Tomorrow morning, June 27, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. will host a one-day Online Opioid Summit. The guest list to the summit includes:
- Internet stakeholders
- Government entities
- Academic researchers
- Advocacy groups
The aim of the event is to discuss ways to collaboratively take stronger action in combatting the opioid crisis by reducing the availability of illicit opioids online. And when it comes to the internet, there are no bigger names in America than Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There will be presentations by the Food and Drug Administration and other organizations. A webcast will be available of the Opioid Summit for the general public.
So what will the FDA, Google and the biggest names in social media have to talk about?
Online Opioid Markets
Over the past decade, opioid-related deaths have continued to climb. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA:
- In 2005 there were around 12,900 opioid-related deaths
- In 2016 there were well over 42,000
More recent figures show that on average, 115 Americans die every day from opioid abuse. There are a few elements that have contributed to this devastating trend, including the over-prescription of painkillers like Oxycontin and an influx of heroin into the country.
So what does the place you get your sponge-bob square-pants memes have to do with opioid abuse in America?
When we’ve taken a closer look at the opioid crisis, we have discovered that illicit sales of either prescription medications, illegal narcotics or synthetics like fentanyl from overseas have found a home in online marketplaces. According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, revenues from illicit drug sales online have grown substantially over the last several years.
- 2012- online illicit drug sales were between $15 and $17 million
- 2015- those illicit drug sales online shut up to between $150 and $180 million
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy conducted research by searching online for prescription opioids across the three major search engines. They found that nearly 91% of the first search results led users to an illegal online drug distributor offering prescription opioids.
Needless to say, those numbers show there are still dark corners of the internet dealers exploit for drug trafficking. In fact, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April, one of the big questions he was repeatedly confronted with was how Facebook intended to fight illegal drug sales on their site. This Opioid Summit is about a collaborative effort to do better about restricting online drug sales.
While dark websites like the notorious Silk Road have been a major component to digital drug dealing, social media sites, and search engines have found their formats being abuse for these activities as well. Between illegal online pharmacies, drug dealers and other criminals the use of the internet to distribute opioids with minimized risk has steadily increased.
The Opioid Summit will address the state of the opioid crisis and invite Internet stakeholders to present how their companies are working to fight the sale of opioids on their sites and protect their users. A statement by the FDA adds:
“One critical step to address this public health emergency is the adoption of a far more proactive approach by internet stakeholders to crack down on internet traffic in illicit drugs.”
Facebook has already announced new efforts to prevent the sales of opioids through their site. The approach by Zuckerberg and his team is actually unique. Facebook users who try to buy opioids or search for addiction treatment will be redirected toward information about finding free and confidential treatment referrals. Users will also be directed to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline.
On the Opioid Summit agenda, there are a few important discussions, including:
This will include a brief opioid crisis overview from Donald Ashley, J.D., Director, Office of Compliance, FDA. There will also be a presentation on the DEA Internet Investigation. And different experts will present research regarding the ease of purchasing opioids online.
This discussion will include a number of presentations, including one from the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies. Even the Vice President of MasterCard, Paul Paolucci, will be part of the roundtable.
It is important to note that only the FDA speaker presentations will be webcast to the public.
The takeaway here is that hopefully as the illicit drug market evolves, using search engines and social media to try and carve out a space for trafficking, the biggest names in internet will also be working to actively prevent these illegal industries from flourishing on their sites. Hopefully, the summit will introduce new measures to make it harder for dealers to take advantage of social networking tools. Social media is for bringing people together. Sadly, some still use it to sell the drugs that tear communities and families apart. Next, there should be more discussion about comprehensive addiction treatment.
It is important that those with the ability to reduce drug trafficking take action where they can. An even more crucial aspect of putting an end to the ongoing opioid crisis is safe and effective treatment resources. For over 20 years, Palm Partners Recovery Center has been actively helping people struggling with addiction to transform their lives and heal. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Narcan, or the generic version Naloxone, is the opioid overdose antidote that we have heard so much about in recent years. The opioid epidemic has left us no choice but to talk about it. While opioid addiction spreads, the overdose death rates skyrocket and community leaders all over the country are trying to find ways to expand access to Narcan and Naloxone. Now some advocates in South Florida, and specifically in Palm Beach County, are pushing for discussion on having Narcan in schools.
