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Tom Marino Proud of Law Critics Say Made Opioid Epidemic Worse

Tom Marino Proud of Law Critics Say Made Opioid Epidemic Worse

Author: Justin Mckibben

Earlier this week we talked about a story that shook things up in politics as a former DEA agent threw some serious accusations at the Big Pharma industry, Congress and a number of key officials for their involvement in policies some believe helped create the enduring opioid crisis in America. Among those accused of tipping the scales in favor of Big Pharma and stripping power away from those charged with regulating the industry was Republican Representative Tom Marino.

Of course, we know that Tom Marino was President Donald Trump’s top nominee to be the nation’s drug czar.

Now, after withdrawing from the nomination to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Tom Marino says he is proud of his role in writing a 2016 law that many critics say paved the way for the current epidemic.

The Tom Marino Factor

What kind of role did Tom Marino have in the creation of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act? Why is it that so many are up in arms about the bill in the first place?

To recap- Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee introduced a bill to the House. It was advertised to officials as a way to ensure that patients had access to the pain medication they needed. In a statement released by Marino’s office, he claims the law would help “facilitate a balanced solution” by ensuring access to certain medications while allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration to prevent the sale and abuse of prescription drugs.

In essence, Tom Marino was supposedly pushing for a way to let pain management patients still get the useful medications they needed, without impeding on the process of curbing abuse.

But that isn’t how everyone sees it, especially after the 60 Minutes story.

Why it Matters

According to the opposition, the bill ultimately did little else besides weaken the DEA and the government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids in suspicious shipments.

For years prior to the passage of the “Marino Bill” some big-time drug distributors were getting fined thousands of dollars for repeatedly ignoring DEA warnings to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills. These companies were racking up billions of dollars in sales while turning a blind eye to obnoxious overprescribing of dangerous drugs.

Back then the DEA was able to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street by freezing suspicious shipments. If the DEA judged that the drugs posed an “imminent danger” to a community, they could take action to prevent the flood of powerful narcotic medications from overwhelming the area.

However, the Tom Marino bill is argued to make it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies. Now, the agency is required to demonstrate that a drug distributor’s actions represent “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” which officials say is far more difficult criteria to meet. The report against the Tom Marino bill even cited internal DEA and Justice Department documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge.

The DEA even fought the bill, according to people within the agency, but in 2015 the law gained momentum again when the Justice Department named a new chief of the DEA- Chuck Rosenberg. After some reluctance, the report on 60 Minutes that included exclusive insight from Joseph T. Rannazzisi states the DEA ultimately took a deal they did not want.

Champion for Big Pharma

Marino disputed that, calling the reports “false accusations and unfair reporting.”

Tom Marino spent years pushing versions of this bill through Congress. He argued that it was to put an overly-aggressive DEA in check and protect drug companies from what he believed was unfair or misguided federal interference. In other words, he spent a lot of time fighting for Big Pharma’s ability to send millions of pills to communities that didn’t have half the population to justify them. All because the DEA was being aggressive?

The irony here is that the same people who pushed so hard for drug distributors ability to traffic obscene among of pills without the pesky DEA would probably be the same people demanding mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenders on the streets.

And again, many are still suspicious of those involved in pushing for this kind of legislation because of their connections to Big Pharma industry. The Post reports that the drug industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, including Tom Marino.

Some reports indicate the Big Pharma industry poured more than a million dollars into election campaigns, including Marino’s, who received nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees supporting the drug industry.

Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch calls the report “complete baloney” after it gained serious momentum earlier in the week.

Why are we not surprised? Because Hatch himself has received hundreds of thousands in donations from Big Pharma companies and health contributors over the years.

Holding Big Pharma accountable for their contribution to the opioid epidemic has become an increasingly popular cause. Lawyers and politicians at all levels have been pushing to put a spotlight on the shady side of the pharmaceutical industry. Now it seems that spotlight may extend more and more to exposing the politics that allow these issues to spread.

Another crucial element to putting an end to the opioid epidemic is providing safe and effective treatment for those who need help the most. A lot of people are still out there suffering because of prescription drug abuse or other dangerous substances. But we want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Author: Justin Mckibben

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.

The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:

  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • India
  • France
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Canada

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.

Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.

The Turning Point for America

According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.

Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:

“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”

One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.

GCDP vs War on Drugs

Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.

The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:

“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”

To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction

So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?

Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:

  • Naloxone Distribution and Training

As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.

Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.

Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.

  • Drug Checking

These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.

Decriminalizing Drugs in America

In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.

The report states:

“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”

With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:

  • End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
  • Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.

The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.

“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”

We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.

Better Treatment Research

The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.

One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.

Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:

“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”

While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.

Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.

What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?

One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Can You Protect Your Loved Ones in the Opioid Epidemic?

Can You Protect Your Loved Ones in the Opioid Epidemic?

One of the very real difficulties many families face today is trying to overcome issues with substance use and addiction. With opioid overdose resulting in the deaths of over 33,000 people in 2015, a rate of death that has consistently risen in the past several years, the opioid crisis is a very relevant concern. This issue does not only impact those abusing drugs but drastically impacts their families and loved ones.

Watching someone struggle with substance abuse or dependence can be a devastating experience. When it comes to those we are closest to, it only amplifies the turmoil. It is so hard to know how to be there for someone who is struggling without doing something that could be counter-productive to making their life better.

So can you protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic? Yes. But how?

What are the things that families members and friends need to focus on in order to keep their loved ones safe?

Understand Proper Pain Management

According to the CDC, approximately 20% of patients who visit their doctors for pain receive an opioid prescription.

Another article on Addictions.com talks about how opioid addictions often begin at home. Some people may still assume that drug addiction begins on the illicit market, but what we have seen more and more over the years is that the opioid epidemic has largely been fueled by prescription drugs.

Many people who struggle with opioid addiction began by using opioid-based painkillers due to a doctor’s prescription. These kinds of medication are not all that strange when dealing with pain management. Powerful prescription opioids are used for:

A lot of times these medications are prescribed for short-term use to try and reduce the risk of dependence after extended use. However, even with short-term prescriptions, these potent opioids can develop a physical dependence with uncomfortable or even painful withdrawal symptoms.

Overprescribing has also become an element in the opioid epidemic spreading through prescription drugs. Having an abundance of people prescribed to opioids also adds to the risk of more abuse.

By understanding these risks, people can better protect themselves and each other from developing a serious dependence. If you are aware of what can happen with opioids, even if legitimately prescribed, you can watch for signs and take action to prevent further risk.

Monitor Your Medicine Cabinet

According to a SAMHSA study from 2015, more than 50% of people addicted to painkillers receive the drugs from family members or friends.

Not only are those who receive opioids for medical reasons at some risk of accidentally developing a dependence, those who live with them can also be at risk of abusing opioids and becoming addicted. The overprescribing of opioids has also created stockpiles of opioids in thousands of homes all over the country. Left-over medications are also making a contribution to high rates of opioid misuse.

Some people who receive an opioid prescription may not actually use the entire prescription, but frequently they hold onto the excess supply of their medications. This is often innocent enough, as people will sometimes want to have something on-hand in case of unexpected pain down the road. Sometimes they might even offer these medications to others in an attempt to help manage a friend or loved one’s pain. However, even with the best intentions, this can be very dangerous.

Not only can giving someone a powerful opioid they are not prescribed be dangerous, simply having this kind of drug lying around is dangerous. Your medicine cabinet can be easily accessed by others within your household.

If you want to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic, make sure that you keep opioid medications under restricted access in your home. Do not play doctor and offer these kinds of drugs to your friends or family.

Also, make sure you properly dispose of any unused medications. You can take excess opioid drugs to a drug drop-off. Find nearby locations, which are often at pharmacies or law enforcement agencies.

Look for Signs of Dependence

Dependence and addiction are two terms that are relatively similar, but not exactly interchangeable.

Opioid dependence refers to how the body builds a tolerance to opioids over time. This process leads to the individual needing increasingly high doses of the drug to receive the same effect. Where addiction is more psychological, dependence is primarily a physical response.

