by Justin Mckibben | Apr 15, 2019 | Addiction Stigma, Big Pharma, Celebrity, John Oliver, Opioids, Prescription Drugs
John Oliver VS Big Pharma
This is definitely not the first time John Oliver has taken on Big Pharma and the issues with the opioid crisis in America. In fact, at the start of this recent segment, he acknowledges his previous episode before setting his focus on the changes since then, or lack thereof. On another hard-hitting episode of Last Week Tonight the well-known English comedic commentator takes on the Sackler Family, Mckesson Corporation, and the failed attempts to curb the influx of prescription opioids into an already volatile environment.
A Comedian on a Mission
As a writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart John Oliver won an Emmy for his work with taking a comedic yet impactful look into important political and social issues. As a host on his own HBO series, Last Week Tonight, Oliver has made a name for himself by taking deeper dives into the details of certain issues. Each moment of troubling truth or eye-opening examination is balanced with jokes that are either intensely ironic or ridiculously abstract. For instance, in this latest episode, Oliver steps off the serious discussion of Big Pharma corruption to deliver a few bits about the true nature of bears, with comical and cartoon-ish visual aids.
Moreover, Oliver tends to deliver some relatively detailed arguments, regardless of the topic at hand. While some may consider him a more liberal voice in the media, with open criticism of the Trump administration and other prominent conservative voices, he also criticizes other media outlets also considered to be more liberal. Recently, we questioned CNN for their coverage on the arrest of Julian Assange.
Needless to say, his take on the opioid crisis is a sound and even hilarious dissection of everything wrong with Big Pharma and the policies that allowed them to flourish.
Taking on Distributors
First, Oliver took on companies that are responsible for dispensing drugs from manufacturers to hospitals and pharmacies. These companies are supposed to alert authorities in the event that they notice suspicious quantities of control substances being ordered. However, several have been called out in recent years for failure to fulfill that responsibility.
John Oliver begins his take on distributors by talking about the story of Kermit, West Virginia. In the year 2016, more than 3 million doses of hydrocodone were ordered in one year, by just one pharmacist, in a city of only 400 people. That is around 7,500 doses for every resident!
For some background, McKesson Corporation is an American pharmaceutical distributor based out of San Francisco. In 2018, the company revenues were counted at $208.4 billion. In 2008, the DEA claimed that McKesson had failed to properly control their controlled substances. At the time, the Big Pharma distributor was allowed to avoid any admittance of wrongdoing as long as they agreed to pay a fine of $13,250,000. They were also required to develop and implement a controlled drug monitoring program.
However, by many accounts, McKesson failed to live up to that pledge. Oliver points out that one DEA agent wrote of the company:
“Their bad acts continued and escalated to a level of egregiousness not seen before.”
John Oliver points out how the strategy of expecting pharmaceutical companies to monitor themselves seems to consistently fall short of effective. In the case of Kermit, the McKesson Corp was responsible for distributing over 5 million doses of opioids in only two years.
In 2017, McKesson ended up having to make another settlement of $150 million. However, as Oliver points out,
“Which yes, sounds like a lot… until you realize that it is less than 1/1,000th of their revenue for one year.”
Which brings around Oliver’s point about how companies who profit from the opioid crisis are dealt with. He notes that for Big Pharma giants like McKesson, paying a fine is “just the cost of doing business.”
Trouble for Purdue Pharma
Kicking off the piece of the segment about the infamous opioid empire of Purdue Pharma, Oliver notes the history of Purdue’s aggressive and egregious marketing tactics for OxyContin. The company faced massive backlash after years of marketing the opioid painkiller as a less addictive painkiller that was safe to use for the treatment of common conditions like backaches.
Here, Oliver hits us with one of the clever comparisons, reminding us that once upon a time companies used to marketing cocaine for toothaches.
Next, Oliver takes on the Sackler Family, citing a 2017 article from The New Yorker stating the family has a collective net worth of $13 billion. As the battle against corporations tied to the opioid crisis intensifies, this family name has been pulled into the fray with protests and lawsuits calling out their involvement in Purdue Pharma’s business plan. On Last Week Tonight, Oliver also takes a look at one individual from the Sackler Family in particular.
Actors Try on Richard Sackler
Richard served as President of Purdue Pharmaceuticals from 1999 to 2003 and spent several years on the board with seven other members of the family. Overall, he was with the company throughout the opioid crisis. Richard Sackler is named in several lawsuits brought by different states.
