Addicted Parents Forcing More Children Into Foster Care

There is no doubt that an addiction can cause tremendous damage to a family. Often times, it can lead to parental neglect and force children into the foster care system. Tragically that number is on the rise according to a new article on The Hilland it’s requiring state officials to re-examine their approach to treating addicted mothers and fathers.

 

Truth be told, America’s latest foster stats are alarming. In the last four years, U.S. children placed into state care has risen by as much as 30 percent. And it is not surprising to see these increases align with the explosion of America’s opioid epidemic.

 

“A huge number of children [are] coming into the system now because of parental addiction to opioids,” executive director of the Ohio Family Care Association, Wendi Turner, told The Hill. “Children that are coming into care are staying in care longer because there’s a higher risk of relapse with their parents. I really don’t think our state was prepared.”

 

Indeed, Ohio happens to be a state hardest hit by the crisis. You can just how significant the national foster care numbers are by looking at the map below.

 

And in case you didn’t notice, our home state of California is illustrating some significant increases as well.

 

One of the big issues to consider is how much this type of care will cost taxpayers. Many state budgets are already spread thin, which has led some legislators to to work through alternatives to keep families together.

 

In Massachusetts, for example, the state has invested in residential treatment programs that allow children to stay with their parents.  A local rep actually felt that type of setup could help mothers and fathers complete the recovery process.

 

“Having the children there will be a motivation for parents to stick to their treatment plan,”  Massachusetts’s Office of the Child Advocate rep Maria Mossaides explained. “The hope is, once you’ve finished your treatment and are stable, we can then reintegrate you into your old work and apartment and things that will keep you clean and not create unsafe circumstances for children to be taken away.”

 

But not every state has the resources available to carry out these types of treatment. And worse yet, there have been reports about shortages of qualified foster parents. Clearly this crisis is creating far more damage than individual addictions. And if more is not done to combat it, we’re fearful that these types of situations will only get worse.

 

New Amazon Movie Tackles Addiction

If you’ve been surfing the web this week, you probably came across the viral movie trailer for Beautiful Boy. The upcoming drama produced by Amazon Films focuses on a drug-addicted teenager and his experiences with recovery, relapses and redemption. The emotional tw0-and-a-half minute clip got been picked up by several entertainment sites this week and has already garnered over 500,000 views on YouTube.

 

Truth be told, there are several reasons why Beautiful Boy is picking up so much buzz. For one it stars the very popular Timothée Chalamet, who recently scored an Oscar nomination for his work in Call Me By Your NameBoy also features a moving performance from actor Steve Carell, who plays the father of Timothée’s character.

 

Those of us in the recovery community are probably already familiar with the subject matter of this movie. It is actually based a very successful book, which chronicled the real life methamphetamine struggles of Nic Sheff. The moving story gained quite a bit of critical acclaim when it was released back in 2008, earning the title of “#1 Best Nonfiction Title of the Year” from Entertainment WeeklyNot only that, it topped the The New York Times Best Seller List for multiple weeks.

 

The film adaptation is expected to earn its own level of praise and it’s not hard to see why. The trailer starts off with some very effective dialogue between Chalamet and Carell. Things take a darker turn from there, with narration from the father character about a broken relationship and a son that’s gone missing. Several moving images ensue as the audience is taken on an emotional journey from the perspective of a loving parent.

 

Taking a very quotable line from the book, you can hear Chalamet’s character Nic say, “I don’t feel like I have a disease. This isn’t like cancer. This is my choice. I put myself here.”

 

You can bet we’ll be ready to buy our tickets when Beautiful Boy hits theaters this October. And in our opinion, getting this story to the big screen is a well deserved accomplishment. We encourage our readers to watch the full trailer below. And, in the months before the big release, try going to your local library or bookstore to pick up the hardcover for yourself.
 

 

Insurance Companies Under Fire Over Opioid Crisis

It’s easy to point fingers at doctors and prescribers when it comes to America’s opioid crisis. But could there be other factors to blame? According to a new study shared on TheFix.com, insurance companies may also have played a hand in this deadly epidemic.

