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Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council

Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council
Author: Justin Mckibben

For some time now government officials in different states across America have been pushing for the implementation of safe injection sites in their neighborhoods to combat the perpetual rise of opioid addiction and overdose death. This time last year there were proposals in New York, California and Washington D.C. to open such facilities. With the rising rates of overdose and death more officials have asked for the opportunity to at least examine the potential impact of safe injection sites. Now, officials are pushing for safe injection sites in Boston.

This request didn’t come lightly, either. The Massachusetts Medical Society is actually imploring state officials to open a safe injection site within the City of Boston, with desperate hope of curbing the numbers of casualties.

Safe Injection Presented to City Council

The Boston city council members heard arguments both for and against safe injection sites in Boston, and the debate is on as to what to do with the information.

Advocates for safe injection sites in Boston believe such facilities save lives by making emergency medical treatment immediately available. Dr. Henry Dorkin with the Massachusetts Medical Society supports the idea, stating:

“In fact, if you don’t have them in a facility with Narcan readily available, they’ll die very quickly,”

Just to clarify, safe injection sites are secure locations with medical staff available where addicts can use heroin under medical supervision. It provides what could be considered neutral ground where the drug user will not have to worry about being charged with criminal possession, while also having a first line of defense against overdose. Safe injection sites do not provide drugs, they simply provide the space and with some clean needles are also available.

Probably one of the most popular examples used by advocates of safe injection sites has been the famous facility in Vancouver, Canada that helped save dozens of lives. City Councilors Anissa Essaibi-George and Frank Baker, who requested the hearing, point out that the safe injection sites in Vancouver reduced fatal opioid overdoses by 35%.

This kind of decrease in overdose fatalities would make a huge difference in Massachusetts. The state Department of Public Health says the state’s top cause of accidental death so far this year is opioid overdose. The department says an average of 6 people a day in Massachusetts die from opioid overdoses in 2017, making. A 35% decrease would make a tremendous improvement on the community.

Anti-Injection Sites Argument

Opponents of safe injection sites in Boston say that these facilities do nothing to address the true problem, which is addiction. Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association states:

“It’s an existence. We need to figure out how we’re going to save these people and it’s not safe injection sites,”

Looking at the Vancouver statistics was apparently not enough to convince the entire city council. One feature of safe injection sites is that they often have a team of treatment professionals who encourage addicts who visit the facility to get treatment. They provide information about safe medical detox and other levels of care to those who are interested in getting help. However, one city council member, Frank Baker, states:

“263,000 visits a year by 6,500 individuals. And it has only 404 referrals to onsite detox,”

Some officials believe that this measure of harm reduction isn’t enough to really solve the issue without getting more people into drug addiction treatment and off the streets.

Possible Benefits of Safe Injection Sites in Boston

The primary function of safe injection sites is to preserve life. The idea is that while it may not be a lasting solution, it is a way to save lives. Safe injection sites allow people struggling to have the opportunity to survive their addiction long enough to get treatment. Beyond slowing down drug related deaths, safe injection sites in Boston could offer a number of other positive outcomes.

In May of last year we also covered a report titled Alternatives to Public Injection in which experts with experience operating supervised injection facilities (SIFs) shared data that shows:

  1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves
  2. SIFs reduce or eliminate addicts needle sharing
  3. Ultimately, participants reduce their drug use all together
  4. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services
  5. Participants have resources to seek addiction treatment
  6. SIFs do not increase drug use in the surrounding area
  7. Crime and public disturbances decrease in the areas around these programs
  8. There has not been a SINGLE overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation

Rates of people visiting safe injection sites attending treatment may not be as good as they could be. However, the fact that they have no experienced a single overdose death at these facilities is an incredible improvement.

Are we going to see safe injection sites in Boston? Are more American cities going to consider this option? Is having a safe injection site a good idea?

While getting the right kind of safe and effective addiction treatment can create lasting change, preventing the ongoing deaths from drugs is also a worthy cause. Holistic healing programs are designed to address every aspect of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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Why are Insurance Companies Focusing on Maintenance Drugs?

Why are Insurance Companies Focusing on Maintenance Drugs?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Addiction is not an easy problem to address. It is a complex issue with many variables, so of course there is no simple answer to fix it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; no monopoly on the right kind of treatment. It is understandable that there is a degree of effectiveness with utilizing any medical means available to try and address addiction, but are maintenance drugs really the answer?

Surely medication assisted treatment is useful, and it helps a lot of people. Most inpatient treatment programs utilize some form of medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and other side-effects of long-term drug use. The detox period of treatment usually focuses on medically assisting someone struggling with drugs in this transition.

However, is getting people off of one drug by making them dependent on another really the best case scenario? It seems now insurance companies are putting more effort into using maintenance drugs to treat addiction. Is this really a better strategy?

Maintenance Drugs

Firstly, let us make a clear definition of what maintenance drugs are. Typically, the definition of maintenance drugs is along the lines of prescriptions commonly used to treat conditions that are considered chronic or long-term. These conditions usually require regular, daily use of medicines.

Examples of common maintenance drugs are medications such as:

  • Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus) which is used to treat asthma
  • Insulin glargine (Lantus) used to treat diabetes

If you consider these examples the point is that people use these medications to “manage” their illness, not to overcome or remedy it. So looking at the issue of addiction, there are some well-known maintenance drugs, specifically concerning opioid addiction.

These medications can be effective, but they also present a level of danger themselves. Even though doctors prescribe them to combat withdrawals, they actually can create their own devastating withdrawals, especially with long term use.

