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Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Author: Justin Mckibben

As much as I love where I come from, Columbus, Ohio has been through a lot recently. Ohio in general has seen some of the worst addiction and overdose rates in its history, and the state was actually sited as being #1 in opioid overdose deaths in the country. So of course there are very strong opinions about the devastation caused by substance abuse. Having grown up in Columbus, it is sad to see how the community is suffering. It is even more disturbing to see how some are reacting. When I came across this headline and saw the comments being made, not just by the store but from people in support of their remarks, it disturbed me deeply.

Now many across the state are in an uproar about the controversy that has been brought on by one convenience store in Columbus, Ohio. The owners posted hand-written messages around the store that are appallingly indifferent to the pain of the people in their neighborhood.

The signs of stigma…

West Broad Street in Columbus is a side of town I’m pretty familiar with, especially while in active addiction, so I’m sure that plenty of people have seen these signs. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed the two notes that they hoped would dismay customers from stealing, but some patrons have found it insulting and offensive.

One sign, near the front door, says:

“Keep bags up front. Don’t stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don’t OD. Nothing is free.”

The second sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil. Some will use tin foil to cook whatever substance, often heroin but not exclusively, before smoking or injecting it. This one states:

“Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you.”

Yes, let this all sink in for a moment. Not just the fact that the word “junkie” is so destructive, but the content that follows is callous.

First thing is first, this is inexplicably ignorant to the reality that is shaking the world right now. With more people across America than ever being hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and higher rates of overdose deaths than ever in our nation’s history, how can people still believe these kinds of stigma?

According to WSYX/WTTE, a local news source, the store’s management would not speak on camera, but they told the news station they meant no offense, but also said the signs will not be taken down.

Really, no offense?

What is wrong with this picture…

This is wrong on so many levels, and I can’t believe I actually have to explain to some people why, but just in case I’ll give it a shot.

These signs insinuate statements that are so incredibly wrong on so many levels. To sum it up, these signs say:

  • All addicts stink/don’t shower
  • All addicts don’t take care of their children
  • All addicts are thieves
  • If you are an addict, you deserve to overdose (OD)

These are all equally as stigmatic and offensive, but that last part is just disgusting. The amount of indifference toward those in pain must be pretty intense for someone to willfully wish overdose onto someone else. To mock the despair and hardship of some while essentially telling them, and promoting to others, the idea that addicts deserve to overdose. Shrugging off the death of people who battle an insidious illness every day because they are “junkies” is repulsive.

Beyond that, the fact is these signs ignore what statistics have been telling us about addiction being more than just something impacting a certain demographic. These stereotypes are a huge part of the reason why it is taking us so long as a society to move forward.

Not all addicts are homeless! Not all addicts are absentee parents! Not all addicts are poor! Addiction touches the CEOs and stock brokers the same way it touches the unemployed and criminal. When we make such harsh generalizations of people who need our compassion we marginalize people who already often feel chastised, misunderstood or hopeless.

To those who comment…

Now as I said, when I first saw this story, the signs themselves we incredibly shameful, but the comments it received in support of this message and ridiculing addicts only compounded the issue. People who say that people ‘choose’ to be addicts and that they ‘choose’ to do drugs and ruin their lives.

It is baffling how some people still insist addiction is a choice. Even when the medical community recognizes it as a medical condition, people adamantly deny that it is a disease; when many regard it as a brain disorder, consisting of various psychological and physical factors. Yet people still go on about how it is the addicts fault because they chose that life.

Sure, people choose to do drugs, but we don’t choose to become addicted. That isn’t up to use. How many people drink and do drugs in their lifetime and don’t become addicts? More than anyone will ever know. A lot of you have probably had your share of experiments. So count yourself lucky, you didn’t have to walk the path many of us do. Stop being self-righteous; try being grateful.

