Recovery Scams Targeted In Orange County

Often times, we talk about scientific breakthroughs happening in the world of recovery. And while they are certainly exciting to hear about, they should NEVER be released to the public without proper testing and regulatory approvals. Sadly many fraudulent sobriety clinics prey upon that hope, offering fake “miracle cures” that lack proper vetting and could be entirely made up. Over in our nearby region of Orange County, scams like that were apparently afoot; leading to a task force crackdown by local police.

 

Multiple recovery operators were charged with felony counts for taking money from patients in exchange for an “opioid-blocking surgery.” In some cases it was just a set of false promises, but in others (shockingly) real operations were performed.

 

Most of these followed an M.O. that our readers are familiar with. Recovery “body brokers” were sent out, targeting real users in need. They would ask for several thousand dollars in exchange for surgical implants. Questionable doctors would then allegedly perform these operations, which would insert a so-called opioid blocker named Naltrexone into the patients’ bodies.

 

The county’s top prosecutors clearly stated that this surgery is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Regardless, the crooked doctors would wind up billing insurance companies as much as $40,000 for each operation. Many victims in these cases underwent procedures which did nothing to improve their addictions and actually put their health in jeopardy.

 

“This is entirely experimental,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told NBC Los Angeles. “There’s no study as to the efficacy of this procedure. And worst of all, some of the patients developed serious side effects following their surgeries.”

 

NBC went on to report that Orange County has now become a “Rehab Riviera” and a prime hunting ground for body brokers. Several of the region’s sober living homes now recruit most of their patients from out of state and they often refuse to follow city regulations.

 

According to the latest reports, four acting OC physicians have been charged with fraud, as well as four local body brokers. An administrator of the noted treatment center SoberLife USA was also charged, with felonies ranging from medical insurance fraud to unauthorized practice of medicine.

 

We, for one, are happy these illegitimate practices are getting shut down. Performing experimental and unethical surgeries is definitely one of the lowest points we’ve seen when it comes to recovery scams. As we’ve said many times before, PLEASE always do thorough research before choosing a treatment for you or a loved one.

 

A 2,500 Mile Walk For Addiction Awareness

We always applaud people who find new and unique ways to bring attention to addiction. And over in Maine, 26-year-old Jessie Grieb is helping to spread the word by setting off on a 2,575 mile trek from the east coast all the way to Key West, Florida. Dubbed her “Overdose Awareness Walk,” it is on an ongoing viral journey that is designed to raise funds for a recovery charity called Freedom To Grow.

 

A former heroin addict herself, Jessie successful conquered her dependency; but lost several close friends along the way. Tragically her brother Brian succumbed to his dependencies, which inspired her walk all the more.

 

As Jessie mentioned in her various blog posts, there is a very clear and calculated purpose to this mission. And she is recruiting people to join her along the way.

 

“Every mile that I walk, two people in this country will have died from an overdose, eight people every hour, over 115 a day,’’ Grieb explained on her Facebook page.  “If you are going to join us, you will have to keep up!”

 

So far, Grieb has made it as far as Connecticut and has assured her followers that she is taking many precautions along this route. There are elongated breaks, packs of food and constant communication with friends and loved ones. She’s even got a helpful push cart (dubbed “Lt. Dan” after the Forrest Gump character), which houses additional supplies.

 

The cart was actually donated by one of Jessie’s mentors. Recovery advocate Brett Bramble broke the ground on this type of movement, walking 5,700 miles for recovery back in 2016. His journey took him from Delaware to San Francisco and generated a ton of publicity for the cause. In fact (bringing things full circle), Freedom To Grow happens to be Bramble’s charity; which he started after completing his trek.

 

“I am so ecstatic and so proud of Jessie for doing this,’’ Bramble explained to The Palm Beach Post. “It is certainly not easy, She’s gotten blisters. The sun is excruciating and there is never a perfect day. But Jessie has not complained one time. She could have quit. She wanted to quit at times, but she knows the good it is doing for her.’’

