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Charging Overdose Victims with Crime for Needing Naloxone

Charging Overdose Victims with Crime for Needing Naloxone

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

Author: Justin Mckibben

Overdose victims are the people most obviously struggling with the opiate epidemic. So many have come so close to death that to be revived might be the only second chance they think they get. As the overdose outbreak has grown into such a prominent problem, more has been done to increase access to life-saving resources. Policies are now in place help those who are on the verge of a lethal dose. More is being done to help survivors get treatment. The concept of addiction has finally started to be more understand as something that impacts all walks of life and that it is not a moral failing, but a serious, chronic disorder. Yet, even as compassion and education have taken on more meaning in the fight against drug addiction, there are still some who think punishing addicts and overdose victims is somehow an answer.

It is one thing to argue the idea of charging drug dealers with murder in connection to overdoses. Even that is a controversial topic. But now officials in some areas are supporting a plan that further persecutes people who have suffered from an opiate overdose is a very dangerous development.

Should police be issuing charges to overdose victims who need to be revived with naloxone?

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, also known by its generic name Narcan, is the antidote medication used to reverses an opioid overdose. It works by neutralizing the opioids and reviving the respiratory system. This medication has become one of the primary resources in fighting the overdose outbreak that has devastated the nation, and over recent years access to the drug has expanded a great deal. Naloxone has been around in ambulances and hospitals for decades to reverse overdose, but the demand for solutions to the rising death rates has made it more mainstream.

Naloxone has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and all over the country new programs have been put in place to make the drug more available. Now you can acquire a naloxone kit from pharmacies in many states, some without prescriptions. Community programs have developed to distribute the drug to the public in some areas where the issue is most prevalent.

Many areas have distributed naloxone to their police departments as well as other first responders, while providing training courses to both the public servants and the community. With some many people in America fighting addiction and losing their lives, it makes sense that more people be prepared to help.

Making Overdosing a Crime

In some states people who overdose are facing some new consequences. While government officials say they are trying everything they can to help people, all it really seems to be doing is further inhibiting the people who most desperately need the help.

Essentially, what officials in some areas have done is emphasized on making overdosing a crime. More specifically, charging people who have to be revived by police or medics with naloxone with inducing panic.

The charge is a misdemeanor, so it isn’t exactly as damaging as other charges often associated with drugs. However, the offense is technically still punishable with fines and jail time. Police are partnering with prosecutors to go on the attack against addiction, but is this the right plan of action?

Washington, Ohio Overdose Victims

One area with a policy like this is Washington, Ohio. Police in this part of the Buckeye State just started the new strategy in February. So far at least seven people who were revived during an overdose through naloxone have been charged with inducing panic.

In this area the offense can entitle someone to up to 180 days in jail and a one-thousand dollar fine. The City Attorney Mark Pitsick claims,

“It gives us the ability to keep an eye on them, to offer them assistance and to know who has overdosed. Sometimes we can’t even track who has overdosed.”

What some may find troubling is the vocabulary Pitsick uses to describe the situation. Saying thing like “keep an eye on them” is already a bit unsettling for some. One of the problems with this whole idea is exactly that; no one wants the police to have to “keep an eye on them”, especially addicts. Therefore, one has to wonder if people will avoid contacting emergency services in the event of an overdose.

How many people will suddenly be even more afraid to reach out for help? How many people are going to be too afraid of adding a charge to their name, paying a fine or even going to jail that they take their chances without naloxone and end up dead?

Is it right to use the legal system this way to keep tabs on people who ask for help?

Not All Bad

One thing the city officials do want to adamantly announce is that people who call 9-1-1 to report an overdose, or the people who may be with the overdose victims, will not be charged. This might make the policy a little easier to handle. At least this means the people who are around someone on the edge of dying could act in the individuals best interest without fear of personally being charged. Pitsick defended his stance saying,

“Service. Follow up. Just them understanding that people do care. We are here to help. We are not here to put them in jail,”

Still, the fact overdose victims are likely to receive charges may deter someone from calling for help for them, no matter how illogical to some that may seem. It is a sad truth that actually happens quite often already. People have allowed others to overdose and even die out of fear of legal repercussions. Would creating a standard of charging people for needing medical resuscitation make it better, or worse? The reality is it will not prevent addicts from using.

