by staff | Feb 27, 2018 | Addiction, Drug Policy, News, Opioids
This past week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement warning people to stay away from Kratom while health officials investigate the possible connection between the plant and a nationwide outbreak of salmonella.
Multi-State Salmonella Outbreak
So far 11 people have been hospitalized as a result of this recent salmonella outbreak, and the CDC believes that kratom may actually be responsible for the recent chain of illnesses.
Since October, 28 cases of salmonella were recorded in 20 states, including:
- New York
- North Dakota
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
So far there have been no deaths, but nearly a dozen people have ended up needing to be hospitalized.
Most people infected with salmonella develop symptoms with 12 to 72 hours of exposure to the bacteria. Some symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
According to the advisory released by the CDC, 11 people affected by the salmonella outbreak were interviewed. Out of those 11 people, 8 of them admit to consuming kratom. That is a 73% connection so far. These individuals had taken the plant via:
Therefore, at this time kratom is the primary suspect in the CDC’s investigation. The advisory states:
“Epidemiologic evidence indicates that kratom is a likely source of this multistate outbreak. At this time, CDC recommends that people not consume kratom in any form because it could be contaminated with salmonella.”
But it wasn’t just the CDC. The very next day the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement announcing the recall of “kratom-containing dietary supplements” manufactured and distributed by Divinity Products Distribution of Grain Valley, Missouri. This manufacturer is not yet determined to be the cause of the outbreak, but the company voluntarily recalled its kratom products and promised to stop selling them.
CDC, FDA, and DEA vs Kratom
At this time the FDA is encouraging other kratom companies to follow the Missouri company’s lead. They urge other manufacturers to- “take swift action to remove these products from circulation to protect the public.” The FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb states,
“To protect the public health, we’ll continue to affirm the risks associated with kratom, warn consumers against its use and take aggressive enforcement action against kratom-containing products.”
Proponents of kratom do argue that the FDA has been working especially hard in the last few years to prove that kratom is a threat to public health. In early February the FDA claimed it found evidence that certain compounds in kratom interact with the body’s opioid receptors. This led the agency to conclude that “compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant—it’s an opioid.” In America, the use of this plant is actually already banned in 6 states. The DEA also considers it a drug of concern. Even though back in October of 2016 the DEA announced they would not be banning kratom and giving it a schedule 1 label.
However, the American Kratom Association and other kratom advocates are willing to keep pushing back against the FDA. Many kratom users claim it is useful for helping addicts self-medicate to lessen the withdrawals when getting off heroin and other opioids. Yet, there is not enough research out there yet to fully endorse this claim, and a lot more would have to be done to legitimize it.
Either way, because kratom products are very loosely regulated by the FDA, it isn’t hard to understand why they are asking people to stop using the plant until they have been able to identify the source of the bacteria.
So far, no specific brands or suppliers have been singled out, but health officials are still urging people to be safe and avoid kratom products.
Many may still debate the benefits and the risks with kratom. Either way, both sides agree that more research is needed. Whether or not the drug should be banned is still a question that has yet to be answered. The one thing we do know is that kratom is a mind-altering substance, so using it might be detrimental to some people trying to recover from addiction. Right now, it doesn’t seem safe for anyone, anyway. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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by staff | Feb 22, 2018 | Alcohol Addiction, Alcoholism, Celebrity, Gabriel Byrne, Recovery, Sobriety
Most people who own a television have probably seen Gabriel Byrne at work, but just in case you haven’t, go watch The Usual Suspects. In fact, if you haven’t seen that movie in a few months, go watch it again. Totally worth it. Or you may recognize him from one of many other roles, including:
- Stigmata (movie)
- End of Days (movie)
- Vikings (series)
- Marco Polo (series)
Gabriel Byrne is Irish born actor who has also a grown into a successful film director, film producer, writer, cultural ambassador and audiobook narrator. Since the beginning of his acting career in 1979, he has struck the silver screen and small screen a multitude of times with powerful and intense performances.
He won a Golden Globe Award back in the HBO drama In Treatment, which aired from 2008 to 2011. That role also earned him nominations for various other awards.
But just last week the 67-year-old actor accepted another awesome honor- a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA). The following night, he took the time to reflect on what he considers one of his biggest victories– his 21 years of recovery from alcohol.
