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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
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Author: Justin Mckibben
Drug dealing is not as glorified or malicious as it often seems made out to be in music videos and movies, and the stereotypical drug dealer archetype is not always what you see when you have actually been there and done that.
I sold some drugs in my day, and some of my main suppliers were suburban house moms often supporting a few children close to my age at the time. That is the opposite of what stigma will tell you, and while it does not matter how different our race or age or upbringings were, we faced a lot of the same struggles, including addiction.
Taking all this into account, along with several other elements I will get into later, the idea of denying all convicted drug dealers access to welfare benefits on top of their prison sentencing seems a little intense… and a little unconscionable. There is already a lot being done in defense of nonviolent drug offenders to reform the way the system reprimands them, yet it appears some politicians feel it is necessary to deny welfare to convicted drug dealers, and they may soon make it a law.
Yes. This is probably my next ‘flag ship article’ in the war against addiction stigma. Shall we?
Looking at the Legislation
Republican State Representative Mike Regan sponsored this new legislation in Pennsylvania designed to make it so individuals convicted of drug distribution crimes would be restricted from qualifying for welfare… indefinitely!
Now this isn’t for every drug offense. Drug dealers convicted of felony offenses are the primary target, while summary or misdemeanor crimes would not constitute the same restrictions.
Mr. Regan said.
“This legislation, I’m not trying to be hardhearted. I’m trying to preserve the funds that are not infinite for those that are truly in need.”
Some are worried the qualifying amount of drugs is low; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) notes that if you sell 2 pounds of marijuana it constitutes a felony with incarceration of up to a year and a $5,000 fine.
2 pounds is a lot, but to anyone who has seen 2 pounds of marijuana in real life they know it doesn’t exactly put you at Escobar levels. It is definitely enough to assume you are a dealer, but I’ve known high school kids to keep more than that in their mom’s basement.
When taking a closer look this is not necessarily a huge step from what the current policy already is, which many insist is enough to deter people from taking advantage of the system. The Department of Human Services already requires welfare seekers who have been convicted of drug felony charges to comply with drug testing to be eligible for these benefits. Florida Governor Rick Scott had tried to implement a similar restriction, but eventually gave it up for results that did not justify its budget.
Regan did say he is not opposed to amending his proposal. Replacing the lifetime ban from welfare assistance with a 15-20 year ban is not completely off the table, and other negotiation can probably be made before signing it into law.
The debate is coming to a head sooner than later, since the bill already passed the House Health Committee with bipartisan support. Now, the Republican Party is hoping for a victory as the bill heads to the House floor, perhaps as early as this week!
Opposition stands strong as Democrats and outside organizations have voiced several concerns, most driven out of the fear the bill could have counterproductive and adverse effects on recovery efforts, not just for individual offenders but the recovery of the system as a whole.
Though Regan is trying to sell this one in terms of fiscal responsibility – and there’s an argument there. The financial questions are important, such as:
“What should be the limits of the public’s generosity?”
“In a time of diminished resources what should be the parameters for those resources for public assistance?”
Half the people reading this might say,
“Why should law-abiding citizens pay to take care of convicted criminals?”
The intent of Regan’s proposal here may be to target major drug dealers. But in my personal experience and opinion, considering a lot of drug dealers have evolved from an individual with their own addictions or a desperate need to supplement income (or both) this would only further exacerbate and perpetuate the destructive cycle of prisons, poverty and drug abuse.
Sure, not every drug dealer does it for these exact reasons, but plenty do, and this kind of law will leave them little alternatives for hope.
Lack of education and opportunity in some communities often becomes a motive, and some say these circumstances in some areas have only gotten worse due to the war on drugs. If someone is caught and sent to prison it’s hard enough already to find honest and stable work. Add a criminal record and forcing them to forgo their welfare assistance seems like it would only create more of a need to revert to dealing again.
Like breaking someone’s legs and telling them to move a mile… without using their arms.
