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One City Sees 174 Overdoses in 6 Days

One City Sees 174 Overdoses in 6 Days

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

Author: Justin Mckibben

The number of overdose deaths in our country are already at a staggering rate, increasingly troubling by the minute. Some areas are hit much harder, but overall the tragic toll of the opioid addiction epidemic in America is obvious. Time after time we witness overwhelming reports of devastating deaths and high frequencies of serious complications from drug use.

Ohio is among the top states in the country to experience elevated rates of overdose per population, and Cincinnati has seen a viscous proportion of these. In a single weekend 30 heroin overdoses across Cincinnati were reported.

During just a 48-hour time frame from Tuesday to Wednesday there were 78 more overdoses and at least three deaths.

Finally, after a six-day period of emergency-room visits, the number of overdoses had reached to a number health officials are calling “unprecedented”: 174!

Cincinnati VS Carfentanil

According to one local news source, Cincinnati has four overdose reports per day on average, and usually no more than 20 or 25 in a given week.

The bigger problem; pure heroin is what’s responsible for that average, but that’s not what’s on the streets now.

The sinister element suspected to be responsible in this latest upsurge of overdoses is heroin cut with the latest opioid hitting the streets- Carfentanil. For those of you who don’t know yet, this is an elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil supposedly has 10,000 times the potency as morphine!

At this point law enforcement officials are unable to identify the source of the toxic cocktail. Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan states that State, local and federal authorities have mobilized across Hamilton County to investigate where this incredibly powerful poison is coming from. So far they believe this record number of overdoses could be caused by a single heroin batch laced with Carfentanil.

Carfentanil, relatively similar to the opioid Fentanyl that has caused enough damage it its own right, is the strongest commercially used opioid. So just like with Fentanyl, drug dealers cut their heroin with Carfentanil to make it last longer and to deliver stronger, more addictive highs.

Tri-State Area Turmoil

New reports state that additional heroin overdoses in the tri-state area, plus New Jersey, tally up to more than 225 for this timeframe.

  • In the same time period of the Cincinnati overdoses:
  • Jennings County, Indiana reported 13 overdoses last Tuesday
  • Montgomery County, Kentucky reported 12 overdoses on Wednesday
  • Camden, New Jersey reported 29 overdoses between Tuesday and Thursday

All this news comes in after 27 people overdosed during a five-hour period in one West Virginia town in mid-August.

Still, these shocking and frightening rates springing up in Cincinnati have captured the most national attention.

Officials on a Mission

Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan also heads the law enforcement task force for the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. This effort is a collaboration of public health and law enforcement officials from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky working as a collective to combat the heroin epidemic afflicting the tri-state area. Many of these officials are very clear about their concerns, and about their mission. Hamilton County Commissioner Dennis Deters says this is a public health emergency like they have never seen before. Tim Ingram, the county’s health commissioner, said:

“This is unprecedented to see as many alerts as we’ve seen in the last six days,”

Officials are now pleading with the public. They have come out in the news to ask people to avoid the drug. The fact that the source of this potent batch is unknown and still out there makes them disparate to end this uptick in overdoses. Synan states,

“We’re urging you, please don’t do heroin right now. If for no other reason, because we don’t know what’s in the stuff on the street.”

He went on to point out the blatant disregard of dealers, saying:

“These people are intentionally putting in drugs they know can kill someone. The benefit for them is if the user survives, it is such a powerful high for them, they tend to come back. … If one or two people die, they could care less. They know the supply is so big right now that if you lose some customers, in their eyes, there’s always more in line.”

Harder to Fight

Further complicating matters is that Narcan– the drug that reverses the side effects of an overdose- is not working anymore, or at least not as reliably in cases such as these. When it comes to heroin overdoses, one or two doses of Narcan will stabilize a patient. So Narcan, and the generic Naloxone, expansion programs have taken great bounds forward in providing a line of defense.

However, these recent overdoses required two or three times that dosage. These more potent mixes have proven not only to be more deadly, but far more resilient to any medication-based efforts to save lives. Cincinnati is definitely not the only state in the nation dealing with this issue. The problem is growing, and with it so it the death-toll.

Now even more efforts must absolutely be put into raising awareness and providing education to the public. With such powerful new elements being introduced into the fight, the world should know what it’s up against. Real solutions should be made available, and real recovery begins with effective treatment.

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Overdose Deaths in America Higher Than Ever

Overdose Deaths in America Higher Than Ever

Author: Justin Mckibben

This is the kind of thing it is hard enough to read… and even more difficult to write.

