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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

White Christmas Cancelled: Police Find 136 Pounds of Cocaine in NYC

White Christmas Cancelled: Police Find 136 Pounds of Cocaine in NYC

Author: Justin Mckibben

Well the weather man might not get the joke, the truth is the New York City Police, working alongside federal law enforcement agents, have recently made a bust that will cancel the white Christmas in NYC. According to Police and federal agents who broke the story, this week they have seized what they described as a “staggering” cargo of cocaine in the Bronx.

2 Names Making the Naught List

Apparently this massive shipment of cocaine had been shipped from Massachusetts, and in the course of the bust two men from Puerto Rico were arrested in connection to the bust. The two are allegedly part of a major drug trafficking network, and now they are definitely making the naughty list this holiday season for their involvement with this immense amount of illegal drug possession. Those two men were:

  • Mark Soto
  • Xavier Herbert-Gumbs

So far these two men have each been charged with two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Brand Name Bust

The sleigh-ride for these traffickers was cut short when a joint operation with New York Police Department detectives and Homeland Security Investigations agents stopped their cars this past Thursday evening. The law enforcement officers then discovered brick-shaped packages of cocaine pressed into bundles and marked with brand names in the vehicles.

According to local new networks in the area authorities stopped a rented vehicle around 6:15 pm, finding 110 pounds of cocaine inside. 24-year-old Herbert-Gumbs was reportedly a passenger in the car and confessed to the authorities that he had placed the box holding the cocaine bricks in the vehicle.

About an hour later, authorities stopped 23-year-old U.S. Army Reserves private Mark Soto as he was taking a duffel bag out of the trunk of a different vehicle. The new report claims that these authorities found 26 pounds of cocaine inside the bag.

After the hauling the two into custody the officers took their inventory and according to the court records, the defendants were allegedly transporting 136 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $3 million! New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said during a statement concerning the case,

“The sheer amount of cocaine seized in this case is staggering. This is the largest seizure of cocaine being transported in the region that our office has handled in recent years.”

But there was even more gifts to be unwrapped by the officers, because following the arrests investigators claimed they also seized $6,000 and a U-Haul equipment contract in the name of “Mark Gomez,” an alias they said Soto used, after officers had searched an apartment Friday evening on the block where Soto had been stopped.

Reports have also shown that police found identifying documents belonging to Herbert-Gumbs inside the vehicle Soto was using when he was arrested, suggesting it is evidence that the two were working together in some capacity while trafficking their respective bricks of “cheer” for special delivery. Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge HSI New York, stated:

“The violence associated with cocaine trafficking and the illicit proceeds poses a major threat to our communities’ welfare. HSI remains at the forefront of combating criminal organizations that threaten our homeland by smuggling drugs into the United States.”

Soto and Gumbs were arraigned the following day in Manhattan on charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance. Bail was set at $400,000. Looks like a lot of people won’t be getting cocaine for Christmas, but there might be a few extra lumps of coal for these two behind bars.

Drug policy and reform are changing the game for the cartels and drug traffickers, while law enforcement is taking a stand against the availability of drugs in response to mounting overdose deaths in America. For those suffering from drug addiction these reforms also mean change in a compassionate approach to help them the choice to get help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Heroin Kills More People than Homicide

Heroin Kills More People than Homicide

Author: Justin Mckibben

Americans today are faced with a presence of drug overdose like none other, and it has made a staggering impact on the death rate in this country. Drug overdose has become public enemy number one, and while the epidemic claims an overwhelming number of lives some predictions say it hasn’t even come close to being over. New York City saw some of the worst of it, with the city’s Department of Health confirming recently that there were more heroin overdose deaths in New York City than homicides in the year 2013.

Tallying Death Tolls

At the time this poll was taken, there were no exact numbers for 2014 available, but it was enough to confirm that in the year of 2014 there were also more citizens of New York City killed by heroin overdoses than by other people, compared to 335 homicides.

One other thing we do know about 2014 is that New York law enforcement officials also seized 2,168 pounds of heroin with a street value of approximately $300 million. Taking into account the rising number of overdoses and the spread of the opiate epidemic, I’d say it would be surprising if 2014 did not far surpass 2013. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has already seized 220 pounds of heroin as of the first few months of 2015. Then there’s another 120 pounds that has already been confiscated by the office of the special narcotics prosecutor. It’s barely April and already these agencies are on a roll. Special agent James Hunt in charge of the DEA’s New York Field Division stated,

“We’ve never seen these numbers, not even in the heroin epidemics from 30 to 40 years ago,”

The heroin deaths in NYC also spread across a wide range of races and socio-economic backgrounds. Hunt went on to say,

“I would definitely call it an epidemic. This is no longer a ghetto drug … It’s in the suburbs and crosses all economic lines and social lines. This is a problem that’s everywhere.”

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said that many heroin addicts were initially hooked on prescription painkillers. These narcotic medications were at one point the leading cause of overdose related incidences in the nation, even over heroin. As more restrictions were implemented and the infamous ‘pill mills’ were raided and closed, addicts became desperate at the market dried up, and many switched over to heroin because it’s cheaper and produces a longer-lasting high.

