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!

 

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.

 

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.

 

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…