I have written several articles in the past year about the outbreak of overdose deaths in America. I’ve written about the insurgence of the heroin and opiate epidemic, about the rates of overdose deaths across different states– blindsided by the staggering statistics in my own hometown– and about the tenacious and avant-garde approaches being pursued in various communities in this beautiful country that seems to be bleeding internally from a trauma thousands of addicts are suffering through every day.

Recalling all of this, knowing I’ve lost a few friends this year and knowing that I have loved ones out there fighting for their lives right now, it is very distressing to have to write that so far it’s not so good out there.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a report on Friday stating that deaths from opioid drug overdoses have hit an ALL-TIME RECORD in the United States.

The Dire Increase of Overdose Deaths

According to the report from the CDC these new numbers show that overdose deaths have been risen a daunting 14% in one year alone! Now the tallies show that more than 47,000 people were claimed by drug overdose deaths last year, and 28,647 were opiate overdoses.

Rose Rudd from the CDC wrote with some of her colleagues in this most recent and truly despairing report that these finding actually indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is actually getting worse. Now this isn’t too shocking since I also wrote a while back that experts predicted the overdose deaths would show no sign of dwindling until probably 2017. Estimating the rates will reach 50,000 deaths before dropping.

Apparently even some experts weren’t expecting it to get so bad so quickly. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden stated,

“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming…. The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders.”

The CDC report was able to indicate a very clear pattern. The report directly states that the sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2014, other than methadone, overlapped with reports from law enforcement of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

The tricky thing about this is that illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data, so it was hard to pinpoint the exact amount of deaths illicitly produced fentanyl was responsible for. The availability of opiates is obviously a main issue, and a Stanford University team also reported last week that primary care physicians are actually by far the biggest opioid drug suppliers.

Losing the Fight

Illegal or legal, Dr. Tom Frieden was adamant about availability being a primary focus in the future fight against overdose deaths, stating,

“This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids.”

According to the Stanford team prescription opioid sales rose by 300% since 1999, making the early 2000’s thus far an even more treacherous battlefield.

But again I say that all this is not for lack of trying to change the way the nation is suffering. Overdose deaths of all sorts of drugs are steadily skyrocketing despite efforts to formulate prescription drugs in ways that make the drugs more difficult to abuse.

Then again, as a former addict I admit that an addict who has been at it for a while will always find a way to abuse a substance.

Now the CDC is enthralled in a scrupulous debate over the best way to step back onto the battlefield. So far it has proposed to draft new guidelines this month to including using every possible pain management approach before allowing opiate painkillers like fentanyl or OxyContin to be prescribed, excluding terminally ill cancer patients.

Unfortunately this proposal has been met with stern resistance from patients, doctors and of course the drug industry. Many patients with serious health problems contest that they should not be made to suffer and be treated as criminals because others abuse these drugs, while the U.S. Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Management fight for the rights of patients who live with severe chronic pain to have access to effective pain medications.

At the end of the day the ravages of the monstrous opiate epidemic have left both suburbs and city street corners desolated with overdose deaths. Families and friends have lost the ones they love most to this sinister and lethal disease of addiction. It is beyond words to try and express how horrific the impact of these casualties in the fight against opiate addiction truly is.

The report stated that since the year 2000 the rate of overdose deaths has increased an overwhelming 137%! We have seen the body count climb year after year, and we have hustled to keep even a foothold in the fight against it. Hopefully with all the revolutionary ideas, programs and political policies trying to move toward compassion and cooperation we will see something spark a change. Believing in a better world is part of the reason we have the capacity to make one. For now, we need to be aware of where we stand if we can ever hope to make it better.

Maybe it had to get worse before it gets better. Maybe it truly is darkest before the dawn. Either way, every step we take as individuals toward making a contribution the closer we get to a world without the pain so many are barely surviving right now… and so many others are dying from.

There is a way out. We each can do our part to change that statistic, and for the addict or alcoholic who still suffers there are thousands of people just like you who have recovered and who want to help you. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

New Ad Blames Opiate Epidemic on President Obama

New Ad Blames Opiate Epidemic on President Obama

Author: Justin Mckibben

Let me begin with throwing a bit of personal opinion out there and say this story is just too ridiculous in all honesty. It isn’t even funny how off-base and basically offensive this campaign ad that I am about to discuss is, and for multiple reasons. I try my best to stay away from politics during election time, especially with expressing opinions publicly, but this has gone too far.

Now there is NO DOUBT that we are currently in the grips of devastation and disaster when it comes to the opiate epidemic in America. With any major issue like this there is ALWAYS going to be a wave of political finger-pointing, especially now with the coming presidential election, but this recent ad has taken it to an extreme like no other in an erroneous and inconsistent attempt to pin the suffering on the president.