 

We, of course, are extremely proud of Jessie’s mission as well and encourage our followers to keep track of her adventures (and lend support) by visiting her fundraising page.

 

Ancient Virus May Play A Role In Addiction

Have you ever wondered how far back addictions go? According to some new research, dependencies to pleasure seeking can be traced to the Neanderthal Era and, interestingly enough, that could educate some of our behaviors today.

 

CNN is reporting that a new study out of London has identified a particular virus (or retrovirus) that may present in many modern users. It is labeled HK2 and has existed in human DNA for centuries. Though somewhat rare (impacting roughly 5 to 10 percent of the overall population), it is apparently much more common in people who abuse drugs or alcohol.

 

Oxford scientists found the virus in 34 percent of the drug users they tested in Scotland; which is more than three times the norm. There was also a higher likelihood in subjects of Greek origin (for the record, the University of Athens in Greece also participated in the study).

 

The general location of the HK2 virus has been in the RASGRF2 gene, which mirrors some findings that happened earlier in the decade. RASGRF2 had previously been identified as a “pleasure gene” because it increases the activity of dopamine released into the brain.

 

“What this study suggests is that these people could be prone to any sort of addictive behavior,” researcher Gkikas Margionkinis told CNN.

 

So if this data is proven to be true, what happens next? Aris Katzourakis, another researcher who led the study, explained that science could eventually intervene and perhaps “antidotes” could be used to conquer this age old virus.

 

“This could potentially lead to better intervention strategies,” Katsourakis said. “If we can make a drug to target this insertion, we may be in a better place to help people recovering from this kind of behavior.”

 

Currently, scientists are already trying to develop treatments for the HK2 strain present in RASGRF2. It is believed that this virus has many vulnerabilities and could succumb to different treatments injected into the body.

 

Obviously, HK2 doesn’t account for all of the addictions that are happening around the world. But if this small segment of the population can be helped with science and antivirus antidotes, we fully support the progress.

 

Katzourakis and Margionkinis agree that there is a lot more testing that needs to be done. But they are both confident (and excited) about a positive outcome.

 

“I think we’re off to a very good start,” Katzourakis concluded. “And a lot of interesting work lays ahead.”

 

Addiction And The ‘Dark Web’

There is no doubt about it; technology has drastically changed the state of addiction. In some ways it has become a powerful healing tool, connecting people to recovery clinics and creating forums for open conversations. But on the flip side, it has also become a haven for predators and dealers who solicit vulnerable users via the dark web.

 

Just this past week, the notorious “Drug Llama” was arrested because of her illegal behavior on the internet. In that case (which happened down in San Diego), 31-year-old Melissa Scanlan was taken in and accused of selling over 50,000 fentanyl pills across the dark web. She had used the “Llama” moniker for two years, seeking out customers in chat rooms and underground message boards. It is alleged that her practices led two people to fatally overdose.

 

Sadly there are many others just like “The Drug Llama,” who use aliases and secret sites to peddle illegal narcotics. A few months back, another alleged kingpin, Gal Vallerius also known as “OxyMonster,” was arrested outside of Austin and accused of using the net to ship crystal meth and OxyContin to customers around the world.

 

For those unaware, the dark web is accessible only through bootlegged Tor software; which was originally developed by Naval Researchers to surf online anonymously with maximum security. Soon it got into the hands of hackers and a whole new universe emerged, where people could easily engage in illegal activities. Not surprisingly, drug dealing has become a popular pastime there; with customers purchasing large shipments of narcotics via Bitcoin exchanges.

 

Silk Road had been the most popular dealing site on the dark web and was ultimately brought down after a DEA investigation in 2016. But, as expected, many new hidden www.’s began emerging and underground exchanges have grown substantially over the past two years. Vallerius, for example, operated out of a site called Dream Market.

 

Judging by the fates of Scanlan and Vallerius, dark web drug crackdowns are starting to happen more frequently. But we cannot urge our readers enough to stay off of those sites. Not only could they lead to federal prosecutions, the narcotics shipped out could have a very high risk of being laced or tainted (as evidenced by Scanlan’s OD victims). The dark web is most certainly not a place to feed any type of habit. If you or someone you care about is soliciting illegal drugs online, please reach out and get help.

