Opioid Crisis Hits Primetime On ‘Roseanne’ Spinoff

Viewers who had been fans of the Roseanne sitcom reboot were left with quite a surprise following this week’s season premiere. Most people know that series star Roseanne Barr would not be returning due to personal issues, but there was some mystery surrounding the fate of her iconic character. After episode one, however, the truth became painfully clear. In the first few minutes, it was revealed that “Roseanne Conner” had died from an opioid overdose.

 

Reaction was certainly mixed online, with some praising the show for its honest and unflinching portrayal of this deadly American crisis. Others, including Barr herself, felt it was a cheap ploy and somewhat exploitative. Quick to defend the decision, series producer Tom Werner explained that this seed had been planted late last season.

 

“There are a lot of choices in television, but this is a show about a working-class family that is very identifiable to the audience,” Werner told People Magazine. “When we talked about what to do moving forward… if you’d seen the show in the last year, Roseanne Conner was struggling with a drug [addiction]. This is a problem that has affected tens of thousands of people, opioid addiction — 80,000 people died last year dealing with opioid addiction and overdose. We felt that this is something that could shine a light on.”

 

And indeed they did; illustrating everything from the shock of discovering Roseanne’s body, to emotional scenes with her prescription pill dealer. Producers promised that this topic would not go away after episode one. Though the Roseanne character is gone, her addiction and demise will be an issue the family continues to struggle with.

 

Barr, herself, was clearly not happy with the direction. Immediately following the season premiere, she issued a joint statement with her rabbi condemning the manner in which her character was killed.

 

“While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character,” Barr’s statement read. “That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.”

 

We certainly agree that this can be a touchy topic for a primetime sitcom. But while opinions are divided, it is positive to see that the crisis is being talked about in the mainstream media. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny that Roseanne 2.0 has become an important opioid conversation starter.

 

A Tribute To Recovery Pioneer Herbert Kleber

Sadly, the recent news of Dr. Herbert D. Kleber’s passing did not make the front page headlines like it deserved. Yet in his 84 years of life, Dr. Kleber undisputedly did more to help humankind that any music celebrity or sports star. As The New York Times properly stated, he was “a pioneer in researching the pathology of addiction and in developing treatments to help those in recovery.”

 

Dating back to the 1970’s, Dr. Kleber’s work helped increase clinical interest and research funding for those battling alcoholism and substance abuse. His prestigious reputation as a Yale professor helped add credibility to the cause, eventually capturing the attention of President George H. W. Bush. In fact, by 1989 Dr. Kleber had been named as the nation’s first drug czar; lending a legitimate voice to the war on addiction.

 

As his colleague, Columbia University Medical Center director Dr. Frances R. Levin told The Times, Dr. Kleber was able to successfully bring addiction into the scientific communities, helping to reduce its previous stigmas.

 

“He was at the vanguard of bringing scientific rigor to the area of addiction,” Dr. Levin explained. ““Things were actually tested. There were placebo control trials. He wasn’t the only one, but he was among the first to give credibility to the field.”

 

Beyond that, Dr. Kleber co-founded the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which helped train generations of professionals and recovery specialists from across the country. He also had a prominent stint at Columbia University, helping to establish the school’s division on substance use disorder. Eventually that would become one of the largest and most successful research programs of its kind in the country. And never one to rest on his laurels, Dr. Kleber remained on staff there until his sudden passing.

 

The other defining trait of Dr. Kleber that was continuously referenced in his obituary was his unflinching optimism. Despite enduring several challenges in his mission to de-stigmatize addiction, Dr. Kleber was said to have always remained upbeat and undaunted.

 

One of his most famous quotes occurred during his Senate confirmation hearing to become U.S. Deputy Drug Czar. When asked how he could remain so positive after decades of working with severe addicts, he simply responded…

 

“The day is short. The task is difficult. It is not our duty to finish it, but we are forbidden not to try.”

 

Rest In Peace, Dr. Kleber.

 

New Campaign Targets Young E-Cigarette Users

For many, the concept of “vaping” seems a lot more harmless than substance abuse or even smoking. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (aka the FDA) feels very differently and has launched an aggressive awareness campaign to steer young people away from e-cigarettes.

 

Based on their research, nearly 11 million Americans aged 12-17 have tried vaping at least once and a good portion of them have now become addicted. The fear is, that this type of habit can escalate into future dependencies; specifically involving drugs or alcohol.

