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
Around the country there is a wave a new and progressive initiatives changing the relationship between law enforcement and drug users. Government officials now lobby in support of such programs, and millions of dollars are being allocated to similar responses to a nationwide addiction epidemic. Probably one of the most famous of these revolutionary programs is one of the first; the PAARI program.
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) encourages police departments to abandon the old model of arresting and prosecuting people struggling with substance use disorder. Instead, the program encourages police to help people struggling with addiction seek help.
Now we have the first annual report from the PAARI program, and the numbers are pretty impressive.
Taking Pride in PAARI Program Progress
In the PAARI program first year report the numbers include detailed financial inventory. The 501(c)3 non-profit believes in the transparency of their progress, and is proud of the success to far. Of course, with such a groundbreaking and inspirational initiative, who wouldn’t want to show off?
To update anyone who doesn’t know- the PAARI began in Gloucester, Massachusetts, after the local police department announced on June 1, 2015 that anyone who walked into the police department and turned in either drugs or paraphernalia would not be arrested. The announcement told the citizens that instead any individual willing to seek help would be sent to treatment. This is the response from law enforcement in the wake of a spike in overdose rates in the area.
The report now boasts an amazing impact on the community. In the first year of the PAARI program, just Gloucester Police Department alone helped more than 400 people enter treatment!
Spreading the Message
That 400+ count doesn’t even scratch the thousands more being helped across the country due to the establishment of similar programs. The initial response from the Gloucester community was incredibly enthusiastic. This helped spread the concept of the PAARI program, as they moved to help other police departments implement similar programs. According to the report, the PAARI program helped train 143 police departments in 27 states.
- Augusta, Maine began training volunteers last November before implementing their own program.
- This summer Newark, Ohio, began its program. Officials said they felt driven to try something new once they were receiving at least one overdose call per day.
- According to the report, the PAARI program has partnered with 300 treatment centers in 20 states
- The PAARI program also secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to help people access the treatment they need.
- Distributed more than 5,000 doses of nasal Naloxone, the opiate overdose antidote.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this progressive approach. Some still believe that criminal justice is an appropriate response to drug use. Cape Cod, Massachusetts police department chose not to implement their own program because they didn’t agree with diverting the focus away from criminalizing active users. Some still think that shifting this perspective is somehow promoting drug use or giving permission.
Reinventing Police Intervention
Last April the Obama administration praised the Angel Program and PAARI program, siting that they reduced “crime and costs associated with substance use disorders in Gloucester” and rebuilding “trust between the police and the community.”
The first annual report makes a very exciting statement, saying:
“Communities that have joined PAARI have observed as much as a 25% reduction in crimes associated with addiction, cost savings by diverting people into treatment rather than triggering the criminal justice system, as well as an enormous increase in trust from their communities.”
Participants in the program speak in heavy praise of its methods and compassion for those it exists to assist. Even insurance companies contribute to the progress in the direction of compassionate and effective change.
Without question, these numbers are a new hope to so many. Over 400 lives in just one area over a year may have been saved thanks to PAARI. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the point; to protect and to serve all lives? The hope is that more programs like this can shatter the stigma of addiction, while simultaneously bridging the gap between the disenfranchised and the established authority to create a community that is better and brighter for both sides.
Drugs and alcohol have torn apart too many communities. Now the time has come for better treatment options and more compassionate health care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, do not wait. Please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
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.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
When a family member or loved one decides to go to rehab, it can feel like a huge weight off your shoulders. Whether you help them find treatment, put together an intervention, or they just decide this step is an accomplishment. When a family member or loved one is sick, we all suffer. So when they are healing, doesn’t it make sense that you work to heal too?
Whether you know it now or not, you need help too. When a family member goes to rehab, you should definitely consider how to support them. You should also know how to take better care of yourself. Remember this is not just about them. These are 5 ways to get help when a family member goes to rehab.
Consult a doctor
Consulting with a medical professional about the health aspect of addiction and recovery is very important to helping in the recovery process. If you don’t have a personal family physician it can seem difficult. Try to find a medical professional you feel confident in consulting about the issue.
If you have a family physician be honest and open with discussing the specific drugs that your loved one most frequently abused. Find out if there are serious complications. Find out the warning signs of other health concerns. In general, being aware makes it easier to empathize with a family member and their recovery.
