Author: Justin Mckibben
The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.
The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.
Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.
The Turning Point for America
According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.
Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:
“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”
One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.
GCDP vs War on Drugs
Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.
The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:
“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”
To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction
So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?
Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:
Naloxone Distribution and Training
As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.
Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.
Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.
These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.
Decriminalizing Drugs in America
In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.
The report states:
“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”
With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:
- End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
- Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.
The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.
“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”
We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.
Better Treatment Research
The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.
One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.
Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:
“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”
While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.
Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.
What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?
One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict it is a truly gratifying experience to work in the field of addiction treatment, and even more so to work for the company that helped save my life. Palm Healthcare Company is a truly unique organization that is committed to compassionate and effective treatment, and there is no telling how many lives have been positively and permanently impacted because of what they (or should I say WE) do. It is an amazing thing to be a part of, and a worthy cause to work for.
That is a crucial part of addiction treatment and recovery; work. The real work is for those trying to recover.
One thing I notice about some clients these days in addiction treatment is less of a willingness to do that work. When I was getting treatment everyone seemed desperate to do anything that would make a difference in their lives. Yet these days I see some people who act as if the program is supposed to do the work for you.
Is our current addiction treatment culture somehow convincing people they don’t have to do the work for real change? How can we work together to change it?
On to the Next One
The culture surrounding addiction treatment and recovery has changed. Breaking the stigma surrounding addiction is a critical step in helping more people get the help they need. Expanding availability is amazing and we should all work toward making even more treatment options available. It could help save thousands of the people who die every year from overdose and drug-related issues.
However, it also seems some have the idea that they will always be able to find some treatment program, legitimate or not, willing to take them. This shift toward people thinking they can just keep hitting restart has almost watered down the opportunity or having a fresh start in the first place.
This might be comforting to some people; the idea that if they don’t like one program they have options. But ultimately what people have to understand is that a treatment program can only be effective if you participate in it. You can go to a dozen different programs and still get very little value if you do not show up and try to engage in the recovery process.
We can complain about the “revolving door” metaphor all we want, but if people aren’t going to take steps toward something better, they are volunteering for more of the same.
Sadly, some people still think there is always the next place. This is part of the reason programs that put an emphasis on relapse prevention and aftercare are so important. Continued accountability can help people maintain their progress without having a nonchalant attitude about the process.
What if you never make it to the next place? Regardless, why wouldn’t you want to make this place the last place?
Of course, both sides of the culture have to take steps. Public officials, treatment providers, and advocacy groups should continue working together to better enforce regulations for treatment, eliminating criminal operators and protecting client rights.
Taking it Serious
This point actually goes hand in hand with the first. As more people are exposed to more resources they might take the availability of new opportunities for granted.
In an industry obstructed by shady operators, people can also become jaded. If you have sought treatment with programs that provide little to no real resources or solutions you might stop taking addiction treatment seriously, even if you get a great opportunity with a reputable and innovative program.
If you don’t take the treatment seriously you probably won’t take your recovery seriously, either.
Of course no one is naïve enough to say the opioid epidemic and overdose rates aren’t serious. But if we know how bad it is; if we see the devastation caused in our own lives or those we love, why don’t we appreciate that gift of desperation and commit to doing the work? Has the addiction treatment client culture taught people that it doesn’t really matter? Do clients think recovery isn’t that serious once you get past the withdrawals or the troubles you get caught up in while using or drinking?
These are valid and sometimes difficult hurdles, but many still say that is the easy part. The rest of the work comes with committing to a treatment plan and following through.
Getting Back to Gratitude
I think this may be the core concept. The culture change within the recovery community is in many ways constructive, but it also has taken some of the raw truth out of the situation for some people.
I think we should try to get true gratitude back into the culture of addiction treatment. We should be grateful that we have more resources than ever, with more professionals working to revolutionize recovery. Let us be grateful that on a national level the world is starting to have greater respect and understanding for those suffering from addiction. We should be grateful for the opportunity to get help when we finally get it because a lot of people never do.
But to the client that contributes to the recovery culture- always remember that true gratitude takes action.
If you say you are grateful to be in treatment, take your treatment seriously and participate. If you are grateful for an opportunity, don’t waste it because you think you can bank on another one right around the corner. So if you want something different, do something different instead of thinking you need to go somewhere different.
And let us all be grateful that there are more opportunities for people to find a solution that could save their life.
Cultivate Better Culture
As holistic treatment providers, Palm Partners Recovery Center will continue working to support recovery professionals within the Palm Healthcare Company organization and within our industry; to strive for better services and to unite against illegitimate operators.