Presidential candidate Chris Christie from New Jersey has taken a cheap-shot from way out of nowhere and tried to put all the blame for the current opiate epidemic in America squarely on the shoulders of President Barack Obama in his newest video commercial, and what an ironically incorrect claim that is.

Lawless America

The heroin epidemic has already amounted to plenty of the good old blame game, with a lot of the blame justifiably aimed at:

  • Big Pharma
  • Dirty doctors
  • Mexican heroin manufacturing

In an attempt to politicize the issue for one’s own benefit, Chris Christie has released a brand new campaign ad in which through his own narration he brings the attention to the “lawlessness in America,” including “drugs running rampant and destroying lives.”

In the ad we see a heroin addict with a hood over his head in a sketchy looking stairwell shooting up, then the camera cuts to an image of an addict falling out on a couch in what appears to be a representation of an overdose, with needles and other paraphernalia scattered on a coffee table.

This quick jab into the hearts of hundreds of thousands of American citizens and families across the country is slipped in there with ISIS beheadings, the Hillary Clinton information scandal and other scary subjects.

The sky-scraping overdose death rates and the opiate epidemic is a tender topic with so many hundreds of families who lose loved ones every single day to drug overdose, and far too many people are in the grips of active addiction with pain that is paramount to any politics. It feels like this was a cheap shot implied to take advantage of the American peoples sensitivity to the opiate epidemic.

The Ironic Reality

With such strong implications and such graphic images to push the point, this advertisement conveniently neglects to acknowledge the reality. It is lacking the facts about the opiate epidemic, and simply shielding itself with slander.

What Chris Christie didn’t mention is the opiate epidemic was actually gaining a great deal of momentum well before 2008, when George W. Bush was still president. Like how about how Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges for falsely marketing OxyContin back in 2007. This was one of the many products that were allowed to instigate the opiate epidemic, and it was already heavy on the streets before Obama came close to office.

As if that wasn’t enough to counter these claims, it should be noted that the pill mills in America that supplied a lot of illegitimate people with drugs were finally only shut down in 2011 when Obama actually was in office.

Guess which pot is calling which kettle black here…

Just in case no one noticed, this guy who is claiming America’s drug problem is this bad because of Obama should take some personal responsibility for his massive contribution. New Jersey, which is Chris Christies home state, currently has 3 times the overdose rates compared to the overall U.S. rate! Out of the national average of state overdose rates, New Jersey is 3 times worse!

And his ad is claiming we need a ‘Strong Law Enforcer’ for president?!

Yes… because imposing the strictest translations of our outdated drug laws as echoes of our failed war on drugs to further harm Americans who are in desperate need is the best kind of president for us right now….

Or nah… I think I’m gonna go with nah, Chris.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just expressing a personal opinion and even then the guy is not all bad. To his credit he has enacted Good Samaritan laws, and he also advocates for wide naloxone distribution. That being said, drug addiction treatment in New Jersey has been grossly inadequate for meeting the needs of countless addicts seeking help.

And yes, Obama has been in office while a lot has progressed in this opiate epidemic, but there are also great strides in drug policy reform and he has recognized how broken the war on drugs that came before him has been multiple times. No, it hasn’t happened over night, but progress is progress.

So maybe less focus should go on Obama, and more on the fact the opiate epidemic is going to require a revolution that begins with all of us. We all have a part to play is restoring the country and helping our friends and loved ones get healthy. If you or someone you love is struggling please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

“Predator” Heroin in Pittsburgh Pushes Overdose Epidemic to Next Level

“Predator” Heroin in Pittsburgh Pushes Overdose Epidemic to Next Level

Author: Justin Mckibben

The overdose epidemic in America is at full throttle and blazing a serious trail with no signs of stopping in the immediate future. A disheartening abundance of live continue to be lost as the nation’s leaders and state authorities scramble for resolutions, while some areas experience more destruction than ever at the hands of heroin. Now a new brand has hit Pittsburgh that seems to be responsible for a series of overdoses, and local authorities are attempting to trace it in order to shut it down.

Already 2 people are dead in the largest wave of heroin overdoses in the entire Pittsburgh area since the batch of fentanyl-laced heroin that according to officials killed almost 2 dozen addicts in 2014, and again it seems there’s some connection between these newest cases.