This isn’t a brand new concept, and it obviously doesn’t come out of the blue. There is a steadily growing number of kids prescribed legal pain killers, especially after the FDA ruled to allow OxyContin to be prescribed to children 11 years old and up back in 2015.
So with the conversation trying to get off the ground, we might want to take a serious look at the benefits of such resources. This is not the first time the question has been raised about utilizing the overdose antidote in schools, so is it a good idea or not?
Examples of Narcan in School
There are already several states across the country that use Naloxone and Narcan in schools. State programs are set up differently, with some requiring the medication and others leaving it to individual school districts to set their own requirements. Just a few examples of states with Narcan in the classroom include:
January of this year Ohio Governor Kasich signed a bill making it possible to have Narcan in schools and homeless shelters. Just this week there was a 5 to 1 vote in Akron, Ohio by the Akron Public Schools Board of Education that passed a motion for police officers who work in the district’s middle schools and high schools to be equipped with Narcan in district buildings.
A law passed during the legislative session allows West Virginia schools to stock opioid antagonists, such as Narcan and Naloxone, for drug overdoses.
The state of New York has a program set up to provide Narcan in schools for free. So far 64 districts are participating in the narcan expansion program.
In 2016 there were 268 schools in the Pennsylvania Public High Schools system approved for Narcan intranasal kits from Adapt Pharma for free.
Also back in 2016, the Illinois General Assembly voted to override the Governor’s veto of a bill to allow Narcan in schools so nurses have access. The Illinois legislation specifically authorizes school nurses to administer the drug to anyone they believe may be suffering an opioid overdose.
Every middle school, junior high and high school is required to have a stock of naloxone on the premises.
The kicker is there are currently no programs for Narcan in Florida schools.
Palm Beach County Debate
Of course with programs like these we will always see some standing against it saying it promotes, or at least enables, illicit drug use by students. However, there are plenty of others who have stood on the fron lines and seen how opioid addiction can stem from legal and innocent beginnings. Maureen Kielian is one advocate who spoke up about the possibility of Narcan in schools recently, stating:
“My son became addicted to legally prescribed opioids,”
South Florida Recovery Advocates is a group actively advocating for schools to have Narcan, and Maureen has joined the fight to make a difference for kids like her son. Kielian states,
“We are on it. We just need cooperation from our leaders to save lives,”
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche plans to meet with local law enforcement officials and school leaders to try and pursue a future Narcan program for the South Florida schools. He acknowledges that the biggest hurdle may be funding, but Valeche insists that saving lives is more important. He and other advocates understand the cost is nowhere near the value of a life.
While schools try to get their hands on an antidote that might save the lives of their students, people everywhere are still fighting for their lives. Don’t wait for an overdose to get help. Make the choice now. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Since late last week, the tragic story of the sudden death of rock legend Chris Cornell has taken some heartbreaking and bewildering turns. While the initial reports held no details of the singer’s unexpected death, more recent reports have indicated the cause of death was suicide. However, as the story continues Chris Cornell’s family is skeptical and openly critical of this conclusion. Now some are speaking out saying it was drugs, and not depression, responsible for the sudden passing.
Born Christopher John Boyle, the 52 year old Seattle, Washington native was one of the most recognizable voices of American rock music. His famous and powerful vocal belting technique along with an impressive voice range has inspired countless artists and soothed the rock genre with its passionate and often brooding words. The guitarist, singer and songwriter is best known as lead vocalist for the bands:
Cornell was also the founder and front man for Temple of the Dog, a tribute band dedicated to his friend, the late Andrew (Andy) Wood. Andy, Chris Cornell’s roommate who played in the band Mother Love Bone, died in 1990 from a heroin overdose.
He is also known for his numerous solo works, soundtrack contributions since 1991. Cornell is credited as one of the architects of the 1990’s grunge movement
Chris Cornell was found in the MGM Grand Detroit in the early hours of Thursday morning, May 18, 2017. He had only hours earlier been on stage performing with his Soundgarden band.
Since his teenage years Chris Cornell struggled through multiple battles with addiction and roads to recovery. In one 2006 interview Cornell actually talked about having a bad experience with PCP at age 14 and developed a panic disorder. He admitted that as the child of two alcoholics, drinking ultimately led him back to drugs in his late 20s.