 

Now the research was quick to point out that many of these carriers could have contributed unwittingly, but it does appear as though damage was still done. Based on a 2017 analysis of 15 Medicaid plans, 14 Medicare plans and 20 private insurers, it was revealed that many companies are not applying evidence-based”utilization management” rules that could cut down on addictions. The data appeared to show that not enough limits were put on refills or initial prescriptions for these types of painkillers.

 

“Our findings suggest that both public and private insurers, at least unwittingly, have contributed importantly to the epidemic,” study author Dr. G. Caleb Alexander said on the site. “Opioids are just one tool in the pain management tool box, and unfortunately, many of the plans that we examined didn’t have well-developed policies in place to limit their overuse.”

 

Often times, insurers can put quantity limits on pharmaceutical products to ensure that patients don’t receive more than they need. Though, for the most part, this was enacted with opioid prescriptions, the study claims that the limits were simply too high. For painkillers like OxyContin, many companies capped scripts at a 30-day supply instead of the shorter limits recommended by the CDC.

 

There also could have been steps taken that require doctors to begin prescribing less addictive painkillers (such as NSAIDs) before moving on to opioids. Beyond that, authorization regulations could have been enacted too; which mandates that medical professionals call the insurance company for approval before writing any prescriptions. Even The New York Times touched on the story, providing data which showed that multiple large insurers limited access to less addictive (but more expensive) alternatives.

 

“Insurers can either be part of the problem, or part of the solution,” Dr. Alexander concluded. “The good news is that an increasing number of health plans are recognizing their contribution to the epidemic and developing new policies to address it. The bad news is that we have a very long way to go.”

 

So while we agree that insurance companies don’t deserve the brunt of the blame for this, they can certainly start changing policies today to help curb the crisis.

 

Small Children Are Accidentally Overdosing On Prescription Meds

America’s opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc in more ways than one. Not only is it leading to tens of thousands of fatalities a year, the crisis is also causing a tremendous amount of collateral damage. The worst side effect, which CBS News reported on this week, concerns small children overdosing on prescription meds left out by their parents.

 

The irony is, the medication that is creating the most problems for young kids is not OxyContin. It is actually buprenorphine, a drug designed to wean people off of opioids. Whether it’s accessible medicine cabinets, careless open bottles or plastic boxes on the nightstand, thousands of children aged six and under have been exposed and sent to the ER for ingesting pills.

 

Investigators told CBS News that between 2007 and 2016, there were more than 11,000 emergency calls made to U.S. poison control centers because of a minor overdosing on buprenorphine. Worst of all, 11 children died because of an accidental OD.

 

“Although buprenorphine is important for the treatment of opioid use disorder, pediatric exposure to this medication can result in serious adverse outcomes,” consulting doctor Gary Smith told the site. “The medication can cause extreme drowsiness and/or vomiting when taken improperly.”

 

Research uncovered by CBS also pointed to non-accidental overdoses of buprenorphine, which has become more common among kids aged 13 to 19. These teens admitted to “experimenting” with their parents’ meds and also had to be admitted to the ER. In total, four deaths have occurred because of this circumstance.

 

What is also worth noting, is the rise in buprenorphine prescriptions in recent years. As the crisis worsens, more of these anti-addiction pills are being given out. In fact, over the past five years distribution of the drug has risen from 100,000 each year to 800,000 each year. This can certainly raise the risk of underage exposure.

 

Though buprenorphine has shown some success in helping to decrease opioid abuse, Dr. Smith is issuing strict warnings to any parents who gets prescribed it. For one, he recommends a safe storage practice; which means keeping it far out of reach from children in the household. He has also spoken out to the drug’s manufacturers, urging them to use safer “unit-dose packaging” for all of their products.

 

“Studies have previously shown that unit-dose packaging — a form of child-resistant packaging — can decrease pediatric exposures to buprenorphine-naloxone products,” Dr. Smith emphasized. “Drug manufacturers need to use these for all buprenorphine products to help prevent unintentional access and exposure by young children.”

 

How Much Does Drinking Shorten Your Life?