In Massachusetts, one lawsuit asserts that Richard demanded to be sent into the field with sales reps on visits to doctors. This is something John Oliver believes is in correlation with a very specific purpose. He cites statements made by Richard at a company event that the launch of OxyContin would be followed by “a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”
Even as the imminent threat presented by OxyContin became apparent, Oliver adds that Richard Sackler pushed forward with this attitude of selling more opioids, with very little concern for the impact. In an attempt to make the points of this segment feel more meaningful, John Oliver even enlists the help of several actors to deliver quotes attributed to Richard Sackler.
First, there is the American actor and 1989 Batman, Michael Keaton. Oliver points out that when evidence was mounting that OxyContin was causing widespread addiction, Sackler urged the company to blame people suffering from addiction to take the focus off of their product. When quoting the actual words of Sackler, the amazing Michael Keaton states:
“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
Here John Oliver acknowledges that the Sacklers and Purdue vigorously deny these claims. They insist that these quotes are being taken out of context and that they did not cause the opioid crisis.
Probably one of the most troubling revelations to come from the segment is Oliver’s argument that the Sackler family has fought hard to avoid true transparency regarding their involvement in the opioid crisis. More specifically, how the company has settled many of the lawsuits against them by demanding the stipulation that evidence is sealed and unavailable to the public. For instance, one lawsuit against Kentucky was settled on the condition that the states Attorney General destroy 17 million pages of documents pertaining to the allegations against Purdue.
A leak from this case actually included the transcript from a video deposition with Richard Sackler. While the video itself is unavailable, John Oliver again found a way to make a powerful statement by having Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston get in on the action. Suffice it to say, the dramatization of that interview does not play very well for the Sackler in question. One part they highlight was a speech given by Sackler supposedly bragging about how quickly they had gotten the DEA to approve OxyContin. And as Oliver says, Cranston goes “full Walter White” on this video.
The segment also enlists Michael K. Williams, who famously portrayed Omar Devone Little on The Wire, to give an intense reading of the transcript. And finally, Richard Kind from Spin City and A Bug’s Life gave some goofy “I don’t know” answers from the over 100 times it was mentioned in the real deposition.
At the end of the day, John Oliver and Last Week Tonight make a call for transparency with Big Pharma companies. He acknowledges that while his show tries to find some way to laugh through the pain of the opioid crisis, it is important that more be done to hold opioid makers and distributors accountable. This seems to be a growing sentiment, as the Sacklers prepare to face numerous lawsuits. More lawmakers, public health officials, and advocacy groups are calling for transparency and culpability for any business that profited from the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, the fight against addiction and overdose death rates continues.
For those who are struggling, comprehensive addiction treatment is a vital resource to overcoming opioid addiction. If you or someone you love is suffering, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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by Justin Mckibben | Mar 8, 2019 | Alcohol, Death, Drug Abuse, Harm Reduction, News
Two non-profit organizations recently analyzed updated data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that deaths caused by suicide, drug overdose and alcohol rose by 6% in the year 2017, leading to an all-time high in the United States.
Altogether, drugs, alcohol, and suicide killed more than 150,000 people.
Ever since federal data collection started in 1999, the non-profit’s report claims there has never been a death rate this high attributed to these causes. A spike was observed in the national rate for deaths from alcohol, drugs, and suicide:
- Start of 2017- 9 deaths per 100,000 people
- End of 2017- 6 deaths per 100,000 people
On one hand, this is actually a slower increase than the previous two years. However, the difference was a lot over the average annual increase of 4% since 1999.
Opioid Death Rates
Probably the most obvious reasoning behind this increase would be the ongoing opioid crisis. One of the major contributing factors to the rising rates of overdose death in America is dangerous synthetic drugs making their way to the illicit market.
For one thing, deaths due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, rose 45 % in that time. In the past five years, these deaths have actually increased tenfold. Needless to say, lawmakers and public health officials have been scrambling for years to try and solve the overdose issue in the United States.
Suicide Death Rates
Since 1999, deaths from suicide have increased by 33%. The data for 2017 indicates a significant rise in death rates:
- Start of 2017- 9 deaths per 100,000
- End of 2017- 5 deaths per 100,000
This is an increase of 4%, which is double the average annual pace over the previous decade. More specifically, from 2008 to 2017:
- Suicide by suffocation increased by 42%
- Suicide by firearm increased by 22%
The highest suicide rates are typically in rural areas, including:
- West Virginia
- New Mexico
- New Hampshire
One thing to point out is that some researchers believe that suicides are actually under-reported. This may be in part due to the stigma surrounding mental disorders, but also largely due to mislabeling the cause of death. For instance, some cases may be recorded as overdoses or accidents that are actually intentional.
