Tag Archives: heroin

Addiction Treatment: The Endless Possibilities of Recovery

addiction

Few other places in the country have been as ravaged by the opioid addiction epidemic as West Virginia. Prescription opioids and heroin have stolen the lives of young and old alike. Lawmakers and health experts continue to develop methods for turning the tide. While addiction treatment centers work tirelessly to spread the message of recovery to as many afflicted as possible. Addiction recovery being the most effective means of saving people from the insidious grip of opioid dependence.

America has been trying to get a wrap on the epidemic for nearly two decades. As as result, many are doubtful that it is even possible. Opioids are so addictive and incredibly deadly, yet the drugs are prescribed at alarming rates, still. Those who lose access to prescription opioids regularly turn to heroin. Thus, putting themselves at risk of fentanyl exposure, a synthetic opioid commonly mixed with heroin to boost potency. Fentanyl can be up to a hundred times stronger than morphine.

Without access to addiction treatment, those addicted to opioids are at incredible risk of experiencing an overdose. And a potentially fatal overdose, at that. Those who seek help often relapse shortly thereafter, testament to just how addictive this family of drugs is. A relapse after a short stent of abstinence increases the chances of an overdose exponentially. Because one’s tolerance has diminished. This is why it so important that people who seek help do so by way of long-term residential treatment. Therefore, further mitigating the risk of relapse and subsequent overdose. The longer an addict or alcoholic stays in treatment, the greater the chance for long-term recovery.

There are around 142 fatal overdoses every day in the U.S. Given the high morbidity rate, some might think that recovery impossible. But, it is, just ask Sturgill.

INTERVENTION℠ Endless Possibilities, Continued

So, who is Sturgill? A&E INTERVENTION℠, interventionist Sylvia Parsons and PACE Recovery Center gave a young West Virginian a life-saving opportunity. Sturgill (then 23) was in the grips of addiction, a problem that began the same way as so many Americans. With an injury that called for prescription opioids. A broken arm sent Sturgill into an addictive death spiral, involving the abuse of alcohol, benzodiazepines, methadone, and heroin. A potentially deadly admixture, to be sure.

Sturgill was a promising young golden gloves boxer and wrestler who dreamed of the Olympics. He was also an academically gifted pre-med student. But a broken arm and multiple surgeries led to a pain pill addiction, which soon turned to heroin.” —reads the A&E INTERVENTION℠ website

With the help of Parsons, Sturgill’s family implored him to choose life and take the opportunity to get treatment. He accepted the gift of recovery and last year came to PACE Recovery Center. While there are never guarantees in recovery, Sturgill's story went from one of despair to the light of the spirit. During the season premiere of A&E INTERVENTION℠ (Season 17) an update on our former client was provided to viewers. Now, with over a year clean and sober, Sturgill remains plugged into the local recovery community. His future plans include getting certified to be an alcohol and drug counselor (CADC).

The update shows that, in fact, with recovery there can be endless possibilities if one is willing to do the work. Please take a moment to watch the short clip below:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Addiction Treatment Is The Answer

I can't put it into words how blessed I am… I do something for recovery every day." —Sturgill

Not too long ago, Sturgill was in the same frightful position as millions of other Americans. Today, with the help of his family and his family in recovery he is living a life in recovery. It all started with a willingness to surrender and make the courageous decision to go to treatment. It is often the hardest decision that one will make in a lifetime. The grip of one’s disease is extremely powerful. It will do whatever it can to keep you from saving your own life. But, it is possible to break the cycle and lead a fulfilling life in recovery.

If your story is similar to Sturgill’s, PACE Recovery Center can help you find the miracles of addiction recovery—too. Please contact us today to begin the lifesaving journey.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic: A Perfect Storm

opioid addiction

The opioid addiction epidemic in the United States is nothing, if not a “perfect storm.” All of us in America are acutely aware of the devastation caused by this insidious family of drugs. We have seen how overprescribing and a lack of emphasis on addiction treatment has morphed into a catastrophic problem. One comprised of millions of addicts caught in a vicious maelstrom of mental illness, unable to access the help they need. At least, in most cases. Practically everyone across the country knows (or has known) someone who has been touched by opioid addiction. It is highly likely that you were acquainted with a person who died from an opioid overdose. Perhaps it was a loved one.

Given the unprecedented nature of this epidemic, finding ways to stem the tide of opioid use has been a challenge. For nearly two decades Americans, some of whom were young adults, often found themselves on the road to addiction by way of a prescription opioid. Those who already had a propensity for developing the disease became caught in the cycle before they knew what hit them. It does not take long for dependence to set in. And once it does, the future holds little good, short of hopefully finding recovery one day. That is if an overdose doesn’t steal one’s life beforehand.