24 Hours of Overdoses

There was one day in particular in Pittsburgh that had authorities in a frenzy. In a 24 hour period between the morning of Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon there were reports of a dozen heroin overdoses. Police Commander RaShall Brackney reported later on Wednesday that thanks to emergency services having access to Narcan, the overdose antidote drug known for reversing the deadly effects of opioid poisoning, ten people who overdose survived when paramedics administered the lifesaving medicine. Most of the incidences occurred on the South Side and in neighborhoods on the West End. Commander Brackney went on to say,

“This huge spike in the last 24 hours is causing us extreme concern,”

Out of the dozen reported overdoses, not all the individuals were so lucky to have been revived. The 2 men that died of suspected overdoses were:

  • Patrick Byrnes, 38, of Beechview
  • James Nardozi, 31, of Dormont

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said that the official cause of death in both cases is still pending, but added that county medical examiner Dr. Karl Williams indicated they appear to be heroin-related.

In Allegheny County alone there were 299 deaths from drug overdoses in 2014, a number that had nearly tripled since the year 2000 when there were 109. In Westmoreland County, 87 people died in 2014, nearly four times the number in 2002. So it is fair to say that a need for more overdose prevention resources and education in this area may be needed while the police try to track down the source of the lethal substance that supposedly is leaving a calling card with stamped bags.

Stopping the Stamps

The police have found a piece of this deadly puzzle to turn their focus toward, as the  bags used to package the drugs involved in a number of these cases were stamped with the word “predator” along with the image of a shark, police Commander Larry Scirotto said. But the two deaths were stamped in different bags, including:

  • A bag labeled “Chocolate” at the scene of Byrnes death.
  • A bag found near Nardozi had the stamp, “Chicken/Waffle”

The Allegheny County Crime Lab is currently examining the stamp bags to verify, but it already appears the heroin came from the same distributor. Commander Scirotto did say,

“It’s hard to predict if this is more potent or if it’s laced with something else,”

With this brand being linked to these deaths, some have asked if the dealer who sold the heroin could face homicide charges, since many states are starting to push for stricter penalties be paid and that dealers be held responsible for the deaths of their customers (if they knowingly sell a tainted product).

Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid that has been highlighted recently for contributing to the overdose deaths of many people, and now the U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating the source of the fentanyl laced heroin in order to remove these intensely dangerous drugs from the market.

Arming Officials with Narcan

Paramedics now regularly carry Narcan to treat suspected opioid overdose victims on the spot, and in some states people are insisting that these same resources be made widely available to prevent further incidents. In Pittsburgh the city paramedics have been armed with Narcan for at least 20 years, and now the talk is to arm city police officers.

The idea of equipping the police is probably one that will pay off. The Westmoreland County Sheriff’s deputies have been carrying Narcan since last year, and it has been reported that state police troopers will carry it soon.

Narcan initially could only be injected with a syringe, but now it is available as a nasal spray, which makes it easier for law enforcement or family members to administer. Pennsylvania is now among at least 24 states allowing expanded use of Narcan, and actually have a law preventing those who respond to and report overdoses from being prosecuted, while allowing friends and family members of people at risk of overdose eligible for a prescription of Narcan to have in case of emergency.

As officials call out for more availability for the overdose antidote, the city of Pittsburgh is being infiltrated by a toxic trade-mark shark that seems to be just one of a series of labeled poison packages killing addicts in the area. Too many more of those 24 hour overdose outbreaks could do some serious damage, but hopefully authorities can cut off the suppliers, or at the very least be ready to treat those in need.

While drug overdose threatens lives in Pittsburgh, people all over the nation are facing the same threats and looking for hope anyway they can. Too many addicts are dying right now because they don’t know a way out, but it is possible and we at Palm Partners want to help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

Should a Heroin Overdose Be Considered a Homicide?

Should a Heroin Overdose Be Considered a Homicide?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Every four minutes, someone dies from addiction to alcohol or drugs. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the leading cause of injury related death in 2013 was drug overdose (drug poisoning), and some people are to the point where they think we need to start holding more dealers accountable for the death toll.

I recently wrote and published an article discussing how heroin was killing more people in some parts of the country than homicide is, proving that drugs DO indeed kill people, even when people kill people. When the article was published someone online caught my attention by commenting that “Heroin IS homicide!”

That got me thinking, and then I came across a few stories of some very similar opinions and started to wonder myself, should an overdose be considered a homicide by heroin? This is actually a debate that has been made famous by some celebrity deaths and the trials against their dealers, such as 57-year-old Robert Vineberg was arrested 2 days after Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead from a suspected overdose. He was put in front of the judge, along with 2 others caught up in a raid after the famous actors death.

Should it Mean Murder?

Technically, the state of Massachusetts alone has it worse than the rest of America as a whole, considering the overdose rate in 2013 was double the national average of 7.7 deaths per 100,000 to heroin and prescription narcotics.