 

One common misconception about vaping is that it is much less harmful than traditional smoking. But the facts of the matter are, e-cigarettes do contain nicotine and substances that are harmful for the body.

 

Besides the peer pressure and so-called “cool factor” these e-cigs represent, the FDA believes that the allure of tasty flavors and packaging also play a role.

 

“E-cigarettes have become an almost ubiquitous – and dangerous – trend among youth that we believe has reached epidemic proportions,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb M.D. said in a statement. “Based on our evidence, we believe the presence of flavors is one component making these products especially attractive to kids. The mandate to reverse this trend in youth addiction to nicotine is one of my highest priorities.”

 

The PSA’s are working to address all of those issues and then some. Titled “Know The Real Cost of Vaping,” the messages are being released in video form for YouTube and with galleries and radio reads better suited for Facebook, Twitter and Pandora. They also include a warning about the chemicals that e-cigarettes contain, such as acrolein, formaldehyde and chromium (which have been known to cause cancer).

 

Additionally, “The Real Cost” has a highly engaging website that was launched as part of the campaign. Clearly aimed at the teenage set, it’s got a variety of bold stats highlighting the dangers of vaping. There are also shareable quizzes, visual memes and even a video game that illustrates the damage that e-cigs can have on the brain.

 

Of course, the biggest highlight is the video page. Over two million web users have watched the series of “Real Cost” clips, which include some creative and impactful messaging.

 

We definitely agree that this is a campaign worth spreading and encourage everyone to talk to teenage friends and loved ones about this issue. Take a look at one of videos below for the full impact.

Addictions And Tragedies Chronicled In Podcast

 

We all know that addiction is not a pretty subject. And over the summer it got a lot more personal for thousands of podcast listeners, after the unexpected overdose death of a popular host named “Chris.” Chris helmed the recovery series Dopey Podcast for several years, until his demons got the best of him.

 

Though the tragedy happened in July, VICE.com has brought it back to the forefront with a powerful expose they published this month. In it, there are interviews with Chris’ co-host “Dave” and an interesting followup that chronicles Dopey’s recent rise in popularity.

 

It may be easy to say that the drastic rise in Dopey downloads had to do with curiosity surrounding Chris’ OD. But the level of popularity has continued to increase and the overall focus has now shifted; addressing grief and life after recovery.

 

Dave has vowed to carry the mission on, while still making a constant effort to honor and recognize his fallen friend.

 

“Chris loved being sober and he loved Dopey,” Dave told the podcast audience. “His death is such a huge loss. His was a great success story—especially after so many years of chronic relapses. This is a real tragedy.”

 

Prior to his overdose, Chris had a two-year record of sobriety. He openly discussed his struggles and temptations on the air, building a very loyal following along the way. In the fall of last year, Dopey actually hit a landmark of sorts; reaching 100 downloadable episodes.

 

Right before he died, Chris sounded very hopeful about what the future held for Dopey. His relapse and overdose apparently took everyone by surprise; including his girlfriend and those closest to him.

 

Some speculation has been put into the cause of the OD, with Dave and others theorizing that it may have to do with a recent painkiller prescription Chris received for a torn ligament. Regardless, he ultimately was found unresponsive by his girlfriend on July 24 and laid to rest the following month.

 

This very real tragedy quickly went viral and gave Dopey the kind of exposure it always deserved. Celebrity guests like Dr. Drew Pinsky soon began calling in and it is now topping the charts on Apple’s Podcast Download List.

 

As mentioned above, Dave is promising to continue the work and will be leaving Chris’ seat empty for the time being. We certainly encourage our fans to give The Dopey Podcast a listen for an honest and sometimes difficult expose on addiction.

 

Phase 2 Of The Opioid Crisis

It certainly feels like the opioid crisis has been plaguing America for quite some time. The overdose counts keep growing, hospitalizations are at an all-time high and everything from the work force to the economy is being impacted. Well sadly, many experts are saying we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. In fact, Yahoo Finance claims we are about to enter “Phase Two.”

 

The money and business site highlighted many of the alarming stats associated with the crisis (including the fact that it claimed the lives of over 72,000 Americans last year). It then shared some insights from Narcan inventor Dr. Roger Crystal, which included a whole new level of danger.

 

“I strongly believe that we are now in the next phase of this opioid crisis, where the majority of deaths arise from fentanyl.” Dr. Crystal explained. “It is the strongest of the opioids, 50 times stronger than heroin, it’s also easier and cheaper to make than heroin, and we see it growing year on year.”