Alcohol Death Rates
As far as alcohol-related death rates are concerned, some suspect that higher proof alcohols becoming increasingly popular in the last decade has also contributed to health issues and deaths. In fact, between 2002 and 2013:
- The amount of how much alcohol Americans consumed only increased by 6%.
- Estimates to determine how much alcohol is typically drunk have remained the same.
- Health problems as a result of drinking spiked in the same time frame.
Meanwhile, some drinks have a dramatically higher alcohol-by-volume (ABV) percentage. Between 2002 and 2016, the average alcohol by volume grew across the board:
- Beer ABV increased an average of 2%
- Wine ABV increased an average of 6%
- Liquor ABV increased an average of 4%
According to another analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, from 2007 to 2017:
- The number of deaths attributable to alcohol increased by 35%
- Deaths among women rose 85%
- Deaths among men rose 29%
One positive piece of data is that the study suggests teen drinking deaths actually decreased by 16%. Still, alcohol has contributed plenty to the rising death rates.
Addressing Underlying Issues
With the highest death rates due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide in recorded history, it goes without saying that a lot more needs to be done to promote treatment resources and prevention. With the failed War on Drugs has taught us what is not working, many have turned to strategies that focus on the preservation of life more than punishing those struggling with addiction. Harm reduction efforts like naloxone expansion and needle exchange programs have made some real progress. Some have even begun exploring the possibility of establishing safe injection sites.
Additionally, there needs to be more put into comprehensive treatment. Most experts agree there is a need for broader efforts to address the underlying causes of alcohol and drug use, and suicide. Having access to effective mental health care and addiction treatment resources can significantly impact the well-being of those most at risk. Long-term recovery offers those most likely to die as a result of drug use or suicide a way out.
This would also include more funding and support for programs that reduce risk factors. A major aspect of prevention when it comes to substance abuse and mental health has to do with trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Research has suggested there is a notable connection between the risk of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide and childhood trauma.
There were five states where death rates due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide decreased:
- Rhode Island
Hopefully, as new initiatives push forward to save lives and offer prevention, we will see more states with decreasing death rates. Overall, we can hope that better opportunities for treatment and support will lead to an improvement in public health. Meanwhile, raising awareness and education are crucial to turning this trend around.
With their highest death rates in history, substance abuse and suicide are some of the most important public health issues facing Americans today. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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by Justin Mckibben | Sep 13, 2018 | Coping Skills, Drug Abuse, Family, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Most people in the world would say that nothing is more important than family. They say that you can choose your friends, but family is forever. If you subscribe to the philosophy of blood being thicker than water, then it makes sense that when those closest to you suffer, you suffer right along with them. For many, this concept is never more painfully clear than when living with an addict in the family. Even though plenty of people struggling with addiction say they are only hurting themselves, most of us know that addiction is a family disease.
While there are many obvious ways that addiction affects a family, like domestic violence, financial troubles or death, there are also some more subtle consequences. When someone is suffering, their loved ones will often develop specific family roles for dealing with addiction. Depending on the household, and how the addiction manifests itself, some people may take on multiple roles in order to try and create a balance at home. However, many of these family roles can cause adverse effects of personal development over time.
Here are 6 family roles people use when coping with addicted loved ones.
Addiction and its effects draw a lot of attention, so it may seem to the addict that the world revolves around them. They take on a victim mentality, often causing others in the family to feel the need to save them, or at least to avoid disturbing them.
The victim is central to all the other family roles that develop around it. As the roles are defined, the victims loved ones unconsciously take on other family roles to complete the balance after the problem has been introduced.
Although this person’s actions are the key to their own recovery and overcoming the victim mentality, it is important to remember they are not necessarily vital for a family to recover on its own.
In the family, there will be someone who tries to be the champion for the victim and the family. This is someone who needs the family to look good, and they will work hard to make it so. The problem with the Hero is that they try to ignore the addiction and its effects. Instead, they want to dress everything up and act as if all is well.
The Hero will present things in a positive manner as if the family roles don’t actually exist. They are often perfectionists and overachievers, who seek to unite the family and offer hope through their own accomplishments. But taking on all this pressure can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for this family member. Very often this is the child of an addict or alcoholic.