There is no denying that continuously consuming alcohol can have long-lasting effects on the body. Studies have shown its negative impact on the heart, the brain and, most commonly, the liver. But could “casual drinking” also be doing damage? European researchers are saying yes and have issued stern warnings to anyone who regularly raises a glass.

 

The study started off outwardly dismissing the age old saying of “a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away.” Their researchers (who were quoted in The Washington Postmade a point to criticize that notion and highlight the fact that serious health risks can begin for people who drink as little as five glasses a week.

 

Currently, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department says that women should consume no more than one drink per day and men shouldn’t touch more than two. This study contradicts that and has gotten some increased support within the American scientific community.

 

“Guidelines are very debatable things,” U.S. Public Health Institute rep William C. Kerr told The Post. “In addition to genetic variants among the population, there’s the issue that some people might take them not as guidelines, but as permission or recommendations to drink a certain amount, even if they shouldn’t drink at all. For those reasons, guidelines have to be conservative.”

 

The study then delved into just how much damage alcohol is causing to U.S. citizens. Though the opioid crisis is receiving a lot of attention at the moment (as it rightly should), it’s a little known fact that drinking still kills more Americans than painkiller overdoses. Roughly 88,000 people die each year in this country due to problems with alcohol abuse. And let’s not forget about the driving fatalities.

 

But what this study focused on was the long term effects, emphasizing that casual drinkers are still putting themselves at risk. Cirrhosis of the liver has become much more common in the last decade and can certainly impact people who claim to not be alcoholics. Long term light drinkers also were singled out as candidates for aortic aneurysms and even strokes. The truth is certain people, simply because of body type, may be more prone to developing these conditions.

 

And did you know that drinking has been linked to cancer diagnoses as well? The carcinogenic agents in alcoholic beverages include ethanol and acetaldehyde, which have been associated with cancers of the intestines, oral cavity and breasts.

 

As we’ve said many times in our blogs: Knowledge is power. Before you brush off any weekly casual drinking habits, do your research and get help if needed.

 

Facebook Launches New Feature To Help Combat Addiction

Technology can certainly be a powerful tool in the fight against addiction. And this week, social media giant Facebook took a big step forward; by taking their data science and applying it in the direction of treatment. Several news outlets have been reporting on the site’s newest feature; a Search function that autopopulates recovery options when people type in dependency-related keywords.

 

In case you’re unfamiliar, “autopopulation” concerns those quick choices you get in your Search bar when you’re Googling a topic. In the new Facebook experience, anyone typing in the words “addiction,” “treatment” or something close to it, would automatically receive an autopopulated recovery hotline link.

 

The digital rollout is being done in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as well as several addiction advocacy nonprofit organizations. Facebook policy programs manager, Avra Siegel, made a press announcement to several news companies about the move.

 

“We look at this as one of a number of steps that we’ve taken and will be taking to find ways to connect the community on Facebook with the resources they need,” Siegel told The Hill.

 

She also said the social site would be taking more proactive steps to remove dangerous Groups and click ads driving to unregulated treatment centers. Siegel emphasized that Facebook has strict standards and has hired new teams to patrol and clean up news feeds.

 

“Every time we’re made aware of content on our platform that violates these standards and if Facebook is in any way facilitating activity like drug sales, we remove it,” she added. “We have a number of ways that we’ve tried to prevent the opportunity for that to occur. I think what’s really important is we have a very proactive, iterative process.”

 

SAMHSA will be closely involved in all of these processes too. Their name will also autopopulate in the addiction-related Facebook searches, guiding users to their national help page which has around-the-clock admins available for online chats and phone calls. Both will be involved in an upcoming one-day opioid summit put together by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Siegel emphasized that Facebook is eager to partner with any and all organizations working to combat the opioid crisis.

 

“We’re willing and eagerly want to work with the FDA, SAMHSA and whomever to figure out how we make progress here because it’s going to take all of us,” she concluded.

 

New Marijuana Research Raises Concerns

There is no doubt that marijuana is much more widely accepted now than it used to be. Just a handful of years ago, it was classified as a dangerous hallucinogen and lumped into the “illegal drug” category. But times have changed and, in California at least, legalization is well in effect. But, according to at least one scientist, serious dangers are still related to cannabis and they should still be addressed.