But we as alcoholic or addicted individuals in recovery also need to be willing to put in some work. For anyone like me, who spent years abusing substances to the point it felt like my life depended on it, it is going to take some real work to get better.
If we as individuals want to advocate for recovery, let us advocate that people do the work. Let us appreciate the value of mental health care. Let us appreciate the value of addiction education and cognitive behavioral therapy. We can cultivate a better culture for ourselves; as clients and as providers.
WE means all of us. It means the healthcare providers, the individuals in recovery who have been lucky enough to get this far and the addicts and alcoholics out there still suffering. Addiction treatment works; recovery works… if WE do.
I punch that clock every day. I’m grateful for this work, so I do it. But WE can do more.
As a culture, we have the power to transformed and elevate the lives of millions of people everywhere through recovery from drugs and alcohol. It takes work. If you are ready to take that step and work for a better future, Palm Partners wants to help. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
A few weeks ago, my sister told me about an upcoming concert that would celebrate popular acts such as DMX and several others. The event was called the “Ruff Ryders and Friends – Reunion Tour – Past, Present and Future” and would be in Miami on September 7th.
Tickets were cheap so I figured why not. I opened my computer and prepared to purchase the tickets for the show until I read the letters in red: “Canceled.” This was certainly not what I had hoped for.
Why did the show get canceled?
In fact, why did the entire tour get canceled? I could not believe my eyes as I glanced over the list of cancellations. Cancelling an entire tour is practically unheard of. What happened? Sadly, the answer involves drug addiction.
After some careful searching, I discovered a TMZ article which reported back in April that DMX had to cancel his shows due to an “unspecified medical issue.” Sources at a Los Angeles show state the rapper had been drinking heavily.
His history with substance abuse is not anything surprising. In the past, the rapper was open about his journey to addiction recovery. Therefore, when news of his drinking spread, relapse concerns heightened.
It turns out DMX has reportedly sought treatment for drug addiction. Addiction treatment reports surfaced a couple weeks after the rapper was put on house arrest for violating bail conditions.
According to speculations, the 46-year old is undergoing treatment in the Nashua, New Hampshire area or is living in a sober home. The Nashua Telegraph reported that DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was spotted at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, a Shaw’s supermarket, and a Walmart.
Along with addiction troubles, Simmons is facing charges that he allegedly owes $1.7 million in back taxes dating back to 2000. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges and was freed on $500,000 bail, according to Billboard. Still, while he was on bail, the rapper failed drug test four times. These test found cocaine, opiates, and pot in his system. Because of these results, Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff put him under house confinement on August 11.
During the hearing, the judge stated that Simmons had violated bail “probably more times than I can remember,” according to Court House News. He chose not to send the rapper to jail, although he described Simmons’s drug addiction as “gross.” He said that his past run-ins with the law exemplified that he’s had “more than a passing acquaintance with illegal drugs.”
After that hearing, DMX told a reporter, “When God is for you, who can be against you?”
The judge reportedly lifted Simmons’s house arrest on the condition that he enter a sober program and travel with a sober coach around the clock. According to court documents reviewed by TMZ, the rapper would need permission to leave New York State.
According to his lawyer Murray Richman, the rapper has decided to go to rehab on his own.
“This is a voluntary move on his part,” Richman said.
It is clear that DMX has struggled on and off with drug addiction. We wish him the best as he seeks a life free from the grips of substance abuse. Recovery is possible, and it is the answer out of this cycle. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol dependency, please call now. We are here to help. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
In the past, we’ve talked about the potential of opioid vaccines. These vaccines could have a major impact on lowering a number of opioid overdose deaths. They could completely shift the direction of how we treat opioid addiction. However, is the future of opioids imminent or far, far away?
Sadly, it will be a long time before we see opioid vaccines available for widespread use. Experts all agree that although the future of opioid vaccines looks bright, the process of getting a drug into the market is a lengthy one and we should not hold our breath just yet.
Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price mentioned opioid vaccines as an exciting new development in the war against opioid abuse.
“One of the exciting things that they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is incredibly exciting,” Price said during a briefing about the drug epidemic.
However, experts say it won’t be made public for years… if ever.
The process of a drug going from the research phase to the production phase is a long, tedious process. Opioid addiction vaccines have not even begun human trials yet. Researchers would have to put drugs through phase one, two and three trials before submitting them for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), given that the trials are successful.
“He may be a physician, but he’s not terribly well-informed about addictions,” said Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a psychiatry professor at the Baylor College of Medicine with a concentration in addiction vaccines. “I can’t imagine the vaccine would be on the market before the Trump administration is over.”
Dr. Kosten knows all about vaccines. He worked on cocaine vaccines for 16 years before deciding that it “just didn’t work well enough” to continue. Today, he is working on a vaccine for fentanyl, an opioid painkiller up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl has been a major culprit for overdose deaths in the current opioid epidemic.