Given the state of the situation, Colonel Timothy P. Alben tweeted last month his own opinions on that topic, weighing in with a quote,

“Charging heroin dealers with homicide/manslaughter should become part of any strategy to attack this problem!”

While to some this may seem like an extreme, the colonel can hardly be faulted for his militant attitude while living and working in a state that lost 978 people to overdoses in 2013—nearly 3 times the number who died in 2000.

Some other officials avidly spoke out in favor of that sentiment. Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless explain that in Berkshire county, an area which had 16.2 overdoses for every 100,000 people in 2013, every overdose death is fully investigated with the intent to charge someone for the death, but it doesn’t often happen.

A big part of that being the lack of witnesses, because the main witness is dead, and others are typically other addicts and customers who would never want to turn in their dealers. Capeless went so far as to say,

“You have instances where a best friend can be lost, yet that person won’t cooperate because they’re all thinking about their own survival.”

But that doesn’t mean it NEVER happens. Capeless himself got his first manslaughter conviction against a drug dealer in 2009. Other counties have gotten arrests for drug providers in deaths, and several cases ended in convictions.

The Death Trend

Massachusetts police detectives have handled 22 homicides across the Commonwealth. That does NOT include:

  • Boston
  • Worcester
  • Springfield

(which investigate their own deaths)

State troopers have been called on 10 times as many suspected heroin overdoses as homicides, added up to 238.

Yes, I say again- 10 TIMES the number of homicides has been suspected heroin overdoses!

But Massachusetts isn’t alone with this idea either. Other states have pursued charges against dealers following overdose deaths of their customers, including:

  • Ohio
  • New Jersey
  • Iowa

Investigators in states like Massachusetts have it rough though because they need to prove “wanton and reckless” action, not just negligence. For that to work prosecutors would have to prove that the dealer knowingly had a potent batch, or had other customers overdose, yet sold anyway. There would have to be some pre-existing knowledge of risk to life.

On the Federal Level

Dealers can also face charges on the federal level of the law.

Following the death of Boston Celtics draft pick Len Bias in 1986 that was deemed cocaine-relate, the federal government implemented a law that levied stiff penalties on drug dealers whose sales can be directly tied to overdoses—a minimum of 20 years, and up to life in prison.

But much like on the state by state basis, there is the same scrutiny to prove the allegations.

As if that wasn’t enough, last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the drug in question can’t just have contributed to the user’s death (such as in a cocktail of other drugs). It needs to have actually caused the death.

The Blame Game

According to Suffolk County District Attorney spokesman Jake Wark,

“Ultimately, as sad and tragic as it may be, drug use is a voluntary act in almost every case we see.”

There is too much breathing room for reasonable doubt between the manufacture of the drug and the ingestion by the user. Some believe that trying to convict a drug dealer for the death of a consumer is like trying to convict a gun manufacturer for a murder… or better yet, a suicide.

Then there is the source of the problem, which includes the pharmaceutical companies that produce powerful pills like Oxycodone that get misused and lead to harder opiates for some addicts. Are we going to start arresting the heads of Big Pharma for the deaths of addicts? For a while prescription painkillers were the leading cause of overdose death!

Maybe that isn’t such a bad idea… but I digress…

The fact that we are talking about charging drug dealers (who are often addicts themselves) with the deaths of users, we are treading some dangerous ground. Take for instance Joshua Lore, who is accused of preparing and administering a lethal dose of heroin to 23-year-old Kody Woods. Lore also got high himself that day, according to an arrest warrant, and after his friend died he was charged with second-degree murder, even though the coroner ruled the death was accidental, because under the law in the area he could be charged.

So while it is understandable that sometimes some of us believe that those making money off of the misery and deaths of others should be held responsible, where do we draw the line?

First think about your loved one’s death falling on whoever was with them and gave them the drugs. Now imagine your loved one using with a friend and that person dies, and your son/daughter or brother/sister is charged with their murder? Will imprisoning more and more addicts while others die really solve it?

As someone who has both sold drugs, and lost loved ones to overdose and other drug related incidents, I still believe that this can’t be the answer.

Maybe we should be relying on more effective and innovative treatment techniques instead to resort lives instead of take away what life they are holding onto.

The pain of losing a loved one to addiction is undeniable, and the desire for justice to be served to their memory is very relatable. But ending more lives never brings back the one that was lost, and with drug use we have to accept that no one is forcing us to use. We take our lives into our own hands every time we get high, and sometimes we don’t make it back. But if you, you have another opportunity to make a 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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