The supply is part of what is creating the demand, and what’s behind the skyrocketing death rate. Heroin that is being trafficked into America and across the states is about 60% to 70% pure, paralleled to only a 10% purity back in the ‘70s. With a potency like that users can get high without shooting the drug into their veins. Brennan said in an interview,

“Addicts eventually go there, but they start off snorting it or sprinkling it on alcoholic drinks. But when you are in the grips of an addiction, putting a needle in your arm is not a big deal at that point.”

From personal experience this all makes sense. Using a needle is often the only thing holding some addicts back from making the leap from using prescription painkillers to heroin, and even that doesn’t last long.

Mapping the Progression

The greater part of heroin overdose deaths throughout NYC occurred in neighborhoods located in Staten Island and the Bronx. Although the Mexican cartels are in control of trafficking heroin into NYC, the heroin mills themselves have been operating out of residential homes in the Bronx and even in northern Manhattan. Once crushed and packaged into glassine envelopes, they are then distributed throughout the five boroughs.

Since mapping the progression, the NYPD has decided to require all officers in Staten Island to carry naloxone, which is the heroin overdose antidote also known by its generic name Narcan.

Putting the life-saving drug naloxone in the hands of emergency services is a move that has begun to progress into a trend, as more and more states are developing programs to make this resource more accessible. Some states are even moving to make naloxone available in schools. Several states have taken it the extra mile and demanded that the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing these medications should make them more affordable. As of May 2014, more than half of NYPD officers also carry naloxone.

Taking a minute to consider this information, it is terrifying to think that even in a major city that is no stranger to crime heroin is still the heaviest hitter in terms of ending lives. More than injury related accidents or even gang violence, heroin is a plague that has a real foothold in New York City and is sweeping the states taking lives. But putting more power in the hands of the police and other officials to save lives is one way the city hopes to take back their streets.

Overdose death is not to be underestimated anymore. Our fathers, sons, mothers and daughters are losing their lives to the fight against addiction, and 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 1-800-951-6135

New Trend: Early Morning Sober Raves

New Trend: Early Morning Sober Raves

By Cheryl Steinberg

Picture it: Manhattan 6 am at the VIP Room – a nightclub-turned-early-morning-sober-rave-venue.

New York yogis (yoga practitioners) gather weekday mornings to get their morning routine underway. By 7:00 a.m., they’re rolling up their yoga mats and are joined by 400 other ‘Daybreakers,’ as they call themselves, while DJ Tasha Blank started spinning beats and the room once again transforms into what seems like a typical rave scene (albeit a daytime rave).

There’s one other main difference between this rave scene and your typical all-night dance club: drugs or alcohol are completely absent. All Daybreakers are completely sober for this early morning rave.

“It was a little bit of an audacious idea,” said co-organizer Matthew Brimer of the origin of Daybreaker. “Can we get a couple hundred people to wake up early before work and dance and do something that has never really happened before,” he asked, “and do it all sober?”

Turns out, the answer is yes.

New Trend: Early Morning Sober Raves

It’s a relatively new trend, having started merely eight months ago in New York City yet it has already burgeoned into a thriving scene with early morning sober raves popping up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta; they’ve even found popularity across the pond in London. In actuality, the UK already had a somewhat similar idea, called “conscious clubbing” as part of their Morning Gloryville events. However, unlike Morning Gloryville, which aims to be an alternative to Zumba and other aerobic activities, Daybreaker is more than just exercising.

What sets Daybreaker apart from other movements is its unique curation of live entertainment, with its organizers drawing inspiration from Burning Man.

“Supporting the arts and up-and-coming talent and creative performers of all different genres and all different mediums is a very important part of Daybreaker,” Brimer said.

“It’s very much a movement and a community,” said Brimer, who also co-founded the tech startup General Assembly. And while he makes a clear distinction that it’s not about networking, Brimer says the people that come to Daybreaker are likeminded and have a strong intentionality. “You don’t just accidentally go to Daybreaker,” he said.

Every 15 minutes a new artist or act comes on, ranging from the obvious nightclub acts such as singers and musicians, to spoken word poets, tap dancers, freestyle rappers, opera singers, acrobats, haiku writers, live painters and more.

“You can be sure you’re going to dance your ass off for two hours,” said co-organizer Radha Agrawal, “but what you’re going to experience when you’re there we’re always changing.”

Agrawal is also the founder of Super Sprowtz, a program of nutrition whose mission is to educate kids about healthy eating habits; her vegetable-inspired costumed characters often appear at Daybreaker events. Promoting health and wellness is an equally important part of Daybreaker for Agrawal. Therefore, instead of alcohol, the bar is stocked with coconut water, juice, coffee and tea.

“Most clubs at night can’t even get people to have that much energy,” said Wesley Yu, a first-time attendee. “No alcohol involved and everyone’s just happy dancing,” he said, adding “it’s an amazing environment.”

Yu, who goes against the grain by commuting from his home in Manhattan to a job as a Systems Designer at Newark’s Prudential Financial, said he wishes the events would start even earlier. “I know New Yorkers love getting up early,” he said, it’s “kind of a crazy thing to do in the morning.”