 

PBS To Address Addiction This Fall

This time of year brings a slew of new television programming, with shows that touch nearly every genre and every topic. And on the PBS Network, one of the most highly-anticipated arrivals is focusing on drug dependencies. The acclaimed documentary program NOVA has set its sights on the opioid crisis, with a mini-series titled ADDICTION set to hit screens on October 19th.

 

A trailer for the new season was released last week and promises some compelling stories from the upcoming episodes. In the :30 clip, viewers are teased about topics like fentanyl, pain pills and heroin; taken from the point-of-view of those closest to the frontlines.

 

Parents, doctors and recovery experts will all be interviewed for the show, with an inspiring twist. As you can see in the clip below, NOVA is giving this crisis a somewhat positive spin; emphasizing that this epidemic can be conquered.
 

 

To help encourage viewership and spread the word about addiction education, NOVA senior executive producer Paula S. Apsell has been speaking with the press. As she explained, science could be key to cracking this devastating crisis.

 

“Nearly every family in America has been affected by addiction—the biggest public health crisis facing us today—yet it remains poorly understood, largely stigmatized, and finding treatment can be a daunting process,” Aspell said. “NOVA helps cut through the confusion by presenting the latest science on what we now know is a treatable brain disorder, and not a hopeless diagnosis.”

 

Prevention will reportedly be another key topic addressed in the ADDICTION doc. Cameras will travel throughout North America to profile harm reduction sites and report on their progress. Everything from needle exchanges, to HIV testing centers, to naloxone education classes will be shown, along with the powerful effect they are having on users.

 

Thorough as ever, NOVA promises encouraging statistics from these programs, both physically and financially. West Virginia (a region that will be profiled) has been on the forefront of harm reduction, dispatching mobile recovery units and volunteer medical teams. Their public health commissioner, Rahul Gupta, (who was interviewed for the show) says that these programs have saved the state millions in medical costs and has the evidence to prove it.

 

If you ask us, ADDICTION is definitely worth adding to your DVR list next month. NOVA has had a stellar reputation for the documentaries in the past and we are very excited to see what stats, figures and successes they can tout this time out.

 

Celebrating National Recovery Month

For the past 29 years, September has held a special significance for people celebrating sobriety milestones. From the 1st through the 30th, advocates across the country honor accomplishments and raise awareness through a movement called National Recovery Month. Every year new themes are introduced and viral hashtags get posted, which recognize the millions of people whose lives have been transformed from treatment.

 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (aka SAMHSA) spearheads this initiative and they have released a flurry of new media content to spread the message. One big push for 2018 includes a new online series entitled Road To Recovery. Broadcast via webisodes and podcasts, these insightful pieces aim to educate people on key addiction topics. A recent YouTube chat dealt with insurance coverage and how a person’s job can be impacted when they enter treatment. You can watch it below…

 

 

There is also a new batch of Public Service Announcements aimed toward opening up dialogues between parents and children. Titled Talk. They Hear You.these clips offer helpful “Discussion Starters” for kids of any age. Covering difficult topics like alcoholism and drug use, the PSA’s are actually quite inspiring and encourage moms, dads and educators not to fear these types of conversations. One of their most viewed videos is below…

 

 

Now granted, issues like substance abuse can be difficult to cope with. But that is not the point of Recovery Month. In fact, as one of their recent blogs explained, this is actually meant to be a time of celebration and hope. It is now when we honor those who have successfully beaten their addictions and inspire others to live a cleaner lifestyle.

 

“This September, we celebrate the millions of Americans who are living their lives in recovery from mental and substance use disorders and honor those who work to make recovery possible,” SAMHSA rep Chideha M. Ohuouha wrote on the site. “Recovery Month serves to educate Americans about the benefits of treatment and recovery services. It also promotes three key messages: Prevention works. Treatment is effective. People can and do recover.”

