The Origins Of Opioid Abuse

We are all aware of the effects of opioid addiction and how it is crippling cities across America. But it’s interesting to point out that not many stories cover its sources, as in what leads people to start using in the first place. TheFix.com recently published a very insightful article on where these dependencies come from.

 

One of the surprising findings was that surgeries aren’t the main culprit for people getting hooked on opioids. Stats from The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveal that chronic pain is the leading cause for the spikes in prescriptions.

 

According to JAMA, only 1.1 percent of people who use opioids for six months or more first received them after a surgery (or any inpatient encounter, for that matter). On the flip side, more than 3o percent of the people they surveyed formed their habits because of “ill-defined conditions” aka chronic pain.

 

What’s worse, is that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims opioids don’t even work properly for chronic pain sufferers.

 

“There is insufficient evidence that opioids control chronic pain effectively over the long term,” CDC researchers wrote in their report. “And there is evidence that other treatments can be effective with less harm.”

 

Very interesting and surprising data. So much so, that it is now getting widely reported. Outlets like The Los Angeles Times have begun digging into the prescription histories of abusers and put a piece out highlighting this study’s importance.

 

“The initial event associated with exposure to prescription opioids has not been widely explored, but is often maintained to stem from an injury or surgical procedure,” Times writer Meredith Healy wrote. “As we search for causes of the opioid epidemic, we note that hospital events and associated procedures do not appear to be the main drivers.”

 

Perhaps the silver lining in these alarming facts is that hospitals and doctors may be forced to take notice. The CDC felt so strongly in their findings that they are releasing new guidelines for treating chronic pain. They are now specifically warning doctors to lower the dosages of their opioid prescriptions and explore alternate meds for patients with this issue.

 

The guidelines went on to say, “Improving the way opioids are prescribed through clinical practice guidelines can ensure patients have access to safer, more effective chronic pain treatment while reducing the number of people who misuse, abuse, or overdose from these drugs.”

 

Though it may be a small step, it is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to combating this crisis. And we wholeheartedly support any research that can trace the roots of this deadly addiction.

 

 

Zebrafish Being Used In Addiction Research

National Geographic is not the first place you’d expect to find an addiction article. But this week, the science mag put the topic front and center on their website with some fascinating new data involving opioid research and, of all things, zebrafish!

 

According to NatGeo, zebrafish showcase several similar characteristics to humans; including a propensity to become addicted to opioids. Researchers at The University of Utah pointed out that this species has neurological structures that are close to our own and can be used as test cases for drug therapies.

 

Currently, Randall Peterson is leading the university’s research projects. His projects have included motivation exercises, which play out how certain urges develop and how they can be tamed.

 

“What’s new here is that this is a self-administration model where the fish have to perform an action to receive a drug, so that’s fundamentally different in terms of the way the brain responds to the drug,” Peterson told the site. “[This enables] us to measure motivation in drug-seeking in a more complete way.”

 

The idea is to see which types of chemical compounds can slow the dependency and ultimately reduce the cravings. NatGeo factually pointed out that the industry is greatly lacking in opioid addiction research. Currently there no effective medical treatments for the country’s growing crisis. And though the anti-overdose med naloxone has helped put a dent in the fatality rate, it has not been shown to treat behavioral patterns.

 

The zebrafish, however, seem to be making progress. In the below video from NatGeo, they are seen swimming across the sensor on a yellow-colored platform. This detects their movements.  It then activates the release of an opioid chemical and measures the erratic behavior that goes along with their eventual “addiction.”

 

Being able to mirror symptoms that human opioid abusers exhibit is a major step forward. What the researchers’ goal is, is to work through pathways and closely study movements and patterns. Various treatment compounds will be included in further tests, measuring effectiveness levels on the fish with the most serious dependencies.

 

Peterson believes that existing drugs may solve the problem and a successful remedy isn’t far away. Through trial and error, he hopes to identify a solution and then bring it to the greater scientific community.

 

“The process of bringing a completely new drug to market can be slow. It can take several years,” he went on to tell NatGeo. “One promising alternative is to find a new purpose for an existing drug. This idea … would dramatically reduce the amount of time it would take to get an effective treatment into the hands of doctors and patients.”

 

You can bet we’ll follow this story closely and provide updates if and when a proven treatment is discovered.

Opioid Addiction Tied To Rise In Hep C Cases

With the rise of opioid and heroin dependencies across the U.S., it seems almost inevitable that we would see an increase in secondary complications. For decades heroin abuse has contributed to the spread of the HIV virus, specifically because of the use of dirty needles. And now it appears as though Hepatitis C has become an unintended consequence as well, per a recent Huffington Post report.

 

First the alarming facts. According to The Post, hep C cases have gone up dramatically in the past decade. As of last year there were an estimated 34,000 new diagnoses in the U.S., nearly triple the number in 2010.

 

Opioid and heroin addictions have been identified as the main culprits, primarily because of contaminated syringes. And although hepatitis C can be treated, the cost is staggering; averaging out at about $30,000 per person (with 3.5 million American cases diagnosed).