Why would we need to keep kicking someone while their down, especially when we toss them back out into society and tell them to pick themselves up again?
Is it practical to keep punishing people while expecting them to reform themselves? Is it effective to drag people in and out of the criminal justice and prison system to “teach them a lesson?”
Has it worked for us so far?
That is all this writer’s opinion, but in all honestly I think most would agree that a better answer would involve actively treating and supporting the rehabilitation of individuals with drug issues. If we can’t show compassion, we can’t expect any change.
With the toll of the war on drugs being costly on both sides of the fight, how can we improve upon the ideals set forth to fight addiction and drug abuse? We all have a roll in this war, and as part of this culture we all have a chance to help this nation survive this fight. For some it is as simple as choosing to recover rather than suffer, and Palm Partners is a place to begin that transformation. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
By Cheryl Steinberg
With all the recent reports of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, it’s become clear that it’s an issue that’s been ignored for far too long and it’s not going away. Not on its own, at least.
That’s why a new plan is in development that would be brought to college campuses. It’s a proactive, progressive approach to prevent sexual assaults on campus.
A New York-based health and wellness company is working to help change that. National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and evaluate an effective approach to preventing sexual violence.
The stark and disturbing truth is that as many as one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career. This is not something that can be ignored.
As it stands now, many colleges and universities have their own, private system when it comes to penalizing their students, ranging from academic infractions like plagiarism and cheating all the way up to actual criminal acts, specifically crimes involving sexual assault. That means that these cases don’t often get reported to the actual authorities; instead, the school’s administration decides the punishment, if any. In some cases of on-campus sexual assault, the perpetrator received only a slap on the wrist, still having the opportunity to graduate and walk in the ceremony.
College Campuses Use Holistic Approach to Prevent Sexual Assault
NHPA’s new program is designed for incoming college students and is based on the science of the Botvin Life Skills Training (LST) program. In more than 30 different studies and tests, which were peer-reviewed, LST has proven to radically cut down teen alcohol and drug abuse as well as violence, in some cases by as much as by 80%.
The research shows that the LST program produces reduced alcohol use, illicit drug use, and violence regardless of the population, provider, and delivery method. Furthermore, the studies show that these positive effects are long-lasting; lasting prevention effects carried over well into young adulthood.
The new sexual violence prevention program will take a holistic approach. Students will learn important life skills for handling the challenges of everyday college life, enhancing the development of general personal and social competence, and increasing overall resilience.
“We are excited about receiving this funding from NIH, and look forward to this opportunity to develop and test an innovative program that will stop sexual violence before it ever begins,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of the LifeSkills Training program, professor emeritus of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, and president of NHPA. “Since sexual violence often occurs while people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is important that prevention programs focus on alcohol and drug abuse as well as sexual violence.”
Dr. Kenneth Griffin, Senior Research Scientist at NHPA and director of the team developing the new program, added that “this new program will use a series of interactive web-based and face-to-face learning activities to change social norms surrounding alcohol/drug abuse and sexual violence, train bystanders to recognize and respond to high-risk situations, and help college students develop the kind of skills that lead to healthy relationships.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, dependence, abuse, misuse, or addiction please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. Palm Partners specializes in treating alcohol and other drug addiction, substance dependence, as well as treats the underlying causes of drug abuse. We also offer Rapid Trauma Resolution as well as a number of holistic treatments as a way of beginning the healing and recovery process.
By Cheryl Steinberg
AA and other 12 Step fellowships promise anonymity but, don’t be confused; it’s not the same thing as ‘confessional privilege,’ the expectation of confidentiality when one confesses to their priest or, the protection of confidentiality between lawyer and client.
This is something to be aware of and consider quite thoroughly if you’re working a 12 Step program and have a deep, dark secret form your past in active addiction. It’s true, working the steps can dredge up old memories and it’s no wonder that the fourth and fifth steps are so uniformly dreaded by people ‘in the rooms.’