The stigma is killing us…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimates that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day! A true tragedy is that many people struggling with drug addiction never seek help because of the judgment they could face. They prolong their suffering as a result of blatant and baseless stigma, which can have a lasting impact. People are actually dying every day because stigma can discourage people from seeking help.

How many parents avoid getting help because of people who think addiction makes them horrible caregivers, or neglectful and absent? How many families are torn apart because the fear of how it looks to the world to be an addict? How many have died before they could get treatment?

Some people want to treat actions like this as no big deal. This writer thinks this is a pretty big problem. To suggest that a heroin addict, or any addict, deserves to overdose, or even die, for stealing tin foil… is insanely irresponsible and inconsiderate to the wellbeing of not just the afflicted individual, but the community.

Don’t let the stigma block you or your loved ones off from the solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are no alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Boynton Beach Sees 5 Overdoses in One Night

Boynton Beach Sees 5 Overdoses in One Night

Author: Justin Mckibben

Boynton Beach is beautiful area in South Florida, just north of Delray Beach and south of West Palm in Palm Beach County. The area has been described as “America’s gateway to the Gulf Stream.” Boynton Beach has also been hit by the affected opiate epidemic. Roughly 250 overdoses have occurred this year in Boynton, which is the third largest city in Palm Beach County. While some cities have seen similar spikes in overdoses and drug-related deaths for some time, Boynton Beach experienced a record breaking jump in overdoses overnight this past Tuesday.

The reports of drug overdoses started before sunset. By Wednesday morning police and paramedics had been called to the scene for five separate overdose incidents. For one night, this is the most the city of Boynton Beach has ever seen. As if that weren’t intense enough, all the overdoses occurred in a 12-hour span.

Out of the five, two died and three survived thanks to the life-saving efforts of first responders. This is just another example of how hard the opiate epidemic has hit some cities now more than ever. It is also an indication some of the efforts being made in Palm Beach County are for good reason.

Tracking the Problem

The only available details on the five victims so far include:

  1. 5:19 p.m. report of a man found in a parked car near Seacrest Boulevard
  2. 9:44 p.m. a man was found in a car at the 7-11 convenience store
  3. 10:31 p.m. a 40-year-old man was found dead in his bathroom at the Las Ventanas apartment complex on Federal Highway
  4. 30 minutes later, a man was found near the Rosemary Scrub Park
  5. 2 a.m. a man identified as Thomas Varner was found unresponsive at the Homing Inn on Federal Highway — a place police know well for its number of overdoses

Varner, who was the final overdose of the five, received CPR from police officers at the scene. After an attempt to revive Varner by paramedics using life-saving medication Narcan, used to reverse the effects of opiate overdose, he was rushed to Bethesda Hospital East. where doctors tried to save him. Unfortunately, Varner did not survive his overdose. Police Captain Mike Johnson, the shift’s commander during the evening in question, expressed his own concerns with the news, saying:

“We’re in the business of saving lives and when you can’t do that, especially when you have two last night that were fatal, that’s frustrating. But we also recognize that we’re just one prong of this public health crisis.”

Boynton Beach is Not Alone

Boynton Beach is definitely not the only city dealing with increasing drug overdoses. The outbreak of overdose rates and overdose deaths is nationwide. For Palm Beach County, the ‘recovery capitol’ also faces its obstacles with addiction.

  • In Lake Worth alone there were 220 overdoses from January to August of this year
  • Palm Beach County firefighters responded to 1,246 opioid-related overdoses in that same period
  • Delray Beach already had about 394 by late September

Thankfully, Narcan and Naloxone are readily available for first responders, and expansion programs continue to progress across the country. In this 12-hour period four of the victims were taken to Bethesda and were given Narcan.

The fifth man he had already died at the scene.

Not Just Heroin?

Another question is concerning recent reports from several spots in the country where other dangerous drugs are being mixed in with heroin. According to Police Captain Mike Johnson this is- “more likely than not a new batch of heroin hit the city in the last couple of days.” So the question becomes, is there a new batch mixed with something even more toxic set to hit Boynton Beach.

