In the spirit of the holiday season, we figure it is about time to not only celebrate love, giving and connection but also a time to celebrate the journey into sobriety many amazing people are on all around the world. As we reach the end of another interesting and exciting year, full of bittersweet memories as well as joy and hope, we thought it would be nice to give a sobering spin on one of the Christmas classics; the 12 days of Christmas. But honoring the legacy of 12 Step fellowships that have been such a life-changing foundation for many people recovering from drugs or alcohol.
We know that the holidays can also be a difficult time for those who may be separated from their loved ones for the season. They can certainly be a difficult time for those who are still struggling or who have loved ones suffering. So we want to spread a little bit of hope along with holiday cheer.
So for the days leading us to Christmas, we look forward to presenting all of our incredible followers and friends with our very own version of the 12 Steps of Christmas.
Step 1: Admitting that I am powerless over the Holidays and they can make my life unmanageable
Forget the partridge in the pear-tree for the first day… let’s start off slow.
The fact is, the holidays will come around whether we are ready for them or not. I’m still trying to figure out how I survived the turkey and stuffing from November. Then BOOM here comes Christmas, with the gift giving and the family time and all that fun stuff. With all the tinsel and toys (yes, I still ask Santa for Batman action figures for Christmas) there comes a lot of stress and temptations for some people in sobriety.
Remembering Christmas with drinking…
Sometimes they want to join in “merriment” is pretty tempting. I know personally, the temptation to drink during Christmas was pretty much the same as every other 24 hours in early recovery; a lot. Lucky me, I got to spend my first sober Christmas in a holistic addiction treatment program. NICE! In all seriousness, it probably did save my life.
But I can remember the days when I used to drink with my loved ones on Christmas. After getting through the presents and coming together in the afternoon to spend time together, we would have food and drink together. The only problem, maaaaaybe some of us (ME) drank a little too much of the eggnog.
Whether or not you are a fan of “eggnog”, which in some families (or maybe just my family) tends to have a hearty serving of whiskey in the mix, there can be plenty of things about the holiday season that are tough to tussle with, especially in early sobriety.
Powerless over family…
We have to remember that our families are out of our control. All that dysfunction and colorful history with all the characters you call relatives can be, to put it mildly, exhausting and stressful. Sometimes our family members want to remind us of all the time we spent last year nodding out at Christmas dinner…
…or the time we threw up on the snowman in the backyard…
…or the time we sold all the presents under the tree and disappeared for a week…
…No? Just me?
Anyway, the truth is that when aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings all come together with the parents and grandparents and so on, reminiscing is just part of the package. Maybe for some (me, apparently), it is more painful than others. Or perhaps, maybe you still have that family member that is struggling. Perhaps they are the ones disappearing for days, drinking too much cider or even causing conflict due to their distressed state in active addiction. It can be incredibly disheartening.
Either way, it is important to remember that we are not in control of our loved ones. Early recovery for a lot of us is about learning acceptance and working through the adversities we face with humility. Family support in the recovery process is more important than most people realize.
Plus, an abundance of Christmas cookies can go a long way.
Working with that unmanageability…
The most important part of any holiday, especially this time of year, is the compassion and goodwill toward others this season is meant to inspire in us. As troubling as life can be, our efforts to share love and connection are the best way to work through that obstinacy.
No matter how unmanageable the family get-together can be, in recovery, we have to try and remind ourselves that all we are responsible for is giving as much love, compassion, and acceptance as we can, while still maintaining healthy boundaries.
So step 1 for the 12 Steps of Christmas is essentially trying to remember not to stress the small stuff, and to accept yourself and your loved ones.
As for the partridge… is that even a thing? Who has a spare pear tree these days anyway?
Spending Christmas facing the hurdles and hardships of addiction can be a daunting task, but take this opportunity to be more aware of what truly matters and what that means for your recovery. For those struggling this holiday season, ask for help; not just for your family but, for yourself. Give yourself and those who love you the most the best gift you can. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
This past Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will be the Trump administration’s go-to for opioid crisis efforts. This announcement has been met with both praise and criticism. Some say this appointment actually gives validity to the White House’s commitment to solving the ongoing opioid epidemic, while others see it as the exact opposite.
For a little background, Kellyanne Conway worked as a pollster before becoming Trump’s campaign manager during his run for the 2016 presidential nomination. Currently, Conway serves as a White House spokeswoman and Trump surrogate. She has been seen on countless panels discussing the biggest topics and politics. She absolutely has her work cut out for her, so can Kellyanne Conway compete?