 

Dr. Christian Hopfer works in the psychiatry department of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. His team has been conducting a series of tests to see just how harmful marijuana may be. Truth be told, Dr. Hopfer’s research is quite extensive and has over $5.5. million in funding. Part of the data comes from measuring twins (5,000 sets to be exact) and the impact users have versus non-users.

 

“This legalization move is really all just a giant experiment,” Dr. Hopfer told TheFix.com“There is no question that legalization has a normalizing effect on something that used to be against the law. By age 21, 98% of the population has had a drink. But only 10% of the population has tried cocaine, and 50% [have] tried marijuana. And if you smoke a couple times a day, marijuana will knock off your memory. That is pretty certain.”

 

And though many have argued that cannabis is not addictive, Dr. Hopfer begs to differ. His research has shown that at least three million Americans have what is classified as “marijuana use disorder.” There are also signals that point to weed being a gateway drug (which means it can lead to harmful, more addictive substances) and posing a serious risk to teens.

 

“If you start smoking pot as a teenager, you have a four times higher likelihood of getting addicted,” Dr. Hopfer added. “The brain of a teenager is more sensitive to the effects than the brain of an adult would be. [Marijuana] is likely to have a more detrimental effect on kids.”

 

The final point that Dr. Hopfer emphasized following is the danger associated with using and driving. We all know that ingesting weed inebriates people, which poses a serious risk if they choose to get behind the wheel. In Colorado, marijuana-involved traffic fatalities have doubled since the state’s legalization efforts.

 

So while we won’t try and dispute the medicinal benefits that many believe are helpful, we do want to expose the dangers. Legal or not, make sure to keep the marijuana habits of you or your loved ones in check. And if you do sense a problem, please reach out for help.

 

Purdue Pharma Lawsuit Gets Personal

Anyone following our blogs knows that we’ve referenced corporate giant Purdue Pharma many times. The Connecticut based OxyContin maker most recently made headlines because of a massive lawsuit that involved multiple states. The crime? Helping to fuel the opioid crisis and killing thousands of U.S. citizens.

 

We are quick to agree that it is going to be an uphill battle to hold a large company like Purdue responsible for the thousands upon thousands of fatal overdoses. But just this week, it was revealed that (in Massachusetts, at least) a unique strategy may be at play. There, Attorney General Maura Healey has singled out not just the corporation, but the family behind it.

 

The famed Sackler name (which we’ve also referenced before) was brought up this week, as eight family members were listed on the official indictment complaint. According to Healey, these individuals have been “spinning a web of illegal deceit” to boost company profits.

 

The Sacklers happen to be one of the wealthiest clans in the country, with centers at the Guggenheim Museum and an entire institute at Columbia University. Arthur Sackler was the primary face behind Purdue, helping to turn it into one of the largest pharmaceutical corporations in the world. He has long since passed, but his nieces and nephews (who help run the company) have all been singled out.

 

Though risky, Healey’s approach has received praise from other U.S. attorney generals. Mike Moore, who worked out of Mississippi, called it a “brilliant legal strategy.”

 

“This move pulls up the corporate curtain of protection that these people hide behind,” Moore told the NBC News site. “The Sacklers personally made billions of dollars while tens of thousands of overdose deaths were occurring as a direct result of their lies about the addictiveness and effectiveness of OxyContin, the drug they created and marketed. Just as these folks like to be honored when they write big checks to museums and have their names inscribed on plaques for their contributions to so many causes, they should be held accountable for how they made that money in the first place.”

 

Despite the positive notes, Purdue and the Sacklers are expected to launch an aggressive defense against all claims. Previously, they have argued that OxyContin is completely legal and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It also, according to their stats, only accounts for 2 percent of the opioid prescriptions nationwide.

 

We will make sure to keep all of our readers up-to-date as this fascinating case continues…

 

New Anti-Opioid PSA’s Released

Since taking office two years ago, President Donald Trump made some bold promises to help combat America’s opioid epidemic. Well now, his administration is taking what they believe to be an important step forward. This week, they released four anti-addiction public service announcements focusing specifically on the crisis.