 

Another key component of Recovery Month is community involvement. The official site offers a wealth of materials that can be used to build awareness. Everything from social media logos, to posters, to fact-based one sheets. All are downloadable and meant to be shared with people’s followers and friends. We invite our network to do the same, by clicking here and spreading the word about this very important initiative.

 

A West Hollywood Sobriety Milestone

As we’ve mentioned many times before, we love recovery stories with a local flair. And not far from our Santa Clarita facility sits a historic sobriety shop, centered (believe it or not) amid the party block of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. We, of course, are talking about the legendary My 12 Step Store, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary.

 

R.J. Holguin is the mastermind behind the famed shop, serving as its Founder, CEO and Director of Marketing. He recently spoke to the local outlet Los Angeles Blade about the milestone, which will be marked by an alcohol-free mixer this month; in partnership with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and The WeHo Times.

 

As he told The Blade, starting this store was a very personal mission and one he put together because he, himself, had successfully overcome addiction.

 

“I saw this as a way to give back to a community that I was a part of, both as a resident and as a person in recovery myself,” Holguin explained.  “So, I opened a boutique-style store that would be welcoming and exciting to people who are clean and sober.”

 

Indeed, the My 12 Step Store offers an endless supply of resources for people in recovery. There are special treatment books, as well as sobriety chips and medallions. The shop also supplies empowering fashion lines and inspirational gifts, jewelry and greeting cards.

 

Throughout its past 15 years the store has built a very loyal following, both from leaders in the recovery community and sober celebrities. Stars like Lindsay Lohan and Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack have publicly lent support, as well as famed Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler (whose autographed shirt proudly hangs on its wall).

 

Being centered in West Hollywood, the store has also become a sobriety beacon for the LGBTQ community; supporting various charities and events. Though, as Holguin points out, the prime clientele is actually straight women.

 

“Our average customer is a woman not in the LQBTQ community,” he added.  “I don’t identify us as a store for LGBTQ, I identify us as store that’s very supportive for LGBTQ and welcomes you.  We are a gift store.  If you are gift-giver you most likely will support us by buying gifts for friends and loved ones in recovery.”

 

Best of all, in the modern era the My 12 Step Store has now developed an online presence too. Now, people from across the country can purchase its inspiring items and spread the word of sobriety on a much larger scale.

 

Can Stem Cells Help Beat Cocaine Addiction?

Many times, you’ll hear about scientists touting that they’re on the cutting edge of developing a “cure for addiction.” Though those words offer promise and hope, more times than not the discoveries have minimal impact. This week, however, several large scale publications (including The Guardian) are claiming otherwise, highlighting a significant breakthrough via stem cell research.

 

Cocaine dependencies are the primary focus of these experiments. Through genetically engineered skin implants, it appears as though cravings for this particular drug can diminish significantly (at least in the laboratory mice they’ve been testing).

 

These subjects have supposedly shown great promise in overcoming stimulant addictions. Apparently, the injected stem cells release a powerful enzyme that removes all traces of cocaine from the bloodstream. So far, the tests have shown that that mice fitted with these implants have completely lost their cravings and survived dangerous overdoses that killed 100 percent of the untreated animals.

 

In essence, this type of therapy cleared all drugs from their bodies (whether injected, inhaled or ingested) and made the animals completely immune to the substances. According to researcher Ming Xu, this could be groundbreaking for the recovery industry.

 

“Compared to other gene therapies, our approach is minimally invasive, long term, low maintenance and affordable,” he explained to The Guardian. “It is also highly efficient and specific for eliminating cocaine. I find it to be very promising.”

 

Getting to these developments was certainly no easy task. According to the article, these researchers had to literally rewrite the DNA codes is mouse skin stem cells to create the appropriate reaction. Months of testing and research followed, until they felt confident that the process was working.

 

But, there is still some progress that needs to be made before this treatment is deemed safe for humans. Cells and DNA signatures are quite different between the two species and long term effects of the treatment have yet to be fully realized.