Some of you reading this may be saying to yourselves, ‘But… Isn’t it more difficult to acquire prescription opioids, now?’ Well, in many cases that is an accurate perception. However, it is still relatively easy for people to get ahold of prescription opioids. Either through a doctor, or on the streets. Many Americans have few qualms about giving a friend or family member some of their painkillers. Despite the inherent dangers of doing so.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic: The Perfect Storm

Like all great storms, they are usually made up of several weather fronts coming together. In the case of the opioid addiction epidemic, many addicts struggling to acquire prescription opioids have turned to heroin. A drug that is easier to get, less expensive and often more potent. The drug is even more dangerous (of late) due to the introduction (unbeknownst to the user) of the analgesic fentanyl. A powerful painkiller that causes severe respiratory depression, being 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

In 1991, a nor'easter named the Halloween Gale consumed Hurricane Grace off the eastern seaboard. Thus, creating a new hurricane that morphed into a catastrophic cyclone over the Atlantic. You might be familiar with this weather event, being popularized by author Sebastian Junger in his book The Perfect Storm. It tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel lost at sea during the storm. Perhaps you saw the movie? So, what does this have to do with addiction?

One way to look at it is this, rampant over prescribing of opioids (hurricane). Reduced prescribing leads to greater demand for heroin, “graciously” supplied by Mexican Cartels (nor'easter). A new hurricane is created, which is then accelerated by fentanyl to become a cyclone. A veritable perfect storm of addiction and death.

There is a noticeable difference between the Perfect Storm of 1991 and the perfect storm that began roughly ten years later with prescription opioids. The latter was man made. Surely there are some who could argue that 1991 may have been the product of climate change, but that topic is for another blog. With regard to addiction, Americans created this epidemic—so it is up to us to find our way out of this tempest of mental illness. Addiction treatment is the answer.

Addiction Treatment Via Surrender

Last December, we covered an important topic regarding the opioid addiction epidemic. And, the idea that addiction can’t be arrested away—only treated. We have written about the dismal failure that is the American “war on drugs.” There is little need for debate, draconian drug sentencing laws do little to curb addiction rates. Opioid use disorder treatment, on the other hand, saves lives without the use of handcuffs and cell bars. A mindset shared by the Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Department.

In 2015, the former Chief of Police in Gloucester created the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). When we first wrote about PAARI, 160 police departments nationwide were using the model to help addicts find treatment. PAARI, otherwise known as “Angel Programs,” encourages addicts to surrender their drugs and treatment will be arranged. No criminal charges, no jail time. Just treatment and continued recovery (hopefully).

Today, there are more than 260 law enforcement departments in 30 states using the model, ABC News reports. To be sure, the Angel Program conceived in the commercial fishing town of Gloucester has not prevented overdoses from happening, outright. But, every person helped into addiction treatment is potentially one fewer overdose.

Opioid overdoses are soaring in much of the country, and the total for Gloucester might well have been higher if not for the ANGEL program," said Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at the Stanford's School of Medicine.

Calming the Storm

So, let’s bring the nautical theme of the opioid addiction epidemic and PAARI full circle. For starters, the Andrea Gail and her crew lost in the Perfect Storm of 1991 was based out of Gloucester. The Angel Program was devised in the very city synonymous with the Perfect Storm. While naloxone couldn’t have helped the crew of the Andrea Gail survive their storm, it is helping other fisherman today, survive the storm of addiction, that is. Gloucester police Chief John McCarthy says that officials have been distributing the overdose reversal drug naloxone to boat operators. Training fishing crews on how to use the life-saving overdose antidote at sea. Heroin is deadlier than hurricanes. Hopefully those who survive an overdose will be referred to treatment and find recovery.

Are you a young adult male struggling with opioid use disorder, or do you have a son who is battling addiction? PACE Recovery Center can help you break the cycle, and teach you how living a life of addiction recovery is possible.

Fentanyl and Heroin: A Deadly Mixture

fentanyl

The game has changed dramatically regarding illicit opioids in America. What was once a relatively unnoticeable trickle of fentanyl making its way onto the streets has become a whitewater torrent. This fact should be cause for concern for anyone currently abusing heroin or prescription painkillers purchased on the black market. Given that fentanyl has been linked with thousands of overdose deaths, in recent years. As the prevalence of the deadly analgesic increases, people with opioid use disorders would do themselves a great service to consider addiction treatment. Sooner, rather than later.