The Kellyanne Cons and Pros
So can this infamous Trump advocate, the woman who practically accidentally coined the phrase “alternative facts” compete with the opioid crisis in America? Kallyanne Conway has become notorious for defending some of President Trump’s most flagrant and controversial “alternative facts” in the media. But in her defense, she also has said some things that seem to highlight important prospects for this problem.
So here are some things to consider when we talk about Kellyanne Conway being put in charge of the opioid epidemic.
Lack of Experience
One of the big problems with this appointment people are pointing out is the lack of experience. Critics say this appointment speaks to how little passion the current administration is actually putting into fighting the opioid crisis since Kellyanne Conway has no experience in public health or with drug policy.
But in a time where Americans seem to be putting more trust in people that don’t typically meet the description of “qualified” in hopes that an outsider might bring better results, it makes sense that a lot of people might still hope Kellyanne can do some good.
Yet, there are still those who aren’t so sure. Tom Synan, a police chief and member of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition in Ohio tweeted in response to the announcement:
“Ummm… did we run out of Dr’s, cops, addiction specialists or people who are actually dealing with this on the street to lead this?”
As a first responder, Synan is one of many people who are frustrated with the current actions being taken.
“I don’t want to get involved in politics, but it seems like it is a political position … I think I would have gone out to the country and tapped into people who are national experts who are on the street who are literally dealing with this issue every day,”
It seems many on the front lines are not impressed with the Trump administration’s move to put Kellyanne Conway in charge of efforts to combat one of the worst drug problems in the nation’s history.
Publicity and Perception
During a press briefing about the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the crisis where the announcement was made, Sessions said President Donald Trump chose Kellyanne Conway to “change the perception” about opioids and reduce addictions and deaths.
According to Sessions, President Trump has made the epidemic “a top priority for his administration, including every senior official and Cabinet member.”
An opioid policy expert Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University actually defended the move when speaking to BuzzFeed News, stating:
“It is a positive sign. She is a high-profile figure in the administration, showing the administration takes this seriously,”
Some believe this can offer a sign of hope for more concrete action since many recovery advocates say despite the declaration of a public health emergency from President Trump there has been very little action taken to change the state of the epidemic.
Bertha Madras, a member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and Harvard Medical School professor, said:
“The most important thing that Kellyanne Conway will provide is access … but also commitment… She was at all the meetings, she listened and took copious notes.”
Let’s hope those are some good notes because thus far the opioid problem in America has shown no signs of slowing down. Jeff Sessions justified the appointment by saying Kellyanne Conway “understanding messaging” and can help turn around public perception. But is this about publicity, or is it about the preservation of life?
Surely breaking the stigma and changing the way addiction is viewed does matter, but should someone who specializes in making things look good to be in charge of how this country deals with one of the most prominent crises we face?
Treatment and Resources
Kellyanne does seem to support treatment, but to what extent it is still unclear. In one interview with ABC Kellyanne Conway did say,
“Pouring money into the problem is not the only answer. We have to get serious about in-facility treatment and recovery.”
So she at least appears to understand how crucial effective inpatient treatment is for recovery.
But when reporters mentioned the fact that there needs to be funding for these programs, she put more emphasis on “a 4 letter word called will” that seems to side-step the question- where will these resources come from?
As it now stands, White House has:
- Left the leadership role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy vacant
- Failed to release any written opioid-control strategy
- Not requested funds to replenish the national public health emergency fund that currently sits at just $66,000
In fact, President Trump’s 2018 budget request would increase addiction treatment funding by less than 2%. And don’t be fooled, that increase includes the $500 million already appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act with the Obama administration.
Even Chris Christie, the Republican New Jersey Governor who led the White House Opioid Commission, said:
“In New Jersey, we are spending $500 million,” he said. “I am not, quite frankly, impressed with $1 billion from the federal government for the nation.”
Strict Prevention and Punishment
When you look at what she has said on record in regards to opioids and addiction, it doesn’t really inspire a great deal of confidence. Kellyanne Conway has consistently hinted to an outdated ideology of what addiction is and how to address it.
In the past, Kellyanne has said,
“The best way to stop people dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place… That’s a big core message for our youth.”
That’s right; just say no.