While the intention may be good, to try and take a stance against overdose rates, the strategy may be counterproductive. Personally, my opinion is this only pushes people away from wanting help. It inspires fear and feelings of guilt, not hope. It promotes stigma and turns people who are already struggling against the system they were hoping would help them.

Overdose death is not to be underestimated anymore. People every day lose their life to the fight against addiction. But there is help out there for those who are willing to take action. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

President Trump Plans to Fight Drug Problem: Will He Help Addicts?

President Trump Plans to Fight Drug Problem: Will He Help Addicts?

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

A Powerful Story from the Face of Addiction

A Powerful Story from the Face of Addiction

Author: Justin Mckibben

Wednesday evening, 9 Frederick County residents in Area 31 in downtown Frederick went in front of a camera. But this wasn’t any ordinary photo shoot. Not some promotion for a new shoe or the next big diet plan. These 9 brave individuals went under the spotlight to divulge some of their darkest memories of addiction, to spread home for recovery.

The filming is for a new video on recovery awareness. Stories like these of struggles and survival are incredibly powerful.

The Face of Addiction

The project has the title “I Am the Face of Addiction.” This in-depth film is intended to showcase progressive and empowering narratives from individuals in recovery. Ultimately, the hope is to inspire other residents of the area struggling with substance abuse.

The dream behind the film and a lot of the work put into it comes from Pam Knight, a Libertytown resident. When talking about how the project came to be, Knight stated:

“We just want to break the stigma of the term ‘drug addict,’…This is a major epidemic, but there are still so many people who are too ashamed or too embarrassed to admit ‘my life is out of control.’”

Knight, a former special education teaching assistant at Linganore High School, has her own history with addiction. That history puts her in a unique position to know the power of perspective.

Accidentally Addicted

In active addiction, at face-value Knight’s life seemed flawless. Her husband, Daniel, owns a successful hair salon in Frederick. The couple has three adult children and three grandchildren. To some this sounds like the American dream, but many wouldn’t know there could be nightmares behind the scenes.

Under it all, Knight was hid a pill addiction for years. She says it began in 2011 after falling off the bleachers at her son’s high school football game. After she was prescribed Vicodin for pain, she began taking more and more. While in the beginning she said the pills made her feel “like Superwoman,” she later describes the experience of addiction as “purgatory.” Knight stated,

“Towards the end, there was no high anymore. You have to have it to make your brain feel normal. The first thing I would do in the morning is pop my pills.”

It didn’t take long before Knight graduated from Vicodin to Percocet. After experimenting with opiates she began doctor-shopping to obtain prescriptions. She admits that her final years of addiction she found herself buying pills off the street.

Her drug of choice was Roxicodone — known as “Roxys” on the street — an opioid-based painkiller. She would purchase quantities of 30 milligram tablets and take multiple doses at a time. Knight said,

“If I didn’t have them, I would get horrible shakes.”

Seeing the Signs

Knight’s husband and her oldest daughter, Loren Maxwell, admit that Knight’s gradual descent into addiction was easy to brush off in the beginning. The signs were somewhat there, but not easy for her family to see for what they were.

Her husband Daniel said he would notice days when she seemed especially manic or sweaty, but Knight always had an explanation.

Maxwell said her mother’s ability to function made her addiction harder to spot. Many people don’t acknowledge the dangers of ‘functioning addiction’ because they don’t understand it.

During this time the family said the signs were simple to dismiss unknowingly or miss altogether. Now that Pam Knight has gone through recovery, Daniel Knight said,

“I see them everywhere.”

Family Fight Knight

Like many people have experienced, the fight with addiction can often be a family affair.

Knight’s youngest son, Connor, was also struggling with addiction at the same time as his mother. Like Pam Knight, Connor said his problems started with the opioid painkillers prescribed for his football injuries. His struggles with opiates graduated much quicker. At 17 years old, Connor first snorted heroin with a bandmate, and his progressive addiction took off.

After years, both Pam and Connor finally found a new chance through rehabilitation at treatment centers in Florida.

Pam has been sober for three years; Connor for 11 months.

Inspiring Others

Pam Knight’s motivation for sharing the gritty details of her experience for this film is to show that recovery is possible. Knight currently speaks in Frederick County Public Schools as an advocate for addiction recovery. She says she hopes to screen the finished video for these audiences to spread more of this story.

