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A Powerful Story from the Face of Addiction

A Powerful Story from the Face of Addiction

Author: Justin Mckibben

Wednesday evening, 9 Frederick County residents in Area 31 in downtown Frederick went in front of a camera. But this wasn’t any ordinary photo shoot. Not some promotion for a new shoe or the next big diet plan. These 9 brave individuals went under the spotlight to divulge some of their darkest memories of addiction, to spread home for recovery.

The filming is for a new video on recovery awareness. Stories like these of struggles and survival are incredibly powerful.

The Face of Addiction

The project has the title “I Am the Face of Addiction.” This in-depth film is intended to showcase progressive and empowering narratives from individuals in recovery. Ultimately, the hope is to inspire other residents of the area struggling with substance abuse.

The dream behind the film and a lot of the work put into it comes from Pam Knight, a Libertytown resident. When talking about how the project came to be, Knight stated:

“We just want to break the stigma of the term ‘drug addict,’…This is a major epidemic, but there are still so many people who are too ashamed or too embarrassed to admit ‘my life is out of control.’”

Knight, a former special education teaching assistant at Linganore High School, has her own history with addiction. That history puts her in a unique position to know the power of perspective.

Accidentally Addicted

In active addiction, at face-value Knight’s life seemed flawless. Her husband, Daniel, owns a successful hair salon in Frederick. The couple has three adult children and three grandchildren. To some this sounds like the American dream, but many wouldn’t know there could be nightmares behind the scenes.

Under it all, Knight was hid a pill addiction for years. She says it began in 2011 after falling off the bleachers at her son’s high school football game. After she was prescribed Vicodin for pain, she began taking more and more. While in the beginning she said the pills made her feel “like Superwoman,” she later describes the experience of addiction as “purgatory.” Knight stated,

“Towards the end, there was no high anymore. You have to have it to make your brain feel normal. The first thing I would do in the morning is pop my pills.”

It didn’t take long before Knight graduated from Vicodin to Percocet. After experimenting with opiates she began doctor-shopping to obtain prescriptions. She admits that her final years of addiction she found herself buying pills off the street.

Her drug of choice was Roxicodone — known as “Roxys” on the street — an opioid-based painkiller. She would purchase quantities of 30 milligram tablets and take multiple doses at a time. Knight said,

“If I didn’t have them, I would get horrible shakes.”

Seeing the Signs

Knight’s husband and her oldest daughter, Loren Maxwell, admit that Knight’s gradual descent into addiction was easy to brush off in the beginning. The signs were somewhat there, but not easy for her family to see for what they were.

Her husband Daniel said he would notice days when she seemed especially manic or sweaty, but Knight always had an explanation.

Maxwell said her mother’s ability to function made her addiction harder to spot. Many people don’t acknowledge the dangers of ‘functioning addiction’ because they don’t understand it.

During this time the family said the signs were simple to dismiss unknowingly or miss altogether. Now that Pam Knight has gone through recovery, Daniel Knight said,

“I see them everywhere.”

Family Fight Knight

Like many people have experienced, the fight with addiction can often be a family affair.

Knight’s youngest son, Connor, was also struggling with addiction at the same time as his mother. Like Pam Knight, Connor said his problems started with the opioid painkillers prescribed for his football injuries. His struggles with opiates graduated much quicker. At 17 years old, Connor first snorted heroin with a bandmate, and his progressive addiction took off.

After years, both Pam and Connor finally found a new chance through rehabilitation at treatment centers in Florida.

Pam has been sober for three years; Connor for 11 months.

Inspiring Others

Pam Knight’s motivation for sharing the gritty details of her experience for this film is to show that recovery is possible. Knight currently speaks in Frederick County Public Schools as an advocate for addiction recovery. She says she hopes to screen the finished video for these audiences to spread more of this story.

Other participants in the film also hope their contribution will inspire recovering addicts. A huge part of inspiring others is to help overcome addiction stigma. Statistically we know that far too many addicts prolong their suffering and lose their lives because they don’t know of a better option, or because they are afraid of the assumptions and stereotypes attached to addiction. Breaking those stereotypes is exactly why we need such powerful stories, such as Pam Knights. A mother, a wife and a miracle who has persevered through a great deal of difficulty. We celebrate her and the others involved in this project helping to reach out and change lives by showing people the true face of addiction is not always what you would expect.