 

Indeed, many studies are showing that prescription opioid use is actually declining throughout the country. Now apparently, the crisis is heading into the direction of street drugs and moving away from pharmacies. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are on the rise and have a much higher rate of overdoses. These meds are also more prone to being laced with stronger, more addictive chemicals; which could lead to even more deaths in the coming year.

 

Going back to the 72,000 overdose fatality stat shared by Yahoo Finance, there are some truly scary indicators once you start slicing that number apart. The site added that 30,000 (or nearly a third) of that total can be attributed to fentanyl OD’s; making it among the fasting rising killers in the U.S.

 

A new phase can certainly mean that this crisis has to now be approached in different ways. Targeting dealers and the sources of these fentanyl supplies can certainly be a good first step.

 

And, coming from Yahoo Finance, there are also the monetary ramifications to consider. Their data shows that within the last two years, the economic cost of America’s opioid crisis was as much as $504 billion (or 2.8% of the GDP).

 

Our hope is that this addiction epidemic gets targeted from all angles. Of course, we should still enforce regulations and monitoring of the prescription drug industry. But let’s also not ignore “Phase Two,” which involves a closer focus on imports/exports, criminal activities and synthetic opioid treatments.

 

Addiction Hits Home For Surgeon General

In the past, we have highlighted the important work that America’s Surgeon Generals have done to bring awareness to addiction in this country. Jerome Adams, the latest doctor to hold that title, is no different and actually has a very personal connection to the cause. As he revealed in a recent report, his own brother suffered with a severe opioid dependency.

 

Titled Facing Addiction In AmericaAdams’ powerful essay confronts many harsh realities about substance abuse in this country. In the first few pages, he openly discusses the pain his younger brother’s issues caused the family and why this mission is so important to him.

 

“My family and I are among the millions of Americans affected by substance use disorder,” Adams explained in the report. “My younger brother has struggled with this disease, which started with untreated depression leading to opioid pain reliever misuse. Like many with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder conditions, my brother has cycled in and out of incarceration. I tell my family’s story because far too many are facing the same worries for their loved ones. We all ask the same question: How can I contribute to ending the opioid crisis and helping those suffering with addiction?”

 

He goes on to list many of the hurdles the country is facing when it comes to treatment and recovery. One major call out is the lack of staffing in America’s healthcare industry, as well as a gap in proper training. Prepping people in hospitals (and first responders, for that matter) with lifesaving overdose prevention techniques is crucial, particularly amid this devastating crisis.

 

Speaking from the heart, Adams went on to emphasize a new way of thinking when it comes to addiction. As he puts it, this is not a character flaw nor a weakness of the spirit. It is, in fact, a chronic disease and should be treated as such. Adams went on to emphasize that family members, friends and law enforcement personnel should be non-judgmental in this matter and properly in trained in the administration to anti-overdose medication naloxone.

 

“Through partnerships, we can address the overall health inequities and determinants of health that exist where we live, learn, work, and play,” Adams concluded. “Together we can reduce the risks of opioid misuse, opioid use disorder, and related health consequences such as overdose and infectious disease transmission.”

 

When First Responders Become Addicts

On the surface, it may seem a little counterintuitive to hear about addiction among first responders. After all, they are usually on site to help people struggling with dependencies and have devoted their lives to safety and wellness. Well, it is actually not that uncommon for paramedics, firemen and police officers to fall prey to substance abuse; signaling once again that this disease knows no bounds.

 

The Philly Voice recently published an expose on this growing problem, outlining both high ranking and entry level first responders who are now overcoming their addictions. Newly released stats have shown that opioid dependencies have now taken over alcoholism as the primary dependency among this set. Clare Seletsky, director of the First Responders program at Recovery Centers of America, spoke to the outlet about increased challenges paramedics, correctional officers and fire personnel face.

 

“Alcohol addiction was once the preeminent reason first responders would seek treatment, but narcotics has caught up,” Seletsky explained. “Just this year it’s getting equal to alcohol. Six, seven years ago alcohol far surpassed other drugs.”

 

Seletsky also touted a new recovery initiative her organization has put together specifically tailored for first responders. The Valor with Integrity Program for Emergency Responders (also known as VIPER) program offers a safe and supportive environment for drug and alcohol treatment. It also makes a point to address issues commonly associated with these types of jobs, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), crime scene trauma and physical ailments tied to the daily demands of this type of work.