If the Hero is able to finally overcome this role, they can ultimately play a crucial part in the addiction recovery process, both for the individual and for the family.
The Mascot’s is often thought of as the comic relief. This is the member of the family who uses humor as a defense mechanism and a distraction tactic. They try to soften the impact of an addicts behavior or ease tensions between family roles through laughter.
On the bright side, the Mascot does bring humor to the family roles people use for coping with addicted loved ones. They have a talent for making others feel better, even in the worst situations. But ultimately, they are also people-pleasers to a fault, which can foster feelings of anxiety.
However, Mascots sometimes make inappropriate jokes about other family members or situations, which can causes friction. They also run the risk of avoiding their own feelings or being inconsiderate of the feelings of others. Sometimes their harmful humor can hinder addiction recovery.
Also, the Mascot is likely to self-medicate as they grow up, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.
The Lost Child
In every family that deals with an addicted loved one, there is usually someone who tries their best to disappear. They are silent, withdrawn, and avoid drawing much attention to themselves from other members of the family. This is the Lost Child.
The Lost Child is typically careful to not make problems. They avoid any kind of conflict, along with conversations regarding the addiction or the underlying family roles that take shape around the victim.
The Lost Child will spend as much time as possible in isolation or away from their family. They are the child who sits in their room playing video games or watching TV for hours without any interaction. The Lost Child will often develop feelings of neglect and resentment, which can lead to depression. They often grow up to have a very difficult time developing healthy relationships later in life.
The Scapegoat is a problem child. Usually, this is the black sheep of the family who often acts out in front of others. They take on this role, knowingly or subconsciously, to divert attention from the person who is addicted. They rebel home, get in trouble at school, make a lot of noise to mask the underlying issues in the family. Male scapegoats are often prone to violence, while female scapegoats frequently act out sexually.
This person may even adopt substance use in order to run interference for a parent or sibling. They may develop other issues as well, such as eating disorders or a tendency to self-harm.
The Scapegoat covers or draws attention away from the real problem. They grapple with feelings or anger and shame, and they often offer the other family roles a sense of purpose- being someone to watch out for or try to fix.
The Enabler is also commonly referred to as the Caretaker but is always the person who makes all the other family roles possible. Most often this is a spouse, but it can also be a child of an addict.
Caretakers will take it upon themselves to keep everyone happy, believing it is the best way to protect the family. Their mission is to maintain balance in order to make the family look good on the outside. They are notorious for minimizing the addiction, making excuses for all behaviors and actions. They have a knack for blaming everything on something else, without acknowledging the real problem.
This person protects the addict from consequences, while constantly cleaning up after their messes.
Additionally, the Enabler frequently embraces the other family roles when they are convenient for maintaining the family balance. They will laugh at the Mascots harmful jokes, or adamantly put the focus on the Hero’s achievements. They will support the Lost Child’s “independence”, and run interference for the Scapegoat, all while catering to and caring for the needs of the victim.
At the end of the day, the family roles people adopt as part of coping with an addicted loved one are a kind of functional dysfunction. It is a system that people create in order to survive situations at home that can be toxic and unpredictable. Human beings by nature will behave in accordance with their surroundings. Out of self-preservation, we will get used to unhealthy strategies for dealing with unhealthy relationships. Even if they are not effective, if they help us get by there is a lot of damaging stuff we will get used to.
All of these family roles demonstrate how important it is for families to be supported and involved in a loved one’s recovery from addiction. Because we can see how addiction impacts the family, we know that the family also needs help in overcoming those adversities. Having a recovery program designed specifically for family members and loved ones of people with addiction can make all the difference. Not only does it help the family support their loved one, but it helps the family recover on its own. Family can also play a very important role in relapse prevention. It teaches them what their loved ones may experience during the medical detox phase of treatment. It helps them better understand the science of addiction and the process of recovery, while also showing them how their own behaviors have an impact.
The Palm Healthcare Family Program is all about helping the family come together to face addiction and overcome all the unique challenges that come with it. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call toll-free now. You are not alone. We want to help your family be stronger together.
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by Justin Mckibben | Sep 6, 2018 | Drug Abuse, Fentanyl, Fentanyl, Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, Synthetic Drugs
Over a year ago, it was uncovered that a Big Pharma entity spent over $500,000 to oppose legalizing medical marijuana. This is just one example of how the pharmaceutical industry working over years to influence marijuana policy in America. What was so interesting about this company’s efforts is that their own product was a sublingual fentanyl spray.
