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Author: Justin Mckibben
This morning the news feeds have all been flooded with the recent announcement that the mayor of Ithaca, New York wants to get his city some radical support in the fight against the heroin epidemic in the form of one of the more debated strategies of harm reduction– the first supervised injection facility in the United States!
The concept of a supervised injection facility is to allow heroin users to inject illicit drugs under the care of a professional nursing staff without the threat of arrest of prosecution, so that in the event of overdose or other risks created by intravenous drug use there would be experienced and qualified medical personnel available to keep addicts as safe as possible and prevent death or further spread of disease.
There are already several other countries using supervised injection sites to combat the devastation caused by heroin and other opiate drugs, including:
All this has been in an effort to reduce the insanely despairing death rates. However, here in the United States the idea of creating a supervised injection facility has a lot of obstacles including legal and political objections. Well now Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick insists it is time to make the necessary changes if we have any hope of pushing through the issue with heroin and opiate addiction and the resulting deaths.
Supervised injection sites used to be considered outlandish and impractical ideas, and now they are being discussed more and more in response to huge increases in overdose deaths nationwide.
Canada’s first supervised injection facility opened in Vancouver in 2003, and since then there are some pretty noticeable changes:
- Every day around 800 users would visit the facility
- 10-20 users overdosed every week
- 0 deaths have occurred in the facility
- Overdose deaths drop 35% in the surrounding neighborhood
The Story for Mayor Svante Myrick
According to Myrick his plan is to ask New York’s Health Department to declare the heroin epidemic a state health crisis, which would enable his city to proceed without involving the state legislature.
During his explanation to an Associated Press interview he explained his personal story in connection with addiction in a powerful statement:
“My father was a drug addict. He split from the family when I was 5,6 years old. I have watched for 20 years this system that just doesn’t work. We can’t wait anymore for the federal government. We have people shooting up in alleys. In bathroom stalls. And too many of them are dying.”
In New York State overdose deaths involving heroin and other opiates have drastically increased:
- 186 in 2003
- 914 in 2012
- Ithaca alone had three fatal overdoses and 13 non-fatal overdoses in a three-week span in 2014
At one point heroin was noted to be killing more people in New York than homicide, so it is no wonder Mayor Myrick is pushing so hard for a resolution.
4 Pillars in the Ithaca Plan
Supervised injection facilities are just one part of Myrick’s 4 pillar drug policy proposal called “The Ithaca Plan,” with different elements of focus for a comprehensive movement against the mounting addiction, including:
For more robust mental health services and more avenues of communication with mental health professionals to get people the help that they need before they turn to drugs.
Suggests other programs based on drug maintenance rather than abstinence based programs.
- Law Enforcement
Following the model of Seattle drug enforcement program LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) to get addicts into treatment instead of jail.
- Harm Reduction
Establish a 24-hour crisis center where addicts can go if they are worried they might overdose or are facing withdrawal symptoms, along with supervised injection facilities.
The truth is some law enforcement officials and community leaders, along with former addicts, believe these kinds of supervised injection facilities are not the answer, and that they will only make the situation worse because it will encourage heroin users to continue using. Some say if there are not consequences for their actions what incentive is there to stop?
Ultimately there is plenty of room for argument on both sides of the fence. People who protest supervised injection facilities probably have some ground to stand on as far as being worried that some drug addicts might take it as an endorsement to keep using dangerous and deadly substances, but others will insist that addicts don’t need the endorsement, they will use anyway.
My personal opinion- if supervised injection sites help to keep people from overdosing and dying they might just be worth the risk. Plus most supervised injection facilities actively promote drug treatment to addicts and provide services to help people find the right kind of recovery program for them when they are finally ready to stop using. A lot of lives could be spared in the process, and with most cases in countries where these facilities exist they see an increase in treatment attendance.
The question now is, if one was to open in New York, would this tactic be implemented in other areas and how would people across America react?
While many still don’t think supervised injection facilities are an acceptable form of harm reduction, the truth is that lasting recovery is still possible through holistic drug and alcohol treatment, and with the right recovery plan freedom from all other ties that bind lead to an amazing life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
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
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
Alex Rodriguez, the Major League Baseball star playing for the New Work Yankees who has admitted to his using steroids during the period of 2000-2003 while playing for Texas. Now his cousin Yuri Sucart, who injected Alex Rodriguez with steroids, and Anthony Bosch a one-time clinic owner who in the past has been accused of providing the performance-enhancing drugs to several players, together have been arrested in connection with an ongoing drug conspiracy.
The Sucart Steroid Story
Yuri Sucart was banned back in 2009 from the New York Yankees clubhouse, all their charter flights, the teams bus and other team-related activities by Major League Baseball after Rodriguez admitted he used steroids and made the claim that Sucart had obtained and injected the drugs for him during this time.