 

Seletsky also emphasized the “trust issue” many people in these professions face while in recovery. Sitting alongside alumni they may have arrested or resuscitated can create awkward or uncomfortable feelings. It can also impact the progress of others in treatment, knowing that they may not be fully honest knowing that there is a law enforcement officer sitting next to them. As Seletsky put it, keeping these types of groups separated improves progress on both sides.

 

The rise in opioid dependencies is something else to consider among this group. The truth of the matter is, people in these fields are often putting their bodies at risk and are much more prone to receiving an injury on the job. Once that occurs and painkillers enter the equation, it is not difficult to slide down the slippery slope into addiction.

 

We have always tipped our hats to the amazing work that first responders do. There is absolutely no shame in there being a rise in addiction among this group and we want to make ourselves just as available to them as we would to anyone else battling a dependency.

 

In-N-Out Burger Joins The Addiction Fight

In our home state, In-N-Out Burger reigns supreme when it comes to signature California cuisine. And recently the local fast food giant took a major step in the addiction fight, launching a site and foundation dedicated to supporting people battling alcohol and drug dependencies. Beyond that, for the month of October In-N-Out will match customer donations by three to one!

 

Slave 2 Nothing is the name of the org that the chain set up to spread the message. Divided into two segments, it exists to support people dealing with dependencies, as well as those impacted by human trafficking. The main In-N-Out site links out to the Slave web page, which proudly proclaims its mission statement the second people click through.

“The Slave 2 Nothing Foundation’s mission is to help those throughout our country who are enslaved by any person or substance, by empowering them to live free,” the page reads. “We fulfill our mission by providing financial support to organizations in our communities that assist individuals and their families to gain freedom and healing from substance abuse. We also work to create, educate, and assist with solutions to eliminate human trafficking.”

 

The burger chain has also been in the midst of a heavy social media push, sending messages across its Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages to bring awareness to the cause. Physical locations have been part of the movement too, with in-store posters and placemats that highlight the Slave 2 Nothing message.

 

Visitors to the Slave site are also privy to a wealth of resources and metrics related to the country’s addiction crisis. One heavily highlighted stat revealed that 8.3 million U.S. children under the age of 18 live with a substance-abusing parent. The is also a chart highlighting three key pillars to fighting dependencies. Component one is Prevention, as in stopping more young people from using. Component two is Treatment for those who are suffering and in need of recovery. And component three is Support, which emphasizes the continued assistance for those who have overcome their addictions.

 

We, for one, applaud In-N-Out for taking such an aggressive stance. It’s no secret that millions of Angelenos (and tourists) pass through their doors and drive-thrus every years. Putting this message front and center can hopefully make a significant difference. And the 3-to-1 donation matching of up to $250,000 is simply icing on the cake!

 

Cracking Down On DUI Scooting

The world is certainly changing and one of the biggest trends to occur over the past year is the rise in electric scooter rentals. In our hometown of Los Angeles this has now become commonplace, with riders accessing the fast paced two-wheelers through apps on their phone. But just like any vehicle, there are risks to consider; particularly if you choose to operate one while intoxicated. In fact, several SoCal officials have now given the city permission to hand out DUI’s for renters who are over a legal limit.

 

Truth be told, these scooters are not fast enough to cause the type of damage you could inflict being behind the wheel of car. But there has been a reported increase in accidents across L.A., including one notable incident where a renter three times over the drinking limit smashed into a 64-year-old woman. Thankfully she wasn’t critically injured, but the city did issue the rider a $550 ticket and make him enroll in a mandatory alcohol program.

 

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer wound up issuing a statement after the notable incident, hoping to bring attention to riding under the influence.

 

“Unfortunately, someone will always find a way to use these types of vehicles inappropriately,” he stated. “Let me emphasize that drinking while operating a vehicle, a bike—or a scooter—is not only illegal, but can lead to serious injury or worse.”

 

Amazingly, in the short amount of time that these vehicle have been operational, the ridership numbers have skyrocketed. In the past year alone, popular scooter maker Bird has touted 2.1 million rentals across 100 cities. And often times (just like in our backyard of Santa Monica), they are accessed by young people who use them to scoot from bar to bar.

 

While scooter-to-person accidents have yet to lead to fatalities, there is the very real risk of intoxicated riders getting hit by cars or injuring themselves doing dangerous stunts. As of right now no real monitoring program is in place, which has led to a lot of recklessness across the sidewalks of L.A.

