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.
Author: Justin Mckibben
Every year as Super Bowl Sunday strikes the public is privy to a brand new batch of clever and powerful commercials. Some of us don’t even bother to watch the game, but we make sure to check in for those ads that are often unique and creative ways to grab their audience. This year the 2017 Super Bowl LI commercials ranged from political and controversial, to hysterical or inspirational. The depictions accompanying the game seem to have made varied impressions, but one topic stood out in a different way than others of its kind.
The Super Bowl LI commercials included PSAs that set out to target and tackle the details of drug overdose with teens. Two heart-breaking ads were presented by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) in which the narrative concentrated on the likelihood of overdoses with teenagers; specifically prescription drugs.
NCADA is a St. Louis-based charity which aims to prevent substance abuse and overdose. They do so by offering drug education programs in schools and working to increase awareness of addiction.
Super Bowl LI Commercials: “Safe”
The first PSA was entitled “Safe.” It begins with a father talking about his belief in the second amendment right to bear arms. He tells us about his family’s history with guns and respect for gun safety. They show images of a family hunting together, and a happy daughter with a rifle her father bought her. He emphasizes the fact the family always locks their guns in the safe.
Then, in a tragic turn, he tells the viewer about the overdose death of his 17 year old daughter. He shows the empty pill bottle and says the fire department found it in his daughters hand, followed in an incredibly heart-wrenching way saying-
“I didn’t lock it up.”
The closing credits to the ad include the hard statistic:
Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than gun fire.
Lock up your prescription medication. Dispose of unused medication properly.
This gripping story only took one minute of halftime Super Bowl LI commercials, but it was a meaningful minute.
Super Bowl LI Commercials: “Smart Phone”
The second PSA of the Super Bowl LI commercials was titled “Smart Phone” and depicted a mother who describes her strict demands for her daughter not to text or use her smart phone and drive. The mother begins with telling about how her daughter was so excited for the phone, and how excited the young woman was to get a license.
The mother insists she was clear about the phone being locked in the glove box while driving, but she trails of into a tear-jerking moment where she asks,
“How could I be so stupid? I put the one thing in her hand that she couldn’t control- painkillers.”
The distraught mother holds up the empty pill bottle to the camera. Throughout the narrative, we are given glimpses of a young girl with her friends. Then the woman portraying the mother delivers a line that makes this message devastating.
“There is nothing in the world that will take this pain away. Ever.”
The commercial closes with the statistic stating:
Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than texting and driving.
Lock up your prescription medication. Dispose of unused medication properly.
Both of these quick stories are so painfully portrayed by the actors that you can’t help but feel a strong emotional response to the faces and voices in the videos. The fact these ads made their message unexpected at first only adds to the impact.
Getting the Message Across
With these Super Bowl LI commercials the tactic of the twist ending is powerful. Schupp Consulting directed the PSAs and Mark Schupp shared this idea saying,
“There’s a spin to these that I think is very effective,”…”And when we showed them to a (preview) group, they were stunned.”
You may remember that last year NCADA aired another dramatic and compelling Super Bowl commercial called “All America Girl” that told of a young cheerleader turned heroin addict.
The year prior the 2015 PSA featured a mother finding her son overdosed on heroin. Consistently the organization has worked to get a very real, very personal message across.
Yet, some reports show that Schupp thinks this year’s Super Bowl LI commercials are the most powerful. Some might say “powerful” is an understatement. These ads have so much feeling it is hard for many to imagine the reality of them; that these stories come true all over the nation.
The Super Bowl LI commercials reminded us of a lot of things this year. They spoke to us about more than products; they spoke to us about who we are as a nation and where we are in terms of dealing with the adversities we face. Prescription drug abuse and the stigma surrounding addiction is one of the hurdles we know we face, and one that we need to work together to overcome. Recovery is full of champions. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
With drug abuse being a major issue facing the nation, education is extremely important. Any hope of winning the fight against rising overdose rates and the spread of drug-related illness and death starts with making sure we have as much information as possible to make a difference. On that note, explaining prescription drug abuse is critical because prescription drug abuse is a key contributor to the state of the country today.
If we want to help people avoid prescription drug abuse, or recognize the signs and know there is help, it is important to explain the reality and the risks.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Simply put- prescription drug abuse is one of two things.
- When someone takes a medication that is not their prescription
- If someone takes their own prescription in a way not intended by a doctor or for a different reason
When you take prescription drugs properly they are usually safe. It requires a trained health care clinician, such as a doctor or nurse, to determine if the benefits of taking the medication outweigh any risks for side effects. But when abused and taken in different amounts or for different purposes than as prescribed, they affect the brain and body in ways very similar to illicit drugs.
These drugs have a close relation to morphine, or the street drug heroin. Opioids are typically for pain management. Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest problems facing the country today. Drugs such as:
These drugs are also known as “downers”. You can divide the category can be up into:
Drugs such as Zyprexa, Seroquel and Haldol are meant to reduce symptoms of mental illness.
- Benzodiazepines (Benzos)
Prescription drugs like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Librium.
Amytal, Numbutal and Seconal are included in a class of depressants intended as sedatives or sleeping pills.