Newcomers to AA, NA, CA, or any other ‘A’ program who diligently and wholeheartedly work the steps are told that Step Five is the path to freedom but, does that freedom depend on the exact nature of the wrongs? Or perhaps, is should “freedom” be thought of purely in the figurative sense? That is, if you’ve committed something of a serious nature, can you only expect feeling the freedom of the weight of it being lifted off your shoulders and not necessarily that you will remain free from jail or prison?
Step 5 says that we prepare to admit to God, ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. But, how can 12 Steppers be pressured to confess and then, in turn, be convicted if the deeds are too heinous or in conflict with the confessor’s morals?
Consider that the real issue at the heart of this matter is that anonymity is not sacred – as in a confession to a clergyman – that is, a sponsor can’t absolve the penitent of their sin(s). “The problem with telling people in a meeting, you are subject to the values and mores of those in the group,” says H. Westley Clark, MD, SAMSHA’s director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “AA cannot pressure a confession and then assure anonymity exists, it is a mischaracterization to offer anonymity…anonymity is not [sacred].”
Real Life Examples of Criminal Confessions in AA
For one guy, Paul Cox, by the time he reached his fourth and fifth steps, he began experiencing nightmares. They contained gruesome, heinous visions and, as the dreams continued and he couldn’t ignore them any longer, he was finally able to piece together that it wasn’t so much a dream but a reality: Cox, in a drunken stupor, has stabbed two people to death. In a tearful confession, he spilled it all to his girlfriend, who was also in AA. After that, he confessed a series of times, first to his AA sponsor and then other AA members and each time, they said, “Don’t drink, go to meetings and don’t tell anyone.”
It was Cox’s girlfriend who eventually went to the police. That led to the interrogation of the seven other people Cox had confessed to, including his sponsor. Cox was eventually charged with second degree murder after physical evidence collected at the scene corroborated his confession.
In another case, that of William Nottingham Beebe, when doing his Ninth Step, he wrote – and sent – a letter apologizing to the woman he raped at a fraternity house more than 20 years earlier. The problem with that is, in sending the letter to his victim, he caused more harm and injury to her – a cautionary clause of Step Nine – and was really self-serving more than anything else; he sought only to rid himself of the guilt. For his actions, his victim decided to press charges, citing that, although she recognized that Beebe had turned his life around, he doesn’t get a get-out-of-jail-free card for simply apologizing.
Much like Cox, Beebe admits he had spoken over the years to his sponsor and other AA members about the incident and it appears he had no intention of serving time for his crime. To many, the letter seemed only to serve as a way to progress his recovery, appease guilt, and justify his actions as alcohol-related.
Then there’s Jamie Kellam Letson, who confessed to her sponsor that she killed her college friend 30 years earlier. Letson’s sponsor suggested she write a letter to her dead friend and then drove her to the cemetery to read it. That was before the sponsor turned her in and used the letter as evidence.
Bob Ryder made an ‘AA confession’ that he had a dead body of a woman in his basement. His sponsor suggested that he pour baking soda on the decomposing body and, two weeks later, turned him into the authorities.
So, when it comes to criminal confessions, is anonymity a guarantee?
After what happened with Paul Cox, a legal battle ensued that shed new light on issues of anonymity and AA confessions. The cleric-penitent privilege was of course brought up and whether or not it applied to Alcoholics Anonymous and other Anonymous fellowships. In Cox’s first trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared. A second trial found Cox guilty of manslaughter. But on appeal, Federal Judge Charles Brieant overturned the conviction, and in an unprecedented ruling said that AA was a religious organization, and a confession made to a member could not be used as evidence. A third appeal overturned Judge Brieant’s decision and Cox was again convicted.
The thing is, crimes that are committed while in someone’s active addiction are still exactly that: crimes; not merely fallout from a past substance abuse episode. And therein lies the confusion, for newcomers and old timers alike. Many experts suggest caution and discretion before disclosing information to a sponsor or in an AA meeting.