One not even need to do heroin mixed with fentanyl to experience an overdose; heroin on its own can be more than potent enough. People die from heroin overdoses every day in the United States. However, fentanyl makes something that is already deadly exponentially more fatal. It is worth remembering that fentanyl (depending on quality) is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Opioids, like heroin or morphine, cause respiratory depression. Fentanyl, on the other hand, causes more prolonged respiratory depression. Taken on its own or as an admixture, the risk of overdose is great.

To make matters worse, the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone is often ineffective with fentanyl. That is not to say it never works in cases involving the powerful narcotic. But, users should be aware that if they play with fire, water may not put it out. The fentanyl situation in America is made even more precarious by the fact most heroin users are not aware of the drug's presence. Making it next to impossible to dose “safely.”

To Fentanyl and Beyond

If you are actively abusing heroin today, it is not just fentanyl that you need to be worried about. Other analogues of the drug are being mixed with heroin or stamped into pills to resemble painkillers, such as OxyContin. Carfentanil is one analogue that has led to deaths, being approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). U-47700, otherwise known as “Pink,” is an opioid analgesic that is around 7.5 times the potency of morphine. The drug has been mixed with heroin or stamped into pills, as well.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been quick to reign in fentanyl analogs of late. Aside from adding the deadly narcotics to the list of controlled substances, they have been pressuring China to ban their production and distribution. Just recently, China placed bans on U-47700 and 3 other compounds, Stat News reports. Hopefully, the bans, which take effect at the beginning of July, will translate to lives saved down the road. Only time will tell. In the meantime, it is important that people with opioid use disorder fully understand the risks. And, the likelihood of buying heroin or fake OxyContin that actually contains something more dangerous.

Fentanyl In Southern California

This month, the DEA busted three traffickers in San Diego who were in possession of 44.14 kilograms of fentanyl, according to a United States Department of Justice news release. It was the culmination of a long-term investigation, and was one the biggest opiate synthetic fentanyl seizures ever in the United States. With the federal indictments, the three individuals could face a maximum penalty of life in prison and up to $10,000,000 in fines.

Considering that just 3 milligrams is enough to kill an adult male, the 44.14 kilogram seizure represents over 14 million lethal doses.”

Fentanyl is a topic that is of the utmost importance to us at PACE Recovery Center. We specialize in the treatment of young adult males, a demographic whose heroin use and overdose rates has been on the rise. While the San Diego fentanyl bust is welcome news, it is probably only the tip of the iceberg. More and more of the drug will find its way into the country. Which is why it paramount that young adults abusing heroin strongly consider addiction treatment. Recovery is possible.

The longer one waits, the greater the risk. Please contact us today to discuss your options and to begin the lifesaving journey of addiction recovery.

This is Your Brain On Drugs – 20 Years Later

This is Your Brain On Drugs

Some of you are likely to remember a series of public service announcements (PSA) made by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America ® for a nationwide anti-drug campaign called This is Your Brain On Drugs. The large-scale campaign was launched in 1987, in a different era, at least with respect to how the nation viewed drug addiction and what to do about what we now know to be a form of mental health disorder. The first PSA titled “Frying Pan,” has actor John Roselius frying ups some eggs in order to show viewers what drugs do to your brain.

The second iteration of the campaign was released in 1997 and was titled again, "Frying Pan." The PSA starred actress Rachael Leigh Cook essentially using a frying pan and an egg to demonstrate to viewers the inherent dangers that accompany using heroin, and presumably other drugs as well, but heroin was singled out. The 30 second clip highlighted the fact that one’s drug use didn’t only affect the individual, but rather one’s family and one could even argue society.

If you were not born yet, too young to remember or would like to refresh your memory, please take a moment to watch the short PSA:

If you are having trouble viewing the clip, please click here.

You can probably gather that the PSA’s toed the line of the American “war on drugs.” While the PSA’s attempted to scare people away from drugs, pointing out that they would take everything from you, even your life; the makers of the ads seemed to forget to mention that before drugs took your life, they could be a cause for losing your freedom. Both the aforementioned PSAs ending with the rhetorical statement, “Any Questions?” As if frying an egg or smashing up an apartment would say everything that needed to be said about the reasons for abstaining from drugs.

Any Questions About Addiction

While Entertainment Weekly named “Frying Pan” 8th best commercial of all time, the American Egg Board, naturally, had some concerns about eggs getting an unfair reputation. At the end of the day; however, This is Your Brain On Drugs was a scare tactic, as were all public service announcements about drug use going back to Reefer Madness. They were all created under the premise that drug use was a choice; you could choose to, or not, but the power was in your hands. If you chose wrongly, you risked everything.