Critics say this aligns with the mindset of Jeff Sessions and others in the White House who seem to think that ‘Just Say No’ tactics actually work, or that purely prevention-based programs like D.A.R.E. can solve the whole problem. While prevention is important, it has proven to be ineffective as a focal point when addressing addiction.
Circling back to publicity, what Ms. Conway does seem to heavily endorse is a White House investigation for a “national ad campaign” on abuse prevention. President Trump himself had voiced his own support for a national advertising initiative to try and deter drug use.
But we all remember those commercials- this is your brain on drugs- and they didn’t really help that much.
Again, it seems Attorney General Sessions and the current administration is more focused on punishment than treatment and strict law enforcement. Sessions said the Justice Department was giving more than $12 million in grants to state and local law enforcement to help them prosecute crimes connected to:
Sessions is also ordering all U.S. Attorney offices to designate opioid coordinators. Kaitlyn Boecker, Policy Manager with the Drug Policy Alliance, has been vocal in her disapproval of the current steps being taken.
“Despite declaring the opioid overdose crisis a public health emergency just last month, the Trump Administration continues to emphasize failed prohibitionist policies while ignoring proven public health measures that we know reduce overdose death, like community naloxone distribution.”
“As we feared, the Administration is using the overdose crisis as an excuse to ratchet up the war on drugs rather than an opportunity to save lives.”
At this point, we can say that the news is not without skeptics. While many are still trying to remain hopeful that maybe because Kellyanne is so vocal and such a well-known surrogate for the president that perhaps she will be able to garner more attention to the issue.
While the fight for more resources continues, we should always encourage people to seek help. There are many safe and effective treatment resources already that have been helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction for decades, like Palm Healthcare Company. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Support for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has continued to grow in recent years as the opioid epidemic in America has put a mounting strain on the country. While the numbers of overdoses and opioid-related deaths have steadily climbed to devastating heights there has been more effort to explore treatment options. A better understanding of the medical and mental health aspects of addiction has become a priority. Stigma has slowly begun to carry less weight while advocates push for more effective and supportive routes to care for recovering addicts. One thing people have turned to heavily is medications like Suboxone of Methadone in attempts to steer away from more illicit and dangerous substances like heroin or fentanyl.
The application of medication in treatment can be very useful. It is a strategy that can help with the preservation of life by helping people stay off more unpredictable and life-threatening substances. However, some would say that if used for long-term this form of treatment is still relying on the idea of substitution. Often times these drugs have their own very harsh withdrawal symptoms, especially with extended use.
Taking a look at the more popular drugs used for medication-assisted treatment, one may ask- can you quit medication-assisted treatment with no withdrawals?
Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication Assisted Treatment is the use of anti-craving medications to try and help address issues related to drug dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. The more common medications used in MAT include:
But MAT is also utilized alongside comprehensive therapy and other forms of support. Experts and advocates for addiction recovery, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), insist that maintenance medications alone are not sufficient enough treatment.
Advocates for medication-assisted treatment will compare MAT to someone taking medication for diabetes or asthma, with the belief that maintenance drugs are an essential part of staying healthy. However, others in the world of addiction recovery still believe it is possible to be healthy in recovery without the prolonged use of powerful medications.
The truth is the answer may not be the same for everybody. Different treatments may be more useful for different people. No one should be ashamed of the method they use to get help. But we also want to look at how some drugs used in medication-assisted treatment might make things more complicated for certain people.
Looking at the most popular maintenance drugs for opioid addiction, of course, we find Suboxone. To better understand Suboxone withdrawals, we first have to know what it is. This popular brand name is used to identify a prescription medication that contains active ingredients:
- Buprenorphine- a narcotic opioid medication
- Naloxone– an opioid blocker that impedes the effect of opioid medications
This medication functions as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s opioid receptors. Taken in low doses for short periods of time, the drug can be helpful in curbing opioid withdrawal symptoms while tapering off without too many residual effects.
The tricky part comes when someone uses Suboxone for an extended amount of time as a replacement for heroin or other opioids.
Sometimes this can lead to its own form of recreational use and physical dependence. Even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that Suboxone is commonly susceptible to abuse. It is still a powerful drug.
Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms
While Suboxone and other maintenance drugs may be a preferred tactic for going ‘cold turkey’ off of heroin or other opioids, the drug itself still has the power to cause its own set of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Irritability or agitation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Profuse sweating
- Runny nose
- Frequent yawning
- Stomach pain or cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in mood
Not to mention precipitated withdrawal, when the ingredients in this medication can actually induce the onset of unpleasant symptoms rapidly, if not immediately, for someone actively engaged in opioid use.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication utilized since the 1970s to try and help people get off of heroin. It is typically used today under strict medical supervision because the drug is very potent and has a high risk of addiction. In fact, a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 2.46 million people reported to using methadone for a non-prescribed purpose at least once.
According to another study, in 2009 methadone was responsible for 1 out of every 3 opioid overdose deaths.
Because of the risks, a gradual taper should be utilized to wean someone off of methadone. Often times doctors will prescribe another detox medication to help with this process, with the tapering to be done under medical supervision.
But as with trying to quit heroin or other powerful opioids ‘cold turkey’, trying to abruptly discontinue methadone can bring on intense withdrawal. This includes physical and psychological symptoms such as:
- Runny nose
- Tearing or watery eyes
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramps
Many of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of withdrawing from heroin or other opioids. So in a sense, this drug can create similar withdrawal symptoms as the drugs it is supposed to be used to treat.
Quitting Medication Assisted Treatment
Is it possible to quit medication-assisted treatment- yes, there are always other options for getting comprehensive care and lasting recovery without the prolonged use of these medications. Even relapse prevention is possible without relying on medications to fight cravings.
Can you quit medication-assisted treatment with no withdrawals? Well, that may be a process. It depends on a number of factors, such as the specific maintenance medication and the length of time using it. For example, someone who has been using methadone for years could probably have a much harder time getting off methadone than someone who used another medication for a month or so to help get off opioids.
Safety is crucial when deciding to quit MAT. Quitting medication-assisted treatment without a taper or other forms of medication can cause intense withdrawals. It is not suggested that someone try to quit MAT ‘cold turkey’ or without consulting a doctor for help with changing the dosage and slowly tapering off the drugs.
Again, just because it isn’t heroin or fentanyl doesn’t make it harmless.
MAT or Detox?
Medication-assisted treatment holds a lot of value, but the question becomes whether or not it is the kind of sustainable solution you want. Recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all. Medication-assisted treatment can be helpful in saving someone’s life who cannot stop using drugs. But is it something that will completely eliminate cravings and withdrawals, or will it just postpone these symptoms?
Remember, these are still powerful narcotic drugs that have a high risk for abuse. Some people end up using medication maintenance for life. Others will use it for a short period of time, with a detox period afterward. Either way, it is your choice; how long do you want to rely on substances, and to what extent?
Other models believe in providing holistic treatment and personalized therapy after a detox period, helping to reduce and remove chemical dependence and build a foundation for personal recovery.
Using medication to help with the painful and often overwhelming symptoms of withdrawal from opioids and other drugs can be essential to a smooth and healthy transition. In fact, with a safe medical detox, each individual is given an initial assessment to see what medications will be helpful in making this phase of treatment comfortable and safe. This can include medications for anxiety, mood disorders, physical pains and various other side-effects of substance abuse.
And when it comes to some of these medications, it can sometimes be necessary to continue using them.
The biggest difference is whether narcotic maintenance medications like Suboxone or methadone become a long-term prerequisite to recovery, or if they are used to help someone who is sick get better so that the real healing can happen.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing a safe medical detox to allow for a comfortable and healthy transition from active drug or alcohol use. Our facilities utilize an experienced and professional medical staff who help to monitor each individual’s progress and provide effective medical support for lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
All day people all over the country have been waiting for President Trump to make his formal announcement of the opioid epidemic as a national emergency. Finally, the time for the event at the White House has come, but the announcement has some wondering if enough is being said. So we want to take a little bit of time to talk about some of the highlights from the president’s announcement.
President Donald Trump did give a detailed speech regarding many efforts that are being pursued to combat the opioid epidemic in America. Yet, some are saying that he didn’t say enough about how these resources would be funded, pointing out his declaration was for a Public Health Emergency.
So what does it all mean? Why does the difference matter?
Public Health VS National Disaster
To be clear, both are forms of national emergency declarations. What is the big deal? Well, the difference is the scope and funding that comes with address each order. So today, President Trump, through the Public Health Services Act, directed his acting secretary of health and human services to declare a national health emergency. According to a senior White House official, this designation that will not automatically allocate additional federal funding for the crisis.
If the president has utilized the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, otherwise calling the opioid epidemic a national disaster, the federal government would have been able to immediately tap into funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to combat opioids.