 

Each clip is reportedly based on a true story and highlights characters whose dependencies have pushed them to severe extremes. Kyle’s Story (shown below) features a case from Dallas, where a young man takes a hammer to his own hand in order to receive more OxyContin prescriptions. Then a “Truth” message appears, along with damaging x-rays of broken bones.

 

Joe’s Story is another clip that received some criticism for its “shock value.” In this short story, a 20-something from Maine purposely traps himself under a car in the hopes of receiving more opioids. We have to admit that it’s difficult to watch, but it certainly sends a powerful message.

 

The third clip in the series is entitled Chris’ Story and focuses on Vicodin. This Atlanta example shows a young construction worker happily jamming his arm into a doorway so he can be hospitalized and receive more medications.

 

And finally, there’s Amy’s Story which is the only clip to feature a female lead. In this ad, a young woman from Ohio discusses the addiction she formed after having knee surgery. She explains that her cravings are now so severe that she has no problem driving her car headfirst into a dumpster.

 

All of these ads are expected to be in heavy rotation throughout the summer, broadcasting on TV networks and within digital channels like Facebook, Google, Amazon and YouTube. The goal, of course, is to create awareness and offer support, via website addresses and phone numbers tagged onto the back of the videos.

 

Not surprisingly, reaction has been mixed regarding the theme of the campaign. Some have supported it, applauding the “harsh realities” each scenario portrays. Others, however, believe the tone is too negative and feel that they are unsympathetic to those battling severe addictions.

 

“We don’t need shock value to fight the overdose crisis,” Harm Reduction Coalition deputy director Daniel Raymond told TheFix.com. “What we need is empathy, connection and hope for people struggling with opioids. The White House missed an opportunity to combat stigma and stereotypes, portraying people who use opioids as irrational and self-destructive.”

 

We made a point to include all four clips into this blog, so you can take a look and judge for yourself.

 

Could LSD Be Used To Treat Addiction?

We have to admit, this latest news story even caught us by surprise. For decades, the psychedelic hallucinogen LSD (also known as “acid”) has been grouped with harmful substances like ecstasy. But similar to the recent stance on marijuana, the public may be turning a corner on how this drug is perceived. In a June Newsweek article, a study was revealed that now claims that LSD could actually be a tool to help treat addiction and depression.

 

Taking data from Cell ReportsNewsweek writer Dana Dovey shared details on animal testing and LSD. Measuring brain cell activity after using the drug, scientists were able to uncover that more dendritic spines and synapses occurred after the hallucinogen was ingested. This, researchers claim, could lead to new breakthroughs in depression treatment.

 

“One of the hallmarks of depression is that the neurites in the prefrontal cortex—a key brain region that regulates emotion, mood, and anxiety—those neurites tend to shrivel up,” study author David E. Olson told the site. “These brain changes also appear in cases of anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

 

Olson also pointed out that this type of behavior actually differs to the reactions that come from anti-depressants like Zoloft and Prozac. Unlike those pills, which influence brain chemicals, LSD actually affects brain plasticity. The common belief is that drugs that behave this way promote the growth of new neural connections. Dovey then took the conversation one step further, illustrating how this type of cranial behavior could be successfully applied to addiction treatment as well.

 

The big caveat is that acid itself is not the designated miracle cure. Dr. Olson emphasized that if they continue to see these types of positive results, they would need to recreate new less potent prescription forms of the drug. He left the author with a stern warning about LSD and it potential risks, such as drastic mood changes and paranoia. These tests were only conducted on mice and still have a ways to go.

 

Nevertheless, both Dovey and Olson believe these are steps in the right direction.

 

“We need to fully understand the signaling pathways that lead to neural plasticity,” Olson concluded. “Then we might be able to target critical nodes along those pathways with drugs that are safer than ketamine or psychedelics.”

 

We agree that this still a ways off from becoming legitimate, but the concept is intriguing and any new approach to combating addiction is certainly worth pursuing.

 

California Med Schools Shift Focus Toward Opioid Crisis

Just how serious has America’s opioid crisis become? So serious that combating it is now part of regular med school curriculums. California’s own UC San Francisco School of Medicine made headlines this week after opening up new fellowships on addiction treatment, with a special emphasis on painkillers.

