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Philippine Drug War: Stigmatic Murder?

Philippine Drug War: Stigmatic Murder?

Author: Justin Mckibben

The War on Drugs in America has definitely proven to have been extremely counter-productive to actually saving the lives of Americans and improving the state of the nation concerning addiction, overdose death and other effects caused by drug use. But even with the destruction it has brought, it is nothing compared to the drug war waging in the Philippines today.

New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is gaining international notoriety for his approach to drugs and addiction… but not in a good way. Duterte campaigned hard on a no-nonsense approach to crime. Today the full force of what this actually entails is incipient, and it is not pretty.

So is this kind of militant approach to dealing with drugs and their dealers a new level of “tough love” or is it outright stigmatic murder?

Picture Tells 1,000 Words

At first having a strict and unyielding strategy to fighting drug dealers and addicts seems pretty common. Some in America have insisted we need to be harder on criminals. Others have even said we should be charging dealers with the murders of addicts who overdose, and this has been met with a great deal of controversy.

Now shocking photographs that are being published in local and international media outlets depict suspected drug dealers dead or captured in the most inhumane ways. Images show people bound hand and foot with their shirts soaked in blood, faces sometimes covered in duct tape, wearing crude signs proclaiming their alleged crimes.

Public executions are now the norm in the Philippine drug war. So one must ask- how did it get this far?

Warnings Were There

Despite the blatant disregard for due process, part of Duterte’s appeal to the electorate is his tough on crime attitude. Duterte has on several occasions openly alluded to the idea that in this drug war he doesn’t oppose his police force killing suspected criminals. But what is worse is that he also alludes to a kind of vigilante justice.

In a nationally televised speech in June, Duterte told citizens,

“If (a criminal) fights, and he fights to the death, you can kill him… Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun … you have my support.”

The insanity of it all is there are countless cases of people murdered in the street by unidentified gunman and labeled drug dealers. Despite the fact that possibly innocent people are dying, he is doubling down on the policy.

However, his administration and police deny the support of vigilante justice. THIS is the madness we are seeing unfold! In one breath Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said-

“We do not condone these acts,”

Yet, in pretty much the same breath, President Duterte himself says-

“It’s a war, not a crisis. Why should these people live?”

The PNP (Philippines National Police) Chief Ronald dela Rosa claims he will aggressively fight vigilantism, yet these killings are happening every day in this drug war! The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List” stands as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes, stating:

  • Between the day Duterte assumed office, June 30, and August 1 there have been 465 deaths
  • Philippines police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte’s inauguration

Injustice

Probably one of the greatest injustices here is that stigma is circumventing logic in order to dictate policy. It’s the view that drug abuse and addiction, which are a common element of the drug trade, are moral failings. It tells us that all drug dealers and addicts are bad people.

There are seriously so many things wrong with this story I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll elaborate on two specific concerns.

  1. Not everyone who dies is a (proven) dealer

Let’s just pretend that a death sentence for a dealer even made sense. Even if that were the case, a trial should be absolutely mandatory. However, this whole thing has turned into the Salem witch trials. Anyone can be accused of being a dealer and end up dead with no evidence.

Those who are accused and turn themselves in can still face severe punishments if they cannot prove their innocence. It is almost like saying anyone who fits the description can be shot on sight as long as it can be justified later with hearsay…

(… awkward silence…)

Something else that goes overlooked it seems is that gangs can use this to their advantage for eliminating competition without consequences. Gang members can openly kill their rivals and claim it is a community service!

  1. Many dealers are addicts

Remember, when looking at the drug trade, street-level dealers especially are often addicts. So in many cases you may have a young man or woman who has been hopelessly addicted to drugs and is helping sell drugs to support his habit. They get caught on the street and they get killed instead of being given prison, or any chance to change.

Worse- it’s not the police that kill them; it’s their next door neighbor! Stigma will brainwash people into believing that every drug dealer is out to poison people and reap the rewards. The truth is frequently a very different reality.

Look at the way the drug war in the Philippines is evolving into a no-mans-land; at taking the law into your own hands based on speculation and fear-mongering. If we learn anything from this example, it’s that human rights should not be a casualty of a drug war. Innovative and compassionate harm reduction and treatment options are how progressive politicians are trying to save lives here at home. There are always better solutions for substance abuse and addiction. For anyone who is looking for a solution of their own, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

  

Is Dangerous Drug Flakka Really Gone?