 

“We have two public health problems that are related — it’s called a syndemic,” Birmingham Hospital rep James Galbraith told The Post.  “And we can’t address one without addressing the other.”

 

The only way local lawmakers are hoping to curb the problem is with clean needle exchange programs (which we discussed previously in our blogs). This would work to give users access to sterilized syringes, no questions asked.

 

HuffPo went on to point out the states that have been most impacted by hep C diagnoses. So far, it looks like the eastern and southern regions have been hit the hardest (with California, thankfully, lower in the rankings). But it goes to show that it’s not just urban America shooting up, as many rural areas rank high on the list.

 

 

One of the issues with hep C is its lack of awareness. The danger of AIDS and HIV is common knowledge, but many Americans don’t realize how dangerous this disease can be (or how easy it is to contract).

 

“It is ignored largely because of a perception that it is tied to drug use and not a threat to the general public,” National Academies of Sciences rep Brian Strom explained. “The irony is that now that people are starting to worry about drug users because they’re entering the mainstream population, it’s going to help hepatitis get the attention it deserves.”

 

As previous studies have shown, older Americans are becoming very vulnerable to the nation’s opioid epidemic. And not coincidentally, they appear to the generation behind the spike in hep C cases.

 

“The facts behind these numbers tell an interesting story,” Galbraith added. “In our hospital alone, 11 percent of baby boomers tested positive for hepatitis C and 7.4 percent of people born after 1965 tested positive, rates that were far above the national average.”

 

If you are battling an opioid dependency, we strongly urge you to seek our recovery before turning to intravenous needles. It creates a tremendous additional health risk, so please reach out and get help. 866-986-2486 

 

Salvation Army Offers Recovery Assistance

It is incredibly inspiring to see mainstream organizations embrace the concept of recovery. And despite being over 150 years old, the charitable Salvation Army organization is restructuring to do just that. Known for their work with the homeless and unemployed, the Army is now extending its services to help those battling addiction.

 

Dubbed Renewal Place, the Army’s new sect is having its soft launch in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. There, people struggling with dependencies have the option of entering their treatment program free of charge.

 

It is currently structured as a two-year residential facility, catering specifically to women who are working to end their addictions. And, as several local outlets have reported, it has become a saving grace for mothers in low income communities.

 

“I love Renewal, yes. I learned so much at Renewal,” interviewee and recent Renewal Place grad Terri Hines told the local CBS station. “The most important thing was I was able to get up and go to intensive outpatient therapy downstairs. I had counseling session on Wednesdays. I had alcohol and drug counseling on Mondays and Tuesdays.”

 

The Salvation Army Renewal Place program takes place under one roof and offers food, childcare and counseling for its clients. Fees are covered through donations allocated from the Army’s general fund (which is collected in red kettles, typically outside of supermarkets).

 

As Terri was able to demonstrate, there has recently been a lot of success coming out of this program. She had previously been abusing opioids, which led to an incarceration and a baby daughter born with an addiction. Renewal Place was able to change all that, allowing Terri to get clean, support her child and continue her education.

 

You can watch CBS’ full segment, featuring Terri’s interview, below…

 

We understand that recovery can be a costly experience for some and addictions are certainly becoming more common within lower income communities. Hopefully programs like this can make their way to other states across the U.S., offering hope, support and successful recovery options for whomever may need it.

 

To learn more about the Salvation Army’s Renewal Place, make sure to visit their official site. Donations are also being accepted on their web page.

 

 

Addiction On The Rise Within The Transgender Community

Often times, escapism can fuel the start of the addiction. Feelings of isolation and un-acceptance can be major trigger points, which may be part of the reason that there is a higher substance abuse rate within the transgender community. Researchers from the Journal of School Health found that trans teens were twice as likely to use, when compared to students who did not identify that way.

 

The research also pointed out the specific substances that trans students were gravitating towards most. According to the Journal’s stats, they were 78 percent likelier to use inhalants, 89 percent likelier to regularly take ecstasy and 93 percent likelier to abuse Ritalin or Adderall.

 

A further look at the study singled out the isolation factor as a key motivation for trans dependencies. It showed that students in this segment had higher rates of depression, anxiety and trauma. Tragically, over 30 percent of trans teens have tried to kill themselves at least once and 42 percent report a history of self-harm.

 

As you can imagine…With a lack of acceptance from even our own president, there are bound to be self-esteem issues for trans students during their vulnerable teen years. Several advocates have called out the fact that school officials do little to promote tolerance within this community as well.

 

And, as Journal researcher Monica Christina Esqueda pointed out in the study, this lack of support can be directly linked to the rise in addiction.

 

“School health professionals and other school staff play critical roles in preventing substance use among transgender students,” she wrote. “By supporting their health and well-being during life challenges and physical transitions.”

University of Texas professor Dr. Stephen Russell emphasized that point, when interviewed by TheFix.com.