 

The new initiative is actually being funded by the city and county of San Francisco. Its goal is to incorporate dependency medicine into overall pre-med courses. This goes beyond psychiatric training, which is where something like this would typically lie.

 

The San Francisco Chronicle went on to profile this important shift, interviewing one of the fellowship participants who is in the midst of the new program. Dr. Hannah Snyder currently works at SF General Hospital and explained to the site why she decided to expand her training. Part of the reason was because she began seeing the ravages of opioid addiction firsthand.

 

“Patients were coming in with skin abscesses and heart valve infections over and over again,” Dr. Snyder explained. “Both are common medical complications from long-term use of heroin, when injected with needles that are not sterile. We would give them antibiotics and send them on their way, but that doesn’t get to the root of the problem.”

 

The UCSF experience includes a partnership with Ward 93, a methadone clinic at Dr. Snyder’s hospital where patients meet to discuss treatment options and review their recovery progress. She is also working with medical facilities across the U.S. to create new protocols for helping patients battling opioid dependencies. This includes managing methadone and buprenorphine prescriptions, which have been used to successfully combat withdrawal symptoms.

 

And the movement is continuing in other parts of NorCal as well. Stanford University recently opened up their School of Medicine to include lectures about opioid treatments. So far, several new courses have been added which include safe painkiller prescribing patterns and counseling techniques to help patients battling substance abuse.

 

“It’s the dawning awareness within the medical community that addiction in general is a growing problem in our patient population,” Stanford Medical School rep Dr. Anna Lembke told The Chronicle. “The opioid epidemic has put it front and center in a way that gives people permission to focus on it. Suddenly there are research dollars available to study it, and federal grants. It has momentum it never had before.”

 

This is certainly a positive step forward for our state and hopefully one that makes its way south to medical schools across Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

 

Naloxone Recall Alert Issued

One word that has become synonymous with America’s opioid crisis is naloxone. The overdose antidote has been praised by law enforcement and medical professionals as a powerful tool to combat fatalities associated with this addiction. But it is now important to note that some batches of this medication have now been put on high alert, with a recall issued on certain units sold between February 2017 and February 2018.

 

Granted that could cover a lot of naloxone, so it is important to get this message out. The good news is that the so-called tainted batches are in no way fatal, but rather have been causing adverse reactions for certain people. The product’s parent company, Pfizer, was quick to issue a statement on the topic.

 

“In the event that our impacted naloxone product is administered to a patient, there is a slight likelihood of issues,” the drug company explained via a press release. “In certain cases, the patient has a low likelihood of experiencing adverse events ranging from local irritation, allergic reactions, phlebitis, end-organ granuloma, tissue ischemia, pulmonary emboli, pulmonary dysfunction, pulmonary infarction, and toxicity.”

 

Also known as Narcan, the medication has received certainly received its fair share of praise. If administered during an opioid overdose, naloxone has been proven to save lives. It has been so effective, in fact, that ER doctors, paramedics and first responders regularly carry it in their supply bags. The med is extremely fast-acting and can be administered via vials, auto-injectable devices or a pre-packaged nasal spray.

 

“[Naloxone] can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications,” National Institute on Drug Abuse reps explained when discussing its benefits.  “The sooner the drug is given, the better the result, because the brain of a person who isn’t breathing is being deprived of oxygen.”

 

As fas as the recall goes, it does not impact all batches released during the above timeframe. The questionable supplies were single-use sterile cartridge units with lot numbers 72680LL and 76510LL in 0.4 ml, 1 ml and 2.5 ml strengths. These units were specifically sold in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam between the two Februaries.

 

We applaud Pfizer for being swift to issue this statement. Certainly a headline like this could stir up bad press, but we believe that the drug maker is doing the right thing by keeping patients informed. And the fact that the recalled batch is not fatal is another important stresser. If you do have a supply that matches the lot numbers up above, know that they are still viable but it is in your best interest to go out and replace them via your local pharmacy.