The rocker managed to get off of drugs and alcohol between around the year 1980 up until 1997. Around 1997 his first marriage was failing, and the band Soundgarden had split up. Cornell resorted to using substances including the powerful prescription opioid OxyContin.
In 2002 Cornell checking into rehab, and afterward commented on the experience stating:
“It was a long period of coming to the realization that this way (sober) is better. Going through rehab, honestly, did help … it got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them and you know.”
Chris Cornell also noted in an interview in 2011 that the biggest difference he had noticed when Soundgarden had reunited and began making music together was that the presence of alcohol was no longer constant. Without conversation, it had just been removed from the picture.
Wife Vicky Refutes Suicide Reports
Although he was a profoundly emotional musician with a catalog of melancholy or blues melodies, many have called into question whether Chris Cornell would actually knowingly take his own life, including his wife, Vicky. Reports have said Vicky does not believe Cornell was suicidal. Less than 24 hours after the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Chris Cornell had died as a result of suicide by hanging himself, Cornell’s wife and attorney openly challenged that conclusion. Lawyer Kirk Pasich said in a statement:
“Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris – or if any substances contributed to his demise,”
The statement also said the family found these implications disturbing, and that Chris Cornell was a recovering drug addict who had been taking a prescription anti-anxiety medication Ativan. The statement added:
“The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions,”
The statement included medical literature indicating that,
“Ativan can cause paranoid or suicidal thoughts, slurred speech and impaired judgment.”
The Night Of
Vicky shared her heartbreak over the loss of her husband of 13 years, the father of their two pre-teen children, and told interviews that Cornell, a devoted husband and father, had come home to spend Mother’s Day with his family between shows, and flown to his next stop Wednesday.
“When we spoke before the show, we discussed plans for a vacation over Memorial Day and other things we wanted to do,”
“When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.”
In her own words Vicky reasserted the belief that his anti-anxiety medication had played a bigger role in the tragic events, stating:
“What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details. I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life. The outpouring of love and support from his fans, friends and family means so much more to us than anyone can know. Thank you for that, and for understanding how difficult this is for us.”
Cornell leaves behind his wife Vicky, their two children- Toni, 12 years old and Christopher, 11 years old- as well as his 16 year old daughter Lillian Jean from his first marriage to Susan Silver, the former manager for Soundgarden.
Chris Cornell on Black Days
Some might argue the following statement supports the suicide claims, but others could argue it supports the doubts presented by Cornell’s family. Back in 2014, Chris Cornell had spoken in depth with Rolling Stone magazine for a 20th anniversary edition of his band Soundgarden’s ground-breaking Superunknown album. When asked about the song “Fell on Black Days” he had said,
“I’d noticed already in my life where there would be periods where I would feel suddenly, “Things aren’t going so well, and I don’t feel that great about my life.” Not based on any particular thing. I’d sort of noticed that people have this tendency to look up one day and realize that things have changed. There wasn’t a catastrophe. There wasn’t a relationship split up. Nobody got in a car wreck. Nobody’s parents died or anything. The outlook had changed, while everything appears circumstantially the same.”
“No matter how happy you are, you can wake up one day without any specific thing occurring to bring you into a darker place, and you’ll just be in a darker place anyway. To me, that was always a terrifying thought, because that’s something that – as far as I know – we don’t necessarily have control over. So that was the song I wanted to write.”
What this may suggest is that beneath how happy Chris Cornell was with his family and his future, some part of his perspective could have made him even more vulnerable to a sudden shift created by a powerful medication designed to impact emotions.
Anti-Anxiety Drug Ativan
Is it possible that anti-anxiety medication could have played a part in Chris Cornell’s apparent suicide? According to the list of side-effects for Ativan and the common opinion of experts as to the risks associated with these drugs, absolutely.
Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam. This prescription drug calls into the category of benzodiazepine (benzo) medications. Lorazepam is typically used for treating:
- Anxiety disorders
- Sleep problems
- Active seizures
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Nausea or vomiting from chemotherapy
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, serious side effects of using Ativan include:
- Worsening depression
- Unusual mood or behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
- Dizziness, drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Lack of balance or coordination
- Memory problems
The truth is, Ativan is intended for short-term use, specifically for treating anxiety. In fact, the FDA advises against using any benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam, for longer than four weeks. There is a very real risk of dependence, withdrawal symptoms and even overdose.