Is Flakka Really Gone?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Flakka, the infamous “$5 insanity” that surfaced nearly 2 years ago and flooded the news with the impending doom it seemed to add to the already corrosive drug scene, has seemingly dissipated to the point of practical extinction according to reports that have left authorities across the country puzzled. With the wild stories of erratic behavior, hospitalizations and even horrendous attacks it is strange that a synthetic nightmare that came out of nowhere has apparently disappeared out of nowhere. Is Flakka really gone?

Florida Finds Huge Flakka Decline

According to CNN, 63 Flakka users died in South Florida between September 2014 and December 2015. Last spring, about four people were hospitalized for a Flakka-related incident every day in South Florida, and for the last two years Florida authorities have been working diligently to warn the public about the dangers of Flakka. Now suddenly it seems Flakka use has plummeted. Jim Hall, a drug abuse epidemiologist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida stated,

“I have never seen an epidemic emerge so rapidly but literally disappear so quickly,”

“Anecdotal reports from both street users and law enforcement officers say that Flakka is not even available in the street drug market.”

Compared to two years ago there have been no reported deaths in 2016 related to Flakka. Florida treatment centers reported:

  • Last fall they admitted about 50 Flakka users every month
  • This year they have admitted only 6 Flakka users in January

Florida is not the only place where the terror of Flakka has hit a stark decline. Reports of fewer sightings of Flakka have also come in from other areas such as:

  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Rural areas of Kentucky

So how could such a demonizing substance that hit these areas so hard be suddenly wiped out?

Chinese Chemical Cut-off

Authorities still aren’t 100% sure how Flakka managed to fizzle out so fast, but Jim Hall believes the shift can traced back to a ban in China on the production and export of alpha-PVP, the chemical name for this dangerous drug. Since the beginning of the synthetic outbreak the source of this chemical was presumably tracked to Chine, and U.S. officials had been applying some real pressured to China to enact the ban, which includes 115 other synthetic drugs.

In October the ban finally went into effect.

Something else that also probably had an enormous impact was that nearly all the drug producers were in one Chinese province, which allowed authorities to cut-off the chemical cooks right at the source. Other factors probably had an impact, including:

  • Public awareness campaigns
  • Law enforcement hunting down dealers
  • Word on the street about the nasty side effects

Will the Peace Last?

A few questions come to mind when enjoying this small hurdle we seem to have overcome: with cooks ordering the chemicals from overseas and making a 2,000% profit from the drug, is it likely they will not fight to get the drug back on the market?

Will another replacement synthetic appear to fill the void? Michael Baumann, who studies designer drugs for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated:

“History has shown that one of the unintended consequences to banning certain drugs is that it typically leads to an explosion of new replacement drugs.”

So far, no replacements have been reported, but how long will the peace last? You may remember Bath Salts as another horrific example of a synthetic drug exploding onto the market and causing wide-spread panic before losing momentum, and Flakka was not far behind it.

For now officials and community workers are not resting on the laurels of Flakka’s disappearance, and they have continued to be focused on educating the public about the dangers of Flakka and other synthetic drugs. And still, community leaders are putting an emphasis on comprehensive drug abuse and addiction treatment programs to help address those issues that still exist.

Synthetic drugs like Flakka are extremely dangerous, and while they may be on a decline in popularity these kinds of drugs are disastrous and can turn fatal regardless of the name attached. Thankfully no addict has to suffer through this alone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

sexualassault

Author: Shernide Delva

While April 1st may be more recognized as April Fool’s day, you may not know that today is also the start of something deeper than that. The entire month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it is far from a joking matter.  Did you know that only 30% of sexual assault cases are ever reported to authorities? The reality is that sexual assault is still stigmatized and often overlooked. However, the statistics behind sexual assault cases are staggering and very unfortunate. Something has to be done to continue to empower sexual assault victims to come forward.  Thankfully, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is dedicated to this cause.

In the United States, nearly one in five women have been raped, and almost half of all women have experienced some form of sexual assault. Sexual assault is defined as any forced or coerced sexual contact that happens without consent. Sexual Assault Awareness Month focuses on spreading the message that sexual assault is no one’s fault, and we should commit to helping others.

Here are some startling statistics around sexual assault cases:

Adults:

  • About 20 million out of 112 million women (18.0%) in the United States have been raped during their lifetime.
  • Among college women, about 12% of rapes were reported to law enforcement.
  • About 35% of women who were raped as minors also were raped as adults, compared to 14% of women without an early rape history.
  • 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short- or long-term impacts.