Even though addiction is a disease, a symptom of which include the use of drugs, drugs are still for the most part illegal under both state and Federal law. For decades, as we have written about in the past, the 40+ year war on drugs has done little to prevent and treat substance abuse. What it has done is disenfranchise millions of Americans, mostly people who were low on the socio-economic spectrum and minorities. Getting caught up in the legal system for the crime of addiction has proven to be relatively easy, getting out of it has proven to be much more difficult.

Today, in the 21st Century and still in the grips of an opioid addiction epidemic, many people's views about the war on drugs have changed. Thanks both to science and the fact that the epidemic has predominantly affected white America (both rich and poor), our society has been rethinking the true cost of the war on drugs. And, as a result, more Americans than ever are advocating for addiction treatment over prison for those caught possessing illegal drugs.

We are not out of the woods yet. There are still swaths of lawmakers who cling to draconian drug policies as the solution to addiction. Which is why the fight to end the stigma of this most serious mental illness must continue. Which has not been lost on the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. The organization, with the help of a 20-years older Rachael Leigh Cook, decided to make a postscript to the 1997 PSA. In the new version of the “Frying Pan,” Cook says:

The war on drugs is ruining peoples' lives. It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counter parts. It cripples communities, it costs billions, and it doesn't work. Any questions?

Please take a moment to watch:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Addiction Treatment Is The Answer

Effective measures of treating addiction were helping a significant number of Americans in 1987 at the start of This is Your Brain On Drugs. It wasn’t talked about, because it did not line up with the stigma-driven narrative of addiction employed at the time. It was being treated and people were living lives in recovery, just as they are today. Fortunately, people touched by the disease today have more of an ability to seek help, without fear of prosecution.

Now the science behind addiction, and other forms of mental illness is far better understood. With each year that passes, the stigma of addiction seems to soften. Slowly, but surely, more Americans see the value of ending the war on drugs and advocating for treatment. If you or a loved one has been touched by the deadly disease of addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center.

Heroin Overdoses Among Young Adults

heroin

Researchers from the University of Michigan conduct the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey every year. The answers that high school students give, provide experts a window into the severity of teen substance use and abuse. The findings can help direct preventive measures in the coming years. The 2016 MTF presented some promising findings, especially regarding prescription opioid use among young people. In fact, past year prescription opioid use among 12th graders dropped 45 percent, compared to five years ago.

The findings are a good sign that we may see reductions in opioid use among 20 something-year-olds in the coming years, an age group that as of late has been using both heroin prescription opioids at alarming rates. The dangers of using opioids of any kind need to be reinforced in young people early on and repeatedly. If preventative measures fall short, more and more young people will succumb to hooks and snares of opioid narcotics. Unfortunately, identifying the groups of people at greatest risk of opioid use initiation isn’t an easy task, partly due to stereotyping.

Heroin Outside City Limits

Heroin, like “crack cocaine,” is often considered to be a drug that primarily wreaks havoc in the inner city. A drug that is used by downtrodden and impoverished Americans. While there is a lot opioid abuse in urban areas, the situation has changed. In recent years, the opioid addiction epidemic has predominantly affected suburban and rural parts of the country. Additionally, many of the young people abusing heroin today, come from white middle class or affluent families. These are young people who have access to financial resources that make it easier to maintain an addiction.

But, even with more resources than the average person of the same age, what often starts as a prescription opioid problem can quickly morph into a heroin problem. The reasons are simple. The price of drugs like OxyContin has only gone in one direction—up! Heroin on the other hand is cheaper, and in many cases, stronger than prescription opioids. Easier to acquire, as well.

One of the unintended consequences of this prescription opioid epidemic has been the increase in heroin addiction and overdoses, in part due to the transition from prescription opioids to less expensive heroin street drugs,” California state health officials report. “Heroin deaths have continued to increase steadily by 67 percent since 2006 and account for a growing share of the total opioid-related deaths.”

In the first quarter of 2016, 412 adults age 20 to 29 went to emergency departments in California due to heroin, according to Los Angeles Daily News. Los Angeles and Orange counties have seen a continued increase in ER cases involving heroin among people in their twenties.

Spotting the Signs

If you have a child in their twenties, frequently they are still living at home, as many Millennials do. But if you have never used an opioid, there is a good chance you would not be able to spot the signs of use. And it isn’t like your child is just going to use right in front of you. So how can you identify signs of a problem? In some cases, you may see track marks from IV heroin use. However, many young heroin addicts do not use needles, opting to smoke or snort the drug. In which case, track marks will not be a signpost you can rely on.