At Las Ventanas, where one victim was found dead, police believe they found the painkiller Fentanyl in the apartment. Fentanyl is an opiate said to be more than 50 times as powerful as heroin. This is not the first time Fentanyl has caused some problems for Palm Beach County. Medical examiner records indicate Fentanyl also played a role in more than 100 overdose deaths in Palm Beach County in 2015. Captain Johnson said,

“It’s an obvious public health crisis. Law enforcement is only one component of addressing that health crisis. The amount of heroin that’s being sold on the street and the amount that’s being cut with Carfentanil or Fentanyl is increasing.”

Due to the rising risks present in some communities Palm Beach County is already organizing events and seminars to properly educate and arm the public with resources for overdose prevention.

One of the most prominent aspects of attacking the addiction issue is the existence of effective, supportive and compassionate drug addiction treatment. One powerful way we can prevent overdose is to make sure those suffering get the quality of care they deserve. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

Palm Beach County Hosting Narcan Training

Palm Beach County Hosting Narcan Training

Author: Justin Mckibben

According to some statistics, opioids killed nearly 30,000 Americans in 2014. This includes illicit narcotics and prescription painkillers. In the last two years there have been reports from all over the country of surges in overdoses and deaths, leading one to believe that number has been magnified with the growing epidemic. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in our country.

1 in 4 families are directly impacted by drug overdose. Whether that is you or not, you can see the impact it has on our communities. Now Palm Beach County is continuing to advocate for more resources to help the people most at risk fight back.

There will be Narcan Training events for local communities of Palm Beach County starting this month. The first seminar will be in Boca Raton, Florida at the St. Jude Reception Hall. This is about saving lives, and with so many lives be lost and others suffering, the time is now to learn how you may save a life.

The Problem in Palm Beach County

In 2014 there were an estimated 2,062 deaths due to prescription drugs. Many of these were opioid-related deaths, and heroin accounts for thousands more. In Florida, the total drug-related death toll increased by 14% in the first half of 2015 compared to 2014.

Palm Beach County saw an overdose rate increase of 425% so far in 2016 compared to 2015. There were 13 overdoses alone in Delray Beach last weekend. Hundreds more overdoses happened throughout Palm Beach County last month. The opiate epidemic has not spared any corner of the county, and many government officials and community organizations are pulling their resources in an effort to create strategies to prevent drug overdoses and save lives.

More about Narcan

Narcan, or the generic form Naloxone, is a life-saving opiate antidote. Some examples of opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone
  • Vicodin

An opioid overdose can cause breathing to slow down or stop completely, putting someone’s life in immediate danger. Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids and can actually reverse an overdose in order to get medical attention to someone who is in need.

One major plus is that Narcan has no euphoric effects and cannot get someone “high” so abuse is not an issue. The overdose antidote is essentially harmless if there are no opiods present in someone’s system. If given to a person who has not taken opioids, there will be no effect. Narcan can still be effective when alcohol or other drugs are present with opiates.

Administration to opioid-dependent individuals may cause symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating

There are other measures that can be taken to help ease these symptoms as well.

Expansion Programs

Narcan and Naloxone expansion programs have become a huge part of states everywhere trying to solve the overdose death outbreak. Many communities have equipped their first responders with Narcan kits and given training on how to administer the antidote. Some police departments in Palm Beach County now carry Narcan or Naloxone kits. Now these programs are trying to empower more people in Palm Beach County.

The first free seminar on Narcan Training is October 24th at 6 o’clock PM. The training takes place in the St. Jude Reception Hall in Boca Raton, Florida. For more information and events, visit the website here.

The seminar is open to the public and will be teaching participants more about the dangers of drug overdose, as well as about Narcan.

Palm Beach County has seen what an opioid overdose can do. It has also seen how effective Narcan and Naloxone can be to helping prevent an overdose from turning into a death. Not only are there expansion programs out there making the medication more available, but the community in Palm Beach County is actively working to help the people understand how to utilize their resources. Putting this life saving medication in reach and teaching people how to use it can help us from having to helplessly watch our friends, family members or neighbors die.