Some may say this move was made since the Stafford Act is traditionally used for natural disaster relief, such as with recent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. President Trump and President Obama’s administration officials both say that using the Stafford Act would have been too broad and put an unwarranted burden on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund. Which seems somewhat likely, since this fund is already being depleted by recovery efforts from the three major hurricanes that hit the United States this year.
Overall, it seems many officials from this and the previous administration feel that a Public Health Emergency was a more appropriate choice out of the two.
What Will Public Health Emergency Do?
The order from President Trump will do some good, including:
- Expanding access to telemedicine to get treatment for those in rural areas
- Instructing agencies to limit bureaucratic delays for dispensing grant money
- Secure Department of Labor grants for the unemployed
- Shift funding for HIV and AIDs programs to provide more substance abuse treatment for people already eligible
- Expands Narcan access
The nationwide health emergency that Trump ordered is more direct but comes with less immediate action.
According to Senior White House officials, they will be following up by working with Congress to get more money for the Public Health Emergency Fund. Which is a good start, since critics are quick to point out there is only $57,000 in this fund.
It is also said to increase federal funding in year-end budget deals currently being negotiated in Congress. In fact, Democratic Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey introduced a bill this week that would provide $45 billion for opioid abuse prevention, surveillance, and treatment over 10 years. But will it ever see the light of day?
The President Trump Plan: Pros
There were various parts of the speech from President Trump that did hint at some interesting ideas. Some pros and some cons include:
Expanding Treatment Options
Possibly one of the bigger moves here is that President Trump said his administration would also be working to reduce regulatory barriers that prevent people from getting treatment, such as one that bars Medicaid from paying for addiction treatment in residential rehab facilities larger than 16 beds.
If the president can remove some of these hurdles, more people may have access to better options for treatment.
National Institute of Health has taken the first steps of instituting a public-private partnership that will be working toward research and resources including:
- New treatment for addiction
- New treatment for overdose
The president also said,
“We are already distributing nearly $1 billion in grants for addiction prevention and treatment. And over $50 million to support law enforcement programs that assist those facing prison and facing addiction.”
For one, Trump said that the Department of Justice is bringing indictments against Chinese drug traffickers responsible for bringing deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl into the country.
Another interesting announcement made by President Trump is that the federal government will soon be bringing major lawsuits against people and companies that are involved in the overprescribing and other shady practices concerning prescription drugs.
Pulling Dangerous Prescription Drugs
Trump also says the FDA is now requiring drug companies that manufacture one high-risk opioid, Opana ER, be withdrawn from the market immediately. He states,
“We are requiring that specific opioid, which is truly evil, to be taken off the market immediately.”
President Trump also states his administration will also be pushing for the development of non-addict pain medications.
The President Trump Plan: Cons
President Trump did in many cases acknowledge some useful aspects of combatting the epidemic. But, there were also some ideas that continue to fall short of innovative.
President Trump is also emphasizing the use of a “Massive advertising campaign” to keep young people from doing drugs in the first place. President Trump said-
“- they will see the devastation and ruination it causes to people and people’s lives.”
“The fact is if we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them. And I think that’s going to end up being our most important thing. Really tough, really big, really great advertising.”
While prevention and education are extremely important, many criticize this strategy saying that these old tactics of “Just Say No” and the D.A.R.E. program just don’t work. This advertising might have been useful if focused on treatment options, but if it is more of the scare tactics of “Refer Madness” then we probably won’t see much improvement.
The Commander in Chief also took this opportunity to promote the building of the wall between the United States and Mexico, stating:
“90% of the heroin in America comes from south of the border, where we will be building the wall, which will be greatly helping this problem!”
He took time in his speech to highlight the need to “breaking up gangs and distribution efforts” as a primary way to curb the epidemic.
Of course, the wall is often an issue of contention. Many experts have argued since President Trump proposed this as the key element of his war on opioids that attacking the supply has never worked with preventing the spread of addiction. And even if it did, many believe the wall will do little to prevent drugs from being brought into America from south of the border.
Some experts are still saying this is not a proper plan because while it does allow federal agencies to move grant money, it establishes no immediate funding for a crisis that killed over 64,000 Americans last year.
Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives today narrowly passed a Senate-approved budget resolution 216 to 212, that some experts claim will cause all $1 trillion cut to Medicaid and $500 million cut to Medicare. Many recovery advocates fear that with the ambiguity concerning health care coverage there will not be enough resources in time to provide treatment to those in need.