 

“There is no question that disproportionate rates of mental health problems among transgender people are due to stigma, discrimination and hostility in our culture,” he told the site. “Children look to their teachers and primary caregivers for nurturance and support. True rejection is evolutionarily devastating.”

 

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers for this issue. Society, as a whole, is still a way off from showing complete acceptance towards gender non-conformists (though definite progress is being made). And this isn’t the first time a minority segment of society has behaved this way. Previous statistics have shown spikes in addiction among the gay community, specific ethnicities and even the handicapped population.

 

Thankfully, the recovery community is built upon the premise of acceptance. Stigmas and prejudices are certainly not welcome in our facility. It is important for people who are out there struggling to know that there are treatment centers willing to welcome them in with open arms. We encourage anyone and everyone facing a dependency to reach out and let go of the “escapist” myth that accompanies addiction.

 

Neuroscience And Addiction

It’s always interesting when a Ph.D-accredited neuroscientist shares their thoughts on addiction. And this week, Forbes Magazine spoke with Dr. Nicole Gravagna (who holds a doctorate in genetics and neuroscience) about drug and alcohol dependencies and the impact they can have on the human brain.

 

Dr. Gravagna chose to focus specifically on the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) section of the brain, which integrates conflict and pain with thoughts and behaviors.

 

“The ACC shrinks and weakens in people who have been recent long-term addicts for a length of time recently,” she told the site. “When they recover from the addiction, the ACC swells back up again. This suggests that the ACC is not causing the addiction, but is responding to it.”

 

In basic terms, Dr. Gravagna believes that the ACC isn’t at the root of addiction, but rather reacts to it. According to her, the more the use the more you physically alter the shape of your cranium. Constant substance abuse causes the ACC to shrink and weaken, but the good news is it can be fully restored when someone quits their habits.

 

Dr. Gravagna cited pain and conflict as two key components here. Her analysis revealed that an addict’s brain doesn’t feel the same sensory impulses that a non-user would. Pain, for instance, is harder to be controlled when the ACC changes shape.

 

“The implication is really interesting,” she explained. “When you are feeding an addiction – whether drugs, sex, internet, whatever – you are disabling the part of your brain that handles conflict. You become conflict-stupid as a result, incapable of going through the steps to get past the natural pain of opposition. Addiction makes pain insurmountable.”

 

Dr. Gravagna went on to say that (no surprise to anyone), judgment becomes cloudy and it is much harder to assess dangerous situations. The interesting thing here, is that these brain changes exist even when an addict isn’t using. Thus, they are in a constant state of disorientation. To her this feeds the vicious cycle, which encourages an addict to continue using.

 

“Feeling the pain and deciding whether a situation is dire is an important part of mental health,” she concluded. “Coping by doping away pain is a Band-Aid approach. We can learn a lot from addicts in how feeding their addictions creates problems, and facing their pain creates solutions.”

 

Though some of Dr. Gravagna’s words may seem controversial, her final statement makes a lot of sense. Facing pain is an essential part of the recovery journey and though that may seem extremely difficult; it offers a permanent solution vs. an easier “Band-Aid approach”.

 

 

U.S. Facing Cocaine Alert

As you’ve probably seen in the past, our blog has often served as a news outlet aimed to educate those in the recovery community. And this week, a notable headline caught our attention concerning cocaine addiction in the U.S. and some real potential dangers on the horizon. According to CBS News, there may be a “tidal wave’ shipment of the drug headed to our shores.

 

We bring this up because of another alarming fact. CBS shared evidence that cocaine use among Americans is on the rise. As we all know, it is a very addictive substance and can tear lives and families apart.

 

CBS stated that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) saw a 26%  increase in use among U.S. citizens from 2014 to 2015. Additionally (and most startling), there has been a 54% increase in cocaine overdose deaths in the past five years.

 

There are also reports that cocaine is becoming a popular complement for opioids. In New York, for example, the blend of coke with fentanyl led to 37 % of the state’s overdose deaths last year.

 

Now for the really scary news. The amount of cocaine coming into our country is about to see substantial growth. So much so, in fact, that authorities are calling it a potential “tsunami” of white powder.

 

“I talk about it as really an approaching tsunami of cocaine getting ready to hit the global market,” Coast Guard Adm. Christopher Tomney told CBS.

 

This comes after a major bust that happened on Miami’s shores. 16 tons of cocaine were seized in recent weeks, with a street value of roughly $420 million.

 

Tomney went on to add that smugglers are becoming more and more sophisticated, with countless kilos sneaking by customs and the Coast Guard.

 

“Last year, the task force set an all time record, stopping 285 metric tons of cocaine, he explained. “But it’s only a fraction of the total flow.”

 

There has also been some frustration from these organizations because, as they tell it, not enough resources and attention are being given to the cause.

 

“It’s very frustrating for the men and women of this task force knowing we could be doing so much more,” Tomney went on to say. “But it really comes down to a series of choices. … How much do we want to make this a priority?”

 

Truly some alarming statistics, particularly when you consider that with limited resources they were still able to seize 285 tons. We can only imagine the amount that DIDN’T get flagged by the task force.