Palm Beach County also has a strong recovery community, and many people got there through effective and innovative holistic drug and alcohol treatment. It is incredibly important to preserve life, and beyond that to improve the lives that are saved. Drug and alcohol treatment can be the first step to a new life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

New Heroin PSA in Movie Theaters Spreading Awareness

New Heroin PSA in Movie Theaters Spreading Awareness

Author: Justin Mckibben

Imagine if you went out for a night at the movies, and next thing you know you’re watching a testimonial from someone who lost their loved one to an overdose? Would that leave a pretty strong impression? Well some people think this is the kind of heroin PSA that could wake people up and get them talking.

Heroin addiction and opiate abuse are not a foreign concept for the people of the state of Maryland. Like most communities have been experiencing in recent years, Maryland has seen first-hand the devastation brought on by heroin addiction. Baltimore at one point was known as “Heroin Capital of America” and as the opiate epidemic continues, more people all over are suffering.  While heroin addiction and overdoses increase across the state, officials in one area are taking the fight to the silver screen. Now movie-goers can see a message meant to spread public awareness.

Heroin Hitting Maryland

Health officials in the Maryland area say heroin is cheaper and more deadly than ever.

  • Back in 2015, over 1,200 people died from overdose deaths in Maryland
  • From January to June of 2015- 601 overdose deaths
  • From January to June 2016- 920 overdose deaths (over 300 more deaths in the same 6 month period)

Baltimore City battles what is a public health emergency concerning the heroin addiction issue. As the heroin continues to devastate communities and families, officials are looking for new ways to hit back. Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County all are experiencing and ever-increasing rate of heroin addiction. Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says,

“Here in Baltimore there are more people dying from overdose that are dying from homicide,”

A statement that was also made about New York at one point when NYC saw more overdose deaths than murders. The heroin PSA (public service announcement) is another way state officials are trying to make a bold declaration and educate the public.

Heroin PSA

We’ve seen more and more footage and images in the media over the last few months of overdoses caught on camera. There have been photos posted by police departments, videos shot on phones and posted all over the internet. The reality of the opiate epidemic and the graphic faces of overdose and death have been put out in front for all to see. Now Harford County officials are bringing the message to their local movie theaters with a heroin PSA.

Movie-goers in Harford County are coming face-to-face with the grim reality of heroin addiction. A series of videos before their regularly scheduled films features people that have lost relatives to heroin overdoses.

The heroin PSA is pretty powerful. One clip shows Jade, a 12 year old girl who’s cousin died from a heroin overdose in 2015. Jade says,

“She always loved to have fun, it didn’t seem anything was wrong.”

One shows a young girl named Mara talked about her sister Kelsea, who struggled with heroin addiction until dying from an overdose on Christmas Day 2015. Imagine sitting with your parent, or child, and listening to these people describe the person they loved so much and talk about their death. This is Maryland’s new strategy to get the conversation going in families.

Barry Glassman, Harford County Executive, commented on the heroin PSA saying,

“What better than to go into movie theaters when parents are with their children, to continue our efforts at prevention?”

Again, the whole goal of the heroin PSA is to get parents and children having the discussion. The video clips in the heroin PSA are already in circulation. The goal of the heroin PSA is to get parents to have real conversations about the dangers of heroin.

Movies and Media

The conversation is definitely a necessary one. Many families don’t know how to have this conversation, or how to even begin having the conversation. The media and television timelessly prove that they have the ability to influence people, so why not exploit it for a better good?

Raising awareness is a primary objective these days in fighting the opiate epidemic. It is right there with providing education and prevention resources. Giving people the information they need is crucial, and part of the heroin PSA is just showing people how important it is that they seek the information. So utilizing movies and the media to spread the word makes perfect sense.