Opioid users become physically dependent on the drugs when they require certain doses to feel and function “normally,” while also trying to avoid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. All of these effects can contribute to the development of a more serious addiction. Some physical signs to watch for include:

  • Drowsiness/Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Reparatory depression
  • Loss of consciousness/Nodding off
  • Constipation

Withdrawal signs can also indicate dependence, including minor symptoms such as:

Understanding the signs or addiction, including withdrawal, can be a way to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic. If you can recognize the warning signs, you might be able to intervene before it is too late.

Seek Professional and Effective Help

Education is key to prevention, no matter what the situation or circumstances. Whatever the adversity, arming yourself with information makes you more effective. At the same time, seeking help from those with knowledge and experience with treating addiction is invaluable. Having a safe and effective resource that knows how to help your loved one overcome an opioid dependence or addiction can make all the difference.

It can be overwhelming, and none of us can protect everyone. However, you can be part of the support system that works to keep your family, friends and loved ones safe.

If your loved one is already struggling with opioids, the best thing you can do to protect them is to get them the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

CDC Fighting Opioids with Millions in Funding to 44 States

CDC Fighting Opioids with Millions in Funding to 44 States

Author: Justin Mckibben

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on September 5th it would be allocating more than $28.6 million in funding to assist dozens of states, not to mention the District of Columbia, with overcoming the issues they face concerning opioid abuse, addiction, overdose and opioid related death. Many states are still struggling to make headway in the uphill battle. Thanks to the CDC fighting opioids with such a large contribution people in these areas have a better chance of gaining access to crucial resources.

It All Adds Up

The Omnibus Appropriations Bill in 2017 added funding for fighting the opioid epidemic with a $103 million dollar contribution. Combined with this new money from the CDC there will be even more support for things such as:

  1. Addiction prevention programs

  2. Drug monitoring programs

  3. Improved toxicology testing for medical examiners/coroners

This isn’t the first time this year the CDC has dropped a big sum into the opioid outbreak.

Just a few months back in July the CDC fighting opioids led to a $12 million pledge to state overdose prevention efforts. This contribution was made as part of the plan from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) in response to the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Who Gets the Money?

So which states are receiving funding through this latest pledge, and why? This money is being distributed out to various states that participate in the CDC’s Overdose Prevention in States Program (OPiS). The OPiS program includes 3 unique programs designed for prevention efforts:

Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States (PfS)

This program will provide $19.3 million in funding to 27 states to expand various of their prevention programs, which also use community outreach.

Data-Driven Prevention Initiative (DDPI)

$4.6 million will go through DDPI to 12 states and Washington, D.C. for similar programs. Other states getting funds through the DDPI include:

  1. Alaska

  2. Michigan

  3. New Jersey

  4. South Dakota

Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS)

Across the country around $4.7 million will go to medical examiners and coroners in 32 states and D.C. to track and prevent overdoses. The top 5 states on the list of highest rates of overdose death will receive funding, which includes:

  1. West Virginia

  2. New Hampshire

  3. Kentucky

  4. Ohio

  5. Rhode Island

-as well as-

  1. Delaware

  2. Florida

  3. Maine

  4. Washington, D.C.

How is CDC Fighting Opioids?

Not only is the OPiS program a big portion of the plan to fight opioids from the DHHS, but there are 4 other key components to these efforts.

  1. Naloxone expansion programs

  2. Improving public health data related to opioid crisis

  3. Advancing practices for pain management

  4. Greater research and support on addiction and pain

DHHS Secretary Tom Price states that the funding expansion was made possible through legislation signed by the Trump administration earlier this year. He insists it is an important part of committing help to states combating opioid addiction and overdose.

Many are hopeful that this will be the beginning of a trend for allocating funds toward more resources for CDC fighting opioids and the damage they cause across America. Advocates are still hopeful to receive more support, but for now there is at least some hope that something is being done. As far as each individual, recovery begins with taking advantage of any opportunity in front of you to do better. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

How Could New Trump Budget Proposal Impact the Opioid Epidemic?

The Potential Pros and Cons of Trump Budget on Opioid Epidemic

Author: Justin Mckibben

It is no secret that the devastating opioid epidemic in America is still tearing a path of despair across the country. In 2015 this ongoing public health crisis ravaged communities, causing over 52,000 drug overdose deaths and more than 33,000 opioid overdose deaths. The opioid problem was a major campaign issue during the election, and now is one of the most pressing problems we face here in the states. Yet, upon examining the recent budget proposal released by President Trump and his administration, it seems the means to try and bring the epidemic to an end are lacking to say the least.