Gabriel Byrne on Drinking and Recovery
During an interview on Ireland’s The Late Late Show,
“I think like a lot of people, I drank to escape from myself and to escape from the pressure that I felt around me. But I knew that I could never handle it, I was absolutely allergic to it. It was not a good thing for me to do.”
“With this lifetime achievement thing, it’s not about the work, it’s of a life and one of the biggest victories to me in my life was that personal one of stopping that and saying I’m not going to be that person anymore.”
But Gabriel Byrne didn’t stop with discussing his own issues with alcohol. He also spoke about his feeling toward the culture in Ireland which endorses drinking.
“That kind of thing became to me kind of frightening because my drinking was spiraling into a place where I couldn’t remember what I did.”
“One day I woke up and said, ‘If I don’t stop this, I am going to die.’”
Byrne admits that it took him a long time to be brave enough to admit he had a problem and needed help. His agent of 30 years, Teri Hayden, was instrumental in getting him the help he needed. She was the first person he went to for help. Describing walking into a room full of strangers looking for help with his drinking Gabriel Byrne says,
“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
After over two decades in sobriety, it seems Gabriel Byrne seems committed to his work as both an actor, an activist and an advocate for recovery. He also acknowledges that a lot has changed since he left Ireland for the United States, adding that he is actually encouraged by how the culture is shifting. He is happy to see now that it is no longer strange in Ireland for people to recognize their drinking problems and ask for help.
We love sharing celebrity recovery stories because they remind us that anyone can be impacted by addiction. Actors, artists and musicians often experience the same devastation that can be caused when drugs take hold of their lives, and their stories of overcoming fear and stigma to get help can be inspiring. Everyone might not have access to the same resources as celebrities, but there are still effective treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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by Justin Mckibben | Feb 20, 2018 | Drug Abuse, Drug Policy, Harm Reduction, Needle Exchange Programs, News, Safe Injection Sites
Right now a few American cities are aiming to establish active safe injection sites, with most recent reports indicating the first will probably be San Francisco. Currently, the Golden Gate City is on track to open two of these facilities in July. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is not far behind as city officials are pushing forward with a proposition from January. Other areas fighting for the controversial programs include Seattle and Baltimore.
Now it seems this fight for safe injection sites may soon pit state governments against the federal government, as the DEA under the Trump administration vows to take action against these facilities.
Safe Injection Sites for San Francisco
The city of San Francisco has an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users. As of now, it has become the norm to see people injecting drugs in broad daylight on a park bench, public transit, or any sidewalk. As a consequence, dirty needles get left out in the open. So the decision by San Francisco officials to establish safe injection sites isn’t all that alarming.
Safe injection sites mean fewer needles on the streets. Reports from public health officials expect that 85% of the intravenous drug users in the city would use these sites, and the city could potentially save $3.5 million a year in medical costs. According to the director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, officials are already working out the details. Garcia is currently working with six to eight nonprofits that already provide needle exchange programs and other addiction services. Two of them will soon be operating as safe injection sites.
Garcia says that because the cities fiscal year will begin on July 1, the process of opening these safe injection sites should begin close to that date. She also adds that once officials are able to examine how the first two sites are working, they can decide if and when to open the third and fourth sites.
Because intravenous drug use is still against state and federal law, the city will be avoiding liability by funding these sites through private investments. Garcia did not include where the money would be coming from. Garcia also does not appear to be too concerned about whether opening safe injection sites will draw the ire of the Trump administration, saying,
“That’s to be seen. I’m more worried about people dying in our streets.”
Given the rates of intravenous drug use and overdose death in the area, that sounds like a reasonable reason to worry. Part of operating safe injection sites also means providing a supervising medical staff equipped with overdose antidotes, and offering addiction treatment resources to those willing to seek help.
Hope for Harm Reduction
State Senator Scott Wiener is also working to get state law changed to ensure that anybody associated with safe injection sites won’t face arrest or punishment, including:
- Property owners
- Drug users themselves
The bill Wiener is pushing was last year passed in the Assembly, but remains two votes short of confirmation in the Senate.
Part of the reason for so many officials pushing to protect and advance this project seems to come from a fair amount of public support. For the first time, the Chamber of Commerce’s Dignity Health CityBeat Poll included a question about safe injection sites this year. It asked respondents whether they support or oppose-
“drop-in facilities called safe injection sites where intravenous drug users could use their drugs, off the street, and in a place where medical and social services are available.”