 

With that in mind, we are urging our community to be on high alert. If you or someone you love is vulnerable to cocaine, there may be some dangerous times ahead. Particularly because with a street drug like this, there is no telling its potency. If help is needed, please reach out. 866-986-2486

 

Author Anna David Helps Writers In Recovery

It’s time for another one of our regular Spotlight Features, where we highlight an inspirational figure in the world of recovery. For this particular piece, we wanted to focus our efforts on the writing world and a particular author who is inspiring people to put pen to paper. Bestselling scribe Anna David has become a powerful advocate in our field and is continuing to help those struggling by flexing their creative muscles.

 

Anna recently spoke with The Huffington Post about her mission and her own experiences conquering a devastating heroin addiction. At first, the New York-based author was extremely private about her battle, but after undergoing a successful treatment program she made her story public.

 

“Believe it or not, telling my story about recovering from heroin addiction was one of the biggest barriers to my recovery,” David told The Post. “I spent years hiding my substance use, even after everyone in my life had figured out that something was wrong. However, once I got into treatment, I learned that my story is one of the most powerful, valuable things I have in my recovery. Why? Because it helps me connect with other people whose lives have been touched by substance use disorder.”

 

Interestingly enough, it was Anna’s recovery journey that led to one of her most successful novels. Party Girl reflects “reality fiction,” as David puts it. It chronicled a Los Angeles-based actress and her harrowing experiences facing drug and alcohol dependencies. The treatment process was also a major component of the book and Anna covered it with a blend of honesty, pain and humor.

 

“I didn’t realize at first that I was helping myself,” she said when discussing the book. “I thought I was spreading a message — and I was — but every time I write or talk about embarrassing or disturbing experiences I’ve had, I’m de-stigmatizing the experience or the label by bringing it out in the open and seeing that other people relate to it, which gives me tangible evidence I’m not alone in my struggles.”

 

But David’s recovery advocacy goes well beyond what she discusses in her novels. She also holds regular workshops, where she encourages people in recovery to express themselves through creative writing. And, from what she told The Post, the process has become very therapeutic for both sides.

 

Anna emphasized that journaling your thoughts and experiences can be extremely beneficial during the healing process.

 

“I would urge anyone in recovery from anything to share their story,” she concluded. “We’re all in recovery from something and we all have stories to share. I’ve now seen so many people go from saying they can’t write or they don’t know how to writing and sharing their life stories and having their whole lives transformed.”

 

Teen Overdose Rates Are At Record Highs

Teenage years are often a time of experimentation when it comes to drug and alcohol use. And sadly, those “experimental years” are commonly the stepping stones towards full-fledged addiction. Even more alarming is the fact that teens are often unaware of the deadly nature of these narcotics, which puts them at a very high risk for fatal overdoses.

 

A recent article from CNN detailed just how common it is for teenagers to overdose (and how that stat is rapidly rising). According to their data, the rate of U.S. OD deaths involving 15 to 19-year-olds climbed 19 percent in the past two years. In 2014, for example, 3.1 of every 100,000 teens lost their lives due to an overdose. One year later, that number jumped to 3.7.

 

Not surprisingly, opioids were a key factor behind this increase. Their study pointed the finger at both prescribed painkillers and illicit drug strains, such as heroin.

 

It is also important to point out that these fatalities were often unintentional. The statistics show that these are not suicidal teens looking for a way out. Quite the opposite. They appear, for the most part, to be upbeat, good students who accidentally pushed their experimentation too far.

 

“For both male and female adolescents, the majority of drug overdose deaths in 2015 were unintentional,” the Center for Disease Control wrote in their August report.

 

Rachel Chaffin is just such an example of a curious teen whose habit got the best of her. She comes from a good family, a middle-class background and was even holding down a 4.0 grade point average. Regardless, she too succumbed to addiction and nearly became an overdose statistic.

 

Dr. Christopher Ruhm, a University of Virginia professor, was also interviewed for the piece. He warned of the opioid danger among teens, particularly because it can quickly escalate to heroin use.

 

“Drug deaths are rising very rapidly for this group and opioid analgesics and particularly heroin and fentanyl are the most important contributors,” Dr. Ruhm explained. “Not, primarily, because of opioid analgesics but rather because of rapid growth in deaths due to heroin and, often unintentionally, fentanyl use. Prescription opioids have played a role in all of this earlier, particularly in establishing patterns that led to increased heroin use.”

 

And keep in mind, the increased overdose stats only led up to 2015. Dr. Ruhm strongly believes that if the numbers were run again for 2016 or 2017, you’d see an even more tragic story.

 

Many in the press are signaling this stat as one of the primary reasons President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency. After all, this generation is America’s future and anything that can be done to prevent addiction and overdoses at a young age, needs to be acted on immediately.

 

Vaccines May Help Fight Addiction

It certainly sounds like a far-fetched concept. Imagine taking an injection that could help curb cocaine, opioid or heroin cravings. As radical as that idea sounds, several prominent scientists have spoken out; saying that these types of vaccinations are in the works and could ultimately rid the world of those addictions.