That’s the same synthetic opioid that became a major factor in the ongoing opioid crisis in America as it was integrated into the illegal drug market.
Marijuana advocates see the move from drug makers to oppose legalization as an attempt to prevent competition. Studies show cannabis can be an effective substitute for pain treatment. Many states with medical marijuana laws acknowledge it as a means to help treat chronic pain patients.
So it became even more telling when it was revealed that the same fentanyl maker undermining medical marijuana was also developing their own synthetic THC.
Insys Therapeutics VS Cannabis
This isn’t the only time we have written about the shady dealings of Insys Therapeutics. Some may recall back in 2017 when the former CEO and founding father of the company had criminal charges brought against him, along with other company executives, for racketeering and corrupt marketing schemes.
For years, Insys has been trying to sway marijuana policy decisions. In 2011, the Big Pharma racket wrote to the DEA expressing opposition to loosening restrictions on naturally derived THC. In the letter Insys claims “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”
But later in 2016 the company petitioned the DEA to loosen restrictions on synthetic versions of CBD, which is another key component of the cannabis plant. Why? Because they were developing a CBD-based drug to treat pediatric epilepsy. At the time, Insys Therapeutics made a statement claiming their opposition to the marijuana legalization proposition was because, “it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” However, the company did insist that is believed in the benefits of cannabinoids.
Now, the company accused of aggressively pushing an incredibly potent and potentially lethal opioid drug onto patients who did not need it is now working on another new racket- Syndros.
Syndros: Synthetic THC
As a chief financial backer of the opposition to medical marijuana in Arizona, Insys Therapeutics has worked hard to give itself a monopoly on the market.
Syndros is a synthetic version of the THC compound found in the cannabis plant. This is the main psychoactive component of the substance and is behind a lot of the controversy around marijuana legalization. However, Syndros was approved by the FDA to treat cancer and AIDS patients for symptoms including:
- Weight loss
This drug is very similar to Marinol, another synthetic THC product that was already approved by the FDA to treat anorexia in cancer and AIDS patients.
Syndros and its generic variations are considered a Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. This acknowledges it for medical benefits, but indicates a “high potential for abuse.” So it is on the same level as prescription painkillers, morphine, and cocaine.
Meanwhile, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, meaning the FDA still considers it more dangerous than morphine, Oxycontin and now synthetic THC.
Dronabinol is a synthetic THC nasal spray that was quietly granted a Schedule II classification about a year ago. The FDA allows it to be prescribed, sold and federally regulated. This is another product from Insys Therapeutics capitalizing on the components of cannabis while the company fought to smother any competition.
Ironically, in 2007 the company had admitted in a disclosure statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that if cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids were legal “the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”
So in short- they adamantly opposed medical cannabis efforts for years in order to limit competition. Meanwhile, they were developing their own drugs derived from cannabis. But it was not enough for the company to oppose cannabis legalization efforts. Insys also worked to disrupt other Big Pharma companies from trying to create generic versions of its drug.
Shutting Out Competition
Now, according to publicly available documents, Insys has tried to extend its monopoly over its oral dronabinol product. In October 2017, Insys Therapeutics requested that the FDA decline applications from competitors seeking to produce generic versions of Syndros. They’ve already sued two such drug companies:
- Par Pharmaceuticals
- Alkem Laboratories
Each had submitted Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDA). And ANDA is the first step in the process of gaining approval for generic versions of existing drugs. The request from Insys consisted of two parts:
- It asked the FDA to decline to “receive or approve” any ANDA applications that didn’t establish “in vivo bioequivalence” to its drug.
- Asked that ANDA applications for its drug “include fed and fasted state bioequivalence studies.”
Essentially, Insys was claiming that Dronabinol was too complex to be replicated by generic competitors.
However, the FDA eventually denied the company’s petition.
Robin Feldman is a professor of law and director of the Institute for Innovation Law at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She literally wrote the book on all the ways mainstream pharmaceutical companies try to subvert generic competition. When discussing the language used in Insys petition to the FDA, she states:
“Companies pile these exclusivities on one after another to keep generic competitors off the market as long as possible. So the reason I laughed is what you are seeing is a multipronged effort by the brand company to stave off generic entry as long as possible.”
Insys has been able to enjoy some time cornering the market on synthetic THC products. But apparently, it is very likely that more companies will be able to get in on the racket pretty soon.