Out of all those who answered the survey:
- 67% of respondents said they support the idea
- 45% of those were ‘strongly’ supportive
- 22% of those were ‘somewhat’ supportive
- Only 27% percent opposed it
- 6% didn’t know
The poll found support for the sites regardless of:
The demographics also includes support from:
- Even 42% of self-described Conservatives
Mayor Mark Farrell is another supporter who said,
“I understand the misgivings around it and some of the rhetoric from people who don’t support it, but we absolutely need to give it a try.”
While issues like homelessness, crime and gang violence were all concerns consistent with opening of injection sites, city officials seem to believe the old way isn’t working. The hope is that by providing social services and treatment options, these safe injection sites will not only save lives but help more people get off drugs that otherwise might not have access to these resources.
Trump Says Sites Will Face Legal Action
It still seems these efforts will be met with resistence from the federal government. Last week the Trump administration made it clear they reject any facilities where heroin users can inject drugs under supervision. The president and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem to be committed to their ‘law and order’ approach to the drug problem, despite any lessons learned by the failed War on Drugs.
One might note that in general, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency views safe-injection sites as facilitation of criminal behavior. Therefore, it’s an absolute possibility the DEA will take some kind of enforcement action against any safe injection sites that pop up in the states. Katherine Pfaff, a DEA spokesperson, argued that these programs remain federally prohibited. She states,
“Supervised injection facilities, or so-called safe injection sites, violate federal law. Any facilitation of illicit drug use is considered in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and, therefore, subject to legal action.”
However, it appears some of the states that have approved safe injection sites are already preparing to do legal battle with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department to convince the courts that this public health emergency is far too critical to pass up any opportunity at harm reduction.
So, what is going to become of this new controversy? More people, including law enforcement officials and conservatives, could be warming up to the idea of cleaning up the streets with safe injection sites in some states. If the DEA make moves to shut them down, what will happen next? Are safe injection sites an acceptable form of harm reduction? If not, what else could help address the opioid crisis?
Let us know in the comments what you think about these programs.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing an effective, holistic treatment program to help those suffering who need help. Providing safe and comprehensive care should always be a focus in the effort to overcome the drug problem, and preservation of life should always be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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by Justin Mckibben | Feb 16, 2018 | Mental Health, Mental Health Stigma, News, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Stigma, Violence
Only days after the horrific South Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we must take a hard look at the mental health debate, and why mental health should always have been a priority.
It seems like just yesterday I wrote about last year’s tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas and emphasizing how critical it is that mental health support and awareness be a serious and key focus of this conversation. The school where this tragedy took place is a mere 37 miles from where I sit and write this today. I lived within a 20-minute drive of the building for over 3 years. Now, with only a month and 15 days into 2018, we already up to 19 similar acts of terrible violence.
On Wednesday, February 14, Nikolas Cruz entered the high school in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15 rifle and took the lives of 17 people, wounding over a dozen others. This is America’s deadliest school attack in 5 years, perpetrated by a lone 19-year-old gunman with a reputation for disturbing behavior.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump included in his statement about the South Florida school shooting that there were “so many signs” the suspected shooter was “mentally disturbed.” But should mental health be our own focus?
It is extremely difficult to find answers to this complex problem. So what action should we take to change?
The Mental Chaos of Nikolas Cruz
Authorities have confirmed that Cruz was previously expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary issues. Reports from the school indicate Cruz as a potential threat who demonstrated a fixation on guns. This obsession can be seen on full display through the photos suggested to be pulled from Cruz’s social media accounts.
Reports said that teachers, classmates and even strangers were concerned about Cruz. One teacher apparently reported that administrators sent an email last year saying that Cruz was not allowed to carry a backpack on campus. Cruz’s adoptive father died a few years ago, and his adoptive mother, who was one of the only people the teen was ever close with, died around Thanksgiving. The orphaned 19-year-old had been living at a friend’s house, with some suggesting he was showing signs of depression. Some former friends have even said they cut ties with him after saying he liked to shoot animals. Classmates claim he used to sell knives out of a lunchbox in the school and even threatened students with violence.
Cruz had been suspended more than once before being expelled, for fighting and having bullets found in his backpack. While he had no criminal history prior to this appalling act of violence, he lived a troubling and chaotic life.
What was being done?