 

Now for the record, the actual completion of these supposed vaccines is still very far off. But NPR recently posted a lengthy feature, documenting the progress and potential these anti-addiction meds may hold.

 

“Like any other vaccine, you inject the vaccine and you use your immune system to produce antibodies,” National Institute on Drug Abuse director, Dr. Ivan Montoya told the outlet. “In this case, the antibodies are against the drugs of abuse.”

 

Montoya explained that the antibody component is proving to be the biggest challenge in completing the formulas. He added, in the case of heroin, they are working to generate enough antibodies to prevent the molecules that cause euphoria from reaching the brain. But that has proven to be a major hurdle.

 

“The trick would be getting your body to produce enough antibodies to soak up a surge of drug injected into the bloodstream,” he added. “That is the biggest challenge we are facing, to get enough antibodies.”

 

Montoya also emphasized that for the heroin vaccination to work, patients would have to receive shots on an ongoing basis. Unlike a measles or chicken pox vaccination (which are one-time injections), you would have to prepare for a longtime commitment when it came to this type of addiction treatment. That too, Montoya explained, can pose a problem.

 

The other major stumbling block for these types of treatments to become a reality? Money. Additional researchers from the National Institute confided to NPR that human vaccination trials would cost tens of millions of dollars. The site added that they were not optimistic that the federally-funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be willing to contribute anytime soon.

 

Kim Janda, a professor of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, is also paving the way for addiction vaccine breakthroughs. He too was interviewed for the article and shared the belief that funding has to come from unlikely sources. His solution is to reach out to pharmaceutical companies, emphasizing this drug’s benefit against the nation’s opioid crisis.

 

“I think we need to look at other ways of treating opioid addiction,” Janda told the site. “And I think this can help.”

 

So far, this is still a lot of progress to be made before these vaccines can actually hit the market. But it is encouraging to hear that the science world is taking an active role in the fight against addiction. Stay tuned for more updates from this fascinating topic.

 

U.S. Alcoholism Is On The Rise

With all of the recent opioid headlines, many other important addiction stories have fallen by the wayside. One important piece that has gotten very little attention addresses the rise in alcoholism among people in the U.S. Shockingly, stats from a new JAMA Psychiatry show that 30 million Americans binge drink every week.

 

Per Bloomberg, that is an increase of seven million drinkers from the same study ten years ago. Put in statistical terms, roughly 9 percent of Americans indulged in risky drinking behavior back in 2002. When the same test was conducted in 2013, that number rose to 13 percent.

 

“This should be a big wake-up call,” Johns Hopkins School of Public Health rep David Jernigan told Bloomberg. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.”

 

One of the more interesting revelations from the study was the demographics behind this increase. Apparently, adult alcohol consumption is behind the spike (not underage teens, as initially suspected). The research specifically pointed to seniors, minorities and people with lower levels of education and income.

 

And this certainly wasn’t a flash in pan research piece. JAMA personally interviewed tens of thousands of people with alcohol-related questions. Its main purpose, as revealed to Bloomberg, was to illustrate how alcoholism has evolved in the new millennium.

 

The below chart, provided by Bloomberg, offers some telling stats.

 

Among minorities, the data illustrated that Native Americans have seen the greatest increase of alcohol consumption in the past ten years, followed by African-Americans and Latinos. Those most prone also appeared to be low income earners, bringing in less than $20,000 annually. Middle class people, earning $35,000 to $70,000 per year, were next highest on that list.

 

The amount spent on alcohol in this day and age is also staggering. According to Bloomberg, the estimated cost of excess booze consumption in the U.S. is nearly $250 billion per year.

 

Though it’s difficult to pinpoint one culprit in the rise of U.S. alcoholism, there are plenty of factors that play a part. The recent economic recession was given as a response from those surveyed, as was the rise in e-commerce (making beer and wine more available over the web). Other contributors included aggressive marketing tactics from booze manufacturers, lower price points for certain products and peer pressure from friends and coworkers.

 

Whatever the reasons, the results speak for themselves. The only silver lining is the progression of recovery in the past decade. As drinking problems evolve, so do the methods to treat it. If you’ve fallen into one of these “statistics,” don’t be alarmed. Recognize the problem, reach out and rid alcoholism from your life. 866-986-2486

 

 

Opioid Crisis Declared ‘National Emergency’

It’s official. Something we knew about for years is finally getting the attention of the Commander-in-Chief. This week, President Donald Trump declared the nation’s opioid addiction crisis a “national emergency.” What does that mean exactly? According to Trump, it will mean more federal aid and increased attention from the White House.

 

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” President Trump said in a New Jersey press conference. “It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

 

If you’ve been following our blogs, then you’ll know this announcement isn’t much of a shock. In July, Trump’s federally funded Opioid Commission (headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie) delivered him a report urging that an emergency be declared.

 

We reported that Trump discussed the topic further on Tuesday of this week, acknowledging the country’s growing opioid addiction issues. Though some of his earlier talking points about the subject were a bit vague, the president’s office now has a strict agenda.