Sharing your story isn’t always easy, but once you have a chance to rewrite your story it can be more powerful than you can imagine. It isn’t always easy to change that story, but it is always possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

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Tramadol Abuse: How Some Overlook a Deadly Opiate

Tramadol Abuse: How Some Overlook a Deadly Opiate

Author: Justin Mckibben

When most people hear someone say ‘opiates’ they probably think of OxyContin, morphine or even heroin. These have become the usual suspects when discussing the dangers of opiate-based drugs. While the country has come to terms with the status of the opiate epidemic, some dangerous drugs remain overlooked. One such opiate is Tramadol.

Tramadol, like most opiates, is a medication used to treat moderate to severe pain. Approved in 1995, Tramadol is now taken by thousands of people every day. With other names such as:

  • Ultram
  • Conzip
  • Rybix ODT

Tramadol works by activating changes in the brain to relieve pain. At the same time, the drug increases levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals regulate our mood. Such changes are what lead to the substance abuse, because they produce a euphoric effect.

While Tramadol has not had the spotlight during the opiate epidemic, there is plenty of cause for concern when it comes to Tramadol abuse.

Tramadol Takes a Toll on Ireland

While the drug hasn’t gained as much infamy in America as other opiates, in Ireland Tramadol is claiming more lives than any other drug – including heroin and cocaine – according to Northern Ireland’s top pathologist.

Like many prescription medications, this painkiller doesn’t typically cause harm if taken correctly. However, with excessive use of powerful medications comes an elevated risk of adverse effects. The greatest danger with Tramadol also arises when users mix it with other drugs or alcohol. Just last year, 33 deaths in Northern Ireland were linked to Tramadol.

Professor Jack Crane, the State Pathologist for Northern Ireland, has spoken out about his fear that more people will die unless urgent action is taken. Tramadol should only be available on prescription in Ireland after it was reclassified in 2014, making it an illegal Class C drug without prescription. However, the illegal drug trade took advantage of the situation and people continue to die.

Professor Jack Crane wants to upgrade the classification again to Class A. Crane will be meeting Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer later this month to push for change.

 Cane stated:

“I don’t think that people realise how potentially risky taking tramadol is. I think it’s because it’s a prescription drug – people assume it’s safe.”

Continued Abuse Issues

The drugs original reputation of being a safe alternative is mostly to blame for why it is so commonly overlooked as a seriously dangers opiate. Many still hold a false view of this drug as not being a health threat if abused. Yet, it is extremely deadly when abused and mixed with other substances.

When used in amplified amounts the unhealthy levels of the medication throw off our complex chemical balances. This unbalance can negatively affect our well-being physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Physical dependence on the drug increases other risks such as overdose. Signs of an overdose can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Physical dependence on Tramadol can also cause withdrawal symptoms when users try to stop taking the drug. These include:

  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Stomach Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion

Medically supervised detox is recommended when trying to safely stop using the drug. Medical detox is incredibly helpful to minimize the dangers of withdrawal. Tramadol abuse and dependence presents challenges similar to the health risks associated with other opiate drugs, so they should definitely not be overlooked.

The opioid epidemic is affecting Americans in every part of the country, and even prescription drugs like Tramadol are making an impact. So in the face of overdose deaths, more than ever people need safe and effective treatment to help them change for life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

Should Selling Prescription Pills Be Considered Murder?

Should Selling Prescription Pills Be Considered Murder?

Author: Justin Mckibben

A while back I posed the question- should heroin overdoses be counted as homicides, and how should the people who sell heroin to those who over dose and die be prosecuted? Some people already follow the belief dealers should be treated as killers, so should selling prescription pills be considered murder?

The People VS the Pills

It is nothing new that prescription pills, especially opiates, are directly connected to the escalating issues with drug abuse, the heroin epidemic, and the overdose death rates in America. Law enforcement noticed a spike in illegal abuse of prescription drugs and started hunting down “pill mills” and patients who shopped for doctors to stock-pile dangerous prescription pills for both sale and illicit consumption.

Some law enforcement officials have already started a more aggressive crusade against drug dealers, such as Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless who operated in an area which had 16.2 overdoses for every 100,000 people in 2013. Capeless has been proud to say that every overdose death is fully investigated with the intent to charge someone for the death, and he even has gotten a few convictions.

Berkshire County and the state of Massachusetts aren’t the only area where this idea has sparked action. Other states have pursued charges against dealers following overdose deaths of their customers, including:

  • Ohio
  • New Jersey
  • Iowa

The argument about charging dealers with deaths has even been made more prominent with celebrity cases such as the drug overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman where his dealer, 57-year-old Robert Vineberg was arrested and put on trial. That is just one example, and with prescription pills being so closely related to overdose deaths it only makes sense we ask this question.

