Author: Justin Mckibben
The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.
The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.
Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.
The Turning Point for America
According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.
Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:
“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”
One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.
GCDP vs War on Drugs
Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.
The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:
“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”
To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction
So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?
Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:
Naloxone Distribution and Training
As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.
Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.
Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.
These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.
Decriminalizing Drugs in America
In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.
The report states:
“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”
With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:
- End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
- Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.
The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.
“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”
We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.
Better Treatment Research
The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.
One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.
Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:
“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”
While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.
Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.
What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?
One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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
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.
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!
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
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:
- 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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.