Tag Archives: opioid addiction

Opioid Addiction Epidemic Observations

opioid addiction

Media news outlets are instrumental in presenting a picture of addiction in America. The tireless work of journalists serves to educate all of us on the nature of the disease and informs us about efforts to rectify the problem. While the media doesn’t always get it right, the simple fact that discourse exists is a step in the right direction. Headlines put human faces to the numbers, which is vital to ending the stigma of alcohol and substance use disorders.

Curbing the American opioid addiction epidemic is challenging, due to a myriad of reasons—it's difficult to list them all. There is a fundamental problem in this country in how most people refer to the scourge of opioid use. It's called an "opioid epidemic;" however, the crisis we face is exponentially more massive than the 2 million plus (low estimate) individuals abusing OxyContin or injecting heroin, and the 64,000 people who perished in 2016. In reality, we are up against an addiction epidemic; something many experts and the media have lost sight of in recent years.

While we have all focused on opioids, a family of drugs devastating a large number of White Americans, the use, and abuse of other substances receives little attention. Lawmakers and health experts sincerely desire to help those in the grips of opioid addiction, yet few can agree on the means and ways of accomplishing the task. Congress pledges to help Americans overcome opioid dependence while simultaneously vowing to dismantle legislation intended to protect Americans.

Symptoms of Addiction

Ensuring that insurance companies cover mental health costs is of the utmost importance; the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act both include provisions mandating insurance to cover all health costs commensurately. A person with opioid use disorder should have the same level of coverage as someone with diabetes. Despite such legislation, providers still find a way to skirt the mandates; a person need only try to get 90-days of treatment covered to determine the depth of their policy regarding parity.

Overprescribing opioid painkillers had a hand in creating the problem we face today, but we must be careful when playing the blame game. Addiction takes root in a person when the conditions are just right, i.e., family history, quality of life, and co-occurring mental illnesses. Doctors were prescribing opioids willy-nilly in the mid to late 2000's, a time when economic hardship was people's reality. Simply put, people were unhappy, opiates made them feel better, and people had access to a bottomless reservoir of painkillers. A large percentage of those same people are still in an unfortunate way.

Doctors could stop prescribing opioids altogether, and the use of drugs like heroin or fentanyl would continue. Unless help is accessible, the suffering and premature deaths will continue. Not just from opioids, any mind-altering substance that results in physical dependence is likely to play a detrimental role in a person's health and their prospect of living a long life. It's vital for us to remember that more Americans die from alcohol each year than from overdoses. Only by looking at the big picture, can we make headway in addressing the scourge of opioid abuse.

How to Solve an Epidemic?

The New York Times is asking its readers to help the publication shape their coverage of opioid use in America. As a society, all of us have been affected by addiction both personally and in our families; with that in mind, everyone’s opinion is valuable to the goal of reducing addiction rates. A NYT survey opens with:

The devastating effects of opioid abuse are rippling through families and neighborhoods across the United States. To improve our coverage we are seeking to learn more about what our readers are looking for. Tell us what kinds of stories you’d like to see us cover. Your answers will be confidential and only shared internally. We won’t use your name or attribute any of your responses to you.”

One of the more critical questions the newspaper asks is: “In general, are you hopeful that the opioid epidemic in America will eventually be solved? Why or why not?”

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Addiction is a treatable mental illness provided however you have the right help. At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you get out from under this insidious disease and begin a journey of lasting recovery. Please contact us today if you are in the grips of this progressive mental illness.

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.