Child/Teen Victims:

  • 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2012.
  • Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault.
  • Research conducted by the CDC estimates that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 8% of sexual assaults occur when the victim is between the ages of 12 and 17.
  • 82% of all juvenile victims are female.
  • Teens 16 to 19 years of age were 3 ½ times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.

How to Raise Awareness

Events are going on across the country to help in efforts to reduce the amount of women who have been sexually assaulted and encourage all women to speak out if they have ever been abused in this matter.

In the South Florida area, Florida Atlantic University is hosting several events for this cause. The events span one week and range from group discussions to a one-mile walk. You can find out more on the FAU Its On Us: Sexual Assault Awareness Week Facebook page.

It’s On Us is a nonprofit organization that offers resources for victims of sexual assault. From reading the website, I was able to run by some valuable tips everyone should be aware of. Here are a few that jumped out at me:

  • Past consent does not mean current or future consent.
  • There is no consent if there is force or coercion.
  • One cannot always consent under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
  • Trust your gut. If it seems like a dangerous situation, it probably is.
  • Always ask for help, whether it is a friend, co-worker, bartender or host.
  • Watch out for others. If you see someone being taken advantage of, assist them to leave safely. Don’t be a bystander.
  • Be aware if someone seems like they are trying to coerce, intoxicate or sabotage corner someone else.
  • Never, never blame the victim.

You can take a pledge on their website to make “a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.” By taking the pledge, you promise to not be a bystander to sexual assault. Instead, you will be a leader and help to speak out for victims of sexual assault.

The pledge states:

“I PLEDGE To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur. To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”

Please join your community in taking a stand against sexual assault. Take the pledge to fight against sexual assault. The purpose of this month is to help educate, prevent, and understand the sexual assault epidemic.If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Will the New CDC Painkiller Guidelines Reduce the Risk of Addiction?

painkillerguidelines

Author: Shernide Delva

In an effort to curb what many consider to be the worst public health drug crisis in decades, the CDC has issued a series of guidelines and restrictions intended to reduce the abuse of prescription painkillers. On Tuesday, the federal government released these CDC standards, ending months and months of disagreements with pain doctors, and drug industry groups. However, many are still asking the same vital question: will these guidelines even work?

The CDC guidelines will be the first national standard for prescription painkillers. The guidelines are intended to provide a more sensible approach to prescribing highly addictive medicines. In the past, drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin were easily prescribed to patients. Although efforts have been made to reduce the amount of prescriptions prescribed in the medical community, these guidelines will further limit how opioid medications are distributed.

“This is the first time the federal government is communicating clearly to the medical community that the risks outweigh the potential benefits of these drugs,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, head of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which supports the guidelines. “It’s one of the most significant interventions by the federal government.”

These guidelines recommend what many addiction experts have long called for which is pushing doctors to recommend other pain management options. The CDC guidelines also limit the amount of prescriptions a doctor can prescribed at one time.While these new guidelines are non-binding, they are likely to have a huge influence in the medical community.

New CDC Painkiller Prescription Guidelines

Just to give a brief overview, here are some of the main specific guidelines that will be implemented in the next coming months.

  • Doctors should first try ibuprofen and aspirin to treat pain prior to prescribing more high-risk drugs such as opioid medications.
  • Opioid treatment for short-term pain should last only three days, at the longest seven days. This will be a significant change. Currently, doctors prescribe for anywhere from two weeks to a month of opioid medications for short-term pain management.
  • Doctors should have patients undergo urine tests prior to getting prescriptions.
  • Doctors are to participate in a drug tracking system to ensure patients are not getting medicine from somewhere else. Currently, 49 states have these systems yet only 16 are required to use them.
  • These guidelines will not apply to patients receiving cancer treatment or end-of life treatment.

The new guidelines are a dramatic shift from the ideology of the 1990s. Back then, an initiative to fight for pain management resulted in opioid prescription painkillers soaring in popularity in the medical field. Pharmaceutical companies and medical experts pushed to have these drugs readily available because at the time, they were thought to be effective solutions to treat back pain and arthritis without the fear of addiction. Boy, were they wrong back then.

Now, as overdoses continue to mount, and addiction claims more and more lives each year, the country is desperate for an answer. While these guidelines may have good intentions, other professionals argue that more rules can cause more harm than good. Recent tighter restrictions on painkillers have resulted in the drugs soaring in cost on the black market. As a result, a significant number of addicts turn to heroin to satisfy cravings.