Those who previously used painkillers turn to heroin due to the lower price and easier access. Unfortunately, often heroin is not just heroin and instead is laced with powerful painkillers like fentanyl which make a user much more susceptible to an overdose.
Dr. Kosten hopes his work on the vaccine will pan out, but he wants to ensure people are not holding their breath. These things take time.
“There are no opiate vaccines that have been in people at this point,” said Dr. Kosten.
Even if the vaccine passes trials and goes into full-scale production, it would only be used therapeutically, not as a preventative measure.
“The purpose is not to “mass-immunize a whole bunch of kids,” Dr. Kosten said. “That’s not at all what they’re designed for.”
For now, the vaccine is proving to be effective in animal testing. However, this is not necessarily good news.
“Sometimes, the translation from animals is not necessarily the same in humans. So we have to do the human studies,” said Dr. Ivan Montoya of NIDA’s Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences.
The goal of the vaccine is to allow the body’s own immune system to combat opioids before they can reach the brain and take effect.
“We don’t have to modify the brain to produce the effect,” said Dr. Montoya. “You take advantage of your own immune system and prevent access of the drug to the brain.”
In the future, Dr. Montoya hopes to come up with a vaccine that can block the effects of a wide range of opioids including fentanyl, heroin, and OxyContin.
While the prospect of opioid vaccines sounds promising, we are still far away from this becoming a reality. Therefore, stating vaccines as an exciting solution to the opioid epidemic is a bit of a stretch for now. Instead, the focus should be placed on increasing access to treatment. With the right program, recovery is possible. If you are struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
Each year, more than 300 million people are affected by depression. Depression is a debilitating illness that is difficult to treat.
What if there was one gene that played a key role in depression? Furthermore, what if that gene could be identified and even manipulated to actually treat depression?
Shockingly, this could all be a possibility. Researchers have discovered a gene that may play a central role in depression. This gene either protects us from stress or triggers a downward spiral depending on its level of activity.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM). It was the first to pinpoint in detail how one particular gene, known as Slc6a15, is a key role in depression. The study found the same link in both animals and humans.
“This study really shines a light on how levels of this gene in these neurons affects mood,” said the senior author of the study, Mary Kay Lobo, an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
“It suggests that people with altered levels of this gene in certain brain regions may have a much higher risk for depression and other emotional disorders related to stress.”
Potential Treatment Solution?
A study like this could help with treating depression in the future, and that help is desperately needed.
Nearly 800,000 people die annually from suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 to 29. Beyond that, depression destroys the quality of life for tens of millions of patients, and their families suffer too. Although environmental factors play a significant role in many cases of depression, genetics are equally as important.
This is not the first time this gene was studied. Back in 2006, Dr. Lobo and her colleagues found that the Slc6a15 gene was common in specific neurons in the brain. They recently demonstrated that these neurons were important in depression.
Connection to Anhedonia
Her lab decided to investigate the specific role these neurons have in depression. In the latest study, she and her team focused on a particular area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This region is crucial in the brain’s “reward circuit.”
When you eat a delicious meal or participate in any kind of enjoyable experience, neurons in the nucleus accumbens are activated letting you know the experience is enjoyable. When a person is depressed, it ‘s hard to experience any kind of enjoyment, a condition known as anhedonia.
Researchers discovered subset neurons in the nucleus accumbens called D2 neurons. These neurons respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a central role in the reward circuit.
Mainly, these subset neurons responded to feel good chemicals like dopamine which is lacking in those with depression. Next, they studied mice susceptible to depression. These mice tended to withdraw from activities and exhibit behavior indicating depression such as social withdrawal and lack of interest in the food they would normally enjoy.
Dr. Lobo found that when the mice were subject to social stress, the levels of the Slc6a15 gene in the D2 neurons of the nucleus accumbens was noticeably reduced. The researchers also studied mice in which the gene had been reduced in D2 neurons. When those mice were subjected to stress, they also exhibited signs of depression. Furthermore, when researchers increased the levels of Slc6a15 levels in D2 neurons, the mice showed a resilient response to stress.
So what does this mean?
Next, Dr. Lobo looked at brains of humans who had a history of major depression and who had committed suicide. In the same region of the brain as the mice, the gene Slc6a15 was reduced. This indicates that the link between gene and behavior is found in both humans and mice.
In the future, manipulating these genes could help improve depression. While it is still unclear how Slc6a15 operates in the brain, Dr. Lobo states it may work by altering neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
This research could lead to therapies that focus specifically on this particular gene to treat depression. If you are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, call now. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135