Look into aftercare
When a family member goes to rehab consider looking into aftercare options available to them, either in your area or where ever they are. Once they have completed inpatient treatment, you may want to help them chose an outpatient and other alternative care programs. Aftercare will help keep your family member on a consistent recovery plan during the transition back into the world.
Sometimes an aftercare plan should consist of a sober living facility- halfway house– for your family member. This is beneficial because they are monitored in a recovery community to support their long-term sobriety. They also get help finding support groups and continued therapy.
So how does this help you? Well it may just be as simple as giving you some peace of mind that they will have a safe and controlled environment after rehab. An effective aftercare plan can also help you establish boundaries.
Attend support groups
12 Step groups such as AA and NA are great, and they even have affiliate programs to support people with an addicted family member. Those with friends or loved ones who struggle through terrifying and trying times also have a safe place to fellowship and share.
Some support groups have their own separate 12 Step program of recovery tailored to the family’s recovery. Being able to connect and share experience with other families who can relate in an intimate way to the same fight you are fighting can be an uplifting and gratifying experience. This helps out a lot of family members and friends too when their loved ones are having a hard time staying clean.
Personal or family therapy
Therapy is a powerful tool for anyone. Finding a clinical professional to confide in and work with can be life changing. Therapy isn’t just for people with trauma or mental health, it exists for everyone. Personal therapy can help you better understand the moods you yourself experience, and the contributions that you yourself make to your family member’s recovery.
Family therapy can be very positive for rebuilding these vital relationships. Even if the addict or alcoholic is still in treatment, the rest of the family can attend therapy to address important issues before the loved one comes home. This kind of help can only bring more emotional stability and acceptance.
Attend a family program
Most holistic rehabs offer the opportunity to take part in the recovery of a loved one through a family program. This will put you in direct contact with the care professionals and clinical teams who are working with your family member to develop a plan of recovery.
Family programs can also give your family member or loved one the much needed inspiration to know that they are not alone in this process. It will allow you to participate in events, educational courses, and contribute to the blue print for new patterns in their future.
Getting help isn’t just for the one who is using drugs or drinking. We all need a little help sometimes. Every one of us needs a little support to get through sometimes.
We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
Click for FREE GIFT
Having a family member who has suffered can be harder on you than you know. Too many people don’t know how to get the help they need for their loved ones, and too many of our loved ones suffer for too long because they are afraid of the affects that the ones they care about most will face.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’m no stranger to writing about the way I take offense to how the pharmaceutical industry has conducted themselves in various aspects concerning the opiate epidemic in America. Firstly, by taking offense to the fact that these companies were actively raising the prices on the overdose antidote medication Naloxone steadily as the opiate epidemic worsened… but now this next piece feels like something straight out of a dystopian Aldous Huxley future where we are pacified with ads that say,
“Pill 1 causing you problems? We promise pill 2 will make it all better. #BraveNewWorld”
For a lot of people there has been a troubling message to be found behind the guise of an ad for a new constipation medication for treating OIC or Opioid Induced Constipation. 111 million viewers specifically who were watching the Super Bowl this year saw it, which sparked a wave of back-lash and outrage.
Of course it has been quite some time since the Super Bowl, so why bring it up?
Well I keep watching TV, surprisingly, and there are other commercials just like this one with Big Pharma pushing pills that a lot of politicians and medical leaders are also seeing as a way the bullies in Big Pharma are trying to further capitalize on the opiate epidemic that has been crippling communities all over the country. It all has me thinking, shouldn’t we be talking about whats wrong with this picture?
Normalizing the Poison
It has been said the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist- and it would seem this is the same mindset these Big Pharma companies are adopting to make more money off of the sick and suffering. Instead of aspiring to create healthier alternatives, companies are opting to pretend the real problem with long-term dependence on opiates doesn’t exist and are creating more drugs that people will come to depend on.
How do you convince people opiates aren’t the problem? You normalize the poison and give them another pill like it’s the answer to everything. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, is one authority on the subject who spoke avidly about the distasteful way these Big Pharma ads are portraying the issue with opiate use, stating:
“It’s very disturbing to see an ad like that. It’s normalizing the chronic use of opioids, which aren’t demonstrated to be safe over the long term.”