Other participants in the film also hope their contribution will inspire recovering addicts. A huge part of inspiring others is to help overcome addiction stigma. Statistically we know that far too many addicts prolong their suffering and lose their lives because they don’t know of a better option, or because they are afraid of the assumptions and stereotypes attached to addiction. Breaking those stereotypes is exactly why we need such powerful stories, such as Pam Knights. A mother, a wife and a miracle who has persevered through a great deal of difficulty. We celebrate her and the others involved in this project helping to reach out and change lives by showing people the true face of addiction is not always what you would expect.

Sharing your story isn’t always easy, but once you have a chance to rewrite your story it can be more powerful than you can imagine. It isn’t always easy to change that story, but it is always possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

New Hampshire Introduces Tougher Opioid Prescription Laws

Author: Shernide Delva

New stricter legislation on opioid prescriptions aims to reduce the amount of prescription pills roaming the streets of New Hampshire. New Hampshire has one of the highest opioid death rates in the country. In an attempt to reduce the devastation, the legislation will require medical professionals to conduct a patient risk assessment before writing a new prescription. There are a variety of other changes implemented as part of the new legislation.

With the new legislation, patients must sign an informed consent form showing they understand the risk of addiction from the drugs they are receiving. The request is then checked against a database compiled by the prescription drug monitoring program.

In addition to the above precautions, the legislation requires pain patients to be prescribed the lowest effective dose of pain medications. It also forbids doctors in emergency rooms and urgent cares from writing a pain prescription for longer than seven days. Additionally, the law requires patients who are on opioid medication for more than 90+ days to undergo random urine analysis designed to ensure they are still benefiting from the drug.

Overall, the new legislation in New Hampshire will:

  1. Require patient risk screening before writing a new prescription
  2. Ensure all patients prescribed pain medication understand the risk of addiction
  3. Limit the dosage of pain prescription to the lowest effective dose
  4. Forbid doctors in ER and Urgent care from prescribing a prescription longer than seven days
  5. Requires patients on pain prescriptions 90+ days to take a urine analysis designed to ensure they are still benefiting from the drug

Will This Work?

The objective of the new legislation is simple: prevent misuse of prescription drugs.

“By putting fewer pills out on the street there’s less chance for diversion and misuse,” Dr. William Goodman, chief medical officer at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, told WMUR.

The prevalence of prescription opioids has been a major issue in New Hampshire, as it has the rest of the country.

“We know that—[with] this crisis we’re in now with the opioid epidemic with people suffering addiction and overdoses and so on—we know that looking back, the number of prescriptions has quadrupled since about the year 2000,” Goodman said.

The New Hampshire program is similar to programs implemented in other states including New York, New Jersey and much more. While New Hampshire had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2012, the new regulations are aimed to have a bigger effect.

“What’s being done here has been shown to be effective elsewhere. And we hopefully will have the same success in seeing fewer pills on the street and fewer people suffering from the side effects of opioids,” Goodman said.

Along with the new legislation, Goodman encourages doctors to find alternatives to opioid pills for treating pain and other chronic conditions.

“Some of the safer and very effective alternatives are often difficult to afford, either because they’re too expensive or health insurance companies don’t support their use.”

There are a variety of treatment options deemed as alternatives to prescription opioids; however, they often are not utilized. Some of these alternative routes include medical marijuana, nerve blockers, or herbal remedies like capsaicin. There are a variety of reasons why alternatives are not common including, costs, the uncertainty of efficacy, and the lack of incentives compared to prescribing opioids.

The country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Any step to reduce the impact of this epidemic is a step in the right direction. Do you think the new legislation will help in reducing the amount of dependence seen in this country to opioids? If not, what other methods should be sought out? If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please call now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

OD Help App Could Make Getting Naloxone Like Getting an Uber

OD Help App Could Make Getting Naloxone Like Getting an Uber

Author: Justin Mckibben

Naloxone expansion is something we consistently see as a topic of discussion. Naloxone, or the name-brand Narcan, is an opioid overdose antidote that is in high demand as one of the primary tools in the fight against the ongoing overdose outbreak. Law makers and law enforcement agencies have joined with community organizations and pharmacy companies in trying to provide this medication to more and more people.