Given the current state of affairs, it is certain that tens of thousands of people will likely die of drug overdoses under President Donald Trump’s term. Taking that into account many hoped that drug treatment would be a serious priority. However, with the first big policy document from President Trump being the 2018 budget proposal, experts believe Trump is proving that the opioid crisis is not a priority. All this after claims that Trump would “spend the money” in order to “end the opioid epidemic in America.”

If anything, some experts are saying the proposal President Trump has introduced may actually make the opioid epidemic worse. So here we will take a look at some of the pros and cons of the 2018 proposed budget.

The Pros VS the Cons

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), this new budget plan makes little effort, and in the end it may ultimately prove obsolete.

  1. Nearly 2% increase in drug treatment spending

Pro- the ONDCP says this will amount to an estimated $200 million added to the already $10.6 billion the government already spent on treatment.

Con- the catch is this money includes the $500 million added by the 21st Century Cures Act from the Obama administration.

That essentially means without that Obama era legislation the Trump budget would have actually cut drug treatment spending. Ultimately, the cut will likely happen the year after the 2018 budget because the Cures Act money is only for 2017 and 2018.

  1. Cuts or No Cuts?

Pros- Still, according to the ONDCP figures of the 2018 budget, technically there are no proposed cuts to overall drug treatment spending this year.

Cons- However, the proposal does suggest other cuts to public health and anti-drug programs. The ONDCP states that these other cuts in funding can completely undermine any progress.

For example, the 2018 budget proposal from President Trump does seriously cut drug prevention programs across all federal agencies by approximately 11%.

Other Big Budget Debates

  • Medicaid

Probably one of the big arguments is the potential for problems with healthcare and cuts to Medicaid, especially since President Trump repeatedly ran on the promise that he would not be cutting Medicaid.

However, reports indicate Trump also proposes a 47% cut to Medicaid over the next 10 years! People have been up in arms about the suggestion that this could potentially strip the one affordable source of health insurance from millions of Americans. Part of which is actually used for drug addiction treatments.

A 2014 study showed that Medicaid paid for ¼ of projected public and private spending for drug treatment in 2014. That equates to around 7.9 billion dollars utilized for treating drug addiction.

  • SAMHSA

The new 2018 budget proposal also requests nearly $400 million worth of cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

  • Mental Health Block Grants

The Trump budget requests hundreds of millions of dollars to be taken away from mental health block grants.

Beyond that, the budget calls for billions of dollars to be cut from agencies and programs that work to help address the opioid epidemic and drug addiction. Agencies with proposed cuts include:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

While these are not drug treatment providers, they are actively involved in creating opportunities and providing research in the mental health and drug treatment communities.

Too Little Too Late

Advocates for drug treatment don’t only put this on Trump. For years the federal government has taken too long to take action to fight the epidemic. Even with the Obama administration it took until 2016 to pass any major legislation. Finally the 21st Century Cures Act added $1 billion to drug treatment for 2 years, but advocates insist that the problem requires much more funding.

This makes sense, considering the overdose outbreak now kills more people than:

  • Cars
  • Guns
  • Even HIV/AIDS at the peak of its outbreak

Examining the budget shows that the only significant action in the budget that would affect the epidemic is cuts in funding to important elements in the fight against the epidemic. Sadly, as far as anyone has stated, there is nothing in the budget to balance out the cuts either.

What We Know

The fundamental issue is that America needs to put a lot more resources into drug addiction prevention and drug addiction treatment. The Obama administration took some steps in 2015 and 2016 to add hundreds of millions and then another billion to fund the efforts, but experts still say that was also too little too late.

The fear now is that more needs to be done to empower the agencies that are on the front lines of the fight. More needs to be put into a compassionate response. Instead, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is advocating for a “tough on crime” attitude and endorsing the War on Drugs that has already failed the nation time and time again.

So while there is potential, and many believe Trump has an amazing opportunity to do much more than his predecessor did to create resources for battling the opioid epidemic head-on, many see these recent steps as an indication that things might get worse before they get better.

Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and providing effective and compassionate treatment makes a lifelong difference. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. Please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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