Common signs of opioid use, include:

  • Tiny Pupils
  • Nodding Off
  • Slurred Speech
  • Incessant Itching
  • Complaints of Constipation
  • Diminished Appetite

There are other signs, but those listed are synonymous with opioid use. If you see any of those appearances or behaviors, there is a good chance there is a problem. Such discoveries should prompt further investigation. You can always confront your child about the signs you are seeing, but getting an honest answer is easier said than done. Addiction will lead people to do or say just about anything to continue fueling the fire.

You can also ask if they would be willing to take a drug test. If they refuse, that’s a pretty good sign that you are on the right track. The best results for getting your child into treatment often come by way of interventionists. They are skilled professionals who can help walk you through the process of saving your child’s life.

PACE Recovery Center Can Help

If you know, or suspect that your young adult son is using heroin or prescription opioids, please contact us as soon as possible. With so many young people succumbing to heroin addiction, time is of the essence.

Addiction Epidemic, Not Opioid Epidemic

addiction epidemicThe American opioid epidemic may be misleading to some people. While prescription painkillers and heroin are both addictive and carry the potential for overdose death, the U.S. is not actually in the midst of an opioid drug epidemic. We are, in fact, in the grips of an addiction epidemic. Case in point: Efforts to limit access to prescription opioids have had the effect of making it harder to acquire certain drugs, but people are still dying at unprecedented rates. Why? The answer being that the epidemic we face is not the disease of drugs, but rather the disease of addiction—a debilitating mental illness.

Remove every drug from the equation, and the mental health disorder known as addiction will live on. We could take it even further, arguing that the crisis we actually face is the epidemic of untreated addiction. And if that is the case, it is hard to compare the problem we see to epidemics of the past, such as the AIDS epidemic.

A Waxing or Waning Epidemic

The field of epidemiology, much like addiction, is not an exact science. Experts have a good understanding of both, but there are no guarantees which way things will go. Will the epidemic wax or wane, will the recovering addict continue to improve or will they relapse? Questions that are hard to answer. Attempts to curb the opioid use disorder epidemic stealing lives across the country are extensive, and multifaceted.

  • The adoption of prescription drug monitoring programs for combatting “doctor shopping.”
  • Revising provider opioid prescribing practice guidelines.
  • Expanding access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
  • The most important effort of all, increasing access and funding for addiction treatment services across the nation.
The last effort is the most significant. It is the only tactic that addresses the root problem, rather than just the symptoms of addiction, i.e. dependence and overdose. Making painkillers harder to acquire or abuse will only serve to force opioid addicts to find their drugs elsewhere. Naloxone can save lives, but it cannot cure addiction. Treatment is the most effective measure for ending the opioid use disorder epidemic.

Hope On the Horizon

The severity of the American opioid epidemic can be most easily gauged by the death toll associated with abuse, as opposed to opioid addiction rates. If the death toll increases, efforts are not having the desired effect. On the other hand, if fewer people die in any given year, one could argue that the measures implemented have been effective. With opioid overdoses surpassing traffic fatalities, you might think that the crisis is as bad as ever. However, the big picture may tell another story altogether.

Using epidemiological models, researchers believe that there may be an end in sight. At least regarding opioid overdose death rates. A couple of years back, a group of researchers from Columbia University used what is known as Farr’s Law to develop projections regarding the epidemic. Looking at overdose death rate data from 1980 to 2011, it showed that 2016-17 would be the height of the opioid epidemic. According to the models developed using Farr’s Law, the death rate should line up with that of the 1980’s by the year 2034. However, the authors warn:
Although the method we applied originated from studies of infectious diseases, it is unknown whether Farr’s Law applies to epidemics of a non-infectious origin. It is plausible that a non-communicable disease, such as drug overdose, can follow infectious patterns...Mortality data over the next two decades will ultimately test the accuracy of our projections. If the drug overdose epidemic is indeed waning, it may imply that the intensified efforts in recent years, such as enhanced prescription drug monitoring, are working and should be continued.”


Can We See the Forest for the Trees?

It would be nice if their projections hold true. Every life saved is a step in the right direction, even if efforts fail to address the underlying cause of the epidemic—addiction. But if we accept that addiction, while in fact a disease, is something quite different than other health conditions, there is really no way of knowing how things will go. What we can bet on is that expanding access to addiction treatment is a sure way of seeing results. All other efforts are likely to only produce superficial results, merely scratching the surface of the greater problem that is an addiction epidemic.