 

Xu acknowledged that this treatment still has a way to go before it get in front of the FDA. But he is confident that it will only be a matter of time before a true cocaine addiction cure becomes widely available. In fact, he is confident that this could be the start of effective treatments for all types of dependencies.

 

“We have not observed obvious side effects, but will study them carefully,” Xu added. “But I believe the approach has the potential to make drug users immune to cocaine and protect them from fatal overdoses. Even now, the team is working on similar genetically-engineered cells to treat alcohol and nicotine addiction, and soon expect to start research on a therapy for opioid addiction.”

 

We can only hope that this will someday become a reality.

 

A Warning For L.A. Pot Shop Visitors

Los Angeles is certainly a different world today than it was 10 years ago. On street corners and billboards across the Southland, it’s hard to miss a message from a local marijuana dispensary. And while the legalization movement has certainly changed people’s views on the drug and its addictive tendencies, there are still plenty of things to be concerned about. Particularly, illegal pot shops operating throughout the city.

 

This month, the City of Los Angeles has begun targeting dispensaries that are not properly licensed. According to City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, that number could shoot way past 200. In fact, the issue has become so concerning that Feuer himself held a press conference addressing the punishments and risks associated with illegal shops.

 

“The goal of this is to enforce common-sense rules that regulate recreational marijuana, so public safety is protected in our neighborhoods,” Feuer said at the press conference. “Our message is clear: if you are operating an illegal cannabis business, you will be held accountable.”

 

And apparently that accountability is going to be taken very seriously. Business owners who are running unlicensed pot shops could face criminal felony charges, with fines up to $1,000 and a sentence of six months in jail. According to recent stats, 21 local Angelenos have been taken in so far.

 

So what does this mean for customers of these businesses?  For one thing, it’s a red flag to do your research before randomly visiting a pot shop for cannabis. Those who are accused of breaking these rules have been rumored to have tampered with their packaging and (more importantly) their products. Though marijuana’s reputation doesn’t compare to that of a narcotic like cocaine or heroin, a tainted strain could do serious physical and emotional damage.

 

And, as we’ve written about in previous blogs, there are studies that have shown marijuana to be addictive. So if the batches you are receiving are potentially laced or tainted, there is a higher likelihood that they could create unnatural cravings.

 

Interestingly enough, several legitimate L.A.-based marijuana businesses support the measure. They prefer to keep the industry regulated and as safe as possible for customers. Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Cannabis Coalition, went on record saying, “Cracking down on black market retailers is beneficial for the state’s industry as a whole. I applaud the city for doing this. You can’t have a regulated industry without strong enforcement.”

 

‘Lean’ Addictions Thrust Back Into The Spotlight

More and more often, news stories are coming to light about the dangers of using lean (particularly among the younger set). This week was no exception, as famed hip-hop star Bow Wow took to social media and bravely addressed his previous dependency on the dangerous cough syrup narcotic. In a tweet that has now gotten thousands of Shares, the young rapper relayed stories about how lean almost killed him.

 

“I’m going to let something out,” Bow Wow began in his series of tweets. “When me and Omarion worked on FACE OFF album I was high off lean every day! When yall saw me on BET going off on Torae I was high off lean. My attitude everything changed. I never promoted lean in my songs. The whole time I was on the ‘UCP’ tour with Chris I WAS SIPPING 4’s at least seven times a day. I was addicted until our show in Cincinnati. I came off [stage] and passed out woke up in the hospital. I was having withdrawals.”

 

Through a series of statements, Bow Wow explained how his habit began, how he was ultimately able to defeat it and why young people should steer clear of lean.

 


 
Lean has become a very dangerous drug that goes by many names. It has also gotten its fair share of glorification via hip-hop singles and song lyrics. Some classify it as “Purple Drank,” others as “Purp” and yet others as the slang term, “Sizzurp.” Part of its popularity stems from easy accessibility. All you need is a bottle of cough medicine, along with codeine, promethazine and a soda can (all available at a typical grocery store).