 

A statement from the White House said, “President Donald Trump has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

 

While giving this problem a front page headline is certainly a good thing, there are already questions as to whether a presidential national emergency will currently amount to much. According to The Washington Post, this declaration should remove certain bureaucratic barriers, but do little to save the thousands of overdoses happening each month.

 

“There’s no doubt that this shines a brighter light on the epidemic. It remains to be seen how much this will fundamentally change its course,” Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness co-director Caleb Alexander told the outlet.  “No one thinks the recovery from this is going to be fast, emergency or not.”

 

There is also chatter that the DEA will play a bigger role in the epidemic, requiring prescriber education courses for doctors who dispense opioids and painkillers. The anti-overdose medication naloxone may gain more prominence as well, with discussions about providing it to all paramedics nationwide.

 

The only fear stems from the president’s earlier words. Though he wasn’t definitive in his “national crisis” speech, Trump had previously mentioned using this as an opportunity to punish people who use and putting an emphasis on law enforcement.

 

Trump did shy away from that language now, but there is concern brewing from leading recovery advocate organizations.

 

“There is a real fear that the president will clamp down harder on people with opioid-use disorders,” Alexander went on to tell the The Post. “That would be a grave mistake. Simply put, we are not going to arrest our way out of this epidemic.”

 

 

Links Between Gambling Addiction and Suicide

Suicide happens to be one of the worst side effects of addiction. And tragically it’s not that uncommon, particularly when your dependency sends you to a dark place of despair and hopelessness. Recent stats have shown that those fighting gambling issues are most at risk to take their lives, which is why it is imperative they seek out treatment immediately.

 

When you look at things on the surface, there are logical reasons why compulsive gamblers may find themselves in a vulnerable state. Often times, these cravings can cost people their jobs, their life savings, their relationships and even their freedom.

 

Arlene Simon, a senior rep from The Council on Gambling Problems, recently shared some alarming details on the dangerous nature behind this dependency.

 

“Of all the addictions, suicide is the most prevalent among problem gamblers,” she explained. “When I first started on the council’s 24-hour help line, the first call that I got was from a gentleman who was leaving the hospital because he had just attempted suicide because of a gambling problem. Today, what happens is you have a gambling addict who attempts suicide, or commits suicide, and there’s all sorts of reasons. They have depression, family issues, embezzled money and they can’t pay it back, but people don’t relate it always to gambling. Somebody might say ‘oh, he had severe depression.’ Well, why did he have that depression? They don’t take that extra step to find out that they he had that depression because he was in the throws of a terrible gambling problem.”

 

The scary thing about those prone to gambling is the impulsiveness of it all. Once you are caught up in betting, it’s easy to lose track and throw more and more money on the table. Suicide, it has been shown, can be a very impulsive act as well. If you happen to be near a gun, razors, a pill bottle or what you have you, it’s easy to want to instantly react to a devastating loss (particularly if you’re also under the influence of other substances).

 

Simon also brought up the fact that the nation’s opioid crisis is taking attention away from other serious addictions happening throughout the country. She does not deny that it deserves to be addressed, but is fearful the rise in gambling-related suicides may get lost in the shuffle.

 

“I think there could be more done,” she added. “I think that right now the focus is so heavy on the opioids and the opioid addiction, that everything else is sort of pushed in the background. People still have the mentality that gambling is a moral failure, and that it’s not a true addiction. What happens in the brain is similar to what happens when you’re drinking and doing drugs, the diagnostic protocol that providers use, doctors use, we’re listed in there. So we’re no longer the ‘stepchild’ according to the medical community, and I don’t think that the government totally understands that.”

 

Arlene certainly makes a powerful point and we want anyone out there struggling with a gambling issue to understand that there is always hope. We’ve seen hundreds of former addicts turn their lives around after losing it all. Please, if this hits a nerve with you or someone you love, reach out and get help. 866-986-2486

 

Opioids And The Baby Boomer Generation

Scan a few headlines about the nation’s growing opioid crisis and you’ll see more and more people affected are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It is no secret that these dependencies are hitting the senior population at an alarming rate, particularly those from the Baby Boomer Generation.

 

Baby boomers, by definition, were born between the years of 1940 through 1960. The people in this grouping are linked in many ways, particularly when you look at the era in which they were reared. Even the oldest of this set had their formative years during a more experimental time in the nation’s history (particularly the psychedelic 60’s).

 

And that’s what studies from outlets like Forbes and The Independent point to as a factor in this growing trend. Coming up in a more permissive time in America (for better or worse) has shifted many attitudes toward drug use and self medication. Unlike the generations prior, there is less hesitation to solve a problem with a pill.

 

Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course. And let’s be honest, in most cases these people are simply following doctors’ orders with their prescriptions. But studies from both mags highlighted less hesitation among this audience when it came to painkillers.

 

Now for the alarming stats. According to the latest research, 6,200 of the 33,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2015 were from the baby boomer generation.