The Dangers of Legal Drugs
Back in March 2016 we wrote about how data shows that in the last two decades deaths by overdose of anti-anxiety drugs have quadrupled, which coincides with a tripling rate of these drugs being prescribed. What is even worse, independent reviews from different research groups showed that in many cases the pharmaceutical companies were misrepresenting suicides or suicidal thoughts in their own research reports.
Could the unusual behaviors and slurred speech Vicky described of Chris Cornell be signs of something else at play? Could a lifetime of struggling with a panic disorder, depression and drugs have been exacerbated by the presence of a chemical that worsened his depression, throwing his mood into chaos and flooding his vulnerable state with thoughts of suicide have been the cause of such a heartrending and desperate act? Drugs, legal or not, can devastate.
Now, there is definitely a shadow on the sun.
We have seen time and time again how legal, medical drugs have destroyed amazing and talented individuals. We saw it with Michael Jackson and Prince. We’ve seen how depression plays into the same tragedies, such as with the loss of Robin Williams. Still, one thing Chris Cornell spoke of with addiction is that it becomes glorified by the fact drugs kill famous people, and the world weeps, while ignoring the everyday tragedies of the unknown but extraordinary, everyday people. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
With drug abuse being a major issue facing the nation, education is extremely important. Any hope of winning the fight against rising overdose rates and the spread of drug-related illness and death starts with making sure we have as much information as possible to make a difference. On that note, explaining prescription drug abuse is critical because prescription drug abuse is a key contributor to the state of the country today.
If we want to help people avoid prescription drug abuse, or recognize the signs and know there is help, it is important to explain the reality and the risks.
What is prescription drug abuse?
Simply put- prescription drug abuse is one of two things.
- When someone takes a medication that is not their prescription
- If someone takes their own prescription in a way not intended by a doctor or for a different reason
When you take prescription drugs properly they are usually safe. It requires a trained health care clinician, such as a doctor or nurse, to determine if the benefits of taking the medication outweigh any risks for side effects. But when abused and taken in different amounts or for different purposes than as prescribed, they affect the brain and body in ways very similar to illicit drugs.
These drugs have a close relation to morphine, or the street drug heroin. Opioids are typically for pain management. Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest problems facing the country today. Drugs such as:
These drugs are also known as “downers”. You can divide the category can be up into:
Drugs such as Zyprexa, Seroquel and Haldol are meant to reduce symptoms of mental illness.
- Benzodiazepines (Benzos)
Prescription drugs like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium and Librium.
Amytal, Numbutal and Seconal are included in a class of depressants intended as sedatives or sleeping pills.
These kinds of prescription drugs are also called “uppers” or “smart drugs” because of the increase alertness, attention and energy. They also increase heart rate and respiration. Many of these medications are used to combat conditions such as ADHD, including:
Prescription drug abuse has become a big health issue because of the various health hazards. This risk is particularly true of abusing prescription pain medications.
Who abuses prescription drugs?
When asking who are most likely to abuse prescription drugs, the answer may vary depending on the substance. Some people end up participating in prescription drug abuse due to an injury or legitimate health reason, but the “high” they can experience may lead to more frequent use and ultimately a physical dependence.
Recent studies have indicated that prescription drug abuse impacts young adults most; specifically age 18 to 25. In regards to teens, after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most common substances of abuse by Americans age 14 and older.
Prescription drug abuse is present across all demographics, relevant to every social and economic class. Many believe this rise has largely contributed to the heroin addiction epidemic and the overdose outbreak in the past few years.
Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment
The Palm Partners Treatment Program has a design for prescription drug abuse intended to address people of all walks of life who are suffering. Personalized recovery programs are meant to work with each individual’s circumstances and symptoms to create a blueprint for the future.
Some of the signs of addiction range in severity and can affect each people differently, especially depending on the specific prescription drug. Increased tolerance is a clear cut sign of progressive physical dependence. Some indicators of prescription drug addiction may be:
- Excessive sweating
- Swelling in the arms and legs
- Chronic constipation
- Respiratory distress
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
Treatment for prescription drug addiction includes a detox period to help combat the uncomfortable symptoms of prescription drug addiction, as well as withdrawal.
For all those who are struggling with prescription drug abuse, or even abusing other drugs or medications, there is a massive community of recovery all over the country to help you get the care you need. Treatment for prescription drug abuse can be the first and most important step, so be sure to step up.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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