According to Mia Ro, spokeswoman for Drug Enforcement Administration, Yuri Sucart was among nine people arrested in connection to the investigation. Anthony Bosch was also arrested and charged this past Tuesday with conspiracy to distribute steroids, according to court records. The documents included in the report given to the press did not specify whether the charges are directly related to the current Major League Baseball steroid scandal, and it was not immediately clear what Sucart himself had actually been charged with. Sucart was later listed in reports from Anthony Bosch clinic as having purchased Human Growth Hormone.
Bosch’s Biogenesis of America
A Miami New Times report from January 2013 sparked the Major League Baseball (MLB) commissions investigation after including that Rodriguez had purchased human growth hormone and other illegal performance substances from 2009 to 2012 from Bosch’s clinic, Biogenesis of America. The newspaper said it had obtained records detailing the purchases by Rodriguez and other ballplayers.
Court documents say that from October 2008 through December 2012, the clinic owner Anthony Bosch willfully conspired to distribute the anabolic steroid testosterone. Bosch surrendered this past Tuesday morning, and along with Sucart there were eight other individuals arrested with ties to the drug ring.
The MLB had sued Bosch and his clinic at one point during the scandal, but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The lawsuit at that time had credited them of allegedly conspiring with players to violate their contracts by providing them with banned substances. This lawsuit had included specified damages, and it also made the MLB able to subpoena clinic records for the courts case.
When Biogenesis of America closed its doors to the home office across the street from the University of Miami, the neighbors had been warned by authorities to report it if they saw Bosch anywhere on property. Employees in neighboring businesses said they received a flier in January 2013 with Bosch’s picture, stating that he wasn’t a doctor and was no longer allowed on the premises. Any number of flashy luxury cars including Mercedes, Range Rovers and Bentleys were sighted outside in the clinic parking lot according to employees of neighboring establishment, but no one could identify any of the customers.
The New Times obtained notes by Anthony Bosch listing player names and the substance they received. Several unidentified employees and clients confirmed that the clinic distributed the substances in question, and these employees also stated that Bosch bragged of supplying drugs to professional athletes, but they claim to have never witnessed any of the sports stars in the office. At the time, Bosch’s attorney said said the reports were inaccurate and filled with “misstatements of fact.”
Record Breaking Suspension
Fourteen players associated with the Coral Gables clinic were disciplined last year by MLB, including a season-long 2014 suspension imposed on Rodriguez.
While playing for the New York Yankees Rodriguez had publicly denied ever using banned substances, and during this investigation he had initially fought the suspension. And he was the only player involved in the scandal to contest his penalty. However Rodrigues finally gave in to the MLB’s demands in February, accepting the suspension and withdrawing a pair of lawsuits against the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association. This particular suspension is actually the longest penalty in the history of baseball in any relation to performance-enhancing drugs.
Our professional athletes, our politicians, and our peers all have the ability to struggle with substances in their own ways, and it has proven time and time again to be a costly and dangerous affair. From steroids to street drugs, the issue is real and the solution is out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Last Friday, New York legislators passed a bill that allows for the legal access to marijuana for a medically-recognized condition, making it the 23rd state to join the medical marijuana movement. The bill is specific about which certain serious, debilitating conditions can be treated with medical pot.
No doubt, this legislation is a huge victory for New Yorkers suffering with cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and certain other conditions and who have been waiting many years for relief.
Thought the context of this new legislation is the legalization of medical marijuana, the bill is the result of political compromises with the governor, without which, it would never have been passed. Those compromises include serious limitations that will exclude many patients from the benefits of medical marijuana and that also complicate the implementation and use of it as a medical drug; it’s clear that politics, not science, drove the final agreement.
Instead of physicians determining whether marijuana will be effective in treating their patients’ pain or illness, the decision has already been made by politicians in the state capital of Albany, none of whom is a medical doctor.
That is, the NY bill allows for extremely intrusive measures on behalf of the government when it comes to the confidential relationship between doctor and patient by so defining the list of conditions – and quite narrowly so – that doctors can prescribe marijuana for medical use.
Furthermore, the bill gives the governor’s administration sole discretion to define the types of medical marijuana that will be made available to patients, and the routes of administration they can use to consume it. As it stands now, it seems that patients who are eligible for medical marijuana will have access to edibles, oils and lotions, and methods for vaporization. The only clearly stated thing is that the bill explicitly prohibits smoking as a route of administration.
Which is weird because findings show that there are some instances in which smoking medical marijuana is the actual the best route of administration.
Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences spent two years reviewing the scientific data then available with respect to potential benefits of medical marijuana. The study team concluded that “nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety . . . all can be mitigated by marijuana.” The study team did not exclude smoked marijuana from its conclusions, noting instead that “there are even some limited circumstances in which we recommend smoking marijuana for medical use.”
These findings have since been corroborated by many, many peer-reviewed, randomized, double-blind controlled studies of smoked marijuana published in highly respected and credible medical journals.
Unlike tobacco, smoking marijuana does not increase the risk of lung cancer, according to long-term studies. Yet, in contrast, there is very little known about the long-term effects of vaporizing oils and extracts.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.