 

‘Walk Like MADD’ Promotes Safety And Sobriety

You’ve probably heard us bring up the MADD organization many times in our blogs. Also known as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, it’s a non-profit that has helped educate millions about the dangers of being wasted behind the wheel. Well, what many people may not know about this movement is their ongoing Walk Like MADD initiative; which encourages citizens across the country to participate in a 5k. The goal is to spread additional awareness and also provide support for families who have been impacted by DUI deaths.

 

On June 9th they’ll be hitting the streets of the Inland Empire for this event, followed by another July “Walk” in Ventura County. Both are expected to receive strong turnouts, as did the May 5k in Rhode Island. That outing united people from 90 local communities, bringing the total grouping to over 300. Tragically, as with most walks, this one honored a fallen daughter; seven-year-old Haylee Molina. Haylee lost her life after a drunk driver hit her scooter in broad daylight.

 

“When it hits you this close, it’s literally a violation of your space” Molina’s aunt, Debra Violette, told NBC at the event. “Someone attacked a child and a member of our family. We are proud to be here, though. This event is really about creating a message of hope and love and passion for those who have been affected so that they can become connected to those who have gone through something similar.”

 

Similarly, the I.E. and Ventura County events will be dedicated to locals impacted by inebriated drivers. This year actually marks the 10th anniversary of the “Walk” and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving site signified it with some encouraging stats. Thanks to awareness and generous donations, MADD claims that these events have served over 800,000 victims. They also help to promote law enforcement, influence local politicians and offer emotional resources for anyone who has been traumatized by a DUI accident.

 

Calling attention to this historic anniversary, the MADD website shared some inspiring words with its readers.

 

The past 10 years have provided victims and survivors a place to come together and celebrate and honor their loved one’s life,” it said. “Many families have expressed how much participating in the Walk has helped them through the grieving process and showed them that they are not alone.”

 

This is definitely a worthy cause and we highly encourage all of our followers to visit the Walk Like Madd Facebook page for details on the upcoming SoCal events.

 

‘GMA’ Anchor Opens Up About Gambling Addiction

It is not uncommon for a celebrity to open up about their struggles with drug and alcohol abuse. But rarely do we see a public figure admit to a gambling addiction. Well famed Good Morning America host Spencer Christian has decided to break the mold, going on-air to discuss the very real problems that happen when you get consumed by professional betting.

 

Appearing on GMA this week, Christian detailed the depths his addiction actually caused. From brushes with the FBI, to financial hardships, to the loss of close friends, this is certainly a dependency that can cause tremendous damage.

 

Like most gamblers, Christian certainly had his share of highs. During certain up streaks, he would bring home hundreds of thousands of dollars. So much, in fact, that federal agents began to suspect he was engaged in criminal activities.

 

“Before every gambling trip I’d go to three or four banks where I had accounts and take cash out,” Spencer recalled when discussing his habit. “And then I’d go off and when I’d come back, I’d have all this cash to redeposit, and that fit the pattern of someone covering up drug money or whatever. [Eventually I was told that] they found no criminal activity and I didn’t break any laws. But the agent told me, ‘You obviously have a real gambling problem, and for your own good you need to seek some help.’ That was a scary moment and it was a huge wake-up call.”

 

And let it be known that during those instances, Christian returned from his casino visits with a surplus. BUT many more times that not he wound wind up empty handed, tearing apart his lucrative earnings from Good Morning America.

 

Interestingly, Spencer claimed that the FBI visit was actually not the turning point of his addiction. Instead, it was his family that pushed him to get help and enter a recovery program.

 

“My daugter said, ‘Dad, you know I admire you and I love you, and I think the world of you, but you’ve got this problem and I’m going to bring grandchildren into your life,'” he recalled.  “‘Do you want your grandchildren to know their grandfather as a gambler? Is this the legacy you want to leave, is this the way you want to be defined?’ And it just hit me like a ton of bricks.'”

 

Since that moment, Spencer’s been seeking continuous treatment and has now become a staunch gambling recovery advocate. In our opinion, that’s the biggest win of all.