Some representatives still believe more funding needs to be committed to the issue, while others say that many people struggling with addiction don’t have health insurance and that more must be done to expand coverage.
The chairman of President Trump’s opioid commission Chris Christie commended the president, calling his announcement a “bold action” to address the opioid crisis. The opioid commission will present a comprehensive plan next week with the final report on November 1st.
No matter what your opinion at this point, we can all agree we need to be moving forward. This means taking an honest look at what is working and what isn’t. Still, the fact that the highest office in the nation has taken the time to address the issue in such terms is hopefully a sign of dramatic change on the way. Only time will tell how this latest move from President Trump will truly impact the opioid epidemic. For now, there is sure to be plenty of debate over the weight of today’s statements and how they will influence policy. There are some promises to be kept, for sure.
There is a lot more to this conversation, but for now, we have to hope that some of these new opportunities will give options and hope to those in America suffering tragically. The opioid crisis is nothing we can expect to be fixed by one person overnight. We have to continue to provide resources to those in need. Palm Healthcare Company facilities have proudly provided addiction treatment resources for decades to those in need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
If that headline seems kind of confusing, don’t worry, it should. Technically insurance companies are already required by law to provide the same coverage for substance abuse and mental health that they do for other health conditions… and therein lies the issue.
Back in August the White House Opioid Commission, established by President Trump and led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, made several recommendations to the current administration about how to address the current drug crisis as it damages communities across the country. One of those recommendations was to declare a national emergency, while others had to do with options for prevention and education.
In the aftermath of ex-DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi’s eye-opening interview exposing the shady connections between Congress and Big Pharma companies, many have been looking closely at how government officials and multi-billion dollar empires helped create the opioid epidemic. Now the White House’s Opioid Commission is putting a focus on how health insurance companies and the flaws in their policies have contributed to the intensifying addiction crisis.
So with the opioid commission saying they will call-out insurers and make demands on coverage for addiction treatment, will more people have access to help?
Restricted Addiction Treatment
One of the biggest issues the opioid commission seems to have with insurance companies is that frequently their policies only cover one type of addiction treatment and not others. It seems insurance companies are convinced that with a complex and extremely personal issue like substance use disorder or mental health conditions, there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Sadly, most advocates can tell you this isn’t the case.
Something else especially frustrating is that laws already exist to prevent insurers from treating addiction treatment different than any other health issue. Chris Christie himself said,
“Why are we still not seeing addiction services covered, and mental health services covered as broadly as every other type of disease?”
“And what do we need to do to make sure that the law is enforced and followed?”
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires health insurers to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders the same as any other disease. It means they should provide health care coverage for these conditions without additional limits, co-pays or deductibles. If companies add on additional requirements, it creates even more barriers between the suffering individual and treatment. Sadly, not every insurance company thinks it has to play by the rules.
A task force convened by President Barack Obama last year reported that numerous insurance companies still place a number of limits on addiction coverage, like more strict pre-authorization requirements. The insurance companies claim that their policies are only part of a complex problem, insisting that the issue also has to do with shortages of doctors and poor medical training from healthcare providers in the field of addiction treatment.
However, the simple fact that insurance companies are still trying to push back against supporting addiction treatment has the opioid commission ready to address the inconsistencies that are making it even harder for people who need help to get the help they deserve.
Holding Insurance Companies Accountable
The opioid commission is not holding back when it comes to trying to make insurance companies contribute to solutions since they helped contribute to the problem. The New Jersey Governor warned health insurance companies to be prepared for a final report that will “place new demands” on health insurance policies.
Christie and the opioid commission seem to be playing offense, saying Big Pharma drug companies and health insurers profit while allowing an epidemic of addiction to continue, but these new demands will hopefully change all that. Christie added,
“I’m a capitalist. I want everybody to make profits. I think it’s great. But we can’t any longer go about addressing this problem this way,”
“I hope you’re prepared to accept the challenge, because we know if it hasn’t gotten into your own house yet, it could, and then all the sudden your perspective on this problem could become markedly different.”
Not only is there more pressure on insurance companies when it comes to treatment options in their policies, but with how they handle medications in the first place.
Health insurance providers are also under a greater deal of scrutiny for policies that sometimes favor powerful and addictive painkillers over less addictive, and more expensive, variations. So not only are they limiting the options when it comes to getting treatment for substance abuse, but they are limiting coverage of medications to more addictive drugs to save money.