Prescription Addiction: Made in the USA

addictionThere is a lot of information, and unfortunately, deadly misinformation about prescription opioids circulating the internet and other major media outlets. Simply put, there is a lot that the average American adult is unaware of, and what they think they know isn’t always rooted in science. In the United States, we use the vast majority of the world’s supply of prescription opioids—despite the fact that we make only 5 percent of the world’s population. While prescription opioids are abused across the globe, America has the market share of the problem. In an attempt to shed some light on both the opioid addiction crisis and potential solutions—Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins Anderson Cooper of CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360" for a town hall special—to discuss the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the U.S. The presentation, "Prescription Addiction: Made in the USA" airs tonight, May 11, 2016, at 9 P.M. EDT. It is likely to be more than informative and eye opening for many Americans. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a remarkable understanding about pain narcotics, addiction and how opioid addiction became a pervasive problem in the United States. The Chief Medical Correspondent wrote an op-ed published today by CNN, which covers many aspects of the epidemic. But, perhaps most intriguing is his belief that doctors were responsible for creating the scourge we face, and it will fall on doctors to spearhead efforts for ending the epidemic. Gupta writes:
The fact is, we have accepted the tall tales and Pollyannaish promises of what these medications could do for too long. As a community, we weren't skeptical enough. We didn't ask enough questions. We accepted flimsy scientific data as gospel and preached it to our patients in a chamber that echoed loudly for decades.”
He points out that while the epidemic is the result of the medical community acting on opioid prescribing recommendations they were not based on fact, doctors continue to recklessly prescribe these deadly narcotics despite knowing that the drugs should be doled out as sparsely as possible. He cites a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine which showed that 91% of opioid overdose survivors managed to obtain another prescription—usually from the physician who prescribed the narcotics the patient overdosed on in the first place. Gupta calls on prescribing physicians to:
  • Engage with patients and discuss treatment with them.
  • Set realistic expectations for patients.
  • Conduct follow-up conversations with patients to gauge treatment efficacy.
“It is not too late. In order for this American-made epidemic to finally end, however, it is the American doctors who must lead the way,” writes Gupta. Remember to tune in tonight, or catch it on DEMAND, to see CNN’s "Prescription Addiction: Made in the USA" May 11, 2016, at 9 P.M. EDT. Join in the conversation and share this family and friends. If you’d like, you can view a short trailer about the town hall meeting by clicking here.

Some Sober Living Homes Lack Oversight

sober living homesRecovering from addiction is a process, the success of which often rests on the length of treatment - the longer the treatment stay the better chance of success. Most reputable treatment facilities recommend a 90 day stay; centers with 30 day lengths of stay will strongly encourage that clients check into an extended care facility afterwards. A number of treatment centers will recommend to clients with a long history of substance abuse, especially chronic relapsers, move into a “sober living” home after the completion of their treatment stay. Sober living homes can be an opportunity for people who are new to recovery to transition back into the swing of everyday life in the company of others working towards the same goal. Sober homes vary in size and cost, some simply require weekly drug testing with 12-Step meeting attendance, while others will add to that by holding weekly house processing groups. The houses are usually managed by someone in recovery, charged with overseeing the day-to-day routines of the clients. Early recovery can be a difficult time, chock full of triggers and cravings; staying at a sober living home after treatment can serve as an extra level of protection. With staggering opioid addiction rates across the United States, more people than ever are in need of addiction treatment services. Providing access to treatment has proved challenging in a number of areas of the country, which has resulted in a push from government officials to increase funding for addiction treatment. The opioid epidemic has also led to an increased demand for sober living homes, which has led to some questionable practices among people trying to exploit those in recovery. Unlike treatment centers, sober living homes are hardly ever managed by credentialed professionals and are subject to little regulation, the Associated Press reports. The lack of oversight has led to cases of insurance fraud. Some transitional living homes will even allow clients to use drugs or alcohol, as long as rent is still being paid. Allowing clients to “use” could have a fatal outcome; many sober living homes are housing opioid addicts, whose choice of drugs can lead to overdose.
"In most states, there is not a regulatory body because recovery residences aren't considered treatment," said Amy Mericle, a scientist at Alcohol Research Group, a California nonprofit that studies alcohol and drug addiction.
Growing concerns about lack of oversight has prompted some states to pass or consider passing legislation, according to the article. Such laws would require the inspection and certification of sober living homes, and subjecting them to consumer protections and ethical codes. It is important to point out that the sober homes guilty of exploiting addiction for profit are not the rule, there are a number of transitional living spaces that provide a healthy, structured environment - giving tenants a real shot at long-term recovery. “The ones that are good are fantastic,” said Pam Rodriguez, CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. At PACE Recovery Center’s Transitional Living Program we offer an exclusive gender-specific (all male), transitional living, alcohol addiction and drug rehab for men struggling with chemical dependency and behavioral health issues. Our transitional program focuses on assisting our clients in learning how to manage both vocational/school goals and addiction recovery commitments.