 

The “lean” moniker came because of the high it reportedly creates. After ingesting it in liquid form (or shooting it through an IV), users begin to feel heavily sedated; taking time to lay down or “lean over.” The scary part is this drug can cause tremendous damage to the heart, causing it to slow down and possibly fail.

 

We are certainly hopeful that Bow Wow’s words continue to stir the conversation. There is no denying that this is an extremely dangerous narcotic that deserves to make more headlines.

 

Instagram Now Offers Addiction Support

For millions of people across the country, the social media app Instagram is the place where you can share pictures, tell Stories and keep up with the happenings of family and friends. But now, the Facebook-owned brand is adding one more feature to its toolkit: Recovery Assistance. That’s right, starting this week the site will offer pop up push notifications if you begin searching addiction-related topics.

 

The Verge actually helped bring this story to the mainstream, sharing an article and details from Instagram’s admins. Reps who keep track of searches and hashtag clicks on the app were noticing a sharp increase in addiction inquiries. This ranged from people seeking out recovery help, to those looking for illegal drug dealers. As a response, they installed an update that halts users when type or click specific terms.

 

From now on, if you were to click a hashtag like #opioids, you may see a notification like the picture below.

 

 

The message will remain constant and reads, “If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid or substance misuse, find ways to get free and confidential treatment referrals, as well as information about substance abuse, prevention, and recovery.

 

Then with the touch of a finger, users can opt in to receive recovery services. The choice is not mandatory, but will continue as you search these terms. The hope is that eventually people in need will click. And for the record, this movement utilized some of Facebook’s most high-powered connections. The “Support” program includes input from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and The Partnership for Drug Free Kids.

 

Additionally, there have been discussions to block sensitive search queries and hashtags from people who they suspect to be dealing. Reps from the company have openly said that they are adamantly against their platforms being used in this way.

 

Facebook too, is rolling out a similar program. People who search specific terms there (such as “buy Xanax”) will receive a support box pop-up. Other illicit drug search terms have been blocked from the platform entirely.

 

To us, this all sounds very promising. It is encouraging to see big corporations like Facebook take a stand for recovery on their digital platforms. And though some have argued that this movement is too little too late, it is certainly better than nothing at all.

 

Educating Doctors About Addiction

This past week, The New York Times published a very revealing article about the medical profession and how most doctors are ill-equipped to deal with America’s opioid epidemic. The piece goes on to say that, for the most part, it is not the MD’s faults. Rather, it has to do with the curriculum in colleges across the country and the lack of graduate courses that touch upon this topic.

 

One area that is emphasized heavily is the lack of bedside manner when it comes to addicted patients. There is no denying that this can be a delicate situation and, if handled poorly, could create a spiraling effect. There is also the fine line between necessary pain prescriptions and underlying dependencies with over exaggerated injuries.

 

“How can a doctor win over a patient who fears being judged? How can they determine whether the patient’s demand for opioids is a response to dependence or pain?” writer Jan Hoffman explains in the piece. “MD’s who practice family medicine routinely encounter these types of patients, but often lack the expertise to prevent, diagnose and treat their addictions.”

 

Hoffman’s research points out that comprehensive dependency training is not common within American med schools. For starters, there are only 52 addiction medicine fellowships nationwide (compared to over 240 for a field like sports medicine). And though some have begun offering lectures about the growing opioid crisis, topics like “treating alcoholism” are rarely discussed.

 

There is also further data that shows how specializing in this type of treatment can be a thankless profession. Insurance disparities can create headaches, those addicted are often low income and there are always stigmas about violence and volatility when it comes to treating patients. If you are on track to become a “hot shot doctor” with a big paycheck, this type of work is not always desirable.

 

But it is most certainly a necessity and the demand for doctors with an addiction background is at an all-time high. To their credit, the Boston University School of Medicine is stepping up to the plate and has become one of the most progressive med schools in regards to dependency training. Several BU professors were profiled in the Times article and emphasized the importance of these studies.