Insurance providers did show up to testify at the commission to help create a more comprehensive view of the issue. Involved were executives from some of the nation’s largest insurance companies:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
- Kaiser Permanente
- UnitedHealth Group
- UPMC Health Plan
Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also has questions for many of those same companies. Some of these inquiries stem from a report by The New York Times last month stating insurance companies “erected more hurdles to approving addiction treatments than for the addictive substances themselves.”
Cummings wrote letters to seven of the companies which state,
“This is not a hypothetical problem. The over-prescription of opioids leads to addiction and death.”
The White House’s opioid commission has also spoken with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. All this shows that the opioid commission is not only worried about exploring our options for fixing the issue but also in examining all the elements that helped cause the opioid epidemic in America. Christie says the final report to President Trump will include sweeping recommendations but will also be “extraordinarily instructive in terms of how we got here, which is an important thing for this commission to acknowledge.”
The commission will hold its last meeting November 1st before delivering its final report to the President. Only time will tell what demands this report plans to place on insurance companies to provide more coverage for addiction treatment services.
Will Insurance Companies Change?
The big question becomes how will this impact the services offered by insurance companies. Will the opioid commission’s suggestions help shape new policies, or will some insurance companies continue to ignore the parity laws put in place to make sure they do not discriminate against the treatment of substance abuse?
Will these changes allow for the coverage of different innovative and holistic treatment options, or will the change only support programs that depend on maintenance drugs like methadone or Suboxone?
Hopefully, the new demands being put on insurance companies will help to support mental health and substance abuse parity. When it comes to addressing addiction in America, we need every resource we can get in order to move forward with overcoming the opioid epidemic. With more officials taking a closer look at every aspect of the issue, perhaps we can get a more effective strategy for addressing the problem.
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Anyone can see that these are divisive times.
Every day we see another story about protestors, protests against protestors, and counter-protests against those protesting the free-speech of protestors. Various movements drive outrage, and some of the loudest voices today are the most controversial. But are we addicted to it?
Today, the University of Florida in Gainesville is bracing for the impact of another contentious event. Known white supremacist Richard Spencer has been scheduled to arrive today on campus to deliver a speech, promoting his openly racist and radically white nationalist ideals. A guy who seems to have a knack for intentionally stirring up racial tension in public, preaching about ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’, and waving around tiki torches like nobodies business.
With so many other troubling things happening in America; the ongoing opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands every year; the debate on gun control following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas; the concern over environmental deterioration or the devastation caused by recent Hurricanes to states like Texas and the island of Puerto Rico, doesn’t it seem we already have plenty to argue about?
How do voices like Richard Spencer spark our addiction to the controversy?
White Supremacist Invade Florida
The event is scheduled for this afternoon and will be the first college visit Richard Spencer has made since he and others participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The same day where the horrific display of people marching down the streets of an American city with Nazi flags and Ku Klux Klan symbols, many of them armed, clashed with counter-protestors. The same day a young woman was killed when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protestors.
Richard Spencer stood on the side with neo-nazis and klansmen.
Today officials at the University of Florida are worried that this event will also become violent. In fact, the president of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, believes Richard Spencer wants there to be violence, hoping it will garner sympathy for the ‘alt-right’ movement he represents. In an interview Fuchs states,
“They’re coming to campus with the intentions of confrontation and with the intention of having all of us repeat their view on the world.”
On Monday Rick Scott, Florida Governor, declared a state of emergency for Alachua County to enable law enforcement to work together more effectively at preventing violence. There has also been the talk of activating the National Guard if necessary.
Of course, Richard Spencer took all this extra precaution as an opportunity to pat himself on the back. He’s alleged to be absolutely flattered by the state of emergency on his behalf.
Hint of Hypocrisy
One thing that always comes to these kinds of conversations is the discussion of people’s first amendment rights. When we get to the topic of whether universities should permit speakers to come to their campus, people always argue that the individual’s freedom of speech should be a priority and that these institutions should allow people who are controversial and divisive to speak, regardless of the harm or outrage caused by their poisonous rhetoric.
In this writer’s personal opinion– (and I know this may sound weird)- I agree with letting people I disagree with have a chance to talk. If we give those we think are wrong a chance to speak, we can engage the conversation and challenge them. If we completely silence all ignorance I think we can’t comprehensively address it.