 

Age-related problems play into this as well, as Forbes contributor Carolyn Rosenblatt explained in her article on the subject.

 

“The average man over 50 takes four prescription drugs daily,” she wrote. “Boomers are frequently using anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants,and  prescription pain medications all of which can lead to dependency and addiction. It’s even more problematic for boomers to be addicted to these medications than it is for a younger person. Boomers don’t have the metabolism we did in our 20’s. They can’t get the drug processed out of their systems as fast as they did at a younger age.”

 

The good news is, there are certain baby boomer characteristics that could be used to help reverse this trend. Forbes‘ research also pointed out that this generation is more willing to speak about their issues and get help than seniors from prior decades.

 

Those born in the generations before the 1940’s tended to be more closed off about their problems and, generally, were less likely to seek treatment. Baby boomers, on the other hand, showed more willingness to receive behavioral counseling from their children and loved ones.

 

“In the situation of [baby boomer] opioid abuse, it is important to have conversations with patients about how they use prescription opioids and why and when they use them not as prescribed,” University at Buffalo researcher Yu-Ping Chang told Forbes.

 

We have always emphasized the importance of open dialogues when it comes to addiction. Often times, a loved one is willing to get help but needs encouragement to get the process started. If you have a baby boomer parent or relative who may need treatment, reach out so we can get them to take the first step. 866-986-2486

 

 

Rob Reiner Opens Up Addiction Conversations

We are firm believers in de-stigmatizing the word “addiction.” For too many decades, embarrassment has surrounded those struggling with a dependency that they truly can’t control. So when an influential celebrity opens the dialogue, removes the shame and shares their personal story, we applaud them for it. Such is the case with actor and director Rob Reiner, who is working to change perceptions from the public stage.

 

Rob has already brought the conversation into many of his movies. We had previously profiled his acclaimed film Being Charlie, which told a fictionalized account of his son’s battle with heroin addiction. Reiner currently has a new flick in theaters which, though focused on the administration of former president Lyndon Baines Johnson, also touches upon recovery and support.

 

And if that weren’t enough, Rob is using his current press tour to openly address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

 

“We need to normalize what a lot of people are wrestling with. If you’re hiding it, if you’re trying to push it under the rug, what you’re doing is adding to the stigma,” he explained to The Huffington Post. “People take drugs because they’re in pain. The solution isn’t tough love. It’s love. Just love. And sometimes that means accepting that someone you care about may be struggling with something, and you need to deal with that.”

 

Reiner is also making a point to meet with recovery advocates during this tour and participate in social media awareness campaigns. He recently sat for an exclusive interview with Facing Addiction counselor Ryan Hampton to discuss his movie and mission in more detail.

 

 

Throughout his conversation with HuffPo, Reiner elaborated on the “disease” of addiction and how those struggling should be treated with dignity and respect.

 

“There is a real lack of compassion for people with substance use disorder,” he added.  “I almost liken it to discrimination against people with physical disabilities. It’s outrageous and wrong. We don’t punish people who are disabled, for example, or try to force them to walk when they can’t walk. We change buildings, structures, and technology to make them more inclusive. We create laws that guarantee equal treatment for everyone. Surely we can do the same thing for people with substance use disorder.”

 

Reiner also shared personal stories from a parent’s perspective and illustrated ways to respectfully help your kids if you sense there may be a problem (as he did for his own son, Nick). Recovery advocacy is such an important role in our society and you certainly don’t have to be a celebrity to get the message across. If you have been impacted or just feel passionate about the cause, speak out and help us change the conversation about addiction.

 

 

Department Of Justice Launches Opioid Abuse Unit

These days, it  seems like there’s a new painkiller headline every hour. And on Wednesday, a very significant one hit the front page. Nearly all major outlets were reporting on Jeff Sessions and his launch of a new anti-opioid abuse unit within the Department of Justice. According to Mr. Attorney General, this movement should make a major dent in the country’s growing addiction epidemic and “tackle the crisis head on.”

 

“I have created this unit to focus specifically on opioid-related health care fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this opioid epidemic,” Sessions told press members at the Columbus Ohio Police Academy. “I am also assigning 12 experienced prosecutors to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud cases in a dozen locations around the country where we know enforcement will make a difference in turning the tide on this epidemic.”

 

Sessions made his intent very clear and emphasized that this unit will involve the FBI, the DEA and state officials, all of whom intend to prosecute doctors who aid in the spread of opioid abuse. Making the speech from Ohio was also a very calculated move, as that happens to be one of the regions most severely impacted by the crisis.

 

Though it was underplayed, the attorney general also pledged to seek out better treatment methods for addicts. He didn’t go into specifics, but did offer encouragement to the millions currently battling this dependency. His last point was to improve prevention and awareness programs across the United States.

 

And, in a nod to the Commander-in-Chief, Sessions hailed Donald Trump’s efforts to curb the spread of narcotics. He specifically cited the president’s immigration policy, which would allegedly curb the transfer of drugs across the Mexican border.