New legislation across the U.S. has made access to Naloxone more common than ever. Now, the drive for Naloxone expansion is leading us to another avenue. This is beyond supplying the families of addicts, the addicts themselves and first responders.

Some may remember, back in September, the Food and Drug Administration launched a competition to app developers in the name of improving resources for naloxone expansion. The contest was seeking a mobile app for connecting people experiencing a drug overdose with someone nearby who can administer naloxone. With technology being used to expedite just about everything in our world, it only made sense to use it to help save lives if possible.

The winner of the Naloxone App Competition has been announced this month, and the $40,000 cash prize has been claimed. Their mission: to make it possible for more people to be first responders for opiate overdoses.

The OD Help App

The winning app is the OD Help App, creared by Team PwrdBy, a small start-up in Venice, California. The start-up’s CEO Jared Sheehan says this innovation stems from the idea of making naloxone assistance as available as ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. With Uber and Lyft drivers being so spread out, the idea is the app could cover a lot more ground and reach more people in the event of opioid overdose.

Sheehan says there’s still a lot of work to be done before the app is made available to the public. To implement this kind of program with Uber or Lyft, it would require reaching out and coordinating with ride-sharing companies. Sheehan stated:

“Is there a way if every Uber driver had a naloxone kit in the back of their car, that you could call someone and they’d be able to come over and administer naloxone?”

So in essence, the idea of the OD Help app would be to be able to alert naloxone carriers of an overdose (OD) and give them the option of being dispatched to help revive someone experiencing the overdose.

Expanding Team PwrdBy Naloxone Plan

According to Sheehan, ride-sharing apps are just one avenue that Team PwrdBy is setting its sights on. The company is also exploring more traditional distribution systems.

One such method Team PwrdBy wants to look to for inspiration for the OD Help app is the AED network, the automated external defibrillators network across schools. The goal is to better comprehend how these programs are funded and distributed. Modeling after an already successful style of expanded access for other emergency medical supplies may be vital to changing the way we expand naloxone access.

All of this is to save as many lives as possible.

How OD Help Works

The OD Help app connects opioid users with a crowd-sourced network of naloxone carriers. Using GPS, it specifically connects someone who may experience an overdose with someone nearby who has access to naloxone. The app is also able to be personalize to the user’s specifications. One feature lets you set it up so in the event of an overdose the app would only alert people in your selected support network. And naloxone carriers can disable alerts if they are not able to respond.

Another feature available with the OD Help app is a breathing monitor. This can be helpful for people who use opioids alone. It gives the app a way to communicate with others when the user can’t. The wearable monitor is able to detect if the individual’s breathing rate is dangerously low, a sign of overdose. In this case the OD Help app automatically alerts a naloxone carrier nearby.

Education

The app also features information on:

  • How to correctly identify an overdose
  • How to administer naloxone

Another hope is that the app will also inform younger generations about the dangers of opioid abuse, and about overdose prevention. The hope is the app could reach a younger population and make them aware of how to get access to naloxone and how to administer it. Many young people don’t think of pharmacies as a place to get the drug that could save their lives.

Put to Good Use

The truth is, not all people will be able to have access to a consistent supply of naloxone. The drug also doesn’t last forever. For those who would need to have an overdose antidote resource, the OD Help app could be a safe-guard against being completely unprepared for an overdose.

Some people may be embarrassed or have some reservations about personally obtaining naloxone. With the OD Help app they could reach out to someone if they truly needed the help.

If you or someone you loved were overdosing, would it be useful to be able to look on an app and find someone close by with the tools to help? Some people would say you should just call an ambulance, but what if it could get there sooner? Or what if someone is afraid of reporting it? Too many people die for these very reasons, but they shouldn’t have to. Sure, some people may ask if they would let a random citizen administering the antidote. However, some might say any help is worth having.

Then on the other side, would people be willing to come to the rescue if they had the resources? If your phone rang and the OD Help app said someone needed help around the corner, would you? Would you be happy you could?

Something tells me plenty of people would be willing to put this tool to good use.

This writer has said this before; the preservation of all lives should be a responsibility of all who have the ability to help; not just for public health officials, but everyone. As part of that, Palm Partners is dedicated to contributing to the rehabilitation and revolutionary growth possible with holistic treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. If you or anyone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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