 

Nevertheless, several local organizations have gone out of their way to promote scooter safety. UCLA, for example, released a viral video, touting helmets and proper etiquette while riding on campus grounds.

 

In our opinion, there is still a lot more than can be done. As this trend continues to grow, we are hopeful that the companies themselves (Bird and Lime being the most noteworthy) will help to promote safety and discourage any and all intoxicated riding.

 

The Dangers Behind ‘Risky Drinking’

There is no doubt that alcoholism can do tremendous long term damage. But it’s important to remember that shot chugging and rowdy nights out can cause harm in the short term as well. In fact, a new study is pointing to just that. Recent research published on TheFix.com outlined the large of amount of young men who participate in “risky drinking” and very real dangers that go along with it.

 

For the record, the way risky drinking was described in the study pertained to fistfights, intoxicated driving and unprotected sexual behavior. Bar binging is certainly known to contribute to all of those things, as is the newfound “freedom” of turning 21. The research did show a strong connection of bad boozing behavior among men who are just reaching that age.

 

In conclusion, the study’s author felt that loose drinking laws and perhaps 21-year-old immaturity could merit a re-evaluation of each state’s legal drinking age.

 

“A growing body of evidence suggests large increases in criminal behavior and mortality coinciding with a young adult’s 21st birthday, when alcohol consumption becomes legal,” author and University of Wisconsin professor Jason M. Fletcher stated. “The policy implications from these findings have focused on the need to reduce drinking among young people, potentially by enforcing stricter alcohol controls.”

 

Upon further examination, Fletcher also stated that the statistics show an increase in alcohol-related deaths and violent crimes among males aged 21. Again, he emphasized that parental interventions are an important tool in keeping these young men grounded. But one of the more curious data points showed that this group is close to their families and often times living with them. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to have regular conversations with college-aged children about alcohol.

 

“It might be a reasonable intervention to remind parents of individuals about to turn 21, that especially their sons, about these negative consequences,” Fletcher emphasized to The Fix. “Maybe they could at least be part of these interventions, in terms of reducing these risky behaviors right around the legal age of drinking.”

 

We couldn’t agree more with that advice. Not only is this risky drinking behavior a gateway into violence and physical harm; once intoxicated driving enters the picture, it could easily lead to death. We encourage all parents to stay close to their sons and daughters as they approach their young 20’s. Open dialogues and regular check ins are crucial as they enter this exploratory (and potentially addictive) stage of life.

 

House Passes Bipartisan Bill To Address Opioid Epidemic

Washington politics has been in the news a lot lately. But one story that may not have made as many headlines as it should, concerned some major progress in America’s fight against the opioid crisis. Late last week (and in a rare bipartisan moment), the House of Representatives passed the final version of a large package that will directly address the epidemic.

 

Dubbed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, the bill aims to increase access to addiction treatment centers, push for opioid alternatives to pain treatment, intercept illegal painkillers at mail facilities and combat the use of fentanyl. So far this measure has been met with an overwhelming amount of support, with the final approval vote being 393-8.

 

Several representatives have spoken out publicly about the measure, emphasizing that it is an important step in overcoming the crisis.

 

“Seldom can we say that federal legislation will actually save lives, but we know this bipartisan package will do just that by improving treatment for those battling addiction, and slowing the flow of illegal, deadly synthetic drugs into America,” Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden told CNN. “While this legislation will not solve every problem, I do believe it includes important policies that will help turn the tide of this tragic opioid epidemic. It will also improve treatment options for those battling other substance use disorders.”

 

It is certainly noteworthy to see Republicans and Democrats coming together to push this forward (particularly in today’s chilly political climate). But some critics argue that the amount of funds allocated to the SUPPORT Bill are lacking.

 

According to Vox.com, experts believe that it would take over $10 billion to quickly reverse the epidemic. This bill would fall extremely short of that goal and, in fact, does not provide a significant increase of spending for the opioid crisis at all.

 

The Vox piece singled out several other programs that received increased government funds during times of crisis. To combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, for example, Congress set up the Ryan White Program, which generated billions to provide resources and care for those infected by the disease. Of course that allocation was merited, but the argument now is that opioid crisis deserves the same amount of urgency. Truth be told, overdose death rates now greatly outnumber fatalities related to AIDS (or guns or car crashes for that matter).

 

Getting more government funds will certainly be another hurdle to climb, but this bipartisan example is encouraging and we applaud lawmakers for helping to make a difference.