The Other Synthetic Marijuana
Then there is the other synthetic marijuana sold on the streets, which is very different and extremely dangerous.
Meanwhile, we have seen countless stories in recent years of the synthetic THC products made on the streets for recreational use and how these chemical compounds have resulted in outbreaks of overdoses. Infamous brands like Spice and K2 are designed to mimic the properties of natural marijuana. However, these synthetic cannabinoids can cause a range of adverse side effects, including:
- Cardiac arrest
These are the more dangerous synthetics made in unregulated labs with chemical cocktails that are unpredictable and frequently toxic. Thousands of people have been hospitalized over the years due to the synthetic THC on the street. There are even dozens of fatalities attributed to illicit synthetic THC products.
Again, these are two different variations of synthetic THC. Synthetics like Spice or K2 are not quite the same thing as medications produced by companies like Insys. However, it should at least give some pause to consider that they are being created with the same intention- to artificially manufacture the effects of cannabis.
Drug Makers Want Marijuana Monopoly
Officials all over America are calling out Big Pharma companies for pushing to stop cannabis legalization efforts. Some say many of these drug companies are just trying to sell more drugs that addict patients. Essentially, the argument is that pharmaceutical companies are actively making a profit from drugs containing marijuana constituents while lobbying to prevent medicinal cannabis growth and development.
So do companies like Insys have the best interest of the patient in mind? Can a company accused of questionable tactics and supposedly illegal kickbacks be trusted with a monopoly on synthetic THC? Or are they just want a monopoly on marijuana-derived substances?
And if opioid makers get to dominate the market on synthetic THC products, will they be willing to put more people at risk of drug abuse and addiction in order to maintain their dominance?
Whether it’s natural cannabis, illicit synthetic marijuana, or medical synthetic THC, the risk for substance abuse should be taken seriously. Marijuana use disorder is a real issue that affects a lot of people across the country every day. If medical marijuana products are going to continue to evolve, our treatment of marijuana use disorder has to evolve with it. Innovative and holistic treatment options can make all the difference.
Marijuana use disorder is a very real issue that people struggle with all over America. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, such as chemical dependency or addiction, please call toll-free now to speak with a specialist today. We want to help.
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by Justin Mckibben | Aug 28, 2018 | Addiction Treatment, Detox, Drug Abuse, Drug Policy, Heroin, Law Enforcement, Opioids, War on Drugs
When we talk about the opioid epidemic in America, we talk a lot about the cost of human life. Over the last few years, the outbreak of heroin use has continued to rise. This kind of inflation has come at the price of tens of thousands of lives each year lost. 2017 is already considered the worst year for overdose deaths in American history. There is no way we could possibly put a value on the lives of those lost. We can’t give a consultation on the damage their deaths have done to families and communities across the country. But looking at how heroin and opioids have hurt the economy gives us another means to measure the true cost of the opioid crisis.
We already know we’ve gone well over budget with the failed War on Drugs. While dollar amounts will never compare to the devastation of losing loved ones, maybe it can add another layer of perspective to the issue. So, how has heroin addiction hurt the economy?
How Heroin Hurts the Economy
It is actually complicated trying to identify exactly how heroin addiction hurts the economy. There are a lot of unique elements to take into account. For example, many have suspected that even the incredibly high rates of overdose death recorded may actually be under-reported and misclassified.
One study from a few years ago highlights several big-picture ways heroin addiction hurts our economy. This study assesses three “invisible costs” of heroin addiction most people don’t recognize.
We will start with the one that seems pretty obvious. Although, the cumulative effect of heroin addiction on the medical treatment infrastructure is more complex than you might expect.
Utilizing data from the mid-90s, the study estimates that heroin addiction treatment amounted to $5 billion dollars. That was so long ago, it is incredibly easy to predict that tab has shot up drastically in the last decade and a half as heroin use has consistently skyrocketed.
Another thing most people don’t realize is that the types of addiction treatment people have access to will depend on what their insurance will pay for. Because insurance companies are often more interested in keeping costs down than effectively treating addiction, it is safe to bet that a lot of that humble estimation of $5 billion was probably wasted on lackluster facilities and regimens that did not offer innovative and effective treatment. Part of curbing these costs is about support programs that do offer quality care, including comprehensive residential treatment.
According to health research and consulting institute Altarum, healthcare costs alone related to the opioid crisis reached $217.5 billion between 2001 and 2017.