These kinds of prescription drugs are also called “uppers” or “smart drugs” because of the increase alertness, attention and energy. They also increase heart rate and respiration. Many of these medications are used to combat conditions such as ADHD, including:
Prescription drug abuse has become a big health issue because of the various health hazards. This risk is particularly true of abusing prescription pain medications.
Who abuses prescription drugs?
When asking who are most likely to abuse prescription drugs, the answer may vary depending on the substance. Some people end up participating in prescription drug abuse due to an injury or legitimate health reason, but the “high” they can experience may lead to more frequent use and ultimately a physical dependence.
Recent studies have indicated that prescription drug abuse impacts young adults most; specifically age 18 to 25. In regards to teens, after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most common substances of abuse by Americans age 14 and older.
Prescription drug abuse is present across all demographics, relevant to every social and economic class. Many believe this rise has largely contributed to the heroin addiction epidemic and the overdose outbreak in the past few years.
Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment
The Palm Partners Treatment Program has a design for prescription drug abuse intended to address people of all walks of life who are suffering. Personalized recovery programs are meant to work with each individual’s circumstances and symptoms to create a blueprint for the future.
Some of the signs of addiction range in severity and can affect each people differently, especially depending on the specific prescription drug. Increased tolerance is a clear cut sign of progressive physical dependence. Some indicators of prescription drug addiction may be:
- Excessive sweating
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Chronic constipation
- Respiratory distress
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
Treatment for prescription drug addiction includes a detox period to help combat the uncomfortable symptoms of prescription drug addiction, as well as withdrawal.
For all those who are struggling with prescription drug abuse, or even abusing other drugs or medications, there is a massive community of recovery all over the country to help you get the care you need. Treatment for prescription drug abuse can be the first and most important step, so be sure to step up.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
In the midst of the nation’s opiate addiction crisis, fentanyl is like a virus. It is spreading in reach and destroying the lives of thousands, and with overdose deaths climbing every day this incredibly powerful element is more present than ever. The fight has not only been on the streets with illicit dealers, but also within the pharmaceutical industry. Big Pharma executives are being brought to task now that the contribution of prescription narcotics is more obvious than ever.
The part that makes this case so unique is that federal prosecutors are bringing racketeering charges against several Insys employees. Criminal charges are almost unheard-of in cases involving pharmaceutical companies. What does this mean about the future of fighting corporate greed?
Insys Therapeutics Inc.
One company, Insys Therapeutics Inc., has been heavily under fire recently, and new light has been shed on the dirty dealings of these sales-managers and even CEOs. Six former executives and sales-managers from Insys Therapeutics Inc. were arrested this past Thursday. The charges, according to the Justice Department, are:
- Conspiring to defraud health insurers
- Conspiring to bribe doctors into needlessly prescribing Subsys, the company’s fentanyl painkiller
These Big Pharma executives may soon find out how much they hurt the people they are supposed to heal.
Setting the Stage for Subsys
Before we get too far into the details of this appalling story of corporate greed and corruption, let us explain the substance itself. This writer feels it is vital to set the stage for the conversation with a foundation of comprehension. It will help people understand the true gravity of these crimes if they understand the drug itself.
The drug Subsys, approved in 2012, was sanctioned to treat acute cancer pain. This potent opioid analgesic is to be sprayed under the tongue for quick absorption of fentanyl. Most people know now after seeing the state the country is in that the fentanyl narcotic carries an extremely high risk of dependency, abuse and addiction.
This brings us to the horrific truth of these crimes; that many agencies believe doctors and nurses were encouraged to prescribe the drug for unapproved uses, despite knowing how powerful and even lethal this drug can be.
The Kick-Back Scheme
According to reports, the scam put on by these Big Pharma executives was an operation in “sham speaking programs.” How did it work? Allegedly, doctors and nurses were paid to attend dinners at “high-end restaurants” that disguised as speaker programs. Typically, this kind of event is for educational activities with professionals. However, these events were described as “gathering of friends and co-workers” who had no power to prescribe medications.
The “speakers” we said to be paid fees up to several thousand dollars. The names of health care providers were falsified on sign-in sheets to ‘legitimize’ the meetings.
According to the federal court’s affidavit, one health care provider who actually did participate in these sham programs received illegal kick-backs to the tune of an estimated $83,000! The purpose of these payments; to influence these providers to prescribe Subsys, even when unnecessary.
The scheme didn’t stop at expensive dining. Prosecutors say there were other elements to this massive racketeering style operation, including:
- Insys employees being assigned to work the offices of doctors who used their drug
- The drug company hiring the relatives of health care providers
- Insys set up a system to defraud insurers. Their employees pretend to be calling from a doctor’s office to speak with insurance representatives.
In Alabama, one doctor had a sales representative from Insys assigned to attend to all of his needs. That same doctor took a job as a paid speaker for the drug, and once put on their illegal payroll went from writing two Subsys prescriptions a week… to 11 a week!
Big Bad Big Pharma Executives
According to the indictment the list of names includes:
- Michael L. Babich- Former chief executive
- Alec Burlakoff- vice president of sales
- Joseph A. Rowan- former regional sales director
So the trail of shady sales tactics and dirty money leads all the way to the tip-top of the Big Pharma executives.