The greatest life-saving potential can be found in treatment centers and the rooms of recovery for continued maintenance. If you or loved one is in the grips of opioid addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center.

Synthetic Opioids, A Real Threat

synthetic opioidsSurely, we can all agree that opioid narcotics should be the main focus of substance use prevention efforts in the United States. Americans continue to lose their lives every day from prescription opioid and heroin overdoses; many of those overdose deaths involve young adults caught in the grips of addiction. Opioid use disorder rates are well over 2 million Americans, and some experts believe that that number is actually much higher. Unlike other addictive narcotics, drugs in the opioid family can cause serious respiratory depression. It only takes a little bit too high of dose for one to experience an overdose, and without access to the lifesaving overdose reversal drug naloxone, the outcome can be fatal. While drugs like heroin are already deadly enough, the narcotic is commonly mixed with even more potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Experts estimate fentanyl to be about 80 times more potent than morphine, and as much as 50 percent more potent than medical grade heroin. It is a drug that was never meant to be used without the close supervision of medical personnel, yet overdose death cases involving the drug are more and more common these days. Unfortunately, naloxone is not as effective with fentanyl-laced heroin as compared with heroin on its own, or with synthetic opioids all together.

Synthetic Drug Epidemic

The prescription opioid/heroin epidemic has proven to be next to impossible to curb, with so many variables to contend with between prescribing practices and the growing demand for heroin in the wake of prescription opioid government crackdowns. The matter is complicated even more by the fact synthetic opioids are becoming ever so common, some of which are not even illegal and can be purchased online by teenagers. Talk of synthetic drugs in the U.S. is usually with regard to “bath salts” or Spice (synthetic cannabinoids), along with a number of other chemically similar variations. There are zero standards in the synthetic drug world, which means that users have no way of predicting how they will react to those types of drugs. It is likely that you have heard the horror stories about violent attacks involving synthetic drugs. Government officials continue to attempt to make it harder for people to acquire such drugs, but is has proved to be a difficult task; every time a chemical formula is banned, chemists simply alter the composition. Teenagers and young adults can easily, and inexpensively purchase synthetic drugs, and they do so despite the dangerous side effects they might experience. While overdose deaths involving synthetic cannabis are relatively rare, when it comes to synthetic opioids that is simply not the case. What’s more, synthetic opioid death rates are likely to go in only one direction, due to the rise in the use of a family synthetic opioids—relatives of fentanyl. Such drugs include:
  • ifentanyl
  • carfentanil
  • furanyl fentanyl
  • U-47700
“Pink,” sold online under the name U-47700, is an unregulated synthetic opioid which could be up to eight times stronger than heroin, NBC News reports. The drug is being purchased online for $5 plus shipping, an appealing price tag for a potent drug.
This stuff is so powerful that if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest," said Police Chief Wade Carpenter, Park City, UT. "The problem is if you have a credit card and a cell phone, you have access to it."
Please take a moment to watch the short video below: If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Merging Epidemics

At this point, the line between the opioid use epidemic and the synthetic drug scourge in America is blurring. If it weren’t easy enough already to acquire, try and become addicted to opioids, the surge in online synthetic opioid sales is concerning. The ability to buy drugs online appeals to, already Internet savvy, young adults. Many such users have no idea about the deadly nature of these drugs. If you are a young adult male abusing heroin or prescription opioids, please contact PACE Recovery Center. With each day that passes, there is a greater likelihood that a bag you buy will contain a deadly additive like fentanyl or carfentanil. Recovery is possible, and we can help you achieve it.

Total Cost of The American Opioid Epidemic

opioid epidemicIs it possible to quantify the true impact of the American opioid epidemic? The unprecedented health crisis has left people in the public and private sector scrambling to find desperately needed solutions. With each day that passes—more Americans become dependent on opioids—more people lose their lives to overdose. And while efforts to curb the scourge of opioid addiction in the U.S. have had some effect, without a paradigm shift in thinking regarding prescription opioids—the problem will only continue to disrupt the country. While it is easy for us to look at the staggering death toll to stress the seriousness of the issue, it is important that we all take stock of the societal costs of opioid addiction. With over 2 million Americans living with an opioid use disorder and over 70 people paying the ultimate price for their addiction every day, there is an exponentially greater number of family members who have been affected by the epidemic. It may be impossible to compute the amount of heartache and pain that family members will endure for years, especially if they lost someone to an overdose.