Twenty thousand dancers have already attended Daybreaker events, and the co-organizers say they’ve received requests from people in 25 cities around the world to bring their early morning sober raves to their hometowns.

Daybreaker plans not only to expand to additional U.S. cities, but also to grow on a global scale. It plans to invade Tokyo, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Cape Town and Sao Paolo with its penchant for substance-free music and entertainment. “There’s an outcropping of excitement for interactivity and real community experiences,” Agrawal said. “Millennials – they’re tired of online.”

Like Burning Man, Agrawal and Brimer envision Daybreaker being around for a long time. “We want to make sure the brand and the experience is consistent across the world as we continue to grow,” Brimer said, “but at the same time each city will have its own local flavor.”

Are you struggling with alcohol and other drugs but afraid of the unknown – a life in sobriety? The good news is that a sober lifestyle offers many possibilities and opportunities for a happy – and exciting – life. Getting sober doesn’t only mean that you don’t use substances anymore; it means that you don’t have to use anymore AND you get to live life freely as a fully-expressed human being. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We can answer your questions day or night.

Staten Island Hands Out Narcan Kits to Combat Overdose

Staten Island Hands Out Narcan Kits to Combat Overdose

Author: Justin Mckibben

Recent data shows a drastic decrease in overdose in 2013, though it still remains remarkably high over-all as an issue in America. Staten Island is the so-called overlooked borough of New York City that has been despairingly dubbed ‘Heroin’s New Hometown’ by The New York Times publication. Back in 2006 New York State (NYS) introduced the ‘Opioid Prevention Act’ allowing the NYCDOH to distribute 50,000 Naloxone OD kits, and the decision to arm the general public with a first defense against overdose has apparently been well needed on the front lines on the war against the ‘heroin epidemic’.

Dr. Hillary Kunins is an Assistant Commissioner at the NYCDOH, stated that Staten Island has been the focus of an aggressive campaign to fight an overdose rate 4 times higher than any NYC borough! Dr Kunins is also the Director of Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention Care at the NYDOH. Her and other expert physicians in the area believe in the impact that this resource can have on the community, and think it is appropriate to take the fight against heroin to the streets.

The Opiate and the Overdose

Dr. Harshai Kirane, the director of addiction at Staten Island Hospital, recently gave a presentation in a new teaching auditorium at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) on Staten Island. During this public presentation Dr.Kirane showed a video of how to spot the symptoms of overdose, and the proper and safe method to distribute Narcan, the brand name for Naloxone. During the lecture Dr Kirane made a statement that reflected the severity of the overdose epidemic in Staten Island, saying everyone should carry an OD kit!

Opiates are prescription pain relievers based on morphine, which have become more and more popular and more awareness has been brought to the dangerous effects these drug have on people who get them prescribed. Opiates are products, like heroin, derived from the morphine poppy plant, so most people use the term ‘opiate’ to refer to both types of narcotic, and those people who use prescription painkillers quite typically move on to using heroin. An overdose caused by an opiate is described using some physical symptoms such as:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Lips and fingers appearing gray
  • Loss of consciousness

The Overdose Disruptor

Naloxone is the famous ‘miracle anti-OD drug’ that is currently being freely distributed to anyone that wants it by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOH). If applied to a victim during overdose, the antidote will get rid of the effects of opiates temporarily, but with the possibility of returning the victim returning to an overdosed state once again. However that small period of time is enough opportunity to contact emergency services. It’s being called a time-out from death, the second chance or pause button is not a cure, but it’s definitely helping save lives.

How do you use Naloxone? Well the first thing you do is call 911, and then if the individual isn’t breathing attempt to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and apply the Narcan. The drug is only useful in an opiate overdose, and also it is a safe substance that would not harm someone who is not overdosing.

Getting the Kit Out

Dr. Kunins stated these kits include two doses of the intra-nasal form of Narcan. They were passed out to several community groups, as well as handed out to targeted individuals at risk of overdose, and even their families. The wonderful part was that the efforts included active drug users in a position to observe overdoses themselves.

With the kit the DOH gives away the two doses of Narcan come in a small blue bag with a nasal spray or a syringe shot. The kit also includes surgical gloves and rescue breathing mask. A single puncture in the shoulder with the syringe can be used to administer the drug into the bloodstream immediately and reverse the effects of the opioids, so the shot does not need to be taken intravenously. Spraying the medication up each nostril from the atomizer will have the same effect. Luckily, the process has been simplified and can be done by anyone.

Dr. Kunins believes that the Narcan program being used in collaboration with sensible prescription practices and raising awareness of the potential risk of overdose has all the potential to help reverse a disturbing nationwide trend. The climbing deaths due to both heroin and prescription opiate abuse and ultimately overdose has been devastating and disturbing for too long, and now has great potential to put power back in the hands of the people struggling most.

Thankfully, Staten Island is one of many areas that has started to take action in trying to overcome the overdose statistics across the country. With these kits being put in the possession of the public, more people are going to have a chance at surviving the disease of addiction. However real recovery comes with consistent growth, and it all starts with a willingness to change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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