For nearly two years, these standards have been bitterly opposed by Big Pharma and pain doctors who feel that these guidelines will only post unfair hurdles for patients who really do suffer from chronic pain. They argue that drug addicts will simply find another way to get their fix, like heroin.  Opponents of the new guidelines also believe that these rules are an incursion into the role of doctors.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the disease centers, responded,

“It’s become increasingly clear that opioids carry substantial risk but only uncertain benefits — especially compared with other treatments for chronic pain.”

He continues to support the guidelines, stating they are meant to be “a tool for doctors and for patients to chart a safer course,” describing them as a benchmark for medical practice, not an unbending dictate. The idea, he said, is to balance the risks of addiction with the needs of patients.

“For the vast majority of patients with chronic pain,” Frieden said, “the known, serious and far too often fatal risks far outweigh the transient benefits. We lose sight of the fact that the prescription opioids are just as addictive as heroin. Prescribing opioids really is a momentous decision, and I think that has been lost.”

Essentially, Frieden is saying these new guidelines are meant to help with the addiction crisis and certainly are not meant to prevent those with chronic pain from receiving medications they need. Furthermore, it is uncertain the effects opioid medications have on chronic pain in the long run, so we can not assume that restricting these drugs cause any harm to those patients.

Considering how urgent the addiction epidemic is, something has to be done, and at least these new guidelines encourage conversation. Education and prevention is the key. Each year, the data is increasingly more frightening. There clearly is not a one-stop solution to all of this. Do you think these guidelines will be effective? If your or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Opioid Alternatives: Should Doctors Weigh Other Options?

Physical therapist helping patient on exercise staircase.

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

Author: Shernide Delva

Over the last decade, the increase in opiate painkiller abuse and heroin abuse has been alarming to say the least. The 2014 statistics state that a person dies every 4 minutes from a drug overdose or alcohol-related event. Prescription pain killer abuse is an epidemic in the United States and as a result, alternatives are being considered to prevent more and more people from developing a dependency to opioids. Are there better methods of managing chronic pain?

Many believe so and are pushing for a change. While opioid medications are effective at reducing pain, they are very addictive, and other alternatives should be looked at before doctors prescribe opioid medications.

So, what options are available? Fortunately, there are a variety of options available for pain relief that range from non-opioid medications to non-medicinal therapies. Discussing these options with your doctor can help provide you with a pain management program that has a lower risk for dependency.

The Best Opiate Alternatives

  • Over-the-Counter Acetaminophen
    Acetaminophen is a drug more commonly known by the brand name Tylenol. It is recommended as a first-line of treatment by the American College of Rheumatology. While scientists are not sure on how the drug works, most theorize the drug works by inhibiting the synthesis of chemical messengers called prostaglandins, which help to transmit pain signals and induce fever. This drug is non-addictive and can be very effective.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    NSAIDs are more potent than acetaminophen and include anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve. These drugs work by reducing inflammation; however they run a risk of risk of organ toxicity, kidney or liver failure and ulcers. Use in moderation for optimum success.
  • Corticosteroids
    Steroids inhibits nerves in the body and provide pain relief. The drawbacks to steroids are that they can potentially accelerate join destruction. Other side effects can include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues and psychiatric effects.
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitors
    Anti-depressants may be appropriate for nerve, muscular and skeletal pain. They also help with insomnia and anxiety. This is a great alternative because these drugs do not have the same side effects of opioids.
  • Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy requires more work from the patient but can be extremely useful in improving physical healing and relieving pain long-term. Physical therapy can be done in sessions and recommended exercises can often be done at home.
  • Massage, Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care
    Acupuncture is an ancient art form that has been used for thousands of years. Some find acupuncture to be just as effective, if not more effective than medications. On the bonus side, it is a totally natural safe alternative to opioid medication.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is beneficial for so many reasons. Surprisingly, exercise has been shown to be healing for those with chronic pain. Low-impact exercises can help improve mobility and functionality. Activities like yoga and ta-chi can be helpful for many ailments.

Chronic pain affects millions. Whether we like it or not, pain is a real occurrence, and sometimes opioid medications may be the only option. However, if other alternatives and other methods of care can be promoted, it can help prevent the amount of patients suffering from dependence to these drugs. Often, taking a prescription opioid may not be the best option. As the prescription pain killer epidemic continues to gain media attention and  political awareness,more attention should be placed on prevention methods, as well as treatment.

Overall, ask your doctor to weigh the alternative options available. Together, both of you can decide the best method of pain management. What do you think? Should doctors weight other options? 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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