THAT BEING SAID…
The problem I take with situations like this is hearing that the University of Florida is spending over $600,000 on additional security for this event in order to protect white supremacists. Money coming from taxpayers that could be spent on providing tuitions for who knows how many students.
Of course, this is because UF is a public university, and is therefore prohibited from stopping the event based on the contents or views of the speech. The university provided a permit for Spencer to speak, but the event is unaffiliated with the school, and no student groups sponsored the speech or invited Spencer. Plain and simple, it is an absolute set-up for a huge fall-out. And the university is not permitted to defer the costs of protecting Spencer to him or his alt-right movement.
But I digress…
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy I see here is that the organizers for Spencer’s speech supposedly will only allow people who look like alt-right supporters to be among the 700 people inside the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. I can only guess what they look like.
So in essence, Spencer’s right to preach hate on a college campus should be a priority (sarcasm implied), even if the vast majority of students disagree with his oratory… But no one who disagrees with him should be allowed to participate in the dialog?
Our Addiction to Controversy and Outrage
Of course, just participating in this conversation is part of feeding the controversy. Therefore, this article in and of itself is putting the focus on the divisive subjects that push people into radical ideologies and pull communities apart. But the conversation still needs to be had; why are we so addicted to this kind of conflict?
Did you know our neurobiology rewards our outrage? A simple reason we are addicted to the controversy is that our outrage does feel good.
Our anger overrides all other moral and rational constraints in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system. This is the part of the brain where our most automatic emotions like fear and desire come from.
The limbic system has the most direct links to our fight-or-flight response system. It controls our adrenaline rushes, alertness, and other instincts. Controversy and outrage tap into those instincts and we can become addicted to the rush we experience through the limbic system.
The ego is a primary fuel source for our outrage and our attraction to controversy. Not only do we get a thrill from the debate and a rush from feeling right in a debate, but it is a way we overcome our own feelings.
Anger can be triggered by feelings of insecurity or weakness. Our outrage is a surge of emotion that flows in to overcome those feelings of fragility. So our outrage and immersion into controversy make us feel stronger or superior.
Feeding Our Addiction
Addiction compels you to chase a high that only makes you feel worse; it reduces you to a lesser version of yourself. It seems, however, that Americans are largely addicted to controversy and discord. When you look on social media or watch television it appears evident we are adopting a society that is hooked on hostility and that undervalues empathy.
How did this happen? Simple; More than most drug addicts, our dealers are literally everywhere! The business of controversy is an ugly but lucrative one. Any drug trafficker knows how that is. Many people who dig up every piece of offensive, frightening or infuriating news to publish don’t typically let it bother them in the same way. Especially online in forums, most posters are thrilled to pedal it because they know their addicted customers all too well.
The drama-dealers know they’re making us feel a thrill of uncertainty or weakness, while simultaneously making us feel stronger and better-than.
True Strength is in Unity
The truth is, being ‘right’ or debating better than others doesn’t make any of us stronger. Our true strength comes not from our addiction to being smarter or superior in any way. ‘Alt-right’ is not the future, it is a reprehensible and sectarian atrocity that should not be given even a finite measure of merit. But people will thrive off of the discourse it will create.
Contrary to the garbage Richard Spencer will spew about diversity being an evil and an unnatural threat to the supremacy of the white race, diversity, and unity despite our differences is what gives us true strength. It almost seems ridiculous that as adults we still have to keep arguing this point. Our nation has a very sordid past, but we are better for admitting it and trying to do better.
People like Richard Spencer, feed on the fear, weakness, insecurity and false strength created by their archaic and disgraceful controversy. This is not strength, it is pure exploitation of their own people in a callous attempt at prestige. Spencer is another dealer, committed to trafficking in racism, fascism, and discontent. Like any other heroin or crack dealer.
Student leaders from the University of Florida have been planning events using #TogetherUF to promote education and dialog while encouraging unity and embracing diversity. Hopefully, these collective efforts to pull people together can counter-balance the separation Spencer and his followers hope to create.
It is with great hope that the campus and its students remain safe, as thousands have already committed to marching in protest of Spencer and his movement.
“Our true nationality is mankind.”
Palm Healthcare Company believes everyone from every culture or community deserves a chance to be happy and healthy. We embrace the unity of our staff, our clients and our community towards building better futures for all of us. We know addiction does not discriminate, and we are here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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