 

“I really enjoy working with these patients,” Associate Dean Dr. Daniel Alford told Hoffman. “They have often been kicked to the curb by the formal medical system. They don’t trust us. So for them to walk into a room and have a doctor say, ‘It’s great to see you, thank you for coming in,’ is very powerful. And then you can see them get better with treatment. It can be very rewarding work.”

 

New Fentanyl Safety Video Released

Over the past several months, the synthetic opioid fentanyl has been responsible for a sharp increase in fatal overdoses. For many first responders, dealing with this “street drug” is a bit of an unknown. Most tend to be unfamiliar with its overdose signals, as well as its potential health risks. To help change that perception, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol office has released a six-and-a-half minute training video to educate paramedics and police officers.

 

Titled Fentanyl: The Real Deal, the clip delves into general misinformation about the drug and how to properly handle it if you were to directly come into direct contact. Throughout the first portion, real doctors speak to the camera and explain that touching fentanyl cannot put you at risk for an overdose. Interestingly though, there is a warning for using hand sanitizer if fentanyl powder is on your fingertips. This could actually increase its absorption and put a person more in danger for a negative reaction.

 

It is tidbits like this that make the video a useful tool. As DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon explained on the Occupational Health and Safety site, first responders and the public at large need to be aware of these important facts.

 

“We have a duty to protect those who keep our communities safe,” Dhillon explained. “As we continue to fight this opioid epidemic, it is critical that we provide every tool necessary to educate the public, law enforcement, and first responders about the dangers of fentanyl. This video is a positive step in that direction.”

 

This is actually the second training clip to be released about this topic. Back in 2017, the video Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders was produced and circulated to smaller groups of first responders. As the addiction problem has grown, however, so has the need for a more current (and more viral) piece of media. Hence, the creation of The Real Deal.

 

The long-form clip also delves into airborne risks of the drug and helpful protective gear that can keep first responders safe should they encounter it firsthand. The video closes with logos of support, featuring everyone from the Department of Justice to The President of the United States.

 

“The threat of fentanyl is real,” featured medical advisor Dr. David Tarantino concluded in the clip. “But we’re showing a multi-layered defense that will keep first responders safe while they do their job and keep the rest of us safe.”

 

We certainly recommend that all people in the recovery community spend some time reviewing the video. You can watch it in full, below…

 

RIP: Recovery Advocate Christopher Lawford

This week, pop culture fans got a dose of saddening news with the passing of actor and Kennedy cousin Christopher Lawford. While he will undoubtedly be remembered for his famous familial ties, Christopher is also being acknowledged for the tremendous work he did to publicize sobriety and the challenges of addiction.

 

Lawford, who was 63, passed away from a heart attack in Vancouver, Canada; where he had been living with a girlfriend. As expected, the social media tributes began pouring out. While of course they praised Christopher for his character and giving nature, they also strongly emphasized the contributions he made for the recovery community.

 

His cousin Patrick J. Kennedy (son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy), called out his continuous advocacy.

 

 

As did cousin Bobby Shriver (brother of Maria Shriver).

 

 

Sobriety spokesperson Jennifer Gimenez also quickly took to Twitter to praise Lawford’s work.

 

 

The truth of the matter is, Christopher (like many celebrity offspring) publicly faced a very difficult addiction battle. But rather than hide from it or shun the publicity, he bravely faced his demons and was very open about his struggles. In 2005, he wrote a bestselling memoir that tackled these topics titled Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption. Later, he published another book titled Voices From the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery, which featured essays from celebrity survivors such as Tom Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis. His most recent book, What Addicts Know, was another bestseller.

 

Lawford basically devoted the later part of his life to lecturing about substance abuse, raising funds for treatment centers and bringing the cause to the political stage.

 

“I was the product of an addictive perfect storm,” he told Parade Magazine in 2015. “We had an entirely different culture in 1969 when I first used drugs. Experimentation, permissiveness and, frankly, ignorance of what this disease is. Addiction is a brain illness, and it’s not limited to one demographic or another. You can be an alcoholic in the White House or in the poor house.”