 

You can watch Spencer’s full interview about the subject below…

 

 

Opioids Blamed For 1 In Every 5 Young Adult Deaths

Consider this a hash warning for twenty and thirty-somethings. According to some new research released by TIME Magazineopioids are now responsible for one in every five deaths among young people. As you would expect, overdoses are the prime culprit; caused by everything from pills to heroin needles. But we find this stat to be truly alarming, as this demographic is now signaled out as the biggest fatality risk.

 

The study categorizes “young people” as Americans between the ages of 25 and 34. That grouping accounted for 8,400 U.S. opioid deaths in 2016, nearly a third of all fatalities related to the drug. The total OD number reached 28,496  that year and you can bet that totals from this year and beyond will be in even greater numbers.

 

Approximately 20 percent of all deaths within the 25 to 34 sect involved opioids. They were followed by Americans aged 35 to 44, who reported 6,700 fatal overdoses within the same timespan. Other painkiller death totals included 5,600 for people between the ages of 45 to 54, 3,800 for 55 to 64-year-olds and 800 among seniors aged 65 and up.

 

An additional scary stat from this study revealed that nearly 13 percent of all teenage deaths are caused by opioids. Children between the ages of 15 and 24 were responsible for 3,000 opioid-related fatalities in 2016. All of these numbers shot up significantly in the last decade, with the opioid D.O.A. rate doubling since 2009.

 

“Premature death from opioid-related causes imposes an enormous and growing public health burden across the United States,” TIME’s researchers said in the article. “These trends highlight a need for tailored programs and policies.”

 

One other interesting component of the study compared total opioid deaths to America’s other leading killers. When you want to look at the epidemic in cold, hard facts, these stats are pretty hard to ignore. According to TIME, painkiller abuse is responsible for more premature fatalities than high blood pressure, pneumonia and HIV/AIDS. It is also apparently closing in on cancer (which currently takes the most lives).

 

To close out their piece, TIME shared a very moving video from their Opioid Diaries series, which profiles real Americans impacted by the crisis. As the disclaimer says before the clip; this may be disturbing to watch, but it is very important for anyone who wants to truly understand how deadly this epidemic has become.

 

New York Overdose Deaths Occur Every 7 Hours

Exactly how bad has substance abuse gotten in the city of New York? So bad that local officials are issuing “cocaine safety tips” to discourage users from overdosing. Truth be told, this story actually ties back to an earlier report we covered. In it, we shared details about how local drug dealers are now lacing their narcotics batches with fentanyl; making them much more addictive and much more deadly. Well that trend has appeared to have skyrocketed recently, with NYC reporting fatal OD’s every seven hours in the city.

 

CBS affiliate WLNY covered the story and the great lengths that New York’s Department of Health is taking to protect its citizens. Fentanyl, as we explained before, is a synthetic opioid that is said to be a major contributor to the crisis. The strains that street dealers are using are reportedly 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

 

The DoH is concerned enough to look past cocaine habits, letting “casual users” know all about the impending dangers. Their efforts are so aggressive that representatives have now partnered with local bars and nightclubs, passing small handouts with safety tips.

 

Below is an example of the mini flyer, which has also made its way to social media.

 

“We’re going into bars and nightclubs because we want to reach people who may only use cocaine occasionally. We want them to know that fentanyl is in our cocaine supply, and they are at risk of an opioid overdose,” NYC Department of Health rep Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a press release. “If you use cocaine, make sure someone is with you who can call 911 or administer naloxone in case you have an opioid overdose. We are grateful for the support of our local bars and nightclubs to get this message out.”

 

There are even new Twitter and Facebook hashtags that have been developed to help spread the word. The message that is getting pushed is #HealingNYC.

 

 

Clearly this is an urgent matter, but the method of awareness is not without its critics. Some have accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of encouraging cocaine use with this campaign. But he was quick to respond, justifying all methods that could potentially save New Yorkers’ lives.

 

“When the health department tries to figure out a public health campaign, they are very mindful of not wanting to have unintended consequences,” he explained. “But, let’s be blunt, tragically there’s a lot of people using cocaine and thinking it’s safe… Any way to tell people it’s not safe anymore and could be laced with an extraordinarily lethal drug — that’s our obligation to get that information out.”