The Cost Of An Epidemic

As you might imagine, there is a heavy price tag attached to the opioid epidemic. The bulk of the cost, naturally, is tied to the burden put on the health care system—whether it be to cover insurance claims for hospitalizations or treatments, or keeping babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) stable—the overall cost of the opioid scourge is daunting to think about. In fact, new research estimates that the epidemic cost is $78.5 billion annually, Newswise reports. Of that estimate, health care accounts for about one-third (over $28 billion) of the total cost. The findings will be published in next month's issue of Medical Journal. Even when opioid use disorder does not result in hospitalization or loss of life from overdose ($21.5 billion), there are other costs to consider as well. Those who are addicted to opioids are often too sick to get to work or hold down a job. The researchers found that loss of productivity accounts for about $20 billion, according to the article. Almost two-thirds of the total economic cost could be attributed to:
  • Health Care
  • Addiction Treatment
  • Lost Productivity
"The costs that we can identify, however, do help increase our understanding of the impact of the epidemic," the researchers conclude. "These estimates can assist decision makers in understanding the magnitude of adverse health outcomes associated with prescription opioid use such as overdose, abuse, and dependence."

Worth The Cost Of Treatment

It is worth pointing out that of the more than $28 billion spent on health care, $26 billion was covered by insurance companies, the article reports. It was not that long ago that it was extremely difficult to get insurance companies to cover mental health disorder treatment, i.e. extended stays at addiction treatment facilities. While there is still a lot more that insurance companies can do to help people with addiction issues, it is good to see that insurance companies are finally insuring people with a history of addiction and paying for some of the bill to help them find recovery. Research overwhelmingly supports addiction recovery services as being the best weapon against the opioid epidemic. Prescription opioids and heroin are extremely difficult to withdraw from and the chance of relapse is especially high among opioid addicts; while those who go to a substance use disorder treatment center have the best chance of achieving sustained recovery in the long run. If you or a loved one is battling opioid addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center to begin the journey of recovery.

Opioid Epidemic and Money Laundering

opioid epidemicIt has been several years now since the federal government, and state governments alike, began making it harder to acquire prescription painkillers—opioid narcotics such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Percocet (oxycodone / paracetamol). Drugs of that type are not only addictive, they can be downright deadly, i.e. 78 overdose deaths in America every day related to either prescription opioids or heroin. While it remains a fact that it is still quite easy for some opioid addicts to acquire painkillers (in some cases even after they experience an overdose), the latest opioid scourge sweeping across the nation is heroin. Years of over prescribing opioid painkillers caused Americans to become over reliant on this class of drugs when it comes to pain. This led to an unprecedented rate of opioid addiction, and the opening of a Pandora’s box. When it became more difficult to get such drugs from one’s doctor, faced with certain withdrawal symptoms, many opioid addicts turned to the streets for their drugs.

Prescription Opioids to Heroin

Heroin is cheaper than a tablet of oxycodone on the street, and it is typically stronger or easier to come by. Most of today’s heroin users began by using prescription opioids and then pivoted to heroin. Seeing dollar signs, Mexican drug cartels decided to take advantage of the billion dollar illicit opioid market in America. It is fair to say that cartels trafficking and selling illegal drugs north of the border is nothing new—an exchange that has been happening for nearly half a century. However, never in our history has there been such a high demand for a mind altering substance that can snatch one’s life in the blink of an eye. And if heroin wasn’t bad enough, Mexican cartels are also buying ingredients to synthesize even more powerful opioids, such as fentanyl. In recent years there has been a number of overdose deaths involving an addict who thought they were using heroin, but were actually using fentanyl. Verily, the American opioid epidemic has become a “gold rush” for Mexican drug cartels. That being said, where does all the money go and how does it get to its final destination? It turns out that the answer to that could be a way to combat the crisis we face.

American “Laundry”

A new report conducted by the nonprofit group the Fair Share Education Fund, calls upon legislators to stop allowing the use of anonymous shell companies, The Hill reports. In fact, the United States is among the countries where it is easy for criminals to set up anonymous shell companies to launder their money. Changing the laws that allow for this would make it much harder for drug traffickers to see a return. The effect could have real impact on the opioid epidemic in America.
We should use every tool at our disposal to tackle the opioid crisis, and going after the money is just such a critical tool,” says the Fair Share Education Fund.
The ease in which criminals are able to set up anonymous shell companies is one of the reasons that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimates that federal authorities only confiscate 1.5 percent of the money Americans spend on illicit drugs every year, according to the article. Because money can be laundered so easily, it is difficult for law enforcement officials to make cases against drug traffickers.
Authorities may have good reason to suspect someone of being involved in criminal activity,” said the group. “However, without the basic information necessary to show that a suspect is directly linked to a shell company used to facilitate illegal activity, they are unable to make their case, or run out of the time and resources needed to do so.”