Failing to Catch Red Flags
While it is unfair to say there were no actions taken, those actions failed to put a stop to this tragedy. The Washington Post reports that Cruz had been getting treatment at a mental health clinic, but had stopped after less than a year. Some are insisting that not enough was done to try and address the many obvious issues shown in Cruz’s past. Howard Finkelstein, the chief public defender in Broward County, states,
“Every red flag was there and nobody did anything. When we let one of our children fall off grid, when they are screaming for help in every way, do we have the right to kill them when we could have stopped it?”
Even the FBI admits to receiving a warning about this individual and failing to act. With so many indications that Cruz was a threatening, violent and unstable individual it is deeply troubling that not only did he slip through the cracks of any efforts to curb mental health-related issues, but he was able to obtain a variety of weapons. Despite the many red flags, Cruz’s background wouldn’t disqualify him from purchasing the rifle he used in the shooting.
The Mental Health VS Gun Rights Debate
The biggest debate we see after each one of these terrible atrocities is that familiar blame game; Is it a ‘guns’ issue or a ‘mental health’ issue? Without picking a side, I’ll try to acknowledge a lot of the concerns. For example, there is an enormous amount of data showing that the rates of mental health disorders in the last few decades has increased at astonishing rates. Every year the mental health of our nation is dwindling. So is this the answer to the riddle? Some seem to think so. Others- not so much.
The current federal law already denies the sale of firearms to anyone who is considered “adjudicated as a mental defective” by a lawful authority or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. It also allows for states to create stricter restrictions. Some states have taken advantage of this and enacted legal channels for stripping firearms away from gun owners flagged as potential threats. However, some do not think this is enough. Others have even gone as far as directly linking mental health to gun rights.
- In Hawaii, a person diagnosed with a mental disorder may not own a gun without clearance from a doctor.
- California firearm owners can be disqualified from gun possession for five years if involuntarily confined to psychiatric care for 72 hours and deemed by medical professionals to be dangerous to themselves or others.
However, legal experts also warn that it isn’t as simple as identifying people with mental disorders. According to Fredrick Vars, a law professor at the University of Alabama,
“By and large, the people who engage in these horrific events don’t have obvious major psychiatric issues,”
Dr. Rozel, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. He states that these broad restrictions based on a psychiatric diagnosis risk depriving hundreds of thousands of law-abiding people of their gun rights. Rozel goes on to say,
“Fundamentally, that’s the problem with focusing on the mental-health issue.”
According to a study by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education in 2004, conducted after the attack at Columbine High School, surveyed “targeted school violence”:
- Only 1/3 of perpetrators had ever received a mental-health evaluation
- Fewer than 20% of that 1/3 had been diagnosed with mental health or behavior disorder before the attack
The President of the American Psychological Association (APA) Jessica Henderson Daniel does not agree with automatically assigning the label of mental illness to school shooters. She and other experts believe such rhetoric oversimplifies the complex problem of mass violence while also stereotyping those who struggle with mental health disorders.
“Framing the conversation about gun violence in the context of mental illness does a disservice both to the victims of violence and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness.”
A senior policy adviser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness said in an interview that invoking mental illness in the gun-control debate is often more political than helpful to those who actually struggle with mental health issues. Many see it as a means to draw attention away from any discussion on gun control. So is it really that far-fetched to even consider an honest and thorough examination of how we might improve policies surrounding access to guns?
After all, American has more mass shootings than any other developed nation, and not even by a little. Studies indicate that the rate at which public mass shootings occur tripled since 2011.
From 1982 up to 2011, a mass shooting occurred roughly once every 200 days.
Then, between 2011 and 2014 that rate has accelerated to at least one mass shooting every 64 days in the United States.
Realistically, it is fair to question the idea that this is simply a mental health issue. It may be a piece of the problem. Yet there is so much more that needs to be addressed in order to work toward a future without this kind of senseless violence.
What Can Be Done For Mental Health?
The sad thing is, we should never have waited for any acts of violence to make mental health a priority. A wide spectrum of issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder are all very serious and very damaging conditions. Countless Americans still struggle and don’t even know it, or don’t have access to care.
Many argue that the way lawmakers are changing healthcare is making it harder for people to receive mental health services. So with all that has happened, will mental health truly become the priority everyone says it will be? Thursday President Trump promised to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health” while speaking in regards to this tragic incident. But how will these words be followed by action? The president’s current budget actually includes massive cuts to mental health resources, so will these resources be given new priority?