 

Ironically, Christopher had moved to Vancouver over to launch a new recovery facility in the area. Today, we send our deepest condolences to the Lawford family and thank him for all of his inspirational work.

 

‘Rock To Recovery’ Concert Returns This September

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since we discussed the charity-driven Rock To Recovery concert. Now the event is coming back for a third time and with a bigger lineup than ever before. Music icons like Moby and the metal group Steel Panther will be part of this September’s concert, which is donating all ticket funds to treatment services for people in need.

 

September 15th is the official date of Rock To Recovery III. The benefit show will take place (as it had years before) at the historic Fonda Theatre in Hollywood and include both live music and celebrity speakers. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bryan Fogel will be handling 2018 MC duties, with Steel Panther taking headliner status and Moby listed as the night’s big honoree.

 

Additionally, musician Tommu Vext from the band Bad Wolves will be recognized for his recovery advocacy and there are several exciting sets planned from some surprise musical guests. Wes Geer deserves the big credit for this year’s event (as he has in years’ past). The former Korn guitarist is also the founder of Rock To Recovery and recently spoke to TheFix.com about its ongoing mission.

 

“By having an event where we can all share not only our darkness, but our strength and solution, and celebrate through live music and dancing and even mosh pits, is quite a healing form of expression,” he explained. “I heard recently that the opposite of addiction is connection. For all the people this event supports, these are all issues of feeling lost and disconnected and not having a place in the world.”

 

Geer went on to emphasize that this show isn’t just for people who have completed treatment, it is also for those who are pushing through it and looking for inspiration. He added that half of the concert’s attendees will be people who are still in a recovery program.

 

“Imagine being in treatment and getting to experience a sober concert with known musicians, many of whom are also in recovery,” Geer added. “I go back to what my mindset was when I was newly in recovery, which is once you get sober life is over and boring. These concerts prove that mindset wrong. When you come see such an elaborate event supported by so many amazing humans, that is 100% sober and 100% rad, it is absolutely magical.”

 

For anyone else interested in this important event, tickets are still available. We certainly recommend keeping the date open on the calendar and “rocking out” with some true musical heroes.

 

The Importance Of ‘Overdose Awareness Day’

This past August 31, an important annual event occurred. Though it may not have gotten as much publicity as we think it deserved, International Overdose Awareness Day did enter the American consciousness for a period of 24 hours. On social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, users shared their stories and hopefully some of the people in power listened.

 

The official hashtags of #OverdoseAwarenessDay and #EndOverdose were posted thousands of times by everyone from Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear to the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams.

 

There was also a lot of link sharing to the official webpage of the cause.

 

For the record, Overdose Awareness Day is now in its seventh year. The “International” component is important, because this movement was actually first initiated in Australia. Back in 2001, local Salvation Army rep Sally J. Finn created the campaign to bring attention to the thousands of OD deaths that were happening in her country. Not long after, other regions took notice and symbols like purple wristbands were created to signify its impact.

 

For 2018, the famed news site Vox stepped in to spread the word. Writer German Lopez published a lengthy feature on their homepage, highlighted the stats and carnage this addiction epidemic has caused.

 

Key points included CDC data that showed 2017 to be the worst year for drug overdoses in U.S. history. In fact, their research broke out the totals to be roughly 200 deaths per day related to the opioid crisis.

 

Vox’s chart below helps put a few of those things in perspective.

 

 

To their credit, the people behind Overdose Awareness Day also want their followers to be proactive and help initiate a positive change. Their site includes a wealth of resources for people who are impacted by the crisis. Whether it’s a person currently struggling and in need of recovery assistance or a family member of a lost loved one looking for grief support.

 

The official site also has a Tributes page, where people can read and post details about those who have lost their lives to an overdose. The video below outlines a bit of the mission…

 

Obviously, overdoses and the opioid crisis are things we should be aware of 365 days a year. And we are happy to do our part to continue to bring this topic to the forefront and offer immediate support.