But that’s exactly what this commercial would lead you to believe- that long term dependence on opiate pain medication is a typical and healthy course for treating pain. Kolodny went on to say,
“There’s no question that their ads make this very dangerous and questionable medical practice seem normal.”
And what better way to convince a mass amount of people that it is OK to keep leaning on opiates than to air an ad promoting an OIC medication during one of the most watched broadcasts in America?
This kind of as is normalizing the poison to belittle the problem! The commercial might as well say,
“Hey there, we know you won’t stop using opiates- that’s just crazy talk! How about instead, we pump you full of more medications (at prices which will undoubtedly escalate while causing more side effects) that won’t make you any healthier, won’t address the fact that an estimated 28,648 people were killed by opiates in 2014, and actually deepen your dependence by exploiting it!”
Slap that delightful message between a black and white montage, or a cartoonish animation (ya know, just in case the kids are watching and need their fix) and watch profits double! Throw in a disclaimer at the end,
“May enable a debilitating dependence long enough to get you hooked on heroin.”– But maybe that’s taking it too far… maybe.
Because when we are talking about opiates, that list includes:
And yes, the abuse of opiates has gotten so bad that opioid pain meds were prescribed 259 million times in 2012- enough for every man, woman and child to get their own bottle of pills. Sadly, it is now 4 years later and the statistics of abuse and overdose have skyrocketed every year since! Then there are various other medications there are new synthetic opioids which are being added to the market.
Of Madness and Medication
Now to be fair, the ad from the Super Bowl was presented by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo, and neither Big Pharma company produces opioids so they aren’t getting paid at both ends exactly. Together, these Big Pharma giants sell the drug Movantik as a treatment for OIC.
Now on a personal note, the fact that OIC is even such a common issue it had to be given it’s own name is actually depressing the more I think about it. How many illnesses will Big Pharma try to write off as “normal” to bypass the devastation and sickness caused by their products?
Twitter Starts Talking
Shortly after the ad aired on the Super Bowl, Twitter started talking and people were not happy with the standards this kind of commercial was attempting to set. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough weighed took to Twitter writing:
“Next year, how about fewer ads that fuel opioid addiction and more on access to treatment.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin also had a few choice words for the Big Pharma propaganda, tweeting:
“Promoting drugs during #SuperBowl to help Americans take more opiates in midst of our crisis? Big PHRMA has no shame”
Shumlin’s outrage is obviously understandable considering Vermont has had alarmingly high levels of opioid addiction in recent years. Shumlin was already an advocate speaking out against the epidemic, and he also put out a statement on the Thursday following the Super Bowl demanding that the commercial be yanked from the air and even pointing out the question of how these Big Pharma companies could justify spending $10 million on the 1-minute spot to pedal more drugs to a population already smothering itself in substance abuse.
Big Pharma Company Claims
What should be even more troubling is that since the commercial first aired the campaign’s website has been visited nearly 40,000 times, and the ad has been streamed on YouTube more than 2 million times! So whether you agree with one side of the debate or the other, it is obvious the ad is pulling people in.
But the companies AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo made claims in their official statement that the ad was aired to raise awareness, stating:
“The objective of the advertisement was to reach people with chronic pain taking a prescribed opioid treatment for long-term pain management and to encourage those who may be suffering from OIC to discuss their symptoms with their physician,”
Really? That’s why you paid $10 million to air an ad? Nothing to do with the astounding response of continued views the commercial has gotten and the dollar amount of business it has probably bought you… no of course not!
Maybe AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo aren’t responsible for the opiate abuse epidemic, but ALL of the Big Pharma companies should be held accountable for the way they are marketing to the public in the midst of a public health crisis.
One thing is for sure, whether they intended to or not their commercial has drawn awareness to the conversation in more ways than one. I have personally spoken with several people both working in the addiction recovery field and in actual recovery themselves who are just blown away by how blatantly Big Pharma can sell ridiculous amounts of dangerous prescription narcotics and make billions, then turn around and pitch sales for the side-effects of these drugs.
There is real help out there; real solutions beyond being medicated to overcome medications. Beyond relying on substances to help treat other substances there is long-term addiction recovery in a holistic healing approach like the effective addiction treatment program at Palm Partners. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135