Aetna Aims for Maintenance Drugs

Aetna is one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. In a recent Aetna report, the company is prepared to remove a major restriction for patients seeking maintenance drugs for opioid addiction. The change is set to begin this coming March. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a shift in policy in recent months, now in league with Anthem and Cigna insurers.

To be more specific, this insurance company will stop requiring doctors to seek approval before they prescribe particular medications that are used to combat withdrawal symptoms. One of these medications is suboxone, a well-known medication that many people use to fight opiate addiction.

The common insurance practice is known as “prior authorization”. The reason they are seeking to eliminate this policy is because it sometimes results in delays of hours to days before a patient can get the medications.

This new approach to regulation of maintenance drugs impacts all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed.

Advocates of Maintenance Drugs

Addiction treatment advocates to support having expanded access to maintenance drugs. Dr. Corey Waller, an emergency physician who chairs the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s legislative advocacy committee, states:

“It’s a first-line, Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for a disease with a known mortality. [For] every other disease with a known mortality, the first-line drugs are available right away.”

Essentially, the idea that parity laws require insurers to cover addiction treatments at the same level as other kinds of healthcare means these kinds of medication should be available for immediate access. This should be the same for all forms of addiction treatment.

Opinion: Treatment over Maintenance

While many would argue that maintenance drugs are a form of treatment, it is still a relevant argument that maintenance drugs are also imperfect and could actually be harmful if they become the cookie-cutter answer implemented by most insurers.

While harm reduction is understandable, and maintenance drugs can help people struggling with heroin or other dangerous opioids avoid other serious risks, the fact is many maintenance drugs include their own side-effects. Some often become subject to abuse themselves.

For instance, suboxone can be useful as a harm reduction tactic, but it can also be abused. Many people who have used suboxone as a long-term solution have found themselves battling suboxone withdrawal symptoms. The dangers of suboxone are very relevant.

The same, if not worse, has often been said about methadone maintenance drugs. While they may keep someone alive to get treatment, there should still be a strong emphasis on treatment itself. Maintenance drugs are most effective when part of a program. They are not a substitute for a treatment program.

Treatment should focus on finding solutions, not prolonging the suffering. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment should come from a holistic approach that addresses more than just physical ailments. Holistic treatment focuses on providing extensive and personalized therapy, combined with physical and emotional heal. If insurance companies want to focus on combining rational medical resources with comprehensive treatment, then this could be a great thing. However, if the focus becomes a quick-fix drug option opposing a full recovery through treatment, it only adds to the danger.

Maintenance drugs have support from the recovery community, but typically they must be accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. Maintenance drugs are just that- drugs. They are often powerful narcotics, and are true to their title- “maintenance,” not a permanent solution.

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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.

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Jamie Lee Curtis Writes About Her Former Opiate Addiction

Jamie Lee Curtis Writes About Her Former Opiate Addiction

Jamie Lee Curtis was known in her early career as a “scream queen.”  She was a horror movie sensation. She starred in famous horror movies like Halloween, Halloween II, Prom Night, Terror Train and Roadgames. Then later on in her career, she did other genre films like Blue Steel and Freaky Friday. While most people know Jamie Lee Curtis from her extensive body of work, very little know about Curtis’s long addiction to opiates.

After the death of Prince, Jamie Lee Curtis felt compelled to publish an article in the Huffington Post about her struggles with addiction. Although tests have not confirmed the cause of Prince’s death, many reports are saying the musician struggled with an opiate addiction which ended his life in an overdose.

Jamie Lee Curtis, now 57, says she believes she is “one of the lucky ones.” She was able to come out of her opiate addiction alive. In her article, she illustrates the powerful lure of opioids. Curtis began taking opiates after a routine surgical procedure at 35 years old.   In a 2009 article following the death of Michael Jackson, she wrote about how she soon became addicted after being prescribed the pills by her doctor.

“Most people who become addicted, like me, do so after a prescription for a painkiller following a medical procedure. Once the phenomenon of craving sets in, it is often too late,” she wrote.

Like many addicts, the moment Curtis became hooked on the drugs; she wanted it more and more.

“I too, waited anxiously for a prescription to be filled for the opiate I was secretly addicted to. I too took too many at once. I too sought to kill the emotional and physical pain with pain killers. Kill it. Make it stop.” She revealed in 2008 that it had gotten so bad that she was stealing pills from her sister.

Curtis is now 17 years in recovery. She says she can relate to Prince’s struggle with opiates because her addiction was just as toxic. She continued explaining how she not only mourns the passing of a phenomenal artist; she mourns all potential artists past and presents who get caught in this deadly addiction.

“Let’s work harder, look closer and do everything we can not to enable and in doing so, disable, our loved ones who are ill. This is what it sounds like when we all cry,” she says.

As a result of her personal addiction battle, Curtis now makes it her priority to spread awareness of this disease. She serves as a voluntary counselor and public speaker for anti-drug campaigns. In 2014, Curtis witnessed her friend overdose from a combination of alcohol and prescription medication and alcohol. Fortunately, her friend made a full recovery and was released from the hospital hours later.

Curtis says her sobriety is the greatest accomplishment of her life because it broke the cycle of addiction that was prevalent in her family. She now maintains her sobriety by being open about her past.

“Being courageous enough to acknowledge it privately with my family and friends. Working really hard at solidifying it, getting support around it and being healthy. And then talking about it publicly. That is the single greatest accomplishment of my life, “ she says.


Curtis has an amazing story of recovery; however it certainly was not easy for her to get to that point. It took work and acknowledging she had a problem. Therefore, if you are struggling with addiction, the time is now to admit that you need help with this disease. Call us today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

 

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