Loss of Productivity
Putting a value on something you don’t have is pretty difficult to do. It is hard to adequately propose a price tag for an amount of productivity you can’t measure, but in order to truly grasp how heroin addiction hurts the economy, you cannot ignore the loss of productivity.
One estimate from researches says that the economy missed out on $11.5 billion because of people either:
- Unable to work
- Diverting labor towards addressing heroin addiction
But this is just from a guess of labor costs. It is impossible to quantify all the potential that never becomes realized due to heroin and opioid overdose death. Many people who use drugs and actually do recover end up contributing so much to their communities. So one can hardly imagine what it would mean if the over 72,000 people who died in 2017 from drug overdose were still alive today and what difference they would be able to make.
On one hand, the United States criminal justice system does provide jobs to millions of Americans. However, the public typically funds these systems. Therefore, the taxpayer is the one paying to put people with heroin addiction through the criminal justice system.
Researchers estimate that criminal activity, adjudication, and incarceration in connection to heroin costs the economy approximately $5.2 billion. Luckily, there is a new trend across the country of police helping addicts get treatment through PAARI programs.
It All Adds Up
When we add up the estimates from the three categories the bill comes out to a staggering $21.7 billion dollars. But things have continued to get worse since that study was published. Another analysis from earlier this year estimates that the opioid crisis cost the country $115 billion in 2017. The organization also claims the economic toll of the opioid crisis between 2001 and 2017 is over $1 trillion.
The economic fallout of heroin and opioids is on track to be over $500 billion from 2018 to 2020!
According to Altarum, the greatest impact on the economy as a result of heroin addiction is the loss of earnings and productivity. Based on the average age of overdose victims, around 41 years old, that cost is estimated at about $800,000 per person.
When we look at all those billions and trillions, it is easy to see how heroin addiction hurts the economy. It all adds up to a truly tragic reality we face as a nation. However, the opportunity to put some of this money toward other endeavors should be a huge financial incentive that our leaders to make some much-needed changes. It’s just one more reason we should be taking meaningful actions to prevent heroin addiction and provide safe and effective heroin detox and holistic treatment options.
In the end, no amount of money can replace those who lose their lives to addiction. We can look at how these tragedies translate to transactions, but nothing is more valuable than helping those who suffer find the path toward a better future. True happiness and lasting recovery are absolutely priceless.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing innovative and effective addiction treatment for anyone battling with addiction. Our professional team of certified specialists offers comprehensive care, and our missing is to heal each individual’s mind, body, and spirit. 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 | Jul 19, 2018 | Addiction Medicine, Drug Abuse, Maintenance Drugs, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Methadone, Naloxone, Prescription Drugs, Suboxone
The battle against opioid addiction in America is being fought every day, and many are fighting hard to create more opportunities for treatment and recovery. With more awareness being raised across the country, many are turning to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) methods as a way to address illicit opioid abuse and overdose. One of the most commonly known medications used in MAT is Suboxone.
MAT programs can be very helpful as a harm reduction strategy that gives people struggling with addiction a chance to avoid harmful withdrawals. However, addiction specialists also recognize that MAT alone is not an adequate substitute for comprehensive addiction treatment.
Furthermore, medications like Suboxone can be useful, but only to an extent. This drug may help to curb withdrawal symptoms from opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers, but it is also a powerful narcotic that can cause its own symptoms of dependence and withdrawal. Some people have tried to utilize Suboxone to get off of other drugs, only to find themselves dependent on this medication. So how do you stop using Suboxone?
More About Suboxone
Suboxone is a medication primarily for helping people stop using other opioids. The medication is a combination of two drugs:
Most people do not realize that Buprenorphine is itself an opioid. This semi-synthetic opioid medication is different from other opioids because it is a partial opioid agonist. What this means is that its maximal effects are less than full agonists such as heroin or methadone.
However, it still creates feelings of euphoria and respiratory depression. With chronic use, this opioid can still cause physical dependence.
This medication is used to block the effects of opioids, especially when it comes to opioid overdose. It is added to the Buprenorphine to attempt to decrease the risk of misuse. Due to the nature of this medication, if someone takes Naloxone while still experiencing the effects of an opioid it can cause them to go into sudden withdrawal.
The makers of Suboxone do warn that it can be abused in a manner similar to other opioids, both legal and illicit. They issue a number of other warnings for those considering using the medication, including:
- Injecting Suboxone may cause serious withdrawal symptoms.