Once people are informed as to the realities and the risks, we also should provide them with the information to get help. Heroin addiction is a frightening reality, but overdose and death is not the only conclusion. There is real help out there.

Overdose death and addiction destroy lives and tear apart families. With more programs becoming available to help those who are hurting a healthier future is closer than ever, and you can have it too.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in February of this year the mayor of Ithaca, New York began pursuing a plan that would establish safe heroin injection sites in Ithaca in an attempt to battle the opiate epidemic raging across the country. This controversial harm reduction tactic is getting brought up a lot more lately. Other states are also looking into starting up similar contingencies for their citizens. Now, the Big Apple is set to spend quite a bit of money and resources investigating the merits of safe heroin injection sites. That’s right, New York City is now taking a closer look at how safe heroin injection sites operate, wondering if it might be a decent plan after all.

Talking about the tab…

One of the big things people seem to be focused on right now is the money. Some believe providing addicts with a clean, medically supervised facility to use is a waste. They believe that what it will be doing is promoting heroin addiction while enabling it, all at the city’s expense.

So far, the tab is already pretty steep. The City Council has announced it will be allocating $100,000 to study the practice. This money will go to the Health Department for a nine-month study to determine whether it makes sense to open safe heroin injection facilities.

Shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these desperate times have called for such desperate measures in New York City. The study comes as the Big Apple is still reeling from a record 937 fatal drug overdoses in 2015, a 66% increase since 2010. With 2016 coming closer to the end, it is a wonder if this will be another record year for the five boroughs. Overdose death rates are a huge factor in a lot of new movements for change.

What are safe heroin injection sites?

Safe heroin injection sites are facilities where intravenous drug users are permitted to use the drug intravenously under medical supervision. The sites offer a place where addicts can use without fear of arrest, in case of an overdose. The idea is to have staff trained and available to be able to save lives. At the same time, the hope is to reduce other risks associated with intravenous drug use.

Several safe heroin injection sites already exist in dozens of cities outside the United States. Should America be next? Some of the countries who use this practice include:

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented saying,

“It’s been done and been implemented in other areas [of the world], so we just want to look up what the viability would be in New York,”

This seems like a pretty fair response to the epidemic; trying to explore and educate officials on more options that could help. And beyond reducing overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, safe heroin injection sites work to connect addicts with drug-treatment options. So it isn’t just about giving them a safe place to get high, but also making them feel safe and supported whenever they try to get help.

Conservatives in opposition

But of course there is a great deal of opposition. Michael Long, the state Conservative Party Chairman, claims the $100,000 could-

“- be put to better use than sending a message that it is OK to use intravenous drugs as long as you use a government-sanctioned place.”

However, the reality is that the money is being utilized in a way that serves it’s initial purpose. $5.6 million is already set aside in the city budget to combat AIDS. The $100,000 for the safe heroin injection site study is coming from that bulk of finances.

So while surely some would not be all for spending the tax-payers dollar on researching “legal drug dens” the truth is the money is going somewhere that could make a huge difference to the effect of what tax-payers originally intended it for.

The safe heroin injection study

According to a council memo, as far as the actual study itself, the researchers will review data that pertains to:

  • Health conditions and disease transmission related to heroin and other injected drugs
  • Evaluate existing supervised injection facilities
  • Assess legal issues
  • Input from select “city officials and community experts”

This isn’t the first radical idea on this side of the country. Seattle is also considering safe heroin injection sites. Earlier this year, Boston opened a facility where addicts can use under safe medical observation. However these people have to inject drugs elsewhere. This doesn’t seem like as good of a plan, because it’s basically asking for addicts to use and drive. Still, it is some kind of innovation in a different direction.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital. As the death rate escalates in relation to heroin addiction and infections caused by intravenous drug use, prevention is increasingly important. These programs may be controversial, but the cost of losing lives is a lot higher than spending some money looking into alternatives.

Beyond harm reduction, there is real recovery. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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