The Case of Ball and Beasley

On March 3rd, 2015, Brittany Taylor Ball allegedly sold Amanda Beasley of Athens some of her legally prescribed methadone pills. The following day, according to court documents, Amanda Beasley died after overdosing on the prescription pills sold to her. Beasley was married and a mother to a little girl of her own.

This week a grand jury charged Ball with the second degree murder of Beasley. McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy spoke out in regards to the case, stating:

“This is a huge problem and it goes on all the time, the exchange of prescription pain pills, whether they’re being sold or traded or just given out, all of that is illegal and all of that is dangerous.”

Methadone is a prescribed drug to treat heroin addiction, but methadone is still an opiate and still incredibly dangerous. Plenty of people get prescribed methadone to treat heroin addiction, but eventually abuse it or sell it to others illegally. Sheriff Guy went on to say,

“In Tennessee, drug over doses regarding prescription pain medication in 2014 lead the state in adult deaths even more so than gun shot wounds and car crashes. So it’s a huge problem state wide. And we really need to change our attitude about why and what we do with our prescription pain medications.”

Guy insists that in any case where there is a drug sold to someone that causes a death, the dealer will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Prescription drug abuse is still drug abuse, and if it causes a death then many law enforcement officials are more than ready to prosecute.

So now I pose the question to you again- should selling prescription drugs be considered murder?

Some would answer “YES” without hesitation, but others would also argue that since many people who deal drugs are often addicts and suffering themselves in some capacity it is without compassion to persecute someone who sells their prescription pills out of some form of desperation. I guess the context does matter; should an addict be convicted of murder because they were selling their own prescription pills just to support their habit? At what point should one addict be held responsible for the death of another addict who makes their own decision to use?

Truth be told this conversation is not so cut and dry. If a someone knows what the drug is and has been abusing actively, have they not made their own decision as an adult to consume something they know could kill them? Is the overdose a murder, or an unintended suicide?

How far should we be willing to push against prescription pills and drug dealing?

The opioid epidemic is affecting Americans in every part of the country, and prescription pills are a huge part of that. So in the face of overdose deaths, more than ever people need safe and effective treatment to help them change for lige. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Tweets against Prescription Addiction: #RxProblem Campaign

Tweets against Prescription Addiction: #RxProblem Campaign

Author: Justin Mckibben

This is the era of social media. Good or bad it is here to stay it seems, and while sometimes it can be abused, social media has opened new avenues for marketing, research, gathering and sharing information, and raising awareness. The constant connectivity of WiFi signals and the World Wide Web has given us the ability to reach out to people worlds away, giving each other images, experience and hope.

While I have admittedly written before talking about the dangers of social media and excessive and obsessive usage, I have also written about the positive side and the tools that it offers up to changing our understanding of mental health and stigma. Now one of the most popular social media tools of its time is being used to spread experience, strength and hope in a way that may make a world of difference for addiction.

The CDC Campaign

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is trying to get that conversation going, and so they have taken advantage of the miracle of social media with Twitter, hashtag (#) in hand to raise awareness about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. In an attempt to shed new light on the issue the CDC hopes to recognize prescription opioid abusers who have been working to change their lives for the better. This week the new campaign was launched with the initiative asking for the stories of those who have been affected by prescription painkiller addiction.

“When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” is that name of the new CDC campaign that was announced at the fourth annual National RX Drug Abuse Summit. The CDC hopes to establish a safe sanctuary so those who are or have been addicted to prescription painkillers by giving them an opportunity to step forward and tell their story. The idea is one not unfamiliar to those who are used to the rooms of recovery, and the thought of sharing experience and personal stories in regards to prescription painkiller addiction will get people talking about it, and help more people to relate and understand. The associate director for Communication at the CDC’s Injury Center, Erin Connelly, stated:

Prescription drug overdose devastates individuals, families and communities. We’d like to get everyone talking and thinking about the risks involved with opioid painkillers.” 

As with a lot of issues that come with a degree of stigma, raising awareness in the public eye is a vital part of creating change and inspiring innovation in treatment.

Approaching the Issues

Addiction is one of those conditions that’s origins are often debated, and there are various differing viewpoints on what motivates prescription painkiller addiction in particular, and how to prevent it. Some are firm in the belief that addictive behavior can be in some ways genetic, many also believe it is a perfect storm of both nature and nurture, but regardless the CDC believes it all starts in the doctor’s office.

According to the CDC, there were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, an increase of 1% from 2012. With the escalating concerns with the overdose epidemic, especially in relation to opioid drugs, Connelly went on to explain this focus on the doctors and health care professionals:

“[The] CDC’s approach to prescription drug overdose remains on primary prevention of opioid addiction and overdose—that is, addressing the problematic opioid prescribing that created and continues to fuel the epidemic… States drive prevention—they regulate the health professions, run prescription drug monitoring programs, administer large public insurance programs like Medicaid, and have the public health surveillance capacity to track the behavior of the epidemic.”

The Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus appropriations bill accumulated $20 million for the CDC to cultivate its Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States program, and that money will allow 17 states to improve their prescription drug monitoring programs as well as implement new, evidence-based prevention programs. Keeping doctor shopping and pill mills from supplying the prescription drug problem will make a huge difference.

Hashtag Hero

The usage of a hashtag (#) is an easy way to keep sources compiled and connected, and for a campaign designed to share as much experience, inspiration and solutions as possible it is an easily way to gain traction as a simple networking and marketing tool. If you want to get involved in the CDC’s “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” campaign, or simply just to show your support, all you have to do is tweet a six-word message with the hashtag #RxProblem. Also through that hashtag you are given access to other information and stories.

Working together with the treatment industry and individuals from the recovery community the CDC is making the best of social media marketing in an attempt to get more of that message out there. The campaign is to run until May 15th, 2015.

We learn through early sobriety that a huge part of our recovery and the recovery of others is helping others. We should all do our part to helping the addict and alcoholic who still suffers from know there is a way out, and there are trained professionals ready and willing to welcome you to a new way of life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

California Doctor Arrested For Playing with Prescriptions

California Doctor Arrested For Playing with Prescriptions

 Author: Justin Mckibben

Another crooked physician is making headlines this week, and it is bringing more light to the already prevalent painkiller problem. Daniel Chan is a 47 year old California doctor who has been accused of being an illegal supplier of mass amounts of prescription drugs, and with all the focus on the prescription painkiller problem and how it has fed into the dangerous and devastating heroin epidemic, it is probably safe to say this if convicted he will be facing

The trial against Chan will move forward after he put in his not guilty plea. Chan is being charged with writing thousands of illegal prescriptions for powerful painkillers, and then laundering the money he received. This last week Daniel Chan was arrested in his home in California after 31 counts were filed against him in regards to allegedly distributing illegal prescriptions.

Daniel Chan’s Dirty Deeds

The courts case against Chan states that he wrote over 42,000 prescriptions, and has been doing so since 2010. The  primary medications he was writing prescriptions for included:

Chan was apparently on the clock for the majority of his time, between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. on weekends he had written thousands of the prescriptions. The San Gabriel doctor reportedly post-dated the prescriptions he was distributing when writing them out to create the illusion that they had been written during the regular work week.

The Investigation

The arrest reports also describe how Chan was willing to provide some of these dangerous medications to people who were in no way in any shape receive them. One of the undercover officers involved in the investigation even told Chan he was “high and drunk”, but that did not even slop Chan down, let alone stop him from writing the prescriptions for the officer.

Another undercover officer was given a prescription even after showing Chan written documentation of his driver’s license being suspended for a DUI. Obviously, the doctor was not at all concerned with the health or safety of others. Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said in a statement,

“Unscrupulous doctors who prescribe controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose are simply fueling a black market of narcotics. These doctors are the same as street dealers who face lengthy sentences in federal prison.”

Chan will likely post the $140,000 bail in order to avoid time in prison for the moment, but will be confined to his home for detention and absolutely forbidden from practicing medicine during that time of the trial. Hopefully it will be a quick one, but either way he won’t be getting anymore illegal stashes of painkillers to his ‘patients’ for some time.

Doctors Play with Deadly Prescriptions

Doctors who have gotten involved with the trafficking and playing around with these dangerous prescriptions have also become prone to abusing the very medications they are illegally dispensing, which ultimately results in those same doctors going to extreme measures to obtain them.

Another similar case involved a former Las Vegas physician Dr. Kent Swaine. This doctor was actually arrested last August and brought up on charges of fraudulently obtaining controlled substances, which he did by posing as a dead patient for two years to score drugs!

Dr. Swaine had been writing prescriptions under the name of Alexander Hyt, a patient who died of cancer in August 2011 and posing as him at pharmacies in order to take home the drugs, and Swaine’s license had already been revoked due to his drug use. This is just one other case of a very wide spread problem with substance abuse and addiction becoming a commonality among physicians, and the state of California, along with the rest of the country, is trying to curb this growing trend before more and more addicts seek out even more deadly opiates.

While the war on drugs rages with its battles against prescription painkillers and the doctors running the pill mill empires, there are thousands of addicts and alcoholics seeking help and finding a way out through holistic healing, innovative therapy, revolutionary health care, and actively working a program of recovery. 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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