- Suboxone film can cause serious, life-threatening breathing problems, overdose and death, particularly when taken intravenously in combination with benzodiazepines or other medications that act on the central nervous system.
- One should not drink alcohol while taking this medication, as it can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
Some of the adverse effects of Suboxone use include:
- Numb mouth
- Painful tongue
- Redness of mouth
- Disturbance in attention
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sleep problems
- Blurred vision
- Back pain
These are only a few examples. Some circumstances may lead to further complications, including someone being pregnant or living with severe hepatic impairment. You should discuss any decision you make to start or stop using Suboxone with a healthcare professional.
5 Steps to Stop Using Suboxone
Speak with a medical professional
If you have a Suboxone prescription, do not stop taking it without speaking to a healthcare professional first. Abruptly discontinuing a MAT program can not only cause you a great deal of discomfort, but it can be very dangerous. Trying to quit without medical assistance also creates the risk of relapse and overdose.
This is why safe medical Suboxone detox is such an important element of any addiction treatment program.
Before you decide to stop using Suboxone, speak with your personal physician or a medical addiction specialist in order to decide what is the safest and most effective way to move forward.
Taper vs Cold Turkey
When someone goes ‘cold turkey’ to stop using Suboxone, they essentially discontinue without any kind of medical support. Again, we remind you that this can be extremely dangerous and is always counterproductive. A better choice is to develop a plan with a medical professional that utilizes a gradual taper or even medications to assist with withdrawals.
Health experts recommend gradually reducing doses of buprenorphine. Typically, you can lower your dosage over a period of three weeks or more, reducing the doses by 10%-20% each week. The best way to decide how to do this is by working with a medical professional.
Get comprehensive addiction therapy
Another crucial aspect of addiction treatment is the opportunity for comprehensive addiction therapy. Individuals have a much better chance to stop using Suboxone for the long-term when they address the underlying issues that lead them to use opioids in the first place. Sometimes, drug use stems from emotional issues, trauma, or behaviors that are self-destructive. When people avoid addressing these issues, they become vulnerable to relapsing as a means to cope with them later.
Therapy not only helps people uncover the root cause of their pain, but it also teaches people new, healthy ways to cope with these issues.
Build a support group in recovery
Once someone has started the recovery process, a huge part of staying on the right path is to build a support group. It is very difficult to try and stop using Suboxone or any other drug all on your own. Having friends, family or mentors provides people with the resources to reach out to when they are struggling.
When trying to overcome addiction, it can be difficult for some to relate to people who do not understand addiction. Thankfully, there are support groups all over the country that offer assistance to each other while dealing with a specific issue. Most people know of 12-Step programs and other support groups for alcohol or drug addiction.
Participate in aftercare programs
Another useful element of treatment is aftercare. While support groups are extremely helpful, another way to stay involved in the ongoing process of addiction recovery is to get involved in aftercare programs. Many treatment providers will have programs in place to support those who have completed the inpatient levels of care, such as residential treatment, and are ready to transition back into everyday life.
When you stop using Suboxone, it is a good idea to stay connected with those who can offer support and guidance.
When a lot of people hear about medication-assisted treatment, they think it is an easy way out of addiction. Some people automatically assume that you can trade an addiction to heroin or Oxycodone for a dependence on Suboxone or another drug and everything will be fine. However, with MAT programs the goal should never be to rely on a medication for the long-term.
Medication-assisted treatment does make a difference. For some people, the fear of withdrawal symptoms keeps them using far more potent and dangerous drugs. Because they do not want to experience the pain, they keep using. Sometimes, this leads to death. So giving someone the chance to reduce the risk by using a prescription medication might keep them alive long enough to get treatment. But that is the important thing- to get the treatment.
Medications like Methadone and Suboxone are only supposed to be one piece of a more comprehensive treatment plan. They are intended to act as a short-term tool to help people ease their discomfort and avoid suffering while they try to give up drugs. MAT programs are only really effective when they are accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. So if you want to stop using Suboxone and start recovering, seek out a rehab program that wants to help you heal.
Holistic addiction treatment is specifically designed to treat the entire person, not just the addiction. This kind of approach offers a variety of opportunities to develop new coping skills, learn more about addiction and the impact of drugs on the body, and experience innovative treatment modalities to heal the mind, body and spirit. For over 20 years, Palm Healthcare Company has been a leader in providing holistic addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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