically selfish motives. Sometimes pride, fear or empathy are how people convince themselves this is acceptable.

It has been said a hundred times that we always hurt the ones we love, and the addict is an extreme example of this pattern. As a recovering alcoholic and addict, I have personally manipulated relationships in my life to fit my needs in active addiction, and some make it easier than others. But to be an enabler is selfish, because it can be done in many ways, but typically the enabler does for the addict or alcoholic to feel needed, wanted, or in control. Sometimes people enable someone who abuses drugs or alcohol to keep them sick. It may seem terrible, but with all the methods of enabling it is possible that the person keeping the addict or alcoholic alive and able to keep using does so to make sure that they always need them. If that addict or alcoholic gets better, there is no need to give them the support and stability, and they may not stick around.

  • Financial Enabling

When providing an addict or alcoholic with financial support, it may seem as though you are doing what you can to help stabilize them. To give them what money you can to help them pay rent, put gas in their car, or put food on the table, what you are doing is giving them a safety net to fall back on so they never have to be accountable. Paying their bills for them, or giving them money you can only hope goes to the right place is just prolonging their suffering.

  • Material Enabling

If you support an addict or alcoholic with material needs it is also a huge sign of enabling their addiction. By letting the addict or alcoholic live in your home, drive your car, or even by providing them with a vehicle, food, or other material resources like clothes is feeding into their addictive behavior.

  • Justification

Making excuses and justifying the addict or alcoholics behavior is another way you can be an enabler. By defending them against people who speak up about their harmful and irresponsible behavior, you create an atmosphere where they can keep up the actions that are affecting themselves and others in negative ways. To argue that they do not need the stress or humiliation of facing their problem is dangerous for your relationships, and so is lying to protect their interest.

  • Emotional Enabling

Emotionally enabling an addict or alcoholic and not setting safe and healthy boundaries is also a very big issue. If you co-sign for their behaviors by nurturing them when they face consequences it sets the tone for the codependent relationship. Being the caretaker to someone who is in active addiction is one of the most selfish forms of enabling.

Usually when people enable addicts or alcoholics with justification, financial or material support it is out of the selfish need to feel in control or needed. When we feel the need to keep the other person’s life manageable it stems from our selfish desire to control the situation as best we can, or so that person remains in our debt. Being manipulated for thier own reasons they give the other person what they feel will make the addict see they need the enabler. When supporting an addict or alcoholic emotionally, along with any of these other forms of enabling, people are selfishly looking for another codependent to latch on to. If someone wants to feel needed, desired, or loved and the addict or alcoholic gives them that, they will do whatever is necessary to keep that codependent relationship going. Sometimes it is just to feel important, admired or powerful. Other times we just want to keep that person with us.

Parents do this to their children, and girlfriends and boyfriends do this to each other, while friends will thrive together if they are all in the same sinking ship. What it all comes down to is that the enabler keeps helping someone who is very sick stay sick, if they know it or not, because it serves them to be needed, to feel better about themselves, or to create the delusion of control in their life and the lives of others. If you are selfishly assisting an addict or alcoholic, you should consider switching to some tough love.

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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