You would hope that given the fact that these people made billions of dollars a year off of manipulating doctors, lying to insurers and endangering countless lives that they would face some kind of real prison sentence, right?
Nope, not really.
War on White Collar Crime
The War on Drugs doesn’t touch the corruption of the War on White Collar Crime, especially in the drug industry. Most people may not even realize that in recent years Big Pharma executives have paid billions of dollars to settle claims with state and federal prosecutors. Why? Because it’s been said the pharmaceutical companies sold drugs for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
But sadly, bringing criminal charges against these Big Pharma executives is still rare. Despite calls from various groups to hold top executives more accountable, most will never see a jail cell.
The irony here is that we have prison systems choking with overpopulation from people serving years behind bars for non-violent, low-level drug crimes. Many of these convicts are addicts themselves who have been trapped by a system that promotes punishment over treatment. Yet those who have made millions up millions of dollars by bribes and fraud to push drugs like fentanyl, that kill thousands of people, get a slap on the wrist and a fine.
Criminal Charges Bring a New Change
This new perspective is taking the fight to those who sit in positions of great power. Instead of singling out those who are already beaten down, it targets those who make great profit of the pain of millions. Patrick Burns, the acting executive director of Taxpayers Against Fraud, is an advocate for corporate whistle-blowers. In regards to the recent arrests of the Insys Big Pharma executives, he stated,
“It’s just like bank fraud and mortgage fraud — no one in the big companies ever seems to go to jail… If this is the start of a real change in how we deal with corporate crooks, it’s a very big deal.”
The United States attorney in Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement,
“Patient safety is paramount, and prescriptions for these highly addictive drugs, especially fentanyl, which is among the most potent and addictive opioids, should be prescribed without the influence of corporate money.”
“I hope that today’s charges send a clear message that we will continue to attack the opioid epidemic from all angles, whether it is corporate greed or street-level dealing.”
After consistent outrage about the hypocrisy of Big Pharma in the War on Drugs, it seems many are sick and tired of the pharmaceutical industry taking advantage of the system to make them sicker.
Hopefully, this will change more than the penalties, but also the entire prescription drug process in some way. As drug policy changes, along with the stigma, revolutionary ideas in treatment are available to help save lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
When most people hear someone say ‘opiates’ they probably think of OxyContin, morphine or even heroin. These have become the usual suspects when discussing the dangers of opiate-based drugs. While the country has come to terms with the status of the opiate epidemic, some dangerous drugs remain overlooked. One such opiate is Tramadol.
Tramadol, like most opiates, is a medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. Approved in 1995, Tramadol is now taken by thousands of people every day. With other names such as:
Tramadol works by activating changes in the brain to relieve pain. At the same time, the drug increases levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals regulate our mood. Such changes are what lead to the substance abuse, because they produce a euphoric effect.
While Tramadol has not had the spotlight during the opiate epidemic, there is plenty of cause for concern when it comes to Tramadol abuse.
Tramadol Takes a Toll on Ireland
While the drug hasn’t gained as much infamy in America as other opiates, in Ireland Tramadol is claiming more lives than any other drug – including heroin and cocaine – according to Northern Ireland’s top pathologist.
Like many prescription medications, this painkiller doesn’t typically cause harm if taken correctly. However, with excessive use of powerful medications comes an elevated risk of adverse effects. The greatest danger with Tramadol also arises when users mix it with other drugs or alcohol. Just last year, 33 deaths in Northern Ireland were linked to Tramadol.
Professor Jack Crane, the State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, has spoken out about his fear that more people will die unless urgent action is taken. Tramadol should only be available on prescription in Ireland after it was reclassified in 2014, making it an illegal Class C drug without prescription. However, the illegal drug trade took advantage of the situation and people continue to die.
Professor Jack Crane wants to upgrade the classification again to Class A. Crane will be meeting Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer later this month to push for change.
“I don’t think that people realise how potentially risky taking tramadol is. I think it’s because it’s a prescription drug – people assume it’s safe.”
Continued Abuse Issues
The drugs original reputation of being a safe alternative is mostly to blame for why it is so commonly overlooked as a seriously dangers opiate. Many still hold a false view of this drug as not being a health threat if abused. Yet, it is extremely deadly when abused and mixed with other substances.
When used in amplified amounts the unhealthy levels of the medication throw off our complex chemical balances. This unbalance can negatively affect our well-being physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Physical dependence on the drug increases other risks such as overdose. Signs of an overdose can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness
Physical dependence on Tramadol can also cause withdrawal symptoms when users try to stop taking the drug. These include:
- Stomach Pain
Medically supervised detox is recommended when trying to safely stop using the drug. Medical detox is incredibly helpful to minimize the dangers of withdrawal. Tramadol abuse and dependence presents challenges similar to the health risks associated with other opiate drugs, so they should definitely not be overlooked.
The opioid epidemic is affecting Americans in every part of the country, and even prescription drugs like Tramadol are making an impact. So in the face of overdose deaths, more than ever people need safe and effective treatment to help them change for life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.