Treating the Opioid Addict

Reducing access to opioid drugs, including heroin, is one important step. But treating the addict is also paramount. At PACE Recovery Center opiate and heroin addiction treatment options include psychosocial approaches, pharmacological treatment, therapeutic groups, 12-Step recovery, as well as individual and experiential therapy. Our addiction treatment staff also lead psychoeducational groups that cover the disease model of addiction, emotional management tools, relapse prevention techniques, boundaries and healthy relationships, and general life skills that help smooth the transition of clients from active addiction into life.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

PDMPsRecently, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote and published an op-ed to coincide with a special report about prescription opioids. Dr. Gupta covered a number of different aspects about the state of the American opioid epidemic and expounded on how the situation became so dire. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about the article was Gupta essentially holding doctors responsible for the market share of the crisis and calling on physicians to do their part to reverse the damage. It is important to keep in mind that there are several different factors that led to the emergence of an epidemic, and while doctors did and continue to overprescribe opioid narcotics, a multifaceted approach from lawmakers, addiction experts and doctors is essential for ending the scourge that claims over 70 lives in this country every day. It is widely accepted that Americans, enabled by doctors, have become far too reliant on prescription opioids—even for pain that could be treated by opioid alternatives. What’s more, while the the vast majority of prescription opioids are written by primary care physicians, few doctors have any opioid prescribing practices training or knowledge about addiction. On top of that, there has not been a huge push from medical organizations urging doctors to acquire the requisite training. Even the American Medical Association (AMA) is resistant to having doctors trained to prescribe responsibly. Hopefully, in the near future doctors will heed the call from Gupta to be a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. When discussing the American opioid epidemic, the conversation typically is about how bad it is; however, it is important that we take a moment to recognize the strides that have been made in the right direction.

PDMPs

Several years ago, amidst widespread overprescribing by pain management clinics—otherwise known as “pill mills”—and rampant “doctor shopping,” the act of going to multiple doctors in a month to double and triple up on one’s prescription opioids, states began to implement what are known as prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). The programs were designed to give doctors a resource for identifying doctor shoppers and to give authorities a window into which doctors are prescribing suspiciously. PDMPs were met with resistance by some doctors, and to this day there is a significant number of them who do not utilize the resource; but, drug monitoring programs have proved to be an invaluable resource. Today, 49 states have adopted a PDMP of some kind, and there is now evidence that suggests the programs are having the desired effect. In fact, new research from Weill Cornell Medical College has found that, in the states that have implemented a PDMP, a 30 percent decrease in prescriptions for opioids and other narcotics could be seen, NBC News reports. The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs.
This reduction was seen immediately following the launch of the program and was maintained in the second and third years afterward,” writes researcher Yuhua Bao and colleagues. "Our analysis indicated that the implementation of a prescription drug monitoring program was associated with a reduction in the prescribing of Schedule II opioids, opioids of any kind, and pain medication overall.”

Uncertain Conclusions

The news is without a doubt a breath of fresh air, yet in the wake of the death of pop superstar Prince—clearly we as a nation have a long way to go. The research team believes that there could be a number of reasons for the PDMP success. The 30 percent drop in written prescriptions, according to researchers could be that PDMPs:
  • Raised awareness about opioid abuse with doctors.
  • Made doctors more cautious about writing prescriptions that can lead to dependence and addiction.
  • Caused doctors to cut back on prescriptions knowing that they were being watched.
Regardless of the reason for PDMPs causing a reduction, they have had a notable impact which indicates that efforts to curb the problem have had some success. Before PDMPs 5.5 percent of doctor’s visits involving pain management resulted in a prescription for an opioid being written, after drug monitoring programs that number fell to 3.7 percent.

Addiction Treatment

Cutting back on the number of prescriptions written is paramount, unfortunately opioid addicts who struggle to get their pills will more times than not turn to heroin as an alternative. Simply making it harder to get drugs doesn't mean that people will be free of addiction. It cannot be stressed enough just how vital addiction treatment services are to ending the epidemic in the U.S. At PACE Recovery Center, our qualified staff can assist you or a loved one in ending the cycle of addiction. We can show you how it is possible to live a healthy, productive life free from drugs and alcohol. Please contact PACE to begin the life changing journey of addiction recovery.