“Theoretically, everything that is said in an AA meeting is supposed to be kept confidential by all the other attendees, so there would have to be a breach of the AA code if law enforcement is contacted to report a confession,” says Carole Lieberman, MD, Beverly Hills forensic psychiatrist. “Nonetheless, if an alcoholic patient of mine, who was attending AA meetings, asked if he should confess to a crime at an AA meeting, I would certainly counsel him against it.”
What AA Says About Anonymity
Although AA was founded on spiritual principles of anonymity and disclosure, the literature specifies anonymity to be expected at the personal level, that is, anonymity provides protection for all members from being ‘outed’ as alcoholics. The ‘Understanding Anonymity’ pamphlet never mentions safety from disclosure of a crime.
The executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and a Faces & Voices of Recovery board member and person in recovery, Neil Kaltenecker Campbell, says an important question when considering such things, is what will keep someone sober?
“You have to own up to your past and take responsibility for saying what you did in your addiction,” she says. “Recovery is about personal responsibility.”
It’s true: many of us in recovery have dark pasts of which we’re not particularly proud. When it comes to getting sober – and wanting to stay that way, you have to decide what it is that you need to do in order to make that happen. If there are things in your past that you need to talk about, do so with your sober supports, including your sponsor. But don’t just do it for your own peace of mind; if you are serious about atoning for your sins, you have to be ready and willing to face real consequences. If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction and don’t know where to turn, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. Help is available. You are not alone.
By Cheryl Steinberg
That is, when it comes to race, drug dealing and arrests don’t always go hand-in-hand. In a nutshell, more white people deal drugs, but more black people are arrested for it, statistically-speaking.
This clear-cut chart makes obvious the skyrocketing number of arrests of Black Americans for nonviolent drug crimes.
The Brookings Institution is one of the oldest think tanks in Washington, D.C., and it conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and global economy and development. Jonathan Rothwell of Brookings lays it out:
“Arrest data show a striking trend: arrests of blacks have fallen for violent and property crimes, but soared for drug related crimes. As of 2011, drug crimes comprised 14 percent of all arrests and a miscellaneous category that includes “drug paraphernalia” possession comprised an additional 31 percent of all arrests. Just 6 percent and 14 percent of arrests were for violent and property crimes, respectively.”
What’s more surprising (or not-so-surprising) is the fact that, even though Whites use drugs at the same rate as Blacks do, Black people are far more likely to be arrested for the selling or possession of drugs. Furthermore, Whites are actually more likely to sell drugs than their Black counterparts.
“Whites were about 45 percent more likely than blacks to sell drugs in 1980, according to an analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth by economist Robert Fairlie. This was consistent with a 1989 survey of youth in Boston. My own analysis of data from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 6.6 percent of white adolescents and young adults (aged 12 to 25) sold drugs, compared to just 5.0 percent of blacks (a 32 percent difference).”
The Real Deal with Drug-Dealing: Not So Black and White
Why the Racial Disparities?
This trend only partially reflects racial differences between the drug markets in Black and White communities. For instance, in lower-income Black neighborhoods drug transactions take place out in the open; outdoors. On the other hand, in White neighborhoods, drugs tend to be sold indoors, often between friends and acquaintances behind closed doors. So, common sense tells us that, if you sell drugs outside, you’re much more likely to be seen and therefore get caught.
Rothwell’s findings shoot down some of the common myths and pieces of misinformation that tend to be spread by right-wing Republicans who support the antiquated – and failing – War on Drugs approach. They tout that people don’t get arrested for nonviolent drug crime as much as they used to, which is false, and that legalizing and decriminalizing certain drugs won’t solve ingrained racial disparities in the criminal justice system, which is more likely true, at least to an extent.
Whether you’re struggling with substance abuse or addiction and are facing legal consequences for drug-related offenses, such as possession, distribution, or DUI, it’s not too late to get help. You can reach out to an Addiction Specialist to find out how treatment works as well as the services that are available to you while you recover. Case managers can work with you and the courts and probation to work out a solution. Help is available. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.