For trauma survivors, there is a whole other element to providing mental health support resources. Horrific incidents like this recent shooting create shockwaves throughout the community and impact the mental health of innumerable others. Students, families and friends, teachers and other officials like law enforcement are all exposed to a new level of unimaginable pain and suffering. We must also make their mental health a priority. But we need to stop waiting until something unspeakable happens before we worry about our nation’s mental health.
Our hearts break for all of our neighbors here in South Florida who are suffering. No matter what we do, be it changing our mental health care or any other policies concerning guns, we MUST DO BETTER!
If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma, depression, or any mental health disorder please seek help. If you struggle with substance use disorder, drugs or alcohol is not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.
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by Justin Mckibben | Feb 8, 2018 | Drug Abuse, Drug Policy, Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, News
Last Thursday, over two years after Republican Governor Gregg Abbott signed the law to legalize the sale of specific cannabis oil in Texas for intractable epilepsy, the first legal delivery in the state was made.
Many medical cannabis advocates are calling this a historic moment for the Lone Star State, as it could be the catalyst to usher in a new era of drug policy as it relates to medicinal alternatives.
The First Delivery
The first recipient of medical cannabis oil in Texas was a school-aged child. A spokesperson for the company told reporters that it could not disclose which city the patient lives in, but did share how the delivery was made.
Current regulations dictate that only a social worker or nurse can deliver the medical cannabis product to a patient or the patient’s caregiver. In the case of Texas’s first delivery, a nurse transported the oil to the patient’s home. The nurse also showed the patient how to use it.
The first delivery was made by Knox Medical, a dispensary in Schulenburg. José Hidalgo, the founder, and CEO of Knox Medical stated,
“For Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy, the wait for medical cannabis is finally over. This is a historic day for Texas and we will work tirelessly to uphold the trust and responsibility the state has placed in Knox Medical.”
Notably, less than 1% of the population of Texas suffer from intractable epilepsy. But still, that comes out to roughly 160,000 people.
Texas Medical Cannabis Law
At this point, there are only three licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the state of Texas. These facilities were allowed to be opened following the 2015 Texas Compassion Use Act. But the programs are run by the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, Texas has not been as open with their medical cannabis movement as other parts of the country. As of now, state law scarcely allows for the sale of medical cannabis oils. The only oils to be sold are those that meet requirements:
- Low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.
- High levels of cannabidiol, a non-euphoric component known as CBD that is used to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions.
And patients themselves have to meet very specific criteria. A person only qualifies if:
- They are a permanent resident of Texas
- Have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy
- Must have tried two FDA-approved drugs and found them ineffective
- Qualified physician has determined they would benefit from medical cannabis
- Have a second qualified physician agree with the assessment that they would benefit
Qualified doctors must be listed on the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.
Needless to say, Texans won’t be rushing out to dispensaries anytime soon to stock up on medicinal marijuana. State officials seem to have a very precise mission in mind when it comes to allowing for this treatment to go forward. Still, some medical cannabis supporters are happy with the direction. So how do products like medical cannabis and CBD oil impact those trying to recovery from addiction?
Legalization and Recovery
In the world of recovery from drugs or alcohol, the idea that marijuana legalization is becoming more widely accepted may seem tempting to some. Others seem to believe legalizing marijuana invites more hard drug use. What does it really mean for the recovery community or people struggling with addiction?
Legalizing a drug and having it readily available may be tempting, but it’s not as if it isn’t already done everywhere with alcohol. Almost any store you walk into is stocked with booze and plastered with adds to try and sell cigarettes. People in recovery from addiction are already exposed every day to some of the most dangerous drugs in the world because they are legal.
When we talk about legalization of marijuana, we want to remind people that for many struggling with substance use disorder the issue is not the specific chemicals you are using. Addiction is far more complex, influencing the mind while terrorizing the body. A drug is not suddenly any safer or better for you because it is becoming socially acceptable or legal.
It is important to find a middle ground. We can support those who benefit from new modalities while offering effective treatment opportunities to those who struggle. However, it is also important to offer experience and education for those who truly struggle with chemical dependency and everything else that comes with substance use disorder. It may seem easier to justify using marijuana for some people. But people should also know that marijuana abuse is a real risk. Substituting one drug for another is probably not the best option for some habitual drug users.
Medicinal and recreational marijuana reforms may be changing the way that the law dictates drug use for some, but for the addict or alcoholic, the risk can be far greater than they expect. Part of comprehensive and effective recovery is understanding how drugs affect people differently and learning how to make the best decisions for your health and your future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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