 

“Under President Trump’s strong leadership, the federal government is finally getting serious about securing our borders,” he added. “Illegal entries are down 50 percent already and the wall has not even gone up.”

 

The press was later given a specific list of regions that will be focused on first with this new initiative. Not surprisingly, the southern district of Ohio was present; as was the middle district of Florida and the district of Nevada. California made the list as well, with a heavy emphasis on our eastern district (focusing on areas within the Inland Empire and Bakersfield).

 

It certainly sounds encouraging on paper, but we all know that actions speak louder than words. This is an incredibly difficult crisis to grapple and it may take years to fully control it. As the months progress we’ll make sure to keep a close eye on the DOJ, with ongoing blogs and status checks.

 

Let’s hope that the attorney general’s final press conference words stick. “The Department is determined to attack this opioid epidemic,” he closed with. “And I believe these resources will make a difference.”

 

The Rise Of Alcoholism Within Law Firms

Previously in our blogs, we acknowledged how legal professionals fall prey to addiction just like the rest of society. But according to some new statistics, the number of lawyers who are using is rising fast; particularly when it comes to alcohol. Business Insider recently published a story which revealed that as many as one in three attorneys may have a drinking problem.

 

The article singled out big law firms, in particular, and the “happy hour” culture that they willingly embrace. Multiple times a week, company credit cards are being used to fund bar outings, high-end liquor purchases and wine-filled client dinners. But the free flowing booze has turned deadly on more than one occasion, as the BI piece pointed out.

 

Prestigious east coast firm Kasowitz Benson Torres recently made headlines for hosting a wild party, where inappropriate behavior took place among employees (leading to legal charges) and the New York firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich lost a partner this year due to an alcoholic overdose.

 

“There is not a law firm function that happens without alcohol,” attorney turned recovery advocate Link Christin told Business Insider. “When you have these events, they essentially put the seal of approval on drinking. And there’s sort of an expectation you’re going to be drinking.”

 

Beyond deaths and hospital visits, the increase in law firm alcoholism has also led to a rise in sexual harassment charges. The esteemed Patton Boggs legal clinic was hit with a $12 million civil suit back in 2013, severely damaging its notable reputation. There are also major firms that have wine bars in their lobbies and weekly whiskey tastings.

 

A former associate at the firm Sullivan & Cromwell explained that alcoholic indulgence is practically encouraged among the new recruits. “It’s presented as a release valve,” interviewee Will Meyerhofer explained in the article. “You’ve been working really hard, so here’s the license. It’s free and officially sanctioned,.”

 

The real problem is the trigger that this culture can have on someone who is susceptible to addiction. Getting into weekly drinking patterns can easily turn on a dependency. Plus, as our previous article illustrated, the ongoing pressures of the legal profession can build the cravings even more.

 

To Business Insider’s credit, they did finish their piece with some practical solutions to changing the legal world’s drinking culture. Recovery advocate Christin shared ways that he’s seen firms make a positive change.

 

“One thing I would ask them to look at is including a lot of nonalcoholic, tasty beverages at their gatherings,” he said. “Mock-tails, anything that doesn’t have alcohol in it. It would be refreshing to do that.”

 

Let’s hope the culture starts working toward that shift.

Opioid Commission Declares State of Emergency

There is certainly no shortage of Donald Trump stories in the news this week. But one very important headline that may have slipped through the cracks involves the nation’s opioid commission declaring a state of emergency amid a growing crisis. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie happens to chair this particular organization, which sent a harsh message to President Trump.

 

President Trump,” the statement began, “[Declaring this emergency] would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life.”

 

And, for the record, there were some very influential political figures behind this message. Besides Christie, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and the Harvard Medical School psychobiology professor Bertha Madras all lent their names to the cause.

 

To the credit of the commission, action plans were clearly laid out to help make a dent in the growing epidemic. Recommendations were made to properly train doctors on painkiller prescribing, arm all U.S. police officers with the anti-overdose med naloxone, and adjust current laws to benefit those in recovery.

 

One other important addendum involved changing medical privacy laws. If that were to take effect, family members of addicted patients could receive updates on their medical status and help monitor prescriptions.

 

There is also supposed to be a second set of commission recommendations to arrive in October. Currently, those involved are doing a hefty audit of the opioid epidemic’s impact on the economy and the medical community. They are also digging into available budgets that can help usher more federal funding for treatment. High school anti-drug programs are also on the agenda for the fall report, which is expected to have a concrete plan of action.

 

Now, of course, we must all keep in mind that the White House has no obligation to follow the commission’s recommendations. Though President Trump did establish this organization through an executive order in March, he can now easily ignore their findings. Trump happens to be under a lot of pressure to tighten budgets and has pushed toward slashing health care reform (which makes a big difference on the commission’s strategy plan).

 

One thing is for certain. The nation’s opioid crisis is not going away anytime soon and (in case you haven’t noticed) is making more front page headlines every day. Ignoring the problem is not only bad for the country, it’s bad for Donald Trump’s presidency. So with this much clout behind it, we are hopeful that Mr. President will acknowledge the data and take swift action.